Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Extra Point/Sportsbeat for Jan. 1-15, 2004
Here's the text of commentaries heard regularly on ESPNRadio:
Smith: Wie's healthy diversion
THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, 2004
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (morning): "Don't try and tell me what 14-year-old Michelle Wie is doing this week is wrong in any sense of the word. Wie tees off this morning with men from the PGA tour in the Sony Open on her home island of O'ahu. Naturally, there is outrage. Such a young girl should not be subject to such pressures, the critics cry. Why is it acceptable for her to postpone her semester finals? Annika and Suzy were women -- she's just a girl. Heck, when I was 14, I spent my free time unscrewing the odometer cable so my parents wouldn't know I was taking the car out when they were gone and pouring water to top off vodka bottles that had been previously been full. Wie is a talented young golfer whose 300-yard drives have already proven she can hang with the big boys, and playing alongside them for a week certainly can do her no harm. There's plenty of free time left for that."
Extra Point -- Chris McKendry (afternoon): "Everyone is flipping out over Michelle Wie's participation in this week's Sony Open -- except the 14-year-old herself. Wie, who is 6 feet tall and drives the ball 300 yards, calls playing the tournament in her native Hawai'i a dream. While others argue her tournament wins vs. losses, she talks about experiences. Good for her. As a teenager Michael Jordan was getting cut by high-school coaches. He learned the art of winning. Annika Sorenstam admits she never broke 70 until 16 or 17. She gets winning. Wie is learning. She played a practice round with Ernie Els Tuesday. He offered tips on chip shots around the green. 'The Big Easy' was dumbstruck by 'The Big Wiesy's' talent. The more I hear about Wie -- mature, well spoken, and funny -- and her father, who bucks the establishment, I think of Venus and Serena Williams. They never played junior tournaments. They know how to win. I, for one, find Wie's winning-isn't-everything attitude refreshing."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "Jake Delhomme is the shocker. Tom Brady has been there and done that. When it comes to the quarterbacks starting this weekend's conference championships, two of them are supposed to be there -- Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb. When quarterbacks are picked either first or second in the draft, you expect them to be Super Bowl caliber. Manning was the first overall pick in '98, and this is his first crack at getting to the big game. Four years as a Vol at Tennessee, six in the NFL. Do you know of a quarterback who is better prepared for this moment? The mechanics are impeccable, he is perfection when it comes to preparation, and he is cool under pressure. He is the perfect quarterback -- perhaps the only -- who can thrive in this situation against a very good Patriots defense in a tough place to play. Donovan McNabb was one year and one pick behind Manning -- the No. 2 pick in '99. Only five years in the league, still he starts his third championship game with a huge weight on his shoulder. He's gone from criticized and vilified in September to glorified now in January. In one game he can go back to being the goat, again, for another eight months. Manning and McNabb -- two guys who, fairly or unfairly, have worn the tag of 'unable to win the big game.' They deserve to get there, but they face their biggest hurdles and the biggest game of their careers on Sunday.
"So what are the Knicks -- a P.R. disaster or a great story waiting to be written? Only in New York can you bring an all-star-caliber point guard back to his hometown, significantly upgrade the talent on a salary cap-constrained roster, bring in the all-time winningest coach in the history of the NBA and be criticized across the five boroughs. Isiah Thomas introduced Lenny Wilkens at a noontime press conference today. If Isiah has pulled the right strings, his place as a basketball executive will be strengthened. If he fails, it's probably his last shot at it. Just think of his failures in Toronto, when he ran and owned the CBA and with the Indiana Pacers. What do I think? I think they'll sneak into the playoffs, but next year will be the year we'll know if all these moves were the right fix."
Scott: Hail to the Chief
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2004
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (morning): "Big ups to Dick Vermeil. It's easy to clown a grown man who's not only known for being a great coach but also for crying publicly -- regularly. But for those who laugh and mock, it's either stupidity, insecurity, low self-esteem or all three. A 60-something-year-old man who guides and leads the toughest of athletes isn't afraid to show his emotions. In fact, he lives to do it, which is living by your heart, not your head, which might not be the safest way to be but sure is the most honest. I'll take that every day. Vermeil had to part ways with a friend Tuesday. His defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson, simply wasn't getting the job done. His 'D' was last in the league last year, only improved to 29th this year, got clocked by the Colts Sunday. A change was needed. The fact that Vermeil thought about it for a day says volumes about the man. The fact that he stood next to Robinson during the resignation news conference, wiping tears away, says even more."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "The answer used to be automatic. The best time of the year in sports? Instinctively, I always said March, showcase of my beloved college basketball, back when the sport was filled with terrific players who didn't leapfrog straight to the NBA. But today, sadly, the college game is diluted. The excitement is the same, Dickie V. is the same, but the performance level can't be the same. It occurred to me over the weekend while battling frostbite in New England and Philadelphia that the best time of the sports year is currently upon us. If the NFL has been king for almost two decades now, the playoffs have become the crown jewels. We've been treated this postseason to classic, overtime games, surreal quarterbacking by Peyton Manning and a fourth-and-26 pass for the ages from Donovan McNabb, who could be heard shouting to Rush Limbaugh, 'Overrated, my butt!' Whatever drama October brings comes too late in the night. Give me January, or give me death."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "In the aftermath of the Stephon Marbury trade, Isiah Thomas is still creating a buzz, continuing to restructure the Knicks from the 12th man all the way down to the coach's seat on the bench. Marbury's in, Chaney's on his way out, and the Knicks are 10th in the East, nine games under .500. If they played anywhere west of the Hudson -- from East Rutherford all the way down to Memphis -- nobody would care. But I think the biggest impact of the Marbury trade is elsewhere. In the deal Charlie Ward went to Phoenix, and he was waived for salary-cap reasons. Then Ward was signed by San Antonio. It gives the defending champs help at their most glaring weakness -- a backup with NBA experience for point guard Tony Parker.
