Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday (Very) Quickie: Heat, Ducks

Heat crush Magic: I thought Miami would be motivated last night -- home opener, playing the rival Magic, doubters from earlier in the week -- but I didn't expect a 26-point beat-down.

If the Heat can throttle the Magic -- a top-tier NBA team -- after playing together for only two other regular-season games, imagine how good they can be after 20... 40... 60... 82.

It was an affirmation (for fans) or a rebuke (for haters): The Heat are who they thought they are.

CFB Saturday: There is still at least one big game for Oregon to lose, even if they win at USC tonight. Say the same thing about Mizzou (playing at Nebraska today, but still having to play the Big 12 CG). Say the same thing about Utah (playing at Air Force today but still having to play TCU).

But that's not the case for Michigan State. If the Spartans don't lose at Iowa today, they will very likely run the table, giving them at least a puncher's chance of making the national-title game -- particularly if the other unbeatens from the BCS conferences take a loss.

The Spartans ARE the popular pick to be the unbeaten to fall today (I'll agree), but they have done pretty well for themselves confounding expectations.

It would be lame if at least one of the four unbeatens facing resume-starring tests on the road didn't lose. I'll say Oregon rolls, Mizzou falls, Utah wins (but not nearly as impressively as TCU beat Air Force last week) and Michigan State... loses.

World Series comes to Arlington, Texas, as the Rangers host their first World Series game ever: That's a nice little moment for the region, but the fact is that if the Rangers don't win tonight, they are losing the Series. Only down 2-0, but tonight is must-win.

More NBA: Rajon Rondo (24 assists) is off to an awesome start this year... Monta Ellis Watch: No 46-point outburst but 11 assists -- and a Warriors W... Blake Griffin: Double-double.... First Ws of the season: T'wolves, Grizz, Pacers, Raptors... The Nets are 2-0. (2-0!)

(Love the Rockets getting Erick Dampier -- between Yao, in limited minutes, Brad Miller and now Dampier, does any team in the NBA have more depth of quality in the post than Houston?)

Favre Watch: He practiced, but will he play? That he practiced indicates that he probably will play -- or at least start. Wouldn't want to mess up Favre's streak.

Vincent Jackson reports to Chargers: But won't be available until late November. Given that the Chargers' season is already over, his presence won't help much. Too little too late.

Notre Dame: Can someone explain why the city or state prosecutors aren't looking into whether a crime was committed? This isn't merely -- cripes, "merely" -- an OSHA violation. I'm not talking about the civil suit that Sullivan's family should bring; this is the criminal charges the state should bring. God forbid lawyers who work for the state of Indiana (or the city of South Bend) prosecute the head football coach at Notre Dame.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Tragedy of Declan Sullivan

The more I read and think about this, the more angry and outraged I become at Notre Dame's seemingly obvious negligence. I think about this less as a fan (or even as a knee-jerk Notre Dame hater) than as a parent.

Did you see Sullivan's tweets? When I first saw them yesterday, it was like a punch in the stomach. I got choked up. I got angry -- at Notre Dame, at Brian Kelly.

I know the Sullivans' son was fiercely loyal to the football program and to Notre Dame, but I hope the family sues Notre Dame and Brian Kelly for the amount of the school's NBC contract. I hope that the police investigate and ultimately charge the school and the coach for whatever crime is on the books that could qualify. ND's/Kelly's regrets don't feel like nearly enough.

I hesitate to try to deploy Sullivan and this tragedy as some kind of moralizing metaphor about the state of big-time college football. Let's think about this as a discrete decision by the coach and school, one of the worst -- and most negligent -- decisions in the history of college football.

Up until this week, I had actually been a fan of Brian Kelly's -- which was strange, because I am a tried-and-true Notre Dame hater. But now I can't think of Brian Kelly or the institution of Notre Dame without feeling bile build up in my throat. I'm not sure that will ever go away.

-- D.S.

10/29 Quickie: Giants, Wall, Boo!

Today's Names to Know: Halloween candy, Matt Cain, John Wall, Heat vs. Magic, Brett Favre, Tony Romo, Matt Cassel, Troy Smith, Tim Tebow (in London!), Russell Wilson, Kyrie Irving, Jamie Moyer, Jose Guillen, Declan Sullivan and More.

First, a Quickie tradition: What is the best Halloween candy of all time?
Or, probably more relevant, what's the candy you are most hoping to get on Sunday night? (For those of us with kids, it's more like "steal" and/or "tax your kids' bag.") I'm going to go with mini-Twix.

