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T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times used to (and I assume still does) have these page 2 columns where he would just write random one or (if he was feeling particularly literary that day) 2 lines on some current – or close to current – sports topic of the day.  Simers is a snarky guy who is under a 30-year delusion that local professional athletes care about him, so often times his columns would read something along the lines of “Eric Gagne apparently didn’t like my last article.  Perhaps he was going through roid rage at the time…So Kobe Bryant is accused of rape.  Couldn’t of happened to a nicer guy…Slot machines at Hollywood Park?  I’m more interested in the glue machines…” Before we go any further, yes I am accusing someone else of being snarky and I don’t find that the least bit ironic – unless you’re using the Alanis Morisette definition of the word.

I think the most famous of these laziest of lazy-type columns come from Larry King, who may or may not still have a syndicated column.  But unlike Simers, who like the comedians I used to sit with in the green room at The Comedy Store walk around with a constant impending aura of doom, King is positively Henry Winkler-like in his optimism.  Even his attempts at biting political commentary came off as…toothless.  Columns would read such as “Don’t sleep on Walter Mondale.  He’ll be President one day and you can say you heard it here first…My latest child is 49 years younger than my oldest. You know what they say…Senator Rockefeller has a food stamp reform bill in committee now. I once had duck with him and his lovely wife.  She’s a fine woman and a better cook.  So I fucked her….”

These columns really are the worst of the worst. In the case of someone like Simers, he’s almost flaunting his apathy whereas King actually seems to believe he’s accomplishing a journalistic achievement that combines Dave Barry, Molly Ivins and a sober Jimmy Breslin.  I don’t know which is worse, but I can’t respect any writer, blogger, or journalist who would engage in such nonsense.  Which is exactly why this blog entry will be my version of those columns.  Except, as my loyal readers know, I’m far too verbose to cut down my thoughts to just a few lines.  Still, since I’m obviously far too lazy this Sunday evening to form full thoughts, I’m hoping these half-thoughts will create something of a readable experience.  Let’s find out, shall we…

Let’s start off with the topic that has America talking…San Diego State Athletics.  Let’s give it up for Steve Fisher and his 7-1 SDSU Aztecs.  Sure they hit a road block during ESPN’s 24-hours of madness against a too-big to defend Baylor team, but their win versus ranked Arizona flanked by victories against two good Big West teams – Long Beach State and the Drinking Gauches of UC Santa Barbara – means SDSU should be sneaking into the Top 25 any moment now.  Last year’s lone returning starter – Chase Tapley – is lighting it up like Richard Pryor in ’82.  Super-talented Jamal Franklin will likely emerge as the 2012-13 Mountain West player of the year (if the Mountain West actually still exists in 2012-13), and James Rahon hasn’t even found his sweet caucasian stroke yet.  The Aztecs have 3 tough games left against ranked Creighton and revenge-minded Cal plus cross-town rivals USD before going into the easy part of the schedule for 2 weeks and then its conference play beginning in mid-January.  Yes, they are very thin in the front court so my conservative prediction for the fighting Aztecs…29-1.

Meanwhile, Rocky Long’s first year in Aztec Mesa has gone okay.  That Wyoming loss stings and quite frankly it would have been nice if we didn’t hand games over to TCU and Boise State before they really even began, but with their win over lowly UNLV Saturday night, the Aztecs are 7-4 and bowl bound regardless of their on-again, off-again rivalry game with Fresno State this Saturday.  I’d like to go to that game at Qualcomm, but unfortunately I’ll be at the Mint for Elisa Grace’s Album release party.  Who’s Elisa Grace…you jest?

I’m not going to talk about the BCS mess because my next blog this week will specifically address that issue.  But I will comment on the Heisman Trophy race which is the most wide-open competition going in America today, easily beating out the race to become the 2012 presidential nominee for the Republican party because that contest is being brought down by Michele Bachman…and Rick Santourum…and Ron Paul…and Herman Cain…and Rick Perry…and Newt Gingrich…and Mitt Romney. Did I forget anyone? Is Huntsman still in the race? Is Mike Johnson in a debate? Is Buddy Roemer really a Republican? Is Fred Karger really gay?

