Thursday, January 28, 2010

Regarding Tebow: Do You Hate the Player, or Hate the Game?

The Internet is a beautiful place, one where opinions of every stripe can find a voice. You can always find someone willing to claim that the Pope is a child molester. You can always find someone to insist that Barack Obama is a computer-controlled puppet of Osama Bin Laden (and they'll insist that that explains the similar names). And, you can always find someone who's decided that Tim Tebow is an evil, evil man who will receive his comeuppance from the shining, virtuous NFL.

In an era where so many of our athletes are either idiots, morons, assholes, or just lovable poonhounds, we finally have a guy who loves his parents, has a charitable streak wide enough for the entire NBA to drive their Bentleys across, and doesn't appear out to screw anyone figuratively or literally...especially not Hooters waitresses and porn stars.

And he's probably the most despised man in all of football this side of Oakland, California or Washington, DC.

If it was merely a case of "eh, I don't think he'll be all that great in the NFL," that'd be one thing. In this case, it's actually summed up by the title of this Bleacher Report article: "The World Loves Watching Tim Tebow Crying."

Human nature is a major bitch. When we hate our situations in life, we lash out at those who we perceive as "having it better." We wonder, "Why aren't I glorified for being a good parent/spouse/employee when this kid gets cameras in his face all day for throwing a fucking football?"

We ask ourselves, "What do I have to do for someone to say that spending 5 minutes in my company will make you a better person?"

Do I think Tebow's going to be a good NFL player? No, not unless he ends up on some team where he can get the full Aaron Rodgers treatment: park it on the bench for three years, work on your game, soak up wisdom from a future Hall of Fame QB (provided said QB is willing to offer it), and not actually play until truly ready. Problem is, when you're packing a Heisman, a national championship, a slew of SEC passing AND rushing records, and a media presence that dwarfs every other college football player in the past two decades, time to learn is not something that's in large supply.

This isn't the obscure, undrafted-free-agent-out-of-a-small-college Tony Romo getting to toil on the third string for four seasons until he stumbles into the starting lineup. This is Mr. "Thick Polygons and Smooth Flat Planes and Inescapable Corn-Fed Handsomeness" himself.

Invariably, some team (if it's the Jaguars, Tim should just head for the Philippines now, because he'll have more pressure to deal with than Marino, Obama, and Christ put together) will decide that selling tickets for this season is more important than the player's development and try to thrust Tim into the starting lineup long before he's ready. At that point, Tebow will proceed to absorb a mighty ass-kicking. He won't complain a bit, but he may get emotional after a loss. And the envious will eat it up with chopsticks.

And the media will alternately cry about it or simply shrug and say, "We told you so."

The photo to the right, let's be honest, it's funny as shit. I like Tebow probably more than most, simply because I'm refreshed by a guy who isn't slinging guns in clubs or locker rooms, snorting coke or who-knows-what-else, making it rain all over strip clubs, or generally being a complete walking stereotype of the shallow, selfish, greedy, hedonistic jackass athlete.

But the picture's implication that announcers from CBS/FOX/ESPN/any other network that's carried a Florida game the past four years have been greedily slurping up figurative manjuice from Tebow these past four years? Yeah, that's pretty damn accurate. If I didn't carry so much respect for what he's accomplished in college football, I'd probably be pretty annoyed too.

Does he deserve the Thom Brennaman "10 minutes makes you a better person" tongue-bath? Eh, I dunno, I never met the guy. I sincerely doubt it, though. Still, the fact that he's an excellent athlete (and trust me, for ESPN to gush about a white guy's athleticism, he's got to be pretty damn impressive) who doesn't act like a complete douchebag will always score points with me.

I'm far from a religious person, so the verses on the eye black and the constant references to Jesus in the interviews are all lost on me. I've simply enjoyed him as a COLLEGE football player, without fishing for something to bitch about and settling on "Well, he'll suck in the NFL."

