Saturday, November 03, 2012

11/03 (Very) Quickie

NYC Marathon cancelled: After hearing from so many friends and folks in NYC, this is the only decision that made sense.

CFB Viewing Guide:
Noon: Mizzou at Florida (ESPN2) + A&M at Miss St (ESPN)
3:30: Ole Miss at Georgia (CBS) + Texas at Texas Tech (ABC)
7:00: Oregon at USC (FOX)
8:00: Alabama at LSU (CBS)

NBA Last Night:
*Lakers 0-3: Time to panic? Yep.
*Harden 45 pts: MVP.
*Knicks thump Heat: The Heat don't care.
*Bobcats win: (Bobcats win?! Bobcats win!!)
*Anthony Davis concussion: NBA enters debate.

NHL cancels Winter Classic: Like NBA canceling Christmas or NASCAR canceling Daytona 500 or NFL canceling Kickoff Weekend.

MLB Hot Stove: All eyes on Josh Hamilton. If it's not the Rangers (who put in a perfunctory bid), then who?

Parenting: Final Saturday for the "Rockets" of the Montgomery Soccer Inc. 1st-Grade Division. Blissfully, no scores or stats were kept, although the kids have a way of minding the results. An awesome season for Gabe, under the coaching of another kid's dad, who was awesome. We're on a hiatus until January, when I take over as coach for the 1st-grade basketball juggernaut.

Slow day turns into huge night of CFB. Enjoy.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 02, 2012

11/02 (ATH) Quickie

Some of you -- very some -- will remember that glorious stretch in the summer of 2004 where I appeared on "Around The Horn," accumulating a stellar record of 0-4.

It went no further. I was the "Moonlight Graham" of sports TV punditry (although, technically, being "Moonlight Graham" would be appearing on a single show, and having it pre-empted by a live game running late, pushing the show to ESPNews, where no one would watch it).

Anyway! To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the launch of Around the Horn, being celebrated by the show today, I wrote about that experience for Quickish. Please take a look.


Big weekend in college football: LSU vs. Alabama, although for all the "Game of the Year" bluster, can we just remember that the two teams played a year ago in the regular season and the result DIDN'T MATTER AT ALL.

Things might be slightly more clear this year: If Alabama wins, LSU's national-title hopes are over. If LSU wins, they keep Alabama from playing for the SEC title (as they did a year ago), but the presumption is that an unbeaten Oregon or K-State or Notre Dame would out-point a one-loss Bama in the BCS standings... even if Bama would throttle any of them. One-loss LSU would deserve to be in the national-title game ahead of all but the highest-rated of the O/KSt/ND trio, even if all three were unbeaten.

I wish people would stop talking about USC-Oregon as a big game -- Oregon is going to mop the floor with USC. As if maintaining its position for the national title game isn't big enough (and Oregon really really needs to destroy USC to prop up its otherwise paltry schedule strength), you have to believe Oregon wants to make up for last year's loss to the Trojans. If Chip Kelly reads the BCS dynamics correctly, he'll try to score 100 on USC in LA.

The rest of the schedule is kind of meh: Oklahoma State isn't beating Kansas State in Manhattan. And Notre Dame certainly isn't losing to Pitt.

NFL: 5 Storylines I Like And/Or Love
*Game of the Week: Steelers at Giants
*Could unbeaten Falcons drop Cowboys to 3-5?
*Dolphins-Colts: For playoff position? Really?
*Cam Newton vs. RGIII: Worth watching closely
*Gabe was Newton for Halloween - can't believe we aren't going to the game while Newton is in town.

NBA: Do the Thunder miss James Harden? If Harden is on the team, they probably don't lose to the Spurs at the buzzer last night. The question really is whether they will miss him in a seven-game series with San Antonio in May.

Tonight: Clippers-Lakers and Heat-Knicks as the headliners? Give me the NBA debut of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the Bobcats, against the Pacers. To the free preview of League Pass!

MLB Hot Stove: Dan Haren to the Cubs? Does that make them a contender? No.

NYC Marathon: I'm torn -- I think an event like that would help lift the city's spirit a bit. On the other hand, the media tent is using enough power to help 40 houses in Staten Island. I can understand the frustration.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

11/01 (Harden) Quickie

Two words: James Harden.

It's almost like I don't need to write anything more today, Harden's debut with Houston was THAT spectacular.

Through my preferred construct of small-sample-size instant history, it is clear that as good as Harden was as the third wheel of the Thunder, he is even better as an alpha.

Let's agree that it will be fun to watch him this season -- and that he instantly becomes a "must-follow" superstar, perhaps for now THE must-follow superstar.

