Friday, December 28, 2012

12/28 (Wrapping Up 2012) Quickie

2012 was an exciting bookend to 2011:

In 2011, Mrs. Quickie got pregnant.
In 2012, we had a beautiful (and smart!) little baby girl.

In 2011, Quickish launched.
In 2012, Quickish was acquired by Gannett.

In 2011, we relocated from New York to DC.
In 2012, we found the house we'll hopefully live in for the next 25 years.

Any one of those things is a big deal. Wrapped together, it made for a truly amazing year.

I am very (very) (...very) lucky, and every day I try to remember that and to certainly not ever take it for granted.

There won't be a new baby in 2013. There won't be a sale of a company I founded. There won't be another new house. (There will be turning 40, so the year isn't without its interesting milestones.)

If it will be slightly less intense, that's OK. I am looking forward to just... being.

Being a better spouse.
Being a better dad.
Being a better colleague.

There are a lot of pathways to "better" that I have been thinking about, and all I can do is pick the ones that make sense and commit to a good-faith effort to try to be better.

Hoping to have some New Year's posts up over the next few days, but if you're checking out until 2013, here's hoping you had a great 2012 and here's to an even better 2013.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12/25 (Merry Christmas) Quickie

The best holiday-centric tradition in sports is the NBA on Christmas Day, this year bumping "Lions and Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day" from the top spot, on the strength of a Finals-ish Heat-Thunder -- the day's late-afternoon headliner -- and a frolicky Lakers-Knicks (the mid-afternoon appetizer, with the recently returned Steve Nash as your must-see player). It is the marquee event of the NBA regular season, and its expansion into a 13-hour marathon is welcome.

Enjoy the day. If you celebrate Christmas, enjoy however you might be doing so (and even if you don't celebrate Christmas, there is plenty about the holiday to love, like the "A Christmas Story" movie marathon -- which I will duck into at least a dozen times over the 24 hours -- and, at least for we Jewish people, the traditional Chinese food dinner.

So, to recap: Family, food, fun, NBA. If you are enjoying any level of abundance -- possibly material, but hopefully at least health and happiness -- I hope you can spare some cheer for those less fortunate.

A few notes:

*Rex Ryan says he's sure Tim Tebow would have played if he had been asked. So there's that.

*Chuck Pagano is back, and there can't be a more welcome return in sports this year.

*Mike Vick is back, too, because Nick Foles broke his hand. Week 17 will be ambivalent for Philly, but in all the discussion of it being Andy Reid's final game as coach, it is also the presumptive end of the Mike Vick Experiment, which had some thrilling highs that probably qualify it as "delivering," but only as a sideshow.

*Does anyone think that Ryan Freel's suicide wasn't connected to his many concussions?

*So: Who got/gave the best gifts this year?

Again, happiest holiday wishes to you and your family.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 24, 2012

12/24 (Eve) Quickie

There is this phenomenon in sports newsrooms (and emergency rooms and restaurants and elsewhere) where the non-Christians are happy to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas, letting our observant colleagues enjoy the holidays with their families.

The skeleton crew lends itself to some relaxed moments, and you often will see stories hit the front page that might not otherwise. In that spirit, I'm going to lead with the Tebow debacle, because I'm working today and it's the story that interests me most. Fair enough? I promise not to belabor it, but I think it ties back to the spirit of the season:


Simply put, Tim Tebow is as team-first as any player you will meet. He is single-minded in his interest in helping his team win. He clearly thinks (and has proven) that the best chance for that is with the ball in his hands, but he has also clearly demonstrated that he's willing to do whatever it takes to help.

There are plenty of people who are tired of (or annoyed with) the "Tebowmania" thing, but that is much more of a function of being annoyed with the media than being annoyed with him. If anything, even the haters begrudgingly respect Tebow's complete commitment to winning and to his team. Throughout this season, Tebow has taken any number of relative humiliations -- being assigned as punt protector the most glaring -- in stride and with a "whatever it takes to help the team win" mentality.

What does it say, then, that Tebow was willing to tarnish that very core of his appeal -- that very core of his personality -- by telling the Jets he didn't want to be part of their Wildcat (or faux-Wildcat) inanity this week. He must know he is more popular than the team, and he had to know the Jets would leak his request (or, framed less charitably, refusal) around playing time.

He had to know there would be blowback (with the most common response something akin to how Peter King put it: He totally agrees with Tebow that the Jets have miserably screwed him around, but you can't say you won't play.) He had to know it would instantly become part of the Tebow canon -- the December nadir to bookend the moment in January during the playoffs that would define both his NFL career and Tebowmania in general.

That is how miserable he was. The Jets managed not only to implode their own season, but they made Tebow...flinch. They had him so unhappy that he went against everything he is -- and a sizeable piece of why people believe in him: both off and on the field, his subordination to the greater good... to service.

That is how screwed up the Jets are. So screwed up they could screw up Tim Tebow.

The good news is that the relationship is almost over -- it is a sign of how much the Jets fear Tebow's popularity not just that they didn't play him before, but that when he wouldn't play for them now, they honored it without fuss (until it inevitably fussed). Tebow will land with another team -- probably the Jaguars -- one that will hopefully give him a chance.

It cannot possibly go worse in Jacksonville -- or anywhere else -- than it did in New York with the Jets. The Jets had absolutely no belief -- no faith -- in Tebow.

And, it seemed, Tebow eventually lost enough faith in something he believed in -- "team" -- that he would turn away from that concept for seemingly the first time in his life.

Aside from believing in the essential rightness of his own decision in this particular case, I cannot imagine that was anything but difficult for Tebow in the grand scheme of his unyielding belief in always wanting to do what is right for the team.

Faith -- in oneself, in your team (or the larger concept of "team"), in the human condition, in people we admire (yes, like Tebow)... in anything really -- is essential, not just on Christmas but every day.

To see that faith tested in such a stark way -- by someone who epitomizes faith in football (and I'm not even talking about religious faith) -- is a pretty good reminder of the core position of faith in our lives, however it manifests itself. And it is a pretty good reminder how tenuous that faith can be.

If anything, this is a good moment to remind yourself -- to reaffirm, really -- that no matter what it might be, you've always got to maintain a little faith. Especially for those moments when it is tested.


Don't forget: Starting tonight, the greatest holiday movie of all time "A Christmas Story." 24 hours of it, and in this year's production, the role of Ralphie will be played by Russell Wilson, who -- as absurds as this seems -- deserves NFL Rookie of the Year as much as (or perhaps even more than) the rookie QB who has broken all the meaningful rookie-QB records and led his worst-in-the-league-last-year team to the playoffs AND the rookie QB who has become the most must-see player in the NFL and led his nearly-worst-in-the-league-last-year team to the cusp of the playoffs.

To those of you celebrating: Merry Christmas. And to those of you not? Enjoy the Chinese food and movies.

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12/23 (Sunday) Quickie

Happy Festivus! My airing of grievances begins and ends with the Wizards...

We went shopping for a new couch last night, and it's hard to overstate how important the couch is for us -- for better or worse, it is the center of our home and we spend incalculable hours on it, hanging out or eating dinner informally or, typically, watching TV. All I can say is that I'm leaning toward the idea that it's probably worth spending a little extra if the couch is particularly comfortable. (Not that couches have to be necessarily expensive -- our current model, which we've had for 5 years, was a cheapie floor sample from Macy's on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and it has held up great.)

I'm thinking of the couch because today is the second-to-last Sunday of NFL Red Zone, which in less than two seasons has become my favorite TV tradition -- basically 7 hours of being on/around/near the couch with the family, watching games and tracking fantasy teams and ducking in and out but otherwise enjoying the time with each other (and with Red Zone host Scott Hanson). The two boys are down in Florida for the week with their grandparents -- our own holiday tradition/"vacation" -- so watching Red Zone is not quite the same without them. But it just hit me this morning that Red Zone season is almost over. It'll be missed. But next year's season of Red Zone will feature an awesome new couch, so there's that.

Anyway, a few notes on a slow Christmas Eve eve...

*Tebow to the Jaguars? It has always made the most sense, and it sounds like it is finally going to happen. Tebow's No. 15 is even open, right between Justin Blackmon (14) and Jordan Shipley (16). It will be the biggest seller in the NFL next season -- and that's part of the point, isn't it?

*Falcons cruise past Lions and earn No. 1 NFC seed: It's Super Bowl or bust for this team, as it has been since August. Anyone else have zero faith the Falcons will get through the NFC playoffs? I'll be surprised if they win their initial Divisional at home against the 4-5 Wild Card winner.

*NFL Week 16: Good luck to anyone playing for their fantasy-league title. If I'm paying attention to any single game this week, it's the Redskins and RGIII.

*Great day in college hoops yesterday: If you didn't know the name "Ben McLemore" -- the Kansas star redshirt freshman who is taking college hoops by storm in his first season -- you do now, after KU beat Ohio State... Temple gets its annual win over a Top 10 team by KO'ing Syracuse... Another name to know: South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, who led the Jackrabbits over New Mexico in Albuquerque (by NBA Draft night, Wolters' stock will be sky-high)... Tough night for Florida... 

*CFB: Boise State finally got its clutch field goal, a season or two too late.

*NBA: Steve Nash is back and the Lakers already look like a much better team. No coincidence there, of course. LA's playoff seed is irrelevant, as long as they make the playoffs and are healthy heading into late April.

*Wizards' fan lament: Any chance the Wiz can trade promising big man Kevin Seraphin for Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins (now repped by the same agent as John Wall)? Seems like a decent trade for both sides, and if Cousins isn't quite a happy camper, playing alongside former college teammate Wall could only help, right?

-- D.S.

Friday, December 21, 2012

12/21 (Pre-Christmas) Quickie

Well, I'll be filing all weekend and all next week, if you want to stick with me, but if not -- Merry Christmas to you and yours. Briefly:

*Nick Saban to the Browns? I heartily endorse this. Saban has nothing left to prove as a college coach. He has built a dynastic juggernaut at Alabama. He doesn't need money. He is already a Hall of Famer. So why not try to conquer the one thing he has yet to: Success in the NFL?

(BTW: Can you imagine the scrum to replace him if he leaves for the NFL? I can't even begin to think who might replace him. Will Muschamp seems unlikely to leave Florida, even for Alabama. Dan Mullen? He's not part of the Saban family. Chip Kelly? He has his own eye on the NFL -- meanwhile, does anything seem more fun than Kelly teaming up with Cam Newton in Carolina? The upshot is this: Is it possible that Nick Saban is irreplaceable at Alabama?)