Now: The Giants. Wow. An even-bigger ass-kicking than Game 1. And where Lee and Lincecum were pounded, Matt Cain was the ace -- with a performance like that on a World Series stage, Cain's respect rating with fans just skyrocketed.

I'm trying to hold the line with the old NBA adage "It's not a series until someone wins a game on the road," but baseball is different than the NBA. Sure, the Rangers could get a jolt of energy -- or hitting -- from heading back to Arlington, but that is a big hole they have to climb out of, winning 4 of the next 5, including at least 1 of 2 back in San Francisco, where they were just neutered.

John Wall's NBA Debut: It was almost unfair, that he had to make his first NBA start against the Magic, a team that is at worst among the league's elite and at best is probably the No. 2 team in the league behind the Lakers. It was definitely unfair that Wall is surrounded by some of the worst supporting cast in the NBA.

Wall shot horribly, which was not unexpected. He also had 9 assists, which -- considering the bumblers he's playing with -- is remarkable. And there were glimpses of his phenomenal speed. When he doesn't have to deal with Dwight Howard -- only one of the Top 3 defensive post players of the past two decades -- he will be fine.

Tonight: Magic at Heat, for the Miami home opener. The NBA is so smart -- this is one of the marquee match-ups of the entire season. The Heat started with back-to-back games, but had last night off; the Magic will be directly coming off last night's game, but it was a snoozer. Should be a great game.

NFL Week 8: It's all about Brett Favre. Yet again. Ugh. But this time, it actually IS kind of intriguing -- if only because of the streak. Will he sit? Or will he hobble out on it? Does he hobble out to start the game -- selfishly (and Favrishly) preserving the streak -- then sit?

Does he try to actually play on it, which can only result in even more Favrian endings (INTs, pick-6s) than usual? Please don't tell me that he limps out there in Foxboro and leads the Vikings to an upset win over the Pats. My mind would implode.

Speaking of decisions about QBs: Should the Cowboys sit Tony Romo for the rest of the season? Why not? It's not like they are making the playoffs -- particularly by the time Romo would be ready to come back, 6 or 8 weeks from now. Why risk further injury that could impact NEXT season? Just shut him down, put him up in the coaches' box and help him refine his football IQ.

More Week 8 Storylines I Like:
*GOTW: Steelers at Saints.
Playing at home, N.O. drops to .500?
*Jets get back to playing.
I'm not even a fan and I kind of missed them.
*The Chiefs move to 5-2?
Well, they play the winless Bills in KC.
*Fantasy intrigue: Troy Smith
If you have Ryan/Cutler/Flacco, why not use Smith?*
*Tim Tebow in London!
'Allo, Timmy!

(* - In fact, in one of my leagues, I have Matt Ryan, and picked up Smith to sub for him this week. Of course, in that league -- a keeper -- I am 1-6 and a perennial bottom-feeder. I should have just said "Screw it" and picked up Tebow as my starting QB this week. If Josh McDaniels hadn't given Tebow that ridiculous DNP last week during the zillion-to-zilch beat-down by the Raiders, I very well might have. But if Tebow won't play in THAT kind of game, when will it ever happen?)

CFB: Florida State falls in typical Thursday night fashion. Ranked teams that play on the road on the ESPN-televised Thursday Night game against talented motivated (unranked) opponents always seem to lose. We talked about this yesterday. But let's trickle this result to the national-BCS picture:

What Boise State really needed was for FSU to go unbeaten in the ACC (11-1 overall and undoubtedly ranked in the Top 10), then lose to a similarly ACC-unbeaten Virginia Tech (10-2, with 10 straight wins and huge momentum), which would make Boise's season-opening win over Virginia Tech that much stronger. These derivative points matter!

(PS: NC State QB Russell Wilson is kind of awesome. Or at least he was last night.)

CFB Weekend Preview: Four great games with national-title implications, notable because all four contenders go on the road against very good teams, which should either produce at least one upset or a hell of an addition to the team's resume (one that Boise is hard-pressed to match).

*Oregon at USC: Don't be fooled. Ducks in a rout.
*Michigan State at Iowa: Upset Special!
*Mizzou at Nebraska: Upset! Season-maker for Huskers.
*Utah at Air Force: Compare how Utes do to how TCU did.

