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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thanksgiving Sports Post

Time to eat a lot and watch sports on television--Thanksgiving weekend! This post will serve as my NFL picks column for the Thanksgiving Day games as well as the viewing guide to the rest of the games over the holiday break.

But first, a few words on the big sports stories of the week. Pops points to Page 2's sports turkeys of the year. The New Yorker also has a long article this week on Yao Ming. Online they just have this Q&A with the author.

The big hoops news this week is that Alonzo Mourning has been forced to retire from the NBA because of his kidney problems. Two quick thoughts on people who look bad here: 1) Kenyon Martin, who made a barbed remark about Zo's condition in practice last week, leading to an altercation and 2) Nets management, for signing Mourning to a guaranteed deal over four years worth over $20 million. I know, Dallas would have gotten him otherwise, and they'll get some financial relief from the league once Mourning retires officially, but it's still a very risky judgment they made. The Nets should be fine with Jason Collins and Aaron Williams at center--Alonzo wasn't playing much off the bench anyway. He was always an excellent competitor, though, who demonstrated his determination in his comeback effort, and I'll miss watching him compete.

The Curt Schilling story is huge in Boston right now, as you could probably guess. The Sox brass is out in Arizona now, trying to work out an extension in advance of the Friday deadline by which Schilling must agree to waive his no-trade clause in order for the deal to go through. Hopefully Schilling will realize the opportunity to do something special in Boston is real, whereas holding out for a Yankee trade would make him just another of the guys brought in to win yet another championship. Think about it, Schill! You want to come to Boston, yes you do.

The college football is pretty weak this weekend. Arkansas-LSU Friday at 2:30 is the only contest with direct national championship implications, and the Tigers could be tested again on the road, as they were last week when they escaped from Ole Miss. The Friday ABC doubleheader of Nebraska-Colorado and Texas-Texas A&M lacks excitement, other than the fact that the Longhorns will likely get a BCS bowl bid with a win. Frank Solich on the coaching hot seat doesn't make for thrilling TV, unfortunately.

Saturday night ABC has Pitt-Miami in a game that will decide who wins the Big East and gets the conference BCS bid. If the Canes offense keeps stumbling, Larry Fitzgerald and the Panthers will win at home. Brock Berlin is going to start for Miami at QB, despite having his difficulties this year. Georgia-Georgia Tech, Tennessee-Kentucky and Florida-Florida State will decide who represents the SEC East in the conference championship game.

College basketball may be a better TV bet over the turkey holiday, as we get to see some top-rated teams tested for the first time. Number one UConn plays at MSG in the preseason NIT tomorrow night and Friday. Also Friday Springfield hosts the Arizona-Florida tilt in the Hall of Fame game. The ESPN folks have all the coverage.

Moving on to the NFL, we have the traditional Thanksgiving games at Detroit and Dallas on Thursday. This arrangement is the pro sports equivalent of always having the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary first in an election year. It's unfair to the other teams to have a short week and go on the road, while the Cowboys and Lions get to play host every season.

While I'm on the topic of dumb NFL rules, how about the league investigation into Dick Vermeil promising a bottle of wine to Morten Andersen if the kicker made a game-winning field goal Sunday? It wasn't as serious attack on the integrity of the game, for Christmas sake. The league has bigger fish to fry, like the officiating error that cost Seattle the game in Baltimore Sunday, right? Speaking of that game, rough day for the Hasselbeck brothers, huh? Matt throws five TDs and loses, while Tim, relieving Patrick Ramsey for the Redskins in Miami, plays well only to lose to a fourth-quarter Dolphins comeback.

I'll preserve the rest of the football fodder for a full pro picks column to be written in a few days time. For now, the following two picks are for recreational purposes only.

Green Bay at Detroit

Lions management is the real turkey here.

Pick: Packers

Miami at Dallas

This is the ten-year anniversary of the game when Leon Lett stupidly touched a blocked field goal, not realizing it was a live ball and eventually costing his team the game. I am very much looking forward to the replays on the telecast. Here's the Dallas Morning News. I wonder what Parcells would do to a guy who made that kind of an error on his team?

Pick: Cowboys

[Full record disclosure coming in next pro picks installment on Thurs/Fri]