Posted on: January 7, 2010 9:01 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2010 10:56 am

BCS Champ Game

Postgame: Running and defense won another championship for #1 Alabama; and we got a pretty good game thanks to some timely offense and special teams play from #2 Texas.  Congrats to both teams and all bowl participants, especially all the BCS winners.  It's the most wonderful time of the year.  See you next August for the start of another run.

12:07 McElroy takes a deserving knee with :26 seconds left after a final turnover footnotes the game for the Tide defense.  This one belongs to Tuscaloosa!

12:02 37-21 as Richardson picks up a second TD and the point after is missed.  Some folks in the Longhorn crowd think this is running up the score, but not really.  Stranger things have happened to 10 point leads in less than a minute.  Todd Blackledge was the third member of the radio crew, doing a great job for that 15 minutes I missed on TV.  Meanwhile, Jaws is probably holed up watching NFL tape for the playoff games this weekend, what was I thinking, that he wasn't in his video bunker?
11:55 Well I caught the clinching TD by Ingram, after listening to the Anders-Upshaw sack - fumble on XM radio. Very cool that the Monday Night Football guys (Tirico and Gruden, not sure if I heard Jaws or not) were doing the radio feed of this matchup.  31-21 Alabama.  It's looking like this one's in the book.  The first national title of the new decade goes to the Alabam Crimson Tide out of the Southeastern Conference!

11:41 I have to go pick up my wife at the train station now.  Thanks to XM radio, I should be able to at least listen to the finish of this instant classic.  And then watch a replay later on ESPN Classic!

11:36 And what did we talk about earlier, that Texas QBs obviously are talented.  Shipley from Gilbert for 28 yards and a TD, the two-pointer is good and it's 24-21.  What a second-half for Texas.  Pressure on Saban and McElroy squarely to produce a game-winning drive or else the defense gets tested yet again.

11:30 Looks like a neutral-zone infraction gives Texas a first down and perhaps the lift they need to make it a one-score game.

11:26 Sacks are 5-0 in favor of Texas.  But they're still down 11 on the scoreboard.

11:23 THAT was a crunch on Richardson to set up a huge third and five and it's incomplete.  Texas holds 'em, but they are losing out to the clock now more than anything.  If there's one thing Alabama has been able to do in the second and fourth quarters so far, it's control the football.

11:19 Pass interference on Texas, and a good call.  I saw it as Brown shoving Maze.

11:14 Well, fourth quarter time and 'Bama still has a lot of work to do to put this one away.  Texas needs to keep winning the field position battle to set up shorter drives for the weanling Gilbert.

11:11 I like it when they paint the "G" at the goal-line at football stadia.  They used to do it for Steelers' games at Three Rivers Stadium. but not at Heinz Field.  I wonder why.  More fields should look like the Rose Bowl in general.  Also cool: LSU painting big markers for every five yards instead of ten.  Plus their Tiger Eye at midfield.  No wonder Vandy hasn't won there in like, what, ever.

11:08 Onsides kick! And the 'Horns have it.  A page from Saban's first-half playbook, sort-of, and now it's getting very, very interesting in Pasadena in the Citi BCS Title Game.

11:06 Alabama is letting Texas hang around here late in the third, and just like that Shipley rises to the occasion to make it 24-13 and we have ourselves a ballgame again!

10:57 My wife got on the wrong train (R5 wrong direction for those of you in Philly) home tonight.  So instead of picking her up at 10:49, it's 11:49.  Thus the delay and the one forthcoming later.  Chalk it up to happy hour with my sister and brother-in-law, among others.

10:42 Ingram is so good at getting the extra two-three yards after being hit.  It's one of many qualities that will make him a high NFL draft pick.  Oh yeah, he won the Heisman, too.

10:37 Brent and Herby doing a little lobbying for Kirby on that Red Raider job!

10:36 Flags beginning to slow down the proceedings in the early stages of the third quarter. 

