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The Pulse: What the world is watching

6/29/2006

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions
1. Are you ready for some football?

Will the U.S. celebrate in Germany?
The only uniform Terrell Owens is sporting right now is a Miami Heat jersey (while sitting courtside in Dallas) and the Indianapolis Colts still have months to find a running back, but football is most definitely in the air.

You know, the "other football." The one the rest of the world follow.

The World Cup kicked off in Germany on Friday, with the host nation knocking off Costa Rica 4-2. The United States doesn't play its first game until Monday, but SportsNation is already in soccer mode.

Perhaps heeding the buzz, a solid majority of voters prefer the World Cup to Summer Olympics when it comes to quadrennial spectacles. And most fans think the United States will be part of the fun for weeks to come, with 74 percent predicting Bruce Arena's team will escape the group stage.

  • 62% Prefer the World Cup to Summer Olympic

  • 74% United States will advance past group stage

  • Which country will win the World Cup?
    46% Brazil
    29% Other
    9% England
    8% Germany
    8% Germany

  • Who is your favorite international soccer star?
    38% Ronaldinho
    21% Ronaldo
    20% David Beckham
    16% Thierry Henry
    4% Andriy Shevchenko

    I am considering going by just my first name at work, a little World Cup flavor!
    Brian (Pittsburgh)

    This is the year that Spain wins it. They've been cruising into this tournament. I really see them pulling away with it.
    Dave (Toronto)

    Nedved's injury could help out the U.S. in the first game. Winner of that game is in pretty good position to take that death bracket and avoid Brazil in the round of 16. Big game.
    Jon (Malvern)

    I want to see England get as close as possible without actually winning the whole thing. They've become the Chicago Cubs of international soccer.
    Matt (Washington, D.C.)

    I feel ashamed as an American saying this, but I am picking the Frenchies to take it in the final over a stunned Brazil. USA plays well into the quarters again, but they cannot quite get to the semis. 2010 though, USA should be a legit title contender.
    Dougie Fresh (Washington, D.C.)

    I tell you, soccer fans are great. I was in D.C. when the World Cup was here and I was walking down the middle of the street in Georgetown. Coming up the street on one side was a parade of Ireland fans and on the other Germany fans. They were shouting and singing. It was great!
    Chris (Tampa)

    I'm feeling really good about England's chances -- everything seems to be coming together and only Brazil have a better starting XI. Look for an aging French squad to go out on a high and make a real run at the title. And get ready for four amazing weeks of football!
    Chris (Oxford, England)

    I'm picking Italy. A lot of scandal surrounding them, but last time there was a scandal like this in 1982, they won. I think the Azzurri will be back. Runner-up surprise team is the Ivory Coast. They seem to be a trendy pick to come out of that group with Holland and Argentina.
    Chris (Connecticut)

    Tunisia will make it out of their group and win a knockout match or two, with plenty of help from naturalized Brazilian Dos Santos. You heard it here first.
    Jon (Winnipeg)


    Thursday's Big Questions
    1. Which team will win the NBA Finals?

    Will anyone on the Heat be able to check Nowitzki?
    The NBA Finals are upon as after an excruciating five-day wait. The matchups have been analyzed, the teams dissected and SportsNation is ready to add its input to the Finals debate.

    SN gives Miami the edge in the backcourt and on the bench while giving Dallas the not in the frontcourt, and the picks for who should take the last shot for each team follow the same pattern. Heat guard Dwyane Wade and Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki each got better than 90 percent of the vote for their respective teams.

    Eventual NBA champions? SportsNation is somewhat torn. Just over a third of voters think the Mavs will win in six games and nearly 30 percent see the Heat taking the series in six. Only two percent predict a sweep for either team while 87 percent see the series going at least six games.

    And finally, which city wins the important matchups away from the arena? Pat Riley and his hair gel win out over Avery Johnson and his throat lozenges and Miami Vice is deemed decidedly cooler than Dallas, but the Lone Star State wins out in the battle of legendary NFL coaches.

