Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday 8/15 Weekend Recommendations Quickie

*Would be thrilled if you wanted to sign up for my new email newsletter, if you haven't yet. It's super-simple - it takes about 10 seconds. Sign up here.

*Today's must-see TV: Mo'Ne Davis pitching for Philadelphia in the Little League World Series at 3 pm on ESPN (or watching on your WatchESPN app).

*Rob Manfred is the new MLB Commissioner: As expected. Beyond the standard labor issues that pop up every decade or so, he will preside over an inevitable evolution of the sport.

*NFL Preseason: I don't know why the Jaguars are being so strict about keeping Blake Bortles on the shelf this season -- beyond his own development, he looked pretty good last night.

(It's not like the Jaguars are making the playoffs this year. Would it be such a bad outcome if Bortles led them to a 2-win season and they ended up with a great draft prospect or a haul of picks from trading the pick so someone else could take Jameis Winston?)

*The launch of the SEC Network last night was everything you could want it to be, right down to giving Tim Tebow a birthday cake.

*The single-best way you can spend $1 today or this weekend is to pick up the e-book version of Chris Brown's "Essential Smart Football." You will be a better (yes, smarter) fan for it. Buy it here.

*Chip Kelly Mania: Speaking of Brown, his piece on Chip Kelly yesterday in Grantland was awesome. Highly recommended. (Also highly recommended: Seth Wickersham on Kelly.)

*The best piece about Ferguson this week -- and one of the best things Grantland has ever published, period -- is Rembert Browne reporting from the scene.

*In a week of excellent reads, Paul Ford's piece "How to Be Polite" (published on Medium) has stuck with me. If you haven't read it, here you go.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

8/14 Happy Birthday Tim Tebow Quickie

Reminder: Sign up for my new newsletter here!

It seems fitting that today is both the birth day of the new SEC Network and the birthday of Tim Tebow, the biggest star on the SEC Network.

It was just more than five summers ago that I launched, offering obsessive coverage of the Tim Tebow phenomenon.

The site was fascinating to produce -- there was obviously plenty of material around Tebow during his insane senior season at Florida, his insane NFL Draft process, his insane rookie year with the Broncos, the truly insane apex 2nd year in Denver, the modestly insane debacle in New York and the not-really-insane denouement in New England last August.

I can't help but think that the moment the lights officially go on for the SEC Network, with Tebow on-air live from Gainesville, the NFL chapter of Tebow's career will really be over.

I remain biased and mystified -- that no team will give him a shot, that QBs like Brady Quinn and Rex Grossman can land on rosters, that this really might be it.

I know he continues to train -- I actually believe him when he says that his skills have never been better. I am left with one lingering question:

Why doesn't he switch positions?

Yes, I understand that the day he lines up at anything but QB is the day that his dream of being an NFL QB is over, but -- from the looks of things -- his dream of being an NFL quarterback *IS ALREADY* over.

The implication: Wait, he would really rather remain a QB and never play in the NFL again than switch to anything-but-QB (fullback? tight end? the invented-just-now "T-back?") and get a shot to contribute on an NFL roster in some other way?

It's not like he wasn't willing to do whatever it took to help his teams previously: His rookie year with the Broncos, before he took over as starting QB, he lined up as a receiver. On the Jets, he eagerly accepted a role on special teams. Anything to help the team.

The irony is that if he was on a roster as a fullback, coaches might actually be  willing to deploy him more innovatively (the way they should have when he was playing QB), in short-yardage situations or otherwise:

Four or five plays per game, what if you weren't sure if Tebow the T-back was going to plow you with a block, trample you with the ball tucked away, pitch to a running back or flip a toss over your head to a wide-open receiver?

If not a starting QB, Tebow's advantage to an NFL team has always been at the margins -- not marginalized: Helping secure the drive-sustaining or clock-killing first down, caroming in for the goal-line score, delivering the defense-distracting feint. He is a specialist at producing the handful of plays that become the difference between W and L.

The next phase of Tim Tebow's fascinating career begins today. He will be wildly successful and popular, because he has always been wildly successful and popular.

Look: I subscribe to the First Rule of Tim Tebow ("Just when you think it can't get any crazier, it does") and hold out that at least one more NFL opportunity will present itself (say, when Urban Meyer eventually takes over for Bill Belichick in New England).

Even with that faith, I can't help lamenting whether the previous phase -- Tebow's NFL career -- ends today, too.​
-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

8/13 Wednesday Quickie

*Have you signed up for my new email newsletter yet? Sign up here. Launching soon.

*Ballmer takes over as Clippers owner: It's a new era -- and a much, much better one for Clippers fans and the NBA at large.

*Speaking of the NBA, the 2014-15 schedule is released today, and the headliner -- as always -- is who gets to play on Christmas. Cavs at Heat is the headliner -- how many weeks will Dwyane Wade have to rest in order to be ready to play 100% for that one? -- but how about my Wiz tipping things off at MSG?

*Josh Donaldson + Jon Lester isn't just the A's formula to beat the Royals last night; it feels like the A's formula to win at least 2 games per seven-game playoff series.