"Way out West the Lakers are hurting. They host the NBA's biggest surprise tonight -- the Denver Nuggets. Do you realize that Denver with Carmelo Anthony, the potential Rookie of the Year -- yes, LeBron fans, potential Rookie of the Year -- is the fifth-best team in the West. Kobe, Shaq and Karl Malone have all been injured, and the last time they played together was 10 games ago. O'Neal is the closest of the three to coming back to the floor. With Kobe out 2-3 weeks, this is a situation Shaq loves -- a chance to prove he is the more indispensable of the two.
"Fourteen-year-old Michelle Wie will take her game to the PGA Tour for the first time tomorrow. She has a sponsor's exemption to tee it up in the Sony Open in Hawai'i at Wai'alae, a course where she played and tried to qualify for this event and came a couple shots shy last year. Tiger Woods played in the L.A. Open as a teenager -- that was amazing. Annika Sorenstam played at Colonial with the guys last year -- very noteworthy. This, in fact, is a combination of both. I was of the belief, and so were some others who have really been around the block, that Wie should not at this young age be playing with the guys before she's even been a member of the LPGA Tour. But seeing her play, and listening to the words of Ernie Els, who played a practice round with her yesterday, she has the stuff to handle this event. I don't think she makes the cut, but she's going to leave people with a great impression the same way Annika did last May."
Anderson: Retiring hype
TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2004
Extra Point -- John Anderson (morning): "And I'm retired -- at least until I have to come back into work tomorrow, at which time I will resume my career as a sports television journalist. Does anybody -- anybody -- really retire anymore? Roger Clemens -- a lot of 'Rocket Appreciation Nights' lost their luster when he signed with Houston Astros Monday. This guy didn't retire. He didn't even take a leave of absence. It's just another ol' off-season for Clemens. Lennox Lewis says he may un-retire and fight again. I'm sorry. When did he quit? Boxers fight, what, once a year? Twice, maybe? How can you tell when any fighter hangs up the gloves? Gary Anderson retired from kicking this week -- until another NFL team needs him sometime next year. Joe Gibbs: back to work. Mario Lemieux: out for the year, again, but retirement? Anybody's guess. See, it's different in sports. There's no golden parachute when you retire, and it's tough to settle for just a gold watch when there's so much gold in playing the game."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Remember when National Football league players and coaches had more common sense? I mean it wasn't that long ago, was it? For example: When was the last time a punter actually booted the ball out of bounds? These bozos line up at the plus-40 and just agonize over how to avoid punting the ball into the end zone -- which they usually do. At the risk of betraying old age, I actually remember punters who were good at kicking it out of bounds -- at the 15 or inside there. This does two things: It avoids giving the opponent the ball at the 20, and it avoids 95-yard punt returns. Everybody has a punter, but none of 'em are apparently any good, or more would kick it out of bounds. And what is it with those very quick passes out into the flat? The Patriots performed that frightening maneuver four or five times the other day, and the Titans were there to stuff it every time. That play is a disaster waiting to happen, and the Pats better not try it this week."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "First, Roger Clemens, then Dan Marino. Retiring from professional sports teams comes to an end for both. So why did they come back into the everyday fray? Let's look at Clemens first. A one-year, $5 million deal; he's in Houston with his buddy, Andy Pettitte -- in his hometown, too. Here's Roger: four children -- all begin with the letter 'K' to go with his 4,099 strikeouts, six Cy Youngs, 310 wins. He's a great golfer -- I see him out in Hawai'i all the time -- he loves to play. He could have been a pitching coach or a TV guy, right? He came back. What about Dan Marino, senior VP of football operations for the Dolphins now? Seventeen years, 420 touchdowns, the rare superstar who came into TV and had a great, immediate impact on his show. Marino on TV is a breath of fresh air. He spoke to you. He didn't shout at you. When he speaks, you stop and listen. So why did they leave comfortable lifestyles to get back in it? I just talked to a colleague who recently left the NBA for TV. He said you can only be so close to it when you don't feel the joy of winning and the pain of losing after every game. Leaving the adrenalin rush behind is a lot easier said than done, especially for the greats. Will they succeed? We saw Roger win 17 games last year. Clemens still has it. What about Marino? Dan has never been in the front office. I don't think it's a problem. He knows talent, and he has a great sidekick. The new GM of the Dolphins is Rick Spielman. His brother, Chris, was the great NFL linebacker. He is a big, big help to Marino. Marino is hardly the first athlete, by the way, who made enough money not to work again and chose otherwise. Larry Bird with the Pacers, Wayne Gretzky of the Coyotes -- greats in the front office.
