Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Hitchcockian View of College Basketball's Preseason Top 15

The college basketball season is just around the corner, and the preseason USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll was already released on October 26. While the real intrigue is reserved for March, there’s still a place for the Master of Suspense when previewing the season. Alfred Hitchcock’s movies fit in quite well with the top 15 teams. Really, what’s more synonymous with college basketball than a British guy who’s been dead since 1980?

Hitchcock won’t be making one of his trademark cameos in this article. But given his fixation on beautiful blondes, he’d be thrilled to see Erin Andrews reporting from the sideline. Without further adieu, here’s a Hitchcockian view of college basketball’s preseason top 15.

14. (tie) Texas A&M. Rear Window. Can the Aggies continue their success, with Acie Law and Billy Gillespie in their rear view?

14. (tie) Gonzaga. Spellbound. That’s what Josh Heytvelt will be if he can’t lay off the mushrooms.

13. Oregon. The Birds. Despite the loss of Aaron Brooks, the Ducks will continue to be a nuisance in the Pac-10.

12. Marquette. To Catch A Thief. Thanks to his penchant for steals, guard Jerel McNeal was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. But he’s not quite as dashing as Cary Grant.

11. Duke. Notorious. It’s what the Blue Devils are on every campus outside of Durham.

10. Washington State. North By Northwest. The Cougars will once again be strong in the Pacific Northwest. No word on whether they’ll travel to games in a crop duster.

9. Indiana. Dial M For Murder. Kelvin Sampson knows how telephone calls can lead to big trouble.

8. Michigan State. 300. I know it’s not Hitchcock, but it’s the mandatory movie reference for the Spartans.

7. Tennessee. Rich and Strange. It’s an early, obscure Hitchcock film, but it’s a perfect label for Bruce Pearl.

6. Louisville. The Wrong Man. Cardinal fans are still thankful that Rick Pitino was the wrong man for the Celtics.

5. Georgetown. Vertigo. Jimmy Stewart had a fear of heights, so he’d have been terrified of 7’2” All-American Roy Hibbert.

4. Kansas. The 39 Steps. It’s how many steps Bill Self has taken, assuming you need 40 to reach the Final Four.

3. Memphis. Suspicion. Although they’re deep and talented, the Tigers can’t escape suspicion as long as they’re in Conference USA.

2. UCLA. Rebecca. The Bruins, like Rebecca Lobo, won a national championship in 1995. It could happen again, now that Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah are out of the picture.

1. North Carolina. Psycho. Tyler (Psycho T) Hansbrough hopes to lead the Tar Heels to the penthouse, not the Bates Motel.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why the Red Sox Swept the Rockies

Sunday night in Denver, the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 to complete a four-game sweep in the World Series. Whether it was Fenway Park or Coors Field, the Sox displayed superiority on the mound and at the plate. But instead of merely winning, why did they sweep? Here are a handful of reasons.

Every Sunday they were in action this October, the Sox wrapped up a playoff series. Looks like the Patriots have been the second-best Boston team on Sundays.

The sweep enabled the Rockies to finish their season on an amazing 21-5 run.

Every 2007 postseason series not involving the Cleveland Indians ended in a sweep. As with most things in life, things are less exciting when Cleveland’s not involved.

The Broncos have an important game tonight, and now the Denver fans can fully focus on them.

The Red Sox rewarded their loyal supporters by limiting further exposure to Tim McCarver.

Boston fans dressing up as witches for Halloween got extra use out of their brooms.

A seven-game World Series would have ended on November 1. The whole campaign was “There’s only one October” – Dane Cook didn’t even mention November!

Helping the Boston sports cause, Bill Belichick got someone to tape the Rockies dugout.

The Red Sox only play classic, seven-game World Series when they lose them in excruciating fashion.

Georgia knocked off Florida on Saturday, meaning that the Gators will finally stop winning championships. So Colorado was screwed as former Gator Josh Fogg took the mound for Game 3.