ESPN did a poll prior to this Saturday’s games which amazingly showed the Tide’s Trent Richardson as the front-runner.  And then some clown on Game Day justified this silliness by stating that Richardson was the only one of the top candidates who “performed” in a game that “counts” referencing his deceiving stats in Alabama’s LOSS to LSU.  How can you name Trent Richardson the best player in college football when he couldn’t help his team get into the endzone once in the most important game of the college football season? Don’t misunderstand me, Richardson is terrific college back and worthy of being in the discussion.  But so is Houston’s pin-wizard QB Case Keenum and he shouldn’t win either.  People seem to penalize Andrew Luck for Stanford getting perducked by Oregon, but why don’t they mention his comeback against USC?  Or Matt Barkley’s performance against Oregon?  Or RGIII’s performance in every game Baylor’s won and lost this year.  I simply ask you this.  If Matt Barkely, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III was the QB for Alabama against LSU (and Trent Richardson wasn’t there), do the Crimson Tide win that game?  The answer is ABSA-FRIGGIN-GOOGILY-GOO-GOO-LUTELY…to the 3rd power.  Word.  To Your Baby Daddy.  Yuh-Huh.

If Trent Richardson is on USC but not Barkley do they still beat Oregon (or come out on top against Stanford)?  If Richardson is on Stanford instead of Luck, would the Cardinal have beaten Oregon (or still beaten SC)? Does Baylor even have a winning record this year if Richardson is their marquee player instead of Bobby Triple G?  The answer to all of those questions is NO.  Or, for my Guatemalan readers – NO.

I’m well aware quarterbacks are different than running backs, but you want to know something: I saw players like George Rogers at South Carolina and Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State and those guys carried their football squads in a way that Trent Richardson simply doesn’t carry ‘Bama.  If Richardson wins it’ll be a bigger travesty than when Charles Woodson beat out Peyton Manning in ’97; a bigger joke than when Crash won the best picture over the gay cowboy movie; a bigger crime than when Ian Folke Svenonius beat BK out for Sassiest Boy in America in 1990 just because he refused to use capital letters.  All that joker has done since is release 15 albums, a scant 15 more than BK has released in the same period of time.  But BK has used his time to edited shows about fashion while making questionable real estate investments in Los Angeles area condos – so who’s sassy now Svenonius?!?  You Fuckin’ tool.

Back to whatever it was I was writing about,  I’m not making a judgment on Richardson’s as a player (he’s very good), or as a person (although he used far too many “hey man’s, no man, yeah man” in his Dan Patrick interview).  For all I know he’ll enter the NFL and break Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record. Well actually I do know – he won’t break that record and as my past NFL Draft predictions have proven I’ve only been wrong once before (why Ethan Horton, couldn’t you learn to lower your shoulders!)  But if Barkley and Luck end up splitting the West Coast vote and Baylor’s lack of national exposure results in Richardson winning this year’s Heisman…well frankly that would really suck.

Roger Federer was great in this week’s Barclay’s Championships in London.  He didn’t lose a match and was clearly the best player on the court in every match he played – even the two 3-setters against Jo-Willie Tsonga, who looks poised to possibly join Andy Murray in 2012 in the “Almost but never quite good enough” category of player that Robin Soderling looked ready to join before injuries and an uninventive game derailed his hopes.  What was more interesting, though, was how tired both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic looked.  Nadal just looks so dejected these days after going through a season where he was completely unable to get over on Djokovic and each match they played he seemed farther away.  I’m calling my shot right now – Argentina, behind a surpise Juan Monaco victory over David Ferrer – will win this year’s Davis Cup against Spain as Del Potro beats Nadal in a thrilling final match.  And if it doesn’t happen, well who’s really going to be watching or care enough anyway.  As for Novak, how does he lose to his inferior countryman Janko “I’ve never seen a match I couldn’t possibly quit in” Tipsarsvic.  Obviously Djokovic’s shoulder isn’t 100% or even 85% but I thought more than anything he looked mentally exhaused, like he was sort of obligated to be in the tournament but didn’t really have the heart for it.  It’s kind of a shame because it would have been nice for him to complete one of the most dominant season’s in tennis history with a victory but I think his gas tank sort of hit empty after the U.S. Open and hopefully the one-and-a-half month rest prior to Australia will not just rest his shoulder but also his psyche.  And speaking of psyche, how hot is Tomas Berdych’s wife or girlfriend or whatever she is.  I don’t know what that has to with any definition of the word “psyche” but she’s sweeter than Popeye’s Sweet Tea on the front porch of a Bulgarian Tug Boat.  Finally, I’m calling another shot – Roger Federer will win the 2012 Australian Open.  And here’s another shot I’m calling…Alex Bogomolov, Jr. will not win the 2012 Australian Open.

