The World Cup final. Wow, what a sports event. It was thrilling. It was edge-of-your-seat excitement. It was the rarest of rare sports moments when two of the all-time greats face off in the biggest stage in their sport and deliver with all-time great performances. Think back to that Federer-Nadal Wimbledon marathon as an example. Amazing stuff and one of those potential, "Where you sports moments?" you know.
Lionel Messi. Gotta admit I would be amazingly tempted to just walk off. How does it get any better than that? Winning the World Cup to put an exclamation on the GOAT conversation? And now go be the global face of the game -- be it at FIFA or in the announcers chair. What a finish that was.
Sports fans. Holy buckets what a weekend, and what a Sunday. If you did not have the time or the willpower to be a complete couch potato as the World Cup became the NFL, which had the family golf thing as a sidekick, which also had some college hoops and more NFL. Well, you missed an amazing sports-viewing feast.
Bengals, Bills and Chiefs. Yes, these are the only three acceptable offerings for any AFC Super Bowl entry for the next half dozen years. These three also have three generational talents at QB who are worthy of the sacrifice of paying one of your 53 15-plus-percent of your salary cap. Because Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are those kind of dudes. And when you are a fan of a team with one of those dudes, you have a chance every Sunday, regardless of how poorly you play in the first half.
The World Cup over-the-toppers and hypocrites. Yes, Sunday was magical. It was theater in the highest form and athletics at its pinnacle. It also was a sports-washing that made the LIV look like a faucet drip of sports diversion. But we're going to forget that -- and continually bombard Mickelson and Norman and the rest who took Saudi money -- because Sunday made you weepy? Cool. So if Mickelson shoots 59 to win on a Sunday, then the LIV is aces too? (Side question: Have you noticed how the golf narrative is now less about the murderous Saudis and sports-washing -- hello China Olympics anyone -- and more about how Greg Norman has to go? Seriously, Norman is the hang-up here now? Make me think that the PGA powers-that-be know how expensive a bidding war for talent could become.) And one more soccer thing: Gang, this not the springboard for sports fans like me to switch to soccer no more than the 1980 U.S. hockey game was. Please do not think it is going to make soccer magically compete with the NFL on a popularity metric. Sunday was almost perfect. But let me speak for most of America and say clearly: See you in four years.
The entire NFC South. It would be such a Detroit Lions thing to happen for the Lions to win out and miss the final Wildcard spot on tie-breakers and a 6-11 NFC South champ gets into the dance. Of course a 6-11 NFC champ could be the Minnesota Vikings in the first game, so there's that too.
SEC hoops. The league took on some studs this weekend. And the studs fought back. Alabama and Kentucky lost by double-digits to Gonzaga and UCLA. (Side note: Alabama's Brandon Miller may be the best SEC basketball player since Anthony Davis was around. And healthy.) UT lost at Arizona (and failed to cover). Auburn just committed another turnover in a three-point loss at USC. That said, barring an unforeseen collapse, all eight of those teams will hear its name called on selection Sunday. Heck, if I had to rank those teams 1-8 right now, Kentucky may well be 8.
The Lakers. Heck, the NBA's biggest names in the West in general. But the Lakers especially. We are less than a week from a Christmas Day that the NBA normally becomes the central viewing. Now, without Anthony Davis, who is out multiple weeks (again) with a lower leg/foot injury (again), the Lakers are LeBron and a James Gang that is criminally flawed. Add in a Steph-less Golden State, and arguably the two most popular shows in the NBA galaxy are hard to watch. Plus, the NFL has opted for three Christmas Day NFL games next Sunday, too. Good luck with that NBA.
NBC execs. Hey, the cost of covering sports is in a surreal place. For a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the bean counters saw during the pandemic that sending armies of people in person to these events is extremely expensive. Plus, the job above and beyond a lot of the commentators did in extreme cases of calling the action off site is nowhere close to as effective, but it's also nowhere close to as expensive either. NBC reportedly has pulled the plug on longtime golf announcers Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie, and their send-offs Sunday were as sentimental for the most part as an infomercial. Heck, when the game's great players offer more touching words -- seriously, steely eyed all-timers like Tiger and Jack -- than your former employer, well, that's unnecessarily calloused in my book.
Braves back off
There were a slew of options for this third spot.
The World Cup was just that stunning and entertaining. College hoops was great fun this weekend. The NFL is always awesome. There's an investment question with two coming-of-age sports stars below.
But the Saturday news that so many of you were dreading landed on us when Dansby Swanson took a seven-year, $177 million deal from the Cubs.
The angles here are intriguing.