Seeing how helpless hitters have been against Josh Beckett, the Red Sox wanted to spare the Rockies from that experience tonight.

The symmetry with 2004 was complete, with a first-round sweep over the Angels, a rally to win a 7-game ALCS, and a World Series sweep. And once again, a famous defection to New York was overcome – the Curse of Pedro is finally over!

Three outs from a 4-0 sweep with a dominant closer on the mound, Colorado didn’t have Dave Roberts on the bench.

With Manny Corpas on the losing side, it’s “just Manny sweeping Manny.”

The sweep means that the Red Sox now have a higher winning percentage (61%) in World Series games than the Yankees (60%). Seriously. Dude, I’m not kidding!

Subjecting Boston office workers to fewer late nights will improve productivity this week. Well, after today. And the day of the parade. And…

Jacoby Ellsbury earned a free taco for everyone this Tuesday, so it’s only fair that he has the time to get one himself.

The Rockies hoped to end like the 1986 Mets. Instead, they ended like the 2007 Mets.

Now there’s no need to cancel Two and a Half Men night at Big Papi’s house tonight.

If history continues to repeat from 2004, a Boston sweep in the World Series will be followed a few months later by a UNC national title. That may not be important to the Red Sox, but it is to me.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Boston College Conquers Deuceophobia in Blacksburg

Triskaidekaphobia is the term for a fear of the number 13. While 13 is frequently considered to be unlucky, another number proved to be far more treacherous in college football this month. Number 2 was absolutely deadly for anyone who carried the label, inspiring an outbreak of “deuceophobia” across college campuses. However, Thursday night in Blacksburg, one team refused to give in to this condition. With a dramatic 14-10 victory over Virginia Tech, 2nd-ranked Boston College conquered its deuceophobia.

In completing its comeback, BC became the first #2 team in the AP poll to win in October. First, USC inexplicably fell to Stanford. The Cardinal was just as giddy the next week, when hated rival and new #2 California went down against Oregon State. The hex was not just limited to the Golden State, as upstart South Florida’s one-week stay at #2 was then ended at Rutgers. “Number 2,” of course, is also something you do in a bathroom stall (one of many things, if you are Larry Craig). In this case, the term is particularly applicable. Once teams became associated with number 2, their undefeated seasons went down the toilet.

No one knows for sure why #2 became so unlucky. However, speculation centered largely on New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury on September 24. Conspiracy theorists charged that a bitter McAllister wanted other deuces to suffer, so he imposed a curse on the number 2 in college football. Local favorite LSU was #2 at the time, so as the theory went, McAllister waited a week to allow USC to fall back to 2nd before imposing the hex. Surely he could find plenty of help in New Orleans – a town filled with voodoo specialists AND fans who hate the Trojans.

Football coaches notice trends, so deuceophobia spread rapidly. Some defensive coordinators scrapped their Cover 2 and Tampa 2 schemes. Many offensive counterparts refused to try 2-point conversions. None of them wanted to play on ESPN2. Players were forbidden to watch Austin Powers movies, which feature the character known as Number Two. And all copies of A Tale of Two Cities were removed from locker rooms – a huge blow to the legions of players who depend on Dickens for pre-game inspiration.

Thursday night, it appeared that Boston College was ripe to join the list of victims. The 2nd-ranked Eagles endured 2 interceptions by Heisman candidate Matt Ryan and trailed by 2 scores late in the game. However, BC decided to make the number 2 work in their favor. Ryan executed the 2-minute offense to perfection and threw 2 touchdowns, sending the stunned Hokies to their 2nd defeat. The curse of number 2 was burst, like a balloon filled with helium (whose atomic number is 2).

