The Exxon Valdez: $900 million in payments, $100 million in restitution, and a $25 million criminal fine.
British Petroleum: $4.5 billion in fines and an additional $525 million in restorative claims.
Nets coach Jason Kidd? $50,000 for intentionally spilling his carbonated beverage on the court at Staples Center in the waning seconds of a 99-94 loss to the Lakers. In the most viewed November footage since Abraham Zapruder broke out his Bell & Howell Zoomatic, the first-year (last-year) Net coach can be seen ordering rookin Tyshawn Taylor, “Hit me.”
For the record, former coach Jeff Van Gundy received the largest coaching fine in NBA history, $100,000, basically for being candid. He revealed that a referee friend had phoned him to warn him that the refs would be watching his center, Yao Ming, even more closely because the Dallas Mavericks had whined about him.2
The ploy was shrewd. Get a delay of game so that the Nets, down by three at the time, could draw up a final play. Except that the shot missed and YES Network cameras caught Kidd giving the order (Will a YES Network camera man will either be canned or severely disciplined for, you know, doing his job?).
Kidd was an outstanding, Hall-of-Fame caliber player and he might even turn out to be a good coach. But he is in a terrible spot, coaching a team led by veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and coach-killer Deron Williams. The Nets, whose true building blocks are Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson, have too much talent to be 4-11. That’s the real mess here, not the one Kidd left on the court.
2. Ranking Saturday’s 7 Best Games
1. No. 1 Alabama (11-0) at No. 4Auburn (10-1)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Iron Bowl. First time both have been ranked in the top 5 for this game since 1971. If you cannot see Auburn winning, I’m sure you foresaw Alabama jumping out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead on the Tigers three years ago. Yeah, of course you did.
The Pick? Alabama.
2. No. 22 UCLA (8-3) at No. 23 USC (9-3)
Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
There are games between higher-ranked teams, there are fiercer rivalries, but this is the sexiest rivalry in college football. Two years ago the Trojans whisked Rick Neuheisel out of a job with a 50-0 emasculation in the Coliseum. Last year in Pasadena the Bruins knocked Matt Barkley out of the game in a 38-28 win. Earlier this season the Bruins’ Shaq Evans said, “This year, we’re going to try to embarrass them, honestly. They’re struggling, it’s just awesome to see that. I hate them. So I’m just loving it. I’ve always hated them.”
They’re not struggling any more. Myles Jack (UCLA) and Ed Orgeron (USC) are two of the most compelling out-of-nowhere stories of the season. They collide on Saturday night.
The Pick? USC.
3. No. 3 Ohio State (11-0) at Michigan (7-4)
Brady Hoke and the Wolverines need a win so bad. Urban Meyer is 23-0 in Columbus. Ohio State’s defense is far from indomitable and QB Devin Gardner, WR Jeremy Gallon and TE Devin Funchess have had their moments. Is this Saturday’s huge upset?
The Pick: Ohio State.
4. No. 21 Texas A&M (8-3) at No. 5 Missouri (10-1)
ESPN 7:45 p.m.
Johnny Football’s final non-bowl game, most likely, while the Tigers remain just a gut-punch overtime loss away from being undefeated. Win at home and Mizzou beats the Aggies to the SEC Championship Game in both schools’ sophomore season in the conference. There’s a reason this game is on ESPN and the one just below, airing simultaneously, is on ESPN2.
The Pick: Missouruh.
5. No. 6 Clemson (10-1) at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2)
7 p.m. ESPN2
I know that this is the only other game involving a pair of Top 10 schools, but the intrigue evaporated after Florida State went into Death Valley and won by five touchdowns.
The Pick: The Visor.
6. No. 2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7)
Watch to see if the Seminoles are up by 35 at halftime. Other than that there’s no real reason to watch unless you’re the type that replays your favorite moments from the SAW films over and over and over.
The Pick: Pain.
7. No. 25 Notre Dame (8-3) at No. 8 Stanford (9-2)
Fox 7 p.m.
In what has become a biannual tradition in odd-numbered years, the Irish finish up in Palo Alto (in even-numbered years they close at USC). Notre Dame’s last victory on The Farm came when both programs were at an ebb in 2007. Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated notes that Notre Dame is 20-0 the last 20 times it has run the ball 30 times in a game. But that’s a chicken-egg stat.