"College hoops still has seven unbeatens. One of them -- Wake Forest -- is at Texas tonight at 8 Eastern on ESPN2. At 9 Eastern on ESPN is another one of the unbeatens: No. 24 Mississippi State, hosting No. 5 Kentucky. Remember the fiasco at Baylor last year? A lot of the players transferred, including Lawrence Roberts. He was the top scorer there. He's the top scorer for Mississippi State. Why? In part he has good bloodlines. His aunt is the best women's basketball player in the history of Southeastern Louisiana University -- our colleague Robin Roberts."
Le Batard: Misplaced sentiment
MONDAY, JANUARY 12, 2004
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "Brett Favre's season is over now, this clichéd, absurd idea of destiny vanquished by the wounded Eagles' somehow converting a fourth-and-26 and getting the overtime coin flip. The Eagles got the divine breaks at the end, in other words, so maybe now we can stop with all this misty-eyed talk about how Favre had an angel on his side. It's clumsy, frankly. The man lost his father. The pain of that is big, unbearable and minimized by us continually attaching it to something like a scoreboard. Favre's pain doesn't heal with sports victories, not even those in the playoffs. His late father didn't fail in overtime Sunday. Favre did, and that's OK. Brian Dawkins just got in the way of the sweet story just as the music was crescendoing. We tend to be pretty heavy-handed with this destiny stuff in sports, hoping to hide our clumsiness behind the sound of the harp and the syrupy sentiment, but what Favre is today doesn't change because he landed on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Destiny didn't desert him. It was never his from the start."
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (afternoon): "It's hard to believe, but somehow Pete Rose seems less likely to get back into baseball today than a week ago -- before his belated confession. Just as he squandered all that baseball had given him by flouting the game's cardinal rule, he now seems to have squandered this opportunity. He could have created goodwill by being open, honest and forthright. Instead, he's said implausibly, that he never placed bets from the clubhouse and has refused to go into details about his gambling habits. After 20-plus years of lying -- not just 14; you have to include those years when he was in baseball, placing bets on a near-daily basis -- Rose doesn't seem to know how to tell the truth. If he is remorseful, it doesn't show. If he has changed, it doesn't show. The writers who decide who belongs in the Hall of Fame cannot be impressed -- nor can Bud Selig."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "Carolina and Indy have advanced in the NFL playoffs. In a way, a surprise; in a way, no. Let's look at it. The two home teams who won maintained big winning trends. Philadelphia has won 11 of 12 and New England 13 in a row. Before this year only nine road teams had won in 13 years of divisional play; two did it this same weekend. It only proves how hard it is to figure out the NFL over the last couple years. Add to that the fact we've had three overtimes this postseason, the most ever. Now if you define 'close' as I do -- one-possession game, meaning it's eight or less points -- add it up. Of 260 minutes of great football this weekend, only 44 minutes were not close -- only 17 percent of the time. As for big plays, I think there was none bigger than Donovan McNabb's fourth-and-26 to save the season to Freddie Mitchell in the fourth quarter last night. The closest thing that comes to mind was Phil Simms' fourth-and-17 to Bobby Johnson. Remember him? The Giants were in Minnesota in '86 in the regular season, won that game and won Super Bowl XXI. One more thing. We know Philly is going to advance. I don't think their officials from the Green Bay-Philly game are going to advance. Why? Green Bay tried to call time-out before the game-winning, overtime field goal. Hit that TiVo button; what a great invention that is. You do hear a whistle from an official under the goal post. Using guidelines of most sports, that whistle would have forced a rekick. Lest you think the result would be the same, just ask John Kasay about do-overs.
"Either Andy Reid or John Fox will go to his first Super Bowl as a head coach. You though Reid had it tough when he was 0-2 this year? How about Fox, 1-15 two years ago in Carolina? Meanwhile, the one guy thrown into the fire by Rush Limbaugh and the bad hand, Donovan McNabb is in the title game three years in a row. What about Peyton Manning? Couldn't win the big game. Now he's one win away from the biggest. Yeah, he's been great throwing the ball, but how about his decisions? They're as good as we've seen since quarterbacks stopped calling their own plays a couple decades ago. What does Vegas think about Sunday's conference championship games? New England, a field-goal favorite at home over Indy; Philadelphia, five points over Carolina."
Smith: Ad, out
SATURDAY, JANUARY 10, 2004
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (morning): "Big uprising in Pittsburgh this week when it was disclosed that a game program for the girls' basketball team at Oakland Catholic High School contained ads from a company that provides exotic dancers for parties and beer distributors. Oh, the shock and moral outrage. To think of those young, teenage minds tainted by the lure of sex and liquor. Certainly that has never happened in the Catholic church. Why not take beer and dancer money for ads that provide something most girls' high-school teams never get: programs. Are you kidding me? At our local high school the football program is phone-book thick. The girls' soccer team gets a page with names and number printed by one of the moms on her home computer. Beer companies, porn companies, bring it on over here in San Pedro, Calif. We trust that our girls' morality won't be swayed by your ads and will simply be thrilled to see their names and pictures in print."
