IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Monday, September 30

No Country For Old Men

“Jesse is a friend/Yeah, I know he’s been a good friend of mine/But lately something’s changed/It’s ain’t hard to define…”

Goodbye, Walter. Goodbye, Mo. Goodbye, Andy.

How is Walter White like J-Lo? Plenty of junk in the truck.

The final episode of “Breaking Bald” is titled “Felina”, which is an ode to the femme fatale in Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” –the tune we hear at the outset of the episode –, a composite of Fe (iron), Lithium (Li) and Na (sodium), or “blood, meth and tears”, and an anagram of “finale.” Dr. Lecter, your anagrams are showing…

I’ve always appreciated Rivera’s refusal to succumb to the temptation to have “Panama” as his entrance music (great tune, though).

…Mariano Rivera does not make an appearance during the Yankees’ final series of the season, i.e., of his career, a three-game sweep of the Lastros in Houston. Perhaps that is fitting, as there was no way to top his exit in the Bronx on Thursday night. On the other hand, the Yanks went 14 innings before tackling Houston yesterday. It was as if God were pleading with manager Joe Girardi for one last appearance by Mo…

Landry Clarke is sacked again?!?

…Where was Jesse Pinkman heading after breaking through the gate of the Neo-Nazis’ compound? To New York City, of course, to make a cameo in the cold open of the premiere of “Saturday Night Live.” He also stuck the landing as the kicker in the ad for Emeth: “You know it’s good cuz it’s blue, bitch!” Aaron Paul, man-crush alert. Jesse’s first and last scenes in the series, by the way, are of him making an unlikely escape…

…The final two games of Andy Pettitte’s major league career? Last Sunday in New York Pettitte, who never threw a no-hitter, tosses five no-hit innings before allowing a home run in the sixth. He allows just two hits in seven innings but takes the loss. Last Saturday night in his hometown of Houston Pettitte, who last hurled a complete game in 2006, closes the curtain on a tremendous career with a complete-game, five-hit 2-1 victory. It wasn’t exactly Kevin Costner in “For Love of the Game”, but it was better because it was real. Joe Girardi visited the mound after Pettitte let the tying run on base in the ninth, but Pettitte wisely told him that he wanted to finish. Meaningless game, but a storybook finish…

“Houston, goodbye!”

….Here is Alan Sepinwall’s “Breaking Bad” review…. and Marty Robbins’ live version of “El Paso”….and Badfinger’s live version of “Baby Blue” (and, yes, that is Kenny Rogers introducing him) “Guess I got what I deserved”…. Bryan Cranston (Walter White) and Anna Gunn (Skyler White), both “Seinfeld” alums. Their final scene together goes down in television history (“If I have to hear one more time–” “I did it for me. I was good at it. And I was really…I was alive.”)…

Dr. Timothy Watley…


Anna Gunn, with Jerry. Guess what? It didn’t work out.









…Let the record show that the Yankees had an .852 win percentage in games in which Mo appeared. By comparison the next greatest closer, in terms of saves (601), Trevor Hoffman, had a .760 win percentage (or his teams did) in games that he appeared. As I’ve noted before, Rivera has the lowest ERA of any pitcher born after 1900 (2.21) and while you’d be correct in noting that he has an unfair advantage in that he almost only pitched one inning per appearance, I’ll note that Hoffman’s ERA was 2.87, Lee Smith’s was 3.03 and, in case you were wondering, Dennis Eckersley’s was 3.50. The only current player with an ERA below 3.00, minimum 1,000 career innings pitched, is Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers…

…The Secret Lives of Walter, Mitte: We all know about Walt’s secret life. Me, I was very impressed with R.J. Mitte, who appeared on the “Talking Bad” afterglow special with fellow cast members last night. Mitte, 21, who played Flynn/Walter, Jr., actually has cerebral palsy in real life. When his family moved from Lafayette, La., to California after his sister got a film project in 2006, he pursued acting himself. Certainly the odds were against him, but seven years later he can say that he was a key player in one of the greatest series in television history. There was an undisguised fondness in Anna Gunn’s eyes as she sat on the couch next to Mitte last night, listening to him talk. I love the simple wisdom he spouted: “Everything you wanted to happen, I think happened. I’m happy…” Me, too. I’m happy for Mitte…

R.J. Mitte: Take the money, Flynn!

…Pettitte retires with a 256-153 record and as the Yankees’ all-time leader in strikeouts (2,020). Had he not spent a three-season interregnum in Houston, where he compiled 37 victories, he likely would also be the franchise’s all-time leader in wins. Whitey Ford holds that distinction with 236… In his final 10 starts, Pettitte had a 1.94 ERA and was as solid as he had ever been over his 17 seasons. Let the record show that the final two pitchers he faced were named Petit and Clemens. Finally, a tearful Pettitte, who threw 116 pitches in his final start at Houston, put it perfectly and candidly afterward when he said, “It is a shame we have to get old…”

…Of course, as Walter White could tell you, the alternative is even worse…

52 Pick-Up: Happy Birth-and Death-Day, Walt. At least that’s not veggie bacon.

…Speaking of which,  I love “Breaking Bald” almost as much as all of you who were with it from the outset, but –and this is a minor quibble — the show should have ended with Walt entering the red minivan after dropping Holly off at the fire station. That is, two episodes earlier. Yes, we the audience got the cathartic “feel-good” moment of Jesse’s escape and the deaths of Todd, Lydia, Uncle Jack et al., but we didn’t really need it. All of these people, even Jesse, were compromised characters as well as murderers….we never do learn where the money is hidden (maybe Jesse, who was presumably headed to care for Brock, knows)…one of my Twitter followers wondered if the Neo-Nazis ever destroyed the tape of Jesse’s confession, by the way…other contrivances: PBS playing in a bar in New Hampshire, the keys just happening to be atop the visor, Walt being able to slip Ricin into a packet of sweetener, no cops in New Mexico noticing a vehicle with New Hampshire plates (“LIVE FREE OR DIE”), enteiring Skyler’s apartment unseen by law enforcement, the Nazis allowing Walt to park how he liked, never checking the trunk, leaving the keys on the pool table, and not preventing Walt and Jesse from making contact…


…Again, I quibble. The show was so merciless for so long that I would have been fine with Walt’s exodus two episodes ago. That said, the moment with Walt staring back through the dirty window as Flynn enters the apartment, that was as heartbreaking as television gets. Awesome cinematography, too. I still think the most unforgettable moment was Hank looking Walter in the face and saying, “You’re the smartest guy I ever met…and you’re too dumb to see he made up his mind 10 minutes ago…”

Adobe doobie do… Santa Fe and the Sangro de Cristos….


…Finally, I was a high school chemistry teacher. In New Mexico. And my adobe home in Santa Fe actually had a view of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. How did I NOT THINK OF THIS? Well, because I don’t have Vince Gilligan’s imagination, that’s how. Bravo to all. A truly original show, from the moment we saw Walt’s trousers falling to earth until the camera zoomed up and away from him, lying in his trousers on the floor of his meth lab.


IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Friday, September 27

Starting Five

1. Mo-Mentous

Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera and, oh yes, catcher J.R. Murphy (in his 14th career game)

The five greatest New York Yankees of all time:

1) Babe Ruth (3): Baseball’s first home run king, career and season (714 and 60), also has the highest career batting average of any Yankee (.342) and yet still is in the top 20 all-time in career ERA (2.28 in more than 1,200 innings). The greatest baseball player of all time.

2) Lou Gehrig (4) : The New York native and Columbia alum held two  of baseball’s seemingly unsurpassable records, consecutive games played (2,130) and career grand slams (23). Won the Triple Crown in 1934 (even more bizarre because his nickname was “The Iron Horse”). Is also the franchise’s all-time leader in doubles (534), triples (163), and RBI (1,995). The first player in baseball history to have his number retired, Gehrig is one of two Yankees whose name is associated with a disease/surgery. Without him, who would know what “Wally Pipp” meant?

3) Joe DiMaggio (5): The 56-game hitting streak. The Yankee Clipper led the franchise to nine World Series titles in his 13 seasons and was probably the most graceful, naturally gifted center fielder not named Willie Mays in the history of New York baseball. The apotheosis of baseball during its most glorious era, he married the world’s most famous starlet (Marilyn Monroe) and is mentioned in one of Simon & Garfunkel’s most iconic tunes.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: Joltin’ Joe and Marilyn Monroe would have owned the cover of US Weekly for years.

4.) Mariano Rivera (42): 648 career saves, more than anyone in Major League history, and 42 postseason saves, more than double his next closest rival. No. 13 all-time in career ERA (2.20), and the lowest ERA of any pitcher born since Ted Roosevelt took office. The Yankees won 95% of the games that he entered with a lead.

5) Derek Jeter (2): The Yankees’ all-time leader in hits (3,316) and No. 10 all-time in baseball history in that category. Franchise’s all-time leader in Games Played (2,604) and Stolen Bases (348). Led the Yankees to five World Series titles, the most of any franchise in one player era since DiMaggio’s Yankees from 1949-1953.

Sorry, George Costanza, but Mickey Mantle finishes just off the list. I’d put No. 7 at No. 6, closely followed by catcher Yogi Berra (meaning that No. 8 is No. 7).

2. Don’t Go, Cano

Cano to Yankee brass: Come on come through, New York, New York.

ESPN’s Buster Olney only worsens Yankee fans’ day yesterday by reporting that All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, who seemingly led the Yankees in every category this season except for “Games on the DL” and who will soon be a free agent, wants $305 million over the next 10 years. Cano, who is now represented by RocNation, i.e. Jay-Z, turns 31 next month.

Six of the seven players mentioned above played every game of their career for the Yankees. Ruth, of course, began his career with the Red Sox and ended up with the Yankees in what may have been the dumbest trade of all time (“The Curse of the Bambino”). Does Cano’s place in Yankee history matter more or less to him than an extra $20 million or so? We shall see.

The Yankees, at the moment, appear headed for a decline with Cano being the only marquee player, only All-Star position player, on the roster. He is the draw in the coming years and he knows it –at least until the Yankees outbid the Angels for Mike Trout or some similar atrocity.

