Thursday, March 2, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: March 2, 2006
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
Cuts, cuts and more cuts. You won't find this many cuts at a deli.
Sports economics stories (particularly ones about multimillionaires) can make you feel anything from bleary-eyed to ambivalent to indignant.
But make no mistake: Without a resolution, this 11th-hour showdown between NFL owners and union will have a bigger impact on your favorite team than any other factor in 2006, 2007 and beyond.
For now, let's focus on the most immediate issue: roster cuts and 2006 free-agency.
Without an agreement on a new deal today to increase it $10 or 15 million, the $94.5 million salary cap stays in place and 2006 NFL free agency begins tonight with the potential for unprecedented roster cuts.
"Bloody Thursday" isn't hyperbole; it's the title of the NFL's newest reality show. You must read Len Pasquarelli's update today.
Broncos RB Mike Anderson was the headliner yesterday, but leading up to today's 10 p.m. deadline, things could get uglier. Much uglier.
Raiders? $30 million over.
Chiefs? Broncos? $25 million.
Redskins? $20 million.
(Full cap list here.)
Sure, a good number of teams like the Cards, Packers and Vikings are under, but how can they possibly make sound decisions without knowing what any future CBA deal will look like?
Or figuring out how to handle a capless 2007, when the gap between Haves and Have-Nots will make Major League Baseball look minor league.
Combine everything together, and this is the must-track story of the day, and -- for your NFL team -- it could very well define the entire 2006 season and beyond.
FSU Fans Storm Court
I've never been one of those fanatical, anti-storm-the-court critics. Has it happened a bit too often this season? Sure. Do I begrudge passionate students? No way.
Florida State fans had every right to flood the floor after knocking off No. 1 Duke. Beating a No. 1 team on your home court when you're unranked is as good a reason as any to storm the court.
But here's my issue: It almost cost them the game. Because they stormed the court with time left on the clock, FSU was assessed a T and Duke hit free throws to close the gap. It was out of reach, but still.
There's going to be a moment when a team's fans prematurely storm the court to celebrate an upset and the other team will get two technical free throws to reverse the outcome. Watch that clock, kids.
WBC Starts Tonight
Laaaate tonight, in Tokyo: South Korea takes on Taiwan and Japan faces China. Even though most U.S. fans won't be watching, it will be interesting to see how much of a frenzy this causes in the Far East.
As for a mania domestically? We'll see next week. But I'll have a complete Quickie-shallow WBC preview coming tomorrow.
But so far, the hot story has been dropouts: The latest for the U.S.? Billy Wagner and C.C. Sabathia, replaced by Gary Majewski and Al Leiter.
"Dream Team"? Hardly. At this point it's "So, who wants to play?"
Meanwhile: Once-mighty D.R. has been leveled: Manny already dropped out. Vlad Guerrero dropped out yesterday, and Pedro finalized yesterday that he won't be taking part.
(Without the D.R., fans looking for a team to upset the U.S. have to find a new favorite. I'm nominating Venezuela, the new D.R.)
Highlights from today's Championship Week ("C-Week") lineup:
Atlantic Sun: Top-seeded Lipscomb better win; this league is only getting one bid. (Watch out for Stetson! Why? Keep reading!)
Big South (semis): I'm torn between would-be Cindy 6-seed Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina, in whose shadow I once spent a college semester (not as a Chanticleer -- working for the Myrtle Beach Sun News).
Mo Valley: You've heard all about this mid-major-turned-power conference. The four teams playing today (seeds 7-11) are the only ones not in contention for an NCAA bid. It's like a playoff of spoilers.
Northeast: Again, if top seed Fairleigh Dickinson doesn't win the tournament, it's out of luck. Only one bid coming from this league.
Southern: Seeds 6-11 in action. Things won't heat up until the quarters tomorrow. Still, it's just a one-bid league.
Jay Bilas has a must-read about the bubble field.
Here's a key point: All of these smaller conference tournaments are great, right up until a Gonzaga or GW or Bucknell loses in its conference tournament, subtracting at-large spots for a major conference bubble team.
A recurring Quickie feature in which I ask an ESPN.com colleague one Quick question.
Shanoff Face-Off versus...
Here's what I wanted to know from ESPN.com's resident authority on mid-major college hoops:
Championship Week is known for its crazy upsets. Which unknown team might make a run through its tournament to make the Big Dance as a sub-.500 team (and burst the bubble for major at-large teams)?
Kyle's response: "Look out for the Stetson Hatters, the No. 6-seed in the Atlantic Sun. Sounds like a bad fantasy baseball team name, but they're for real.
"They're on a 8-game win streak, shaking off a 0-10 start to finish 13-17 (11-9 in league play).
"They also have a guy named Chief Kickingstallionsims -- you can read the entire Quickie in the time it takes to say his name."
I get the last word: Even though teams like that go straight to the 16-seed and foil the plans of a major conference looking for its 7th or 8th seed, they are a huge part of what makes March so mad. Go Stetson!
Bonds: Reality TV
Barry Bonds' reality show on ESPN is official. Remains to be seen what happens when our news side reports something BB doesn't like. But here are a few ideas for the format, based on current reality TV fads:
"Dancing with Bonds!" Barry is alternately paired up with Drew Lachey, Stacy Keibler and Jerry Rice to see who creates the biggest cha-cha sensation.
"Survivor: Barry." One by one, Barry votes sports reporters off team coverage, until no one is left but his publicist and his personal camera crew.
"Barry or No Barry." Fans have to pick a Giants ticket package, trying to avoid the games that Barry might be sitting out because of an injury or simply because he's tired.
"Bonds Idol." Barry dresses up like Paula Abdul (Done!) and rates the quality of fresh-faced young singers. How can Barry not support fellow Bay Area star Katherine McPhee?