Posted: Tuesday August 30, 2005 1:56PM; Updated: Tuesday August 30, 2005 2:06PM
Eight In The Box
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1. I love everything I've seen about Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart. I love his stature in the pocket. I love his lefty throwing motion. I love how he spurned the NFL to stay in school (and I don't care that his only class this semester is Ballroom Dancing; as he said, he's finished his coursework and has earned that right). I love how he attended Lady Trojan basketball games last winter because his girlfriend (Brynn Cameron) is on the team. I love that he, Nick and Jessica are pals. And I love how, despite having won the Heisman Trophy last season, he graciously calls teammate Reggie Bush the best player in college football.
I love Matt Leinart. But I don't think he's going to win the Heisman Trophy this season. A few reasons:
A. Leinart set the bar pretty high in winning the trophy in 2004. For him to become the only player aside from Ohio State running back Archie Griffin to repeat, he cannot do anything less than duplicate last year's stats: undefeated regular season, 33 touchdown passes against just six interceptions and 3,322 yards passing.
B. Voters are searching assiduously for reasons (even if they claim not to be) not to award the Heisman to a Southern Cal quarterback for the third time in four years.
C. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow has exited to the Tennessee Titans.
D. Voters are searching even more assiduously for reasons (even if they claim not to be) not to award the Heisman to a white quarterback for the sixth straight season. Of those five most recent winners two (Eric Crouch and Jason White) never made an NFL roster. A third (Chris Weinke) is a backup in Carolina. Only Carson Palmer, whom Leinart succeeded at Southern Cal, is a starter in the NFL (with the Bengals).
In fact, when you look at the quarterbacks who entered the league and are starting -- and thriving -- since Weinke began this trend in 2000, it only further makes the argument that the Heisman gives far too much credit to the quarterback of the nation's best team (then again, so does Lee Corso). Check out this list of NFL starting quarterbacks who came into the league with Weinke or after and who have no Heisman hardware: Marc Bulger (St. Louis), Kyle Orton (Chicago), Patrick Ramsey (Washington), Michael Vick (Atlanta), Kyle Boller (Baltimore), J.P. Losman (Buffalo), Joey Harrington (Oregon), David Carr (Houston), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh), Eli Manning (New York Giants), Drew Brees (San Diego), Byron Leftwich (Jacksonville) and Alex Smith (San Francisco).
There are 13 NFL starters at quarterback, all drafted in 2000 or later, and none of them won the Heisman. Meanwhile of the four quarterbacks who won the Heisman and are out of college, only one is an NFL starter.
I am not arguing Leinart has Crouch-like NFL potential. Leinart has the most talent of the 21st-century Heisman QBs and the most NFL potential of all of them. I also do not believe the Heisman should be awarded based on a player's professional potential. I was a huge Crouch supporter, and I'd vote for him all over again. But this year a running back (Bush? Adrian Peterson?), a running quarterback (Vince Young?) or a dark horse (DeAngelo Williams?) will win the Heisman.
I do not know Matt Leinart, but from what I have seen, I doubt he much cares. He'd rather win. And go dancing.
2. Is there a sport with a bigger disconnect between participation among the public and television coverage than running? I competed in a little half-marathon in Central Park that drew nearly 7,000 souls (and 14,000 soles) on a humid Sunday morning at 7 a.m. Races all over the country draw at least that many people every weekend. Big-time marathons such as New York or Chicago draw near 40,000.
Yet last weekend in Belgium, Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele set the world record at 10,000 meters, a distance every halfway-competitive runner has earned a T-shirt for, and that sound you hear is nobody paying attention. Paced by his younger brother Tariku through the first half of the race, Bekele ran the 10K in an astounding 26:17.53, breaking his own year-old record by three seconds. Bekele also owns the WR in the 5,000 meters (12:37.35, set in the Netherlands in May 2004).
Though Bekele is only 23, you could argue the Ethiopian is already a greater runner than countryman Haile Gebrselassie. He has the world record in the two major middle distance events. He has doubled up at the World Cross Country Championships, winning both the short- and long-course distances four straight times. He is the reigning world champion and Olympic gold medallist in the 10,000 meters.
True, running is not the most dynamic or viewer-friendly sport to televise. I mean, it's not like bass fishing, poker or billiards. But clearly we are witnessing (actually, we are not) the feats of someone who may go down as the greatest middle-distance runner in history. All this and the pathos of his 18-year-old fiancee, Alem Techale, having collapsed and died while on a training run with him last January.
Bekele deserves more coverage, from TV, from magazines (such as Sports Illustrated) and from any media outlet that professes to be beholden to its customer base.