CBB: Duke is No. 1, by a wide margin, in the preseason AP poll. Of course they are -- only the most stacked returning champ since Florida in 2007. (Key difference: That Florida team brought back everyone; this Duke team loses the hugely valuable Jon Scheyer and Greg Zoubek to graduation, even if they are replaced by the talented Kyrie Irving and the growth of the Plumlees.) Still saying they won't repeat (with my nod to Michigan State). That means I would give Michigan State my No. 1 vote in the preseason, right?

Careers: The Phillies released ageless Jamie Moyer. I really hope he latches on with another team. He is still good enough to be better than a typical replacement pitcher, and his Methuselah storyline is one of the best in the MLB regular season.

Scandals: The potentially soon-to-be-World-Series-champ Giants involved in an HGH scandal?! Say it ain't so?! (I'm kidding: But Jose Guillen -- not on the Giants post-season roster, but on the Giants roster, more largely -- IS involved in an HGH situation. After the Bonds Era -- and giddy by the state of their team right now -- I am quite sure that the Giants fans COULD NOT CARE LESS. And neither will you.)

The Tragedy of Declan Sullivan, Cont'd: I put this last not because it is the least important, but because it is the most, and I didn't want to diminish it by shoving it in between something as insignificant as a World Series blurb and a college football weekend preview. In fact, the more I read and think about this, the more angry and outraged I become at Notre Dame's seemingly obvious negligence. I wrote a longer post, which will publish at noon if you want to see it and comment.

Light posting all weekend, as usual. If you won't be stopping by, have a great weekend. If you have kids, enjoy the Halloween spectacle. In my 4+ years as a parent, I have a renewed appreciation for it. My older kid, 4, is going to be a shark. My younger kid, 2, has a choice of hand-me-down costumes, but my current favorite is him going as the miniature giraffe from the DirecTV commercials.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sponsored Post: Just Keeps Getting Worse

Your weekly update on my travails in the Blogger Football League, sponsored by Procter & Gamble. For background, see this intro post.

My swagger from three weeks ago has withered. Two weeks ago, I got steamrolled. And last week, I got smoked again, this time by Diana from National Football Post. Brady stunk. Chris Johnson stunk. Miles Austin? Well, you saw what happened to Tony Romo. I'm in a post-hubris doom spiral.

So what happens this week? I'm facing another rising power, Jarod from Midwest Sports Fans, who is 5-2, riding a 2-game winning streak and the No. 2-ranked team in the league. I've got Brady, hopefully slicing up the Vikings; Chris Johnson (who knows?); LaDainian (back from the bye week!); and the 3-headed WR situation of Miles Austin (ugh); Kevin Walter (eh); and Malcom Floyd Michael Crabtree, live from London. I am not confident.

Consider that: I have gone from "I am SO winning this league" to "I am not confident."

I need a win. Badly. At this rate, they're going to strip me of my "swagger" label.

Check out P&G's Take It To The House page on Facebook. Be sure to look for the new contest where you predict the players who will have the top 5 rushing or receiving plays from scrimmage, and if you get them all, you win some insanely good prizes.

The P&G Blogger Fantasy League (BFL) is a group of 12 online sports folks competing on the fantasy platform for the chance to win a donation for a local charity, furnished by P&G. The NFL Entities have not offered or sponsored the sweepstakes in anyway.

10/28 Quickie: Giants, Lee, NBA Debuts

Today's Names to Know: Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Freddy Sanchez, Monta Ellis, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Troy Smith, FSU, Barry Bonds, Tony Bennett, the Nets(!) and More.

There is a strong argument to be made that sports is at its most fascinating when the entirely unexpected happens.

Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum: Ace vs. Ace, right? This will be a low-scoring nail-biter, right? Staked to an early 2-0 lead, Lee is going to cruise, right?

Instead, it was an offensive explosion. Lee was shelled. Lincecum was OK -- relative to an 11-7 runs-fest -- but this was hardly the promised pitchers' duel.

This goes back to those predictions people make about how things will shake out: The Rangers won't get out of the ALDS, remember? The Giants have no shot against the Phillies' rotation. Well, the Giants have no shot against the Rangers -- at the very least, Cliff Lee is unstoppable.

[Aside: The predictions business has gotten silly (if it wasn't already); everything is either triumphalist "Told you so!" but rarely "Jeez, I was totally wrong -- y'know, I was really just guessing." (Yes, I'll include myself in that indictment). That's when folks aren't hedging to try to have it both ways; beware of predictive statements that are fueled by those assertive positions "might" and "could."]

I love a superlative as much as anyone, and I loved the idea that in Cliff Lee, we were watching the best postseason pitcher of the past quarter-century.

