Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday (Very O-Town) Quickie

Greetings from Orlando, where the warm weather is a happy trade-off for not having been in NYC yesterday for the Heat-Knicks vibe, which turned out to be the "Oh-Things-Have-Been-Great-And-All-But-This-Is-What-It-Would-Have-Been-Like-With-LeBron" game. Yup. (Wow, the Heat are cruising. The Knicks had a ton of momentum, and Miami just stifled 'em.)

Redskins bench McNabb: You knew things weren't great, but I don't think anyone knew they would implode as spectacularly as they did yesterday. This was the player who just got a nice new deal a few weeks ago; this was the guy who commanded so much optimism at the start of the season. This is now the No. 3 QB for the Redskins, his career in D.C. essentially over after less than a full season. But he sure will look good in Arizona next season (even if he's no Warner 2.0).

Meanwhile: Rex Grossman. Is starting in the NFL.

NBA: Gilbert Arenas to the Magic? That was the hot rumor last night, and as a Wiz fan I'm torn. On the one hand, Gil doesn't fit on the team, and I'd like to see what they can get from Orlando. On the other, Arenas is one of my favorite players, and I will miss seeing him go -- but I want the best for him for his career. Ironically, me physically being in Orlando right now offers me absolutely no reportorial or analytical advantages in working through this.

NFL: Aaron Rodgers doubtful for tomorrow vs. Pats -- but he still might play? Yikes, it's like he wants his brain over-easy rather than flat-out scrambled. I appreciate why he wants to play, but this season, of all of them, shouldn't the team be saying, "Let's just be safe here."

College football bowl season is here! (How awesome was that red turf in the Villanova-Eastern Washington 1-AA playoff game last night? Whether you liked it or hated it, so visually stunning.)

-- D.S.

Friday, December 17, 2010

12/17 Quickie: NFL Week 15, Bowls

En route to Orlando today to celebrate my brother getting his PhD this weekend. Much Chik-Fil-A to be eaten.

NFL Last Night: The Chargers win (as expected), but the real revelation was Vincent Jackson, who had 3 TDs and probably single-handedly will win playoff weeks for folks who started him.

NFL Week 15 Storylines:
*Fantasy football playoffs
*Forget Favre: No beer in Minny on Monday night?
*Tim Tebow better freaking finally play.
*Jets at Steelers: Jets need this one badly.
*GOTW (NFC): Giants-Eagles
*GOTW (AFC): Jags-Colts

NBA Tonight: Heat at Knicks, in the Knicks' 2nd "Wow, you've kinda got to watch" game of the week -- which is two more than they have had since they played in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1999.

Yao done for the year: And you have to wonder if he's done for good. By the way, if he IS done for good, I would vote for him to make the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Rajon Rondo out for "weeks": As long as he's healthy by April (and stays healthy through May), the Celtics will be fine.

MLB Hot Stove: Bobby Jenks for $6M a year for 2 years feels like a pretty good deal for the Red Sox. (Does that mean Papelbon is on the block? Or at least expendable?)

CFB Bowls start: New Mexico Bowl (BYU-UTEP: I'll take UTEP.)... uDrove Humanitarian Bowl (Northern Illinois vs. Fresno St: I'll go Fresno)... R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Ohio vs. Troy: I'll say Troy, but not for any good reason.)

Be sure to enter the Daily Quickie Readers College Bowl Pick 'Em!

CBB This Weekend: Kansas State-Florida is the headliner, but honestly, K-State is going to throttle the Gators. Texas-UNC is also interesting.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

College Bowl Pick 'Em Contest!

CRAP. Knew I had lost track of something. Rather than it turning out to be, say, my mortgage payment, instead it was the Daily Quickie Readers college football Bowl Pick 'Em league. It's set up now, so please join! My title in this league in '08 remains my, um, only DQR win ever.

