Saturday, December 04, 2010

12/05 Sunday Quickie: BCS Yes

Repeating myself: I couldn't have been more wrong about Auburn and Oregon in my pre-game prediction. So so so wrong.

And in vanquishing fairly substantial challenges -- enough of a challenge that I doubted their chances to win -- both teams left no doubt of their worthiness to play for the national title.

There will be no BCS controversy -- sorry, TCU. It is virtually impossible to make the argument that these two teams don't represent the top two teams in the country.

Auburn, in particular, which will likely finish with the toughest schedule in the country, which makes Cam Newton's performance all the more incredible.

South Carolina was as good of a defense as there was in the SEC this season, and Newton absolutely shredded it: 300+ yards of passing with 4 TD, plus another 70+ yards of rushing with 2 more TDs.

It wasn't just a Heisman-worthy performance -- any voter who doesn't pick Newton as his Heisman winner should have his voting privileges revoked.

That Newton had such a monster game in such a monster moment -- capping a season of monster stats (becoming only the 2nd QB ever to go 20/20 for TDs passing and rushing), including last week's miracle win over Alabama -- I honestly wonder: Have we just witnessed from Cam Newton the finest individual season in college football history?

Consider that it's me -- the ultimate Tim Tebow partisan -- saying that. There were plenty of people who could (and did) argue that Tim Tebow in 2007 produced the greatest individual season of all time; Newton in 2010 was even better.

It is going to be a spectacular national-title game. I don't think Oregon will be able to stop Newton.

Alternatively, though I think they will be able to put up a few TDs, Oregon this season has not seen a defense anywhere close to as physical as Auburn's (the last time they did, they lost in the Rose Bowl to Ohio State). I don't think it will be close.

But that's for a month from now. For now, an awesome performance from Auburn -- and a there-is-no-debate game from Oregon.

For now, no debate.



*Yankees reach a deal with Derek Jeter: Of course they did. Did anyone actually believe they wouldn't?

*Red Sox ready to deal for Adrian Gonzalez? This will help Boston more than re-signing Jeter will help the Yankees.

*Duke beats Butler: As expected. (Less expected, and way more interesting: Illinois decisively put down Gonzaga in Spokane. Perhaps even more interesting: UNC beat Kentucky.)

-- D.S.

Saturday (Very) Quickie: BCS Buster?



South Carolina is going to beat Auburn. Oregon State is going to beat Oregon

I am not saying that in some sort of lame "reverse-jinx" attempt. I am not saying that to be a contrarian.

I honestly believe that South Carolina is playing better than any team in the SEC right now -- including Auburn, a team the Gamecocks nearly beat back in September.

What Auburn's D did to Alabama for a half? South Carolina's D did that to Alabama for a complete game. Marcus Lattimore is the best RB in the league -- perhaps the country. Steve Spurrier is entirely familiar with the pressure of an SEC title game.

And I honestly believe that Oregon State's fearlessness -- no, hostility -- toward Oregon makes them unlike any team Oregon has faced this season.

Then layer in that Oregon State gets the game at home -- it will be a rougher environment for the Ducks than LeBron faced in Cleveland the other night.

And then let's circle all the way back to the beginning of the season, when Oregon State went to Texas to play TCU and to Idaho to play Boise.

Oregon isn't better on defense than TCU and is arguably no better on offense than Boise. Yes, Oregon State lost both -- but they are toughened up for the challenge like no team Oregon has faced this season.

(UPDATE: 1:42 p.m. ET. OK, I'm starting to get a little nervous about my pick of Oregon. By the way, I should say that I'm actually rooting for both Oregon -- because I love Chip Kelly and really want to see his offense tested against an SEC D in the national-title game -- and Auburn, because I think Cam Newton is the best player in the country and find the whole Newton scandal to be the most dominant storyline of the season; it would be fitting if he played for the title.)

If you hate the BCS, you should be liking what I'm saying. So if Auburn and Oregon lose, what then?

TCU will be in the national-title game. And they will be playing the best 1-loss team in the country: Auburn, which went through the toughest schedule of any contender.

And people will go bananas, even though putting Oregon or Stanford or Wisconsin (or Boise or Nevada or Ohio State or Michigan State) makes even less sense than Auburn.

That would be the ideal, at least. The alternative -- unbeaten Auburn vs. unbeaten Oregon -- is a lot less messy... a lot less fun, frankly.

It is the final Saturday of a college football season defined by Cam Newton's brilliance on the field and scandal off of it; by Oregon's hurry-hurry-hurry-up offense; by the kind of improbable results that make the college season so unique (defined by Boise's implosion last week).

Enjoy the day, and root for one more week of the unexpected.

