Saturday, February 12, 2011

02/12 (Very) Quickie

Happy 50th anniversary, Strat-O-Matic.

Cavs win! Cavs win! The ignominy of US pro sports' longest losing streak will not be theirs alone for posterity. (They will remain tied with the 76-77 Tampa Bay Bucs.)

Penguins-Islanders: Crazy brawling! (Puck Daddy has the best recap/videos.)

NFL Labor Watch: The owners are going to win this, and it's going to be a rout. I don't think this can be stressed enough. They don't mind shutting down the offseason. They don't mind shutting down the preseason. They don't mind shutting down part of the regular season.

Because while the players' have an average career of 3.5 years, the owners are in this for the long haul -- one year of pain is a blip compared to a decade of things the way they want it to be. And while fans may not be happy, they're not going anywhere -- in fact, we will come back in even bigger numbers than before.

College hoops today: If Ohio State is going to lose in the regular season, it's going to be today at Wisconsin. (For the record, I'm not picking Ohio State to win it all in March.)

RIP, Chuck Tanner. "We Are Family," indeed.

Have a great Saturday. Please check in on Quickish throughout the day and evening to keep up.

-- D.S.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Strat-O-Matic: Happy 50th Anniversary

Saturday, Feb. 11 -- tomorrow or today or yesterday, depending on when you’re reading this -- is the 50th anniversary celebration of Strat-O-Matic, the legendary card-and-dice baseball game. (Here's a primer from Wikipedia.)

Let's start with this: Many/most fans call it "Strat-O." I called it "Strat." Sorry.

From Strat’s Years’ 24-27, it was among my biggest obsessions. I’m not sure what drew me to it -- what draws any fan to it? I liked mixing and matching teams -- an early form of fantasy baseball -- and I liked the range of probabilities and outcomes.

I had the "1985 edition" set -- so it covered the 1984 season. For the next three years, all me and my friends did was play with THAT set, so it was like we were permanently in 1984. As a young Cubs fan, this was fine with me, as that was the season the Cubs won the NL East.

But my most vivid memory of Strat was my freshman year of high school. I wasn’t nearly cool enough to be part of the “cool kids,” and so my friends and I continued to play Strat, rather than -- say -- going to parties we couldn’t have gotten into anyway.

Then, two of the coolest kids in my class wanted to play with us -- they loved it, and they totally dorked out with us. But their participation was totally on the “down low.”

They couldn’t tell their cool friends they were playing Strat with us, obsessing over the league and trades and homemade stat sheets in between classes.

But that was fine for me and my friends. I was so baffled that the cool kids were playing with us, that they even seemed to enjoy spending time with us. Even...grateful.

Ultimately, I out-grew Strat after my freshman year of high school. Other things took over: School, finding a sport, working on the school newspaper, girls.

But I retain such a fondness for Strat-O-Matic that I sometimes wish I could re-capture those years where it was my obsession. I know others feel that way, too. It’s a fun community to be a part of: “Did you play Strat-O-Matic," answered in the affirmative, signals you know.

You know what a fun, obsessive game it can be. You know how it impacts your fandom in a positive way -- particularly in giving you an appreciation for the role of probability and randomness in the sport. You know that it can become a lifestyle.

Happy 50th birthday, Strat-O-Matic. And I hope everyone who ever played remembers their experience as fondly as I do.

By the way, along the same vein as Strat, my favorite baseball book of all time -- a novel about an obsessive man who creates his own fictional baseball league based on cards and dice and probabilities -- is also one of the most underappreciated baseball books of all time:

The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. (Yes, that’s the complete title. By Robert Coover. Published in 1968. I was introduced to it in high school during that freshman year when my Strat obsession was at its peak. Highly recommended. If I had a million dollars I would buy the movie rights. It’s a brilliant book.)

-- D.S.

02/11 Quickie: Favre, Ray Allen, Sloan, Cam, More

So, in a pique of pique, I tracked down and debunked this "Brett Favre/Dancing With the Stars" rumor. It felt good, and not just because people seemed to like it.