Remember my personal strategy: I pick the games, assigning confidence points not by actual confidence level, but by calendar, meaning the first bowl game gets 1 point if I get it right, but the last bowl gets the most confidence points if I get it right (and I'll get that one right, for sure). That's how I won the league in '08, and I'm sticking to it, even after last year's debacle.

Bowls start Saturday -- join now!

Sponsored Post: Playoff-Bound

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

After a fast start, a brutal middle and a strong ending, I made the 4-team playoff field as the No. 2 seed. I play Team Gunaxin, starting tonight.

I will not have Antonio Gates -- or, at least, I won't be starting him, given his injury situation. Instead, I'll be going with Rob Gronkowski and doubling down on team MVP Tom Brady's ability to win me this league title.

Backfield is the same it's been for weeks: Chris Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. I need a game from CJ like he had a week ago.

Receivers are Miles Austin, Malcom Floyd (questionable!) and Pierre Garcon (who I can only hope didn't use up all his fantasy mojo in last week's huge performance). Let's go get it.

Here is this week's league recap post, from JoeSportsfan's Matt Sebek.

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.

Memo to Mark Cuban re: BCS

I love that Mark Cuban wants to create a competitor to the BCS. He's no dummy: It's good business.

The plan is a lot less complicated than he might think. All he has to do is nudge the SEC -- which doesn't and shouldn't give a shit about the rest of the BCS cabal -- to create a playoff.

Right off the bat, with only the SEC involved, an 8-team, 7-game, 3-week playoff would command a billion-dollar TV rights fee, and that doesn't even count sponsorship and any offers cities make to host playoff games. Hell, they could do it in single-year auctions and likely make even more than a multi-year commitment.

So the SEC isn't part of the BCS system anymore: OK... and?

The league and its partner, Cuban, will be printing money, satisfying existing SEC triumphalism and, frankly, crowning a champ with more legitimacy than any unbeaten team that comes out of the old BCS system.

Then watch what happens next: When the other leagues see what is happening in that first year of an SEC playoff, they will be clamoring to join.

The Big 12 will be on speed-dial within 5 minutes. The Pac-10 will be on call-waiting. The Big East and ACC will be begging. (Notre Dame? Sure: They can pay to join.)

Equal splits? No chance. Leagues can bid on participating -- everything from revenue share to how many teams they get included. (They can all feel free to set up their own conference playoff system, beyond the current 2-team format that most leagues use.)

Notice that I haven't included the Big Ten. Here is the reality: The Big Ten can try to ignore what everyone else is doing, but good luck when they run out of dance partners. Eventually, if only to remain relevant, the Big Ten will join. (And if they don't: More power to them, and more power to the playoff group.)

The simplicity of the idea is that it all hinges on the SEC, a league with a commissioner and school presidents already inclined to support a playoff.

(This is why I keep arguing that the fastest route to a playoff is the SEC getting screwed by the BCS system -- like a one-loss SEC champ getting vaulted by an unbeaten champ from a lesser league. The SEC would walk away in 10 seconds, and everyone kind of knows it.)

So when Mark Cuban says he has talked with folks in college football who like the idea, I cannot believe that the SEC wasn't a part of that.

It's so easy: Mark Cuban and the SEC walk away from the BCS. It fits Cuban's maverick style; it fits the SEC triumphalism. It makes a ton of money for everyone. And, for fans, a real playoff.

-- D.S.

12/16 Quickie: Feller, Knicks, More

RIP Bob Feller, one of the great pitchers of all time. If you are only nominally familiar with him, the extensive retrospectives on his career will give you a greater appreciation.

(If you read one thing on Feller today, make it Joe Posnanski.)

Knicks win! (Even if they lost!) I don't watch much regular-season NBA, but I did watch Knicks-Celtics, and it was an Event.

The Knicks are relevant again -- you get the sense that the fans were going bananas simply because they finally matter. I found it much more visceral than the late-90s, where success was expected; there is a genuine appreciation, given how bad the team has sucked.

That they lost almost gives them more cachet -- to come so close to knocking off the standard-bearer in the East, to show that the early success wasn't flimsy, to show the potential.

