January 12, 2008

Snow, Lambeau, Favre, Adversity, Playoffs - Life is Beautiful

If this is the greatest weekend of the NFL season (I still prefer next weekend), the Packers and Seahawks couldn't have gotten it off to a better start.

It's Lambeau. It's snowing. Ryan Grant opened the game by performing the choke of all chokes, losing two fumbles in the first five game minutes.

It ain't over. After some Favre magic and Ryan Grant deciding to make up for his early errors, the Pack stormed back and tied the game within the same quarter.

THIS is football. My girlfriend is in for a very boring weekend.

Australian Open Preview: Men's Singles

Every year, the Australian Open is one of the most entertaining tennis majors to watch. Frequently it provides an opportunity to see new stars on the rise for the first time (Baghdatis, recently), or to see surprising comebacks after injuries or bad years (Serena, recently). Here's my analysis of the men's draw, available on ESPN here.

Top quarter of the bracket (Federer):
Earlier this week, Federer was a prohibitive 4/7 favorite to win the entire tournament, and the truth of the matter is that he is probably even more likely to win than that. (See previous analysis of Federer on ECB here.)

Federer's portion of the draw is, for the most part, quite easy for a player of his ability. When I view his most likely path to the quarters as Hartfield, Santoro, Verdasco, and Berdych, it's really hard to see him not making the quarters.

The bottom half of this portion of the draw features American James Blake the 12th seed, whose career appears to be on the rise. He has a relatively difficult first round match with Massu, potentially followed by a third-round match with the winner of Ljubicic-Grosjean. If he makes it through to the round of 16, he will probably meet Gonzalez, a very talented Chilean with a draw he should coast through.

Federer-Gonzalez in the quarters. Gonzalez will be the first player with the tools to test Federer, but Federer will survive after possibly losing a set for the first time all Open.

Upset Alert:
Blake needs to be focused out of the gate against Massu. Blake has a history of being tight in majors and terrible in 5-set matches, so he needs to be ready or he will have problems early.

Second quarter of the draw (Djokovic):
Djokovic is the most talented young player on tour, with a spectacularly bright future. While he gets little Becker in the first round, he won't be challenged until he meets Baghdatis or Hewitt in the fourth round. Lleyton is the hometown favorite and past champion, and while he is not what he once was, he is still a very good player. Baghdatis is more up and coming, but has a tougher draw (Safin in the second round). Hewitt should be able to muster just enough to win a 4 or 5 setter over Marcos and advance to meet Djokovic, to whom he will lose.

In the bottom half, Ferrer and Nalbandian should easily advance to meet each other in the fourth round, though neither are consistent enough to guarantee it. It will be the crafty wiles of Nalbandian against the youth and ground power of Ferrer. I'll take Ferrer, but it's a coin flip.

Djokovic over Ferrer in 4 sets to make the semis and play Federer.

Upset Alerts:
Juan Carlos Ferrero will be tested by Nicholas Kiefer in the first round.
Marat Safin, while past his prime, could produce a great match against Baghdatis in the second round.

Third quarter of the draw (Davydenko):
Brit Andy Murray (9) will be under the most pressure of his young career as expectations will be for him to at least make the fourth round, and he may be favored against Gasquet (8), who is no lock to meet him there. With the quarters and maybe even semis in sight, Murray will have to stay focused and take it one match at a time. Chela will be his first test in the third round. Unfortunately, I don't think he's ready for it, and he will lose to Chela or Gasquet.

Davydenko will have a tough first rounder against the Frenchman Llodra, but he will then breeze to a fourth round showdown with Mikhail Youzhny (who has an easier draw), which Youzhny will win.

Chela - Youzhny in the quarters, with Youzhny winning.

Upset Alert:
Davydenko will need to be ready against Llodra, who could make a match of it. This is a pretty boring quarter of the bracket. Everyone is vulnerable but there are no well-known names capable of taking advantage of it, in my opinion.

Fourth quarter of the draw (Nadal):
Andy Roddick is the 6th seed this year, and unfortunately will blow away young American Donald Young in the second round, even though he may be the American face of the future. Roddick is a heavy favorite to make the quarters. American Marty Fish will see Robredo in the second round and is capable of making it to Roddick in the fourth round.

Rafa should have no trouble whatsoever making the quarters.

Roddick over Nadal in the quarters. Definitely an upset pick, but I think Roddick will be sharper and more focused. If Roddick's serve is on, he can do this.

Upset Alert:
Fish - Robredo could be VERY interesting.

Final Four:
Federer vs. Djokovic - Every time these two play, it's a great match. Will Djokovic finally break through? Maybe. He's certainly capable, but Roger brings his best when he needs it. I take Roger in 5.

Roddick vs. Youzhny - Roddick.

Federer beats Roddick in 4 for the title.

January 11, 2008

Friday Post

Nothing happened today.

Marion Jones will serve six months for check fraud. O.J. Simpson has been remanded to jail for attempting to influence one of his co-defendants. Terrell Owens claims he will play Sunday. The Hawks and Heat will replay the last 51 seconds of a game the Hawks thought they had won because the official scorer counted to six too fast with regard to Shaq. Everyone and their mother has picked three or all four home teams to win this weekend. Washington State is whining about being underrated, despite being ranked fourth. There are some good college basketball games this weekend.

Yawn. What a boring day in sports.

I'm working on a mathematical "score" to reflect the degree to which NFL teams under- or over-achieved this year, but it has some bugs and won't be ready until this weekend.

[Brien adds: If you're looking for something interesting to read before the games get started tomorrow, you won't find anything better than Wright Thompson's e-ticket article on the last days of Tony Harris.]

Duck...Duck...JUICE? Goose Says He'd Have Juiced

Ok, MLB and NFL today pledged $3M each for innovations in performance-enhancing drug testing.

Why will they fail? Goose Gossage today, newly inducted into the Hall of Fame, said he'd have juiced if the drugs had been around at the time.

Are we still really talking about 5-10% of players using? This dude was a relief pitcher.

