February 14, 2006
Wayne Gretzky:
Wonder what kind of V-Day gift wife Janet Jones is getting this year? Maybe reporters will ask him at his first Olympic press conference today.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

I don't know about you, but I pretty much bottomed out when I found out T.O. was getting a reality TV series. But it's Valentine's Day! How could I not feel the love?

To act as an antidote -- and to pick myself up -- I started jotting down a list of things in sports I love, rather than spend yet another day on the stuff worth loathing. So in honor of Valentine's Day, the 2006 Love List:

Villanova hoops
I love that the Wildcats came back this season with a chip on their shoulder after last year's rip-off in the NCAA Tournament. I love that they run a 4-guard offense and force other teams to match up with them. I love that their fans set a state record for college hoops attendance last night during their win over UConn. All signs pointing to this being one of those years?

Shaun White
"I would love to have your hair": No disqualifying hair-restoration tonic problem for White, whose flamethrower coif, goofy grin, big-air moves and sincere appreciation for his Olympic glory combine to make him the country's newest Olympic heartthrob.

Ken Whisenhunt
"What's black and gold and red all over?" The heart-on-sleeve emotion that Steelers Nation feels for its offensive coordinator after he designed the Super Bowl's game-clinching play -- niftiest trick play in SB history -- then spurned the Raiders for one more year in Pittsburgh.

Theo back in Boston
By now, my man-crush is well known. I briefly flirted with Jed and Ben as his replacements, but then he came back (like he ever left!) and the love within their "Grey's Anatomy"-like threesome has me all giddy. If only Red Sox Nation was as loyal to him as I am....

The Knicks stinking
Can I help that I find it heartwarming to see Isiah Thomas and Larry Brown wallowing in each other's misery? There may be less love in the Knicks organization than any other in sports. And, given the recent legal problems, let's hope that sending Valentines wasn't part of this year's plan.

The "Curl Girls"
"You sweep me off my feet!" It doesn't matter that they've lost their first two matches and are perilously close to missing the medal round. I still look at those sweet-looking Midwestern shiksas and wonder whether they could ever see themselves loving a nice Jewish boy.

Plus 10 more to love:
Vince Young's dramatics
Chad Hedrick's big Texas grin
Danica Patrick's potential
Boris Diaw's versatility
Chad Johnson's creativity
Adam Morrison's mustache
Morgan Pressel's moxie
King Felix's fantasy stock
FSU Facebook Girl's PR
Morning Quickie chatters

Olympics Wrap
Joey Cheek is my hero: After nabbing gold for the U.S. in 500m speedskating, Cheek started his press conference saying he'd donate his $25,000 Olympic prize money to the kids in Darfur and asked his sponsors to match his generosity. Now that's the Olympic spirit.

More love for snowboarders: Teter and Bleiler go 1-2 in women's half-pipe, making the snowboarders the most successful of the U.S. Olympians. (Yes, add those women to the Wheaties Watch!)

Hornets: Beat Wiz at buzzer (3rd straight W w/o C. Paul)
Rufus: Upends faves Coco and Cosby's dog to win terriers
BU: Speaking of terriers, Boston U. tops BC to win Beanpot
Ozzie Guillen: No-show (vacay) for Sox's White House visit
Larry Hughes: More finger surgery for Cavs starting guard
Knicks: New low? First 10-game losing streak since '84-85
Injury Update: There's a scary difference between disappointing finishes by athletes like Bode and Apolo and injuries finishing athletes, like skier Lindsey Kildow or luger Samantha Retrosi. Here's to full recoveries.

Second chance for Bode: After his deflating 5th-place finish in the men's downhill, he races in the men's combined today. Maybe he was just managing our expectations with that first race, so any medal would look good at this point.

Today: Weir Watching. First look today at the U.S. team's most flamboyant athlete, skater Johnny Weir, who will be in action in the men's short program today. Look for his reception from fans to be cheerier than his Olympic Village dorm room, which he previously playfully dissed.

Nova Beats UConn
The latest rankings show Villanova at No. 4, but it's easy to make a case that the Wildcats are the top team in the country after they beat No. 1 UConn last night in front of the biggest crowd ever to see a college basketball game in Pennsylvania.

