Saturday, November 06, 2010

CFB Hangover: TCU Loves LSU

This is what I just tweeted:

"Bama losing = best-case BCS scenario for TCU/Boise. If/when Auburn loses to Bama, AUB limps into SECCG w/ no BCS mandate"

Let's unpack that:

There was a fairly solid conventional wisdom that a 1-loss defending national champ Alabama -- beating Top 10 LSU and unbeaten Auburn, then winning the SEC Championship -- would get into the BCS title game ahead of TCU or Boise.

Now that conventional wisdom has been obliterated, because there won't BE a 1-loss Alabama.

Consider this: Because it beat LSU head-to-head, Auburn clinches its spot in the SEC title game by beating Georgia next weekend.

What happens when Auburn then LOSES to non-factor Alabama to finish the regular season? They limp into an SEC title game that suddenly has zero juice.

1-loss Auburn -- directly coming off a loss to 2-loss Alabama, no less -- doesn't have nearly the presumptive mandate that 1-loss Alabama would. In fact, I would argue they have no mandate.

Instead, presuming Oregon wins out -- and TCU and Boise both win out -- I think you can put Oregon and TCU into the national-title game, with 1-loss SEC champ Auburn on the outside.

(Let's pause to appreciate that TCU went on the road and annihilated Utah -- a team ranked in the Top 5. Boise's throttling in Boise of unranked Hawaii pales in comparison. TCU is awesome.)

I, for one, would love to see Oregon's offense against TCU's defense. That feels like a championship-worthy event.

Meanwhile, the biggest LSU fans in the world should be TCU and Boise State fans. Because barring Auburn running the table*, LSU just cost the SEC its spot in the national-title game...

(* - If Auburn runs the table, they would meet Oregon for the national title, and TCU and Boise would get shut out.)

My first-pass BlogPoll ballot Top 5 for this week: (1) TCU, (2) Oregon, (3) Boise, (4) Auburn, (5) LSU.

-- D.S.

Saturday (Very) Quickie: TCU, Page 2

First: If you missed it yesterday, here is my tribute to ESPN's Page 2 (today is the 10th anniversary of its launch).

CFB Today: TCU-Utah is the headliner. GameDay is in SLC. TCU's national-title hopes (temporarily) are on the line. A BCS bid may hang in the balance.

NBA: Heat lose in NOLA. So how quickly before a "D-Wade passing up the game-winning shot as symbolic -- or quite literal -- interpretation of his loss of alpha-dog power from LeBron's arrival" meme emerges? The question: Does Wade pass up that shot last season? (I think not.)

Loved that Cleveland response ad to LeBron's Nike ad. What do you want me to be? "We want you to be who you said you would be." A killer line.

Jason Richardson FTW.

Gilbert Arenas is going to be just fine. (Even if the Wiz aren't going to be very good.)

Cam Newton Watch: "I didn't do anything wrong." What if Cam's dad was involved in some shady stuff but Cam had no idea? This feels particularly plausible given that detail in the SI story that Cam's dad flatly dictated to his son where he was going.

Declan Sullivan Update: Notre Dame's president said that the school shoulders full responsibility for Sullivan's death. That is responsible -- and accurate -- but doesn't go far enough in assigning more direct culpability to Brian Kelly, whose decision it ultimately was to put Sullivan in the hydraulic lift. As much as anything, this feels like the school's attempt to shield the football coach, who -- as far as I know -- has yet to face any criminal or civil consequences.

Go, Zenyatta, go!

-- D.S.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Happy 10th Anniversary, ESPN Page 2

Tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of the launch of Page 2 on

It goes without saying that the day is meaningful for me -- for the opportunities that I had from Page 2, for the colleagues I was honored to write alongside and work with and, mostly, for the readers who did me the sincere privilege of wanting to hear what I had to say.

I remember when I heard the section was launching -- and when it launched. I remember being maybe a month into business school, totally swamped with classwork, but so excited that my old friend and colleague Kevin Jackson was running the section... and that he was open to me contributing.

Things started two months later, when I did my very first "What's Hot, What's Not" list for the new year: 2001. Over the next two years, the "Hot/Not" list would become something around the start of every sports season, then a weekly franchise. I would also pitch ideas off of breaking news (too many to list). I remember the competitive metabolism I had to pitch something quickly, then the satisfied feeling of seeing it published. (Of course, that's nothing compared to the competitiveness of today's news cycle.)

One of my favorite Page 2 assignments ever was being part of Jay Lovinger's "Writers' Bloc," an incredible group of writers Jay put together (dunno what I was doing in there) that would basically email each other throughout the day on a topic Jay would throw out there. Then we'd publish an edited version of the email chain. In hindsight, it could have been "Huffington Post." Ultimately, it was probably too expensive and too unwieldy -- but, boy, was it fun.

Of course, my Page 2 experience was near-completely defined by The Daily Quickie, an idea I brought to Jackson and Lovinger in the summer of 2002 after plotting through it during my second year of business school. They were amazingly supportive, and helped me shepherd it through the approval process up the chain of ESPN command. I still look back on those earliest Quickie drafts from, like, August 2002. They were awesome. I knew this was going to resonate with fans.

On January 6, 2003, the first edition of the Daily Quickie was right up top on the front page of -- it got a huge audience. Some of them even came back the next day. And the next. And the next. And so I got to keep writing it the next day, and the days and weeks and months and years after that. From the day the column launched, I wrote it every non-holiday weekday for something like 420 consecutive days -- basically until I had to pry myself away from my laptop to get married in October 2004. It is an "ironman" streak I am very proud of.


