Tuesday, December 31, 2013

12/31 End-of-Year Quickie

Having just published the annual Quickish year-end best-sportswriting list, here is a listicle of 10 notable personal milestones from 2013, excluding standard ones about my marriage and kids:

*Turned 40!
*Moved into a new house!
*Helped launch an awesome new news product!
*Solo-coached my first youth sports team!
*Highest finish ever in fantasy football! (5th!)
*Finally got a night-guard for teeth-grinding!
*Bought not one but TWO pairs of neon sneakers!
*Bylined a Tebow column in USA TODAY print edition!
*Cut my hair shorter than ever - and realized it didn't work!
*Secured the elusive Bradley Beal t-shirt jersey!

Left on the table for 2014:
*Tebow book!
*Losing the 20 pounds I need to!
*Assorted projects!

Happy new year, everyone -- here's to your Best. Year. Ever. ahead.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 23, 2013

12/23 ThinkPiece Quickie

Wrote this for NiemanLab's year-in-review package, about "stars" vs. "starters." Finding stars who also possess the ability or track record to be starters -- Swisher and Silver, to name two 2013 notables -- is very rare.

More often, stars are more like David Pogue -- that's not to knock him; he is simply about his individual brand, not creating something bigger than himself. And, as I argue, starters are both more prevalent and easier to cultivate.

It's gotten a good reaction -- whether folks agree with it or not. Please give it a read and share it around if you think it's worthy.

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

12/15 Very Quickie

*Not unlike Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston has the chance to finish his college career next year ranked as one of the best players in the sport's history -- a short list that includes Cam Newton, Herschel Walker and, of course, Tim Tebow.

Of course, Winston should skip next year and get ready for the 2015 NFL Draft, for which he is the clear No. 1 pick. (He'd be the clear No. 1 pick of the 2014 draft -- for which he isn't eligible, for some inane reason -- but that's another story.)

*Texas is the best job in college football. But they can't just take their pick of college coaches -- among the top tier, Nick Saban is out. Kevin Sumlin is out. Jim Harbaugh presumably wouldn't take it (although if he WAS going to go back to college, this feels like the only job worth doing that for).

If the model is late-90s Mack Brown -- successful as a head coach at a atypically successful program, with the political acumen to navigate both UT's internal politics and external recruiting trail -- then Vandy's James Franklin has to be a serious candidate, even if his success feels a little faddish.

(I will say that the benefit of Northwestern's awful 5-win season is that if it had been the 10- or 11-win Rose Bowl year that a lot of us were hoping for, Texas would have clearly made Pat Fitzgerald an offer he would have had a very hard time turning down.)

Enjoy your NFL Sunday and for those of you with fantasy stakes on the line, good luck.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

12/10 Tuesday Quickie

*I'm overly obsessed with seeing "older" athletes -- that's why he wouldn't qualify for most people's "must-see" lists, but I was thrilled to see Andre Miller in person last night, even if the Wiz blew the game.

*Mack Brown being out at Texas is a "when not if" situation. Just a good reminder that Texas is the single-best job in college football, and nothing else is even close. I'd put Florida a distant second, which makes Will Muschamp's failures all the more disappointing.

*If I'm Jerry Jones, I absolutely try to hire Kevin Sumlin from Texas A&M. (I do the same thing if I'm the Texans.) If the Cowboys can't win the NFC East in this kind of terrible down year for the division, it ain't happening under this regime.

-- D.S.

Monday, December 09, 2013

12/09 Monday Morning Quickie

*That was an amazing day of football yesterday. Between the snowy visuals and all the TDs and the record-setting (number of TDs, longest FG kick, McCoy Eagles rushing record), it was awesome.

*Of course, I got throttled in a regular-season fantasy finale in which I advance to the playoffs with a win but miss the playoffs with a loss. (Adding insult to injury, my opponent then thwacked me in QuizUp later in the evening.)

*My three most notable storylines from yesterday:
- The Ravens-Vikings final two minutes was as stunning as any final two minutes I have ever seen -- it is, statistically, even less probable than Auburn's "Kick Six."

- Peyton Manning is something to behold, but I still think the Broncos fall short of a Super Bowl win.

- Not many folks are saying it, but I will: Chip Kelly for NFL Coach of the Year (and right now I'd put Jacksonville's Gus Bradley as runner up).

*No surprises in the bowl reveals -- Auburn-Florida State should be a fun one, but I expect that the Tigers will roll.

*Kobe's first game back was a bit of a dud -- hardly a surprise -- but file away how much better the Raptors looked without Rudy Gay.

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

12/08 End of the BCS Quickie

The BCS is a pretty shoddy system, but last night was an epic reminder that -- yes -- college football's regular season IS one big playoff.

In addition to "Every Saturday counts," college football's motto should be "These things have a way of working themselves out."

And so we end this college football season with no controversy at the top -- it will be FSU vs. Auburn, and I fully expect Auburn to continue the SEC's dominance with another title.

Given that Auburn was 0-8 last season -- before Gus Malzahn got there -- it's a pretty solid argument that Malzahn has had the greatest first year at a school in college football history.

As for Ohio State, it's hard not to experience some schadenfreude. They'll be fine, but that's the reality of life at the top -- championship or fail.

Otherwise, let's all just marvel at Malzahn's offensive schemes, Tre Mason's game for the ages and a wildly entertaining SEC title game.

The SEC will be back in the national title game -- and will probably win again.

And, now that we're expanding the playoff to four teams -- with the SEC champ guaranteed a spot, no matter how many losses -- it's hard to see when the streak will end.

-- D.S.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

12/07 Tailgate Quickie

*Auburn over Mizzou, Ohio State over Michigan State -- and, absurdly, the SEC will be shut out of the national-title game.

*Northern Illinois: That's why you play the whole schedule. (And why you never know with Michigan State.)

*World Cup draw: Ouch. Yikes. Yeesh. That said! I predict we will beat Ghana (finally) and draw with Portugal, putting us in a position to advance to the knockout round.

*Cano did what he had to do: He'll regret not playing on a championship team, but -- then again -- it's not like he was playing on a championship team in New York.

*Malzahn staying at Auburn: In the absence of a not-forthcoming offer from Texas, he might as well lock it in while the getting is as good as it gets.

*Texans fire Kubiak: Anyone not see that coming? Good for Houston for dumping him now and giving themselves a running start to find a replacement. I'd try to hire Kevin Sumlin from Texas A&M (who just signed an extension but clearly would not be begrudged for leaving for the NFL), but that's just me. Trade the No. 1 overall pick for a couple of 1sts (hello, St. Louis) and pick Manziel plus Best Available (probably not in that order).

*Kentucky hoops: From what you can see, they don't look like an elite team that will be able to win six straight in March. They are certainly not last season's debacle, but they are much closer to the uber-talented Wall-Cousins-Bledsoe 2010 team that fell well short of a national title than the Davis-MKG team that won one in 2012.

*Can't wait for Kobe's return tomorrow.

-- D.S.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sunday 12/01 Auburn December Quickie

It's a glorious morning for those of us who traffic in instant history: Auburn's jaw-dropping win over Alabama was the single-greatest finish in college football history.

If you consider the context, participants, stakes, history -- all of it -- nothing can match it. It not only ended Alabama's national-title hopes, but it elevated Auburn's.

All in a rivalry game and all in the single-most-stunning play you will ever see. Just when you think sports can't sports any more dramatically... sports.

Let's move on to what will be a cataclysmic debate this week: Given the SEC's string of national titles and given Auburn's -- or Missouri's -- (vastly) superior resume, should a 1-loss SEC champ get into the BCS title game ahead of an unbeaten "brand-name" team from a power conference?

The answer -- simply enough -- is absolutely.

When you compare Ohio State's resume -- devoid of literally any high quality wins, let alone the multiple high quality wins of either Auburn or Mizzou -- it simply doesn't compare.

Even if/when Ohio State beats Michigan State next week, the Auburn-Missouri winner will have racked up yet another high-quality win -- far more impressive than Michigan State.

(Forget top 2 in the country: Can we agree that Ohio State might only be the 6th-best team in the SEC, reasonably set behind Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Missouri and South Carolina?)

You could say that a BCS finale that shuts out a clearly superior 1-loss SEC champ in favor of two unbeatens with relatively paltry resumes is the fitting end to a flawed system.

I would prefer it if the BCS belied its checkered history and -- not unlike the way Breaking Bad ended things for Walter White -- sent itself out with a bit of dignity that comes with rejecting a kneejerk "But they're unbeaten!" rationale for what we all know to be true:

The Auburn-Missouri winner deserves a shot at the national title in a way that Ohio State simply doesn't. (OK: If you want to make it interesting, let Ohio State and Florida State play in two Saturdays for the right to face the Auburn-Mizzou winner... but that's a 4-team playoff, of course.)

None of this should overshadow the most remarkable finish to a college football game in the history of the sport.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 29, 2013

11/29 Thanksgiving Hangover Quickie

(1) So, basically, Thanksgiving NFL in review comes down to whether you think Mike Tomlin intentionally tried to get in Jacoby Jones' way or not.

My instinct is no, because you can't fake Tomlin's "holy-smokes-I-better-scoot-over" reaction and because something like that becomes a thing that defines a coach (and not in a good way), which Tomlin wouldn't want. I appreciate that the entire thing looked iffy, but no.

(2) After watching yesterday's debacle in Detroit, we're all agreed that Aaron Rodgers is NFL MVP, right? (And a big/must win for Dallas, even if there should be no expectation they'll do anything if they make the playoffs.)

(3) It was an absurd moment, but $50K doesn't seem like enough of a punishment for Jason Kidd messing with the integrity of the game. (Then again, if the NBA suspended Kidd for a game or two, it would become apparent how much better the Nets are without him.)

(4) There isn't a more consequential inconsequential rivalry game than the Egg Bowl. Congrats to Mississippi State fans.

(5) Good weekend for rivalry games, but today is kind of threadbare. There's Arkansas-LSU at 2:30 if you want it, but Oregon-Oregon State should be worth it at 7.

