Tuesday, November 4, 2003
Extra Point/ESPN Sportsbeat Oct. 15-31, 2003
Here's the text of commentaries heard regularly on ESPNRadio:
Cohn: A day for scare tactics
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2003
Extra Point -- Linda Cohn (morning): "Happy Halloween. Since today marks a day that is associated with, among other things, being frightened, here's a list of what scares me in sports at the moment: The thought of a Super Bowl at a cold-weather site. The money Red Sox slugger Manny Ramírez makes; so much that even the Yankees, runaway owners of the highest payroll in baseball, want no part of the combustible Ramírez and his eye-popping salary that's left on his contract. What would happen to the NBA if LeBron James suffered a -- dare I say? -- season-ending injury. It's scary to think about what's going to happen to Falcons coach Dan Reeves after basically telling his franchise quarterback Michael Vick that 16 weeks is too long for his rehab of a broken leg. And I'll be spooked if Oklahoma State shocks Oklahoma for a third straight season. In Norman they'll go, 'Boo,' then cry, 'Boohoo.' Trick or treat."
Extra Point -- Chris Fowler (afternoon): "Forget the BCS, the standings and the formula for just a second. Throw out all the 21st-century, college football kind of stuff, and you know what? Games like Oklahoma State-Oklahoma, Michigan State-Michigan, Georgia-Florida, USC-Washington State, Miami-Virginia Tech, Florida State-Notre Dame, Nebraska-Texas? Those games would still mean just as much to the players and coaches. What I love about 'Survival Saturday' is that the motives go back to the time of cavemen. Motives like pride and revenge and territorial supremacy plus others that were popularized by Rome in the last few thousand years like redemption and atonement. Then when you add on all the BCS implications -- the fact that fans of Georgia and Florida State and 'Wazzou' and USC suddenly become huge fans of teams like Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech -- you certainly have added intrigue this Saturday. And for all you folks who root for chaos in the BCS, well, you're just one loss by the Sooners or Hurricanes away. So sit back, and enjoy 'Survival Saturday.'"
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger from East Lansing, Mich. (afternoon): "It seems like 'S' words get thrown around every weekend. 'Separation Saturday.' 'Showdown Saturday.' Tomorrow we have a word that might really fit as we look forward to 'Survival Saturday.' Let's start at the top of the BCS standings with Oklahoma, which plays host to once-beaten Oklahoma State in their annual 'Bedlam' game. This has been the trouble spot for the Sooners the last two years, so that's why I was somewhat surprised to see Oklahoma installed as a 16-point favorite. Then again, the game is in Norman, and this is as good a defensive team as I've seen in the last decade. To get to 9-0, the Sooners must deal with the Cowboys' big two -- wide receiver Rashaun Woods and running back Tatum Bell. If that happens, and if quarterback Jason White plays the way he has all year, just ship that Heisman Trophy to Norman right now.
"As for the other major unbeaten, Miami faces a rugged trip to Virginia Tech. Now if the Hokies weren't thinking so much about this confrontation, they might not have lost last Thursday at West Virginia. Now there are nine other teams with only one loss pulling hard for Bryan Randall and Kevin Jones to regain the poise they lost at Morgantown and pull off the upset. You can see the 'Canes and Hokies tomorrow night at 7:45 Eastern on ESPN.
"Florida State is ranked No. 3 in the BCS, and it's pulling hard for a trifecta tomorrow. The 'Noles must take care of business in South Bend against Notre Dame, but they would dearly love for Washington State to upset USC in L.A., and they're also hoping for arch-rival Florida to stop Georgia in Jacksonville. Such a result would make the season-ending 'Noles-Gators game more valuable in the BCS standings.
"Here in the Big Ten, Michigan State is the surprise leader, but the Spartans are an underdog at home against a rebounding Michigan team. If the Wolverines win here tomorrow, they control the chase for the Rose Bowl, including a season-ending home game against Ohio State."
McKendry: Time for Fatso, Ball Hog to grow up
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris McKendry (morning): "Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal should both shut up, but Lord, I hope they don't. 'You're a fatso.' 'You're a ball hog.' I haven't heard insults like these since JV ball in high school, and I went to an all-girls school, mind you. What is it with these two? Ah, who cares? On par with Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner, their sparring is so personal and unprofessional, it's shockingly entertaining. They're fighting over whose team the Lakers are? News flash: On the day they were running their mouths, Tim Duncan was quietly receiving his championship ring. Whatever. Not my problem. In an age of robo-athletes, canned remarks, and locker-room secrets, I'm glad these two are airing it out. It's funny and makes my job interesting. I know it's selfish of me, but they were selfish first. See how easy it is to act like a schoolgirl? Growing up, guys, is the hard part."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "What on earth is the big hurry about activating Willis McGahee this season? Is his presence going to transform the Buffalo Bills into a Super Bowl team? Not likely. Actually, his presence on an NFL field in an NFL game only 10 months removed from major, knee reconstruction would be frightening, pure and simple -- and so unnecessary. The Bills say he has steadily improved in his two weeks of practice with the team. So what? He, of course, badly wants to contribute now. So what? If ever there has been a situation that cries out 'better safe than sorry,' this is it. Just ask this one question: Is the future of Willis McGahee as a Buffalo Bill better served by playing him in 2003 or by holding him out until 2004? Just because he might be able to play this season does not make it the right call. Somebody in the Buffalo Bills organization needs to exercise some judgment here."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "One of the most ridiculous and overused words on the American sporting scene is 'controversy.' Here in South Florida, I've been hearing and reading that suddenly, there's a quarterback 'controversy' with the Miami Dolphins. Folks, I looked up 'controversy,' and according to my dictionary, it is 'a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views.' What that tells me is that you have to have at least two sides to an issue to have any kind of controversy. So far, I can't find anybody here who thinks a healed Jay Fiedler should start ahead of Brian Griese. Griese stepped in Monday night, threw a touchdown pass with his first throw as a Dolphin, completed 13 of his first 14 passes and had the offense humming in a 26-10 victory over the distracted Chargers. As a matter of fact, Brian's debut with the Dolphins was a heck of a lot better than daddy Bob's. Like I said right now, folks, there's no controversy. For the time being, he's beaten out Fiedler on merit, and Brian Griese should be at the helm when the Dolphins host Indianapolis on Sunday.