3. Jim Delany’s Reese Lansing Moment

Lansing: I can keep my arms folded longer than anyone at this network!

Remember the Season 2 premiere of “The Newsroom?” When Charlie Skinner and Will MacAvoy realize that it is ACN president Reese Lansing who has been leaking sensitive information about “News Night” to the tabloids? And they march self-righteously up to his office –a smaller office than we’d expect — and threaten to air the tape they have that proves that he ordered the phone-hacking of Will MacAvoy’s phone last season?

And do you remember what Reese Lansing says? “Go ahead.”

That defiant moment –I’m calling your bluff –was echoed yesterday by Big Ten (a.k.a. B1G) commish Jim Delany, who essentially said –wait, why not let his words speak for themselves?

“Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks, If they’re not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own. But don’t come here and say, ‘We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.’ Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don’t ask us what we’ve been doing.

“If an athlete wants to professionalize themselves, professionalize themselves. We’ve been training kids for professional sports. I argue it’s the color, I argue it’s the institution. If you think it’s about you, then talk to John Havlicek about that, you’ve got to talk to Michael Jordan about that. These brands have been built over 100 years.”


Earlier this month an U.S.-record 115,109 fans attended the Notre Dame-Michigan game in person. Sure, no one would have attended if there were no players on the field. However, can you name a single player whose absence would have persuaded any fan –other than that player’s mom– to not attend? No.

We love the brands. The colors, the uniforms, the schools, the tradition. Dotting the “I”, touching Howard’s Rock, watching Scott Wolf pose with the cheerleaders. That is why college football is so popular. Yes, the players have talent, but there are very, very few who are the singular reason we attend a game. Johnny Football is special, but he’s one player out of more than 10,000.

If you allowed most of these players to go pro after high school, to play in a minor league for tens of thousands a year in a town such as Dayton or Little Rock, how many would choose that option over a free education plus coeds plus the cache of suiting up for USC or Oklahoma. Very few, I suspect. So, too, does Jim Delany.

Yesterday a conference commissioner, in protecting football, played hardball.

And he had a point.

4. Dexter: Sociopath of Least Resistance

Dexter: I kept wondering how the gang from “CSI: Miami” never caught on to him.


It’s not news that we are in a golden age of television, which is why so many of us don’t attend as many movies as we used to do. That and the fact that one night at the movies can cost half your cable bill if you bring a date (and, egads!, pay for her). So yes, Bono, we are told this is the golden age, particularly on Sunday nights: cult-like viewing of “Homeland” segues into cult-like viewing of “Game Of Thrones” segues into cult-like viewing of “Mad Men” segues into cult-like viewing of “The Newsroom” and “Breaking Bad”, which segues into cult-like viewing of “Boardwalk Empire.”

Honestly, you listened to Will Ferrell rattle off the names of the “Best Drama” nominees at the Emmys on Sunday night and you think, it’s a little like attempting to hold a Most Venal Texas Politician contest. Too many worthy candidates.

Then there is “Dexter”, which stars Michael C. Hall (who is not the kid from “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club”) as a Miami serial killer whose victims all had it coming. For seven seasons “Dexter’s” fans were among the most loyal in TV land, constantly urging us to watch, telling us that it was the best show on TV. And who knows, perhaps they were correct.

Then came this, the eighth and final season. The “Dexter” bandwagon was abandoned even more swiftly than the America’s Cup bandwagon grew. Fans were irate (“Oh cool, thanks for wasting five years of my life,”tweeted Joe P. Clements of Tallahasssee, who may himself be a serial killer) not only at how the season progressed but also with the finale. Suddenly “Dexter” became “The Dirty Game” of 2013 TV, complete with showrunner Scott Buck and executive producer Scott Colleton sitting down with Entertainment Weekly in an effort to defend the choices that they made.

Jason Whitlock has never seen an episode of “Dexter”, but has decided that he hates it because, if you’ve seen anything else Scott Buck has done, and he doesn’t mean this personally, the guy couldn’t spell “cat.”

5. And Now, a Word From Our Sponsors…

The Grotto: Candles in the wind…


Okay, not really, but I did want to promote the launch of “The Grotto”, a weekly podcast that I will host that will concentrate on Notre Dame football, college football and any pop culture news that you and I find intriguing. Here is the inaugural podcast, starring Chicago Tribune writer Brian Hamilton, a good –and honest –friend of mine who has been covering the Fighting Irish since 2007.

The Grotto:

As Brian noted on the cast, the first Notre Dame game that he covered was also known as “the Demetrius Jones Era.” I asked Brian if, considering that Jones never saw the field again for the Irish after the 33-3 home loss to Georgia Tech while he is still covering them seven seasons later, he ever feels envious toward Jones. Also, Brian mentioned that the first live action Notre Dame football he saw was the 2007 Blue-Gold Game and that the game’s MVP was….do you recall?…



….Junior Jabbie. Yes, Junior Jabbie. The J.R. Murphy of Notre Dame football.

Anyway, we’ll have “The Grotto” up every week and this version is certainly a rough cut. As pilots go, it’s no “The Wonder Years”, but I’ll improve. And I’ll line up similarly fantastic guests, even if they don’t know it yet.

Special thanks, by the way, to our podcast producer Brian Foy, whose idea this all was.

Remote Patrol

Breaking Bald: Series Finale

Sunday, 9 p.m.

Walter White: He’s come a long way…unfortunately.








Will Walt stop at a Cinnabon in Omaha before returning to Albuquerque to take out Uncle Jack and the Neo-Nazis? Will Jesse put the lotion in the basket? Will Todd’s crush on Lydia go unrequited? Will Skyler and Marie ever sit down together to watch “Mystic Pizza?” Will Walt, Jr., change his name? Will anyone associated with this series ever again  “have an A-1 day?”

IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Thursday, September 26

Starting Five

1. Yacht-See!!!

(the judges will also accept, “Hist-Oracle!”)

Starboard Stripes Forever! Oracle completes the “Sail of the Century” with its dramatic Race 19 victory.

“Do you believe in Oracles? Yes!”

(Thanks to my Twitter brother, @okerland, for that).

Oracle Team USA completes its highly unlikely comeback from an 8-1 race deficit versus Emirates New Zealand to win the 2013 America’s Cup, a.k.a. “Ultimate Yachting Championship 34.” In the process sport sets a new standard for “bandwagon fans” –Did anyone outside of San Francisco and the Newport Yacht Club even know this regatta was taking place before Tuesday? And if you were upset on Tuesday because NBC Sports Network was pre-empting “The Crossover” with Michelle Beadle in favor of the AC, how did you feel yesterday after you learned that the program had been canceled.

Oracle won the final race by a margin of some 500 meters, but officials claim that their victory was wind-aided.

Also, as Barry Petchesky of Deadspin noted, only one of the 11-man Oracle crew is actually American (yes, we’re even out-sourcing our miraculous American sports comebacks now). Four of the sailors are Aussies, two are Kiwis (yes, we beat a New Zealand vessel while using more New Zealanders than Yanks), and then one each from the USA, Great Britain, Holland, Italy and Antigua.

What does the comeback mean in terms of the context of sport? To paraphrase sports’ ultimate philosopher, Yogi Berra, “It’s knot over ’til it’s over.”

2. Beadlemania Takes a Hit

What’s next for Beadle? She could always become the Robin Quivers of The Herd.

NBC Sports Network’s “The Crossover” is over.

Less than one year into its run, and after the release of co-host Dave Briggs, the show’s Houston Astros’-like ratings fueled the show’s demise. Or, as Stephen Douglas of “The Big Lead” tweeted, “If Beadle’s show is canceled, what show won’t I watch on whatever network that was on?”

NBC should’ve given Beadle one final show in which the Turk knocks on her dressing room door and says, “Coach wants to see you. Oh, and bring your IFB and note cards.”

Beadle, my Riverside Drive neighbor (only our incomes are in different zip codes), did not go quietly. At least not in the Twitterverse. After the Turk told her to hand in her playbook, she tweeted, “Hey, guys. Even Tom Hanks had ‘Bosom Buddies.’ #LetsSmile

Then she appeared to do a little venting. It began with this: “To do overs, bitches!!!”

Then it got weird. A parody account –@NotAdamTheBull , which I’m guessing is a parody of the Cleveland-based sports DJ of that name — tweeted, “Listen! Dats what she gets fur being a B ta my guy @davebriggstv babaaay! What a disaaasta!” And then Briggs, who seems to be kind of a tool, quoted the tweet and added, “Classic.”

Briggs: Tool Time.


So that TV marriage was never Lucy and Ricky. Not even Beadle and Cowherd. And thus I have to ask: Who’s the genius at NBC Sports who thought a snarky wisenheimer such as Beadle would be a solid pairing with a dude whose Twitter bio extols “the love of my life, Brandi” and who lives in Westport, Conn.? Shouldn’t that exec also be, um, canceled?

Beadle actually issued a warning shot to Briggs after that on Twitter, but later took it down. Briggs also appears to have taken down his tweet.  Never delete a tweet (That’s Rule No. 6).

3. Do NOT Hurt The Atlanta Braves’ Feelings!

If our basepaths should cross again…

For the second time in the past fortnight, hostilities erupted at a baseball game after the Braves, and particularly catcher Brian McCann, took umbrage at a hitter admiring his home run.

Sept 11: Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who is just 21, clouts his first Major League home run and stands a moment too long to admire it. As CBS Sports explains, the Braves’ Chris Johnson might have instigated this scene earlier. And he certainly didn’t help matters after. Anyway, McCann felt the need to explain baseball’s “code” to Fernandez and both benches emptied. Fernandez appeared genuinely surprised by the Braves’ reaction.

Sept. 25: Carlos Gomez of the Brewers, just the second batter of the game, approaches home plate and McCann jaws with him before the first pitch. Then Gomez hits a homer to left center and struts up the first base line. McCann then stood in his path about 15 feet up from home plate. Again, benches emptied.

We’re with Bomani Jones, who requests a Dodgers-Braves playoff series so that we can witness Yasiel Puig offend the Braves’ sense of decorum. Please let this happen.

