But we should all know well enough that you can’t keep the Crimson Tide coach down for long. Sooner or later, Saban will do or say something silly once again to reclaim his crown as the SEC’s top screwball. And he doesn’t disappoint, as Nick knows who to blame for Alabama’s poor performance in last season’s Sugar Bowl:
It’s not every year that the final regular season of the NFL game means something. NBC flexed their way to the Chargers eliminating the Broncos in a semi-playoff game to capture the AFC West berth into the playoffs. The Dolphins, Vikings, Eagles, and Ravens were the other teams to punch their tickets in the 11th hour, and you know how airlines hate it when you check in late. This leaves our 12 teams arranged for your graphic pleasure as such:
The four divisional games will skip hand in hand toward the Emerald Cigar City in hopes of overcoming the evil flying monkeys known as “losing in the playoffs.” Those swell games begin Saturday. That’s six days. I hope you’ve already found a couch in which to park your butt.
A telltale sign your team is on a roll: two people are open for the same pass. When LaDainian Tomlinson wasn’t going long for the pass, he was passing San Diego native Marcus Allen for career touchdowns, finishing the regular season with 126 for second most all time.
The 52-21 rout of the Broncos creates an 8-8 playoff team for the eighth time in NFL history, and the first time in the AFC since the 1991 New York Jets. While the Chargers are rollin’ like James Brolin, only twice have 8-8 teams won a playoff game, and they both happened in 2004 (Minnesota over Green Bay, St. Louis over Seattle). They will host the 12-4 Colts. Hmm. I wonder if these two teams have played each other in the playoffs before.
This man is Lonnie Cooper. You’ve never heard of him, unless he was your Secret Santa, or if you are one of nine NBA coaches that called him “my agent” at the start of the season. The NBA called six of those coaches “fired” in a span of 24 days:
The firings began Nov. 22, when P. J. Carlesimo was dismissed by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Two days later, Eddie Jordan was fired by the Washington Wizards. Sam Mitchell (Toronto) was the next to go, then Randy Wittman (Minnesota) and Maurice Cheeks (Philadelphia). The purge continued Dec. 15, with the Sacramento Kings firing Reggie Theus.
His active clientele still includes Doc Rivers, Jim O’Brien, and Nate McMillan, and Kings interim coach Kenny Natt is his client, too. But to have three of nine coaches make it. Three of nine. Three of nine. Hmm. Maybe Shaq should inquire about his services.
As we gust our way to the finish line:
If you watch closely, you can actually see the string Bill Belichick pulls that gets Matt Cassel’s punt down to the 1-yard line. It’s so nice to see cheating coaches get back to the fundamentals of impish tomfoolery. Funner fact: the last time a Patriots quarterback punted it away: Tom Brady in 2003. And where did his land? Why, the 1-yard line, of course (last item).
LOSER WITH SOCKS notices that Charter Cable subscribers in Montgomery, Alabama will tentatively be without FOX on January 2, but all they’ll miss is the Sugar Bowl. But it’s Friday night. Go and get some friends or throw a Boggle party. Expand your mind, ya’ ingrates.
DEADSPIN has video of Eagles owner Jeff Lurie. He is so jazzed to have his team in the playoffs, he’s willing to slap his wife in the face in the form of a high-five.
STEROID NATION has news of a notable baseball player taking steroids. Just kidding, I said “baseball player” to get your attention because there’s no other way to get people to care about non-baseball players taking steroids. BALCO bigwig Victor Conte details “Sugar” Shane Mosley’s purchases of EPO and anabolic steroids. Would it help your interest if I photoshopped a baseball on top of Mosley’s pectoral muscles?
Oh, it looks like Brad Penny is eversoclose to a one-year deal with the Red Sox, so sayeth FOX SPORTS’ Ken Rosenthal, who can quietly add another point into the non-white player to Boston category.
Sportswriters who cover the Cotton Bowl get their own swag, HUNTSVILLE TIMES’ Paul Gattis notes. When ‘Bama was in the Cotton Bowl in 2005, this valiant sportswriter received, among other things, get free tickets to Frank Caliendo. Ooh, I wonder if he did his John Madden impression? Have you seen it before? OF COURSE YOU HAVE. YOU OWN A TV.