If I kept sport-talk radio producers or bloggers or TV talking-heads from wasting time on it today, I have done a service to them and fans alike.

But, to be less haughty about the whole thing, it was just fun to trace it. Sourcing is a big issue in sports news -- and all news -- and this was a very clean example to showcase.

Since then, things have been a little off-the-hook with Quickish, which is why I'm not writing until now. Apologies. (On the plus side, it's been Quickish's biggest week ever -- and that's not even counting the Super Bowl.)


Ray Allen: NBA's career 3 king. When he was at UConn in '95-96, I loved Ray Allen. He was my favorite player. I can't recall why, I just really liked him. This is a great record to hold. (Unbreakable? Unlikely, but it's going to be 20 years before someone does it.)

Jerry Sloan quits: Yes, we could say "resigns," but it's quitting, right? There's no shame in that, unless you've spent some time ripping other "quitters" but don't want to rip Sloan.

And I don't. He had a Hall of Fame career. I will say that his intractability -- the source of so much success -- ultimately failed him. It's not a quality I admire as much as many others do.

Cam Newton's media workout: It did what it was meant to -- it put him in the conversation for Top 5 overall, and certainly put him at the top of the QBs list. I think he'll have a great career.

Josh Hamilton's new deal: Great move by the Rangers, and smart by Hamilton to take it. In two years, he can go cash in with the Yankees or Red Sox.

College hoops tomorrow: Ohio State at Wisconsin is the best shot any team will have of beating OSU until the Tournament. More: Baylor/Texas, Pitt/Nova, Kentucky/Vandy.

Good for Cal: Or, should I say, good for the boosters who ponied up the money to allow Cal to keep three sports it had cut. See: Boosters are not all evil.

NFL Labor: Things do NOT look good. Settle in. It's going to be long and boring and frustrating, but it is what it is.

SB Tix Snafu: The league has expanded its offer to the 2,000 fans who were delayed getting in until the game started. That's a fair thing. The deal for the 400 remains largely unsatisfactory.

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Strat-O-Matic. I need a separate post for this, if I can manage it, because Strat was a HUGE part of my life from age 12-15.

Have a terrific weekend. If you haven't yet, please give Quickish a look today -- and we're going strong all weekend. Keep up quickly with the big topics -- just a minute or so will catch you up.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

02/10 Quickie: Madness, Duke, Tix, Cam, Habs-Bruins

Since I can remember watching the NCAA Tournament obsessively -- so let's call it at least 25 years -- the ultimate frustration has been being beholden to CBS to program your games for you.

Either the game you really wanted to see wasn't in your TV "region." Or the CBS directors were too slow to change games late.

And so you went to a sports bar, which was fun, but a bit stressful. (Or you had to have a dish and buy a Tournament package.) Then March Madness Online came, and it was a revelation: You could control your own experience -- albeit grainy and a bit herky-jerky. Then MMOD came to the phone, and you could shuttle from work to home and not feel like you were missing anything.

But what they are announcing today is the true Holy Grail: Every NCAA Tournament game, shown live and in its entirety.... on regular ol' TV channels: CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV.

Now you are your own TV programmer -- as SI's Richard Deitsch put it. And it is amazing. Finally: You can flip from game to game -- if you're ninja enough, you can use picture-in-picture and "last channel" and zip around in every possible configuration of timing and interest.

(Equally interesting, the power shifts from CBS producers to... Twitter and Facebook, which will be your ultimate system for knowing what game is reaching its peak interest.)

It is good business for CBS and Turner -- it is a winning scenario for fans.


Duke comes back from down 16 to beat UNC: Duke doesn't win that one -- at least like they did last night -- at the Dean Dome. Nevertheless, it was an impressive rally by Duke -- and a particularly good game from Kyle Singler, who only shot poorly because he used all his energy locking down Harrison Barnes. Of course, Nolan Smith was the star.