Whether I agree on the feasibility of airing a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl or not (and for the record, I don't; not because of any philosophical favor or disfavor of abortion, I just think it's a bit too heavy for a football game, where all the other ads will be for cars, beer, erectile dysfunction pills, and GoDaddy), if you've read Tebow's story, you can appreciate the unique perspective he carries on the subject.

If your mother drank heavily while pregnant with your younger sibling and said sibling came out with serious mental and physical deficiencies, wouldn't you carry a little perspective on fetal alcohol syndrome? And do you understand why Tim and Pam Tebow might want to appear in this kind of commercial? If you said no to both of those, you have very little to offer this planet. Seriously.

Hating the media's slobberbath of Tim Tebow is perfectly acceptable. I have to roll my eyes at it myself. I place Tebow in my Top 10 list of all-time great college football players, but I don't need it made to sound like he's God's great-nephew. Fair enough. None of this fawning is his fault, though. Dude didn't ask for it, he just lives his life how he wants to, not how "fans" think athletes should, with strippers and strapped posses.

We're all sick of hearing how great he is, but why delight in his current Senior Bowl struggles, or cackle with glee at hearing that he might fall to the third or fourth round of the draft? He'll be the most hyped third-round pick in history, sure, but why be annoyed by it at this point? Simply move on and ponder your team's picks or players from your school or whatever angle usually draws you into the NFL Draft. We all know that it takes a great player, not great hype, to succeed in the NFL.

Difference is, I'm smart enough to separate the hype from the person.

Are you?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Does God Hate Clippers Owner Donald Sterling (& Does He Care)?

In the wake of the season-ending aggravation of Blake Griffin's knee injury, "The Curse of the Clippers" has returned to the news. (It may be noticed that in almost every article that moans about the injuries to Danny Manning and Griffin, it is noted that 1998 #1 pick Michael Olowokandi played in "only" 45 games in his first season, neglecting that that was the infamous 50-game "lockout" season. But I digress.)

Immediately after Griffin was drafted, Bill Simmons came up with a chronology of the Clippers' woes that presented compelling evidence that the team's futility even poisoned the career of their first celebrity fan, Billy Crystal. Seriously, go read it. You'll laugh.

Simmons wonders if the Clippers' 30-year malaise was the result of some besmirching of sacred Native American spirits or something. An interesting theory, and the avalanche of misfortunes, coincidences, and calamities make a reader feel like there's GOT to be SOMETHING going on.

Me, I'm not a religious fellow, but after this latest shot to the gut, even I get the feeling that (Insert Your All-Powerful Deity of Choice Here) is seriously trying to stick it in and break it off. Not on the franchise, per se, but merely on its owner, Donald T. Sterling.

The story goes that in 1979, Dr. Jerry Buss sold a handful of apartment buildings to Sterling and proceeded to use that money to cover his purchase of the Lakers. That transaction has continued to be rubbed in Sterling's face for 30 years.

The perpetual flaunting of Sterling's subsidizing of Buss's good fortune appears to have melted Sterling's brain over the decades, and he's taken his fury over ending up with Los Angeles's red-headed stepchild out on whole segments of society ever since.

Let's start from the beginning. In San Diego, Sterling tried to stimulate Clipper season ticket sales with billboards prominently featuring the team's heralded new acquisition: himself. By January 1982, he was getting fined by the NBA for thinking out loud about how nice it might be to tank some games to "earn" the Number 1 pick and the chance to draft Ralph Sampson.

He wasn't paying hotel bills. He wasn't making payments to players' or general managers' pension funds. He couldn't even pay for dinner some nights.

The man hired one of his girlfriends, Patricia Simmons, as an assistant general manager, booting coach Paul Silas out of his own office. Simmons is listed as a former model, but as it's pretty hard to find pictures of her online, she must not have been terribly successful. Click that link there and scroll to the bottom to see how much basketball knowledge Sterling had, let alone Simmons. (John Have-lie-sek, indeed.)

