Saturday, November 13, 2010

CFB Hangover: Where I Turn on TCU

BCS Contender Watch: T-C-Ugh. The combination of TCU's shouldn't-have-been-so-close win over San Diego State and Utah's blistering loss at sorry Notre Dame means that I'm off the TCU-as-No.-1 bandwagon, probably for good. I'm overly harsh. That's just how it goes.

And while I'm impressed by Auburn's offense, their defense let Georgia shred them for most of the game. Imagine what Oregon or Boise State's offenses would do to them.

Then again, Oregon's offense was stifled -- by unranked Cal, no less. And so we can ask a similar question: Can you imagine what would happen if Oregon played an elite defense, like TCU's? Or a better offense, like Auburn or Boise?

We can complain about "style points" all we want, but the fact is that among unbeaten teams and among factors to weigh, how a team looks (and why they look that way) matter.

It is harder than ever to stack the Top 4. Every time I try to rank Auburn, Oregon and TCU, I find myself re-jiggering into every configuration. But I find myself ranking Boise State at No. 1.

That is unfair, mostly because Boise State plays an unfairly easy schedule. I find it hard to think about Boise playing a schedule like Auburn's or Oregon's and not having weeks where they don't dominate -- they would likely not make it through without losing. I do think that Boise has a tough two-game gauntlet coming up, against Fresno State, then at Nevada.

Honestly, I'm a bit stymied. I'm inclined to rank them

(1) Boise
(2) Auburn
(3) Oregon
(4) TCU.

For now.


Congratulations to South Carolina on its first-ever SEC East title (not to mention its first-ever win at the Swamp). Spurrier's crew dominated -- that's probably an understatement. In a season of disappointments, Florida looked worse than ever. It was hard to watch.

Meanwhile, speaking of watching, it's hard to watch South Carolina freshman RB Marcus Lattimore -- who shredded Florida's defense for 200 yards and 3 TDs on a Herculean 40 carries -- and not at least nod to the notion that Lattimore is the best player in the country.


Great win by Northwestern. I'm really bummed about the season-ending injury to Dan Persa -- he has been the most valuable player in the Big Ten this season (and definitely the best QB).

-- D.S.

Friday, November 12, 2010

2010-2011 College Hoops Preview

I knew something would fall through the cracks this week -- and it was my sincere (if shallow!) attempt to preview the upcoming college basketball season.

You wouldn't think that I was the former college basketball editor at Or that college hoops remains -- along with college football -- my favorite sport.

So let's get to the big question: Will Northwestern finally -- FINALLY -- make the NCAA Tournament?

(Wait: That's what everyone wants to know, right? Oh. Well, if you care, my prediction is like Lunardi's: They are the last at-large team in...earning them one of the new at-large play-in spots...and they are eliminated even before the Tournament "really" starts. Seems obvious.)

No, the big question is: Will Duke repeat? Start with this: This year's team is better than last year's team, although they will miss Brian Zoubek. A lot. When it matters.

Last year's team enjoyed a fairly friction-less run through the NCAA Tournament -- then ruined everything by not losing to Butler.

(Hayward's heart-stopping shot at the end remains one of the Top 5 indelible images of 2010, along with the Saints' onside kick, LeBron's awkward moment of Decision, the first goal by South Africa of the World Cup and... well, I'll figure that out next month.)

This year, Duke is good enough to get back to the Final Four -- although there's always the chance they'll choke on their own expectations, as they had a habit of doing for a while before this past March -- but they won't be so lucky as to avoid Michigan State this time.

Your champ: Michigan State. The rest of your Final Four: Duke, Syracuse and -- hmm -- Illinois.

Would love to hear the teams you think are going to make noise in March -- and your pick of champ. Duke or the Field? (And if you're taking the field, declare your champ.)

-- D.S.

Start-Up Watch: NumberFire, StatSheet

Intersecting my enthusiasm for sports, sports media and start-ups, let me briefly point you to two things from today:

*NUMBERFIRE: In the New York Times' Fifth Down blog today, they had a post about accuracy by leading fantasy football prediction systems (Yahoo, ESPN, CBS). I really recommend you check out the phenomenal little product numberFire (developed by a really smart guy named Nik Bonaddio), which has been out-performing the big boys all season long. And yet, numberFire was mentioned nowhere in the NYT blog post -- a gross oversight on the one hand, but to your benefit on the other, because if you know about numberFire, that means your league competitors do not.

