A last note before the weekend

Now, I'm going to venture outside of sports for a quick second. Spin magazine recently announced their top 20 albums for 2002. Do you know what number one was? The White Stripes' White Blood Cells. Now, that's a cool album and I highly recommend you go out and purchase a copy. However, the album came out in 2001.

Are the editors of Spin so stupid as to not be able to read the release date on the back of the CD? Seriously, is anyone else alarmed by this? What if we named the 2002 Team of the Year as the World Champion New York Yankees?

These guys cover music for a living, yet they can't keep track of when an album comes out? And Iknow there was a special edition that came out this year, but does that mean Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted 10th Anniversary Edition should be on the best of lists? After all, Spin named it one of the top ten albums ever. Nw it can't get named album of the year? What in the name of Lester Bangs is going on?

posted by Poseur 12/13/2002 04:01:00 PM

A playoff.

I've long since had a theory about a college football playoff. It's pretty simple: win your conference and you're in. Don't win, go to the Stupid Product Endorsement Bowl. There are 11 conferences, just enough to allow one at-large spot for a co-champ or Notre Dame. That would set up a 12-team tournament, with an off week for the top four seeds.

It's been a good theory, and it's served me well. It would fairly determine a champ, raise lots of money, give the little guys a chance, crown a national champion around January 1st, and still preserve the bowls as the football answer to the NIT. This year put the first real curveball in my theory. And here's why:

Big Ten: Iowa and Ohio St co-champs
Pac-10: Washington State and USC co-champs
Notre Dame at 10-2

In my system, there's only room for two champs, and one runner-up (or Notre Dame). Someone is getting screwed. An impartial selection committee would pick and seed the teams, and I believe they'd select and seed this way:

1 Miami (Big East)
2 Ohio State (Big Ten)
3 Georgia (SEC)
4 USC (Pac-10)
5 Oklahoma (Big 12)
6 Iowa (at-large)
7 Colorado State (Mountain West)
8 Florida State (ACC)
9 Marshall (MAC)
10 Boise State (WAC)
11 TCU (C-USA)
12 North Texas (Sun Belt)

Now, I don't have much problem letting in an 11-1 Boise State team, boasting one of the best offenses in the country. But letting in the champ of the Sun Belt, easily the worst conference in Division One, while Wazzu sits out in the cold really bothered me. Since the NCAA basketball committee has the right in the pre-season to not recognize a conference champ for an automatic bid, the same logic should apply here. So I'm altering my long-time, faithful theory to recognize only the top ten conferences, so as to prevent the formation of tons of lousy conferences. That opens up a second at-large spot for Washington State, who would slide in the #7 seed behind Iowa.

That means, instead of no football this weekend, we could have:
#12 TCU at #5 Oklahoma
#11 Boise St at #6 Iowa
#10 Marshall at #7 Washington State
#9 Florida State at #8 Colordao State

With Georgia, USC, Ohio State, and Miami waiting for the winners. Wouldn't that be so much better?

posted by Poseur 12/13/2002 12:24:00 PM

Richter done for season

Mike Richter's season is over. And the career of the finest goaltender in Rangers history just might be as well.

Richter has been out since suffering a concussion Nov. 5, and it was determined yesterday that he would not play again this season. General manager Glen Sather acted swiftly, trading for Nashville Predators goalie Mike Dunham.

Repeat after me: the Rangers aren't that good.

They've spent most of the last decade trying to avoid that conclusion, clinging to the glory of 1994. They keep adding aging veterans and refusing to rebuild with youngsters, thinking they are just one player away from a return to the top of the standings.

They are delusional. They have got to take a hard look at their organization and start reloading. Adding Mike Durham doesn't address their need for good young talent.
posted by Poseur 12/13/2002 09:55:00 AM

LJ wins Camp, Banks takes O'Brien

Last night, college football handed out all of the hardware except the Heisman. LJ won the Walter Camp for best player and the Doak Walker (running back). Banks, who already was named AP Player of the Year, won the Davey O'Brien (top quarterback). EJ Henderson won the Bednarik for top defensive player.

The finalists for the Heisman have been announced, but looking at the awards last night, it's probably going to go to either Johnson or Banks.

My email has been overwhelmingly for Johnson and I already stated I think Banks should win. Honestly, either one is a good candidate and a worthy winner. I'm rooting for anyone but Dorsey.
posted by Poseur 12/13/2002 09:48:00 AM

Bama's search not going well

Mama called. Mike Riley put her on hold. This is Alabama football. This is Friday the 13th.

Would it have hurt as much if Tom Yeager and a bunch of strangers had pulled the trigger when they had the chance? The death penalty might not be as cruel and unusual as what's happened to the Crimson Tide in the last week.

The old coach deserted. The man the school targeted to be the new coach dragged his feet. There were no more cheeks left to turn.

Then South Florida announced a fat new contract for its football coach, Jim Leavitt, a finalist for the Alabama job. The South Florida president crowed, "Alabama, eat your heart out."

OK, that's really funny. A coach would rather take the USF job than Bama. Did you ever think you'd see the day?

