Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The man behind The Man

Ben Malcomson doesn't miss a beat.

The former Daily Trojan sportswriter and famed football team walk-on currently fills the role of Pete Carroll's social media guru.

Here's his e-mail to me today in response to my column about what a USC athlete-filled blogosphere would look like:

"Hey Peter-

Loved your column today. Funny you mentioned it in the article, but Coach just started up his Twitter last week:

Hope all is well,

Can't say I didn't see that one coming.

Pete Carroll does it, and so should you!

My latest Daily Trojan musings...

Remember when the blog bubble had supposedly burst?

Today, type the word “blogosphere” in Microsoft Word and you won’t even get a red line underneath.

Blog saturation, especially in the sports world, has reached the point where some might call it cliché to start typing away. Heck, there are even blogs about blogs — look no further than’s wildly popular Hot Clicks.

The latest trend is for athletes and other prominent figures in the sports world to skip the media and write straight to the fan. Wizards star Gilbert Arenas started the fad with his “Agent Zero: Blog File” on in 2006. Curt Shilling, Greg Oden, Mark Cuban and a host of others followed.

It was only a matter of time before USC’s Mr. Social Media, Pete Carroll, followed suit. You know, the guy with his own website and the coolest Facebook profile around.

I’m expecting tweets from him any day now.

For those not clued in, Carroll used the blog on to explain why soon-to-be NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez made the wrong decision by leaving school early.

Many called it impersonal, an unnecessary jab.

I call it honest.

After all, isn’t that what the blogosphere is all about? Unfiltered opinion without regard for AP style — it’s you, on a webpage.

The element of honesty is what made Carroll’s Web 2.0 diatribe refreshing, even if it was a bit childish.

USC, after all, boasts some of the more media-polished students and coaches in the NCAA universe. Rarely do you hear about the Freudian slips that so often frequent the SportsCenter airwaves.

Thus, Carroll’s words also left me smirking at the thought of a hypothetical USC Athletics blog network. Call it a too-good-to-be-true look into the real stories and thoughts behind the players and coaches who run the Trojan machine.

Here’s a sampling of the most popular blogs:

Hard(wood) Knocks, by Percy Miller
Life at the end of the bench is crazy, man. I’ve had a ton of time to come up with rhymes and hooks, just in case this whole basketball thing doesn’t work out. Take last weekend’s game at Washington for example:

Fifty seconds left, we down by 10;
The crowd screamin’ out, “Yo, Floyd, put him in!”

I get the magic look before a free throw;
Who cares about the shot? Just say ROM-E-O.

The second shot hits rim, and we get the ball back;
I’m at midcourt, ready to go on the attack.

But Hackett drains a 3 and the lead is cut to six;
Not this again — man, he’s wasting my ticks!

Now we have a shot, but my shot’s gone;
I’m gonna stay on the bench until tha break of dawn.

I’m stranded at midcourt, Husky screams abound;
Coach points me back, back to the dog pound.

I know I’m good — I’m at the top of my game;
Basketball is my skill, Romeo is my name.

I’ll get my chance to make opponents frozen;
To show I’m not just the dude that came with DeRozan.

The High Road, by Mark Sanchez
I really have no need to express my discontent with Coach Carroll to his face. After all, he’s not my coach anymore.


Sorry, Coach. I love you, man, but right now, I’ve got the last word.

The Waltz, by Matt Leinart
Aloha from Tampa.

I know that’s a Hawaiian greeting, but hey, just as I’ve always said — football is constantly on my mind, and I know I’ll make it to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu some day.

In the mean time, I’m sippin’ on margaritas and hot tubbin’ with fine ladies. Soon, I’ll get to watch my boy, Kurt Warner, shred the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

And oh yeah, I’m making a cool $8.5 million for holding a clipboard while wearing some pads.

How’s that ballroom dancing looking now?

The Economy of (NCAA) Sports, by Chad Kreuter
Being the USC baseball coach used to mean you’d have a chance to coach the best ball players around.

Now? Now being the USC baseball coach means I have to manage a freakin’ salary cap. I thought this was supposed to be collegiate athletics?

