June 9, 2006
Jason Terry:
For all the pregame hype over Dirk and Josh Howard, Wade and Shaq, the star of the game was "Jet," who scored 32 on 13-18 FG shooting. Unstoppable.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

The NBA Finals started Thursday night, and I know that most U.S. sports fans simply don't care about soccer -- ambivalent at best and outright hostile at worst. But I'm excited.

So to attempt to "translate" the World Cup for U.S. fans who don't care (or don't understand), I came up with this gimmick: Compare the World Cup teams to their U.S. college hoops analogues.

(Then I found out that SI briefly tried the same thing this week as a throwaway line. Our comps aren't the same, but nevertheless, I should point it out, so you don't think I'm ripping off their gimmick. I had been sitting on this idea and waiting until today. That'll teach me.)

England = NC State
Rabid fans still living on a title from a distant era, with a healthy inferiority complex toward regional rivals.

Italy = Michigan
Go Azzurra Blue! Massive fan base obsessed to the point of mania; always with a fair share of stars, but prone to mental mistakes.

France = Duke
Soft, haughty, entitled. Should win the title way more than they do.

Netherlands = Indiana
Arrogant enough to think their method of playing is the sport's ideal, yet so rigid as to be unable to adapt (Bobby Knight Era, especially).

Germany = Michigan State
Successful, severe, hulking, relentless. Achtung, Sparty!

Argentina = UNLV
Clarify: '80s and '90s UNLV. Slightly crazy, totally successful, and you know something's a little sketchy, but you just can't nail them on it.

Portugal = Kansas
Thinks it is a power like UNC or Duke (or, in Portugal's case, like Brazil) but lacks the mental toughness to deliver a title when it counts at tournament time.

Czech Republic = West Virginia
Spent years as the weaker sibling of larger nearby powers, but now brings an entertaining style, appeals to purists' and is the critics' dark-horse pick for a title.

Spain = Tennessee
Successful regular season leads to high tournament expectations, inevitably followed by an early-round flameout.

Trinidad & Tobago = Albany
Tournament first-timer is spunky enough to give the top teams a game but is unlikely to advance. Best nickname, too ("Soca Warriors" and "Great Danes"). Ivory Coast = George Mason
Another tournament first-timer, but -- thanks to those TV ads -- they are the World Cup's Cinderella, in the mold of GMU (and they'll win big, too -- see Cup picks at end of column).

U.S. = Boston College
No established style, instead adapting to opponent's style; no real superstars; "us-against-world" mentality; hustlers; mentally tough.

Brazil = Whoever is Champ
Like Florida and UNC the last two years, taking a collection of top pro-league talent and molding it into a stylish, sexy success story.

See my Cup picks at the end of the Quickie column.

Mavs Take Game 1
When "Jet" Terry missed that easy breakaway layup midway through the 4th quarter sparking that late Heat rally -- who else thought the greatest game of his career would end on that humiliating note?

Instead, Terry is the hero. And those who picked the Heat to win (or, urp, win in 5) were left wondering how pregame stars Dirk and Howard could shoot a combined 7-28 FG (for 26 points) ... but the Mavs still won.

The early advantage between the Heat's two-star system and the Mavs' depth goes to Dallas: Dirk and Howard accounted for only 28 percent of the Mavs' offense; Wade (28 pts) and Shaq (17) accounted for 56 percent of the Heat's points but got no help.

Reds: Win 8th straight (d. Cubs), move .5 G into 1st place
Joe Mauer: 3 hits in W over Twins (batting .379 on season)
Vince Young: Top-selling NFL jersey between April and May
Barry Bonds: Sits out vs. Pirates; to miss entire weekend?
Nick Fazekas: Nevada hoops star will return to college
Annika, Wie: LPGA's top stars both 7 back in LPGA Champ.
Cuban Blogs Finals
In what has to be a sports first, Mavs owner Mark Cuban live-blogged his night during Game 1 of the Finals. Recap/analysis:

5:53 p.m.: "5 p.m."
Describes nervous rush and vows to shoot baskets on Finals floor himself. "I don't care who you are. That's pretty damn cool." (Agreed.)

8:49 p.m.: "30 mins"
"Just got done working out." (OK, perhaps it's just jitters of a pioneering moment in sports media history, but this is kind of boring.)

8:58 p.m.: "1 more thing"
"Hey, this is a business." Calls for readers to get all their friends to watch the game. (But how many readers are checking his blog one minute before game time? Well, besides me.)

10:25 p.m.: "Wow"
"How are we ahead? We have not played well at all." (Aha: Gold! This reads like the message you would text to your friends at halftime of a huge game involving your favorite team.)

1:06 a.m.: "The War, Part 1"
"It feels great to win, but it's just the first move of a chess match." Cuban tells a vague story about cookies and how they use the phrase "on the left" to mean the team notched a victory in the win column.

(Hmm: "On the Left." Could that become the hot phrase of the Finals? I predict you'll see it on a T-shirt worn by Cuban by Sunday.)

Bonds Scandal
While everyone is focused on the fallout of the Jason Grimsley scandal this week, remember that the entire thing seemed to be one big setup to sting Barry Bonds.

