Friday, October 26, 2012

10/26 (Friday) Quickie

Whatever "It" is, the Giants have it. Whether it's a three-HR barrage from Panda or a bunt dribbling just to the interesting side of the foul line or Prince Fielder carrying just a bit too much baggage in the trunk or yet another amazing performance from a starting pitcher, the Tigers now can't afford to drop even a single game back in Detroit.

CFB: I'm sure Notre Dame is reviewing the way Kansas State ground down Oklahoma in pulling its upset in Norman a few weeks ago. Notre Dame is built much the same way... on defense. But on offense, there is no comparison between tepid ND and bullying K-State. And so it is Oklahoma's defense -- not its more acclaimed offense -- that will be the defining unit of OU tagging ND with its first loss of the season.

Upset Special: Washington over Oregon State. (I want to pick Texas Tech over Kansas State, but I feel like Tech's win over West Virginia -- as devalued as it became after WVU's second loss last week -- was Tommy Tuberville's "big upset" for the year.)

Fandom: This is the most meaningful Florida-Georgia game of my 12 years of being a Florida fan -- no less than the championship game for the SEC East, which is no small feat, particularly for a Florida team that -- this time last year -- was stumbling through October. The improvement since then is monumental.

NFL Week 8 Highlights: Neither the Eagles nor the Steelers can really afford a loss this week to drop themselves to 3-4. The Eagles have to thwart the unbeaten Falcons; the Steelers have to try to contain RG3. Sunday's best game: When the Giants embarrass the Cowboys in Dallas.

Bucs beat Vikings: That was the Doug Martin everyone was raving about on the day of the 2012 NFL Draft.

NBA: David Stern is retiring. Adam Silver is getting a promotion. The NBA enjoys continuity within its leadership. Stern's legacy is the stratospheric growth of the sport -- Stern was as responsible for that as Bird and Magic or Jordan. If he was heavy-handed, it is hard to dispute the results and prove a negative that some form of weaker-willed leadership would have made the NBA bigger than it became or that it is right now. (FWIW, I'm looking ahead to who Silver will appoint as his deputy -- thus take over the role as Commish-in-waiting. Longtime readers know my personal affinity for and friendship with D-League commissioner Dan Reed, who I have for years said will ultimately become NBA commissioner, if a decade and a half from now.)

Tebow: I'm baffled by the SI poll of NFL players that Tim Tebow is the most overrated player in the NFL. I'm even more baffled in that it is far less of an indictment of Tebow than it is an indictment of the Tebow-obsessed sports media universe.

CBB: Andrew Wiggins -- the best player of the HS Class of 2014 -- has "reclassified" into the Class of 2013, making him the most sought-after recruit of the current crop and the clear favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. (For what it's worth, he is so good that he would have been the No. 1 player of the class of 2012, even a year behind them. He is the best high school NBA wing prospect since LeBron -- right now, he is better than Kevin Durant was at that age.)

Last Word: Say it ain't so, Mo.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10/25 (Panda) Quickie

Babe Ruth. Reggie Jackson. Albert Pujols. Pablo Sandoval.

Thanks to Mr. October, the "hit three home runs in a World Series game" milestone has an out-sized appeal with fans.

That it has only been done by a handful of players -- all legends -- extends the appeal. This is a club five times more exclusive than the "Threw a Perfect Game" crew.

That Sandoval was a non-factor in the Giants' 2010 World Series title run -- and largely an afterthought heading into this year's version -- adds to it.

That the Panda hit two of his homers off of Justin Verlander -- the most dominant pitcher of the current era -- makes his version more impressive than any of the other guys.

Just like that, Pablo Sandoval has ensured his little place of baseball immortality. If the Giants win the Series, what Panda did last night is what everyone will remember.

If the Giants lose the Series, what Panda did last night will still be the most memorable thing from this series (not unlike Derek Jeter's walk-off HR in the 2001 WS).

Typically, playoff series are said not to "start" until a road team wins a game. But given the expectations for Verlander, the pressure is on Detroit.

And if Pablo Sandoval does nothing else this series, he has done enough already.


NBA: SI picks the Heat to beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Don't disagree.