(6) Otherwise, the best game you'll watch today is Warriors-Thunder at 8 on NBA TV (even if regular-season NBA is almost entirely inconsequential).

Get to that shopping, y'all.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

11/28 Thankgsivukkah Quickie

*The best holiday tradition in sports is Thanksgiving day NFL.

(FWIW: No. 2 is Christmas Day NBA and No. 3 is New Year's Day NHL.)

*Don't forget to set your fantasy lineups.

*Lions over Packers, Cowboys over Raiders, Ravens over Steelers.

*I still think LeBron will eventually end up in Cleveland.

*This Jason Kidd "Hit me" thing is hilarious. He's a terrible coach otherwise, so more power to him.

*Katherine Webb should be rooting for Auburn.

*The No. 1 rule of Turkey Bowls: Don't get hurt.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 25, 2013

11/25 Thanksgiving Week Kick-Off Quickie

*Best way to start off the week: Diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. So basically I'm rolling with Nene.

*This is not just a good but a GREAT NFL season. Pretty amazing that over 7 days, the Patriots could be involved in two of the top 5 (top 3?) games of the season so far. Three other observations:

-- Gabe is a massive Carolina Panthers/Cam Newton fan, so the past 7 weeks have been kind of amazing for him (and for me to watch).

-- Mike Glennon: Offensive Rookie of the Year. Didn't see that coming.

-- We can debate his lack of ultimate (read: Super Bowl or even AFC title) success, but it's hard to think of a QB who makes the waning minutes of games more manic and fun than Philip Rivers.

*The Derrick Rose story is painful. The Kobe Bryant story is hilarious. The NBA will be so much worse for missing Rose this season -- but so much better with Angry Super-Paid Kobe the next two.

*My Football Four college football playoff ballot this week: (1) Alabama, (2) FSU, (3) Auburn, (4) Missouri. My protest abstention from listing Ohio State continues. They have a similar resume to Northern Illinois.

*College hoops is still ramping up, but Louisville ain't Louisville (clearly) and as impressed as I am with Duke's offense, the defense is going to keep them from winning the NCAA title.

*Nothing drives (self-)delusions of your child's exceptional athletic future like buying a pair of "youth small" wide receiver gloves.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

11/20 Wednesday Quickie

*Was the Panthers-Pats game-ending call right? The best analysis of the situation came from Grantland's Bill Barnwell, who explained how the Pats blew the game before the refs blew the call.

*Is Robinson Cano worth $300M? Put it this way: No player is worth $300M, except Bryce Harper hitting free agency at age 25 or 26. So: No, Cano is not worth $300M.

*Wiggins, Parker and Randle have (rightfully) gotten all of the attention, but OK St PG Marcus Smart put on a show last night, reminding everyone he is as NBA-ready as anyone in college hoops.

(But it doesn't feel like OK St has nearly the same "national title or bust" expectations as the Big Three frosh.)

Let's not overlook Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, who had a school-record 43 last night. Wisconsin basketball is... fun?

*The Heat succeeding despite Dwyane Wade being out -- and, admittedly, this isn't the playoffs, but merely a mid-November game -- is a pretty good reminder that LeBron is amazing.

*The most fascinating player in the NBA is a guy who hasn't even played this season yet -- Kobe. Can't wait for that return.

*Big night tonight in the NBA: 13 games. If you enjoy schadenfreude, keep an eye on the Pacers routing the Knicks -- and the struggling Nets at the... Bobcats?

But the best game will mean staying up late: Grizzlies at Warriors, with a 10:30 ET tip time. Will have to catch the AM highlights for that one.

-- D.S.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

11/16 Saturday Quickie

*Yes, #BatKid was the best story of the year.

*The most interesting player in college football is UCLA LB/RB Myles Jack, and it isn't close.

*The Pacers are legit. They won't beat the Heat in the playoffs, unfortunately, but they are legit.

*Duke is going to be even better next year when Jabari Parker sticks around to play with Okafor.

*Is it too much to ask for a Northwestern win over Michigan and Florida win over South Carolina? (Probably.)

*The Maryland-UConn women's game was a ton of fun. UConn is astonishing to watch up close.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 15, 2013

11/15 Weekend Quickie

*I'm taking Gabe to see No. 1 UConn play No. 8 Maryland in College Park tonight. Should be an awesome atmosphere and a great experience for Gabe (and me).

*That Warriors-Thunder ending was as amazing as it gets.

*A few weeks after thinking the Colts were a darkhorse contender for the AFC title, I think they'll be lucky to win a playoff game. Maybe they only show up versus the good teams.

*While Miguel Cabrera was more deserving of AL MVP than he was last year, he still isn't as valuable as Mike Trout.

*Andrew McCutcheon as NL MVP caps a dream season for Pirates fans. What a wonderful player.

*The college football weekend slate is a relative dud, compared to last Thursday night. I guess Georgia-Auburn is the big game worth watching, if only to see if Auburn stays relevant in advance of its game with Alabama.

*Also a slow weekend in college hoops (especially relative to last Tuesday, which will be a recurring theme all season long). Ohio State-Marquette on Saturday, I guess? But not really.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 11, 2013

11/11 Curbed Quickie

*Thank you to everyone who has served the country. My paternal grandfather served in the Pacific theater during World War II. We honor everyone who honors the rest of us with their service.

*The deal within which Vox Media is buying Curbed brings together two of my favorite companies and many of my favorite people. Really thrilled for everyone involved.

*Gabe's favorite NFL team is the Carolina Panthers, so he was beyond elated at yesterday's season-defining win. They're not winning the Super Bowl, but outperforming expectations is nice, too.

*The Wizards' loss in Oklahoma City last night was an epic disappointment, but it affirmed what I have been saying about Bradley Beal for two years: He will be a superstar NBA player.

*My fictional college football playoff foursome: (1) Alabama, (2) Stanford, (3) FSU, (4) Baylor. Ohio State's resume -- if you can even call it that -- is tantamount to an unbeaten MAC team.

*I appreciate why the Braves are moving to the 'burbs, but it feels like a mistake.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 08, 2013

College Hoops Tip-Off

The opening day of the college hoops season always brings me back to my wonderful stint as college basketball editor for ESPN.com -- hey, it was only 17 years ago!

Last year, I totally whiffed in picking Kentucky to repeat as champs. That won't stop me from picking them to win it all again this year.

*Final Four picks: Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke, Creighton.

*Will Andrew Wiggins reach the Final Four? No.

Shortest. Preview. Ever.

-- D.S.

11/08 Stanford Quickie

(1) Stanford's win over Oregon was the single-best win by any team this college football season.

The win is not just enough to put Stanford in the theoretical "What if there was a 4-team playoff right now?" bracket, but enough for me to rank the Cardinal at No. 2 ahead of unbeatens like FSU, Baylor and (give me a break) Ohio State.

The consolation that Stanford will be shut out of the national-title game is that they will be matched up with a "But we're undefeated WAH!" Ohio State and absolutely destroy them.

Anyway, last night's game was a pretty amazing example of why college football is the best.

(2) If it wasn't already, the Redskins' season is over after last night's collapse -- I'm no fan of Mike Shanahan anyway (let alone the Redskins), so I'm looking forward to the inevitable regime change. If anything, the result felt like adding insult to insult.

(3) ICYMI, Grantland's Brian Phillips on the Incognito-Martin story is the best thing on it that I have read this week. Check it out here. But meanwhile, that bullying quote relayed by Martin lawyer David Cornwell -- cripes.

(4) I love my relationship with Georgetown's Sports Industry Management (SIM) program. Last night, I got to lead a conversation with PTI creator Erik Rydholm, and he only affirmed my opinion that he is the most brilliant person in sports media. There is not much better than listening to someone really smart talk about... well, basically anything, but certainly things you also think about a lot. Thanks for the time, Erik.

Enjoy your weekend!

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

11/06 Election Hangover Quickie

*That Richie Incognito is loathsome is undisputed. I remain more fascinated with the culpability of head coach Joe Philbin -- not just "what did he know and when did he know it?" but this essential proposition: He either had no idea what was going on (which makes him stupid and negligent) or he did have at least some idea what was going on (which makes him a liar and fairly evil). So: Stupid or evil? Which is it, coach? I think he didn't know but SHOULD have known -- not that this is an excuse, but this was an inexperienced head coach overwhelmed by the full spectrum of the job.

*I think Nick Saban would leave Alabama for Texas -- I think that basically every college coach would leave their current situation for Texas. But WILL he? What other challenges does he have at Alabama? How much does the Big 12's relatively soft schedule factor in? I have long thought that the best college football coaches were wildly underpaid -- if I was Texas, I would offer him $10M a year for 10 years and force him to  turn down the combination of unprecedented money and unprecedented resources.

*Too bad about Aaron Rodgers. Presuming he's healthy to return to full strength for the season's final 5-6 weeks, the Packers should still get into the playoffs, at which point he can resume falling short of another Super Bowl title. In the meantime, the Packers will likely not be fun to watch.

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

11/3 Sunday Quickie

(1) The only material change to the CFB top 4 is that FSU jumps back over Oregon for the No. 2 spot, on the strength of clobbering Miami. Oregon will vault back to No. 2 if/when they beat No. 4 Stanford on Thursday night. Baylor moves into the top 4 with a win over Oklahoma Thursday.

(Nope, don't want to talk about either Florida or Northwestern.)

(2) Today's NFL schedule lacks a good game between two good teams (Bears-Packers tomorrow night comes closest), but we're close to must-win territory for borderline would-be playoff teams -- Dallas, Baltimore, Carolina and San Diego.

(3) The Sixers are 3-0. This is the most amazing November storyline in the history of the NBA.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

10/31 Halloween Quickie

(1) Red Sox win the World Series. "Good. Crazy." I'm no Sox fan, but begrudging congrats to Sox fans.

(2) The presumptively tanking Sixers beating the Heat is the most delightful result possible of the NBA's slate of season-opening games.

