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Yes, it’s mail time


By Adam Hoff


I can’t remember the last time we ran a mail column, but I suppose if I simply toggled over to the World Wide Web and looked at the archived columns, I could figure it out.  Regardless, it has been a while.  Frankly, for the past month I’ve just been receiving a steady dose of emails telling me that I picked the wrong World Series winner.  It seems that White Sox fans have been waiting A LONG time to win it all, so that they could then ream every writer that didn’t pick them when the playoffs began.  Duly noted.  And while we’re here, yes I was wrong about the Bears this year.  And the Bulls last year.  So let’s just move on. 


Here is some mail that deals with more than just the “obvious” World Series winning Sox.


Andrew wonders, “What was the better game/Reggie Bush performance: the Notre Dame game or the Fresno State game?”


Tough call.  I can tell you that the result of those two games is that I’ve seen my interest in college football go up tenfold, Bush probably (read: should have) locked up the Heisman, and we probably now know who is going #1 in next April’s NFL Draft.  That aside, I have to go with Notre Dame as the better game and Fresno State as the better Bush performance.  The ND-USC game was the best college football game I’ve seen since Miami-Ohio State in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, and maybe the best regular season game I’ve ever seen.  But while Bush played a huge role in that contest, it will be the Fresno State game that everyone remembers him by.  The cut back run where he stopped on the sideline and pulled the ball back behind his hip was absolutely sick.  He had probably a dozen jaw-dropping highlights on his way to breaking the Pac-10 record for all purpose yards … all while single-handedly staving off what appeared to be a sure upset loss to the Bulldogs.  How do you do better than that?  I’ve got Bush as the best college running back since Barry Sanders, maybe even since O.J.  Expect him to be just as good at the next level.


Staying with college sports, we have Mike: “Who are you tabbing to win it all in college hoops?  Please don’t say Duke.”


Not to worry, Mike.  I do think that the Blue Devils have a good chance, thanks to stud freshman Josh McRoberts joining Reddick and Williams in the starting lineup.  However, I am going with Michigan State.  The Spartans have a more clearly established pecking order this year, a more experienced Drew Neitzel at the point, Paul Davis in the post, and explosive swing men in Shannon Brown and Mo Ager.  I loved them last year in the tourney and think they will take it a couple of steps further this time around.  I have the right to back out of these picks at any time, but I’m going with Michigan State, Villanova, UConn, and Gonzaga/Oklahoma (can’t decide … is that cheating?) for the Final Four, with MSU beating the Wildcats of ‘Nova for the title.


Speaking of college hoops, throw the Maui Invitational in there with USC football as reasons 1A and 1B why college sports are back to being awesome.  That Gonzaga-MSU showdown was ridiculous.  When was the last time you saw two teams answering back and forth like that?  If only Adam Morrison had remembered to bring his razor to Hawaii, that game would have been the most TV-friendly sporting event in recent memory.   


Dennis asks, “What is the worst thing you’ve seen on television in the past month?  My vote is for John Abruzzi getting his throat slashed on last week’s Prison Break.” 


That was definitely a tough blow for fans of Prison Break.  Not only did we lose the guy that played both the Russian Argonaut in Armageddon and the Russian middleman in Bad Boys 2 (a couple of Michael Bay gems), but his character was also in the middle of a terrific renaissance on the show.  I think it is possible that he somehow survived the slicing and dicing, but regardless, that was tough to swallow.  Pretty good choice.


The worst thing that happened in the world of TV was the scaling back of Arrested Development to 13 episodes (almost a sure sign of future cancellation).  What a travesty.  I’m not sure whether to blame Fox (for poor marketing and slotting), the viewing public, the Nielson system, fact that the DVD came out too late, or the lack of Medici-esque patrons who commission great works of art, but this is just a horrific turn of events.  If I could get away with it, I would just go ahead and write 2,500 words about it and post it here on the site.  Maybe I will. 


Since that doesn’t really count, I will go with Stuart Scott’s “Poetry Jam” bit on SportsCenter, in which he rhymed his way through a Bengals-Ravens highlight.  We got beauties like this: “Palmer shows what he can do – three hundred and two – yards, passing – tenth straight game, harassing – defenses …”.  It was quite possibly the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever watched.  I can only imagine being his co-anchor, John Anderson, at that moment.  It would be worse than working on the telecast in which Evan Baxter (Steve Carell’s character in Bruce Almighty) started speaking in tongues AND the famous Ron Burgundy profanity-laced Lemming act combined.  That’s pretty bad.  In short, ESPN would be wise to pull the plug on any more spoken word gimmicks starting the Booyah King. 


(By the way, isn’t it strange that Steve Carell went from being a correspondent on The Daily Show to being an A-list movie star?  Not only that, but he did it by playing a news anchor in Bruce Almighty and a weatherman in Anchorman.  Furthermore, he’s now slated to star in the Bruce Almighty sequel about God contacting the former news anchor to build an ark.  My man knows his way around a fake newsroom, that is for sure.)