4. Jon Stewart Launches a Ted Cruz Missile

Why so many tools in today’s MH?

I’ve been alive long enough to be sure of one thing: I would make a better U.S. senator or congressman than most of the tools we have elected. And so would you. And so, most certainly

Watch how Jon Stewart deconstructs and destroys the filibuster of Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz, he of the Princeton undergrad degree and the Harvard law degree (summa cum laude).

I’ll extract the best moments:

A) Cruz compares the coming Obamacare universe to Nazi Germany (because that analogy always goes down easily).

B) Cruz: “I am going to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer physically able to stand.” Stewart: “It’s easy for you to take that kind of risk; you’ve got government health care.”

C) Cruz: “Some time ago I tweeted a speech that Ashton Kutcher gave…such a terrific speech…” Stewart: “You’ve outsourced your intellect and wisdom to a dude who cannot find his car?”

D) Cruz reads from “Green Eggs and Ham.” Stewart’s retort: “So to express your opposition to Obamacare, you go with a book about a stubborn jerk who decides he hates something before he’s tried it. And when he finally gets a taste, he has to admit, after tasting it, this is good #$%&.”

BAM! Checkmate.

And this guy, Ted Cruz, won debating contests in the Ivy League. Maybe the Ivy League isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

SI’s Twitter 100

On The List:

Mario Balotelli, who last tweeted 20 days ago and primarily tweets in Italian (he’s a soccer star, not a chef, by the way).

Blake Griffin, who last tweeted in mid-August and never tweeted about the birth of his son with Brynn Cameron.

The San Francisco Giants and the Boston Celtics. Just because.

Brian Kelly, who most likely does not even run his own feed.

Tennis Reporters, because most of us cannot get enough tennis news. “Rafi, Serena, Rafi, Serena, Rafi, Topless Photos of Sharapova, Rafi, Serena….”

Not On The List (and why this list is wanting)

Jason McIntyre, Stephen Douglas or Tyler Duffy of The Big Lead.

Cecil Hurt, as witty a sports writer as anyone on Twitter.

Jason Gay. Ditto.

(Points two thumbs at own chest)

Simply put, it’s a poor list and it appears there’s some personal favor going on here. USA Today quickly posted a list of 20 additional follows, but any list that doesn’t include Douglas or Hurt is lacking.

Remote Patrol

Breaking Bald Marathon



If you’ve only caught on to Walt and Jesse’s meth-cellent adventure recently, set your DVR to AMC and catch up. The marathon began last night, as our pilot begins with Walter’s Dockers falling helplessly to terra firma. The same Dockers he would come across two Sundays ago in Ozymandias. Of course, those of you who already have Netflix can turn your nose up on my excitement.





IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Wednesday, September 25

Starting Five

1. Mast Appeal

Lost at sea? The Kiwis (above) have lost seven races in a row to their American hosts.

The America’s Cup has taken such a dramatic tack in the past few days, one wonders if it is not…rigged.

One week ago in San Francisco Bay, Oracle Team USA trailed Emirates New Zealand eight races to one and appeared ready to bow out. Then they tried a different tack. Ever since, the crew that is bankrolled by billionaire Larry Ellison has won seven consecutive races –rendering the Kiwis regatta de blanked — and evened up the race for the “auld mug”, an event that was initially staged before the abolition of slavery (1851). One wonders whether Ellison gave the crew a stern lecture.

After Oracle won two races yesterday to knot the series at 8-8, skipper Jimmy Spithill, said, “There’s this huge wave of momentum now that we’ve been riding…” Hey, Jimmy. I’ll handle the puns here, capisce?

The deciding race, weather permitting, will be staged today and air on NBC Sports Network, which has made this absolutely thrilling television. Really. You should watch. The finale should be rudder chaos.

I should add that Team Oracle has actually already won 10 races to the Kiwis’ eight, but was docked a two-point penalty for cheating in last year’s America’s Cup World Series warm-up event. Really, America, really? )

Anyway, the America’s Cup, the oldest international sporting trophy (Brynn Cameron being the youngest) is now the venue for one of the all-time great comebacks in sports history. Experts are declaring this the most dramatic America’s Cup in the event’s 162-year history. Don’t be a jibe turkey: tune in.

2. Penn Statement

Two Saturdays ago Central Florida, a school that did not even exist when Joe Paterno became head coach at Penn State in 1966, beat the Nittany Lions in State College.

Do you remember the episode in Season 1 of “Happy Days” in which Richie Cunningham is “grounded for life” by his dad after being arrested for his participation in a midnight drag race? Of course you don’t–it was 1974, you weren’t even born yet. Anyway, it happened. But then Howard commuted the sentence to two weeks –after all, Richie was not even on Mollys when he broke curfew.

Ron Howard: Nearly 40 years after starting a drag race, he directs a film on F-1 racing. Hmmm.

ANYWAY, yesterday the NCAA decided to roll back the overall severity of the punishments it handed out to Penn State more than a year ago. The football program, which is only allowed to mete out 15 scholarships annually now, will be allowed to dole out 20 next year and a full 25 the year after that. Also, its bowl ban may be rescinded.

“Due to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity, the NCAA Executive Committee is gradually restoring football scholarships the university lost because of sanctions more than a year ago,” the NCAA said in a statement released yesterday.

NCAA grand poobah Mark Emmert, the man initially responsible for those punishments (which also included a $60 million fine), said, “It should not be seen as a precedent of handling other cases but in fact an
example of the uniqueness of the circumstances.”

In the words of another 1970s sitcom icon, Col. Sherman T. Potter, “Horse hockey!”

Emmert: Objects in photo may be smaller than they appear.

Taken at face value, the NCAA’s pat on the back to the Nittany Lions, on their “progress”, can be construed as, “The school is no longer covering up the rapes of young boys by former assistant coaches.” Because, really, what else was Penn State the football program guilty of? That’s why this act of mercy by Emmert and his cronies is so hollow. Because instead of admitting its own culpability in this fiasco, the NCAA did the right thing but provided the wrong reason.

And the timing of it –Penn State losing at home to UCF while Beaver Stadium is not even filled up– is curious. That bald dude you see wearing the Cheshire cat grin is B1G commish Jim Delany. I imagine he twisted a few arms in Indianapolis.

We’ll give the final word to USC, which is still enduring sanctions for crimes far less injurious than the ones committed at Penn State. Tweeted coach Fire Lane Kiffin yesterday, “Congrats to coach Bill O’Brien and his team.” I don’t always love FLK, but I do on this one.

1. It’s Raining Blows (and Blowhards)

Monahan (left) and Baskin. I see a high-pressure system between the two.

This meteorological meltdown was brought to my attention by Jeff Pearlman.

Little Rock, Ark. Jeff Baskin (Fox 16) and Keith Monahan (KARK) provide on-air weather retorts (““Pay no attention to what some cajun who has married all 5 of his cousins at some point says…”) after disagreeing on the chances of rain on Sunday. That led to a challenge to “meet outside” and then everything got all gang-war-scene-from-Anchorman as members of both news teams allegedly entered the fray. Limited reports have produced no evidence of anyone being stabbed with a trident.

My favorite line in the story: “Monahan entered the weather center the two stations share while Baskin was reviewing his forecast and having mascara applied.” Nice touch.

Chapter and Verse

Kudos to SI for calling the breakout story of the 2013 NFL season a month ago.

Last night’s 6 p.m. ESPN “SportsCenter” was almost entirely devoted (it may have been entirely devoted, but I gave up after half an hour) the life and times of Denver Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning. See, later in the evening ESPN would premiere its latest doc, “The Book of Manning”, so SportsCenter chose to use its hour as an “18-chapter” overview of all things Peyton. See, cuz that’s his jersey number (one more reason to prefer Brett Favre…who, by the way, at age 43, says he’s in the best shape of his life).

That’s a whole lot of Peyton Manning after just three NFL weekends. Yes, he’s awesome. His alma mater named a street after him (Peyton Manning Pass… I wonder if they’ll ever name a road after their greatest defensive end and name it Reggie White Dead End…too soon?). He was the best SNL host of any sports figure and he will likely break every meaningful passing record in NFL history and is in the midst of the most prolific stretch of his career.

Got it. But why has Bristol, Conn., become Peyton Place? Could it be because the producers there have become so character-driven and that they don’t have Tim Tebow to kick around any more? And because Favre’s gone and RG3 has fallen off the radar? Might that be it? The ongoing Manning hagiography might just be an attempt to fill the void.

Deadspin Tackles SI

Pistol Pete: You have to love a mascot with a five o’clock shadow.

That website that “watches the watchers”, Deadspin, nuked Sports Illustrated’s five-part investigation of Oklahoma State, “The Dirty Game”, yesterday. Not only was Deadspin’s reports produced in less than two weeks –as opposed to the 10 months SI spent on its series —  but was also far more thorough and documented than SI’s.

Plus, you have to admire the cojones of Deadspin here. One week earlier it persuaded the magazine’s two principal editorial figures to engage in an on-line chat to clear the air about the controversial investigation. At the very same time Deadspin was already in the midst of its own investigation as to SI’s standards and practices in reporting the story. That’s both diabolical and brilliant or, in other words, very Deadspin of them.

“‘The Dirty Game’ was ultimately as shallow and cross-sectional as its reporting,” concluded the author, Dom Cosentino, who failed to disclose how many pairs of cowboy boots he wore out while reporting this piece. “SI couldn’t use individual grievance to illuminate the university’s failings—and, ultimately, show how those are rooted in the conceptual bankruptcy of amateurism—because it had hardly investigated the university.The magazine couldn’t describe the pathologies, mechanisms, and structures of power because it had barely looked into them.. At the exact point where the hard work started, SI stopped.”


Non-troversy Alert: Kevin Durant versus Dwyane Wade. It’s a list composed by an editor who probably cannot make more than four out of 10 free throws. Who cares?

Ted Cruz: Definitely not as chill as Taio Cruz. The senator from Texas (of course) has the rest of his colleagues throwing their hands up in the air sometimes saying, “Ay-o, gotta let go.” Filibusters are just democracy’s answer to hiding the keys to the liquor cabinet.