But I found myself liking the unexpectedness of him getting smacked around even more.

Tonight: CJ Wilson vs. Matt Cain. Is it too early to call this must-win for the Rangers? (Well, yes, but still....)


NBA Opening Night, Part 2. 13 games, with plenty of notable performances:

*The Heat win their 1st. (Now, um, .500!)
Wade (30 pts) shook off Game 1 FG problems.
*The LeBron-less Cavs beat the Celtics.
Transitive: Cavs > Celtics > Heat. Cavs > Heat!
*Breakout Star: Monta Ellis. 46 points!
Eclipses Curry's 25p/11a and Lee's 17p/15r/6a
*Blake Griffin: 22/14 in his NBA debut.
With a monster dunk to score his first 2.
*Stud: Luis Scola 36/16
Yao who?
*Bandwagon Thunder beat Bulls
Westbrook looked even better than KD.
*The Nets win!
(Yes, really!)

Tonight: The debut of the John Wall Show. (I harbor no illusions: The Wizards are going to get rocked down in Orlando by the Magic, my pick to win the East. But I'm eager to see Wall.)


NFL Mid-Week: Troy Smith is your intriguing fantasy pick-up of the week. He could have a brutal game -- even worse than Alex Smith -- or maybe he has one of those unexpected awesome days. I'm not suggesting he will pull a Ryan Fitzpatrick from last Sunday, but if your regular QB has a bye week, why not?

Favre Watch: Willing to give it "a try." Why does everything with Favre feel like he is posturing for maximum self-glorification? (Um, because he is?) Let's not lionize him for trying to gut it out and play on that gimpy foot. Why isn't the question: "Is a half-speed -- or quarter-speed, whatever -- Brett Favre better than a full-strength Tarvaris Jackson?"


CFB Tonight: FSU at NC State. The 'Noles are rolling through the ACC, but a Thursday night ESPN game on the road against the fiesty Wolfpack has all the makings of a trap game. If FSU gets through this one, its surge up the polls will continue.

(Looking ahead: FSU gets UNC and Clemson in Tallahassee before finishing the ACC regular season at Maryland. They host the Gators before a potential match-up in the ACC title game with VA Tech, which might have a 10-game winning streak by then.)

BlogPoll Top 25: The group has Oregon at No. 1 and Auburn at No. 2. The pro-Boise (anti-BCS) crowd will protest, but few fans would complain about the ridiculous numbers these two teams would put up in a title-game match-up.

Meanwhile: Boise State is No. 2! (In the initial NCAA wrestling poll!)


Barry Bonds Watch: How comfortable -- even (dare I say) happy -- did Bonds look among the Giants faithful last night? He says he wants to return as a hitting coach, and I say: Why not? If Mark McGwire can do it, Bonds can do it. I've never considered Bonds the "teacher" type, though.


Tony Bennett: What a treat that was last night (no pun intended).


This story about the Notre Dame student, Declan Sullivan, who was killed when the football film tower collapsed, is horrible. Condolences to his family and friends and the entire ND community.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

10/27 Quickie: Heat, World Series, Boise

Today's Names to Know: LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Kobe, Steve Blake, Cliff Lee, Kristen Lee, Tim Lincecum, Tony Romo, Boise State, Sandy Alderson and More.

The Heat will be fine

It was the first regular-season game of roughly 400 they will play together over the next five years. They played a highly motivated championship contender, on the road.

They will never again score just 9 points in a 1st quarter. (Nine! As an opening statement, it was like I wanted to bottle the schadenfreude of those first 12 minutes and save it forever.) It is unlikely that D-Wade will shoot that badly (although it is tempting to blur correlation and causality with LeBron as his new co-star).

They could have really used a healthy Mike Miller (then again, the Celtics were without Perkins and West).

Still: It is hard not to watch last night's game and see it as foreshadowing for the Heat's situation next May -- initially overmatched, furiously rallying, ultimately falling short.

Wow, is it going to be a long regular season.


More NBA: The Lakers will be fine, too. Kobe didn't shoot great (what else is new?) but Pau Gasol was dominant. Most promisingly, the defending champ's offseason imports -- Matt Barnes and Steve Blake (Mr. Clutch!) -- fit in well, right from the start. Meanwhile, the Rockets are an underrated team. Between a nominally healthy Yao and Brad Miller, they showed they have a full-time NBA center. Kevin Martin is like a poor man's Kobe.


World Series Game 1: Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum is must-see. The Rangers appear to be the favorites, but it seems crazy to count out the Giants -- their pitching has just been too good over the last month. Games will be close, and that's the biggest thing that MLB needs.

