playing at Philly
on Monday Night
The NFL schedule won't be released until Thursday, but rumor has it that the league has scheduled Cowboys at Eagles on Christmas night. Joy!!!
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
Tuesday's Morning Quickie chat got into an interesting debate about Joakim Noah:
Inspired by Noah's ebullient Most Outstanding Player performance, Katz tabbing him as the 2007 preseason college hoops player of the year, and Ford positioning him as the breakthrough No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft:
Where does Noah rank among the best NCAA Tournament performers of the "64/65-Team Era" of the last 20 years?
Let me lay out some criteria to frame the debate:
• National title is mandatory.
• "M.O.P." status recommended.
• Skills on offense and D.
• March-long dominance a plus.
• Charisma (emotion/flair/etc.)
(Let's also consider who plays around him. For example, Sean May had 3 NBA 1st-round picks as teammates. Doing more with less is a bonus.)
Here's how my top 5 nets out:
1. Carmelo Anthony
(26.5 ppg, 12 rpg in '03 F4)
Pros: "Freshman" cachet
Cons: Not a great defender
2. Danny Manning
('88 title: 31 pts, 18 reb)
Pros: Nothing around him
Cons: Low "charisma" value
3. Joakim Noah
(Record 29 blocks in '06)
Pros: Combo of O, D, energy
Cons: NBA-worthy teammates
4. Christian Laettner
('92: Greatest shot ever?)
Pros: Unbelievably clutch
Cons: Unbelievably unlikable
5. Glen Rice
(Record 184 pts in '89)
Pros: Untouchable scorer?
Cons: Plenty of NBA help
(See Big 5 for my 2nd team.)
Too high for Noah? Don't think so. As time goes by, I think he'll be more appreciated for his unique combo of size, skills, spark and success.
Terps Top Duke
And I thought the Florida men's team was young.
In knocking off Duke, the senior-laden favorite of the women's tournament, Maryland started two freshmen, two sophs and a junior.
But in one of the best women's title games of all time, the kids played fearlessly, none more so than freshman point guard Kristi Toliver, who gutted out a game-high 43 minutes and led the Terps back from a 13-point deficit, the largest title-game comeback in two decades.
Toliver scored 16 points, none more clutch than a 3 from the right wing over Duke's lunging 6-foot-7 center, Alison Bales, in the final seconds of regulation that capped The Comeback, launched the game into OT and gave the young Terps the momentum to win the title.
Brenda Frese, the team's 35-year-old coach (no grizzled old-timer herself) summed up her Terps' performance with a Quickie-worthy quip that turned out to be the theme of both tournaments:
"Age is just a number."
Jays Enjoy R.O.I.
It's too premature (yes, even for me) to declare that the Jays' offseason spending spree paid off. Only a playoff spot will determine that.
But the season opener was a good start for the New (Rich) Guys: Bengie Molina ($4.5M/1Y) homered; Troy Glaus ($32.5M/3Y) and Lyle Overbay ($2.5M/1Y) each had hits and scored runs; and, most important, closer B.J. Ryan ($47M/5Y) got the save in a Jays win over the AL's best pitcher, Johan Santana.
Then there was old Jays standby Roy Halladay, coming off an earlier payday (and broken leg) in 2005. He looked brilliant (2ER, 5H, 4K, 7.2 IP).
Perhaps most notable, there was an instant payoff at the ticket window. The Jays enjoyed their 4th-largest Opening Day crowd ever. I've got a new slogan for the team in 2006:
If you spend it, they will come.
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|WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...|
Nets: Win 13th straight (Hawks) and clinch Atlantic Div.|
Rangers: Make NHL playoffs for first time since 1997
Reggie Bush: Will promote Subway; near deal with adidas
|... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'|
Monique Currie: Duke 5th-yr senior goes out without title|
Nomar: Who had "Day 2" in "Garciaparra on DL" pool?
C.C. Sabathia: Indians ace put on 15-day DL after ab strain
MLB's ADD Problem
Derek Lowe testified in a divorce deposition that he takes the ADD medication Adderall, which is banned by MLB. He got a "therapeutic exemption," but that smells funny.
ADD meds are every bit the performance enhancer as greenies or other amphetamines that would get you busted in 2006. He isn't a junior high student. He's using them specifically to help him pitch better. Oh, I'm sorry, he has a "condition." Where's my sympathy?
I fully had expected more players to make up for the new amphetamines ban by suddenly finding themselves diagnosed with ADD, getting meds legally prescribed, then getting one of these MLB exemptions. (Lowe's prescription came three years ago.)
MLB needs to investigate and crack down on players' claims.
Think Jim Thome was motivated by the White Sox's ring ceremony? He smacked his second HR in two games, although Cleveland won 8-2 (Boone: 4-5, HR).
OK, Kenji Johjima, the first Japanese catcher to play in MLB, is making this look too easy: He hit his 2nd HR in 2 games.
Rangers flip script: A day after being shellacked by Boston's offense and handcuffed by Curt Schilling, Texas turned the tables, hammering Tim Wakefield and getting a gem from Padilla (1R, 4H, 6IP).