In recent years, he seems to have gotten more basketball savvy. T.J. Simers put an optimistic spin on things in November when he wrote this praise of Sterling in the LA Times:

He built a state-of-the-art practice facility, allowed Dunleavy to go free-agent shopping with an open checkbook, cut ties with Elgin Baylor after 23 mediocre years as general manager, and now has hung in there with the same coach for seven seasons.
Because in today's sports climate, not firing your coach every two years (and getting caught up in millions of dollars in deferred settlements) is cause for Nobel Peace Prize nominations. And while Simers may have been happy about Elgin getting canned as general manager, Elgin himself certainly was not, filing an age and racial discrimination suit against Sterling. (Me, I'd have fired Elgin for selecting Danny Ferry over Glen Rice, but I'm a Big Ten homer, so I might be biased.) Baylor claimed that Sterling's ideal vision for his basketball team mirrored a Southern plantation, with a bunch of "poor black boys from the South" playing for a white head coach.

Dunleavy getting an open checkbook is certainly a turnabout from the days when players like Lamar Odom and Andre Miller were allowed to bolt in free agency rather than getting anything resembling a decent offer. Even guys who got decent offers (see Elton Brand's matched $82M offer sheet from Miami in 2004) weren't exactly thrilled to be staying. Brand proved it five years later by completely welching on his deal with Baron Davis to team up in LA and sprinting as far across the country as he could get. Not sure how the Sixers are feeling about that deal right now, either.

Sterling's tried to manicure his image, spending the years between 2006 and 2008 declaring the impending construction of a homeless shelter/hospital/school/legal advocacy center in a Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles. We're well past that time period now, and you would be correct if you assumed that the arrival (nay, even the groundbreaking) of said building is still "impending."

The homeless-center boondoggle would seem much more genuine if there wasn't such a tremendous initiative on Sterling's part to keep the homeless population expanding. He's been nailed with housing discrimination suits not once, but twice.

In 2003, his practices of ignoring maintenance complaints, harassing tenants with surprise inspections, and refusing rent checks to hit tenants with non-payment charges earned him a lawsuit that was settled in 2005. Almost $5M in legal fees alone were awarded to the plaintiffs.

A 2006 lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Sterling refused to rent to African-Americans (because "they smell"), Mexicans ("they just smoke, drink, or hang around the house"), or anyone with children, giving preferential treatment to Koreans instead. That one was settled this past November for around $2.73M.

And just this week, TMZ has reported that a negligence lawsuit has been filed by a group of tenants in a West Hollywood building owned by Sterling...and one of those tenants may be recognizeable as Ginger the secretary from "The West Wing."

Apparently, through all this, Don hasn't lost his touch with the ladies. In 1996, he was sued for sexual harassment by a woman who claimed that she needed to carry a gun afterwards for fear of retribution from Sterling.

Seven years later, Sterling got to be the plaintiff for once, suing an employee whom he would regularly pay for sex in an effort to reclaim a $1M Beverly Hills property that she believed to be a gift. He appeared to take a lot of delight in recounting the details of their sexual encounters in a deposition obtained by The Smoking Gun. Click that link if you like, but if anyone walks up and reads over your shoulder, be prepared for a "Why the hell are you reading porno fanfic?" line of questioning.

Through all of Sterling's misanthropic fuckery, Herr David Stern (ten times the Nazi commissioner that Roger Goodell will ever be, for all the good and bad points that his hard line merits) has remained absolutely mum. He's found time to mandate a business-casual dress code for the players. He assesses fines on Mark Cuban because he posts tweets posing valid questions about game officials. But flaunting sexual exploits and flooding elderly black women into an early grave so he can get them out of his apartment buildings? Fair play, apparently.

Stern's got no compulsion about demanding his players toe a disciplinary line, but why not the owners? Because they paid to play with these expensive toys, and as long as they keep contributing to the NBA kitty, the rest is their business?