January 10, 2008

GW Doubles Up Rick Majerus, St. Louis -- Despite Scoring 49

Normally when you score 2.45 times as many points as your opponent, you kicked their ass. When you're George Washington University and you're playing Rick Majerus' St. Louis U. Billikens, that means you only scored 49 points.

St. Louis scored a shot-clock era record low 20 points in Washington tonight, including a fantastic seven-point first half. Majerus had these inspiring words: "Anyone can look at us and see we don't have height, we don't have depth." Also, "It's like being a step-parent. I didn't pick them. They didn't pick me." I'm inspired! Let's get some corn dogs.

Oh yeah, St. Louis has WON 9 games this year against 6 losses, despite averaging 57.1 points per game and 57.3 points against. Damn the shot clock!

Next up is 13-1 Dayton, sporting a gaudy 73.1/63.2 PPG/PA differential. Let's put extra springs in the basket.

Clemens v. McNamee - The Games Begin

ESPN.com is reporting that the battle between Clemens and McNamee has already begun -- even though McNamee hasn't been served.

That's actually the problem. Clemens' attorney, Rusty "Trombone" Hardin, is alleging that McNamee is ducking service. McNamee's attorney, Earl Ward, is questioning whether Clemens has any intention of serving the papers. Ward points out that the suit was filed on a Sunday night before a Monday press conference.

blahblablahblah Brian McNamee (right) is a pro at not being home

Unless you're a law nerd, feel free to skip the small-text paragraph

The issue is complicated further because the suit was filed in Harris County, Texas. McNamee is a resident of New York. Texas must have "personal jurisdiction" over McNamee. That's likely a non-issue, though Ward will certainly enter a "special appearance" to contest the issue without admitting it. Their rules of civil procedure apply, as it is Texas that must be satisfied that the defendant has been apprised of the case against him. Rule 21(a) of those rules provides for service in personam as well as by certified mail (Hardin claims to have done both). See also Rule 106. Rule 108 provides that out-of-state domestic defendants are afforded the same protections. Other rules provide for "substituted service" if the defendant should duck process successfully. Texas does not appear to provide a specific time period in which the suit must be filed.

So why would McNamee be ducking process? Why wouldn't he?

Texas provides no penalty for intentionally ducking a summons. In fact, she provides many alternative mechanisms for service. On that front, McNamee does not endanger himself by refusing to answer the door (other than looking like a wuss).

Also, McNamee is in an interesting situation for a defendant. Time is completely on his side. As time marches on, nothing Roger Clemens can produce can PROVE he DID NOT use any performance-enhancing substances. On the other hand, any evidence that comes out that indicates that Roger DID use performance-enhancing drugs, including his non-immune Congressional testimony in February, can only HELP McNamee. Why get the process moving? Time is on your side.

Plus, there is a financial concept known as the present value of money. McNamee's money, what little of it might exist, is more valuable to him now in his hands than in the hands of others. Presumably, he can invest it as he sees fit. That's why you see the commercials offering lump sums for structured settlements. They'll generally offer you a fraction of the total owed in exchange for getting the rights to it today. They know that money in your hands now is worth more to you than money you might see later, even if they're offering you far less than you'd receive over time.

Clemens' attorney Hardin is going to try to paint McNamee as a deadbeat. Ward is going to keep trying to paint the suit as a publicity ploy. Both are doing the right thing, but every day that passes with this suit not being served is benefitting McNamee to be sure.

The History of the Game Risk

From Jeopardy!:

In the 1950s, Parker Brothers adapted a FRENCH game called "Conquest of the World" to create Risk.

In other news, I found an ad on Craig's List for a French rifle. Never fired, only dropped twice.

Will Ty Willingham Ever Coach His Own Seniors Again?

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, we now know that attorney and developer Ed Hansen has pledged $100,000 to a U. of Washington Law scholarship fund if Ty Willingham is fired, as well as $100,000 if the AD, Todd Turner, is fired.

Willingham is 11-25 in three years at Washington, having finished 9th or worse each year in the Pac-10. In three years at Notre Dame he was 21-15, including a ten-win season. In seven seasons at Stanford Willingham was 44-36-1, winning the Pac-10 in 1999 and finishing fourth or better in five of those seasons.

Now Willingham faces the possibility of once again being dismissed without even having the opportunity to coach his own senior recruits. I am uncertain why Ty draws the ire of so many well-heeled alumni at Notre Dame and Washington. I don't think race tells the whole story.

When a school hires a coach like Ty Willingham they MUST commit to at least five years with him. He is not going to come in and shake up and underachieving but talented group (which wasn't the case at Notre Dame or Washington.) He's going to instill discipline and cerebral football, which will pay off in recruiting and not in instant success. Washington could afford a five-year wait given their post-Steve Emtman history (though they did go to the Rose Bowl in 2001), but Notre Dame could not. If Washington buckles under alumni pressure now, they truly have wasted three seasons.

NFL Divisional Round Against the Spread Picks

It's tough to make up ground now, but Vegas has thrown some big spreads our way.

Brien (46-41-2 for .528)

Every home team this week is favored by more than a touchdown. Since 2000, teams favored by 7 or more points coming off a bye in the playoffs are 9-2 straight up and 7-4 ATS. I think the gambling maxim of "only bet on the underdog if you think they can win outright" applies even more in the playoffs, so I'm not going to overthink this one. If I'm right, there are going to be a lot of boring games this weekend.

GREEN BAY (-7.5) over Seattle
NEW ENGLAND (-13) over Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS (-8) over San Diego
DALLAS (-7.5) over NY Giants

Jeremy and Magic 8 Ball (43-40-6 for .478, 48-35-6 for .573)

Jeremy's Picks: Well the inevitable happened, I fell out of the lead. It was wonderful while it lasted. Let's see if Brien stumbles along the way. Lots of huge spreads out there this week which have caused me to take one more road team than I ordinarily might. On to the picks:

Seattle (+7.5) over GREEN BAY - Seattle played really, really well last week. We'll see how far that carries away from the insanity of Qwest Field. Hasselbeck should maybe say "We'll take the ball, and we're going to cover."