Now Riley, a Bama alum, is still considering the offer. Riley never had a winning season at Oregon State, though he did come close, and now Bama targets him and he's not thankful for the job?

Such is the reality of Alabama's situation. I think they are finally realizing the severity of their situation, and maybe, just maybe, their head coaching position is not all that great. Would you want to go to a school that expects to win national titles yet isn't even the top dog in their conference anymore? Can you say "unreasonable expectations?"

I knew you could!

posted by Poseur 12/13/2002 09:39:00 AM

LeBron is really really good

"It's hard to be critical,'' said the scout. "That's like looking for a mole on Miss America's face.''

The only blemish, if you're looking, was James' jump shot. He made only two jumpers, both 3-pointers, and missed on eight others. But he still ended up 12-for-25, with a few highlight dunks, including a windmill breakaway jam that will likely be archived for the next 10 years.

But the scouts came to see him do a bit of everything, especially pass. He found his teammates in the corners, breaking to the basket, across the court, usually without telegraphing them. He used the bounce pass backdoor. He threw the no-look pass through the lane. He skipped a pass over the zone. And he passed back out of the post for a 3-pointer.

"He's not being asked to defend yet,'' said one Eastern Conference director of scouting. "And I wouldn't worry about the shooting. He's got a nice release and he can work on that. Is he still No. 1? Who else would be?''

The dunk was highlight reel stuff, but I was most impressed by his passing. James has amazing court vision and made some spectacular no-look behind the back passes.

He didn't get back on defense that much, which led to the cherry pick slam, but I think that was more of a coaching decision than loafing on the court.

And he took to many fadeaway jumpers. So that's pretty much the definition of nitpicky. The guy's got the goods. He's going to be a #1 pick and could be successful right away, seeing that he's already filled out into his frame.
posted by Poseur 12/13/2002 09:14:00 AM


I caught the big high school game between St. Vincent--St. Mary and Oak Hill. Most of the talk is going to be about superstar LeBron James, and I’m going to give him a few pats on the back too, but there are some other comments that need to be made as well.

1) James has skills. period.
2) I think his greatest skill is in distributing the ball. He made some passes that were simply amazing. He’s a very mature player because he distributes the ball well. That gets others scoring and it opens up the defense, making his team stronger. Really, I kept waiting for Bill Walton to say “one of the great minds in the game.”
3) He scored 31 points. If he had tried to rack up points, he would have had 60–against the #1 team in the country.
4) I’m even more amazed that this 17 year old kid did not choke in the spotlight. The pressure of playing on ESPN has got to be huge on a high school player. James, and both teams were amazingly poised in that game.
5) We know James is a phenom, but it’s time to take a step back and think about some things. In the NBA he’s going to be at a height disadvantage. His competitors will be bigger and faster than the ones he plays with now. A lot of his passes will be turnovers; a lot of his shots are going to get stuffed in his face. Even if he grows to dominate the game, it’s going to take him a long time to adjust.
6) Oh, by the way, he wasn’t the only one on that court that is going to play in the NBA. I had no idea that high school teams had such quality players.
posted by uberschuck 12/12/2002 10:52:00 PM

Heisman--The Final Five

The five finalists for the Heisman Trophy have been named–Brad Banks, Ken Dorsey, Larry Johnson, Willis McGahee, and Carson Palmer. On this page we’ve already had an in depth analysis of these and more players, but now I’ll weigh in on the final five.
Obviously all five have impressive highlight reels. When you get down to five players, they’re all going to have good stats. I like to look at their performances in big games and I look to see if they made a difference in their close games.
I rank Brad Banks as number one in this group. I know other QBs have bigger numbers, but it’s pretty obvious to me that he carried that team all season and made the difference in their big games. I put McGahee close behind–he was huge in Miami’s big wins. If he wins the trophy, I’ll not complain.
Carson Palmer is my #3. His numbers are great and the late season surge has been fantastic. Maybe his main drawback is that half the country ignores him because he plays out west.
A lot of people are ranking Larry Johnson higher than #4. I’ve got to admit he was a yardage machine. Three 300 yard rushing games in just nutty. In PSU’s big wins he owned the games. My problem is that in their losses he was AWOL. Running over Indiana doesn’t make up for that. A Heisman trophy winner shouldn't be bottled up in big games.
And finally, I put Ken Dorsey as #5, though I think he’s the only one of the five who doesn’t belong on the list. I almost feel sorry for him because I’ve got to combat the media hype by criticizing him heavily. He’s been efficient enough to get the ball to the great talent on his team and not screw up royally. Ultimately, I find him merely good, not great. Think of it this way: if he were Iowa’s QB and Banks were at Miami, would the two teams have had the same records this year? I just can’t see Iowa as a one loss team with Dorsey at the helm. I just hope the voters didn’t give him a lifetime achievement award with this year’s Heisman. But when I think that the same writers who write headlines saying Dorsey leads the final five are the same guys who get the ballots, I can’t help but fear a more deserving player is getting the shaft.

posted by uberschuck 12/12/2002 10:48:00 PM

Martz stares into the mirror

Rams coach Mike Martz is mad. Really, really mad.