Kobe: Out for the rest of the preseason. Honestly, he could sit out half the regular season -- like Dwight Howard, all that matters is that he is healthy for the playoffs.

NHL: Islanders moving to Brooklyn. Clearly, I love this.

NHL Lockout: Was there even a question the full season wouldn't be played?

CFB: Braxton Miller will play vs. Penn State - it isn't the weekend's biggest game (it isn't even in the Top 5), but it has Upset Special potential, a season-maker for PSU.

What are those Top 5 games? In this order: (1) Florida-Georgia, (2) Notre Dame-Oklahoma, (3) Texas Tech-Kansas State, (4) Oregon State-Washington (Upset Special), (5) Mississippi State-Alabama. And watch Kent State upending unbeaten Rutgers.

CBB: Adding injury to insult, UCLA frosh Shabazz Muhammad -- dealing with NCAA eligibility issues -- injured his shoulder yesterday in practice. He is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick of the NBA Draft next year. Given that UCLA has him for just a year, they might want to get him back ASAP; if I was Muhammad, I would err on the side of protecting my professional future.

NFL vs. Concussions: This Washington Post piece is worth a read.

Good read: Chuck Culpepper on Jeremy Lin, via

NFL Week 8: Pink penalty flags are a great idea and will look awesome on TV.

Service-y! Don't forget to set your fantasy lineups, particularly if you have any Bucs or Vikings. (Pick: Vikes.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

10/24 (World Series) Quickie

It is very possible that yesterday was the slowest sports day of the year, although there was a healthy stream of day-after coverage of the Giants winning the NLCS and the Bears as (possibly) the NFL's best team. That means that this morning is truly slow, right up until we get to tonight's World Series Game 1.

For the record, I'll say Giants in 7, because they are on a roll* and because they never seem to make it easy on themselves, so beating Justin Verlander in Game 7 seems to be the most absurd path possible.

* - The bookend to pundits who fit their narratives based on the result of the game, I fit my narratives based on the fuzzy concept of "momentum" heading into games (thus my persistent weakness for picking defending-champion teams to repeat.)

Flying back East from LA to DC this afternoon, but (the promise of) in-air wi-fi means that I can hopefully update Quickish with good stuff throughout the day. In the meantime, check out a selection of things I have already picked out for today, led by -- what else? -- the World Series.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10/23 (Giants) Quickie

Los Angeles -- I typically dislike West Coast time, but wrapping up the NLCS Game 7 by 9 p.m. last night was kind of tremendous. I understand the appeal.

I'm going to project here: Because I didn't fully appreciate the incredible run by these 2012 Giants -- down 0-2 in the NLDS, down 3-1 in the NLCS -- I assume that many other fans didn't fully appreciate it either.

The reality is that it is incredible -- as incredible of a feat as we have seen in baseball since the Red Sox came back from 0-3 in the 2004 ALCS. In its own way, it is even more improbable.

Consider that the Giants needed a career-best outing from Barry Freaking Zito. Then a career-best outing from Ryan Vogelsong. With both coming against the most pressure-tested lineup in baseball.

Matt Cain's performance in Game 7 was almost insubstantial by comparison -- at least Cain was expected to pitch well (if not THAT well).

Plus the Marco Scutaro story. Plus the Hunter Pence hit, which was one of those things that just crystallizes that -- at least through the NL pennant -- this was one of Those Years for San Francisco.

All you can ask is that your champs prove themselves somehow worthy of the title. I'm not sure I can think of a process more amazing than the one that the Giants have gone through over the past three weeks.

I know there is an inclination to root for the Tigers because they haven't won since 1984 (as opposed to just two years ago for these Giants), but the way SF has gotten here makes them the sentimental favorite to finish it off with a World Series title.

Ideally in 7 games, after some kind of insane series comeback.


*Are the Bears the best team in the NFL? I wouldn't trust them to win three straight games in the playoffs (presuming they win the NFC North), but they are among the elite.

*NFL to drop Pro Bowl? Good. (Does anyone need to say anything more?)

*NBA GMs pick Heat to repeat: Of course they did. What exactly are the other options?