Anderson: Salute to coaches
FRIDAY, JANUARY 9, 2004
Extra Point -- John Anderson (morning): "God bless the fellas who want to get into coaching football and an extra amen to those who aspire to be a head coach. There is not a harder, more important job in sports. Just look at the challenges that face the guys who took new jobs in the past couple of days. Joe Gibbs has to go back to being three-Super Bowl brilliant, or he's a bust. Dennis Green has to turn around a Cardinal club whose last quarter-century makes the Bengals look like world beaters. Jim Mora just got handed the single most valuable athletic asset in the NFL in Michael Vick. And Bill Callahan takes over a program at the University of Nebraska that is only slightly less important than air to the residents of the state. You don't think that kind of pressure is worth an extra comma or zero in the paycheck? Add to that that each one of these guys at one point in their life got paid in hot dogs as they moved up the ladder every year or every third year from Nowhere Tech to national prominence, and you're looking at a very challenging career field -- and special men who work in it."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "We get this debate every year at this time: Should the hot, college-football coach take the big money and become a head coach in the National Football League? It's changed a bit in the sense that they are now making some very serious coin in college -- millions, in fact, for some of them -- but when you get right down to it, there's more money and more satisfaction in the NFL. That's right. Satisfaction. Anybody who is really into football lives for one thing: the game. You can have all the recruiting trips, all the practices, all the wonderful campus trappings of the college game, but there's one thing that also comes with that: fewer game days. True football men live for game days, and there's an enormous difference between having 12 game days and having 20-23 of them. You don't play an afternoon game after a night game. You play basically one game a week, and you live for that day. Plus, in the pros, you can give a guy a plane ticket or buy his kids a basketball hoop without having to face an inquisition. Give me game days."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "Some serious football fans will tell you this is the best weekend the NFL gives up, the one right before the conference title games. You have two days with four games, your favorite chips, your favorite beverage, and dig in. So let's dig in with the NFC. Game 1 is Carolina-St. Louis in the dome, the home Rams a touchdown favorite. On the outside Mike Martz is very satisfied with Marc Bulger replacing Kurt Warner. I still can't get out of my head the Rams team that controlled its own destiny for home field all the way through and lost in Detroit. The Panthers come off one of the great playoff performances of all time. Only the perfect '72 Dolphins played a postseason game with no penalties and no turnovers until Carolina did Saturday night to Bill Parcells' team. Stephen Davis and a balanced Panther attack keep this one close before they lose to the Rams. Game 2, late Sunday: Green Bay at Philly. Weather won't be a factor; it'll be around freezing. I think the Eagles are going to have a problem replacing Brian Westbrook. He accounted for 13 touchdowns as a rusher, a receiver and a punt-return guy. They're going to miss him -- red zone, third down, special teams. You know, everyone was worried about Donovan McNabb getting healthy, but the biggest turnaround for Philly this year: their secondary is healthy. They'll be in business. They'll move on.
"In the AFC, it'll be a cold start tomorrow night in Foxboro. CBS and the NFL, sorry. No Snow Bowl II. No snow in Foxboro, but the temperature starts around a dozen degrees and goes into single digits. The Pats were 2-2 when Tennessee visited Week 5 on Oct. 5. New England won that game and 11 since; three home shutouts in there, too. McNair and George are banged up. This is the easiest call of the four. We'll see the Pats next Sunday in the AFC title game. Saving the best for last? Well, if you watch only one game this weekend, make it this one: Indianapolis at Kansas City, the early game Sunday. The temperature should be in the 40s. The Chiefs are favored by a field goal. Two great offenses -- I think high-scoring. The trouble that boiled up in Kansas City after Game 15 against Minnesota? I think that's a factor, and Peyton Manning had as good a playoff performance as you can expect from a quarterback -- a perfect passer rating. I like Indy as the one road team to make it to the conference title games."
Mariotti: 'Once a con man, always a con man'
THURSDAY, JANUARY 8, 2004
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (morning): "All he had to do was call a press conference in two months, look America in the eye and 'fess up. Instead, Pete Rose is selling his confessional for $24.95. Worse, he is doing so with incredibly rude and selfish timing -- as Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley are elected to the very shrine Rose seeks. This is not my idea of remorse. Not when Rose has lived sport's most scandalous lie for 14 years. Not when he never has sought help for a compulsive-gambling problem and certainly not when he's trying to wash smut from his soul and enter a sacred hall in Cooperstown. By selling his 'story' in a book, he's more interested in continuing his shell game than coming clean the respectable way, all of which only reconfirms my utter lack of trust in someone so deceitful -- and why baseball still would be foolish to hand him a key to the Hall of Fame, much less let him anywhere near a major-league dugout. Once a con man, always a con man, Rose must get out of our lives. He should remain an eternal example of what's wrong with a manager or player gambling on the sport in which he performs. He doesn't need reinstatement as much as he needs help for a problem for which there be no cure. He is a chronic liar. To this day he's scheming, only this time I think America is on to him."
