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Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Extra Point/ESPN Sportsbeat Jan. 1-15, 2003

Davis: She's been to the mountaintop
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (morning):
"Pat Summitt won her 800th game last night, the first women's coach and only the fourth Division I coach -- period -- to win 800. There will be two more joining that club at some point over the next couple of weeks; Bob Knight and Texas women's coach Jody Conradt are just three wins away. Who will reach 800 after that? It's a short list. Summitt got the Tennessee job at age 22. Knight was 24 when he was named head coach at Army. Not many 20-somethings get head-coaching jobs anymore, and those that do start young can be eaten alive by lofty expectations. UCLA's Steve Lavin has been to five Sweet 16s in the last six years yet appears to be on his way out in Westwood, not yet at his 40th birthday. This isn't an endorsement of Lavin, whose program looks to be in disarray. Rather, it's an example to spotlight the resilience and excellence it takes to reach 800 wins. Soon, Knight and Conradt will climb where Summitt stands. We should laud it as a mountaintop experience."
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (afternoon): "Officiating problems have been a major focus of the NFL playoffs, and the league isn't happy about it, but this weekend there is the potential for a bigger black eye for the game. The home teams -- Philadelphia and Oakland -- have some of the most passionate fans in all of football. Few are more supportive, but the flip side is that these two cities have more than their share of fans over the top in their fanaticism, obnoxious fans who cross the line in making things unpleasant for visiting teams and their fans. Now factor in the long Super Bowl drought, and in Philadelphia the Eagles' playing their final game at Veterans Stadium, and you have a volatile mix that could lead to serious behavior problems. Fans will be at a fever pitch, some playing to cameras seeking the wildest and most outrageous displays of emotion in the stands. More than the usual number of fans figures to be drunk, disorderly and out of control, some looking for an excuse to let emotions boil over. A controversial official's call could be such a catalyst. We can only hope the postgame focus will be on the games, not the fans."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "While everyone is waiting for Friday's heavyweight championship between Shaq and Yao Ming, there's a battle of faster weight classes going on tonight that NBA junkies have had circled for months: the Dallas Mavericks at the Sacramento Kings. While the Mavs have the best record, the best team in the league is Sacramento. Now before you folks in the Metroplex get on my case, let me just tell you that pronouncement came from none other than Dallas coach Don Nelson. While this is only one regular-season game out of 82, doing well in Sacramento has to be near the top of Nellie's 'To Do' list. Remember, these are the same Sacramento Kings who blew Dallas right out of the playoffs in five games last year. Mike Bibby got the better of Steve Nash the way he ambushed Jason Kidd last week. If Nash is to be considered among the NBA's elite point guards, he'll have to make a statement against Bibby. In the same vein, the Mavs will have to prove sometime before the end of the spring that they can handle teams like the Kings in an environment like ARCO Arena. This is where they'll find out if they're contenders or pretenders. You can see the Mavs and Kings tonight at 9 Eastern on ESPN.

"Here comes the latest Troy Aikman-comeback rumor. This time it comes from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He tells The Dallas Morning News he would not rule out a comeback by the quarterback-turned-broadcaster. One problem: Jones admitted he has not talked to Aikman. But before you walk away from this one, here's a quote from Aikman: 'If Bill Parcells were to come to my home and tell me how much he wanted me to play, I think it would be worth considering. How could you not at least hear him out?' If Aikman were to come back, someone will have to teach him you've got to be under center to legally spike the football. That's not quite how he and Cris Collinsworth saw it at the end of the 49ers-Giants playoff game when they were ripping everybody under the sun. Meanwhile, as long as Jerry Jones is talking to newspapers, I'm just wondering if Parcells is subscribing."