I only get so many scholarships to give to my guys. Schools like Stanford — no surprise they are rated in the top five again this season — can afford to give every kid from a family that makes under $100K a year a free ride. And that DOESN’T count against the school’s athletic scholarship count.

So tell me — how am I supposed to field a team of the same caliber? USC is a great institution, but when it comes down to the bare bones, it costs more than $50K to go here for one year.

Free tuition, public school tuition (LSU, UNC and Georgia are also in the top five) or USC tuition — which would you choose if you weren’t offered an athletic scholarship?

I’m still damn proud of my guys and of this program. But championships are a thing of the past.

The Prince, by Jovan Vavic
As USC’s water polo master, I often ask myself, “Is it better to be feared or loved?”

Doesn’t 29-0 speak for itself? Score one for fear. Right on, Machiavelli.

The Flop, by Daniel Hackett
I flopped twice today — two calls!

That’s 100 percent, baby.

Ah, how enjoyable USC’s media world would be if everyone maintained a blog.

So who wants in? I’m sure Pete will have your back.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stop predicting Mark Sanchez's future

You don’t know that much about Mark Sanchez.

Don’t take it from me. Look at all the journalists and talking heads who have proclaimed just that in wondering whether Sanchez made the right decision by declaring early for the NFL draft.

Take it from USC coach Pete Carroll, who said that NFL scouts only have 16 games to choose from, and that 16 isn’t a large enough number to mitigate the high risk associated with draft picks worth millions.

Take it from L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who echoed the fact-backed belief that quarterbacks who only start for one season rarely become successful pros.

You don’t know that much about Mark Sanchez.

So then, why is he almost universally regarded as one of the two best quarterbacks in the draft? Someone must know something the rest of us don’t.

Or, more simply, none of us know enough to make the statements and predictions we so often do.

What I do know is that Sanchez is a great guy and a solid football player with a lot of potential. He had a few dazzling performances and a few more mediocre games. He led USC to a 12-1 record and a Rose Bowl title. Probability tells us that he likely would have become a better quarterback by staying at USC one more year. He once wore a Mexican flag mouthguard. Chicks dug him.

What I don’t know is how Sanchez will fare as an NFL quarterback — arguably the toughest position in all of professional sports.

Sure, as Carroll correctly noted, the majority of quarterbacks who leave school early do not pan out. But can’t the same be said of any group of quarterbacks?

There are only 32 possible starters in the NFL, and maybe 10 to 12 of them can be considered successful at any given time. You can name more draft busts than you can great quarterbacks of the past 10 years.

Akili Smith, anyone? Cade McNown? David Carr? Joey Harrington?

All seniors. It didn’t matter when they left for the NFL.

You can play the numbers game and postulate all you want, but in the world of professional sports, there are always multiple exceptions to the rule.

For every panned early entrant like Davon Jefferson, there is a panned early entrant like Chilo Rachal who surprised many in his rookie season.

For every one of John Daly’s failed comeback attempts, there is an improbable comeback success like Josh Hamilton.

Brett Favre probably should have stayed retired. Kurt Warner definitely should have kept playing.

After the 2004 season, USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu declared early for the NFL Draft. Carroll addressed Tatupu’s departure along with the news that Matt Leinart, among others, was coming back for his senior season.

“We didn’t hit on all cylinders like we would have liked to because we are going to miss Lofa Tatupu,” Carroll said.

As Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy pointed out this week, Tatupu has only gone to three Pro Bowls in three seasons, which recently netted him a contract worth $42 million.

The news that Rachal was leaving early surprised many. The two-year starter did not consult Carroll before making his decision to turn pro, which “disappointed” Carroll, according to several sources.

Although Rachal wasn’t selected until the second round, he earned a starting spot on San Francisco’s offensive line by week 12.

Even Leinart’s fall from sure-fire No. 1 pick to being taken at No. 10 one year later can’t yet be fully evaluated. Would you rather be 5-27 as a starter for the Niners or the Lions, in a situation not even Superman could resurrect, or be backing up Super Bowl-bound Kurt Warner, and set to take the reins of a team boasting the best receiving corps in recent memory?