Marco writes, “My fantasy football team needs help – I’ve lost both my quarterbacks (Bulger and Leftwich) and need to find someone to put under center for my playoff bound squad.  Any suggestions?”


Well, start with the replacements.  Both the Jags’ and Rams’ offenses have favorable matchups the rest of the way and their young backups David Garrard and Ryan Fitzpatrick availed themselves nicely in Sunday’s action.  I would try to land these guys on the waiver wire as a first move.  Garrard, in particular, could be a top-12 performer at the position the rest of the way.  Next, take note of your league’s trade deadline.  If you are in luck, there is still time to make a move.  Identify your best source of surplus (maybe an extra back like Duckett or Mwelde Moore, or a third wideout in the ilk of Eddie Kennison or Terry Glenn) then scout out a team in your league that A) has two solid quarterbacks and B) needs what you have to offer.  Perhaps one guy in your league is heading for the playoffs with both Palmer and Eli at QB but is starting the likes of Michael Pittman at his second running back spot.  What good does it do him to have both those quarterbacks when there are only a few weeks remaining?  If Palmer and Eli both go for 15+ every week, he’s wasting all those points on the bench.  Owners like this are going to start feeling pressure to turn those bench points into something tangible in the starting lineup.  Look for a guy with a durable, solid starter (Palmer, both Mannings, Brady, Hasselbeck, etc.) and a decent-to-good backup (Brooks, McNair, Bledsoe, Green).  Even in a 12-team league, you’ll be surprised to find a few teams that fit this description perfectly.  If all else fails, just play the matchups and try to find an outcast that will be playing in some high scoring affairs.  My advice is to do whatever it takes to make one of the first two options work. 


Dan is angry: “I feel like making a Bobby Simmons voodoo doll – what is with that guy?  For that matter, I’m also sitting on Caron Butler and Josh Smith.  What do I do with these losers?”


Nice, a fantasy hoops question.  Dan, you are in luck.  All three of these guys should be better going forward than they have been up to this point.  First of all, it is imperative that you consider the sample size.  While it might seem like the season has been going on for months for your downtrodden team, it is really just a drop in the bucket.  Hang in there and don’t overreact.  All three of the players you mentioned are classic “buy low” candidates, so your best bet to get value out of them is to stick with them.  As for the chances of them panning out, well, it depends.  Simmons should be totally fine.  If you look at his stats this year compared to last year, they match up fairly well in rebounds, minutes, steals, free throw percentage, and others.  The big drops are in points and FG%.  There is no way he keeps shooting below 40%.  When he starts going 6-for-12 instead of 4-for-11, you will see his points rise from 12 to 16 a night.  He should be fine.  Butler’s situation is a little different.  He has big games some nights and horrible outings on others.  He’s inconsistent because he’s coming off the bench for some bizarre reason.  Without big minutes and a set rotation, he is bound to disappear on occasion.  Plus, he missed some time early with an injury.  I would give him more time to round into shape and Eddie Jordan some time to remember that he’s an NBA head coach and not a mad scientist, and you should be okay.  As for Smith, it depends on what you need.  He is back in the starting lineup and getting blocks and steals.  Obviously, you’d rather have the new steal/block master Gerald Wallace right now, but Smith is still a quietly valuable guy.  I’d stick with all of them. 


Cory wonders, “What is the most annoying trend in the NFL right now?  I vote for teams punting when down by 10 in the fourth quarter, particularly when they are inside of midfield.  What are they waiting for?”


There is no doubt that the extremely risk averse fraternity of NFL coaches can frustrate fans with their field position battles, and more often than not, the punt goes into the end zone and the net gain is mere yards.  However, I have other issues.  I was tempted to go with “ridiculous challenges – usually by Mike Shanahan – that slow the game to a crawl” or even “wide receivers dropping a pass and then immediately jumping up and begging for a pass interference call, complete with a ‘pulling the flag out from the hip pocket’ pantomime” as my answer.  Ultimately, what angers me the most is when a running back takes his team all the way down the field, only to see the touchdown go to someone else.  Teams love to run play action and throw to the tight end, run the occasional QB draw, and even pick that time (of all times!) to bring in the backup.  Most backs don’t complain when they get shafted near the goal line, but it has to be frustrating.  I think it should be an unwritten rule that unless the game is in the balance, teams are required to let the running back have first crack at the touchdown whenever he has rushed for more than 40 yards on the drive.  Okay, maybe not, but something needs to happen to give these guys the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Wonder why Tomlinson and Alexander run so hard and so well on every carry?  I’m guessing it is mainly because they are professionals and amazing backs, but it might also have to do with the fact that they know they will be rewarded.  Give them the rock, coaches!


Okay, that’s it for this time.  Good work on the emails, keep them flowing.  Just don’t bother pointing out the fact that the Broncos are the second-best team in the NFL and that I slotted them #25 on the preseason power rankings.  I’m aware.


Adam Hoff is a columnist for the Webby-winning WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America.  He can be reached at wis.insider@gmail.com.

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