Heat win 10th straight: With a trip to New York up next that should prove to be even more insane than the Celtics game. I think NYC fans could be more brutal than Cleveland fans.

Mark Cuban wants to implode the BCS... with cash: He's not wrong; money drives the system, and a better economic proposition will have some influence. But we've been down this road before with other people. That said: Cuban has the cash and marketing savvy to make hay.

NFL Midweek: Matt Cassel was practicing, but I really can't see him playing on Sunday -- taking hits? Doesn't that put the REST of his season in jeopardy?

CFB Coaching Carousel: Miami (Ohio) Mike Haywood to Pitt. Miami continues to be the cradle of coaches. It's hard not to be more inspiring than Dave Wannstedt.

CBB: Week of upsets continue. First Tennessee and Louisville lose, now UNLV, which lost to UC-Santa Barbara. (Meanwhile, the countdown is on for Northwestern's appearance at Madison Square Garden next Monday and Tuesday nights.)

Women's CBB: I agree with Christine Brennan's point here, but count me among those who are very excited to see history made by the UConn women.

NHL/TV: Caps lose 7th straight. On the plus side, the new HBO show "24/7: Caps-Penguins" is AMAZING, in part because the Caps' troubles are so in-your-face. (So many F-bombs...)

NFL Tonight: 49ers at Chargers. Implications for fantasy playoff teams. A must-win for the Chargers. But otherwise, kind of a snoozer.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Must-See TV: Rovell on Franchises

Just a heads-up to watch (or set your DVR for) Darren Rovell's newest documentary on CNBC, "Behind the Counter: The Untold Story of Franchising." It's on at 9 p.m. ET.

Rovell is the best sports-business reporter in the country, but he is even better as a documentarian (see his awesome earlier CNBC doc on infomercials). This one looks to be a great one.

12/15 Quickie: Favre, Melo, CFB

Well, try as we all might, we just can't shake Brett Favre. First, it's "Streak over!" Now, it's "Will he play this week?"

Like everything else Favre-related, I see it in fairly simple terms: If he is pushing to play out of ego-gratification, it's a mistake. If he is actually healthy enough to play -- and not just play, but play better than the next-best alternative, Tavaris Jackson -- then he should play.

Carmelo trade talk: There was this hilariously odd-sourced rumor last night that the Nuggets had reached a deal to trade Carmelo to the Nets. It was debunked. Here is the reality: The Nuggets would LOVE to do this deal -- multiple high draft picks AND a young talent like Derrick Favors? -- but they are hamstrung by Melo's unwillingness to sign a long-term deal with the Nets. I can understand why he would rather play with the Knicks, but are the Nets that bad of an option? (The answer, aside from the upcoming Brooklyn location, is yes, probably.)

Cliff Lee Post-script: And the Yankees counter with... Mark Prior! Ah, if only this was 2001. (Look: It's more interesting than the Yankees signing Carl Pavano. Not that they were going to.)

CFB: Will Muschamp intro'ed as Florida head coach. He is dynamic. He is no-nonsense. And he is going to run a pro-style offense, rather than the spread. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I appreciate that Alabama's pro-style -- which Muschamp is obviously modeling -- was fairly effective, particularly against Florida. But I still think that the evolution of strategy favors the spread as a clearly optimized offense (see Oregon, Auburn).

Oregon uniforms for the BCS title game: The Ducks get a lot of grief for having more costume changes than Lady Gaga -- and garish combos to match. But I kind of love that they do it; it is unique in college football, and in a way, the equivalent of Facebook to, say, Penn State's Saturday Evening Post. I am a sucker for highlighter green, btw.

CBB: How does Tennessee beat two of the best teams in the Big East, then lose to Oakland? (Come to think of it: How does Louisville lose to Drexel? File both losses away under "Why I won't pick either to go past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.")