The NBA is about to end their lockout and start playing on Christmas Day.  They were going to start 5 days earlier on the first night of Hannukah, but that would prove to be just too controversial.  My wife asked me, upon hearing the news “Oh, so they went with the 50-50 split” of which I replied “Who the fuck cares.” Still, that’s some shrewd negotiating by the player’s union.  They not only agreed to exactly what they didn’t want, but they lost 2 months of pay to boot. I haven’t seen smooth deal making like that since Barak Obama agreed to a series of budget cuts he didn’t really want in exchange for raising the debt ceiling – or in other words absolutely nothing.  We’ll talk more about the NBA in a future blog but that 16 days from 12/9 to 12/25 when free-agents can be signed and trades made will make the NFL free-agent frenzy look as calm as Bill Murray in Broken Flowers…or Lost In Translation…or Low Down…or….

So Monday night’s Sing-Off is a fait accompli as Penatonix will easily walk away against the over-matched Darmouth Aires and the less than original Urban Method.  I was hoping for more this season, including but not limited to a Sara Bareilles/Ben Folds sex tape video release, but instead we were treated to the most dominant performance by a singing group since Ministry shocked the world and overwhelmed the Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and a not-quite-ready for prime-time Pearl Jam at ‘palooza ’92.  Congrats to Penatonix.

And congrats to the New York Giants, who as I write this are a mere 24-hours away from completing a 63-19 white-washing of the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome in a game that will have America saying “Who dat Da’rell Scott.”

Until then, though, Tim Tebow is the story again in the NFL this week – which must irk the Raiders who are a game ahead of the Broncos in the AFC West.  I almost feel bad blogging about Tebow because it’s just too easy.  Saying negative things about Tebow is as sure a way to get my click-throughts up as when Joanna Angel tweets “I got DP’d again and here are more pics.” But how long can I criticize the burly Born-Again Christian and how long can Joanna Angel stay popular by insisting James Deen be in every scene with her?

However, before I talk about the Broncos’ victory in San Diego, how bad have the Chargers become?  If Norv Turner keeps the job he never should have been given in the first place than all the 9/11 conspiracy theorists will abandon that fruitless pursuit and focus their attentions on how the Matt Millen of coaches is still employed (and it can’t just be because he’s got a good-looking local sportscaster daughter).

The Chargers looked like they were going to march the ball up and down on the field aganist the Broncos Sunday which would finally give Tebow-haters what they wanted – how could the turkey-armed QB possibly bring his team back if they ever fell behind by more than 10 points and had to abandon their offensive scheme, which seemingly is right out of Army’s 1957 playbook.  But that lasted all of a quarter and then suddenly we were right back to where we were when the Broncos played the Dolphins…and the Chiefs…and the Jets.  The Broncos defense keeps the team in the game (and by the way – just how good is Von Miller), Tebow can’t do anything and Denver punts.  Then, all of the sudden, Willis McGahee and friends suddenly start finding holes created by that once shitty offensive line, unheralded wide-receivers start making diving catches and Tebow starts moving the team down the field.

So since I’ve been so negative towards big Tim – and I still stand by my prediction he’s out of the league 2 years from now (just like I still stand by my prediction that The Blake Babies are the break-through band of 1989) – I will say this.  He’s got great vision and instincts when running, even more so than a guy like Michael Vick who is just so fast and explosive that no one can catch up to him.  I also agree with Phil Simms’ assessment that I don’t think Tebow is so inaccurate (although he is inaccurate) as much as he’s so scared about throwing an interception that he often just gives up and throws the ball away.  Still, as someone who watches a lot of Eli Manning, sometimes not turning the ball over is better than completing 10 passes in a row if the 10th is to the other team.