Scott: Hmmmm ...
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (morning): "
A 17-year-old kid is driving a Humvee -- or 'Hummer' -- and the incriminating jokes begin. Heard them in our own newsroom after my lack of astonishment or condemnation over LeBron James' new wheels. I was even asked, 'Do you think it's right that a 17-year-old kid be driving a "Hummer"?' Actually, yes, I do. I've seen a lot of high-school kids driving expensive Mercedes, BMWs, whatever. Nobody bats an eye, because Mommy and Daddy have money and bought it for them. But in the case of LeBron James, well, Ohio is investigating, because 'an athlete forfeits his or her amateur status by capitalizing on fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value.' So the rush to look into how his mother could afford a $50,000 car. That's the thing. LeBron didn't capitalize on it; his mother did. You don't like it? Tough, but last I heard, a bank can give a loan to anyone they want. So she gets a loan, buys her son a car for his 18th birthday, and people get all worked up about it. Really? I wonder why."
Extra Point -- Bob Picozzi (afternoon): "Exactly who was it who suggested that variety is the spice of life? Wonder if he or she was a sports fan. Wasn't it a nice change of pace to see different teams in the World Series as opposed to the NBA, where only seven different teams have won championships in the last 23 years. Two of the seven have combined to win 14 of those 23 titles, which is why it's sort of fun to watch how this NFL postseason is playing out. Let's examine the final four. The Raiders have not been in a Super Bowl for the last 18 years. This is the Buccaneers' 27th season in the league. The next Super Bowl they play in will be the first one they play in. The Titans did play in a Super Bowl only three years ago, but it's been 41 years since this franchise won a championship. The Eagles played in a Super Bowl 22 years ago, but it's been 42 years since they won a championship. No matter how this season ends, one of these cities is going to exorcise its share of demons in 12 days." SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Don't look now, but the Los Angeles Lakers are awakening from their champagne-induced sleep. The defending champs have won four in a row, their longest streak of success this season. Even though they began the season with nine losses in their first dozen games, they find themselves only three games under what was once thought to be the unreachable threshold of .500. Folks, at the rate Shaq and Kobe are going now, they could find themselves playoff eligible before the Super Bowl. The Lakers are out on the road now with the first stop being tomorrow night in New Orleans. Then comes the ballyhooed 'Shaq versus Yao Ming' game in Houston Friday night on ESPN. Folks, just when you thought it was safe to say 'L.A.,' the Lakers are back.

"Even though they buried their cold-weather curse on a 35-degree night in Champaign, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still a field-goal underdog this Sunday when they visit Philadelphia on Sunday for the NFC Championship. But these Bucs impressed me Sunday in their win over San Francisco, especially their receivers. Keyshawn Johnson remains the ringleader, but Joe Jurevicius is becoming a fine target for Brad Johnson, and Ken Dilger is a talented tight-end target. But remember, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor and Brian Dawkins are the nucleus of a talent and physical Philadelphia secondary. That's the matchup that will decide the NFC championship. Meanwhile, you can make a lot of money on the Oakland Raiders. I'm talking T-shirts, folks. I'd love to market one in the Bay Area that says 'Remember "The Tuck."' That's because this team is clearly on a mission to erase the memory of what they feel was a snow job in Foxboro. More to the point, though, Rich Gannon is calm, experienced and healthy, and that's a lethal combination when a quarterback starts down the Super Bowl trail. The Titans' Steve McNair has guts, but he's not healthy, and if he asks the likes of recent visitors Trent Green and Chad Pennington, he'll find out 'The Black Hole' is not exactly a luxury resort for visiting QBs."

Wingo: Young and the rested
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning):
"The point of every NFL season should not be to get into the playoffs. The point should be to spend as little time as possible playing in the postseason once you get there. Case in point: What did we learn over the weekend when the Titans, Eagles, Bucs and Raiders all advanced to the conference championships? That the single most important thing in the world when it comes to playoff football is rest, down time, idle days to heal. All four teams playing for a trip to San Diego had a first-round bye in the playoffs. A bye might be the most wonderful word in the NFL language. It gives broken ankles more time to heal, Donovan McNabb. It makes a season of pain easier to bear, Steve McNair. And it makes old guys look young again, any one of 30 Oakland Raiders. True, anything is possible in the NFL postseason. We've had Music City Miracles, Immaculate Receptions, Hail Marys and The Catch, but lately, there's one real catch to doing well in the playoffs: have a bye week. Otherwise, it'll just be bye-bye before the big bowl."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "We hear every day it seems about this or that athlete breaking the law in one way or another. Drunk driving, drug abuse, domestic assault -- the whole nine yards. The stories are always ugly and, in most cases, leave a bad taste. So let's take a moment to compliment four basketball players for their conduct off the court. Loree Payne, Giuliana Mendiola, her sister Gioconda Mendiola and Nicole Castro. They became genuine heroes on New Year's Eve when they saved the life of their Washington teammate, Kayla Burt. They were sleeping over at Burt's apartment prior to a morning practice on New Year's Day when a rare abnormality in Kayla's heart suddenly revealed itself. She died, frankly, but her four teammates would have none of that. They worked and worked hard, performing CPR and mouth-to-mouth. No pulse, but they kept after it for more than five minutes before paramedics arrived and shocked the sophomore back to life. Kayla Burt's basketball career is over, but she has her life thanks to four heroes on the Washington Huskies. Personally, I'll take that final four.
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "For the second weekend in a row, there's crying in football. Crying about the refs. Instead of fans in New York looking for another flag, it's fans in Pittsburgh saying there was one too many. On top of that, you have a lynch mob of writers who screamed bloody murder when referee Ron Blum turned on his microphone and said he wasn't sure if an earlier play in Saturday's Titans-Steelers game was subject to review. Let me say up front that I agree with Dan Dierdorf, that is was refreshing for an official to say he was not sure, but he would check on it. For years I've heard football people cry and moan about all they want from any officiating involving instant replay is to get it right. It seems to me that's exactly what referee Blum did, was go get it right. And he GOT it right. And he also got it right at the end of the game, when he threw a flag on Pittsburgh's Dewayne Washington for roughing kicker Joe Nedney. But because it was at the end of a playoff game, I guess some writers just wanted Blum to disappear.

