Saturday, December 10, 2011

12/11 (Very) Quickie

Whoa. What a Saturday.

Ryan Braun PEDs: Say it ain't so! His side insists it's a false positive -- or at least something he had nothing to do with. Are you inclined to give him the doubt? (If so, why?)

Indiana buzzer-beater winner over No. 1 Kentucky: Gahhh! A program-making win for Indiana. One of the most electrifying atmospheres and moments in regular-season college hoops I can remember. I don't worry too much about UK (except that this is the kind of loss that makes me not want to take them to win six on my bracket in March), but it's so huge for IU. So so so huge.

Robert Griffin III wins Heisman: What a worthy winner. I love RG3. His Superman socks -- complete with a mini-cape! -- won the night. He's going to be fantastic in the pros.

Xavier-Cincinnati brawl: Feels like Cincy and coach Mick Cronin are taking responsibility more than Xavier, whose players after the game were defiant, where Cronin was livid/humiliated at his players' actions. Tons and tons of suspensions, and -- frankly -- I wonder if they should discontinue the rivalry for a year or two to let things cool off.

NBA + Dwight Howard: And, after all that other stuff, there's the NBA, where today's big story was Dwight Howard requesting a trade, ideally to the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets. The Magic are doing the right thing trying to maximize their package for him, regardless of whether it's with a team he wants to end up with. He can sign wherever he wants next summer.

Can't remember a more packed Saturday -- or any day, frankly. Particularly the level of highs (Indiana, RG3) and lows (Braun, Xavier-Cincy).

-- D.S.

12/10 (Very) Quickie

Great day of traditions today: Army-Navy, El Clasico, Cincy's Crosstown Shootout.

This is my favorite, from Taylor University and it's "Silent Night" tradition, where the student section is silent until the team scores its 10th point, at which point the students go bananas:

It's one of the great annual traditions in sports, let alone college sports. During a stretch where the NBA is doing its best to muck up a good thing, it's a good reminder of the joy of sports.

Speaking of the NBA, let's hope that the league approves whatever tweaked version of the CP3 trade that the Hornets, Lakers and Rockets figure out. It's the only way the league gets through this crisis -- and, yes, I think it's not unreasonable to call it a crisis -- and moves forward.

More NBA: Dwight Howard and the Magic will talk with the Mavs, Lakers and Nets about a deal for D12. Unclear what the Mavs can offer, besides a bunch of role players. The Lakers can obviously dangle Andrew Bynum, who is young and talented, but with the knees of a 15-year veteran. The Nets can offer a big -- Brook Lopez -- who is about as sturdy as they come, but unspectacular (and a terrible rebounder). For the Magic, it's a tough situation. I think I would go with the Nets' offer, but I'm biased by an interest in seeing Brooklyn have a fun team.

CFB: It doesn't matter if neither team is any good -- Army-Navy is a must-see, if only for the pageantry and pride on the line... UCLA is hiring Jim Mora Jr? Yeesh... Texas A&M could win the day on the coaching carousel if they announce they've hired Houston's Kevin Sumlin.

Heisman: Hard not to love that Baylor QB Robert Griffin III is going to win. Probably beyond the wildest dreams of any Baylor fan, but Griffin is entirely deserving -- the most talented player in college football, who put an entire mediocre program on his back and led it to relevance (not to mention a couple of huge dramatic wins). Luck, Richardson, Mathieu and Ball will all be fine -- Luck will be the No. 1 pick of the NFL draft; Richardson will be top 5 (top 10?) and have an extraordinary NFL career; Mathieu could win the Heisman next season as a defensive player (before a stellar NFL career of his own) and Ball will own the single-season TD record after playing in the Rose Bowl, plus do just fine in the NFL himself.

Soccer: I'm a Barca fan, so that's where I stand for today's El Clasico.

CBB: Good test for Ohio State at Kansas -- I'll take the Buckeyes... Kentucky is going to throttle Indiana... Love Xavier-Cincy -- one of the great rivalries in college sports.

Have a great day everyone. Give Quickish a look today -- lots of fun stuff there.

-- D.S.

Friday, December 09, 2011

12/09 (CP3 vs. Stern) Quickie

I'm appalled by what David Stern did yesterday.

Nullifying the Hornets' trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers is, in my mind, the lowest moment for the league in its modern, post-merger history. Worse than the Malice at the Palace. Worse than Donaghy. So much worse than The Decision. And very much worse than either lockout.

Was I happy about the Lakers' acquiring the best point guard in the game? Not at all. It was a bit dispiriting, actually. But not to the point that I wanted to see it nullified! I hated the Decision, too, and yet watching the Heat fail was one of the most exciting, wonderful feelings many NBA fans could have (in the absence of their own team winning).

