March 21, 2006
George Mason:
While Bradley is the lowest seed remaining at No. 13, little George Mason (No. 11) is reaping all the attention of the Cinderella (giant-slaying Mich. St. and UNC helps).
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
WORLD.  CHAMPS.

I saw the most fascinating quote in today's NY Times from Bud Selig, noted during yesterday's WBC title game:

He would consider changing the name of MLB's World Series.

"The World Series is still, whether we have a different name for it, the World Series."

Whether we have a different name for it?!

"However, having said that, as the World Classic gets bigger as the internationalization of the sport develops even more, that's an interesting dilemma, but it's a dilemma I'll be glad to face."

Interesting dilemma?!

I was all set to congratulate Japan and congratulate MLB on an event that, if it didn't dominate the U.S. fan landscape, at least it exposed U.S. fans to the depth and talent of international baseball.

Even baseball purists have to be divided about whether "World Series" accurately represents MLB's annual championship.

But fans would literally revolt if MLB changed the name "World Series" to something else. (They might revolt at the mere notion of it.)

But the future of the sport, as it is in the NBA and even the NFL, is in global expansion.

And not too far in the future, if it hasn't already, MLB fans' claim to a "World Series" will erode and MLB's championship will be recognized as only determining the top U.S. club team.

So here's the question: If you had to change the name of the World Series, what would you call MLB's championship?

Click here to send in your renaming suggestions, and I'll post the best of 'em tomorrow.

Bracket Hindsight
The Monday after the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is about comparing your bracket picks to everyone else's and celebrating Cinderellas.

But Tuesday offers the moment of reflection as to how and why your picks went so wrong this year. (Sigh: again.)

George Mason: Between the Selection Sunday dissing, the suspension of its top player for the first round and the seemingly impossible path over two 2005 Final Four teams, you totally dismissed them.

Bradley: Oakland looked so wide open at the top, the question instantly became whether Kansas (Bradley's first-round opponent) or Pitt would survive a high-profile second-round battle. KU was supposed to be too young to know better.

Wichita State: Putting so much emphasis on picking the winner of Michigan St. and UNC, you simply glossed over the Tennessee-WSU game even though you noted the Shockers were the highest-seeded MVC team (at No. 7). "Gloss" picks tank brackets.

Georgetown: Who would have guessed that the Big Ten would fold? And, of all the Big Ten teams, that its best team, Ohio State, would lose in Dayton? Perhaps you dismissed the Hoyas' win over Duke as a fluke, instead concentrating on the fact that they didn't put other teams away.

(Coming Wednesday: A fresh start?)

Nat'l Bracket Update
As I mentioned yesterday, if you used the National Bracket as your guide, you'd be beating 70 percent of fans nationwide, which is probably better than your pool status right now.

SportsNation has a fascinating poll that showed a change in fan projection of Final Four teams between last week and now:

Oakland: Gonzaga used to be the consensus choice to win the region; that's now UCLA (but still not by much).

Minneapolis: Villanova used to be the choice but has been nudged out by BC as the fan favorite to win the region.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
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Clippers: 13 games over .500 for first time since '75-76
Brad Childress: New Vikings coach gets OL building block
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Rasheed Wallace: Too many T's could lead to suspension
Frank Robinson: Is he a type to soothe relations w/ Soriano?
Chris Andersen: Drug-related NBA ban is upheld on appeal
 
Soriano Refuses
Putting the "No" in "Soriano," the Nats' winter acquisition and top player refused to take his position in left field yesterday.

What a nasty predicament for the Nats: They can't physically force him to play; all they can do is put him on the "disqualified" list, meaning he doesn't get paid or earn credit toward his free agency in 2006.

That doesn't help the team in either the short run or the long run. It doesn't look like they're going to be able to convince him to shift from 2B to LF, and it's unlikely that sanctions will make him budge.

(Is it really so terrible to move to left field? The guy isn't exactly a Gold Glover at 2B. What's his fixation on his original position? If A-Rod, a Gold Glove shortstop, is willing to switch from SS to 3B, anyone should be willing to change positions.)

The Nats can try to wait Soriano out, but this isn't a T.O.-type situation; they want him on the field, even if he's grumpy. How long can they afford to let him sit? Give it a month; then, they'll have to try to trade him.

Seahawks Lose Hutch
Shawn Alexander won NFL MVP, but quite a few fans attributed his success (as well as that of QB Matt Hasselbeck) to the Seahawks' stellar O-line, anchored by OG Steve Hutchinson.

Now we'll get to see who was more valuable: Hutchinson is on his way to Minnesota after the Seahawks wouldn't match the Vikings' seven-year, $49 million offer.

It's hard to blame the Seahawks: Hutchinson's deal contained a "poison pill" that would have made all seven years guaranteed.