"Couch. Holcomb. The mere mention of these two names is tearing the Cleveland Browns apart. While Cleveland rocks, Butch Davis rolls along, making decisions like he's Hamlet. An entire franchise swings back and forth depending on which one throws an interception in his last series. Butch ought to know you cannot run an NFL team without a clear-cut, number-one quarterback. Just ask Mike Martz in St. Louis. Martz finally got around to anointing Marc Bulger and sticking with him, leaving former MVP Kurt Warner to stand on the sidelines while his wife decides which radio talk show to call next. Now all the Rams do these days is win. Maybe the 3-5 Browns should spend this bye week taking a lesson from the Rams, especially since they have to come back next week against 8-0 Kansas City. If he can't make up his mind about Couch and Holcomb, Butch Davis might find that the odd man out will be Butch Davis."
Scott: Phil poppers
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2003
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (morning): "Shaq and Kobe. Kobe and Shaq. Whoa. To borrow a line from Rodney King, can't we all just -- you know what. Forget it. Apparently, we can't. Just like in all relationships, nobody is solely at fault. At some point somewhere both of them could have taken the road less traveled, traveled down it and just, 'Shhh,' but pride and ego and macho and all the things that have made Shaq and Kobe the best at what they do also compelled them to drop the verbal bombs they've been dropping. Kobe's were the most brutal but were coming from a man who's got to be feeling vulnerable, facing the kind of heat few athletes can even imagine. How to fix it? One of the Phils could help -- Dr. Phil or Phil Jackson -- but the best way is for Shaq or Kobe or both to gnaw on the bullet and say something to the effect of, 'I was ticked. I was letting off steam. I was wrong.' Think it'll happen?"
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "There's a reason our senses are being smothered by LeBron James and his $160 sneakers. The NBA is desperate, trying to deflect our attention from Kobe Bryant. There's a reason the LeBron-a-thon includes 13 national TV games this season, even though we're not sure the kid can shoot. A new conversation piece is needed badly, counterprogramming for the madness in Los Angeles and Eagle County, Colo. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Not long ago, Kobe seemed capable of eclipsing Michael Jordan's body of work in a swirl of dazzle, mass popularity and countless championships with the Lakers. Today, he's draped in shame, suspicion and turmoil, his career burning out much like the fires engulfing Southern California. As if the possibility of a rape conviction isn't harrowing enough, now comes a senseless renewal of his feud with Shaquille O'Neal. From a legal standpoint, Bryant's salvos can't agree well with defense attorneys trying to paint a portrait of a poised, always-in-control client. But even if he is acquitted in Colorado -- as the early line still reads -- this latest episode further confirms Bryant's professional life never will be the same. It also means he's likely to flee the Lakers next summer, which leaves the mood around Phil Jackson's team strikingly similar to that surrounding Jackson's final Bulls team. 'The Last Dance,' he called it. 'The Messy Divorce,' we'll call this."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Kobe wasn't apologizing, Shaq didn't say much, and Phil said it's no big deal. In the NBA's edition of 'Family Feud,' the Los Angeles Lakers survived Round 1, beating the Dallas Mavericks 109-93 in last night's opener. But just because L.A. won, and just because everyone downplayed it, don't think for a moment that the drama will be swept away faster than invitations to Ben and J-Lo's wedding. In my mind, this Laker team is in deep, deep trouble. This is the first time I've felt the Shaq-and-Kobe relationship would be a major problem for coach Phil Jackson. Back when these two superstars were keeping their animosity and jealousy to themselves, it really wasn't a big deal. But with everything boiling over, and with Kobe's problems off the court, the Lakers are facing obstacles I don't think they can overcome. The media will suck the life out of this team, which won't be able to turn around without running into a mini-cam pointing to where the sun doesn't shine. It's going to be a season-long circus with the Lakers, and last night was just the beginning.
"We've all seen the new Nike commercial, right? The one where LeBron James is struck with a severe case of stage fright in his premiere? In the commercial, LeBron was just kidding, and I don't suspect we'll see life imitating art tonight when 'King James' makes his professional debut in Sacramento. But frankly, I think it's too bad LeBron is receiving as much attention as he is. He's a nice, promising basketball player, but he's been overhyped more than any athlete perhaps ever. A 34 percent shooter in the preseason, LeBron is not ready to light anyone up, and he is about three years away from being a legitimate scorer in the NBA. He'll have to work his rich tail off to get there. His saving grace is his ability to pass the ball, and he'll need all the help he can get. Because of all the hype, the world is about to jump on LeBron James with both boots, and that's too bad. You can hear the Cavs and Kings tonight at 10:07 Eastern on ESPN Radio."