-- D.S.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1:
Joe Sheehan's Newsletter

The early start to Hanukkah this year caught me by surprise. Normally, I like to do a "Top Sports Books of the Year" post to help you with some gift ideas. I'll post that next week (suggestions welcome in the comments).

For now, let me make this suggestion/recommendation: Joe Sheehan's email newsletter about baseball, which he just announced will be extended into 2011.

I am going to write more about Joe's initiative in the next week or two, because I think it is one of the more awesome things to happen in sports media in 2010. (Alert: End-of-year superlative posts coming soon!)

But I found the subscription fee I paid for the 2010 edition to be among the best money I spent this year, certainly among the best money I've spent on sports.

It is $29.99 for the year, starting in February. You get December and January for free. Joe will probably file 200 newsletters in 2011. But it's not about the per-unit cost or the tonnage. It is all additive into this really great product that will make you a smarter fan, whether you are a casual fan or an avid one. You'll appreciate it almost instantly, and by next April or May, you will be thrilled you are reading -- that subscribing was so worth it.

Anyway: If you are looking for a gift to buy baseball fans you know -- or are looking for a present idea to tell your family to buy you -- I highly recommend Sheehan's newsletter.

-- D.S.

12/03 Quickie: LeBron, SEC, Vick
Corvallis, Dunn, Arizona State

Today's Names to Know: LeBron, Auburn, Steve Spurrier, Corvallis, Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy, Big Ben, Adam Dunn, Mariano Rivera and Arizona Freaking State.

There: Do you feel better now? I boo do. Granted, I'm not a Cavs fan -- just someone who was sympathetic to the Cavs fans. But found the whole thing cathartic, listening to the boos.

LeBron smirked, but you know there had to be a small piece of him -- it HAS to exist, right? -- that felt stung by it. Of course, you wouldn't know it from his on-court demeanor or post-game comments, an opportunity missed to say "I not sorry I left; I'm sorry HOW I left."

But that is not to be LeBron's legacy in Cleveland. Hopefully, Cavs fans can find some solace from the chance to boo their former hero to his face. The rest of us are going to move on...

The game itself was a rout: LeBron scored a ton, the Heat ran the Cavs off the court, as they have been doing with every middling team on their schedule. That's not Miami's problem. Miami's problem is the GOOD teams, who they have yet to prove they can beat consistently.

Qatar 2022: There's this weird thing I have with Qatar. When I was in 7th grade, my social studies class was studying the Middle East. I started calling it, like everyone else, "Ku-TAR." My uncle, a longtime CIA official (and someone who would know), corrected me that it was pronounced "cutter." I have always remembered that -- and corrected people in the excessively rare moments when the country's name came up. Of course, yesterday morning it came up A LOT. So, yes: "Cutter." (And, if you want to be technical about it, the "C" is almost -- but not quite -- a "g" sound. The "c" is more guttural. Or "Qatar"-al, as it were.) Anyway, Qatar stole the 2022 World Cup away from the US. So there's that.

CFB Weekend: This is it. If Auburn beats South Carolina, they are in the national title game. If Oregon beats Oregon State, they are in the national title game.

If either stumble -- and they might -- TCU is in the national title game.

If both stumble -- and it could happen -- then it is a scramble among a couple of 1-loss teams, with Auburn likely winning out if only based on their insanely difficult strength of schedule.

But WILL Auburn and/or Oregon lose? Well, Auburn barely beat South Carolina back in September, and the Gamecocks have gotten MUCH better since then, particularly the past few weeks. They are peaking at precisely the right time to pull an upset.

As for Oregon, it is no gimme that the Ducks can waltz into Corvallis to play their biggest rival in an environment that will make last night in Cleveland seem tame and walk out with a win.

(Remember back in 2006 when all mighty USC had to do was beat mediocre UCLA in this final weekend of the season? Or 2007, when all mighty West Virginia had to do was beat mediocre Pitt (in Morgantown!) in this final weekend of the season? Crazy stuff happens.)

CFB Last Night: No school had a better day in 2010 than Arizona State did yesterday. During the day, ASU researchers announced that they had discovered a new form of alien life. Then last night, ASU went to Tucson and beat rival Arizona in a 2OT thriller, becoming bowl-eligible in the process -- one of the great Arizona State wins of the last decade. Congrats, Sun Devils fans.

(UPDATE: Because ASU has two wins over 1-AA teams, they had to hit 7 wins, rather than the standard. 500 record. But! ASU has appealed to the NCAA for a waiver. And why shouldn't they?)

NFL Week 13: The week's headliner -- Pats-Jets -- isn't until Monday night, so what should you be looking for on Sunday?

*Well, for starters, most fantasy leagues are either in their final regular-season week (5+ team playoffs) or second-to-last week (4-team playoff). If you're in contention, good luck.

*Steelers-Ravens is the best game of the day (or night, as it were), with playoff seeding (and accompanying home-field advantage) in play. Will the Ravens D try to step on Big Ben's foot?

