Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Ahead to 2011

Prepared a really long post talking all about 2011 and Quickish, but I think I'm going to save it for the Quickish launch in 10 days.

I'll leave it at this: It's easy to know what I'm looking ahead to in 2011 -- the launch of Quickish, then, as I just tweeted, "Go. Go. Go." Full throttle. It's a simple new year's resolution.

Can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to having you all be a part of it. It's going to be incredible. (One last pitch in 2010: Stay updated on it by liking on Facebook or following on Twitter.)

Otherwise, there are a few other things in the sports world I'm looking forward to:

*Will Muschamp at Florida.
*The Onion's new "SportsDome" TV show
*Jonah Keri's new book "Extra 2%"
*Heat not winning the NBA title.
*And one I'm dreading: The NFL and NBA labor mess.

Beyond that, the sheer unpredictability that makes every year so unique and fun.

Looking forward to another great year with you. Here's to a happy, healthy new year for you and your family.

12/31 New Year's Eve Quickie

Happy new year (in advance)! Wow, it's been a fascinating 2010 in sports (and life). Here's to a fun and safe New Year's Eve for all of you.

It's a shock but not a surprise that UConn's women lost at Stanford. If any team was going to do bust the streak, it was going to be the Cardinal at Maples. I just didn't think they'd do it.

(Question: Doesn't this kind of mitigate any chance Stanford has of beating UConn if/when they meet in the Final Four? Hard to see Stanford beating UConn twice in one season.)


Yesterday's CFB Bowl Insanity: The end of that Tennessee-UNC Music City Bowl was ridiculous. I actually feel bad for Tennessee fans (rather than the schadenfreude of the LSU loss).

Then there was the end of the Syracuse-K-State game, where the K-State receiver was flagged for a penalty for saluting after the late TD that brought KSU within 2. It pushed the would-be game-tying 2-point conversion back to the 17-yard line and cost KSU any reasonable chance at tying the game.

Was the call right? By the letter of the rule, yes. But it is so inconsistently applied that it was best left as a no-call, especially given the timing. (Then again, players should know better -- and if they don't, then the coaches haven't done their job preparing them.) I personally don't find post-TD celebrations offensive in the least, and so I have a high tolerance for gestures before I'd think throwing a flag was appropriate.

(Both games eclipsed what should have been a pretty notable win by Washington over Nebraska, especially considering how badly NU pounded UW back in September.)

Four bowls today, headlined by Notre Dame-Miami in the mid-afternoon. It's not what it once was, but we'll watch, of course, because it's ND vs. Miami. Nostalgia!

(More: USF-Clemson -- dud. Georgia-UCF -- upset watch! South Carolina-Florida State in primetime -- SC, jumped by New Year's Day bowls, should roll. They were very good in '10.)


New Year's Day Bowl Mania! Six bowls tomorrow, which I'll try to summarize as shallowly as possible:

*Will Northwestern get its first bowl win ever? (Remember: NU regularly ends up in some of the most exciting games of the season.)

*An hour into a Northwestern bowl game I would usually watch in its entirety, Florida kicks off against Penn State, so you know what's happening there. It's Urban Meyer's Florida finale -- frankly, it is a bigger deal that it is Steve Addazio's Florida finale. One more chance to enjoy that ineffective dive play, Gator fans.

*What a disappointing finish for the defending champs. Remember when Alabama's place in the national title game was a presumption? That's why college football is so amazing.

*Is this Rich Rodriguez's final game at Michigan? (If Michigan was smart, it would pay RichRod his reduced buyout -- but only having already backroom-secured Jim Harbaugh as its next coach.)

*The day's headliner is the Rose Bowl: Wisconsin -- which had a pretty awesome year -- against TCU, trying to win one for all the non-BCS teams out there (not to mention prove its bonafides as a team worthy of a national-champ vote or two). Wisco doesn't offer much of a strategic challenge: TCU simply has to stop the most punishing run game in the country.

*UConn-Oklahoma's Fiesta Bowl is as lame as all the UConn fans who aren't going know it will be. TCU's place as the Big East's automatic-qualifying BCS bowl champ can't happen soon enough.


NFL Week 17 Preview: For all of you whose teams play their final game of the season, I'm sorry. Even watching your pathetic team stumble not into the playoffs is better than no football at all.

I love that the weekend's headliner is the "playoff play-in" game for the NFC West title between the Seahawks and Rams, which could leave us with our first-ever sub-.500 division champ, an outcome I am rooting for hard.