NY Giants (+7.5) over DALLAS - I would've gone with Dallas at anything 7 or below, but that extra half point is too enticing to pass up, especially with T.O. possibly out.

NEW ENGLAND (-13) over Jacksonville - You think Belichick hasn't made it clear to his boys how the national media has been jonesing on them for not playing so well against the Giants? Yeah... that Jacksonville run is about to come to an end... a screetching end.

INDIANAPOLIS (-8) over San Diego - PhiLLLLip on the road in the RCA Dome with Gates possibly out and Indy's d-line and linebackers with an extra week of rest? Take Indy.

Magic 8 Ball Picks:

GREEN BAY (-7.5) over Seattle - "Signs point to yes." [Pack beating spread]

DALLAS (-7.5) over NY Giants - "Yes." [Cowboys will beat spread]

NEW ENGLAND (-13) over Jacksonville - "My sources say yes." [Pats will beat spread]

San Diego (+8) over INDIANAPOLIS - "Don't count on it." [Colts won't beat spread]

J-Red (41-45-3 for .478)

Seattle (+7.5) over GREEN BAY - I just have a feeling that Seattle with D.J. Hackett back is a much better team than the regular season.

DALLAS (-7.5) over NY Giants - Even without TO, Dallas can move the ball.

NEW ENGLAND (-13) over Jacksonville - They've waited all season for this to start.

INDIANAPOLIS (-8) over San Diego - The Colts have been biding their time for this to start.

Russell (37-49-3 for .433)

Just playing for pride to finish out the season, like the Ravens were (and I'm doing about as well).

GREEN BAY (-7.5) over Seattle - The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field! Seattle can't run the ball, and it will be too cold to sustain their passing offense for long scoring drives. And GB is really good.

Jacksonville (+13) over NEW ENGLAND - I'll take Good this week. Evil might still win, but I think they're looking ahead because this game means nothing to them. They want the Colts and then the Super Bowl.

INDIANAPOLIS (-8) over San Diego - Last time, Sproles returned two kicks for TDs, Peyton threw lots of picks, and it rained in San Diego. All of that only amounted to a SD victory when the Colts couldn't make a short FG. None of that will happen this time.

NY Giants (+7.5) over DALLAS - Eli's playing better, and no one knows how Romo will deal with the pressure. Plus the Giants were competitive in both games in the regular season, and it's hard to beat a good team 3 times. I guess we'll find out if the Giants are good.


Brien - GB, NE, IND, DAL
Jeremy - SEA, NE, IND, NYG
Russell - GB, JAX, IND, NYG
Magic 8 - GB, NE, SD, DAL

Blade Runner to be Denied Chance at Olympics

A man with two prosthetic lower legs will be denied the opportunity to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing following a final ruling by IAAF. Oscar Pistorius of South Africa is able to run times comparable with the other athletes, but the world governing body of track is likely to decide that the devices give him an unfair advantage over the other runners.

After what must have been a lifetime of pain and struggle after being born without fibulas, it is particularly cruel that Oscar will be denied entry because of his artificial legs. The blood, sweat, and tears it must have cost him to reach the point of even being considered are probably beyond a healthy, fully-developed person's comprehension. He has spent his life trying to walk and look like other men, and now IAAF is ruling he's better than everyone else?

His prosthetics are curved pieces of metal that IAAF claims are stronger and flex better than the human foot, providing him with more spring in his step than an ordinary athlete.

Unfortunately for Oscar, I think this ruling is correct. If IAAF sets the precedent that artificial legs are permissible, how do they turn down a man with even springier prosthetics who could dominate the high jump? Modern medicine is able to create body parts much more advanced (at least for a specific purpose like jumping) than the original, so IAAF is correct to say that the playing field would not be level. However, this will be increasingly difficult to judge in the future. For example, many people have pins to support previously broken extremities. What if the metal provides more strength or better flexibility in the new bone than is possible in a natural bone?

Steve Blake Outplays Baron Davis

Last night, Steve Blake had the best night of his NBA career. He went 8-10 from the floor, including 5-6 from 3 point land, and was perfect from the line. He had 4 assists, 2 steals, and no turnovers. He led the Blazers in scoring with 24 pts (a career high) in only 23 minutes, fueling an easy win over the Warriors and propelling them into first place (1/2 game lead on Denver in the Northwest). This was Blake's perfect game, and it came on a good night for the Blazers. Jarrett Jack was 1-5 for 2 pts and had 6 TO's in 24 minutes. Brandon Roy was hurt in the second quarter and returned later, but only scored 8 on poor shooting.

The Blazers displayed great team basketball, something the NBA isn't known for, with 32 assists on 40 made baskets!

Meanwhile, Baron struggled to 1-6 for 4 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, 2 TO's, and 3 fouls in only 14 minutes.

Great to see a past Terp excelling!

Kelly Tilghman's Racist History

I knew it! She's a racist!

[For those people not yet in on the joke, Kelly Tilghman is the Golf Channel anchor who suggested that Tiger Woods should be lynched in a back alley by the young golfers on the PGA Tour. After first stating she would not be suspended, the Golf Channel suspended Tilghman for two weeks after pressure mounted.]

January 9, 2008

Testimony Delayed -- Clemens to Give Sworn Deposition

In the latest twist in Congress' pursuit of the truth, the testimony of Clemens, McNamee, and company has been delayed until Feb. 13 to allow for each witness to be deposed by attorneys employed by Congress. This sworn advance testimony will not be limited to the Mitchell Report and could stray into anything Congress wants to talk about. Meanwhile, Congress will be investigating the findings of the Mitchell Report and other performance-enhancing drug investigations to dig up anything else they can find.