"Never mind refs throwing flags late in playoff games. There's a larger problem the NFL has to solve, and that's the blatant unfairness of its overtime rule. I admit a bias, but I love what the colleges do. If you don't believe me, consider how much gut-wrenching entertainment you experienced the night of double overtime between Ohio State and Miami. The Pittsburgh Steelers should have been allowed an opportunity to either kick a tying field goal and force a second overtime or win it with a touchdown. There is absolutely no reason for the NFL to continue rewarding teams who simply win a coin flip. If there's any place the print media's pack mentality should be directed, it's there, not at the referees, who are only human. Oh, one question: Have you seen a playoff game yet this year where the referees made more mistakes than the players? I didn't think so."

Wilson: The unexpected
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning):
"By now I should be smart enough to expect the unexpected in the NFL. After all, how could anyone have predicted last weekend's outcomes? The way the 49ers and Steelers came from behind was straight out of an ESPN "Instant Classic." It's fitting that ESPN Classic tonight is re-airing the Miami-Ohio State college national championship game. The NFL seems to be churning out such nail biters, but despite the arguments you can make for the Steelers, Falcons, 49ers and Jets, winning on the road against rested teams has proved to be difficult. Home teams in the divisional round are 39-9 since 1990. We tend to be overly influenced by how teams look during wild-card weekend. Teams impress us, and we expect them to play well the following week. We forget the No. 1 and 2 seeds that earned the week off. Take the Jets. Everybody seems to be jumping on their bandwagon. Yes, they've played well, but their recent opponents have had a lot to do with making the Jets look dominant. This has been anything but a chalk season, but from here, the four teams coming off the bye week look like winners."

Cohn: Bear with me
Extra Point Commentary -- A.M. Linda Cohn:
"I think I'm finally over it. Heck, I know you don't want to hear from another Giants fan, but the following 55 seconds will be the final stage of my therapy. You have to understand I have rooted for the Giants since I was ten. Trust me that was along time ago. To see them self-destruct on defense was gut wrenching and embarrassing. Especially to Michael Strahan, who's 14 million dollar a year salary didn't become an issue to Giants fans, until now. But what I found the most mystifying, why the Giants coaxed a forty-one year old long snapper out of retirement in Trey Junkin. Why put a player in such a big spot, in the biggest game of the year when he hasn't been with the team all season long. I feel sorry for Junkin the most. He goes back into retirement, wishing he'd never come out of it. Thanks to the officiating, no second chance for that second attempt at a game winning kick. Instead, the Giants D and coaching staff were left kicking themselves, that's if they got the snap and hold down. I'm moving on with my life."
Extra Point Commentary -- P.M. John Anderson: "Here's a reminder: Referees make mistakes. Sometimes they're small ones in small games... sometimes they're big ones in big games. It's part of that whole we're all human thing. The Giants field goal was a bad call... but not as bad as blowing a 24 point lead. The Packers un-reviewed fumbled punt... lets review the fact Green Bay was getting hammered already. Miami pass interference.... maybe/maybe not... but it had nothing to do with the 'Canes failure to convert first and goal from the two. The list of missed or mangled calls didn't just start last weekend... blaming officials is the easiest and oldest cop out in sports. 'Game 6 85 World Series Cards - Royals... '65 Western Conference Championship game Packers - Colts... most anything involving John McEnroe, boxing or the major league strike zone. Funny thing about ref bashing is though... its all a colossal waste of time because it never changes the outcome of a game, it only changes you -- and a bitter fan is not a better person. Lets us now consider this subject... officially closed."
Sportbeat Brent Musburger: "As we look ahead to this weekend's playoff games-an observation from over 40 years of watching the NFL. Simply stated, a league that for years embraced the philosophy of "Run First, Pass Second" has evolved into "Pass First, Run Second", and the quarterbacks and coaches who are most able to excel on that front are the ones who will successfully move on. To that end, it says here that if the underdog Pittsburgh Steelers are to pull off a win Saturday in Tennessee, coach Bill Cowher MUST unleash quarterback Tommy Maddox and take advantage of one of the best groups of wide receivers in the game-Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El and that great big target in Plaxico Burress. No question the Titans, who are the 4-point favorites in this game, enjoy the edge at quarterback in this one. Steve McNair is the far superior athlete and had himself an MVP-caliber season. But McNair does not have the weapons in the passing game that Maddox does, and that is where Cowher must take advantage. The question is, will he? Cowher is by nature a conservative coach, sometimes too conservative for his own good."