Here's an interesting tension: The "win-now" focus Seattle placed in re-signing RB Shaun Alexander to the largest deal for a RB in NFL history versus the long-term sensibility of letting Hutchinson go (even though it might hurt Alexander's productivity in the short run).

Was Alexander's MVP season inflated by having the NFL's best O-line? The critical mission for the Seahawks now is to find a way to seamlessly replace Hutchinson.

They punted on that decision for now; instead, the Seahawks acted fast to deploy suddenly freed-up cash. They tacked from their 2005 strategy of fielding a low-cost D by signing two-time Pro Bowl LB Julian Peterson.

Tagliabue to Retire
The year before I graduated from high school, Paul Tagliabue was my school's graduation ceremony speaker.

(My year's speaker? One-time Green Bay Packers QB Anthony Dilweg. I wish I were kidding. But that's another story...)

I was so jealous: I went to hear Tags speak anyway, because he was then and retires now as one of the great sports leaders of the ESPN Era.

He doesn't have the PR flair of David Stern, and at this point the NFL puts off an aura like it's a giant ship that drives itself.

But the league's relatively trouble-free ride during his 16 years is just a testament to what a sensational job he did managing the course.

That Applebee's Ad
I gave it a thumbs-down yesterday, but sports bloggers like Deadspin really took it to a new level yesterday: That Applebee's ad from the NCAA Tournament is a mania.

But not in a "good mania" way, like Northwestern State "'Fro Mania" or "Idol"-driven "Taylor Hicks Mania." No, it's in a "bad mania" way, like "T.O. Mania" or "Isiah Mania."

What lifts the Applebee's ad to its own level of fan mania? Ubiquity, perhaps; if you watched multiple hours of NCAA games, you'll have seen it often. WAY. TOO. OFTEN.

Or maybe it's the smarmy tune: The parody of the "Gilligan's Island" theme song sticks in one's mind like it was injected. Whatever it is: Fans are talking about it, but only like they talk about seasonal allergies.

Conventional wisdom is settled: The ad drives otherwise loyal TV viewers to hit the "mute" button. Can it go from annoying to endearing? Unlikely, unless they create a parody of the parody itself.

The guitar guy pelting the bass guy with shrimps every time he over-enunciates the words "three-hour tour": Can I find that on the menu?

Quickie Vocab
"T.O.-nanism": Fans who gratify themselves over their team's signing of a player who, just days before, was one of the most loathed opponents in franchise history.

It must be a banner day for personal-injury lawyers in Dallas, what with all the whiplash cases from fans who used to hate T.O. now lined up begging for him to preen on the Cowboys' midfield star.

"But he's our jerk" is the simple explanation, and it has become one of the most basic laws of sports fandom. Here are a couple other recent examples:

Kings fans: Ron Artest
Mets fans: Carlos Delgado
Eagles fans: Terrell Owens

The corollary? "Damonizing": Fans who flip-flop on players who as recently as last season were heroes, until they jumped ship to another team. Let the boos rain.

Meanwhile, T.O. is coming out with a tell-all book in July sure to dis his ex-Eagles teammates. Who had 48 hours as the over/under of the point when Bill Parcells regrets signing him. Enjoy that mini-camp, Coach!

(Do the optimistic/naive 46 percent of fans who voted in SN that they think T.O. and Tuna can peacefully coexist want to change their vote?)

Joey Harrington:
Finally let go by the Lions. End of an era? More like end of a nightmare for Lions fans. Maybe he just needs a fresh start with a new team ... as a backup.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Forde on Tourney
Page 2 Index
 
Ranking Sweet 16 Games
Mason-Wichita
Fans can't lose here!
 
Nova-BC
Allan Ray vs. Craig Smith
 
Gonzaga-UCLA
O vs. D: Something must give
 
Memphis-Bradley
Does Cindy's ride extend?
 
Duke-LSU
Duke: real Big Babies?
 

MLB Spring: I'm left wondering how Bronson Arroyo's band will play in Cincy. Meanwhile, expect "Wily Mo" to be an instant Red Sox fan favorite.

NFL Stove: The Dolphins are eyeing Tommy Maddox to back up Daunte Culpepper; the Bears are looking at Brian Griese to back up Rex Grossman.

Adam Morrison's weekend flu kept him out of practice yesterday. He's expected to play vs. UCLA. (Is this a built-in excuse for another bad game?)

That was fast: First-year Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter interviewed for the open job at Iowa St. With UWM having peaked out, expect him to bolt.

Move over, George Mason: One team from the CAA is a lock for the NIT semis in NYC. Hofstra beat St. Joe's and will face Old Dom in quarters.

Must-Read: Pat Forde has today's must-read analysis of the NCAA Tournament, gauging the pressure that each Sweet 16 team faces. See Q It Up.



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