Pitches a 4-hitter, leading the Cardinals to a 5-0 win over division rival Cincy to start a huge 3-game series in St. Louis. The Reds are now 2½ games back.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
With all due respect to my colleagues Pasquarelli, Maisel and Forde, I'm going to trust the fans about whether college football is better than the NFL.
And based on ESPN.com's polling about which sport has the better atmosphere and better rules, it's a blowout:
College football in a rout.
Across 22 polled categories, CFB crushed the NFL, 16-6.
9-3 in "Atmosphere": The only categories the NFL won were postseason format (duh), cheerleaders (?!?!) and Hall of Fame.
The rest weren't even close: Gamedays (Saturday over Sunday), legendary coaches, "love-to-hate" teams, mascots, halftimes, rivalries, traditions and New Year's Day over T'giving -- even football designs.
7-3 in "Rules": Fans preferred CFB for roster size, offensive schemes, number of teams, recruiting (over free agency), OT rules and ball-spot and clock-stop rules.
The only NFL rules that fans favored were the replay format, both-feet-inbounds on catches and actual tackling over one-knee-down to stop a play.
Of course, the NFL wins big in a couple of key metrics that don't show up in the polls: namely, revenue generated and TV ratings.
(And perhaps even more huge: CFB doesn't have fantasy, which Pasquarelli didn't even mention among his NFL-is-better arguments. I'd argue that, if ANYTHING, fantasy would be the biggest reason the NFL is better.)
What should surprise both sides of the debate is the domination of college football in these polls: Most margins weren't even close.
So what can the sports learn, if they listen to the fans?
For CFB: Change the BCS obviously, but also perhaps tweak the rules to have play stop on the tackle, not simply the ball carrier's knee hitting the ground. (By far, the fans' favorite NFL rule over CFB.)
The NFL will likely never gain ground on "atmosphere," but if 80 percent of fans favor the college OT rules over the NFL's system, maybe it's time to consider getting rid of the coin toss for "fair-ups" possessions.
By the way, I'm with the fans:
College is the better game.
And while I'm never going to defend the BCS system, the single biggest difference that keeps college football more exciting than the NFL for me is that if a college team loses ONCE, its season is effectively over.
College football may not have a playoff, but on the other hand, EVERY week is effectively a playoff game.
Now here's some irony:
Nearly six months after the publication of "Game of Shadows," Barry Bonds plays baseball unfettered.
(In fact, by now, combined with the Giants stinking, he seems to be such a nonfactor with most fans that he's almost off the radar altogether.)
As for the book's authors? Yeah, they'll be locked up in jail soon. Ya call that "justice"?
A judge wants them to tell a grand jury where they got the secret testimony that led to the book and their celebrated newspaper reporting. Alas, they're not going to reveal their sources.
Consequently, next stop: Oz.
Wonder if they can bunk up with Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, who also refuses to testify? (Now THAT would make for a hila-reality series.)
I'm looking for omens that this is the Tigers' year (and that, just maybe, it's not the Red Sox's year).
Last night's head-to-head offered a couple:
||CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
|WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...|
Dodgers: 17 wins in 18 games is team's best run since 1899|
Steve Smith: Panthers WR reportedly looks good in return
Chris Wilcox: Emerging PF signs 3-yr deal to stay w/ Sonics
|... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'|
Chad Greenway: Vikings rookie LB out for season (knee)|
Darren Sproles: Chargers KR out for season (broken leg)
Phonak: Landis' cycling team disbands (OF COURSE it did)
Good Omen 1: Tigers lose 2B Placido Polanco to injury, but not before he saves the tying run to end the seventh inning with a sweet catch.
Good Omen 2: He is replaced by Ivan Rodriguez (yes, the All-Star C), even though he has never played 2B before in his career.
Good Omen 3: The Tigers give up the game-tying RBI to (who else?) David Ortiz, but rally in the ninth with a bloop single
Bad Omen 1:
past the shaky Boston bullpen
Bad Omen 2:
that flinches off the glove of Wily Mo Pena, who isn't playing out of position like I-Rod (but might as well be).
(Bad Omen 2b: Pena ends the game on a called third strike. Ouch.)
Ancillary omens: On the same night, the streaking ChiSox lost to the lowly Royals, dropping 6½ games behind Detroit, and the Yankees rallied late to beat the O's, pulling 3 games ahead of Boston.
Huzzah for historical novelty! The Cubs' 8-6 W over the Astros and the D-Backs' 2-1 W over the Rockies marked the first time two MLB games went 18 innings on the same night.
Now, aside from that, is there anything that sounds more painful than watching four teams with a combined record of 21 games under .500 play 18 innings each?
Tiger vs. Phil
You won't find a more anticipated Thursday/Friday golf pairing than Tiger and Phil at the PGA, starting Thursday.
