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Tuesday, February 3, 2004
Extra Point/ESPN Sportsbeat for Jan. 15-31, 2004

Here's the text of commentaries heard regularly on ESPNRadio:

Davis: The game, by the numerals
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (afternoon):
"Swannie's snare: Super Bowl X. Willie Brown's Return: XI. Garo's Gaffe: VII. Friends, Romans, lend me your numerals. The gladiator quality associated with the Roman numerals was a convenient filing system for locking away memories. Besides, when else do you use Roman numerals? Fine print in movie credits? But my hard drive filled up about the time the Super Bowl went triple X. That was when Larry Brown got the MVP for catching two passes -- they called them interceptions -- then changed jobs -- like the other Larry Brown. From that point the numerals burgeoned as if they were popping some natural enhancement pill. The coach from Super Bowl XX endorses one of those. Remember when the super fans asked, 'What about Ditka; would he be mini, too?' Apparently, we don't have to worry about that anymore. This isn't a call to lose the Roman numerals. We need them, because the Super Bowl is still big. In fact, in two years it'll be XL -- enhanced naturally. I won't be able to wipe the smile off my face."

McKendry: Concussion issues
Extra Point -- Chris McKendry (morning):
"Eric Lindros is out of the Rangers lineup for now and possibly forever following another concussion -- at least the eighth of his pro career. Since his last concussion -- December 2001 -- the former league MVP has been a severe hit away from retirement. The Rangers say it will be days before a decision is made. Lindros told Rangers coach and GM Glen Sather that he saw stars and flashing, white lights Wednesday night. Isn't that enough information on which to base a decision? The irony is that the 30-year-old actually has been playing better in recent months than he has in years -- brutally tough on the ice and an emotional leader off it. If Lindros is done, his recent play would leave a fitting picture of his career. Talent and potential cut down by injury and the one flaw in his game -- skating with his head down. But here's hoping for one last time he leads with his head -- and leaves the game behind."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "What do National Hockey League stars and Delta Air Lines pilots have in common other than sticks? Quite a lot, actually. Both groups are unionized, and both are facing labor crises which threaten to bring an end to the companies they work for. Yesterday, the Delta pilots union warned its membership that hope is fading fast on reaching an acceptable deal over wage concessions the airline says it needs to survive. Heck, the pilots have already offered to cut wages 9 percent and forego a 4.5 percent raise scheduled in May, and that's not enough. At least they are talking, and the last time we looked there was still some demand for air travel in this country. But there is not a whole lot of demand for hockey. The NHL has TV ratings trouble and an economic crisis that its pilots don't seem ready to address. We grind along toward the end of what could be the final NHL season, and the two sides are not even talking it out. The players union has yet to convince its membership that the threat of extinction is real. They must get on the stick."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "It lacks the steak and sizzle when it comes to a handful of future Hall of Famers. You don't have the Warren Sapps and the Jim McMahons around. Still, 100 million of us will find our way to the TV at 6:25 Eastern on Sunday to watch Carolina and New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Here's the breakdown from this end of what I think is a low-scoring game: Both quarterbacks lead offenses that are low-risk, and that's the way you win football in 2004. Stephen Davis ran for 1,400-plus yards for the Panthers. DeShaun Foster, his backup, pitched in pretty well in the NFC title game. How? Carolina runs just a few basic running plays. They run them over and over. They execute them very well, but Bill Belichick has had two weeks to work on it. That worries me. That means Jake Delhomme and the passing game for Carolina will have to do more. He only threw three passes in the second half against the Eagles in the title game. I'm worried that the Patriots defense will have the better of the day when Carolina has the ball. Now when New England has the ball, Tom Brady throws it more. Don't be fooled. Those are long handoffs to some good wide receivers who aren't afraid to do the dirty work underneath. Deion Branch, Troy Brown, David Givens and Bethel Johnson -- they're good names, and they're going to test Carolina DBs. I think the Panthers defensive backs are the key to this football game. Special teams? The key here is either kicker -- Adam Vinatieri and John Kasay -- can make the big, pressure field goal, so it is tight in that aspect. The Patriots understand the Panthers' position going into Super Bowl XXXVIII. Remember two years ago, the Patriots were the who the Panthers are now -- the underdog looking for that elusive, first Super Bowl title. New England emerged in a low-scoring game with St. Louis. A little more than 51 percent of this year's NFL games were decided by eight or less. In those games the Patriots were 8-1; the Panthers 9-3, including a perfect 7-0 in games decided by three or less. So close and low-scoring are right in the wheelhouse of both teams. Who's going to win? I say serve the chowder. New England will get a close one -- 20-16."

Schaap: A salute to Agassi
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (afternoon):
"It's true. He lost today in Australia. To Marat Safin in the semifinals of the year's first Grand Slam. Nevertheless, let us now praise Andre Agassi. With the possible exception of Renee Richards -- the transsexual star of the 1970s who had been Richard Raskin -- no one in the history of tennis has undergone a more complete transformation than Agassi. In his youth, when he famously said that image was everything, Agassi was the least admirable of superstars. He was the player who skipped Wimbledon because its grass courts did not suit his game. He was the long-haired heartthrob whose work ethic paled in comparison with those of his contemporaries, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras, all of whom won Grand Slams before he did. Who would have thought that Agassi would outlast them all? That at the age of 33 he would still be among the three or four best players in the world? That his career would be more spectacular than Jimmy Connors' and John McEnroe's? Here's to Andre Agassi-who went from punk to praiseworthy."
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (morning): "Attrition. Coaches fall like flies in the NBA. Resignations, firing -- all part of the business. There's some attrition that's not part of the deal. Not for Rick Majerus. Not at 370 pounds -- at only six feet tall. And so Majerus after suffering chest pains, the Utah coach who had bypass surgery a few years back, decided to resign at the end of the season. Majerus' friends and acquaintances in basketball have watched as the Ute coach's weight continued to increase. Knowing his medical history, many feared that something horrible could happen during a game. Majerus is out of the hospital; the door is open should he decide to coach again this season. It would be great to see one of the game's colorful personalities on the sideline again leading his team into the NCAA Tournament -- but not if there's any danger of 'real-life attrition.' Majerus has nothing to prove. It's OK to walk away."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "Super Bowl weekend is on the horizon, but it's obviously not the only news going on in sports. Let's check out some other stuff.