"When it comes to game-day coaches, Philadelphia's Andy Reid is one of the best in the business, and his Eagles are a touchdown favorite at home over the Falcons Saturday night. But before you write Atlanta off, consider that Philly's Donovan McNabb will be playing his first game at quarterback in nearly two months-taking snaps in practice and taking them on game day can be two different things. Also consider the quarterback on the OTHER side of the field. Not only is Michael Vick the NFL's single most exciting player, he is its single biggest difference maker. Already, Vick is arguably the greatest running quarterback in the history of the league, and that running ability can be a big factor late in the game when a tired defense-even one as good as Philly's-tries to keep up with him while still respecting his cannon arm. Vick is the X-Factor here, and any time he's on the field, his team has a shot."

Davis: Hall monitor
Extra Point Commentary A.M. -- Rece Davis
: "Gary Carter screamed. Eddie Murray's response to his election to the hall of fame was far more reserved. It's just what you'd expect. Carter never met a microphone he couldn't charm and Murray rarely met one period. But the circumstances were far different yesterday. The day of Murray's greatest personal triumph was also a day of great personal loss. On the day Murray was given a pass to baseball immortality he also received a painful reminder of how mortal we all are. Murray attended his sister's funeral yesterday. She lost a battle with kidney disease. It's under such circumstances that we put things in "perspective". Sports often take themselves too seriously. Halls of fame should be respected and cherished. They're cathedrals, but cathedrals for society's toy stores. Games don't have integrity, people do, even if Pete Rose compromised his in the "toy store" he earned his spot in the cathedral. It's a game, not life and death. Just ask Eddie Murray"
Extra Point Commentary P.M. -- Jeremy Schaap: "Eddie Murray, whose Hall of Fame selection was announced yesterday, never came close to hitting forty home runs in a season. In fact, he never hit more than thirty-three, which these days would make him as threatening as your average middle infielder. Of the seventeen players with at least five hundred career home runs, Murray is the only one who never hit forty home runs in a season. Next to Murray's thirty-three, Mel Ott's forty-two is the lowest single-season personal best among those players who've hit at least five hundred home runs. Of the thirty-four players with at least four hundred home runs, only five, including Murray, never hit as many as forty home runs in a season. Of the twenty-five players with at least three thousand career hits, only four never had two hundred hits in a season, including Murray, whose best was one hundred and eighty-six. This means simply that no one in the history of baseball accumulated more spectacular career statistics with fewer spectacular seasons than Eddie Murray."
Sportsbeat -- Brent Musburger: "Before we dive back into the NFL playoffs, how about a standing ovation for Lakers star Kobe Bryant. In case you missed it last night, Bryant set an NBA record with 12-count' em-12 three-pointers in the Lakers win over the Seattle Sonics. At one point in the game, Bryant sank nine three-pointers IN A ROW. Folks, prior to last night, Bryant had never made as many as FIVE in one game!! Pretty impressive. And bottom feeders take note-the Lakers are now only 5 games below .500, though it's still a long way back to the top of the Pacific Division, where Sacramento still leads L.A. by 11 games. And speaking of the Kings, they have a dynamite game tomorrow night in New Jersey, where the Nets are riding a 10-game winning streak. NBA Finals preview??? Perhaps."

"If you suspect that we're like a lot of folks in thinking that the New York Jets can be this year's New England Patriots-well, OK, you got us, Columbo. Still, there ARE a couple of differences, the biggest being that unlike last year's champs, the Jets will have to win not one, but TWO games on the road in order to reach The Super Bowl. But unlike the Patriots, the Jets offense can score a lot of points behind upstart quarterback Chad Pennington. For that reason, we give the Jets a shot this weekend in Oakland, where the Raiders are the 5-and-a-half point favorite. The Jets have quick wide receivers and remember this about the Oakland secondary-it is so banged up that just a few weeks ago, the Raiders considered luring a certain Past-His-Prime Time you-know-who out of retirement to suit up at cornerback. New York could make some hay thru the air, and don't forget about their terrific special teams. Also, with this being the Jets' fourth game at Oakland in little more than a year, they don't figure to be rattled by another trip into The Black Hole. But if coach Herman Edwards is to truly-HELLO, play to win THE GAME-he will have to figure out a way to get the Oakland offense off the field, and so far, the Jets defense has yet to do that. The Jet D may not give up the big play, but MVP quarterback Rich Gannon can still dink and dunk Gang Green to death with Tim Brown, Jerry Porter, Jerry Rice and perhaps the biggest matchup problem for the Jets-Charlie Garner out of the backfield. Should be a good one with lots of points on the board."