Schaap: Aikens still in prison
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2003
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (morning): "You remember Willie Mays Aikens. In the 1980 World Series he hit four home runs and batted .400. His team, the Royals, lost to the Phillies, but Aikens was the star of the series. By hitting two home runs in two different games in the same World Series, Aikens did something no one else has ever done. Not Babe Ruth. Not Reggie Jackson. Not even his namesake. Aikens used to be No. 24. Now he's inmate No. 01732-031. He's been a federal prisoner for nearly a decade and is not scheduled to be released until 2012, when he'll be 58. His crime? Selling an undercover police officer two ounces of crack cocaine. He was never accused of selling any drugs to anyone else. Murderers, rapists and armed robbers usually don't serve 18 years. It's hard to argue with Aikens when he says it's time for him to go home. "
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (afternoon): "The cities around us are burning, people are losing their homes and their lives, and yet we are forced to listen to the tired, selfish bickering of two outrageously talented and well-paid NBA players who obviously have no idea of what is meaningful and important. And that's really something we thought Kobe Bryant might have learned over this past summer -- or certainly now as the season begins, and he is facing trial for rape that carries, at worst, a sentence of life imprisonment or the lifelong label of a sex offender. And yet in two preseason games he's shot the ball like there's nobody else worthy of shooting it and now has chosen to perpetuate a fight with Shaq via the media when he could have either backed off or taken the high road. You'd think Bryant would have been humbled by all he is going through off the court. So what does it take? A conviction?"
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Here in South Florida, it's been a day of celebrations for the world-champion Florida Marlins. A parade in downtown Miami. Another one in Little Havana. A virtual armada on the waters of the Florida Intracoastal. And just think, folks, they had to schedule all this around Jack McKeon's naps. OK, so the jokes are getting older than Jack himself, and he certainly got the last laugh. As we look back on the baseball season just concluded, it's time for a little revisionist thinking. In other words, we'd better admit when we were wrong. And I do mean 'we.' In April the Marlins were as much as 150-1 long shots to win the World Series, but they're a very deserving champion. We'll examine why in a minute.
"Let's take back a few things we said during baseball's just-concluded postseason. When the playoffs began I said Mark Prior of the Cubs was the game's best pitcher, but clearly, he's not. Not right now. He may come back to earth sometime in 2004, but right now, a five-hit shutout on three days' rest in Game 6 proves 23-year-old Josh Beckett as good as they come. You can run any number of candidates by me, but if the object of the game is to win the World Series, Beckett deserves to be called the Player of the Year. How about the Pickup of the Year? In this case, it's a tie. On the field it's Pudge Rodríguez. He did an unbelievable job handling a young, Marlins pitching staff, he hit well in the playoffs, and he couldn't be a better guy. The other Pickup of the Year was Jack McKeon. We can joke all we want about his being 72 and how he can save management by getting the AARP hotel rate on the road, but all he did was show up, tell the Marlins they were good enough to be winners and let 'em have fun. Will this team stay together longer than the '97 champs who were sold off in a fire sale? Whatever the answer, the 2003 Marlins give everyone in baseball hope. After all, their payroll was less than one-third that of baseball's richest team -- the team that was just defeated in six games."
Wingo: How the Series was won
MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2003
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning): "Frailty, thy name is Yankees. Starting in 1996 and going thru the 2001 World Series that they lost in seven games, the Yankees did all the little things that won them postseason games. From Jeter to Bernie to Brosius, Tino, Pettitte and Mariano, they dominated by the tiny size of their actions. From a clutch hit, a clutch homer, to a great play by Derek at the plate or dominating pitching, the small things the Yankees did won them the biggest title -- World Series champs. Ironic, then, that in 2003 the little things gone wrong left them short of the biggest prize again. Nick Johnson getting picked off at third ending an inning. Aaron Boone cutting off a throw that could've stopped a Marlin run. Failing to score despite the bases loaded with just one out in the 12 inning. And, of all people, Derek Jeter -- Mr. Clutch -- committing an error in Game 6 that gave the Marlins a crucial insurance run. Make no mistake; the Marlins won this World Series. They were better. And the Yankees in a complete '180' did just enough to lose instead of win."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick has suddenly had a revelation. After years of advocating the use of instant replay as a tool for rectifying some officiating boners, Billick now wants instant replay banished from the game. Of course, coach Billick chooses to deliver his anti-replay rant on the very day that two such reviews go against him. The huge majority of instant-replay reviews either uphold on-field decisions or correct them. Wouldn't that be rather significant in the decision to keep or dump replays? Let's agree on this: Football gets it right far more frequently because of instant replay. The only knock against replays is that they do add to the already ridiculous length of games but not enough to just cancel the whole replay process just because a coach gets burned now and then by it. The way I figure it, that means about 50 percent of coaches are for it, and 50 percent are against it. So let's just leave the coaches to their coaching, and let other people decide whether to keep the instant-replay review process."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Obviously, there's a much more important story right now than a football game. Our thoughts are with all the folks who are dealing with those fires in Southern California that forced the Dolphins and Chargers to move tonight's game out of San Diego. The National Football League clearly made the right decision in going to Tempe, Ariz., and if you're in the Phoenix area, you can go to Sun Devil Stadium and see the game free of charge. It'll also be a good chance for you to offer a donation to the families dealing with those fires. The sudden move wasn't the only uncertainty surrounding tonight's game. There was also the quarterback question for the Dolphins, and the answer tonight is Brian Griese. He'll be making his first start for Miami, stepping in because Jay Fiedler still has a sprained knee. Having played four seasons in Denver, Griese certainly knows the Chargers -- at least what's left of them. Remember, Junior Seau is on Griese's side now. By the way, the move of tonight's game got Nevada's attention. Oddsmakers changed the Dolphins from a four- to a six-point favorite. Of course, you can see tonight's game at 9 Eastern on ABC.