Wacha Wacha Wacha: Fozzy Bear’s favorite pitcher, rookie Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals, comes within one out of hurling a no-hitter last night against the Washington Nationals. He’s only 22, but even Statler and Waldorf approve of him.

Remote Patrol

America’s Cup

NBC Sports Net 4 p.m.

Okay, I’m guessing here. I believe that NBC Sports Network, which aired live coverage of yesterday’s regatta, will do so again today. The added viewer benefit is that it preempts “The Crossover.” So there’s that. Anyway, tune in.


IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Tuesday, September 24

Starting Five

1. College Gridders Unite For Kwik-E Mart Clerk

Me, I cheer for the Colorado State Ashrams.

On Saturday, a select few players from Georgia Tech and Northwestern, including Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter, adorned their gear with the letters APU, which was not an homage to a beloved character from “The Simpsons.” (“Mr. Simpson, a Mounds bar is not a sprinkle”). Instead, the letters stood for “All Players United”, a show of solidarity by players who want NCAA reform.

The campaign was launched by the NCP (National Collegiate Players Association), which was founded by Ramogi Huma, a former gridder at UCLA (“It’s always UCLA,” a frustrated NCAA legal counsel fumes). Anyway, that’s cool and all, but if the players truly want to send a message, they could refuse to take the field for five minutes at the start of a game. That would put a scare into Mark Emmert and the lads from Indy.

2. The Big Eight: Stanford Soars

(One man’s –and Harris Poll voter’s– ranking of the eight best teams in college football…as always, based solely on on-field performance.)

1. Alabama (3-0)

Nick Saban is not amused. Doesn’t matter what the topic, he is not amused. Next up, No. 21 Mississippi (that’s Mississippi, Jim Harper, not Michigan).

2. Oregon (3-0)

Ducks’ “We’ll Cover The Spread” Offense meets a defense that is allowing 42 points per game. By the way, the nation’s leading passer plays in Oregon and his name is not Marcus Mariota. Yup, it’s Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Next up, Cal.

The September Heisman fave is not even the most prolific quarterback in his own state right now.

3. Stanford (3-0)

The Cardinal were up 29-0 versus ranked Arizona State when David Shaw decided to download iOS7 and got a little distracted. Next up, at Washington State.

4. Clemson (3-0)

The Tigers remain the only team thus far to have beaten an opponent that was ranked fifth or above (No. 5 Georgia) at the time. Next up, Wake Forest (this’ll get ugly).

5. Ohio State (4-0)

When your backup quarterback (Kenny Guiton) throws for six touchdowns — in the first half –, you have a solid team. Next up, No. 24 Wisconsin.

6. Florida State (3-0)

If Jesus did have a jersey number, my suspicion is that he’d opt for No. 3.

Someone in Tallahassee is peddling “Jesus-themed” Jameis Winston T-shirts and the Seminole athletic department is not amused. “On the third down he rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures…” Next up, at fellow garnet-and-gold clad ACC member Boston College.

7. LSU (4-0)

So Tiger QB Zach Mettenberger’s mom works in Georgia’s football offices? Mark Richt has lost control of the secretarial pool! Next up, at No. 9 Georgia.

8. Texas A&M (3-1)


Mayweather earned a guaranteed $41.5 Mil for his bout with Canelo Alvarez earlier this month, so this wager represented 0.5% of that.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather thrilled about Johnny Football’s 29-point victory over SMU last Saturday. Actually, he was thrilled that the Aggies led 32-6 at the half, which crushed the 17.5-point first half spread, which netted the pugilist –and wagering– legend $200,000. Next up, at Arkansas.

3. Best Way To Forget That Steelers Are 0-3


Barry Bonds earned $4.8 Mil with Pirates in 1992. Andrew McCutchen is earning $4.7 Mil with Pirates in 2013.


The Pittsburgh Pirates clinch their first playoff berth in 21 years just one night after the Steelers lost to the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field by 18 points. In 1979 Sports Illustrated named Pirate first baseman Willie Stargell and Steeler QB Terry Bradshaw its Sportsmen of the Year, as both men had led their Steel City squads to championships. Sister Sledge deserved to make the cover, too, but were denied.

Since that year, 1979, both the Pirates and Steelers have only appeared in the playoffs in the same calendar year in 1992 (Steelers lost in the divisional playoff to the Bills, 24-3 and the Pirates–Francisco Cabrera, what more needs to be said?). Anyway, Yinzers, congrats on the postseason berth. Sorry to be such a buzz kill.

 4. Brynn There, Done That


Cameron’s sons are named Cole and Ford, which must leave former USC placekicker Cole Ford non-plussed.

TMZ is reporting that former USC basketball player Brynn Cameron, who is the mother of former Trojan Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart’s son, recently gave birth to a son sired by Los Angeles Clipper forward and former NCAA Player of the Year/No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin. The baby’s name is Ford (not KIA?) Wilson Cameron-Griffin. Cameron, who was already receiving $15,000 per month in child support from Leinart per TMZ (which is correct more often than people give it credit for), is in line for another big pay day. Griffin earned more than twice as much in 2012 ($7.2 million to $3 million) than Leinart did.

Emmys Attendees Not In ‘Hard Knocks’ Core Demographic

Sabols’ 35 Emmy awards outnumbered the total that were handed out on Sunday night (in terms of categories, at least).

While watching the Emmys’ death montage the other night, I tweeted something to the effect that, “If no one clapped for me during the Emmys death montage, it would kill me.” (Humblebrag Alert: as a two-time Sports Emmy winner, will I be part of the Sports Emmys death montage? Answer: No, because they don’t have one…and even if they did…No.).

Anyway, the keen lads at Deadspin decided to monitor audience applause to see who received the most and least applause on Sunday night, and would you believe that both men (sort of) had sports affiliations. Jack Klugman, who played slovenly sports scribe Oscar Madison on “The Odd Couple” (an all-time top-five sitcom, and I shall brook no argument on this front) earned the most claps. The least clappage was given to Sir David Frost, but his image was the first to appear so maybe the audience was still in shock –and perhaps still recovering from that Carrie Underwood performance– but after that, no one received less clappage than NFL Films genius Steve Sabol.

(That sound you hear is former “Hard Knocks” producer and FOMH –Friend Of Medium HappyChris Corbellini tossing his Patriot helmet at the wall).

Is there a solution to this? Maybe during the preceding commercial the host –and next year it should be Will Ferrell and his three sons, no?– should ask the audience to hold its applause until after all the names are read?

IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Monday, September 23

Starting Five

1. Meet The Parent

(The judges will also accept “My Three Sons”)

All dressed up, no place to go. Wait. Stop, reverse that. Okay.

Saturday Night Live distinguished alum Will Ferrell arrives onstage at the Emmys to hand out the final two awards of the night with sons Magnus (9), Mattias (6) and Axel (3) in tow.

“Unfortunately Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith dropped out at the last second and they called me literally 45 minutes ago and I couldn’t find child care, OK? We had a soccer game, there was a neighbor’s birthday party, a nut allergy, I didn’t have time to do my hair. It doesn’t matter, it’s great to be here.”

Now that’s the Best Comedy by a Modern Family I saw all night.

2. “Breaking Bald”: The Hotel New Hampshire

Let the record reflect that Bill Murray’s baby-stepping anxiety freak New Yorker, Bob, located Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfus) and his brood in New Hampshire within a week while the entire DEA was unable to locate Walter White in The Granite State (also the title of last night’s penultimate episode of “Breaking Bald”) for what seems like months. (wondering what a game of “Penultimate Frisbee” would resemble: Does everyone just jog?)

Also last night, CNBC’s boyish “Squawk Box” anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin gets a shout-out, as does “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” (“Two copies”). “It’s my favorite show and they mentioned my name,” Sorkin said this morning. “A career highlight.”

(Why? The writer on BB also wrote the screenplay for “Too Big To Fail”, which was adapted from Sorkin’s tome.)

As for the show itself, at some point Jesse Pinkman has to stop paying the price for all of Heisenberg’s sins, no? Okay, perhaps not. Watching one of only two people in the entire world that you care about take one in the back of the head as punishment for your attempted escape? That’s cold, Vince Gilligan. I mean, at least Adriana La Cerva was cooperating with the feds at the time she was iced on The Sopranos.

Also, note that New Mexico native Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Emmys while Breaking Bald, which is set in Albuquerque, deservedly won the Emmy for Best Drama.

Where do we go from here for the final episode? Alan Sepinwall thinks, if I may take the liberty of paraphrasing his thoughts (I may not? Well, I shall, anyway) that WW, alias Heisenberg, wants to go Nathan Jessup. He WANTS the world to know who he is and what he did. In a strange way, he’s PROUD of it. That is why he is headed to New Mexico with, of course, a pit stop at a Cinnabon in Omaha.

Couldn’t Tarantino have found someone a little less, um, Aryan-looking, to be the leader of a band of NAT-zi hunters?

And that’s fine, but I’d love it if Walter had Brad Pitt’s the Nazi hunter, Aldo Raine, from “Inglourious Basterds” ride shotgun (and carry one, too). Uncle Jack and Todd need karma to knock at their barbed-wire fence.

3. Turn the Page

Rivera, who has a 2.15 ERA and 44 saves this season, is retiring?!? Is he off his rocker?

Let the obituary read that the Core Four Era –Mariano Rivera/Andy Pettitte/Derek Jeter/Jorge Posada –ended on the first day of autumn.

Runners on 2nd and 3rd, nobody out in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the New York Yankees trail the San Francisco Giants by one run. On the day that the first pitch was delayed 50 minutes for a tribute to the greatest closer of all time (Yankee Stadium vendors were selling “Exit Sandman” T-shirts all weekend, and I hope Lars Ullrich and the boys ask for a slice of that pie). On the day that Pettitte made his final start at Yankee Stadium (although we all know it’s not the real Yankee Stadium, and we’ll only have the rest of our lifetimes to lament that foolish decision) and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning (he has 255 career wins, but zero no-hitters).