The column ran for nearly 4 years. There was the "Morning Quickie" spin-off live-chat on SportsNation -- which still has to hold the site record for most comments published in an hour -- and I even found my way onto "Around the Horn" a few times in the summer of 2004. (I had the chance to visit the new PTI/ATH offices last week when I was in DC, and even though they are in a new space, it brought back a ton of memories, mostly of me treading water on national TV. Someday I'll digitize the DVDs I have of the appearances and edit them into a hilarious YouTube compendium of my pronouncements.)

But more than anything, the column allowed me to reach an incredible audience -- a large number of people, yes, but such amazing people, many of whom took the time to email (this was back before comments) or just simply took the time to read what I had to say.

To that point, one of the big foundations for the column was that I wanted to fundamentally respect the reader first and foremost -- not just to be fan-friendly but to put fans first:

*What are the topics I care about? Who cares! What are the topics YOU will want (or need) to know or care about today.

*How long do I want to write? Who cares! How quickly can I make a point, then move on... which would allow YOU to move on, feeling satisfied, to another column or another site or the rest of your day.

*When do I want to publish? Who cares! From my analysis, the glaring fan need was for something in the morning, when you were getting to the office or rolling out of bed in the dorm room.

I knew the combination was unique and potentially powerful. Still: It felt intuitive and natural to me. It still does. Is it really that hard to say, "But is it good for the fans?"


I wrote for Page 2 for five-and-a-half years, more than half of the decade that the section has been around. The four years I spent developing and writing the Quickie were utterly amazing; there wasn't a day -- not a single morning -- where I didn't get up at the crack of dawn both thrilled at the prospect of writing for you and so appreciative of the opportunity to do it.

I look back on my years at Page 2 with so much joy -- a testament to the unique role I carved out for myself, to the fondness I had (and still have) for folks like Jackson and Lovinger and my Quickie editor David Schoenfield and Mike Philbrick and Michael Knisley, to the admiration I had for my talented colleagues like Bill Simmons and Eric Neel and Hunter and the late, beloved Ralph Wiley (whose note to me after the Quickie launched remains in my wallet, seven years later). What a thrill to see my name alongside those other guys.

But the biggest joy -- the biggest thrill -- was connecting with you and the other readers. Maybe most haven't read me since then; maybe some only started reading me after I started blogging -- they have no idea about the Quickie days beyond my blog headlines. The column certainly gave me credibility when I entered the incredible sports-blog ecosystem. And I still get a thrill when I hear from readers, and I still get a kick when I mention what I used to do at Page 2 to someone and they recognize the column name or my name or Page 2.


Next week, I'm going to fill you in on what I'm up to -- what I have been working on, what I'm doing next. It's big. Really big: The biggest thing I've ever done. And it has been a whole lot of fun working on it so far -- with a lot more fun to come. Hopefully as much fun for you as for me.

Hopefully as much fun for you as for me.

That feels like the perfect way to sum up how I felt about my years at Page 2, too.

-- D.S.

11/05 Quickie: Newton, Sparky, Zenyatta

Today's Names to Know: Cam Newton, Kenny Rogers, John Bond, Sparky Anderson, TCU, Zenyatta, LeGarrette Blount, John Wall, Edgar Renteria, David Ortiz, Edison Pena, "You're ALL winners!" and More.

So, about Cam Newton. Let me just say outright that I am a Newton fan -- I fully 'fess up that if it was another player (or another team) that I liked less, I might have a different position.

That said, this feels like a lot more smoke than fire. Yes, the NCAA is investigating Newton. And let's stipulate to the story: An "agent"/runner named Kenny Rogers claiming to represent Newton's family approached MSU alum John Bond with an offer to deliver Newton for $180,000.

There hasn't been a direct link established from the agent to Newton or Newton's dad. Further, Auburn has known about the investigation for months -- think they aren't doing (or haven't done) their own due diligence before playing Newton all season long (and risking their season)?

Did Newton or his family get paid to sign at Auburn? Hard to say. There is some odd circumstantial evidence -- particularly the detail from that SI story about Newton last week where Cam wanted to go to MSU, but his dad "decided for him" that he would go to Auburn.

But that's not the same as direct evidence of a payment from Auburn boosters through a runner to Cam Newton's family. And that's probably the only point that matters:

Will Newton be ruled ineligible -- thus taking Auburn out of the national-title race (that they are right in the middle of) and taking Newton out of the Heisman race (that he leads)?

I don't think so. I think that ultimately the NCAA can't establish that direct link. Consequently, Newton stays eligible -- Auburn coach Gene Chizik wouldn't have been nearly as defiant ("...Eligible. Period. End of story.") if he knew something was coming up the pike -- and Auburn rolls along.

Is "NCAA investigating college football's best player" a big story? Yes.
Will there be a taint of scandal, even if the NCAA can't find anything actually improper done by Newton or his family? Yes.

But, in the end, barring any new information coming out that didn't surface over months of NCAA investigation, the allegations alone won't impact Auburn's national-title hopes as much as, say, losing to Alabama would.

UPDATE: Having received enough email calling me a Pollyanna on my take on this -- and reading plenty of folks I respect that would, if they read the above analysis, call me Pollyanna on this, I am moving toward this "Circumstantially, it sure seems like something iffy happened." However, I still think that the NCAA won't find the direct link they need to boot Newton. There is a much better chance of Auburn's title hopes being derailed by losing to Alabama than losing to the NCAA. Will Heisman voters boycott? Not enough. Again: Losing to Alabama will do more to hurt Newton's Heisman chances than this scandal.