The Lakers would have been spectacular, but there is no guarantee they would have just waltzed to a title (or traded Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard). It would have been interesting to see if their thin frontcourt could have handled the rigors of the playoffs. It would have been interesting to see if CP3's knee could hold up. It would have been interesting to see if Paul and Kobe could co-exist. (And, frankly, it was a pretty good deal for New Orleans -- as good as they'd get.)

The point is that it is an overreach of massive proportions that David Stern cancelled the trade. However fans felt about the trade, Stern's move pierced the suspension of disbelief (or, put another way, the belief) that is core to fans' relationship with the sport.

This is way, way worse than the lockout. I don't think Stern appreciated the magnitude of the blowback he's going to face today. (And if he does appreciate it, what does THAT say?) Worst of all, we don't know where things go from here. It's like the league has been tazed by its own commissioner.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

12/08 (Pujols Angels) Quickie

I was kind of waiting for Pujols to make his decision before writing this morning. Now he's done it -- leaving St. Louis after a Hall of Fame career for the Angels, who are paying him $260 million over the next 10 years... roughly $40 million more than the Cardinals were willing to pay.

Let's start here: Good for Pujols. It's not like he left over an "all-things-being-equal" deal. This is substantially more.

And it's hard to blame the Cardinals. Again: It's not like he left over an "all-things-being-equal" deal. It would have been irresponsible of them to pay him that much.

It is a tough day for Cardinals fans, but at least they can say "We never could have matched that." (Cavs fans never had that chance.)

They can also say: "Thanks for the memories."

Albert Pujols will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot sometime around 2028... in a Cardinals hat.

The whole thing made me think of the most dramatic player moves -- the ones where incumbent fans are left mostly miserable. I really want to focus on free agency, rather than "F--- you, trade me" trades, like Carmelo leaving Denver or John Elway telling Baltimore to cram it.

LeBron from Cleveland to Miami immediately comes to mind. Shaq from Orlando to LA. A-Rod from Seattle to Texas. Those feel like the Big Three.

T.O. from San Francisco to Philly? Eh... (Joe Montana to the Chiefs? Not really. Steve Young was better.)

But this one? This Pujols move feels like the biggest of all, topping A-Rod -- biggest money, biggest talent, biggest fan disappointment.

Just weeks removed from the Cards' magical World Series run, it's one of those piercing reminders that sports -- for all of its amazingness -- is just a business. Enjoy him, Angels fans.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

12/07 (Tebow? Tebow.) Quickie

With SportsCenter running an all-Tebow hour from 2-3 today, let's dive into everyone's favorite topic:

*CBS and NBC are fighting over who gets the Tebow-Pats game a week from Sunday. The NFL is deciding, and if they want to maximize the audience for what will be the most-watched regular-season game of the year (or even in years), they should put it in primetime. (Even if the Broncos are potentially going to get shellacked.)

*Tim Tebow is totally making the Pro Bowl. I don't even think there is a question here -- the game is geared about rewarding excellence (which he has been) but also as a popularity contest (and there is no one more popular).

*The "Tim Tebow for NFL MVP" meme is trolling at its finest. The far more interesting question is this: Stipulating that, yes, Aaron Rodgers is clearly MVP of the league this season, where on your ballot would you put Tebow, if the season ended today? Top 5? Top 3? 2nd? I could make a case for Tebow as the runner-up on your MVP ballot, and it's a much better debate than the silly one vaulting him ahead of Rodgers.


*MLB Hot Stove: If the Cards are anywhere close to the Marlins, Pujols obviously should stay in St. Louis. I don't even think it's a question. And hearing how close the offers seem to be, I think he's going to stay.

*NBA: If I'm the Hornets, I'm dealing Chris Paul to the Clippers for Aminu, Bledsoe, Jordan(?) and that unprotected Minnesota 1st-round pick in 2012, which could turn out to be Anthony Davis or Harrison Barnes, to pair with what will almost assuredly be the Hornets' own high draft pick in a loaded draft. It could re-make the franchise in under a year.

*NBA Schedule: My Wiz aren't on ESPN or TNT once. Not once. Even with one of the Top 5 most exciting players in the league. No matter: Right now, my focus is finding the first Wiz game that I'll take my kids to. Ahh: There's a 1 p.m. Sunday game against the T'wolves. Good seats still available, I'm sure. The regular season starts in 18 days.

*CFB Coaching Carousel: I like Southern Miss's Larry Fedora going to UNC. It's a program with a lot of potential in a flimsy conference there for the taking.

*CBB: Do you want to read a spectacular game story? You might not care at all about Missouri basketball, but Luke Winn puts on a clinic of how you write an informative, insightful story about a game that is so much better than typical fare, I was blown away. Read it here.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

12/06 (Pujols) Quickie

MLB Hot Stove: If I'm the Marlins, I pay whatever I need to out-bid the Cardinals and secure Albert Pujols for the next 10 years. He's only the greatest player of the generation and only, ultimately, one of the Top 10 players in baseball history.