To clarify yesterday's point: It's not that every regular-season college basketball game is meaningless, per se; it's just that among the national elite, whether you win or lose a single game in the regular season has absolutely no bearing on your chances of winning six straight in late march. Obviously, it matters a lot to Duke and UNC fans who wins that game between them. But in the grand scheme of national titles? Bupkis. (EXCEPT! To the extent you want to -- or can -- glean clues for late March from individual games, which is something I do -- and regularly causes me bracket problems.)

Georgetown beats Syracuse: Rough sledding for the 'Cuse -- another statement win for the Hoyas. Perennially, I am a sucker for both on my bracket, so this is going to end badly either way.

Huge win for Rutgers over Villanova: Remember when Mike Rice nearly coached Robert Morris to a first-round NCAA Tournament upset over 'Nova? He deserved it then -- and he got it last night. From a recruiting standpoint, it was a monster moment.

(Late night: Utah State loses at Idaho. Utah State is one of those mid-majors that gets ranked but is ultimately -- and I mean "March Madness results" -- overrated. But not before sucking you into picking them to the Sweet 16. Not that I'm bitter....)

NFL Ticket Snafu: I feel bad for the 400 (and possibly additional 850) who really do feel like suing the league is the only way to get fairly treated -- yes, I'm comfortable saying that the league's offer, either option, is not as good as many in the media would spin you to believe -- but are being lumped in with the Cowboys PSL owners who just seem disgruntled and greedy.

Carmelo, Cont'd: For a second, I actually believed he might sign an extension with the Nuggets if they don't trade him -- it's a ton of money, after all. But I hope he doesn't, because he really WANTS to play for New York. He'll be miserable -- if $20M or so richer -- playing in Denver. When you're as rich as Carmelo already is, is $20M worth it? Maybe it is.

Cavs lose 26th straight: But the Wizards, winless on the road, are coming this weekend. So hope is around the corner, Cavs fans. Embrace your destiny!

NFL Draft: Cam Newton is having his "special private workout" today. It's an open question whether he even needs it; his stock is high and only going to get higher. You've seen the mock drafts that have him going no later than 10th to the Redskins; there's one that has him going No. 5 overall to the Cardinals. I think by the time we get to the draft, he is a lock for the Top 10 and will be the first QB taken.

I think the comparisons to Tebow are fair; Newton is bigger and faster and throws a bit better (but I'm not sure he has Tebow's maniacal focus). Both were absurdly productive college QBs playing week-in-week-out against the most NFL-like defenses in the country, and both will have long solid NFL careers.

OK: This Habs-Bruins insanity transcends love of a sport and gets right into "if you love sports -- period -- you love this."

-- D.S.

02/09 Quickie: SB Tix Snafu, Pujols, More

So, would you take "Option 1" or "Option 2?"

If you were one of the 400 fans whose Super Bowl ticket was invalidated by the league, would you take:

*Option 1: a ticket to next year's Super Bowl (which the league has said you could scalp) and $2400 cash

*or Option 2: a ticket to a future Super Bowl of your choice, plus hotel and airfare?

I'd go Option 1, get the Super Bowl ticket and sell it, then sock away that money to go to a future Super Bowl when my team is in it. With Option 2, you never know.

Then again, there's always Option 3: Sue the league. The group suing the league will likely be able to settle for more than the value of either of the league's options.

(Can the league really afford to publicly battle fans that decide to sue them? There is zero moral high ground, and the judgment will be to make it go away as fast as possible.)


Albert Pujols Watch: Apparently, he's reporting to spring training a week from today, so the Cards have 8 days to make a deal with him or he will pursue free agency after the season.

I see no sign that Pujols (or Team Pujols) has thought this scenario through: Pujols will be "LeBron 2.0" -- all anyone will want to talk about, on every Cardinals trip this season, is his pending free agency. Every city. Every beat writer will have the "Would he come HERE?" angle. Everyone will play up the "Countdown to the season ending!" Cardinals fans will be their typically cheerful selves, but inside be dying a little, with every game. It's a mess.