*Lakers fall to 0-2: And adding injury to insult, Nash is hurt.
*NFL: DeAngelo Hall... sigh. Just cut your losses, man.
*CFB: Bama-LSU isn't quite what it seemed it would be in August, but still.
*MLB: Say this for Giants fans - they know how to throw a parade.
*CBB Name to Know: UCLA frosh Kyle Anderson.
*Halloween hangover: I could eat mini-Twixes all day.

- D.S.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

10/31 (Boo!) Quickie

The best Halloween candy is the mini Twix. 

Gabe is going as RGIII for the elementary school parade, but was supposed to be Cam Newton (we also made him a back-up costume, an iPhone). Jonah is going as Captain America. Lucy is going as an owl, and if you know the Old Navy infant Halloween costume selection, you'll know what I'm saying when I say it's adorable.

I'm going as Tim Tebow. Kidding. But I am intrigued that the Jaguars could trade for Tebow at tomorrow's NFL trade deadline. Some context: Tebow reportedly chose between the Jets and Jaguars and picked the Jets -- I don't blame him. The promise was that Rex Ryan had the chutzpah to use Tebow dynamically. That, plus the Jets' status as contenders, outweighed a north Florida homecoming. Here's the thing: Ryan turned out to be a dud and the team turned out to stink and playing in NYC doesn't do so much for Tebow that he wouldn't get playing in Florida. And the Jaguars really (really really) need him -- as they have since the night they passed on drafting him. The Jets won't trade him, because it would be seen as their failure -- not Tebow's. As if the failure of a season isn't humiliating enough.

NBA: Lakers 0-1. (Lakers 0-1!!!) Mike Brown's Princeton offense is terrible. This should be the offense: "Let Nash be Nash." Everything else will take care of itself.

By the way: I'm not one to put stock in a season-opener (or any single regular-season game), but file away Howard's atrocious FT shooting for the playoffs, where that kind of thing can kill a team.

NBA, Cont'd: Ray Allen blitzes his old Celtics mates. Allen was every bit as potent as we assumed he would be once he lined up alongside LeBron, Wade and Bosh. It only gets more devastating from here, friends.

NFL: Mike Vick is the Eagles' starting QB, but you better add a "for now" to that. A loss to the Saints probably ends his run as QB1.

MLB Awards: You can have the defense of anyone else in baseball. I'll take Mike Trout, inexplicably snubbed for a Gold Glove (not that Gold Glove matters anymore -- cripes, Derek Jeter won Gold Gloves).

Last Word: It's amusing to watch the media's political horde fall over themselves talking about Nate Silver and a stat-centric methodology, if only because it's something we've been dealing with in sports for at least a decade (let's call the publishing of "Moneyball" the unofficial start). Political pundits who don't rely on anything but qualitative "gut" to make pronouncements have every reason to feel like they are being exposed as frauds, but like sports pundits who act the same way, they should feel secure that their employers make money off quippy, boisterous pronouncements -- the accuracy doesn't (and has never) mattered.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

10/30 (Sandy) Quickie

Lost power, but it came back on. So there's that! Meanwhile, the photos from NYC -- especially from the Subway system -- are kind of staggering. Hope everyone in Sandy territory is doing OK...

*MLB: Not many people were paying attention, but the Giants are one of the most interesting World Series champs of the past 25 years (and longtime Quickie readers know that two titles in three years qualifies you for "micro-dynasty" status, although in this case, the lineups were very different). The Giants' title is less about "can other teams replicate it?" than it shows how hard it is to find the right formula (which is -- by the way -- why you don't punt on your big chances, like the Nats did.)

*Hot Stove: Who signs Josh Hamilton and how much do they pay him? There are enough questions that he won't get the number he wants (and possibly won't get the length of contract he wants), but it'll still be a big number. It is a lot of risk, and I'd certainly make him include a clause hedging risk around his addiction issues (including his tobacco addiction issues that seemingly sent him into a tailspin at the end of this past season, when he inexplicably decided to stop dipping mid-season).

*NFL: 49ers crush Cards. If Alex Smith is going to be that effective, install San Francisco as one of the Top 3 teams to beat in the NFL (of course, the Giants are also in that mix, and the Niners can't seem to solve New York).

*NFL: Eagles won't bench Vick. (Yet. The key word in that news is "yet.")

*NBA: The season opens tonight with a terrific Heat-Celtics match-up that centers around Ray Allen against his old teammates, and there is no love lost. Otherwise, the NBA regular season assumes its position as the least-relevant regular season in major pro sports.