What gives 'Nova an edge over other No. 1 contenders like Duke, Memphis and Gonzaga? I'd say it's two components of its schedule: 'Nova is in first place in the Big East, the deepest conference in the country.

And none of the others have notched as big a win as 'Nova did last night, over a No. 1 team. That should be enough to vault it over Duke into the No. 1 RPI spot. (For now, "Nova has a rematch at UConn in two weeks.)

Good thing that a debate over college hoops' No. 1 is academic; the tournament will prove whether 'Nova's 4-guard offense (79 pct of points last night), 3-point shooting (7/9 in 2nd half) and underrated frontcourt depth (Will Sheridan: 13 pts, 10 reb) are enough to win 6 in a row.

College Hoops Wrap
Eddie Sutton done? It's unknown what substance caused Sutton to be charged with DUI, but it's interesting to speculate on his future anyway. Is he finished not just for the season, but for good? How agonizing is it for Sutton to be a mere 6 wins from 800? Eh, round numbers are overrated. (Okla St. lost to Kansas last night, without Sutton.)

Mike Davis done? Might as well be, after he spouted off during the Big Ten coaches' press conference that Indiana really should have an alum coaching the team. It was a less-than-backhanded indictment of the support (or lack thereof) he's gotten at the school.

Hey, even Steve Alford wouldn't get cheered after a couple of down years (and you know that's who Davis was talking about).

Top 25 Watch: It's always noteworthy when a team makes its first-ever Top 25 debut. Kudos to Bucknell. It's not like beating Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but it's cool.

Ray Lewis Wants Out
There's no love from Ray Lewis toward Baltimore anymore. He reportedly wants out, though that's news to the team.

From a fan's perspective, I think you can't begrudge a player anything after he led your team to a Super Bowl championship.

Call it the "Damon Effect." Johnny didn't just leave the Red Sox; he left them for the rival Yankees.

And yet I don't want to hear a peep of negativity about him from RSN. Any player from the 2004 team should have a free pass from fans for life.

NFL in London?
I'm all for the NFL staging a regular season game in London, but it begs the question of which team will lose a home game to make it happen.

I'd nominate the Giants, who got an extra home game last year when the Katrina-displaced Saints played their "home" opener in New Jersey.

NHL Gambling
The problem isn't that Jeremy Roenick is going to give an affidavit to the New Jersey authorities. The problem is getting him to shut up once he starts talking:

"Now that I've told you what you want to know about the gambling scandal, can I tell you what I think about the NHL labor agreement? How about hockey fans? My theory about Dick Cheney's shotgun incident? Come on! I'm not in Torino; I've got nothing but time on my hands. Wait, where are you going?"

Chad Knaus:
Jimmie Johnson's crew chief was booted from the Daytona 500 for making illegal modifications. Isn't this cheating? Where are the harsher penalties?
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Katz on Nova
Page 2 Index
V-Day Gift Options
From a writer? Naturally.
iTunes mix
Gotta love "effort gift"
Watch those markups!
Make sure there's a guide
Who's gonna say no?

NBA: Who needs Larry Hughes? LeBron nets 44 and Cavs stop Spurs' 9G W streak. With results like that, you can see LBJ eventually making the NBA Finals.

MLB Hot Stove: New Reds GM Krivsky works fast, avoiding arbitration with Adam Dunn and inking a new deal (2Y/$18.5M). Dunn moving to 1B in 2006.

'Roids Watch: That doc who allegedly gave those Carolina Panthers steroids pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute. Could get 5 years of "Oz time."

More NFL: Following new tradition, the Steelers will likely open the '06 season on a Thursday. How about an AFC title rematch vs. Denver?

No NBA player needs more love than Darko. That's why a move to a new city would be the best thing for him. Orlando sounds ready to take him.

NFL Draft gossip: Reports out of Dallas say Vince Young is considering not doing *any* throwing at next week's NFL combine, only interviews.

I noticed that ESPN Classic is running "Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame SI for Publishing the Swimsuit Issue" tonight. Hmm, how about "sales"?

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