What does it all mean? The war of words between McNamee and Clemens will end soon. To maintain their current stances, whichever one is lying will have to perjure himself in front of Congress and the nation, and Congress will likely have the evidence to prove it one way or the other. Further the long arm of the Players' Union will not be protecting Clemens and the other players in this situation, leaving them less capable of stonewalling Congress in the way the Mitchell Report was stonewalled. Congress will have no scruples about asking Petitte or Knoblauch to tell everything he knows about Clemens, under oath. This could get juicy!

Further, pleading the 5th or hedging around Congress' questions might work initially, but any evidence gathered by Congress will be admissible in civil court, providing ammunition for Clemens' defamation suit or McNamee's counter suit.

Hopefully we'll finally start finding out what really happened.

Tiger Calls "Lynch" Comment Non-Issue

Tiger Woods' camp has responded to Kelly Tilghman's on-air Golf Channel comment that the young golfers on the PGA tour should lynch him in a back alley.

Tiger's people say the comments are a non-issue. That means one of two things: 1) Tiger has very little appreciation for the history of race relations in this country or 2) Tiger doesn't want this to blow up and distract him.

I'm guessing 2.

This Just in... Orioles Moving from Baltimore...

Care of today's Baltimore Sun:

OH MY GOD!!!! THEY'RE TAKING DOWN THE JUMBOTRON!!! Seriously, showing pictures of workmen taking down the Jumbotron piece-by-piece could cause mass hysteria and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder flashbacks from evoking memories of this image.

Oh, wait, I forgot... nobody in Baltimore cares about the Orioles anymore. If the Orioles moved, would anybody besides Nestor Aparicio and the Yankee and Red Sox fans who take over the ballpark six times a year notice?

Yes, bring on your anti-Nationals crap starting.... NOW. Pitchers and catchers report in five weeks.

Michigan's Arrington Headed to NFL Draft

Even though he is not currently projected as the best WR in the draft or even a first round pick, Arrington could be a steal in the second or third round for a team like the Redskins in need of a big receiver. At 6'3", Arrington has the height and wingspan to win jump balls like Moss and Burress. In addition, he has great hands, as demonstrated by a great one-handed catch around a defender in the Capital One Bowl. His speed is plenty good at 4.5, and remember that some of the best big WR's were not first round picks (TO). To help his case, he had his best career game against Florida, one of the fastest (but not best) defenses in the nation, in the bowl game with 9 catches for 153 and 2 TDs.

Browns' Phil Savage Smarter than the Average Joe

It's time for a quick look back at the 2007 NFL draft and the team that shocked everyone. Remember when the Browns took the lineman instead of the star QB? ...And then they traded up to get the star QB, giving up potentially a top 5 pick in 2008. How smart does GM Phil Savage look now?

OT Joe Thomas was added to the Pro Bowl roster, capping an incredible rookie season protecting Derek Anderson. The Browns' 10-6 record is their best since 1994, when Vinny was a young man, Bill Belichick was the coach, and they hadn't moved to Baltimore.

Derek Anderson's great year enabled a trade of starter Charlie Frye and allowed Brady Quinn to learn without being thrust into the lions' den. Remember when everyone was counting the weeks until Quinn started for an 0-5 (or so) team in Romeo's last days as coach after a 35-7 blowout at home against the Steelers?

Joe Thomas was clearly worth the #3 pick. The 1st round pick the Browns traded is now the #22 pick this year, not the top ten slot everyone expected and ironically exactly the same spot the Cowboys traded away last year. Whether Brady Quinn turns into a star or not, no one can argue that getting the hometown college-star QB, who was potentially going to go #1 or #3, at #22 was a bad choice. Their 2nd round choice Eric Wright started 13 games at CB this year. He's not going to the Pro Bowl, but that's good production from your rookie 2nd round pick.

For the first time in a decade, the Browns are a respectable franchise (original comments about them as the laughingtock of the NFL retracted in favor of a better choice, the Lions).

Rejoice, Terps Fans! Things could be worse...

See if you can tell which team is which:

Arena Size
Team A: 23,500
Team B: 17,950

Coach's Annual Salary:
Team A: ~$2.3 Million
Team B: ~$2.3 Million

NCAA Tournament Appearances:
Team A: 49 (most ever)
Team B: 12 app. in the last 14 yrs

Current Consecutive NCAA Tournament Appearances:
Team A: 16
Team B: 1

National Championships:
Team A: 7
Team B: 1

Last National Championship:
Team A: 1998
Team B: 2002

And now this season's stats:

Team A: 6-7 (0-0)
Team B: 10-6 (0-1)

Upcoming Schedule:
Team A: 2 top-15 teams at home, 2 road games against tough teams
Team B: 2 bottom-feeders in the conference, then 2 top 10 teams

Best Win:
Team A: Central Arkansas Bears
Team B: Illinois Fighting Illini

Terrible Loss(es):
Team A: Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs (7-9, won by 16 at Team A), San Diego Toreros (7-9, won by 9 at Team A)
Team B: Ohio Bobcats (9-5, won by 6 at Team B), American Eagles (8-7, won by 8 at Team B)

Conference Record required to make the tourney (approx):
Team A: 12-4
Team B: 10-6 (already 0-1)

If you haven't figured it out yet, Team A is mighty Kentucky led by new head coach Billy Gillespie. I don't know that I feel any better, but this should put this season in perspective a little for the Terps. (Sorry, Ashley, UK is actually worse than Maryland this year.) Maryland needs to get back to building a tradition, rather than mourning a bad year. We've been in the NIT recently, too much.

Forbes Ranks College Basketball Programs

Forbes Magazine has ranked the top 20 college basketball teams. The criteria was value, which seems primarily based on annual profit, and the results were somewhat surprising.

1. North Carolina
2. Kentucky
3. Louisville
4. Arizona
5. Duke
6t. Indiana
6t. Illinois
8. Kansas
9. Wisconsin
10. Ohio State
11. Texas
12. Missouri
13. NC State
14. UCLA
15. Oklahoma St.
16. Michigan St.
17. Maryland
18. Syracuse
19. Arkansas
20. Xavier

Note that only Duke (5), Syracuse (18) and Xavier (20) are private universities.