"Down Under, Andre Agassi is out at the Australian Open. Do you really care about the men's final on Saturday night at this point? Probably not. In the women's final tomorrow night, it's Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters meet in an all-Belgian meeting. Boy, that really gets you running to the TV. It is the best women's tennis has to offer right now, but they have nowhere near the sizzle of the Williams sisters.

"In college basketball last night, Temple's victory over St. Bonaventure was No. 700 for John Chaney. What a guy. He is one the coaches whose win-loss legacy is far outweighed by his impact in turning teens into men -- life lessons. John Chaney is an all-time winner in that category. His team has a big mountain to climb against undefeated, 17-0 St. Joseph's on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

"Golf's FBR Open is under way today. What's that? It used to be the Phoenix Open. New name, but the crowds are still the same -- the best on the PGA Tour. Phil Mickelson is hot, off the win at the Bob Hope, playing in his old hometown. Vijay Singh is the defending champ. News out of Los Angeles is troubling today for Laker fans.

"News out of L.A. is troubling for Laker fans. The Los Angeles Times reports Karl Malone could be out until March. That only leaves a month for the veterans to get it together. It might not be enough time.

"Maybe the new generation didn't know of 'Crazy Legs' Hirsch. Ol' Elroy was 80 when he passed away Wednesday in an assisted-living home in Wisconsin. He's in the College and Pro Football hall of fame, was the athletic director at Wisconsin, and he was a key part on the field of the evolution of the forward pass, playing for the Rams in the '50s. In his college days at Michigan, he was only Wolverine to letter in four sports -- football, baseball, basketball and track. In 1944, when the Big Ten was the Big Nine, he was in the broad jump in the track event. He finished third, drove 130 miles from the Illinois campus to Indiana and was the winning pitcher in Game 2 of a doubleheader. The baseball team won the conference title that day. So did the track team."

Smith: Parry raises it up
Neil Parry's lower right leg was amputated over three years ago.
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (morning):
"Neil Parry was in trouble. The San Jose State defensive back had a class in 10 minutes, and he couldn't remember where he had placed his prosthetic leg. His roommates laughed mercilessly as he hopped around the living room, knowing they had hidden it in the barbecue. Finally, they couldn't stand it any longer and told him where it was. Parry was laughing, too, as he retrieved it and strapped it on. One night in a bar, a girl spotted Parry and his buddies in San Jose State football gear and asked if they knew 'that kid who got injured and had his leg amputated.' Parry said, 'Yep,' unstrapped the leg and handed it to her, saying, 'It's me.' It's easy to see why Parry made it back on the football field this past season, three years and 25 surgeries after he was injured covering a kickoff -- attitude and laughter. Not once did Parry ever feel sorry for himself or lose sight of goal to make a comeback. He played his last college game last weekend. Fittingly, it was the Shrine Bowl, a game which raises money for children with disabilities. Parry has already raised hope."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti from Houston (afternoon): "Oh, how I was hoping the NFL had learned a lesson. Having lost all momentum after a sensational start to the playoffs, the king of all sports leagues surely would decide to never again subject us to a two-week delay before the Super Bowl. Much as Bill Belichick is a savant, Tom Brady fits every gooey quarterbacking ideal and the Carolina Panthers are cute right down to the lingering character known as 'He Hate Me,' this stands to be the dullest week of Super Bowl hype on record. Some teams simply are devoid of sizzle and soul, and unfortunately, two such teams have converged in a town that has no Bourbon Street or South Beach but does have armadillos hanging out at strip malls. This should teach Paul Tagliabue the importance of catching lightning in a bottle. Oddly, the best commissioner in sports isn't listening. Because the NFL is concerned about declining ratings when the season debuts in or around a Labor Day weekend, the plan is to start the season a week later and end it a week later. Part of that plan the next few years is to take a week off after the conference title games. So even though pro football is so dominated by quick fixes and volatility that lead to less-than-marquee teams, the league would rather punish fans by making them wait instead of tapping instantly into the suspense. There's a word for this condition -- torture."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "As the buildup continues in Houston for Super Bowl XXXVIII, I've got to be honest with you. I am having trouble getting highly motivated for this game. Maybe it's the lack of familiarity with the Carolina Panthers. Now that doesn't mean there's a lack of appreciation -- just familiarity. We didn't see them on Monday Night Football this year. Inability to get enthused by a likely low-scoring game between these teams. And you know what? The key matchups like the Panthers' front four against the Pats offensive line don't really have me counting backward to 6:25 Eastern on Sunday. Now if you are struggling for interest, allow us to present some of the Nevada influence that is present in this game. There are some propositions that have been proposed at a place called the Imperial Palace. This is funny stuff. Total number of receiving yards for New England tight end Christian Fauria: the over-under is 13½. Number of solo or unassisted tackles by Carolina linebacker Dan Morgan: the over-under is 6½. Who dreams of these things? How about this one? You can even get odds on what will be higher -- the number of Panther first-half points or free throws that Allen Iverson makes when the Sixers visit Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.

