Thursday, August 21, 2014

8/21 Thursday Mo'Ne Mania Quickie

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*Mo'Ne Davis Mania: 6 Ks, but tagged for a few runs that ultimately cost Philly the game vs. Nevada. They are in a must-win vs. equally desperate Chicago.

*Kevin Durant gets $265M offer from Under Armour: Would be shocked if Nike matched, and it's the most interesting endorsement/marketing deal in a generation -- since LeBron picked Nike, arguably. UA's offer reportedly includes paying for a rec center in the name of Durant's mom, but I'd also love to see Durant and UA collaborate on an early-stage investment fund.

*Parenting: I relayed this on Twitter last night, but I took Gabe and Jonah to the Nats game last night, and we were on pace to stick around for a complete game 2-0 win until Tyler Clippard gave up the tying runs in the 8th. We had to get going. So we listened to the rest of the game in the car ride home, which is its own novel experience for the kids -- it's dark, you're hurtling down the highway and the excitable baritone of the local play-by-play person is cutting through the void. Naturally, the Nats won in a walk-off in the bottom of the 9th, and the three of us capped the night by screaming our heads off along with WJFK's Charlie Slowes. Not quite as fun as being at the park for it, but not bad.

(Oh, also: We had pretty amazing seats - first row behind first base, directly to the right of the dugout and photographer well, and new fave Denard Span took a few minutes before the game to sign autographs for kids, including Gabe and Jonah. Hat-tip to the autograph-hounding teen who crashed our row for letting us borrow his Sharpie. Then, after the top of the 4th, Adam LaRoche flipped the inning-ending ball to Gabe -- Jonah and I were on the concourse getting him Dippin' Dots, obviously. The enthusiastic 9-year-old girl sitting directly behind Gabe -- dressed in near-full Nats uniform -- later got her own ball from Nats 1B coach Tony Tarasco, along with a T-shirt from the Nats cheerleaders, after me and her parents pointed frantically at her until the cheerleaders spotted her. Between the seats and the ball and the autographs, it's possible that at 8 and 5, Gabe and Jonah had the peak at-the-game experience they'll ever have.)

*College Football lead-up: The entire SB Nation college football preview section is worth consuming, but my favorite piece is Bill Connelly on how coaches rebuild programs. People are also rightfully loving the maps feature.

(Oh, and Ian Boyd on the evolution of the read-option is also pretty fascinating -- I immediately started thinking about how to incorporate "pop plays" into the 3rd-grade flag-football playbook.)

Other stuff that I was obsessed with yesterday:

*Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele -- one of the smartest people I know in media -- on "the retro-futuristic future of blogging" (including a generous promo of my new email newsletter).

*SI's Pete Thamel with a profile of DC AAU impresario/drug kingpin Curtis Malone, who I think is one of the most fascinating figures not just in DC sports, but nationally.

*Quartz's Zach Seward on why "Twitter is TV," which I'm directionally in agreement with (and 100% think it makes for a catchy phrase), but I think it's much more about "live" than "TV."

*Fantasy football: Matthew Berry's annual "Love/Hate" fantasy football advice column for I look forward to it every year.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

8/19 Tuesday Manziel Middle Finger Quickie

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*Johnny Manziel gives the Redskins bench the finger: He has been in the league for, like, two weeks, and already Manziel is doing things that only add to his mythology. I'm not sure how worked up you can (or should) get over it -- it's so "Johnny being Johnny" as to be hilarious -- but it's the digit that is going to launch a million hours of #HotTakes today, that's for sure.

*From the absurd to the sublime: THIS is your winning moment of the day -- the New England (Rhode Island) Little League coach talking to his kids after they were knocked out of the LLWS last night. Wonderful.

*Phil Simms not saying the name "Redskins" on the air is the most seismic shift yet in the rhetorical battle over the name (from, frankly, an unlikely source).

I wonder if Simms will backtrack -- it's too prominent, and CBS is too invested in an NFL too invested in supporting Snyder. (That said: If there is no backtracking, by extension that means that both the CBS and NFL have tacitly approved of Simms' stand, which is its own thunderous statement.)

Peter King coming out against the name -- vowing not to use it -- a year ago was a big deal. So was Christine Brennan, who followed King by a few days. Slate not using it is consistent with Slate's values (if the opposite of a #slatepitch!).

I have argued from the start that the ultimate barrier isn't even ESPN, which is far more likely to give its personnel the choice over whether to conscientiously object or not, but the AP, as a style rule.

*Ohio State loses QB Braxton Miller: Depending on how long he is out, that's worth re-doing an AP or Coaches' Top 25 ballot before the season even starts; OSU goes from consensus favorite to go unbeaten and reach the playoff to hard-pressed to even win the Big Ten.