In any given season, only a handful of teams have a real chance of winning a championship. This year is leaner than ever: Heat. Lakers. That's it.

(Do you really think the Spurs can beat the Heat? Do you really think the Celtics can beat the Heat? Do you really think the Thunder can beat the Heat? Hell: I don't think the Lakers can beat the Heat -- and they might not even be able to beat the Spurs or Thunder.)

And that's pretty much the story: The Heat have entered their moment. Everyone else is playing for second place, with the most notable storyline being whether the Lakers will win the West (their ceiling) or fall short (which is nothing less than failure).

But the league includes a lot more fans -- like me with my beleaguered Wizards -- where all you want to see is "Improvement." The Wizards have finally turned a corner (well, aside from the inevitable injuries to its top 2 stars) and will be better, if not quite good.

Let's go back to another Quickie staple: There is no shame in having your season be "made" by getting as far as the conference finals or conference semis or simply getting to the playoffs. As long as your team isn't winning a title -- and let's face it: unless you're a Heat fan, your team isn't -- you might as well maintain (managed) expectations commensurate with that.

Enjoy the new NBA season, everyone!

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

10/28 (ND! SF! Harden!) Quickie

Plenty to talk about...

*Notre Dame. It's almost a "'Nuff said" scenario.

Any lingering skepticism about their other wins -- and I had some -- is gone. If Kansas State was getting max credit for winning at Oklahoma as "Single-Best Win of the Year," then what do you give a team that won at Oklahoma in even more impressive fashion?

Spoiler alert: You make them No. 2 in the country, as Notre Dame deserves to be. There are four teams left with a realistic shot at playing for the national title: Alabama-LSU winner, Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon. And all four could conceivably go unbeaten.

Honestly? Oregon is probably the second-best team in the country, but USC's loss at Arizona yesterday makes the Ducks' tepid strength of schedule even more flimsy. Let's go back to the old idea: It seems unfair to punish them for it, but you can't reward Oregon for playing a patsy schedule.

(Let's remember what happened last year when they tried to boost their schedule strength by playing an elite SEC team -- they got walloped. This year's Oregon team is better -- but how much better?)

But let's not diminish the larger point: Notre Dame deserves to be part of that uber-elite group.

*Giants up 3-0 on Tigers in W.S.: It will be under-appreciated because the series will end in a sweep or maybe 5 games, but this is a wonderful Giants team every bit worthy of the championship it is about to claim.

(And I can't help but make this personal about the Nats and the Strasburg Shut-Down: The 2012 Giants are a pretty good example of why you can never take it for granted that you can simply make the playoffs again, let alone win a championship once you get there.)

*NBA Blockbuster: Thunder trade Harden to Rockets. OKC was never going to pay Harden what he wanted (or what he could command) -- a max deal. It is unreasonable to ask him to accept a huge haircut to keep the core together.

And so the Thunder shipped him to Houston for Kevin Martin -- a nice complement for the OKC Big Three, if not nearly the dynamic presence Harden was -- and Jeremy Lamb (a decent prospect) and a slew of picks, which is, if nothing else, "The Thunder Way."

I would argue that the Thunder are no longer on par with the NBA's super-elite, but the cynic would note that it's not like Harden showed up in the NBA Finals a year ago anyway. But chemistry is an interesting thing.

Meanwhile, the Rockets get something they have lusted after for years: A franchise player. The Lin-Harden backcourt is very strong, although hardly a championship contender. But at the very least, they have a go-to star (and go-to scorer).

*CFB Hangover: The tragedy of Marcus Lattimore. I'm sick to my stomach about his season-ending (and possibly/probably career-ending) injury. This is why I am so adamantly against the NFL Draft age minimum -- Lattimore would have been a 1st-round pick had he been able to enter the league after his marvelous freshman season. But mandated to stay in college, he had a serious knee injury last year and a devastating one this year.

If I'm star soph teammate Jadaveon Clowney, why would I play next season at South Carolina when I could spend the year training for the NFL Draft (and NFL) -- as if Clowney playing 13 more games next year (more accurately: putting his pro career at risk for 13 more games next year) would raise his stock higher than the Top 5 lock he is now?

*Florida loses to Georgia: Yes, I'm bitterly disappointed. The only consolation is that it goes hand-in-hand with expecting your team to win championships, a glorious feeling I hadn't had about this Florida team since halfway through Urban's final season in Gainesville. "Win or Fail" is brutal, but that's what I signed up for.

UPDATE: This week's poll -- with ND at No. 2, as foreshadowed above.
-- D.S.