(3) Happy Halloween. As Gabe said this morning: "Best day of the school year!"

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

10/29 Tuesday NBA Tip-Off Quickie

(1) I have resigned myself to the idea that the Red Sox will win the World Series.

(2) I am committed to appreciating LeBron even more this season -- someone who is playing at the top of his game... and anyone's game, all-time.

(3) That said, LeBron's dominance and the presumption of yet another title for the Heat -- no different than last year -- is bad for the league.

(4) Finals pick: Heat over Spurs in 5. Then LeBron leaves for Cleveland and Bosh leaves for one of the teams in Texas, and Miami's moment is over.

(5) My favorite NBA storyline this year is the return of Kobe.

(6) I am pleasantly optimistic about my Wizards this season, despite mixed feelings about the Marcin Gortat trade. It's nice to say "Playoffs or bust."

-- D.S.

Monday, October 28, 2013

10/28 Monday Quickie

(1) Can you remember a stranger way back-to-back World Series games have ended? Walk-off obstruction, walk-off pickoff. The only question is how the Series can top this weekend in Games 5 and 6 (and 7*).

(2) The five best storylines coming out of yesterday's NFL games:
*Megatron's 329.
*Chiefs are 8-0.
*The Eagles are awful.
*Is Brees, not Manning, midseason MVP?
*This is one odd season so far.

(3) Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Stanford: That's my playoff foursome, if the college football season ended today.

Like the NFL? Don't forget to check out The Q, from USA TODAY Sports.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

10/23 Very Quickie

(1) "Your phone is the new Jumbotron." That was my pithy add to the OnDeck West conference in San Francisco this week. I interviewed Pac-12 commish Larry Scott to open the conference yesterday. It was a ton of fun -- thanks to the OnDeck folks for having me. Met a ton of great people and found myself thinking of a lot of great ideas.

(2) Ohio State over Mizzou? Really? My USA TODAY Sports colleagues have picked the latest "if the season ended today" college football playoff of Alabama, Oregon, FSU and Ohio State. I cannot understand how anyone can look at Ohio State's resume and rank them ahead of Missouri. This is the farcical side of the playoff system.

(3) Cardinals in 7.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 14, 2013

10/14 Throwback Quickie

10 years ago today: The Bartman moment, one of the most indelible in baseball history.

Here is what I wrote the morning after, in the Daily Quickie -- note that "Steve Bartman" wasn't yet known as the name:
Two Words For You:

He will forever be known as "That Fan," short for "That Fan Who [Nearly/Totally (TBD)] Cost The Cubs The World Series".

That Fan is an obvious (and worthy) scapegoat, but let's spread the responsibility around: Dusty, Gonzalez, the radio announcers, Prior, Farnsworth, Derrek Lee, the headset manufacturer, Pudge, Beckett, the masses on Waveland, Dick Jauron, Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, the fans sitting around That Fan, Paris Hilton, Bernie Mac, Harry Carey's ghost, the media.

Whether the city has a complete meltdown depends on how Game 7 plays out tonight (understanding that Kerry Wood is as hot as they come right now, but on the flip side, so was Prior):

If the Cubs win:
All is forgiven ...

If they lose:
Yikes ....

Then I had an item asking if Alex Gonzalez was the new Bill Buckner:

Lost under the "That Fan" pile-on is Alex Gonzalez's Bobble -- this generation's Leon Durham moment, improbably from a shortstop who led the NL in fielding percentage.

What irony in his trendy name-shortening: "A-Gon." Because his error? Pure "AGony."

Rally-kindling instead of rally-killing: The Bobble doesn't quite rise to the mythic level of Buckner-esque proportions, but That Fan was merely guilty of amateurish behavior; what's the pro's excuse?

10 years later, Gonzalez's role in the debacle is still vastly underrated.

Yeesh: Whenever I read back through an old Quickie -- especially something from that first year or two -- I am reminded how tight I wrote, as compared to now. I got worse as I took more space....

Also: 10 years later, the Quickie is so mobile-friendly -- a decade ahead of its time, I guees.

-- D.S.

Monday, September 30, 2013

09/30 Anniversary Quickie

10 years ago today, I proposed to Mrs. Quickie.

If you've never read it, the (nominally zany) origin story was published on The Awl at the end of 2010.

Takeaway: I'm very lucky.

-- D.S.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

9/29 Sunday Quickie

With Lane Kiffin getting fired, it was always "when," not "if." Is USC still a great job? Yes.

Getting ready for a great Week 4 for The Q. Please pop by this afternoon to keep up with the best takes on the biggest storylines of the day (and there are plenty).

Meanwhile, off yesterday's day in college football, I am participating in a very cool USA TODAY Sports panel that is picking a "if-the-season-ended-today-and-the-playoff-was-in-place" four-team bracket.

After yesterday, mine is (1) Georgia, (2) Alabama, (3) Clemson, (4) Texas A&M. Georgia's win over a very good LSU team was so wildly entertaining and impressive that the combination of UGA's wins over LSU and South Carolina -- plus taking Clemson to the edge at Clemson in a toss-up first week of the season -- makes Georgia the clear-cut No. 1 team for me.

My explanation to my panel colleagues:

The whole point of the expanded playoff is that we are supposed to get beyond "and-oh" superficialities and reward the teams with the best resume — who did you play, who did you beat and what was the context?

This week, it is baffling that anyone could put any team but Georgia at No. 1. Where Oregon and Ohio State have yet to play anyone great, UGA has now beaten TWO superb teams and taken a third, on the road, right up to the edge. Their resume right now is so vastly superior to that of Oregon or Ohio State — or any other team that is "unbeaten" -- that if you don't have them ranked No. 1, it is hard for me to believe you are taking the new playoff process seriously, versus just propagating the legacy system of "Oh, your record is so sparkly!"

By the time Oregon and Ohio State finish their ENTIRE schedules, they won't have played as many tough games combined as Georgia has played before the end of September. If resumes matter, then Oregon and Ohio State don't.

-- D.S.

Friday, September 27, 2013

9/27 Mariano Quickie

Another week flies by working with the amazing Q team. Please give it a look -- and come back! (And tell friends!)

Inspired by Jim Delany (of all people), I put this together yesterday, a regular refrain from me: Do people realize the massive opportunity that would come from combining college football's compensation problem and the NFL's age-limit problem? Huge.

Anway, the real thing I wanted to say is that I cannot think of an athlete -- in this era of "Trolling Wins" and "Contrarianism Rules" -- who has more universal appreciation than Mariano Rivera. All the best to one of the all-time greats, in any sport. If you are any age from 25-65, he has loomed as large as anyone -- but done it without much fanfare, beyond the awesomeness we can all see for ourselves. The ultimate "show, don't tell."

College football look-ahead:

*When LSU beats Georgia, they'll deserve to be in that mythical "football four" playoff group. And if Georgia beats LSU, they'll deserve to be No. 1, even with the loss at Clemson. LSU will win.

*I want Wisconsin to beat Ohio State, but it's not going to happen, setting up an incredible match-up next Saturday night in Evanston.

*Notre Dame is going to get exposed by Oklahoma in South Bend. No weirdness like last year.

*Ole Miss will keep it interesting for, say, three quarters. Then it'll be all Bama.

*So Florida lost its QB and its most disruptive defensive presence, all in the same week. It's a good thing it's Kentucky. (Famous last words...)

Enjoy your weekend. Check out The Q!

Friday, September 20, 2013

9/20 Weekend Quickie

Another week, another week I haven't updated the blog -- I'm immersed in The Q. Hope you've had a chance to check it out. 

Learned a ton this week, just like we learned a ton last week.

Had great coverage of the Trent Richardson trade -- in the first half-hour afterward, I'd put our coverage up against anyone's.

Increased our output of posts and refined how we manage the stream, both really good developments.

Added a new talent -- FTW's Nate Scott, who was my partner-in-crime on USA TODAY's Ad Meter project last winter, and who is just a brilliant, congenial person to work with.

My goal is to make huge strides week-over-week -- mostly in how we're executing. The audience and revenue will take care of itself (as it already is).

Brief college football tailgate:

My if-the-season-ended-today playoff field: Alabama, Georgia, A&M, Clemson.

Check out the full file here, from the entire playoff panel. In the absence of my beloved BlogPoll, this has been a wonderful outlet.

As for this weekend's games:

Clemson might have locked in a spot next week with the win last night at NC State -- but it wasn't that impressive and being the 4th seed means it's a tenuous spot. Who might take them out? No one -- this week's games are really really mediocre. (Stanford, who plays Arizona State? Hell, ASU should have a loss from Wisconsin right now, and I'll grade them out as such.)

With zero upsets on tap, the only game that really matters is Kansas State-Texas, if only to see what happens when Texas loses AGAIN.

Enjoy your weekend. Visit The Q!

-- D.S.

Friday, September 13, 2013

9/13 Quickie: Introducing The Q

How busy has it been this week?

So busy that I haven't even been able to get to my own blog to announce the launch -- last Sunday -- of a brand-new product I have been a part of creating: The Q.

You can find it at q.usatoday.com.

The value proposition and format should feel familiar to you, although the initial scope of coverage is all NFL, all the time. (For now. Cough.)

But there are some big differences from anything you might think this resembles, aside from the all-NFL focus:

*It is built not just "mobile first," but really with the mobile audience as the only one in mind. Oh, you absolutely can (and should!) check it out on your work computer during the weekdays. It will look great (and even have a few desktop-only enhancements). But the thing is really geared for consumption on the phone (so feel free to check it out on your phone at work, in addition to at home, on the go, etc.)

*There is a great team of editors, producers, developers, designers and talent working on it. I'm a bauble. The real key is the core editorial team, plus the amazing developers and designers and USA TODAY Sports staff working on it.

*You really do need to check it out, because it represents the next stage in an evolution I have been working on since the Daily Quickie launched 10 years ago, through Quickish and now The Q. There are some amazing implications for sports fans and the media industry baked into it, which I'll get into over the next few months. I'm really excited for it.

