Friday, October 14, 2011

10/14 (Midnight Madness) Quickie

When you're a parent, your own birthday becomes so vastly subordinate to the birthdays of your kids that, really, your kids' birthdays are the real event every year.

My second son Jonah turns 3 today. It started this morning with chocolate donuts -- a Shanoff family birthday tradition -- and will continue with a small pirate-themed party and a lot of presents over the weekend.

He's a sweet little boy -- it's amazing to see how different he is than his older brother. That's partly a function of being a younger brother, I'm sure, and not just because of sibling dynamics. For example, Gabe didn't watch much TV at all until he was closer to 3; Jonah has been watching TV actively since he was about one and a half. But Jonah is just a different kid -- more coordinated than Gabe at that age, but much less articulate. More polite but less patient. The year ahead is going to be exciting for him. When Gabe was 3, I took him to that college hoops game at St. Francis; I'm sure I'll do something similar with Jonah, who loves basketball even more than Gabe does.

Speaking of college hoops, it's the 40th anniversary of Midnight Madness -- which was invented about 20 minutes away from our new house, in College Park at the University of Maryland. I'd love to take the kids to see that -- it's all lights and noise and dunking -- but like every other sports event I've wanted to go to in the five weeks since we moved here (Stephen Strasburg starts, Redskins games, Capitals home opener, NBA player exhibition games), it hasn't happened yet. At some point, hopefully.

Meanwhile, like everyone else, I'm excited for the college hoops season that gets underway today -- there hasn't been star power like this in nearly 20 years, maybe longer. But let's take a cue from last year's NCAA Tournament -- if a team (or teams) look so dominant that their place in the Final Four (or championship circle) seems obvious, guess again. At least this season, there are at least a half-dozen teams that can't claim to be so much better than the others in the top tier. If I had to make a prediction today for a national champ, I'll fall back on my crutch and say UConn repeats, which I wouldn't have predicted unless Andre Drummond showed up to play this season before becoming a Top 3 NBA draft pick in the most loaded draft in a decade. (But, wow, UNC is going to be awfully good, too.)

A few other notes:

*NLCS: I kind of love Randy Wolf, who pitches like I would pitch if I had an MLB pitching career. Texas only needs to win one of two games at home to win the pennant? Take Texas.

*NLCS: Can the Cardinals win Game 5 in STL then take one of two in Milwaukee? Absolutely. But I think it's fair to say that Game 5 is must-win for them.

*CFB Weekend: Game of the Week? Hmm... not a ton of elite-vs-elite games. The big games between ranked teams -- Oklahoma State-Texas and Oregon-Arizona State -- feel like blowouts waiting to happen. I look forward to Michigan State delivering a dose of reality to Michigan (although I'm partial to Michigan being good)... Florida at Auburn? Sigh. Not quite. If I had to pick an upset special, it's the Spartans beating Michigan, but the game is in East Lansing and Michigan is overrated. Still, we'll take what we can get.

*My favorite NFL Week 6 storylines:
*Game of the Week: 4-1 49ers at 5-0 Lions
*Cam Newton Watch: Vs. the dodgy Falcons pass D
*SchadenPHreude: Eagles in DC vs. the Skins
*If the Giants got carved up at home vs. Seattle, what will Fitzpatrick and the Bills do to 'em?

*NBA Lockout: At some point, do the players get so dismayed at how badly they're being worked over by the league that they just give up? I think that's far more likely than them continuing to fight.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10/13 (Very) Quickie

My younger son Jonah turns 3 tomorrow. That's a little crazy for me to think through right now. Damn, it goes fast...

*Theo to Chicago: There isn't anyone (except for trolling contrarians) who doesn't think this is a coup for the Cubs. As for the Red Sox...

*Freak-out at Fenway: That Boston Globe story yesterday was deeply flawed for two reasons -- (1) Opaque use of anonymous sourcing to trash Terry Francona and the players; (2) conflating correlation with causation. The players eating fried chicken didn't cause them to miss the playoffs. If the team had won one more game over 162, the story is "Gotta love the Idiots!" Just like the story in 2004 if the team loses the ALCS is "These misfits are too unstable to win anything."

*ALCS: Jim Leyland screwed up the ending but good.

*NLCS: I'm no Tony LaRussa fan -- and not much of a Cardinals fan, period (if anything, I'm way more sympathetic to the Brewers -- but damn, this Cards team is getting easy to like. They hustle their way into the playoffs, dispatch the presumptive NL champ then ride Albert Pujols and sick relief pitching to a series lead, halfway to a pennant.

*NCAA clears Cam Newton, Auburn: As expected (but not so expected last fall).

*Tim Tebow in the next "Die Hard?" Look at the head of Fox movies, trolling all of you.

*Funny: OccupyHerbstreit, a Tumblr of a guy holding up college football-themed signs down at the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

10/12 (Theo) Quickie

I've been a Theo Epstein fan since the day he got the GM job -- partly it's because we're the same age, partly it's because I like his approach, partly because I like the high-stakes role he took over. (Knowing how I feel about the Red Sox, it certainly wasn't because of an affinity I had for the team itself.) I celebrated his success (even as I cursed the Sox), and I'm Team Theo all the way.

If/when he ends up with the Cubs, I'll be thrilled. He's done all he can possibly do in Boston; the Cubs are an even bigger challenge than the Red Sox. And I actually like the Cubs -- I grew up a die-hard Cubs fan -- and it's easy to intertwine a rooting interest in the team's success with a rooting interest in Theo's success.