10:33 Snow on the way here in SE Pennsylvania.  Man I wish I were in Pasadena, California right about now.

10:28 No McCoy tonight.  I spent part of halftime looking again at The Sporting News magazine preview of the game.  So much ink on Colt.  A shame we aren't getting the true game, but no reason at all to take anything away from Alabama's domination of the game since they stumbled in the opening minutes.

10:03 Hold everything.  What did I say at 9:12?  A defensive TD would happen for Alabama.  Sorry about the block pool reference.  I hope you had Alabama 4 and Texas 6.  And it is looking like a higher-scoring, blowout in favor of the Crimson Tide.  One has to wonder if Colt McCoy really could have helped stop this, well, tide. 

10:00 FG is the obvious call to go up 11.  It's still a one-score game because of the two-point conversion.  And now it's 17-6 and looking like that will be a halftime score for anyone in a block pool.  Hope you had 'Bama on 7 and Texas on 6!

9:56 I told my dad on the phone beforehand that I thought Alabama would win a close, low-scoring affair.  Not sure about the close part with McCoy in the dressing room getting examined, but it does seem to be a defensive-oriented game favoring the Tide.

9:52 Big special teams play as Alabama pins the 'Horns against their own goal.

9:50 Scoring note: Nolan Brewster's recovery of the Texas kickoff early in the game is simply a kickoff return, not a fumble recovery.  Think of it as a long onside kick.

9:46 I thought before the game that the 'Horns would need to win the east-west speed battle and plays like that by Whitaker prove that.  Of course, that man Arenas is right there to take away the momentum.  Ole' mo' has shifted, once again, as coin-toss man Keith Jackson used to call it.  And again, after the short kickoff, Saban's defense bends a little, then comes up with a huge stop and a turnover.  Should be a steady dose of Ingram now.

9:42 Right up the gut of the Texas defense and Richardson's speed takes him in for the second Alabama touchdown of the quarter.  14-6 for #1 and they are starting to look like it.  Amazing how important it is for your defense to hold teams to FGs?  Now Saban doesn't look like such a risk-taker, does he.  The man simply trusts his defense.

9:36 I'll bet that not too many sports fans thought they'd be hearing the surname Arenas this often in a sporting event so soon after the NBA player's suspension; just further irony that McCoy's replacement is Gilbert!

9:34 A 34-yard punt at 9:34 ET/6:34 PT...hmm, may be something to that? 

9:26 Umm, and now Gilbert is hurt, so we'll see if Texas has a plan C!

9:25 The long-yardage situations won't help the McCoy-less offense at all.  There obviously wasn't a plan B tonight.  I just hope we still get a good game out of it.

9:23 By the way, I'm eating some Trader Joe's fare tonight.  Spinach pie that's excellent, but the real highlight is this bacon-cheddar-fig pizza.  Yeah, I know, but don't knock it 'til ya' try it.  Mmm.

9:21 Ingram untouched.  P-A-T good and it's 7-6 for #1.

9:17 As the 2nd quarter commences, it appears that the Crimson Tide offense might be the first to hit paydirt.

9:12 I think the Alabama defense will score a TD before the night is out.  Starting to just feel that way.

9:06 Three 'Bama possessions before ABC got to introduce the Texas defense.

9:04 In the other sporting event of note tonight, Bobcats 57 Knicks 55 with several minutes remaining in the third period at MSG.  'Bama headed into Longhorn territory.

9:02 Colt McCoy leaving the game won't help Texas, mostly from a leadership standpoint.  I'm sure Gilbert is talented--to be a Texas QB, one would have to be.

8:58 Wow, the turnover has put Texas in prime position to go up by two scores.  But the Tide again bends without breaking and they trail just 6-0 after two Longhorn possessions in Alabama territory.

8:52 Really should have passed on 2nd and goal.  And here comes the kicking team.  Advantage Alabama.