CFB Weekend Preview: TCU-Utah is a "Game of the Year" contender. It is among the single-toughest games any national-title contender will play this year. (It is certainly tougher than anything Boise State will play this year.)

If TCU loses, they are out of the national-title picture (unfairly, Utah doesn't seem to be given much of a shot, even if they win tomorrow and run the table).

If TCU wins -- on the road, at a Top 10-ranked BCS opponent -- they deserve to leapfrog Boise State (among polls and pollsters that don't already have them ahead of Boise) and into the coveted No. 3 position. Pick: TCU.

Speaking of leapfrogs, Alabama's surge gets a turbo-charge to their strength-of-schedule when they beat LSU -- a Top 10 team -- in Baton Rouge.

Last night: Boise was extremely happy that Virginia Tech survived Georgia Tech. (In other strength-of-schedule-watching, TCU -- presuming they can beat Utah -- would love for Baylor, who the Horned Frogs routed in September, to win at Oklahoma State.)


RIP Sparky Anderson: To fans of a certain age, he was the manager of the legendary Big Red Machine. To others, he was the manager of those phenomenal 1984 Tigers. To younger fans, a Hall of Famer. By all accounts, a wonderful man beloved by those who played for him and fans who followed him. Condolences to his family, friends, former players and many fans.


Must-See: Zenyatta at the Breeders' Cup. Few are arguing (yet) that she is the greatest horse ever -- although she's up there -- but a win would/should put her on the racing Rushmore. And why not say it: How about Zenyatta for Best Athlete of 2010?

(It's getting to that time of year to start thinking of contenders: Although stuff that happens in January and February is usually forgotten by the end of the year, I have to think the front-runner has to be Drew Brees, as a proxy for the entire Saints team.)


NFL Week 9: My Most Intriguing Storylines
*Game of the Week: Bucs at Falcons
*Hmm: Colts at Eagles.
*Cowboys Schadenfreude Watch: at Green Bay
*Chiefs-Raiders: ...Meaningful?! In Week 9?!
*Fantasy Player to Watch: LeGarrette Blount


NBA Last Night: Solid win for the Thunder. After getting shut down in LA by the Clippers, they went up to Portland and gritted out an OT win over the Blazers (Durant and Westbrook each had 28 points and 11 rebounds.)

And Tonight: John Wall makes his Madison Square Garden debut against a Knicks team that might be a little gassed after last night's run in Chicago (16 3s for NY!). I will be wearing my Wall t-shirt but will be watching from the couch.


MLB Hot Stove: World Series MVP Edgar Renteria didn't have his $10.5M option picked up by the Giants -- it's not unremarkable or unreasonable (even if it is a little stark that so immediately after his role as team hero they would say "Aaand there's the door." Obviously, in hindsight, Renteria was worth far more than whatever the Giants paid him last season.) Renteria will always be beloved by Giants fans.

(Meanwhile, speaking of team folk heros and team options, the Red Sox picked up David Ortiz's option for the 2011 season. They still will presumably pursue Crawford or Werth to add to their lineup.)


NYC Marathon: Will any racer get more cheers than the Chilean miner, Edison Pena, running the race?

(And another year goes by where I say "Gee, I really wish I would run the NYC Marathon. And another year goes by where everyone makes the Seinfeld reference "You're ALL winners!")

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

11/04 Quickie: Moss, KG, Hokies, Sparky

PM UPDATE: RIP Sparky Anderson. Condolences to his family, friends and many fans in Cincinnati, Detroit and beyond.

Today's Names to Know: Randy Moss, KG, Charlie Villanueva, Colin Cowherd, John Wall, Virginia Tech, Eric Bledsoe, Sparky Anderson, Tommy Craggs and More.

Randy Moss to Titans
: Good for Tennessee. Moss will love playing with Chris Johnson, will love playing alongside Kenny Britt and will love getting throws from Vince Young. His mercurial mindset will be right. Terrific decision by the Titans, with very little risk. It's so interesting to follow along as the conventional wisdom has gone from something along the lines of "It's Moss: What did you expect?" to "What a steal for the Titans!" (Still looking like a fool: Brad Childress.)

KG vs. Charlie Villanueva: Let's start with this -- I am entirely dubious about what KG says he said. I am inclined to believe Villanueva -- at the very least, give CV31 the TKO for taking to Twitter at the start of the day yesterday and putting KG on the defensive, to the point he had to put out that lame clarification, an entire day's news cycle later... more than enough time for KG to get mocked -- then, amazingly, mocked again after he produced his explanation. (CV31 even got the last word: "I know EXACTLY what I heard.") Next time, KG will just stick with the old tried-and-true misogyny: "F--- you, b----!"

Colin Cowherd on John Wall: Barely worth dignifying with a response, except to say that this was quite possibly one of the most ignorant rants ever uttered on sports-talk radio... which is saying something. Would it be so hard for Cowherd to double back, admit he was wrong and apologize? I swear to god, we've reached a point where "mainstream columnists" (and certainly radio hosts) are knee-jerk hysterics while bloggers (and I'm ready to chuck the "bloggers" class designation) are reasonable and measured.

CFB Tonight: Want to see up-close how far Virginia Tech has come from the Boise State loss (and subsequent shocker at home to James Madison)? They host the national game tonight. Very important game... for Boise State.