Perhaps it was fitting that a team from Boston was able to turn the number 2 in their favor. On the same night, 2 runs were enough for the Red Sox to win Game 2 of the World Series. Their mere participation means that Sox fans don’t have to see Derek Jeter wearing #2 in the Fall Classic. Also on Thursday, the Bruins beat the Black Hawks by 2 goals. The Patriots are one of 2 undefeated NFL teams. And the Celtics are ecstatic about landing 2 new stars, including 2-guard Ray Allen. Boston-area native John Adams would have been proud. He was our nation’s original #2 as George Washington’s Vice President before becoming President #2. Alas, he then lost to Thomas Jefferson, who wound up on the 2-dollar bill.

Unlike USC, Cal, and South Florida, Boston College showed that the number 2 does not scare them. But just to be safe, the Eagles will be pulling for Penn State on Saturday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Boston vs. Colorado: A World Series Breakdown

The 2007 World Series is set, with the Colorado Rockies taking on the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. The Sox have championship experience and far more tradition, while the Rocks are on a historic roll. So who has the edge? Even if you can’t distinguish between a Youkilis and a Tulowitzki, here’s a detailed breakdown to prepare you for the Fall Classic.

Inspirational Nicknames: A Red Sock has already helped Boston in a championship run. But a Rocky took down Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and Ivan Drago. Advantage: Colorado

Noted Ballpark Features: What gets you more excited: the Green Monster or a humidor? Advantage: Boston

College Hail Marys: Colorado had Kordell Stewart against Michigan, and Boston College had Doug Flutie versus Miami. So there’s “Heisman winner Doug Flutie” and “teammate of Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam.” Advantage: Boston

City Nicknames: It’s Beantown versus the Mile High City. No one ever brags about joining the Bean Club. Advantage: Colorado

Robin Williams: He became famous with Mork and Mindy, set in Colorado. But going to Boston for Good Will Hunting got him an Oscar. How do you like dem apples? Advantage: Boston

Drew Effect: The Rockies have already taken down Arizona’s Stephen Drew, so keeping J.D. Drew off the bases shouldn’t be a problem. Unless there’s a contract offer waiting at one of those bases. Advantage: Colorado

Dennys: Denny Neagle was one of many free-agent pitchers who flopped in Colorado. But Boston Legal’s Denny Crane is worth every penny. Denny Crane! Advantage: Boston

Schilling Trend: Curt Schilling has World Series experience with, in order, Philadelphia, Arizona, and Boston. In the postseason, the Rockies have beaten the Phillies, then the Diamondbacks. It’s like his whole career has been designed for a Rockies championship. Advantage: Colorado

NHL: If the Stanley Cup is any indication, the Colorado Rockies can’t win a championship unless they change their name to the New Jersey Devils. Advantage: Boston

Hills: Boston is home to historic Beacon Hill and Bunker Hill, while Colorado has first base coach Glenallen Hill. Advantage: Boston

Top Hitters: David Ortiz has had numerous playoff heroics. But “Holliday” is a name befitting a celebration, or at least a Madonna song. Advantage: Colorado

1993 Effect: Now in their first World Series, the Rocks entered the majors with the Florida Marlins. So 1993 expansion teams are 2-0 in the Fall Classic. Advantage: Colorado

2003 Effect: Then again, Josh Beckett had a little something to do with that second Marlins title. Advantage: Boston

Don Baylor Playoff Moments: Often forgotten is that Baylor’s 9th-inning home run versus the Angels set the stage for Dave Henderson’s Sox-saving dinger in 1986. Also forgotten is that the Baylor-managed 1995 Rockies were even in the playoffs. Advantage: Boston

Scrabble: In basic letter values, “Colorado Rockies” gets you 24 points, compared to 22 for “Boston Red Sox.” Advantage: Colorado

Youngs: The Rockies had Eric, whereas the Sox had Cy. Maybe someday there will be an Eric Young Award, but for now… Advantage: Boston

Oh Canada!: Colorado ace Jeff Francis and Boston reliever Eric Gagne are both from north of the border. And both are considered assets for the Rockies. Advantage: Colorado

