Friday, July 22, 2011

07/22 (Lockout End-Game) Quickie

I think it's reasonable to think the NFL Lockout ends today -- at the latest, over the weekend. Teams will open doors on Sunday; full-blown free-agent mania will start middle of next week.

Last night, the owners did what they were supposed to: They approved a deal -- before the players -- then sent it to the players with all the pressure in the world to simply sign it.

It's a bit of a bullying tactic and the players are right to be slightly skeptical. But De Smith would not have walked out of a meeting with Roger Goodell with a deal framework if he wasn't OK with the deal the owners were about to sign.

If Goodell materially changed the framework behind Smith's back, of course, the players should be mad. But I suspect that they will ultimately approve the deal.

It was one last turn of the screw by the owners -- it's who they are, they can't help themselves -- and the players will gripe (as they are entitled to), but then sign it and get back to the job.

The p.r. value of the owners' agreement last night is evident: Fans simply want football to return, and suddenly the owners are on the right side of that; the players aren't yet.

I hope the players carefully weigh the deal before agreeing to it, but it would be very odd if Smith created a framework the owners were fine with signing, then the deal was changed substantially.

The upshot is that despite a ripple of "uh-oh" last night, the players seem on track to vote on the deal today -- I presume they will approve. And football returns this weekend.

More on the radar:

*SEC Media Days: Alabama is the pick to win the league (no controversy there), and South Carolina is picked to win the East (no controversy there, either).

*Can we get some justice in the Bryan Stow case already? Let's hope they have the right perpetrators this time.

*Pistons hire Lawrence Frank: There is no job security like being in the NBA "fired-head-coaches" re-tread bin.

*James Shields > CC Sabathia. That the Rays continue to contend this season is overlooked by the Pirates' miraculous situation. But don't count out Tampa in the Wild Card race. As always, anyone without a different rooting interest in the AL East should be rooting for the Rays to knock out either the Red Sox or Yankees (it almost doesn't matter which).

*Tiger Woods' break-up with Steve Williams, cont'd: Should Tiger be concerned about Williams' purported "tell-all" book? It's not like Tiger can be any more humiliated than he already has been, right? (Even if Williams adds salacious details, that story has already been told.)

*I love that the Raiders were the only team to abstain from voting affirmatively on the new labor agreement. That team is the best.

The best takes on the NFL Lockout, in near-real-time, on Quickish today, along with the usual selection of terrific stories and best breaking analysis.

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Years Ago Today: Best. Blind Date. Ever.

First published at on Feb. 14, 2007:

"He's Just Not That Into U-donis"

I'm not quite sure I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I WOULD marry my wife, but I'm quite sure I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I COULD:

The date: July 21, 2001
The setting: Our first date (a blind date, no less)
The place: West Village Italian restaurant
The context: 1.2 bottles of wine into dinner.
The topic on the table: The preeminent value of offensive rebounds in relation to (1) a basketball team's chances of success and (2) a basketball forward's worth as a player.

Let me clarify: My wife (then, the random woman I was on a blind date with) was making that argument. I was pretending to engage in the discussion. I was nodding. I may have even been responding.

All I know is that her voice was drowned out by the one in the back of my head:

Li'l Danny: "Are you listening to this? Are you listening?!"

Me: "Pipe down. She's trying to make a point about the pro potential of Udonis Haslem."

Li'l Danny: "The fat Florida center? He'll never make it!" [Ed.: This was 2001.]

Me: "Shh!"

Li'l Danny: "But here is a woman who not only loves basketball, but appreciates it for its subtle pleasures!"

Me: "Which *I'm* trying to appreciate, save for your yammering!"

Li'l Danny: "I think I'm in love. Go on: Say something smart that will make her respect you for your basketball knowledge!"

Me: "OK...wait: I'm blanking! I'm blanking!! It's all too much pressure! I'm smitten!"

Li'l Danny: "Plus-minus! Plus-minus!"

Me: "What the hell is 'plus-minus?'" [Again: It was 2001.]

Li'l Danny: "Nooooo! Damn your ignorance! You better switch topics to something more your speed... like pop culture."

Me: "So, uh, how about'Sex and the City' women?"

Li'l Danny: "D'oh!"

Fast-forward ten years, one marriage and two kids later: Her enthusiastic argument on behalf of offensive rebounds remains THE most -- if not only -- vivid detail of our entire first date.

And as we sit in our NYC apartment today watching hoops, she's still talking about offensive rebounds. And knowing the way offensive rebounding has, since that first date, been established as highly correlated to winning basketball, I couldn't love her more for it.


07/21 (Lockout Over Yet?) Quickie

At this point, I'm getting a little annoyed that the NFL lockout isn't over yet. That's irrational, because the ending has never been closer -- it could come today or tomorrow, certainly by the weekend.

Fortunately, there's a lot to keep us occupied. Most personally, today is the 10th anniversary of the first date (blind date!) with my wife. Longtime readers will remember this post from 2007 -- probably my favorite post in the history of the site -- but here is a revised version for new folks.

Oh, and today my kids return from being down in Florida with my in-laws for the past two weeks -- it's the longest I've ever been away from them by far, and I'm a bit giddy at seeing them again.

More on the radar:

*Tiger breaks up with caddie Steve Williams. This is a moment where "It's not you, it's me" feels fairly authentic.

*SEC Commish Mike Slive wants to reform college football: His plan is both common sensical and almost noble. He is the best commissioner in college sports and has the clout of running the best football league to pull it off. (Slive and the SEC's success is the reason I always claimed he could, if he hated the BCS enough, secede from the BCS and form his own playoff system.)