3. In the month of August alone, and this is just what I have seen myself, agent Drew Rosenhaus has appeared on Quite Frankly, in interviews on both SportsCenter and Monday Night Football, in a SportsCenter feature examining his ethical credibility and on SportsCenter's 50-in-50 segment on the state of Florida. So I wonder, when ESPN and Rosenhaus wake up in the morning, which one leaves the money on the nightstand?
4. On a related topic, let's hear it for our first All-Slattern team -- athletes whose names call to mind the world's oldest profession:
Bimbo Coles, guard (hoops), Virginia Tech, 1986-1990 Laura Harlett, distance (track), University of Houston, current Reggie Ho, K (football), Notre Dame, 1987-1988 Fair Hooker, WR (football), Arizona State, 1966-1968 Robert Horry, F (hoops), University of Alabama, 1988-1992 Frostee Rucker, DE (football), Southern Cal Trojans, 2001-2004
5. By a bizarre coincidence -- or was it? -- I caught few moments of Top Gun and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy on TV the other night. And somewhere in the midst of "Anchorman" it hit me: they're the same movie. Alright, Anchorman is not a literal remake, but it no less resembles Top Gun than The Longest Yard does The Longest Yard.
Without analyzing the affinity between the two plots -- cocky protagonist takes a fall as he falls romantically for a colleague before eventually finding redemption -- I still noticed a strong resemblance in a number of scenes. Check it out:
Tale of the Tape
Ron Burgundy-Veronica Corningstone
Ron Burgundy-Wes Mantooth (or Burgundy-Corningstone, if you wish)
You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'
Cheesy Male Group Sing-along
Iceman: "You can be my wingman anytime." Maverick: "B-------! You can be mine."
Champ Kind (to Burgundy): "I miss you so damn much. I miss being with you, I miss being near you. I miss your laugh. I miss your scent; I miss your musk. When this all gets sorted out, I think you and me should get an apartment together!"
Goose on piano
Surprising Display of Musical Virtuosity
Burgundy on flute
Maverick playing volleyball in blue jeans
Awkward Topless-Trousers Workout Garb
Burgundy doing barbell curls in his office
Goose ejects into canopy
Baxter is punted off bridge into Coronado Bay*
Maverick tools around town on his bike
Protagonist's Guilt over Best Friend's Death
Burgundy has meltdown in phone booth*
Maverick's cavalier approach to flying an F-16 indirectly causes Goose's death
Burgundy's cavalier approach to reading a Tele-prompter gets him fired
Maverick helps stare down a Russian MiG
Role of Bears in Redemption Scene
Burgundy rescues Corningstone from a den of grizzlies
Note: While Baxter does not actually die, these qualify because at the time, Burgundy believed his best friend was deceased.
6. To live in New York City this summer is to have heard at least one person say, "I really want to see that penguin movie." The world was clamoring for a penguin movie. I have not seen the penguin movie (March of the Penguins), but my good friend and SI colleague Stephen Cannella has. His observation: "I had trouble telling the characters apart."
7. Is it a coincidence my two favorite sports to watch have one thing in common: regular-season games that have the ability to transcend playoff-level fervor? In the past month the New York Mets and New York Yankees have played teams who have no chance of making the playoffs, and yet each matchup offered a breathless game.
On August 14 the Mets' Pedro Martinez took a no-hitter (and 1-0 lead) into the bottom of the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the span of two pitches, with the Dodger Stadium crowd on its feet (seriously; most fans were not only still there, they were standing ... in L.A.!), the Dodgers ended Pedro's no-hit -- and victory -- bid.
Then this past Saturday, against the worst team in baseball (the Kansas City Royals), the Yankees overcame a four-run ninth inning deficit to win 8-7.
It isn't who won or lost that matters (except for the Yankees), it's that the games, in the dog days of August, were absolutely compelling. Just as there will be college football games this fall between contenders and non-contenders that are just as compelling (see: Oregon State-LSU, last September).
I'm sorry, but I just don't see that happening in the NBA or NFL much these days.
8. A smattering of No. 1 rankings from the recently published 2005 edition of The Best 361 Colleges by The Princeton Review:
Their Students (Almost) Never Study: Mississippi Least Happy Students: Colorado School of Mines Most Beautiful Campus: Pepperdine Best Campus Food: Bowdoin Is It Food: St. Bonaventure Great College Towns: Eugene Lang College (New York City's Greenwich Village) Students Pack the Stadium: Maryland Everyone Plays Intramural Sports: Notre Dame Best College Radio Station: Emerson Best College Newspaper: Arizona Lots of Beer: Indiana Jock Schools: Florida Reefer Madness: Hampshire College Party Schools: Wisconsin (haven't the Badgers retired this trophy by now?)