So please: Check it out. Give it a try. Tell your friends, co-workers and folks in your social network(s). It needs all the support it can get, and you're a huge part of that, as you have been all the way from the start, all those years ago.

Huge thanks for your patience here and elsewhere as I have put so much time and energy into working on it.

Enjoy your weekend. I think Alabama wins, but I don't feel particularly strongly about that. If anyone can foil Nick Saban two years in a row, it's Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel.

-- D.S.

Friday, September 06, 2013

09/06 (It's a New Day) Quickie

The NFL season hasn't even started yet and it has already gotten its signature performance from Peyton Manning...

Anyway, things have been busy the past few months. For those who email asking "Man, what happened to Quickish?" it's a fair question.

The answer is that I have been working on a new USA TODAY Sports product that you will get a sneak preview of on Sunday afternoon, if you go to USATODAY.com.

It's not a secret (heck, I advertised for help!) It's a new quick-hit, quick-twitch platform that, at least to start, will focus on the NFL.

It is not Quickish or Quickish 2.0, although it would be nuts not to use the lessons from Quickish in building something new that represents an evolution in a space I have spent a lot of time in: Quick-hit, real-time(-ish) topical news delivery and consumption.

We have some talented folks on board to make it happen day to day, moment to moment -- if nothing else, there's your clear differentiation from Quickish -- and I'm really excited for fans to try it.

It's not the end of Quickish.com -- I'm thinking about ways to pivot the platform and the value proposition to make it relevant (and sustainable, given that it would just be me working on it).

But it is the start of something new and really cool. Please come by USATODAY.com on Sunday afternoon to get a preview, then use it constantly after that. Please immediately save it to your mobile home screen. Please tell your friends!

Can't wait for you to check it out.

Meanwhile, can't ignore tomorrow's college football schedule and a few picks:
Georgia over South Carolina.
Florida over Miami.
Michigan over Notre Dame.
Upset alert: Western Kentucky over Tennessee.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

9/3 (Tuesday) Quickie

Today's Name to Know: Jameis Winston. "Jameis Football," amirite?

Today's REAL Name to Know: Diana Nyad.

Terrelle Pryor: Has a player from the "Supplemental Draft" ever ended up a starting QB in Week 1?

Roger Federer: Is this what the end looks like? Hope you appreciated him while he was at the top.

Tim Tebow: Will he end up on the Patriots at some point this season? Oh, why not: I'll say "Yes."

-- D.S.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

9/1 (CFB Hangover) Quickie

*I'm totally fine with "Johnny being Johnny." It's who he is and good for the sport. You can dislike him for it, but isn't that part of the fun?

*The "making money" hand gesture (by Manziel and Tajh Boyd, among others) should be THE move in college football this year. Not that this is Manziel's intent, but nothing captures the absurdity of college football's unpaid system of amateurism like the subtle signal. By next week, it will draw a penalty, of course.

*Speaking of Boyd, he was on my Top 5 preseason Heisman list, and I'm totally comfortable with that. Huge win for Clemson, which will only make their perennial mystifying loss all the more baffling.

*Your win of the week: Eastern Washington over Oregon State, which was even better than North Dakota State's win over Kansas State. FCS!

*Florida isn't flashy, but I was happy with how solid they looked in a season opener that typically displays some creakiness. Playing without their RB1 or CB1, they stifled a solid Toledo team.

*Did Northwestern have its defensive players lay down in order to slow down Cal's up-tempo offense, which was leading the team to a late-night upset win? Maybe? Possibly? (Probably?) But that move is a strategic advantage to be exploited. Sanctimony over it is for fans who are winless.

*Very solid win by LSU over TCU -- given the opponent, arguably the fourth most-impressive win of the day (behind Clemson beating Georgia, EWU over Oregon State and Washington clocking Boise State). Alabama is up there, too. Don't let the yardage output fool you.

*Five top-ranked teams I don't know enough about yet, despite gaudy outcomes yesterday: Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame.

*Looking ahead to next week: South Carolina at Georgia, Notre Dame at Michigan, Florida at Miami (Upset special: Western Kentucky over Tennessee in Knoxville.)

*Great read by my colleague Paul Myerberg, who had all-access to ESPN's College Gameday crew.

*If I had a Top 25 ballot, I'd rank Clemson at No. 1 (resume-ranking FTW), followed by Alabama, LSU, Eastern Washington and Washington.

Friday, August 30, 2013

08/30 (It's Fall) Quickie

*Ole Miss' win over Vandy was as entertaining as you could hope for on a CFB opening night.

*The late illegal block on Jadeveon Clowney is Exhibit A why he should immediately drop out of college and wait for the NFL Draft, where he is guaranteed to be the No. 1 pick -- unless some renegade opposing player takes out his knee.

*So excited for the opening weekend. Viewing guide:

Noon-ish: Toledo at Florida (ESPN3). Trap game? Trap game.
3:30-ish: Miss St at OK St (ABC) +  5:30: Alabama-Va Tech (ESPN).
8-ish: Georgia-Clemson on ABC (check LSU-TCU at 9 on ESPN).
10:30: Northwestern at Cal (ESPN2). Late night, friends.
Key picks: Clemson. LSU. (Upset watch: Toledo. Gah!)

Want a great CFB read to get you ready for the season?
Spencer Hall on Vandy O-line coach Herb Hand.

This from Grantland's Bill Barnwell covers my feelings on the NFL brain-injury settlement.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

8/28 (CFB) Quickie

I love college football. Full stop.

Thursday night marks the start of the season, so I figured I might as well wedge in a few predictions:

*The South Carolina opener will feature my pick as the Heisman winner -- Jadeveon Clowney, the first one-way defensive player to win the award of the modern era.

The question isn't whether he is the best player in college football -- I would argue he is probably the best defensive player in the history of college football. The question is whether voters will reward that. I'm betting they want to make history as much as they recognize they are watching history.

*Alabama will win the national title -- again (again) (again again).

*That said, the perfect way to cap off the ridiculous BCS era would be if a one-loss SEC champ was shut out of the national-title game because two unbeaten teams (say, Ohio State and the Pac-12 champ) went unbeaten facing inferior schedules.

*Because starting next year, the national title game will perennially be between the two SEC teams that make the playoff foursome -- and there will be two SEC teams in the playoff foursome, perennially -- and that'll be that (until they change the system to force the two SEC teams to play each other in the semifinal, probably for the second time in a season.)

*The Tide will obliterate unbeaten Ohio State in the national title game, because (1) that's what the SEC does to Ohio State in national title games, and (2) that's what Nick Saban does to Urban Meyer. I loathe Ohio State as much as any team in the country, so I hope I'm pleasantly surprised and Alabama plays, say, unbeaten Stanford.

*Louisville will go unbeaten -- sublime QB Teddy Bridgewater will finish as runner-up in Heisman voting -- but merely return to a lower-tier BCS bowl, before Charlie Strong leaves to become the new head coach at Nebraska.

*In the opening week, I know I should be taking Georgia over Clemson, but I'm a sucker for Boyd, so I'll take Clemson over Georgia in the Game of the Week. Clemson's typical collapse will come later in the season against a seemingly overmatched foe, as usual.

*What I read last night, college football edition: Warren St. John's profile of Nick Saban in GQ.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

8/27 (Tuesday) Quickie

*Matt Harvey's injury is a reminder about the vagaries of pitcher health. And, wow, do I feel bad for Mets fans.

*Is Jeff Tuel -- with a leap unseen in the past half-century from undrafted rookie to Week 1 starting QB in Buffalo -- the best storyline of NFL's Week 1? Well, no (the return of RGIII is) and clearly, the best game is Packers-49ers, but it is one of those things that instantly jumps near the top.

*Happy retirement, Tracy McGrady. I never really appreciated him -- among prolific shot-jackers, I was more of appreciative of Iverson's game. I'm not sure if he is a Hall of Famer. He should have been a lock -- maybe that's the point.

Of course, McGrady is also responsible for arguably the most impressive flurry of scoring in a single game in the history of the league -- the legendary "13 in 35."

*Keith Olbermann's new show was, predictably, fun. (I'm a long-time Olbermann fan, so I was inclined to enjoy it.) Very heavy on "meta-media" coverage (not necessarily inappropriately, but you wonder how many fans care about the NY Daily News coverage of Rex Ryan, versus the basic idea that he made/didn't make the right choice with Sanchez). But points for a different kind of angle to a story that was worked over by Monday night.

(FWIW, 11 pm is a late start for me on a school night, but through the magic of the WatchESPN app, I was leaning back comfortably and able to enjoy the show. I love that app -- and it gets even more important/integral to my life when college football starts this weekend.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

8/25 (Sunday) Quickie

What I'm reading this morning: The NYT longread on ESPN's impact on college football.

There's a great phrase in there, about serving the "breakfast-to-bedtime fan" of college football. I recognized myself in that cohort, for sure, and that audience was certainly an aspiration of Quickish.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8/22 (What I'm Reading) Quickie

What I'm reading, last night and this morning:

*Mark Cuban analyzes Google's play for the NFL with the WSJ's Peter Kafka.

(Also, if Apple TV secures a la carte rights to ESPN isn't an extinction-level event for cable companies, but it changes the game in ways that are much bigger than anyone will predict.)

*Reuters' Jack Shafer (I'm a huge fan of his) totally mis-reads the "Grantland Model."

*Grantland's Bill Barnwell has a two-part piece on the myth of "momentum" in the NFL. It's excellent. Read Part 1 here and read Part 2 here.

*Wright Thompson writing longish on legendary Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday 8/21 (Very) Quickie

Apologies for the light posting as I work with a team of my USA TODAY Sports Media Group colleagues to (imminently) launch the next evolution of Quickish, coming (very) soon...

There's one point I want to make about this Von Miller suspension that has been nagging at me:

He was suspended for six games. If he was a baseball player, that would be 60 games, a nearly unprecedented suspension.

