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Friday, August 25, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: August 24, 2006


 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
PHILLY.  PHEVER.

It's a GREAT week to be a Philly sports fan.

Normally, it stinks. There isn't a more miserable group -- including media -- in sports. And it seems to be a reputation they actively try to live up to.

My theory for the cause? Geography: New York sports success gave Philly an inferiority complex; the bitterness only increased when Boston fans co-opted their woe-is-me schtick, polished away the grit and successfully sold it as the nation's underdog. (Then they won.)

But, at least for this week, Philly has the hottest fans in sports:

With their 5th straight win Wednesday night, the Phillies are suddenly only 1½ games behind the Reds for the NL wild card. This, after being left for dead after the team's trade-deadline fire sale.

The Phillies are now the most surprising pennant-race story in the National League, and BY FAR the easiest team to root for. How can you NOT? It's so dramatic to see the volatile fans ride this yo-yo.

And tomorrow, "Invincible" comes out in movie theaters, celebrating the "Rocky-meets-Rookie" story of Vince Papale going from Eagles fan to Eagles player in the late '70s.

Given the way the Eagles have recently choked their way through the NFL playoffs, it's not crazy to argue that the movie is the best thing to happen to Eagles fans in nearly a half-century.

Philly sports fans undoubtedly will find a way to wrap their usual self-loathing into all of this suspicious success. My advice is simple:

Enjoy it (for once).

MLB Hit List
What happened to the Dodgers? That 17-1 stretch seems like a lifetime ago now that they've been swept by the Padres.

Between the one-game races in the NL Central and West (and the crazy wild card), the NL is amazingly dramatic for a league that has no chance in the World Series.

Good news, bad news for White Sox: Finally get off schneid against Tigers, but lose Jim Thome to hammy injury (day-to-day).

The Reds can't afford to freak over BB's and K's that cost them the chance to catch the Cards -- and caused them to lose precious games to the sizzling Phils.

Short Hops is a must-read.

Manny Ramirez: More knee issues? Will have MRI after leaving the game Wednesday night in the 3rd (he may have done more damage chasing a hit in LF).

Wait: Why wasn't Manny simply the DH? (Oh, right, because David Ortiz is such a liability at 1B, the Sox can't even risk him there for one game.)

Trivia! Miggy Cabrera became the 5th active player to hit 100 career HRs before his 24th b-day. Can you name the others? (Answer below.)

Speaking of HR milestones, congrats to Frank Thomas on his 475th (27th in '06), tying him for 23rd all-time (with Pops Stargell and Stan The Man).

Awards preview: After surprise Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang earned his 15th W, it's time to lock him in on the Top 5 AL Cy ballot.

Julio Franco turns 48: He is, inarguably, the most remarkable athlete in MLB. No wonder he didn't eat any of his b-day cake.

Trivia answer: Griffey Jr., A-Rod, A. Jones, Pujols.

T.O.: Still Hurt
Give Jerry Jones the blame for T.O.'s latest hammy problems, no matter what the WR says.

T.O. says he "was never pressured to get back on the field" by the Cowboys' owner, but he "just tried to compromise with some people."

Sounds like there is an implied connection between his premature return and the owner griping publicly for him to be out on the practice field.

But T.O. has always been at his best (and worst) when he's looking out for No. (8)1.

So consider him reformed. No more compromises:

"I will be close to 100 percent before I get back on the field. I'm not going to jeopardize my health just because of speculation."

T.O. is a wack-job, but if nothing else, he is as attuned to his body as any player in the NFL. It's frustrating, but I'd trust him on this.

NFL Pre: MIA at CAR
I have a long-standing rule of thumb about fantasy football: No one really wants to hear about your team.

We can talk about overall draft rankings or how news tidbits might affect FFL performances, but only as it applies to all FFL GMs.

So you'll forgive me that having the "dreaded" 4th overall pick has me freaking out to the point I'm considering using it on Ronnie Brown.

But I'd argue I can "generalize" mentioning my current FFL obsession with Brown this way:

At minimum, 3 out of every 4 ESPN.com users won't have access to the "Big 3" RBs, and given Ricky Williams' absence, Brown is among the most intriguing of all RB picks.

And that's why I've got my eye on the Dolphins-Panthers game tonight. If nothing else, preseason NFL has developed a surprising new relevance thanks to the explosive growth of FFL mania.

But, really: No. 4?! Insane!

Barlow vs. Nolan
Had you even heard that Kevan Barlow compared 49ers coach Mike Nolan to Hitler before he apologized for it?

It doesn't offend me as a Jewish person, by the way. It offends me as a football fan: Everyone knows Mike Nolan is more Napoleon than Nazi.

(Besides, we Jewish fans were too busy celebrating the arrival of Shawn Green in New York to worry about Barlow's exit from San Francisco.)

Riley Returning
It's unlikely that Pat Riley will find a complete season coaching the Heat to an NBA title defense as satisfying as last season's off-the-bench run to his franchise's first title.

(And it's unlikely I'll ever make a prediction as cleverly correct as picking Riley -- then still retired -- as my NBA Coach of the Year in ESPN.com's preseason awards picks for the 2005-06 season.)

H.S. FB: Hoover No. 1
It's all coming together for Hoover (Alabama) High:

*No. 1 ranking among all high school football teams nationally, including SI and USA Today. (I'm partial to Florida's Lakeland.)

*New show on MTV ("Two-a-Days") that premiered last night. It was pretty entertaining. Sort of like "Hard Knocks" meets "The O.C."

H.S. football has become a huge business: Nationally televised games, scrutiny for players reserved only for college kids just 10 years ago.

But it's really hard to lament any sort of lost innocence -- not when 12-year-olds are in the national pressure cooker at the LLWS.

Quickie Closure
The final edition (ever) of the Daily Quickie will run on 8/31. Leading up, I'm highlighting some superlatives.

03/15/06: Biggest Stretch

A 16-seed will beat a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament SOME day ... just not this past March, when I boldly predicted Oral Roberts would beat Memphis.

(Was I so far off? Early domination was a mirage; the top-seeded Tigers couldn't even make it out of their own region.)

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