Here's one more detail: "Pending criminal proceedings." The lawyer for Bonds' ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, said that's the reason he wouldn't cooperate with MLB's Mitchell Commission.

According to a report in today's New York Times, the feds got in touch with Bell's lawyer and told her not to talk with Mitchell's investigators; they wanted to talk with her more.

And, frankly, you listen to the folks who have the power to throw you in jail, not the ones who are on some ambiguous fact-finding mission for a league about to be crushed by the weight of its own scandals.

Schilling: 9th W
Sox/Yanks Update: Schilling earns his AL-best 9th win on a 4-hitter (3 of them HRs). He is in prime position to start the All-Star Game for the AL; good grief, that would make 8 of 9 starters either Red Sox or Yankees.

Meanwhile, you know it's an ugly year for injuries on the Yankees when "well, at least he won't be out for the entire season" is viewed as a positive development:

Yankees RF Gary Sheffield will be out until September due to the torn ligament in his left wrist; surgery is in the works. (But who's really paying attention, with sensation Melky Cabrera patrolling the outfield?)

Movie Watch: "Cars"
I think we can all agree that, given Pixar's track record, its new release "Cars" (out today) is going to be hugely successful.

But will it be the most successful sports movie of all time?

I guess you have to be willing, as I am, to categorize it as a "sports" movie. It does revolve around stock-car racing, even if it's animated and made for kids (heh: I bet it's more sporty than "Days of Thunder").

The sports-movie bar is low: The top-grossing sports movie of all time is Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy," which comes in at No. 120 ($162 million).

And I use a pretty liberal definition of "sports movie." The next batch? "Longest Yard" (No. 126) and "Jerry Maguire" (No. 135).

In fact, you have to plummet all the way down to No. 229 to find a "traditional" sports movie on the list: "Seabiscuit." I struggled to find 10 sports (or even "sports") movies in the Top 500 of all time.

How am I sure that "Cars" will blow those out of the water?

Of the first six films that Pixar released, five are in the Top 75 in all-time domestic box office. The most recent, "The Incredibles," raked in more than "Seabiscuit" and "Rocky" (No. 244) combined.

(For the record, "Days of Thunder" won't be too tough to eclipse as the highest-grossing auto sports movie ever. "Thunder" ranked No. 432 in box-office sales at $82 million. "Cars" will do that in 48 hours.)

World Cup Picks
Picking up in the 2nd round: Follow the shorthand to see my picks for who advances from each of the 8 first-round groups:

Second Round:
A1 Germany d. B2 Paraguay
C1 Ivory Coast d. D2 Mexico
F2 Australia d. E1 Czech Republic
G1 France d. H2 Ukraine
B1 England d. A2 Poland
C2 Argentina d. D1 Portugal
F1 Brazil d. E2 United States
G2 South Korea d. H1 Spain

Ivory Coast d. Germany
France d. Australia
England d. Argentina
Brazil d. South Korea

Ivory Coast d. France
Brazil d. England

Brazil d. Ivory Coast

Champ: Brazil
Cinderella: Ivory Coast

(Why the Ivory Coast? You can't watch that ESPN TV ad for the World Cup featuring the I.C. with Bono narrating and not put the Elephants on your short list of teams to root for. Watch striker Didier Drogba!)

Terrell Owens:
That's just great: Show up in your courtside seats in your new adopted town WEARING A SHAQ JERSEY. His Mavs cap actually made it WORSE. T.O. is emo-tarded.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
World Cup
Page 2 Index
Best World Cup Nicknames
"Soca Warriors"
Lone highlight for Trinidad/Tobago?
Totally fits those Aussies
"Oath Comrades"
Swiss take it seriously...
Ivory Coast rumbles through
"Little Canaries"
Only "little" about Brazil

Belmont: Between Barbaro being injured and Preakness champ Bernardini not racing, it's a buzzless dud. Pick: Jazil (sounds like "Brazil").

French Open: Let's hope that Nalbandian and Ljubicic don't spoil the Federer-Nadal final everyone wants to see (women's: Double-H vs. Kuznetsova).

Stanley Cup Game 3: With the Oilers reeling, the only thing a viewer can hope for is a wild atmosphere from desperate fans in Edmonton.

Arena Bowl XX: Raise your hand if you can believe that Arena Bowl is up to its 20th edition. This league is legit, my friends (pick: Chicago).

World Cup (WC) Friday Picks: Germany d. Costa Rica (ESPN2, noon ET); Poland d. Ecuador (ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET). Plotline: Host Germans playing without Ballack.

WC Saturday Picks: England d. Paraguay (ABC, 9 a.m. ET); Sweden d. Trin/Tob (ABC, noon ET); Ivory Coast d. Argentina (ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET). Plot: IC stuns ARG!

WC Sunday Picks: Netherlands d. Serb/Mont (ESPN2, 9 a.m. ET); Mexico d. Iran (ABC, 11:30 ET); Portugal d. Angola (ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET). Plot: PORT/ANG has history.

Best ad of last night's Finals TV coverage? The Gatorade ad, with the heads of star players talking trash while melded onto kids' bodies. Creepy, but well done.

Quickie photo credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

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