In MLB circles, a 60-game suspension for one of the game's Top 5 players would be cause for a five-alarm freak-out -- we have pretty good evidence of that, with Ryan Braun.

In NFL circles, a suspension for nearly half the season of one of the best players in the sport -- arguably the best defensive player in the game -- is met with... well, not much.

There is a bit about how it will impact the Broncos' chances in those first six games -- and what implications that might have on their playoff chances (Super Bowl or bust, and all that).

But there is basically zero outrage, both relative to baseball and in an absolute sense. Is that because everyone ("everyone") basically accepts that pro football is powered at its core by PEDs?

As someone who sides with the group that finds the moralizing in baseball about PEDs to be wearying, hypocritical and counter-productive (see baseball's entire "Golden Age" fueled by something now banned as a PED -- amphetamines), it's so fascinating to me that a massive suspension to one of the NFL's biggest stars doesn't move the needle among the moralizing faction.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

8/6 (Tuesday) Quickie

More seriously than the previous post, I think that Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post is great for the Post and its staffers, as great as the Grahams have been as stewards of the paper.

(Again, I grew up on the Post and will take on any/all comers in the barroom to argue that the Post's sports section in the 1980s was the finest newspaper sports section ever.)

Here are a handful of relatively brief takes on Bezos/WaPo that I read that found interesting (and, to be sure, mostly support my pro-Bezos thesis):

*MG Seigler, TechCrunch: While We're Trying to Follow His Game of Checkers, Jeff Bezos is Playing Chess

*Mike Moritz, Sequoia Capital (via LinkedIn): Stop the Presses: A New Press Lord Appears

*Henry Blodget, Business Insider: Here's Why I Think Jeff Bezos Bought the Washington Post

*Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine.com: Hot Off the Presses

*Mathew Ingram, PaidContent: Jeff Bezos Buys the Washington Post and the Media Industry Goes Back to the Future

*David Carr, New York Times: The Washington Post Reaches the End of the Graham Era

The key takeaways: (1) Bezos' commitment to customer relationships (which is a core part of journalism) is the most interesting dynamic... (2) the potential to leverage what Amazon knows/does in news... (3) removing the quarterly market pressures from the Post and taking the "long view" is a massive relief and ultimately a competitive advantage.

Yes, I continue to avoid the A-Rod story....

-- D.S.

Monday, August 05, 2013

8/5 (Bezos) Quickie

Because I don't really want to talk about A-Rod and his suspension...

If I had an extra $250 million lying around like Jeff Bezos, I wouldn't buy the Washington Post (although I feel a connection to it as the paper I grew up reading). I would totally become the meddling majority owner of a sports team.

It's an interesting thing -- how to spend $250M all in one swoop -- because it forces you to really consider your priorities.

(I have to say that if I can throw off $250M on a whim, that presumes that I have already given a hefty chunk away to good causes.)

But, yeah: Sports team owner. As an instant reaction, that really does seem to be the pinnacle for me, for some reason. I'm sure with some thought, I could think of something more interesting, like owning basically whatever I wanted.

Oh, wait. With $250M, I would totally launch my long-sought-after professional football minor league and fill the insanely good opportunity between the NFL and college football.

But that's sort of like owning a sports team, right? Basically.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

8/1 (August Already?) Quickie

*Riley Cooper: LeSean McCoy is right.

*Alabama is No. 1: Does the rest of the poll matter? Heck yes, given that it influences who Alabama will play (hint: Anyone but Ohio State). The dominance by the SEC is the standard talking point. It is also a reminder that in this very month, we will see a match-up between two Top 10 teams, Georgia and Clemson, which is awesome.

*A-Rod: A lifetime ban is a fun, wacky idea. But let's assume they negotiate that down to the rest of this season and all of next season, which might as well be a lifetime ban, except for the Yankees, who will have to pay him all that remaining money.

*Buck Showalter: The whole "If the Yankees can dump A-Rod's salary, they will totally steal Matt Weiters from us in two years" thing was wildly refreshing in its candor. Is he wrong?

*John Wall: As a Wizards fan, I am totally comfortable giving him The Max. I think he ascends to all-NBA status within two years (standard caveats about avoiding injuries). Does a deal that big hamper the team's ability to sign other players to help him? Probably, if you're comparing it to Stephen Curry's bargain deal. And that's too bad. But the system is the system. Now go earn it, JW.

*Chip Kelly: He might downplay the "refs will slow-play the Eagles' offense" thing for now, but I'm betting that it is a huge problem. Frankly, it's a huge blow to the integrity of the league that it wouldn't ensure that refs work as quickly as any team wants to play. Why there would be a distinction between the refs having to play faster during the final two minutes than the rest of the game is ludicrous.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Best Thing I Read In July: Thompson on Manziel

Best thing I read in July comes swooping in at the buzzer: Wright Thompson on Johnny Manziel. Give it a read or Pocket it and save it for a read later. But definitely worth a read.

7/30 (Tuesday) Quickie

(1) Peter Gammons is launching a site. I don't know whether it will be successful or not. I will say that:

(a) the conditions for an "indie" site like that are far tougher in 2013 than, say, if he had tried it in 2007 or 2008...

(2) it's a tough content category to crack, even with his name recogition...

and, most of all, (3) unlike Simmons or King or Silver, who have 100% backing (funding, resources, promotion, sales, etc.)

Gammons is trying to do it on his own (or even with a partner like Tru, who has managed to secure a launch sponsor, which is a pretty solid feat on its own merits).

That -- more than anything -- is the difference, what makes comps between Gammons and Simmons/King apples and oranges beyond "big name in mainstream sports media starts his own* site."

(* - "Own" is relative.)

I applaud anyone in media trying to be more entrepreneurial. But it's going to be tough sledding, however much I wish him the best. Keep an eye on his Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign as a barometer.

(2) I'm bummed about the Nats this season, but I'm down with the Rays taking it to Boston -- errant call or not.

(3) I think I haven't appreciated Adrian Peterson enough in his career, but I look forward to doing more of that going forward -- he has been on a roll with his candor (test for HGH, he'll break Emmitt's rushing record in a few years), and this photo is the best.

If you like the NBA, this is Zach Lowe at his best.

-- D.S.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

7/29 (Monday) Quickie

Been unpacking a ton of boxes -- particularly books that I have bought and carried around for close to 20 years -- and I will say that in addition to some really out-dated business books and a few dalliances with both trendy fiction and interesting-sounding-at-the-time Gladwellian books attempting to explain life (none of which I will ever read again, but still I feel compelled to hold on to), I have a ton of sports books and most have (and will) stand the test of time. Anyway...

(1) US Men's National Soccer Team: A Gold Cup title means that I think we have reached "World Cup knock-out round or bust" territory (if we weren't there before).

(2) Yasiel Puig: Yup.

(3) Derek Jeter: That he hit a HR on his first pitch back from the DL was... cliche? Obvious? No, not obvious. But definitely cliche.

(4) Johnny Manziel: With every new absurd off-field thing, I like him more and more.

Book I unpacked that gave me the biggest tug of nostalgia -- An autographed copy of "High Hopes," a book that Gary Barnett and then-St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Vahe Gregorian wrote after Barnett led Northwestern to the Rose Bowl in 1995. Yes, Barnett is a pariah in college football coaching, and there are many reasons I should dislike him, but I can't. He got the Purple to Pasadena, a mere five years after strolling into Welsh-Ryan Arena the day he was hired and telling all the (appropriately cynical) students that he would do just that.

-- D.S.

Monday, July 22, 2013

7/22 (MMQB) Quickie

(1) I am impossibly biased when it comes to Peter King. Back in 1998, I worked on MMQB with King, and as someone who was largely unimpressed/uninspired by the enthusiasm or savvy about online journalism from the SI editorial staff (almost entirely magazine-oriented), King was different. He totally got that his MMQB column was not just important, but most important. I think he realized that it was more important than an SI magazine cover story. And as SI's impact through the magazine has continued to wane, King's impact through MMQB online has only grown exponentially since then. The new site -- TheMMQB.com -- is the next evolution of MMQB and the continuing evolution as "brand within brand" for mainstream media companies. The thing is that unlike Nate Silver or Andrew Ross Sorkin or Ezra Klein or even Bill Simmons, Peter King was a "brand within a brand" online 15 years ago, heralding what we are seeing today. That's not to knock Silver or Sorkin or Klein or Simmons; I have spent a pretty big part of my career working on "brands within brands" (cough -- Daily Quickie -- cough), but King was/is a pioneer. Here's to great success for him and his team.

(2) Nate Silver to ESPN is made official. See below for my reaction to it from the weekend when the news first broke. Great move for Nate. Great move for ESPN. Not great for the New York Times, but there are plenty of ways for them to push through that.

A quick aside to my friends in sports media: You are not Peter King. You are not Nate Silver. You are not Bill Simmons. The number of folks who can carry a stand-alone sports-media franchise is so small, I'm not even sure I can make it to a second hand. There are incredible talents. There are lots of "names" who might THINK they qualify. But they are orbiting satellites, not planets.

What all of those people COULD do -- if they weren't so focused on building their personal brand -- is do something entrepreneurial that might propel them to something bigger. That can certainly happen with lesser-known people who think and act entrepreneurially (I would self-promotingly say that the Daily Quickie was that kind of effort). But it takes a massive effort, even if you are doing it within the comfort of your mainstream company, and I'm not sure most of those folks want to put in that kind of effort. It's why you see so much success from folks who self-started with a blog back in the middle of the last decade -- it was an act of entrepreneurship, and it carried over into the jobs they are in now, many with mainstream media companies.

But the fact is that those opportunities are there for the taking -- you just have to combine a willingness to ID the opportunity, then work like hell not just to make it happen, but to make it grow.

(3) Phil Mickelson. If I was writing the morning column this summer, I would say that Phil's 66 yesterday to win the British Open wasn't just Phil's greatest round ever (which even he is ready to apply instant history to), but it was the finest round of golf of the sport's Tiger Era -- so, going back nearly 20 years -- period.