Yes, the years and the coin were more than the Braves offered. Heck, seeing the mega-deals signed by Trae Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa put the writing on the wall before the weekend if we're being honest.
Conversely, how much is enough? Yes, that's an easy question for a dude making an average American salary to ask, but how much value would there have been for Dansby to retire as a Braves legend, be that guy in the press box next to whatever descendant from the Harry-Skip-Chip Carey lineage is calling the game?
How much is winning worth? Because certainly over the next three to five years, the Braves are built for winning it all (or would have been) and the Cubs will be lucky to rebuild enough to make the playoffs consistently.
Hey, I understand taking the money and running to the Windy City. It's the way of the world, and sports is no different. Truthfully, this is Dansby last monster deal, so make as much as you can when you can.
But those questions for Dansby popped into my mind when thinking about the signing.
Now comes questions for the Braves, who have for the second straight season let their emotional leader head to a rival NL market because of dollars more than sense.
And that's my view knowing that the Cubs likely overpaid for Swanson who was great in 2022 but overrated in most areas (especially defensively) in his previous time in Atlanta.
The Braves are built to win now, and plugging and placing a subpar shortstop is risky in an NL East that has become a three superpower arms race.
The Braves said in 2022 that they wanted to become a top-eight payroll and reinvest the cash river that The Battery and Truist Park is providing back into the on-the-field product.
Yet, here we are again and the Braves are bidding adieu to a supremely popular player because said player would not sign a team-friendly deal with the club. Maybe the Braves front office thought Swanson would pay extra heed to some of those questions we covered above.
But when it was clear he would not do it, it was clear they would not budge either. (Side question: Amid all the talks of team-friendly and player-friendly deals, when can we expect a fan-friendly kind of deal? Asking for a few million friends.)
And in truth all signs have pointed to this. The plethora of long-term deals the Braves inked with everyone from recently acquired corner infielders to emerging centerfield rookies.
Still, there was silence for Swanson.
I understand the math. Swanson's had one year in his time in the A-T-L that puts him among the upper echelon at his position. Granted that year was last year.
This deal will carry Swanson through the age of 37 and I could spend the rest of Christmas break trying to remember a middle infielder worth $25 million per at that age.
So I get it. From both sides, honestly.
Still, it's disappointing on a slew of levels. For fans of the Braves and the Braves fans who loved Swanson.
And that's easy to see regardless who you cheer for.
This and that
-- OK, between at least one pick on every bowl game over the weekend -- and some of those bowl games were very entertaining -- and offering a full buffet of picks in Friday's Play of the Day, after all that moving and shaking we finished 9-8 across like four sports. Still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, no? Unofficially, we have almost 80 in our bowl contest, which is excellent.
-- "Avatar 2" dropped over the weekend. No, I didn't see it, but lots and lots of folks did. It likely won't make as much as the original "Avatar" but what else has. Here's more on a $134 million opening weekend that has a lot of "Yeah, buts" in multiple directions to it.
-- Everything about the end of the Pats-Raiders game was surreal. The dodgy calls. The tie score. The worst lateral in the history of laterals. All of it. If the Belichick regime comes toppling down because of this, well, four days before the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, would the Unimaginable Lateral be the worst play in NFL history?
-- You know the rules. Here's Paschall on some college football.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
As for Multiple Choice Monday, well, it's an either-or choice, and I will need you to explain your work.
So, I watched more of the PNC parent-kid golfing thing that was made for TV than you did. I enjoy watching golf on TV. I'm old. And white.
But here's the question: If Charlie Woods and Brony James were corporations in which you could buy stock on future earnings, which one are you buying?
Because first, each is going to make well into seven figures in NIL deals. Heck, Nike will pay that by themselves since their globally famous fathers are names 2 and 3 on the list of stars who made Nike the sports apparel mega-monster it is.
Each also will face serious questions about the ceiling of their skills and how much would the heirs to billion-dollar operations truly want to sacrifice and work to never be as good as their daddy was?
So that's why the question was framed the way it was above. If you could buy stock and collect dividends on everything earned just by Charlie and Brony, where are you investing?
As for today, Dec. 19, let's review. And before that, yes, the rest of the week, we'll have some bowl updates and carry on some Christmas chats too.
"A Christmas Carol" was published on this day in 1843. The Dickens classic may have been remade more than any single theme I can think of, you know? How many movies and shows have had a similar "Ghosts of Christmas past, et al." themes?
And we'll go one more. Is Scrooge the most famous literary villain -- even though (Spoiler) he turns the corner in the end -- out there?
Heck, let's widen the net. Rushmore of most famous and identifiable all-time literary villains. Go.