*STATSHEET: Expert reporters and columnists? Fan-generated content? StatSheet -- out of NC and backed by $1.7M in investor funding -- is going another direction, building on massive volumes of data to construct -- automatically -- web sites, daily content and even game recaps for every team in every sport. (Start with their offerings on 345+ college basketball teams, an effort launched today.) The content reads a little stilted, but that strikes me as a solvable technology problem.

The product obviously scales -- and with all those pages (not to mention Twitter feeds), they will be readily available in Google searches. The question is whether fans of each team would turn to an automated system when there is so much content for each team produced qualitatively, by editors and writers. So as destinations unto themselves? Unclear. As a white-label supplement to larger publishers? Interesting. The point is that the company is being extremely creative in their approach, and nimble application of data is a huge deal. Companies playing in "Big Data" has huge potential in sports media.

*Unrelated to sports, a happy 10th anniversary to Josh Marshall and Talking Points Memo, which launched 10 years ago today. TPM remains one of my favorite companies of all time -- and a gold standard by which all media should be judged, both for its editorial quality and the fact that TPM was built from scratch for the online age and has, since, remained fiercely independent (and very successful). It's a hell of a milestone.

*Also unrelated to sports, there is a profile in the New York Times of Andrew Krucoff and Young Manhattanite. Old-school readers might remember this long-ago interview I did with Krucoff in his Young Manhattanite interview series. (It was back in 2004 -- a good two years before the blog launched. And check out the photo, which actually comes up regularly when folks do Google Image searches looking for a photo of me to use alongside coverage. I just read back the interview -- cripes, I used to be a lot more amusing.)

*Next week is the annual Sports Media and Technology conference in NYC. I can remember sneaking into the very first one; 12 years later, I'll be blogging a bit for Darren Rovell's CNBC blog -- media and tech a bit more in my wheelhouse than my last CNBC guest-blogging, about the sponsorship landscape -- not to mention talking with folks about the company I'm building. Should be fun. Time to dive back into development....

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

11/12 Quickie: Ryan, Randy, Ray, More

Today's Names to Know: Matt Ryan, Randy Moss, Ray Allen, Lakers, Kenny Rogers, Steve Spurrier, Travis Pastrana, Jenn Sterger, Brett Favre, Enes Kanter, Manny Pacquiao and More.

NFL: What a win for the Falcons, blowing a 13-point lead (including a would-be game-deciding TD with a minute to go), then coming back with a 65-second, 80-yard drive capped by a Ryan-to-Roddy TD pass to take back the W and stake a claim as the NFC's best.

NFL Week 10 Storylines to Watch: Randy Moss making his Titans debut... Do-or-die for the Vikings on the road (winless) in Chicago... Can the Browns (playing the Jets) make it 3 straight jaw-dropping upsets?... It can't possibly get worse for the Cowboys (can it?)... Game of the Week: Pats-Steelers on Sunday Night, for temporary supremacy of the AFC.

Celtics stymie Heat...again: There are two things to talk about here. The first is that the Celtics are pretty awesome -- Ray Allen (35 pts, including hitting his first 7 3-point attempts, plus lock-down D on Dwyane Wade) is a joy to watch -- and obviously have the Heat's number. It's only been two games this season head-to-head, but it seems hard to believe Miami could beat Boston in a 7-game playoff series.

Meanwhile, the Heat drop to 5-4, including two straight losses at home. Now, in those 4 losses, Miami has lost to the Celtics twice --hardly a sloudch -- plus the Jazz (obviously good) and Hornets (surprisingly good). It's not like they are losing games they shouldn't. That said: Are these games that Miami shouldn't have been losing? Their defensive effort is not in line with a would-be championship contender.

(By the way, as if this wasn't ludicrous to begin with, for the Heat to finish with 72 wins, they would have to go 67-6 the rest of the season. 6 losses the rest of the way? Yeah, sure.)

More NBA: Lakers lose their 1st of the season. Such a typical Nuggets win, beating the seemingly unbeatable best in the league and making fans say, "Why can't they play like this EVERY night?" (But say this for Denver: Even in the midst of the whole Carmelo mess, they can find the focus to beat the best team in the league. So much for maintaining modest expectations.)

