January 17, 2006
Nick Goings:
Forget his appellation as a third stringer; Goings can do the job filling in for the injured DeShaun Foster. He performed in 2004 and can do it again. Also note long history of backup heroes in big games: think Max McGee in SB I, Timmy Smith in SB XXII.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Shaq and Kobe finally made up -- for now, at least -- with a "How you doin'?" and a hug and a handshake before last night's Lakers-Heat tip-off.

It's always unpleasant to see pampered centumillionaires feud, always ... well, appropriate to see the game overshadow the pregame. And Aristotle's call out to to Bill Russell and MLK Jr. couldn't have been scripted better.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a religious and political man and his words of peace rang true and beautiful -- and still inspire generations 40 years later. Russell was a court warrior, and his quietude since retiring lends weight to his few words.

When Russell told Shaq about how important it had been for him to make peace with former nemesis Wilt Chamberlain, the message resonated.

Let's hope it sticks, because the Shaq-Kobe soap jumped the shark years ago. And the Lakers-Heat mini-rivalry, matching the talents of Phil and Kobe and Lamar against Riley and O'Neal and Dwayne, stands on its own merit as sports drama.

--Jeff Merron

Coaching carousel
The Jets' head coaching job has been as much of a hot potato as the Mets' third baseman slot. But now we know, for as sure as a pre-announcement can be: The Jets made the smart choice of asking Eric Mangini to take the helm.

As a Jets fan, I liked Herm Edwards. But wins always trump likeability (see: Bill Parcells), and that's what Mangini can bring. "He knows how to win" is a cliché that can use a quick and deep burial, but it contains a hidden truth.

Success does breed success, and high expectations from the lead dog filter right through the pack. Especially when those expectations are built on a foundation of real achievement.

Previous NFL head coaching experience has always been a bit of a red herring.

Mangini has had only one season of experience as the Pats' defensive coordinator, but his decade at Bill Belichick University and his three Pats Super Bowl rings bring a lot more cred than overseeing years of mediocrity. And considering the insane work hours of the typical NFL head coach, Mangini's youth (he turns 35 on Thursday) will be an asset.

Trivia Q for my fellow Jets fans: Who was the team's first coach? Read on to find out. Not sure whether we can print the answer upside-down, but we'll try.

A-Rod's Out
Last night's exclusion from the U.S. provisional roster means little compared to the strong possibility that Cuba won't compete, which might not deep-six the WBC, but does put it on the ICU watch list.

Dontrelle Willis: Earns record $4.35 million arbitration deal.
Hornets: Semi-Okies equal last year's W total; playoffs next?
Philip Seymour Hoffman: Golden Globe starts the lovefest.
Knicks: Ironman Marbury goes down with shoulder injury.
Martin Sheen: Geena Davis takes TV's Top Commander.
The Pyramid: Former Grizzlies' home slated for makeover.
O's honcho Peter Angelos doesn't get much right, but the exchange games with Cuba in 1999 were only good. Anyone in D.C. listening?

Wie Watch
Count me among the few who are skeptical about Michelle Wie's decision to turn pro. Not long ago, she aspired to follow in Tiger's footsteps, even dreaming of a Stanford future. But she's no Tiger: He cut his chops, winning six USGA titles and an NCAA championship before taking the money plunge.

Understand: Wie will win -- she's good enough to take a tour event or two this year and to contend with the men in a few years.

Her pro status is tremendous PR for the LPGA. But back when Dad B.J. still carried her clubs, he said his daughter would get her college degree before going for the big payoff. He cited, among other concerns, the potentially ruinous effects of pushing prodigies and of big money, even on tight-knits like the Wie family.

But B.J. also bemoaned the high costs associated with amateurism, with travel and other expenses taking a big bite out of his family's middle-class income. No doubt this played into Michelle's decision.

Like Wie, Tiger struggled in most of his first pro tourneys (while still an amateur, at age 16); unlike Wie, he decided to forgo the brightest spotlights until he was old enough to vote.

Wie has great talent and cross-cultural charisma. I hope Wie's change of heart won't backfire. But slam dunks aren't always. Just ask George Tenet.

Reversal reversal
Consider the NFL's admission that replay referee Pete Morelli made the wrong call when he overturned the correct on-field ruling Troy Polamalu picked off Manning and subsequently recovered his own fumble.

If the right call stood, big Pittsburgh advantage: 21-10 and the ball near midfield with the clock winding down. With the call reversed, Colts TD closes the gap and gives Vanderjagt a chance to tie the game.

Although any public admission of a ref's mistake is a big deal, this one seems tempered by the fact that there's little chance it would have changed the game's outcome. But the key is in the word "chance," not "little."

The Butterfly Effect seems totally trumped by the big bee sting the Steelers overcame in those final minutes. But even considering the correct call would have been a serious setback for the Colts, it also affected lots of possibilities -- including a tiny one that the outcome might have been different.

While a potential Colts W is a huge stretch (and they only came close with lots of help), it's always good when Goliath admits an error publicly. It builds trust. And increases the chances for improvement.

Slingin' Sammy
If you knew that Mr. Baugh piloted the Titans to two straight .500 seasons in 1960 and 1961, treat yourself to an extra donut at break time. And if you understand that only the Jets could turn four original 7s (1960: 7-7; 1961: 7-7) into 46 years of (mostly) lousy luck, then dunk that donut into a triple-expresso. It'll ease your pain.

Sean Locklear:
Seahawks' starting right tackle was charged with one count of assault Tuesday. Police say he admits to grabbing girlfriend by shirt but no more. Doesn't 301-pounder know that's bad enough?
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Daily Dime: Shaq and Kobe
Page 2 Index
Men's Hoops Top 5
Undefeated, faces No. 4 N.C. State
Also 16-0, but tends to lose mo
Win over the Orange good omen
Can C-USA get any respect?
Dee Brown is clutch

Disney vehicle "Glory Road" tops MLK weekend box office, even with attention sprayed to NFL playoffs and great college hoops matchups. Next underdog flick: Jets over Colts in Super Bowl III?

Under the radar on Sunday, 5K/10K legend Haile Gebrselassie smoked the Rock 'N' Roll Arizona half-marathon in WR 58:55. Three months ago, won Amsterdam Marathon in super-fast 2:06:20.

Acrobats and flame-helmeted stunt skaters should thrill in Torino closing ceremonies, but who sent in Fellini-inspired clowns? God bless TiVo. The Olympics shouldn't end on a creepy note.

Britishembassyworldcup.com is offering up a German phrase book for Brits going to the World Cup. Doesn't every fan need to know how to say, "I puked my guts up," and "The ref doesn't know what he's doing" in the native tongue?

Dan Shanoff is off this week. Today's guest writer: Jeff Merron.

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