More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When the Audience is No One (Yet)

The tough news about having a new product that is still in stealthy "test" mode is that I can't show everyone the awesome stuff being produced -- particularly during what has been a GREAT sports week, capped by the double-whammy last night of Brett Favre sitting and Cliff Lee taking the deal from the Phillies, not the Yankees or Rangers. I'm producing great product! Going to waste because no one can see it!

The good news is that, having a bit of experience when it comes to day-in-day-out news coverage (particularly sports) is that as exciting as it might be at any given moment -- "most. whatever. ever." -- the system continuously replenishes itself with more. When I was writing the Quickie, I would always wonder "Wow, how could it get better than THIS?" And, yet, the news never failed to deliver.

Just from last night...

*Just when you think there's nothing left to say about Brett Favre: He sits.

*A few hours later, just when you think the Texans are finished: A wild comeback (THEN they are finished, in even wilder fashion).

*A few hours after that, just when you think the Yankees' cash rules (or you can get a good night's sleep): Cliff Lee takes less to go to Philly and create the best pitching rotation... well, we're all still figuring that out. (Braves '97? Ever?)

Anyway, let me get back to the point at the top: Very soon, I'm going to want you to check out (and test out) this product I've been working on, give feedback and generally help me make it better before it gets released publicly early next month.

I will be giving out a limited number of Quickish beta invites soon. (Limited because I want to be able to talk fairly intensively with folks testing it out. I will continuously release more invites over the rest of the month.)

If you want to hear about that first, I will be posting a message through the Quickish Facebook page and Twitter feed first, so be sure to like the FB page and/or follow the Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, back to Quickish development for me -- even if no one can see it (yet). Can't wait for you to try it out.

-- D.S.

12/14 Quickie: Lee Eclipses Favre

The biggest winner from Cliff Lee's decision to pick the Phillies over the Yankees and Rangers? People sick of Brett Favre.

As of last night, we were looking at a news cycle of continuous coverage of Brett Favre's STREAK ENDING. It was eye-roll-worthy within 5 minutes of it being announced.

Then, overnight, a truly shocking bit of news: Lee to the Phillies. Celebration in Philly. Dejection in Texas. Despondence in New York. (Yankee schadenfreude for the rest of us.)

Start with this: Lee took less to play in Philly, the team that traded him away last season to make room for Roy Halladay. How refreshing: The most money doesn't always win.

Now, the superlatives: Can you think of the most recent pitching foursome as spectacular as Halladay-Lee-Oswalt-Hamels?

The closest I have seen is folks bringing up the Braves in '97: Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz -- three future Hall of Famers -- along with Denny Neagle. And Philly has four, which I immediately dubbed the "Phab Four." (With "Phab Phour" thrown out for inelegance.)

Then again, that Braves rotation killed it in the regular season... then couldn't get past the Florida Marlins in the '97 NLCS.

And, not unlike the Heat's Superfriends, that's the burden of the Phab Four: It's World Series championship or bust.

(It is no coincidence that the best #realtalk coming from Twitter in the wake of the Lee news was from Giants fans, who saw their team beat back the Phillies AND Cliff Lee -- twice.)

But between the Yankees getting snubbed -- and now facing the same questions about their rotation that they had last season (not to mention a rejuvinated Red Sox rival) -- and the Phillies' new bounty, Cliff Lee has already done the improbable:

He stole the spotlight from the Yankees... AND Brett Favre.


Brett Favre sits: I think celebrating a streak for streak's sake is kind of lame. (This coming from someone who continually brings up writing his daily column 420 weekdays in a row.)

However, that's not to say that it wasn't the most impressive thing about Brett Favre's career. (It's not like I'd say it was the "gunslingerness" -- his feast-or-famine TD-INT ratio.)

In a sport as brutal as pro football, to string together that many weeks in a row IS worth a respectful hat-tip. The bigger question: Is his career over, period?


MNF: As it turns out, the Vikings-Giants game was horrible -- the game was listless, not insubstantially because the fans in Detroit, there for the free football, just weren't that into it. As it turns out, it helps to have fans who care about one team or the other, not just the cheerleaders and the notion of a free ticket to any old NFL game.