*Otherwise, it's a whole lot of match-ups between would-be playoff teams and non-playoff teams, with the Would-Be's in pretty close to must-win situations: Seahawks and Rams (in the futile NFC West), the Colts (hosting the dangerous Cowboys), the Giants (hosting the Redskins), the Jaguars (in Tennessee) and others.

*Last night: The Mike Vick Show rolled on -- 3 TDs in a Philly win over the Texans -- but I'm not sure how many people watched. If you don't have NFL Network, like me, you couldn't.

College hoops this weekend: Butler vs. Duke in New Jersey. It might inspire nostalgia for the Bulldogs' Tournament run earlier this year. But make no mistake, this will NOT be a rematch of their classic game for the NCAA title last April. Butler isn't nearly as good; Duke is much, much better. This will be a 20-point rout. (If you want a better game, watch Illinois at Gonzaga.)

MLB Hot Stove: Adam Dunn moves to the White Sox for $56M. Unclear how he fits in with the rest of Chicago's lumbering sluggers, but Dunn's productivity is unquestioned: Home runs and walks more than counter-balancing the conventional wisdom that his strikeouts are a problem.

Yankees Contract Watch: Derek Jeter doesn't have a deal, but Mo Rivera reportedly does -- for two more years. The most universally respected Yankee (perhaps of all time) will keep doing what he does, and presumably retire in pinstripes. Will this put some pressure on Jeter to deal?

More later.

-- D.S.

Sponsored Post: Crunch Time

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

Sorry for the short early-a.m. post, but here is the scoop: With two weeks to play in the regular season, I am in 4th place, with the Top 4 teams making the playoffs. Getting destroyed last week didn't help. I play Matt Sebek's last-place Sweaty Ditkas this weekend -- it is must-win, because in the regular-season finale, I play Steph Stradley (currently 3rd overall) in what could be a play-in game for the playoffs. Remember: The winning team earns $10,000 for charity. I'm off to a good start with Andre Johnson's double-digit game from last night, but I have a feeling that my week will come down to how well Tom Brady plays against the Jets. I cannot rely on Antonio Gates (or Malcom Floyd). It's up to Mr. Uggs.

Here is this week's league recap, from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders and Jerod of Midwest Sports Fans.

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.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

It Is Totally Fine To Boo LeBron



I hope the Cavs fans boo tonight. I hope they boo loudly. I hope they boo mercilessly. I hope they boo everytime LeBron touches the ball. I hope they’re booing all the way until he heads to the locker room after the game has ended.

I hope they boo for two big reasons:

(1) It will make them feel better. Don’t buy this bogus argument that it will make them look petty in front of the rest of the country. The rest of us feel a paternalistic sense of pity for Cleveland fans; all the more reason they should take advantage. It will be a cathartic moment.

(2) Booing is as fundamental of a right for sports fans as cheering. It is elemental: The cheer and the boo are the yin and yang of being a sports fan. When things go wrong -- bad call, poor play, classless free agency announcement -- a boo is entirely appropriate.

We can disagree about certain instances of booing (although not as many as you might think), but I think we can all agree that if it was you who was the poor Cavs fan schlub, you’d want to boo, too.

So boo away. You have the full support of this corner of the world.

BTW: The theory I threw out earlier this week and last month about LeBron-as-Sportsman of the Year wasn't just contrarianism. I honestly believe it. SBNation's Andrew Sharp does a really good job of laying out the reasons why. Worth a read.

-- D.S.

12/02 Quickie: LeBron, Newton,
Gruden, Irving, Griffin, More

Today's Names to Know: LeBron, Cam Newton, Jon Gruden, Kyrie Irving, the Lakers, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Jim Harbaugh, Derek Anderson, Hines Ward, Texans-Eagles, Arizona State, Wright Thompson and More.

LeBron returns to Cleveland tonight: It is the most intriguing regular-season NBA game that I can remember. (Way more intriguing than the first time Kobe met Shaq, which itself isn't close to an analogue.) Bonus post on this later this morning, summed up in a word: Boo.

Cam Newton is eligible: Uh, he wasn't eligible? Apparently, there was some sort of "Animal House"-style double-secret stuff going on with Auburn and the NCAA on Monday -- for all the leaks that got this story going, that was an impressive bit of tight-lippedness. Then, yesterday, he was "reinstated." OK... Anyway, he's still going to win the Heisman, right?

The immediate reaction was that this will somehow create a loophole where parents (or, more accurately, runners) can pimp their kids to schools, as long as the kids know nothing about it. And my response to that is: Wasn't this fairly common practice before?

So much for yesterday's Jon Gruden discussion: As expected, the whole thing was seemingly a lesson in wish-fulfillment by Miami folks. Why would Gruden ever want to take that job (or any other one in college football)?

