Saturday, October 01, 2011

10/01 (Gainesville) Quickie

Gainesville, Fla. -- Not (necessarily) because I am actually in Gainesville and going to the game tonight at The Swamp, I have (nearly) convinced myself that the Gators can make this a game.

I'm not saying I think Florida will win -- the memory of last year's beat-down is still too fresh. But this year's team is very different from last year's.

But, and this is scary, I think if everything (everything) breaks right -- a few unlikely turnovers, a tiny crack in the line for Rainey and Demps to scamper through, John Brantley not peeing his pants under pressure -- the Gators can be in the game in the 4th quarter, with the chance to win.

I am far more confident about Wisconsin against fellow Top 10 team Nebraska in Madison, with the Huskers making their real Big Ten debut. I think the Badgers are going to roll -- by 3 TDs or more. Wisconsin -- my preseason pick to run the table and make the national-title game -- is much better than people know from the non-conference blow-out scores. And playing at home... at night... on a national-TV "GameDay" game? It's time for Russell Wilson to go national.

Wish I was that bullish on the Gators. But I'm bullish enough -- which is enough to give me anxious butterflies in my stomach throughout the day until the 8 p.m. kickoff... and enough to leave me on the wrong side of disappointed if the expected happens and the Tide rolls.

-- D.S.

Friday, September 30, 2011

09/30 (Weekend Preview) Quickie

Gainesville, Fla. -- Yesterday night was a welcome break after Wednesday's late-night mayhem.

But now we're back to the most loaded weekend of the sports year: The MLB ALDS and NLDS series start (all four series playing on Saturday) plus NFL Week 4 plus a college football weekend that includes Wisconsin vs. Nebraska and Alabama vs. Florida. Pretty amazing.

A few notes:

MLB Playoff Picks:
Rays over Rangers, Tigers over Yankees. Tigers over Rays.
Phillies over Cards, Brewers over D'backs. Phillies over Brewers.
World Series: Phillies over Tigers

*Terry Francona out in Boston? Theo is saying he isn't going to be fired, but that might just be choosing his words wisely -- Theo isn't lying if they simply don't pick up his contract extension.

*Rays using rookie pitcher Matt Moore for Game 1 on the road in Texas today: As if the Rays weren't likeable enough, this is a wild move. Totally must-see.

*NBA Lockout update: Critical moment today/this weekend to get a season started on time? Who says the owners care about the season starting on time?

*Is Kobe going to Italy? He's interested. The teams are interested. And, in the absence of NBA, you're kind of interested too, right?

*CFB Last Night: South Florida -- a Quickie favorite -- upset by Pitt in a rout. That'll be all for South Florida in my Top 25 ballot.

*CFB Weekend Picks: Wisconsin will throttle Nebraska... Alabama will throttle Florida (ugh, I'll be there)... Virginia Tech is going to beat Clemson in Blacksburg... Arkansas gives Texas A&M a rude intro to life in the SEC... RG3 and Baylor go on the road and crush unbeaten Kansas State... Upset Special: Northwestern wins at Illinois (IF Dan Persa plays 10+ snaps).

*Favorite NFL Week 4 Storylines:
*Bills and Lions going 4-0: Bills at Cincy, Lions at Dallas.
*Games of the Week: Steelers at Texans, Jets at Ravens
*Must-Win: 1-2 Eagles at home vs. 49ers
*Cam Newton Watch: at Chicago -- tough draw.
*Suck for Luck Bowl, Part 1: Vikings at Chiefs
*Set your fantasy lineups!

More later. So much going on at Quickish today that I'm going to encourage you to do more than pop by once a day (which is typically enough in and of itself). I'd come AM, Midday and PM, plus late-night for MLB playoff game reactions.

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Game 162," Cont'd

Gainesville, Fla.

As thrilling as two "Game 163" playoffs would have been tonight, I am glad things ended the way they did last night -- it could not possibly have been more dramatic than what happened last night.

When the games ended, I was kept awake into the wee hours not by checking Twitter, but simply the power of the games' endings themselves.

After a full day to reflect on it -- particularly to read some of the amazing things that people were inspired to write -- I am convinced it was the most exciting night in the history of regular-season baseball.

-- D.S.

09/29 (Oh My Goodness) Quickie

That was the best -- and certainly the most exciting -- night of baseball I have ever experienced.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fire Up the DVR: "Catching Hell"

Steve Bartman is one of the most compelling figures in the history of sports.

That's not hyperbole.

Driving the compellingness -- or maybe even compounding it -- is Bartman's disciplined silence since the night it happened.

Maybe it's principled. Or stubborn. I think it's an easy case to make that, more than anything in this era of cheap celebrity, it is admirable.

I wonder if Bartman will eventually need the money and come forward to get paid in the ways we know he would -- for an on-camera interview, for a book, for his life rights to be made into a movie, for marketing endorsements or reality-show appearances.

