October 18, 2005
Tedy Bruschi:
Pats LB (and emotional leader) returns to practice Wed. Can't do anything BUT help a struggling Pats D, but unless he plays DB, how much impact can he have?
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

The Cardinals are *DOWN* 3-2 in the NLCS, and yet it feels like they're in complete control.

That's how big Pujols' HR was.

Houston must be shell-shocked.
Wait: Wasn't closer Brad Lidge supposed to be the biggest lock in baseball?

That one stat keeps coming back to me: The Astros had lost one game all year where they were leading in the 9th inning.

Suddenly, they've doubled their failure rate; now, they head back to St. Louis for the end of the series.

Busch will never be confused with Fenway for pressure-cooking atmosphere, but the Cards have all the mo.

In Page 2's must-read postgame "2nd Guessing," Dave Schoenfield nailed the analysis: "Astros fans are damn scared right now." (See Q It Up)

Of course, the Astros have Oswalt for Game 6 and Clemens for Game 7 (and who ISN'T rooting for THAT scenario?).

But the Cards have Pujols,
and evidently he's more than enough.

MNF: Colts 6-0
The NFL's best team finally put together a complete game between the offense and the D.

Don't let the early 17-0 hole fool you: The D clamped down when they had to in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, welcome back to Peyton, Edge and the O.

The only thing that must unnerve the Colts is word of the return of their New England nemesis, Tedy Bruschi.

That's a reminder that as great as Indy looks now, they haven't gotten past the Pats in the playoffs... yet.

Mazzone to ... Yankees?
Say it ain't so, Leo! What are the Braves thinking giving the Yankees permission to talk to pitching guru Leo Mazzone?

Are they ready to chuck a foundation of their dynasty? Is ATL signaling that Mazzone (like former NY coach Mel Stottlemyre) is the playoff goat?

One reason Mazzone emerged as a cult figure was the relative obscurity he worked in in Atlanta (nationally broadcast rocking on TBS, aside).

Would he really be a good fit in New York with the daily scrutiny? There's no question that the Yankees' rotation desperately could use him.

(P.S.: The O's like him too.)

BCS Results
The BCS *almost* got away from its 2005 unveiling without much griping. Almost.

USC is No. 1; Texas is No. 2.
No complaints.

VA Tech, UGA, Bama: 3-4-5.
Battling to be this year's Auburn (but, still, no real arguments).

But the mockery comes when you see Notre Dame at No. 16.

Why are the Irish No. 16? Because none of the six PC polls has them higher than No. 21. 21!! (And two of them have ND unranked. UNRANKED!!)

I'm usually sympathetic to the computer polls -- data is data. But after ranking Notre Dame No. 5 in my own Top 10, I join the hecklers.

NBA Dress Code
Officially announced Monday, and it will kick in on Nov. 1. It's all about bolstering the NBA's image.

Ben Roethlisberger: Returning to lineup this week vs. CIN
Danica Patrick: Involved in post-race poking confrontation
Joe Torre: Will he speak out about his future today?
Marc Bulger: Rams QB injured during MNF; out for how long?
Brian Griese: Bucs QB may be out for season? (Simms time)
Flozell Adams: Anchor of Cowboys' Bledsoe protection out
Players seem to forget that it's the NBA's product, so the league gets to dictate the rules. Some players' images will take a hit; but most will do a lot better with the sartorial upgrade.

Some highlights:

No more jerseys: That's the end of the press conference retr-homages to NBA history. (That's okay; jerseys are passe anyway.)

Sport coats on the bench: Hey, if blazers work for hipsters, they work for NBA players.

No T-shirts: Come on, you make millions of dollars a year; you can't afford a shirt with a collar?

No sunglasses while indoors: Finally! This was always ridiculous faux-Hollywood posturing anyway.

No chains or medallions: At least worn OVER clothes. This will get some pushback; who wants to hide expensive bling under a shirt?

Now if only the dress code was in effect for slobbo sportswriters who COVER the NBA, we'd really be getting somewhere.