Obviously, the whole "can the Lakers win 72?" meme is overblown. Who cares? The only number of wins that count is "16" -- the number of playoff wins it takes to win a championship.

Cam Newton, Cont'd: "It's not gonna be free this time." Yikes. Do you believe Kenny Rogers? Because now it's gone from John Bond's "I say one guy said another guy said" claims to Kenny Rogers' "he said, to me directly" claims. That's one less (alleged) degree of separation for Cecil Newton from "pay to play" -- and one more problem for Cam.

CFB Weekend: A slow weekend for the Big Four. Boise plays on national TV tonight, but featuring yet another WAC tomato can. (Frankly, the biggest part of Boise's weekend is rooting for Nevada to beat Fresno State.) Oregon is on the road at Cal; it's hardly a trap game. Embattled Auburn hosts Georgia. TCU hosts fiesty San Diego State.

The CFB Game of the Week is the only one with real consequences, a de facto BCS quarterfinal: South Carolina at Florida for the SEC East championship. The winner will play... well, let's presume it's Auburn (which may look very different in three weeks), for the SEC's automatic BCS-bowl bid (presumably the Sugar).

Travis Pastrana joining NASCAR? Forget IRL-to-NASCAR. This is the first X-Games-to-NASCAR jump, and it will be huge. For my money, Pastrana is the single-greatest X-style athlete ever. Prediction: He will be the most popular driver by 2015 -- if not a few years sooner.

Jenn Sterger talks to NFL: If she turned over all the text and cell-phone pics -- and the Deadspin leaks are any indication -- Brett Favre SHOULD be in some trouble. The only question is whether the NFL decides to bury it under "Nothing to see here"... and Sterger decides to release all the texts and cell-phone pics publicly.

Speaking of Favre, he continues to say this will be his last season. We should all be so lucky. (Although I think in a sick way, we'll all miss having Favre to talk about.)

CBB: Enes Kanter, Kentucky's stud incoming Turkish big man, has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA. It's a blow for Kentucky, which could have used him in its frontcourt. Presumably, he would have been a starter, and talented -- like NBA-1st-round-pick talented -- bigs are more of a rarity in college hoops than the star guard, which UK still has loads of.

(Here's a question: Can Kanter go to the D League? The draft was last week; how would he be assigned to a team? Could an NBA team that owns its own team -- like the Rockets or Nets -- claim him, then route around the draft process by calling him up to the NBA? Or is he entirely ineligible from going up to the NBA because he is not yet draft-eligible?)

Boxing pick: Pacquiao over Margarito in 3.

-- D.S.

Sponsored Post: Going The Wrong Way

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

Didn't think things could get worse.

They got worse.

My opponent had the 4th-lowest point total of the league for Week 9. Unfortunately, I had the 2nd-lowest point total of the league for Week 9. Failure at every position.

Simply because my opponent gave me an opening, this was the worst week yet, and what started as a promising season as a contender has turned into an implosion.

It's not quite as bad as the Cowboys -- after all, I did start ragingly hot. It's more like the Vikings: High expectations, partially justified on the field, that just haven't worked out.

Ugh. Thursday night games start today, so don't forget to set your lineups, if you have any Ravens or Falcons players on your roster.

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.

11/11 Quickie: Sportsman, Cam, Vets

Today's Names to Know: Sportsman of the Year, Cam Newton, Jazz, John Wall, Michael Beasley, Chad Pennington, NHL All-Star captains, Brian Cashman, Scott Rolen, WAC football, Dave Niehaus, military veterans (thank you!) and more.

In keeping with yesterday's not-necessarily-directly-off-the-news NFL midseason theme...

Sportsman of the Year nominees? SI has been running arguments from its contributors about who they would pick for Sportsman of the Year. It's an interesting choice this year.

I'm partial to Drew Brees, as a proxy for the entire Saints team. (On the other hand, how about Sean Payton, for calling the single greatest play in NFL history?)

I also would accept something related to the World Cup, given that it dominated this summer. Kobe is a pretty good choice, as is Butler basketball. How about Galarraga and Joyce? (Hmm: What about Zenyatta -- sportswoman of the year?)