"Somewhere out there, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are starting to pay attention. Pro football's perfect team had better pay attention to the Kansas City Chiefs, whose 38-5 pasting of Buffalo made them 8-0. Now comes a perfectly timed bye. After that, it's a home game against Cleveland in which they'll be favored again. Same goes for a visit the following week to Cincinnati. Home games also remain with Oakland, Detroit and Chicago. A road game at San Diego is eminently winnable as is a trip to Denver to play a Broncos team that could use a good, healthy quarterback. The one game that looms as the biggest challenge for Dick Vermeil comes Saturday, December 20, at Minnesota. Then again, this is the NFL, where nothing is certain. Let's put it this way: Did you think the Chiefs would be 8-0?"
Smith: Fact and fiction
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2003
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (morning): "Recently we hired a reporter who before becoming our reporter was an actor playing a reporter in our mini-series drama, "Playmakers." In one episode the actor playing the reporter makes a move on a ballplayer in the team locker room after a game. And suddenly the women's movement has been set back 30 years, or so it would seem by protests from various women's groups who say that by hiring the actor playing the reporter as a reporter perpetuates a stereotype we battle every day. Huh? And to think I thought that stereotype didn't exist anymore. Really, does anyone still think we go into locker rooms to get dates? Sure, there have been a few liaisons between women reporters and athletes, but I guarantee they don't happen often, and they certainly don't happen in a sweaty, smelly locker room after a game when you're on deadline. The woman we hired is an actor, and she is a reporter, and in my book the only thing that makes her is versatile. Heck, Lisa Guerrero used to be on a soap opera. Who knows what her character did?"
Cohn: Predicting the unpredictable
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2003
Extra Point -- Linda Cohn (morning): "Mind if I talk football -- the NFL, to be exact? As we all know, there is no professional sports league harder to predict from week to week than the National Football League -- from Houston shocking Miami in Week 1 to the Packers getting embarrassed in Arizona, which somehow brings us to this Sunday's games. Obviously, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are not convinced that Bill Parcells and his Dallas Cowboys are for real at 5-1, because Dallas has been installed as 6½-point underdogs against the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have won just three of their first six games and, oh, by the way, are banged up. It all points to the Cowboys winning their sixth straight, but you know what? Don't count on it; even Parcells thinks the Cowboys haven't played their best. But I think the stunning upset of the day will take place in Minnesota, where the reeling Giants will send the Vikings to their first loss. Why? Because its the NFL?"
Extra Point -- Chris Fowler (afternoon): "What do Dick Enberg, Matt Lauer, Wolf Blitzer, John Saunders, Arsenio Hall and Soupy Sales all have in common? They're all alums of the Mid-American Conference. With that kind of TV presence, it's only fitting the conference gets some TV exposure this weekend. ESPN2 telecasts Northern Illinois, No. 10 in the BCS, against No. 23 Bowling Green, and 'GameDay' comes to you from Bowling Green -- our first ever visit to the MAC. But here's the problem. The challenge for the Huskies and the Falcons is very different from upsetting Maryland or Purdue in the opener. Now they have to handle the pressure in the exposure, rise to the occasion, seize this chance at a landmark victory for their program. Both programs have come up short in that department in recent years. Who will stand up to the task? And after all, since Michael Keaton and Jeff Daniels are also MAC alums, the other question is, can this have a Hollywood ending for a MAC school? Can they spoil the BCS? Well, it would take a lot of twists of plot, but you never know. This is college football."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger from Ann Arbor, Mich. (afternoon): "We're going to take a deep breath away from baseball and the World Series for a few moments. While the Yankees and Marlins are getting ready for Game 6 tomorrow in New York, let's take a break for a little football. Top-ranked Oklahoma is poised to continue its perfect season tomorrow night at Colorado. With quarterback Jason White playing Heisman-type football, the Sooners offense looks unstoppable. Meanwhile, Colorado has been giving up 40 points a game. In other words, don't look for No. 1 to tumble. Instead, this is a weekend for once-beaten teams to make a move. In the Pac-10, USC could parlay last week's win at Notre Dame with a victory tomorrow at Washington. The Trojans haven't won in Seattle in 10 years. Meanwhile, 6-1 Washington State has its hands full at home trying to shut down running back Steven Jackson and the Oregon State Beavers. In the SEC tomorrow night, once-beaten LSU's tough run defense will be tested big-time when it hosts 'Cadillac' Williams and Auburn. You can see that game at 7:45 Eastern on ESPN.
"Michigan State may be atop the standings, but the best team in the Big Ten may be the one that's in second place. If it weren't for a one-point, season-opening loss to Bowling Green, the Purdue Boilermakers might well be at the top of the BCS standings. Tomorrow they try to tie the idle Spartans atop the Big Ten standings when they come here to Ann Arbor to play the Michigan Wolverines. The last time Purdue won here at 'The Big House,' its quarterback was Bob Griese. That was back in 1966. Now it's Kyle Orton who leads the pass-happy Boilers, but what makes Purdue strong now is its defense, which gives up only 14 points a game. Meanwhile, Michigan faces a must-win situation if it wants to maintain any chance of winning a share of the Big Ten championship. Folks, beware of a desperate home team like the Wolverines. Many of you can see Purdue and Michigan tomorrow at 3:30 Eastern on ABC."