*NFL Storylines I'm Intrigued By: (1) Is 49ers-Seahawks even more interesting than 49ers-Patriots? (2) RGIII returns vs. the Eagles. (3) The log-jam at the top of the NFC East -- not quite must-win for the Skins, Giants and Cowboys, but close to it. (4) Can the Bengals knock the Steelers out of the playoff picture? Not quite as impressive as Tim Tebow knocking the Steelers out of the playoffs in January, but close. (5) Greg McElroy.

*Bowl Mania: No bowl name makes fans smile like "Beef O'Brady's." So there's that. Meanwhile: Washington vs. Boise State in Las Vegas on Saturday should be a fun one.

*Jabari Parker picks Duke: Can't help thinking that there's a parallel universe where Northwestern fired Bill Carmody two years ago and hired Duke assistant Chris Collins, and yesterday Parker picks Northwestern. Alas.... (Meanwhile, is using Paul Pierce as Parker's comp a coded way of labeling him as unathletic?) Prediction: Parker stays two seasons at Duke, not one.

*NBA: And just like that, the T'wolves' bandwagon is filling up again. All it took was snapping the Thunder's massive winning streak.

*CFB: Steroids in college football? You don't say! Spencer Hall captures the smart reaction here.

*ICYMI: The New York Times put together a really terrific package of storytelling with "Snowfall." My only gripe: It seems unfair that reporter John Branch gets sole credit, when clearly so much of the piece's impact comes from the impressive graphics. Would have been cool for the story's producers to get top billing, along with its writer. Still: Well worth the 30 minutes to consume this.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12/20 (Thursday) Quickie

ICYMI: This year's Quickish "Best Sportswriting of the Year" list.


Beyond the sadness we all deeply feel about the tragedy in Newtown, the story of Victor Cruz providing personal consolation to the family of 6-year-old Jack Pinto, a huge Cruz fan, is particularly affecting for me. That Gabe is in first grade, like so many of the children who were murdered, put the massacre in particularly horrifying perspective for me.

But, like Jack, Gabe is at the cusp of his die-hard life-long sports fandom. Gabe's favorite NFL player is Cam Newton and the Panthers. His favorite NBA player and team is Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. He watches highlights every day. He follows my fantasy teams (and wants to play next year by himself). He battles me each week making NFL predictions (he's currently beating me with two weeks to go.)

Being a sports fan is a huge part of Gabe's burgeoning identity, just as it clearly was for Jack Pinto and probably many other of the children who were killed. When you root for your teams -- when you watch sports -- think of Jack and how much he cared, in that way that is totally innocent and enthusiastic and cynicism-free.

When you watch sports with a 6-year-old, you simply can't say things you typically would with your buddies or at a sports bar, like "Cripes, he sucks." Partly, that's because you shouldn't talk that way around any 6-year-old and partly, that's because you can't -- you simply can't -- pierce the pure, wide-eyed love for sports that exists in a 6-year-old fan who cares so deeply about sports.

And thanks to Victor Cruz for caring back.

Awkward transition to shallow commentary about the latest sports news...

*Tebow era ending in NYC: It's for the best for everyone. I'm presuming he'll end up in Jacksonville. Meanwhile, it's possibly more intriguing that the Jets are ready to bail on Mark Sanchez. If only they didn't gum up the works with that idiotic contract extension last year.

(And then there's the idea floated out there that the Jets could be interested in Michael Vick. You know what? Great. He's better than Sanchez and could himself use a change of scenery from Philly.)

*Kevin Durant scores season-high 41: He is unstoppable, as is OKC. That the team is even better without James Harden is a testament to the evolution of Durant (and, for sure, Westbrook), but also to the "system."

*Clippers win 11th straight: Are they true contenders for the NBA title? Who cares? For this franchise, relevance and winning should be good enough.

*RGIII to start: But it's got to make Redskins fans feel a little less antsy to know that Kirk Cousins actually could step in if necessary. However: Fully expecting RGIII dominance, to maximize the narrative here.

*CBB: Myck Kabongo won't be able to play at Texas this season. If he goes to the NBA Draft -- as expected -- and ends up a 1st-round pick (as is his potential), then it begs the question why any player with first-round potential should play in college basketball, rather than sit out the mandatory year off and just train for the NBA (while taking advances on future paychecks).

*CFB: Was Brian Kelly the coach of the year? Oh, probably, although you could make a pretty good case for Bill Snyder or Will Muschamp or Kevin Sumlin.

*The best thing you'll read today: John Branch -- a 2011 Quickish "Best of the Year" honoree -- with a huge story on an avalanche in Washington's Cascades.

*Also really good: The Classical with an oral history of the legendary Website "Fire Joe Morgan."

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12/19 (Best of) Quickie

Fun day yesterday: Released the 2012 edition of the Quickish "Best Sportswriting of the Year" list.

Check out the list here.

Check out my brief "liner notes" here.

There are a couple key components to every edition:

*Picking a top tier (12 in honor of 2012, in this particular case) is brutal. As much as anything, it's personal taste, but I try to get a wide variety of sources and styles.

*The meat of the list is the "Also Receiving Votes" section, up to 30-some pieces this year after half that a year ago. It's a function of how much great stuff there is at the top tier.

*But my favorite part is the "How could you miss...?" feedback from readers. No problem 'fessing up: There are bound to be glaring omissions. I love recognizing them. Please chime in if you see any.

Related to omissions, it is both odd and unfair that some of my favorite writers -- the ones who deliver every day -- are not represented. I'm thinking of folks like Grantland's Bill Barnwell, SI's Tim Layden and SL Price (whose Olympic coverage was unmatched), Deadspin's Barry Petchesky and Jack Dickey, Yahoo Sports' Les Carpenter, SB Nation's Andrew Sharp, the Wall Street Journal's Scott Cacciola and Ben Cohen, so many of my talented colleagues at USA TODAY Sports and many more folks who are recognized throughout the day, every day, on Quickish.

Regardless, I love creating the list and I am glad people seem to enjoy it. Had a few issues with a few too many people trying to access the site when the list went up -- I guess I try to see the bright side that the site crashing means that people want to see what we're producing.

Quick notes off the news:
*Jets bench Sanchez for McElroy: ...And, most relevant, NOT Tebow. Ugh.
*Wisconsin hires Utah State's Andersen: Really like this hire.
*Lakers barely beat Bobcats at home: This is what it has come to.
*Want to be a panelist for USA TODAY's famous Super Bowl "Ad Meter?" Sign up here.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12/18 (Tuesday) Quickie

Today's Names to Know: Jeremy Lin, Mark Sanchez, Jim Boeheim, RA Dickey, Serge Ibaka.

Jeremy Lin playing terrific against the Knicks last night in his NYC homecoming was as predictable as it was awesome to see. It was a reminder of 2012's signature moment in (non-Olympic) sports: Linsanity, the three-week stretch in February that captured everything we love about sports.

This time, the MSG fans weren't quite as hysterical as they were 10 months ago -- they're forgiven the smattering of boos, because they were so packed with self-loathing -- but if they got to re-live that glorious stretch from last winter even for a minute, even with the center of their attention/affection playing for the other team, it is worth it.

Mark Sanchez playing terrible against the Titans last night in the Jets' coup de crap was also as predictable... as it was awesome to see.

(Aside from following hilarious comments about the game on Twitter, I tuned in long enough to see Tebow's lone series -- how about that first-down run on his first play? -- and the debacle that unfolded over the final two minutes: Sanchez INT -- his 4th -- and then the first-snap fumble after the Titans had gifted the Jets a last-gasp chance inside the 25-yard-line. It was more than enough to get the gist.)

Actually, I spent my time last night putting the final touches on this year's Quickish list of the best sportswriting of the year, which will be published sometime this week.

900 wins for Jim Boeheim: It is a monumental number. His career highlight is clearly the title run with Carmelo in 2003, with the 1987 runner-up and '96 Final Four team rounding out the Top 3.

NBA: In the West, it's the (footloose and Harden-free) Thunder, then everyone else. Hate to read too much into a single regular-season game, but OKC dismantled the Spurs, and the key was Serge Ibaka, who had 25 and 17 with 3 blocks, looking every bit like a full-fledged part of a new Big Three. OKC has won 11 straight. (FWIW, the Clippers have won 10 straight, but it's hard to see LA competing with the Thunder in May, when it counts. The Spurs? Yes. Anyone else? No.)

MLB: Dickey deal finalized with Jays. The Mets don't want to pay him, so the Jays happily will, and the competitive dynamic in the AL East is affirmed as the must-see show in baseball next year.

CBB: Should Butler join Georgetown, Villanova and the rest of the "Catholic 7" spin-off/start-up basketball league? Absolutely. It's a no-brainer.

RGIII sets NFL jersey-sales record: One more indicator that the rookie is already the face of the NFL.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 17, 2012

12/17 (Monday) Quickie

Hell of a game between the 49ers and Patriots.

The Pats nearly pulled off a once-in-a-half-century comeback... Colin Kaepernick looked like a QB that could take this 49ers team to a Super Bowl... There was even a controversial 4th-down call by Bill Belichick...

We already knew the 49ers and the Pats were elite teams. And that the Pats' D was leaky but it's offense was capable of scoring in bunches on anyone (even the standard-bearing 49ers D). If you want to place an overly symbolic emphasis on anything, it would be Kaepernick coming into Foxboro in December in the cold rain in primetime and showing nothing but swagger.

It's not like the level-headed Alex Smith had a bad year last season -- he did lead the 49ers to the NFL's final four. But there was something about Kaepernick's ability to perform in a context that was just about as tough as it gets outside of the playoffs that stood out about this game.'s Ashley Fox was entirely fair in suggesting this was the Game of the Year in the NFL.

And's Mike Tanier put it nicely: This would make for a phenomenal Super Bowl match-up.


Question of the Day: How many fantasy playoff games were won (or lost) thanks to Kirk Cousins?

(Given how few playoff teams probably started Cousins -- even those who might have needed a handcuff for RGIII -- he more appropriate question is how many fantasy playoff games were won thanks to Russell Wilson, who has proven himself every bit as worthy of Rookie of the Year as RGIII and Andrew Luck, a fairly remarkable thing if you think about it.)

Huge win for the Cowboys: The final two weeks of the NFC East playoff race are going to be fantastic, and let's hope it comes down to a playoff-ish play-in between the Redskins and Cowboys in Week 17.

Huge win for the Falcons? OK, they destroyed the Giants. No, I still don't buy them as a legit Super Bowl contender.

Meanwhile: The "just like last year" playoff field is rounding into form -- the league is worse off for it, by the way.