However, if the criteria is the athlete that impacted the sports landscape most in 2010, I think there is only one who deserves it (and it would be an inspired -- if perhaps cynical -- choice by SI):


I cringe myself while typing it, but no one ever said that "sportsman" had to be positive. Who would you nominate and/or pick?

Thursday Night NFL begins: Ravens at Falcons. Another game many (most) of you won't see. That's too bad, because it is a match-up between two teams that seem headed for the playoffs. Baltimore is a top contender to win the AFC; Atlanta could very well win the NFL (anyone else look like they have a lock on it?). SET. YOUR. FANTASY. ROSTERS.

How about Cam Newton! Kidding, although you'd be forgiven for thinking the sports universe revolves around him, given the way he has dominated the news over the past week. The latest: Mississippi State reported the iffy conversations back in January (didn't we know this already?). The fact that nothing came of that either means (a) there's nothing there, or (b) the NCAA isn't looking very hard.

BlogPoll Top 25: The group vaults TCU over Boise into the No. 3 spot.

NBA Last Night: Jazz roll on. As impressive as Utah's win over the Heat was two nights ago, it is arguably even more impressive that last night, in a back-to-backer, they beat the Magic in Orlando.

John Wall Watch: His first career triple-double (19 pts, 13 assists, 10 reb + 6 steals) in a Wiz W. He's the 2nd player ever to have a triple-double plus 6 steals within the first 6 games of his career. (The only other one? Magic Johnson.)

Don't give up on the Beaz! Michael Beasley had 42 last night in a T'wolves win.

NFL Midweek: Chad Pennington > Chad Henne. Looks like the Dolphins will be in the market for a new franchise QB next spring.

NHL All-Star Format: Captains pick teams. If the Winter Classic -- the New Year's Day game held outdoors in a classic stadium not necessarily known for hockey -- is the best idea hockey has had in a generation for reaching casual fans, this might be second-best. The selection show is actually more interesting than the game itself, which is a pretty neat trick by the league.

MLB Hot Stove: Did anyone think that Yankees GM Brian Cashman wouldn't head to Arkansas ASAP to woo Cliff Lee? Feels more like confirmation of a presumption than news.

MLB Award Season: Scott Rolen -- an 8-time winner -- headlines the NL Gold Glove list. Not nearly as contentious as the AL version (or, more specifically, Derek Jeter).

Uniforms: Totally approve of the Nats' new uniforms. The focus on the "curly W" is exactly right.

CBB Signing Day: As expected, Kentucky cleaned up. Duke got a great class, too (headlined by Austin Rivers). Most notable: St. John's is considered to have a Top 10 class (Steve Lavin Effect), and Arkansas broke through, too.

CFB Tonight: I suspect that schedulers probably figured that Pitt-UConn would be a little bit more meaningful than it will turn out to be. Anyone outside of Pitt and UConn fans going to watch this?

CFB Expansion: The WAC -- losing Boise State -- will add Denver, UT-San Antonio and Texas State. I think Denver is an inspired choice (does the WAC get credit for UD's lacrosse awesomeness?), and you can rarely go wrong picking up football teams from Texas, even if they are lower-tier.

RIP Dave Niehaus, the Seattle Mariners broadcaster. Condolences to his family, friends and fans.

On Veterans' Day, a moment of sincere thanks to everyone who serves or served the country's military -- I know that there are a bunch of readers in the military now (and plenty who served in the past). Your effort and sacrifice are so appreciated.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PTI: 9 Years, 2000 Shows

A few weeks ago, PTI celebrated its 9th anniversary. Yesterday, it celebrated its 2000th show. (Well, sort of celebrated.)

That link is a good reminder that, like the best shows, PTI doesn't take itself too seriously -- even if it is, for my money, the single best sports TV show of all time.

(Actually, go further: I think it is the single-best NEWS show of all time, and -- without hyperbole -- one of the greatest shows in the history of TV.)

Let's credit a few things, all complementary: Leadership (that's creator and EP Erik Rydholm and the team of producers), talent (Tony K. and Wilbon), format (ground-breaking) and the mastery that comes with continuity (the group has stuck together the entire time, with no weird defections).

To have any one of those things probably leads to a good result. To have all of them is what has produced such a special product.