CFB: Latest BlogPoll from the group. (1) Oregon, (2) Auburn, (3) Boise, (4) TCU - despite my best intentions to get TCU ranked ahead of Boise. Oh well: Maybe after this weekend (at which point I will rank the TCU-Utah winner ahead of Boise, regardless).

Must-Read: Want to understand Oregon's offense? Read this.

NCAA clears RichRod in Michigan investigation: That doesn't mean that RichRod should -- or will -- keep his job. I wonder how many Michigan fans were hoping he would be implicated, to make it all the easier to can him? I don't think it makes a difference. Might be this offseason, might be next. But I think RichRod's departure is inevitable. (Then again, all coaches' departures are inevitable.)

NBA Last Night: The Hornets are still unbeaten. The Hawks are still unbeaten. Monta Ellis (39) is a scoring machine. Paul Pierce passes the 20K-points milestone. And rookie Eric Bledsoe is getting rave reviews for his performance last night leading the Clippers to a win over the bandwagon Thunder. (The Clips totally shut down Kevin Durant -- improbable!)

Sparky Anderson in hospice: The point is that you can only hope that the Hall of Fame manager is comfortable and that he and his family have some peace of mind.

Celebrations: Wow, did that Giants parade in San Francisco look fun. What a moment for fans there -- and those displaced Giants fans living though it vicariously via Twitter, texts, video, whatever.

Varsity Letters: NYC Tonight! Featuring Deadspin's Tommy Craggs, ESPN's Howard Bryant and author Dave Jamieson, who wrote "Mint Condition," a terrific book about the history of baseball cards. It's free and starts at 7. Details here.

-- D.S.

11/03 Quickie: Wall, Heat, Moss, Shanny

John Wall breaks out, only 3 games in: As a Wizards fan (do I even need to add the "long-suffering" tag anymore?), Wall's 29-point, 13-assist, 9-steal (ahem: 8 turnover) game, leading the Wiz to a home-opening win over the Sixers was amazing to see. Let's not give Rookie of the Year to Blake Griffin just yet. Not while Wall is dazzling in the highlights and the box scores.

And let's not forget Wall doing the Dougie as part of his player intro.

Heat Watch: Another win, with LeBron as de facto point guard. He can call himself whatever he wants, but he is the team's passing engine (12 assists last night, but not a single rebound). This is entirely in line with Free Darko's "positional revolution," where old labels ("point guard" "shooting guard", etc) simply don't apply.

Who will claim Randy Moss? A non-playoff stinker with nothing to lose (Bills? Rams?) -- or a playoff contender willing to take the risk (Jets? Dolphins?) Someone will, and that team will have an instant pop of interest. Yes, I'm with the group that wants to see him on the Jets.

I love the story about Moss freaking out on the Vikings team caterer. And yet who among us hasn't had a moment of disappointment at a buffet? (Kidding.)

Mike Shanahan vs. Donovan McNabb, Cont'd: JaMarcus Russell? Really? That takes the story into a third day, then this: Kyle Shanahan said the coaches told McNabb he might be benched. Of course, McNabb immediately went to the media and refuted that. I don't trust the coaches. That's as a rule. But more specifically, I don't trust the Shanahans -- at least on this. Too many inconsistencies over the past few days.

Shawn Merriman waived, too: What a mighty-have-fallen moment.

Big East football expanding: TCU feels like a no-brainer, and Central Florida would be an awesome add -- although South Florida will never let that happen. But if you're going to add football schools, why wouldn't you add ones that are located in football-insane regions?

RIP Nick Bell: Cripes, so fast. The Mississippi State football player was diagnosed with cancer just a month ago. Condolences to his family, friends and the Mississippi State community.

MLB Hot Stove: Jeter Watch. Hal Steinbrenner on the Jeter contract negotiations: "There's always the possibility that things could get messy." That's what you call foreshadowing.

Managerial Carousel: Brewers hire Angels' coach Ron Roenicke. Won't help.

World Series hangover: Indeed, it was the least-watched Series ever (tied for that mark, at least), but it's such a useless designation. Doesn't take anything away from the Giants or their fans. If casual fans nationally didn't tune in because they were watching football or trick-or-treating or just not caring about the Giants or Rangers, it's only a big deal to Fox and its obligation to deliver some pre-determined audience level to advertisers.

NBA Contract Extension Deadline: Mike Conley? Didn't see that one coming. That guy has been overrated since the minute he got all that love in his one year at Ohio State -- and certainly when he was tabbed as a Top 5 NBA pick. That's not me with revisionist history in the wake of his mediocre NBA career; at the time of the draft, I was very bearish on his NBA potential. And yet... he gets paid! All it takes is one irrational team.

Women's Hoops: UConn as No. 1? YOU DON'T SAY.

MSG asbestos scare: Great to know I took my kid there last winter. Take a deep breath, kid! That's the smell of Knicks failure carcinogens!

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sponsored Post: Off the Schneid!

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

This is a very special edition: This week, I write the uber-wrap-up post for the entire league.

Let's start with this great news: I'm off the schneid. After taking a beating for the past two weeks, I upended Jerod's Midwest Sports Fans (formerly 5-2, with a No. 2 league ranking) to reclaim my mojo. Did I learn my lesson about talking trash? Hardly: Jerod, you left your winning margin -- Benjarvus Green-Ellis (2 TDs and two-dozen fantasy points) -- on your bench. Hope starting Fred Jackson was worth it. (It wasn't? No, seriously, we've all been there. And I appreciate you extending your neck out so I could step on it en route to climbing back onto a winning streak. I have now jinxed myself for at least the next three weeks.

