Two words: Chuck. Strong.
The worst news out of the NFL this season -- Colts coach Chuck Pagano's leukemia diagnosis -- was book-ended by the most emotionally heart-warming storyline we'll get this season:
The ageless Reggie Wayne -- a Pagano protege dating back to college -- coming up with a career-best performance to lead the Colts to a thrilling comeback win over the Packers.
Wayne's touchdown lunge in the game's final seconds, capping an incredible drive managed by Andrew Luck, was so incredible, it was almost as if you could feel his inspiration through the TV.
Obviously, you wish there was no need for the inspiration -- that Pagano would be healthy and the Colts would be continuing their rebuild with their focus entirely on the field.
But that's not real life -- and when real life impacted the franchise in a meaningful way, they delivered a meaningful response, both off the field and on it.
*Congrats to Brees on the TD milestone. Curious if Sean Payton did any coaching when Brees met with him briefly in the owner's box after the game.
*An RG3 concussion is a worst-case scenario. Yes, worse than a torn ACL, because it forces fans to confront the NFL head-injury conundrum: You want him out there, sure, but at what cost?
*Do the Falcons look unbeatable? Hardly. This fast start is all one big set-up for the inevitable playoff implosion. (If it can happen to the Packers last year, it can totally happen to Atlanta this year.)
*The 49ers, on the other hand, look like the toughest out in the league, come playoff-time. The league's most balanced offense combined with its best D (and best head coach).
*Anyone else feel like the Brady-Peyton game was a total let-down? Possibly not even a Top 5 most interesting storyline coming out of Sunday.
*I don't know what's wrong with Cam Newton and the Panthers, but my 6-year-old Gabe still loves him and the team -- he can't understand what is going on (and I can't explain it to him).
*I'm a "booing as essential right of fandom" person, but still, there are times it is entirely bad form, as with KC fans jeering the head injury to Matt Cassel.
MLB Playoffs: Yankees show the Orioles what's what. I dislike (but regularly deploy) hindsight narratives -- back-filling the analysis based on the result -- but it is hard not to watch the Yankees slam the door on the Orioles last night and not see the difference between a perennial playoff team and a team whose fan base defines "just happy to be here."
That said: Look at the Nats and Cards. Save for Tyler Moore's incredible at-bat that gave the Nats their game-tying and -winning runs, we are totally talking today about the grit of the defending champs wearing out the nouveau-riche Nats and Gio Gonzalez. Instead, the Nats double-down on the vibe of being a team of destiny. (And it WAS an incredible pinch-hit moment by Moore.)
Meanwhile: The Reds are (relatively) quietly rolling their way to the NLCS, and there's no reason to think that they will stop there.
And finally: Tough break for the A's, who will have to win 3 straight in Oakland to take down the Tigers. That said: It's not like they haven't been in this position before -- they were there just last week. So it's not like the moment is strange or new for them. They just need to do what they do.
Takeaways from a wild weekend in college football:
*Does the uncertainty among unbeatens matter if Alabama-Oregon feels like a foregone conclusion?
*New "Game of the Year": South Carolina at Florida, in two weeks.
*Last night I was going through the "Wins of the Year," and four results from Saturday -- WVU, S. Carolina, Florida and -- most incredibly -- NC State -- all made the list.
*Oregon's weak schedule gives it an advantage -- presuming Alabama throttles whoever comes out of the SEC East, I would give a title-game nod to the West Virginia-Kansas State winner, if that team ends up going unbeaten (which they won't.)
*Folks, it looks like we are an Oregon upset loss to, say, USC (or Oregon State) from being dangerously close to Notre Dame being the title-game pairing with Alabama. We're many weeks away and college football is amazing precisely because of the uncertainty that flows all the way through conference-championship weekend, but the fact that the Notre Dame scenario is even on the brain is absurd enough.
NBA preseason: If there is one reason I'm picking the Heat to repeat, it's because Ray Allen makes it a Big Four... Limited debut for Steve Nash with the Lakers (5 pts, 3 ast in 15 min), but LA won't be judged until at least late May... Anthony Davis is going to be awesome... Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may already be one of my top 5 favorite players in the NBA... Bradley Beal is going to be just fine (even if his team isn't.)
Soccer: Even if it ended in an unsatisfying tie, you can't ask for more than what the latest Clasico delivered, with pairs of goals from Ronaldo and Messi both.
Today's must-see: Nats-Cards Game 2, starting in the late-afternoon... And on MNF tonight, the only question is how much Tebow we'll see. If the game is out of hand (and it might be, pretty quickly), let's hope Rex Ryan is ready to give the fans (and the media) what we want: Tebow Time.