If he is half-speed for the final five years of the deal, making $25 million a year -- he is still better and more must-see than almost all of the league. And, by the way, I don't expect him to dramatically slide in years 6-10. What if he's only 75% of his current form? That's still a very very good player, and -- if you care about marketing your team -- still a "living legend" to sell to fans.

Like many many others, I was still going to Camden to see Cal Ripken even after he started to fall off, because it was Cal Freaking Ripken. He's worth it.

NBA CP3-mageddon: Paul can sign wherever he wants next season, that's his choice, and the Hornets can trade him wherever they want -- and they should. If I was a contender (or the Magic), I would trade for him even knowing he'll bolt for the Knicks next summer, if only to take my one shot at a championship. Flags fly forever.

Heisman Watch: Can't complain about any of the five finalists -- frankly, I'm thrilled they picked five, because in past years, they have gone shorter, thus denying some great player the chance simply to go to New York for the ceremony, which is an honor by itself. As for my ballot? I'm going (1) Robert Griffin III; (2) Trent Richardson; (3) Tyronn Mathieu, who edges out Andrew Luck after the Honey Badger's spectacular performance in the SEC title game (which should absolutely matter).

Luck's consolation prize is (a) he's the top pick of the NFL draft; (b) a 15-year star-studded NFL career that will likely include at least one Super Bowl title; and (c) he is likely going to win the Heisman anyway, even though RGIII was the most superlative player in the sport this year.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 05, 2011

12/05 (Fire Up) Quickie

This is a phenomenal day in sports: The BCS system produced one of its most (if not THE most) divisive results yet... MLB Winter Meetings are kicking off, and Jose Reyes is on his way to the Marlins (Pujols next?)... NFL Week 13 was Tebow-tastic (no, seriously, it's beyond even my own highest expectations at this point)... college hoops is coming off its best regular-season game in years (Kentucky edging UNC in an NBA-laden insta-classic)... Oh, and Tiger is back. Let's dive right in:

BCS: In a way, this represents the culmination of the last half-decade in college football -- the SEC has been so dominant that its second-best team gets what amounts to the benefit of the doubt from pollsters, even though it already had a chance to beat the top team and couldn't, even while there is another contender that has made an entirely legitimate case.

I always thought that the SEC's market power would eventually drive it to secede from the BCS when the conference gets screwed -- in this case, the SEC's market power has proven so strong that it has overwhelmed the BCS system... and may trigger reforms anyway. (The on-field result is still the same: The best SEC team is almost assuredly the best team in the country.)

My late-night conversion on Saturday supporting LSU-Oklahoma State over LSU-Alabama II turned out to be just another Quickie Jinx. I give Alabama -- fueled by a sense of payback -- more than a puncher's chance against LSU (certainly a better chance than OK State would have had). But that doesn't mean it's a satisfying result.

Final Coaches Top 25: It's an annual treat to see the pettiness of the final Coaches Top 25. For example, Air Force's Troy Calhoun had Oklahoma State FIFTH, the lowest of any coach. (Now, to his credit, he had OKS ranked low every week leading up to the final one.) But you have to love Nick Saban ranking OK State 4th on his ballot. Syracuse's Doug Marrone and Duke's David Cutcliffe did, too.

But the big winner is Missouri's Gary Pinkel, currently in the Big 12 but bolting for the SEC -- he had Oklahoma State ranked 4th, too. He knows what side of his bagel is buttered... at least starting today.

MLB Winter Meetings: Love the Marlins taking a big swing by paying Jose Reyes $106 million, giving them an exciting superstar to complement Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton (and Ozzie Guillen). I fully support them doubling down (doubling up?) and overpaying Albert Pujols. For all the grief the franchise has taken -- under a couple of different owners -- let's remember: "Flags fly forever." And the Marlins, using an intentional boom-and-bust strategy, have two flags over the past 15 years, a trade plenty of fans would be willing to make. Should be an exciting week that harkens back to my private test run of Quickish last December, where I was feverishly covering the MLB Winter Meetings and Hot Stove craziness for an audience of... me.

NFL Week 13: Tebow Time... again. Or is that "again again again again again again..." For everyone focusing on the funky option-style offense, Tebow ran the ball exactly three times yesterday. Instead, he threw the ball efficiently (that one sideline scramble into a TD pass was his best play as a pro, without question) and didn't throw an INT and -- here's where it gets interesting -- the mere threat he presents as a runner (actualized or not) turned into part of the Broncos' offensive strategy. Yes, it was the woeful Vikings D, but whatever: Tebow has led the Broncos into first place, with a better-than-not chance of advancing to the playoffs. I would never suggest that Tebow displace Aaron Rodgers as 2011 NFL MVP -- Rodgers is playing better than any QB in the history of the league, frankly -- but I have absolutely no problems promoting Tebow as the runner-up candidate. He should be on the down ballot.