Around the rest of the league:

*Another big win for the league's top-ranked team: Diana's Fresh 2 Death -- and that was with 4 starters on the bench with bye weeks. Umm, Diana: You might want to do something with Randy Moss. (Or not!)

*Punter's DayQuil Fighter of the NyQuil kept pace with Diana at 6-2 in the league. Brad Childress could take a lesson: Punter kept Brett Favre benched for Kyle Orton. Brinson's Fuzzy Gullets enjoyed a 1-game win streak before taking a few steps back to 2-6 on the season.

*Stephanie's For a Better Looking Tomorrow -- trying to keep pace with me atop the X Division -- avoided a bye-week dropoff with sat starting RBs Brandon Jacobs and LeSean McCoy with 15 points from Mike Tolbert (while sitting 11 points from Chargers teammate Ryan Matthews). It helped that she had Janikowski powering FGs and a Rams D that had 3 sacks and 3 INTs. It also helped she was playing Levy's Press Coverage team.

*Two pivotal games between pairs of 3-4 teams: Winners hit .500 and have a decent shot at a run for the playoffs; losers drop to 3-5 halfway through the season and have a tough row to hoe:

Sebek's Sweaty Ditkas needed every bit of his league-high 116 points to knock off Phil's Team Gunaxin, which had 114 points -- higher than any other team this week. In this week's "Bad Beat," Phil's reasonable decision to start Steven Jackson (6 points) over Thomas Jones (8 points) cost him the win, despite starting Week 8 fantasy stud Calvin Johnson, who led all WRs and RBs in points this week.

Meanwhile, Schatz's DVOA vs. GERD used a huge Monday night from Arian Foster to power past Bassett's What Would Revis Do, which held a lead heading into Monday night that proved unsustainable.

Nearly halfway through the season, Diana and Punter lead the league at 6-2. Three teams (including mine) are 5-3. Sebek and Schatz pull up to 4-4. The larger point: The playoff spots are wide open right now.

Looking ahead to next week: The Game of the Week is between Punter (6-2) and Stephanie (5-3), but keep your eye on Sebek coming off that league-leading points week against top-ranked Diana's Fresh 2 Death.

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.

11/02 Quickie: Giants, Moss, Shanahan

Today's Names to Know: Giants, Tim Lincecum, Edgar Renteria, Cliff Lee, Randy Moss, Mike Shanahan, Colts, Luol Deng, Al Horford, Harrison Barnes and More.

San Francisco Giants, World Series Champs.
Tim Lincecum throws a memorable gem. The ageless Edgar Renteria wins MVP. Giants fans get something they haven't had in more than a half-century. Read last night's post-game post here.

(Something worth adding: Look back to the start of the postseason. How many "experts" picked the Giants to win it all? I couldn't find any. That's what you call a quality playoff ending.)

What next for Cliff Lee? He will be welcome back in Texas. He will be given a mega-sized contract offer by the Yankees. Other teams will be in the mix -- I suspect he lost a few million by losing both World Series starts; he also lost that "postseason invincible" tag. My guess: He stays in Texas, which will match the Yankees offer. And he never again comes as close to a championship as he did this past week.

Vikings will waive Randy Moss: Where to start? He was outspoken, but why did the Vikings trade for him if they didn't plan to use him aggressively? Consider that they gave up a 3rd-round pick for an ineffective 4-week player rental, which could be argued was the single-worst trade in recent NFL history. (And it's coming out that Brad Childress didn't ask his owner -- or basically tell anyone -- before making the decision. Aaand... that might be all for the head coach. Not immediately, but at the end of a let-down season.)

And where does Moss go next? At the top of the waiver wire are teams that have no shot at the playoffs but sure could use him (probably not THAT much); at the bottom of the waiver wire are teams in the playoff chase that can't risk the distraction (despite the tantalizing upside). Plenty of teams could use his talent; few -- if any -- will want his baggage.

Mike Shanahan under pressure: His bone-headed move to bench Donovan McNabb with 2 minutes to go in the game on Sunday (for Rex Grossman!) was compounded by his feeble attempts to explain it. The big question is: With that move (and cover-up), did he irredeemably lose the team? The Redskins media certainly seems to have soured on him.

(By the way, I only very rarely heard people refer to me as "Shanny" growing up, but I kept seeing "Shanny" in my Twitter feed in reference to Shanahan, and it made me look twice every time. Of course, I wouldn't be so dumb as to bench Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman with 2 minutes to go and about to start what would be a game-tying/-winning drive.)

NFL MNF: Colts beat back Texans. Feels like years -- or at least a half-season -- since the Texans toppled the Colts back in Week 1. Now, Indy feels in control of the AFC South -- as usual.

NBA Last Night: Luol! The Bulls' Deng scored a career-high 40 in a Bulls win over the Blazers. Meanwhile, the Kings went to 3-1 and the Clippers remain winless (Griffin: 17 and 8).

Al Horford gets 5Y/$60M deal with Hawks: He deserved it, and I don't just say that because he is one of my favorite players in the league. Undersized at center, Horford is solid defensively, a good passer and nimble, while good enough to be counted on for a double-double every night. Atlanta might be stretched thin with all these big deals, but Horford's was a good one to get done. He would have been coveted as an FA next summer (if there WAS a "next summer").

CBB Preseason All-Americans: This is usually a pretty good foreshadowing of who will be postseason A-A. Loved seeing freshman Harrison Barnes on the 1st team. He becomes the first freshman ever to make the preseason team (since the team started in '86-87).