This teaches us. If someone asks if you are a god you say, "YES!". If someone asks you to coach the Tarheels you say "YES!".

January 8, 2008

What's at Stake for the Pats Against Jags

Clearly, it's the playoffs so a loss eliminates the Pats from contention. There's more than just the playoffs at stake though. Consider this, if the Pats lose this week OR next week, they're no longer the best team in history. They're not even the 3rd best team in history.

The 1984 49ers went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl, ending at 18-1. The 1985 Bears went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl, ending at 18-1. Of course, the Dolphins were a perfect 17-0 including the playoffs. Two other teams went 15-1 in the regular season (1998 Vikings, 2004 Steelers), but neither made or won the Super Bowl.

Joe Gibbs' Press Conference

Joe Gibbs' press conference (aired on Snyder's Triple X ESPN Radio) was what one would expect. Gibbs thanked everyone under the Sun and cracked a couple jokes, mostly involving his dedication to his wife Pat.

It is absolutely crystal clear that Gibbs and Gibbs alone made this decision. Snyder wanted him back. Gibbs and Snyder discussed "every coach in football" together after Gibbs told him that he needed to leave and be with his family.

Gibbs did not lose his composure until the very end of the speech, when he thanked God for the opportunity for a handball/ballroom dancing physical education major to have a career in coaching.

Gibbs never mentioned Gregg Williams or Al Saunders by name, but he did thank the coaching staff.

Snyder spoke next, and was audibly shaken at first. He said the three words for Joe are appreciation, admiration and respect. Snyder spoke very briefly.

Gibbs then identified a Hog, Joe Jacoby, in the back of the room, and thanked all his players from the first go-round.

Inaudible questions were asked at the end. Gibbs' responses were clear, but very little new information was issued. Snyder said the replacement process had not yet begun. Gibbs will remain living in the Washington area and will help with the team as much as Snyder wants. He will obviously be spending a lot of time in Charlotte also, assisting with Joe Gibbs racing and helping his sons start a motocross division.

Goose Gossage - Winner of the Steroid Era

Goose Gossage failed on his first eight enshrinement ballots. On the ninth, he got the call.

Gossage received a yes vote on a whopping 85.8% of Baseball Writers Association of America ballots. Prior to this year, he failed to achieve the 75% necessary. When Gossage was first eligible, he appeared on only 33% of ballots.

Why did Gossage finally break through? The most obvious explanation is that there weren't any good new candidates. There were the perennial "almosts", like Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven. Behind them was a second tier including Lee Smith and Jack Morris. Appearing on fewer than 30% of ballots were Tommy John, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire (up 0.1% from last year), Alan Trammell, Dave Concepcion, Don Mattingly, Dave Parker, Dale Murphy and Harold "The Pride of St. Michaels" Baines.

Travis Fryman received two votes. Chuck Knoblauch received one. Seriously.

I think there is an additional factor that pushed Goose over the edge. The Mitchell Report and the steroids era in general have created a nostaligic feeling in the BWAA. Goose was a great relief pitcher, which is a pleasant thing to think about these days. No one has ever suggested that Jim Rice or Andre Dawson cheated in any way, but heavy hitters just aren't inspiring right now.
Home Run Derby suggests that Goose's foul language perhaps kept him out. They have a great audio clip of a truly fantastic tirade.

Congratulations Goose.

Maxim Magazine Provides Joke of the Day

From Maxim's expose on the Lamest Things in College Basketball:

Duke - The Blue Devils haven't passed the Final Four in three years or won a title in seven, yet everyone still acts like Coach K. craps platinum. You idiots really want something to bounce up and down about? ComiCon's coming to Durham in May.

That's some good funny.

Another Athlete Collapse Adds to Rising Toll

ESPN reports that WSU reserve Stephen Sauls collapsed during practice and had to be resuscitated prior to going to the hospital. This is just the latest in what seems like a long string of collapses, both explained and unexplained, by high school, college, and pro athletes. It's time to start thinking about what might be causing this beyond just heat stroke and genetic heart defects.

Recent heart/heat-related deaths of pro athletes that I know of:
Ryan Shay - Mile 5 of the US Olympic Trials for the Marathon (NYC, Nov 2007)
Steve Bechler - Orioles pitcher in training camp (spring 2003)
Darryl Kile - Cardinals pitcher (2002)
Korey Stringer - Vikings lineman (2001)

One article indicates that this isn't as uncommon as we might like to believe with 1 in every 7,500 (or so) joggers dying of nontraumatic causes in one study, half of whom had known heart conditions. Maybe exercising really isn't that good for us.

"Lynch" Tiger? Dookie Makes Big Gaffe on Golf Channel

Remember when the Dook lacrosse scandal first broke, and there was a lot of talk about the divide between whites and blacks in Durham, North Carolina? All that discussion was tainted by the accuser's lies, but the underlying truth was still there: Durham is a racist town.

Now Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman, herself a Dookie, inexplicably recommended that young PGA golfers "lynch Tiger in a back alley."
blahbblahvahblahblah Kelly Tilghman on her way to "interview" Tiger Woods

White golfers recommended for lynching: 0
Black golfers recommended for lynching: 1

Hmm. She can say it's a slip of the tongue, but somehow I don't think the word "lynch" comes to her mind when she's discussing Rory Sabbatini or Phil Mickelson.

Breaking News: Gibbs to Resign from Redskins

ESPN is reporting that Joe Gibbs will be calling a 3pm news conference to resign as Head Coach and Team President of the Washington Redskins. Gibbs will reportedly remain on as a "Special Advisor" to Dan Snyder.

Good for Joe. This was the appropriate thing for him to do. It's hard to imagine that this team would give him a send-off as good as this year's group gave to him. After Taylor's funeral, the Redskins unanimously agreed that Joe was a key part of the team winning out their last four games. Joe is a legend in D.C. and he would've been a legend even if he had retired after a 5-11 season. Unfortunately, that legend would've been tarnished. All you had to do was look at his face and you could see how much this last coaching sting, especially this last year, has aged him. It had to take a very significant toll on such a principled man who normally would never resign and who would never not fulfill a contract that he had signed.

