Florida prosecutors announced today that Jameis Winston won’t be charged with sexual assault. Unless new evidence comes forward, the case is “gone and dead,” ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack said on the network.
I didn’t earn a law degree in the last three weeks, but here are six initial thoughts:
I should probably say up front that I'm horribly biased as a lifelong UNC fan, but if anything, my bias this year translates as all sorts of negativity and rock-bottom expectations. This made last night's win at Michigan State even more bizarre.
All offseason long, I've been asking fellow UNC fan Jay Kang, "Why is every other college coach building around superstars except ours? Did Roy forget how to recruit? How are we going to survive another year of watching James McAdoo and Marcus Paige? Will Duke and Kentucky beat us by 30? Can we grandfather Kendall back onto the roster?"
Then, sobbing softly, typing a Gchat to nowhere:
"Why did Kendall have to break his wrist two years ago???"
As long as Chip Kelly is around, the Philadelphia Eagles will be defined by offense. When Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy came out playing at warp speed on Monday Night Football in Week 1, we were in. There was a lull in the middle of the season, but with the arrival of Nick Foles and the Eagles’ four-game winning streak, Philly is back to third in offensive DVOA. This team can score, and that’s the reason the Eagles are sitting at 7-5 and are currently the favorites to win the NFC East.
Quietly aiding that run to the playoffs, though, is what Philadelphia is doing on defense. A third of the way into the season, the Eagles were among the worst defensive teams in the league. Those first six games included a 52-point performance by the Broncos (no shame in that), 33 from San Diego, and 26 by Kansas City. Even the Week 1 fireworks display was followed by a bundle of second-half points from Robert Griffin’s offense. After surrendering 20 points to the winless Bucs in Week 6, the Eagles were 30th in defensive DVOA. Today, they rank 25th, but by Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, which gives more value to recent performances, that ranking jumps to 21st. The point is the Eagles are getting better, and that may go a long way in turning a happy-to-be-here trip to the playoffs into one involving a win or two.
It was supposed to be a fairly dull round of midweek games. Sure, nine different matches were kicking off within 20 minutes of each other, but really, most of them were inconsequential. Only one truly pitched top-tier contenders against each other — Manchester United versus Everton — while the rest promised to be ho-hum affairs; they either didn't matter much or were foregone conclusions. Oops. Thirty-two goals, some incredible performances, and an unexpected result or two later, this sleepy Wednesday had turned into maybe the most gripping round of matches of the season to date. Unless you live somewhere with whatever the Queen's English equivalent of a man cave is, complete with multiple screens and feeds of questionable legitimacy, there's no way you watched it all. So, let's answer some questions about what you missed.
Bill and Jalen are back! To honor the great Larry Bird, Bill and Jalen have decided to do a league-wide wrap-up every 33 days — or, as they call it, every Birdmester. In their first episode, they crown the best team in the league, the best tanking performance thus far, the league’s least valuable player, and more.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is back to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Chris Ryan: Since November 23, Portland has played in three of the season's best games: the Golden State shove-fest, Sunday's heavyweight title fight against Indiana, and last night's masterpiece of a regular-season showdown against Oklahoma City. OMG PORTLAND AND OKC SHOULD PLAY IN THE PLAYOFFS is probably getting a little dull, just like OMG OKC AND THE WARRIORS SHOULD PLAY IN THE PLAYOFFS, but come on. It's Christmas, we've been good, and we want what we want. Besides, there was something about this Thunder-Blazers game that felt so right. It was just a drag race of stupendous, young, mostly homegrown talent. And Kendrick Perkins. You had one of the point-guard battles of the year happening, with Russ and Dame, and from that faceoff you got one of the best moments of the night:
On Wednesday night, HBO aired State of Play: Trophy Kids, a documentary about overzealous parents and the extreme lengths to which they push their children in sports. We follow four different parents and five kids playing tennis, basketball, golf, and football. As you can imagine, some of the behavior is unintentionally funny, and most of it is pretty harrowing — there are confrontations and parents admitting openly that they are vicariously living through their children, investing in them hopes for a future payout, or simply robbing them of a chance to be a kid. Most of all, though, the documentary was nostalgic. Anybody who played sports when they were young remembers a parent like that; maybe they even had one of their own. Here, Rafe Bartholomew, Chris Ryan, and Corban Goble talk about Trophy Kids and their own memories of when parents went too far on the field. The film is currently available on HBOGO.
Rafe Bartholomew: I'm pretty comfortable with a fair amount of aggression from sports parents. In Little League baseball, even though there were no balks, fathers of kids on opposing teams would yell "BALK! BALK!" while I went through my unusual pitching motion. One boy's father chased me around the field threatening to "knock my fucking teeth out" because of the time I swung my glove blindly across my body to make a tag on a double play and ended up smacking his son in the face. My team took pride in the time our coach instigated a shoving match with a parent on the Expos, the team with all the kids who had really nice batting gloves.
To do it right, you need to dress as if you’re going to the club. Not a pretentious one where suspender-clad mixologists painstakingly measure absinthe in mason jars. More like a place where jeroboams of champagne are ferried to tables by go-go dancers on zip lines and "Welcome to St. Tropez" eternally pounds.
Allow me to be more specific: For gentlemen, proper wardrobe options include white dress shirts (unbuttoned to the solar plexus), black V-necks (bicep-baring sleeves), Michael Jordan–approved distressed denim, and a sturdy pair of indoor sunglasses. Put on some Flo Rida records before visiting your haberdasher to get inspired. For the women, freakum dresses are definitely appropriate.