Duke beats Michigan State: It wasn't a throttling -- it was close enough to make you wonder what would happen on a neutral court in, say, late March. But, more than anything, it was the Kyrie Irving national breakout game (31 pts), setting him on the path for 1st-team AA status and a Top 3 position in next June's NBA Draft. Is Irving the best guard in the country? It's hard to say he is playing better than UConn's Kemba Walker right now, but I'd take Irving.

More LeBron: The Cavs -- still a bit bitter, predictably -- have done some digging into potential tampering by the Heat from the summer. No: You think? It will be fun to watch the league bury what should be compelling evidence, which will be leaked any day now. Either that, or it will be even more fun to watch the league strip away 1st-round picks from the Heat as a punishment.

Lakers lose 4th straight: And yet you don't hear the same kind of panicky analysis that you get from South Beach under similar conditions. Because, when it comes to the elite teams (and certainly the most elite team), the NBA regular season doesn't matter.

Now, that said: The NBA regular season totally matters to the non-elite teams, particularly when the bottom-feeders claim huge wins over the elite, like the Clippers beating the Spurs for the first time in forever. It is those kind of wins -- and I'll include in that group any non-contender beating the Heat or Lakers or Celtics -- that make the NBA regular season interesting. Blake Griffin: 31 and 13 and if he's not an All-Star this season, it's a joke. (By the way, think Baron Davis helps this team? In his return from injury, he had 10 assists.)

Stud: Russell Westbrook (31 pts, 15 reb, 9 ast), who led the Thunder -- playing without Kevin Durant -- over the Nets in 3OT. I had this long-standing plan to zip over to the Nets arena in Newark to see the most interesting teams play, with my idealized version being the Thunder, so I could see Durant play in person. I skipped the game last night. When I heard KD wasn't playing, I felt like I made the right choice, but now I'm bummed I didn't get to see the Westbrook Show.

MLB Hot Stove: It's refreshing to talk about Cliff Lee, rather than Derek Jeter, even though we're still talking about the Yankees overspending on a player. Anyway, it's not overspending when you are adding a Cy-quality arm to your pitching staff. Looks like it is down to the Rangers and Yankees.

If you were Cliff Lee, what would you do? The Rangers feel like a better atmosphere (and certainly seem ready to spend to win), but the Yankees give you the best chance of getting to the playoffs, year in and year out. If Lee wants adulation, he should stay in Texas -- he will be the most beloved Rangers pitcher since Nolan Ryan. If he wants rings, he has to go to NYC.

CFB: The headline says "Harbaugh wants playoff if BCS ignores Stanford." And that kind of says it all: Everyone is fine with the system, as long as it benefits them. It was the same thing with the Mountain West, which didn't want to implode the BCS so much as be included in it. Now, as a matter of practice, there is no reasonable way Stanford should be left out.

(Harbaugh's threat feels idle, but the sentiment behind it is precisely why I think the fastest path to BCS implosion is if the SEC gets screwed in some way, then proceeds to withdraw from the BCS -- "SECedes," get it? -- to set up its own secular playoff. The BCS would quickly fall apart.)

NFL Brain Injury Scandal: Hines Ward did his best Kanye West post-Katrina impression yesterday, essentially saying, "The NFL doesn't care about player people."

I agree 100 percent with the sentiment (particularly as it relates to ex-players), but I really wonder where all the current season's hand-wringing was a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago.

It's not about new science showing how brutal the game really is; did anyone -- particularly the athletes and media closest to the game (and most implicated in glossing over or romanticizing the brutality) -- ever think it WASN'T brutal?

NFL: Derek Anderson doesn't really have anything to apologize for. I presume he is apologizing mainly because he feels sheepish that his postgame rantiness quickly became a YouTube sensation. So where's the apology from Gruden for his in-game rantiness about Anderson?

NFL Tonight: Texans at Eagles. Another NFL Network game I won't be able to see on my cable system. But it sure would be nice to be able to watch Mike Vick, who isn't quite the same as Titans QB Rusty Smith, who the normally porous Texans smothered last week. Pick: Eagles.

CFB Tonight: Arizona State at Arizona. For a rivalry game, a nice subplot: ASU needs to win in Tucson to get bowl-eligible. Arizona can end ASU's season tonight.

Must-Read: When I argue that sportswriting has never been better than it is right now, I am certainly talking about the work of's Wright Thompson -- for my money, the reigning best sportswriter in the country. If you haven't seen it, take the 20 minutes to read his story from yesterday, "Believeland," about the state of Cleveland today. It isn't as much about LeBron as it is about the city.