"Even though the NFL has not allowed Las Vegas to buy commercial time within the Super Bowl, this year the home of sports gambling in America has put $1.5 million into advertising in events around the game. If you flip the dial off CBS at all on Sunday, there's a pretty good chance you're likely to see a spot promoting Las Vegas and what they call 'the big game,' because they can't call it the Super Bowl. Hotels there are at 92 percent capacity. An estimated 275,000 people are there to watch the game in Vegas. An estimated $70 million are bet legally on the Super Bowl, if you go to last year's numbers. As uncomfortable as it makes owners and commissioners, sports betting and just even the basic notion of who's the favorite and who's the underdog has become so ingrained with the American fan. It's hard to ever imagine the day where it's not a big part of Super Bowl week. Oh, by the way, the Panthers are a solid, seven-point 'dog; the over-under is 38."

Anderson: Knee fee
No hoop for you.
Extra Point -- John Anderson (morning):
"Play ball at the 'Y' this morning? You and your buddies get together to hoop at the health club, on the driveway or park or pavement every weekend? How much is that little game worth? $5.75 million? That's about what it's going to cost the Yankees' Aaron Boone, who tore up his knee playing basketball earlier this month and could miss the entire 2004 season -- a potential, ACL tear that will unguarantee the millions the Yanks would have paid him to play third base. It's one of the few drawbacks of being a pro athlete. You're generally prohibited from playing any sport outside of the one that pays the bills. Basketball, football, skydiving, jet skis, lawn darts, scuba diving, snow skiing, unsupervised weightlifting, skateboards, surfing, ice skating? No, no, no. Sometimes yes, but you better be willing to sign an injury waiver. Sure, we all like to brag that we'd play our favorite sports for free, but how many of us would be willing to risk an entire year's salary to play it? Call it excuse No. 103 of why I'm a couch potato."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Every now and then in big-time sports an athlete comes along who has that rare blend of wonderful talent and public charisma which leads to greatness. Some guys just have it. They sort of tempt the fates with outrageous, public comments and actions, but they manage to pull it off. Charles Barkley and Deion Sanders come to mind. Others threaten to completely undo all their athletic accomplishments with unacceptable public behavior. Dennis Rodman is a prime example, and one fears Keyshawn Johnson has tipped his career scales more on the Rodman side of things than the Barkley side. Johnson's latest social offense consisted of leaving daily, voice-mail threats of physical harm to the man who now has a relationship with Keyshawn's ex. Johnson's lawyer says the wide receiver has already apologized. That's well and good, but here is a guy whose skills have diminished to the point where he's got no guarantee of a job next season, and he pulls a stunt such as that. Wonder what the odds are of Keyshawn landing in a jail cell before he ever lands in another a Super Bowl."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "It was Media Day at the Super Bowl today. No major meltdowns or blowups. Carolina and New England are staying the course as they get ready to build toward the game on Sunday. We'll wait to get to Houston and talk that later in the week. Why don't we talk basketball, and I have a question for you: Who is Terry Stotts, and why should he be cast as the next 'Survivor'? Well, we'll tell you about Terry Stotts in a minute. First, the late news this afternoon: Jim O'Brien, coach of the Boston Celtics, resigned. Yesterday Nets coach Byron Scott -- fired. Scott's firing was interesting, just the third time an NBA coach has been replaced while in first place. Now forget Scott had been to the finals two years in a row. There are new owners there at the Nets. Jason Kidd was fed up with Byron Scott. Remember the New York Post report this past summer? It said that if Kidd stays, Scott's got to go. Didn't go then; did go halfway through the season. Now did you see what Minnesota star Kevin Garnett said last night? His team beat Denver, then he said, 'We got Flip to the All-Star Game.' Flip is their coach, Flip Saunders. He will now coach the NBA Western Conference, and K.G.'s quote tells you all you need to know about NBA coaching. If you and your star don't get along, you'll be moving along. The answer to the question -- who is Atlanta's Terry Stotts? Well, he is the only head coach in the Eastern Conference who was a head coach for his team last year, and as soon as Atlanta's ownership situation is settled, Terry Stotts will be looking for a new job.

"'Super Tuesday' tips off tonight at 7 Eastern on ESPN. It's Purdue visiting Indiana. Here's the question: Will anyone take hold of the Big Ten? The Big Ten is not going to have one of the top teams come tournament time. Who are they right now? Well, Duke, Stanford and St. Joe's are all right there. Louisville was on the way there, but we have questions now with the Cardinals, obviously, with Rick Pitino leaving the team to undergo tests for an undetermined urological condition. Pitino's health and well-being are far more important to the team than basketball is, but we're going to question what's going to happen on the floor for the next couple weeks as Kevin Willard takes charge. Life outside basketball has become more important to Rick Pitino over the last couple years. Hopefully, he takes all the time he needs to get better."