In case you were busy blowing $100k on trying to bump into a professional football player, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Roy Williams improved to 7-0 against Tom Izzo since taking the helm at North Carolina as the Tar Heels upset the top-ranked Michigan State Spartans 79-65 on the road. When told of his dominant run against Izzo, Williams shrugged and replied, "Who's Tom Izzo?" When told that Izzo has been the head coach at Michigan State for almost 20 years, Williams looked concerned and replied, "Man, you really think I would have heard of that guy. But I'll be honest, I had no idea there even was a Michigan State. Michigan, sure, but Michigan State? No idea." When told that Michigan State was the team he had just played, and that there was no need to continue with the head games as his team had already won, Williams said, "Head games, what are those? Who has even heard of head games? Unless you're referring to the song 'Head Games' by Foreigner. I've heard of that." Williams then winked and added, "I bet that Izzo guy you were talking about is a real big Foreigner fan, if you know what I mean."
Portland snapped Oklahoma City's eight-game win streak with a 111-104 win over the Thunder. Despite the win, a lackluster shooting night for Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews knocked him out of the league's top spot in True Shooting Percentage. Heading into the game, the top five in that category were Matthews, Kyle Korver, LeBron James, Ryan Anderson, and Samuel Dalembert, notable for all being professional basketball players who shoot more accurately than you might expect, and having literally nothing else in common.
On Saturday, after Ohio State’s nail-biter against Michigan and Auburn’s thrilling upset of Alabama, the BCS debate began in earnest.
I asked six bookmakers: What would you make the spread between Auburn and Ohio State on a neutral field? Only one of the six would favor Auburn. Southpoint’s Jimmy Vaccaro felt the strongest about Ohio State, making the Buckeyes a 4-point favorite in this hypothetical matchup.
As head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, Mark Richt has spent 13 years giving the Bulldog faithful an average of 10 good reasons for his continued tenure and three rationales for his ouster that often seem far more compelling. He perennially appears on the coaching hot seat lists while different names tell the same story: He can’t win The Big One, though that can mean either the Cocktail Party, the SEC championship, or the national championship. He can’t beat UGA’s archrival, which could be Florida, South Carolina, or Auburn. He lets the doormats stick around and, eventually, they get lucky and steal one. And it’s not like basketball season will rain revenge on Kentucky or Vanderbilt.
This season, Georgia boasted an absurd, near Pac-12 style offense featuring inevitable all-time SEC passing leader Aaron Murray at quarterback, an unfair underclassman halfback surplus in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and a wealth of receiving options. And sure, the defense lost a ton of NFL talent, but the team could simply outscore anyone, particularly the Stone Age offenses Florida and South Carolina were putting out there. Besides, you started to hear whispers about how Jarvis Jones was overrated, Justin Houston played out of control, and Alec Ogletree, Cornelius Washington, and Bacarri Rambo were replaceable. And hey, look how that schedule plays out — LSU and South Carolina at home, no Texas A&M or Alabama, at least until the SEC championship, and that seemed all but assured.
Today's justification for the entire Internet comes from YouTube user Maxim Libert, who, in June 2011 posted "Delonte West & Von Wafer mix," a video that, as the title promises, mixes together highlights of Delonte West and Von Wafer. If you're like me, this is the greatest title for a movie since Kung Fu Hustle set the gold standard. Let it run.
With Monday night’s shellacking in the books, we now have a rough sketch of the NFC playoff picture. The Seahawks need something biblical to derail them from home-field advantage, Detroit’s win over Green Bay (and the Bears’ loss to the Vikings) gives the Lions a clear path to the NFC North title, and Philadelphia’s win over Arizona gave the Eagles a leg up in the NFC East and the Cardinals a knock down the wild-card ladder. New Orleans and Carolina still play each other twice, and with the Panthers refusing to slow down, that division is still very much in question. But for the most part, we have a pretty defined idea of what our six or seven playoff teams/seeds will look like:
2. Carolina/New Orleans
5. New Orleans/Carolina
6. San Francisco
Of all those teams, San Francisco seems to be the one no one’s excited about. Detroit has Calvin Johnson; Philadelphia has Nick Foles. The Niners are just a team that a year ago seemed poised to annually challenge the Seahawks for NFC supremacy but instead have taken up residency among the conference’s also-rans. With Arizona dropping a game in Philadelphia, even a loss to Seattle would leave the Niners as the likely final team into the playoffs. But for a team one play from the Lombardi Trophy, that finish is nothing less than a disappointment.
It’s almost as if Anthony Bennett is the victim of some voodoo carnival fortune-teller incantation that has caused him to switch bodies with an unknown JV player, who even now is stroking 3s and dunking on hapless 15-year-old opponents in a dusty high school gym. The lively, sweet-shooting college athlete who finished with power around the rim has been replaced with a rain-slicked pile of loose bricks covered with a tarp that starts breathing hard after walking from the bench to the scorer’s table. He’s a project, though just what kind is hard to say. Bennett was slowed over the summer by a shoulder injury, coupled with a diagnosis of asthma and sleep apnea, all of which, perhaps, have contributed to his overall appearance as a guy who spent those balmy months trying to tunnel his way out of a giant tub of Häagen-Dazs.