He has begun cleaning up this mess of a 2002 season. He has effectively fired special teams coach Bobby April. He all but cashiered kicker Jeff Wilkins this week, singling him out for withering criticism and refusing to back off it.

He has notified injured quarterback Kurt Warner that Marc Bulger could stake a claim to the Rams offense, should the lad continue his strong play. He zinged Torry Holt for not making a touchdown catch.

Gordon continues to pile on, and it's a fun read. The Rams are in some deep doggy doo and they know it. People are going to get canned and life won't be happy this offseason.

Not only are the Rams eliminated from the playoffs already, their offense averaged a mere 18.8 points per game. That's a decent number, but it's nowhere near where a team as loaded on offense as St. Louis should be.

The Bears average 19.0, so that gives you an idea of the underacheiving.

At the center of the storm is Kurt Warner. Has he lost it?

Warner 144/220 1431 6.50/att 3 TD 11 INT 67.4
Bulger 113/173 1496 8.65/att 12 TD 4 INT 106.0

Also Warner got sacked 21 times to Bulger's 9. That's behind the same line, so Warner's appalling mobility is catching up to him. By these numbers, it's clear Bulger's been the better of the two, but does that really mean he should get the keys to the car?

Look, Steve Beurlein led the NFL in passing yards in 1999, and he's off selling used cars right now or whatever. It's a tough league, and sentiment doesn't rank real high.

I couldn't really find a comp to Warner's career, the closest I could find was Scott Mitchell, but he never had the yards/attempt that Warner had. Warner was a truly great QB for the last three years, and now he can't seem to do anything right. The bottom fell out on Mitchell, is it falling out on Warner?

He's always had the bad habit of throwing bad picks. Warner isn't mobile. And he has a high completion percentage, so his yards per pass is usually his incredibly talented receivers getting yards after the catch. It's only one year, but Warner's no spring chicken. He won't be this bad next year, but if I was in Martz's shoes, I'd start Bulger.

The NFL is a harsh league.
posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 05:52:00 PM

Red Sox trade for Todd Walker

Theo Epstein's first move isn't a blockbuster, but it's a good one. Walker makes too much money for his good, not great production, but that's the good thing about working for the Red Sox. You can take the hit and not have to go another season with Rey Sanchez as your starting second baseman.

All it cost was two minor leaguers to be named later. The Reds are probably happy to be rid of Walker's salary, and the Red Sox have to be happy to have a real 2nd baseman. Everybody wins.
posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 05:18:00 PM

Tonight: LeBron James

But this is the life of a teenage Next. His home games are on pay-per-view for $7.95 a pop in 14 Ohio counties, and a Dec. 12 matchup with national power Oak Hill was scooped up by ESPN2. "I hope Kobe watches," the kid says. He wanted Dickie V to do the broadcast -- because it's not like he'll be playing on Big Monday next season -- but there are more important things to worry about.

He needs to pick a sneaker company, insure his body for at least 5 mil and cross his fingers that the judge goes easy on his surrogate father. He needs to find a parking space for his Explorer, keep his mother off the refs and avoid the Internet. Not long ago, he read online that he'd fathered three children by two women, which was news to him. But all of the mystery and intrigue will be over in six months, when LeBron James finally shakes the commissioner's hand and gets on with it.

You can bet you bottom's dollar I'll be watching ESPN2 tonight to see the most hyped high school player since Alcinder. Unless James can actually fly and possesses superpowers, there's no way he can live up to the hype.

As a basketball fan, you absolutely must watch this game to see if he is for real. I'll have a full report tommorrow.

posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 12:30:00 PM

DirectTV and NFL sign a new deal

The NFL yesterday announced a five-year extension of its agreement with DirecTV, the satellite service that carries the popular NFL Sunday Ticket package of as many as 14 live broadcasts of league games, through 2007. DirecTV will pay a $2 billion rights fee on a five-year deal that also includes the launch of a new 24-hour NFL Channel that will begin operating next year.

In a conference call with reporters, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the new channel would not initially carry any live NFL games because the league's $17.8 billion deal with CBS, Fox and ABC/ESPN does not run out until after the 2005 season. He did leave open the possibility the channel could have live games following the expiration of that contract.


I have digital cable. I love it. The only drawback is that I can't get NFL Sunday Ticket because of the exclusive agreement they have with the NFL.

Now, here's to another 7 years of me not being able to get NFL on pay-per-view. Why on earth would they limit their market to just satellite? NBA League Pass, MLS Shoot-Out, ESPN GamePlan, NHL Center Ice; they are all available on both satellite and digital cable. It's not like it has to be on one or the other other. I will not be blackmailed into buying the satellite.

I'll keep going over to my neighbor's house to watch the NFL.

posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 10:53:00 AM

NFL admits to 9 blown calls

Fallout continued Wednesday from the wild conclusion to the Vikings' 26-22 loss Sunday in Green Bay. In a confidential memorandum, the NFL acknowledged its officiating crew made at least nine mistakes during the game -- including a pass interference call that negated a Vikings interception on the Packers' game-winning drive, according to a league source who saw the document.

Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, meanwhile, apologized for making an obscene gesture toward Vikings defensive lineman Chris Hovan during the postgame fracas. Players from both sides should learn today whether they were fined for their roles, but it appears unlikely that anyone will be suspended; the NFL typically announces suspensions early in the week to give teams time to prepare replacements.

As for the memorandum, eight of the affected plays occurred in the fourth quarter, when the Packers made up a nine-point deficit with two unanswered touchdowns. In response to inquiries made Monday about a total of 12 plays, league supervisors wrote that Vikings safety Corey Chavous should not have been called for pass interference against receiver Donald Driver on a third-down pass that safety Jack Brewer intercepted.

Whoops. My bad.

Seriously, how can a crew screw up EIGHT calls in the fourth quarter? That cannot happen. I feel for the Vikings, as they were unquestionably screwed , but the issue is larger than that.

The NFL needs full-time officials. This shouldn't be a part-time position. Every other major sport has full-time officials, and the NFL's simple refusal to give a real salary and training to their officials leads to this sort of lousy results.

Garbage in, garbage out. This isn't the officials fault, the blame lies squarely with Tagliabue and the league office. They can certainly afford the expense. the fans, the players, and the game all desrve the best officiating possible. And the NFL is not living up to their end.
posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 10:39:00 AM

Dowd says Rose bet against the Reds

John Dowd, hired to investigate Pete Rose's gambling habits 13 years ago for then-baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, said that if the investigation would have continued a little longer it would have shown the all-time hits leader not only bet on Reds games, but actually bet against the team he was managing.
When asked if he thought Rose gambled against the Reds, Dowd was quoted as saying, "I think that is probably right."

Dowd said Rose did not bet on the Reds whenever two pitchers, including Mario Soto, started, which "sent a message through the gambling community that the Reds can't win" on those days.

Well, here's an interesting development. If Rose did indeed bet against the Reds, then I think his public support would evaporate. I personally don't believe there's that much difference, betting on games you directly control the outcome is very, very bad, regardless of which side you bet on.

Rose does not deserve our pity, he deserves our contempt. The Hall of Fame is richer without his corrupting influence. Outside of actually throwing a game, there is no crime worse than gambling on games you participate in. The crime, by rule, warrants a lifetime ban. I see no compelling reason to lift that ban for a contemptible sleazball like Pete Rose.

posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 10:25:00 AM

Kansas beats Tulsa

Collison and Miles were sure their dismal performances at Oregon were the reason the Jayhawks lost Saturday.

"Nick thought he cost us the game; Aaron thought he did," Williams said. "I told them they were both wrong. We're in this thing together, and I know how good both of them can be."

That they were Wednesday night as the Jayhawks, beaten down in the rankings and on the court, regained their footing with a second-half surge that took them to an 89-80 victory over Tulsa.

I know Kansas had lost three of their last four, but before we start thinking that the Jayhawks are in for a dismal season, look at who they lost to: North Carolina, Oregon, and Florida.

Florida and Oregon are thinking Final four this year, and UNC is still, well, UNC. Would they have liked to have one at least one of those games? Of course. But it's not like they were blown off the court. And it's still December, people. Kansas will be much better come March.

Tulsa's a top 20 team, so this isn't regaining their footing against Athletes in Action or something. Kansas is still a Sweet 16 team right now, and if things come together, they'll be in the hunt for the title. So calm down and don't write the obituary for this team yet.

posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 09:51:00 AM

Theo returns to New York

Plenty of Rangers fans wore Fleury sweaters to the game, and some of them came down to the ice to show their support for Fleury during pregame warmups. One girl in a Fleury sweater held up a sign with a heart and the words "I Miss U Theo.'' Fleury's current teammates also showed their support minutes before the game by coming up to him and giving him words of encouragement.

When Fleury took the ice for his first shift, there was a mix of boos and cheers. When his slap shot beat Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn at 13:36 of the first period, it elicited another mixed reaction from the crowd.

Good for Fleury. He's scored a point in each of his four games, including three straight with a goal. and his return to NYC, the scene of so many of his troubles, couldn't have been easy.

ESPN ran an excellent interview with him and it seems that he's got his head on straight. Maybe he has gotten his life together. It would be wonderful if it's true.

posted by Poseur 12/12/2002 09:39:00 AM


MJ, Pip broken up in their prime

You still felt a certain wistfulness Tuesday, knowing it never had to be this way, wondering how many more titles they'd have won were they not disbanded in their golden prime. But if Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen can begin to find laughter after the wreckingballing of their dynasty, why can't we?

Laugh is what they did the other night, when Pippen dropped by Jordan's D.C. pad to relive the glory days over cigars. ''We talked, laughed and reminisced about a lot of memories,'' Pippen said. And laugh is what they did in the MCI Center when they met on the same court for the first time since their final Chicago fling in June 1998, this time as opponents. Gone is their sniping at Bulls management, their ridicule of Jerry Krause, their disgust over a beautiful thing being sabotaged prematurely.