  • 77% Miami has the edge in the backcourt

  • 57% Dallas has the edge in the frontcourt

  • 63% Miami has the edge in coaching

  • Who should take the last shot for the Heat?
    92% Dwyane Wade
    4% Shaquille O'Neal
    2% Jason Williams
    2% Antoine Walker

  • Who should take the last shot for the Mavericks?
    92% Dirk Nowitzki
    4% Jason Terry
    2% Jerry Stackhouse
    1% Josh Howard
    1% Devin Harris

  • Who will win the series?
    36% Mavericks in 6
    28% Heat in 6
    12% Mavericks in 7
    11% Heat in 7
    8% Mavericks in 5
    4% Heat in 5
    1% Mavericks in 4
    1% Heat in 4

  • 86% Pat Riley spends more on hair gel than Avery Johnson does on throat lozenges

  • 71% Prefer Miami Vice to Dallas

  • 52% Take Tom Landry over Don Shula

    Mavs in seven. Heat have too much star power but in Game 7 everyone is going to want the ball and Payton will shut down followed by everyone else. Mavs give the ball to Dirk and take Game 7 easy.
    Ken (Indy)

    This is gonna be a great series because each team has so many players who can light it up and be the difference for one game. This series won't be decided by Shaq, Wade or Dirk; it'll come down to which team's role players step up.
    Josh (Boston)

    Heat in six and I think it'll be a two-part storyline: "Wade is the best in the NBA and it's surprising the Heat didn't need Shaq to step up as much as we thought."
    Troy (Gainesville, FL)

    Shaq is old and will be in foul trouble most of the time due to the Mavs driving to the basket and burning the much slower Heat perimeter defense. Mavs in five.
    Jake Pittsburgh

    Dallas remains undefeated when Josh Howard scores 20+ points. If he can do his part on offense, his defense on a sick Wade may not make or break the series. Mavs sweep the Heat with only one game being close.
    Rich (Richmond)

    Hopefully, Cup Fever is the only kind of fever that D-Wade will have to deal with for the next two weeks. If he's healthy this will be a great series.
    Vik (Fort Myers, FL)


    Wednesday's Big Questions
    1. What do you make of Jason Grimsley's steroid bombshells?
    2. How will Steve McNair fare in Baltimore?
    3. Which are the top college football stadiums?

    Grimsley will no longer wear an Arizona uniform.
    Another day, another steroid bombshell for baseball. This time it's itinerant reliever Jason Grimsley at the center of attention after federal agents searched his home looking for evidence Grimsley was involved with performance-enhancing drugs. The search came after Grimsley told investigators he had taken human growth hormone, revealed names of other players using illegal substances and detailed the use and delivery of amphetamines by players all over Major League Baseball.

    Grimsley was released at his own request by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. There could be repercussions for many other current major leaguers as well, as the names redacted from Grimsley's statements to investigators are sure to be leaked in the near future. More than 80 percent of SportsNation thinks it will be a few weeks at most before the names implicated are out in the open and better than 90 percent believe his claims that many players are guilty of using HGH. Very few are hopeful MLB will quickly develop a test for the currently undetectable HGH.

    Still, more than half of SN thinks Barry Bonds' involvement with the steroid scandal will end up having a bigger impact than Grimsley's revelations.

  • Do you believe Grimsley when he says he thinks 'boatloads' of players were using HGH?
    93% Yes
    7% No

  • How long will it take for the blacked out names on the Grimsley affidavit to leak out?
    42% Weeks
    41% Days
    14% Months
    3% Years

  • How will you feel if your favorite player is one of the blacked out names?
    60% Deceived
    27% Won't care
    15% Won't believe it until he confesses

  • How long will it take for Major League Baseball to develop a reliable test for HGH?
    38% By the end of the decade
    29% They never will
    22% By the end of the year
    11% 2010 or later

  • Which scandal will have a bigger impact on the future of steroids in baseball?
    60% Barry Bonds
    40% Jason Grimsley

    This will be like dominos falling. The Feds know who Grimsley named, and those guys will all fold and name more names. Maybe lots of job openings in the majors to come.
    Robert (Wilmington, DE)