Annoying Catchphrases: “Rocktober” is already getting old, but it has a long way to be as overdone as “Manny Being Manny.” Advantage: Colorado

Envy: Colorado is Spanish for “Red,” and the Rockies’ AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs is known as the Sky Sox. Looks like the organization is a bunch of Red Sox wanna-bes. Advantage: Boston

Tallying up the results, it’s Boston 10, Colorado 9. So the Red Sox’ long title drought since 2004 will finally come to an end.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rockies To Take On Steelers This Sunday

Monday night, the Colorado Rockies completed a sweep over the Arizona Diamondbacks to advance to their first World Series. Their layoff will reach nine days before opening the Fall Classic, so there is concern that the red-hot Rockies could lose their momentum before taking on the Red Sox or Indians. However, manager Clint Hurdle has devised a way to keep his club fresh in the meantime. The Rockies will step in for the Denver Broncos and take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night.

The Steelers were already planning to go to Denver this weekend, so their travel plans will not change. However, while they prepared for the Broncos, the Rockies are a completely different animal. Both Denver teams won on September 16. Subsequently, the Rocks are 20-1, while the Broncos are 0-3. Colorado has dominated in Coors Field and Chase Field, so Invesco Field seems to be a logical next step. The scorching ballclub has little in common with the slumping Broncos, unless a young Rockie or two was fathered by Travis Henry.

Skeptics will claim that a major league baseball club, even on a historic run, will have no chance against a top-level NFL team like Pittsburgh. However, Colorado has numerous factors in its favor. In the Steelers’ only trip out west this season, they fell to the Arizona Cardinals. The Rockies, on the other hand, are 3-0 versus foes from Pennsylvania this month. Furthermore, National League clubs tend to be very successful when they face an opponent from Pittsburgh.

Also, while the Steelers have numerous stars, the Rockies seem to match up with each of them. Troy Polamalu can be answered by Troy Tulowitzki. Willie Parker gets balanced by Willy Taveras. And Ben Roethlisberger will be unable to throw the deep ball, since the footballs will be stored in a humidor.

Colorado, for its part, will respond with Todd Helton at quarterback. Helton, as frequently noted, backed up Peyton Manning at Tennessee. Manning is more than happy to help his old college buddy, since a Pittsburgh loss could help Indianapolis with its AFC playoff position down the road. Reportedly, Peyton’s most important piece of advice for beating the Steelers was “keep Vanderjagt off the roster.” Helton is unlikely to put up Manning-type numbers, but he can also be successful handing off the ball. This month the Rockies have been quite proficient at running sweeps.

While many fans will be intrigued to see if Colorado can continue its hot streak in a different sport, there are some dissenters. Chief among them is NBC, which is televising the game on Sunday night. After seeing the ratings for the NLCS, the network wanted no part of the Rockies in prime time. Also, MVP candidate Matt Holliday is adamantly against competing in an NFL game. Thinking back to the decisive play at the plate versus San Diego, he refuses to play a sport that uses instant replay.

Regardless of what happens on Sunday, Colorado will then turn back to its primary goal of winning the World Series. Like the Steelers two seasons ago, the Rockies hope to win a championship as a wild card team. As for Pittsburgh, it must quickly adjust its focus before this weekend. Champ Bailey won’t be waiting, but the NL champs will.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Robert Redford Guide To Football's Unbeatens

For many sports fans, Robert Redford is best remembered as mysterious baseball slugger Roy Hobbs in The Natural. However, the screen legend currently has a stronger connection to football - specifically to the remaining unbeaten college and NFL teams. In All the President’s Men, his Bob Woodward turned Washington on its ear, whereas Ohio State and Arizona State have knocked Washington on its rear. ASU has Sun Devils, while Redford has Sundance. New England and Indianapolis are reminding the AFC of The Way We Were – competing for last year’s Super Bowl berth. And for whatever reason, the NCAA still regards a top-division football playoff as an Indecent Proposal.