Le Batard: Hacks and spend
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "The New York Rangers are producing more laughter than painfully unfunny Steve Harvey ever has, and they're doing it by pulling off what appears to be a mathematical impossibility. They consistently spend more than anybody in a sport where a lot of the teams don't spend that much, and they consistently miss the playoffs in a sport where not a lot of teams miss the playoffs. This, it goes without saying, is hard to do. Also hard to do: losing 9-1 when you've just added Jaromir Jagr to your roster. But the Rangers did that, too, producing their worst loss in nearly a decade. Has it really been 10 years since Mark Messier held up that cup in New York? You have to wonder even with that success if this franchise is not hockey-cursed the way the Red Sox and Cubs are cursed in baseball. The Rangers are the '80s Yankees of Steinbrenner -- bloated, rich, awful, unsuccessful and very fun to mock."
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (afternoon): "Thirty-five years ago this month a shaggy-haired, 25-year-old named Joe Namath made a famous guarantee then backed it up. In an instant the legend of 'Broadway Joe' was born. He was a superstar of prodigious talents and equally prodigious appetites. Today Namath is 60, but what he achieved as a 25-year-old guaranteed his immortality. At his peak Namath was the man every other man wanted to be, but for most of the last five years he hasn't even wanted to be himself -- not since his wife left him and moved across the country with his two daughters. The ultimate bachelor had gradually become the ultimate family man, happy being a stay-at-home father, driving his daughters to school every day. When they were gone he filled the void with alcohol. Now his daughters have moved back to live with him, and he says he's taken his last drink. The hero of Super Bowl III has realized that all these years later he still has plenty to live for."
SportsBeat -- Trey Wingo substituting for Mike Tirico (afternoon): "Finally, it's here, and so are the two teams. With the dreaded week between the conference title games and super Sunday behind us, it's all systems 'go' for Super Bowl XXXVIII. Houston, we have no problems whatsoever. Where to begin on so many interesting stories that will play out all week. Five years ago Jake Delhomme couldn't even start for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. Granted, Kurt Warner was ahead of him on the Admiral depth chart, but still. Sunday Jake Delhomme will start in the Super Bowl for the Carolina Panthers, and with Bill Belichick's Patriot defense prone to taking away the strength of the opposing offense, it will be up to Delhomme to deliver the Panthers to the promised land. And if the playoffs are any indication, Delhomme will deliver. Of all the starting quarterbacks that qualified for the postseason, only Peyton Manning had a higher passer rating in the playoffs. Delhomme: better than Favre, better than his opposition, Tom Brady. But Sunday. Will he be good enough Sunday to hoist the Lombardi Trophy?

"Get ready for a whole, new brand of sports TV. Word is coming out of Germany that former tennis star Boris Becker is getting set to host a half-hour talk show in Germany. Here's hoping he talks about himself. Convicted for tax evasion, an out-of-wedlock child after a two-minute tryst in a bar with a Russian model -- you can't make this stuff up. But if you prefer lighter fare, maybe you're a Parnevik person. Golfer Jesper Parnevik, the son of a Swedish comedian, has had talks about doing a sitcom about himself. They couldn't pick a better subject. We're talking about a guy who on occasion eats volcanic sand to clean out his colon, who once employed the future Mrs. Tiger Woods as a nanny. And then there are the clothes. Jesper says he wants to pattern his show after 'Seinfeld.' Well, Jerry was afraid to wear the puffy shirt. For Jesper the puffy shirt would be a conservative move. Boris and Parnevik: for my money, must-see TV."

Cohn: Leave junior out of this
Blame dad, not his son.
Extra Point -- Linda Cohn (morning):
"It's one of those stories that might have slipped under your radar screen. It's disturbing to me, and a reminder of how cruel and insensitive sports fans can be sometimes. The son of Pete Rose has been in the news of late since agreeing to return to play for the independent Joliet JackHammers of the Northern League this season, a team where he was an all-star infielder a year ago. While Rose Jr. is looking forward to getting back on the field, he's not looking forward to the reaction he will get. He expects it to be worse than anything he's heard before -- before his dad admitted he bet on baseball. Just last year the words were painful to hear -- and tougher to take. While Rose Jr. admits it's a part of his life, he can't help feeling bitter about it, saying, 'I think fans should be abusive at their own cost, but they get protected by that fence.' I got an idea: If you want to verbally abuse a Rose, pick on the older guy."
Extra Point -- Pedro Gómez (afternoon): "You see it all over the place in sports these days, losers suddenly turning up in the winner's circle. The latest to make the leap is the Carolina Panthers, just two years removed from a 1-15 record. If they beat New England in next weekend's Super Bowl, they would join the same Patriots, Baltimore and St. Louis as recent NFL champs who endured a losing season within the previous two years of their title. This theme is not just relegated to the NFL, where parity is rampant. Recent Stanley Cup finalists in the NHL include long shots such as Anaheim, Carolina and Florida. In baseball, not far removed from the domain of the mighty-dollar franchise that resides in the South Bronx, we have witnessed the Florida Marlins, Anaheim Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks emerge as the last three World Series champs. Now, if we can only get the NBA to fall in line we could finally reach the level of socialism that all sports leagues so strongly desire."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico from Palm Springs, Calif. (afternoon): Tirico: "This is the first weekend since the start of August without the NFL. As the teams start to wrap up the planning and get set to head from Carolina and New England to Houston for the Super Bowl, we are not left without football. The Senior Bowl comes up this weekend. It is the best chance for college players to be evaluated by the NFL, because the players have been working all week with NFL coaching staffs and every significant decision maker in the league for every team at some point this week has been standing yards from the practice field taking notes. Also there taking notes is our ESPN colleague Mel Kiper. Mel, who's opened your eyes this week?"