On a weekend when everyone’s favorite anti-hero, Alex Rodriguez, broke beloved Yankee Lou Gehrig’s career grand slams record, (24 overtaking 23), a mark that will forever be tarnished because A-Rod did so during a time when he might have been serving his 211-game suspension (speaking of records) for his role in the Biogenesis fiasco. That it was a game-winning home run –yes, A-Rod got a clutch hit after the month of August– made the irony even more delicious. Maybe they’ll put an asterisk after it. If there’s one thing the Yankees know, it’s late-September home runs to right field that merit an asterisk.

Anyway, tying run on third, nobody out. And the Yankees fail to score. Pinch-runner Zoilo Almonte (he entered after A-Rod led off the inning with a single…that’s right, TWO clutch hits) decided to make a dash for the plate on a two-hopper to the Giant 3rd baseman. OUT! Then Curtis Granderson whiffed. OUT! Then Eduardo Nunez singled to left, but Juan Perez — a Bronx native–threw out Robinson Cano at home. OUT!

I did not tag Robinson Cano in this photo…but Hector Sanchez did.

End of inning. End of game. End of 2013 season. End of an era that brought the Yanks four World Series, two Hall of Famers and two more retired numbers, 42 and 2. End of, for many of us who were here when the era began in 1996, a huge chapter of our lives as fans. And I don’t expect the Yankees will be having a Zoilo Almonte Bobblehead Doll day any time soon.

The Yankees still had one more at-bat remaining, but it was a lot like they still had a Game 7 in the 2004 ALCS with Boston. You knew that series was over after Game 6.

(To be fair, the Yankees were a long-shot to make the wild-card this season, anyway. It’s just the finality of it all.)

Jeter, by the way, spent the previous evening up in East Hartford watching his beloved Michigan Wolverines nearly become the only Top 25 team to lose this weekend. The Maize and Blue came back from a 14-point second-half deficit to outlast the Huskies, 24-21.

4. The Number 33.842

77, 76, 72, 70. Those were Saturday’s scores, as well as the weekend’s high temperatures in the northeast.

That was the average margin of victory in games involving Top 25 teams this weekend, each of which the ranked school (or, in the case of Stanford-Arizona State, the higher ranked school) won. We were treated to scores such as Ohio State 76, FAMU 0; Louisville 72, FIU 0; Miami 77, Savannah State 7; Baylor 70, ULM 7; and Washington 56, Idaho State 0.

To quote Leona Lansing: “Do you want to play golf or do you want to f___ around?”

Certain apologists will inform you that their schools need to schedule these body bag massacres in order to balance the budget of the athletic department. But that’s like saying the only answer is to lower the river when in fact you can also raise the bridge.

We all know, and accept, that football brings in the most revenue. It also has the highest overhead. If you want to balance the athletic department budget, stop there. But no one will. Because football -well, read the first sentence of this paragraph again.

And so we get a Saturday such as last Saturday. Stanford led ASU 29-0 at one point, by the way. Only Michigan and Notre Dame were involved in games decided by less than double digits. And GameDay went to Fargo.

(Oh, and a shout-out to Cecil Hurt who, upon seeing that Walter White was in exile in New Hampshire, tweeted, “Is this the same guy who decided GameDay should go to Fargo?”)

5. Luck Had Everything To Do With It

Luck delivers an emphatic spike after scoring on a short run while football coaches in both the Pac-12 and NFC West imagine the ball as Harbaugh’s head.

Former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck led the Indianapolis Colts to a pasting of former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers, 27-7, at Candlestick Park. “I’ve never seen (Andrew) smile the way he was smiling after this one,” Colt coach Chuck Pagano said.

It was San Francisco’s first home loss to an AFC team in the Harbaugh era and its first loss to an AFC team not named the Baltimore Ravens. The Niners are now 1-2 — What’s their deal? –while Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are 3-0.

Remote Patrol

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

ESPN 8:30 p.m.

Earlier this week the Broncos voted Wes Welker, who is just two games and 12 catches into his tenure with Denver, a team captain.

I’d like to attend your Autumn Equinox party, but I have a Pryor engagement. Terrelle Pryor of the Oakland Raiders versus Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. In case anyone ever asks you to define “polar opposites.”






IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Friday, September 20

Starting Five

1. The New York Yankees Are, Sadly, America’s Team

Robertson. Notice, behind him, how the ballpark’s premier seats are empty. Wilhelm and Costanza could run this team better.

As I stole glances last night of the New York Yankees losing their third of four games to the last-place team in their division (their sixth loss in seven games, all on the road), the Toronto Blue Jays,  I had an epiphany: the Yanks really are America’s team.

You mean because their leader is a man of mixed African and Caucasian heritage who has been absent all summer?

Nooo, silly.

You mean because too much of the team’s infrastructure (Rivera, Jeter, A-Rod, Pettitte, Ichiro) is aging and on the verge of collapse and nothing is being done to replace them?


Because the Yanks, too, are composed of a vanishing middle class.

The average Major League Baseball salary in 2013 is $3.2 million, and the MLB minimum is $480,000. In other words, I’m well aware that the terms “middle-class” and “poverty” are relative here.

The Yankees, who have MLB’s second-highest payroll behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (who at least this season are validating it, as the Dodgers have baseball’s second-best record), have nine players on their roster who are paid at least triple the Major League average and 11 who make at least double it.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Pinstripes have seven players who do not even earn one-third of the Major League average. Only five players, or 20% of the 25-man roster, earn within a two-times multiple (between twice as much or half as much) of that $3.2 million MLB average.

The Yanks have two players –two– who earn near the MLB average and are also highly productive players. They are also, not coincidentally, fan favorites because they do their jobs and they don’t cause off-field drama. You’d think owners would get that fans cheer for players who remind them of their own selves, their own career situations. Those two are set-up man David Robertson, who may be a more reliable reliever than the legendary Rivera at this stage; and offensive catalyst Brett Gardner, whose departure from the lineup with a Grade 1 rib cage injury occurred just before the Yanks began their 1-6 slide (and that one victory was quite unlikely, as NY battled back from a 4-0 deficit in the eighth and Mo almost squandered it in the 9th).

Gardner also leads the Yankees in dirty uniforms per game.

Robertson? He, and not Rivera, leads the Yankees in ERA (2.18), WHIP (1.08) and, among pitchers with at least 60 innings of work (that’s how many Mo has pitched), in strikeouts-per-nine innings (10.74). Unassuming David Robertson has been the Yankees’ best pitcher this season.

Gardner? After Cano, who only leads the team in batting average, RBI, home runs, OBP and hits, the Tim Dwight doppelganger has been the team’s most potent offensive weapons. He leads the Yankees in steals, runs, triples (has nearly half the team’s total, 10 of 23) and is second to Cano in BA, OBP, doubles and BBs. (I need to mention here, and this is a testament to Cano’s, um, hustle, that Cano has zero triples this season). Gardner’s injury may keep him out of the lineup the rest of September, which is the coup de grace to the Yankees’ wild-card hopes.

Can I directly show how that translates to a faltering team? Am I forgetting that, with one enormous exception, 2nd baseman Robinson Cano,  every penciled-in position starter from last winter (catcher Francisco Cervelli, first baseman Mark Texiera, shortstop The Captain, 3rd baseman A-Roid, left fielder Brett Gardner, center fielder Curtis Granderson and right fielder Ichiro 4,000 Hits-Though-Mike Francesa-Thinks-It’s-Bunk) has missed a chunk of the season due to injury?


The Yankees have two middle-class players. They need more. Because a healthy team, much like a healthy economy, has a dynamic and vital middle class.  If it does not, it’s a feudal system. And success, too, is futile.

2. This Week’s Spread Option

Don’t blame Jerry Lundegaard for Saturday’s CFB lineup.

The heck do ya mean,  College GameDay, coming to us live from Fargo, North Dakota, this Saturday? It has a little to do with the fact that the Dakota State Bison, an FCS program, are two-time defending national champions at their level and are ranked No. 1 (in those two ways, they ARE the FCS Alabama minus the brittle head coach) and they also just beat Kansas State, which as recently as last November SI called “…The Nation’s Best Team.” (Okay, that was last year)

It’s an inspired, and deservedly praised move by College GameDay.

There’s also the matter of this week’s Top 25 slate, as so many programs host bodybag games while taking their last deep breath before conference play begins. Check out these spreads…

Colorado State at No. 1 Alabama…39 points

Florida A&M at No. 4 Ohio State…49.5 points

Florida International at No. 7 Louisville… 43 points

Bethune-Cookman at No. 8 Florida State…40 points

North Texas at No. 9 Georgia….33 points

SMU at No. 10 Texas A&M….29 points

New Mexico State at No. 13 UCLA… 42.5 points

Savannah State at No. 16 Miami….59.5 points

Idaho State at No. 17 Washington…49 points

Maine at No. 18 Northwestern….28.5 points

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 20 Baylor…29.5 points

Texas State at No. 25 Texas Tech… 27.5 points

(I’ve bold-faced the favorites I think will cover).

Idaho State QB Justin Arias leads the FCS in Total Offense, while the Bengals lead the FCS in Scoring Defense. U-Dub won’t win by 7 TDs.

Nearly one-half of the Top 25 are both home and four-touchdown favorites this weekend. Five of them are six-touchdown favorites. The only truly intriguing games involving Top 25 schools are No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford (the Cardinal are less than a touchdown favorite at home? Interesting), unranked Tennessee –they of the 45-point loss at No. 2 Oregon last week — at No. 19 Florida and unranked but unbeaten Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame, which promises to be a rock fight.

Shouldn’t she be tomorrow’s celebrity picker?

A few wagering tips: Bethune-Cookman is (3-0) and No. 1 in Total Defense in the FCS. They could give FSU trouble, not in terms of winning, but in terms of covering. Idaho State is 2-0, leads the FCS in Scoring Defense, and will play a regional foe in U-Dub. This is the Bengals’ bowl game. New Mexico State is last in Total Defense in the FBS: take the Bruins. Finally, Savannah State-Miami. That line is brutal, but Savannah State is one of the worst teams in terms of Total Defense in the FCS and the Canes have had a week off after the Gator win. My advice: stay away.