Davis: Fanning the flames
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2003
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (morning): "A Morgantown, W.Va., store advertised a fire sale. Literally. It's turned into a tradition to burn sofas to celebrate big Mountaineer wins. The store had couches to burn. Tough to fan a bigger flame than one sparked by an upset of No. 3 Virginia Tech. West Virginia smoked the Hokies like a cheap couch, leaving Virginia Tech's hopes of a national title in ashes. Should we have expected anything else? Sixth week in the last seven that a Top 10 team has lost to an unranked opponent. Oklahoma and Miami still control their destiny, but the BCS computers are churning. We've had upsets. Now contenders will start knocking each other off. BCS Top 10 foes -- Ohio State-Purdue, USC-Washington State -- still must go head-to-head. Virginia Tech can even play spoiler next time out against Miami. The 'Canes might want to remember this year, sitting in a BCS catbird's seat is about as comfortable as plopping down on a sofa in Morgantown."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Let's put an end to the hypocrisy when it comes to intercollegiate athletics. Following the ACC looting of the Big East, colleges are now jumping conferences every five minutes, and it has nothing to do with academics. Supposedly pristine and all about academics, Duke fires its football coach mid-season. Got to start winning to boost revenues. Except for payment of athletes, college sports is as professional as the NFL. And while we're at it, let's put an end to this business of declining to discuss specifics of injuries or medical procedures involving college athletes. Who's kidding who when coaches say they can't relate details of a player's injury because it violates the player's student rights? That's baloney. They withhold info, because it makes it more difficult for the coach preparing to face them. This privacy business is a joke. Share info. Let's have those Clemson players share their web-site photos with all of us. Well, maybe some things should remain private."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "The Florida Marlins have to be feeling pretty good about themselves as the head into tonight's fifth game of the World Series. For one, they stopped the momentum that was in danger of becoming a Yankee tidal wave last night. For another, they've got Brad Penny back on the mound against David Wells, a rematch of Game 1, which Penny and the Marlins won at Wells' expense. Finally, they're playing again at Pro Player Stadium, and who knew what a home-field advantage this place could be? We've already talked about how all that real estate in the outfield tailor-made to the 'go-go' Marlins' speed, but let's not forget the 65,000 fans who've suddenly materialized. They've turned what had been a dank setting all year into a haunted house for visitors. Last night marked the Marlins' 19th win in their last 25 home games. Still, if we've learned one thing about momentum in this postseason, it's that it can be fleeting. Just ask the Cubs and the Red Sox. You can hear Game 5 tonight at 7:45 Eastern on ESPN Radio.
"It wasn't so long ago Chan Gailey was sitting on the hot seat at Georgia Tech. First, there was last year's 44-point whuppin' at the hands of Georgia. Then came bad grades that led 10 players to being kicked off the team. Then Clemson marches into Atlanta last month and comes away with a 36-point win. The Yellowjackets were 1-2, and folks down south were already wondering how to fix things next year. Well, guess what, folks? Gailey has the 'Wreck' ramblin' in the right direction again. With three straight wins, it looks like Tech could be bowl-bound for the seventh year in a row. Tonight we might find out just how good a bowl the Yellowjackets deserve when they call on a Maryland team that has won five in a row. That streak should come as no surprise to Tech fans. After all, Ralph Friedgen worked on their side as an assistant for nine years before resurrecting the Terps. You can see Georgia Tech visit Maryland tonight at 7:30 Eastern on ESPN."
Scott: Quarter pounded
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2003
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (morning): "Of all the positions in the four major sports -- the guards, football and hoops; the forwards, hoops and hockey; the centers, football and hockey; tackles, linebackers, outfielders, safeties, goalies -- for my money, there is no more significant position than NFL quarterback. None more demanding or more painful, physically and emotionally. The reigning MVP, Rich Gannon, was hit so hard Monday night, he had to watch the second half from the bench, soothing his body and his soul. From MVP, top-rated offense and AFC champs to 2-5 record. A Pro Bowl quarterback in Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb, is playing so badly, he's not one of the lowest. He's the lowest-rated quarterback in the league, and folks are calling for his coach to bench him and his $114 million contract. And backup Denver quarterback Steve Beuerlein, who was a diver in high school but never wore Speedos -- always wore baggy shorts -- got his pinky finger bent in a grotesque, 90-degree angle. Aaaargh. And you say you want your kid to be the star quarterback in school?"
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (afternoon): "Donovan McNabb has to sit. It's just that simple in Philadelphia. Yes, the Eagles got a must-win game Sunday over the Giants, but it was a huge punt return by Brian Westbrook late that got the win. Donovan basically did everything in his power to lose it. He hit his first five passes and then proceeded to miss on 14 out of his last 18. Nine-for-23 for 64 yards and one interception does not guarantee a start for anybody, let alone a man whose struggled all season. Clearly, Donovan McNabb has had a very difficult season for many reasons. He's a standup guy who is clearly the most talented quarterback on the team, but right now he's playing very poorly. It may be an injured thumb that's bothering him, but something clearly is, and for the good of the team it's time for this standup guy to take a seat. Maybe the Eagles will struggle no matter who plays quarterback, but right now it can't get any worse. The McNabb of 2003 is not the McNabb of the last two years, and if the Eagles are going to salvage a sour season, it's time to hand over the reins of the offense."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Is it just me, or is this World Series turning into a letdown? Maybe the Yankees and the Marlins had to deal with acts too tough to follow. How can you top the drama the Red Sox and Cubs left behind? As we go through the motions of Game 4 tonight in Miami, let's chew on another radical idea from the same mind that pushed for interleague play and wild cards for years. Since we have interleague games in the regular season, why not in the postseason? I don't just mean the World Series. The whole thing. A two-point plan is in order here:
"1. Get rid of the DH.
