1. The Tampa Bay Rays. It's such an exciting time to be a Rays fan. I should know. I've been one for about a week. I even have a hat with their logo on it. Actually it's the old Devil Ray logo, which was pretty awesome. Anyway, based on my in-depth experience as a die-hard Rays fan this week I can't really fathom why this club hasn't been better supported over the years. These guys are awesome. They've been this good the whole time, right? IF so then, let me tell you, this berth in the American League Championship Series has sure been a long-time coming. Franchise pillars B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria deserve this. Just like Jerome Bettis did a few years back. He was from Detroit, also. So, needless to say, there was a hearty celebration at my place when the Rays booked their ticket to the ALCS with another run-of-the-mill win over the White Sox.
2. Antoine Winfield. Lost thanks to the Reggie Bush kick return extravaganza which was, in turn, lost thanks to the Grammatica missed kick extravaganza (which not only cost the Saints the game but also cost some gamblers the cover) was the game that Winfield had on defense and special teams. He scored a touchdown after a blocked field goal. He sacked the quarterback. He recorded eight solo tackles. He was pretty darn good. And, he was also still on the waiver wire in my IDP fantasy football league.
3. Jo-Lonn Dunbar. The Saints rookie linebacker and special teamer out of Boston College made the play of the night.
4. NBA Big Men Returning From Injury. First of all, the National Basketball Association has resumed play. It's the preseason. But, still. Be warned. Much Knickerbocker talk is returning to this space shortly. Again, be warned. Second of all, there were several big fellows making there return to the hardwood after season-ending injuries short-changed their 2007-2008 campaigns. Most notably, Lakers center Andrew Bynum returned from the longest "four to six week" layoff in recorded human history. Yao was also back.
5. Gus Frerotte. He emerged from the University of Tulsa, which isn't exactly a hotbed for pro signal callers. He emerged from Tulsa and he was the just the second most prolific passer in school history behind some gent that I've never heard of. A seventh round selection by the Washington Redskins in 1994, Frerotte has forged a longish career in the NFL. Which is much more than most can say. He's currently a Viking. He used to be a Viking, too. He's also been a Dolphin and a Ram. He's always been too good to not have a job for long and even made the Pro Bowl in 1996. This, of course, essentially proves my theory that every quarterback who lasts more than six seasons in the NFL is good enough to A) have a Pro Bowl caliber season and B) lead a team to a Super Bowl if things break right. All of that being said, I mostly think of Frerotte as the sort of guy that teams call when Vinny Testaverde has his hearing aid turned down and can't hear the telephone. Anyway, the New Orleans Saints, wary of the Anointed One in the Vikings backfield, pushed all their defenders up to the line of scrimmage last night. They dared, no they triple-dog dared, Frerotte to beat them by lofting the ball through the climate controlled air. And, he did. His score-tying fourth quarter touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian changed the game and set up the Vikes for the win.
Benched. Tony Kornheiser. It's official. I'm starting to dislike the guy. And, I've been a fan of his for a while. I used to read his columns back when he used to actually write professionally. Which, at this point, seems like a long, long time ago (but we'll get back to that). I DVR Pardon the Interruption every weekday, even though Kornheiser appears with less consistency than I post on this website. Like I said, I've been a fan of TK for a while. I think he's funny, insightful and knowledgeable. But, he is flat-out terrible on Monday Night Football. Just terrible. This MNF crew is on course to become as painful to listen to as the old Sunday Night Football crew on ESPN. Yeah, I just wrote that. I just compared Kornheiser to the mind-numbing and Favre-felating Theisman-Maguire-Patrick hate-crime that the Worldwide Leader perpetrated against football fans. That just happened. And, it happened because Kornheiser is aggressively disappointing each and every Monday night. He seems to have two consistent manners of sucking. The first applies mostly to his early-in-the-show monologues. To his credit you can tell Tony over-prepares for each week's broadcast. He studies and he writes down things to say. And he writes them down like the good-to-great sportswriter that he was. However, there a lot of things (see above and below) that read great on paper but then sound downright idiotic and over-the-top when spoken aloud. Such moments are where Tony's being such an accomplished writer pulls him down. Like way down. And, the other main offender in his repertoire is his wide-eyed yokel manner of stating and/or questioning the obvious over and over and over and over again. This habit was most on display when talking about Favre during the Packers/Vikings game in Week 1 and, more recently last night, when talking about the fact that Reggie Bush could catch and run the ball. He can do both. And, who could have guessed that when Bush was coming out of USC as a running back. I mean he wasn't a catching back or kick returning back. Anyway, my best guess is that this amazed idiot character that TK seems to be playing is his best guess as to how the rest of us non-professional sports fans think about the game. That's my guess. And, it makes me start to dislike him even more the more that I think about. Anyway, I'm still going to home to watch PTI.