Meanwhile, it is now cool to bemoan talk that most fans don't care about this match-up and to hype the series as must-see. I think this is more reflexive contrarianism to the initial "Dud!" (which started long before the LCS were resolved) than it is actually loving this match-up.

Here's where I net out: You should watch because it's the World Series. It doesn't matter who is playing in it -- what matters is that we get dramatic moments on a championship stage. Lee vs. Freak is a pretty good place to start.

Prediction: Rangers in 7.

Related: Sounds like the players' union is open to expanding the playoffs to include more Wild Cards. I am a fan, although I appreciate why the issue is contentious with purists. That said: Given that the Wild Card was the single-greatest baseball innovation of the past 30 years (since, say, free agency in the 1970s), fears of "more as less!" are entirely overblown.


No Romo: On the bright side, he doesn't need surgery. On the brighter side, it's not like the Cowboys were making the playoffs anyway. And on the brightest side, if your fantasy team's QB situation has been terrible, why not try Jon Kitna?


Boise State rolls, again: Of course they did. That's because they are a phenomenal team -- it was unfortunate that their ESPN-televised appearance last night was overshadowed by the must-see NBA game over on TNT. It is also because their schedule is flimsy. I think you can simultaneously admire Boise's awesomeness and nick them for the lightweight resume.

(Meanwhile, my preseason pick of Kellen Moore for the Heisman might have been seen as a little pie-in-the-sky, but I think a strong argument could be made that he is the No. 2 contender right now -- behind Cam Newton -- and obviously worthy of the finalists' invite to New York City.)


MLB Hot Stove: Mets to hire Sandy Alderson as GM? Alderson has a long track record of success, although you could hardly call him one of the innovative young minds in baseball (as you might about GM runner-up Josh Byrnes). Like so many companies in New York, the Mets obviously were won over by the gray-haired gravitas and inevitable nods of approval from the baseball Establishment. What they really needed was a 21st-century re-boot; Alderson, while esteemed, isn't it.

Speaking of re-ups: Looks like the Yankees are going to extend Joe Girardi, despite this October's failures. A few mores seasons with, say, Cliff Lee will help.

Oh, and it sounds like Lee's wife didn't like the vibe thrown off by Yankees fans during the ALCS. It's easy to paint the entire fan base as boorish, but unfair: The Yankees' bigger problem seems to be fans leaving games too early, not rooting too priggishly. Besides, when Lee is on THEIR team, Yankee fans will love him -- just ask Roger Clemens.


Favre Watch: Brad Childress is getting it from both sides. One day, he is scrutinized for seeming to rip Favre publicly (when in reality Childress was only expressing what everyone who watched the game was thinking); the next day he is getting fined $35K by the league for criticizing the refs. The only common link is that everyone finds it fun to criticize Childress.


CBB: It was unlikely that Memphis' Josh Pastner was going to be able to create such an awesome recruiting class without at least one piece of it -- in this case, super shooting guard Jelan Kendrick -- fraying. Kendrick has been suspended from the team and may or may not return. That's never a good sign, when a team isn't even into November yet. Still: High expectations for the Tigers; they are so loaded, they will be fine.


Nearly full NBA schedule tonight as most of the league tips off: The Heat are in Philly. It'll be interesting to see how they do with a back-to-back road game against a seemingly overmatched team with fresh legs... Amare makes his Knicks debut in Toronto... Durant's SRO bandwagon Thunder get a national-TV game against Rose's Bulls... Carmelo starts what will be his final season in Denver... Blake Griffin's NBA regular-season debut against the weary legs of the Blazers playing on back-to-back nights... DeMarcus Cousins shows the T'wolves what they missed by not drafting him... The John Wall Show will wait until tomorrow night in Orlando.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBA Preview: Heat or Bust

From the minute they joined forces, the Heat winning the NBA championship -- or not -- was going to be the biggest (and certainly the most dominating) storyline of the season.

That they will not win the championship -- thwarted by the infinitely more title-toughened Lakers -- will be the season's defining moment.

But I will go one step further than that: I don't think that the Heat -- at least not in the 2010-2011 season -- will even win the Eastern Conference title. I will take the Magic.

In fact, unless the Heat finish with the best record in the East -- they likely will, obviously depending on the injury situation (which caveats every preview everywhere) -- I think they lose in the East semis to the Celtics, who will finish 3rd in the conference behind the two Florida teams.

