Tuesday, March 12, 2013

3/12 (Tuesday) Quickie

The best rivalry in sports right now is 49ers-Seahawks.

*They play in the same division.
*They are the top two teams in the NFC.
*Their coaches hate each other, going back to college.
*They are geographically proximate.
*It's the NFL, and the NFL is king.
*Both teams continue to make bold moves.

Yesterday was a collision course -- as close as you'll get to the two teams battling it out with each other on the field:

The Seahawks traded a 1st-round pick for the Vikings' dynamic (and disgruntled) playmaker Percy Harvin (my second-favorite NFL player behind a certain Jets back-up QB). It was a big bet on one of the league's biggest talents, but if -- if -- Harvin is healthy, there isn't a better QB-RB-WR combination in the NFL than Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Harvin.

The 49ers used a 6th-round pick to give Baltimore at least something for WR Anquan Boldin, star of the Super Bowl and an incredible complement to the 49ers' existing offense, which centers around Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. It was a deft move by the smartest franchise in the NFL, if not all of sports.

The two teams will play twice in 2013 in the regular season and -- in part thanks to yesterday's moves -- once in the playoffs for the right to go to the Super Bowl. You don't have to like either team (or notice the distinctly West Coast geography or methodology) to appreciate that they represent Best Sports Rivalry 2.0.

Follow-up: So what rivalries round out the "Right Now" Top 5? 
(2) Alabama-LSU
(3) Ravens-Patriots
(4) Nationals-Phillies
(5) Indiana vs. the Big Ten

More of today's winners:

*Gonzaga is in the NCAA Tournament, zipping toward a 1-seed that they are good enough to deserve, despite their flimsy schedule strength.

*James Madison is back in the tournament for the first time since the early-90s... Tourney regulars Western Kentucky, Davidson and Iona are back in, too.

*Today's must-see game: Mount St. Mary's vs. LIU-Brooklyn (one of my favorites) for the Northeast title and auto-bid into the Tournament. Two other bids on the line: The Summit (North Dakota State vs. South Dakota State, which at the very least sounds kind of awesome) and the Horizon (Wright State vs. Valpo). For all six teams involved, this is it -- win and in, lose and there is no consolation.

*San Antonio Spurs: Beat the Thunder, handily, and missing Tony Parker wasn't a problem. There has been a presumption that OKC vanquished San Antonio from true "West contender" status and that it was a glide path for the Thunder back to the NBA Finals. But what makes the Spurs so fascinating is that they refuse to be bumped from the discussion, and last night's win is more evidence that OKC will again have a massive challenge if it wants to hurdle the West's old standard-bearer to earn the right to get demolished by the Heat in the Finals.

*Steve Hutchinson is retiring from the NFL, and most experts see him as a borderline Hall of Famer. Remember when his jumping from the Seahawks (where he paved the road for Shaun Alexander) to the Vikings was a huge deal, because the Vikings put a novel "poison pill" in his contract offer that kept Seattle from keeping him? (It's irony that Seattle yoinked a star from Minnesota yesterday.)

*Darrelle Revis: Is he about to be traded? I'm with Peter King -- how can you trade for him (presumably a lot of good draft picks) let alone give him the new deal he wants without seeing how he plays following his injury and recovery?

*David Garrard: He has signed with the Jets and it's just a matter of time before he out-performs Mark Sanchez, which to Garrard must feel like a delightfully low bar that makes competing in Miami last season with Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill look like competing with Rodgers and Brady. The obvious follow-up question, of course, is BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR TEBOW?

*The Big East: Begins its final tournament as something resembling the Big East you care (cared?) about. The Catholic 7 will keep the spirit of it going next year and beyond, but there is something about the mix of Syracuse and UConn (two fan bases that always pack Madison Square Garden) with the smaller basketball-only schools that will be missed.

*Manny Ramirez: Signs with a team in Taiwan. The ignominious end to his MLB career is up there with the ultimately ignominious end to Barry Bonds' MLB career. I would have liked to see both finish swinging at MLB pitches before retiring.

*Tom Crean: Apologizes for post-game outburst with Michigan. Don't apologize, Coach: Own it!

*Madden: Who is going to win the spot on this year's Madden video-game cover? I think it will be RGIII in a rout, but the introduction of old-school players is a wild card -- who doesn't want to see Barry Sanders on the Madden cover?

*Today's big non-winner: Adrian Peterson, who is more than a little ticked that the Vikings got rid of the player most likely to keep defenses from stacking everyone in the box against him (not to mention making Minnesota a viable playoff contender).

*Plus: Kyrie Irving, out 3-4 weeks with a shoulder sprain. If there is anything that will limit Irving's sky-high potential, it is his penchant for getting injured.

*And: Mike Vick, who canceled his book tour because of threats he was getting. He may be back in the NFL and he may be contrite, but there is a group of people out there who don't/won't/can't forget. Threats are never the way to go -- they would make more of a statement by peacefully (but loudly) demonstrating wherever he shows up.

*Anyone else still thinking about the DeAndre Jordan-Brandon Knight posterization?

-- D.S.

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