Speaking of Rodgers: Good golly. He's so good. He's just so so good. You need to watch Packers games because you are watching as close to the idealized version of a quarterback playing as you will ever see. (BTW: Rodgers is my 5-year-old son Gabe's second-favorite player, behind Cam Newton.)

Navel-gazing fantasy talk: Yesterday was the greatest fantasy game I have ever played in. I am tied for first in my league, which is crowded at the top for four playoff spots. I was playing a team in the pack one game behind the leaders; my opponents' team leads the league in scoring -- my team is, by far, the lowest-scoring of any of the playoff contenders. All day, he and I watched our match-up swing back and forth: In the early-afternoon, I beat back his surge led by Gronkowski and the Steelers D with my own surge of Mike Wallace, Percy Harvin (mercy!) and... Tim Tebow. My lead evaporated in the late-afternoon because he has... Aaron Rodgers. It was a series of haymakers by both sides. Where it stands now: He is 9 points ahead, but I have the Chargers D going up against the inept and rudderless Jaguars offense. It'll be close. But however it ends, it was a phenomenal day in front of Red Zone.

Speaking of Red Zone (my favorite thing of 2011, if not ever): I got a retweet from Red Zone Channel host Scott Hanson -- in the middle of the Packers-Giants finish, no less -- for a tweet I sent out, which is totally real: "My 5-y.o. calls the #nflredzone Touchdown Montage the "touchdown massage," which also works." I'm not prone to be star-struck, but for Scott Hanson? Oh, that made my weekend (and Gabe's, too).

College hoops: Whoa, Kentucky is really really good. And that is despite the fact that high-ranking frosh PG Marquis Teague isn't nearly as good as his hype. But Terrence Jones? Awesome. Anthony Davis? A defensive force. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? As high of a motor as I've seen in college hoops in years. The rest of UK's supporting cast? Good enough to win a championship. (Then again, that's been the look for the past few years -- we'll see if they have the will to elevate themselves when it matters, not in mid-December.)

Tiger: My favorite detail is that after he won, he tweeted out a link to LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out," presumably for its iconic opening lines: "Don't call it a comeback! I've been here for years...."

SI Sportsman of the Year: Comes out later this morning. I had a couple of whiffs -- Aaron Rodgers, "The Fan" (ugh) -- but I have my "final answer" of a guess: Coach K.

Seriously: We're off to an amazing start this week. Check out Quickish to keep up.

-- D.S.

BCS Title Game Top 25 BlogPoll Ballot

LSU vs. Oklahoma State. If I think Alabama would beat (even crush) Oklahoma State head-to-head, I still have to rank the Tide behind Oklahoma State, because the top two teams play each other in the championship game -- at least, theoretically. If Alabama beats LSU in the national-title game, I will have no problem adding an appropriate coda to the season and calling them "co-champions." I can sleep easy with that. Beyond that, I really think Boise State is good. Of course, I can't rank TCU behind Boise State. And so to put Boise State in my Top 5 -- where they belong -- TCU goes there, too. I think both would beat any of the teams listed 6-10. Oh, and I simply enjoyed adding Arkansas State as my 25th team. A worthy conclusion.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

12/04 (BCS) Quickie

I have always said: I am happy -- even thrilled -- to change my opinion in the face of new, better evidence. Frankly, I'd rather be proven wrong than be right.


I am totally behind LSU playing Oklahoma State for the national championship. Sorry, Alabama: In the end, you had your chance. And Oklahoma State has proven itself worthy of its chance.

I don't know whether enough coaches and Harris Poll voters and computer formulas will lift OK State over Alabama -- but it'll be compelling either way.

(I will say this: In the event LSU loses to Alabama and Oklahoma State throttles whoever, AP voters are free to award the Cowboys their share of the national championship.)

(And I will say this: If you hate the BCS, you want Alabama to get snubbed, then the SEC pulling itself out of the BCS and setting up its own indie playoff.)

The larger point is important: The system is broken enough as it is. Let's not muck it up by nullifying the de facto playoff game LSU and Alabama played last month -- and denying a worthy Oklahoma State.

That LSU will probably destroy OK State -- just as Auburn destroyed Oregon and Alabama battered a McCoy-less Texas and Florida stifled Oklahoma and LSU destroyed Ohio State and Florida overwhelmed Ohio State -- isn't the point. It's not the point.

Hell, Alabama might throttle Oklahoma State, too. But the point is that based on the evidence of on-field results, that's not clear. And in that case, you've got to give OK State their title shot, too.

-- D.S.