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Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Page 2 Quickie: August 9, 2004


 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
PRESEASON.  OPENER.

Still waiting to be "ready for some Olympics" (that'll come Friday). But "ready for some football?" Always.

"Preseason opener" is a passion-numbing phrase in any sport... except the NFL. And considering tonight's game (8 p.m., ABC) is Joe Gibbs' return to the sidelines, that makes it particularly fascinating.

There's a lot of whining that the preseason is too long -- that games are meaningless. Let boredom and griping come three weeks from now: For tonight? You want it, you need it, you have to have it.

HOF: Elway, Sanders
Like many fans, I don't see sports history too far beyond the ESPN25 Era. That's why I'll argue that we won't see a Pro Football Hall of Fame class much more studly than yesterday's:

John Elway: Era's best QB
Barry Sanders: Era's best RB
(Uh, who were the other two?)

It's a barstool debate that could last for weeks: Was Elway a better "pure" passer than Marino? More "clutch" than Montana? Elways rules precisely because he's in the argument in seemingly every category.

Meanwhile: Think about how crappy most of Sanders' Lions teams were, how D's were fully drawn up to stop him -- and they still couldn't. That mitigates the "never won big" argument against ultimate greatness.

Penny Injured
It's so hard to defend the Dodgers' Penny deal as the trade deadline's best when Sunday the guy strains his bicep 14 pitches into his second start with the team.

(Not that they need him to win NL West; because they can win the division even without him, critics will use that to say the trade was unnecessary.)

But file this away: Rest him, Paul D. Healthy for the playoffs, Penny will be a monster.)

Huizenga Ticked
Taking his... ounce of flesh:
Ricky Williams might be a little free-spirited, but Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga is anything but. He reportedly wants a refund on the $5 million of incentive cash he paid Ricky over the last two years.

Now that money was for performances rendered, not pending, but you "keeper league" fantasy owners who have Ricky can sympathize with Huizenga's agita.

Olympics Watch
Today's spin: Athens rules!
Note how all the coverage today from reporters and columnists descending on Athens is that things are coming together within the once-mocked infrastructure.

That signals either brilliant expectations management by the host city (which I can't possibly buy) -- or the fact that the city got its act together in the 11th hour.

But let's track the spin up through the Games' opening Friday, when event logistics actually have to start working.

USA Hoops: Barely
Sure, they beat Serbia Friday, but Serbia is the new U.S. (over-estimated and believing their own hype).

A better gauge? The way the U.S. nearly blew a double-digit lead to lightweight Turkey on Sunday, having to re-insert the starters to finish the job that LeBron and the subs couldn't.

Payton to Celtics
Last word: Sure, it makes the Celtics better, but more than that, it's a classic example of the "Theirs/Mine" Exception to the Fairweather-Fan Rules:

When the player is on "their" team, he's a mockery; as soon as he's traded to "your" team, suddenly flaws are fixable and upside looks sunnier.

All is good... until the fans find out that, yes, he really has lost it.