And boy, Matt Cassel sure had an extensive body of work when the Patriots took a flier on him in 2005.

The point is you really can’t project success based on one, two, three or even zero seasons of college work.

No matter how sophisticated the technology gets, how smart the scouts get or how savvy the players get, someone will end up looking like a fool once Mr. Right flops.

According to Carroll, Sanchez didn’t “take advantage of all the opportunity” USC football bore. For those who listened closely, Carroll also resisted any predictions on what type of NFL quarterback Sanchez would turn out to be.

What’s evident is that Sanchez will soon have the opportunity to become the fourth NFL quarterback from USC to start a game in the past two years.

All had the same opportunities at USC, and all made different on their opportunities at the next level.

Where Sanchez will fall in relation to his fellow Trojan QBs is anyone’s guess. Let’s be content to leave it at that.

At least pretend March is coming...

Hey college basketball, the NCAA Tourney is two months away.

At least pretend that you are going to make the season interesting before then, lest we all sit and wait for ESPN to pronounce the winner of the hypothetical ACC-Big East battle royal of who could care less.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My weekly proof of legitimacy

Time flies.

Two years ago I was penning my first sports column for the Daily Trojan at USC. Today, my first column of my final semester was published.

So much to say, and only 12 more DT opportunities to say it.

The column is about an exiting senior (me) and his one wish for USC sports this spring.

Read it here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Answer to the "Streak" question below

Notice how 99% of ESPN users are picking Miami to win on the road at Minnesota? Sure, Miami is probably the better team, but does anyone outside of Minneapolis know that the Timberwolves are 5-0 in 2009?

I'm not sure who I'd pick at this point - by no means would I pencil in the T'Wolves as a lock - but 99%? Really?

You wonder why certain people become statisticians; well, while we are chuckling at this example, they are laughing and clinking brews while saying, "Thank you, common man, for proving our theories correct."

Questioning the collective IQ of sports fans

You know that behind ESPN's Streak for the Cash is hours upon days upon weeks of calculations and computations.

After all, ESPN isn't going to just give away $1 million.

By setting the bar at 27 consecutive picks, the statisticians over in Bristol are essentially telling you, the sports fan, that you aren't smart enough to correctly pick 27-straight fairly even matchups.

And after setting my eyes on sights like I've pasted below, it's hard to argue with those number-crunchers.

Can anyone tell me what's laughable about this picture? (Answer coming soon.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How's that Mastercard commercial working out for you now, Peyton?

Peyton Manning's Mastercard commercials have been some of the better athlete spots in recent years.

His new spot, though, might be cause for some sore memories...

Especially, say, if he was watching the first quarter of the San Diego-Pittsburgh game when the commercial aired:

There's irony and there's "now that just sucks."

I'll take the latter.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Question of the day

What's more surprising:

A) That Tennessee outgained Baltimore 391-211 and lost? Or...

B) That Daryl Johnston, who looks nothing short of 60, was a Dallas Cowboys star less than 10 years ago?

I'm starting to agree with the NFLPA more and more about those veteran benefits.

Proving (literally) the foolishness of pre-preseason Top 25s

You will be wrong. Very wrong.

If you try to predict the Top 25 for next college football season only a few days after the current one has ended, you will make yourself look inept and foolish.

Yet all the major sports sites have someone do this very thing - year after year after year.

No doubt, people enjoy reading these predictions, which at the end of the day is why, and the others give someone the assignment, but I've never seen someone actually go back to the beginning of the year and calculate just how far off those predictions were.

And that's really the issue, isn't it?

Writers like Mandel consistently trumpet the problems that arise from preseason polls - especially in a sport like college football where there is no playoff to decide the champion.

In fact, Mandel has made bank from a book he wrote on this point (among other topics).

So why then, do these ridiculously early preseason polls exist? Is ESPN really going to suffer if it doesn't get the article reads from Schlabach's annual shot at clairvoyance? Is just trying to keep up with, er, not suck as much as the Jones'?

Whatever it is, it sure sounds a lot like hypocrisy to me.

