June 22, 2006
Bruce Arena:
Disappointing end to the World Cup. "Bruce Arena screwed up the World Cup for this team," said Eric Wynalda. Can't believe Arena will make it to 2010 as coach.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Eric Wynalda is livid with Bruce Arena, effectively blaming the U.S. coach for their performance, hitting rock bottom and losing to Ghana when a win would have put them in the second round.

I'm not sure casual fans will understand the subtle arguments behind the inanity of a "4-5-1" formation in a game where goals, not midfield control, should have been the priority.

But they can get this one:
Blaming the coach.

Personally, I prefer to question Landon Donovan. Here's a player who was supposed to be the poster guy of this feisty U.S. team. He was a nonfactor in today's loss.

The most glaring example of his impotence came in the 80th minute, with the U.S. down 2-1 and showing signs of desperation (and, finally, life).

Donovan set up for a free kick just outside Ghana's penalty box -- the best chance for an equalizer the U.S. would see. And Donovan booted it well over the top bar of the goalposts.

It was a wasted chance in a week of them. This was the chance, more than anything, for the U.S. to capture the country.

The TV ratings were there. The fan passion, at least from the die-hards, was there. (How else to explain the ridiculously bullish attitude that the U.S. had a chance against this inspired, underrated Black Stars team?)

The gut-check draw versus Italy is a distant memory. Now, doubters and dissers will smirk. The casual fan will weakly try to relate to a bandwagon favorite like Argentina or Brazil.

And the U.S. goes home. Were they a failure? Given the win-and-they're-in opportunity today, against a team playing in its first World Cup, their only success was keeping fans' attention THIS long.

Superlative Season
The sports "year" is widely recognized as running from September (football season/end of baseball) through June (NBA/Stanley Cup Finals), with July and August a haze of the daily baseball grind and fantasy football prep.

In keeping with the spirit of the season (and recent school graduations), here are the Quickie's "Senior Superlatives" for the end of the 2006 sports "year":

Most Likely to Succeed:
Dwyane Wade (Pro)
Joey Cheek (Amateur)

Biggest Mouth:
Ozzie Guillen

Best Legs:
Vince Young

Best Nickname:
"Flying Tomato" (Shaun White)

Best Hair:
Joakim Noah (Head)
Adam Morrison (Facial)

Class Clown:
Terrell Owens

Biggest Flirt:
Anna Benson (Female)
Michael Strahan (Male)

Cutest Couple:
Shani Davis/Chad Hedrick

Biggest Gossiper:
Jason Grimsley

Most School Spirit:
Mark Cuban (Male)
Laura Quinn (Female)

Happiest Siblings:
Dmitri and Delmon Young

Most Popular:
Jason McElwain

Got your own nominees for "Quickie Superlatives?" Send them here and I'll publish a "best of" next week.

Brown Out, Isiah In
As big of an idiot executive we can all agree that Isiah Thomas is, there's no way he can be a worse coach for the Knicks than Larry Brown.

Simply by treating his players with a minimum of respect Brown was lacking, Isiah will probably inspire at least a few more wins than Brown, whose "Right Way" was the absolute wrong way for the Knicks roster he was working with.

UNC: Will meet Rice or Oregon St. in weekend's CWS final
Derrek Lee: Cubs' MVP could return this weekend vs. Twins
Vanity TV nets: Is the SEC going to follow the Big Ten?
Bengals: Yet another player (Rucker) in trouble with law
Angola soccer: Misses Cup 2nd round after draw with Iran
Montana hoops: Krystkowiak resigns to join Bucks as asst.
Meanwhile, the hot rumor (and the Brown insanity taken to its logical extreme) is that Larry will end up in Charlotte working for Michael Jordan's Bobcats.

Yes, because Brown proved with the Knicks that he is a WONDERFUL fit with a young, struggling roster. Importing Brown would be MJ's biggest blunder as an exec yet, in a short career studded with them.

Clemens' Debut
Well, it's not Lexington or Corpus Christi or Round Rock, but Roger Clemens is ready to make his 2006 MLB debut tonight in Houston vs. the Twins.

You can bet that all fans in attendance don't win free wiper fluid if he throws a strikeout in the third inning, or a free taco if he K's 10 for the game.

They will, however, be the first fans (in Houston or elsewhere) to see Clemens pitch again at the MLB level, which is going to net out to approximately $100,000 per inning. If all fans in attendance shell out for just one more hot dog each, the Astros just MIGHT cover his cost.

Keep your eye on the standings: The Astros are two games over .500 as of today, two games behind the division-rival Reds for the NL wild card. If Clemens sparks a second-half surge, he's worth every million.

(Meanwhile, if run support was Clemens' issue last year, he can look forward to more of the same. The Astros face the Twins' dominant Francisco Liriano tonight. Liriano is 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA and a 67/16 K/BB ratio.)

MLB Hit List
Pujols returning Monday? Reports out of St. Louis have Albert Pujols coming off the DL by Monday. Amazingly, he still leads the NL in HRs (now tied with Ryan Howard) and is second in RBI (1 behind Howard).