"2. Let's seed the teams going into the playoffs.
"Any interleague ties would be broken in favor of the All-Star Game winner. This year that would've made the Yankees the number-one seed, followed by Atlanta, San Francisco, Oakland, Minnesota, the Cubs, Boston and Florida. Your first-round matchups? Yankees and Florida; get it over with. Then you'd have Oakland-Minnesota, Giants-Cubs and Atlanta-Boston. In Round 2 you'd have the Yankees going against a Twins team that took advantage of another Oakland collapse. On the other side of the bracket, the Cubs would advance to play Boston. You don't think this new system is going to change October for the Braves, do you? Your second-round series would have the Yankees taking care of business against Minnesota, and somehow, somebody would have to win a Cubs-Red Sox series. Then we'd have the Yankees against either of the cursed teams. Would that make a great October, or what?
"Undefeated Virginia Tech may be a 13-point favorite, but the Hokies should ask the Miami Hurricanes about West Virginia. Three weeks ago the Mountaineers put a BCS-sized scare into the 'Canes, finally falling 22-20 at the Orange Bowl. If the Hokies get a case of the look-aheads the way Miami did, they may not be so fortunate tonight in Morgantown. You can see this game at 7:30 Eastern on ESPN, and if Tech does win, it'll set up a game for the ages next weekend when the Hokies host Miami."
Schaap: Torre-ble opinions
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (morning): "A few weeks ago just before the start of the playoffs, Al Neuharth, the founder and publisher of USA Today, ripped -- of all people -- Yankees manager Joe Torre. He said that Torre should be fired, because he's managed the Yankees so poorly in the playoffs the last few years. Neuharth's commentary was made more notable by his close association with the Yankees' principal owner. Neuharth often sits in George Steinbrenner's box. Clearly, Neuharth has no idea what he's writing about. If anyone deserved to be fired, it was his friend Steinbrenner, whose meddling kept the Yankees in the desert for 18 years between world titles -- the longest drought in their history. Torre, on the other hand, is now three wins away from his fifth title in eight seasons as New York's manager. The only managers ever to win as many as five World Series are Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy and Connie Mack. Torre shouldn't be fired. He should be inducted into the Hall of Fame."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "I know 72-year-old men who view their age as a death sentence. Jack McKeon swears he's on a wayback machine. He says he has trimmed 15-20 years off his life in one season with the Florida Marlins, which puts him in his fifties. And if his feisty, carefree ballclub stuns the Yankees and wins the World Series? Hell, 'Grandpa Jack' might be ready for a frat house. Stories like these aren't supposed to happen in 2003, when younger men are hired for pressurized managing jobs and awkward labor agreements lead to ridiculous disparities between major-market and low-payroll teams. Yet McKeon has been around too long to treat daunting obstacles as anything but pebbles in his spikes. Having lived a full, colorful, baseball life, he is applying decades of vast experiences as manager of the Marlins, who had a 16-22 record and looked like a dead franchise walking when he replaced Jeff Torborg in mid-May. Since then, a club once teetering on contraction finds itself three wins from one of the most unlikeliest Series triumphs ever. We've seen marvelous stories in this game, including last season's Anaheim Angels, but the 'Rally Monkey' has nothing on McKeon. He has taken one giant leap for senior citizens everywhere and as yet hasn't asked for a cane or a walker. For that matter, look around sports. Dick Vermeil might take the Chiefs to a Super Bowl. Bill Parcells looks like the NFL Coach of the Year in Dallas. And check out Hubie Brown, turning around the NBA's Grizzlies. What do they have in common? All are older coaches connecting with young people. The lesson: It's not the date on the birth certificate that matters but the youth in one's heart."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "In a tight, best-of-seven series, the odd-numbered games are always pivotal. Maybe it's the pitching matchup. Maybe it's the home field. Whatever the reason, the New York Yankees are only a slight favorite to beat the Florida Marlins in Game 3 of the World Series. The Marlins start 23-year-old Josh Beckett, who's been almost untouchable the last nine days. Remember, he struck out 11 Cubs in winning Game 5 of the NLCS, then he came out of the bullpen to allow just one run in four innings to help the Marlins win Game 7. While Beckett has been hot, the Yankees' Mike Mussina has not. He's 0-3 this postseason with an ERA of 4.66. Still, he's starting tonight on full rest after putting out Roger Clemens' fire in Game 7 against the Red Sox. Meanwhile, the move south means advantage Marlins. Pro Player Stadium yielded fewer homers this regular season than any other ballpark in the majors. That neutralizes the Yankees' long-ball advantage, making speed a bigger factor. But even if the Marlins win tonight, that doesn' t mean there going to win the Series. Let's put it this way, folks. Do you see the Yankees being swept in Miami? I didn't think so. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan call Game 3 tonight at 7:45 Eastern on ESPN Radio.