The amazing Adrian Peterson: How can you not be rooting for him to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record?

MLB: The Mets giving up on RA Dickey -- regardless of who they got back in a trade from suddenly fascinating Toronto -- is worse than the Knicks giving up on Jeremy Lin.

(There aren't many stories in sports better than Lin's -- in 2012 or ever -- but Dickey's is one of them. Dickey is also more productive than Lin, with a better chance at maintaining his peak form for the length of his contract extension.)

NBA: Andrew Bynum's point that Kobe stunted his development is entirely well-taken, but he's not really in a position to be griping about it right now.

CBB: Love the little details coming out about how Butler's Brad Stevens and Indiana's Tom Crean were sniping at each other from the sidelines throughout Saturday's game.

MNF: Is it too much to ask for the Jets to finally give Tebow a chance to succeed? Probably, but for the 15th straight week, I'll be watching just in case.

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12/16 (Very) Quickie

Still stunned and shaken by what happened in Newtown, and my heart goes out to the families of the people murdered. That the kids were the same age as Gabe... it's near-impossible to process.

I feel awful pushing ahead with "So how about Butler being Indiana!" or "Will we get a Rex Grossman sighting today?" or "Is the Mets letting RA Dickey go worse than the Knicks letting Jeremy Lin go?"

So I'm going to put aside the post for the rest of the day and come back to things tomorrow. Doesn't lessen the impact of Friday's tragedy -- at all.

-- D.S.

Friday, December 14, 2012

12/14 (Gone Bowlin') Quickie

One of the Quickie's longest traditions: The annual bowl-sponsor quiz. In an ever-shifting landscape, see if you can match the sponsor to the bowl game. Answers at the bottom of the column:

(1) Gildan
(2) Hyundai
(3) R&L Carriers
(4) Autozone
(5) AdvoCare V100
(6) Bridgepoint Education

(a) Gator
(b) Holiday
(c) Independence
(d) New Mexico
(e) New Orleans
(f) Liberty
(g) Sun


*Lakers lose in NYC: Kobe's getting frustrated, but isn't it hard to judge this team until they have Nash and Gasol back? By April, they are solidly in the playoffs and the new meme is "Nobody wants to play the Lakers."

*Bengals beat Eagles, stay in playoff contention: The best quip I heard about this game came from's Gregg Rosenthal: "When I watch the Bengals, I don't think:"Let's squeeze more borderline teams into the playoffs!'"

*Angels sign Josh Hamilton: When money isn't an issue, you can do things like lock up two aging superstars -- in this case, Hamilton and Albert Pujols -- for close to $50M a year, just for the two of them. This team was already "Playoffs or bust." The most interesting analysis I saw was item No. 2 in Dave Schoenfield's take on

*Big East break-up: I'm totally on "Team Catholic Seven," and it feels like most people are. Repeating my suggestion from yesterday: They launch a cable network dedicated entirely to the awesomeness of college basketball, even beyond the teams involved in whatever new league they set up.

-- D.S.

Answers: 1-d, 2-g, 3-e, 4-f, 5-c, 6-b, 7-a

For trivia's sake, here are the bowls whose sponsor IS the bowl name: Famous Idaho Potato, Beef O' Brady's, Little Caesar's, Belk, Russell Athletic, Meineke Car Care, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chick-fil-A, Capital One, Outback,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12/13 (Very -- and Late!) Quickie

Is this the end of the Big East? Good for the small hoops-only schools for seceding. The Big East began as a clever start-up and I would love to see the splinter group take the same approach.

(My two cents: Call itself "The Big Conference," and launch a cable and online TV network dedicated entirely to college basketball, not just the schools involved.)


Josh Hamilton signing with Angels: A year after they broke the bank for Pujols. No excuses now (as if there was room for any before).

Saints: Unsurprisingly, the players aren't happy with Roger Goodell.

Warriors beat Heat: What a gorgeous final play. Anti-Hero Ball.

Texas Tech hires Kliff Kingsbury: Not just a hometown hero, but arguably the rising star assistant in college football. He's VERY young, but so was Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern. Love this hire.

Should the NFL expand the playoffs? Absolutely. No brainer. Every instance of playoff expansion in every sport -- particularly NFL and MLB -- has been a huge success.

ESPN MLB "Hall of 100": The key point -- Bonds is No. 3 and Clemens is No. 7 and any argument that these two players are not worthy of the Hall of Fame is ludicrous.

NFL Tonight: Bengals over Eagles. Good luck for anyone in fantasy playoffs.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12 (12-12-12) Quickie

"12-12-12" falls somewhere between "kinda cool" and "not nearly as cool as the attention it's getting."

Bountygate: Very (very) surprised that Paul Tagliabue would implicitly rebuke Roger Goodell overreaching on the player suspensions. But the theory is solid: The players were doing what the coach(es) were telling them to and so the punishments were overly harsh.

MLB Hot Stove: Kevin Youkilis joins the Yankees. Forget the whole "Red Sox player joining the Yankees" storyline; Youkilis immediately becomes the most popular Jewish athlete in New York since Amare Stoudemire. (OK: The most popular Jewish baseball player since Shawn Green... perhaps Sandy Koufax.)

NBA: Carmelo for MVP? I never would have imagined it, but -- yes -- he is in the conversation. (Although with the caveat that both LeBron and Kevin Durant are both better players, giving Melo the "Charles Barkley" or "Karl Malone" MVP during the Jordan years, when MJ shoulda/coulda been MVP every year.)

Lakers still reeling: They're just not a good team right now. (And isn't the season vastly more fascinating with the Lakers being so mediocre? Especially given that so many people -- ahem -- picked them to win the West.)

Kevin Love is unhappy: I can't follow this story without dreaming of my Wizards making a play for Love (Seraphin + Veseley + unprotected 1st-round pick in '13?). Of course, that's coming after the report that my Wizards couldn't seal the deal for James Harden back in the summer. Woo.

College Hoops: Like Notre Dame in football, college hoops is way better when Michigan is really really good. That said: It's a team I'm going to sidestep as a Final Four pick -- so keep winning, Blue, because then everyone will pick them to the Final Four and I'll clean up in the pool by NOT picking them. Still: Really fun to see them back near the top.

Fascinating read: About the way the 49ers are hiring Silicon Valley talent, led by former Facebook CFO (now team president) Gideon Yu. It seems almost unfair that the Niners would have the best coach in sports AND the best team president.

Last thought: Here's hoping the same people who cheered on Jack Taylor's 138 points for Grinnell College a few weeks ago are cheering the Indiana girls' h.s. basketball team that won 107-2.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12/11 (Pats) Quickie

The Pats' blow-out win over the Texans was as predictable as it was oddly comforting.

New England now assumes the mantle of "Super Bowl favorites," which tees up the optimal NFL dynamic -- the Pats look unstoppable... right up until they lose in the Super Bowl.

It's possible the memory of last year's SB defeat is driving these Pats this season. But it's more likely that the Texans are a facade of a contender, finally exposed on national TV as pretenders.

Tom Brady is at the top of his game. The Texans are soft. The theme of this NFL season -- at least as it relates to the playoffs -- is largely that it will play out a lot like last season.

And so if the expectation from the rest of us for Houston used to be "Super Bowl or bust," then the expectation from the rest of us for New England now is "Super Bowl bust or bust."


*RGIII Update: LCL sprain, which means he could play as early as this weekend against Cleveland, but will definitely be available for the final two-game stretch. I'm not even a Redskins fan, and even I say phew.

*The NFL's Tagliabue ruling on the Saints' bounty program: It's coming today, and I fully expect Tags to go along with his successor. Perhaps this gives the league cover for the punishment to be walked back slightly, but anything more than that will be viewed as a rebuke of Roger Goodell.... and no ex-commissioner is going to send that message.

*Bobby Petrino to Western Kentucky: He will win and probably win big, right away. No one ever questioned whether Petrino is a good coach -- only whether he can make responsible choices in his personal life. That means that the situation at WKU won't end well, even if it ends with wins.

*NFL Draft: Marcus Lattimore is heading in early, probably two years too late. After his marvelous freshman season -- in which he established himself as the best RB in college football and the most NFL-ready college RB since Adrian Peterson -- he would have been a 1st-round pick. But NFL draft age-limits kept him out, so he returned to college for his sophomore year, when he tore his ACL. He still would have been a high draft pick had he been allowed to come out a year ago. But again, the draft age-limits mandated he return to college, when his other knee was mangled. Here's hoping he gets a shot in the NFL -- and here's hoping his cautionary tale ultimately changes the artificially constraining rules. (They won't, but it's worth hoping.)

*NBA: The Jeremy Lin story in a nutshell -- scores 38 for Houston but the Rockets lose to the Spurs. That's not a knock on Lin; it's a symbol of Houston's ceiling (after all, most teams lose to the Spurs). Here's hoping last night's game jump-starts a little holiday Linsanity.

*Jobs: Ravens fire OC Cam Cameron. The Ravens' offense isn't working, and so the team sided with franchise (or "franchise") QB Joe Flacco, rather than its architect. That's the way it works in the NFL.

*Should Josh Brent get to go to Jerry Brown's memorial if he wants to? I leave it up to Jerry Brown's family to decide, and they seem to want him to be there with the rest of the team. The Cowboys, for their part, support that decision. Something about that feels off, but it is the Brown family prerogative.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 10, 2012

12/10 (Monday) Quickie

It is not enough that RGIII was already THE story of the NFL season or that the Redskins were involved in a taut must-win with the Ravens.

No, then RGIII had to have the knee injury, followed by Kirk Cousins coming in cold off the bench to deliver a must-have last-minute touchdown, followed by a must-must-must-have game-tying two-point conversion -- nothing short of an RGIII impression of running it in himself.

And so now, all eyes on RGIII's knee (it's not an ACL injury, at least), plus the curious case of Cousins, whose draft selection was so widely panned back in April but now looks like one of the most savvy player-personnel moves of the year in the NFL (think Rex Grossman finishes that drive with a TD + 2? no way).

For another week, RGIII is the center of the NFL universe.


*And yet the Cowboys are still hanging around.
*Think the Seahawks were trying to prove a (style) point?
*Same goes for the Giants.
*If only Cam and Carolina had played that way all year.
*Selling: Falcons, Bears, Steelers. Buying: Packers, Giants, 49ers.
*Rays send Shields to KC for Myers: Good deal for both.
*NBA: The Lakers are... not good. Need Nash back ASAP.
*Messi scores 86th goal of 2012: More evidence he's GOAT.
*Still really enjoying the Manziel-wins-Heisman story.
*Has Pac retired yet? No? Will we see No. 5?
*MNF Pick: Pats over Texans, handily.
*Fantasy: Blown out to drop from playoff-qualified 4th to no-playoffs 5th.