MNF, the OTHER game: Meanwhile, the Texans-Ravens game was kind of awesome. The Ravens were in complete control, let Houston rally back into it in the 4th quarter (including that 2-point conversion to tie), then won the game on a pick-6 of goat-to-hero-to-goat Matt Schaub (whose 4th quarter cost me a spot in one of my fantasy leagues -- anyone else?)


CFB: Turns out Gus Malzahn won't be going to Vanderbilt after all. He will stay at Auburn as offensive coordinator (sure to get a head-coaching job next December). It's a shame he didn't want to take on the Vandy challenge -- if any school could have tested out his theories, it was Vandy. Instead, Auburn -- even without Cam Newton -- should remain tough in 2011.

Trouble at Iowa: Something very very wrong is happening at Iowa. This has become a hallmark of Kirk Ferentz's time there, but the school's administration seems intent on backing him no matter what. Tracking....

The Big Ten's new logo and division names: The logo didn't get a great reception, but that was nothing compared to the howls of ridicule for the league's new divisions -- "Legends" and "Leaders." I'm inclined to appreciate a little innovation in brand marketing, but this idea is terrible. These names are awful. The connection to the teams they cover is arbitrary, at best. They are meaningless. Ultimately, who really cares -- but what a misstep by the conference.


MLB Hot Stove: So will Zack Greinke end up with the Yankees? It's not that they can't use him -- it is whether they are willing to give up their top prospects to get him (they should).


NBA: Heat win 9th straight. The early-season troubles are long-forgotten. This is the team we expected from the start. Still: We can appreciate what they are doing now, yet still remain skeptical until they can win 4 of 7 from the Celtics in the playoffs.


Finally: Sal Alosi, the Jets strength coach who tripped a Dolphins player running down the field on Sunday, was suspended by the team for the rest of the season (and fined $25K). It feels a bit ridiculous that they feel compelled to ban him for the rest of the year, but think it would be OK if he showed back up for work next spring -- let alone was on the sidelines next fall. Despite the superlatives, I consider myself a relativist, and even I think this was an obviously fireable offense.


What to expect the rest of the day around the Web: Lots of Cliff Lee "What Does It All Mean?" talk, less Favre post-mortems than we would have had if Lee had not signed and a bonus post from me a bit later this morning about the state of my new company.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12/13 Quickie: Dome, Pats, Jets
Vick, Troy P, CFB Coaches, Melo

Today's Names to Know: Metrodome, Ford Field, Tom Brady, Sal Alosi, Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Tashard Choice, Troy Polamalu, Aaron Rodgers, Will Muschamp, Al Golden, Gus Malzahn, Dana Holgorsen, Carmelo Anthony, Cliff Lee and More.

That was an odd day in the NFL, wasn't it? Let's just dig in...

*Metrodome deflates: The video was the must-see of the weekend. And, now, it's a public event in Detroit -- free for all... if you want to watch the Vikings and Giants, that is. Novelty!

*Pats destroy Bears in snow: It was like Tom Brady was playing in a balmy dome; if it wasn't obvious he is on another plane right now against the Jets, it is now.

*Jets coach trips Dolphins player: Sal Alosi, the Jets strength coach, should be in a ton of trouble. Frankly, he should be fired. At the very least: What a putz.

(And that was a highlight of the day for the Jets, who seem to be unspooling. The team is a high-tension product that does great when functioning, but will fall apart when not.)

*Vick, Jackson put Eagles over Cowboys: What was more wild -- DeSean Jackson's pre-TD celebration at the 1-yard-line...

*...Or Tashard Choice getting Mike Vick's autograph on his gloves (for his 3-year-old nephew) after the game?

*Troy Polamalu turned Carson Palmer into the worst QB of the day -- on a day when plenty of QBs stunk it up. Polamalu for NFL Defensive Player of the Year?

