August 9, 2005
Wayne Gretzky:
Yes, the Great One's presence on sidelines WILL help hockey's overall appeal with casual fans.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

How many NFL fans care as much about their virtual performance on a video game as they do about their actual favorite team?

With today's release of the "06" edition of the uber-popular "Madden" NFL video game, the question shakes old-school fan assumptions like a PS2 controller on a Ray Lewis tackle.

Forget "the game" as it was known by purists who think the only thing that matters is the one on the TV screen on Sundays.

For the remaining 95 percent of fans' idle time during the fall, NFL fascination is fragmented in two huge ways: Madden and Fantasy.

I'm waiting for the inevitable poll result when more fans say they care about their Fantasy team than their real team.

In the meantime, fantasy manifests itself in video games.

I spent 15 minutes setting up my Madden "Superstar" mode choosing my parents' DNA to maximize my success. "Ex-Olympian," are you my mother?

Though gamers compete online and fantasy is rooted in head-to-head comp with buddies, isolation is the downside of this "sport-ciological" shift.

Madden lacks the collective cheer with fellow fans when an actual player from your hometown team does something on live TV. But fans are evolving without it.

Virtual is the new reality.

Ricky's Return
"I didn't feel rusty," Williams said. Funny, he looked rusty, gaining only 8 yards on 5 carries. Classic exhibition football.

For the Bears, who needs top draftee holdout RB Ced Benson when 2nd-round WR Mark Bradley (5 rec, 131 yds) and 4th-round QB Kyle Orton (7/11, 175 yds, TD) were promising.

Now, you have to qualify that, because Orton was going up against the standard 4th quarter NFL Europe prospects, but still. Chicago fans will take passing TDs where they can get 'em.

Lauryn Williams: Track star wins 100m WC title in downpour
Erasmus James: Vikes D gets a lot better with this signing
Anthony Reyes: Cards' stud pitching prospect starts tonight
Brian Westbrook's holdout: Eagles RB relents, goes to camp
Maurice Clarett: Broncos RB may need MRI on groin injury
Florida St: Willing to go to court to keep lame nickname
MLB Plotlines
Mo Rivera: Unprecedented! Who knew he had never recorded 30 saves in a row before last night's big win over the ChiSox?

Rockies sweep Marlins in DH: Fish lose to worst team in NL and lose ground to Houston in NL wild-card race. McKeon's job in jeopardy?

Cubs have lost 6 straight: Can you hear that? It's the sound of a "Fire Dusty!" chant in the wind off Lake Michigan.

Twins lose on walk-off walk: How ironic, considering all the breathless analysis earlier in the year about MIN's low walk rate.

Bertuzzi Reinstated
"Ban lasted 17 months" is misleading shorthand. Technically, every NHL player had been banned for all of last season.

Bertuzzi didn't deserve any credit for "time served" during the lockout, just like he didn't deserve the league's amnesty he received yesterday.

Palmeiro: HOF-worthy?
New Gallup poll shows Palmeiro only has 46 percent HOF approval (from 483 fans polled), but trust 110K-plus fans: Only 31 pct think he's Hall-worthy.

Begs an interesting question:

Should actual Hall voters take fan opinion into consideration? I think they should, but somehow I think the sketchy voter pool will corrupt any fan data to fit their own position.

'05-06 NBA Schedule
TV scheduling is always a decent predictor of teams on the radar for the upcoming season (or at least uses hindsight to project forward).

Who's playing on Xmas? Annually, the marquee game of the regular season. No surprise: Heat-Lakers (plus Spurs-Pistons).

Quickie 50/50: GA
When you think of Georgia ...

Hank Aaron, Herschel Walker, 'Nique Wilkins, The Masters, Michael Vick, Braves "division dynasty," GA Tech's "Lethal Weapon 3."

Vote Best of Georgia here!

Steve Spurrier:
I know CFB coaches consider themselves above the law, but could he really promise two players a legal brush-off if they returned stuff they allegedly stole?
Today on
Quickie live!
Stein: NBA's must-see games
Free Fantasy Football
Georgia's Best Athletes
Hank Aaron
Will Bonds top him?
Herschel Walker
Best CFB player ever?
Three HOF'ers, one staff
Michael Vick
NFL's top game-changer
'Nique Wilkins
Human Highlight Reel!

Titans rookie DB Pac-Man Jones needs to get a grip: He's griping about a lack of support from his teammates about his holdout. Just sign already.

CFB Coaches' Poll: Which two "coaches" picked Texas No. 1 over USC in the preseason Top 25? How about some transparency, right from the start?

NHL Free: '04 scoring leading Rick Nash re-signs with Columbus, a coup for a small-market franchise with a limited national interest base.

Duce Staley has knee surgery, and may be out a month. Something worth tracking for fantasy fans?

Hockey Night in America? NHL near a deal with Comcast to put two games a week on OLN. NHL should aim to find one weekday night as "NHL night." (via Philly Inq)

Condolences to family, friends and fans of longtime MLB manager Gene Mauch, most remembered for the Angels' infamous '86 ALCS collapse.

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