Thus, in my frustration over seeing material for Aug. 15 written on Jan. 9, I decided to prove just how inept even the "experts" are at ranking teams this early on - an ineptitude that fuels terrible inaccuracy in the actual AP preseason poll.

Let me explain how it works:
(Or you can just skip this and look at the finished product below.)

1. Dig up the January 2008 predictions from Schlabach and Mandel
2. Place their predictions next to the actual Top 25 at season's end
3. Assign an average preseason ranking of 35 to all teams that Manbach didn't put in their polls.
4. Subtract the difference between where teams ended up, and where Schladel ranked them, and then add all the differences together.
5. Now divide your total difference by 25.

What do you get? The number of spots, on average, by which these guys were off in their pre-preseason rankings. For math dudes, call it the standard deviation (SD).

Read it and weep:
(Red numbers signify teams that were unranked by the writers.)
Click images to make larger.

In short, each writer missed at least 10 picks completely, and in the end, both mis-ranked teams by an average of more than 12 spots.

Now that's what I call a worthwhile exercise.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Headline of the day

No more Tebow on this blog for quite some time...

Instead, I give you this.

No way that headline made it through "finals" without someone cracking up over the irony.

Copy editors of the world, unite! The newspaper industry might be going down, but you won't give up without a fight.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Five reasons why that might have been the worst title game ever

Ever get that feeling that you've just spent 3 hours of your life that you'll never get back?

Well if you hadn't before, and were watching the Oklahoma-Florida BCS National Championship Game tonight, you know what it feels like now.

Yeah, like Lions fans feel every Sunday or how GM execs feel every time they scour over a balance sheet. Brain dead.

Perhaps the game wasn't the worst ever - that's a lofty presumption - but Fox's catastrophic telecast probably made it the all-time worst championship game viewing experience.

I would have rather watched Washington play Washington State in Apple Cup 2009: The Sequel We Paid You Not To Film.

At least then we could have chuckled a bit.

In case you missed it, or if you're looking for someone to help you stave off desires to put Tim Tebow in your grandma's manger scene, here are 5 reasons why this BCS title game should go to football broadcast hell:

1. Because Tim Tebow is not Jesus Christ

Sorry, Fox. I hate to burst your bubble. Over the course of the final quarter, Tebow was referred to as each of the following:

- A young man who has done more before graduating college than we could ever hope to do in our lifetimes
- A player who doesn't win because of running or passing skill, but because of will
- One of the top-5 greatest college football players of all time
- The nicest human being you'll ever meet
- The most outstanding 21-year-old to ever live

None of those are a joke.

Let's take a poll: Which of the above 5 statements is the most absurd?

Answer: Tim Tebow will tell you none of the statements are absurd. What's absurd is that there are children in Thailand who need food, and unlike him, you're not there to hand feed it to them.

Because yes, Tebow didn't just go to Thailand, he took food that someone else brought and paid for, and gave it to needy children.

Fox calls that astounding goodwill. I call that PR, Thai style.

Anybody else notice that Tebow's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was part of Fox's postgame highlight package?

2. Because there was more speed in Fox's advertising cut-ins then there was in the gameplay

So much for fireworks.

The greatest offense of all time? The immortal quarterback that turns defenses into sacrificial lambs?

How about ha and ha?

Receivers weren't completing their routes, the quarterbacks threw four picks and the offensive lines weren't the stalwarts we were told they were.

Almost funny... except everyone who picked the over (70 points) isn't laughing.

Yes, 7 of SI's 8 experts picked the game to go over.

CBS Sports had 1 under pick out of 6. But who can blame them?

To Vegas' dismay, the game barely produced half the points needed to fuel an interesting finale.

And defense can only be so much fun. Just ask Oregon State and Pittsburgh.

But no matter. Fox made up for the lack of speed on display by continually cutting away from the game before its commentators had finished their sentences.

Really, Fox? Are you struggling that bad financially? Or was it...

3. Because the announcers had absolutely nothing worthwhile to say

Charles Davis and Thom Brennaman were so bad that Fox started zooming in on the Gatorade tubs with more than 2 minutes remaining.

"Maybe G can save us," they said.

I never thought I'd see the day when I was waiting for ESPN to take over yet another TV contract.

