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Monday, February 14, 2011
Power Rankings: Anti-Bieber edition

By Greg Hardy
Special to Page 2

Don't trip on the red carpet while on your way to the Page 2 Power Rankings! Our formula combines the results of two surveys: a human poll concocted by ESPN Page 2's Greg Hardy and a scientifically calibrated poll generated by computer analysis. Unfortunately, our computer wasted the weekend doing his freelance side job: writing motivational speeches for Charlie Sheen to recite to college and pro baseball teams. Someone figure out whether Mets are the team that most needs to hear Sheen's message or least needs to hear it. To the results!

1. Esperanza Spalding

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
9.8 9.8 19.6

Credentials: "Hey, look! It's Esperanza Spalding!" That's what we want to yell in our best "extra in the baseball stands from 'The Naked Gun'" voice when we see the latest Grammy winner for Best New Artist take the stage to sing the national anthem before the next Super Bowl. Because once someone upsets Justin Bieber in that category, we have to do everything in our power to make sure she doesn't become an historical footnote. Not that her Wikipedia page hasn't surely come up with some interesting factoids since Bieber-holics started fuming right after the award was announced. What's the better sports analogy here: Are Bieber fans as mad at her as Red Sox fans are at Bill Buckner, or are they as shocked as Patriots fans after the Giants beat them in the Super Bowl? Someone needs to give Spalding her own daytime talk show so we can settle these issues. Hey, if there's no NFL football in the future, what else are we going to watch?


2. Albert Pujols

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
9.5 9.0 18.5

Credentials: Show of hands: Which do you think is most likely to be the 31-year-old first baseman's next deal? Ten years with the Cardinals; nine years with the Cubs; eight years with the Yankees; seven years with the Phillies; six years with the Oakland Raiders; five years with Warner Bros. Records; four years with the Marines; three years on "Two and a Half Men"; two years served with Michael Vick; or one year on "Jersey Shore"? You mull that over while we find a player to be named later.


3. Loveless Valentine's Day

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
8.9 8.3 17.2

Credentials: Let's face it. Not every Valentine's Day transaction has to be lovey-dovey, so don't force it if it's not there. Maybe your relationship is not in that stage yet; don't feel the pressure that you've got to go all-in just because the calendar reads Feb. 14. While scanning the greeting-card aisle in your rose-colored glasses, look closely, and you'll notice there are cards that scream fun and flirty but don't include the word "love." Buy one of those. Because nothing kills the mood like when your friend with benefits opens a card but the word "love" has been scribbled out with the same pen you used to sign it, no matter how subtle you try to be in passing it off.


4. Washington Wizards

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
7.9 7.3 15.2

Credentials: Huzzah! They finally ended their 25-game road losing streak by winning in Cleveland. As far as dubious achievements away from home go, that's like finding a last-minute Valentine's Day date by calling up a phone number you see in a highway truck stop toilet stall.


5. Tiger Woods

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
7.3 7.1 14.4

Credentials: At first, Woods might have gotten away with the "Dubai Spit" if he'd tried to play it off as though he were getting rid of some old "Gatorade Tiger" backwash. Instead, he's fined and issued a humbling apology. Meanwhile, he can kiss the idea of getting a new mouthwash endorsement into the rough.


6. NHL crime and punishment

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
6.1 6.4 12.5

Credentials: You know the expression, "It's not the crime, it's the cover-up"? Well, for Mario Lemieux, it's not the punishment, it's the justice. He's so upset with the suspensions and fines the league handed down to the Islanders in the wake of a brawl against his Penguins that he said he may "rethink" whether he wants to be a part of the league. Bingo, this is gold for HBO if it wants another crack at an NHL reality show: Super Mario as the renegade disciplinarian. It would have all the great ingredients HBO is famous for: Weighing justice in the balance gives it the gravitas of a "Sopranos" or "The Wire," set against the backdrop of a league that's run with the same level of neurosis as "Curb Your Enthusiasm."