-- D.S.

Friday, December 07, 2012

12/07 (Very) Quickie

No college football slate tomorrow? No college football slate tomorrow. (Except! Army-Navy, which is always worth a watch, regardless of how the two teams are doing.)

Meanwhile, Manti Te'o cleaning up at the CFB Awards Show last night makes tomorrow night's Heisman ceremony all the more interesting. It had seemed like Manziel was a lock -- now, maybe a puncher's chance for the linebacker? Either way: Finishing Top 2 as a defensive player puts Te'o in rare company. (To repeat: Te'o would have gotten my vote.)

Knicks crush Heat (again): And, this time, without Carmelo. Look: The Heat lost to the Wizards this week, so something is clearly screwed up there for now. They have approximately five months to figure it out (and before wins and losses actually matter). For better or worse, they'll be fine. But don't let that get in the way of inflating the status of the Knicks or anything.

Tennessee football hires Cincy's Butch Jones: A solid hire, if not exactly spectacular. It's hard not to improve on the Derek Dooley era, plus Jones won't lack for resources. Grade this one a B+/A-.

NHL Lockout: That glimmer of hope that this could get resolved turned out to be the glint off the shiv that the league just stuck into the players' union.

Broncos win 8th straight: Qualifying for the playoffs? Winning the division? Meh. Peyton Manning has to lead this team farther than Tim Tebow did, which means AFC title game or bust.

NFL Week 14: Good luck to those of you in fantasy playoffs. Hope you're not relying on Ben Roethlisberger.

MLB Hot Stove: Kind of a dud week, wasn't it? What was the highlight -- the Nats signing Dan Haren? The Yankees giving a nominal offer to Kevin Youkilis? Here's to more action later this month.

NFL Brain-Injury Epidemic: Count me among those who love the idea floated via Roger Goodell in Time this week that the league eliminate kickoffs and instead go with a system where the team "kicking off" has the option of punting from their own 30 or "going for it" under 4th-and-15 conditions, with the upside of retaining possession if they convert (not unlike a fake punt) and the downside of giving the ball to the opponent at their own 30 if they fail to make it.

Sports x Parenting: I took the kids to the local high school boys' basketball season-opener. Gabe felt confident that his stomping during opponents' free throws made a difference and Jonah found a community with the student section during its "I! Believe! That! We! Will! Win!" chant. I think we're going to adopt that for the first-grade basketball league next month.

Enjoy your weekend.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

12/05 (Wizards!) Quickie

Confession: I have watched every Wizards game this season (sorry: this whole wretched season), most of the time insisting that Mrs. Quickie watch with me, which is an unreasonable demand in any marriage.

When the Wizards played the Heat last night, I had a conflicting event and had to miss watching the game. But no biggie: Guaranteed huge loss, right? Naturally, the Wizards shocked the Heat -- shocked all of NBA fandom, really -- and I missed it all.

I'm not complaining. I'll take the high-profile W and hope that the team understands what it takes to play at that kind of level every night, not just when playing the defending champs and motivated by the courtside presence of RGIII.


*Jets re-starting Mark Sanchez: Not clear they had a choice. (No, wait: They TOTALLY had a choice. At what point this season did Tim Tebow finally regret his decision to come to NY?)

*Arkansas hires Wisconsin's Bret Bielema: A stunner, in an age where we don't get many on the coaching front. It's an odd fit, but clearly Arkansas backed up the dump truck full of money. If Bielema didn't like Urban Meyer's recruiting tactics in the Big Ten, he's in for a rude reality now that he is in the conference.

*What next at Wisconsin? Former OC Paul Chryst -- who just finished his first year as HC at Pitt -- seems like a logical pick, but I would go outside the box and see if favorite son Darrell Bevell -- currently the O.C. for the Seahawks -- wants the gig.

*Auburn hires (back) Gus Malzahn: Excited to see Auburn's erstwhile offensive coordinator (for the Cam era) get to do whatever he wants at the SEC level.

*CBB: Georgetown thumps Texas: More indicative of UT sucking than G'town being great. But I'm starting to buy into this Hoyas team as one with a floor of the Sweet 16.

*Northwestern stuns Baylor in Waco: The team that lost to Illinois-Chicago at home last weekend beat the team that beat Kentucky in Lexington last weekend. So.

*New Orleans Pelicans: It's quirky and I don't hate it.

*Begets Charlotte Hornets? A welcome reversion.

*Wait, wait: Is the NHL lockout about to end? Here's hoping.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

12/04 (RGIII) Quickie

At this point, one thing is clear: RGIII is the biggest thing in the NFL. And, because he is the biggest thing in the biggest sport, that makes him the biggest thing in sports right now.

He played well -- not great, by any means (although it's not like the Giants' defense makes it easy on QBs), but that was sort of a theme this weekend: From Luck to Wilson to McElroy, the big QB stories in the NFL all played good enough (and certainly, for Luck and Wilson, brilliant in spots).

But the Redskins are suddenly in the playoff picture -- something that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago. They are arguably even in the driver's seat in the NFC East.

RGIII's ability to turn reality from "No!" to "Yes!" is almost... Tebow-ish. And Griffin's popularity -- entirely justified -- is there to affirm it.


SI names LeBron the Sportsman of the Year: An entirely reasonable pick. (Although I'm working on USA TODAY Sports' Year in Review package, and I'm almost certain that our No. 1 athlete of the year will not be LeBron, although it's very possible LeBron will finish No. 2.)

Heisman finalists: Johnny Football, Te'o, Klein. And that's probably how they will finish, notwithstanding my own pick of Te'o for the award. What is a shame is that the Heisman Trust wouldn't extend invites to the players finishing 4th and 5th -- in the case of the Heisman, it IS an honor simply to make the trip to New York.

A-Rod's hip: I'm not sure I get the schadenfreude. For the Yankees, on the hook for $100M for a player who might have trouble even DH'ing? Sure. For A-Rod? I can't muster it.

CBB: Dropping Kentucky from No. 8 to unranked because they lost twice in a week? UK is having some acceleration problems, absolutely, but there are not 25 better teams in the country. (In the end, who cares: All that matters is how Kentucky finishes in late March. To the extent that last week portends falling short of the championship expectations? Yes, very relevant. To the extent that the team could still get it together in time for a six-game run in late March? This week's ranking is entirely irrelevant.)

Tebow being Tebow: Enough said.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 03, 2012

12/03 (Monday) Quickie

That was a tremendous afternoon of football, headlined by startlingly interesting QB play:

*Andrew Luck: Greatest season ever by a rookie QB? Isn't it insane to think that the only reason he wouldn't claim that title is because the other top rookie QB is having a slightly better season? (And that we are coming off of last year, when Cam Newton created a new standard for rookie QBs?)

*Charlie Batch: Coming off last week's debacle, Batch sobbing on the sidelines as the Steelers pulled out the win in Baltimore over the rival Ravens is my new favorite NFL image of the year so far.

*Greg McElroy:  If you thought the Sanchez-Tebow QB controversy was as absurd as it could get, think again. Mark Sanchez was finally benched, but Tim Tebow was unavailable, so they go to the third-stringer -- the articulate game-managing former college champ who has been a bemused non-factor all season long -- and he leads the offense to a TD that Sanchez couldnt'... and the team to a win. And now... what, exactly?

*Russell Wilson: Lost in the Luck-RGIII mania, Wilson is having an arguably more impressive season, given that Luck and RGIII were expected to be NFL stars from the get-go, where Wilson was a 3rd-stringer with potential, but certainly with no one expecting THIS. I am entirely comfortable with "Offensive Rookie of the Year" being a three-way tie between Luck, RGIII and Wilson.

Consider that spectrum of compelling QB storylines -- the No. 1 overall pick leading his team to the playoffs... the ageless back-up pulling off the gob-smacking win on the road... the former 7th-round pick and third-stringer stealing the show from the most popular player in the league... the third-wheel rookie QB pulling off the win of the day for his playoff contender against one of the league's elite teams.

How much more can you ask for?

Tragedy in KC: I appreciate why reporters are trying to show a little nuance in discussing Jovan Belcher, but the reality is that the guy is a murderer -- clearly mentally unstable, although that's not a mitigating factor -- and it is hard (if not impossible) to understand why we would treat him as anything but.

MNF: The must-see "Monday Night" game of the year? Very possibly -- it's RGII, the most must-see player in the NFL right now, against the defending champs, with the Redskins a win away from being very much in the Wild Card discussion (and a loss away from being pretty much out of it).

CFB Bowl lineup set: Alabama-Notre Dame will be the most-watched national-title game of the "media-fragmentation" era. The rest of the bowl lineup? Ehh...

The Fiesta (K-State/Oregon) looks fun and the Rose (Stanford-Wisconsin) looks solid, but the Sugar (Florida-Louisville) is a dud.

The highlight of the whole thing? The unprecedented presence of a MAC team in the BCS -- Northern Illinois -- only partially mitigated by the idea they are playing a fizzling FSU.

(Meanwhile, among the rest, the most notable detail is that Louisiana Tech opted NOT to play in a bowl game -- a bowl game in Louisiana! -- rather than play cross-state rival Louisiana-Monroe.)

Final USA TODAY Sports Coaches Top 25 ballot: Transparency! And so you get to see Vandy's James Franklin pushing Notre Dame down to 4th (approve!) And you get to see Michigan's Brady Hoke pushing Northern Illinois to 25th (behind USC, for whom he was the only coach to rank in the Top 25!) In the end, it is impossible to begrudge the coaches for their various regional biases and odd confederacies and personal sympathies -- the best part is that it is all out there in the open.

Meanwhile, check out my own BlogPoll Top 25 final ballot of the regular season. As I said yesterday: I am fine with Notre Dame vs. Alabama for the national title, but I think ND is not as good -- by resume or eye test -- as three other SEC teams right now. That said: All three of those SEC teams had the chance to win the SEC and get into the national title game, and all fell short.

NBA: Dwight Howard is embarrassed by old Magic mates in Lakers loss to Orlando. The Magic may or may not being going anywhere, but that was pretty close to their NBA Finals Game 7.

(Of course, the only detail that will get coverage will be Kobe telling Pau Gasol to "put his big-boy pants on," and deal with his late-game benching.)

MLB Hot Stove: The best storyline of the day is the rumors swirling that the Nats and Rays might be circling around a deal that would send Tampa workhorse James Shields to the Nats for some of DC's young (controlled) talent.