-- D.S.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

7/20 (Nate Silver) Quickie

Weekend news that has my attention: Nate Silver -- who took his "538" franchise to the New York Times, which became a huge win-win for both sides -- is leaving for ESPN and taking 538 with him.

I'm presuming he will have a huge role on the new "Olbermann" show -- a great move for both Nate and Keith -- and will get to expand the 538 franchise more into sports (along with keeping attention on the core "politics" franchise for ABC News).

In the end, the NYT just can't compete with ESPN -- for money, for breadth of opportunity and, certainly as it relates to sports, for impact. And, as others have noted, given the impact Silver had on the NYT last fall, this is a big hit.

Meanwhile, expect a ton of discussion about how Silver and the move (his own personal "Decision?") heralds the new era of "power of media talent as individual brands."

I'm not sure about that as some sort of blanket theme, for a couple of reasons:

(1) The most talented (and even less-talented) individual media "names" have jumped around for better opportunities since the beginning of media.

--> Silver happens to be a bigger journo-celebrity than most -- certainly the NYT's most high-profile talent during election season. But this is hardly the first time that ESPN has poached top-tier NYT talent -- most recently, the amazing Don Van Natta comes to mind.)

(2) Silver is a "99th percentile" talent in media.

--> It's like when people cite Andrew Sullivan as a replicable model, as if any journalist can/will do what he did. Same thing goes for SI's Peter King and his new MMQB site, launching on Monday -- there are probably less than a handful of sportswriters who can carry a full-blown site spin-off.

(3) Most media people don't have the stomach to try to build out their own independent brand, as Silver did with 538, before 538 was licensed by the NYT. (For reference: See this Nieman Lab piece by Megan Garber at the time of the 538-NYT deal for good details/foreshadowing of last night's news)

--> The most innovative thing about that deal was that rather than let 538 be "acquired" -- which is the default position of most founders -- he recognized the potential of a short-term license, with a re-negotiation when his contract was up. A deal for Silver-as-talent is fairly typical; being able to offer a known/loved property like 538 -- even if Silver himself is clearly the core feature of the brand -- makes it all the more valuable. Not that Silver couldn't have simply left 538 behind, had the NYT bought it outright, and started a new brand at ESPN/ABC News. 95% of the brand equity of 538 is Silver himself.)

I'm a huge Nate Silver fan for both political analysis and sports, so I am excited for him about the move. It makes a lot of sense for both Silver and ESPN.

And, hopefully, it encourages individual journalists and media talents -- along with the media companies themselves -- to think about investing more in building original franchises like 538 and MMQB. More on that theme next week.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

7/17 (Three Things) Quickie

(1) Mariano Rivera is the best. (Watch his intro last night.)

(2) Steve Spurrier still rules the SEC. (Get the highlights.)

(3) Keith Olbermann is back. (This will be fun.)

-- D.S.

Monday, July 15, 2013

7/15 (Rested and Ready) Quickie

Back after some vacation, not unlike Peter King, who came back with a week to go until his new spin-off NFL site launches next week -- definitely something I have my eye on.

*Johnny Manziel was already in "Johnny Being Johnny" territory. The difference between his other stuff and this weekend's kerfluffle with the Mannings is that it was the Mannings.

*MLB Home Run Derby: I'm picking Bryce Harper, who will have his dad pitching to him.

*Chris Davis: Still, hitting 37 HR by the All-Star break is huge. I'm bearish that he can reach the magic "62" milestone, but his chase for it is the most compelling non-playoff-positioning storyline of the second half.

*Today's Name to Know: Jordan Spieth, the youngest player to win a PGA Tour event in more than a half-century. The star power might erode over time, but there is no question that the next 10-20 years of golf will feature far better overall play in the top tier than the past 10-20. That, more than anything, is Tiger's legacy to the sport.

*SEC Media Days week: No offense to Ivan Maisel, but Johnny Manziel isn't a bigger college football celebrity than Tim Tebow was in 2009. His presence at SECMD will be huge, no question -- I'm happy to call him the second-biggest celebrity in college football history -- but there is only one Tebowmania.

*Greg Oden to the Mavs? The win-win here is that Dallas will put as many resources against Oden's rehab and overall health as any team out there, even if the Mavs have zero chance of being competitive (meaning: competing for a title) this season.

*Metta World Peace on the Knicks feels so right, there's no way it can be wrong.

*Your (tangential) Sports x Politics read of the day is Ta-Nehisi Coates on Trayvon Martin, a searing read which ends with a reference to Bill Parcells' most famous quote.

-- D.S.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

7/6 (Howard the Rocket) Quickie

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey is not just the NBA executive of the year - you can put that one in the bank - but he is the Exec of the Year in all of sports. 

It's not just about getting Dwight Howard, who immediately helps position Houston as one of only a handful (4?) of teams who have a realistic shot at the NBA title next year (or the near future).

It is the idea - and this is my favortite data point I have seen in the last 24 hiurs - that as of just one year ago, the Rockets had only two current players on their roster. 

Morey tried to land Dwight in a trade. Then, having failed, he pulled off the Harden heist (getting Lin and Asik too) while still maintaining the cap flexibility to make a run at Dwight as a free agent, now with a way more compelling case for landing him.

Now, Morey has not one but two "franchise" players, plus Asik (who could be flipped) plus Lin plus Parsons, who is like a better/younger/cheaper version of Ryan Anderson, who teamed with Dwight on that Magic team that made the Finals on the strength of Howard and 3s. The Rockets already had the shooting; now, they have the center.

In short: Daryl Morey wins. What has YOUR favorite team's GM done lately?

Finally: Congrats to my USA Today Sports colleague Sam Amick on being first with the news. Great scoop.

- DS

Friday, July 05, 2013

7/5 (Dwight Decision) Quickie

If I was Dwight Howard, I would pick the Rockets.

The more intriguing thing is how the Lakers would recover from losing a presumptive core piece of their future (he was totally worth trading for, even as a year-long rental). 

Without Kobe for most of the season (and who knows how well he will be able to play), the Lakers could be awful, with few pieces to trade away (Gasol?) and an even worse situation on the court after that - it even begs the question if it is something Kobe would even want to be a part of. A Lottery pick next June would help - but not THAT much (or certainly that quickly).

Meanwhile, Houston joins a very short list of teams that should/could consider themselves actual title contenders, along with the Spurs, Thunder and Heat. That's it. 

Howard in Houston is - ok: would be -  the most intriguing storyline of the 2013-2014 NBA season. 

- DS

Thursday, July 04, 2013

July 4 (Brad Stevens Independence) Quickie

Love this move. 

Love it for the Celtics, who get the best coach in the country, college or pro (with a little "Doc Who?" For good measure).

Love it for Stevens, who joins a rebuilding team with low/no expectations and even if things go sideways, he will be the most sought-after college hire. 

(In fact, you could consider this a very well-paid, reputation-burnishing sabbatical until Stevens takes Coach K's spot at Duke. Let's be honest: That's the end-game here.)

Love it for Celtics fans and NBA fans and fans of big-A analytics in major sports and even college hoops fans. 

(For the latter, it's not like Stevens had a ton more to prove. Yes, yes: Winning big at Duke. Again, we will inevitably see that. In the meantime, how about seeing the best young coaching mind tanking on the highest level if the sport - not unlike Chip Kelly going from Oregon to Philly.)

The best part: No one saw it coming. No leaks. No drawn-out drama. All business. 

- DS

Monday, July 01, 2013

7/1 (Bucs, D12, O's, Puig) Quickie

Welcome to July. The story of the summer is that the Pittsburgh Pirates -- who won their 9th straight yesterday, on a walk-off no less -- have the best record in baseball...

NBA free agency starts today. Chris Paul is going to re-sign with the Clippers, making THE story that it sure seems like Dwight Howard is going to jump to the Rockets. Daryl Morey wins...

The Orioles aren't too shabby themselves, coming off a weekend sweep of the Yankees in Baltimore and currently in the AL playoff mix...

By the way, Chris Davis now has 31 HR, and if you were smart enough to draft him in your fantasy league, you are probably in the mid-season playoff mix yourself...

As he has been since literally his first day in the majors, 100 at-bats ago, Yasiel Puig is the most must-see player in all of sports right now...

Was the pressure from Brooklyn the reasons the Knicks are going to take on Andrea Bargnani's contract from Toronto? He's a 7-footer who can shoot 3s, but he can't rebound or defend. Besides the tens of millions in salary difference, is that so much different from Steve Novak?

The other intriguing NBA FA situation: Is Detroit going to break the bank to land Josh Smith?

Mostly because he is 36 but also because he has been doing the X Games since they started, I always root for Bob Burnquist in the Skateboard Big Air comp. He won his fifth straight gold in the event yesterday at X Games Munich.

Yup, Brazil is ready for next year's World Cup...

-- D.S.

Friday, June 28, 2013

6/28 (Draft Hangover) Quickie

Things I liked:

*The Wizards: Give Ernie Grunfeld credit (yes, I said it). He didn't overthink the team's pick at No. 3 and went with the sure thing and best fit -- Otto Porter. I'm thrilled.

Meanwhile, after years of frustrating me with their deflating second-round moves, the team's second-round pick was pretty inspired: Glen Rice Jr. is precisely the kind of player emerging from an existing NBA talent market inefficiency (limited draft insight into how D-Leaguers translate) that give teams cheap quality role players.

*Sam Hinkie: The 76ers rookie GM traded star Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel, positioning the Sixers to lose a ton next year and get themselves in place to get a franchise cornerstone in next year's draft.

*Magic: Victor Oladipo isn't necessarily an All-NBA superstar, but is the kind of core All-Star cog that changes a team, especially if they complement him with a high pick next year.

*Jazz: Trey Burke is an ideal fit for them at PG.

*Pistons: Get the best value of the 2nd round in Tony Mitchell.