Will it become more of an issue when lines of protesters picket the Staples Center and prevent Ice Cube, Spielberg, Jack, and Dyan (little ditty...ahem, sorry) from getting in to see a Lakers-Clippers beatdown?

Will it become an issue when players decide they're not willing to relive the slave days and quit rather than go play on the "plantation"?

Or will (Your Almighty Deity of Choice) continue popping ACL's and breaking kneecaps in the hopes that Sterling will eventually pop an embolism and go rent an apartment off the most unforgiving landlord of all? (Hint: he doesn't fix the air conditioning...EVER.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Icarus is Flying a Little Too Close to the Sun

As sympathetic as I am for Tennessee fans who just watched their coach run for the border like he had ten pounds of Taco Bell headed for his back exit, the operative question here has to be:

Why in the blue flaming hell are you surprised?

Lane Kiffin's done little in his career but prove that he would light his mother on fire to get a "better job" (and then drag his father along right through the ashes).

Actually, scratch the last half of that sentence, and let's leave it at:

Lane Kiffin's done little in his career.

7-6 at Tennessee is nice and all, but did he beat Florida, like he said he would? No.

Did he beat Alabama? No. And since when do coaches get paid for moral victories?

USC is the closest thing to an NFL job that still has "university" in its name, and if one asks the right people, one could probably get it said that USC pays better. And they take care of their coaches, too.

So, what was the NFL record for Kiffin? 5-15? There's only so much that we can blame on Al Davis and his senility.

And speaking of Al, even as stuck in the '60s as he is, he's probably so incensed at this news, he's going to take his complaints straight to President Johnson. Methinks he might be waiting a while for a response.

Is taking USC a great career move for any coach? Probably. But, after Pete Carroll's nice run, you need to be highly convinced that you can deliver the mail, because USC is the only pro football in the second-largest market in America, and there are a lot of people watching.

Of course, we all know that the last thing Lane lacks is confidence. If Urban Meyer ends the "leave of absence" next week, some wit will be asking Kiffin if Meyer's back because he, Kiffin, left. And don't think for a second that Lane won't get a chuckle out of that.

The whole thing kind of brings to mind the story of Icarus. Kiffin only got his wings after getting in his slapfight with Al, and he keeps soaring higher without doing much looking around to see how close he is to the sun. In Los Angeles, though, it's all about the sun, and a lot of people are ready to see if Kiffin's wings are going to melt.

Just imagine the recruiting hostesses he can recruit at USC, though. Living in Tennessee, I can tell you there's the occasional hottie to be found here, but they don't quite grow on trees like they're alleged to in LA.

There's a school of thought that says that Kiffin, with his run-ins with the NCAA already well-documented, would not have taken the USC position if there were too many signals that the Compliance Mafia were about to whack the Trojans. This could be a valid point. After all, it's kind of hard for a coach to send his hatchet guy to steal UT's recruits if they're going to be hearing that they'll have no chance to play for a national title.

All that being said, if USC fans wanted their school to get off the NCAA's radar, they're probably nursing some nasty hangovers this morning. There's going to be an NCAA compliance officer pitching a tent right next to Mike Garrett's secretary's desk. Hopefully, the campfire doesn't set off the sprinklers.

The whole moral of the story, kids, is this: Lane Kiffin has a job with a lot of money, a ridiculously hot wife, beautiful kids, and he's becoming one of the most famous men in sports. You, too, can be a success in life by screwing players, giving the finger to a big and loyal fanbase, and generally being a complete douchebag. Take notes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

25 Large: One Writer's College Basketball Ballot for Week 9

Over at Bleacher Report, where I can be found as a Featured Columnist for Purdue basketball, we rank our own Top 25 every week, just like most other sports media outlets. Some like to post their ballots in the comment section for accountability purposes.