Kiper: "Well, Mike, I'll tell you. You look at guys moving up, you look at Mewelde Moore, a running back out of Tulane -- versatile kid, finishes runs, can catch the ball, can block, a very underrated player at Tulane. Of course, J.P. Losman, their quarterback, he's also had a nice week. Devery Henderson, wide receiver, LSU, was a little inconsistent with the Bayou Bengals, but he has great speed, and he's caught everything thrown his way down here in Mobile as has Michael Jenkins, wide receiver from Ohio State. And I'll tell you, in practice, Darnell Dockett, defensive tackle from Florida State, has been unblockable. He's had a heck of a week down here in Mobile, as well, on the defensive side of the ball."

Tirico: "Thanks, Mel. We'll see you on Saturday. The Senior Bowl is on ESPN at 5 Eastern.

"We're here for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Round 4 of 5 tomorrow on ABC TV. You see the celebs, and where else at a golf tournament do you see Roger Clemens, Yogi Berra and George López in the same field? Well, if you play with the celebrities at this PGA Tour event, the old word is it costs you about two shots per round, but it's a great experience. In the old days Sammy Davis, Glen Campbell and Jackie Gleason were all celebrities who had their names on golf events. The only one to endure is Bob Hope because of what he did for the game. He always had a golf club in his hands -- from Hollywood to his USO tours. Bob Hope meant so much to this sport. Someone is going to win his tournament this week, but the sport and the players get to thank one of its biggest stars this week -- in memory of Bob Hope."

McKendry: Time of innocence
Extra Point -- Chris McKendry (morning): "When an event from childhood becomes a movie, you know you're getting old. Putting aside my vanity, I can't wait to see 'Miracle,' the amazing story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. I was in the fifth grade, part of a sports-crazed family and just old enough to have a crude understanding of world events. The Americans were good, and the Soviets were bad. That was the Cold War. Hostages were being held in Iran, and that was scary. When the college kids beat the large and robotic Soviet Union, they gave us hope and happiness. As for the current Olympic Games, professional sports and world events, I realize it's us -- the Americans -- who are seen as 'the bad guy.' Like the Soviet bloc then, there's a secrecy surrounding our sports systems. Opponents suspect drug use, payments and cheating. As 'Miracle' debuts, and grand-jury testimony in the BALCO case resumes, I say this: Clean up our sports programs, then yes, I'll believe in miracles."

Smith: Trading places
Dennis Rodman, left, was greeted with cheers.
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (afternoon): "Whoever thought that, in this lifetime, we would be cheering Dennis Rodman and be disgusted by Kobe Bryant. Call it bad-boy reversal. This past week Rodman joined the Long Beach Jam of the American Basketball Association and was greeted by a sold-out crowd wildly screaming its approval anytime he did anything -- including riding the stationary bike between stints in the game. On Friday we are bound to hear more of the graphic details of Bryant's sex-assault case. And whether the alleged victim proves to be credible or not, her accounting of what happened that night doesn't exactly conjure images of a romantic, loving tryst between a young woman and a superstar athlete who figured he had nothing to lose but, because of it, now has everything to lose. McDonald's decided against renewing his contract this week, and others may follow suit. Lord knows this is a forgiving country; Bill Clinton, Mike Price and George O'Leary have all resurfaced, and now so has Rodman. It's hard to imagine Bryant, even with a not-guilty verdict, ever will recapture the all-American image he once had."
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (morning): "Why can't Jeremy Bloom play wide receiver for Colorado and make money from ski endorsements? Just another case of the NCAA man keeping the little Bloom down. I understand the NCAA's hesitation. If your accountant were as adept at finding loopholes in the tax code as some coaches are at finding gray areas with the NCAA, you'd either retire 10 years early or spend 10 years in San Quentin. The Bloom situation is unique, but the NCAA should take the chance to establish a bold, broad precedent. Swallow hard, and open Pandora's box. Open the endorsement-revenue pipeline to the players. Bob Knight's got a 'this space for rent' on his sweater. Why is J.J. Redick in J.Crew such a stretch? It could ease pressure to cut the players in on a piece of the pie. As long as the businesses are legit, educate the youngsters about capitalism. I know. College is supposed to be about playing for the name on the front of the uniform instead of the one on the back, but which name was that on the front again -- Texas Tech or O'Reilly Auto Parts?"
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico from Palm Springs, Calif. (afternoon): "The NBA season has reached the mathematic halfway point for most everyone, and there's only one team at 30 or more wins. It's the Indiana Pacers. Now Isiah Thomas has been the focal point of the news for the last month with his remake of the Knicks, which is off to a great start even with last night's loss at Houston. But Thomas was the coach of a good Pacers team last year, which faded when taken out in the first round by Boston. Enter Larry Bird in the front office with his old Celtic teammate Rick Carlisle over from Detroit as head coach, and the Pacers have, in my opinion, become a team that can legitimately challenge whoever comes out of the West. While realizing 30 wins in the East is like winning 26 in the West -- the East much weaker -- watch the Pacers play. And watch them play against the stronger teams in the West. It gives you believe that the East may have a chance come Finals time this year. One other note before we leave the East: What does LeBron James' success in Cleveland and ending the struggles of recent Duke players in the NBA have in common? Two words: Carlos Boozer. The power forward overshadowed last year by rookies Amare toudamire and Yao Ming and this season by 'King James' there in Cleveland has developed into a tough-to-stop power forward. Thirty-two points and 20 rebounds in his last game, he is a star of the future.

