Correcting ESPN The Mag, Part 1

Regular readers might be familiar with my occasional posts — “Correcting Bill Simmons” and “Correcting Rick Reilly” — where I try to help out my better-paid, less-informed counterparts by pointing out when/where they’re wrong. This time, I’m going to tackle ESPN The Mag as a whole. I know I’m going to hear some guy at the sports bar regurgitate this “analysis” as his own opinion and I won’t have the wherewithal to call him on it.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite blowhard — and I doubt he’d take that as an insult given his commentary stylings — Stephen A. Smith. In his “Up Front” column, he criticizes Oscar De La Hoya for not knowing when to give it up.

Help, someone! Pretty Please!

It would be really nice if someone could muster some plausible explanation as to why a fighter like Oscar De La Hoya, beyond his prime for quite a while before the Manny Pacquiao bout, still chose to step into the ring and get his brains beat out. The mismatch was so obvious that Oscar’s wife, Millie, was screaming for him to quit before he had the common sense to do it himself.

It’s really easy to knock De La Hoya after the match is over when it’s clear that he shouldn’t have fought the fight. But one quick look at the pre-fight odds (-165 Hoya / +135 Pacquiao) reveals that this fight fooled a LOT of people, not just the Golden Boy. According to the betting public, De La Hoya was the clear favorite in the fight, so why would Oscar think that he was about to step into a beatdown? The betting public clearly doesn’t know everything, but it’s a pretty good gauge of public opinion and if the public is fooled, why would De La Hoya — who has an ego of a big-time fighter — know any better?

If Smith writes this column before the fight, I’d give him props. But this is classic kick-’em-while-they’re-down writing.

Let’s move on to Mike & Mike (Golic & Greenberg) who answer “The Big Question” — if the best players in college sports don’t make any noise in the pros, what’s their legacy?

Read the rest after the jump...

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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

At the end of the year, it’s always interesting to look back at all that has happened in the world of sports over the last 12 months. 2008 brought us a host of compelling sports stories, including the culmination of the Patriots’ (unsuccessful) quest for perfection, a Bejing Olympics that featured incredible accomplishments by the likes of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the Redeem Team, and, of course, Brett Favre’s unretirement, which managed to hold the sports news cycle hostage for a solid month or more.

As is our tradition, we’ve once again broken our Year End Sports Review into three sections. The first is “What We Learned,” a list that’s packed with a number of impressive feats. And when there are feats, inevitably there are also failures.

Don’t miss the other two parts: “What We Already Knew” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

The New England Patriots weren’t so perfect after all.

After rolling through the 2007 regular season unscathed, the Patriots entered the 2008 Super Bowl as overwhelming favorites to roll over the pesky, but seemingly inferior New York Giants. The Pats were just one win away from staking their claim as the best football team in NFL history. But thanks to a dominating Giants’ defensive line, an improbable catch by David Tyree, and a virtually mistake-free performance by Eli Manning, the unbeatable New England Patriots were beat. It’ll go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, and considering Tom Brady’s season-ending injury in 2008 cost the Pats a chance for redemption, it seems that many have forgotten how New England stood just one win away from perfection. – Anthony Stalter

Michael Phelps is part fish.

Eight gold medals in one Olympiad? No problem. Michael Phelps made the seemingly impossible look (relatively) easy en route to one of the most – if not the most – impressive Olympic performances ever. Phelps had to swim all four strokes, compete in both sprint and endurance races, and deal with the constant media attention and pressure that came along with his quest. Sure, NBC turned up the hype, but what Phelps accomplished is simply incredible. – John Paulsen

Usain Bolt is part cheetah.

First, Usain Bolt made Jamaica proud by setting a new world record (9.69) in the 100-meter sprint. Then, he broke the 12 year-old 200-meter world record with a time of 19.30 seconds. He showboated during the first race but cleaned up his act to win the second race in a professional manner. Some even say that Usain Bolt – not Michael Phelps – was the biggest story to come out of the Bejing Olympics. – JP

The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the nation.

The Big 12 housed some of the best quarterbacks in all of college football in 2008. Texas’s Colt McCoy, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell were all considered Heisman candidates at least at one point during the season, while McCoy and Bradford are still in the running. Amazingly, Bradford and McCoy aren’t done; both will return in 2008. And although they don’t receive as much attention as the top signal callers in the conference, Kansas’s Todd Reesing and Baylor’s Robert Griffin certainly turned heads this year as well. In fact, the highly versatile Griffin is only a freshman and could make the Bears a very dangerous team for years to come. – AS

Read the rest after the jump...