*Oklahoma is talented enough to get by without suspended 5-star freshman RB Joe Mixon, but securing a spot in the Playoff 4 will be decided at the margins. And at the margins, Mixon was a potential difference-maker.

*The clubhouse leader for best story of the NFL season has got to be that Jerry Jones' son had to physically yank a draft card saying "Johnny Manziel" out of his dad's hand before the elder Jones could turn it in to pick the QB. It's like the Yoink Heard 'Round the World.

*Annual tradition: Football Outsiders prepares one paragraph per NFL team for Deadspin. A great preview that you walk away from smarter.

-- D.S.

Monday, August 18, 2014

8/18 Monday Mo'Ne Mania Quickie

*Newsletter update: A few more days to become an initial subscriber to my new email newsletter. If you haven't yet, sign up here. It takes about 10 seconds.

*Mo'Ne Mania: I'm all in on Mo'Ne Davis. Best sports story of the year. (No, I'm not saying she's bigger than the World Cup. But, yes, I am saying she's the best story.)

*NFL Preseason: It feels like the entire weekend was an appetizer for Browns-Redskins tonight, or -- more accurately -- Manziel vs. RGIII (even though they likely won't play any concurrent snaps).

*If there was one takeaway from the weekend of NFL, it's a continuation of last week's theme of adulation for Chip Kelly -- he's so good, he even makes Mark Sanchez effective.

*College football polls: "Who's No. 1?" has never been less relevant. For a while, it was "Who's Nos. 1 and 2?" Now, it's "Who's Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 - and who is 5th through 8th?"

*Remainders: I was/am thinking about saving this for a newsletter idea, but this NYT column about "team sports taking over kids' lives" is screaming out for a simple remedy: "Be the parent."

-- D.S.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday 8/15 Weekend Recommendations Quickie

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*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

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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

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*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

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*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

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*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.

Friday, August 08, 2014

8/8 Weekend Quickie

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*Last summer, NBC Sports' "Ted Lasso" campaign was the single-best promo spot of the year in sports. This year's edition is even better:

*Kevin Durant drops out of USA Basketball's World Cup team. As always, it's his prerogative. But for a hoops-obsessive like Durant, it is a fascinating development (almost as fascinating as his reported $300M deal with Under Armour).

*NFL Preseason: Washington RB Lache Seastrunk showed just enough to make him an intriguing late-round fantasy flier. Same with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce. Hard to get too excited. However: Michael Sam's debut tonight is worthy of national news.

*Jon Lester: 3-hit complete game? Yeah, that's why Oakland paid big.

*"Power Five": This was inevitable -- hard to begrudge the Power Five their... um... power. The lower-end D1 schools will go along, because without the Power Five, the lower-end D1 schools might as well shut down football and save the money. It'll be interesting to see what the Power Five do with their newfound... power.

Sign up for the newsletter! It takes about 10 seconds. I'd love to have you be a part of it.

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

8/7 Newletter Quickie

So many things have my attention this morning...

*Announcing a new newsletter: For starters, before I promote it on Twitter, I wanted to let you know that I'm launching an email newsletter -- nothing fancy or formal. Just a place to meander, and hopefully a lot more convenient for you than having to come to this site. Sign up is super-simple. Do it here:

I'll probably start next week -- perhaps a little later in the month. Give it a try. (I certainly will!)

*Love to Cavs: You can go right ahead and pencil in the Cavs as Eastern Conference champs. It remains to be seen how Love will perform in the playoffs, but he'll have plenty of chances now. (BTW: The T'wolves did just about as well as they could -- Wiggins has superstar upside and, in the short-term, will be so fun to watch catching lobs from Ricky Rubio. Anthony Bennett has very solid upside -- and probably will benefit from a new environment. The future 1st-round pick is a bonus. Minnesota is a swingman away from fielding a very competitive starting five.)

*NFL Now: The NFL launched its new quick-hit video app. The free version is good, but they offer quite a bit for the $2/month upcharge -- if you pay it from September through December ($8 total), you'll get Red Zone (with ability to Airplay it to your TV via Apple TV) and real-time in-game highlights, which feels like a bargain.

*Tilt partners with ESPN: I love this deal. When Venmo first launched, the very first thing I thought of was: "Wow, you could build an entire business on top of Venmo just on friends paying each other fantasy league dues." Naturally, ESPN's brilliant product honcho Ryan Spoon made this happen. Mobile payments were already taking over everything -- you probably paid your dues through PayPal already. This kind of deep integration with ESPN and its huge base of fantasy players/leagues is massive.