"Tonight's big, national, NBA TV game is the Lakers at Dallas. Much like last week's big game -- the Lakers at Sacramento -- these big, schedule games are not a big deal, because without their stars, the Lakers lack luster. Watching last Monday as the team with the worst record in the West, Phoenix, handle L.A. may have served as a point to start worrying. Devean George -- the answer to the question of who started with Malone, Shaq, Payton and Kobe? Well, George was 0-for-10 from the field, his second '0-fer' this season. L.A. is playing its second game in a stretch where it goes 21 of 28 on the road, and Kobe Bryant goes to Colorado for the next hearing in his sexual-assault case tomorrow. L.A. will be OK -- if they get everybody back by March 1."

Scott: Fight club
Nothing like a goalie fight to stir things up.
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (morning):
"Sheepishly, I admit, with hockey fights it's like a car-wreck syndrome. Two guys start swinging? I'm watching. Fighting is like any other skill -- got to do it to be good at it. Watch football, baseball and basketball players when they brawl. They're horrible. Watch hockey players. Nothing wasted. Everything is a clean, crisp barrage of punches, a battering ram of blows rained upside the head. Here's what confuses me, though. You've got big men nailing each other with repeated blows to the face only to skate off the ice -- bleeding, smiling -- to the penalty box, where after five minutes they're back out there -- and often times out later for a beer with the guy they were bashing in the face. Then you have Joe Thornton -- skilled player, not a skilled fighter. Got in a throwdown with Eric Lindros -- skilled at both. Lindros dropped Thornton with a right cross to the face. Thornton skated off with a bad cut and a fractured cheekbone, which only leaves me to guess that goons not only know how to fight; they know how to take a punch."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "Haven't we learned? If the Super Bowl has taught us anything lately, it's to purge all preconceived notions, expect the unexpected and accept the reality of NFL parity as a parody. Everyone wants to proclaim the Patriots as champions, anoint Bill Belichick as 'The New Football Genius' and dismiss the Carolina Panthers as a good excuse to make a jalapeño-dip run. Everyone wants to say this game has no star power beyond Tom Brady, who is such an aw-shucks kid he really could be part of 'The Brady Bunch.' Even Belichick, the star of the show, oozes little charisma while wearing that burlap sack on the sidelines and speaking in a mumbling monotone. But come now. Don't you know this is all a setup? Three years ago, after belittling the Tennessee Titans, we saw the greatest ending in Super Bowl history. Two years ago, ready to behold a new Rams dynasty, we saw the Patriots pull the upset. Last year Tampa Bay became the second straight underdog winner. So quiet down, smarty pants, and enjoy the game. As real football aficionados know, it'll be a good one."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico from Palm Springs, Calif. (afternoon): "President Bush's State of the Union last night was the rare State of the Union address to address a sports hot topic -- the President calling for all major-league sports, both players and teams, to work for measures ensuring that steroid usage comes to an end. No matter your political leaning, anytime the President speaks, it makes others respond, but add that it's a President now, who owned the Texas Rangers, with the use of the largest annual stage that the Commander in Chief has. Hopefully, his message was an eye-opening one to the silly excuses that baseball primarily gives us about testing policies. Now earlier this week John McEnroe said that during his playing days he was given some supplements that would have been illegal, but he didn't find out about their potency until after he stopped taking them. That story drew as much attention away as tennis got started with its first Grand Slam -- the Australian Open. You know the year of men's tennis could be starting this week Down Under. Why? Well, if you look at the women's side, you don't get good matchups until you get to about the round of eight. Meantime, the men's field is deep with a great, young crop of talent coming in and the old guy at age 33. Andre Agassi easily moved through his first two matches this week. To see a guy go from the top of his game, truly hit rock bottom and get back up for a great, final run is one of the best individual sports stories of this decade.

"College basketball tonight: third-ranked, 15-0, undefeated St. Joseph's of Pennsylvania playing former big shot in the Atlantic 10 UMass. With a win over Dayton already, there is reason to think that St. Joe's might take a run at the first undefeated regular season in men's college hoops since UNLV 13 years ago -- the '90-91 season. Delonte West and Jameer Nelson are clearly the best backcourt in the land. Phil Martelli is a coach that the national spotlight will love. It would be great to see the Hawks keep this perfect. Best game of the night: No. 5 Cincinnati at No. 6 Louisville, then No. 1 Duke at Maryland. That's the ESPN doubleheader."