Wilson: Junkin a stand-up guy
Extra Point Commentary A.M. -- Chuck Wilson
: "In a world where pointing fingers and blaming others has become an art form, kudos go out to Trey Junkin, who came out of retirement for the NY Giants only to make a poor snap on the game-winning field goal attempt at San Francisco. He blamed himself for the loss, though the league later said offsetting penalties should have given the Giants another chance. Cleveland Browns receiver Dennis Northcutt offered no excuses for letting a potential game-clinching pass go through his hands late in Cleveland's loss at Pittsburgh. And Colts quarterback Peyton Manning didn't lament the lack of a running game or the half dozen drops by his receivers in his team's loss to the Jets. He took responsibility for his own poor play. It's what you do when you're a leader. That brings us to Giants' "look at me" tight end Jeremy Shockey, who fires up the opposition as much as he does his own team. For all his skill and toughness, he'd better understand that his continual taunting of opponents comes with a price tag -- a higher level of personal accountability and a lower level of tolerance for dropped passes."
Extra Point Commentary P.M. -- Stuart Scott: "Whew dog! What a convoluted, bizarre, emotionally draining weekend of sports. O.K. let's recap. In the National Title game, the holder bobbles the snap allowing Mike Vick to give the Steelers their 1st ever playoff loss at the Meadowlands. Wait. That ain't right. No, it was the National Title game, and Dennis Northcutt dropped what would have been a game-saving 3rd down conversion. No, that ain't right either and it wasn't the Steelers first playoff loss at the Meadowlands. It was the Packers 1st playoff where? Wasn't it a pass interference call in the National Title game that allowed the Buckeyes to record the second biggest playoff comeback ever? No, wait it was the Niners second biggest postseason comeback against the Giants. It was pass interference in the national title game, Ohio State won that. It was the bad snap in the Giants game then a bad call by the officials. It was Vick who beat the Packers at Lambeau, it was the Steelers that came back to beat the Browns, it was wild and I'm drained."
Sportsbeat Brent Musburger: "It's Tuesday, but our heads are STILL spinning over that wild, wild finish in San Francisco over the weekend. And after sifting through all of the Gotham headlines about blown snaps, blown holds, and blown calls, our message to Giants coach Jim Fassel is this-NO MORE EXCUSES. It is time for Fassel to stand up and take the blame himself for this entire mess. When Fassel sent out his field goal unit with six seconds left and a playoff game on the line, it was the responsibility of the coach and his staff to RIGHT THERE AND THEN remind every player on the unit of the game situation -- third down with a timeout remaining -- and to inform the players of their options should the kick break down. Especially when you consider how bad the unit looked on the previous field goal attempt. And yes, the NFL has come out and admitted the officials blew the final play by not calling an offsetting pass interference penalty on an eligible receiver. But folks, it wasn't just the officials and the Fox announcers who appeared a little confused. Where was Fassel? Why didn't he or his coaches start screaming about the rules and how the Giants were entitled to another field goal attempt? Fassel claims there was too much chaos at the game's end to get a hold of the officials and to get everyone back on the field, but recent history tells us there is precedent for bringing players back on to the field after a rules clarification-happened two years ago on Christmas Eve in New England between the Pats and Dolphins, who correctly got off one more play 35 minutes after heading inside. Seems to us the Giants' coaches should have been much more on top of things than they were."

"Since 1990, teams with first-round playoff byes are 39-9 in the second round. So it's no secret why all four home teams are favored this weekend. Tennessee a 4-point choice over Pittsburgh, Philly a 7-and-a-half point favorite over Atlanta, Tampa a 5-point favorite over San Francisco and Oakland a 5-and-a-half point pick over the New York Jets. And as for THAT Jets-Raiders game -- circle it on your weekend planner. It is shaping up to be the event of the weekend."