Is failure fatal for the Heat? Hardly. But that would be one opportunity of the next five-year window gone. And Dwight Howard is only getting better, as are the Thunder. (Not to mention the uncertainty over whether or not Year 2 of the Heat will even happen, period.)

And the Heat falling short of a title certainly smacks of failure, in contrast to the Celtics' Big Three, who were able to come together in their first year and win a championship.

(Sidebar: After a lifetime of hating the Celtics, the Heat have managed to give me something I never thought I would experience -- I find the Celtics nominally likable. I know.)

The Heat are where the Lakers (and, at least for the past three seasons, the Celtics) have been: Championship or failure. I foresee failure. At least for now -- which is all that matters.

As with the past few seasons, there are only a handful of teams with a serious chance of winning a title: Lakers, Heat, Celtics, Magic.

I am ecstatic to add a potential contender to that list: The Thunder. But! The difference between giving the Lakers a series and winning 4 series of their own is the biggest leap in the sport.

(I would also add the Spurs to the list of contenders. So let's give the Thunder half-credit for being nearly on the list and the Spurs half-credit for being nearly off of it.)

But that's it: Four teams, maybe five, that are competing for a championship. Everyone else is rising (Chicago, Milwaukee), rebuilding (DC, Sacto -- among others), fading (Dallas) or floundering (Denver, Atlanta).

It feels kind of pointless to predict how teams will finish within their conferences or within their divisions. What's the point who the 6-seed in the West is going to be? They're all behind the Lakers anyway. Is that too defeatist? Too realist?

I'm not suggesting the rest of the league doesn't have its compelling storylines. Kevin Durant is going to cruise to MVP. Blake Griffin is going to win Rookie of the Year. Perhaps Carmelo Anthony will get traded.

The two dozen or so NBA also-rans are fun to watch for their individual talents (John Wall will be a draw on the road and I predict will win a starting spot on the East All-Star roster) or their efforts to give their fans some kind of vision -- some hope -- for what the future might look like.

(Rather than force a segue here, let me just recommend the new Free Darko book covering the history of the NBA. Like their previous book, it is visually gorgeous and full of FD-awesome essays covering, well, this history of pro basketball. Essential for any NBA fan.)

Speaking of the future, it is impossible to talk about the 2010-2011 season -- as much as we might want to avoid it -- without talking about the lockout in 2011.

It is hard to believe that a league that feels like it is going through a Renaissance would cut things off so severely. There are positions on both sides that would be good to see: The one I feel most strongly about is giving owners the ability to cut under-performing players with terrible contracts; the biggest scourge on the league the past decade -- the owners' own fault, of course -- was the way seemingly half the league was hamstrung from refashioning themselves into competitive products because of terrible deals they did. Take a page from the NFL and allow more contract flexibility.

But let's not talk about things like lock-outs and strikes and seasons cancelled.

Let's focus on happier thoughts: Like the Heat falling short of an NBA title.

Who is your pick to win the NBA title? More interestingly, where do you see the Heat finishing? Any other predictions and/or awards are welcome, too.

-- D.S.

10/26 Quickie: Romo, Favre, LeBron

Today's Names to Know: Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, Brett Favre, Miami Heat, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Derek Dooley, Free Darko, Paul the Octopus and More.

NBA Season Begins: Longer preview coming at noon-ish. But needless to say the world revolves around the Heat -- which is awkward, given that they aren't actually going to win the title. That said: Miami's failure makes the season a lot more compelling.

Read the complete preview later, but here are a few key picks:
Finals: Lakers over Magic
MVP: Durant (ROY: Griffin)

Heat-Celtics tonight: Speaking of which... here's a preview of how the playoffs might play out: With the C's KO'ing the Superfriends.

(Even if the Heat win tonight, the game quickly illustrates the NBA's "regular-season" problem: The games -- particularly between top teams -- are utterly meaningless. I mean, they are fun to watch for their own sake, but they foreshadow nothing as it relates to the playoffs.)

Giants end Cowboys' season: Well, effectively, anyway. Up 20-7, the Cowboys gave up 31 straight points -- that was the insult on top of Tony Romo's shoulder injury, which will keep him out 6-8 weeks. It's not like it matters: The Cowboys' season is over. They won't make the playoffs. They might as well tank to get as high of a draft pick as possible.

Favre Watch: "Everting avulsion." I have no idea what that means, as an injury. I do know that "avulsion" sounds like the feeling the vast majority of fans have for Favre. The larger point is that there is a good chance his 291-game streak of starting games could be over.