As I think about my own thing -- from the earliest thoughts about the Daily Quickie to my immersion in starting a new company now -- PTI and its team remain a model to try to emulate.

Congrats to them (and PTI fans everywhere) on the milestone(s), and here's to another 9 years/2000 shows.

-- D.S.

11/10 Quickie: NFL Mid, Newton, Millsap

Today's Names to Know: Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Paul Millsap, Derek Jeter, Keri Potts and More.

NFL at Midseason: The Midseason MVP candidates being thrown around are the usual suspects -- Brady, Peyton... Aaron Rodgers has broken through to the short list -- but in my dream world, we put unlikely players like Mike Vick on the list. Or LaDainian Tomlinson. Or Peyton Hillis.

There are two main storylines in the NFL each season: Teams contending for a championship and teams (or players) that unexpectedly overachieve (or underachieve). There is plenty of time in the 2nd half of the season to focus in on the playoff contenders.

For now, let's take a second to appreciate the renaissance for Vick and Tomlinson. The way Hillis has carried the Browns to the two of the most impressive wins of the season. The way the Chiefs are on top -- and the Raiders aren't sucking. The way the Cowboys have bottomed out. The whole Moss craziness. I don't know about you, but I love my NFL unexpected.

Added to that quasi-MVP list: Sam Bradford. Let's talk about that last one for a sec...

Before the draft -- and after the draft -- I gave Bradford a lot of grief, mainly skeptical that his flimsy shoulder could stand up to a week-in/week-out NFL beating, particularly on a bad team with sketchy WRs and an iffy line. Let me be clear: 8 games in, I WAS SO WRONG.

Bradford has played great for a rookie. More importantly, he has been able to start every game without getting injured (though I'll still contend it's a long way from Week 9 to Week 17). And his team is winning in ways they didn't a year ago. All with sketchy WRs and an iffy line. Sam Bradford: Midseason Rookie of the Year. And a big ol' mea culpa from me.

Who are your unconventional midseason NFL award-winners: MVP? Best storylines? Leave them in the comments.

Cam Newton, Cont'd: Well, the latest is that Cam Newton's dad and Cam himself actually talked openly to Mississippi State people about getting money to play. (It's unclear why these conversations didn't come up last week, or have dribbled out now.) It's interesting that MSU reported the conversations in January, but it didn't trigger any action. Circumstantial evidence continues to swirl in a tighter circle. Cecil Newton could use a good p.r. advisor.

NBA Heat Watch: One of the things about the Heat being THE story of the season is that teams or players who come up big against the Heat -- ideally, beating them -- get added cachet. It happened for the Hornets last Friday, and it happened for Paul Millsap last night, after Millsap clobbered the Heat for 46 points in a Utah win. (Wonder if LeBron and Wade would trade Bosh for Millsap straight up?) As impressively, Utah was down 19 at the half before rallying.

MLB Awards: Derek Jeter wins another Gold Glove. Really? (I'll go with the Fielding Bible Awards.)

College Hoops: Signing Day. Expect another big haul for Calipari and Kentucky.

Must-Read: ESPN PR exec Keri Potts, who heroically escaped a sexual assault, tells her story.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

11/09 Quickie: Wade, Steelers, Hawk, Cam

Today's Names to Know: Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett, James Harrison, Dan Hawkins, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Stephen Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, Brad Wanamaker, Jordan Hamilton, Marcus Dupree, Joe Morgan and More.

Wade Phillips axed: This was an inevitability as soon as the Cowboys hit 2 or 3 losses this season... not to mention the Super Bowl-sized preseason expectations... not to mention last season's typical fizzle.

Jason Garrett won't be Jerry Jones' long-term solution -- and the speculation over who he might hire (Gruden doesn't seem interested; how about Cowher?) will make the rest of the season more interesting for the Cowboys than "another loss? ha!"

MNF: Steelers hang on. Two interpretations here: Either the Steelers went on the road and beat a motivated division rival, and it doesn't matter how they did it -- or the Steelers lack a championship instinct, having let the Bengals back into the game and one late 4th-down conversion from potentially stealing the game back. I'll begrudgingly stick with the former.