Otherwise, it's a handful of teams still playing for a playoff spot -- or playoff position. But most of the league is phoning it in. The good news: The NFL playoffs start next Saturday.

More NFL: Sal Alosi and the Jets fined $100K; Brett Favre fined $50K. Gotcha. (Actually, I suspect that the Jets are guilty for the same thing Favre is: "Misleading" the league. Do you think the Jets actually copped to anything more than the "lone bad actor," as far-fetched as that seems? You bet. In sports, obfuscation has always been the optimal strategy.


More CFB: Quick thought about the Ohio State 5 apparently committing to return next season: If the presumptive threat was that there is no way Tressel would play them in the game if they didn't say they were returning (no matter how much pressure the Sugar Bowl CEO puts on the school), what would be their incentive to tip that hand now? What's the punishment if they say they are coming back, play in the game, then declare for the draft a week later?

As a nominal Maryland football fan, I heartily endorse Mike Leach as the next coach, if only because he would make the Terps the most entertaining/telegenic football team on the East Coast. If you're not winning a national title -- and Maryland most definitely is not -- then you might as well be fun to watch.


NHL Winter Classic: My favorite NHL event of the year -- and, in my opinion, the best idea in the history of the sport. That it pits the league's two biggest stars -- and had the promotion of HBO's incredible 24/7 series -- only makes it bigger. Shame the weather might mess things up. It's scheduled for a 1 p.m. start, but it could get pushed into the evening. At worst, it gets moved to Sunday. No problem: Fans will still tune in. (Yes, even on Sunday, against the NFL.)


Baseball Hall of Fame ballots are due today. Here's hoping for a good result for Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines, among others. For the record, I am part of the camp that would vote Bagwell in.

Again, best wishes for a happy, healthy and satisfying 2011 to all of you. Huge stuff ahead. Posting all weekend.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

12/30 Quickie: Favre, KG, K, Bowls

Per yesterday's end-of-2010 post, a bit of unexpected extra time with my kids this morning was (more than) worth the late post. Anyway, as they say: Legggooo...

Brett Favre "punished" with $50K fine: Without diminishing the underlying gravity of sexual harrassment, Favre lying to the league should have been taken by the league as worse than the original offense.

KG injured: It goes without saying that without KG and Rondo, the Celtics are not a contender. However! All that matters is that they are healthy by April and stay healthy through June. It's no sure thing, but if they are -- again: big "if" -- they will win the title.

Coach K wins No. 880, putting him alone at No. 2 on the all-time wins list -- with no question he will pass Bobby Knight early next season. You can hate Duke and still recognize that K is the best men's college hoops coach of all time.

Sugar Bowl CEO influenced Ohio State players' suspension: My favorite part is how this bowl CEO was so open -- even bragging -- about it. That is the clarity that comes with no misunderstanding about greed driving your decisions. Where Ohio State and the Big Ten and the NCAA get tripped up is in the haze of their own cynical opacity.

CFB Bowling Yesterday: Maryland sends out Fridge with a big win (really hope they get Gus Malzahn)... Illinois wins a bowl for the first time since '99 (Zooked!)... Oklahoma State showcases OC Dana Holgorsen's monster offense one last time before he leaves for WVU.

CFB Bowling Today: Quadruple-header! Noon (Army-SMU in the Bell Helicopter Bowl)... 3:20 (Kansas State-Syracuse at Yankee Stadium)... 6:40 (UNC-Tennessee in the Music City Bowl)... 10 (Nebraska-Washington in the Holiday Bowl, which annually produces high scores).

Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Week, Cont'd: Joe Posnanski has been killing it this week, and today's post is the best yet -- about Jeff Bagwell. Baseball HOF voters coming out against Bagwell -- with some really terrible arguments -- are having their worst moment (well, worst moment since not covering the steroids story to begin with).

More NBA: Another 40-plus game for D-Wade (45) and another win for the Heat... the Lakers get off the schneid... Tyreke Evans!

Posting a look-ahead to 2011 around noon-ish, and I'll be posting tomorrow to preview the weekend -- hope you'll drop by to check it out.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking Back on 2010

Maybe this is a function of being a parent of young kids and the founder of a start-up, but things were fairly simplified for me in 2010:

*Be the best spouse and dad I could be. (A task that where -- probably, but not always, for the best -- there always seems to be vast room for improvement.)

