Leave your predictions at the door, thank you   

Updated: March 17, 2009

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I hate predictions. I hate prediction columns and I especially hate prediction columns that masquerade as overheated analysis. The NCAA tournament is the worst, and I play along in the typical manner of a guy who watches way too many games during the season and then pretends to know something when mid-March rolls around.

Usually, I am atrocious. Occasionally, I'm Dave Kingman: I run into one and it looks like I might be way better than I am. This year was beyond atrocious; every idea I had turned out to be laughable. I was Drunk Kingman facing Luis Tiant with all 27 of his pitches working. I mocked the consensus upset picks (Western Kentucky over Illinois) and championed those that had no chance (Northern Iowa over Purdue; Cal -- Cal! -- over Memphis in the second round!). The Cal pick might never be topped.

Hasheem Thabeet

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Predicting back in December that UConn would be good does not make you an expert.

Judging from my e-mail, about the only thing I did right was toss out Harold Arceneaux's name without comment.

After the second round I got an e-mail from my buddy Foley: "Man did you miss bad." You could see him cringing in the blank spaces of the e-mail field.

This is a little inside baseball, but the best e-mails are from the guys who get themselves all in a lather about a bad prediction (or in my case, an entire tournament's worth of bad predictions) and finish off their typing -- traditionally ALL CAPS -- "AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SPORTS JOURNALIST!!!???"

Those are the best. I save those. Someday they're going to be part of an exhibit: When Sports Stopped Being Fun. I'm going to be the curator, and by then I'm going to figure out the exact date Sports Journalism started being Sports Prognostication. It'll have something to do with the proliferation of sports-talk radio, which used to be all about heavy-breathing types suggesting outlandish trades from the land line in their bedrooms to guys screaming from the bar on Friday night about who's going to win Sunday and then calling back Monday if they were right.

(You know this guy, right? "Hey, yeah, you guys remember I called back in December telling you to look out for UConn? You remember that? Yeah, well, now what do you say about that? I was picking UConn when nobody was picking UConn, and I just called back to get my props.")

Now, I'm not suggesting that the guy who called the one-hour sports talk show in 1977 suggesting the Giants trade Terry Whitfield straight up for Ron Guidry (God, was that me?) is better entertainment than Raider Ron who calls up and threatens to fight anyone who doesn't believe the Raiders are going to beat the Chargers, but it does seem to represent an evolution that might be heading for an unhealthy conclusion.

And if I turn out to be right, I'm going to let everybody know about it. Count on it.

This Week's List

• Speaking of predictions: The Stanford women are playing well enough to make UConn at least read a scouting report, if it comes to that.

• One possible problem: UConn's size probably has the speed to neutralize Stanford's Jayne Appel.

• One small rule change that would improve the women's game: A 10-second backcourt violation, which would make the full-court press a more viable strategy.

• Why Ryan Moats is a bigger person than most of the rest of us: He accepted the apology of the Dallas cop who played the role of arrogant little big man.

• By the way: Do you think the cop's behavior would have captured anybody's attention if the "suspect" had not been an NFL player?

• They should issue warnings for people who might be depressed or have depression-like symptoms: Warriors-Grizzlies on Monday night.

• Amid the new NBA statistical revolution, someone should have the common sense to hire my JV basketball coach, and here's why: Way back in 1978, he devised a statistical category called "Achievement Points," an attempt to quantify hustle by grouping charges taken, successful out-of-bounds saves, assists and -- I think -- offensive rebounds.

• Why I have trouble remembering the categories: I didn't get many of them.

• One thing Pitt's defenders might have wanted to do on Scottie Reynolds' game-winning drive: Get in front of him and stay in front of him to force him to change direction, at least once.

Alyssa Milano

Courtesy of Playboy

We cannot confirm if Alyssa Milano has ever dated "Tom" Lincecum.

• To which Alex Rodriguez replied, "I'm not in this one, am I?": Alyssa Milano has a tell-all book coming out -- titled "Safe At Home," for some reason -- in which she details her love affairs with pitchers Barry Zito, Brad Penny and Carl Pavano.

• To which Alex Rodriguez responded, "Why didn't I think of that?": Milano reportedly writes that Penny made her wear his jersey to bed.

• Apparently the baseball editor was on vacation: The National Enquirer "broke" the story of the Milano book, and their story identified Zito as "Brad."

• Among those reasons, absolutely zero of them have anything to do with the central question: Tommy Lasorda defended Mike Piazza against steroid allegations made by former ballplayers in Jeff Pearlman's new book about Roger Clemens ("The Rocket that Fell to Earth"), and some of the reasons Tommy cites for not believing the claims include the following: Piazza comes from a good family, Piazza goes to church, Piazza spent a lot of time in the weight room.

• Orioles radio announcers Joe Angel and Fred Manfra left a spring training game early when they mistakenly believed it would be rained out; they missed the final eight innings.

• Did the guys back at the station really buy the "we-were-out-of-cell-range" defense?: The amazing thing is, nobody was able to reach them to tell them to get back to the office so the good people of Baltimore wouldn't be deprived of riveting Grapefruit League baseball.

• Not a prediction, but one thing about Michigan State: Any team that holds Louisville to 52 points can't be considered an underdog.

• You know what, Tony? Lenny Stevens never even considered leaving Pullman, and you know why? Because Lenny Stevens didn't think there was any such thing as a "better job" than basketball coach at Washington State University: Tony Bennett, new basketball coach at Virginia.

• We can all marvel at Tiger Woods' powers of concentration, but: For someone who is so completely in control, he sure has trouble controlling his language when the microphones are hot.

• This is mean, but I can't help it: Watching Billy Gillispie's post-firing interviews makes me wonder how in the world he got that job in the first place.

• Sample bit of Gillispie wisdom, sure to be included in the next compilation: "I learned a long time ago the worst advice is bad advice."

• And finally, it goes without saying: The best advice is good advice.

ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown co-wrote Josh Hamilton's autobiography, "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," which is available on Amazon.com. Sound off to Tim here.


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