Pacquiao dominates De La Hoya

I’m not much of a boxing fan, but even I knew that there was a big fight on Saturday. It turns out Manny Pacquiao overcame a weight disadvantage to pound Oscar De La Hoya into a mercy stoppage.

In the end, it was a bruised, battered and utterly befuddled De La Hoya, 35, sitting with a blank look on his face as new trainer Nacho Beristain stopped the fight after much discussion before the start of the ninth round. It was a mercy stoppage and one that could have come from referee Tony Weeks during the seventh round, a classic example of a 10-8 round without a knockdown. Pacquiao battered De La Hoya in the round, landing 45 power shots, the most ever recorded by CompuBox in the 31 De La Hoya fights it has tracked.

De La Hoya might have been a shot fighter when he walked up the steps for battle, but Pacquiao, 29, the icon of the Philippines, also deserves credit for the upset in a fight many critics proclaimed as a mismatch. They thought it would be Pacquiao who would be annihilated because he had spent his career fighting in much smaller weight divisions before this leap to welterweight. The ironic thing is that the bigger guy entering the ring was actually Pacquiao. He weighed in officially on Friday at 142 pounds to De La Hoya’s 145. But on HBO’s unofficial scale on fight night, Pacquiao was up to 148½ and De La Hoya was surprisingly only 147.

Pacquiao’s domination earned him his third victory of the year in his third weight division. A former flyweight, junior featherweight and featherweight champion, Pacquiao won the junior lightweight championship by beating Juan Manuel Marquez in their March rematch and then moved to lightweight, where he won a title with a destruction of David Diaz in June. Pacquiao then made the jump to welterweight to face De La Hoya and surely locked up fighter of the year honors by completing his Henry Armstrongesque year.

Next up for Pacquiao likely will be junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton in the spring. For De La Hoya, let’s hope there is no next fight. If this is indeed the end for him, as it should be, he deserves our respect for a great career and a hearty thanks for the memories. He will be missed but he will not be forgotten.

It’s funny how all the pre-fight talk was about De La Hoya’s weight advantage, but it was Pacquiao that actually weighed in a little heavier just before the fight. Not funny like “ha ha” funny, but funny like “hmmm” funny.

Screw it – you know what I mean.

Couch Potato Alert: 12/5

All times ET…

College Basketball

Saturday, 3:30 PM: No. 4 Duke vs. Michigan, ESPN
Saturday, 1:30 PM: No. 5 Gonzaga vs. Indiana
Saturday, 4 PM: Ohio State vs. No. 7 Notre Dame, ESPNU
Sunday, 6 PM: No. 21 Florida vs. Florida State, ESPN Full Court

College Football

Saturday, 12 PM: Navy vs. Army, CBS
Saturday, 1 PM: No. 17 Boston College vs. No. 25 Virginia Tech-ACC Championship Game, ABC
Saturday, 4 PM: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida-SEC Championship Game, CBS
Saturday, 4:30 PM: No. 5 USC vs. UCLA, ABC
Saturday, 8 PM: No. 20 Missouri vs. No. 2 Oklahoma-Big 12 Championship Game, ABC


Friday, 8 PM: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics, ESPN
Friday, 10:30 PM: Toronto Raptors vs. Utah Jazz, ESPN
Saturday, 9 PM: Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns
Sunday, 1 PM: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Toronto Raptors, NBA-TV


Sunday, 1 PM: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants, Fox
Sunday, 4:15 PM: Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Fox
Sunday, 8:15 PM: Washington Redskins vs. Baltimore Ravens, NBC


Friday, 8:30 PM: Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars
Saturday, 2 PM: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
Saturday, 10 PM: Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks


Saturday, 9 PM: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiano, HBO PPV

The Golden Boy’s farewell: Dec. 6 against Pacquiao

Oscar De La Hoya will wrap up his boxing career on December 6 against Filipino star fighter Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.

The conditions of the deal will not be announced until a conference call on Thursday. Both sides stalled negotiations throughout the summer, but the conversation was revived recently and a reasonable solution was found to split the estimated $100 million revenue from this fight. This is boxing’s most lucrative bout since De La Hoya’s split-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year.

Both boxers will make sacrifices to make this fight a reality. They will have to make the 147-pound limit, which means De La Hoya will be dropping down to the welterweight class for the first time in eight years and Pacquiao will have to bulk up to the heaviest weight of his career.

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