The most important (but likely overlooked) news of the day is the report that a study of 85 brains of dead football players showed that 68 had signs of CTE.

A Quickie mantra worth repeating: Knowing what we know now -- let alone what we'll know soon -- how in the world would you let your kid play tackle football?

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

12/02 (SEC! SEC!) Quickie

When people joke/boast about the SEC being "grown-[up] football," it is precisely yesterday's game that they are talking about.

I have heard and appreciated that Notre Dame's bona fides include that they are built to resemble a good SEC team -- the difference between "like a good SEC team" and "good SEC team" is what will be on display next month in the national-title game in Miami.

Notre Dame's running game is solid. Alabama's run defense is even more solid. Notre Dame's run defense is stout. Alabama's running game is brutalizing in a way ND has never seen. (And Georgia's running game is just as good.) Brian Kelly is a great coach. Nick Saban is the greatest coach.

I hold the 2008 SEC title game in the highest regard -- it is the greatest moment for Florida football and Tim Tebow -- but yesterday's game was even more exciting, even more of an example of how powerful and punishing the SEC is, a step beyond what everyone else in college football is doing.

I feel (nominally) for Georgia fans, because they had a shot. I don't blame the WR for catching that game-ending pass (it was headed for the end-zone and tipped anyway) as much as I blame UGA coaches for not spiking the ball and settling in for two shots at the game-winning play.

But this is yet another triumph for Nick Saban and Alabama, from the jaw-dropping running game of Lacy and Yeldon to the clutch passing TD to take the lead at the end to the third-quarter two-point conversion that ended up being the difference in the game -- something folks should think about when they are spouting orthodoxies about "taking the points" anytime before the late 4th quarter.

The SEC was on full display. And, as has come to be the norm, the league's 7th straight national title a month from now feels like a post-script.

BCS: I can feel comfortable with the title-game match-up of Alabama and Notre Dame and still not have the Irish ranked in my Top 2 to finish the season. I restore Alabama to No. 1 on the strength of yesterday's win, followed by Florida at No. 2, Texas A&M at No. 3, Georgia at No. 4 and Notre Dame at No. 5.

Other CFB yesterday: Wisconsin, whoa. The Badgers were underrated, but yikes... Kansas State had a season to be proud of (Texas? Not so much)... Why is the ACC faltering? That title game was a pretty good symbol of why... So: Oklahoma vs. Florida in the Sugar Bowl? OK.

RIP Rick Majerus: If I had to pick one person to coach my college roster -- just the coaching part -- I would pick Rick Majerus. For me, he is the ultimate example of someone who coached the hell out of their available talent, always creating winners and foiling opposing coaches. Just imagine if that guy ever had the talent that K has at Duke or Izzo has at Michigan State (or, most relevant, Pitino or Tubby had at Kentucky).

The Jovan Belcher tragedy is almost too horrible to comment on. No one can be inside his head, and so I'm left mourning his murder of his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and the life of their 3-month-old child.

As for the NFL allowing today's Chiefs game to continue -- basically the only part of this story that would-be pundits can comment on -- seems unreasonable, given the circumstances, particularly because neither team is contending for a playoff spot and they could have easily moved the game to Monday without disrupting the schedule. For god's sake: The head coach was standing right next to Belcher when he killed himself.

All that said, enjoy your Sunday.

-- D.S.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

12/01 (CFB Saturday Finale) Quickie

*Alabama in a rout.

*Wisconsin over Nebraska, to face Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

*But let's credit UCLA, which rope-a-doped Stanford over match-ups on consecutive weekends and nearly pulled off the upset.

*I sincerely hope that Coaches and Harris Poll voters put Northern Illinois far enough into the Top 16 to get them eligible for a BCS bowl (something Kent State was all but assured had they won last night).

We'll see how many Big 12 coaches who vote in the Coaches' Poll will tank Northern Illinois in order to try to help ensure Oklahoma gets that at-large BCS spot -- and the money for the conference members that comes with it. I'm betting it will be conspicuous.

*Speaking of Big 12, I think K-State rebounds and KO's Texas.

*Stern fines Spurs $250K: Wow, did this story end up capturing a wide audience, both in and out of sports. Maybe that's because what Popovich did was so reasonable and the NBA's reaction so draconian-seeming. I'm Team Pop all the way -- he made a decision in the best interests of his team trying to win a championship, which is in the best interests of the team's fans. (That the Spurs' motley crew of back-ups nearly toppled the full-strength Heat was only a delightful bonus.)

*Reiterating a point from earlier this week, it is a joke if Bonds and Clemens are not elected to the Hall of Fame -- the writers who have self-appointed themselves to "protect" the Hall are doing more to erode its credibility than anything the players themselves might have done.

Enjoy the final real Saturday of college football this season.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 30, 2012

11/30 (Friday) Quickie

*Can't seem to find anyone particularly enthusiastic about the Falcons as a legit Super Bowl contender, which will either lead to post-hoc "Told you so!" or "Should've known!"

*Losing to Notre Dame doesn't diminish my preseason enthusiasm for Kentucky to repeat. ND was as motivated as they will be this season, and Kentucky is still figuring things out. (FWIW, absolutely hated the "black-out" jerseys, but absolutely loved Manti Te'o in the student section.)

*However! What might diminish my preseason enthusiasm for Kentucky to repeat was watching Florida destroy Marquette last night. I'm as self-critical about the Gators as any hater, but last night displayed why Florida should be on the short list of teams with a legit chance not just to make a Final Four, but to win six straight and take a national title: When Patric Young is on, giving the Gators as bullying of a post presence as exists in college hoops, it activates everything else that is great about this team: The stretch-4 (Murphy), the do-the-little-things swingman (Yeguete), the experienced and shot-jacking backcourt (Boynton and Rosario), the heady PG (Wilbeken) and yet another dangerous 3-point shooter (frosh Frazier). This is a very very good team.

*Louisville wins Big East BCS bowl bid: Hard not to love Teddy Bridgewater. And there isn't a hotter head-coaching commodity than Charlie Strong, who would be best-served to skip the mediocre jobs open this winter and wait for next year, pairing with Bridgewater for a run at unbeaten in '13.

*Must-see game of the night: Kent State vs. Northern Illinois, with the winner potentially (likely?) earning a BCS bowl bid, which would be amazing. MACtion!

*Spurs sit 4 starters: I have absolutely no problem with Gregg Popovich giving Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green a rest at the end of a tough road trip ending in Miami. (Sending them home? Kind of a dick move, but certainly reasonable under the circumstances -- it is self-defeating to "rest" them but have them sit on the bench. I like that he doesn't care what anyone thinks.) What made it all the more awesome was that the short-handed Spurs nearly beat the full-strength Heat -- the game was way more interesting under the Pop-changed circumstances than if everyone played.

*MLB Hot Stove: The Mets are keeping franchise player David Wright for the long-term. He has been and remains the face of the franchise in the post-Piazza era of mediocrity. He will eventually have his number retired by the team -- but is going to have a ton of trouble leading the troubled team to success in the standings.

*More: Nats trade for Denard Span. Near-universal approval for this move -- the kind of thing a contender does to get stronger. Span is great defensively and gets on base effectively, making him a solid lead-off option. The Nats had been looking for a CF for more than a year, and they got a solid option at a reasonable price and without log-jamming the position for up-and-coming prospect Brian Goodwin. This is potentially the position-player equivalent of trading for Gio Gonzalez -- use the stockpile of prospects to help the team win now.

*NFL Week 13 Storylines I Like:
*Good luck to all battling for fantasy-playoff positioning!
Meanwhile, it's not too early for "real" playoff positioning:
*Must-win for Seahawks in Chicago?
*Must-win for the Bucs in Denver?
*Must-win for the Bengals in San Diego?
*Game of the Week: Wait til Monday -- Skins-Giants.

*CFB Saturday -- the final weekend of the season, which is depressing to think about. At least we've got a national semifinal -- Alabama-Georgia winner goes to the BCS title game. The pick is Alabama, in a rout. (There are other BCS bowl bids on the line: Nebraska-Wisconsin for the Big Ten side of the Rose Bowl. I keep thinking I should take Nebraska, but Wisconsin always seems to win these games. Also: Is anyone outside of FSU not excited about the idea of 7-6 Georgia Tech representing the ACC in the Orange Bowl? Imagine Georgia Tech vs. Kent State in the Orange Bowl. Wow.

Enjoy the college football. Enjoy the NFL weekend. More on both weekend mornings.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

11/29 (Thursday) Quickie

NFL vs. Adderall: Like "greenies" two generations ago, let's try to calculate how many pro athletes use/abuse Adderall: 33%? 50%? 75% More? I would always err on the side of "more."

Duke hoops rolls on: I'll admit I was a preseason doubter, but they have the best resume of any team in the country right now.

NFL tonight: Saints-Falcons, which is probably the best Thursday night NFL game you'll get this year. The Saints are in must-win mode if they want even a remote shot at the playoffs; the Falcons need to win to maintain their grip on home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

NBA: I don't think anyone expected James Harden to win in his OKC homecoming, but that's not the point. The point is that he is thriving as an alpha in Houston and Durant, Westbrook and Co. seem to be doing just fine without him. Good for everyone.

New Rivalry: Celtics-Nets? Kind of love that. And love that the Nets aren't taking guff from anyone, least of all the wannabe-bullies from Boston.

CFB Jobs: The day after rumors leak of a huge Auburn offer to Les Miles, he gets a huge extension from LSU. Well played, Mad Hatter.

College football's game of the week? Bama-Georgia for a spot on the national title game, yes, but don't sleep on Kent State vs. Northern Illinois, where the winner could/should end up in a BCS bowl game.

MLB Hot Stove: Did the Braves overpay for BJ Upton? Probably. But he is a second-tier (potentially top-tier) talent in CF and makes Atlanta's lineup better. They needed to overpay, because when they look at the Nationals above them in the NL East standings, they know they have to upgrade offensively.

Wizards win! (Wizards win?!) Wizards win!

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11/28 (Wednesday) Quickie

If I had a Baseball Hall of Fame vote...
Barry Bonds? In. Roger Clemens? In. Sammy Sosa? In.

The more likely scenario? Renegade voters punishing each on their first time on the ballot by withholding support -- for now, maybe forever.*

* - "Forever" defined as "Until enough voters qualify to override the old-school sensibility."

The Baseball Hall's biggest problem isn't letting in would-be cheaters -- there are plenty of those already in the Hall (particularly if you think use of now-banned amphetamines, a staple of baseball from its origins until the moment they were banned a few years ago, should qualify).