Me, I might like to get kind of salty and verbose, so what better place to do so than in the comfort of my own blog? So, eight weeks in (and coming off Purdue's first loss of the season), here's the Top 25 ballot that I submitted to B/R.

1. Texas (15-0, 1-0 conference)
--I had gone ahead and pulled the trigger on elevating UT to #1 last week, because I was impressed that they had played North Carolina and Michigan State three days apart while Kansas was diddling around with paper tigers Michigan and Cal. Now that UT's one of only two unbeatens left, and still handling people with efficiency (see Colorado), everyone else will get on the train that I boarded last week.

2. Kentucky (16-0, 1-0)
--The other undefeated team, UK keeps looking like they're dancing on the edge. Georgia led them at halftime before the Cats rallied, but the concerning thing has to be that John Wall is starting to look mortal.

Wall's line from his first 13 games: 17.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, 2.4 SPG, 4 TPG, 52% FG, 82% FT, 43% 3-pt.
Wall's line from the Louisville and Georgia games: 34 points, 9 assists, 8 turnovers, 10-24 FG, 13-21 FT, 1-6 3-pt.

It's just a testament to how good the guy is that 34 points in two games is a sign of "mortality." Good thing for the Cats that the SEC doesn't look tremendously intimidating this season. If DeMarcus Cousins stops picking up the slack, though, a couple of speed bumps will pop up.

3. Syracuse (15-1, 2-1)
--Syracuse has seven players averaging over eight PPG. That's the kind of depth that a lot of other teams would be killing for right now. After they dropped their first of the season to Pitt last week, they rallied strong, beating Memphis and South Florida convincingly. This team lost almost 55% of their scoring from last season, but you'd never guess it from the way they've played against the likes of North Carolina and Florida. Even their win against Cornell looks a lot more impressive after the scare that the Big Red gave Kansas.

4. Villanova (14-1, 3-0)
--Speaking of dancing on the razor's edge, Villanova's got to be totally glad they're done with Marquette for the season. Not just once, but twice, Marquette's come down to the last possession with Nova, only to fall short. Villanova's not played quite as tough a schedule as Texas or Syracuse, but they get some good tests this week against Louisville and Georgetown. And I'm not inclined to bet against Scottie Reynolds when games get tight.

5. Kansas (14-1)
--As I alluded to earlier, Michigan and Cal looked like strong opponents when the schedule was first announced, but the season has raised more questions for those two teams than it's answered. Kansas did look impressive last week when they throttled Temple, but losing to a shorthanded Tennessee team, one who hasn't looked this focused all season, doesn't do a lot for them in the short term.

6. Purdue (14-1, 2-1)
--Purdue and Wisconsin are quite similar teams in that both can give any opponent fits on any given day. Wisconsin proved it against Duke, and Purdue proved it against West Virginia. Both teams also contradict what I call the "SportsCenter Syndrome." Mid-range jumpers and forcing five-second calls don't make for great highlight packages, so teams like Purdue and UW who don't have guys with sexy crossovers and posterizing dunks, are kind of marginalized.

I expected to hear some of the "yeah, we knew Purdue wasn't that good" talk surfacing once the game was over, and I'm sure it'll continue. But I'll put down cash money that Purdue AND Wisconsin go further in the tournament than Michigan State does. Purdue's lack of depth is starting to become quite apparent, so I'm no longer ready to even entertain the thought of a Final Four. Be great if it happened, but there will be no holding of breath.

7. Michigan State (13-3, 3-0)
--The above comments aren't to say that Sparty's sporting a bunch of scrubs. Far from it. But the talent level may be MSU's downfall in the end.

Every player who has legitimate NBA aspirations has to balance the needs of his team with his own desire to look good for the NBA scouts. Guys like Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers have had problems with that this season. Lucas has been benched for "lack of leadership," which is a disturbing quality in a point guard, and Summers is scuffling along at 42% field goal shooting while turning the ball over three times for every assist. I still fully expect Purdue to maintain and claim the Big Ten championship, and MSU will be right there in the thick of it at the end. But once I've got a bracket in my hand, I'm not sure I can even subscribe to Tom Izzo's mojo to get this team to the Elite Eight, let alone another Final Four.