3. Soaking It In

A pool party without A) Bitches B) Ho’s or C) Moet? What kind of splash bash is this?

The Arizona Diamondbacks politely suggested to their divisional rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, that should the LADs clinch the NL West at their ballpark this week, that they not celebrate on the field. Well, the Dodgers did clinch and then they did comply with the D-Backs’ request. They did NOT celebrate in the D-Backs’ yard. Instead, they dashed across the yard and had an impromptu pool party in the home team’s pool that is situated just beyond the right centerfield wall.

As every Phoenician and every Angeleno knows, what is a back yard without a swimming pool?

We are hearing that A) the Diamondbacks are upset that the Dodgers staged this pool party and B) Jamie Foxx is pissed someone threw a pool party and neglected to invite him.

P.S. I grew up in Phoenix…without a pool in my backyard. The idea of running across someone else’s yard, hopping a fence, and jumping into a neighbor’s pool is as natural to me as dipping a tortilla chip into salsa. Phoenicians should salute what the Dodgers did.

4. If I Were A Carpenter…

Who’s on first? Not Carpenter.

It’s late September, the Colorado Rockies are in last place in the N.L. West –no pool-hopping for you! — and playing the first-place St. Louis Cardinals. And still Rockies first baseman Todd Helton provides this moment to remember, fooling the Cards’ Matt Carpenter with the old hidden-ball trick in the top of the first inning. Carpenter is the Cards’ leadoff hitter; he should know better.

As I always say, baseball is the only sport where you have a chance to see something you’ve never seen –and often never imagined — every time you attend or watch a game. Love that.

By the way, Helton, who is retiring at season’s end, hit the game-tying solo home run in the 9th inning and Colorado won in the bottom of the 15th. Not only does St. Louis squander the getaway game, but they delay their departure by nearly two hours while doing so.

Smart Money

If you had invested just $13,000 in Tesla a year ago today, you could actually use that money to buy a Tesla ($75,000) today.

Earlier this month the U.S. News & World Report, as it annually does, released its annual “Best Colleges” rankings. Scott Wolf voted USC No. 1, but that’s another story. Anyway, Princeton finished No. 1. in their rankings.

You should know, if you ever create progeny unfortunate enough to be accepted into the freshman class at Old Nassau, that the cost of attendance there (tuition, room-and-board, J. Crew fall wardrobe) is $57,495.

Now, let’s say that last year you had told your 18 year-old daughter, “Sweetie, instead of attending Princeton this year, why don’t we invest $50,000 in the two companies whose names appear on the CNBC crawl as often as any others: Facebook (FB) and Tesla (TSLA). We’ll invest $25,000 in each company.”

Had you done that, one year ago today, here’ what would have happened.

Facebook, which was trading at $23 per share, is now at $46.28.

Tesla, which was trading at $31 per share, is now at $183.70.

Your $25,000 of FB stock is now worth about $51,000.

Your $25,000 of TSLA stock is now worth about $150,000.

You’ve quadrupled your money ($50,000 to about $200,000) in one year, which means you can now actually afford your child to Princeton.

Granted, the stock market isn’t a One Direction arrow. The funny thing, though, is that with the exception of Apple (AAPL), my observation as an addicted CNBC viewer is that no two companies’ ticker symbols and stock prices appear more often on that network’s crawl than these two. It’s not as if you needed to search for a needle in a haystack to find them. It was like searching for an elephant in a haystack.

Oh, and you might remind your child that Facebook might not ever have happened –or at least not occurred so quickly –had Mark Zuckerberg not had a friend who’ earned a couple hundred thousand investing in oil futures the summer before. Teach your children well.

Remote Patrol

Utah State at USC

ABC/ESPN2 3:30 p.m.

Keeton nearly upset then defending national champ Auburn, at Jordan-Hare, in his first collegiate game.

If ABC airs this locally in the nation’s largest market (NYC) tomorrow, I’ll never utter a disparaging word against the Disney people again…this month. Anyway, it’s Firing Lane Kiffin versus Chuckie Keeton, the Aggie QB who’s already thrown 12 TD passes (and just one pick) in leading his team to an average of 50 points per game. If you’ve seen the Trojans play, they can’t put up numbers like that. Oh, and USU has only allowed 17 points per game. As much as Kiffin and USC’s four-star recruits will say they respect Utah State, they really cannot be as hyped for this game as they’d be playing Stanford, Oregon or UCLA. They better be.

And a 12:30 p.m. local start only means a lachrymose fan base. Hell, I don’t know how Arash Markazi is ever going to arrive on time. This will be the most intriguing game on TV tomorrow. Don’t black it out locally for me, Bristol. Please!

Admittedly, picking the Aggies to upset USC — as Stewart Mandel does in this week’s “ Pickoff” –can lead one down the same path that Wallace Shawn followed in “The Princess Bride”. There’s the tendency to select Utah State as an obvious upset choice, followed by the rueful realization that it is SUCH AN OBVIOUS upset pick that you should not make it.

Oh, and never get involved in a land war in Asia.

Shawn, as Vizzini, in his “Battle of Wits” with the Man in Black, alias Good Sir Westley, alias Cary Elwes:

“But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”

So, you can overthink it. And you remember what happened to Vizzini, who overthought it? He died.





IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Thursday, September 19

Starting Five

1. A Hat Trick of Talent

Ronaldo: He has the world in the instep of his foot.

The Iberian peninsula is currently the home of three of the world’s greatest athletes. Spaniard Rafael Nadal recently won the U.S. Open, his second Grand Slam title of 2013, and has a 61-3 record in singles matches this year.

Then, of course, there are forwards Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid. Earlier this week Ronaldo, who is Portuguese, became the world’s highest-paid footballer when he signed a contract extension that will compensate him annually with 21 million Euros ($28 million), after taxes, for the next five years.

Then on Tuesday, as if to dot both “i’s”, the 28 year-old winger scored a hat trick in (that’s three goals, Phyllis) an easy 6-1 defeat of Turkish club Galatasaray as Champions League play got underway in Istanbul (the final goal is like watching Michael Jordan thread three defenders with a crossover dribble followed by a spin move, then pull up for an 18-footer).

Ronaldo now has 54 career goals (my career goals, by contrast, are to get one week’s paid vacation and a parking space) in Champions League play and 21 career hat tricks. Which is prit-tee, prit-tee good.

(Ronaldo is also really, really handsome. Like, it’s-not-fair handsome. Like, if Maria Sharapova really were the world’s greatest distaff tennis player, it would kinda be like that. Or, if Kate Beckinsale were. Dig?)

Sorry, dude, but I’d rather fly Emirates than Qatar Airways. Still, you’re the best

Ronaldo’s numbers are fantastic, buuuuuutttttt…..Lionel Messi’s are better. Yesterday the Argentine artist answered Ronaldo’s challenge by scoring a hat trick himself in Barca’s 4-0 Champions League victory against Dutch side Ajax. Messi now has 62 career goals in Champions League play (in just 80 matches, the best ration in the tourney’s history) and 24 career hat tricks.

The two men will next meet on the same pitch on October 26th at Camp Nou in Barcelona. For those who don’t already know, any Barca-Real Madrid fixture is known as “El Clasico.” When these two are on the pitch, that’s not false advertising. (and yes, MH mancrush Gareth Bale, who is now Ronaldo’s teammate, will be there, too).

2. Autumnal Equinox-and-Beyond Previews: TV

Akerman: We’ve been high on her since a guest role on “Love Monkey.” Stockholm-born, Canada-raised.

Summer is not over…yet. But we’re in the last throes, which means we have some serious ass-planting ahead of us on the couch (and in the movie theaters… have you sat in one of these yet at your local cineplex, by the way?). Over at Grantland, Andy Greenwald believes that Trophy Wife, starring Malin Akerman, is the sitcom to watch (people still watch sitcoms that don’t have Larry David’s or Ricky Gervais’ imprints? Interesting…). The title reminds us of the Steven Wright: “A friend of mine has a trophy wife, but from the looks of it, it wasn’t first place.”

I do like this exchange in the trailer, in which an adolescent passes Akerman at her stepkids’ school. “What up, MILF?” “Shut up, toolbox.”

3. Autumnal Equinox-and-Beyond Previews: Film

Finally, here come the good films of 2013

Rush: It’s both faster and Lauda.

Gravity… Part of the Sandra Bullock “Forces of Nature” trilogy that includes “Speed” and “The Heat”.

Rush,… Not a Canadian prog rock trio biopic, but a film about Formula One racing in the 1970s inspired by true events. Although Chris Hemsworth’s character was pretty much the Robert Plant of racing (15 years ago Brad Pitt gets this role).See it –from the trailer, it seems to capture the Seventies vibe accurately — but also see the 2010 doc “Senna”.

Captain Phillips… Some day people will read that there was a film (“Larry Crowne”) starring Hanks, Julia Roberts and Bryan Cranston (alias Walter White) and nobody saw it. Anyway, if you’re keeping score this is the third Hanks film in which he plays the captain of a ship of some type (“Apollo 13” and “Forrest Gump”) as well as the third in which he achieves the rank of captain (“Apollo 13” and “Saving Private Ryan”). Watch closely to see if Hanks’ character urinates. He has done so in five other films.

All is Lost…Robert Redford doing the “Life of Pi” thing, sans tiger.

The Fifth Estate…A film about the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, which I mention primarily because the actor in the lead role is named Benedict Cumberbatch, which is the type of name P.G. Wodehouse would’ve dreamt up and smiled about for days.

The Wolf of Wall Street…Reunites Martin Scorcese, Leo DiCaprio and Lower Manhattan. Am I the only one who did not love Gangs of New York?

Nebraska… Bruce Dern (he once shot and killed John Wayne in a western; what more do you need?), now 77, in a black-and-white film from Alexander Payne that co-stars Will Forte as his son. That’s right, MacGruber (and yes, in case you were thinking it was all a bad dream, they actually made and released a MacGruber movie). The two trek from Montana to Nebraska to claim a $1 million prize. Think of it as “Sideways” meets “The Straight Story.”