Oh, please. MJ was 35 when he retired the second time, it takes a real strange memory to call that his prime. His numbers had been steadily declining for three years.

Points: 30.4 to 29.6 to 28.7
Assists: 5.3 to 4.3. to 3.5
Rebounds: 6.6 to 5.9 to 5.8
FG %: 495 to 486 to 465
3 pt %: 427 to 374 to 238
FT %: 834 to 833 to 784

Still a great player, but obviously on the decline of his career. Pippen fell off a cliff right after leaving decling from 19.1 to 14.5 PPG, and that's with more minutes.

It's easy to rip the Jerrys, and their sins are many, but let's limit the criticism to things that actually did. And they most certainly did not break up the Bulls in their prime. It's possible they could have squeezed one more title out of the team, but that was an eight-year dynasty when it ended. It was the end.

posted by Poseur 12/11/2002 11:13:00 AM

SEC coaches jumping ship as sanctions start to take hold

The unforced exits by Franchione and Morriss come a year after Steve Spurrier chose the NFL over Florida, his alma mater. And more changes may be forthcoming. Lou Holtz is probably entering his final year at South Carolina before resuming retirement. LSU's Nick Saban is always on somebody's short list, either in college or the NFL. Georgia's Mark Richt is successor-in-training to Bobby Bowden at Florida State.

Would the last coach to leave the SEC turn off the lights?

The convenient explanation for the recent outbound traffic centers on money. Morriss doubled his salary in exchange for dooming his head coaching career at Baylor. Franchione, too, got a big pay hike, although he could have named his price if he had stayed at Alabama.

This might be a little too panicked. Franchione inheireted a program going on probation, only to find the penalties were worse than expected. Thinking it was over and done, the NCAA is still investigating. So he jumped ship. Morriss more than doubled his salary. It's hard to turn down one million bucks.

So is the rampant cheating down south leading to a max exodous of coaching talent? Holtz is nearing retirement, and if he leaves, it's ot because of the situation in the SEC. And despite all of the talk, Saban hasn't jumped ship yet.

And there is young coaching talent at Auburn and Georgia making no noise of leaving. Kentucky and Bama were the worst offenders and are still feeling the fallout. But Tennessee's been under scrutiny for years and I don't see Fulmer jumping ship.

Calm down, the SEC isn't at SWC levels.

posted by Poseur 12/11/2002 10:59:00 AM

Whalen isn't the first, a history lesson
(registration required)

Zaharias became the first woman to equalify for the Los Angeles Open or any "open" men's event when she shot 76-76-152 at the George Thomas-designed Baldwin Hills courses. Again, she used the same tees as the other 42 men who qualified at the now-defunct Culver City course. Perhaps an even greater achievement, Babe played all 36 holes paired with her husband. He failed to qualify.

The following day, Times writer Jack Curnow listed his picks for the event: "Snead and Nelson, logical favorites; Wood and Vines on a hunch; McSpaden overdue; and for a surprise alternate, what's the matter with Babe Zaharias? She just might give the lads a merry chase."

Zaharias was paired with Ed Furgol and Ivan Sicks. Times writer Braven Dyer covered the opening round: "Babe Didrikson Zaharias drew a large gallery. Off to a fine start, Babe slumped a bit but still finished with a 76. This may not sound so amazing but she beat 84 males who were out there hacking away."

I have a pretty firm policy on golf: I hate it and will rarely, if ever, write about it. but this was too fascinating to pass up. Lost in the controversy over Suzy Whalen playing in a PGA event is the fact that she won't be the first.

Babe Didrikson beat her by a mere 57 years. And she qualified from the men's tees. I don't care whether Whalen plays or not, or from what tees should hits from.

But let's not minimize one of the greatest athletes of the century, regardless of sex. If this gets even one person interested in the history of women in sports, then maybe it is a complete waste of our time.

posted by Poseur 12/11/2002 10:43:00 AM


One story on Lance Armstrong isn't enough

So, we know Lance was head-and-shoulders above the field in a 4th consecutive Tour de France victory. But there is more. Armstrong finished the year as the UCI's #2 ranked cyclist. Just in case you are wondering how he could not finish first, you have to realize how international cycling works. The season is nearly year round, and the competitions range from one day events to 3-week long tours. Some races are flat, short, and geared for sprinters; others are for mountain climbers. While the biggest points go for winning the major Tours, there are many more points to be had in the more numerous, short races. Eric Zabel, perhaps the best sprinter ever, is the UCI #1 for 2002, and well deserved. But the UCI is skewed toward sprinters--4 of the top 5 are sprinters--so it's really an abberation that Armstrong finished as #2 in the world.

How did he do it? Aside from winning the Tour de France, he also won the Dauphine Libere and the Midi Libre. He was second at the Criterium International, third in the Meisterschaft von Zurich, and fourth in the Amstel Gold.

And in the "Oh, by the way" category, the U.S. Postal Service Team continues to get even better. Just put aside Lance's hardware for a moment. Only one team put two riders in the UCI top 10. USPS was represented by Lance and Spaniard Roberto Heras. USPS finished #3 in the UCI team rankings for 2002. The two teams ahead, Mapei and Fassa Bortolo, are two huge teams that employ a large number of riders, hence they compete in more events and earn more points because of shear numbers. Oh, yeah, Mapei is disbanding because of financial problems. See ya!