8. Duke (13-2, 1-1)
--Duke has the nation's best three-headed monster in Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler. They've even got a few very good complementary players. Their two losses are quality (Wisconsin and Georgia Tech), and they've totally trashed the likes of UConn and Gonzaga. So, why are they this low? Singler needs to get his shot right if they're going to make hay against the teams above. 2 for 13 against Tech (2-8 from long range) is not going to get them where they want to go in March.

9. Georgetown (12-2, 3-1)
--There were rumblings last week that said the Hoyas didn't deserve to be ranked as highly as they were. Meanwhile, while most of the Top 10 were fighting for their lives, and many failing, G'Town rallied like madmen from a 19-point deficit to beat UConn. Granted, they couldn't pull a Villanova escape the upset bug that Marquette seems to carry around like a bad case of jock itch, but the Hoyas do have wins over Temple, Butler, and Harvard (don't sleep on the Ivy League, they may score an at-large spot this season between Harvard and Cornell). The G'town-Nova game next Sunday will be one that everyone needs to check out to see who's going to throw serious weight around in the Big East.

10. Tennessee (12-2)
--The dismissal of Tyler Smith is probably the best thing that could have happened to the the short term. The problem that Michigan State has had, with guys trying to play more for the scouts than for their team, has occasionally seemed to plague UT, as well. With Smith getting drummed out of the program, their other star-caliber guys, and they have several, may have been shocked back into focus, making the Vols very dangerous...again, in the short term.

In the long term, though, Bruce Pearl will need one hell of a good reason to reinstate the other three suspended players after booting Smith. If those three don't get back, though, UT's depth will result in a serious fade down the stretch and make them very vulnerable to some hungry 10, 11, or 12 seed in the tournament.

11. Wisconsin (13-3, 3-1)
--It happens seemingly every year. Wisconsin gets treated as a fluke when they defeat one of the game's powers, then the Badgers sneak up on everyone and go at least one round farther in the tournament than anyone expects. It may happen again this year. Wisconsin got bailed out by their bench against Purdue. Purdue's bench has taken the last few games off. The big killer for the Badgers will be losing their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Jon Leuer to a broken wrist.

12. North Carolina (12-4, 1-0)
--The loss to Charleston hurts bad. Roy Williams, though, has an eye toward toughening this team up, which is why he scheduled Texas AND Michigan State AND Syracuse AND Ohio State AND Kentucky AND decided to go to Charleston's building instead of arrogantly demanding that they come to the Dean Dome. Essentially, they've already played a tournament-worthy schedule. The fact that they could only beat the two Big Ten teams either says Carolina's not ready for a deep run in March or that the Big Ten isn't. Or maybe both.

13. West Virginia (12-2, 3-1)
--WVU is still hanging around the edges of the Top 10, but damned if I understand why. This is a team with no point guard, no center, and a bunch of guys out to get theirs. Leading scorer Da'Sean Butler went 4 FOR 20 against Notre Dame. Butler, Devin Ebanks, and Kevin Jones can all explode on anyone at any time, but who's going to take charge of the ball when the game's tight? I'll be a bit surprised if the Mountaineers are a top-five seed in the BIG EAST tournament, let alone the NCAA.

14. Gonzaga (12-3, 1-0)
--The Zags are surviving some close ones, with a two-point OT win against Cincinnati, a two-point OT win against Illinois, and now a three-point win over Portland, which was starting to get some Top 25 buzz of its own around Thanksgiving. They go to St. Mary's on Thursday, and it's there that we'll see how much serious comp the Bulldogs have for the West Coast title.