Yes, this is the same man who played a male stripper in Magic Mike.

Dallas Buyers Club… The film I most want to see, and one that should once and for all end any arguments about Matthew McConaughey appearing in any film that is either not set in Texas or has him playing a Texan-like character. Honestly, how about this little career renaissance for our good friend Wooderson (“Alright alright alright”): “Killer Joe”, “Mud” (which will probably get a Best Picture nomination) and now this, in which MM plays a former rodeo star afflicted with AIDS who starts smuggling medicine/drugs across the Mexican border into Texas. Can’t wait.

4. The Colts’ Plan to Reunite the 2011 Heisman Trophy Finalists Is Working

Jim Brown remains the best Brown of all-time, if not the best NFL player of all-time.

So the Cleveland Browns trade running back Trent Richardson, who finished 3rd in the 2011 Heisman balloting, to the Indianapolis Colts, whose QB, Andrew Luck, finished 2nd (yes, RG3 won the bronze bust). Richardson was the third player drafted in 2012, and Luck the first (RG3 was taken second). Richardson, by the way, rushed for 950 yards last season and has 105 yards in two games thus far in 2013. So he’s not Adrian Peterson, but who is?

When is the last time a ball carrier was flagged for facemasking? this Alabama defender wonders.

What do the Browns have up their sleeves? Well, their quarterback is either former Michigan State starter Brian Hoyer or second-year pro Brandon Weeden, who actually turns 30 next month. Could the Browns be stock-piling picks in the hope of selecting Johnny Football and, knowing that, might not JFF return to College Station for his redshirt junior/senior year? And can JFF make it in the pros? And why is Greg Bedard whining about having flown “halfway across the country” to see JFF play last weekend? One, that’s a two-hour flight, three hours, tops. Two, the pilot flew the plane, you didn’t. Shaddup!

Or do the Browns want Jadeveon Clowney (overrated, by the way)?

5. I’m Defending Rick Reilly? Seriously.

So, there are few easier targets in sports media these days than my old friend Rick Reilly. True story: When I was in college and his star was its brightest, I wrote him a fan letter. Riles wrote me back, a hand-written note.

Anyway, I’ve taken a jab or two at ESPN’s millionaire columnist on this very site (The “Notre Dame is Irrelevant” article comes to mind), but I have his back, at least to an extent, on his Washington Redskins column.

Why? Because while I agree that the term “Redskins” may be racist, I also believe that taking offense is in the eye of the beholder. If enough Native Americans –remember when we called them Indians? Now THAT was offensive, to not one but two entire separate races of people– are bothered by the term, then we should definitely discontinue it.

And then what should we do about the Atlanta Braves?

And what would you have us do about the Cleveland Indians? The term itself is universally accepted as obsolete (“Indian”, not “Cleveland”, though I suppose….). Many will tell you that the name was chosen –formerly they were the Cleveland Naps, which is offensive to people with insomnia — to honor former player Louis Sockalexis, a member of the Penobscot tribe who is believed to have been the first Native American to play in the MLB. But, I mean, would Cleveland Sockalexises have worked?

Indian mascot Chief Wahoo: How’d he get those teeth so pearly white?

I won’t even embark upon my own alma mater’s “Fighting Irish”, which began as a quasi-derogatory term from outsiders but has since been warmly embraced by the school’s fans, administration, alumni and students.

Apparently, what really got some people’s undies in a wad was Reilly’s closing line: “Trust us. We know what’s best. We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.

Kind of like a reservation.”

One blogger, Robert Wheel in writing for Kissing Suzy Kolber, called this line a “fireable offense.” (but naming a site Kissing Suzy Kolber –and I get the reference– is not offensive to anyone?). Really?

Not only is the entire “Rename the Redskins’ movement unctuously patronizing — a bunch of Caucasians deciding that they’re going to assist Native Americans, who apparently are unable to help thee mselves — but the idea that someone would be offended by Reilly’s closing line is, to me at least, offensive.

His point, of course, is, If you really want to be offended, take a moment to think of how we’ve treated these people over the last two centuries. And THIS is the stand you want to take? It’s like wondering if the prisoners at Guantanamo, many who have never even been charged with a crime and have no habeas corpus rights, have comfortable pajamas.

So, don’t worry, Riles. I got your back. And if people want the name Redskins changed, fine. But I just hope those people who advocate this change with the most volume are themselves Native Americans.

And, lastly, do you know what an editor says to a columnist who writes what many people decry as an “outrageous” column? “Good job.”







IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Wednesday, September 18

Starting Five

Last night in prime time ESPN aired a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (instead of just televising a Major League Baseball game, which is essentially the same thing), so it’s safe to say that it was not a circle-the-date-on-your-calendar night in sports.

1. Final Thoughts on Sports Illustrated and Oklahoma State

Remembering that it was someone from Stillwater –the band, not the town — who originally said, “He was never a person. He was a journalist.”

Anyway, a few more thoughts:

A) When last Friday I enumerated all those talented men and women who once checked facts at Sports Illustrated (Hey, kids, Ashley Fox will be on “Outside The Lines” today to talk Andy Reid!), I failed to note that some of those who arrived since my departure have already gone on to bigger (Pablo Torre, “Around The Horn”) and better (David Epstein, “The Sports Gene”) things. I also failed to take into account that some of the fact-checkers there now will likely also do so.

I apologize for the first oversight. As for the second, not so much: SI only lists two reporters on its masthead. It used to list all of them. I had no idea there were more than two reporters. My guess [I never phone friends at SI for information about SI…that’s why we’re still friends…or at least we were before Friday 🙂 ] is that these men and women are on “project” status, which means that they do not receive full or perhaps even partial benefits. If this is true, SI should address that. Don’t marginalize employees when it is convenient to do so, then tell us they’re on staff when it suits your purposes.

B) Either way, I imagine that these fact-checker CHECKED THE FACTS of the story to the best of their abilities.

(A quick aside: Tim Crothers, perhaps my favorite fact-checking alumnus, advocated a system called “Defensive Checking”: he only checked the facts for which SI could be sued. It eliminated half the work and was a very efficient means of checking. Once more in my life, I tip my cap to Timothy.)

Anyhoo, they may have checked the facts, but there was more to being a fact-checker when I was there. It was your responsibility to do some critical thinking. To analyze the story conceptually. To poke holes –or in this case, to cowpoke holes — in logic or in the writer’s premise IF YOU SAW THEM.

Those were the days…


So if I were a current SI fact-checker working on SI’s OSU series, here are questions I would have put to the editors:

1. Does our story explain HOW Oklahoma State improved, which is our stated purpose in embarking upon this series? (The answer is “No”, by the way).  Because Stanford improved greatly over the same time period. So, for a time, did Notre Dame. And they don’t, to my mind, pay players or do the hostess sexing (Notre Dame does not even have hostesses) or give no-show grades (Everett Golson, anybody?). And if either school did, wouldn’t that be a much BIGGER story?

2) We could find lots of schools (North Carolina, e.g.) who are involved in similar shadiness who have not improved. So isn’t our premise flawed?

3) T. Boone Pickens, a $165 million gift to the university. BOOM! Are we really going to simply gloss over that fact? Again, an aside. When I was at SI (1989-2001 and 2003-2006) a baseball team would be hot and so we’d dispatch a writer on Thursday to cover the “red-hot Twins” or some such outfit. By Sunday night, when the story was filed and being fact-checked that team, without fail, would have just been swept in its weekend series. We’d still run the story, but the editor would plug in a parenthetical such as, “Despite being swept by the Yankees over the weekend and outscored 203-2, the Twins are the hottest team in baseball.”

Oh, how I miss those moments.

4) How come Oklahoma State and not Oregon? Might it not look to a critical observer that we are “ducking” Oregon (yes, even my notes to editors would contain puns…it’s a sickness) because of Phil Knight, Nike and the potential adverse effect on advertising revenue?

Lache Seastrunk, Will Lyles, Jeremiah Masoli, Cliff Harris…nothing to see here, move along.

Those are just some of the questions I’d ask. And maybe a current SI fact-checker, or hopefully, a current SI editor posed those very questions. If there were ever a time SI needed Jim Harper, or at least a Red Team 2 meeting…If they did, I’d invite them to come forward (and I’ll be happy to find you a job serving diners with me in Manhattan…it’s actually more fun than fact-checking, by the way).

C) None of this is a problem if Sports Illustrated does not state in its official “Overview” the following:

How does a Division I program make such a large leap in such a short time? SI  dispatched senior writers George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans to begin searching  for the answer. 

I’d argue with the honesty behind this statement. I have no proof, but here is what I believe happened. Evans, who knows the Sooner State well and was raised there, goes in search of low-hanging fruit. He tells the editors that, via old contacts and people he has come across while wearing out the soles of his cowboy boots in the past, that he can dig up some dirt on corruption taking place at Oklahoma State. Terrific, someone thinks, but HOW do we frame it? Oh, I got it, let’s say it’s an attempt to discover a reason behind Oklahoma State’s rapid ascent.

Bad idea, for the aforementioned reasons.

Now, if SI had simply come out and said, We’re going to peek behind the curtain of a major FBS program. We’re going to show you some of the stink therein as a means of exposing the systemic septic nature of big-time college football. Let’s toss it out and start over from scratch (and let’s not ask Bob Bowlsby to help). If SI had done that, I know that I wouldn’t have been so critical of the series. Many others would not have, either.

In fact -IN FACT! — SI sorta did just that. After providing an “Overview”, and then running a five-part series, yesterday SI penned a “What It All Means” piece which, on the surface, was an attempt to tell us…what it all means. Because you and I are apparently too dumb to understand it (Later, Chris Rock will explain the concept behind his, “Married and bored, single and lonely” joke). But what that really was, Jerry Dantana, was an attempt to make us forget that last week their stated premise was to show us how OSU got better so quickly.

Here’s what SI said yesterday: ”

When our team of writers and editors conceived of this project  nearly a year ago, the goal was straightforward…we thought it was essential to ground the discussion in  detail by taking a deeper, longitudinal look at a BCS program…”

Ohhhh. You wanted to take a deeper, longitudinal (longitudinal, not latitudinal) look at a BCS program. Why didn’t you just say so? Because that’s not what you said last week.