8:48 Oh my, earliest Masters commercial ever. And very subdued.  Not CBS-like at all, but very ESPN.  The Green Jacket guys can't be happy about the Tiger situation.  That's something that hasn't come up yet, really.

8:46 The Longhorns appear faster on both sides of the football early.  But like a lot of championship fights, which this game was compared to in the ample pregame discussions, by whom, who knows, and it was probably more than once.  Anyway, in a lot of fights, a guy will use up too much early and have nothing late.  If Texas keeps playing at this speed, they will need to get a big lead or have a lot left in the tank.  Because the Tide won't quit.

8:43 Looks like taking the ball was a bad move by Saban; and the fake punt was actually a good call, but ball extremely underthrown, as will happen with a punter throwing a football instead of kicking it.  I thought Nick would win the coaching battle and still do.  Because he knew what he was doing when he won a title at LSU.  I don't know, maybe it's the Vandy in me, and the fact that this is Watson Brown's brother trying to win a second title at Texas, but it always seems like Mack is winging it.  Maybe that's a good thing, it sure works for him whatever it is.

8:40 Brent's stat about 'Bama O-line no holding in 34 quarters says more about SEC officials than their line.

Pregame: Great coin-toss moment as Keith Jackson talks to the captains about the famed Rose Bowl field and tells them to "play the game of [their] lives."

Posted on: November 16, 2009 4:25 pm

Jay Cutler Wants Lovie Out of Chicago

Here's a scnadalous rumor I am just now coming up with.  Mike Shanahan is a native of Oak Park, Illinois; nearby suburb west of Chicago.  Jay Cutler plays quarterback for the Chicago Bears.  Both men were employed by the Denver Broncos last season and got along very well, especially as most QB/head coach relationships go.  It seems to me as if Jay Cutler has been throwing some passes so bad, it's as though he's trying to get his current coach Lovie Smith fired, perhaps in order to give the Bears a reason to bring in a future Hall of Fame coach and native son of the Windy City.

We shall see, but I'd be willing to bet that if things keep up like this in Chicago, then Mike Shanahan will be tops on the short list to be the Bears new head coach.
Posted on: November 14, 2009 11:44 pm

The Easiest Route to a College Football Playoff

Organize and boycott sponsors of BCS games.  It's that easy.  Maybe you already do not buy any Tostitos chips or perhaps FedEx is not your preferred overnight carrier.  There is only one place you can stick it to the NCAA and the major bowls, and that's in their wallets.  More to follow...
Posted on: October 16, 2009 3:38 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2009 2:18 am

ESPN Should Punt on "Kick Off"

If you watch sports on ESPN, and I assume you do if you are reading this, then you can't help but notice the constant misuse of the term "kick off" when announcing the beginning of a contest, series or season in just about any sport.  If used properly, "kick off" should be limited to descriptions of the various forms of football played around the globe: American, Australian, Soccer, Rugby, etc.  Right now, the ESPN networks are running on their tickers, "Angels, Yanks kick off ALCS in soggy New York tonight."  Since when did baseball games begin with a kick?  ESPN used similar phrasing during the U.S. Open tennis tournament this summer, and during the days leading up to the first race in NASCAR's Chase for the Championship four weeks ago.  If they don't switch from "kick off" to "tip off" for basketball season in ten days, then those concerned in Bristol need a refresher course.

If you take out your Thesaurus--yes, your printed copy, not some advertisement-laden online version--you'll notice that the first meaning of "kick off" is "die," as in death.  This alone should force ESPN editors to restrain their use of kick off.  The second meaning of the term is "start."  Thus, the alternatives: Start, begin, commence, launch, lead off and open.  As in, "Angels, Yanks commence ALCS in soggy New York tonight."  Doesn't that look and sound better?