7. Big Ten rivalries

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
5.9 5.2 11.1

Credentials: Kudos to Wisconsin, which toppled Ohio State from the undefeated column and kept Thad Matta winless in Madison. But Buckeyes freshman Jared Sullinger took issue with a tweet about Badgers fans spitting in his face. C'mon, Big Ten, you're classier than that. This is supposed to be the league of Leaders and Legends, not Hockers and Loogiers.


8. Westminster Kennel Club dog show

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
5.2 5.4 10.6

Credentials: At least here's a sporting event that remains pure after more than 130 years. They don't need gimmicks like having the Black Eyed Peas perform during breaks. Then again, we'd turn it on in a heartbeat if we heard someone had a group of dogs groomed to look like the Black Eyed Peas. After all, we do own a rescue beagle we named dog.i.am.


9. Daytona speed freaks

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
5.3 5.1 10.4

Credentials: Problem: At the newly repaved surface at Daytona International Speedway, there were speeds hitting 206 mph. Thus, NASCAR is already dictating several technical tweaks to the cars before Sunday's Daytona 500. If that doesn't work, the next step will be to force drivers to stop their rides once per lap and tweet something positive about how Danica Patrick can improve her skills and visibility as a stock car racer.


10. Carmelo Anthony's health

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
4.5 5.5 10.0

Credentials: There's been some confusion about what the Nuggets star has been putting himself through the past few weeks. He recently concluded a 21-day Daniel fast of no meats, breads or sweets while maintaining mental, spiritual and emotional awareness. By Daniel fast, he didn't mean he was engaged in a Daniel Gilbert fast in hopes of avoiding a trade to the Cavaliers. But he might want to look into a "Donald fast" to avoid getting trapped long-term with Donald Sterling's Clippers.


11. Santa Claus, Olympian

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
4.1 4.6 8.7

Credentials: There's no lower form of sports cheerleader than the Olympic mascot. But one of the candidates for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is "Father Frost," their nation's version of jolly, old St. Nick. Oh, what fun are the mixed messages this sends. On the one hand, nothing says frolicking in the snow like an image of Santa Claus at the North Pole. But is there any way a guy that big can set a speed record for sprinting around the world in one night without some mind-boggling performance enhancers? And if Father Frost does win, are we supposed to ignore the "gifts" he'll leave for IOC chiefs?


12. Plaxico Burress

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
4.4 4.2 8.6

Credentials: Agent Drew Rosenhaus tweeted that the wide receiver is keeping in shape in anticipation for his June 6 release from prison and will be ready to run routes even as he turns 34 in August. But reports say that Burress also is learning the typical manual trades in the workshops, in case he has to fall back on a more blue-collar line of work. His aim is to be an independent contractor who can install temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium. There's always a market for that!


13. Smokeless Cigarette Ban

Human Poll Computer Poll Power Points Trending
3.1 2.4 5.5

Credentials: Bad news for passengers who are trying to get through an airline flight with one of those e-cigarettes. The Department of Transportation is planning to start outlawing them on planes this spring. So long, nicotine fix in the sky. Actually, the real public health menace will be if NFL owners deprive these people of their pro football fix too. There's only so much a nervous system can withstands before it snaps. And then who'll be responsible?


Also receiving votes
• Spring training: Pitchers and catchers of the world, unite! Even the ones we don't like, just show up someplace warm at the outset of the season, and we'll act delighted to see you.

Never receiving votes
• Ken and Barbie: Welcome back to the dollhouse: Did you hear these crazy kids got back together? Well, did you know they've been "broken up" since Valentine's Day 2004? Gee, we could have sworn they spent half of "Toy Story 3" hooking up together last summer. C'mon, Mattel, get a little more sophisticated in drumming up storylines to spark sales. As long as the marketing doesn't get too grown-up and cynical, like a having a rogue Pixar animator leak a video of the two from the Dream Kitchen.

Greg Hardy is a Page 2 contributor. It's all pop culture all the time at Twitter.com/HardyVision.


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