*I am getting so excited about college football. Over the weekend, I went through the entire schedule, week by week, and came up with a list of the most intriguing/important games. So many, especially with double the number of playoff spots this season. I'll post that next week.

*Only meaningful to me, apparently: I don't understand how Brady Quinn (Miami) and Rex Grossman (Cleveland) can get jobs on NFL rosters and Tim Tebow doesn't even get a sniff.

*Deadspin's Greg Howard is one of my favorite writers of 2014 (earlier this summer, his longread on Jason Whitlock was one of the best pieces of media criticism/analysis/reporting I have read in a while), and this essay on Ferguson will help you understand why.

*SXSW "Panel Picker" launches: In March at SXSW, I produced a great 1:1 conversation featuring Texas Tech head coach Kirk Kingsbury. We've got another panel up for SXSW '15 -- a 1:1 with Baylor's fascinating football coach Art Briles. Learn more (and vote for it?) here.

*One more SXSW panels: I'm moderating a panel featuring ESPN's Marie Donoghue (who runs Grantland and 538, among other things) and NBC Sports Network's Ron Wechsler (who just landed Men In Blazers, among other things), along with longtime industry observer John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. The topic is "The Near-Future of Sports TV," and it should be great. Learn more (and vote for it?) here.

*And one more: My colleague Mike Foss has put together a fascinating panel on the state of the out LGBT athlete in 2015, featuring Jason Collins, Megan Rapinoe and Brittney Griner. That should be a tremendous event. Learn more (and vote for it?) here.

*My USA TODAY Sports colleagues have launched two new fantasy-related products: A brand-new hub for fantasy news and FantasyScore, a new daily fantasy game. Very bullish on daily fantasy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

8/12 Tuesday Quickie

*RIP Robin Williams. As talented of a comedian as there has ever been. The scale and scope -- everyone has a favorite, and mine is Williams' classic performance at the Met.

Among movies, I have the most vivid memories of summer 27 years ago, as a 14-year-old away at summer camp, with me and my bunkmates playing and re-playing the "Good Morning, Vietnam" soundtrack cassette.

Depression is a horrible disease; if you are battling it, please continue to try to get help.

*It is August 12th and the Royals are in 1st place in the AL Central. Amazing.

*Best highlight of yesterday: The old Cubs fan not only reaches over the back of the Wrigley bleachers to snag a ball, but he has the presence of mind to switch the caught ball with a spare, so he can fulfill the "Throw-It-Back" mandate. Watch it here. He is an early contender for Winner of the Week.

*Still taking early-bird sign-ups for my upcoming new email newsletter. Sign up here. I'll be honest: I'm battling competing impulses to formulate it perfectly versus just launching and figuring it out along the way, even if the first (many) editions are a little rough around the edges. They will be anyway!

-- D.S.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday 8/11 Rory Buzzfeed Blazers Quickie

*If interested, please sign up for my soon-to-launch new email newsletter!

*Rory wins PGA Championship in the dark. Great quote from Rory to Tom Rinaldi (which I spotted in Sally Jenkins' Twitter feed):
"I learned I can win a major ugly."
What a fabulous thing to learn, right? Especially if you are the most talented golfer in the world, sitting in their mid-20s and seemingly peaking at the perfect time.

We should all be so lucky to learn how to experience the "ugly" conditions but still succeed.

*Buzzfeed gets new $50M investment. At an $850M valuation. The bottom line is that this is a smart, aggressive, ambitious media company with an increasing war chest to do what it wants -- be an independent, public company.

*More media: Men In Blazers jump to NBC Sports. They hinted at it and you knew it was coming -- their leap during the World Cup was too big not to turn it into a bigger deal with a company that was more heavily invested in international soccer than ESPN (which should be credited for incubating -- maybe the more accurate word is accelerating -- MIB into the phenomenon it became). It's a perfect fit for NBC Sports, whose partnership/investment in BPL is a tentpole of its company. Congrats to Bennett and Davies; fwiw, ESPN will be fine.

-- D.S.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

8/10 Sunday Quickie

*Would love for you to sign up for my upcoming new email newsletter.

*This Tony Stewart story is tragic and awful -- and not even close to over.

*Johnny Manziel's debut: Not bad! Starter by Week - what? - 5?

*Jason Day's amazing par on the 500-yard No. 2 at the PGA Championship, in 5 GIFs.

*Katie Ledecky is ridiculously good. (She's from my hometown, so I'm partial to rooting for her, but she's quickly shooting up the list of "Greatest Maryland-Homegrown Athletes of All Time," which includes Michael Phelps, Cal Ripken, Kevin Durant, Travis Pastrana and Len Bias.)

*Sunday read: NYT's Michael Powell obliterates Deion Sanders' "charter school."

(My one quibble is Powell's judginess about players transferring schools. That's their prerogative, along with their parents. OTOH, I'm no fan of the cynical prep-hoops factories themselves.)

*Highlight of the night: Pujols walk-off HR in 19th.

-- D.S.