And while he deserves it -- he is the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft -- this "first-time" situation feels like a panicky make-up call for the AP's egregious preseason misses through the years, most recently John Wall a year ago.

The Death of Declan Sullivan, Cont'd: For those interested in the punitive measures that could be taken against Notre Dame, criminal charges appear to be out (mystifyingly), but a Forbes writer pegs the potential civil (financial) punishment at $30 million. Still doesn't seem like enough. (h/t: Emma Carmichael)

Vote. Take the 15 minutes or hour or whatever and go vote, thoughtfully.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Congrats, Giants: World Series Champs

Congratulations to San Francisco Giants fans on their World Series title.

You had a likable team, built on terrific homegrown starting pitchers who elevated their performance in October. Tim Lincecum's 8-inning, 10-K start in Game 5 will be instantly immortalized within the fan base -- even baseball history.

Speaking on Lincecum, he now has that coveted championship to go with his multiple Cy Young awards and status as one of the best -- if not the best -- pitcher in his league. No matter what else happens in his career, he has this singular intersection of talent and title.

Buster Posey enjoys a spoiler of a rookie season: Posey should give Cal Ripken Jr. a call about early-career uber-success, and how to savor it -- not to take it for granted. This may be it.

1954 -- the last time the Giants won the World Series -- was a long time ago. Anyone less than retirement age of 65 or older has no recollection of the Giants as a world champ.

Speaking of which, you know who I'm most fascinated by? Edgar Renteria, the 34-year-old shortstop who won a title in his 2nd full year in the majors in 1997 at age 20, then an NL pennant at age 27 with the Cards, and now a career bookend world championship with the Giants, with 2 huge HRs in the World Series -- including the decisive 3-run shot in Game 5 that earned him the honor of World Series MVP. Love the heroes in their mid-30s!

Lincecum. Cain. Bumgarner. Posey. Uribe. Ross. Renteria. Wilson. For Giants fans, they are instantly immortal. This accounting of instant history is my favorite part of every World Series.

Congratulations, Giants fans. Enjoy it -- not just now, but for years to come.

-- D.S.

Media: Levinsohn, Dube Will Boost

Two media-industry notes with relevance to sports:

*Yahoo has brought in Ross Levinsohn to run operations in the Americas. In keeping with the meme from the past few weeks, Levinsohn is another example of sports pacing online innovation; back in the mid-90s, he was in charge of SportsLine, then moved over and ran Fox Sports Interactive -- that was before a steep ascent to run all of Fox Interactive. Now he's back to run all of Yahoo. Levinsohn's sports-centric DNA can only going to be a good thing for Yahoo's Sports team, which was already pacing the company's content strategy.

*AOL has brought in Jonathan Dube to run its News and Information group, which includes Sports. Dube is another longtime industry vet -- I've been in online media for 15 years and Dube has been a fixture of leadership for as far back as I can remember. Like Yahoo, AOL's larger content strategy was materially incubated on the sports side; in Fanhouse, Dube has a huge engine of content production to feed AOL's portal-powered audience. Again: It's only going to be a good thing for Fanhouse that Dube is overseeing the group as part of his larger news portfolio.

*Last one, and it's a repeat from an item in the Quickie post earlier this morning that I added late: Congrats to's Howard Bryant for winning the 2010 Online Journalism Award for Online Commentary/Blogging (Large Site division). He was the ONLY nominee -- across all OJA categories -- from sports, and so it was nice to see him win. Given how awesome the online sports journalism community is -- large and small -- we should all feel like we won a piece of the award.

BlogPoll Monday: 1 Auburn, 2 TCU

I feel compelled to keep saying this: I'm a huge fan of Boise State. Back in January, I had them pegged as my preseason No. 1 team. Back in August, I gave them my very first No. 1 ranking.

In a one-game situation, I think Boise State could would beat any team in the country.

That does NOT necessarily make them the No. 1 team in the country. And, based on what they have done so far this season, that does NOT make them one of the Top 2 teams in the country this week, as the AP would want you to recognize. For the record, I have Boise at No. 4 -- most notably: behind TCU, but ahead of Alabama.

Who you play matters. And it isn't just a function of putting multiple wins over Top 25 teams on your resume -- as others have, certainly Auburn and Oregon.

It is the week-in-week-out grind. I said this over the weekend: It is entirely speculative, but if Boise had to play an SEC or Big 12 or Big Ten or Pac-10 schedule, they would do very well. But the chances of walking through it without a single loss is unrealistic.

I don't begrudge Boise their place as BCS outsider and they certainly are doing everything they can with the schedule they have, rather than the schedule the rest of us would want them to have.

But -- specifically at this point of the season -- any voter who puts Boise at No. 1 or No. 2 either is doing it to spite the BCS or is unfairly discounting strength of schedule; either is a violation of the kind of sincere intellectual commitment fans expect from a poll voter.

(You may now laugh at that last statement.)

The point is this: If Alabama runs the table -- which would include upcoming wins over LSU and Mississippi State (both ranked), then Auburn (a Top 2 BCS team), then the SEC title game (presumably against the team that beat them -- also a Top 20 team) -- they will have earned a spot in the national title game ahead of an unbeaten Boise State. At the very least, we are going to have a vigorous debate about that.

We have talked about this before: If unbeaten Boise takes a BCS title-game spot from 1-loss Alabama, I could absolutely see SEC commish Mike Slive seceding from the BCS, as early as this coming offseason. (And he probably should.)