*Work as hard as I've ever worked to get my company founded and positioned to succeed. And it's exciting as hell to know that as hard as we've worked this year, things hit another level when it launches in two weeks.

Both those things have a million small pieces that go into them, but there is a clarity that comes with an overarching goal.

Looking back to this time last year, I wanted to start my own company, but it sure seemed like a long way from intention to execution. But things are positioned to be amazing in 2011.

I cannot overstate how much I appreciate you continuing to want to connect with me here, hear what I have to say and support the effort.

And I probably can't overstate how much I will want and need your support next year with Quickish. More on that tomorrow.

As for sports -- let's not lose sight of that, right? -- 2010 continued to affirm something I have experienced since the old Quickie days: Just when I think it can't get better, it gets better.

The Decision was perhaps the pivotal sports event of the year -- and a complete debacle -- but consider the impact. Who said sports always has to be feel-good stories like the Saints winning the Super Bowl, which I'd rank as "1A" among the top stories of the year.

Looking at it from a macro perspective, you could argue that despite the uncertainty in the economy -- and maybe partly because of it -- sports have never been more popular.

The NFL with record ratings. Same with college football. Same with the NBA. And my god: The World Cup.

I try to steer clear of meta discussions about TV ratings and sports business, but at the very least, let's use the audience numbers as a proxy for enthusiasm. If you don't like TV ratings, you can swap in online attention. Sports have never mattered more.

I already went through my favorite sports moments of the year. The real exercise is to think back and ID the ones that immediately come to mind: The Decision (obviously), the World Cup goal by Landon Donovan and -- weirdly -- that buzzer-beating miss by Gordon Hayward in the NCAA Tournament title game is seared in my mind.

This fall is kind of a blur -- Quickish work was all-consuming, but there was enough left over for me to feel epic disappointment, week-in-and-week-out, by the performance of Florida football. Believe it or not, I renewed my optimism each week that they would win, making the awful play and brutal loss all the more devastating. I would have been better off assuming the worst; I couldn't. It was the worst experience I have ever had as a fan: Sisyphean. (Sisyfan?)

Our memories of a sports year are a combination of the intensely personal and the intensely universal -- it's not just that there is room for both. There HAS to be both.

Sports fandom can't just be "my team." Too much of the experience is the communal -- you can love your team, but still appreciate Butler or the World Cup or the pain of Cavs fans or the elation of SF Giants fans.

But sports fandom can't just be "what everyone is talking about." That's the place I've made my career, obviously, but you need something that is yours, a uniqueness to your fandom -- some combination of allegiance to team, player, perspective, time commitment, media diet... it all combines to make your experience as a fan...yours.

I think it's both, and this year didn't just affirm that, but -- as you'll see -- I'm willing to stake my career on it.

Hope you enjoyed the sports year -- and the whole year -- as much as I did.

Coming tomorrow: Looking ahead to 2011.

-- D.S.

12/29 Quickie: Eagles, Spurs, Bowls

Well, two days late, the Eagles blew it. With a chance to put themselves in a position to win the No. 2 seed in the NFC -- and that 1st-round bye, not to mention home-field advantage in the Division round -- the listless Eagles choked at home to the Joe Webb-led Vikings.

Joe Webb Bandwagon!
(Although it's clear that if Favre can go in Week 17's season/career finale, he will start and play -- as he should, obviously. We all need closure with this.)

By the way, I think that ends any chance Mike Vick had of upending Tom Brady for the league MVP award. Vick will have to content himself with earning the starting NFC QB nod in the Pro Bowl -- a combination of fan vote plus peer/coach vote that should feel as meaningful as an MVP award... even if the Pro Bowl game itself is pretty meaningless.

NBA Last Night: Are the Spurs the team to beat in the West? It's hard to count out the Lakers until another team has won that 4th game against them in a playoff series, but through two months of the 10-11 NBA season, the Spurs sure look like the best team in the conference, affirming it with a head-to-head win over the Lakers last night.

(Meanwhile, without Dirk, the Mavs were in trouble, losing to the Raptors. In Miami, D-Wade had 40 in another Heat win over the Knicks. It's not just LeBron who lights them up.)

CFB: JoePa on board for 2011. Back in the mid-decade when Penn State was reeling, I used to be with the "Oh, why doesn't JoePa retire already?" crowd, but since then I have done a 180: JoePa can do what he wants, and I kind of get a kick out of his enthusiasm to keep going.