Wingo: Hammer time
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning): "Sometimes teams have no leverage. St. Louis Cardinals, meet Albert Pujols. Albert wants a long-term, big-time contract to stay in St. Louis, and the Redbirds appear to be waffling on the idea. Hello, McFly? Let's recap, shall we? The Cubs should have gone to the World Series and have pitching out the wazoo in Wood, Prior, Zambrano and Matt Clement. This just in: The Astros should be much better next year -- something about Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte playing there. Since the end of the season the Cards' biggest move has been picking up pitcher Jason Marquis. Seriously. When the season ended this Pujols guy was pretty good. He led the team in average, homers, RBI and runs and came close to winning the National League Triple Crown. Since the retirement of Ozzie Smith, Albert Pujols has become the franchise in St. Louis. Tony La Russa calls him the best player he's ever managed. He's only 24. There's a simple truth in negotiating: When you have the hammer, swing it. Nobody has a better hammer right now than Albert Pujols."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Sometimes a guy just deserves a second chance. No, don't turn that dial. I'm not talking about Pete Rose this time. Honest. I'm talking football coaches here. As the whole world knows, Bill Belichick is a perfect example. He struggled mightily as coach of the Browns; his teams went 37-45. Belichick was abandoned by Art Modell after being forced to deal with the mess Modell created in his departure from Cleveland for Baltimore. Belichick was vilified in Cleveland and, thanks to Modell, banished to assistant-coaching land for years. Now he's back -- is he ever. He's being proclaimed the latest second coming of Vince Lombardi. Others have done well in new surroundings -- Tony Dungy at Indianapolis, although he still can't quite get to the Super Bowl; and Mike Shanahan got it done in a big way for Denver after being canned by Oakland. So don't give up on it, Gregg Williams. Keep plugging, Dick Jauron. You, too, Jim Fassel. Your best days may very well lie ahead."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "Tonight is the State of the Union broadcast. It inspires us to offer up our own version of the state of the NFL. By the way, why in the State of the Union do grown men and women stand and clap sometimes and not stand and clap another time? Isn't it 'mature' when the Democrats sit when the Republicans cheer and vice versa? I'm sorry. Back to the state of the NFL. Let's look at the last two Super Bowl champions and the two teams playing for this season's title. What's the one common thread of those two Patriot teams, last year's Bucs and this year's Panthers? Physical, run-stopping defenses that can cover on the back end. How many truly great, offensive players are on any of those teams? How did Carolina got to the Super Bowl? They threw 14 passes in the NFC title game. Come April, Mel Kiper is going to talk draft, and we'll tell you how great Eli Manning is and Ben Roethlisberger. Take that quarterback early, right? Well here are the Super Bowl quarterbacks since the postseason of 2001: Kurt Warner, undrafted; Brad Johnson, ninth round; Rich Gannon: fourth round; Tom Brady, two Super Bowls now, sixth round; and Jake Delhomme, undrafted. Message: The common denominator is a low-mistake quarterback combined with that physical, run-stopping defense. Go draft a big, defensive tackle or a cornerback before you get a quarterback.

"After its early-season success, Georgia Tech needs to prove over next three weeks it belongs with Duke and Carolina as the best in the ACC. Georgia Tech gets a chance tonight at Wake Forest. Wake is coming a loss at Duke on Saturday. It may seem arbitrary, and a critic could make a good argument that it's a self-serving, promotional device, but here's why the week-long announcement of ESPN's all-conference, college hoop teams for the last 25 years in my mind has some merit. Yes, the 25 is an arbitrary number that coincides with our silver anniversary this fall, but name a sport more legitimately impacted by the presence of a 24-hour sports network. 'Big Monday' became a staple for the Big East and the Big Ten. Would you have known anybody in the old Big West other than UNLV without 'Big Monday'? West kids came east because of ESPN. Twenty-five years of ESPN has given a lot of schools more attention via basketball than they otherwise might not have had."

Le Batard: Of course Pats are in Super Bowl
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning):
"So now the completely reinvented Bill Belichick goes to his second Super Bowl in three years, turning the Patriots into about the closest thing you can have to a dynasty in the modern age. Given the NFL's parity, his New England team has put together the most impressive winning streak in this sport since the Dolphins went through the 1972 season without losing a game. It's time to stop wondering how the best team in the NFL does it. The Patriots have exceptionally underrated talent, obviously; Ty Law and Richard Seymour having become stars of the highest order, and Tom Brady turning the short, efficient, always-accurate pass into the equivalent of a running game. Brady consistently completes third-and-four passes for 4½ yards like no one since Joe Montana. It's like having a running game without having one. And New England's extraordinary secondary, the league's best, is the reason Peyton Manning, who never gets sacked, begins his off-season too early with too many welts all over his body. The surprise isn't that the Patriots are in the Super Bowl again. The surprise is that any of us had the audacity to doubt they would be."
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (afternoon): "If I were hiring someone to coach a team in the NFL, I would choose Johnny Lynn. Johnny who? Johnny Lynn. You might ask why Johnny Lynn. Here's why. Johnny Lynn was until recently the defensive coordinator of the New York football Giants -- which, by the way, is the way the Giants identify themselves on their stationery, almost 50 years after the baseball Giants left for San Francisco, but I digress. For the last two years Johnny Lynn was the Giants defensive coordinator, a position that is clearly a springboard to coaching greatness. John Fox, the head coach of the NFC-champion Carolina Panthers, preceded Lynn as the Giants defensive coordinator. So did Bill Belichick, the coach of the AFC-champion New England Patriots. Fox and Belichick are arguably the two best head coaches in the league, and they were both Giants defensive coordinators. Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Only three defenses in the NFL gave up more points this season than Lynn's Giants, but history does not lie. If you want your team to end up in the Super Bowl, hire Johnny Lynn."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "And so we wait. The New England Patriots are a touchdown favorite to beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVII, and we are back to the two-week break. Why? A couple of reasons. First, logistically for teams and people involved in the Super Bowl, the experience for them is far better with a couple days to enjoy the accomplishment of winning the conference championship. You can get logistics in order for football and for getting your family down for next week. And you can also get healthy, too. Second -- I think it's the bigger reason -- we begin the era of the Super Bowl in February. This is the most-watched event on TV every year, and now it will go into the most important sweeps month for the TV networks. As for getting there, clichés become clichés for a reason: They're true almost all the time. You can't tell me defense didn't win championships yesterday. Thoughts on yesterday's losers before they start working on their chipping and putting: Indianapolis made some good strides; they've learned how to win a couple big games. Another year better on defense, the Colts could be the Super Bowl XXXIX favorite in six months. As for Philadelphia, the tag of losing three straight championship games is going to stick to Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, who was not as much at fault yesterday as he has been in other title games. The Eagles need a run game. The lack of it doomed them in the end. As you look back, do you have more respect now for the Buffalo Bills getting to the Super Bowl four years in a row? The Eagles could be remembered for a far greater set of failures than that Buffalo team is.

