1. The Chicago Bears. With last night's OT win over the Saints in the Windy City the Bears keep themselves one Minny slip up from the NFC North title. In other words, by beating the Saints the Bears are likely to win the NFC North title. The Vikes play Arizona, Atlanta and the New York football Giants and they are quarterbacked by a combination of Gus Frerotte and Tavaris Jackson. Advantage: Neck Beard.
2. Sports Talk Radio. Upon getting to work this morning, I was asked if I had heard about Cole Hamels. I had, in fact, heard about it. I had also seen his mug splashed across the free papers handed out at the subway station. The MVP of the 2008 World Series had "called" the Metropolitans "choke artists." His comments were greeted by rage in Gotham and glee in Philadelphia. And, they were completely and utterly manufactured by the hosts of sports talk radio. Hamels was appearing on a New York radio's WFAN with Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno yesterday afternoon when the New York-based broadcasters asked him if he believed that the Mets were choke artists. He responded by saying, "You know, last year and this year, I think we did believe that. Three years ago, we didn't because they smoked everybody. I really thought they were going to the World Series. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But that's kind of what we believe and I think we're always going to believe it until they prove us wrong."
At this point, there was still no quote for the back pages, so the WFAN guys kept prodding. "So you say the Mets are choke artists?" they asked him again. This time he agreed and put their words in his mouth: "Yeah, for the past two years, they've been choke artists."
The last part of this exchange will provide fodder for hours of drive-time conversation on WFAN and 1050 and give callers from Yonkers to Bronxville and Beth Page to Belmar plenty to get angry about. It will be part of the growing narrative of dislike between Mets fans and Phillies fans. And, it was all created by sports talk radio. These guys and gals are very good at what they do. And, so are their comrades who work in the print and television media. Which is why I'm always weary when I first hear or read an inflammatory quote from an athlete. You always have to ask yourself, where this quote came from and what question prompted this answer? In this case, Hamels did not call up a radio host or newspaper reporter to spew vitriol about the Mets (he was on WFAN promoting MLB's World Series DVID package). Nope. Actually it was the New York guys trolling for this anti-Mets sentiment. Which is nice. Now, there's not really anything wrong with this, provided that we see it for what it is.
3. The Boston Celtics. Although the MLB hot stove and your fantasy football league's playoffs are undoubtedly garnering more attention than the first several weeks of the NBA season, it's worth noting that the C's have a chance to best the best start in league history. After winning 13 straight games, Boston is 21-2. This is the fastest out the gate of any team in franchise history and the longest winning streak since 1985-86. It leaves the reigning champs six wins shy of pushing aside the 1969-70 Knicks and the 196-67 Sixers for the best start in NBA history. One of those six, however, would need to be over the 2008-2009 Knicks and I'm hoping that Walt Frazier will let them know how important a win on that night is.
4. Jason Richardson. After being an integral cog in the Nellieball machine out in Oakland , Richardson was exiled to Charlotte, the most desolate NBA outpost since the days of the Vancouver Grizzlies. Finally, the two-time slam dunk champion is heading back to the West (along with Jared Dudley) and a team with a chance to reach the playoffs. He's a scoring athlete who would have been a natural fit for Mike D'Antoni's Suns but is a less obvious move for Terry Porter's Suns. Perhaps, he will allow the team to continue to play the Seven Seconds Or Less style for 25-30 minutes a night (which is still their best chance to win ballgames) while GM Steve Kerr continues to remake the roster for a Nineteen Seconds Or Not At All future. Regardless, of the long-term strategery, Ricahrdson's presence should go a long way towards keeping Steve Nash's skillset relevant (something that could have become a question mark on a Shaq-paced team) for the season and half remaining on his contract.
5. People Needing to Get Pumped Up About Something. You are in luck. Because this video exists.