(Albert may not be on pace to beat Barry Bonds' 73 HRs, but Pujols is still on track to hit 60-some HRs and make the conversation about who the TRUE single-season record-holder is interesting.)

Ozzie apologizes for slur: Note that Guillen apologized for using the word and to those it might have offended (and did NOT apologize to nemesis Jay Mariotti, who the slur was directed against).

Cards pounded … again: After giving up 33 runs to the White Sox in two games (13 last night), what's the over-under on runs scored by the Sox in tonight's series finale? Can they break 40 for three games?

Kerry Wood finished? If Wood is saying he might not pitch again this season, that's the worst sign of all. And, because he's a free agent after this season, his Cubs career could be over. Hall of Fame … fizzle.

Star of the Day: Jon Lester. Red Sox rookie pitcher throws 10 Ks in 6 IP, earning his second win in three MLB starts. The 10 Ks were the most by a Red Sox pitcher this season.

NBA Draft: Who's No. 1?
The Raptors will select Euro-stud Andrea Bargnani. At least, that's the signal from the Raps, who are reportedly set to hire Bargnani's Italian coach, Maurizio Gherardini, as assistant GM.

The question, then, is whether Toronto takes Bargnani with the No. 1 overall pick or trades down from that pick, expecting him to be available slightly later in the draft order.

That theory dovetails with an earlier report that the Bobcats had been talking with the Raptors about trading from the No. 3 slot up to No. 1.

That would still let the Raptors pick Bargnani, and give Michael Jordan his pick of players -- and also allow him to leapfrog his ex-teammate John Paxson, GM of the Bulls, who holds the No. 2 pick.

(I'm bullish on Bargnani: New Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is going to turn Toronto into Phoenix East. Don't be totally blinded by the backlash against international players. Bargnani is more Dirk than Darko.)

Sox Love Connection
MatchingSox.com: Did you hear about this new dating service trying to connect fans within Red Sox Nation?

Your standard RSN dude:
Likes: Bud, ballcaps, "brahs"
Dislikes: Alex Rodriguez

Your standard RSN babe:
Likes: Pink hats, J. Fallon
Dislikes: Jennifer Garner

I'm torn, between dreading the offspring of the couplings and being thrilled both types are sequestered from the larger dating pool.

Master of Champions
OK, I know what you know about this new show "Master of Champions." You saw the ads during the NBA Finals, too.

There's "contortionist archery," there's some dudes who "run" the 40 on one arm and -- best of all -- there's those guys jumping rope with the car using hydraulics. After all the promos, yes, I'm intrigued.

And then there's the "panel" of judges, in the now-standard "Randy-Paula-Simon" configuration.

Steve Garvey! 10-time MLB All-Star and 1974 NL MVP. Also (wait for it …) devoted father. At one point during his career in San Diego, fans sold bumper stickers that read "Steve Garvey is Not My Padre."

Oksana Baiul! Best known for (a) that Olympic gold medal in 1994 and (b) that DUI back in '97. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Jonny Moseley! Olympic gold medalist (1998) and X Games champ, and a pioneer of skiers doing tricks on moguls. He's extreme!

And your co-host: Lisa Dergan-Podsednik. (Yes, THAT Podsednik. Her status as one-time Playboy Playmate makes husband Scott the reigning Master of Champions … of hottie sports wives.)

More tomorrow. Oh, MUCH more.

Jose Theodore:
Avs goalie is rumored to be dumped by his partner (and mother of his 3-month-old) after being seen galavanting around Toronto with Paris Hilton (via Toronto Sun).
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
Page 2 Index
U.S. vs. Ghana
More Superlatives
Best Arms
Cat Osterman, Jon Papelbon
Biggest busybodies
"Game of Shadows" authors
Biggest politician
Lynn Swann
Worst relationship
Larry Brown/Isiah Thomas
Biggest instigator
"Deadspin" blog

ESPN The Mag has an absolute must-read this week about how MLB pitchers used 'roids to cheat. (My takeaway? Probably even worse than hitters!)

Luckiest team of the World Cup: Mexico, which advanced to the second round despite losing to Portugal, after Angola pulled a draw with Iran.

More World Cup: Top half of knockout bracket is set. GER-SWE and ARG-MEX (SAT); ENG/ECU and POR-NTH (SUN). Full KO bracket picks tomorrow.

Well, so much for my bold prediction that Ivory Coast will be the World Cup runner-up. The Elephants DID end their run with a W over Serb/Mont.

If Dwyane Wade was the cover guy for EA's NBA Live '06 and enjoyed the success he did, what happens with T-Mac on the cover for '07?

Raptors stay busy, trading last vestige of that Vince Carter deal. Eric Williams shipped with Matt Bonner to Spurs for Rasho Nesterovic.

Irony: If the "Game of Shadows" authors were the ones who ended up sitting in jail. The feds want to know their source of the grand-jury leak.

LeBron implied that he's ready to re-sign with the Cavs for his 5-year, $75 mil "max" deal when they offer it on July 1. (Is that the end of the conspiracy theory that puts him in New York or LA? Well, in 2012 he'll still be, what, 27? 28? The Brooklyn dream lives on!)

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