*Injury Watch: Aaron Rodgers' concussion throws the Packers' entire season into question. He will likely miss next week, and it's unclear how he will come back after that.

*Tonight: TWO Monday Night Football games -- you get to watch both if you live in the NYC area, Minnesota or have DirecTV -- plus plenty of fantasy playoff spots on the line.

*Will Brett Favre play tonight? If he doesn't, it ends his record consecutive-start streak; if he does, it adds another layer to his eye-rolling mythology. So, naturally, everyone is watching.


CFB: Coaching carousel spins on high. Texas DC (and "head-coach-in-waiting") Will Muschamp to Florida. Temple coach Al Golden to Miami. Auburn OC Gus Malzahn apparently to Vandy. Okla St OC Dana Holgorsen possibly to Pitt.

All these moves... well, they actually all seem pretty good:

*Muschamp has no HC experience, but he is the best assistant in the country (and if he was good enough to be the next coach at Texas, he's certainly good enough for Florida). As a Florida fan, I have become very excited about this hire.

*Golden -- who I thought was a natural candidate to eventually replace Joe Paterno at Penn State -- will bring Northeast hard-assness to Coral Gables.

*Vandy made a brilliant hire, frankly. Malzahn can turn a sandlot team into a 40 ppg offensive monster (Tulsa); Vandy might not win the SEC East, but remember the Quickie mantra: If you're not going to win a title, you might as well be entertaining. Vandy will be. (I will offer one other note: Northwestern -- once considered the Big Ten's Vandy -- rode a Malzahn-like no-huddle spread to a Big Ten title in 2000 and inspired coaches everywhere.)

*Holgorsen could have a good year or two at Pitt... until TCU gets into the Big East and wins every league title from now through the end of the century. But that year or two could be enough to vault Holgorsen to an even better job.

Meanwhile, did Urban Meyer quit because of health concerns? If so, why keep it so secret (especially if he had to have known that would come out)? And why position it as all about his family? Is it because if it IS health concerns, those can be worked out -- see last January/February -- and he can return to coaching? It's all very murky.


NBA: Carmelo says, basically, "Knicks or nothing." So the Nuggets are kind of screwed. Why should the Knicks trade ANYTHING to Denver for Carmelo, when they can simply wait until the summer and sign him as a free agent (they have plenty of cap room). Especially given the way the Knicks are playing right now (I was a doubter, but I'm starting to come around... not a ton... I'm not saying they are East elite. But they ARE a playoff team.)

Meanwhile, the Nuggets should try to trade Carmelo to ANY contender that will take him -- Orlando? -- and give them back even pennies on the dollar. Beats losing him for nothing.


MLB Hot Stove: Hey, maybe we'll get a decision from Cliff Lee this week.


Some news on the Quickish front coming this week. For the most direct pipeline to all things Quickish, like the Quickish Facebook page and/or follow Quickish on Twitter.

(I will say this: After getting the back-end development where I needed it to be, I've been testing the initial product for the past week, and I am more excited than ever.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday (Very Late!) Quickie

Late filing today, with a few quick hits:

*Metrodome collapses -- on top of a snowstorm that was already going to move the Vikings-Giants game to Monday night. So now the game is in Detroit. Novelty rules!

*Florida hires Will Muschamp: OK, I'm totally in. You can hire someone with head-coaching experience (like Urban at Florida in 2005), or you can hire the best available assistant without it (like Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in '99). Stoops, Chris Petersen, Jim Harbaugh, Dan Mullen -- all were good, but not necessarily the best fit. Muschamp is a great fit, and I'll take his energy and experience. He needs a great offensive coordinator.

*Cam Newton wins the Heisman: The 105 voters who left him off their ballots entirely -- Top 3 -- should have their voting privileges revoked for being so ludicrous. BTW: Please note how Andrew Luck surged to No. 2; if nothing else, he is the best NFL prospect in CFB.

More tomorrow a.m.

-- D.S.