Much more on LeBron's return to Cleveland later this morning.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sports Training for Toddlers? Ugh

The VarsityDad in me can't help but comment on this front-page story in today's New York Times, about the scam artists -- sorry: "entrepreneurs" -- who are selling sports training for babies and toddlers.

Let me start with this: It is totally appropriate to expose your babies and toddlers to fun ways to move and discover their bodies.

It is totally inappropriate to enroll them in a class with the intention of giving them a "leg up" on participating in sports, with some kind of vision of them being super-athletes.

Parents who do this need to get a grip. (The classes are bad enough; even worse are the snake-oil salespeople who encourage you to plant your 18-month-old in front of a DVD on the TV.)

We enrolled my older kid in soccer classes when he was 3, not because I want him to be a soccer star, but because it was something to do and the classes seemed extremely benign.

Now he's 4. We put him in an even more benign soccer class this past fall -- the big difference being the new class was held outdoors, rather than in a gym (and it was cheaper).

When he was 3 and a half, we started him in swimming classes. My wife was an elite-level swimmer growing up, and the last thing either of us wanted was for this to be some entree to that.

Instead, we just wanted him to become comfortable in the water. If he does nothing but happily splash around in the pool or ocean for the rest of his life, that's good enough.

(And, yes, we put our 2-year-old into the toddler swim class, but that was mainly because he wanted to be like his older brother. The toddler class couldn't be more laid-back.)

Little gets on my nerves more than the selfishness of parents who either project their own athletic dreams on their child or push their child into competitive sports too early.

I am of the "let 'em play" school: I love the idea of exposing my kids to being active and playing games and "practice" as a life skill and being part of a team. But that's about it.

Do I harbor (crazy) dreams that my kids will be superstar athletes? No sports fan in their right mind can resist. But it's a huge difference between your fantasies and your kid's reality.

The whole idea behind the "Varsity Dad" initiative was developing a healthy relationship between your kids and sports -- and, if nothing else, teaching them how to be great sports fans.

That's why I read today's article as a mockery of the industry -- while the column I wrote for the Times a year ago about taking my son to his first college basketball game was age-appropriate.

I'm not even sure it WAS age-appropriate: He was clearly too young to go -- perhaps not to a St. Francis game, but certainly to a Knicks game -- but I was so eager to take him.

Again, this very real issue with parenting: Projecting your own interests on your kid. I would say that "Be a great sports fan!" is way more benign than "Be an all-star athlete!"

But when it comes to babies and toddlers -- and even 3- or 4- or 5-year-olds -- there's something to be said for moderation and a healthy sense of perspective.

-- D.S.

12/01 Quickie: Gruden to the U,
NU, Duke, Grizz, Tulo, Hanukkah

Today's Names to Know: Jon Gruden, The U, Illinois, Northwestern, Duke-Michigan State, Mike Conley and the Grizzlies, Troy Tulowitzki, Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, Tiger, LeBron, Marko Jaric and More.

Jon Gruden to coach The U? Really? Um...why?

Start with this: I don't think Gruden will be a very effective college football coach. Elite college football coaches are college football "types" or lifers (with the rare exception of a savant like Saban), who are recruiting machines.

Gruden is an NFL coaching lifer; does he know that you spend, like, 10 months of the year in heavy recruiting mode? And won't he have an eye on the NFL job openings every fall? (Or won't opposing coaches use that against him when recruiting?) I think his inexperience in college football -- particularly recruiting -- is an NCAA violation waiting to happen.

Then there's this: Miami? Let's say Gruden really did have the college football itch. Why would he go to Miami, a second-tier program (if not lower) in a 3rd-tier conference. Great history, great recruiting base...but hardly lustrous anymore. If he wants to coach college football, isn't he better off at, say, Michigan? (Maybe not. And maybe that's not an option.)

Here's a better idea for Gruden, if he wants to give it the ol' college try -- but still leave a glidepath to the NFL job of his choice in, say, 2012: Join good friend Urban Meyer in Florida as Meyer's new offensive coordinator. (Gruden already had reportedly expressed interest in being OC for a year at Oregon; his wife reminded him of the insane time commitment.)

Gruden can experiment with college tactics and gain experience in recruiting from the master, all while leaving the door open for the NFL offer you know he really wants. Florida gets a clean break from the lamentable Steve Addazio Era.

But the point is this: Gruden as a college football head coach? At a program like Miami's? It just doesn't make any sense.

CBB: Yes, we could talk about Illinois beating UNC or we could talk about the Big Ten's overall dominance of the ACC last night. But how about we talk about mighty Northwestern?

NU put up its biggest non-conference win in years: A throttling of a "name" opponent that the 'Cats normally lose (and certainly needed, given their iffy non-conf schedule and their tenuous path to their first-ever NCAA invite: Run the non-conf table, then find .500 in the B10.)

Tonight: Michigan State at Duke, arguably the best non-conference game of the year. (Given that the game is at Cameron, I expect a Duke blow-out W.)