And while I appreciate the argument that Pujols doesn't want this to be a distraction during the season, he's kidding himself if he thinks it won't be just because he doesn't want to talk about it. He owes it to the team to re-sign with them or accept a "rental" trade for the season.


CBB Tonight: UNC-Duke. A great rivalry in sports, to be sure, but slightly overrated, if only because their regular-season match-ups -- even their ACC Tournament match-ups -- are ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of the "national" college hoops scene: That is to say, the NCAA Tournament, which is both team's ultimate goal. (Of course, I'll be watching.)


Love that 56,000 fans packed Lambeau Field to celebrate the Packers, but does this really surprise anyone? Of course they did, in those numbers.


The best story from yesterday was the belated appreciation for a piece published Sunday that tried to ID the precise Cubs game that Ferris Bueller attended in his eponymous "Day Off" movie. It turns out that the scene was filmed in May '85, but the author makes a compelling argument that the game in the movie itself was supposed to be a June game.


It appears we have entered the slow February post-NFL season -- but Quickish is rolling along, hitting the big topics of the day (today: Pujols and UNC-Duke, among others) and anything that breaks (like yesterday's NFL Ticket Offer). Please pop by and check it out (and tell friends!)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

02/08 Quickie: SB Hangover, More

And so Super Bowl XLV was the most-watched TV show in US history. That seems appropriate.

*Love that the Lambeau celebration sold out in, like, 2 minutes. It's going to be a fun scene this afternoon. I hate this discussion, but hard to not consider Packers fans among the best in sports.

*Meanwhile, Jerry Jones didn't quite apologize for the SB ticket snafu -- more like "I'm sorry you felt bad" rather than "I'm sorry we screwed this up."

*By the way, the lasting pop-cultural memory of the Super Bowl? Like Janet Jackson 7 years ago, it might just be Christina Aguilera's Anthem screw-up. Incredible.

*Sally Jenkins has a stinging indictment of Super Bowl excess.

*Cavs lose 25th straight: That's an NBA record. 2 more losses for the US pro sports record for consecutive losses. Again: Better to be epically bad than mediocre!

*Carmelo to the Lakers for Bynum? If I was the Nuggets, I'd sooner do that than meddle around with the crap the Knicks are peddling. But does Carmelo even want to play in LA?

*Did you hear about this Wake Forest baseball coach who gave a kidney to one of his players yesterday? Amazing.

*And did you hear about the Baseball Prospectus writer who figured out precisely what game Ferris Bueller was at? Cubs-Braves in June '85.

More later. Visit Quickish!

-- D.S.

Monday, February 07, 2011

02/07 Quickie: Packers, Rodgers, VW, Halftime, Xtina, Lockout, More

I wish I didn't have to do this, but want to put this front and center: Hugest apologies for the Quickish inaccessibility during the 2nd quarter last night. If you were annoyed, you cannot imagine me.

The good news is that between the pre-game and 1st quarter -- then the thrilling and fast-paced second half, Quickish was rolling. And it was the biggest day yet -- not a bad way to end the first four weeks of being live. (Was it only four weeks ago today that Quickish launched? Wow.)

But let's get to... well, everything:

*Packers win: So easy to root for them. And it wasn't as close as the score -- if the Packers WR make those dropped catches, it's a margin of victory more like 14+. Thrilled for Packers fans.

*Aaron Rodgers MVP: The epitome of easy-to-root-for. He plays what feels like effortlessly, and this title (and MVP) vaults him into rare air. Best QB in the NFL right now? Yes. (And the championship belt was THE BEST.)

*Ticket snafu: This bothered me so much. Not that the seats weren't ready, but that 400 fans were screwed over. I said this last night: The NFL should have told 400 of their execs (and their guests) to give up their seats for the fans. Let the execs watch on a TV from the remote concourse. That this simple gesture of respect didn't happen is appalling.

*The ads: You know where I stand -- I thought the Volkswagen "Force" ad was the best of the bunch. (That the Doritos "Dog" and Bud Light "Dog" spots tied for the USA Today Ad Meter title -- with VW as runner-up -- is depressing, if not particularly surprising.)