Redford’s films share additional connections to each of the thus-far perfect teams. Here’s a rundown.


New England Patriots: Spy Game
. This one was almost too easy. The movie was released on November 21, 2001, and the Pats went undefeated the rest of the way that season. Conspiracy theorists are checking the film to see if Brad Pitt taped the Rams’ sideline.

Indianapolis Colts: The Electric Horseman. Peyton Manning is a Colt who generates lots of electricity.

Division I-A (or whatever they’re calling it these days):

Ohio State: Lions for Lambs. The Buckeyes have mostly faced lambs in their run to #1, but they’ll be tested by the Nittany Lions on October 27.

South Florida: The Candidate. In the national championship chase, the Bulls were like Redford’s Bill McKay on the political scene: a complete unknown who was given no chance in hell by the establishment.

Boston College: Legal Eagles. These Eagles are working on the field, not in court. With a road win at Georgia Tech, they avoided The Sting by the Yellow Jackets.

Arizona State: Jeremiah Johnson. The Sun Devils’ November 3 showdown in Eugene could be impacted by a knee injury to Oregon running back Jeremiah Johnson. Cal visits Tempe the previous week, so like Redford’s character Jeremiah Johnson, ASU will have to survive in the midst of Bears.

Kansas: The Great Gatsby. Gatsby was named Jay, and was a newcomer to high society who took road trips to Manhattan. KU is named the Jayhawks, and is a newcomer to high society after a winning road trip to Manhattan. I’m pretty sure Redford looked better in a tux than Mark Mangino.

Hawaii: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Sundance Kid was a great Western gunslinger. Colt Brennan is a great Western Athletic Conference gunslinger.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Marion Jones To Enter 2008 Tour De France

The past week has not been kind to sprinter Marion Jones. After years of steadfast denials, she admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs. This mea culpa came as she pled guilty to lying to federal investigators about her involvement in the BALCO case, as well as check fraud. Jones returned her five medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics and retired from track and field, from which she had been suspended for two years. However, the disgraced speedster has already found an alternative to fill the void. Today Jones announced her plans to enter the 2008 Tour de France.

Jones explained her decision thusly: “Most people assume that everyone in the Tour de France is on steroids. So I’ll feel right at home!” Indeed, Floyd Landis was recently stripped of his 2006 title due to a failed drug test after Stage 17 of that Tour. That same year, pre-race favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso were barred from competing on the eve of the race due to doping allegations. In 2007, leader Michael Rasmussen was removed from the race with four stages remaining, amid a dispute with the Danish Cycling Union over his availability for previous drug tests. While 7-time winner Lance Armstrong has never been sanctioned, he continues to be dogged by doping allegations. Jones would fit right in with this environment, even if she breaks away from the peloton to win a stage. She’ll not only be in the clear, she’ll be ON The Clear.

If possible, cycling seems even more drug-infested than track and field. Jones’s admission was stunning to sports fans, at least the ones who ignored that her ex-husband, shot-putter C.J. (“Caught Juicing”) Hunter, was a confirmed drug cheat. Or that the same was true of sprinter Tim Montgomery, the father of her child. Or that her name was all over the BALCO investigation and within the pages of Game of Shadows. Or that fellow track athletes continued to implicate her for doping. Or that…

In response to Jones’s admission, United States Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth apologized to the people of Australia for the impact on the 2000 Games. He noted that one of the returned gold medals would be sent to boxer Roy Jones, Jr., since “he’s a Jones who actually deserved the gold!” Ueberroth also vowed, “We are pledging that we will have a totally clean team for the 2008 games in Beijing." In related news, next year’s U.S. Olympic contingent will consist of the rhythmic gymnastics and archery teams.

Most Tour insiders are skeptical that a cycling novice like Jones will be competitive. However, she has shown that she can succeed in sports other than track and field, having played for North Carolina’s 1994 NCAA women’s basketball champions. Having ruled on the (Chapel) Hill, she feels confident that she can do so in the mountains. Jones has already petitioned tour officials in an effort to improve her chances. She has requested that each stage of the race be exactly 100 meters long.

