December 3, 2004
Victor Conte:
Now HERE's the guy at the heart of the national roid rage! Says Marion Jones juiced for Sydney! Says 50 pct of MLBers cheat! (See ESPN Mag, online.)
QUICKIE LIVE! 9-10 a.m.

The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Critics got what they wanted: Barry Bonds admitted to the grand jury that he used performance-enhancers.

It doesn't matter that he says he didn't know what he was using; between media and fan cynicism, that detail will be overlooked or simply disbelieved.

"Cheater!" implies forethought, but it makes for easy shorthand.

Perception is everything: No one can prove whether he knew or didn't know, but that's incidental; the only detail that matters is that Bonds used. Even assuming he did it unknowingly, he used.

Bonds' record is tainted now: All of it. His single-season HR record. His Ruthian accomplishments. More distressing: his likely eclipse of the career HR record.

As quick as a jacked shot to McCovey Cove, the debate will shift from "what did he know and when did he know it?" to "what about the stats?"

My colleague Rob Neyer correctly insists that there's no place for asterisks in the record book (see Q It Up). But that's a too-narrow view.

It's baseball's "Scarlet A": The asterisk has transcended statistical notation and has come to represent ultimate dishonor with fans.

Whether Bonds knew what he was taking or not, whether it affected his performance or not, he has petrified our perception.

Parity Gruels
Win, and you're ... in?!

In what, exactly? Only in the 2004 NFC do a pair of games between 4-7 teams (ARI at DET, CAR at NO) have massive playoff implications:

Winner stays alive for the NFC's sixth spot, as a mortified AFC looks on; loser euthanized.

Say it loud: Parity Rules!

More NFL Subplots
NFC Game of Week: Packers, Eagles face off in a preview of the odds-on NFC title-game.

AFC Game of Week: You could call it a "prove it" game for the Chargers against Broncos, but they've already done that.

Peyton Watch: Back at home, pitching on 10 days' rest after his 6-TD Thanksgiving, vs. the Didn't-You-Used-To-Be-The Titans?

Big Ben's Streak: Goes for 10 in a row in a textbook trap game -- at Jacksonville under the lights on ESPN (8:30).

Dirk vs. T-Mac
Forget LeBron vs. Carmelo! How about Dirk vs. T-Mac in one of the best NBA one-on-one shootouts you'll ever see.

Yankees voiding Giambi contract: But can they pull it off?
Myles Brand: NCAA honcho urges diversity in CFB coaching
Babe's bat: Auctioned for $1.26M; test it for The Cream!
Ricky Williams: Turns down NFL offer for reinstatement
Mets OR Yankees getting Al Leiter: Talking to Marlins?
Grand-jury "secrecy": Really makes you want to testify!
Nowitzki hit for 53, a Mavs record and NBA high this season, confirming his leap this season to top-tier NBA star.

As for T-Mac, how often does a guy score 48 and lose? There's his career, in a nutshell.

NHL Labor Talks
Steroids or Strikes: What scandal damages a sport more?

Consider that it's December, and that no one cares about hockey anymore -- but can't talk enough about baseball today. So I'll argue "strikes."

Meanwhile, the NHL accepted the union's offer to talk next week. Wait: What's hockey again? The phrase "too little, too late" comes to mind.

College Football Weekend
As predicted in the preseason by the Quickie for two years running, the BCS system goes "TILT" this weekend, when three teams end the season unbeaten.

It could be worse. How? We could end a season with five once-beaten teams as the top 5. Stick that in your Plus-1!

The top 3 in Action:
Oklahoma vs. Colorado (at KC)
Auburn vs. Tennessee (at ATL)

Heisman Vote
Don't vote just yet! Listed in order of conventional wisdom about their chances, here are the top 5 contenders, any one of whom could rally (or choke) their way to a trophy (or atrophy):

Matt Leinart, USC QB
Gimmick: Remember Torretta!

Jason White, Okla QB
Gimmick: He won last year!

Adrian Peterson, Okla RB
Gimmick: Just a freshman!

Reggie Bush, USC RB/WR/KR/PR
Gimmick: Plays four positions!

Alex Smith, Utah QB
Gimmick: He's a Cinderella!

Quickie vote coming Monday!

Giambi, Day 2
In case you didn't realize by now, the Giambi story -- the entire BALCO story -- has really been about Barry Bonds.

Giambi's "shocking" confession was, simply, underwhelming. Was anyone really surprised? How can this change perception of baseball As We Know It when everyone already thinks juicing is widespread?

My guess is that with Friday's news implicating Bonds, you won't hear much about Giambi anymore, except for news about the Yankees wanting to void his albatross of a contract.

And, then, a young kid approached me, tears welling. He pulled the newsboy cap from his head, twisted it into his hands and squealed:

"Say it ain't ... cynicism!"

Carmelo Anthony:
His dud vs. LeBron last night (6/20 FG, 5 TO) is mere insult compared to p.r. injury of appearing as DVD extra in "Witness Intimidation: Season One."
Today on
Morning Quickie transcript
Neyer on Bonds
Road to the BCS
More NFC "Win or Bust!" Games
NYG (5-6) at WAS
Perfect NY choke game
STL (5-6) vs SF
Rams draw NFL's worst
DAL (4-7) at SEA
When does 6-5 look good?
CHI (4-7) vs MIN
Bears start Chad. D'oh!
TB (4-7) vs ATL
Only clinching? Falcons

Worst NFL Game of the Week: 3-8 KC at 4-7 OAK. Funny thing: Either team would be a playoff contender in the NFC ...

And in other CFB action with BCS implication: Miami at Va Tech, winner gets BCS spot; Cal at So. Miss, Cal only with its Rose spot to lose ...

More Friday Night Madness with the Pistons! (at Spurs, 8, ESPN) And if you need a Pacers fix, keep watching (at SAC, 10:30, ESPN) ...

Weekend's best college hoops: KY at UNC (Sat); MS St at AZ (Sun) ...

Nats Watch: MLB has set a DC relocation vote for Friday, even though they have no deal with Angelos (read: lawsuit waiting to happen) ...

MLB Fray Agency: 2005 Look-Ahead Edition! A's ace Tim Hudson gave the team until March 1 to give him a fat new deal, or he's outtie ...

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