We've had Joe for four years. He's taken us to the playoffs two of those years. That's not so bad. He was responsible for drafting Jason Campbell, Sean Taylor, Rocky McIntosh, Laron Landry. Verdict is out on Jason Campbell although he shows signs of progress. What more can you say about #21 except for the fact that he would've been an All-Pro for years to come. McIntosh is gradually turning into a key special teams guy and a solid linebacker. And Landry is going to be a stud.

I'll save my prognostications for who the next head coach will be for another post (although Gregg Williams is going to be owed $5 million in buyout if he is not the next head coach).

But for now, thanks Joe, I'm glad you could go out on your own terms, and I'm glad that you realized that this was the season after which to walk back into the twilight.

January 7, 2008

Les Miles Outcoaches Jim Tressel for the Title

To be clear, Jim Tressel had nothing to prove in this game as a coach. He has won national championships at Youngstown St., and won one for the Buckeyes as a huge underdog against Miami. He has 4 Big Ten titles and outcoached Lloyd Carr so badly that Carr resigned, even though Carr dominated Tressel's predecessor John Cooper.

But Les Miles outcoached him tonight. LSU, in a very similar manner to Florida last year, exploited formations and their speed to torch a very talented OSU defense, especially in the first half. While LSU has been creative all year, I don't remember seeing the Pistol very much. How about splitting a lineman and three receivers in a bunch wide to create the first TD? The OSU defense was guessing all night as the misdirection kept them off balance. Les Miles kept his guys calm after going down 10-0, kept his guys poised to prevent the personal fouls that plagued OSU (LSU had 4 total penalties, one an intentional delay of game and another a personal foul at the tail end of a long fumble return), and limited turnovers. How about preparing his backups so that Coleman could have a big game when Steltz went down? Even though Urban Meyer showed him the way last year, being able to follow and execute that complicated a game plan puts Les in the top tier of coaches. By the way, Nebraska's going to have a defense next year.

To be fair to Tressel, this game was primarily won in the trenches. LSU was able to stuff Wells most of the game (except for two big bursts), and on offense, LSU could run almost at will. Coaching becomes less critical when your line can move their line off the ball.

This game, and the rest of the BCS lineup, showed that strength of schedule needs to remain a critical component of the formula and maybe even become more important. The two best conferences, the SEC and Pac-10, dominated their three games. West Virginia came out of the tough Big East, played a legit schedule out of conference, and beat the pants off Oklahoma. Only Kansas and their non-existent schedule bucked the trend, but it's less meaningful since the ACC has lost 8 straight Orange Bowls. VT didn't beat anyone of note outside the ACC. I'm embarrassed to say it's time to declare the ACC is officially the worst conference with a guaranteed BCS berth.

Ravens Interview the Wrong Schottenheimer

Today, the Baltimore Ravens interviewed Brian Schottenheimer today to possibly replace Brian Billick. Ummm, what? The Ravens have already interviewed some good coordinators who are clearly ready to make the leap to a head coaching job, including Rex Ryan, Jim Caldwell, and Jason Garrett. I can understand trying to cast a wide net, but Brian Schottenheimer?

Marty Schottenheimer I can understand. He's had a pretty good track record (I was shocked when I saw that he only had 1 year in Washington and went 8-8), and he got a raw deal in San Diego. The guy is a good coach who hasn't ever quite gotten it done in the playoffs.

His son, on the other hand, is a product of the rampant nepotism that seems to plague coaching staffs (remember the Texas coach who touched the live fumble? That was Mack Brown's stepson). He's been an offensive coordinator with the Jets for 2 years, with obviously mixed results. Before that, he was the quarterbacks coach on daddy's staff. That's enough to get you an interview for a head coaching job in the NFL now? Assistant coach for your father and then a mediocre stint as a coordinator?

It seems like maybe the Ravens should have thought this through a little bit before firing Billick. They could have at least put together a short list of possible candidates. At this point they look like the fat girl at the prom, just hoping that someone will dance with them.

Vick Moved to Drug Treatment Program; Early Release Possible

Michael Vick has asked for transfer to a drug treatment program in Kansas, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons has granted the request. Successful completion of the program can lead to release up to a year early.

Indications are that the request was made to deal with marijuana issues. Vick's positive marijuana test while awaiting sentencing added months to his sentence.

Vick still faces state charges for similar crimes arising out of his Surry County, Virginia dogfighting operations. If he is acquitted of those charges or receives a concurrent sentence, he could return in time for the 2009 NFL season, assuming Goodell ends his suspension.

The Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator lists Vick as "In Transit"

As Jeremy said here from his personal experience, Vick's attorney Billy Martin is very shrewd. Many do not realize the value of attorneys when a client is found guilty and receives a relatively heavy sentence. Martin is earning his keep now, getting the best possible results and treatment for his client even after he has been incarcerated.

Clemens Sues McNamee - The Law and the Prognosis; McNamee Responds to CNNSI

Roger Clemens followed through on this prior threats and filed suit against former trainer and steroid accuser Brian McNamee. You can read the suit here, though it is rather formulaic (like most complaints) and adds little to the discussion except from a procedural standpoint, which will be discussed below.

Roger has sued McNamee for defamation of character, specifically slander, based upon statements made to the Mitchell Commission and later repeated in the Mitchell Report. Roger alleges that McNamee made false statements which damaged his reputation.

In order to succeed on a slander claim, the plaintiff must prove the following:

1) A false statement about the plaintiff
2) Made to third parties ("published")
3) Damaging the reputation of the plaintiff.

These are the elements under Texas state law, which is the law applicable to this suit. Unfortunately for Clemens, there is an additional element mandated by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment, which in part protects free speech, prohibits restraints on public discourse. Roger Clemens is a public figure and abuse of performance-enhancing drugs is a matter of public concern. Thus, the Supreme Court has concluded that a public figure must also prove that the false statement was made with actual malice.