Post Script:
Ugly headline on right now, using "kick off" to refer to college basketball. and as one word no less!  Defending champs North Carolina kickoff season
Category: General
Posted on: September 21, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2009 3:43 pm

Cup Championship, Mark Martin and Jack Roush

With the most wins during the NASCAR Sprint Cup "regular season" as well as a victory at Loudon, New Hampshire yesterday in the Chase for the Championship opener, Mark Martin solidified his position as the guy to beat in 2009.  This is a major accomplishment for the once-semi-retired driver now enjoying a career renaissance at an age when most drivers have hung up their racing helmets.  It's even more impressive given that Martin is the newest member of Hendrick Motorsports' four-car powerhouse lineup.  The roster includes the three-time defending champion, Jimmie Johnson; a four-time champion, Jeff Gordon; and the sport's most visible and popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

As I think about the upcoming Sunday Sprint Cup race at Dover, a track that fortunately I'm able to visit each season, I remember the one time I saw Mark Martin visit Gatorade Victory Lane in person.  It was after a crazy afternoon of stock-car racing in early June of 2004.  There was a "big one" that day that rivaled any at Daytona or Talladega, only at a slower speed and about one-tenth the space.  19 cars were wrecked out of the race with 54 laps to go.  It was in fact the largest accident of the 2004 season.  In that race, Mark Martin demonstrated what the Sports Illustrated article recapping it referred to as his "calm aggression."   It was the perfect way to describe his driving during that long (4h, 7m), turbulent (11 cautions for 90 laps) afternoon.  Starting 7th after a solid qualifying effort on Friday, Martin waited patiently for the right time to go to the front.  With 19 circuits remaining at the high-banked, one-mile concrete oval, the fastest guy all day, Kasey Kahne, slid in some oil in turn three and handed the lead to Martin's Roush Racing Ford.  Martin never looked back and high-tailed to the win.

Another important Sunday of NASCAR racing awaits Mark Martin in The First State on September 27th.  There is no question that he'll be the most sought-after member of the driver corps among the throng of media that will assemble.  Nestled between the large cities of Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia and a state capital in its own right, Dover is always a well-covered race.

I can only hope that one member of the working motorsports press will ask a question of Mark Martin that I would love to know the real answer to right now.  What is his relationship with Jack Roush like these days, now that he's driving for Rick Hendrick?  Also, what would it mean to that relationship with Roush were he to go on and win the Championship in his Chevy, after all those close calls (12 top-five points finishes, three times a runner-up) riding in Roush's Blue Oval machines?

I'm certain that if Martin were to answer those questions publically, he'd say all the right, P.R.-friendly things and that he and Jack are good pals even if they are rivals now and aren't around each other as much.  But I wonder, deep down inside these two ultra-competitive men and racers, what is it like these days?  Of course, who knows if they were ever super-tight back when Martin was driving for Roush?  We just assume they were given that they were an owner/driver combination for 19 seasons, so something had to be clicking there.

I guess the best way for these questions to be answered will be for Martin to win the Championship and sit at the head table at the Champions Banquest in Las Vegas (yeah, it's not in New York anymore) with Roush alongside at the other end of the table with his 2009 Chase-participating team members.  There, we are more likely to see the real emotions of both men and the kind of impact that Mark Martin's first championship coming in a Hendrick Chevrolet would have on their relationship.
Posted on: September 6, 2009 5:19 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2009 12:04 am

Pipe Down Philadelphia

  1. Last night (9/5/09), Ross Ohlendorf struck out the side against St. Louis in
    the 7th inning on just nine pitches.  It marked the 43rd time in
    Baseball history that the feat had been pulled off; and
    Ohlendorf became the 40th man to accomplish it. Card batters were K. Greene, J. Lugo and  J. La Rue)
  2. We'll be hearing a lot in the coming days about the Bucs having a losing record for 17 straight seasons, breaking the 16-year mark held by the Phillies.  Here is best how we Pirate fans can rebut:
(sort by W/L %)

11) Pirates 19,441GP 9,744W 9,561L (.505)

28) Phillies 19,288GP 9,022W 10,154L  (.470)

Only Padres and Devil Rays are worse than Phils, who are 115
years older than Tampa Bay and 86 years older than San Diego.  The best way to measure it: Philadelphia is 1,132 games below .500 and they would need to go unbeaten for 7 consecutive 162-game seasons to level the scales!
Posted on: July 19, 2009 3:23 am

What I Learned Yesterday...