    WOW! Names are going to be dropping like flies. This is going to be very, VERY bad for baseball.
    Scott (Dayton)

    I don't blame Grimsley one bit. If the federal government came looking for any of us we would spout out everything we knew. Although, he should probably have gotten a witness protection deal out of it.
    Jake (VA Beach)

    Baseball may be in for a much more serious time if the Feds start charging the players who provided the drugs to others with trafficking.
    Andrew (Toledo, OH)

    Honestly, this story is a yawner to me. Another pro ballplayer was cheating with 'roids? Not exactly a shocker.
    GD (Cincy)

    Jose Canseco also named names but nobody believed him because he was a slimeball steroid user looking for attention. Why should we believe that Grimsley doesn't have similar motivations?
    Matt (DC)


    Steve McNair seems poised to unseat Kyle Boller.
    Steve McNair's drama in Tennessee came to an end Wednesday afternoon when the veteran quarterback was traded to Baltimore in exchange for a fourth-round pick. SN thinks that's a steal for the Ravens, even if a vast majority of voters think McNair will never lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl title.

    Nearly 90 percent think the Titans are doomed to miss the postseason in 2006 while just over 30 percent see the same fate for the Ravens. In fact, nearly 40 percent feel Baltimore is now in position to win at least one playoff game this season.

  • 78% Steve McNair is worth more than a fourth-round draft pick

  • 81% The Ravens will never win a Super Bowl with Steve McNair at quarterback

  • How will the Ravens fare this season?
    32% Miss playoffs
    30% Make playoffs, but won't win a game
    28% Win Wild Card game
    6% Win Super Bowl
    4% Win conference championship

  • How will the Titans fare this season without McNair?
    88% Miss playoffs
    7% Make playoffs, but won't win a game
    3% Win Wild Card game
    2% Win Super Bowl
    1% Win conference championship

    The Titans are giving Steve McNair away for free.
    Michael Hill (Chattanooga, TN)

    I think it's a dumb trade for Tennessee. McNair and Vince Young are good friends and McNair could have mentored him for a year.
    Jack (Grand Rapids, MI)

    I say Baltimore with McNair is Pittsburgh's biggest challenger in the division with a great defense and veteran leadership on offense.
    Kevin (Harrisburg, Pa)

    One can argue that the Ravens have the talent but have always been a quarterback away from being close. McNair can easily change at least three losses into three wins by himself.
    Andrew (Baltimore)

    Baltimore now has a realistic shot of winning the Super Bowl and McNair will show that he dropped off because he had no talent around him, just youngsters.
    Shahtaj Ali (Houston,TX)


    Neyland Stadium is a sea of orange on game day.
    ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman listed his top 10 college football stadiums in latest blog entry and Tennessee's Neyland Stadium takes top honors. In all, 18 stadiums got at least a mention from Feldman, leading us to to expand the list to and even 20 and get SportsNation's input.

    Ohio Stadium is the 'Nation's winner, with Neyland a close second followed by Michigan Stadium, Notre Dame Stadium and Penn State's Beaver Stadium.

    There is NO better football Saturday than being up in Happy Valley for tailgating then watching Lions roar to another victory!
    Brad (Fort Worth)

    No question, Lane Stadium in Blacksburg when Metallica is playing and the Hokies take the field. NOTHING is louder.
    Bart (Fairfax, VA)

    I went to Michigan so I will always be loyal to the Big House, but I grew up in Columbus and the volume and intensity of the Horseshoe can't be matched.
    Michael (Los Angeles, CA)

    Without a doubt it's Neyland Stadium, night or day, with 107,000 all dressed in the inimitable Vol Orange and guarded by the Vol Navy sitting outside.
    Tom (Bowling Green, KY)

    Morgantown, West Virginia at night is one of the best atmospheres for a college football game. Mountaineer Field should be included.
    Kel (Vineland, NJ)


    Tuesday's Big Questions
    1. Do you care about the MLB draft?
    2. Are the Edmonton Oilers dead in the water?
    3. Will Michelle Wie ever qualify for the U.S. Open?

