Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: June 6, 2006
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
Who is the most important figure in sports today?
• Lance? Retire strong.
• The next NFL commissioner? Good luck with that follow-up act.
• Albert Pujols? Only when he was going to make fans forget about Barry Bonds (not anymore).
The answer is Michelle Wie. She reminded fans of that Monday, even without qualifying for the U.S. Open. It was an omen worthy of 06-06-06 and far scarier to some people than any movie could be.
There's no question she belongs when it comes to competing with the PGA men (and for a great take on that, read Gene Woj's column here).
Her power and influence transcend that, even more today than ever before, because Monday's performance showed she is so close to breaking through: qualifying for a major, making a cut, cracking a top 10, winning a men's tournament.
Maybe that's where the defensive reaction from doubters and haters comes from. They are intimidated (or even scared) by her never-before-seen combination:
Eye-popping talent (see the 60-foot chip-in to finish her first 18 holes and put her into contention as a qualifier);
Gender-bending confidence ("I'm not going to quit after this. Hopefully next year will be the year.");
And make-grown-men-cry age (if she's this good at 16, how good will she be in 10 years?)
To all that, add in her massive popularity that makes it virtually impossible to criticize her without making yourself a complete frump.
In my opinion, no one else in sports has Wie's potential to so absolutely obliterate everything they know from before. That's what unsettles establishment critics so much about her. Blockades they have set up and institutional restraints created are meaningless in competition with her.
Three years ago, I predicted that Michelle Wie would play in The Masters by 2010; an even bigger legacy will be the doors she busts down for more athletes -- more women and more teens -- along the way.
Celebrate "Wie Day": A stunning victory for Michelle's meritocracy.
Which demoralizing factor from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals most signals Edmonton is already cooked in this series?
(a) Lost a 3-goal lead, letting the Hurricanes tie the finals record for biggest comeback?
(b) Lost hot G Dwyane Roloson for the rest of the series after a knee injury off a collision?
(c) Lost the game with 31 seconds to play after backup G Ty Conklin misplayed the puck behind his own net, giving Rod Brind'Amour a near-empty net to score the winning goal (his 2nd of the game)?
(d) All of the above.
Pimp My Clubhouse
Roger Clemens will pitch for the Class A Lexington Legends tonight (live look-ins on ESPN), but he has already made an impact by totally pimping out the previously decrepit minor league clubhouse.
Leather couches, 42-inch plasma TV, DVD player,
portrait of Koby, plus showers scrubbed clean.
(What: No spinners on the team bus?)
Pujols: "Mr. TBD"
Pujols MRI inconclusive: If "inconclusive" means, "Uh-oh, this injury could be a lot stingier than anyone previously thought."
Pujols himself already has set elastic expectations, which is never a good sign:
"It could be two weeks, it could be three, four, five or six. Whatever weeks it's going to be, I'm going to take my time. It's terrible, but what can I do? I don't want to shoot myself."
With that kind of talk, if you think he's back before the All-Star break (did I say "All-Star break?" I meant August), you're delusional or a Cards fan.
Forget the top of the draft, where the Royals will try not to bungle drafting 6-foot-6 college LHP Andrew Miller, while the rest of the teams will try not to draft players that will hold them hostage for bonus money. (See Big 5)
I'm intrigued by the back end of the draft: The most interesting name is Jeffrey Maier, the kid who won an American League pennant for the Yankees a decade ago.
Rumors have been flying:
Will the Yankees draft him, creating a storybook ending? (The team worked him out last week.)
Will the Orioles draft him, in the ultimate irony? (Peter Angelos offered, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" reasoning last week.)
Or maybe the Mets -- in their nonstop quest to supplant the Yankees as "New York's team" -- will swoop in and swipe him.
(Another name to watch in the later rounds: Danny Almonte, the Little League hero turned LLWS disgrace turned NYC city champ turned husband of a 30-year-old.)
Duke Lacrosse Rules
Don't laugh: The linchpin of the conditions of the reinstatement of Duke's lacrosse team is an "honor code."
Underage drinking? Out.
Giving drinks to minors? Out.
Disorderly conduct? Out.
But behind it all, players are expected to rat out their teammates who violate the new rules.
(And people thought I was naive to demand a nightly curfew and a set of Lojacks!)
Get real! This is the group that delivered such a solidarity of silence when it came to investigating them that they made the mob look leaky.
If Duke president Richard Brodhead thinks the same players who wouldn't cooperate before will tattle on a senior who gives a freshman teammate a beer, he really doesn't understand the culture of a sports team.
It won't be fixed until the current group of lacrosse players cycles out through graduation (or attrition) and they can recruit players more likely to respect the new code.
Enforcing an honor code is harder to crack than the Da Vinci Code, in a team environment in which honor seems to be in such short supply.
NBA Finals Edition! Shallowly, I was ready to proclaim that there already is a winner of the NBA Finals: American Airlines, which owns the naming rights to not one but both Finals arenas.
But I needed a reality check. So I bounced my theory off the savviest business thinker at ESPN.com: Darren Rovell. So, Darren, what about it? Big win for AA? His insight:
"As will all naming rights deals, it's not good enough to have your company name on the arena -- or this case two -- you actually have to do something with it. That's going to be tough considering the airline isn't even the official airline of the league (Southwest is)."
Quickie Book Club
Special World Cup Edition!
For both die-hard fans and casual quadrennial fans (like me), I recommend a great new book, "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup," edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey.
Thirty-two fantastic writers, from Nick Hornby to Dave Eggers, supply short essays covering every team in the tournament. It's a perfect, literate complement to the names and stats you'll get from other sports media this week.
Quickie WC Pick 'Em
In the Quickie's proud tradition of the NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and the NFL Draft Pick 'Em, I proudly present ESPN.com's Germany Cup Pick 'Em!
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