Matt Stafford out for year: Again? Ouch. You know, of all the problems I had with Stafford before the 2009 Draft, durability wasn't one of them. (That was supposed to be Bradford's problem; who would have guessed that Sam Bradford would be more NFL-durable than Stafford?)

Cam Newton Scandal, Cont'd: With the agent-asked-for-money-to-sign-him story fizzling, now the story is that he left Florida because he was academically cheating? There may be more substance there -- "athlete has tutor write paper for him" is hardly "man bites dog" -- but it lacks sizzle to make fans care. Possible cheating two years ago? Eh. (And the sourcing on the story is VERY iffy. Anonymous guy makes a claim with no evidence? Cripes, that's like a message board post. Hell: Rivals message board posts have MORE credibility than that.)

CFB: Colorado fires Dan Hawkins. Remember when Hawkins was at Boise State and was the eccentric dream coach of the media and fans? Turns out a larger program was a little bit too much for him to handle. He's out, after years of muddling through at CU. But he will surely land on his feet back at a non-BCS school and turn them into an unbeaten power within two years. (Either that, or Hawkins' success was all Chris Petersen, his successor at Boise who has had even more success than Hawkins.)

Media: Joe Morgan out at ESPN. I seriously wonder if he would have been kept around had it not been for years of high-profile erosion by the hilarious guys at "Fire Joe Morgan," whose site was never really about Joe Morgan as much as it was bad sportswriting. It is unrealistic, I guess, to hope that all sports-news organizations jettison their iffy analysts.

(Jon Miller is leaving the Sunday night baseball broadcast, too -- I grew up with Miller calling Orioles games, and I can't view him with any sort of objectivity. I hope he will stick around ESPN Radio to call the national game in that medium. Meanwhile, presumptive replacement Dan Shulman is the most talented play-by-play announcer at ESPN -- or in sports. Welcome!)

Tebow Watch: His memoir is coming out in April, which will have me kicking myself I didn't write my own Tebook last spring. Here's a guarantee: No. 1 New York Times best-seller and the top-selling sports book of the year -- same as Tony Dungy's book. (They share a co-writer.) As for the mocking about how much a 23-year-old could have done to earn a memoir, I think we can all agree that his last five years have had more than enough material.

NBA Last Night: The Hawks could never keep up the unbeaten pace, obviously; following their first loss, playing a back-to-backer at Orlando was way too much to ask... Big win for Dirk and the Mavs over the Celtics -- one of those wins that screws up the expectations for Mavs fans... Monta Ellis goes down, Stephen Curry (34 points) picks it up... Derrick Rose really has become unstoppable this season.

CBB Openers: Have to put together a shallow college hoops preview for sometime this week, but last night's openers had that competitive Pitt-Rhodey game that the Panthers won (Brad Wanamaker: 24 pts). I don't think it was an indictment of Pitt being overrated as much as it was a function of URI being a pretty good squad that would be tough for any Top 25 team to open their season with.

It's a lot easier to be Texas starting with, say, Navy. The only conclusion to draw about Texas after a single game is that UT's hoops offense is MUCH better than their football offense. (Jordan Hamilton: 26 pts, 10 reb for the likely NBA 1st-round pick.)

TV Tonight: Marcus Dupree. Apparently, the "30 for 30" doc tonight about Marcus Dupree is amazing -- one of the best in what has been an incredible series. Will definitely be watching.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Be Like Khosla: SBNation's New Funding

Regular readers know that I am a fan of sports-media start-up SBNation, featuring 200+ high-quality team blogs, regional hubs and a national portal, and led by Jim Bankoff and featuring some absolutely terrific talent in every department.

I'm not sure if "start-up" is the right word -- although I appreciate that the company still acts like one (in all the right ways). Financially, they are well beyond that: From the early days of Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas and Ted Leonsis' seed investment to Accel Partners (which backed Facebook) to Bankoff's investment fund to Allen & Co (which has investments in a lot of top-tier media start-ups -- and often brokers their M&A) to Comcast (which has a vested interest in local sports media).

Yesterday, the company got another funding boost: $10.5 million, led by Silicon Valley A-list VC Khosla Partners (whose website's lead page features a quote from Michael Jordan) but also showcasing a positive signal from re-investment by Comcast and Accel.