15. Kansas State (13-2, 0-1)
--Everyone slept on Missouri last season, and they reached the Elite Eight. People are doing it again this season, and on Saturday, that included Kansas State. The Cats have some decent wins to their name so far (Dayton, Washington State, Xavier, at UNLV, at Alabama), but nothing that stands out huge and says this team's a serious force. Texas A&M tomorrow would be a good starting point, but it'll really come down to next Monday against Texas.

16. BYU (16-1, 1-0)
--The one Cougar player that we hear much about is guard Jimmer Fredette, who's dropping 20.7 points per game on opponents' heads, including 49 against Arizona. Then he misses a cupcake game with a case of mono, struggles against UNLV (2-10, 7 pts.), and misses the game against UTEP. BYU wins all three. Even after submitting this ballot, I had to wonder if I was underrating the Coogs just a bit. Then the AP places them at #19. Go fig.

If Jonathan Tavernari, who was supposed to be the real go-to player on this team, ever gets his shot right, BYU could send a lot of brackets into the shredder this March. Tavernari's stepped up well while Fredette's been sick (17 and 7 per game in the last three), and could have done even more against UTEP if he hadn't fouled out.

17. Connecticut (11-4, 2-2)
--UConn's another one of those teams that seems to have talent to spare, but not much depth. Five players play 29 minutes per game or more, and that's a great way to get fried by March. Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson can carry the Huskies to a win in the NCAA's, but getting much farther than that just seems like it's going to take the devil's own luck. Rallies like the one Georgetown pulled on Saturday seem like the kind that are allowed by a tired team. And if they're already tired now...

18. Pittsburgh (13-2, 3-0)
--...then what's Pitt going to do to them Wednesday night? Pitt's come out roaring since being stung by Indiana on December 8. Six straight wins, including becoming the first team to stop Syracuse this season. The Panthers are the anti-UConn, giving nine players 16 minutes per game or more. Guard Gilbert Brown is back from an academic suspension (huh, some schools do make you go to class), and poured in 17 to help beat Cincinnati. I could have easily flipped these two.

19. Baylor (13-1, 1-0)
--Anyone beating Oklahoma by 31 is big news most seasons. For Baylor in the past five weeks, it's just another day at the office. The Bears have won their last six games by an average of almost 24 points per game, and they have a pretty effective three-headed monster of their own in guards LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter and big man Ekpe Udoh. They get Oklahoma State (which completely trashed Texas Tech on Saturday) this Saturday and then it's off to face Kansas next Wednesday. Those two games will prove a lot.

20. Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1)
--There was quite a lot of hand-wringing over Tech's loss to Georgia last week, but Georgia coming out and putting the fear of God into Kentucky helped Tech immeasurably. Me, I'm still convinced that we're going to see a lot of Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors before this season's over, and I'm really not going to be surprised if we see Tech in the Sweet 16. The big concern is that, after dropping double figures in 11 of his first 12 games, Favors has only scored 21 combined in his last three. It's a little early for the freshman wall, isn't it?

21. Miami (FL) (15-1, 1-1)
--If not for one point against Boston College, the Canes would be undefeated right now. Not many notable victims on the list, except for Minnesota, but still. Surviving against Wake Forest was big for them, but Miami really need to stifle Virginia Tech on Wednesday for people to start taking them seriously.

22. Mississippi (12-3, 0-1)
--Ole Miss's guards, Chris Warren and Terrico White, have the ability to carry a team a round or two in March, but first, they have to survive the SEC. Mississippi State was supposed to be running the West, and they won the first round of what could easily be a season-long war.

23. Northern Iowa (14-1, 5-0)
--They're just winning. They're not sexy or flashy, they just win. The Panthers have already smacked down Creighton, Illinois State, and Southern Illinois, who were supposed to be their three closest contenders in the Missouri Valley this season. If they take down Wichita State next Tuesday, they could roll to the MVC regular-season title. Remember, this is the team that took Purdue as far as they could in last year's first round, and I doubt anyone wants to see them this season, either.