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (afternoon): "'Richie Rich' finally got it right. Having pillaged and burned the franchise to the ground since taking over in 1999, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder finally found the fire extinguisher. The hiring of Joe Gibbs as the new -- and old -- head coach of the Washington Redskins brings something back to Washington that's been lacking since Snyder bought it -- credibility. You name it, and Snyder has done it as the owner -- going through coaches like paper towels, signing aging veterans past their prime to gazillion-dollar deals and, of course, becoming Gator bait for the idea that Steve Spurrier could be an NFL head coach. Joe Gibbs already is an NFL head coach, one of the best of all time. His hiring gives Daniel Snyder's organization the one thing it's been desperately seeking since 1999 -- respect. Joe Gibbs has tons of it. Whether or not it works out is almost inconsequential. Daniel Snyder made the move to save a franchise, and perhaps even more importantly, he made Cowboys-Redskins games matter again. What's more important than that?"
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "The season ended, what, three, 3½ weeks ago? Well, crank it up. Here we go again. The PGA Tour 2004 campaign starts today -- the Mercedes Championships, Kapalua over in Hawai'i; the Plantation course as beautiful a spot as there is on the planet. Last year at this time Tiger Woods was still rehabbing from his knee surgery, and the second tier -- Ernie Els, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh -- got off to great starts for 2003. They pushed Tiger, but Woods was still the Player of the Year. What's different this year? Tiger is healthy; he's ancient now, he's 28; and he's engaged. But here's what's most important: Do you Tiger has won only one tournament in the last six months? He won the Western Open in July, and from July to January his only win: the American Express Championship in Atlanta in September. I think Tiger will make an early statement. The golf course fits him well. You'll see it in prime time, all four nights -- the Mercedes Championships on ESPN TV.
"Two coaches who spent some time on TV are reenergized and back where they first made names for themselves. One on display tonight: Jeff Van Gundy. He brings the Houston Rockets into New York; Van Gundy's first return to Madison Square Garden since leaving the Knicks two years ago. Jeff said his biggest issue is not making a right turn out of the tunnel but a left to where the visitors sit. Oh, by the way, it's also Stephon Marbury's homecoming, and that'll steal the headlines, but I'm more interested in the crowd. They're going to give a great reception to the visiting coach in New York. That rarely happens. Why are they going to do it? Pat Riley gave the Knicks a footing again, but Van Gundy may be the best New York coach since Red Holzman. He certainly is the most popular. His defensive-minded work at Houston is counter to what we see out West. It's fun watching Sacramento and Dallas bang up 115 points, but Houston's way may be the most effective come April and May. The other coach back on the sidelines: Denny Green and Arizona, maybe the best chance they have to have a .500 team. They have an experienced coach who's taken a team deep in the playoffs. Notice Minnesota hasn't been too far without him."
Scott: The Rose case
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 2004
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (morning): "My parents raised me right. Any deficiency in personality I have, it's in spite of Ray and Jackie's good teachings, not because of them. I don't think there's anything wrong with my value system. All that is a prefix for my Pete Rose stance. What he did: dead wrong. Betting, lying about betting for 14 years, wearing that same, ol' hairdo. He should have been punished, banned, jailed, flogged, but come on people, let it go. Why require the man to cry crocodile tears in public? 'Pete, you must show contrition.' Why? If you don't want a guy in the Hall of Fame because he gambled on baseball, don't let him in. But if you're going to let him in, if he shows remorse, then apparently, your qualifications for Cooperstown are 'must be able to feel guilt and demonstrate it.' Funny, I always thought the hall was for the best baseball players we've ever seen. Either forgive him and let him in or don't, but don't make him be a 9-year-old kid wearing a dunce hat in school."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "All he had to do was call a press conference in two months, look America in the eye and 'fess up. Instead, Pete Rose is selling his confessional for $24.95. Worse, he is doing so with incredibly rude and selfish timing -- as Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley are elected to the very shrine Rose seeks. This is not my idea of remorse. Not when Rose has lived sport's most scandalous lie for 14 years. Not when he never has sought help for a compulsive-gambling problem and certainly not when he's trying to wash smut from his soul and enter a sacred hall in Cooperstown. By selling his 'story' in a book, he's more interested in continuing his shell game than coming clean the respectable way, all of which only reconfirms my utter lack of trust in someone so deceitful -- and why baseball still would be foolish to hand him a key to the Hall of Fame, much less let him anywhere near a major-league dugout. Once a con man, always a con man, Rose must get out of our lives. He should remain an eternal example of what's wrong with a manager or player gambling on the sport in which he performs. He doesn't need reinstatement as much as he needs help for a problem for which there be no cure. He is a chronic liar. To this day he's scheming, only this time I think America is on to him."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "So at age 63, why would Joe Gibbs -- the three-time Super Bowl champ with three different quarterbacks and the man who is a two-time Winston Cup champion as a team owner -- want to come back and coach the Washington Redskins? Let's look at the big picture. This NFL world has really changed its landscape over the last 11 years since Joe Gibbs left the sideline. Compensation has doubled for head coaches. No matter what it is -- TV analyst, playing golf with your retired buddies or, in Joe's case, running one of the best NASCAR teams going -- nothing replaces the challenge that a head coach has and the high he gets from bringing a pro football team together. Look at the guys out there in their 60s -- Bill Parcells, Dick Vermeil, Marty Schottenheimer. It seems like the football coaches are the ones who have the hardest time walking away from the game. Now that it's become this lucrative, the pull can't keep them on the outside looking in anymore. I want to remind you of this, though: Past performance doesn't guarantee future success, although I think Gibbs will do fine. Let's just note the four guys who lost wild-card games last weekend -- Parcells, Holmgren, Billick, Shanahan -- all are former Super Bowl champs.