Whatever the result, her new athletic endeavor will likely prove beneficial for Jones. Currently, she has been besieged by bad publicity in her home country. By participating in the Tour de France, she will avoid any publicity at all in the United States. She will also be a trend-setter as the only woman on The Tour (though a much shorter Women’s Tour de France does exist). Facing potential jail time, Jones could achieve another historic first if she takes the overall lead. She would be the first Tour leader to forgo the traditional yellow jersey in favor of an orange jumpsuit.

Her Tour participation should also help from a financial perspective, especially while the International Association of Athletics Federations seeks to recover prize money and appearance fees from Jones. Tour winnings would help cover amounts owed to the IAAF, but potentially even more lucrative is a pending book collaboration with British author Helen Fielding. The women would join efforts on Marion Jones’s Diary, in which the speedster would intersperse recaps of the race with a neurotic outlook on weight struggles, smoking, drinking, and her obsession with Mark Darcy. A film adaptation is already rumored, with the part of Marion Jones to be played by either RenĂ©e Zellweger or Barry Bonds.

It remains to be seen how Marion Jones will adapt to the Tour de France. However, the Olympic movement is showing that it will adjust to the current drug-laden environment. Reportedly, organizers for the Beijing Games are planning a new touch for the lead-in to the opening ceremonies. Rather than a torch relay, a series of runners will pass a syringe to each other.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ups & Downs of the Sports Weekend

It’s been an eventful weekend in sports, with three sweeps in the baseball postseason, a dramatic Saturday in college football, and an action-packed Sunday in the NFL. Here’s a look at who was up, and who was down.

Up: Rudy in L.A. Notre Dame finally ended its futility with a road win over UCLA.
Down: Booty in L.A. USC’s John David Booty threw four interceptions in a stunning loss to Stanford. The downside for the Cardinal? They helped Cal get closer to #1.

Up: Rockies. Colorado finished off a three-game sweep of the Phillies.
Down: Rocky. Philly’s favorite icon saw another title opportunity fade away. On the bright side, Temple won a football game on Saturday. Yes, Temple. Seriously.

Up: LSU Tigers in Death Valley. A dramatic victory over Florida cemented LSU’s #1 ranking.
Down: Clemson Tigers in Death Valley. Clemson self-destructed in a home loss to Virginia Tech, fulfilling their annual obligation to rise to the top 15 before falling back to mediocrity.

Up: Brandon Lyon. He was part of the Diamondbacks’ sterling pitching effort in the NLDS, allowing no runs in three innings of work.
Down: Detroit Lions. A 34-3 trouncing by the Redskins dropped the Lions’ record in Washington to 0-21. Only Congress accomplishes less in D.C.

Up: Jayhawks on the Road. Kansas won at Kansas State to remain undefeated.
Down: Seahawks on the Road. Seeking revenge for Super Bowl XL, Seattle fell 21-0 in Pittsburgh. Completing the sense of deja vu, Jerome Bettis retired after the game.

Up: Travis Hafner. His 11th-inning single won Game 2 for Cleveland.
Down: Travis Henry. Facing a potential one-year suspension, Henry and his Broncos teammates suffered a 41-3 humiliation at home versus San Diego. He’ll need the entire year off to see all of his children.

Up: Michigan Alumni in Coaching. LSU’s Les Miles and Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh notched huge victories.
Down: Michigan State Alumni. With a home loss to Northwestern, they again saw their team go into the tank once October arrived. Look for the Spartans to change their nickname to the A-Rods.

Up: Manny Ramirez. He followed up his Game 2 walk-off shot with a homer in the Red Sox’ Game 3 clincher.
Down: Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs third baseman had no hits in the three-game sweep by Arizona. But at least no one can blame him for 1909 through 2006.