You could make a similar case for a 1-loss Oregon or a 1-loss Big Ten champ or a 1-loss Big 12 champ.

The team I feel worst for? TCU, which finally vaulted Boise State in the BCS rankings -- as they should, given their superior strength of schedule -- but has the chance of being shut out of the national championship game in favor of Boise, even after TCU beats Top 5 Utah on the road next week. I really hope the Horned Frogs win and voters are hit with a sledgehammer that TCU has earned more rankings respect this season than Boise.

Strength of schedule should matter -- a lot, actually. I'm not talking about for differentiating between teams ranked No. 5 and No. 20. I'm talking about as it is incorporated in picking the Top 2 teams, the teams that in our wacked system, get to play for the national title.

This is hard, because I want to see Boise get a shot. And I certainly want TCU to get a shot -- probably even more than Boise. At at least one of them won't.

But I'm left feeling like this: You can want to see the BCS implode or "die," but if you think Boise making the BCS title game ahead of a team with a more worthy resume is somehow a net-good for college football, you are compounding the BCS's original sins. The BCS will have not only corrupted the sport, but they will have corrupted the media and fans who support it.

That said: If you want to see the BCS implode, root like crazy for Boise to make the title game ahead of a 1-loss SEC champ Alabama. But that doesn't make it right.

The problem with my logic is wondering where it stops: Does unbeaten Boise have a better resume than a 2-loss team? The same reasoning would apply about Boise's unlikelihood of making it through a top conference schedule unscathed.

At the very least, it helps tilt the debate, make it a little more palatable.* You want Oregon to lose vs. Arizona or Oregon State. You want Alabama to lose to LSU, then beat Auburn, then have Auburn lose to a mediocrity like Florida (!) in the SEC title game. You want Wisconsin to lose to Northwestern. You want the top of the Big 12 to collapse under the weight of its own transitive property.

Because all things being equal, strength of schedule has to matter. It should matter. It's why TCU-Utah next weekend is so important: Here are two Top 5 teams, playing each other, giving the winner the kind of elite, signature win that so many other contenders can't match. Especially Boise.

-- D.S.

*This is all moot if Oregon and Auburn run the table. For better or worse, no matter how Boise and TCU finish, they will finish behind unbeaten Oregon and Auburn, and at that point, you can only hope that Boise gets a shot in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama and TCU gets a shot against a 1-loss Big 12 champ in the Fiesta. Or, frankly, playing each other, with the AP actively giving their half of the national title to that game's winner. That is the only kind of "jury nullification" that matters -- mid-season protest votes with Boise ranked ahead of Auburn, when the resumes are so clearly differentiated, are lame.

11/01 Quickie: Favre, Bum, BCS, LeBron

Today's Names to Know: Brett Favre's chin, Drew Brees, Steve Weatherford, Donovan McNabb (or perhaps Rex Grossman?), Calvin Johnson, Raheem Morris, Jerry Jones, Madison Bumgarner, Cliff Lee, BCS, LeBron, Maurice Lucas and More.

The usual Monday NFL zip-through:

*Chin up, Favre fans
: Now that we know -- or at least have been told -- that Brett Favre's chin injury isn't serious (but really, how could it not be a concussion?), we can talk about it as a form of catharsis. That's not meant to wish any sort of injury on him, just that the shot felt loaded with irony, given all the "will he/I or won't he/I" jawing of the past week.

Meanwhile, he played enough of the game to peg him with at least some of the blame for yet another loss.

*Boo dat? (Ugh. Sorry.) You have to figure that if the Superdome crowd was ever going to be really noisy for a regular-season game, it would be on Halloween night -- let alone in primetime, against one of the elite teams in the league. And they were, giving the Saints enough of an advantage to slip past the Steelers in the 4th quarter and, potentially, regain some of their mojo from the loss to the Browns last week.

Jets shut out: It's one thing to lose. It's another thing to get shut out -- especially when your D holds the other team to 9 points. (And following a bye week, no less!) It's back to "Hard Knocks"-level impotence for the Jets O. (You can knock Jets punter Steve Weatherford -- and Rex Ryan certainly did -- but someone on that team needed to be thinking offense.)

*Leave it to the mercurial Chargers to knock off the surging Titans. Unclear if there is a more unpredictable team in the NFL this season than San Diego.

*McBenched: Given how he responded a year ago to being benched, maybe Donovan McNabb will have a similar reaction next week, after it happened yesterday. But probably not. (Seriously, Shanahan: With 2 minutes to go in a winnable game? Welcome to Redskins media frenzy.)

*They just keep winning: Chiefs (in an ugly one that nearly ended in a tie)... Bucs (in a wild one -- LeGarrette Blount!)... Raiders (?!?!)

*Troy Smith! (Speaking of the London game: Touchdown, Tim Tebow.)

*Fantasy Player of the Day: Calvin Johnson (who was an obvious start anyway), with a hat-tip to Matt Stafford (who wasn't... and if you did start him, more power to you). And if you're looking for a RB, it has to be LeGarrette Blount from the Bucs, with 120 yards and 2 TDs. (Special shout-out to Miami's Dan Carpenter, who hit 5 FG for the 2nd straight game.)

*Quote of the Day: "I'm very, very, very sorry to our fans. You should have better than this." -- Jerry Jones, whose Cowboys are an absolute mess. Routed by the Jags? Yikes.