Bowls last night: Wins for NC State (OK State OC Dana Holgorsen can't get to Morgantown fast enough) and Iowa (name to know: Iowa frosh RB Marcus Coker, who had 219 rushing yards).

Three bowls on tap today -- starting at 2:15 and going straight through until 1 in the morning, if that's your bag: At 2:15, the Military Bowl (East Carolina vs. Maryland, which appears to be zeroing in on a new coach)... at 6-ish, Illinois vs. Baylor in the Texas Bowl, which should be a points bonanza... at 9:15, Oklahoma State vs. Arizona in the Alamo Bowl, which should be an even bigger shoot-out.

CBB: As usual, Wisconsin (which beat Minnesota last night) is better than anyone thinks they are.

MLB Hot Stove: Is Andy Pettitte going to retire? (As this is Hall of Fame voting week, it begs a question: Is Pettitte a Hall of Famer? I think by the time he is up for it, the standards for pitchers -- particularly related to career wins -- will have been impacted by the quant-leaning community, and he will get in, a combination of longevity, starring in the Yankees dynasty and his performance in notably big games in the playoffs.)

NHL: Crosby's scoring streak is up to 25 games. Can't wait for the next episode of HBO's 24/7 tonight -- it really is the best piece of NHL programming I've ever seen. (A nice complement to the Winter Classic, which is the best marketing innovation in the history of hockey.)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

12/28 Quickie: TNF, Saints, Wusses

Forget the debate over the 18-game NFL season for a second -- when tonight's make-up "Tuesday Night Football" game gets seismic TV ratings, why wouldn't the NFL seriously consider creating a weekly Tuesday night game, to join the Monday night and (late-season) Thursday night editions?

Overkill? Not if you watch the out-sized success of the Sunday night and Monday night games. Fans can't get enough.

So consider how much money a network would be willing to pay to have throttle-the-comp, defy-the-DVR programming that would almost assuredly "win" Tuesday nights?

Fans would love it. TV networks would love it. Advertisers would love it. (Thus, the league would love it.) It makes too much sense NOT to try more aggressively.


MNF: Saints upend Falcons. Now, on the one hand, the Falcons had little motivation to do anything but avoid injury. On the other hand, it is hard to now simply assume that home-field advantage for the Falcons in the playoffs means they will coast to the two wins they need to win the NFC. Meanwhile, the Saints needed (and got) a gritty win on the road that might give them all the momentum they need to make a repeat run in the NFC playoffs.

More TNF: Are we "wusses" for not playing the Eagles-Vikings game in a blizzard on Sunday night? That's what Pennsylvania governor/uber-Eagles fan Ed Rendell thinks. Yes, they probably could have played the game on Sunday -- and it would have been a spectacle -- but way more ticket-holders will get to see the game tonight. Is that so bad?

Brett Favre Watch: He won't play. Well, let's hedge that -- he PROBABLY won't play. But, of course, you never know.

CFB Bowling Tonight: Champs Sports Bowl (West Virginia vs. NC State) and the Insight Bowl (Missouri vs. Iowa). Both are kind of meh, honestly.

LeBron claims he doesn't know what "contraction" means when he said that the Nets and T'wolves should be, y'know, contracted. LeBron is either a dope -- or thinks we are.

NBA Last Night: The Mavs got a big win over the Thunder, but Dirk went down with a knee injury. Needless to say, that's a big deal.

NBA Tonight: Knicks at Heat and Lakers at Spurs are the headliners. Miami should throttle the Knicks in a redux of last week. The Lakers are coming off that Xmas Day loss to Miami, and the Spurs are still smarting from last week's shellacking in Orlando. (And yet both remain the Top 2 teams in the West.)

More: The NBA had its best ratings ever for the Christmas Day games. So much for the complaints about overkill.

CBB: Pitt staked a claim as the best team in the Big East with a win over Top 10 rival UConn, their only meeting of the regular season.

MLB: Lots of talk heading into Friday's deadline for Baseball Hall of Fame voters to submit their ballots. The most intriguing, as always, is Bert Blyleven. More:

*Jack Morris is most notable for a single game (Game 7 of the 1991 World Series), as well as being the crux of the "You can't vote for Morris if you don't vote for Blyleven" argument.

*Robbie Alomar will likely get in. Tim Raines SHOULD get in -- and ultimately will, I think.

*Mark McGwire will get closer -- enough that "Will McGwire get in?" will again become a topic of conversation.

More later. Have to put together my end-of-year lists....

-- D.S.