It should be noted that the burden is on Clemens to prove (by a preponderance of the evidence, or 50.1% certainty) each element. That necessarily means the burden is on Clemens to prove that McNamee's statements were false. This is most likely why Clemens played a recorded telephone conversation from last Friday between him and McNamee. [Lawyer note: Don't record phone calls without speaking to a lawyer. Doing so is illegal in Maryland and other states.] McNamee does not re-affirm his statements or recant them, but he does seem especially apologetic to Clemens.

Now (literally published four mintes ago), McNamee has spoken to Jon Heyman of CNNSI. McNamee's account reeks of honesty. Heyman reports that he clearly admires Clemens. McNamee sticks to his story, and stated that B-12 and painkillers would be injected in the arm, not the butt. He implied that he didn't inject those either.

So, what happens next? The suit was filed in Harris County, Texas, in state court. Federal courts have jurisdiction over certain subject matters (federal laws, constitutional claims, maritime claims). They also have jurisdiction over civil matters involving citizens of two different states so long as the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. This is known as diversity jurisdiction, and diversity is present here.

McNamee's attorneys will file their answer (and possibly a countersuit) and then "remove" the case from state court to federal court in Texas. From there, they likely will try to transfer the case to the Eastern District of New York, encompassing New York City. This is in the discretion of the federal court, but McNamee might win based on the fact that the defendant lives in New York, Clemens has extensive ties to New York, and certain acts took place in New York.

Once the case is settled in a venue, the process will begin. Of course, the process is almost certainly just for show. Absent an admission by McNamee, it is going to be nearly impossible to prove that something did NOT happen over half a decade ago. There will be depositions and motions and eventually an "undisclosed settlement".
Houston attorney David Rassin makes an excellent point:
In a defamation case like this one, a defendant's best defense is often a "truth" defense. "It's not defamation; it's the truth." McNamee's truth defense would be to prove that Clemens used steroids. In other words, Clemens is forcing McNamee prove that Clemens cheated. It's McNamee's only way out. If McNamee was at all reluctant to bring down his friend, Clemens's lawsuit now leaves him no choice. In a fight to the death, people hit a lot harder, and Clemens is forcing McNamee to kill or be killed. Way to light a fire, Rocket.

What I find more interesting is that we're about to see a fight to the death between two trapped rats, at least one of whom we know is a cheater. Let's see who cheats first...

June Jones the Latest to Try to Resurrect SMU

Once a perennial national title contender, SMU has all but literally died under the "death penalty" imposed in 1987. Since fielding a new team in 1989, SMU has gone 58-153-3 with only one winning season (6-5 a decade ago). The latest failure as head coach, Phil Bennett, managed a couple seasons around .500, but the boosters apparently still believe greater things are possible. With at least 20 boosters willing to pay $100,000 a year for a better coach, June Jones and the Run & Shoot are coming to help the Mustangs. The boosters had to pay so much for Jones because SMU has fallen out of the great Southwestern Conference (when it was mostly absorbed into the Big 12) and then out of the WAC, leaving it in C-USA playing the likes of Tulsa, UCF, and Marshall. Hawaii was fully established under Jones, with multiple bowls and a BCS appearance in the last 6 years, along with a conference title in the WAC.

Can June Jones turn it around at SMU? I don't think so. Most high school seniors were not alive when SMU was hit with the death penalty, much less when they had Dickerson and James in 1982. Heisman winner Doak Walker? Who's that? Will he be able to get decent players when so many other schools recruit Texas and all of the other schools play in better conferences? Mike Leach at Texas Tech already has a wide open offense in Texas and they play in the Big 12 and win a lot. I do think Jones' record will be better than Bennett's 18-52 mark, but I don't even foresee a C-USA title.

ESPN story here.

Clemens on 60 Minutes -- Not Believable

I caught most of Mike Wallace's 60 Minutes interview with Roger Clemens last night. The overall impression that came through is that the guy is lying through his teeth. Let's walk through what Clemens is asking us to believe:

  • Brian McNamee is a steroid dealer. If he wasn't, he'd have no reason to cooperate with the feds and name names.
  • McNamee is telling the truth about injecting Pettitte with HGH. Andy Pettitte has admitted this. Keep in mind that Clemens and Pettitte are BFF.
  • Clemens had McNamee inject him with lidocaine and B-12. Clemens didn't admit this until last night's interview, why?
  • McNamee is lying about injecting Clemens with steroids.
So we have a known steroid trafficker, who injected Clemens's best friend with HGH, then confessed to the feds to avoid jail time. As a condition of his deal, if he provided any false information to the feds, he'd face prosecution. The big question remaining after the interview is Why would McNamee lie about Clemens if he was telling the truth about everyone else? Clearly selling out Andy Pettitte would have been good enough to get McNamee off the hook. So why would he risk going to jail by adding in a lie about Roger Clemens? Clemens's explanation doesn't pass the smell test.

2008 NFL Draft Order - After Wild Card Round


Now that the Wild Card Round is complete, here is the known Draft Order. All possible playoff team pick slots added.

1) Miami
2) St. Louis
3 or 4) Oakland
3, 4 or 5) Atlanta
4 or 5) Kansas City
6) New York Jets
7) New England (via SF)
8) Baltimore
9) Cincinnati
10) New Orleans
11) Buffalo
12) Denver
13) Carolina
14) Chicago
15) Detroit
16) Arizona
17) Minnesota
18) Houston
19) Philadelphia
20) Tampa Bay
21) Washington
22) Dallas (via CLE)
23) Pittsburgh
24) Tennessee
25-27, 31 or 32) Seattle and New York Giants
26 or 27, 31 or 32) Jacksonville and San Diego
28-32) San Francisco (via IND), Green Bay, Dallas
30-32) New England (forfeited)
31) Super Bowl Loser
32) Super Bowl Winner

Atlanta, Oakland and Kansas City all have the same strength of schedule. Oakland was 0-8 against opponents in common with KC, so Oakland must pick higher than KC. Since Atlanta and Oakland are in different conferences, that tie will be broken with a coin flip. If Atlanta wins the flip, Atlanta picks 3rd, Oakland picks 4th and KC picks 5th. If Oakland wins the coin flip, Atlanta and KC (as teams in different conferences) flip a coin to determine who picks 4th and 5th.