Now consider the quality of other USPS riders like George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, and Christian VandeVelde. Throw in former USPS riders who are now leaders of other teams: Levi Leipheimer at Rabobank and Tyler Hamilton at CSC Tiscali. It's clear that exciting things are here for US cycling.

If only people noticed!

posted by uberschuck 12/10/2002 11:09:00 PM

Rose to the Hall of Fame?

According to ESPN, Selig and Rose are meeting about the possiblity of re-instating Rose. Attatched the article, there is an online poll, and about 64% of voters support Rose getting into the Hall of Fame. All nine of the members of BBWAA they polled said they would vote for him.

This shows the power of the mis-information campaign which has been going on in Rose's support for the last ten years. Rose bet on baseball. He has lied about it consistently since then, and has shown absolutely no remorse. If anything, he has reached such a state of denial that he is incapable of admitting any wrongdoing. It's one of baseball's, one of sports' most basic rules: do not bet on the game. There's a simple reason why: the very integrity of the game is at stake. Sports derive much of their popularity due to the inherent drama of the undetermined outocme, if that drama is compromised, the sport cannot long survive.

This isn't Ty Cobb being a racist or Mickey Mantle being a drunk. It's not even Darryl Strawberry using cocaine and sleeping with hookers. Those are personal foibles, character flaws, and baseball has no morals clause. However, if Rose bet on baseball, that's going at the integrity of the game. Yes, he always bet on his team to win, but that means he would willingly put short term goals ahead of long term goals for his bet to cover. Association with gamblers is a form of cheating, and that's why Rose should be forever banned from the Hall (yes, Joe Jackson, too). Cheating is not a character flaw, it has everything to do with the integrity of the game. If Rose is inducted into the Hall of Fame, they would be honoring a man who has done nothing but disgrace the game.

And 64% of you should be ashamed of yourselves for enabling him to help destroy baseball. (Since Jason hates baseball, I'll give him a free pass on this one).
posted by Poseur 12/10/2002 04:42:00 PM

Part Three

After even more deliberation, here's my Heisman ballot if I had one:

1 Banks
2 McGahee
3 Johnson
4 Palmer
5 Henderson

Maybe that's why I don't have one. Check out the Breakdown on how I get there.
posted by Poseur 12/10/2002 10:46:00 AM

SI's Sportsman of the Year: Lance Armstrong

Sports Illustrated got it right. Armstrong is not only a great story who gives hope to cancer survivors, he's the most dominant athlete in his sport in the world today. Yes, that includes Tiger Woods.

Armstrong can tie the record of five-straight Tour de France titles next year, but he's already thinking about six. And why not? There's not a single rider out there who can even challenge him. Armstrong specializes in toying with his rivals and then ripping their hearts out on the difficult climbs.

The only guy who might, and I stress might, be able to beat him is Roberto Heras, and he's a teammate dedicated to Lance's continuing dominance. Who can beat him? Pantani retired, Ullrich is in a drug-induced exile, and the Italians don't seem to care about the Tour.

Only two riders were even within 10 minutes of Lance: Beloki and Rumsas. Rumsas surged late, and Beloki couldn't hang with Armstrong in the mountains. Maybe Botero or Sevilla can put it together? Levi Leipheimer is a few years off from seriously competing. Heck, only 10 riders were within 20 minutes. That's ridiculous. And the guy in 12th, Boogerd, is more of a sprinter.

While his cancer story is inspiring, we sometimes lose focus on just how dominant he is as a pure athlete. Even without the inspiring life-story, he's just a phenomenal talent. Take a second to appreciate his greatness just as a cyclist.

And then remember he is a fantastic human being. Congrats, Lance.
posted by Poseur 12/10/2002 09:15:00 AM

Morriss, the Million Dollar Coach

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart should heartily shake Morriss's hand, wish him all the best and then begin the search for a new Kentucky football coach.

Simply put: If the cost to keep Morriss is around $1 million a year, it is too high.

Based on his present accomplishments -- a 9-14 overall record, two years of head-coaching experience and no proven track record as a recruiter (at least as a head coach) -- UK would be justified in raising Morriss from the current $400,000 a year he earns to around $600,000.

If that's not enough, UK should let the coach walk.

Good advice, and the UK program took it. Guy Morriss did a great job in his two years at Kentucky. He took over a program that was on probation, directionless, and just plain lousy. He brought dignity back to the program and even guided them to a winning season.

But that's no reason to spend $1 million on the guy. I can't blame him for bolting to Baylor for that kind of cash, but in the long run, I think it's a mistake. Baylor has proven pretty consistently that they cannot compete in the loaded Big 12. While Kentucky isn't a powerhouse, they at least are a large state university with a good fan base, Baylor is small private school overshadowed by the bigger Texas schools.

