Tuesday, October 02, 2012

10/02 (Romo! Nats! Kobe!) Quickie

"It's just going to suck for a few days now, obviously." -- Tony Romo

Aside from Romo’s lament -- and he’s not wrong -- let’s flip the traditional “power rankings” on its head and think about the “Sucks to Be You” rankings at the NFL quarter-turn. No unbeaten (and loving it!) Houston Texans or feel-good Arizona Cardinals here. Just Romo-like disappointment:

1. Saints (0-4). The NFL story of the year.
2. Chiefs (1-3). Weren’t they supposed to win the worst division in football?
3. Panthers (1-3). It’s not Cam’s fault. But it’s his face on the front.
4. Steelers (1-2). Feel that whoosh? It’s the window of contention closing.
5 (tie). Jets & Giants (both 2-2). But only one team feels in control of its future.

MLB Playoff Races:
A’s into playoffs: Along with Baltimore and D.C., the best team story of the year.
Nats clinch N.L. East: Over/under on Nats division titles over next 5 years: 4.
Tigers win AL Central: Not a reason to vote Miguel Cabrera AL MVP.

With two games to go, the big storyline: Can Oakland catch Texas in the AL West, either forcing a debilitating one-game playoff to see who goes into the one-game playoff or pushing the defending AL champs into the unpredictable Wild Card round against (presumably) unpredictable Baltimore? And can Baltimore do the same thing to the Yankees in the AL East? (And can you imagine a Yankees-Rangers one-game Wild Card playoff?)

Today’s Must-Read from Sports on Earth: Posnanski on the Nats. (Money quote: “I would say even with the amazing Orioles run and even with the extraordinary drive of the Oakland A’s, the Nationals are the story of the 2012 regular season.”)

NFL: More fun with Jay Cutler. After the Bears QB ignored Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Tice in front of a national-TV audience, USA TODAY Sports’ Chris Chase had this reaction: “Tice looked like a guy getting shot down in a bar. He swoops in and his target shuts it down immediately. The coach's pink-brimmed hat and hipster glasses only added to the hilarity.”

NBA Media Day: “On its face, it’s the best talent I’ve been around.” NBA Media Day is typically a mix of awkward “picture day” in elementary school and banalities about improvement that every team can get away with. But Kobe’s quote is notable for two reasons: (1) He has been on some pretty good teams, and (2) he’s right. Kobe’s most admirable quality is his demand that every season be judged “Championship or Failure.” Yesterday’s stake in the ground lets his new (ringless) teammates know what the expectations are.

Linsanity continues: The answer to the question “Why did the Knicks let Jeremy Lin go?” is pretty simple: Money. Knicks GM Glen Grunwald: “Basically, it comes down to the fact that Houston made a commitment to him that we weren't prepared to make.” In the absence of winning a championship the Knicks have no shot of winning, dumping Lin remains the franchise’s signature move of the post-Isiah era.

Meanwhile: How can you not love the Nuggets canary-yellow alternate jerseys? From the Wizards’ reboot a year ago to Northwestern’s new Under Armour-designed football uniform, the horizontal stripe is totally in.

Sports x Politics, Part 1: “Well, I think so you always have to put country first.” (Jets owner Woody Johnson, asked on Bloomberg TV whether it is more important for his team to win or his preferred candidate, Mitt Romney, to win.)

Sports x Politics, Part 2: “America needs a comeback team – Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are that team.” (John Elway, endorsing Mitt Romney last night in Denver. Colorado is one of the few states considered a “toss-up” -- let’s keep an eye on the Broncos’ win percentage in October against the state of Romney in the state tracking polls.)

Heisman Watch: As of now, it’s West Virginia QB Geno Smith in a runaway, in part because Matt Barkley choked early and in part because of Saturday’s signature stat-line. In USA TODAY Sports’ new Heisman straw poll, all but one of the 30+ voters gave Smith the nod. He is the rightful heir to RGIII and the poster guy for the evolution of the Air Raid offense into college football’s mainstream.

Quote of the Day: “I don't think LeBron James would be too happy with this drug-dealer dude using his name on these street bags.” (Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, via Philly Daily News.) 

Tonight's Best: Adam Greenberg, getting one more Major League at-bat (after his ill-fated first -- and only -- MLB at-bat in 2005, where he was beaned in the head), in the greatest thing the Marlins have done this season.

Best wishes to Chuck Pagano.

-- D.S.

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