24. New Mexico (14-3, 0-2)
--The Lobos were getting a lot of love after a non-conference schedule that included wins over Creighton, Dayton, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. So far in their Mountain West schedule, though, these wolves have been pretty toothless. A ten-point loss to San Diego State and a 12-pointer to UNLV have made it hard times in Albuquerque. The MWC can't rely on a whole lot of bids to the Big Dance, and with BYU looking like a strong bet to claim one, games like UNM-UNLV will probably decide who gets the next one.

25. Temple (13-3, 2-0)
--I think I've probably really underrated Temple, but I had a hard time looking past the 32-point thrashing they absorbed from Kansas. They've beaten Seton Hall, Villanova, and Virginia Tech, while taking Georgetown to the very limit, so as long as the Owls keep handling their Atlantic 10 business, I'll probably spend the next few weeks making up for this lowball.

And one small related note before I go...seriously, people make fun of the Big Ten for having 11 teams? Here are the Atlantic 10 standings. Tell me how many teams you see.

This was kinda fun. We'll do this again next week, ja?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

To Gil, From Tiger


Dear Gil,

Just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks. Not for anything you and the Wizards have done on the court, mind you, because you guys seriously suck out loud.

No, I wanted to thank you for taking over as this month's Sports Antichrist and making everyone forget that I'm hiding out in the middle of the ocean somewhere.

Seriously, if anyone can relate to prolonged bouts of piss-poor judgment, it's me. I cheated on a mega-hot Swedish model with a bunch of chicks who flirt with truckers and frat boys to get an extra dollar on their tip. And the occasional porn star.

'Scuse me.


Ahh, much better. Sorry, got this weird itching and burning that just won't go away. Seriously, man, I might have to go stick my balls in an ice bucket before I finish this letter.

But, you know what? Guys everywhere are still looking at me and thinking (even if they won't say it out loud) "Dude, Random Chick #33291 was pretty damn hot. Go, Tiger." They look at you and think, "Seriously? You're making over $16 million this year, and you're trying to go all OK Corral on some bench scrub because he owed another bench scrub $1100 from a card game?"

Yeah, I'm probably throwing away half a BILLION dollars, but I can still go back and play golf on Jason Whitlock's favorite tour, the Pussy Galore Association. I can still gets mine, ya heard? Paid in full, like Rakim used to say. Man, they're talking about taking your livelihood AWAY. No more $80 mil that you still got coming. Morals clause is gonna be a dirty word in your house.

And what do you do to deflect the situation? You go call David Stern "mean"? You and ya boys decide it'll be fun to play-shoot each other with finger pistols before a game? Man, ya got balls, that's all I can say. Dumber than a brick or crazier than a shithouse rat, I can't decide which, but ya got balls, Gil.

I guess some people saw this comin', though. The NBA knew you were the wrong dude to fuck wit, didn't they? Especially when you had some seven-foot brontosaurus gettin' all up in your woman. Last thing they wanted was some dude gettin' strapped and steppin' into Shaq's personal space, huh?

Oh, yeah, I still get ESPN and all sorts of crazy online stuff on my boat way out here in [location unknown]. You should see it, man. I got a couple of nice cocktail waitresses down here for entertainment. Big gun closet, too. You could pull out and shoot whatever flew by if you wanted...or just hold the gun up and sing, since that seems to be more your speed.

But for real, man, it's starting to look like you're not gonna have much else to do for a few months. Hit me back and we'll work out a place where I can swing by and pick you up. It'd be just two guys on the high seas, shootin' their own kinds of loads. But not together, 'cuz that'd just be gross. Seriously, I don't roll like that.

Don't be tweeting this shit, though, or the wrong people might find out about it and you might get caught in the crossfire.

Seriously. You saw what that crazy bitch did to my Escalade.

Holla at ya boy,