"So what's next for 14-year-old Michelle Wie after missing the cut by one at the Sony Open in Hawai`i? Well, remember Annika Sorenstam missed the cut by five at the Colonial last May. Michelle's performance was the equal or better than 11 different players who won on the men's tour last year. She's going to play six LPGA events and a few amateur events in '04. Her parents and advisors would be wise not to push her into any other PGA Tour events this year. As we've seen with Tiger, the more normal the foundation, the better for her in the long run."

Cohn: Tarting it up
Extra Point -- Linda Cohn (morning):
"One of the major reasons why professional women's soccer didn't make it in the United States was the fact, when it was on TV, nobody really knew where to find it. Well don't look now, but if the president of FIFA gets his way, women's soccer may become a huge hit on the Spice network or perhaps the Playboy Channel. Friday the sport's chief, Sepp Blatter, offered his proposal to bring more attention to women's soccer. He said women players should consider wearing more revealing uniforms, such as tighter shorts. When word got around to the players, many called the FIFA chief's suggestion 'ridiculous' and 'irresponsible.' Said one Norwegian soccer star Solveig Gulbrandsen, 'If I wanted to wear a bikini, I would have chosen to play beach volleyball.' Bottom line: Sexier clothes will get more people watching, especially men, but will they be watching for the right reasons? And would they feel the same way about the uniform change if it was their daughter on display? I don't think so."

Gomez: Stung by Rose admission
Extra Point -- Pedro Gómez (morning):
"It's been two weeks since Pete Rose finally admitted to betting on baseball, and the disappointment of that fact is no less today than the day the news came out. For years I was a huge Pete Rose defender, believing that everything he accomplished on the field somehow overshadowed anything he could have done otherwise. For whatever reason -- maybe it's seeing and hearing it once and for all -- I can no longer back the all-time hit king when it comes to inclusion in the Hall of Fame. After covering baseball for more than a decade in my previous life as a newspaper writer, I'm fortunate enough to have earned a Hall of Fame vote. For years I thought I would automatically check the box next to Rose's name if he were ever reinstated. Now I know I cannot do that. Rose not only sullied his name but committed a far worse offense, he dishonored the very game that gave him his place in history. As a voting member for the baseball Hall of Fame, here's one less vote Rose will receive."
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (afternoon): "The Yankees need to understand it's not all about them. The level of vitriol and diatribe being directed southwest of New York toward Houston these days is actually quite comical. The utter indignation that Roger Clemens would unretire and play for somebody else has the Yankee nation in an uproar. One paper ran the headline: 'What An Asstro.' A New York radio guy said Clemens essentially gave the city the one-fingered salute. Please. What he did was what Roger Clemens always does -- move on. Clemens spent a small and very successful part of his career as a Yankee. He was also a Red Sox and a Blue Jay and now an Astro. And really, this is all the Yankees fault. Had they showed Andy Pettitte a modicum of respect, odds are he'd still be in New York, and Clemens would be cutting grass this summer, not pitching. The Yankees are still the pinnacle of professional sports, and New York is the greatest city in the world, but to Roger it isn't home. Houston is. That doesn't make Roger the devil. It makes him an Astro, and some people are OK with that."
SportsBeat -- Mike Tirico (afternoon): "It is NFL championship weekend. Let's dive right in. The first game: Indianapolis at New England. The temperature will be above zero, thank goodness. There's great comfort with the Patriots. They're home. Belichick's defense is 4-0 against Peyton Manning. Tom Brady leads a group that's been down this road before. They know what it takes to get to the Super Bowl. The Colts offense against the Pats defense is a great matchup. I always think when you have that, each side gets its share, so it comes down to what happens when New England has the ball. I have more faith in a low-scoring championship game with the Patriots offense over the Colts defense. I take New England. Then the NFC title game: Carolina at Philly. Who are the Panthers? Can you name five Panthers? How'd they win all these games, and can they do it again? Well, how have they won the games? I can give you an answer there. Remember the Giants got to the Super Bowl three years ago? Their defensive coordinator: John Fox, the Panthers head coach. The Panthers are playing with house money. Philly has been to the doorstep twice. They bring a resolve that outweighs the Panthers' ability to play loose and free. I think come Monday, we'll be taking our first look at the Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl.

"The NFL has the headlines, but it doesn't have the entire weekend. Some great stuff; make mental notes. Tonight a great basketball doubleheader -- ESPN2, 7 Eastern, Indiana and San Antonio. I'll bet you didn't know it, but that was the best regular-season game of this season so far. It happened last Saturday in Texas. The Spurs won at home in overtime. The Pacers get their chance to prove that they belong with the big boys out West. Speaking of which, at 10:30 Eastern on ESPN, it's the first of four between Sacramento and the banged-up Lakers, the two big fish in the Pacific pond. College hoops: The ACC is going to take center stage tomorrow -- No. 3 Wake at No. 2 Duke, and I'm more interested in No. 11 North Carolina. They came close at Maryland on Wednesday. They get what I think is the best team in the land, No. 1 Connecticut, on Saturday. After all the football, the Australian Open begins on Sunday night on ESPN2. André Agassi is the defending men's champ at age 33. The top seed is U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick."

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."