"If you are unsure of how a substance-abuse battle is a lifetime issue, we were reminded on two different NBA fronts this week. In terms of players, Vin Baker -- great comeback story the first couple months of the season with the Boston Celtics. He's sitting out three games because of a relapse in his battle against alcoholism. In the front office San Antonio Spurs chairman Peter Holt checked himself in for alcohol treatment, something he's been dealing with since the '80s. These two reminders of how difficult the challenge is, especially when you are in the public eye.
"Of all the Kobe Bryant road trips this season, look for the most uncomfortable welcome tonight, his first visit to Colorado playing the Nuggets in the same state where his sexual-assault case will be heard. Most places he's been booed early, but the crowd usually backs off in the second quarter. It might not be that way in the alleged victim's home state tonight. Also, not having Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone will make it a tough game as it is."
Davis: Live and learn
TUESDAY, JANUARY 6, 2004
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (afternoon): "I come not to bury the BCS but to praise it -- sort of. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese was stuck as chairman of the BCS, which is sort of like being chairman of explaining why Jessica Simpson thinks Buffalo wings come from buffaloes. There's no solution; you just make the best of a regrettable situation. The BCS could be in for another overhaul. Spare us. There's no foolproof system. The extra-game-after-the-bowls idea is ludicrous. What if there's one unbeaten team -- a definitive No. 1? Why should another team get a shot? It could be the wrong team. Here's the deal: College football needs to get all the way in or all the way out of the playoff business. Since getting into the playoff business doesn't appear to be an option, live with the BCS quirk. Learn to love it, and argue until August, when LSU and USC will embark as favorites to actually play each other for the title this time -- computer tweaks willing."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "Ten years ago this day we all were introduced to the real Tonya Harding, and the word 'Gillooly' became a verb. What an anniversary.
"One day ago we were introduced to the new-look New York Knicks. Eight players were involved in this big deal, and the biggest attention obviously is on Stephon Marbury returning to New York. Look at the Knicks' starting five now -- Marbury and Allan Houston in the backcourt, Keith Van Horn at the '3,' Kurt Thomas at power forward and Dikembe Mutombo at center. That's a pretty good team; a few All-Stars on the floor. Only 10 teams in the East, when you look at it, really have a shot at the eight playoff spots. I think the Knicks with this deal are in the top eight. The Knicks are one of the few teams that could handle the cost of this deal because of the luxury-tax hit that will come. That's why Phoenix did it; they wanted to dump salary. Why else? Well, they have young, talented players to build around with Amare Stoudamire, the Rookie of the Year. They have cap space to make a run maybe at Kobe Bryant, maybe at Steve Nash next year. But it's amazing. Nine months ago they beat San Antonio to open the playoffs. Now they're in rebuild mode.
"Last night's headline in college hoops: the Texas Longhorns -- the controversial buzzer-beater, overtime win in Providence. Replays did show P.J. Tucker's finger-roll came after the clock hit zero but before the period-ending light went on behind the backboard. One big difference between the more compact N-B-A and the varying economics of hundreds of colleges: With more money to spend in fewer places, every N-B-A arena has the clock, the backboard lights and the big lights around the frame all synched up. The NBA has the best replay system in all of sports.
"Finally, the big baseball headlines are Pete Rose yesterday and the Hall of Fame announcement today. Too bad they overshadow the passing of Tug McGraw, who was much more than the dad of country singer Tim McGraw. He was a relief pitcher before relief pitchers were cool. His 'You Gotta Believe' defined the Mets when they were still regarded as second-class citizens, and he provided the signature moment when the Phillies won their only World Series in 1980. At 59, he left us too young."
Davis: The case for Rose
MONDAY, JANUARY 5, 2004
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Now that Pete Rose has admitted he bet on baseball, and frankly, even if he had not admitted it, it is time to end his suspension from his profession. We live in a different time than the days of the Black Sox scandal. Lifetime bans are no longer just, fair, or in keeping with the social morés which govern us all. In this society a person convicted of a crime, even if he or she never admits to it, serves a penalty prescribed by a judge or a jury of peers. Such people eventually are paroled, even some who are convicted of capital crimes, and once they are allowed to reenter society, they are generally permitted to earn a living. Why not Pete Rose? He broke a rule of baseball and has basically served 14 years of a life sentence. He has now admitted his wrongdoing and to lying about it. There is no evidence he ever bet against his own team, which would be grounds to deny his reentry. He's served his time. He belongs in the game. He wants a second chance and should get it."