Wingo: Painful lesson
Extra Point (A.M.) Trey Wingo:
I have two words for everyone who doesn't think big time collegiate athletes should be paid. Those two words are, Willis McGahee. The absolutely crushing that McGahee took on his left knee during the Fiesta Bowl is exhibit "A" why people that GENERATE money, should receive some of it. Before the injury, McGahee was destined for the NFL next year, a first rounder and millionaire in the waiting. Now, who the heck knows. Sunday 2 of the 3 damaged ligaments in his knee were repaired and the doctor who performed the surgery said.. "Willis tolerated the procedure very well." TOLERATED? The damage to his knee so severe he may not even play at all next year for Miami. You can forget the draft, and when he is healed and he does eventually turn pro. The questions will be there. Is he the same? Can he be what he once was? The millions lost in the 2 years of pro ball denied him by the injury can never be made up. College football is a great game but it's a bigger business. The men toting most of the load are getting none of the payout."
Extra Point (P.M.) Dan Davis: "There are lots of people responsible for both of yesterday's sensational comeback playoff victories by the Steelers and the 49ers. In case you somehow missed it...the Steelers rallied from a 33-21 deficit with 3 1/2 minutes to go and beat the Browns. Then the 49ers topped that...coming back from a 38-14 deficit with 4 1/2 minutes to go in the third quarter to beat the Giants. Center Trey Junkin, talked out of retirement by the Giants to cure one of their MANY special teams problems, made a bad snap on a game winning field goal try at the end and blamed the whole mess on himself. But he, and most NFL coaches miss the boat. The problem in those two games, just as in so many NFL contests over the years is the so called prevent defense! In fact, in both games Sunday...the team that rallied from way back against the prevent defense to take the lead...then almost blew it when THEY played the prevent defense. The Browns got to the 29 when time ran out. Giants to the 23. It's still the prevent VICTORY defense. Coaching geniuses should come up with something better."
Sportsbeat -- Brent Musburger: "In South Florida, there is good news and bad news surrounding Miami Hurricanes running back Willis McGahee, the sophomore sensation who suffered that horrific knee injury in the Canes Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State Friday night. The good news-doctors are optimistic about McGahee's recovery, as he needed repair on TWO and NOT THREE major ligaments as was initially feared prior to Sunday's 4-hour surgery. The bad news-do not look for McGahee on the football field next year. Still, there is every reason to believe the Heisman Trophy finalist CAN return to the game. Meanwhile, the Canes and their fans are still in stunned disbelief over having their victory celebration in the national championship game interrupted by that late penalty flag in the first overtime. Even Governor Jeb Bush has chimed in by saying, "It was a bad call in the end zone, but that's the way life works. Ohio State played a heckuva game." Hearing that quote, one has to wonder what New York governor George Pataki is thinking this morning about the Giants shocking playoff loss to the 49ers yesterday afternoon."

"It would be easy to blame the Giants mind-boggling collapse to the 49ers on two bad snaps and a bad hold as coach Jim Fassel did immediately after his team's debacle was complete. But several others cases of brainlock contributed to the Giants freefall, including one from the coach himself. As always, folks, hindsight is 20/20, but it says here Fassel made a major gamble when-with 3 minutes to play and his team up 5-he sent unproven Matt Bryant out to kick a 42-yard field goal on 4th and 1, a kick that Bryant missed badly. The Giants should have buckled up their chinstraps and gone for the first down or punted and pinned the Niners inside their own 20. Instead, San Fran got exactly what it needed at that spot in the game-great field position to start their final touchdown drive.

"One other point-you may remember how earlier in the year we tabbed Terrell Owens as the NFC's most valuable player. A lot of you may have scoffed, but Owens' playoff performance yesterday more than backed up that claim-in the NFC, Terrell Owens is without equal as both a wide receiver AND a team leader."