"I talked to Dick Vermeil this morning, only hours after his 7-and-0 Kansas City Chiefs survived a 17-10 thriller at Oakland. He told me of all the teams he's seen this year, the Raiders defensive line played him tougher than anybody. And were you thinking what Dick was thinking when Jerome Woods and Greg Wesley stopped Tim Brown at the goal line? That's right. Dick flashed back to January 2000, when Mike Jones' tackle of Kevin Dyson inside the one-yard line, giving Vermeil and the St. Louis Rams the championship in Super Bowl XXXIV. So how about 8-0? The Bills are next back home on Sunday night, and Vermeil was ever optimistic about what he says is a great group of guys to coach."
Le Batard: Fearless fish
MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2003
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "I don't know how you measure this empirically in our most numerical game. I don't know the value of joy, camaraderie or fearlessness. But I do know this: The Florida Marlins are not afraid of the Yankees. Not at all. They don't fear the lore, the history, the tradition, the stadium, the pinstripes, the 'voice of God' announcer, the championships, the past, the monuments of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. And the Yankees feel very much like a team that won the World Series with Game 7 against Boston and just got to this World Series to realize that, hey, what's this team doing in the way of our coronation? This isn't the World Series anyone wanted to see -- the team everyone is tired of vs. the team nobody cares about -- but if you care about theater and storyline, the Marlins are the best thing in sports -- an underdog that believes."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "The more we move through the NFL season, the more frequently we see the mismanagement and utter failure of the instant-replay rule. But yesterday's breakdown of the system in Miami sort of tops them all. Replays showed that on a key, 31-yard Dolphins reception along the sideline in overtime, Miami receiver Derrius Thompson stepped out of bounds -- both before catching the ball and, again, as he came down with it. Now during most parts of an NFL game the burden is on the coaches to throw the red flag out there to guarantee a review, but in overtime it's the replay officials upstairs who must call for a review. Now you would think that two violations on one play along the sideline would get their attention, but in this instance the NFL fell flat on its unreviewable keister. Fortunately for New England, Olindo Mare blew a field goal just after the non-review, and we got back into an overtime in which each team had its chances. One has to hope that in a big game, maybe in January sometime, folks are a little more alert in the replay booth than that."
SportsBeat -- Trey Wingo substituting for Brent Musburger (afternoon): "It's not the World Series most of America was hoping for, but it's the one they have, and it may be more competitive than most people believe. Clearly, the idea of the Cubs and the Yankees or the Cubs and the Red Sox had emotional and historical pull that the Yankees and the Marlins don't, but the juxtaposition of this World Series may be even more compelling. The Florida Marlins have been in baseball 10 years. They've already won one World Series and have never in their brief history lost a playoff series. In every possible way the Yankees are the anti-Marlins. Brief is about the only word you can't use when talking about the Yankees history. They are the benchmark, the standard bearer going for a 27th world title. New York came to spring training with the expectation to not only be in but win the World Series. The Marlins came into spring training with the expectation of finishing out the season and avoiding contraction. Then again, maybe ex-Marlins manager Jeff Torborg knew what he was talking about when he said in the spring that he thought he had a team that could win it. The ultimate irony would be that 'The Fish' do it -- just not under Torborg's tutelage.
"Here's hoping the silly debate over who the real Player of the Year is on the PGA Tour is over. To recap for those who have been grasping at straws over who should win the honor, there is one player on Tour who leads in wins, scoring average and is No. 1 on the money list and also leads the tour in eagles, par breakers and birdie-conversion percentage. Sound like someone you know? He goes by the name of Tiger Woods. He may not be the sexy choice in 2003 with no majors, but he has won two world golf titles along with Arnie's event for the fourth straight year and two others. Vijay Singh is second on the money list despite the fact that he's played in eight more events. Really, it's all about the math, and the numbers add up once again to Tiger Woods being the Player of the Year for the fifth straight season."
Smith: 'Dirtiest sport in the world'
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2003
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (morning): "We've been rolling our eyes for years, but it now appears official: Track and field has replaced boxing and bodybuilding as the dirtiest sport in the world. In light of new evidence that at least six U.S. athletes have been caught using a new type of steroid, let's just call the events scheduled in Athens next year by what they really are -- the 'Chemist's Olympics.' Set up a row of tables with beakers and Bunsen burners, and challenge the geeks in white lab coats to continue to create substances, which enhance performance and escapes detection. Even though it's been going on behind closed doors, it's actually been the best competition in this post-Ben Johnson era. So let's just open it up and call it what it is, or better yet, remove all drug restrictions and let the athletes compete for 'World's Fastest Freak.' Why should we care if, in 10 years, someone's testicles are the size of marbles or look like Lyle Alzado? They're the ones poisoning themselves."
Fowler: The eternal Joe
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris Fowler (morning): "It seems as though college football's compass is spinning. A linebacker trying to crush a quarterback's windpipe. A player decking a fan post game. It seems ironic and sad at times like these so many are so eager to shove out the door a guy who stood for so much good in the sport -- Joe Paterno. I spent an hour with Joe this week, asking familiar questions.
"'So you're too old to go on?'
"He said, '76 feels just like 56.'
"'Has the game passed you by?'
"That one gets him going. He says, 'It's hooey,' and he pointed at Dick Vermeil and Jack McKeon, fellow oldsters, and asked, 'Has the game passed them by?'
"'When will you retire?'