Here is the question: Why is this even Favre's decision? Why doesn't the coach say: "I'm going to play whichever QB gives us the best chance to win. And, this weekend, Gimpy McGee here simply isn't better than Tarvaris Jackson." Fin.

LeBron's new TV ad: It is entirely (if typically) provocative, and I end up walking away from it mesmerized by the aesthetic genius of the spot yet totally aggravated by LeBron's attitude. I presume that's the point. Watch.

CFB: What in the world was Tennessee coach Derek Dooley talking about? Protip: It's never a good idea to compare yourself to the Nazis. It's bad enough to reference the Nazis about someone ELSE, let alone YOURSELF. He's like Godwin's Law, run through a Tennessee translator.

Books: If you like the NBA, you'll love Free Darko's new book, out today. Highly recommended.

RIP: Paul the Octopus. A better sports prognosticator than 99.9 percent of sports "experts."

-- D.S.

Monday, October 25, 2010

10/25 Quickie: Favre, Ben, Pats, Auburn

Today's Names to Know: Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Brad Childress, Bill Belichick, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Singletary, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, Darren McFadden, Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeAngelo Hall, Auburn, Oregon, BCS, Allen Iverson, More.

"Favriest" Favre game ever?
With plenty of contenders, I'd like to submit last night as the most classic example of "Classic Favre" games:

*At Lambeau, in primetime, throwing 3 INTs (including the decisive pick-6) but doing just enough to keep the game interesting until the final minute.

*Oh, then limping off the field with next week's start -- and his "iron man" streak -- in doubt.

*And letting one-time understudy Aaron Rodgers beat him for the first time.

*And we will potentially look back and see that as the moment the Vikings' playoff hopes ended.

*And his coach publicly chiding him ("You can't throw it to them" -- um, has Brad Childress never seen Favre play before?)

*With a little Sterger-scandal spice thrown in for good measure. (So Favre admits to calling Jenn Sterger but won't cop to the photos? He'll never learn.)


Let no one say that Ben Roethlisberger had extinguished all his good karma while dealing with his suspension. That fumble/non-fumble (or TD/non-TD) was not the refs' finest moment.

4th-and-Belichick: Once again, Bill Belichick is being ripped for going for it on 4th-and-short late, and once again I find myself in the position of defending him about it. It doesn't matter that the play wasn't successful or even that it almost led to a game-tying Chargers FG; it was the right call to make, and I was glad to see him do it again, even after the heat he took after last season's Colts ending. It shows that Belichick doesn't care at all about the critics (as he shouldn't).

If there was any indication that this won't be the Saints' year, losing to Cleveland in the Superdome sure seems to qualify.

The 49ers' biggest humiliation yet? Losing to the Panthers.

The AFC West is the Chiefs' division to lose. You read that right.

And break up the Bucs!

Raiders rout: I was on a flight yesterday and watched the entire thing. Yes, I'm in the tank for Tebow, but you're telling me Josh McDaniels couldn't find some snaps for him? Come on.

Fantasy Players of the Week:
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick

RB: Darren McFadden
WR: Kenny Britt

(And Fantasy IDP Player of the YEAR has been locked up by DeAngelo Hall.)

Tonight: Giants-Cowboys. Worth watching only for the potential Cowboys schadenfreude.


BCS: Auburn, Oregon are new 1-2. Per yesterday's equivocation, I have no real complaint about the new BCS ranking, although I would say that:

(1) TCU has a stronger resume than Boise (particularly after thrashing Air Force);

(2) Mizzou is underrated sitting behind Michigan State, although I'm not quite sure how much further to lift them, even after they beat last week's BCS No. 1. But the computers, which have the Tigers at No. 2, are more correct than the human pollsters, who inexplicably have Mizzou at 8.

The formula is pretty simple for both Auburn and Oregon -- win out and they will play for the national title. (Imagine Cam Newton vs. Chip Kelly's hurry-hurry-hurry-up offense: It would be a wild game.)

But Auburn still has to play Alabama. And Oregon still has to play at Oregon State. Absolutely no guarantees there. (I see less of a threat for Oregon at USC next week, and watch for Oregon to leapfrog/flip-flop with Auburn at the top of the BCS on the strength of that win.)

Of the others, Boise's case really rests on the ascension of current BCS No. 24 Nevada (and No. 23 VA Tech!) Michigan State's case only gets stronger when they play BCS No. 18 Iowa next week. (Then again, they could lose.) Mizzou is the same way with BCS No. 14 Nebraska (ditto about losing.) No. 4 TCU has the strongest resume-builder left of all: Unbeaten No. 8 Utah. If TCU beats Utah, I would hope voters would reward the by jumping Boise.