Up: Samuel Peter. He retained his WBC heavyweight championship with a decision over Jameel McCline.
Down: WBC. Its heavyweight champion is some guy you’ve never heard of named Samuel Peter.

Up: Frank TV. As every baseball fan knows by now, it premieres November 20 on TBS. Two more promos ran while I was typing that sentence.
Down: Yank TV. While the Yankees staved off elimination Sunday, they still need two more wins to set up another Boston-New York ALCS. Like LeBron James, Fox executives are wearing their Yankee hats.

Up: Carolina vs. the Hurricanes. Butch Davis collected his first ACC win at UNC with a victory over his old Miami team.
Down: Carolina Hurricanes. They dropped a 2-0 contest to Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday. But since it’s the NHL, no one actually saw it.

Up: Billy Goat. The Cubs still haven’t made the World Series since 1945.
Down: Rams. St. Louis and Colorado State are both 0-5. But to my dad’s delight, the Spring-Ford Rams took down Upper Perkiomen on Friday.

Up: Maurice Jones-Drew. His 52-yard touchdown run sparked the Jaguars to victory in Kansas City.
Down: Marion Jones. The gold medal sprinter finally admitted to taking steroids. Track and field insiders responded, “Well, DUH!!!!”

Up: Buckeyes in Indiana. Ohio State gave Purdue its first defeat of 2007 in West Lafayette.
Down: Buccaneers in Indiana. Tampa Bay was routed 33-14 in Indianapolis. Afterwards, Colts QB Peyton Manning went on a rant, complaining about Frank Caliendo being in more commercials than he is.

Up: Chase Daniel. The Missouri QB threw for 401 yards in a 41-6 rout over Nebraska.
Down: Chase Utley. The Phillie star matched teammates Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell with a .182 batting average in the NLDS. At least the Phils have one thing in common with the Red Sox: Curt Schilling has their most recent postseason victory.

Up: Kris Brown of the Texans. Houston’s kicker made all five field goal attempts, including the 57-yard game-winner versus the Dolphins.
Down: Mack Brown of Texas. Dating back to last season, his Longhorns have dropped four straight Big 12 matchups. But better days lie ahead. “Better days” meaning Iowa State and Baylor the next two weeks.

Up: Pats in New England. Tom Brady and company cruised once again in Foxborough.
Down: Bats Versus New England. The Angels managed just four runs in the three-game sweep by Boston. Looks like the Rally Monkey’s no match for the Green Monster.

Up: Ranked Bulls. South Florida entered the top 5 for the first time ever.
Down: Ranked Bulldogs. Georgia suffered a 35-14 blowout in front of 107,000 at Tennessee. 97,000 if you exclude Travis Henry’s kids.

Up: Undefeated Ohio Teams: Like Ohio State, Cincinnati beat a ranked opponent on the road to go to 6-0.
Down: Undefeated Wisconsin Teams. The Badgers fell at Illinois, and the Packers dropped a heartbreaker to the Bears. If the Bucks had been in action, they would have lost to the Bulls.

Up: National League West. Arizona and Colorado will square off for a berth in the World Series.
Down: AFC West. Ladies and gentlemen, your first-place Oakland Raiders!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Cameron Diaz Guide To the MLB Playoffs

The 2007 seasons of the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves have ended, so you won’t see Mike Cameron or Matt Diaz in the major league postseason. However, the division series will be filled with reminders of Cameron Diaz. Sure, There’s Something About Mary featured Brett Favre, not George Brett. And it was Being John Malkovich, not Being John Kruk. But her other film titles do relate to this year’s playoff clubs. Let’s take a look.


Chicago Cubs: Very Bad Things.
That’s what’s been happening to this franchise since 1908.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Mask. Equipment worn by Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero, who catch the NL playoffs’ top starter (Brandon Webb) and closer (Jose Valverde). If they didn’t wear a mask, well, you’d still have no idea who Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero are.