*CFB: Already feeling a tense lead-up to Notre Dame at Oklahoma, this weekend's marquee game. But does anyone think that ND isn't going to get drilled? (In that case, merely keeping it close will be a moral victory that qualifies ND for what increasingly looks like an inevitable 10-win slot in a BCS-level bowl game.)

-- D.S.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday (Jam-Packed) Quickie

I'm actually in L.A. today, but arrived last night too late to zip over to Staples to watch the Dwight Howard Lakers debut. Probably for the best. So much to cover...

*NLCS Game 7: Not much more you can ask for. Two teams -- only the most recent two defending MLB champs -- that consistently win these kind of elimination games, so the slogan for tonight is "Something's gotta give."

*Game 6: After being down 3-1, it is pretty incredible that the Giants have gotten career-best starts from both Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong at exactly the moment they were most-needed.

*NFL Week 7 notes:

*MNF Tonight: This time it's personal. I'm tied in a fantasy match-up. I've got Calvin Johson and my opponent has Brandon Marshall. If that wasn't enough, I have Joique Bell and he has Mikel Leshoure. It is the most exciting fantasy finish I have ever experienced and the definition of why fantasy football rules.

*Sports x Politics: I'm kind of loving ESPN's campaign to get you to watch MNF via the (essential) WatchESPN app while you watch the Presidential debate on TV. Sounds good to me.

*CFB Hangover: There is no question -- Kansas State's resume is stronger than Oregon's (as is Florida's). If you avoid watching Oregon's insane highlights and simply focus on who they have played (and beaten soundly), they just aren't there yet. Two wins over USC (regular season and Pac-12 title game) and a win over a then-unbeaten Oregon State will help Oregon's cause tremendously. But until then, let's celebrate what a juggernaut K-State is.

*More: "Florida is Back" meme. I have been a Florida fan for 12 seasons and I can't remember -- and in asking more seasoned Florida fans than me, anyone else can't remember -- a Florida-Georgia game as big as this one coming up on Saturday: It is the SEC East title game. Forget Florida's position in the BCS or national-title picture -- winning the SEC East this year would be a HUGE accomplishment. (And, conversely, losing the game this weekend would be particularly tough.)

*Heisman Watch: Collin Klein surges into the lead, and as long as K-State stays unbeaten -- no matter what happens with the BCS -- he will win the Heisman, although Mante Te'o is a lock to earn the coveted "defensive player gets invited to New York for the ceremony" finalist placement.

*NBA: Dwight Howard's Lakers debut. The NBA quote of the season? Kobe to Dwight before the tip: "Let's play some mother-f@#$ing ball." Let's not get caught up in how Howard looked last night -- or any game this regular season. He and the Lakers will be judged entirely on whether they win an NBA title. (Not even wrenching the West title back from OKC will be enough, although it is necessary -- if not sufficient -- to the season's success.)

*Lance stripped of Tour de France titles: We all knew it was coming. It is still the most powerful symbolism of this entire affair, because it was the TdF titles that turned Lance Armstrong into LANCE and his story into the "Live Strong" campaign and charity that has done so much to fund cancer research and provide hope to people dealing with cancer, themselves or their family/friends. Earlier in this portion of the episode, I used to feel a lot of anger and bitterness toward Lance. As I read details of what a mastermind he was of all of this, I still feel angry. But mostly I feel sad for the people who put their faith in him. Then I feel angry again towards him. Hell of a legacy for him.

-- D.S.

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot

It's a hell of a debate over "Who's No. 2?" Your contenders: Florida (with the best resume), Kansas State (with the best road wins) and Oregon (with the flashiest offense). (No offense, ND fans.)

For now, I notch Florida ahead of K-State for the totality of Florida's resume (in this order: home win over LSU, home win over South Carolina, road win over A&M, road win over Tennessee) over Kansas State's pair: incredible win at Oklahoma and blistering of West Virginia in Morgantown.

Things will work themselves out to some extent: Florida eventually has to play Alabama. But if the question is whether Kansas State should get the BCS nod over Oregon, the answer is -- at least based on resumes through this weekend -- yes.