Staying with the OREGONIAN motif, rich nerd Paul Allen doesn’t let his Blazers sleep in his executive bedroom, except for Greg Oden because he’s taller and therefore better than everyone else. Fun fact: Sam Bowie was the only one allowed to play with Larry Weinberg’s Rubik’s cube.
It’s best to just let THE DUGOUT spin out as much as they can on Kyle Farnsworth, for we are all better off for it, even if not everyone knows this.
And finally, a bowl game happened last night. In the Independence Bowl, Northern Illinois fell 17-10 as Louisiana Tech wins their eighth game of thzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
You might remember Cleveland State as a footnote in NCAA basketball history: back in 1986, the Vikings became the darlings of the hoops world when they beat Indiana and St. Joesph’s to become the first No. 14 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Both their wins came in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, one of the sites for the early rounds of the East Regionals (remember back when game sites actually had some geographical relevance to their bracket?)
Flash-forward 22 years, as Cleveland State makes their return trip to Syracuse, this time to take on the previously-unbeaten and 11th-ranked Orange. The Vikings - thought to be a contender in the Horizon League before a rash of early losses - put up a good fight and lead late, only to see Syracuse’s Arinze Onuaku tie the score at 69-69 with two seconds left on a put-back basket, setting up the inevitable overtime where the better team uses their superior depth and athletic ability to pull away from the game underdogs.
And then this happened:
Cedric Jackson drains the 60-footer - just like they work on it in practice - and Cleveland State stuns Syracuse 72-69. All of which left Orange coach Jim Boeheim pretty irritable at the post-game press conference. Add in a faulty microphone and you’ve got a late contender for coaching meltdown of the year. (Thanks to NESW SPORTS for the heads up
Yowza. I know it looks bad, but Boeheim was obviously in a bad mood and I’m sure he feels really bad about it. (Although that mic totally had it coming.) After all, he doesn’t want to set a bad example for his students, so they can think they can act out in violent and destructive fashion and not be punished.
Oops, never mind. Still, it’s a great win for Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters. Let’s just hope he doesn’t suffer the same downward spiral that the last Vikings coach to win in Syracuse did, but I hope Waters is smart enough to not get caught high as a kite leaving a crack house.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles kept “Operation Don’t Let a Tie with the Bengals Ruin Our Season” going for at least one more week last night, pasting the Cleveland Browns 30-10. (And really, is there any other way to beat a Ken Dorsey-led team?) That’s three straight wins after the debacle against the Ravens that led to Donovan McNabb’s benching and a general consensus that the Andy Reid Era in Philadelphia was over.
Impressive, but will it be enough? Let’s just say that the odds are stacked against them. Not only will they need to beat Washington (who are imploding, but it’s on the road) and Dallas (the perpetual question mark), but they need either Atlanta (games against Minnesota and St. Louis) or Tampa Bay (San Diego and Oakland) to lose once.
With three almost guaranteed wins there, the Eagles have to pin their postseason hopes on the less-than-golden arm of Tarvaris Jackson. Good luck with that.
Tiger Woods’ caddie/luckiest guy in the world Steve Williams rips Phil Mickelson, calling him a “prick“ and commenting on his…ahem…cup size. Woods responds by telling THE GUARDIAN that he’s “disappointed” in the remarks. Could Williams be joining Fluff Cowan in the Tiger Woods Caddie Graveyard?
In a bit of karma straight out of “My Name is Earl,” the MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE says Vikings DT Pat Williams, after being reinstated via court order following his suspension for water pills, might be out for the season after fracturing his shoulder against the Cardinals.
SI’s Jon Heyman has word that there might be a mystery suitor who is stepping in late to make a run at Andy Pettitte. Honestly, if it’s the Astros and the phrase “linked to the return of Roger Clemens” comes up, I will start punching people in the throat.
It’s become a Christmas tradition for President Bush to recruit lots of celebrities to star in his dog Barney’s holiday video (and you wonder why the country is where it’s at?) The BOSTON GLOBE says that Olympic heroes Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin are co-starring in this year’s final masterpiece.
The MUNSTER TIMES passes along word of 19-year-old Valparaiso freshman basketball player Logan Jones, who was arrested when cops allegedly found him and some friends in a car drinking and smoking pot. He was arrested, despite the officer noting in his police report that he pleaded with him to “please be cool, I don’t want to loss (sic) my scholarship.”