There are very few things that remain pure in sports -- Bartman's reticence is one of them. It should be celebrated.

The ESPN documentary on Bartman is on tonight. In the meantime, Wayne Drehs has a terrific story on the guy right next to Bartman. Well worth your time to read.

-- D.S.

09/27 (Wildest Card) Quickie

And, finally, that's the end of those "overwhelming odds" the Red Sox maintain their AL Wild Card lead -- it was better than 75% right up until yesterday.

Today? How could they be better than 50/50 -- or even less, given that Boston is choking to death, the Yankees seem content to tank and let the Rays bump out their rival and, even if they remain tied, the one-game playoff would be held in St. Pete?

Very few things in sports are as dramatic as the unprecedented evaporation of a seemingly impossible-to-lose lead in the standings. Partly, it's because it is the Red Sox that are choking (and doing it to the low-budget Rays); partly, it's because mathematically it IS so improbable; partly, it's the fact that it slowly unfolds over a month, with the choking team having a dozen chances to fix things -- even once, which would have been enough to hold off the Rays. (I love the rumor the Red Sox might try to trade for a starter for Game 162; even if that would never happen, I love that it is even just a rumor.)

The MLB playoffs have started already -- tonight and tomorrow (and Thursday), it's a must-follow.


*Ozzie Guillen quits/gets fired, apparently headed to Miami: It was long past time for a break-up. Meanwhile, the Marlins get a face for the franchise for it's re-branding year.

*Cowboys, Romo survive nearly unwatchable game with the Redskins: The national primetime games so far had been mostly amazing. Last night was terrible, on both sides. Let's be real: Neither of these teams has any chance to do anything special this year.

*Braves fending off the Cardinals: Barely. Just barely. Would love to see ATL choke away their Wild Card lead, too.

Check out Quickish all day for Wild Card mania, the usual Tuesday sneak-preview of this week's SI magazine features and more.

-- D.S.

Monday, September 26, 2011

09/26 (Monday) Quickie

*Peyton Manning is out until 2012: There is no reason the Colts shouldn't simply tank the final 13 games of the season, secure Andrew Luck and ensure they have a succession plan in place.

*Bills bandwagon: Everyone is on it! The only bandwagon that might be bigger is the Lions bandwagon, and that's just because Detroit is just a few seasons removed from 0-16, making it one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history.

*MNF tonight: I'm no Redskins fan, but I hate the Cowboys. That, and I'm partial to Rex Grossman even if everyone else mocks him. Redskins at 3-0? Wow.

*CFB: LSU is No. 1 in the AP poll. I cannot for the life of me figure out how anyone who follows college football would rank Oklahoma ahead of LSU, given the schedule LSU has played already. Looking ahead to next week, Wisconsin is going to establish itself as a bonafide national-title contender by throttling Nebraska, and Alabama is going to affirm its place as a national-title contender by waxing Florida in Gainesville.

*MLB Wild Card: The Red Sox avoided more collapse by winning last night, but don't discount what I've been saying for weeks -- the Yankees intentionally tanking against the Rays in these final three games. The big problem for New York and Tampa is that the Orioles are no bet to take all three (or even 2 of 3) from the Red Sox.

(Meanwhile, this John Lackey thing is insane -- he was a moron to tee off on baseball media for the pre-game text about him divorcing his wife, who is battling cancer, when it was TMZ that texted him. Meanwhile, why on earth would a starting pitcher getting ready to concentrate on his game put that concentration at risk by looking at his phone at all? Shouldn't they give that to the team media staff? Or just turn it off until after the game?)

*New Jersey Nets will become the Brooklyn... Nets: It's fine. A new name would goose interest, but I like the old name. (I'm still very partial to my idea for the Islanders coming to Brooklyn and renaming the Dynamo; that would have totally worked for the hoops team.)

More later. Check out Quickish -- great day of NFL analysis ahead!

-- D.S.

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: LSU, Bama

I don't see how any voter -- cough, coaches! -- could pick Oklahoma ahead of LSU, given the Tigers' jaw-dropping body of work, with wins (road wins!) over quality teams (teams, plural!) throughout September. And that doesn't even take into consideration the ludicrous idea that anyone who picks Oklahoma at No. 1 really thinks that the Sooners would win a head-to-head match-up with LSU (or Alabama).

The first month of the season made it clear that LSU and Alabama are elite -- if both get through October without losing, as expected, they play each other the first week of November.

It's a shame that the loser of their game will automatically be slotted behind Oklahoma or Wisconsin or any other still-unbeaten team, because either would throttle the other would-be contenders. Then again, none of those other contenders control their own destiny like LSU and 'Bama. That's the way it works in college football and the SEC.

Here's this week's ballot, where the top matters a lot more than the jumbled mess near the end: