Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.
A personal view: I loathe this day. I love my wife, and my family, and we exchange small gifts and knickknacks.
But man, this is the most artificial and commercially trumped-up, Hallmark day of every year, no?
With that, grab someone you love. Heck, be like Spy and grab someone you like pretty good — with their permission of course — and make a Valentine's memory.
From a lot of you
What did you think about the Astros' news conference?
It's nearly impossible to think of a serious deal that has been routinely mishandled at almost every level.
Let's review the timeline of some notable details and side notes:
> For the previous 15 years before 2017, Justin Verlander and Brian McCann become the face of "old-school baseball" and unwritten-rule interpretations, and former Houston manager AJ Hinch is viewed as one of those traditional skippers.
> This is highlighted by this 2016 quote from Verlander that Twitter is having a field day with: "We're fighting and clawing for 162 games. You'd hate to see something happen where . . . you lose by a game. . .What if? Well, what if that guy hadn't been on the field?" "I don't have a problem with steroids — I have a problem with cheating."
Do you now, big fella? Really? Or do you have a problem when other people cheat but when your teammates are giving you run support and cheating to get to the title, then you're OK with it? Because to be the most outspoken on issues, "I don't give a dang" quote in baseball, now, on the biggest game-altering scandal since Rose with the greatest stakes since the Black Sox, Verlander goes 0-dark-30 on everyone? Now it's between you and your teammates?
Hmmmmmmm, so what exactly is your problem with cheating that you don't like it when other teams cheat better than your team cheats?
> In 2017 and into, Houston wins the World Series with the sign-stealing scheme that allows the Astros to go 8-1 at home and 3-6 on the road while hitting 70-plus points better at home.
> And let's not forget in 2019, the scandal about the assistant GM being a jackwagon to female reporters and how poorly the organization handled that.
> Nov. 12, 2019: Mike Fiers speaks to "The Athletic" and then this thing goes straight to "Ludicrous Speed." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygE01sOhzz0
> Jan. 7, 2020: The Red Sox are implicated in this during their 2018 World Series title.
And boom, from there in five-plus weeks, we've had three managers fired for their roles in this and one GM let go.
And all of it was only made worse by the Astros' collective jackwagonry Thursday.
The owner told media members that the sign stealing did not have an effect on the outcome of games. Seriously.
Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, two of the faces of the franchises and two of the main beneficiaries of the sign-stealing system according to the splits in 2017, spoke for a combined 75 seconds and sounded as sincere as an April Fool's Day joke. (And why they did not have Carlos Correa out front, who had easily the best and most sincere quote from Thursday's circus: "We all had a say in everything that we were doing in there. Whatever he said and whatever we were doing, we had the chance to stop it as a team. Everybody. Everybody had the chance to say something, and we didn't." Yeah, you too, Verlander.)
There are a few things that are clear, at least in my view:
First, MLB desperately wants this to go away. Whether it's because of the blind eye the powers that be turned to this in the moment or the fear that half of baseball was doing something similar, the lack of punishment on the players and the lack of what seems to be serious overall action from the commissioner's office, MLB does not want to completely pull back the rug.
Second, the Astros are going to be on an absolutely rollercoaster this year, especially on the road, where this will be a boo-fest at every stop, and if Vegas is offering a prop bet on which team will have the most-hit batters, I'll go ahead and put a mortgage payment on Houston on that one.
It also makes you wonder about how a slow start offensively — and the accompanying questions about whether the bats going quiet are because of not knowing what's coming — how that will be viewed. Also, about whether the clubhouse handles this controversy like Bonds did with PEDs and thrives on the double-middle-finger tour or if they struggle like Roberto Alomar did after the umpire spitting incident.
Finally, the long-term ripples and lasting views on the legacies of Altuve, Bregman, Verlander, McCann and everyone else in that locker room.
Buster Only described it as the Astros have now cheated in the neighborhood poker game and he's most interested in seeing how the rest of baseball — and a lot of the rest of the players are outraged, by all reports — deals with this.
(And side note: That the blowback from the rest of the players during the PED-era — other than Verlander of course, because he is a bastion of honesty, integrity and doing things the old-school way — screams to the fact that whatever you think the percentage of baseball players using PEDs was, here's betting it was significantly higher.)
From Mike J.
I was listening to Press Row (Tuesday) and you guys started to discuss the best upsets in sports movie history. I know you guys don't really do Rushmores any more, but if you had one of sports movie upsets how would it look?
I'll wrap this booger up and you guys are awesome on ESPN 105.1 the Zone.
Thanks for listening and playing along with the silliness.
Side question before we get into a couple of fun Rushmores this week. Since "Miracle" became a movie based on the best upset in the history of sports, would it be on both?
I vote yes.
Rushmore of sports movie upsets: Hickory over the Mighty Bears of South Bend Central, Herb Brooks' boys over the Soviets in Lake Placid in 1980, the Cutters over the pedaling frat boys in "Breaking Away," Daniel LaRusso (using a clearly illegal face strike, by the way) over Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley Karate Tournament.
Gang, this one is unofficial, because dang at the folks we left off of this one. The Ducks over the Hawks. "Rocky II." Heck, what's the biggest upset for Rocky? The "Chariot of Fires" dudes.
And that leads us to
I know you love the draft but I love the dunk contest and there are few sports events that are not actual games that I like more.
Have you ever done your Rushmore of the best dunkers? Thanks, and love the 5-at-10.
I think there have to be two, right? Modern-day dunkers and all-time dunkers who made the dunk the dunk.
Because Dr. J has to be there, but if Dr. J — in his prime — was in a dunk contest with Vince Carter and Zach Levine and some of the crazy athletes that play the game these day, Dr. J might finish last.
Still, Dr. J is right there with some of the most famous dunks of all time. Jordan has to be on the all-time Rushmore of dunks, too. Daryl Dawkins breaking backboards made everyone stop, look and listen. I think Wilt has to be there, too, because like so many other things he did, they outlawed the dunk for a time to try to limit Wilt's dominance. (Side note: Wilt was so amazing, they changed many rules to curb that dominance. The dunk got outlawed. The lane was widened. And people talk about Dr. J's dunk from the foul line, well, did you know that the reason the free-throw shooter can't cross the line until the ball touches the rim is because Wilt would take three or four steps and jump from behind the foul line and either dunk the free throw or lay it in with a finger roll?)
As for the best dunk-contest dunkers, I'll go Spud, who was overrated in terms of his dunks but brought attention to the event like no this side of Dr. J. Dominique was amazing, and got completely jobbed by Jordan in Chicago in 1988. (Side note: Dominique was amazing in dunk contests and may have actually been a better in-game dunker because he was so vicious and physical. Never been a better dunker on offensive rebounds ever, in my opinion.) I'll finish with Dr. J, and the best ever was likely Vinsanity. Yes, that's leaving off a lot of great names and moments, but know this: if Dr. J birthed the dunk contest, Spud brought it to the masses because everyone said, "Dang, a 5-foot-7 dude is doing that," then Vince Carter broke the dunk contest because he did things that no one thought possible and everything since seems somewhat of a letdown. (And yes, Chas, I am embarrassed that David Thompson and his "Take a quarter off the backboard" vertical are not among the previous names.)
Rushmore of Sandler movies: Disclaimer: I have not seen "Uncut Gems," so there's that. Disclaimer II: I enjoy Sandler's work more than most. "The Waterboy," "Happy Gilmore," "The Wedding Singer", "Big Daddy," which I liked more than "Billy Madison," but those are pretty interchangeable. I also laughed at "Grown-Ups," too. Shut up, Spy.
Rushmore of Lincoln: Abe Lincoln, Lincoln Logs, Lincoln Town Car, former NFL offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy — most presidential name in the history of sports? (Side Rushmore of athletes with presidential names. Go.)
Rushmore of sports upsets in the last 50 years: Disclaimer — stakes matter, because while some suggested App State over Michigan, the biggest regular-season upset numbers-wise was Stanford over USC in the early 2000s when The Cardinal was a 40-point underdog. Side note: It also was the last big win for a Jim Harbaugh-coached team, so there's that. Disclaimer II — think of the two monster upsets that happened in 1969, a year before the cutoff with the Jets in Super Bowl III and the Miracle Mets that summer. Douglas over Tyson, USA hockey vs the Soviets (and the world), Villanova over Georgetown in 1985 title game, Rulon Gardner over Alexander Kerelin in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling final. (Look it up.)
Rushmore of cartoon nemeses: First, to be clear, this was about Saturday morning cartoons, so Cruella de Vil vs. the 101 dalmatians does not count. Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote has to be far left, Tom and Jerry, Popeye and Bluto, and Tweety and Sylvester. (I left Bugs off because he had so many, and I was tempted to put "Villain vs. those meddling kids of the Mystery Machine with Scooby Doo" but did not.)
If Myles Garrett had a bigger name QB — i.e. Brady or Rodgers — does he get a longer suspension?
Completely fair question, and there are a slew of Mad Lib, level-what if's and redirects that would have been made this way worse.
And that was before Myles Garrett sat down with Mina Kimes and reaffirmed that Mason Rudolph called him the N-word and that escalated the incident.
Quick rewind from those who have been hibernating since 2018: Garrett, at the end of last November's Browns-Steelers game, ripped Rudolph's helmet off and swung it like a weapon and hit the Steelers' back-up QB on the head with his own helmet.
As for Kirk's question, yes, I believe if it had been Rodgers and especially Brady, the punishment would have been longer. And possibly significantly longer.
I also believe that the league as a whole, Garrett in particular and in some ways all of sports got lucky in that, while a terrible decision and an even worse optic, the fact that it became only a glancing blow and did not crack Rudolph's skull or explode his face was extremely fortunate.
Because if that had broken bad, and Rudolph had been seriously hurt, well, a) the fight on the field would have been dang near impossible to stop (think about how many security people would you need if a real team-on-team brawl between those NFL dudes really broke out, and if Rudolph was laying on the field with blood gushing from multiple places in his face, it could have gotten to an untenable spot in a hurry); b) criminal charges likely would have been filed and prosecuted.
It was an awful night for the NFL and for everyone involved and it could have been a ton worse.
What ratings would be a win for the XFL?
I think we saw a ratings win for the XFL.
Other than the final round of the AT&T PGA event — which had Mickelson and was played at Pebble Beach — XFL games ranked 2, 3 and 4 among the most-watched sports events from last weekend. They topped the NBA on ABC, which featured LeBron, and beat UNC-Duke on ESPN.
The TV numbers were better across the board than the first weekend of the AAF from last year.
The biggest gauge and arguably the more important numbers will be this weekend.
The debut gets the rubbernecker peeking to see what the product is. So Week 2 numbers will tells us how many of those "hey, what's this going to be?" viewers came back for another round.
The other numbers I think will be very interesting to see are a) what's the handle of money wagered on the XFL, week to week, and b) what are the numbers of fantasy players involved in the XFL?
And speaking of gambling, we rolled to a 5-2 mark last week, hitting 2 of 3 picks on the game and going 3-1 on the perennial under.
We'll take D.C. minus-6.5 over New York and Seattle plus-3.5 over Tampa Bay. I believe D.C. and Seattle will have the best two home-field edges in the XFL.
I will also take Dallas minus-4, as the Renegades get Landry Jones back on the field. We'll ride with Houston until the Roughnecks buck us.
Why are we so bullish on Houston? Well, what appears to be the two most important things in football these days: Your quarterback, and your ability to pressure their quarterback, and Houston did both better than any other team in the league in Week 1.
And don't we have to ride under until we get bucked on that, too? I say yes.
Last week 5-2 against the spread (71.4 percent).
This season: 5-2 against the spread (71.4 percent).
Enjoy the weekend, friends.