Three things I didn't know before July 18, 2009:

--MLB umpire Jim Wolf is Los Angeles Dodgers' hurler Randy Wolf's older brother.  Having lived around Philadelphia for so long, I figure I should have known this by now, but it was gleaned from an FSN Prime Ticket show called Before the Bigs which aired after the Astros-Dodgers game tonight.

--According to his official PGA Tour dossier, the American tied for 8th at Turnberry with 18 holes left to play; namely rising star and former NCAA golf phenom Bryce Molder, was born with no left pectoral muscle (which makes that side of his chest concave), and also with Poland Syndrome, a fairly rare defect that made his left hand much smaller than his right. He underwent two surgeries before he was 5 years old because three fingers on his left hand were webbed together up to the knuckle.

--And finally from the "This Date in History" files: On July 18, 1980, Tom Watson held the 54-hole lead at the Open Championship and an odd thing happened to the Baltimore Orioles; for the ninth straight game they faced a left-handed starting pitcher, which set a Major League Baseball record.  Well, yesterday, 29 years later to the day, Tom Watson held the 54-hole lead at the Open Championship, and, oh, by the way, the Baltimore Orioles tied their own record when they squared off against a left-handed starter for the ninth straight game.

Posted on: April 26, 2009 7:37 pm

At the End of Every Hard-Earned Day

At the end of every hard-earned day people find some reason to believe.
The boss, Bruce Springsteen, sings those inspiring words.  And that song is starting to personify our 2009 Buccos.

Yes, everyone will remind us that it's only April.  But 18 games is 11% of the season in the books.  Certainly enough games to get a feel for a ballclub.

And this ballclub feels like a special ballclub right now.

No true major league baseball pundit should examine the series win in San Diego and write it off as nothing to be excited about.

The Pirates went across the country and took two of three games; the lone loss an extra-inning battle to the finish.

They upped their record to 11-7 and remain right behind the front-running Cards in the NL Central, the same Cards they split a four-game series with in St. Louis to open this promising campaign.

They accomplished the series win in San Diego without three of their veteran regulars in the lineup for most of the games; up-the-middle stalwarts in Ryan Doumit, Jack Wilson and Nate McLouth.

The heart of the order may have been unable to play, but the heart of this team, from top-to-bottom, was beating right along.

When a team starts winning without their regulars, that can have an untold, magical effect on the entire organization.  Chemistry, confidence and unity are terms that start being peppered in most of the articles written about them.

It happened with the Steelers in 2004, when three quarterbacks started and won games and all 50+ guys on the roster came through in some way to help the team to an AFC all-time best 15-1 record.

This 2009 Pirate team, you can take just about every guy that's been on the active roster so far, I think it's been 28 or 29 men now, and if you look at each of the games they have played, you'll find something positive that each one has done to keep them in a game or help them win it.

I think the pitching staff as a whole and the bench are really stepping up right now.  A lot of credit has to be given to the coaching staff. JR brought in some key teachers in Perry Hill and Joe Kerrigan.  Those additions are paying immediate dividends at the major league level.  Also, we've recently learned that Tony Beasley has taken over the batting-coach duties of the pitchers.  And it seems like Ian Snell has already surpassed his career hit total in under a handful of starts!  There are great stories to be told on this club, and the nation will discover them soon enough as long as they keep winning as many series as they can.  Jim Leyland always used to say (and I'm sure he still does in Detroit) that if you win two out of three in most of your series, you'll write your ticket to the playoffs easily.  So far, so good for the Bucs this year.

I know I'm a homer, I know I love this team win or lose.  I know I see this great start through black, gold and rose-colored glasses.

But, to paraphrase the boss, I don't see any reason not to believe.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or