I’m doing my best to refrain from an ad hominem attack here (I prefer to leave those to Whitlock), but this is the M.O. of the ME whom I knew so well. “Oh, you think I meant that…no, no no: I meant this.” The difference here, though, is that we have it in print. And SI is contradicting itself, just hoping that you and I don’t notice.

“He’s right. I don’t trust him.”

What was it that Whitlock told Keith Olbermann on the night his eponymous show made its debut, in referring to Deadspin? “Someone has to watch the watchers.”

Guess what? I’m watching the watchers. And this was intellectually dishonest.

D) Speaking of Deadspin, two of SI’s editors (one of whom is my favorite writer currently employed at SI and as smart and sharp as anyone on staff) did an interview with that site yesterday about the series. The fact that, one week into it, SI and not OSU is the story speaks volumes. As does the fact that SI even consented to the interrogation.

What the editors never tell Deadspin, and kudos to the site for grilling them about it near the top, is that they picked ONE school because it was the path of least resistance. Thayer Evans had all these supposedly great sources and interviews and so we just decided to ride that horse and we could tell the same story without having to exhaust as many resources.

Also, nowhere in the Deadspin interview do the editors state that their intent was to see how Oklahoma State improved so quickly. They are SO walking back from that premise now, aren’t they?

E) About Thayer Evans…. I’d like to know:

1) Did these interview subjects, all of them, realize that they were being interviewed?

2) Did these interview subjects, all of them, know that their conversations were being recorded?

3) Did any of them ask, “What’s this story about?” and what was Thayer’s answer?

Granted, there’s a gray area when interviewing people for a controversial piece. There are also baseline ethical standards. If you read this blog entry you may find it hard to reconcile the idea that Evans was acting ethically in the pursuit of this story.

Finally, I’ll address a question many of you may be harboring: Why do I hate Sports Illustrated so much? Au contraire, mon frère. I’ve been obsessed with the magazine since I was old enough to read. Had my bedroom wall covered with SI covers when I was a boy and had my dorm wall adorned with a few SI covers from the early Holtz era, then fulfilled a lifelong dream –granted, I had not been alive that long –when I was hired to work there. As noted above, I worked there for 15 years –it was hardly a cup of coffee.

1988. Not to be confused with 2005 and 2012 Notre Dame themes.

I love the magazine and what it has the potential to mean, a potential often met and yes, even under the current administration — to the sports ecosystem. And, as someone who knows the place well and whose opinions about it no longer have direct consequences, I’ll continue to chide it when it underperforms and praise it when it does well.

Because, let me tell you, what they’re doing over at ESPN the Magazine isn’t exactly journalism. It’s sports writing, but it’s not journalism. They’re attached to the teat; they cannot do that. Sports Illustrated still has the power, and I’d say it has the moral imperative, to perform such feats. To be, dare I say, as great as Yahoo! Sports.

And, by the way, I launched this blog on August 16, 2012. Which is SI’s birthday. That was hardly a coincidence.

Thanks for reading. I’m off to see if Taylor Warren is still hiring for that media consulting firm that she’s launching.


IT’S ALL HAPPENING! Tuesday, September 17

Starting Five

1. The Big 8: My Rankings

As always, I assess based on what transpires on the 120 x 53 yard rectangle or, if you prefer, quadrilateral. Preseason polls are utterly meaningless.

And Mack Brown wanted Johnny Manziel to play safety????

1. Alabama (3-0)

Turns out that Johnny Football lacks ESP: Extra-Sunseri Perception (see, he’s the dude who returned the INT 73 yards for a TD and–never mind). Next up: Colorado State.

2. Oregon (3-0)

They’re quick. They’re quack. Ducks’ average margin of victory through three games: 52.3 points. That’s fowl. Next up: Bye

3. Clemson (2-0)

Tigers must combat the dreaded “Higher Ranked Visiting Team Playing on ESPN Thursday Night” effect in Raleigh in two nights. Remember that the Wolfpack spoiled Florida State’s season a year ago. Next up: at North Carolina State.

4. Ohio State (3-0)

Buckeyes looked most impressive in Berkeley. Fifth-year senior QB Kenny Guiton, in his first start, threw a school-record 90-yard TD pass on his second play from scrimmage. Next up: Florida A&M

5. Florida State (2-0)

Like Oregon, the Seminoles fell behind early at home and then scored 59 uninterrupted points versus Nevada. Next up: Bethune Cookman (Seriously, Noles? Seriously?)

Former Arizona prep and UCLA QB Rick Neuheisel believes that former Arizona prep and current UCLA QB Brett Hundley has more NFL upside than Manziel.

6. UCLA (2-0)

Like Alabama, the Bruins found themselves trailing by at least two touchdowns on the road (in their case, 18 points) versus a ranked opponent (Nebraska) and then scored five uninterrupted touchdowns. Next up: New Mexico State.

7. Texas A&M (2-1)

“If you see Johnny Football in the hall, tell him he played a great game” — Nada Surf, 1994. He did. The two highest point totals Alabama has surrendered in its last 37 games, 29 and 42, have come against Manziel and the Aggies. Saban’s Tide had never allowed more than 38 before last Saturday. Next up: Southern Methodist

8. LSU (3-0)

Les Miles has been in the news more in the past week for his tenure at Oklahoma State than for his Tigers’ 3-0 start. Next up: Auburn.

2. One Man’s Breaking Bald Hypothesis

Uncle Jack: Where there’s smoke…


My buddy Dan, a Phoenix-based attorney, posits that Walter White is going to pull a Bruce Willis in “Pulp Fiction” and rescue his own personal Gimp, Jesse Pinkman, from sociopath Todd and his evil Uncle Jack. I like it. Walt may have hated Jesse in that instant, but now that he has lost his family, most of his wealth and perhaps having only months to live, his best shot at some semblance of salvation is to rescue Pinkman from his predicament. Dan also thinks that Uncle Jack, whom we always see lighting up, will meet his end courtesy of a Ricin-laced cigarette, again courtesy of Walt.

I like it.

Also, the reviewer from Esquire –we live in an age where television shows are reviewed more fervently than films, but then we live in an age where television shows are superior to films — noted that it strained credibility for Uncle Jack not to end Walter White and bury him alongside Gomez and Hank in a grave that Walt himself had initially dug. I agree but, hey, we still have two episodes to sift through.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” That was rich, Vince Gilligan. Rich!

Finally, a hand for Jesse Plemons, please. The Matt Damon doppelganger has been in two TV shows, Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad. Prit-tee, prit-tee good. Is it too much to hope we catch Todd wearing a Crucifictorius T-shirt?

3. Bo Peeps

If I am a Nebraska fan, I’m far more offended by my defense wearing black jerseys and surrendering 41 points at home to UCLA than I am by a cluster-F-bomb barrage by head coach Bo Pelini that occurred two years ago. Far more offended that my defense has now allowed 45, 70 and 41 points in three of the past five games –with the other two opponents being non-AQ schools. Or maybe I’m just offended that we left the Big 12 for the Big Ten. Why just turn your back on all of your tradition?

4. Trout Fishing

Trout is not a bad fielder, either.

You don’t hear very much about Vineland, N.J., native and former SI cover boy Mike Trout this season, and that’s because his team, the Angels have underachieved (73-77) all season. But it’s worth nothing that last year’s AL Rookie of the Year is second in all of baseball in both batting average (.331) and OBP (.436) to last year’s –and this year’s–AL MVP, Miguel Cabrera.

Both of those numbers are better than last’s years for Trout, who also has improved his stats over last season in terms of Hits (183 to 182), Doubles (39 to 27), Triples (9 to 8), RBI (89 to 83), Walks (100 to 67!) and Strikeouts (122 to 139). And in case you were wondering, he currently has six fewer at-bats than he did in 2012. The only numbers upon which Trout has not improved are Home Runs (24 to 30) and Stolen Bases (33 to 49).

When you recall how much hype Trout was garnering late last summer, it’s astounding how rarely you hear his name at all this season, even though he’s arguably the second-best hitter in baseball. Two reasons: his team’s miserable season and Yasiel Puig.

“Tim Kurkjian, ESPN.”

5. CFB: Loose Ends

–So Michigan almost lost at home to Akron, a school that had lost 28 consecutive road games? Who kidnapped Devin Gardner?

–Michigan State has pulled its annual “Our Stats Don’t Matter Before We Meet Notre Dame” trick, as the Spartans are tops in the nation in total defense to this point. Again, meaningless.

–Stanford has allowed 13 and 20 points to San Jose State and Army, respectively. Keep in mind that classes have not even started in Palo Alto, so you wonder if it’s just a matter of malaise with the Cardinal. Not impressed thus far.

–Tommy Rees has now thrown for 300-plus yards in three consecutive games.

Blake Bell, The Bell Dozer


–Bob Stoops finally tears the “Gimmick” label off the Bell Dozer and the junior tosses for 413 yards and four touchdowns versus Tulsa. That’s the most yards a Sooner quarterback has thrown for in his inaugural start, and I’ll remind you that former Sooner starters include Heisman Trophy winners Sam Bradford and Jason White as well as Landry Jones and Troy Aikman. What took you so long, Bob?


–I understand why pundits are excoriating the Pac-12 officials –they’ve messed up plenty in the past (just ask Stoops) — but how does a quarterback, in this case Wisconsin’s Joel Stave, not know that you are to take a knee? That’s sub-Pop Warner Junior Pee Wee-level football acumen.

–USU at USC. Utah State put up 70 points on Weber State last Saturday and 52 on Air Force the week before. Lane Kiffin and his defense best be prepared for Chuckie Keeton and the Aggies.

–Oklahoma State destroyed Lamar 59-3 last Saturday. I know it’s early in the season, but what if the Cowboys were to go 13-0 and play for the national championship in the final season of the BCS? Oh, that would be a dirty game, alright. Keep in mind that it was someone from Stillwater –the band, not the town– who famously uttered, “He was never a person. He was a journalist.” William Miller, meet Thayer Evans.