The Baseball Hall's biggest problem is that the BBWAA voters responsible for the shrine -- the fans' shrine -- have taken personal moralizing to an absurd place.

Barry Bonds is one of the five greatest hitters in MLB history.
Roger Clemens is one of the five greatest pitchers in MLB history.

It erodes the Hall more to conspicuously not include them than it does to include them with notations on their plaques about the PED controversy that ended up defining their stellar careers.


PED, cont'd: Adderall is the new greenie. Is it so hard to find a doctor to give you a prescription for your "ADD?" That's what most of the league (NFL and MLB) does.

College Hoops: Indiana re-affirms their bonafides by crushing UNC, a team that has spent November proving that preseason hype is meaningless. Meanwhile, I'm intrigued by Michigan -- I'm typically down on Big Ten teams (with a possible exception of Michigan State in March), but they are fiesty. Can't wait for those Indiana-Michigan games later this season.

Conference realignment: ACC adding Louisville. The Cardinals would instantly become the second-best (best?) football team in the league and the second-best basketball team (consider Rick Pitino vs. Coach K at least twice a year). It's a solid add for the ACC -- and another tough loss for the Big East.

NBA: Kobe 40. As he has aged, Kobe has become one of my favorite players. His 40 last night (while battling a cold) was classic Bryant... but I can still enjoy the schadenfreude of the Laker-hater watching them lose to the Pacers at the buzzer.

NFL: Jason Babin will be an integral part -- possibly postseason MVP -- of whichever contender picks him up. Consider that a prediction.

Heisman: Yes, I'd vote for Te'o. No, I'm not happy that I'm with Skip Bayless on this one.

CFB Jobs: Just because Auburn offers Les Miles a job doesn't mean he will take it. I would be shocked if he left an incredible gig at LSU for an iffy one elsewhere in the SEC West.

Meanwhile, Bill O'Brien is staying at Penn State: Let's add the obligatory "...for now." I'll take the under on him fulfilling the duration of his contract -- at some point, he'll do well enough that an NFL team will come calling and he will leave the rebuilding at PSU to someone else. (To his credit, he did a pretty good job in Year 1.)

Suh vs. the NFL: Did he mean to kick Matt Schaub? The league says it's tough to know his "intent," and watching the video it might -- might -- have simply been an accident. Don't get me wrong: Suh clearly meant to kick Schaub somewhere -- it's just not clear he meant to go there. Based on his track record, Suh shouldn't get the benefit of the doubt.

RIP Marvin Miller: One of the Top 10 (Top 5?) most influential people in sports over the past century. Let me join everyone else: That he never made the Baseball Hall of Fame is a stain on the Hall's legacy that will never be fixed, even if they let him in posthumously. Where was the BBWAA morality police on that? Miller enjoyed a meaningful life -- not much more you can ask for.

And also a sad RIP to ESPN's John Zehr, a fixture among the company's digital leadership for a long time and one of the architects of ESPN's digital strategies, particularly mobile. He was also a great person and someone beloved by his colleagues. Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

11/27 (Newtonian Physics) Quickie

Now THAT is the Cam Newton we all thought we'd see this season.

Nevermind that it came at the expense of the hapless Eagles -- Andy Reid is as lame-duck as it gets -- but it was a reminder of what made him captivate us in the first place.

Meanwhile, two words: Bryce Brown. Really: Who needs to play college football in a meaningful way?

Nets top Knicks: Let's be honest -- the whole "Brooklyn" thing has worked out pretty well so far. And if cachet mattered -- and in New York City, it most certainly does -- the Nets have the edge, all the more remarkable because the Knicks are having a terrific season so far.

 More NBA: My 6-year-old son's favorite NBA player is Russell Westbrook -- he'll be mimicking that Westbrook dunk and waddle from last night for the next few months.

Johnny Football speaks: I'm torn -- I love this kid, I love what he did with A&M's offense this year and I love the novelty of a redshirt freshman winning the Heisman (although he's the same year in college as Tim Tebow when he won the Heisman as a "true" sophomore in his first year of starting).

But if I had a vote, I would give it to Manti Te'o, the exceptional Notre Dame linebacker. If ND's resurgence has been the story of the season -- and the D has been the story of ND's resurgence -- then Te'o is the face of it.

Let's be honest: Manziel has a lock on the Heisman next season (if "lock" is the same way we felt about Andrew Luck's "Heisman lock" in 2011 and Matt Barkley's "Heisman lock" in 2012.)

MLB Hot Stove: Rays lock up Evan Longoria. He took a bit of a haircut; the team took a bit of a risk. In the end, it's a smart move for both sides, and Longoria should anchor the Rays as an AL playoff contender for a decade. He will go into the Hall of Fame in a Rays cap.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 26, 2012

11/26 (Monday) Quickie

Coming out of the weekend, there are two divergent takes on the dominant topic:

Notre Dame? Ugh.
Notre Dame? Nice!

I would say there is a third way, otherwise known as "How I Learned To Stop Resenting Notre Dame And Begrudgingly Embrace Their Spot In The National Title Game."

Naturally, the rationalization came by way of my native feeling of SEC exceptionalism. In the end, this ND team is built like a great SEC team -- exceptionally stingy D, punishing run-based offense.

Do I think that Notre Dame will lose to Alabama (or, I suppose, Georgia)? Yes, absolutely. This isn't 2002 Ohio State against 2002 Miami, although that is probably the right comp if you like ND.

And yet: Do I think that the team acquits itself well among the recent wannabes who turn out to fold in the face of SEC reality? Yes, absolutely. This isn't Ohio State '06 or Oklahoma '08 or Texas '09.

Let's go back to college football's most fundamental piece of exceptionalism: The sport is better with a nationally competitive Notre Dame.

More power to 'em.


*NFL Team of the Week: NY Giants, who reminded us that they are every bit the Super Bowl contender they were last year -- maybe even more so this year.

(Meanwhile: At some point, the close calls will catch up to Atlanta, and here's betting it happens in the playoffs.)

*NFL Player of the Week: Colin Kaepernick. Is it Kap? Is it Harbaugh's system? Is it simply that ridiculous 49ers D? Who cares -- love this story and love the energy of the soph QB.

*NFL Tonight: Panthers-Eagles. In a lost season for Carolina (and a VERY lost season for Philly), is it too much to ask for Cam Newton to put on a show on national TV?

*NFL Would-Be Controversy: Peyton's head. That the Broncos' (and NFL's?) concussion "test" works right up until it impacts a big star like Peyton Manning, who shrugged it off -- and kept playing.

*CFB, Cont'd: The best story in the sport is that Kent State is on the verge of stealing a BCS bowl slot for the non-BCS leagues, both because KSU is a win over Northern Illinois (itself no slouch) from cracking the Top 16 and because the Big East and ACC are a shambles. And you wonder why the momentum is toward four super-conferences....  (Still: Kent State. Amazing.)

*NBA: Knicks-Nets in their long-awaited Battle for New York. The Knicks are playing well. The Nets are playing better than expected (and quite well in their new home). The game means nothing, and yet -- in a fashion worthy of the city -- it apparently means everything.

*College Hoops: Cal Poly beats UCLA, and that is about as good as it gets for mid-major fans (and people who enjoy UCLA schadenfreude). Hard to believe that a team with the Bruins' talent can't get it together.

*Jobs: Chizik out at Auburn, leading a bevy of open jobs including Arkansas, Tennessee, Colorado, Cal, NC State, Boston College -- hell, even Kentucky is a halfway-decent gig. And that doesn't even consider Oregon if Chip Kelly goes to the NFL. Or the carousel effect if/when Charlie Strong leaves Louisville. You're picking your landing spot if you're Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech. Or Alabama assistant Kirby Smart. Feels like there aren't enough good coaches to fill the good spots.

*Fireman Ed quits: Meh. What kind of super-fan bails on a team during its nadir? I appreciate that he is getting into problems with some jerky fans and he just doesn't think it's worth it anymore. But stick it out -- or at least pass it on to an heir.

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

11/25 (Notre Dame) Quickie

Here is the reality: Back in August, if you told me that Florida would finish the season playing in the Sugar Bowl with the chance to finish No. 2 in the country, I would have gladly accepted the terms.

Here is more reality: College football is infinitely better with a nationally competitive Notre Dame.

Here is even more reality: Notre Dame SEEMS good, but it is hard to tell -- their schedule is better than the haters like to admit but not nearly as good as its fans like to think.

Here is one more reality: Under the parameters of the current system, it is entirely fair that Notre Dame plays for the national title (even at the expense of my Gators, with an arguably better resume).

Here is one final reality: Folks like to say that Notre Dame is constructed like a championship SEC team -- we will see just how far that facsimile is from reality on January 7 in Miami.

I think the best five teams in the country are -- in some order or another -- Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M.

I think the default of putting the unbeaten team at No. 1 is kind of absurd, although the SEC has gotten pretty good at exposing that every January.

I don't think ND is better than any of the four SEC teams I listed above. But they have earned the chance to test that thesis against the most reasonable thing we have to a "best of the SEC."

(For what it's worth, I think Ohio State is the worst example of "But if they're unbeaten, they HAVE to be good!" This is a team that probably couldn't beat any team in the Top 10, let alone Top 2.)

For this week's ranking, I'm going to go with (1) Texas A&M, (2) Alabama, (3) Florida, (4) Georgia, (5) Notre Dame, (6) Stanford, (7) Oregon, (8) South Carolina, (9) Kansas State, (10) Ohio State.

Here's where it gets awkward: A&M is playing better than anyone right now, with the single-best win of the season. But Florida beat A&M head-to-head (at A&M!) and has the best resume of big wins in the country. But Alabama just seems better than Florida, and Georgia beat Florida head-to-head (if carrying very little margin for error). ND is unbeaten but built on a bunch of mediocre "bowl-eligible" teams (except for Stanford, in a game that ND coulda/shoulda/woulda lost).

In the end, Notre Dame gets its shot. Alabama and Georgia get their shot. A&M had its shot and couldn't take down either Florida or LSU -- it only would have taken one. Florida had its shot and couldn't take down Georgia (and needed to rely on flaky Lane Kiffin to fix things).

If Notre Dame can beat the SEC's best, they will have truly earned the title. If they fall short, it's nothing that seemingly strong teams for the past 6 seasons haven't equally failed to do.

In the end, the season may included a 7th straight SEC national title, but the season revolved/revolves around the revival of Notre Dame.