    Luke Hochevar is headed to KC.
    Major League Baseball held its annual First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday and it appears most of SportsNation didn't really care. Less-publicized than it's football and basketball cousins and with seemingly no recognizable names, baseball's draft doesn't register with the majority of sports fans. Nearly half of 'Nation voters say they don't follow the MLB draft at all and more than 20 percent pay attention only during the first round.

    Just over 10 percent claim to have a strong interest in the best college and high school baseball players in the nation while roughly two-thirds of SN has never even heard of No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar, now a member of the Royals organization. And he's in the draft for the second year after failing to come to terms with the Dodgers last season. That lack of name value is part of the reason SportsNation says the MLB draft will never be televised.

  • How closely do you follow the First-Year Player draft?
    46% Not at all
    23% Somewhat closely
    19% Only the first round
    12% Very closely

  • Have you ever heard of Luke Hochevar?
    64% No
    36% Yes

  • 66% The draft will never be shown on television

    Why the baseball draft will never be televised: what good is it if the players selected don't make the league for another three years and only have a 50-60 percent chance to make it at all?
    Hende (OH)

    Don Mattingly's kid got drafted in the first round by the Dodgers!! He wasn't even rated in the top 200 prospects.
    Peter (N.Y.)

    Luke who? You know things are bad when no one has any idea who the first pick of the entire draft is.
    Dave (St. Johns, MI)

    Tigers drafted Andrew Miller No. 6. Wasn't he the consensus No. 1? Works for me!
    Matt (Grand Rapids)

    Someone please tell me that Texas is drafting some pitchers!
    Scott (Wichita)

    The kid who stole the HR for the Yanks in the '96 playoffs got a workout with the Yanks ahead of the draft. Think the Orioles will draft him?
    John (Chicago)


    Has Roloson's injury doomed the Oilers?
    The Stanley Cup finals began Monday night and Carolina has a 1-0 lead in the series after Rod Brind'Amour's goal in the final minute gave Carolina a 5-4 win over Edmonton. Just as important as the outcome of Game 1 is that the knee injury suffered by Oilers starting goalie Dwayne Roloson will keep him out for the remainder of the series.

    Ty Conklin, who had not played in the postseason prior to Monday night, was forced into action with just under six minutes remaining and committed a clumsy turnover behind his own net that led directly to the game-winning goal. Whether coach Craig MacTavish puts Conklin back on the ice for Game 2 or turns to the untested Jussi Markkanen doesn't matter in the eyes of SportsNation. Three-fourths of voters think the Oilers are toast.

  • 77% The Edmonton Oilers cannot win the Stanley Cup without Dwayne Roloson

    The loss of Roloson was completely demoralizing. The Oilers just lost it (figuratively and literally) after he went out.
    Jason (Chicago)

    I'm sure Hartford is going to love seeing Carolina carry around that Cup. No Roloson, no Cup for the Oilers.
    Jon (Malvern)

    Even though Edmonton lost, I loved seeing the defenseman, Pronger, take the penalty shot and beat Ward like a rented mule. Big Dud to Conklin: Stay in your net!
    Jon (Winnipeg)

    Roloson is not out for the rest of the series. The Oilers are just playing mind games. Seeing the way Conklin played, MacTavish decided to give the Hurricanes something they wanted to hear to get their hopes up. Roly will be back for Game 4.
    Marc (Ottawa)

    Knock the NHL all you want, but second-for-second, the Stanley Cup playoffs are the most exciting playoffs in sport. Every possession can swing a game one way or the other. Basketball, on the other hand, is only exciting for the last 3 minutes.
    Ted (Pittsburgh)


    Wie's putter betrayed her in qualifying.
    Teenager Michelle Wie failed in her attempt to qualify for the upcoming U.S. Open, finishing 59th at 1-over par after her putter abandoned her in the second round of Monday's 36-hole qualifier.