More: Big, March-quality win for Georgetown over Mizzou. (One of those you file away, use to help you pick your brackets...and ultimately end up regretting relying on, of course.)

NFL: Is it really news that the league will refund your ticket money if it turns out games are cancelled because of a lockout or strike? Were they considering NOT making refunds?

MLB: Tulowitzki gets his mega-deal. I don't think it's unreasonable to give a star SS about to enter his prime $134M; I do think it's unreasonable to give $20M a year to a 37-year-old.

(I wonder what the Yankees talked about when they reportedly met with Jeter's agent? How about this: "He was already paid a hefty 'icon' bonus in the last contract, and let's not overstate his impact on the Yankees' 'brand.' So we'll give you an extra million or so a year, but that's it.")

Hey, a Miguel Tejada sighting!

Tiger on Twitter: Did you catch Tiger's flurry of Tweets yesterday afternoon? They weren't particularly interesting, but they were humanizing -- which was the entire point.

NBA: The Lakers lose their 3rd straight. And yet unlike the Heat, I don't expect panicky coverage about the coach's tenuous hold on his job, the grumbling of the stars, etc.

(Why is former NBA journeyman Marko Jaric a hot topic on the Web this morning? Because he is more famous for having a wife who is a Victoria's Secret model than being an NBA player.)

One more day until LeBron returns to Cleveland: It is the most must-see game of the NBA regular season. Much, much more on this tomorrow.

Happy Hanukkah (which starts tonight). Mmm...frozen latkes.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brees is Sportsman:
All-Time Great Photo

11/30 Quickie: Sportsman, Heat,
Westbrook, TCU, ACC, More

Today's Names to Know: Drew Brees, Eric Spoelstra, Brian Westbrook, Derek Anderson, TCU, Andre Johnson, Virginia hoops, Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki, Rafael Palmeiro, Rich Rodriguez and More.

Saints as 2010's Top Sportsmen: There is nothing more appropriate to capture 2010 than SI naming Drew Brees and the Saints as their Sportsman of the Year. And not, say, LeBron.

(In the absence of a Saints SB win, I think you could have made a good case for LeBron, but I wouldn't exactly call his story "heartwarming," like the Saints were.)

Heat rout Wiz: Meh. Miami's problem has never been beating the dregs; it's been beating the GOOD teams. And until that happens with more regularity, the fracturing will continue.

49ers rout Cards: Brian Westbrook! Last night totally would have helped your fantasy team... in 2008. I can't believe that SF is only a game out of 1st place in the NFC West.

YouTube Clip of the Day: Derek Anderson going off on a reporter, in response to Jon Gruden going off on Derek Anderson for seeming to laugh on the sidelines during the loss.

Money quote: "You think this is funny, I take this s--t serious. Real serious. I put my heart and soul into this s--t every single week... I don’t go out there and laugh... Nothing’s funny to me."

Next up: Coors Light endorsement deal! Honestly, watch this end up as the big story of the day. About 10 seconds after I wrote this, I flipped on "Morning Joe" and they were playing the clip.

TCU to Big East: Talked about this yesterday, but it's a total win-win. TCU gets the BCS legitimacy; the Big East gets a perennial national power. TCU will win the league every year.

Andre Johnson & Cortland Finnegan can agree on at least one thing: Their $25K fines were a slap on the wrist, compared to the threat of a game suspension or something harsher.

Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Watch for Ohio State to throttle Florida State tonight. (I'll have my eye on Northwestern-Georgia Tech.)

The ACC is off to a good start with UVA's upset of Minnesota last night; things should be equalized when UNC loses at Illinois tonight. (UVA > Minnesota > UNC? Really?)

Yankees vs. Derek Jeter: "Reality potion" is right. NY's offer is more than fair. At what point does this storyline become: "Why doesn't Jeter just take the deal?"

Troy Tulowitzki to get mega-deal: Like Jeter 10 years ago, Tulo is a player who deserves a mega-contract. Ironically, this one will pay Tulo less in his prime than Jeter wants now.

Baseball Hall: Rafael Palmeiro is on the ballot for the first time, and it is a litmus test for voters who have already rejected Mark McGwire. Like Mac, Raffy is -- on paper -- a HOF lock.

CFB Coaching Carousel: No word on Rich Rodriguez... yet. You have to believe the Michigan AD is busy figuring out if Jim Harbaugh would take the job (and he should).

In case you missed it yesterday: A bonus post on Kyle Brotzman, Steve Johnson and failure. It was a good day for Facebook and Twitter.