I thought Tebow played his best game so far in San Diego because after a miserable 1st quarter, he looked okay throwing the ball and stood in the pocket.  Even though he only averaged 3 yards a carry, the way he runs the option makes those runs effective.  “They” used to say that the option couldn’t work in the NFL because A) athletes were too good in the NFL and they’d be able to stop it and B) quarterbacks would get hit too much.  The latter might be true, Tebow gets hit a lot and he’s an unusually big guy for a quarterback.  It is hard to imagine how Tommie Frazier or Scott Frost could take that much pounding and perhaps over time Tebow won’t be able to either.   Still, Tebow’s moderate level of success makes one wonder if NFL teams have just been flat-out wrong-headed by not considering option-attacks.  The first – and really only time – I recall the option attack being used regularly was a series in a 1987 replacement game between the 49ers and the woeful replacement players that made up the New York Giants that year.  The fake 49ers blew away the fake Giants and at one point, Bill Walsh plugged in QB Tony Stevens who ran an option attack that marched the 49ers down the field.  Walsh looked over at Bill Parcells and they both laughed.  Not just at the absurdity of replacement games but of the fact that the option was being run.  “Only in a BS game like this,” you could imagine them both thinking “could you get away with that college bullshit.”

Yet when you look at Tebow’s success – along with the mild amount of success Miami had a few years ago with the wildcat formation – is it possible NFL coaches have been missing out all these years?

Oh wait…does completing less than 50% of your passes, not scoring 20 points and beating teams the last 3 weeks with a combined record of 14-19 really qualify as success?  I mean I know San Diego is hurting on the defensive side of the ball, but the actor on Suburgatory who likes like Tim Tebow could have completed passes with the amount of time Timmy was given to throw.

I realize the Chargers didn’t want to be beat off the corner by Tebow the way the Jets were the week before, but did they forget what the Lions did to Tebow…they crushed him in the pocket.  The Broncos have since adjusted their game plan and the Chargers don’t have the Lions front but the lack of pressure Tebow was given was ridiculous.

Listen, Tim Tebow is already a more effective player than I or very many other people thought he would be.  I never hear from Tebow’s rabid fan base after he does poorly – but hear a lot from them when he does well – and we all know that’s lame.  So I won’t wait for Tebow’s next bad game to post an “I told you so” blog.  He’s finding a way to lead his team to a win and even when he’s not moving the ball he’s sort of fun to watch – which I never really thought when I saw him at Florida just because so many of those games were white-washes against the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt and watching one college team beat another 50-0 is not fun (if you don’t believe me, ask Rick Neuheisel).   But while Tebow is still a champion of mediocrity on the pro stage, look at the NFL today.  There’s really only one game this year that promises to give Tebow real trouble (New England in Week 14) as the Bears defense (which Denver also faces this year) will feast on him but their anemic offense minus Jay Cutler will likely make that game a carbon copy of the Dolphin and Jet games.  And maybe Tebow could hang in there as a 6-10, 7-9 even 9-7 quarterback in this league and then Bronco fans will really be put to the test.  If he’s awful, you have no choice to get rid of him.  And if he’s great, you have no choice but to keep him.  But how do you handle it when your chosen one leads your team to being merely so-so; to being more or less competitive; to being almost good enough to lose in the first round of the playoffs.  Ask Indiana Pacers fans about being always good enough to challenge for a playoff spot but never good enough to actually win a playoff series.  It’s no fun.  Then again, those poor saps are stuck living in Indianapolis so they’ve asked for a life of misery anway.

BK-O-Meter: With a Pie & Burger pumpkin pie in his gullett and a $4.50 hot dog in his right hand, BK made his first NFL Draft notes of the year. “I like this Mike Martin from Michigan” beamed a suger-rushed BK. “I saw two plays of the Michigan-Ohio State game and on one of them he looked good.”

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My favorite non-team sport is Tennis. This was likely cemented during the Golden Age of tennis when a handful of personalities seemingly dominated the sport – Borg, McEnroe, Connors, Geralitus, Vilas, Nastase. I think the Mayer brohers were in there…and Jose Luis-Clerc.  Roscoe Tanner would turn up every now and then.