*Daryl Morey: Isaiah Canaan is exactly the kind of second-round steal the Rockets specialize in.

*Nate Wolters: I was going to love whatever team got him -- congrats, Bucks.

*Smart teams still smart: Spurs taking Livio Jean-Charles, Thunder taking Andre Roberson. When those players succeed (possibly wildly), it will be because of the teams that drafted them.

*Anthony Bennett at No. 1: Got a wild night off to the right start. (Also, the Cavs did great picking up Sergey Karasev, who I really like.)

*The Celtics imploding themselves: Why not? Not like they were going anywhere.

*Bebe: If I was still doing a draft fashion review, he would have won.

*David Stern: He relished the boos from the Brooklyn crowd, who were jeering him more out of love than anything else. The moment with a tuxedo-clad Hakeem at the end was fun.

Things I didn't: Charlotte picking Cody Zeller.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

6/26 (Very) Quickie

In the absence of my traditional "NBA Draft Fashion" column, this year I voted on Nerlens Noel's suit, which he has put up for fan vote at NBA.com. What does it say that I voted for "Look One" and it is running a distant third behind the two other choices?

The Nets are smart to try to pursue KG, and KG should want to play on the Nets... Congrats, UCLA baseball... A-Rod is a fool, but Yankees GM Brian Cashman is a bigger one for engaging him publicly, not the least of which with a "STFU"... Aside from the fact that the Clippers put Eric Bledsoe to pretty good use, this potential trade of him to the Magic for SG Aaron Afflalo is a good one for both teams. (Then the Magic can draft Victor Oladipo and have the most athletic backcourt in the NBA)... Really enjoyed this dispatch from Grantland's Katie Baker from Game 6 of the Stanley Cup in Boston... Is it really that much to ask that my Wiz just take Otto Porter and be done with it?

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

6/25 (Cup) Quickie

This week, I began a summer hiatus from writing my daily USA TODAY Sports column. Still, can't help but file a few notes this morning:

The Blackhawks' Cup-winning flurry in the final minute (plus change, to be exact) was the greatest finish ever to a Stanley Cup finals. Yes, it was a Game 6, not a Game 7. Yes, it happened in regulation, not sudden-death overtime. But coming from a goal down on the road to clinch a Cup? Wow.

More: Steve Darcis qualifies for Upset of the Year... Yasiel Puig, Yasiel Puig, Yasiel Puig... Brian Shaw being hired by the Nuggets isn't nearly as intriguing or important as the Grizzlies promoting wildly underrated lead assistant Dave Joerger... I'm partial to Mississippi State, but the CWS best-of-3 format doesn't leave a lot of room for error -- advantage: UCLA... yes, Puig-mania, but Wil Myers is no slouch... that Bulls-go-fishing could-Wizards-trade-No.-3-pick-for-Luol-Deng rumor yesterday nearly wrecked me... Three days from the NBA Draft, I've still got it Cavs/Noel, Magic/Oladipo, Wizards/Porter (or, at least, I hope that's how it goes)...

-- D.S.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

6/21 (LeBron + Heat x 2) Quickie

Last year's breakthrough championship for LeBron was his most meaningful, but this second one is more important -- and will likely become a "most important" once LeBron gets to 3+ titles, as early as next year.

It was the toughest opponent he'll ever face -- far tougher than any of the six teams (5 if you count the Jazz only once) that Michael Jordan had to beat.

And he elevated his game to near-perfection -- by far the best he has ever been, and that's not too far off from "best there ever was."

I love that he didn't cheer as the clock hit 0.0 -- he later showed some emotion, but his initial impulse was to display a look that said "Well, of COURSE we won a title again."

Regardless of the handful of unlucky bounces for the Spurs (or lucky ones for the Heat) that ultimately gave the Heat the game, LeBron has put himself on another stratosphere.

Even if it feels like another Heat d'accompli next season, and... that's OK. This Heat-Spurs series was a non-stop thrill ride played at such a high level that it was entirely satisfying.

The only issue is if LeBron, like Jordan, can never again find a Finals foe that is worthy of pushing him to his limits and then, amazingly for him AND the rest of us, beyond.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

6/19 (Wow, That Game) Quickie

I think it's worth asking: Was last night the greatest game in NBA history?

I don't think it's crazy, and -- given the stakes, stars, storylines, moments, flow and finish -- at the very least, I think it merits a place in the conversation.

Some people will hate that. And, yes, it is "instant history" at its finest/worst and me going once more to the "superlative" well.

(More superlatives from last night: The sequence from the moment LeBron lost his headband until the end of the game was the finest stretch of his career... Ray Allen's 3 was the biggest of his career... it was the best game of Chris Bosh's often-maligned career... That was probably the best half of Tim Duncan's career... It was certainly the best game of Kawhi Leonard's career.)

But that doesn't change the fact that it was one of the most epic games in NBA history. LeBron himself called it the greatest game he has ever been a part of.

If the Heat win Game 7, I think it seals Game 6 as the Greatest NBA Game Ever.

And, perhaps even more impressively, if the Heat lose Game 7, their effort in Game 6 ensures that no one -- at least no one reasonable -- would be able to say that the Heat were unworthy, even in defeat.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 17, 2013

06/17 (Ginobili) Quickie

Happy belated Father's Day to all the dads out there. As I wrote on Twitter yesterday: If only I was half as good at being a dad as I love being a dad. But I work at it every day.

Meanwhile, the Heat are on the brink. Win or else for Game 6 in Miami tomorrow night. And even if they win that, it's win or else for Game 7 in Miami on Thursday night.

The issue is that the Heat have yet to be able to string together two straight winning peformances -- either against the Spurs or the Pacers a round ago.

Meanwhile, the Spurs might also be similarly stymied, but they have clearly been able to make the necessary adjustments from losing game to winning game, most notably last night and the starting of Manu Ginobili for the first time all season.

The Spurs treated last night like it was a must-win... because it really was. And now the Heat are in trouble.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

6/11 (Tebow/Pats) Quickie

It's not like I didn't see this coming. Frankly, it seemed obvious back in 2007, then again in 2008, then again in 2010, then again during this current Tebow interregnum.

Because of that, I have been mentally preparing myself for the fandom switch to the Patriots -- a team I have disliked and rooted against for a long time.

I certainly didn't want this, even if I saw it coming. But I accept it, obviously, and therefore will be buying the obligatory Tebow "5" jersey (the return back to his original high school number being a bonus side benefit of this move).

Most people loathe the fact that I, years ago, decided that I would simply root for whatever team Tim Tebow is on. First it was the Broncos. Then the Jets. Now the Patriots.

More on that later.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

6/4 (Heat-Spurs) Quickie

Here's the brutal (yet glorious!) thing about expectations for the Heat:

The Game 7 win over the Pacers was necessary, but not nearly sufficient, to consider their season a success.

In the end, the Heat -- exclusively -- are "NBA champs or fail."

Last night was something they had to do, but as I write for USA TODAY Sports today, it is meaningless if they lose the title to the Spurs.

I have written a lot about the core appeal of Florida fandom to me when I first had the opportunity 12 years ago: Crushing expectations.

After a lifetime of rooting for Northwestern (up to that point, "bowl eligibility or fail!") and the Wizards ("just don't lose your place in the draft order during the NBA Lottery!"), there was something so invigorating about rooting for a team where even a single loss can ruin a season.

I will be rooting for the Spurs, for a lot of reasons: I think the Heat are more interesting when they lose epically. I love the idea of the "Duncan Dynasty" extending beyond the Spurs' last title another half-decade, truly one of the most remarkable runs in the history of the NBA -- most uber-elite player can win multiple titles in a row. It takes a truly unique situation to win five titles over 15 years.

If I was a Heat fan, if I was LeBron James, if I was a fan of the NBA... I wouldn't want it any other way than it is right now.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 03, 2013

6/3 (Heat-Pacers Game 7) Quickie

Tonight doesn't qualify as a toss-up: The Heat will probably win.

Regardless of the sorry state of the full "Big Three," they still have LeBron. They have the result of Game 5. They have Chris Andersen back (and, in the effective absence of Wade and Bosh, that's a not insubstantial X-factor). They have home-court advantage. They have what I would qualify as a slight mental edge, even as confident as the Pacers might seem to be (or have reason to be).

That said, the only question for me today is: What if Miami loses?

It's kind of incredible: LeBron's superlative season would be a failure. The era of the Big Three would be effectively over. Instead of an epic Heat-Spurs, we get... well, not Heat-Spurs.

Every single bit of pressure is on the Heat. Will they fall short?

If they do, it is way more interesting than if they win.

-- D.S.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

6/2 (Grant Hill) Quickie

Happy retirement to Grant Hill. We 40-year-olds have to stick together.

(Can't wait for Heat-Pacers Game 7 on Monday night. Wow.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

05/29 (Rebounding) Quickie

Mrs. Quickie won me over on our first date when she talked about how offensive rebounding was the essential skill in winning basketball.

I couldn't help but think about that as the Pacers out-rebounded the Heat last night -- 49-30 for the game, 17-4 in the devastating 4th quarter.

Whew: That one sequence with about two minutes to go when Paul George missed a 3 and Roy Hibbert got the O-rebound and put-back, then on the Pacers' next offensive set, the missed shot by Stephenson, followed by a David West O-rebound, out to Hibbert for a jumper, which he missed... then followed up by grabbing his own miss and putting it back in, including a foul on the shot by LeBron, his 5th, which would emerge as rather important when, a half-minute later, LeBron was called for that absurd offensive foul and had to leave the game.

(Today's USA TODAY Sports column leads with Joey Crawford's officiating, but quickly moves to the more deterministic factor of Indiana's rebounding. Check it out here.)

It is important to keep in mind that everything broke right for the Pacers and they STILL only won narrowly. But they won. And they seem to have the template for keeping pace with the Heat: Rebound, rebound, rebound:

It was all the more impressive that the Pacers came back from Tuesday's Game 3 debacle at home to punch the Heat in the mouth, not unlike the way the Heat won Game 4 of their conference semifinal series a year ago.