You can feel begrudgingly about it, but you must still acknowledge it.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 23, 2012

11/23 (Awesome Friday) Quickie

RGIII for MVP. Not much more to say about that. What a performance on a Thanksgiving afternoon where everyone is either watching... or following/hearing about his second quarter via Twitter/Facebook during dinner and rushing to the TV for the second half, right after dinner. Ahem.

The Jets are awful: Whether Tebow had broken ribs that made him unplayable or not. That play where Sanchez ran into his center's butt, fumbled and the Pats returned it for a TD couldn't have been more symbolic of the Jets this season.

Texans edge Lions: I absolutely hate that rule where a coach who throws the challenge flag prematurely on an automatically reviewable play disqualifies that play from review.

TCU beats Texas: Let's be clear -- Texas is the third-best team in Texas this season, by a wide margin. Couldn't be higher on the long-term upside of the Horned Frogs (AND Texas A&M). Hell, both might start/end in the Top 5 next season. (Texas? Not so much.)

CFB Today: Some fun rivalry games, plus a less-than-merciful finish on Arkansas' Worst Year Ever, along with a coronation of Nebraska as the Leaders (Legends?) division champ in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State is one of the best rivalries in college football -- if only Wazzu was up to it this season.

College Hoops: Duke-VCU headlines some really great games today (7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). Another good one: Kansas State vs. Michigan from MSG at 4:30. And if you have a limitless appetite, try Creighton-Wisconsin at 10 p.m. on ESPN. Great challenge for Doug McDermott and Co.

You shopping today? If so, best of luck with the crowds.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

11/21 (Thankful) Quickie

Sorry to cut in: 138 points by Grinnell's Jack Taylor. Mind-boggling. Back to it....

A year doesn't go by when I'm not extraordinarily thankful for what I have -- this year particularly so:

*My happy, healthy baby daughter Lucy delivered by her amazing super-mom.

*Taking Quickish and joining the phenomenal team at USA TODAY Sports Media Group.

*Resuming my adjunct career in teaching down here in D.C. at Georgetown.

*Health, happiness and the growth of a network of people I care about.

As it relates to this blog, the biggest thanks goes to you for continuing to stick with me. Your interest is what keeps me going every morning, and I sincerely appreciate it.

Now, a few sports-related things I am thankful for from 2012:
*Tim Tebow's game-winning TD pass in the playoffs.
*The moment my Wizards drafted Bradley Beal.
*Florida football restoring my "win or fail" expectations.
*Florida basketball turning March into a thrill ride... again.
*The Nationals making me a die-hard baseball fan again.
*My two boys turning into crazy sports fans.

Here's to a great year ahead and a reminder to be thankful for everything you have.


*Grinnell's Jack Taylor and "138": It is baffling. Baffling that he would shoot that much. Baffling that his coach would encourage it. Baffling that he actually was pretty efficient. Baffling that little Grinnell could co-opt sports on a day where Indiana and Georgetown played a thrilling college hoops game, Notre Dame made the cover of SI and Mike D'Antoni made his debut for the Lakers.

*College Hoops: As I tweeted last night, the Indiana-Georgetown game was as good as you'll get for college basketball in November. The big takeaway: The Hoosiers aren't so great that it isn't obvious this season is as wide open as it has been in years. And Otto Porter (or possibly Jordan Hulls) -- and not Cody Zeller -- was the best player on the floor.

*Mike D'Antoni's debut: All that matters is what this team is doing in June. Here's hoping the Lakers are entertaining to watch in the 80-odd games until then, but they are a "bottom line" team this year.

*Rutgers joins the Big Ten: My friends at made this point yesterday, and it's spot-on: Rutgers should immediately market to Michigan alums in the NYC area, offering them guaranteed seats to the Rutgers-Michigan game in 2014 if they buy season tickets for 2013 right now.

*College Football: Matt Barkley's backup -- the one who will start for USC at QB against Notre Dame on Saturday -- predicts a Trojans upset. (What: Like you expected him to say "Nah, we're going to roll over.") Good for him. The more mind-games played with the Irish, the better chance USC has of actually fulfilling the upset potential.

If you aren't checking out the blog before the weekend, I think USC will beat Notre Dame on Saturday night, throwing the BCS situation into chaos, because Florida State is going to beat Florida in Tallahassee on Saturday afternoon, opening the door for 1-loss Oregon to get back into the national-title game against the Alabama-Georgia winner (who are we kidding: Alabama).

Meanwhile, I think Michigan ruins Ohio State's unbeaten season in Columbus; TCU upsets Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving; and Oregon takes out its frustrations on Oregon State in the Civil War. It is a GREAT weekend of college football.

*More College Hoops: Was UNC overrated or Butler underrated? Both, obviously. But it is so easy to climb back on the Butler bandwagon. (Your tusch imprint on the seat is probably still there from 2011.) Meanwhile, what the hell happened to Villanova?

*Jobs: Cal fires Jeff Tedford. He'll hook on somewhere -- he could be a head coach for a third-tier BCS-conference team or bide his time as an offensive coordinator, perhaps even in the NFL. I was shocked to see Bruce Feldman say that Cal is one of two jobs that Boise State's Chris Petersen would consider -- between the dominance of Oregon and the establishment of Stanford and what Steve Sarkisian is building at Washington and the wild card of Mike Leach at Wazzu, the Pac-12 North is turning into a tough place to win consistently. (And that doesn't even count rising teams in the South like UCLA, USC and Arizona.)

*Stat of the Morning: The Knicks are 8-1 for the first time in 40 years? Wow.

Enjoy your day -- and Thanksgiving prep. Updates all (long) weekend.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

11/20 (Bigger Ten) Quickie

Now, remember: I'm a Northwestern alum and I grew up very close to Maryland (including a strong rooting interest in Maryland hoops), so I appreciate all sides here.

But the reality is that it is a GREAT move for Maryland (and, arguably, even more for Rutgers), and -- yes -- it is entirely about the money.

Maryland athletics is in terrible shape financially. Joining the Big Ten and its ATM of a cable network will help immeasurably.

From the Big Ten's standpoint, expanding the footprint is mandatory in a "super-conference" world, and it is most ideal to do it in big markets like DC and NYC.

I have no patience for people griping "What about the tradition!?" Those people don't have to finance college athletics. You can lament the end of the Maryland-Duke rivalry while agreeing the move makes sense.

As many have suggested, it is likely the Big Ten isn't done yet. The ideal form isn't 14 -- it's 16. And UNC is the prime target for the league, unless the SEC wises up and nabs them first.

And once the Big Ten is up to 15 -- and presuming the ACC loses a standard-bearer like Florida State to a less-desperate league like the Big 12 -- ACC newcomer Notre Dame may re-think its opposition to joining the B1G.

And if ND isn't interested, I could see the Big Ten going for UVA (great academics, irrelevant media market) or Georgia Tech (great academics, terrific media market) or even Syracuse (great academics, even more of a NYC media influence than Rutgers).

When you acknowledge that the moves are all about money, they make sense.


*49ers find a QB: Alex Smith is solid, but Colin Kaepernick has the potential to be a star. Jim Harbaugh suddenly has a QB controversy, which qualifies as a "quality problem."

*Shabazz Muhammad's UCLA debut: Solid, with plenty of room for upside. But the real revelation is that Georgetown is much better than they were getting credit for (and Otto Porter is a star).

*David Beckham leaving LA Galaxy: By all accounts, his MLS career was a success, if not exactly something that propelled the league into the top tier. But it definitely helped.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 19, 2012

11/19 (Very) Quickie

What to make of NFL Week 11? What stood out to me was that this was a week where teams that are seemingly hopeless gave fans hope.

The prime illustration is the Jaguars, who took mighty Houston to OT... and might have finally proven the Gabbert experiment isn't worth pursuing any further.

No, Jacksonville didn't win, but no one thought they were going to win. This was as close to a moral victory as you'll get in the NFL.


*Gronk out with broken arm: Yikes for Pats fans.
*RGIII mania: He was better than ever yesterday.
*Eagles Watch: Is it even a good gig to want?
*Cowboys win: "At least we're .500" is a good season?
*Player of the Week: If not Chad Henne, his opposite number Matt Schaub.
*BCS: Notre Dame-Alabama? Tide by 3 TDs.
*Tennessee fires Derek Dooley: Again, is it even a good gig to want?
*Barkley out vs. ND: Will make Irish getting Kiffin'ed even more epic.
*Kobe triple-double in W: And D'Antoni hasn't even started yet!
*Speaking of triple-doubles: Kevin Durant is so amazing.
*Terps to B1G: If you're a MD regent, do you vote to join Big Ten? Hell yes.*
*Finally, who can't get behind populist new NASCAR king Brad Keselewski?

-- D.S.

* - Yes, as with Syracuse and the Big East, let's lament the end of Maryland's storied ACC basketball legacy, but this is all about football.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

11/18 (Oregon! K-State! What???) Quickie

Good god, that's why we love college football. Nights like Saturday, where presumptions are obliterated.

Like: "Kansas State is too solid to lose a trap game at Baylor." They were decimated.

Like: "Well, even if: Oregon will never lose at home to Stanford." They were neutered.

And we are left with a world where Notre Dame is No. 1 -- but needing a win over arch-rival USC next Saturday night to play for the national title. A loss and they're out.

Meanwhile, all of a sudden, the Alabama-Georgia winner of the SEC title game (presumably Alabama) is into the national-title game.

Yes, one week after Alabama and the SEC were both presumed "done."

And I would cackle at the notion that we are a Notre Dame loss to USC and a Florida win over Florida State from Florida playing the Alabama-Georgia winner in the national-title game...

...Except (a) Notre Dame is winning and (b) Florida definitely is losing in Tallahassee to an FSU team motivated by the self-loathing of knowing they missed a shot at the national title game by losing to NC State AND denying their biggest rival a claim.

The thing is: This happens in college football ALL THE TIME. This isn't an exception. It is what affirms college football's regular season as the greatest in all of sports.

And why every Saturday in the fall is booked, noon to midnight. The most incredible things happen.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 16, 2012

11/16 (Friday) Quickie

I'm no fan of Notre Dame, although I acknowledge that college football is better when Notre Dame is competitive.

I love Chip Kelly and what he has done at Oregon (equal parts the offense and the marketing), but -- again -- I find it hard to root for the Ducks.

I am intrigued by Kansas State, but had a hard time actually rooting for them. Then I read the lead WSJ story on them today and it finally clicked for me:

Kansas State is the ultimate evolution of my beloved 1995 Northwestern Wildcats: Not flashy, just solidly effective in all phases.

