Last night's NFL game was a preview of the dominant storyline of the upcoming weekend:
NFL refs being showered with affection by fans in every stadium they enter.
The support may be short-lived, but the image is powerful -- I can't remember the last time I saw refs so glowingly cheered (and responding).
I'm sure it made the refs feel good. I'm sure it made the fans feel good. I'm sure it made players and coaches feel good.
And I'm sure it made the NFL feel good that Monday's "Fail Mary" is all but forgotten, a distant memory of "that time we had those replacement refs."
There will be plenty of iffy calls on Sunday -- there always are. But appreciate the momentary and mutual cheerfulness between fans, refs, players and league.
*Stanford loses to Washington: So Stanford isn't as good as we thought (and USC really isn't as good as we thought) and another would-be BCS crasher is out (not that Stanford was getting by Oregon in the Pac-12 anyway). Is this a harbinger of odd outcomes this weekend or did we get the notable result out of the way already?
*CFB Picks: I'll take all ranked (or higher-ranked) teams to win, except I'll take Arizona at home over Oregon State. I'm not picking Texas to lose at Oklahoma State, but -- in a lame hedge -- it wouldn't surprise me. Oh, and I'll take Ohio State over Michigan State -- Urban Meyer is great at beating tertiary rivals (in addition to beating primary and secondary ones regularly, too).
*Ravens beat Browns: Zzz. I mean, we all saw this coming, and I guess that if you're a Browns fan, you're happy you were at least competitive? Then consider that Baltimore was playing its 4th game in 18 days. Anyway, another win for the Ravens and a little hope for the Browns.
*RA Dickey wins 20th: The best player story in baseball this season -- perhaps the best player story in all of sports in 2012. It's going to end with a Cy Young Award for the knuckleballer, and even a Nats fan who loves Gio Gonzalez can agree with that.
*NHL cancels rest of preseason: You knew it was coming. I think they return to work by the time we get to the Winter Classic -- if they were smart, they would make that opening day and have every team participating (not in the open-air stadium, but all wearing throwbacks and playing games).
*NBA to crack down on flopping: Frankly, I'd rather see them crack down on superstar griping about missed calls -- a fine for every faux-shocked face or squeal of indignation. But, yes, flopping is a problem, too. (Fines probably aren't enough -- what if you're nicked 5 times for flopping, you're suspended for a half of a game?)
*Jobs: Manny Acta is out in Cleveland, and if Terry Francona really is a candidate, that would be a great hire. He won't turn them into contenders, but he's an upgrade.
Enjoy your weekend. Updates on Sat and Sun a.m.