Other ties, (Denver beat Buffalo head to head, Chicago was swept by Detroit) were broken using conference/division tiebreakers.)

Washington's strength of schedule is guaranteed to be better than Tampa Bay's. Tennessee's is guaranteed to be better than Pittsburgh's.

The draft tiebreakers are as follows:

1) Worst record picks first, and teams are ranked by record, worst to best. A non-playoff team takes priority over playoff teams with the same record.

2) Ties are broken first with strength of schedule (total number of wins by 16 opponents, or average winning percentage of all 16 opponents, the result is the same)

3) If teams are same division, divisional playoff tiebreakers

4) If teams are same conference, but not same division, conference playoff tiebreakers

5) Coin Flip

January 6, 2008

NFL Wild Card Against the Spread Recap

Brien finally got some separation from Jeremy, posting a 3-1 record in the first round along with J-Red. Russell was eliminated from contention (and .500) with a 1-3 showing and only 7 games left.


Brien (3-1-0) - WAS, JAX, NYG, SD
Jeremy (2-2-0) - WAS, PIT, NYG, SD
J-Red (3-1-0) - SEA, JAX, TB, SD
Russell (1-3-0) - WAS, PIT, NYG, TEN
Magic 8 (2-2-0) - SEA, PIT, TB, SD


Magic 8 (48-35-6 for .573)
Brien (46-41-2 for .528 -- 4 GB)
Jeremy (43-40-6 for .517 -- 5 GB, 1 GB Humans)
J-Red (41-45-3 for .478 -- 8.5 GB, 4.5 GB Humans)
Russell (37-49-3 for .433 -- 12.5 GB, 8.5 GB Humans)

All of us: 215-210-20 for .506
Humans: 167-175-14 for .489

Things This Redskin Fan Learned Yesterday Evening...

Well the season is over. It was one of the toughest seasons ever to be a Redskins fan, but one that really proved to many in the DC area what is so wonderful about being a sports fan... you deal with excruciating lows and exhilirating highs. The DC fanbase may be somewhat fickle about certain teams (namely, the Wizards), but I deny my co-contributors' assertions that the Redskins fanbase has ever been fickle. We get pissed. We get frustrated. But damned if we stop caring about this team. I was sullen yesterday for about 45 minutes, primarily because, as Dennis Green said, "We had 'em where we wanted them. And WE LET THEM OFF THE HOOK!" But I'm over it now. And upon reflection, here are a few points from yesterday's game....

1) Todd Collins came slightly back to Earth, but he was not exactly helped by his receivers. For those who will look at yesterday and say that it's proof that Collins was a flash in the pan, I'll remind you that he had to play from behind and was forced to throw, and that he was getting no help from his O-line, which brings me to...

2) This offensive line did a pretty damn good job the last four games of the regular season without two of its stars, Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen. We saw yesterday that they are a much better team playing with a lead than playing from behind when the opposing D-line knows that the 'Skins QB is going to be dropping back. Just wait until we have our full offensive line back. And mad props to Stephon Heyer, who started after the injuries in his rookie year, being signed to the 'Skins as an undrafted free agent. He had a tough game yesterday. But he single-handedly kept Michael Strahan in check two games ago. And he also happens to be one of the nicest guys to ever strap on the Terp's Under Armour. Speaking of ex-Terps, who saw how awesome rookie Adam Podlesh punted for the Jags last night? Raise your hands if you think the Terps will miss Ray Rychleski who is left as the Terps Special Teams Coach to go to South Carolina. I have to hands up. This guy personally groomed Brooks Barnard, Nick Novak, Adam Podlesh, and Dan Ennis. Which brings me to...

3) Special teams is normally only noticed when it plays poorly, but it's magnified 100 times when it blows a playoff game. Now, to those who say that Shaun Suisham's kick lost the Redskins game yesterday, there was a lot more that went into it. But it was a huge momentum changer. Not to mention the fact that Suisham's kickoffs were landing around the 15, sometimes the 20. The last time the 'Skins had a rock-solid kicker was Mark Moseley back in the 80s. It's time to spend some significant money and grab one of them when they're a free agent. Look how that panned out for the Colts grabbing Vinatieri. Well, it also didn't pan out so well with John Hall. But Shaun, that was one of those kicks that a fanbase does not forget. You seem like a nice enough guy, but your time in DC is done.

4) Seattle is losing its NBA team, can barely support its MLB team, but damn do they come out and scream for their NFL guys. It's funny, because ex-Seahawk players say that the Seahawks really aren't the sensation all-season long in the papers and on sports talk radio the way that the Ravens, Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and most other teams are. The town is not enraptured by the NFL. However, whoever designed Qwest Field deserves a gold star. That place was ridiculous yesterday, and it showed in how the 'Skins were tentative in getting off the line, not wanting to incur false start penalties.

5) Joe Gibbs' future? Too much to talk about in this post.

There's probably more that I can add, but being a married guy, and being in the housing market (I'm one of the few), I have to go spend my Sunday looking at Open Houses right now. Which is probably for the better because I don't have the NFL playoffs in my heart right now. But thank you 'Skins for a good season.

There's a Ringer on American Gladiators

Since I don't really feel like talking about the Steelers loss this morning, I thought I'd share a discovery I made watching the commercials during the game last night. Every few minutes, NBC ran an ad for the new American Gladiators show. They featured all of the new Gladiators, including this guy, "Wolf."I thought he looked a bit familiar, and then I realized where I had seen him before:
Apparently you don't want to face Wolf in Assault.