*Best of the rest: It's funny -- I didn't love the Chrysler "Imported from Detroit"/Eminem ad as much as most. I mean, it was powerful -- the voice-over, the gritty footage, the "Lose Yourself" intro music, the choir (?), Eminem. But the cars are still crappy. I wasn't the intended audience, though. The intended audience is consumers who pick between American models. And -- in that respect -- Chrysler leapfrogged GM, which went with "Our cars have Facebook!"

*Christina Aguilara: Joke. But I thought the Anthem was pre-taped. If she sang it live, I give her some credit -- but how hard is it not to know the words?

*Halftime show: Horrible. Among the worst ever. The Quickish outage was almost worth it, if only because I spent halftime catching up on posting on the site, with only half an ear -- if that -- on the show. Following the mockery on Twitter was enough.

*Packers dynasty? Just think: The team wasn't even healthy -- not just yesterday, but all season. Imagine if they can stay healthy. I have no problem installing them as the team to beat in '11...

*Lockout looms: ...if there IS an '11. There will be. Try to tune out the noise between now and March 4 (and beyond). They will settle, won't be pretty. The league will win. And fans won't care.

Did I miss something? I must have missed something. Hit up the comments with your own takes on the game, the scene, the show, the ads -- everything.

Thanks for dropping by Quickish yesterday -- be sure to come by today for all the best post-Super Bowl analysis and commentary.

-- D.S.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

02/06 (Super Bowl) Quickie

Last time (at least for today): Please consider yourself personally invited to check out Quickish during the Super Bowl tonight -- laptop, phone browser, iPad browser...your choice.

And while the Super Bowl is about as atypical of a sports event as it gets, it is still going to be a great demonstration of the Quickish experience (and, even more important, legitimately useful to you as you as a complementary experience as you watch on TV).

And so if you'd tell friends about Quickish and (at parties, on Facebook, on Twitter...your choice), I would be grateful.

Now, as for the game:

*The Pick: I'm with the majority of fans and "experts" -- I'm picking the Packers to win. On offense, I like Aaron Rodgers in perfect "dome" conditions; on defense, I think the banged-up Steelers offensive line finally falters against BJ Raji and Co. I actually don't think it will be close.

(If you aren't a fan of either team, one worthwhile rooting interest is that Brett Favre's legacy gets eroded just a bit more if Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers to a title.)

*I think the Volkswagen "Darth Vader" ad will win "Best Super Bowl ad," in a runaway. As always, I'm hopeful that we'll see some innovative and entertaining ads, but based on the ones leaked in advance, it doesn't look promising.

*The food: As I said yesterday, the go-to snack is Doritos, per my 4-year-old's preference. But Mrs. Quickish made chili AND mac-n-cheese from scratch, and it's going to be awesome.

More on the radar:

*Well, yesterday was about as good as regular-season college hoops will EVER get for me: Northwestern beats Illinois on national TV in the afternoon, then Florida beats Kentucky on national TV in the evening.

(No, seriously: Northwestern playing on CBS, with the intro/outro music and Bill Raftery and the graphics and the great atmosphere allowed me to accurately visualize what it would be like if NU actually played in the NCAA Tournament. It was amazing. As NU is NEVER on CBS on Saturdays -- let alone during the NCAA Tournament -- this can't be understated.)

*NFL Hall of Fame Class of '11: Deion and Faulk were locks. Love that Sabol got in. I grew up a huge Bears fan in the 80s and early 90s, so Richard Dent holds a special place for me. Some very worthy folks left out, but sure to be inducted in the next year or two.

*Cavs lose 24th straight. Again: Better to be epically bad than mediocre. Take heart in that, Cavs fans.

*NFL Awards: Brady unanimous MVP; Vick wins Comeback Player of the Year. Vick was the more compelling story this season, but Brady was at the height of his talents.

Enjoy the game! Again: Would love if you would visit Quickish during the game (and tell friends!)

-- D.S.