*Casper Sleep FTW: Last week, I asked if anyone had any experience with Casper Sleep, the start-up trying to disrupt the mattress industry, sort of the way Warby Parker did with glasses. I liked what I had heard about the company, so we ordered the mattress -- frankly, the biggest move was that after 10 years of marriage, we were finally going from a Queen to a King. It came yesterday and we slept on it last night -- really happy with it. And the price point ($950 for a King) is incredible. I have no relationship with the company -- I'm just a fan. If you want to check it out, feel free to use this link, and if you end up buying, you get a discount and I get a referral. Anyway, then I wake up to a news story that the company just raised $13 million. Excited to watch them grow.

OK, so please sign up for the newsletter if you're interested -- I cannot promise you anything except, as always, I'll try to make it worth your time investment.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

8/6 Wednesday Hammon Quickie

*The Spurs adding Becky Hammon as a coach is the best sports story of the summer.

#HotSportsTip: She will eventually become the first woman head coach in the NBA.

*NFL Preseason: MMQB has a great profile on the next great NFL head coach, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

#HotSportsTip: This time next year, he will be head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

*Adam Dunn pitched last night, which is amazing.

#HotSportsTip: Follow @70MPHFastball on Twitter, the best way to follow those glorious moments of "position players pitching."

*New MLB commish next week?

#HotSportsTip: Hard not to see it being current MLB COO Rob Manfred.

*I love a good bracket.'s "Best Individual College Football Season Ever" bracket is amazing.

#HotSportsTip: I'm partial to Tebow '07, of course, but I'll accept Cam Newton '10 and Barry Sanders '88. (Tebow didn't make it out of the first round, after a rough match-up with Herschel Walker '80.)

-- D.S.

Monday, August 04, 2014

8/4 Monday Quickie

*Took my 2-year-old daughter Lucy to her first-ever MLB game on Saturday night, Nats vs. Phillies at Nats Park. A few notes:

(1) We lucked into seats in the first row behind first base; she became the section mascot.

(2) Phillies 1B coach Juan Samuel threw Gabe a foul ball, which was nice (one of the T-shirt spirit folks also threw him a T-shirt -- sitting in the front is absurd.)

(3) Lucy loved the walk-up songs - early on, she perked up when they played a song she recognized ("Problem") for Ryan Howard.

(4) First in a lifetime of games attended in person for her, I hope.

*Paul George: Just awful. I'm in the "could happen anywhere/anytime" camp, although there is something to be said about USA Basketball's negligence in using a basket stanchion two feet closer to the baseline than typical NBA stanchions (at least in the context of elite NBA players using it).

I think the Pacers have a combination of zero chance of contending and a sympathetic, rabid fan base that allows them to follow a strategy of tanking for a high draft pick, who can combine with George and Hibbert in 2016 and beyond to return the Pacers to "East elite" status.

*Football HOF: To the point I was making about Derrick Brooks on Friday, Spencer Hall does it better.

*Looking ahead to next year's HOF: I personally think Kurt Warner should be a lock 1st-ballot Hall member, but the initial read is that he'll have to wait. Fits his narrative, certainly.

*Brett Favre: Did you think the Packers wouldn't retire his No. 4? Even with his exile at the end, it's one of the most iconic, franchise-defining NFL jerseys of the past 20 years.

*Tiger's back: Getting old sucks.

*Andrew Wiggins: He's going to be so much better off in Minnesota, where the fans will love him and Ricky Rubio will be throwing him lobs.

*Mattress mania: Friday, I tweeted out that I was in the market for a new king-size mattress (heading into our 10-year wedding anniversary, time to finally upgrade from a queen) and was intrigued by Casper, a start-up that wants to do for mattresses what Warby Parker did for glasses (Warby is probably my favorite start-up ever). I ended up making a purchase; it arrives this week. Will keep you updated, but the ordering and customer service so far have been fantastic.

-- D.S.

Friday, August 01, 2014

8/1 August Kickoff Quickie

By the end of the month, you'll have your fantasy football team(s), college football season will have kicked off and perhaps some vacation. Not bad...

*MLB Trade Deadline: Love the moves by the Tigers and A's. Win while you can, especially for two teams qualified by (a) a very old owner and (b) a GM who knows the variance of the postseason.

*Clayton Kershaw is so good that he's probably worth MLB splicing off a "Kershaw pass" on At Bat to let fans pay to watch his starts. I would.

*Most intriguing MLB game of the weekend: Lester's first start for Oakland, on Saturday.

*Pro Football Hall of Fame: The New Class. Derrick Brooks might be the best college football defensive player I have ever seen. Michael Strahan has been as successful in transitioning to post-career life as any NFL player ever. Ray Guy was long overdue. Andre Reed is very interesting -- he's almost a proxy for the log-jam of worthy receivers who are still waiting to get in.

*Bills-Giants kick off NFL friendlies: Worth tuning into just to see how Sammy Watkins does.

Speaking of friendlies, there's USA Basketball scrimmage tonight at 9 on ESPN, if you need a fix.

-- D.S.