BlogPoll preview: (1) Auburn, (2) TCU, (3) Oregon, (4) Mizzou, (5) Boise, (6) Utah, (7) Alabama, (8) Michigan State, (9) Oklahoma, (10) Wisconsin. (No. 11: Ohio State.) Full ballot here.


World Series: You have two choices -- ignore/dismiss the Series because the teams involve lack cachet (although it's hard to argue that it lacks star power -- Lee and Lincecum, not to mention Hamilton and Posey, are must-see) or embrace the novelty. Give it a chance!


NBA: Season preview and picks coming tomorrow. It's not all about the Heat, but the Heat obviously are a big part of the season's thesis.

It's official: Allen Iverson -- one of the most exciting and talented players in the history of basketball -- is going to play in... Turkey.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Quickie: Mizzou, Giants

This is an awesome college football season, especially compared to last year. Think back: The 2009 season was static -- everything came down to a single game (Florida vs. Alabama) and there was little dispute that these were the top two teams. Or, at the very least, that the winner of that game deserved a shot at the national title.

This season? Uncertainty, maxed out. How many folks watched Mizzou -- beyond highlights -- for the first time yesterday, as they thoroughly outplayed the top-ranked team in the country? The Tigers looked terrific. And if Oklahoma was the best -- per the BCS -- then doesn't the team that beat them have a strong claim?

How about Auburn, which knocked off an unbeaten Top 10 BCS contender of its own? Is there any dispute that Auburn QB Cam Newton is the guy to beat for the Heisman? (Don't pay attention to talk that he HAS to beat Alabama. He's having the closest thing to a dominant season as I have season since Tebow in '07, and TT was on a 4-loss team.)

The only thing that feels certain is that Oklahoma wasn't the last contender to lose. Oregon could lose -- as soon as next weekend at USC. Michigan State could lose -- as soon as next weekend at Iowa. Mizzou could lose to Nebraska. Auburn could lose vs. Alabama. TCU and Utah play head-to-head.

My only problem with Boise State -- and remember that I have been saying they were the best team in college football this season since last January -- is that they don't face anything remotely like these challenges. We know Boise could beat any team in the country on a one-off basis. But could they go undefeated playing the complete schedule of the other contenders? Even TCU/Utah's schedule feels qualitatively better by an order of magnitude. The computers' algorithmic "strength-of-schedule" metric is a necessary component to human frailties.

Where do we stand after 8 weeks? On the one hand, we could have six unbeaten teams at the end of the season -- an apocalypse I have been (erroneously) predicting for a decade -- but on the other, we could have just two: Boise State and the TCU-Utah winner. The likely reality in the middle is the real mess.

But, unlike last year, at least the path to the final BCS standings is strewn with exciting upsets and, more importantly, tremendous performances by winning teams. It is easy to experience the schadenfreude when Alabama or Ohio State or Oklahoma loses, but it is all the sweeter when it's not fluky, when the teams that knock them off have earned it entirely.


As I think about my Top 25 ballot, I am torn by this Boise problem. Mizzou and Auburn beat VERY good teams. TCU throttled an Air Force team that nearly beat Oklahoma in Norman. Oregon passed the sniff test. And even if Michigan State barely survived, they were playing on the road against a Top 40 BCS team coming off a bye week. The good news is that the regular season continues to weed out also-rans.

1a. TCU
1b. Boise
1c. Utah
1d. Auburn
1e. Oregon
1f. Missouri

OK: Stop right there. While I am fairly certain that Alabama will prove itself to be one of the top 6 teams in country -- inevitably taking the spot of the TCU-Utah loser -- and while I appreciate that Michigan State is still unbeaten, this feels like a clear-cut Top 6.

But how to organize those six feels ridiculous. My Top 3 last week -- TCU, Boise, Utah -- are still strong, but Auburn, Oregon and Mizzou racked up impressive wins that, if strength-of-schedule matters, should catapult them closer to the top. My "ranking" is not a cop-out, but I'd love your input on how to organize it at the top.


Congrats to SF Giants fans: The Phillies were a very very good team -- a veritable dynasty in the NL -- and the Giants should feel awesome about toppling them.

There will be a common meme that a Rangers-Giants World Series will be a popular failure. Far more compelling is the idea that it is impossible to predict an obvious winner.

-- D.S.