January 12, 2006
Mark Messier:
Rangers to retire legendary captain's No. 11 jersey tonight. Messier's mug following the '94 Stanley Cup remains an iconic image in the ESPN Era.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

If you thought the Broncos were the most disrespected of the 8 NFL playoff teams, Steelers linebacker Joey Porter wants to tell you something about the Colts:

"They don't want to just sit there, line up and play football. They want to try to catch you off guard. They don't want to play smashmouth football, they want to trick you. They want it to be a thinking game instead of a football game."

And I thought those saying, "Come on, the Colts haven't played a meaningful snap in more than a month" was insulting.

"Nnnnerrrrrds!" Porter is like Ogre from "Revenge of the Nerds" (which means he'll eventually come around when Peyton wins control of the Greek Council).

Still, it's only Porter's crazy opinion, and as far as disrespect goes, as you survey the "Dis List," a ranking of how disrespected the 8 remaining NFL playoff teams are, it's hard to "dis"-lodge the Broncos.

2006 NFL Playoffs "Dis List":

1. Broncos. Let's see: They have home-field advantage. They already beat the team they're playing this season. And yet most every neutral NFL fan projects a Pats win.

2. Steelers. Despite momentum from the wild-card win at Cincy (and Porter's tough talk), no one is giving them a chance on Indy's fast track.

3. Seahawks. And until Mike Holmgren wins a playoff game while standing on the Seattle sidelines, this is where they'll stay.

4. Panthers. Fans look at that nasty Bears D and the near-shutout they pitched vs. Carolina in Week 11. (But who sees the core of the 2003 NFC champs?)

5. Redskins. Can you really disrespect a team that got all of 120 yards of offense in a road wild-card win? Not nearly enough.

6. Bears. The "X" in "Rex" stands for "X-factor." (But the only QB in Chicago really getting dissed is ol' Kyle Orton.)

7. Colts. What Porter said. (Of course, if all you needed to do was make the division round, Peyton would have multiple rings.)

8. Patriots. Oh, please. The only disrespect would be if you disrespected the concept of "disrespect" by arguing that they suffer from it.

Reggie Bush's plans
I can understand why Reggie Bush might not want to play for the Texans. Then again, I can't understand why he would return to USC when he:

(a) Will make gobs of money.
(b) Has nothing to prove.
(c) Won't alter his pro stock.
(d) Can only get hurt.
(e) Did I mention the cash?

Here's the thing about Bush: It'll take an innovative coach to maximize his effectiveness. Stick him in the "Vicksand" of inside-the-box X's and O's, and Bush might as well be Dave Meggett.

NFL Job Board
49ers hire Mike McCarthy: Like you, my first reaction when I heard the Packers hired the 49ers' offensive coordinator was to laugh. Weren't the 49ers one of the most pitiful offenses in the NFL last season?

Knicks: Win 5th in row (beat Mavs in OT); unbeaten in '06
Michigan St.: 1st B10 W a 14-pt home blowout of Indiana
Modified NFL revenue-sharing: Don't Zzz; deal would be big
AI and Kobe: Score 46 and 41, but not enough to get wins
Kirk Ferentz to NFL: Iowa coach wants to stay in college
Steve Stirling: Islanders fire coach, not unsurprisingly
But apparently, McCarthy is one of those "brilliant offensive minds" that has massaged various QBs to, well, various levels of success. You might hear this: "He even worked with Brett Favre directly in 1999!"

Grain o' Salt: In '99, Favre posted the 3rd-worst QB rating of his career, had a career-low completion percentage and threw 23 picks. (And yet, those numbers would be improvements over 2005. Zing!)

McCarthy also helped "develop" Aaron Brooks. Take that as you will.

Dukies top Terps
While the rest of college hoops' Top 25 struggles through conference play, Duke avenged a 3-game losing streak to Maryland by thumping them at Cameron, 76-52. No team is even close to Duke right now.

Duke All-American C Sheldon Williams had the school's first triple-double since 1978 (19 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks). His block party was the only thing that made the game fun to watch. At all.

Wie Watch
Think about this: Michelle Wie is all of 16, and this will be her third Sony Open playing against the dudes.

Has the novelty worn off? No, and here's why: She has yet to make the cut, which would be a huge moment for sports -- women's and men's.

NBA Tonight
Pistons at Spurs: If there was a litmus test of Detroit's legitimacy as the team to knock off the Spurs for the NBA title, it would be this game at San Antonio this season.

LeBron at Kobe: Will Mamba outscore the King? Probably. But you have to wonder if it bugs Kobe that LeBron has eclipsed him as the scorer most fans want on their team. Because James, you know, passes.

NBA Fight Night
In the NBA's nastiest scuffle since the Brawl at the Palace in November 2004, Ray Allen and Keyon Dooling went at it last night, which wouldn't be remarkable -- except they crossed that not-so-fine line between tussling on the court and bringing it into the stands (albeit court-side seats). Messing with the customers is a no-no; it'll be interesting to see how the league cracks down on them.

Football HOF Finalists
Is Michael Irvin the new Bruce Sutter? Only in that Irvin has about as much of a chance of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year as Bruce Sutter has of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maybe he'll get the Walt Weiss pity vote. (Who was that voter, anyway?)

The only PFHOF locks are Troy Aikman and Reggie White, though I wouldn't mind seeing a special PFHOF exhibit for Thurman Thomas about his lost helmet episode, which managed to eclipse his entire career.

Kwan wants on
Michelle Kwan has never gone on "60 Minutes" and said she skates after a big night of partying. But like Bode, she's one of the most prominent U.S. Olympians.

Kwan wants to be named to the U.S. Olympic skating team without competing at nationals (she's injured), and of course she should get one of the spots on the team; the Olympics have become as much about the back-stories as the performances.

Fair to the other competitors? No, but they can gripe when they're pimping for the number of endorsers that Kwan has.

Alito Hearings
Interesting spin-off question out of the Alito hearings:

As a 55-year-old, would you stand by the sports opinions you had when you were in your early 30s? Even if you're in your 20s or in college or high school, it's worth wondering whether your attitudes will change.

As someone in my early 30s, I'm particularly fascinated: If I was in line for a Supreme Court of Sports Judgment in 20 years, would I be able to stand by some of my more wacked-out opinions from the last three years?

Will I still think that Randy Moss mooning the crowd is hilarious fun, not the world-imploding event that most 55-year-old cranks thought it was? (Frankly, I hope I will.)

ESPN.com's investigative report into the shady world of high-rolling college football boosters is a must-read. (See Q It Up.)
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Booster Mania
Page 2 Index
NBA Power Rankings
Will prove it tonight
Still tops in West
And all without Amare
Memphis a big surprise
(Jokes. But 5/5 in '06!)

Artest Watch: Al Harrington says he hears that Ron-Ron is going to the Clippers for Corey Maggette. Artest, Cassel and Kamen? That's magic!

NFL Offseason: Why would the Chargers lock up Drew Brees for the long-term? What about his shoulder? What about the investment in Philip Rivers?

MLB Hot Stove: Will Sammy Sosa be playing for the Nats in 2006? (That's not good for the Nats' Theo Watch; Sosa is an anti-Epstein player.)

CFB Offseason: Coaches like replay, but reportedly want to include an NFL-style "challenge" system. Better not limit it to 2 or tie it to TOs!

More NFL Job Board: Hot Giants assistant Tim Lewis will interview with the Jets today (he's already talked with the Rams, Pack and Lions).

More Boosters: T. Boone Pickens gave $165 million to Oklahoma State athletics on Tuesday. Good thing there's no salary cap in college sports.

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