World Series: Is it over? Thanks to new Giants franchise hero Madison Bumgarner, it sure feels like it is. Up 3-1 with 2 of the next 3 games in SF, only needing to win one? With the way the Giants are pitching -- let alone hitting Texas pitching -- that seems like an insurmountable gap.

The good news: We get one more Lee-vs-Lincecum match-up. At least the Rangers get one more shot with their ace. (Then again, so do the Giants... and you're excused if you are wondering -- based on WS performances -- whether Cain and, now, Bumgarner join as team ace pitchers.)


BCS: It's Oregon 1 and Auburn 2, a flip-flop of last week's ranking. It would seem the computers like Oregon's win at USC more than Auburn's win at Ole Miss. Pay very very close attention to Schlabach's column on Alabama controlling its own destiny, because he is spot-on.

(Meanwhile, did you see how TCU moved up to No. 3, flip-flopping with Boise? That is strength-of-schedule continuing to kick in -- as it should. The AP voters look ridiculous putting Boise at No. 2. Either they are doing it on "rep" or as a protest vote of the BCS. Either way is intellectually lazy at best and dishonest at worst. And I say that as someone who thinks Boise is a great team.)

More on the BCS and this week's BlogPoll ballot coming later this morning.


LeBron on "The Decision": "If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different... I don't know what I would [have done], but I definitely would have changed it." Well, it's a start.... I have a few simple suggestions:

Don't make it a televised "event."
Don't let Jim Gray host it.
Don't wait 20 minutes before announcing.
Don't use kids as props.
Don't use a phrase like "I'm taking my talents to...."

Again, the problem wasn't with the decision to go to Miami. It was with the Decision to make such an awkward, off-putting spectacle of it.


Uniforms: Can the Rams just move back to the old-school unis, please? They looked awesome yesterday. (Speaking of which, the Pats' retro red uniforms are so much better than the futuristic blue ones they use normally.)


RIP Maurice Lucas, a key member of the classic 1977 NBA Champion Portland Trail Blazers. Per The Works, visit BlazersEdge for worthy commentary and memories.


Congrats to's Howard Bryant for winning the 2010 Online Journalism Award for Online Commentary/Blogging (Large Site division). He was the ONLY nominee -- across all categories -- from sports, and so it was nice to see him win. Given how awesome the online sports community is -- large and small -- we should all feel like we won a piece of the award.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Quickie: CFB's Big Four

We are down to a "Big Four" in college football -- the four teams left with a clear-cut claim on being in the national-title game:

*Boise State
*The winner of next week's TCU@Utah game.

Neither Auburn nor Oregon have the stout defense of a typical national champion. Boise plays an easy schedule. The TCU-Utah winner probably has the strongest claim after next week.

At the very least, yesterday eliminated two teams from the chase: Michigan State and Mizzou, both exposed on the road -- admittedly against very good opponents. Iowa is a Top 20 team that is a couple plays from being unbeaten; Nebraska is a Top 10 team. It is hard to win on the road against great teams -- which is why we should give credit to Oregon for winning at USC (if some, if not as much, to Auburn for winning at Ole Miss).

And why we should give a TON to TCU if they win at Utah next week, which I predict they will. Whoever wins that game, it will be arguably the single-best win by an unbeaten team this season (which is why the game's winner should vault over Boise State, whose entire resume is built on a single "quality" win).

We are only 9 weeks into the season and we are already down to 4* unbeaten contenders.

Here's the thing: Auburn still has to play Alabama. Oregon still has to play at Oregon State. You can hate the BCS, but also enjoy the game of "knockout" that we are watching the past month.

(The only team that seems to get a pass on those "knockout" challenges is Boise. Can you imagine if Boise had to play at Air Force one week then play TCU the next? Or Oklahoma then Nebraska? Or even at Northwestern then at Iowa? At best they'd prove themselves through their resume; at worst, they simply wouldn't make it through without a loss.)

Tentative top of my BlogPoll ballot: (1) Auburn, (2) TCU, (3) Oregon, (4) Boise, (5) Utah.

World Series: Rangers get in the game. Texas got its must-win (hero: Mitch Moreland); and, yet, tonight is another. (Honestly, I didn't watch a minute of the game, because I was watching Oregon-USC. Let's revisit tomorrow if/when the Rangers tie up the Series and send it to a Lee-Lincecum Game 5.)

NFL: Will Brett Favre play? Well, HE says he will. Because, y'know, it's HIS decision, not -- say -- the coach's. This is so typical Favre. I'm sure Brad Childress will start him, if only because Favre just told him to. Wouldn't want to let giving the Vikings the best chance of winning the game get in front of messing up that personal games-started streak.

John Wall Watch: Wow. Two games into his NBA career, he puts up a huge game: 28 points on better-than-50% FG shooting (and 2/3 shooting from 3), 10 FTAs (making 8) and 9 asissts (with only 3 turnovers). Of course, the Wizards lost, but is that really Wall's fault?

(If Derrick Rose -- 39 last night in a Bulls win -- really is the NBA template for Wall, I'll take it.)

New-look Knicks same as the old-look Knicks: Losing, this time in their home opener.

More NBA: So much for Tony Parker heading for the Knicks next summer. (Think Parker is concerned about his long-term economic impact from the lockout?) More than anything, this feels like an odd choice for the Spurs -- George Hill has been looking like a great Parker replacement, in the event he chose to bolt.

Oh, and three words for you: Roy. Helu. Junior. Good gracious, what a game he had.

Happy Halloween. I'm going as a Florida football fan relieved that the team finally won an ugly one, rather than being on the other side.

-- D.S.