The Pacers seem unafraid. Chris Bosh is hobbled, joining Dwyane Wade -- LeBron remains unstoppable, and even moreso when he gets a corrective measure in the foul category from the refs in Game 5 back in Miami. But he is more alone in his greatness than he has been since his final season with the Cavs.

The pendulum continues to swing in this series, and I'm back to the delightful idea that this is a toss-up -- no question: The Pacers have a shot at knocking off the Heat.

-- D.S.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

5/26 (Duncan Dynasty) Quickie

Tim Duncan is amazing.

At his age, making 1st-team All-NBA, then leading the Spurs to an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals (potentially giving the Spurs extra rest and prep time while the Heat battles it out with the Pacers) and positioning himself for yet another NBA championship.

When I was writing for ESPN.com, I coined a phrase "Duncan Dynasty" to represent how we will remember the era between Michael Jordan's final title and LeBron's first. I still think that fits, and -- let's not downplay it -- at 9 years (1999-2007, Duncan's most recent title) it is longer than the Jordan Era (1991-1998), if not quite as many rings. But if Duncan extends it to 2013 (particularly in what is presumed to have been the peak of the "LeBron Era"), then it puts his greatness at a whole new level.

If you haven't yet, it's time to appreciate what Duncan is doing this season. The Duncan Dynasty continues.


*Who's watching the Indy 500? I always enjoy it, even if I don't follow the sport.

*Neymar to Barcelona: That's a biggie. Huge future awaits for him in Europe.

 *Everett Gholson is out at Notre Dame: That's huge. He makes that offense go.

Oh, and sort of an important game for LeBron and the Heat tonight in Indianapolis -- win, and they take back the series; lose, and they are no worse off than they were a year ago after Game 3 in Indianapolis, but it would feel different, given how this series has started.

-- D.S.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

5/25 (Very Saturday) Quickie

So impressed with the Pacers' win last night.

It flipped one narrative -- that the Pacers would be broken by how Game 1 ended.

It resuscitated another narrative -- that Roy Hibbert indeed is a series-changer.

It obliterated another narrative -- that LeBron has become infallible, particularly at the end of games.

It restored the "series doesn't start until road team wins" narrative -- the one we thought we lost in Game 1.

Good for Indiana -- hell of a win.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5/22 (Wizards Lottery!) Quickie

Guess I'm still in shock that the/my Wizards bounced from No. 8 in the NBA Draft order to No. 3.

For months -- since October or November, really -- I have been obsessing over the chance they have to draft Otto Porter, only to watch his draft stock skyrocket away from the Wizards' position.

Now, they have a shot.

I still think that there is a reasonable chance that Cleveland skips Nerlens Noel and drafts Otto Porter -- as weird as that might be to draft someone as sensible as Porter No. 1 overall.

But in the absence of the Cavs foiling Wizards fans for the umpteenth time -- I guess we got them last year when we got Bradley Beal, a player they coveted -- my Wiz just might land Porter.

It feels too good to be true -- that would be two straight years of ideal draftees, three in four years.

It actually makes up for the bungling of Jan Vesely in 2011 and the various other draft failures, in virtually every scenario other than the player falling into our lap as no-brainers (Wall, Beal).

That is the NBA Lottery at its best: Giving fans of largely hopeless franchises a boost of hope.

As I write in today's Morning Win column for USA TODAY Sports, I think that hope should extend to Cavs fans that bringing in Noel, combined with the rest of the talent (plus the cap space), might be enough to lure LeBron back to Cleveland after he finishes collecting rings in Miami.

-- D.S.

Monday, May 20, 2013

5/20 (Fun Times) Quickie

Had one of my favorite moments as a parent yesterday. We had Gabe's 7th birthday party at a local sports complex, one of those ones that has an indoor football field, soccer field, floor hockey rink, basketball court, ice rink, etc. There was a half-hour of flag football, a half-hour of soccer, a half-hour of bouncy houses and then a half-hour for the kids to sit exhausted and eat pizza and cake.

Anyway, the kids got set up for the football game -- football is Gabe's favorite sport (despite the understanding that he will never be allowed to play the tackle version himself). The sportsplex-supplied "coach/QB" gave Gabe the ball on the first play, a handoff where he was quickly surrounded by his friends.

Gabe juked outside, then inside, then bounced to the outside again... then just turned on the jets. I have never seen him run so fast - or look so happy. The whole thing happened so quickly, I didn't even have my iPhone set up to video it, but instead I watched it first-hand, and I am much happier with the mythology and the memory of him zipping down the sidelines.

My first thought was: "He looked like Tavon Austin! No, really!" But then I realized what I had just witnessed was the purest expression of joy I have ever seen from him -- it is a memory for a lifetime.

-- D.S.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

5/16 (Grizzlies) Quickie

The Grizzlies beat the Thunder so decisively that it made me wonder whether Memphis would have beaten OKC even if the Thunder were at full-strength.

It has become a given that as soon as Westbrook was ruled out of the playoffs, OKC was not even close to the team expected to win a second straight West title.

So what's a fair expectation, without Westbrook? Making (but losing) the conference finals? I don't think so -- the Thunder without Westbrook are a playoff team in the West, but clearly not a Top 2 team (let alone No. 1), and possibly not even Top 4. So this exit is fairly appropriate.

The real question is whether this Grizzlies team - as constructed, with those unstoppable two guys up front -- would have beaten OKC this year anyway. I think they would have. It's at least an argument.

And so I'm happy to give OKC an asterisk on this season, but let's not assume they would have gotten past Memphis either way -- at least in this scenario, they have an excuse.

Meanwhile, it is Gabe's 7th birthday. Some of you have been around long enough to remember when I announced he was born in the Quickie on ESPN.com back in May of '06, then all the adventures since.

Now he is a fully formed sports fan -- his favorite players are Cam Newton and Russell Westbrook. His favorite sports are football and basketball (although he also plays soccer and baseball). He loves NFL Red Zone. He is through the fifth Harry Potter book -- his signature gift this year was a Potter Quidditch jersey, which I'm not sure he'll take off. We are celebrating by taking him to Dave and Busters for dinner tonight -- his choice. He is wildly independent, and it is exciting to watch, even as I struggle to give him that leeway to figure out life. It's nice to have sports to bring us together.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

5/15 (Knicks Et Al) Quickie

Flattered that Mike and Mike spent a block discussing my Andrew Wiggins column from yesterday. Greenberg had tweeted it out, so I knew it was on their radar. I feel strongly enough about the topic that I am glad it resonated with folks. (Ironically, the column itself didn't do nearly the same audience numbers as some of the other ones I have been doing over the past few weeks.)

Wiggins at Kansas is... sort of deflating. I will watch them, obviously, if only for Wiggins, but I am pessimistic that he can carry them to a national title, a la Danny Manning. This was a moment for a superstar prep to really make a statement about the vestigial role of college hoops, specifically for players only planning to spend a year in college before being a Top 5 NBA Draft pick.

Meanwhile, I'm circling around a concept for the NBA Playoffs that is tantamount to a "TKO" -- no team is eliminated until they lose four games, but at some point (say, down 3-1), it's effectively over. The Knicks are done -- not just because they are down 3-1, by the way, but also because the Pacers are playing so much better.

As a Wizards fan, it is heartening to see the success of the Pacers and Grizzlies -- two teams that grind -- making hay in the playoffs. Now, to call them "superstar-free" is misleading, because Paul George is one of the Top 10 talents in the NBA, and I'm pretty comfortable putting Marc Gasol in that group, too. But they are doing it with consistency across multiple positions, plus a winning system. (That is clearly how the Spurs are grinding down the Warriors.)

Last thing: Clayton Kershaw may well be the best pitcher in baseball, but 132 pitches is insane.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14 (Wiggins) Quickie

Top prep -- the best prep since LeBron, actually -- Andrew Wiggins picked Kansas, in a bit of a surprise.

But the real move should've been to skip college altogether and go to the D League, where he would instantly have access to sponsor dollars, future earnings and NBA coaching -- all without hurting his lock-to-be-first-pick draft stock.

Longtime readers know this is one my capital-i Issues: The absurdity of professional league "age limits," which are sitting right there to be disrupted.

There is nothing -- nothing -- rational about a surefire NBA draft-pick prep spending even a single year in college before going pro.

If I had a lot of money, I would offer the top five preps $200,000 each to sit out the year and do nothing but train for the NBA, giving them access to the best trainers possible.

All the players would have to do is promise to tithe 1% of their first NBA contract extension -- probably somewhere around $400,000, but hopefully higher directly because of their experience in my one-year program -- which would allow me to fund the next player down the line, along with operating costs, which would also be supported by a shoe deal and other marketing deals, which would be revenue-shared with the players.

There is a lot of dumb investment money being thrown around -- it is hard to believe that raising $10M as the equivalent of a seed fund and accelerator for basketball talent (with the potential for at least a 2X return) is out of reach.

Anyway, here's hoping Andrew Wiggins doesn't get injured, like Nerlens Noel. (Of course, that ACL tear won't keep Noel from being the No. 1 overall pick of this year's draft.

-- D.S.

Friday, May 10, 2013

5/10 (Happy Mother's Day) Quickie

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms!

I had planned to write about Mother's Day today in the USA TODAY Sports column, but "Angry Heat Fan" needed some closure.

Between yesterday morning -- when I was pretty out in front of it (that's not to self-credit, but just to highlight that it only really popped once the casual/non-fans got to work and heard about it) -- and this morning, it became The Story. You would be -- or maybe wouldn't be -- shocked at how dominant it was among all sports stories fans could have chosen from yesterday.

There were a lot of good reasons why -- visual, accessible to non-fans, high-profile event, risque but not TOO risque -- and today I looked back on the 24-hour surge and tried to make some sense of it.

Enjoy your weekend. Lots of good NBA, good NHL and Players Championship, among other things. Don't forget Mother's Day.

-- D.S.