    That result no doubt pleases those who say Wie does not belong on a course with men, but they might also want to think about the fact that she finished ahead of more than half of the 135 pros taking part in the qualifier. With a showing that strong a large portion of SportsNation expects that Wie will eventually tee it up against the men in the U.S. Open.

  • 63% Michelle Wie will eventually qualify for the men's U.S. Open

    Wie should be proud of herself. It's quite remarkable that any person at that age came so close to qualifying. She'll get there soon.

    Greg (Baton Rouge)

    She will qualify for an Open within five-to-seven, and will make the cut at some point.
    Tim (ATL)

    Enough with Michelle Wie. Why doesn't she win an LPGA tournament before trying to make men's tournaments. She's a great golfer, don't get me wrong, but she should have to win a tournament before she gets all of this attention.
    Jay (Sayreville, NJ)

    I think the Wie phenomenon is exactly what sports, especially a "gentleman's game" like golf, needs. There is still talk today about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, so why not the gender barrier? Granted, Wie isn't the first, but she sure seems to be the most consistent and effective.
    Jason (Chicago)

    She was doing it on par with the men -- same rules, same course. It would have been cool to see her qualify without the sponsor's exemptions she has gotten in the past.
    JT (Lynchburg, VA)


    Monday's Big Questions
    1. How will the absence of Albert Pujols affect the Cardinals?
    2. How excited are you about the Mavs-Heat NBA Finals matchup?

    Pujols holds his side after strained an oblique muscle.
    The entire city of St. Louis, and probably much of the state of Missouri, let out a collective gasp over the weekend when Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols pulled up holding his side when going after a foul ball. The prognosis: a strained right oblique muscle that landed him on the 15-day DL the next day. Depending on who is talking, the injury could be moderate - Pujols might need just the 15-day stint to get better - or severe - some say he might be out as much as six weeks. Either way, the Cardinals must deal with having their most potent bat out of the lineup for a period of time.

    It's nearly 50-50 with SportsNation if the Cards will suffer through a Derrek Lee-less, Cubs-like slide without Pujols in the lineup.

    While St. Louis was gasping for unfortunate reasons, Dallas was gasping - and jumping - with joy over the weekend as the Mavericks reached the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Miami, a fellow first-time finalist, joins Dallas to make a series where both teams are making their Finals debut for the first time since 1971. The Finals will also be with quality star presence in the form of Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Pat Riley, Jerry Stackhouse, '05-'06 Coach of the Year Avery Johnson will all be around to entertain us through the Finals.

    Both teams making Finals debuts and the quality of the teams in general is creating some extra buzz around the 'Nation, as much of SN thinks these two factors will create one of the better Finals in recent memory.

  • 52% Cardinals will fall out of first place without Albert Pujols.

  • 55% NBA Finals will be a good series.

  • 34% Miami-Dallas will end up being a classic.

  • 68% The Finals is more interesting because neither team has won a title.

    One more thing about Pujols: NL Central is wide open again.
    John (Chicago)

    At least we can put the kabosh on the single season HR record for now ... unless Pujols goes on a rampage when he gets back.
    Jay (Sayreville, NJ)

    Here's my question: even if Pujols is out until, say, the all star break, how many players in the MAJORS will exceed his current stats by then? Not many, I'm guessing.
    Troy (Gainesville, FL)

    Pujols injury + Clemens return = Fun atop the NL Central.
    Greg (Texas)

    I'm sad. Pujols is on the DL. Everyone should be sad. This sucks.
    Cara (New York)

    Mavs and Heat will be a great season. Josh Howard is the X-factor. He isn't a "franchise" guy, but he could end up being like Scottie Pippen - a great #2.
    Dirk (Dallas)

    This Finals doesn't excite me ... mainly cause I don't think it will live up to the Mavs/Spurs series.
    Chris (New York)

    Will the Mavs be able to get the fast break going the way the Heat have been shooting the ball? Kind of hard to run the floor when you're taking it out of the net.
    Nick (Gainesville, FL)

    The Miami Heat all the way. Alonzo and Gary deserve a ring.
    Carlos (Tamapa, FL)


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