This is a big deal, on a couple of levels:

*Resources: That is a large stake to push the pedal down in a couple areas SBN had already started accelerating: Ad sales (see the recent Samsung takeover on the site), distribution partnerships (Yahoo was a big one in the past year), technology (which is a widely underestimated core asset), editorial talent (like the regional editors), acquisition (like Spencer Hall's EDSBS). And ad sales. And, um, more ad sales.

The fact is: You have to spend to make. The company has had to (and still has to) spend on technology and distribution and talent to increase traffic, but also spend on more sales talent to tell the company's story to marketers -- both nationally and regionally.

*Valuation: Between the incumbent sports-media companies backed by massive corporations (ESPN,,, Fanhouse, Yahoo! Sports, Comcast regional online sports sites -- even Deadspin) and early-stage start-ups (present!), name a current independently owned sports-media company valued between, say, $5 million and $100 million.

Waiting... waiting...

That's right: SB Nation. And that's about the extent of the list. (Citizen Sports was acquired earlier this year by Yahoo for $50 million. Yardbarker was acquired a few weeks ago by Fox Sports for an undisclosed amount. Unsure about Big Lead Sports' valuation.)

With its new investment round, SBN is valued somewhere between $60M and $90M. That is a lot -- certainly a lot more than their valuation a week ago. But it remains an entirely reasonable size for a potential acquirer like Yahoo or AOL or Comcast, a current investor.

More important, SBN has staked out a position that is complementary to most of the rest of the sports-media ecosystem, big or small. Particularly clever is the way SBN has built up their back-end tech platform to keep pace with social media -- and the way they have combined existing editorial content into hubs that have the potential for more distribution and more revenue.

(To the point about acquisition, I think that it's fun for the rest of us to say "Well OBVIOUSLY this fits!", but ultimately a distraction. Whether Comcast buys SBN outright or merely remains an investor and distribution partner, I cannot imagine that Comcast doesn't want SBN to play a role -- perhaps a large one -- in their pending sports-media uber-strategy when Comcast eventually acquires NBC-Universal, a slightly bigger acquisition priority right now.)

The latest funding round is an affirmation of the company's strategy -- forget the valuation; it is particularly eye-opening that someone like celebrated VC Vinod Khosla wanted in. Look at his firm's portfolio -- nothing close to a media company (or certainly a sports-media company) in view. That says something about SBN's position in the market, its tech platform, its growth rate (and future plans) and -- frankly (and self-servingly!) -- the larger opportunities in online sports media. (Happy to push the meme: "Be Like Vinod.")

SBN has cultivated and relished its position outside the sports-media "mainstream," even as it has created the traction with fans and with marketers to accelerate closer to it.

Now it has a boost of resources to keep growing in its own unique way.

-- D.S.

11/08 Quickie: Favre, Browns, Vick, TCU

Today's Names to Know: Brett Favre, Brad Childress, Peyton Hillis, Jerry Jones, James Jones, Mike Vick, Jason Campbell to Jacoby Ford, Seyi Ajirotutu, Ndamukong Suh, TCU, Kevin Durant, Cliff Lee, Zenyatta, Kobe and More.

Just when you think you're done with Brett Favre, he goes and throws for a career-high in passing yards and leads an improbable 2-touchdown comeback in the final 5 minutes of a 4th quarter. Really? If Brad "Fire Childress!" Childress wasn't on the wrong side of history before, he certainly is now.

(Yesterday's Favre game was a flashback to last season, when he actually became... likable? This season, he had reverted to his insufferable, schadenfreude-dripping form. But yesterday? Look: You have to be willing to say it: Favre was pretty awesome.)

Win of the Week: The Browns. Over the Pats. In a rout. The Browns may own the Top 2 Most Improbable Wins of the first half of the season -- two weeks ago at New Orleans and then now at home vs. the Pats. (That bye week in between might be the secret ingredient to Cleveland's iwn yesterday. Still: Not one many -- or anyone -- saw coming. Good for Colt McCoy, who is 2-1 as a starter with a couple of signature, if personally unspectacular, wins. He just wins.)

Debate on the table: Peyton Hillis deserves to be 1st half of the season 1st-team All-Pro. (And it looks like Bill Belichick still has trouble preparing for unconventional offenses -- see Stuckey's TD run from a Josh Cribbs hand-off.)