When talking about Oklahoma running back Chris Brown's impressive season, Davis said the following:

"You get enough carries, and you have a shot at production."

Yeah, and when you put your hand on a stove top...

Moving on.

4. Because both strength and conditioning coaches should be fired
How many times did a player go down because of cramps? Aren't these supposed to be the fastest, most conditioned teams in America?

I know there was a month in between games, but come on, people - FedEx had more stamina than either team.

Bad offenses + bad cramps = bad rhythm.

And lastly...

5. Because this was the last game of the season


Didn't think so.

Chris Myers' last question to Percy Harvin after the game was, "Is there anybody else you want to play?"

Harvin, looking like he could care less, said "Naw, we'll stay No. 1 until next year."

Can't say I would have answered any other way. While Utah, Texas and USC stew, Florida becomes the most apathetic team in the land.

If this season doesn't change anything, I don't know what will. But I can't see anything changing.

So thanks, BCS. You sure gave us a roller coaster ride this year.

And now we're stuck hanging upside down.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Remnants of yesterday's dinner

A few follow-up notes to my last post concerning the BCS-induced plight of the USC fan (and thanks to Mallory Rubin for linking me on's Campus Clicks):

1. Utah, admittedly, has a better argument than USC. The Utes beat everyone on their schedule - a schedule that included three (maybe four) ranked teams at season's end - and that should be enough.

And by the way, Utah is now tied for the seventh most wins in BCS history. The schools above Utah read: USC (6), OSU (4), LSU (4), Florida (3), Texas (3) and Miami (3).

Easy to forget that Ohio State once ruled the BCS, isn't it?

2. Texas had a nice season - I never said otherwise - but the last week has not been kind to the Longhorns. Two of Texas' so-called marquee wins (Oklahoma State and Missouri) are no longer marquee - let's compare them to USC beating Oregon and Arizona.

And no, you will not convince me that Ohio State is somehow drastically better it was when it lost 13-6 to Penn State a few months ago. Don't bother.

Texas did beat Oklahoma, which is something only a select few teams could do this season, but any team with a defense ranked in the 60s is vulnerable.

At this point, USC is playing better than Texas. No arguments about schedule strength can overcome this. Maybe a month ago. Not now.

3. Oklahoma and Florida might be the nation's two best teams, but at this point we have absolutely no way of knowing. This was my main argument.

Should USC (or Utah) be playing Thursday night? Based on how things looked a month ago, no. And that's the problem.

Which brings me to...

4. The BCS has solidified its stance as the biggest waster of time, space, air and money in the history of sports.

As the final comment to my last post read, "It's a sham." Well said.

It's been 10 years now and the college football world is no closer to a solution than it was back in the boy band heyday.

When you really think about it, people stop spewing off about a hotbutton issue if they believe it will be resolved or modified in the near future. After all, playing "wait and see" is much easier than playing "listen to me, I can fix it."

That's precisely why the BCS continues to dominate column inches (and pixels) at this time of year. The end is nowhere in site, and thus, the voices growl.

This year's USC will be next year's somebody else. Unless of course that somebody else is USC. Can't say it hasn't happened before...

Monday, January 5, 2009

BCS games no help for plagued USC fans

Another BCS game, another reason for Trojans fans to bury their heads in their hands.

At this point, after three years of what if, USC fans would almost rather point at the national champion and say, "Damn good team. You deserve it."

After all, such a statement would relieve them of the constant belief that their team is, in fact, the real No. 1. Sounds like a petty burden to most, but three years of Big Ten-bashing, BCS-stifling Januaries can drive a man insane.

Tonight's Ohio State-Texas matchup solidified the notion that whoever wins the so-called BCS National Championship Game can't honestly claim to be the no-buts-about-it national champion.

And thus, the USC fan's anxiety lives to see another year.

Ohio State ran all over the Longhorns to the tune of 200+ rushing yards. This was a Buckeyes offense, mind you, that looked downright awful against USC and Penn State during the regular season.

Still, QB Terrelle Pryor couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a pass, and RB Beanie Wells sat out most of the game's crucial minutes. Yet, there the Buckeyes were, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns in what should have been an impressive comeback victory.