However, if it wasn’t for NFL Football, I likely never would have grown an interest in tennis.  Because the U.S. Open Men’s final is always played on a Sunday during the NFL season.  So CBS would always dutifully follow-up its 1pm EST airing of NFL Football with the Men’s U.S. Open finals. This made tennis more captivating to me than a Jelena Jankovic crotch-shot.  We didn’t have a remote back then and only had 6 channel choices, so why not hang around and watch McEnroe beat Geralitus (’79), McEnroe over Borg (’80 & ’81), Connors over Lendle (’81 & ’82), McEnroe over Lendl (’83) and then a whole lot more of Lendl after that.

I love the U.S. Open.  It’s my favorite of the slams, in no small part because I can actually watch the matches without staying up all night or waking up at 5am.  The French can be as grueling to watch as it no doubt is to play (I actually like the Rome Open more because it’s just 2 out of 3 and the fans are so on top of the players on that Centre Court).  Wimbledon will always be the Stairway to Heaven of tennis tournaments, but let’s face it – the all-white, those freeloading Royals, watching Andy Murray lose every year.  It’s a little stodgy.  I actually think the Australian is underrated as it has a similar feel as the U.S. Open.  It seems like a fun tourney to go to.  But since I have to watch on TV and the finals are played at midnight PST, it takes a lot of the viewing pleasure away.  The only thing I want to be sneaking up to watch on 2am on a Sunday morning is a Girls Gone Wild informercial.  After sitting through the 5-hour Nadal-Federer classic a few years, where the great but strangely effiminate Rog broke down in tears leaving Nadal to make the most awkward “I’m sorry I beat you” victory speech since the owners, trainers and jockey of Birdstone apologized to America for beating Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes, I decided to invest in a DVR.

It’s funny how much tennis has changed and I think is in the process of changing again.  Take a look at old Tennis Channel replays of men’s or women’s past matches and the play seems so much slower than before.  How did a 39-year-old Jimmy Connors ever get to the ’91 Semi’s playing at that pace?  It’s like his game hadn’t changed speed since the ’75 Wimbledon final against Arthur Ashe.  And Ashe, watching him play is like going to a Norah Jones concert.  Can you just pick-up the pace a little bit Norah, I’m going comatose here.

A lot of people complain about the new equipment making net play seemingly impossible but I’ve noticed more players serve and volleying (or in the case of Novak Djokovic, at least showing a willingness at some point in the game to volley) than I have in the previous few years.  I’m not saying we’re returning to the days of a  McEnroe, Edberg or Sampras but I do think we’re looking at a very interesting U.S. Open in 2011 on the men’s side while the women’s side may get a boost of short-term stimulus.

MEN’S PREVIEW

I don’t like making tennis tournament predictions because picking upsets is just too random. It’s like picking North Dakota State to beat Duke in Round 1 of the NCAA Finals and at least in that case there’s a chance Kyle Sigler could get in early foul trouble.  The bottom line is Novak Djokovic is about ready to complete very possibly the most dominating tennis season in the history of the game.  In fact, if it wasn’t for a set-and-a-half retreat into the former self-loathing, whining, ready to quit Novak in the French semi against the Rog, and Novak probably is playing for the first 4-tourney Grand Slam triumph since Rod Laver.  And let’s face it, the only reason we’re not just handing him the title is because of the shoulder injury that reared its head in Cincinnati against Andy Murray in the final.  Even in Montreal, Djokovic looked sluggish against Mardy Fish, a player – with all do respect to Mardy – he should really never lose to.  Simply put, unless Djokovic’s shoulder acts up or he’s just physically depleted, Novak will win the 2011 U.S. Open against whomever he plays.

I am picking Murray to be my second choice and not just because he beat the disabled Djokovic in Cincy.  Murray has had such a strange season.  Finals in Australia before tanking in (yet another) Slam final.  First round losses in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne followed by a stronger than expected clay court season where he actually has a match point on Djokovic in the Rome semis and doesn’t completely embarrass himself against Nadal in the semis at the French.  A decent grass court season only to get knocked out in Round 1 in Montreal at the Rogers Cup.  Then, seemingly rusty, he wins the last major tourney before the U.S. Open.  I don’t really like Murray that much.  I don’t like his whiny demeanor or the way he barks at his coachless friends box when times go tough in matches.  It’s neither inspring nor charming, it’s just simply losing his cool while losing on the court.  Plus his teeth are nothing to write home about.