Yankees fans can settle down now: That 15-run explosion in Game 1 was off Barry Zito; the A's real ace, Rich Harden, kept the Yanks in check and Oakland pulled out a bottom-9th rally to win 4-3.
Selig Defends Mitchell
What MLB investigation snafu? "It's important for somebody who understands what I call the mores of culture of this sport as well as he does. That helps in the investigation. That doesn't hurt it."
"Mores of culture?" I think Bud meant it benignly, but language like that is ripe for jokes that the "mores" of baseball culture include clubby ownership, cheating players and buried scandals.
NFL Flex Scheduling
Some details have emerged about the NFL's new "flex" scheduling plan involving games in the last seven weeks. A few notable details (via USA Today):
The deadline to make a switch from Sunday afternoon to night will come 12 days in advance. (Week 17 will be only six days in advance.)
Networks can protect only one afternoon game per Sunday, with a max of only five over the seven weeks. Any bets on which teams get protected?
The 2006 NFL schedule will be released Thursday. Anyone up for a fantasy league where we guess which games will be "flexed"?
But I'm not sure the NFL can top the news of the Eagles-Cowboys game on "Monday Night Football" on Christmas. Craziest game ever?
McNair: What Next?
After the debacle earlier this week in which Steve McNair was told he couldn't work out at the Titans practice facility due to a contract snafu, Len Pasquarelli is reporting that the Ravens have some interest in the QB if the Titans release him.
I appreciate that the Ravens have an urgent need at QB and that McNair's agent thinks he has a few more good seasons left in him, but he seems a little too pricey and fragile.
Baltimore had been rumored to be eyeing Kerry Collins for a reunion with Giants coach Jim Fassel (Balto's O.C.), but any move is a stopgap. The Ravens should try to trade up for one of the draft's Big Three.
Final Four TV Ratings
The bad news: TV ratings for the Florida-UCLA title game were the second-lowest since the game moved to prime time, down 25 percent from last year's UNC-Illinois game.
The good news: Ratings were actually up 5 percent from the 2004 final between UConn and ... (Do you even remember? Answer in Odds/Ends.)
What it means: Fans love their early-round upsets, but when it comes to a title game, they prefer a definitive 1 vs. 2, just like UNC-Illinois.
(That's a big reason why January's Rose Bowl defied the sports-TV ratings trend and was the biggest non-Super Bowl sports TV hit in years.)
Sometimes a marriage is a ploy to get publicity.
Sometimes a divorce is a ploy to get publicity.
And sometimes reconciliation is a ploy to get publicity.
Now that Anna Benson has reportedly hit this trifecta (cue humming "Circle of Life"), there's only one thing left for her to leverage:
"Baby Benson." (Shiver.)
You just know it's coming.
(And yet, will the Bensons consider naming a baby "Noah" after Joakim? Doubt it. Who would entertain such a nutty notion? Hmmm.)
For all of you in NYC, I'll be hosting a new sportswriting reading series tonight at Happy Ending Bar. Doors open at 7:30, and readers include Quickie Book Club faves Will Blythe and Sam Walker. Consider yourself invited! (And it's free!)
There's a new jinx in sports: The Amazon Jinx, when your team's (say, UCLA's) championship products are sold before they, ahem, play the game.
|Today on ESPN.com|
|Page 2 Index|
|2nd 5 All-MOP Team|
(Over last 20 years)
|Love to hate the '92 MOP|
|But Noah would eat May up|
|Gritty leader of Flints|
|Biggest tourney heart ever?|
|Peaked as a freshman|
Bonds Watch: Rained against the Padres, giving San Diego fans a chance to rest their vocal chords; first rainout in San Diego since '98, perhaps a sign that Mother Nature wanted to watch "Bonds on Bonds."|
The biggest CFB news in years might be this understated detail: The NCAA plans to drug-test players in the summer. (Does that include 'roids?)
Free Daunte! Judge dismisses misdemeanor charges against Dolphins QB related to Vikings cruise scandal. Won't stop fans on road from mocking him.
Masters Watch: Tiger says he won't be distracted by his father's illness when the tournament tees off Thursday. Will he be distracted by Lefty?
NBA Draft: Kentucky PG Rajon Rondo is turning pro. Likely to have better draft luck than UK'ers Morris or Azubuike. But that's a low bar.
NFL trade: The Bills send Eric Moulds to Houston. Bet it wasn't for the No. 1 pick (it was a 5th rounder). Psst! Eric! Bush will take your touches!
Jesse Jackson (rightfully) wants to know why the stadium security didn't do more to track down who threw the syringe at Barry Bonds on Monday.
Could there be an odder coupling than super-chef Mario Batali and NASCAR? And, yet: The new "Mario Tailgates NASCAR-Style" cookbook.
Thanks to Morning Quickie "regular" Rob from Warwick, R.I., for framing the debate during Tuesday's chat that led to today's lead item.
Answer to the "Final Four TV Ratings" item test of your NCAA Tournament recall: Georgia Tech. (Yes! That's right! They got s-m-o-k-e-d.)