The Pick: Cardinal.
3. Plains, Pains and Auto-erotica
4. The Back-Door Cover
Dallas was a nine-point favorite. The Cowboys trailed 21-7 before scoring 24 unanswered points to take a 10-point lead with 90 seconds to play. A friend of mine, an NBC producer, tweets, “Oakland going for the classic back-door cover.”
Indeed the Raidas, down 10, drove to the 30-yard line and chose to kick a field goal with :39 to play rather than go for the TD first. Sebastian Janikowski nails it. Dallas wins, but by seven. Bill Simmons tweets, “Just got burned by the Madden “down 10, kick FG first” scenario that coaches always mess up (except today). All-time mush season for me.”
Later, after the Steelers came from behind to do similar damage on the Ravens (that is, lose and still cover), The Sports Guy tweets, “Screwed over by 2 backdoor covers today. 0 and 3 for the day. 22 games below for the season. I feel like I’m being coached by Jason Kidd.”
5. The High School Team Without a High School
Shameless self-promotion, sure, but…here’s my piece for Newsweek on Findlay Prep, the nation’s best high school basketball team that is not actually affiliated with a high school. MaxPreps and StudentSports ranks the Pilots No. 2 while USA Today has them No. 1.
As I state in the story, Findlay Prep is not actually doing anything corrupt. They simply are not a high school. They’re an AAU team whose players all happen to have the same tutors. There are literally no other students at Findlay Prep outside of the 11 members of the basketball team and there is literally no physical building that is the school. Again, as I say in the story, Oak Hill Academy may be the tail wagging the dog, but Findlay Prep is the tail with no dog.
Christine Brennan of USA Today redefines the term “treacle” with this argument in favor of A.J. McCarron. The great irony of the Heisman is that no sport involves team work quite like football and yet it has the most-publicized individual award in all of sports.
My two cents on the “College Football Playoff” (Really? You’re going there, now?)
First of all, those of you who’ve been lobbying for this for years, you’ve already won. So no need to further crush those of us who did not. You got your way.
Second, I respect anyone who’d prefer to see a four- or eight-team playoff other than our current system. I don’t happen to prefer it, but I certainly understand why many would. Please understand that I get that.
What I do not get, and never will, is the argument that this is a way to pit the two best teams against one another. In every other sport that features playoffs there are myriad examples of a championship game that does not feature the two best teams based on their seasonal records. I’m not arguing against a playoff, I’m just arguing against that line of reasoning.
Bill Bradley, the former New York Knick and United States senator who is also a Princeton alum and a Rhodes Scholar once stated, in his NBA memoir “Life on the Run”, that if he had his druthers the NBA champion would simply be the team with the best record after the 82-game season. In Bradley’s opinion –and I’d venture that he’s way smarter than I’ll ever be –that was the most objective way to determine who was the best team. Granted, in an NBA season every team plays every other team at least twice. So take that as you might.
I hear a lot from playoff defenders who use last year’s Notre Dame squad as an example of what’s wrong with the system. “No way was Notre Dame one of the two best teams in the country last year, and Alabama exposed that!”
I couldn’t agree more. But here’s the thing. When Notre Dame was 10-0 last season, where were they ranked? First? Second?
No, third. The Fighting Irish were ranked third, behind the only two schools that were also undefeated: Kansas State and Oregon. No one was doing the gang from South Bend any favors. It was only AFTER both the Wildcats and Ducks fell that the Irish ascended to the top of the pecking order.
So the last team that is an AQ-level school that is still undefeated, one that defeated THREE ranked teams on the road, should not be in the national championship game? If that had happened to ANY OTHER school, you’d all be crying foul. Was Notre Dame one of the two best teams in college football last season? Perhaps not.
Was Michigan, which finished fourth –FOURTH–in the Big Ten in basketball last year, one of the two best teams in college basketball? I think not.
You want a playoff? Fine. You want to persuade me that a playoff pits the two top teams in a sport? That’s a fool’s errand.
AMC 1 p.m.
“Vertigo” to be followed by “Rear Window” to be followed by “Psycho” to be followed by “The Birds.” If I had to rank them, I’d go Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo, and then The Birds. Has any actress ever looked more ethereally beautiful than Grace Kelly in “Rear Window”, which is the ultimate film on voyeurism? Decide for yourself.