January 17, 2003
MJ:
Still the king: Jordan's 20 in the first quarter in Wiz win over Magic was classic.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
SUPER.  SHOWDOWNS.

Let's sum up the big issues in the NFL's conference-championship games, in the context of Saturday's Rolling Stones concert on HBO:

"Beast of Burden": Getting this far means nothing to these particular teams; only Super Bowl trips will make season worthwhile.

"Gimme Shelter": Home-field crowds in Philly (it's the Vet's last game) and Oakland (also see "Paint It Black") will be rowdier than ever.

"Under My Thumb": Titans QB Steve McNair's swollen right digit is injury situation to watch. Without him performing near-healthy, his team is sunk.

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction": Will officiating controversy taint this round of the playoffs as it has the others? All eyes are on the refs.

Finger-in-air forecast:
(Keep in mind 3-1 "Man vs. Beast" record from earlier this week ... ) Bucs 16, Eagles 12.: It's quiet ... too quiet ... Raiders 31, Titans 24: Oakland fans not as scary as team.

Yao vs. Shaq
With a pregame protest planned by the Organization of Chinese-Americans serving as a controversial backdrop, Shaq and Yao finally meet on the floor tonight in Houston.

It won't be pretty, for two reasons. First, the physical gap between them is immense -- Shaq is just too strong for Yao. Second, Shaq has way too much motivation (including that pesky little issue of trailing Yao in the All-Star voting) -- in that state, no player can deal with him, let alone Yao.

Forecast:
Shaq will score only 20 on Yao directly ... because the rookie will sit out most of the first half with foul trouble trying to keep up; he'll foul out by the end of the third quarter. O'Neal will finish with 40.

"ROLLING STONES" EDITION
CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE IN PLAY:
1. You Got Me Rocking: Del Rio brings enthusiasm to Jags
2. Wild Horses: What are Bill Walsh's intentions?
3. Tumbling Dice: "Mohegan Suns" newest WNBA franchise?
CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE SO OVER:
1. 19th Nervous Breakdown: Sonics lose sixth straight
2. Miss You: 49ers fans have already forgotten Mooch
3. Shattered: Not much buzz over Stones TV concert
 
Take-o That
Here's the sign of the mess Marvin Lewis has gotten himself into: The Bengals' best defensive player, Takeo Spikes, said he hasn't talked to the new coach yet and hopes the team lets him go as a free agent instead of slapping the "franchise" tag on him. He claimed that the lack of personnel-management skills at the top is too severe for a team turnaround. Winning over Spikes should be Lewis' first priority, but if the linebacker can't be converted, let him go; the team needs leaders with a more positive mentality.

Hall of Shame
There's nothing wrong with a little marketing savvy, but the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's attempt to raise its profile by nominating Pete Rose for induction is absurd. He spent all of 95 games with the Expos in '84. Who wants a higher profile if it's going to be a mockery? Then again, there are the contestants of "Celebrity Mole" ...

Better news for Canada:
Glad the American Baseball Hall of Fame had more sense than its Canadian counterpart, making Gary Carter the first Expo to enter the Hall. He may end up the only rep of the team in its Montreal incarnation (who knows what the franchise will be called in Charlotte, D.C. or Portland). Also, it's fashion-forward: The hat is all the rage ...

MLB All-Star Debate
Putting World Series home-field stakes on the MLB All-Star Game is fan-friendly, and the argument against it from players will be muted if owners can show them the money. However, the superior plan being tossed around is to give the advantage to the circuit with the better interleague-play record.

The NFL:
Quietly banned picks-for-coach (i.e., "Gruden") deals. Reasoning: Undermines the draft. Hunh? Not seeing connection.
 
 
NFL playoffs edition ...
Vote at SportsNation

Today on ESPN.com
NBA: First impressions
NFL: Playoffs
IN: NBA rumors
 

NHL All-Star snubs: Mogilny, Hejduk, Lalime deserved to be in more than Sundin, Forsberg, Brodeur ...

If Duke doesn't lose at Maryland this weekend, they may not until the NCAA Tourney ...

NBA reinstates big ol' Stanley Roberts. 76ers own rights; is he svelte enough to help? ...

Holmgren-to-Niners rumors are already starting to swirl ...

MLB Dugout Daycare is over: 14 will be bat-boy minimum age ...

Vince Carter questionable for All-Star Game; no question: MJ should replace him as starter ...

UConn women dynasty goes for record 55th straight win Saturday in Hartford vs. G'town ...

Golden Globe-pool advice: The Hours, Chicago on movie side; Six Feet Under, Friends on TV side ...


SEND PRINT ARCHIVE EMAIL US
Sponsored Links
espn.com