(It doesn't hurt that of all the teams in the country, only Kansas State fans might lay claim to Northwestern's title of "most historically mocked college football program.")

And so that clarifies things for me, at least as it relates to picking among college football's Big Three: I'm riding with K-State, because they remind me of my favorite team of all time.


MLB: Cabrera tops Trout for AL MVP, as expected -- although it is kind of remarkable how overwhelming Cabrera's win was, almost like the BBWAA voters making a political statement about "those confounding stat-heads and their WARs." Isn't the real problem that we have allowed the BBWAA to "own" the "official" MLB awards?

Buster Posey wins NL MVP: Bet that's not his last.

CFB Weekend: Is it a trap game for Kansas State at Baylor? Yes. Is it a trap game for Oregon hosting Stanford? Not really. Is it a trap game for Notre Dame hosting Wake? No.

CFB Game of the Week: USC-UCLA for the Pac-12 South title? Eh. Does it really matter? The winner gets destroyed by Oregon anyway.

NFL: Anyone else think it's weird that recaps of the Bills' win over the Dolphins last night includes the idea that Miami was some kind of playoff contender? They were/are not.

NBA: With a win over the Spurs, is it finally time to take the (unbeaten!) Knicks seriously? No. The Knicks are fun when they are winning, but that's not the same as being a contender.

NASCAR: Brad Keselowski is your name to know. Barring a huge upset, he is going to be the Chase champ.

MLB Hot Stove: You don't really think that Bud Selig will pull a David Stern and revoke the Marlins' trade, do you? He already framed it as a reasonable baseball deal.

NHL: "Taking a break?" That's a euphemism for "If we don't get serious, the season is over."

Personal: Three months from today, I will turn 40. Anyone ever done P90X? I'm intrigued by the idea of spending the next 90 days whipping myself into some semblance of shape.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

11/15 (Dickey) Quickie

RA Dickey is my favorite baseball story of the past decade -- and it's very possible that he is my favorite baseball story of all time.

It is hard to find something more compelling: The first knuckleball Cy winner. He's 38. As recently as two seasons ago, he was a cast-off (but was also a former 1st-round pick!) He went through enormous personal travails and came through it with the most thoughtful perspective of any athlete in sports.

You can admire him, sit and watch him in awe, cheer away -- the whole thing. I can't understand anyone who wouldn't root for him.

It is the most remarkable Cy Young victory -- probably MLB Award win, period -- in baseball history. Dickey is probably the most accessible athlete in sports -- the most easily relatable.

The award was a foregone conclusion. His season was not -- and it is one we will remember for a long time.


*MLB MVP Awards: I'm all-in on Team Trout (over Team Cabrera). Cabrera is going to win MVP, and it's not like there haven't been absurd MLB award oversights in the past. It's just that you felt that with the increased influence of helpful "advanced" statistics, we wouldn't have such glaring problems anymore. Not giving Trout the MVP qualifies as glaring.

*Not everyone on the Jets hates Tim Tebow -- Shonn Greene is OK with trying something new at QB. (Ryan and Tanenbaum should be, too.)

*Clippers beat the Heat, decisively: It's a long (long, long) way from the first few weeks of the season until June. But qualify the Clips as a contender in the West with a ceiling of, say, getting to the conference finals.

*Magic isn't a fan of Jim Buss or the D'Antoni hiring: Eh. And?

*College Hoops: Florida clobbers Wisconsin. I'm a huge Florida basketball fan, but I am also very critical (self-critical?) of the team. And I found nothing not to love about what happened last night. All it did was affirm that the ceiling for this team is the Final Four, with the floor as a third straight trip to the Elite Eight. Erik Murphy is a match-up nightmare -- a stretch 4 who has the skills to work inside, too.

*The ACC and Orange Bowl's 12-year deal is only interesting for the reality of Notre Dame becoming a permanent resident in the Orange Bowl every year.

*If I'm Shabazz Muhammad, I'm dropping out of UCLA and working exclusively on getting ready for the NBA. He is a Top 3 lock for next year's draft -- why sweat playing 20 games at UCLA for an NCAA system intent on exploiting him?

*Really enjoying ESPN the Mag's "One Day, One Game" issue, even if Alabama's loss to A&M last week took a bit of the oomph out of it.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11/14 (Marlins) Quickie

I have historically been largely supportive of the Marlins' strategy -- if you win two World Series titles, you can sort of do what you want.

However! The team crossed a line when it bilked Floridians for the money to pay for a new stadium, then dismantled the team last night.

Marlins fans have a right to be pissed. I'm not sure other fans around the country have as much of a right to gripe, but the stadium thing shocks the conscience.

Meanwhile: The Jays are very much a contender. The balance of power is so imbalanced toward the AL East -- the comparisons to the SEC are apt.

Consequently, it is time for MLB to seriously consider eliminating divisions, balancing the schedule and giving five playoff spots to the top five finishers in each league.

Duke beats Kentucky: Calipari is right -- Duke is a bunch of floppers. The only disappointment was the way he backed off his halftime accusation after the game was over.

MLB Awards: I vote for Verlander and Dickey for Cy.

(Meanwhile, Davey Johnson was an obvious pick. I would have liked to see a tie in the AL between Melvin and Showalter, but it's hard to knock the Melvin pick.)

NFL/Tebow: So the team -- or at least some portion of the team -- hates him so much that they're leaking to the media how much they hate him? I think they don't hate Tebow -- I think they hate the circus, which is more of a problem with the media than Tebow himself. By all accounts, he is a great teammate.

But it confirms two things: (1) Rex Ryan's inability to incorporate Tebow innovatively into the offense has turned into a major problem, and (2) the fundamental mistake the Jets (and Tebow, too) made in bringing him over. I think Tebow thought the Jets would use him more, not just make him serve as Woody Johnson's real-life toy collectible. Is there anyone who doesn't think that Tebow (and the Jets) would be so much better off if he was in Jacksonville?

-- D.S.

Monday, November 12, 2012

11/12 (Monday) Quickie

*Lakers hire Mike D'Antoni: Phil seemed like a lock, so this was a surprise. Still: I find D'Antoni way more intriguing than Jackson. Let's rev up Showtime 2.0.

*NFL Week 10: The Giants results is just a reminder that we know nothing... I'm going to keep saying "Don't put too much stock in the latest Texans win" right up until they win the Super Bowl, aren't I?... That has to be all for Mike Vick in Philly (Andy Reid, too), but does anyone really think Nick Foles is the answer?... Think there were a lot of formally acknowledged concussions yesterday (most notably: Vick, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Fred Jackson) -- now imagine how many there really are.

*BCS: No problem with K-State and Oregon as your 1-2 teams. (Sorry, ND: A distant third in the nominally reliable "eye test.") The reality is that even with a loss, Alabama would beat any of them, and don't think SEC execs aren't ticked that a dynastic championship run (not to mention domination of the BCS Top 10) by the conference carries no weight relative to "and-oh" records.

-- D.S.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

11/11 (Johnny Football) Quickie

You know a player is electrifying when it is obvious to a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old. That was Johnny Manziel -- "Johnny Football" -- with my kids on Saturday afternoon.

I have absolutely no problem installing Manziel as the Heisman front-runner ahead of K-State's Klein (even if he leads the team to an undefeated season) or Oregon's Barber or Notre Dame's Te'o.

That was the most impressive win I have seen since Cam Newton's Auburn came back from being down a ton to beat Alabama two years ago.

Newton was also a first-year starter (and one-year wonder), but the insane part is that Manziel still has next year, and even after he becomes NFL-eligible, two years of college after that if he wants.

If Texas A&M can head into Tuscaloosa and beat No. 1 Alabama in the Aggies' first year in the SEC, imagine what happens after Kevin Sumlin finishes a few recruiting cycles.

Anyway, I said this on Twitter last night and I believe it: I have no problem reserving one of the two BCS title-game slots for an SEC team, and I have no problem giving that slot to the 2-loss runner-up of the SEC West.

No team has had a better win this season -- and it's not even close (the top contender up until today was probably K-State winning at Oklahoma).

No team has a better star player. No team has a more impressive balance of slick offense and stout defense.

And it is hard to find a team that has played a tougher schedule. (Which is why I'll overlook the two losses -- if Oregon or K-State or ND played A&M's schedule, they would have more than two losses.)

This was the signature moment of the college football season -- the defending champ knocked out by the spunky up-and-comer. It is why college football is the best.


As for the situation with the BCS, it's pretty simple: If Kansas State and Oregon win out, they will meet for the national title, no matter what Notre Dame does.

If either K-State or Oregon lose -- unlikely, but stranger things have happened (and fairly frequently at that) -- ND moves into the slot provided it doesn't lose, either.

If two of the three lose a game, 1-loss Alabama moves back into the title game, provided it doesn't lose again -- it won't -- and it will steamroll that non-SEC team.

I am inclined to give the SEC champ the benefit of the doubt -- just because a team is undefeated shouldn't automatically mean it is better than a 1-loss team.

That said: It's hard to watch Alabama the past two weeks and not think that both Kansas State and Oregon would give them at least as tough of a game as A&M.

Then again, that is the same kind of logic that ends up getting debunked every...single...year... in the BCS title game.


*Florida didn't deserve to win that game. They deserved to get humiliated by Louisiana-Lafayette, who -- for their part -- deserved to have that "once in a lifetime" moment for a program on the fringes.

THAT SAID: Holy smokes. They came through when it mattered. With that last minute drive and then one of the most improbable plays I have ever seen -- what was essentially a walk-off blocked-punt TD. After 58 minutes of hating this game plus the Northwestern debacle ending -- see below -- it was a day-maker. Luchiez Purifoy, I will never mock you again for wearing the sanctified No. 15 jersey.

*The Northwestern loss to Michigan -- and, make no mistake, it was a Northwestern loss, not a Michigan win -- was the most disheartening of my 20 years of being a fan.

This team is three chokes from being 10-0, and that's not just "oh, if some crazy combination of things happened, we would have won." That's "the game was won, the team couldn't execute down the stretch... again."

It is baffling. It is maddening. And it should be intolerable to any fan of a program that takes itself remotely seriously.

I cannot for the life of me understand why Pat Fitzgerald is such a brutal in-game tactician when things get to the fourth quarter. I cannot understand why he can't produce a competent defense (or employ a competent defensive coordinator).

But a 7- or 8-win season when a 9- or 10- (or 11-) win season -- a spot in the first Big Ten title game was there for the taking -- was absolutely attainable is unacceptable.

I'm going to make myself feel better by watching highlights of Johnny Football.

-- D.S.