Loss of the Week: The Cowboys. Just when you think it can't get any more humiliating for the Cowboys this season, they go lower. I think it's safe to say that last night represented rock bottom -- on the wrong end of a 45-7 thrashing on primetime national TV. (Wow, did I pick the wrong week to drop the previously ineffective fantasy WR James Jones.)

Mike Vick returns: And leads the Eagles over the Colts(!) The biggest redemption story of 2010 continues.

How 'bout them Raiders?! The entire nation got flipped over from Eagles-Colts to the ending of Raiders-Chiefs, when Jacoby Ford made that miracle catch to set up the game-tying FG, then Jason Campbell hit Ford again in OT to set up the game-winning FG. What a turnaround story in Oakland. (Does anyone begrudge their fans what they are getting this season?)

(Unexpected) Fantasy Stud of the Week: Chargers WR Seyi Ajirotutu (111 yards and 2 TDs), and I guarantee the fantasy GM you were playing this weekend didn't start him. (But if you know anyone who did? That would be the genius fantasy move of the year.)

Double-take of the Week: Ndamukong Suh kicking the XP for the Lions. He missed, but it was kind of awesome.

BCS: That would be TCU -- not Boise -- suddenly in position to take advantage if/when Oregon or Auburn stumbles over the next few weeks. (Oregon: Unlikely; Auburn: Losing to Bama?) The football season -- at least the national title picture -- is down to 4 teams, with a month of football left to play. By the way, TCU's jump over Boise is entirely justified, based on their respective strength of schedules -- best symbolized by TCU throttling a Top 5 team (now merely Top 14) on the road.

CFB Rankings: Enough AP voters had the good sense to rank TCU ahead of Boise that TCU is 3rd and Boise 4th. It remains to be seen whether -- if Oregon and Auburn run the table -- if the AP is finally willing to perform "jury nullifcation" on the national title and give their share of the national title to TCU or Boise.

(It is kind of a joke that 7 "experts" in the AP Top 25 would give Boise State a No. 1 vote ahead of TCU. If they're just trying to prove a point about how much they hate the BCS, at least pick the more worthy non-BCS team to give your No. 1 vote.)

BlogPoll Monday! My new BlogPoll ballot is here. As previewed yesterday: (1) TCU, (2) Oregon, (3) Auburn, (4) Boise, (5) LSU.

Looking ahead to next week: Not much trouble expected among the Big Four (Boise gets Friday night all to itself at Idaho, Oregon is at Cal, Auburn is hosting Georgia and TCU is hosting underrated San Diego State).

Some intriguing match-ups with zero national-title ramifications: South Carolina at Florida for the SEC East title; Oklahoma State goes to Austin to extend the Worst Season Ever for Texas; another chance to watch Notre Dame get crushed (they play Utah, which was no match for TCU but will overwhelm ND).

Cam Newton Watch: Nothing changes the subject like a big game -- not to mention the release of the new BCS rankings, which keeps the focus on Auburn as a national-title contender, not NCAA investigation subject.

NBA: Someone else made this comment this weekend, but is it possible that the kryptonite to the Heat is a team with a world-class PG and a really good C (precisely the positions that Miami doesn't have All-NBA talent at). Hell of a validating win for the still-unbeaten Hornets.

More Kevin Durant myth-making: This summer, he had a secret hoops-shooting session with President Obama. Durant brought his grandma.

MLB Hot Stove: As expected, basically the minute Cliff Lee was eligible for free agency, the Yankees contacted him. It would be a shocker if they didn't consummate the relationship, making the Yankees the team to beat in 2011. Then again, they were the team to beat in 2010.

Zenyatta: 19-1. That was probably the most exciting horse race I have ever seen, if only because Zenyatta went from DFL -- and seemingly no hope -- to being a nose from winning. It is almost more epic that she came so close to perfection, but fell short in the way she did.

Pop Culture: Did you catch Kobe in a cameo in that "Call of Duty: Black Ops" TV ad? Pretty awesome ad -- and pretty good cachet for Kobe for appearing in it.

In Case You Missed It, from Friday afternoon: My post about the 10th anniversary of the launch of ESPN's Page 2.

Business: Congrats to SB Nation!

-- D.S.