It's an amazing move for Chicago. Notwithstanding this season, I still think Theo is the best GM in baseball -- perhaps matched only by two of the other young guys, Andrew Friedman in Tampa and Jon Daniels in Texas. The Red Sox will be fine -- I doubt they will change much systemically or financially. I suspect most Boston fans are bummed to lose Theo. But I'm happy for him. The Cubs are the next ultimate challenge.

ALCS: Did anyone expect the Tigers to roll over in their first home game? Like all playoff series, it doesn't really start until the home team loses a game.

NLCS: Gallardo vs. Carpenter tonight should be outstanding.

It's sizing up as a quiet day. This Boston Globe story on how/why the Red Sox collapsed is sensationalized to the Nth and seems fairly confused between the concepts of "causation" and "correlation," but it's a fun read if you enjoy schadenfreude.

Give Quickish a look -- lots of great stuff there.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

10/11 (Lions) Quickie

*What a scene last night in Detroit at Ford Field -- that's about as raucous as any NFL home field I've heard this year. Oh, and the Lions are 5-0 for the first time in a half-century.

*Two words: Albert. Pujols. (Can you believe there was any questioning of Pujols' abilities just a few months ago?)

*Oh, wait: Nelson. Cruz. The first-ever walk-off grand slam in an MLB playoff game. (FWIW, I was at the Robin Ventura "walk-off grand-single" game at Shea.)

*NBA cancels first two weeks: Following the NBA labor situation is wearying. There's a compelling case to be made that the players shouldn't give up so much, but it's hard to break through the league's choke-hold on the mainstream NBA media, which is entirely out of its depth when it comes to labor reporting.

The fact is: NBA reporters, bloggers and fans -- even the most stridently pro-player -- would trade a severe player screwing in exchange for the season starting on time (or, at this point, ASAP). There can be a sympathy for the players' situation, but it is completely subordinate to the interest from these key folks in the process (the media) in having the season begin.

*TCU is in the Big 12: Go back a year ago, when Texas would NEVER have let TCU into the Big 12 -- mostly because TCU had become better than Texas. It's going to be amazing when TCU upends Oklahoma (and Texas, obviously) to become a perennial Big 12 contender/champ.

*Tim Tebow to be named Broncos starting QB today? Why not?

-- D.S.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10/10 (NFL Week 5) Quickie

*I'm tempted to simply point to the latest Tebow hysteria -- surely only going to grow with a bye week between now and the Broncos game at Miami (on, hilariously, "Gator Day.")

I think all Tebow fans ever wanted -- all NFL fans ever wanted, really -- was for the Broncos to stop pretending that they were a playoff team and give Tebow a chance to start, if only to see how he does. Not just one game, but for a good 10-12 weeks. I think now we'll get it. If you hate Tebow hysteria, it's not going to be a good fall for you. But if you were watching the ending last night of an otherwise lame Broncos-Chargers game, you realize that for all the gripes against him, he DOES make things more interesting. (By the way, there was a clear pass interference call on the crazy-legs Hail Mary at the end of the game; can you imagine if they called it and Tebow had run the game-winning TD in from the 1 with no time left on the clock?)

I've been saying this since before the season started -- John Fox could have started Tebow all 16 games. If he went 0-16, the Broncos get to say they gave Tebow a chance and secure Andrew Luck (while giving Tebow the reps he would need to hook on elsewhere). If Tebow actually led Denver to a couple of wins, then they know he is a QB they can build around. I've come to realize the John Fox is a terrible coach -- one of the worst fits possible to be involved in the Tebow phenomenon.

*But there's a lot more from yesterday: The Eagles are a wreck... the Jets are neutered... the 49ers are way out of "Suck for Luck" contention (because they're actually good)... the Giants lost a game they shouldn't have (surprise)... and the Vikings actually won a game (go figure: they gave the ball to Adrian Peterson and good things happened)... Appreciate Aaron Rodgers, a QB playing as well as any I've ever seen.

*The Brewers are so easy to like.

*Story of the Day: The Lions on Monday Night Football tonight in the most must-see MNF game in recent memory.

*RIP Al Davis, cont'd: Some amazing analysis of the man's life at Quickish.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Status Quo

Nothing happened this weekend to make me dislodge LSU and Alabama from the Top 2. I cannot fathom any voter putting Oklahoma ahead of either of them; if/when they play head-to-head, Oklahoma will get throttled (as they do every time they play an SEC team). Here's the ballot:

10/09 (Very) Quickie

A few stray thoughts while waiting for NFL Week 5...

*RIP Al Davis. It's been fun to see his life and career put into perspective, rather than the late-in-life caricatures that have become the norm over the past 10 years.

*CFB Saturday: Impressive enough win for Oklahoma, but I think we'll recognize Texas just isn't that good. It's an annual tradition that the Sooners look really good in mid-October and people start talking nonsense about OU's worthiness as the best team in college football -- does anyone actually think Oklahoma wouldn't get throttled by Alabama (or LSU)? (BTW: At what point does Oklahoma's win over Florida State get properly devalued?)

*More: As a Florida fan, the past two weeks have been ugly, but it's pretty easy to get over them when you realize it's the two best teams in the country and that ANY team -- including Oklahoma -- would get throttled by Alabama and LSU in back-to-back weeks...

(Yes: That penalty on the LSU punter was absurd.)

*More more: Most impressive win of the weekend? Arkansas crushing Auburn... Oklahoma State fans can talk as soon as they beat Oklahoma... As far as CFB schadenfreude goes, little tops an Ohio State collapse (even if they aren't very good to begin with)... Looking ahead to next week, the most interesting game is -- ehh -- Florida at Auburn? Ugh. Weak week.

*Rangers win ALCS Game 1: The rain was interminable. The Rangers' bullpen was not.

*NLCS Game 1 today: Brewers in 7.

-- D.S.