However, the truth is Nadal just seems to have lost his confidence and Federer looks like he shot his load in Roland Garros.  My guess is Nadal does make the final four here – he’s just too good not too, but I no longer think that Federer is clearly one of the top 4 players in the world.  He could make the finals, but he just as easily could lose to the likes of Berdych or Soderling or Fish or Ferrer or even Monfils (okay, not Monfils).

I think the interesting part of this year’s U.S. Open finals on the men’s side of the draw won’t necessarily be if anyone other than the Big 4 makes the semi’s but what of the young players who’ve been making noise at various points this year – Tomic, Dodig, Harrison, Young (I know, I know, I was just kidding about Young) – might make a run.  Maybe John Isner, who’s been doing bonkers at ATP 250 events this summer but let’s not also forget took Nadal to 5 sets at Wimbledon, might be worth a Round of 16 or even Quarterfinal run.  In the end though, the first week may prove to be more compelling than the last week as we make the inevitable march to crowning Djokovic champion.

WOMEN’S PREVIEW

Some say the problem with the economic stimulus package that President Obama signed into law shortly after taking office in 2009 was that it wasn’t big enough.  Some say it was too big.  But perhaps the real problem is that it turned out to be short-term stimulus.  A brief jolt that kept things stable but failed to provide long-term (or more accurately medium-term) growth.  Like a Jolt Cola.  Or Cocaine.  Or a date with Martina Hingis after she had a Jolt Cola spiked with cocaine.  This year’s season of women’s tennis seems to be the same way.

Even before her body was breaking down, Kim Clijsters had already said she was only going to play through the 2012 Olympics.  It was great seeing Li Na and Franchesca Schiovone battle it out in the French as they both pushed 30 but it also illustrated how few comers the women’s game really has.  Petra Kvitova hasn’t followed up her Wimbledon victory with much this summer, Caroline Wozniacki continues to convince no one of her Slam credentials and the fact that Marion Bartoli keeps turning up in finals while the likes of Julia Georges and Sabine Lisicki continue to stay mired in the 20’s in the WTA rankings seems to prove that women’s tennis is mired in a double dip rut.

Which brings us to the two highest profiles and most popular players in women’s tennis – Serena Williams (who’s 2 for 2 this summer with victories in Palo Alto and Toronto) and Maria Sharapova (fresh off victory in Cincinnati) – potentially destined for a U.S. Open clash in the finals.  And I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen, which in one sense will be great for tennis.  It will be by far the most highly recognizable slam match the women’s game has seen since the infamous Clijsters-Serena U.S. Open semi in 2009.  But it also illustrates a problem.  Sharapova might have a few years at the top if she chooses to play regularly but Serena is almost certainly looking at the close of her career and for all we know this could be Venus’ last major event ever.  So this is a little like dragging Lennox Lewis out of retirement to fight Vitali Klitschko.  A lot of people would watch that bout, but in the end what does it say about a sport who can only find a broad audience by bringing out an over-40, long-since retired boxer fighting a soon to be retired boxer.  Lewis isn’t fighting anyone and Serena has proven when healthy and motivated she can still beat anyone in the world.  But I’m sorry, no player no matter how good should be able to miss a year (a year in which she hardly played due to injury) and then after a couple grass court matches dominate the field during the hard court season.  Look up and down the women’s game and there seems to be no one ready to make a move.  The men’s game may be short of U.S. players but the women’s game just seems short of transcendent players period.

Can Wozniacki counter punch her way to a final? Does Jankovic’s final appearance in Cincinnati signal a resurgence?  Does Ana Ivanovic still have any spark in the tank?  Any young players ready to make even a Round of 16 run?

I predict a Serena 3-setter win over Sharapova in the final  A classic to be replayed and reminisced about for years.  But also, like the farewell concert of a great band, it will end with fans looking back instead of looking forward.

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