"That's the tough question. Joe gave a long, thoughtful answer. He thinks a lot about that as he walks in the woods behind his house, but he maintains that, when the time comes, when he thinks he's hurting the program he's done so much to build up, he'll know it and retire just like that. And if he doesn't, his wife or his son, Jay, who's on the staff, will be right there to tell him. But then, Joe added, 'Talk is cheap.' He also knows himself. He's stubborn."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "So here come the Florida Marlins to Yankee Stadium. The World Series begins on ESPN Radio tomorrow night. The Yankees remarkable manager, Joe Torre, just completely overmatched Boston's Grady Little to get his team through in seven games. Will he also prove too clever for 72-year-old Jack McKeon? Maybe not. McKeon has a young ballclub which fears no pitcher. The Yankee staff is worn out and eminently beatable. The Yanks are certainly going to score their runs off the young Florida pitchers, but that's no big deal to 'The Fish.' Whenever the Giants or the Cubs and now the Yankees pile up some runs, they simply go get more. No player in baseball is hotter right now than Pudge Rodríguez -- at bat and behind the plate. Throw in Mike Lowell, Miguel Cabrera, sensational Juan Pierre and a very capable pitching staff, and this World Series figures to be plenty difficult for the Yankees. On the other hand, with a little help from the opposing manager, they do find a way, don't they?"
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger from Columbus, Ohio (afternoon): "The first BCS rankings are due out Monday, and it appears there won't be much hemming and hawing about who's number one. Favored to beat Missouri by 26 points tomorrow in Norman, the Oklahoma Sooners figure to be an undisputed number one. As for who's next, you have two remaining unbeatens to choose from in the major conferences. The Miami Hurricanes are favored by 31 points to beat visiting Temple tomorrow, so they should be number two. After that, things start to get murky. We'll try and sort it out in a minute.
"With victories tomorrow, Oklahoma and Miami are expected to be the top two teams in Monday's first BCS rankings. Virginia Tech is the only other major unbeaten. With this week off, the Hokies are guaranteed to stay that way, but that doesn't mean they'll be number three. Instead, it looks like schedule strength could lift once-beaten Georgia within one spot of playing for all the Nokias in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. The Bulldogs shouldn't have any trouble tomorrow when they visit winless Vanderbilt. Now before you folks in Blacksburg hit the 'Send' button on that nasty e-mail, don't forget about Nov. 1. Va-Tech's home game with Miami in three weeks will take care of a ton of business. As for other teams bubbling under in the BCS, you can expect USC and Florida State to be neck-and-neck for the number-five spot. Then again, presuming that both will survive this Saturday isn't so easy. The 'Noles aren't much more than a touchdown favorite visiting Virginia, and the Trojans call on a Notre Dame team that looks completely revitalized. The Irish came off a bye week with a victory last week at Pittsburgh. It's amazing how much pressure running back Julius Jones took off freshman quarterback Brady Quinn. Under the gun for the first time, Ty Willingham responded with some excellent coaching. Finally, tomorrow's game here at 'The Big Horseshoe' is an elimination game as once-beaten Ohio State hosts once-beaten Iowa. Many of you will see it at 3:30 Eastern on ABC."
Davis: Scene set for heartbreak
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2003
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (afternoon): "Our college football crew has a cynical little saying applied when a sad-sack team has a moment that epitomizes their essence. Say, a receiver is exasperatingly left completely uncovered on a 'Hail Mary,' and 'that's why you're Rutgers.' But the Red Sox aren't sad sack. They're just teases. From Bucky to Buckner, the Sox titillate like a Hollywood diva then leave fans disconsolate and emotionally destitute. In Game 6 of the ALCS against their always-eager foil, the Yankees, the Sox got the lead not once but twice. The ultimate teaser was set to break New England's heart again when the script was altered. Trot Nixon trotted, and tonight in Game 7 we'll find out if the Sox are the biggest teases this side of Drew Barrymore, or if this time they can break their archenemy's heart. If, finally, they can plunk the Bambino's curse in the keister and defuse the Rocket all in one role-reversing freaky Thursday. Guard your hearts; old identities die hard. After all, we just found out 'that's why you're the Cubs.'"
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "So the Florida Marlins are in their second World Series in seven years. Now, where are they going for Game 1? What better way to answer that question than with tonight's pitching matchup in the seventh and deciding game of the American League Championship Series. Pedro Martínez against Roger Clemens. It's a rematch of Game 3, when Clemens won for the Yankees while Pedro was wrestling every senior citizen who approached him Saturday night at Fenway Park. This time it's at Yankee Stadium, and if you're looking for trends here, good luck. When Clemens won last time out, it evened the score against Pedro, who had beaten Roger in the '99 playoffs. In between, Martínez has met the Yankees 18 times, winning only five, losing six and getting no decision in the other seven. As for Clemens, he goes into what could be the last start of his career with lifetime record of 9-5 against the Sox with six no-decisions. Translation: Don't be the least bit surprised if neither one of these guys is around tonight when the game and series are decided. You can hear Game 7 at 7:45 Eastern on ESPN Radio.
"This year's Heisman race could be as wide open as, well, last year's. At the halfway point in the season, you have to consider Oklahoma quarterback Jason White the leader. As long as he keeps those surgically repaired knees in tact, and as long as the top-ranked Sooners keep winning, he'll maintain the lead. The scoreboard shouldn't be a problem this weekend; OU is a 26-point favorite at home against Missouri. Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones has quietly risen up the Heisman charts, and his campaign could come down to the impression he makes Nov. 1 against Miami. Other candidates include quarterbacks B.J. Symons of Texas Tech and David Greene of Georgia as well as Oregon State running back Steven Jackson. The bottom line here is it seems anybody can win the Heisman this year. Anybody, that is, except Maurice Clarett."