Wilson: Carrying that wait
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning):
"The one drawback to college football's bowl setup is that teams wait so many weeks from the end of the regular season until their bowl game. It's not easy to stay sharp. You hope both teams will play the way they did during the regular season, but often, the great matchup on paper doesn't materialize. Take last night's Orange Bowl. Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer and the USC Trojans played better and better as the game progressed, but the Iowa Hawkeyes never got untracked despite returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Heisman runner-up Brad Banks was out of sync all night, and it ended up being a blowout, a tough way for Iowa to end the season. As an athlete, you accept that wins and losses are not directly under your control. What you can control is how you perform. That's why it's easier for teams to deal with the hurt when they play well and lose than when they play poorly and don't give themselves a chance to win. It's the difference between being beaten and losing, and to an athlete, it makes all the difference in the world."
Extra Point -- John Anderson (afternoon): "Somewhere in South Florida, Jimmy Johnson is grinning -- or at least he should be. Jerry Jones' hiring of Bill Parcells pretty much validates just how important Johnson was to the Cowboys' Super Bowl success. The smiles and spin job Jones produced at the Parcells press conference Thursday was a well-choreographed confession that 'J.J.' is not the GM and personnel expert he so desperately wants us to believe he is. No shame in that; Jones is a tremendous businessman and knows how to make more money that most of us in his sleep. But when it comes to the Cowboy production on the field, he needed help. Johnson built a powerhouse program that began to erode under Switzer, fall apart under Gailey and eventually collapsed under Campo. Jones, for all his best efforts and sideline visits, couldn't put it back together. So with attendance sagging, luxury-box leases expiring and interest waning without wins, Jones did what he had to do: put aside his ego, swallow some pride and hire Parcells -- a true football man."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger from New York (afternoon): "The most unlikely participant in this year's NFL playoffs will host tomorrow afternoon's game across the river at the Meadowlands. In early October, the New York Jets sat 1-4. Fans here who weren't obsessing over the Yankees' plight in the playoffs might have been thinking 'Here we go again.' Eventually, coach Herman Edwards got everyone's attention, especially his team's. At an emotional news conference, he vowed the Jets would never quit on a season-gone-bad. Folks, Edwards was true to his word, and emotion aside, it's no coincidence things turned around when quarterback Chad Pennington had settled in as a starter. He may not have the numbers to get the award, but I defy you to find a more valuable player on any team. Conversely, we have to wonder why Indy's Peyton Manning has not lived up to his elevated expectations. Despite more than 20,000 yards passing in five seasons, he has yet to win a playoff game. It certainly won't be easy tomorrow. Peyton and the Colts must face an efficient quarterback who takes care of the ball, a confident squad riding a lot of emotion and a hostile crowd in a stadium where the field will be anything but fast. Gary Danielson and I will have the Colts and Jets tomorrow at 4:30 Eastern on ABC.

"Brett Favre will be in his element tomorrow. Or should we say his elements? Can you think of a better home-field advantage than Green Bay-Wisconsin at night in January? Michael Vick better trade those track shoes for some speed skate as the Packers host Atlanta. Favre better enjoy this while he can, because it's unlikely he'll see this kind of tundra the rest of the postseason, and he hasn't looked all that effective when the refrigerator door is closed. You'll see the Pack and the Falcons tomorrow at 8 Eastern on ABC."

Wingo: McNair's bravery
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning):
"Here we go again, trying to define the meaning of the word 'value.' Rich Gannon of the Raiders certainly put up some amazing numbers en route to winning this year's NFL MVP Award, and it's fun to watch him go through a progression of 3,479 reads behind an offensive line built essentially of 350-pound titanium man-flesh, but when you have Brown, Rice, Porter, Wheatley and Garner to work with, you've got an advantage -- a big one. Can you even name the starting receivers that Steve McNair throws to every week? Did you know that for over a month McNair's body was so beat up that he didn't take a single snap of practice and yet somehow managed to lead the team to 10 wins in their last 11 games and set a franchise record by throwing touchdown passes in 23 straight games, by far the longest active streak before it ended against the ravens? So what constitutes value? Give me a guy with the guts to lay his body on the line every week. Every time. Steve McNair is the definition of the term 'Most Valuable Player.'"
Extra Point -- Bob Picozzi (afternoon): "So are you all bowled out yet? Hang in there. Only two to go, including the big one tomorrow night in the desert. One observation I have following a long day of intense channel surfing: Tyrone Willingham deserves all of the credit in the world for the remarkable turnaround in his first season at Notre Dame, but his team, which lost to North Carolina State yesterday in the Gator Bowl, looked remarkably similar to the Bob Davie-coached Fighting Irish team, which was humiliated by Oregon State two years ago in the Fiesta Bowl. And when you consider the way Notre Dame finished its season -- getting blown out 44-13 by USC and then 28-6 by N.C. State -- the Irish certainly looked like a team which had not played a game in 32 days. But the Wolfpack hadn't played one in 39 days. The echoes may have been awakened this season in South Bend, but they apparently fell back asleep after their Thanksgiving dinner."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "It's been two years in the making. The defending-champion Miami Hurricanes, who've won every game in two seasons under Larry Coker, meet the unbeaten Ohio State Buckeyes for all the Tostitos tomorrow in the Fiesta Bowl. Here's how the 'Canes can roll to their second consecutive national title: First, quarterback Ken Dorsey goes early and often to wide receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson was a star against Nebraska in last year's title game. Conversely, the Buckeye corners are the weak link on an otherwise talented defensive unit. If the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Johnson matches up with 6-foot, 190-pound sophomore Dustin Fox, Johnson has a huge size and speed advantage. The Bucks' other corner, sophomore Chris Gamble, matches Johnson's size and speed, but his lack of experience in covering pro-style passing attacks leaves him vulnerable to the deep ball. The second thing in Miami's favor is running back Willis McGahee. Once Dorsey establishes the passing game, daylight will be opened for McGahee. Speed kills, and it's the key to the Miami Hurricanes' success. Ohio State's chances against Miami in tomorrow night's Fiesta Bowl hinge on young running back Maurice Clarett. The Buckeyes need to dominate time of possession with Clarett running for more than 100 yards. Then quarterback Craig Krenzel must complete the eight- and 10-yard pass continually to keep the Bucks driving. Kicker Mike Nugent must hit the 40- to 45-yard field goal when he's presented the opportunity. Capable punter Andy Groom must keep the 'Canes bottled up on their end of the field. There is no margin for error. If the game turns into one of field position and limited opportunities, the Buckeyes must play a mistake-free game to stand a chance against the 'Canes. You can see the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl tomorrow night at 8 Eastern on ABC, and you can hear it live on ESPN Radio."