Job security at Baylor is non-existent. Morriss does not have the reputation as a fabulous recruiter, something he'll need to be to even be competitive, and he'll be in the same conference as some of the best coaches in all of the country. He's signed up for a nearly impossible task, and he'll probably be out of a job in four years after failing to bring Baylor to respectability.

Morriss should have used Kentucky as a stepping stone to a better job, not a worse one, regardless of the salary.

posted by Poseur 12/10/2002 08:59:00 AM

Is Lewis gone to East Lansing?

When Lewis left East Lansing, university officials felt confident he would become the Spartans' next coach, sources said. But his indecision led to a series of conflicting reports that made headlines on television and Internet sites much of Monday. ESPN and other news organizations initially reported that Lewis was virtually certain to become the Spartans' coach. Then ESPN recanted and said Lewis had turned down MSU's offer.

The Detroit paper tries to spin this in the best possible light, but I think Marvin Lewis has turned the Spartans down. Lewis wants a head coaching job, but he wants an NFL job. He's earned it by virtue of his unofficial title as the best co-ordinator in the league. I can't blame Marvin Lewis for holding out for what he has rightfully earned: a pro head coaching job. Teams need to get off their duff and hire this guy.

They won't be sorry.
posted by Poseur 12/10/2002 08:47:00 AM

The Miami Herald | 12/10/2002 | Williams catches ghost of Csonka

They officially retired Larry Csonka's number on Monday night. Now it is time to officially retire the wistful, habit hardened notion that Zonk remains the greatest running back in Dolphins history.

He does not. Not anymore.

Ricky Williams carries the distinction now.

All by himself.

I hate to get caught up in the moment, but Cote has a point. Ricky hasn't played enough in a Dolphins uniform to topple Csonka just yet, but it's not like he's that tough an act to follow as far as great running backs go.

Csonka never led the league in rushing, and he finished in the top five a total of four times (1970-1973). He's 25th all-time in total rushing yards, behind greats like Ernest Byner and Gerald Riggs. The point is not that Csonka wasn't a great back, he was, but Ricky is well on his well to toppling him because Csonka had such a short period of productivity.

Besides, in Csonka's best season, he rushed for 1117 yards at an average of 5.2 yards per carry.Williams has 1500 yards right now, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. I'll take the workhorse. Williams is well on his way to passing Csonka. In some ways, he already has.

posted by Poseur 12/10/2002 08:42:00 AM


McNair stands tall

You may not have noticed the work Steve McNair has done with the Tennessee Titans. That's because a couple months ago we all left that team for dead with a 1-4 record. But in December, the Titans are in the thick of the AFC playoff race and they hold a tiebreaker over the Colts for the AFC South lead. Just to make him seem more impressive, McNair has been leading his team while suffering from turf toe and sore ribs. That's not new to McNair; he's been playing hurt effectively for years.

Vic Carucci of NFL Insider provides us with a great heads-up on one of the best quarterbacking jobs no one is talking about. (

Now, the Bucs have put a stop to the massive Michael Vick hysteria for now, but I'd like to hammer two points home here. And I can do so because I started the not-so-fast Michael Vick bandwagon when everyone was voting him into the hall of fame last week.

First Vick's season stats: 12 games, 173 of 305 (56.7%) 2119 yards, 161.6 ypg, 11TD, 4 INT, 29 sacks for 180 yds. rating = 84.9
Rushing: 85 for 663 yards, 7.8 yds/rush, 55 yds/game, 8TD

Now McNair's: 13 games, 269 of 425 (63.3%), 2988, 222.1 yds/game, 21TD, 14 INT, 17 sacks for 101 yds. rating = 86.9
Rushing: 65 for 330 yards, 5.1 yds/rush, 25.4 yds/game, 1TD

McNair has a reputation for being a good runner, and he is. Still, Vick is a much better rusher. When it comes to passing--you know, that thing QBs are supposed to do--McNair is the better man. His rating is better, as is his completion percentage. McNair has thrown many more TDs, but also more interceptions. Despite Vick's running prowess, he gets sacked more than the turf toe-sporting McNair. The biggest difference is in yardage. McNair has a healthy 222 yds/game while Vick has a paltry 161.

So, there you have it. McNair is quietly putting together a solid season through a gutsy effort. It's a shame too few people notice.
posted by uberschuck 12/09/2002 11:26:00 PM

Part Two of my Heisman breakdown.

Today we're looking at defensive players who should be on the ballot. Also, send me your Heisman ballot. Who deserves the most prestigious piece of college football hardware?

Just click on the e-mail the editor link on the side of the page.
posted by Poseur 12/09/2002 03:30:00 PM

ABC's BCS lie

I like ABC's coverage of college football, even though they have to kowtow to the BCS system. Such is the price of the contract. but on the BCS Selction show, John Saunders said that under the old system, Miami would have gone to the Orange, Ohio state to the Rose, and we wouldn't have this matchup. Therefore, the BCS works.