Monday, December 27, 2010

12/27 Quickie: NFL Playoff Scenarios

Gotta love NFL playoff scenarios. The AFC is pretty clear-cut: The Patriots are winning the conference title anyway. The only open slot is the AFC South, which is the Colts for the taking with a win next week (which they'll get). No, really, does it really matter? The Pats are going to roll all the way, anyway.

The NFC is much more fascinating: The Packers, Giants and Bucs are vying for the final Wild Card spot. And the Seahawks and Rams are playing with the tantalizing chance that we'll see our first-ever sub-.500 division winner.

Then there is Philly trying to keep pace with the Bears to earn that key first-round bye (plus home-field in the Divisional Round). We'd have clarity, if not for the NFL's decision to postpone the snowed-out game until Tuesday.

(It's the NFL's first Tuesday game since 1946, a bit of novelty that will surely set viewing records on top of what was already a record-breaking season for primetime games.)

The bottom line is that the NFL is so much better off when meaningful games happen in the final week of the regular season.

More notes from NFL Week 16:

*Fantasy Football Championship Week: If you started Josh Freeman, you deserved to win. If you started LeGarrette Blount, you deserved to win. And if you started both, you deserve some sort of Fantasy GM of the Year award.

(How wild that many leagues won't be decided until late Tuesday night?)

*Only the 2010 Jets could lose -- giving up 38, no less -- yet still qualify for the playoffs in the same game.

*The Giants sure don't LOOK like a team that is worthy of making the playoffs, do they? (Hard to watch that head-to-head with the Packers and not think the Pack more worthy.)

*Tim Tebow. Allow a moment for triumphalism after Tebow led the Broncos on two 4th-quarter TD drives (both 70+ yards) for the comeback win. Plus 300 yards passing. And bringing the total number of TDs he has accounted for this season to 8 (in 2 GS + 13 other snaps).

*And yet Sam Bradford, who has the Rams on the cusp of a playoff spot, will surely run away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. (As he should. But can we get a little love for Tebow from the nay-sayers?)

*Tom Brady may or may not beat out Mike Vick for league MVP (he probably will), but he will finish the season with the best mark ever for TD-to-INT ratio.

*Norv Turner should be fired at the end of the season. So should Jeff Fisher. And, for blowing it at home and almost surely costing his team a playoff spot, Jack Del Rio. (That Gary Kubiak will be fired -- and likely hired in Denver the next day -- is a given, right?)

*Mike Singletary would have been on that list -- but he might not even make it to next week. Needless to say, he's as good as axed.

*You have to feel good for the Lions finishing so strong.

*Tonight: Saints at Falcons in the Monday Night Football season finale. The defending champs against the presumptive favorites to win the NFC this year. I'm going to be a sucker for my "pick-the-champs-to-repeat" thing until the bitter end. God, the Pats are going to throttle whoever the NFC offers up in the Super Bowl, aren't they? I'm steeling myself already.


*Rangers get Brandon Webb: This barely qualifies as a consolation prize from losing Cliff Lee. (Did I say "barely?" I meant "doesn't.")

*Bowling tonight: AdvoCare V100 Indepedence Bowl, featuring Air Force and Georgia Tech, which should give triple-option fetishists a thrill.

*NBA Weekend Recap: Everyone still hates the Heat. It's just that they are clearly the team to beat. That said: It's a far different thing to beat the Lakers in December than in June.

*RIP, Bud Greenspan.

The countdown is on to the Quickish launch. Please "like" the Facebook page and/or follow the Twitter feed to get the latest info (including beta-testing invites in advance of launch.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday (Very) Quickie

My default is to not put much stock into the NBA regular season, particularly match-ups between top teams -- the playoffs are an entirely different game.

But it's hard not to see at least some symbolism in the Heat going into Staples Center and thoroughly beating the Lakers. Still: Let's see them do it in June.

(Meanwhile, on paper, the Magic beating the Celtics was impressive -- but the C's were without their best player and MVP, Rajon Rondo. Again: Let's see the Magic beat Boston with Rondo.)

I loved the shoe stuff that went on -- yes, even the Lakers' Grinch-colored Kobe sneaks. But I particularly liked the Thunder all wearing special-edition yellow Durant models. (Durant celebrated the occasion with a season-high 44.)

NFL Week 16 today: Good luck to everyone competing for fantasy championships. Here in NYC, we're buckling down for snowpocalypse.

More later.

-- D.S.