Vikings Update
Zygi Strikes Back! One of my biggest gripes about sports scandal management is the sorry way executives react.

In this case, however, if there's one person in the Vikings organization who is coming out looking better, it's the owner.

The players take blame:
Well, it WAS their idea.

The coach takes blame:
He's an impotent leader.

The OLD owner takes blame:
Too cheap to hire security?

But Wilf has gotten out in front of the clean-up: He's meeting with the NFL. He's bringing in FBI talent. He's ripping players.

And he's demanding (and instigating) action.

His franchise is a punchline, but Zygi Wilf is no joke. And that's the only thing that's going to save the Vikings from this scandal.

A. Houston Retires
The "Allan Houston Theory?"
No longer saddled with lingering "Will he or won't he?" questions about whether this wildly overpaid jumpshooter will play or retire, the Knicks finally shed the last vestiges of the 1990s and -- gasp! -- move on. That's worth 5-10 more wins alone.

More Notre Dame Reax
There was all sorts of sketchiness at the end of the ND-USC game: The ball placement after Leinart's fumble out of bounds, USC assistant Brennan Carroll signaling for that TO the Trojans didn't have, Bush's push.

But USC side-stepped all the clarity that would have come with a second look because of one more Pete Carroll coaching gamble that turned out to be genius: Vetoing the use of instant replay, before the game even happened.

It was a counter-intuitive move (after all, replay has been a huge success across CFB this season). So forget the uber-gutsy call to go for it at the goal-line on the last play of the game; refusing replay may have been the REAL coaching call of the year.

NASCAR is wildly popular (just ask 'em), but I'd argue that it's still simply the most popular NICHE sport.

The casual ESPN-following sports fan tracks the NFL, MLB and the NBA, along with college football and college hoops.

What NASCAR has lacked is the cultural imprimateur of ESPN -- not to NASCAR's existing die-hards, but to the ESPN Nation that hasn't bought in yet.

But perhaps that's because ESPN hasn't put its promotional muscle behind NASCAR to gain acceptance with these fans of the "other" sports.

That's what NASCAR's new TV deal with ESPN will accomplish: It will help them gain traction with fans who previously dismissed NASCAR as a quirk.

I'm not sure these fans ever will turn (but they should). NASCAR's growth makes it ludicrous to act provincial about the "classic" sports.

"Rocky VI"
Okay, it's "Rocky Balboa" (presumably because calling it "Rocky VI" would remind people how bad "Rocky V" was).

The fact is that there WILL be another "Rocky" movie. Rocky meets The Contender? Ha: Only in Stallone's dreams.

But it reportedly DOES involve a comeback, a shot at the champ and, presumably, an exciting training montage set to power rock.

(Speaking of boxing, I highly recommend "Beyond Glory," a new book by David Margolick about the epic Louis-Schmeling fights. Boxing may be in shambles today, but for books and movies, nothing in sports has proven a more fertile subject.)

Brad Lidge:
It's amazing how a reputation of being untouchable can so quickly evaporate with a single towering home run to blow a game (and NL title).
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 index
P2: Second Guessing
Ranking the "Rockys"
Hard to argue with Oscar
Rocky III
Mr. T in classic role
Rocky II
If only for closure
Rocky IV
"I must break you"
Rocky V
Notice a trend here?

Details still emerging about Seahawks FS Ken Hamlin's role in a brawl early Monday morning. But here's to his recovery from serious injuries.

Tennis moving closer to replay? The Int'l Tennis Fed approved the use of a new system; that puts them one step further along evolution than MLB.

Jets lose C Kevin Mawae for year; well, as long as the top 3 QBs are either hurt or benched, it's not like he had much of a role anyway.

NBA chatter: Are the Knicks eyeing C Theo Ratliff? What will Kwame Brown and Gilbert Arenas say to each other when they meet tonight?

How can you NOT love Ron Artest. He'll be on the December cover of Penthouse and, in the issue, challenges Ben Wallace to a $10 million PPV fight.

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