(Is there a way to create some sort of 1-on-1 award to give the guy who beats the other over the first two days? Maybe a green sweater-vest?)
Tracking the trash talk, Tiger responded to Phil's coach Dave Pelz, who was quoted: "When Phil's at his best, I'm thinking nobody can beat him." Ooh: Spicy.
Your play, Tiger: "I think I'm pretty tough to beat when I'm playing well, too." Ooh: Icy.
Meanwhile, poor Geoff Ogilvy, the U.S. Open champ who will be playing with Tiger and Phil, gets the last word with the most astute observation of all:
"I'm sure it'll be a zoo."
Leinart in camp: Says he didn't "take offense" at Dennis Green's less-than-gentle prodding that the rookie QB sign the freaking contract already.
(In letting Leinart know he'll be playing this weekend against the Pats -- and likely will get his mouth popped once or twice -- perhaps Green is reminding him he doesn't care.)
Jets still have no RB: The trade with the Browns for Lee Suggs was nixed after Suggs failed a physical.
(How good does impressive Colts rookie Joseph Addai look right now? The Jets passed on drafting him, opting for C Nick Mangold.)
The Steelers had a response for Colts O-line coach Howard Mudd, who was quoted Tuesday about the '05 AFC title game: "The Colts beat the Colts."
Steelers LB Larry Foote was ready: "Tell him they were outcoached."
(With no regular-season game between them, we'll just have to wait for a playoff rematch.)
Bengals cut embarrassment: Cutting one of the "Bengals 5" (DT Matthias Askew) is at least one way to send a signal about their impatience with players being arrested.
(If the guy were any good, think they still would have cut him? No freaking way. Maybe he'll call the team's "JERK" hotline to complain.)
Cowher Done After '07?
For the sake of argument:
Let's say that Bill Cowher plays out his contract through the 2007 season, then walks away from the Steelers (contract talks broke off yesterday).
Let's say he takes a year off, but that he's available as a head coach free agent as early as the 2009 season.
Assuming all current coaches are still with their teams three years from now, how many teams wouldn't fire their coach to get him?
I picked out all of three:
Pats (Bill Belichick)
Eagles (Andy Reid)
Dolphins (Nick Saban)
I'd argue that all other owners would at least consider axing their coach if Cowher came to them and expressed interest.
Was it the "Tony Effect"? "Monday Night Football" earned ESPN its highest TV rating in four years for an NFL preseason game.
You saw my review yesterday. What did Tony himself think of his debut performance?
"I was pretty pleased that I hadn't made a fool of myself."
After endless self-deprecation, that's the first positive thing Tony has said about himself in reference to this new gig.
"Of course, it's a long season and that will still happen."
Ahh: There you go.
The final edition (ever) of the Daily Quickie will run on 8/31. Leading up to that, I'll highlight some superlatives.
Today: Best Start Ever?
Revisiting the first Quickie: Wow, now THAT's quick. OK, I fess up: Since 01/06/03, I've had the column on a regimen of HGH. But I felt the pressure to get bigger to keep up with the rest of Page 2!
(Plus: Notice the foreshadowing for 900-plus columns of beating superlatives to death? I labeled the previous weekend's NFL playoff games the "wildest day of wild-card games in NFL history.")
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First coach ever to be reprimanded by NABC's new ethics committee. The punishment? No Final Four ticket privileges! (Hit him where it HURTS!)
|Today on ESPN.com|
|Page 2 Index|
|College vs. NFL|
|CFB's Biggest Atmosphere Advantages over NFL (via SN fan polls)|
|UGA over Pat Patriot|
|Bands over Frisbee dogs|
|Saturday over Sunday|
|Paterno over Parcells|
|Notre Dame over Cowboys|
Koren Robinson's arrest on suspicion of DUI is no joke, but it looks like the Vikings aren't going to cede the title of NFL's Biggest Criminals to the Bengals just yet.|
What in god's name was Lonny Baxter doing allegedly firing pistol shots outside the White House? This may win the award for summer's strangest story.
Clarett Watch: Prosecutor requests gag order on Maurice and his lawyers from talking to the media. Wait: No more late-night chats with Tom Friend?
More Clarett: He received what his lawyers say is a "cryptic" threatening postcard. (What was that about a gag order again?)
AL Cy Watch: Halladay won his MLB-leading 15th game; Santana pitched a 3-hit shutout over eight innings for his 14th W. Those are your two top Cy guys.
It's not that USC players are bad dudes. But it's odd how trouble seems to be following them around these days. Or, say, giving them car rides.
Who else is overwhelmed with curiosity to see if "Snakes on a Plane" lives up to its hype, either as campy fun or at the box office?