Colorado Rockies: The Holiday. MVP candidate Matt Holliday leads the wild card winners. Even though in the 13th inning on Monday, Cameron Diaz was as close to home plate as he was.

Philadelphia Phillies: Any Given Sunday. Clutch play is crucial at this time of year. Since the Mets didn’t have Any, the Phils were Given the NL East on Sunday.


New York Yankees: Gangs of New York.
Like the Scorsese film, the Bronx Bombers are a big-budget production with high-profile stars. Here’s actually a good World Series omen for Cubs fans: at Oscar time, the movie lost out to Chicago.

Cleveland Indians: Feeling Minnesota. As the Twins did in four of the previous five years, the Tribe won the AL Central. The Twins’ pattern they hope not to follow? Getting bounced by the Yanks in round one.

Los Angeles Angels: Charlie’s Angels. Actually, they’re Vladimir’s Angels. Coincidentally, Aaron Spelling originally planned to call the TV series Charlie’s Angels of Anaheim.

Boston Red Sox: Shrek. The movie franchise and baseball franchise both bring in loads of money and feature a Green Monster. One more similarity in Shrek the Third: the star became a Big Papi.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Mets' Collapse By the Numbers, From 1 To 17

After a September 12 victory over the Atlanta Braves, the New York Mets led the National League East by seven games with 17 remaining. A 5-12 finish, combined with the Philadelphia Phillies’ 13-4 closing run, left the Mets in second place and out of the postseason. New York thus became the first club in major league history to lose such a lead in the last 17 games. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the Mets’ swoon, from 1 to 17.

1 Number of NL clubs who suffered a three-game sweep at home by the Nationals in 2007, thanks to Washington’s trip to Shea this week.

2 Field goals made (officially) by Auburn kicker Wes Byrum in Saturday’s stunner over the Gators. So unlike the Mets, at least someone stepped up this weekend against Florida.

3 Runs driven in by Bucky Dent on his famous home run versus Boston in 1978 – a game Willie Randolph missed due to injury. Sorry Willie - no one-game playoff for you this year, either.

4 Number of the train that stops at Yankee Stadium, where Mets fans can go to see postseason baseball.

5 Losses, without a win, for Notre Dame – the only team having a worse run than the Mets these days.

6 Emmy acting nominations Ray Romano received for Everybody Loves Raymond. This week the Mets caused more heartache for Ray Barone than his family.

7 Runs by which the Mets lost on Sunday, with their season on the line. Looks like March isn’t the only thing that goes out like a lamb.

8 Consecutive games the Mets have dropped to the Phillies. Only Santa Claus gets worse treatment in Philly.

9 Seasons Matlock was on the air, beginning in 1986. I figured Mets fans could use a reference to 1986.

10 Felonies O.J. Simpson has been charged with committing on September 13. He’s not the only athlete whose fortunes went south after that day.

11 Jersey number of Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins, who proved he had great foresight in January by proclaiming the Phillies “the team to beat in the NL East.” Less accurate predictions from that interview were “It’s the Mavs’ year” and “Kucinich is a real sleeper!”

12 Grand Slam singles titles for Roger Federer, including the recently completed U.S. Open. He’s the only male athlete who got to celebrate in Queens this month.

13 Runs scored by the Mets in Saturday’s victory. Sure, it was their only win of the week, but it was a REALLY decisive win.

14 Career postseason victories for Mets starter Tom Glavine, who trails former Atlanta teammate John Smoltz by one. Looks like Smoltz has bragging rights for another year.

15 Consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates. So at least the Mets finished ahead of one team from Pennsylvania.

16 Points scored by the Giants in a win over the Eagles – Met supporters’ only consolation on Sunday. Unless they’re Jets fans – then they’re totally out of luck.

17 Games during the Mets’ 5-12 collapse in which third baseman David Wright had a base hit. Wright got less support than sportswriters at a Mike Gundy press conference.