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "We had all heard the whispers -- that Ray Lewis had taken Eddie George's heart a few years ago with a hit in a playoff game. Certainly, from that point on their two careers took different paths. And it is true; Lewis did steal George's soul. I saw it on MTV 'Cribs.' 'Ray-Ray' keeps Eddie's soul in his billiards room. It glows like the contents of that suitcase in 'Pulp Fiction.' But Eddie apparently broke into Ray's house, snuck into the billiards room and took it back, because this weekend, despite big hits and a dislocated shoulder strapped to a harness, George out-toughed the tough Ravens defense in a playoff game that led the weekend in tough. It was good to see, too, the ghost of Eddie George making another playoff appearance and getting some semblance of revenge against a team, a player and a criticism that had haunted him. Eddie George and his stolen soul are advancing to the next round of the playoffs, and Ray Lewis suddenly has a hole in the billiards room he can spend the rest of his off-season in."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "USC or LSU? You can have your pick; everyone else does. I think watching the games, it's hard to determine which team is better. A split title kind of fits this system this year. Both 'SC's Rose Bowl win and LSU's Sugar Bowl triumph last night? Remember, they were only driving distance from campus. It was like they were playing home games. It would have been interesting to see those games on true, neutral fields. Did you see The AP poll? USC's margin actually expanded -- more first-place votes after the bowl games than before. How about the three coaches in the ESPN-USA Today poll who said, 'To heck with the agreement; I'm voting for USC'? And no, one of them wasn't Pete Carroll. He doesn't have a coaches-poll vote. Upcoming college-football storylines: 'SC -- I think they're No. 1 going into next year. Nick Saban and Bob Stoops -- They're going to be tempted by the NFL, maybe interview. I think they both stay in college. Both programs are in great shape. And on the national coaching front, can Nebraska save face after being turned down by its first two choices for head coach?
"NFL playoffs: four down, seven to go. The biggest story to me was Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy finally getting that playoff win. You watch the wild-card winners and say, 'Boy, those teams look great, don't they?' Reminder: This system has been in place since 1990. The wild-card weekend winners are 9 of 52. Only 17 percent have made it to the conference title game."
Charles Gibson: "Did you bet on baseball?"
Pete Rose: "Yes, I did, and that was my mistake not coming clean a lot earlier."
"Those the comments of Pete Rose talking to ABC's 'Good Morning America' host Charles Gibson. You'll see Rose end 14 years of denial on ABC News' exclusive with Charlie Gibson on 'Primetime Thursday.' Boy, are you surprised Pete bet on baseball? I think we all had that feeling all along. My opinion is still unchanged. Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. All of his hits came while we didn't know any of this, but Pete Rose does not belong in a major-league baseball organization."
Wingo: Tournament time
SATURDAY, JANUARY 3, 2004
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning): "And so it begins. Bill Parcells calls it 'The Tournament.' With that in mind, maybe the NFL playoffs should officially adopt the motto of the late, great Jim Valvano in the 'NCAAs': 'survive and advance.' Take the Patriots out of the equation, and you realize there's no one team out there that looks utterly 'super,' as in Super Bowl champs. We may be headed for the most exciting, upset-laden postseason in NFL history. Can Quincy Carter prove he's ready for the bright lights of the playoffs? The Cowboys offense has struggled on the road against tough defenses. Oh, by the way: Dallas at Carolina Saturday. Is Anthony Wright ready to deliver for the Ravens? Yes, Baltimore has beaten Tennessee five straight times, but is Wright the right man to make it six? Can Indianapolis really reverse the beating they got just two weeks ago at the hands of Denver? And are the Packers this year's team of destiny? If big Irv Favre is watching, can there be any doubt that 'The Pack' will be back in the Super Bowl? So many questions. Saturday we finally start getting the answers."
Schaap: How Spurrier finished
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2004
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (morning): "A hero in Gainesville. A bust in the NFL. Steve Spurrier went out with barely a whimper. Three days after his Washington Redskins finished their season at 5-11, Spurrier resigned -- via cell phone. In a statement he said, 'This is a very demanding job. There are other things that I need to do.' In Spurrier's two seasons in Washington he went 12-20, losing more total games than he lost in his nine final seasons at the University of Florida. Spurrier isn't the first coach to move to the pros with enormous expectations. John McKay, for instance, won four national championships at USC before taking over in Tampa Bay, but his Buccaneers were terrible. His quarterback when they went 0-14 in 1976: Steve Spurrier. But McKay stuck around and eventually won two division titles. Spurrier, on the other hand, is gone."
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (afternoon): "I didn't want to watch it. I called for the formation of an oversight committee to keep us from seeing it -- again. I'd seen it before. In fact, I'd seen it four straight times before last night, yet Florida State and Miami continued to flicker on my screen, and I couldn't hit the remote. I just sat there, my state half-mesmerized, half-catatonic, the same familiar stupor induced by the one millionth of 'Roadhouse' on TNT. Why must I see Patrick Swayze restore order to the 'Double D'? I know the local kingpin won't win just like I know Bobby Bowden's kicker won't make the field goal, his quarterback won't complete the pass, his team won't make the play. Not against Miami. Not for five straight times now. Maybe never again. Yet I watch. Why can't I change the channel? Did I mention I had Florida State in the Sonic Bowl Mania challenge? After the 'Noles lost, I hurled the remote at the TV. I missed, wide right. Dad-gum Patrick Swayze."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "When it comes to the NFL playoffs, my philosophy is you consider the offenses and defenses, and the team with the weakest unit is the one under the most stress. With that in mind, we start with Tennessee at Baltimore tomorrow afternoon on ABC. In this case, it's the Baltimore offense that's weakest. Despite Jamal Lewis having the second-best rushing season in NFL history, I have little confidence in the Ravens' ability to throw the ball successfully against Tennessee. The nightcap on ABC has Dallas at Carolina. For all the buildup he's received, Bill Parcells has done an amazing job. But so has John Fox -- without the fanfare. I don't think Dallas's offense has performed well the last few weeks. The Cowboys are struggling to find an answer, so I like Carolina at home. On Sunday it's Seattle at Green Bay: The Packers are playing with an extra something on their shoulder after Brett Favre's dad passed, responding unlike any other team would do for its quarterback. Mike Vick may have done pulled off the upset in the snow last year, but do you really think the Pack is losing two straight playoff games at Lambeau? Finally, it's Denver at Indianapolis. We saw this game two weeks ago, same place, at Denver was really in control. It's a huge game for Peyton Manning. Despite his 0-3 playoff record, he is the goods. This is the best supporting cast on both sides of the ball he's ever had, so stories and excuses and reasons are limited here. It's about time the Colts start taking those playoff steps.
