- Greg Hardy, Page 2
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It's time to sweat out another edition of the Page 2 Power Rankings! Our formula combines the results of two surveys: A human poll concocted by ESPN Page 2's Gregory Hardy; and a scientifically calibrated poll generated by computer analysis. Unfortunately, the computer we tapped is one that randomly generates words into finished screenplays John Cusack can star in about fantasies of machinery gone haywire. Their first project: "Hot Tub Time Machine." Hey, that's one more screenplay than we've sold. To the results!
1. New Orleans Euphoria
Credentials: In the realm of unlikely inspirational stories, the fact the Saints have qualified for the Super Bowl ranks up there with "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" Since 1967, Saints fans have asked, "Was it over in those years when we were a lifeless expansion franchise? Was it over when we placed paper bags over our heads? Was it over when Mike Ditka and Ricky Williams made this place an asylum? Was it over when Katrina almost wiped us off the map? Was it over when we drafted Reggie Bush and he brought the Kardashians over? Was it over when the Vikings seemed ready to break our backs? It ain't over 'til we SAY it's over!" The point is, don't panic, good things come to those who wait -- especially if what you're waiting for is Brett Favre to screw up with a surefire conference title game victory on the line.
2. Brett Favre Changes History
Credentials: There couldn't possibly be enough alternate realities to take into account all the "wouldas" in Favre's career. Would he have led the Atlanta Falcons to glory? Would he have had the right tools to win again in Green Bay after his departure? What if he had not panicked and just tucked and run at the end of regulation in New Orleans? If he had been a European explorer centuries ago, would he have led Spain to the New World, or would he have retired to the Canary Islands? These questions and many others will be explored in his upcoming memoir, "The History of Brett Favre's World, Part I." Coming soon, as soon as he gets time off from football. He may aggravate most of the rest of us, but it's good to be the retirement king.
3. Peyton Manning, Mastermind
Credentials: OK, we get it. He does his homework, he doesn't panic. Give him enough time, he can not only solve any defensive scheme but he will shred it with abandon. To level the playing field, the NFL competition committee should create a rule that says before Manning is allowed to attempt a pass on each play, he must solve all six colors on a mixed up Rubik's Cube that the referee hands him at the last second before the snap. That should slow the Colts down for maybe two quarters, tops.
4. Conan O'Brien
Credentials: So long, CoCo. Until you land on another network in a few months, we'll remember your parting words: "I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere." We hear ya. But just to clarify -- that remark doesn't include sarcasm, does it? Because sarcasm ... now THAT'S a vital component to our everyday life. Sarcasm leads us everywhere. We mean that sincerely.
Credentials: New York fans finally get a "Wait'll next year" pledge full of genuine promise. Of course, in Queens, that and 75 cents will get you a New York Post headline that screams, "WE LOVE YANKEES BETTER."
6. Woman Wins Pro Bowling Tournament
Credentials: Roll on, Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J.! Thanks to a 265 score in Las Vegas, she's the first woman to win an event on the men's pro bowling tour. That earns a $40,000 payday, but the real windfall will be in endorsements. Marketers have been waiting for years to find a woman with the "lane cred" to convince other women to buy bowling shoes instead of renting them. Even guys who spend all day in the bowling alley know there are gals who LOVE to buy shoes.
7. Texas Rangers Sale
Credentials: Nolan Ryan is in a group that wants to buy the team for $500 million. But how much is he chipping in? These types of financing deals are always complicated to sort out -- after all, ex-pitchers are used to being asked to contribute only once every five days.
8. Kentucky Wildcats
Credentials: Well, the Bluegrass Bluebloods must be ecstatic. They're on top of the college basketball world again at 19-0. That must be refreshing after so many years of asking themselves, "Twenty wins will get us in the tournament, right?" ... Yes, you'll get to 20 wins a lot faster than usual this year. Stop hyperventilating, we've still got all of February to get through.
9. Picasso Gets Ripped
Credentials: Meanwhile, at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, someone lost their balance next to a painting called "The Actor," crashed into it and left a six-inch gash. Value of the painting that Pablo finished in 1905? About $130 million. In baseball payroll terms, $130 million gets you a 2009 roster of the Chicago Cubs. Anyway, Picasso fans, if the painting can't get patched up, at least you've got someone you can give the Steve Bartman treatment to.
10. U.S. Figure Skating
Credentials: There had to be some TV exec somewhere who was praying that Tonya Harding would show up in the audience for one of these U.S. nationals events just to create a spike in the ratings. Actually, if they want spectacle, may we suggest the Wal-Mart clown to come jump on the ice and scream at the top of his lungs in pain like in that new commercial. You know, it's something that would have a little dignity.
11. Andy Roddick's Close Calls
Credentials: He had a key ruling go against him while playing Thomaz Bellucci in the second round of the Australian Open, but Roddick advanced. He then had a controversial call go in his favor in his fourth-round game against Fernando Gonzalez, but still Roddick advanced. In a sign that he might be getting paranoid about what it takes to win another Grand Slam, he has asked Aussie officials if during his next on-court dispute he's allowed to place at least one phone-a-friend call to back him up.
12. Knicks Lose By 50
Credentials: Call it the Massacre at Madison Square Garden ... the Dallas Mavericks rolled to their largest win in franchise history 128-78. Hey, don't look at us, Knicks fans ... we told ya sooner or later you'd miss Stephon Marbury. Maybe at least he'll be able to tell you how to say "50" in Chinese.
13. Olympics Finances
Credentials: Good news! NBC isn't going to lose $200 million broadcasting the Winter Games in Vancouver. It's going to be more like losing $250 million. Now, we're no accountants, but might we suggest this: It's bad enough this will be the first year downhill skiers are expected to compete on a 10-story-high mountain of hundred dollar bills, but do you have to set fire to all that cash with the Olympic flame as part of the closing ceremonies?
Also receiving votes:
• UConn train: In a move that hearkened to the days before chartered airplanes became the norm for sports teams, coach Geno Auriemma and the No. 1 Huskies women's basketball team rode a train to Philadelphia for their game against Villanova. Geez, even when we try to give good publicity to women's basketball with a cute novelty story, it still involves setting the sport back decades.
• Pro Bowl: Hey, fans, are you going to Miami this week for the NFL Pro Bowl? No, we don't mean to watch. We mean to be a starter. So many stars have turned down the honor, either because of injuries or in the case of the Colts and Saints because they still have a Super Bowl to play, the AFC and NFC teams are scrambling to find warm bodies. It'll be hilarious when we reach the day where just to have 11 men in the huddle they have to allow in a player who's in a contract dispute and not even signed to a team.
Never receiving votes:
• National signing day: We're nearing Feb. 3, the high holy day when high school football prospects can make an official declaration of their college of choice. Of course, college boosters are free to hand hundred dollar bills to said prospects 365 days a year.
• Prince's Minnesota Vikings fight song: Question for the person who claims to be singing this horrific travesty known as "Purple and Gold." Who are you, and what did you do to that tiny, weird, talented guy who has about a million times more Grammys than the Vikings have Vince Lombardi Trophies?
• Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars: These are the final four franchises that have yet to play in a Super Bowl. Toss-up: Which will happen first -- one of these teams will qualify for the big game, or one will move to L.A.?
New Orleans pride tops Page 2's Power Rankings.