Unfortunately, this statement isn't true. Under the old system, the Big East had no bowl tie-in for their champ, so Miami would have gone to either the Sugar, Orange, or Fiesta. And due to the Big Ten tiebreaker rules, Iowa would have gone to the Rose Bowl by virtue of Ohio State's more recent trip to Pasadena. Without any conference tie-ins, the Fiesta Bowl committe would have happily snapped up Miami and Ohio State, and we would have had the same match-up, pre-BCS. The bowls probably would have looked like this:

Fiesta: Ohio State vs. Miami
Orange: Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. USC
Rose: Iowa (Big 10 champ) vs. Washington State (Pac-10 champ)
Sugar: Georgia (SEC champ) vs. Florida State.

Not much different.
posted by Poseur 12/09/2002 11:03:00 AM

Favre shows us who's boss

The critical play came on with 11 minutes left and the Packers facing third and 13 at their 40. Cornerback Tyrone Carter blitzed free outside and to Favre's left. Dead to rights, Favre instinctively pulled the ball down, escaped to his left and somehow found Robert Ferguson alone in the middle of the field.

Some right-handed quarterbacks throw poorly moving to their left but Favre isn't one of them. He hit Ferguson in stride and the second-year player wheeled down the sideline, turning a hopeless-looking play into a 40-yard touchdown.

Vick who?

For all of the talk about the next great quarterback, we're losing focus that we have an all-time great still producing magical moments. Favre's late scramble showed off his running ability, and he still displayed his cannon arm.

Favre is ninth all-time in total passing yards, and he should be in sixth by the end of next season. He's got three MVP awards on the mantle already. There is no player of similar stature at the same phase of their career.

It's fun to talk about Vick's potential greatness, but perhaps we should spend more time on Favre's established greatness, and start considering him one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
posted by Poseur 12/09/2002 10:22:00 AM

Johnson vs. Vick

Unable to solve the Bucs defense for the second time in as many tries, he completed 12 of 25 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, was sacked twice, intercepted once, and limited to 15 yards rushing on five carries.

``The new wave is coming,'' Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said in reference to Vick. ``But you can still win by taking three-step drops, reading defenses and making smart plays. It's the old-fashioned way of doing things, and Brad is probably as good as there is at it right now.''

Johnson has been as good as there is for a while. Since missing a game against Carolina because of sore ribs and a nasty virus, he has thrown 15 touchdown passes and been intercepted once.
The four TD passes he threw Sunday gave him 22 and set a Bucs single-season record (Trent Dilfer threw 21 TD passes in 1997 and 1998), while helping him earn his 50th career victory as a starter.

Let's nip this one in the bud. Vick is better than Brad Johnson. Period. However, the Bucs are a much better team the Falcons, who are still a one-man show.

Good for the Bucs for taking the Vick hype personally. That's what good teams do. They play with a chip on their shoulder. And the Bucs aren't afraid to tell you they are the best team in the NFL.

What makes them good is the opposite of what makes the Falcons good. While Atlanta is in How Vick Goes, There Goes The Team, Tampa has top line talent at just about every position. They don't have the best player at any one position (except defensive tackle- the combo of Sapp and McFarland is truly scary), but they don't have a below average player anywhere. Heck, they barely have any average players in the starting lineup.

That kind of depth is rare in today's NFL. And that's what makes the Bucs such a scary team.
posted by Poseur 12/09/2002 10:05:00 AM

Patriots beat Drew

It must be difficult for the Patriots coach to conceal his glee. He made one of the boldest moves in New England sports history when he went with Brady over Bledsoe after Bledsoe got hurt last year. Then he traded the franchise quarterback.

And the coach has proven to be 100 percent correct. The Bledsoe Bowls of 2002 served only to validate Belichick's legend.

Look, Patriots fans. I know it's great to beat a guy who left town, but the Bills aren't that good. They can pull the occasional upset, but they aren't a viable threat to win the division.

The Patriots are in the hunt for another division title, but Brady has been inconsistent as the starting QB. How is that 100 percent correct? Belichick will be proven 100 percent correct when the Patriots make another playoff run. Until then, it's a wash. The Patriots are still a good team without Bledsoe, and the Bills are much better than they were without him.

posted by Poseur 12/09/2002 09:57:00 AM

Huge upset in Pittsburgh

"That," said receiver Hines Ward, "was the most crappiest performance."

The expansion Houston Texans, 13 1/2-point underdogs, possibly knocked the Steelers' season for a loop with a 24-6 victory so stunning in how they accomplished it that they set an NFL record.

The Texans (4-9) scored just three points on offense and were held to three first downs and 47 yards in total offense. Those are the fewest yards by a winning team in NFL history.

Hines summed it up best. It was crappy. You cannot afford to lose games in which you outgain your opponent 422-47. That's right, the Steelers defense held the Texans to less than 50 yards of total offense, yet the Steelers not only lost, they lost by 18.

Coupled with the miracle catch in Cleveland, all of a sudden there's a dogfight for the division title. Now the Steelers still have games against Carolina, Tampa, and Baltimore. The Browns have a tougher road: Indy, Baltimore, and Atlanta.

The Steelers are still in good position, even with the loss, but they no longer have a cushion for stupid mistakes and let-downs.
posted by Poseur 12/09/2002 09:48:00 AM

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