Davis: Children of the resolution
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (morning):
"First day of a new year; time to make those resolutions. Always willing to help, I'm here to offer a few suggestions on how people can make 2003 a little brighter for everyone. Allen Iverson should resolve to like practice like he plays; yeah, we're talking about practice. Jerry Jones should pledge to give his team a facelift, and leave his face alone, already. Commercial makers should promise to never put ALF on TV again. The Yankees resolve that the new labor agreement won't keep them from throwing cash willy-nilly at rising stars from across the globe. See how easy it is to keep these resolutions. Mike Davis should staple his pants to his chair when Indiana plays for Kentucky. Dirk Nowitzki resolves to get a haircut -- and take Steve Nash with him. Chris Rix vows to never hit the snooze button. As for me, my resolution for 2003 is to work on my own faults and stop nitpicking and making fun of others' shortcomings. Nah. That's no fun."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Funny how things can change in the wonderful world of sports. When Baby 2002 was introduced to this world a year ago, signs pointed to Bill Parcells ending his coaching retirement and taking a lucrative deal to guide the fortunes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But it was a pump fake. Parcells pulled it back in and spent the year dealing with personal matters. Jon Gruden took the Bucs job and made folks in Tampa forget 'The Tuna' right away. Now here he is again, re-emerging in the NFL as the sixth coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Recall, if you will, Parcells' last time in the Super Bowl. He prepared the Patriots with one eye on the playbook and the other on the real-estate listings, because he knew he was getting out from under Bob Kraft to coach the Jets. Parcells smugly said if he was going to cook the meal, he ought to be able to shop for some of the groceries. Now really, how on earth is this self-absorbed man going to get along in Dallas with the game's No. 1 chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Jerry Jones. They should shop for furniture and set them up an office at South Fork."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger from Pasadena, Calif. (afternoon): "While Oklahoma and Washington State are slugging it out here at the Rose Bowl, we'll look ahead to a pair of games that will define the conclusion of the college football season. Friday night at Tempe, it's Miami and Ohio State playing for all the Tostitos in the Fiesta Bowl -- two unbeatens in an obvious matchup for the national championship. But the other glamour game will be played tomorrow at the FedEx Orange Bowl -- or perhaps it should be entitled the 'FedEx Rose Bowl East' -- Iowa against USC. We can argue all night whether these two should have been playing here in California, but it won't alter the fact they're meeting in Miami. The wise guys will tell you that favored USC has absolutely no shot tomorrow night against Iowa. The Trojans, they say, will fall on their sword. Why? Because quarterback Carson Palmer jinxed USC's chances by winning the Heisman Trophy. Heisman winners traditionally go in the tank in their bowl games. You want proof? Last year Eric Crouch and Nebraska were buried here by Miami in the BCS title game here in Pasadena. You want more proof? Two years ago Chris Weinke and Florida State couldn't even score a touchdown against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, again in the BCS title game. With some exceptions, such as Wisconsin's Ron Dayne here in Pasadena three years ago, the list of Heisman disasters in bowl games goes on and on and on. You get the point. This matchup, though, has an interesting wrinkle. The quarterback who chased Carson Palmer to the Heisman finish line -- Iowa's Brad Banks -- will be across the way at Pro Player Stadium. Is that an antidote to the Heisman jinx? Don't know, but we'll find out soon enough. You can see Iowa and U-S-C tomorrow night at 8 Eastern on ABC, and it'll also be here on ESPN Radio."