Nevermind that Texas scored in the final minute to win. Nobody will say Texas should be voted No. 1 anymore. Not when it struggled mightily against an OSU team that lost 35-3 to USC and 13-6 to Penn State (at home).

It was also a Texas team that played the creamiest of cream puff non-conference schedules, lost to Texas Tech and barely beat Oklahoma State - the latter two games involving teams which were exposed in the season's final month.

And I don't even need to get into Alabama. The 'Tide were softer than the Charmin baby's butt in their embarrassing BCS loss to Utah.

But the headline is bigger than No. 4 losing and No. 3 looking terribly vulnerable.

The headline is that No. 1 and No. 2 are ranked as such because of No. 3 and No. 4.

Florida's only truly impressive opponent was Alabama. Or so we thought.

Oklahoma was judged to have a better resume than Texas. How 'bout that Longhorns resume now?

Florida and Oklahoma are deserving football teams, don't get me wrong, but if the final BCS vote were held today, well...

Let's just say USC fans might not have to live in such agony. (That is, of course, unless Utah stepped in, which would be all too fitting.)

And if the basic arguments aren't enough, consider some more facts:

USC thrashed Penn State, 38-24. Penn State dominated 9-4 Oregon State, and its only loss was by one point to Iowa, which won six of its final seven games, smucked South Carolina in its bowl game, and lost four games by a combined 11 points.

USC embarrassed Ohio State, 35-3. Texas made the Buckeyes offensive attack (yes, even without Beanie Wells) look downright bullish.

USC beat Oregon 44-10. This is the same Ducks team that scored 162 points in its final three games against bowl winners Arizona and Oregon State, and a supposedly reputable Oklahoma State. Oregon's three losses were to Boise State, USC and Cal, which will all finish the season ranked. The latter two games were on the road.

USC's schedule included seven bowl teams, five ranked teams at season's end and five bowl winners (should have been six, Ohio State).

USC won the Pac-10 - the conference with the best bowl record
(5-0). The Pac-10 bowl teams beat four other ranked teams plus Miami.

And lastly, USC lost to Oregon State, which lost to eventual top-15 teams Utah (13-0), Oregon (10-3) and Penn State (11-2). Its only bad loss was to Stanford (5-7), and that was in August.

In case you missed it (which you probably did), the week after the Beavers took down USC, they held an 11-point lead with less than two minutes to go on the road against Utah. Had they beaten the Utes, the Trojans might still be waiting to play their bowl game.

I'm the Daily Trojan sportswriter most critical of USC, but when the facts are there, the facts are there.

At the very least, this year's BCS might save USC fans from repeat agony next season. Until then, they can look at this picture of Stanford receiver Mark Bradford and cry themselves to sleep.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

NFL Playoff Predictions

I've been known to make a few solid predictions.

Call me The Swami, minus the schtick and plus the smarts.

I won more than $400 in a 2005 NFL playoff pool by correctly picking 10 of the 11 games - my only miss came on Wildcard Weekend.

In a 2006 NFL survivor pool, I bested more than 5,000 other competitors in making it to Week 15. I was 1 of 6 remaining at that point, changed my initial picks and lost. First instinct, damnit.

My sole published prediction? The Nov. 10, 2007 edition of the Daily Californian: USC 24, Cal 17.

Final score? USC 24, Cal 17.

Call it bragging if you'd like. I prefer bravado. And if you follow my picks and win, Bravo.

WILDCARD ROUND (all home teams are bolded)
Arizona over Atlanta
Indianapolis over San Diego
Baltimore over Miami
Philadelphia over Minnesota

New York over Philadelphia
Carolina over Arizona
Baltimore over Tennessee
Pittsburgh over Indianapolis

New York over Carolina
Pittsburgh over Baltimore

New York over Pittsburgh

Agree or disagree? Post a comment!

Pac-10 goes 5-0. Universal finger pointing begins.

I told you so.

Media says, "Perhaps it was the media's fault." Note the use of "media" rather than "my."

USC, Cal and Oregon State: 16-3 since 2002 in bowl games.