*Oklahoma and Texas A&M threatening to leave Big 12 because of Texas' "Longhorns Network?" Maybe it's posturing, but this made a lot of sense for A&M last summer during Realignment Mania -- it still makes sense. Texas doesn't need the Big 12 to make the LHN work; I've thought all along it makes sense for UT to go indie. A split would be wild, though.

*Bandwagons: Unless you root for another team in the NL Central, how can you not be rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

*Kobe to Turkey? Not seeing it. Great pub for the Turkish team (and Kobe), though.

*Bart Scott thinks the NFL going away from two-a-days is for wusses. He's a fool. (Meanwhile, kudos to the Ivy League for dramatically reducing the number of "full-contact" practices its football teams can have. Expect the rest of the country to follow in the next few years.

More later. Check out Quickish all day for the latest on the NFL Lockout and more.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

07/20 (Media Daze) Quickie

Still a little curious why no one has "called" the NFL Lockout over by now, given that it is all-but-over. That said, the moment when the news breaks today (or, I guess, tomorrow) "The players have agreed to the deal," with the owners on deck tomorrow will be a fun one. The NFL will be back.

It's not just "when, not if" but "hours, not days."

Meanwhile, today kicks off the grandaddy of all college football media days -- the SEC Media Days, which take up three full days and include 900 credentialed media folks.

I remember two years ago, I launched just before SEC Media Days, because I knew they would be insane. Indeed, Clay Travis asked Tim Tebow if he was a virgin, and that question became the defining moment of SEC Media Days insanity (as well as one of the most memorable moments of the Tebow Phenomena).

It seems appropriate, then, that Travis is launching his own new site today:, with a focus on college football (and SEC football, specifically, although not exclusively). It goes without saying that I support anyone starting their own business -- it's not easy (god knows), but hopefully he will find it satisfying (to help offset the "harrowing" feeling).

Anyway, for college football fans, today is a great day -- even if you aren't an SEC fan (or even hate the SEC), because the next three days include all of the circus you've come to love about college football. (As a Florida fan -- and I celebrate the 10th anniversary of the start of my Florida fandom tomorrow -- I am giddy with anticipation.)

Two things to recommend for you, while you wait for the NFL lockout to end or you wait for the SEC to stop preening:

*SBNation's Spencer Hall spent 8 hours fishing with Mike Leach. Great story.

*SI's Joe Posnanski spent a week on the road trying to figure out why people still love baseball. If you already love baseball, you'll really like it. If you don't like baseball, it's still a good read.

Pop by Quickish all day for real-time(-ish) updates on the end-game of the NFL Lockout, reports from SEC Media Days and recommendations to the best takes on the biggest topics.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

07/19 (Choke or No Choke?) Quickie

A lot of smart folks I respect seem to really dislike the idea that others labeled a "choke" what the US women's national soccer team did on Sunday in the Women's World Cup final.

Somehow, the "choke" label is simplistic, talk-radio-ish, no-real-fan-would-say-that bunk. Normally, I'm inclined to agree with smart folks -- in this case, I disagree.

Oh, I think that some largely soccer-ignorant fools in sports media are using "choke" like a blunt instrument. But I think that chokery is one of the most compelling things in sports.

It's no shame to choke -- it is perhaps the most human of any result you'll find in sports, even more than championship efforts by an underdog.

Among the anti-choke camp, hidden behind the pretentious "there's-no-nuance-in-choke-analysis" attitude is a weird paternalism, as if people want to protect the team from critical analysis of how they played -- analysis that absolutely can and should include the notion that the team unraveled at the end, with victory almost assuredly in hand.

"Pressure Makes Us" was a wonderful ad campaign for the team -- I suspect they would want to be held to no less of a standard than "championship or failure."

If we can't have an intelligent discussion about the totality of the USWNT's efforts -- from the "never-say-die" attitude to the late-game chokery -- then we do them and us a disservice.

-- D.S.

Monday, July 18, 2011

From the Archives: July 18, 1996

Wrote something up about a very important anniversary today from 15 years ago. The story (and a few lessons for anyone looking for a dream job) is here. The supporting illustration is below -- it's not my finest bit of writing ever, but it certainly had an impact.

07/18 (USWNT Stunner) Quickie

Count me among the cohort that argues progress in sports is that, on the merits, we can say the US women's soccer team choked yet still appreciate their overall verve and the tournament's drama.

It is condescending to the players as competitors to ignore how yesterday's game ended -- I would expect extreme competitors like the team members themselves would agree.

Here is an interesting counter-factual: Imagine it was Japan that dominated the game and the US with the miracle equalizer at 81', then an even more miracle goal at 117' (the beauty and technical difficulty of Sawa's shot without hundreds of replays will be underrated in history), then the win in PKs. We would be talking about it as one of the great games in US sports history and this team as even more memorable than the '99ers. In reality, Japan's pluck was that spectacular.

The reality is that in the waning moments of the biggest game in any of these players' careers, the USWNT choked.

It's not a value judgment about them -- their bonafides as competitors have long since been established.

But it is a judgment that they were able to move the conversation in sports from one with blind, possibly patronizing allegiance ("love the gals!") to one that iswilling to engage these athletes on their merits, not their gender.

There is no shame in being a world finalist in anything. Upsets happen -- more often than not, we love them. In this case, less so, although as so many have pointed out, if the US had to lose to anyone, losing to Japan in a crazy upset is as reasonable as it gets.

Let's not showcase a lesson that we should hold back on sports' nastiest "C-word" -- choker -- simply because they are women athletes.

Ironically, it is a glorious moment in US sports history that we can (and should) label this group "chokers" while simultaneously (a) lamenting their fate and (b) celebrating their run.

-- D.S.