Speaking of Facebook and Twitter, if you want to keep up with the latest on my new company, Quickish, please "like" the Facebook page and follow the Twitter feed.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Kyle Brotzman, Steve Johnson and Failure

Two instances over the weekend of epic failure:

*Friday night, Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman went through, arguably, the biggest failure in the history of college football: He missed the relatively simple game-winning kick (following a Play-of-the-Year-this-must-be-fated Hail Mary) that would have won the game and secured Boise State not just its undefeated season, but perhaps the kind of mojo to have given it a chance with voters. Then, adding insult to injury, he missed another relatively simple kick that would have given Boise 3 points to start overtime; Nevada promptly kicked a FG to win -- Boise's undefeated season was over.

I imagine Brotzman is inconsolable. Hopefully, he has some level of family, friends or faith that can help him deal with what will likely be a lifelong regret of unmeasurable proportions. What was phenomenal to see was that Facebook page that sprang up among Boise fans -- and frankly non-Boise fans, too -- to support Brotzman. Stuff happens. Sometimes it is epic. Sometimes it seems REALLY bad. Relative to college football, it might be. Relative to everything else in the world, to say it "hardly qualifies" is, itself, qualifying it as too big of a deal. All the folks who liked the Facebook page get that.

*Then yesterday, Bills WR Steve Johnson missed an easy TD catch -- considering he is a near-elite professional WR, a lot easier than Brotzman's FG attempt -- that cost the hard-luck Bills a win over the conference powerhouse Steelers. Johnson was inconsolable, in a far more public way. He took to Twitter with what was arguably the Tweet of the Year in sports (perhaps nudging out Simmons' "moss vikings" tweet). Here it is, in all its all-CAPS glory:
There is almost too much to unpack here, nearly Talmudic in its density: The direct address to God, through Twitter. The all-caps. The exclamation points. The utterly existential question ("HOW???!!!") that could launch a thousand sermons next Sunday. The threat... then the kicker: Not just "Thanks," but the casual, Tweet-shortened "THX."

Johnson did not post to Twitter actually thinking it was a line to God; he posted to Twitter because it was the most public way he knew to express the overwhelming emotions he felt following the game. He could share with everyone how he was feeling -- how conflicted he felt, not just about his actions, but about his faith. I don't see him as "blaming" God for the missed catch, as some have said. I see it as much bigger: Johnson questioning, if not even within the brevity of 140 characters, his own faith. That's some heady stuff.

In its own way, it is one of the most profound statements ever uttered by an athlete.


Two examples: In Brotzman's case, the community of fans is rallying, through Facebook, to support him. In Johnson's case, the individual is taking to a platform reaching tens of millions to try to create his own support. It is fascinating.

Failure happens. It happens in these epic ways (epic, relative to sports). In launching my own company, I am entirely aware of the chance -- even statistical probability -- of failure. I have such a different perspective on it than I did, say, when the Quickie launched 8 years ago; in this case, it is unlikely I will feel a sense of failure, even if the company doesn't succeed. ("You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," and all those "hang-in-there"-kitten-on-ledge posters.)

But, these days, I have an acute antennae for failure and appreciation for those who fail. And I found Brotzman and Johnson's failures -- and, more, the reaction to those failures -- to be remarkable.

If you want to keep up with my successes and failures in the new company, please "like" the Facebook page if you are on Facebook and/or follow the Twitter feed.

-- D.S.

BlogPoll Monday: Auburn, Oregon, TCU

Latest BlogPoll ballot: Auburn has earned the No. 1 spot (although I think they will lose to South Carolina). Stanford > Wisco. Nevada jumps to 6. (Boise at 7.) SEC > Big 12. Entire thing here.

SI Picks Saints as Sportsmen of Year?

UPDATE (11/30): Drew Brees is your SI Sportsman of the Year. Great pick, which I will assume is a proxy for the entire team. Brees, after all, wasn't responsible for The Onside Kick (which I will argue is the single greatest play in the history of the NFL). But if you're looking for a representative of the entire "Who Dat?" phenomenon of January and February, Brees is the ideal choice. (I also love Brees because he doesn't fit the physical mold of the "prototype" NFL QB of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. That makes Brees all the more spectacular.


Did Peter King scoop his own magazine this morning that SI was picking the Saints as its Sportsmen of the Year?

This little tidbit in his "Fine Fifteen" team rankings in this week's MMQB: "This is going to be a very good week if you're a fan of the Saints. Trust me on that one."

There is only one reasonable interpretation of that, given the Sportsman issue comes out this week: The Saints as Sportsmen of the Year.

Let's not lose sight of the bigger point: It's a great pick. The only pick, really. (What: Like they were going to pick LeBron? You could make an awesome case, but no way.)

-- D.S.