"With Michigan's upset of USC yesterday in the Rose Bowl, the BCS really will have an undisputed national championship game Sunday night in New Orleans.
"Top-ranked USC has claimed one-half of the national championship with its victory over Michigan yesterday. We'll find out who wins the other half Sunday in New Orleans.
LSU meets Oklahoma in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, and the worst thing for the Tigers is what happened to the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship game. I don't think LSU will be able to run the ball the way Kansas State did. Even with a huge, Bourbon Street advantage for LSU, I still think the Sooners win a low-scoring game and get Bob Stoops another national-championship trophy."
Smith: Van full of togetherness
THURSDAY, JANUARY 1, 2004 -- NEW YEAR'S DAY
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (morning): "It's New Year's morning, and Melvin Simmons Sr. and his wife Kathleen are about to start the new year with a big-time, sports bang. First, they'll pile into their over-sized van -- with eight of their 11 children -- and drive to the Rose Bowl to watch son No. 1, Melvin Simmons Jr., play for USC in the Rose Bowl. Then they'll pile back into the van and drive to Phoenix to watch son No. 2, Marvin Simmons, play for Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. Then they'll pile back into their van again and drive to Las Vegas to watch their daughter, Kameca Simmons, play for UNLV's Lady Rebels basketball team. Then they'll head back to Los Angeles, where all 11 were born and raised, and try to decide where Marlin Simmons, one of the top high-school linebackers in the country, will go to college next year, all the while getting Maurice, Marquis, Marcel and Marcello get ready for spring practice. Then Kathleen Simmons, who was pregnant 10 straight years, says she plans to rest -- the new year brought in properly. Talk about some powerful genes."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "It really isn't true that old saying, the one that goes 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.' In the world of sports there is significant change taking place. You may have to step back to really see it, but it's happening. Three areas come to mind. Golf: Women are going to grab a share of those men's purses. Suzy Whaley and Annika Sorenstam just got it started. Michelle Wie will advance the cause further, and one of them will make the big breakthrough, eventually. Count on it. Another is the clear end to taxpayer funding of playgrounds and arenas for pro sports. They are through drinking off the public trough. No more mega-stadiums at taxpayer expense, even if the economy turns around. And substance abuse in sports: It's there. It's been bad. The cheaters keep on finding new ways to cheat, but there has never been more public awareness of it nor determination to end it. This is a winnable fight, especially if athletes can be convinced of the mortal danger they face by taking this junk. There are positive changes afoot in sports. Happy new year, everybody."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico from Pasadena, Calif. (afternoon): "While we're waiting out this first act of the Bowl Championship Series -- the most attractive non-championship game in six years of the BCS -- we look ahead to Act 2: The FedEx Orange Bowl between Florida State and Miami. This would be a game worthy only of regional attention if it weren't between two of the nation's marquee programs. It's a rematch of the 'Canes' rainy, eight-point victory in Tallahassee, and the second of three games they'll play only 11 months apart; they open against one another next Labor Day. That may be good in the pros, but not in college. It really takes on significance if Florida State wins this one, because that puts a lot of pressure on Miami to exact revenge in September. Tonight we'll be watching Kellen Winslow. We did Miami's game against Louisiana Tech when Winslow caught a meaningless, touchdown pass and did a Heisman pose. That turned out to be his only touchdown of the season. This is probably Winslow's last college game, his last chance to show he can make an impact at this level. Winslow may be remembered most for his performance in last year's championship loss to Ohio State. As for the Buckeyes, we'll check them out in a minute.
"Ohio State has the best run defense in the nation. Kansas State has Darren Sproles. A terrific matchup between them happens tomorrow night in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl over in Tempe-Arizona. If you want to know how good Sproles is, just go ask Oklahoma, but that's not necessarily where this game will be won or lost. The Buckeyes must open up the offense, or else this could be a long night. By the way, you can hear all the BCS games live on many of these ESPN Radio stations, and you can see them on ABC.
"One personal note. It is an honor to be the new host of this program, taking the torch held so well for 11 years by Brent Musburger. Being preceded by one of the best sportscasters ever means we have impossible shoes to fill. Brent has built a huge stadium. We just hope to keep the fannies in the seats as we go forward."