11/29 Quickie: NFL Week 12, BCS, Nielsen

Today's Names to Know: Leslie Nielsen vs. Leslie Frazier, Matt Ryan vs. Aaron Rodgers, Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan, Josh McDaniels vs. Sam Bradford, Peyton Hillis vs. Chris Johnson, Dwayne Bowe vs. Steve Johnson, Auburn vs. Oregon, Pacers vs. Lakers, LeBron vs. Eric Spolestra, Naked Gun's Detective Drebin vs. Airplane's Doctor Rumack and More.

NFL Talking Points: "...And don't call me Shirley."

*And the best team in the NFC is... the Falcons? (Meanwhile: How are the Bears suddenly alone in 1st place in the NFC North this late in the season?)

*Chargers roll along: Yeah, yeah -- they are a Top 5 team in the NFL right now, record notwithstanding. But it's the same old pattern: Start slow, finish hot, flame out in playoffs.

*Leslie Frazier: 1-0. Part of it is a team inspired by having shed a dispiriting coach. Part of it is getting to play the Redskins. Either way: Midseason coaching changes are good for good teams.

(How about that Brett Favre 10-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 late to seal the win? Just when you think you're out, he sucks you back in.)

*Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan: It added even more insult to the Titans' suddenly tanking season, to see their DB get his head throttled by an irate Johnson.

*Steelers survive the Bills: Steve Johnson has the Drop of the Year. (And, perhaps, the Tweet of the Year, too.)

*SpyGate 2: Josh McDaniels probably has to worry about being fired for performance before he worries about being fired for cheating. (Who tapes an opponent... and loses?)

Meanwhile, how about Sam Bradford and the Rams? While McDaniels leaves Tebow on the bench, Bradford had his first 300-yard game -- and his best game as a pro, by far -- and seems to have NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year locked up. (Next stop: Playoffs?!?) I'll say it again: I was so wrong about Bradford back before (and after) the draft.

*Fantasy Stud: Peyton Hillis. Hillis won't earn many votes for league MVP, but he has had a sick enough year that he should run away with Fantasy MVP. (Runner-up? Dwayne Bowe).

*Fantasy Dud: Titans QB Rusty Smith -- or should I say Titans RB Chris Johnson, who had a career-low 5 yards rushing after Houston's D put, like, 11 in the box.

*MNF Tonight: 49ers-Cards. A true test whether the NFL's TV ratings can withstand anything. Absurdly, these are the two sub-.500 teams in the NFC West NOT leading the division.


BCS: Clarity, for now. Appropriately, Auburn is No. 1. (It is the definition of pollster inertia that the AP and Coaches kept Oregon at No. 1, just because they were No. 1 last week and won.)

Oregon is No. 2. If both win next week -- and that is no given -- then they will meet for the national title, with little fuss made about it.

If either lose, TCU will crash the party -- and give either a hell of a game.

And if both lose, then we will have TCU and... insanity. Which 1-loss team would deserve it most: Stanford? Wisconsin? Auburn or Oregon getting another chance? That's a mess.

(I haven't heard from the BCS experts, but I presume that Auburn's superior strength of schedule -- only better for having played South Carolina -- would leave it tops among 1-loss teams.)

Prelim BlogPoll ballot: (1) Auburn, (2) Oregon, (3) TCU, (4) Stanford, (5) Wisconsin, (6) Nevada, (7) Boise, (8) Ohio State, (9) Arkansas, (10) South Carolina.

UPDATE: TCU to Big East in 2012. Great move for both. TCU gets the automatic BCS bowl entry; the league gets a national-level contender (with the awesome Texas footprint). TCU will win the league every year, from 2012 until forever.

BTW: It would behoove the Big East to claim TCU's BCS-worthiness THIS season as its own, particularly given that its own champ is such a dud.


NBA Weekend: The Shoulder Bump Heard 'Round the World. Did LeBron knock into Coach Spo intentionally, in some sort of power move? From watching the replays, I don't buy it -- then again, I don't put it past LeBron to do it. (If your team was as mediocre as his was, wouldn't you be a little frustrated and wanting to take it out on the coach?) If nothing else, it made the coach LOOK like a chump.

Wow, how in the world did the Pacers beat the Lakers in LA? Did the Lakers forget there was a game? It was Indiana's first-ever win against the Lakers at Staples Center -- and their second world-beating road W in a week (this was way more impressive than beating the Heat).

Meanwhile, the Spurs roll on: They beat the Hornets in NOLA.


Pro Football HOF semifinalists: How big can a HOF class be? Because the first-time nominees are strong: Deion is a lock, as Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis all should be. (What a class for RBs it could be if Terrell Davis is added to the group.)

RIP, Leslie Nielsen: His role as Detective Frank Drebin included a classic sports-movie scene, when he took over as an ump in Naked Gun. (I'll always be partial to Nielsen as Dr. Rumack in "Airplane." The phrase of the day: "And don't call me Shirley." Oh, and I had the lasagna.)

More coming later today.

-- D.S.