When Vincent Smith’s helmet finally stopped rolling, and Mike Tirico had caught his breath, and the discussion for play of 2013 had ended only 15 hours into January, I started looking for where I’d seen Jadeveon Clowney do this before.
The award for college football’s most outstanding player was handed out a few weeks ago, but the most talented player in college football is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound sophomore who currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina. And although some of the hung-over, national TV crowd got their introduction to Clowney about as suddenly as Vincent Smith got his, the truth is that the 19-year-old from Rock Hill has been one of the best players in the country since he got to campus.
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit a preview for each of that weekend's games. The best preview from each game will be selected and combined with the others into one comprehensive guide, and points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do, too.
In honor of J.J. Watt claiming that Ray Rice is not worthy of a place on the Chipotle menu, I asked Ephraim about the best trash-talk moments from his 13 years in the NFL. The conversation stayed on players' talk with some discussion about Cam Newton throwing his organization under the bus, and then it was on to Newton's sweater game, Richard Sherman's Transformers game, and more. At some point, we discussed football, but I can't exactly remember when.
Earlier this week, Pro Football Weekly ran a fairly rabble-rousing story in which a “rival GM” made his thoughts known about the surprising start for the 1-3 Lions. And those thoughts are that it’s not all that surprising. (My money in the “rival GM” pool is on the Packers' Ted Thompson. He’s always had a tendency to run his mouth.) The crux of the comments was that despite their trip to the playoffs last year, Detroit wasn’t the rising contender that so many had made them out to be. The question is whether the three main criticisms hold any weight.
1. Detroit is one-dimensional on offense.
They are a one-dimensional offensive team that if the quarterback (Matthew Stafford) is not on, people are figuring it out. If you take (WR Calvin) Johnson out of the game (one TD through four games, compared to eight TDs at the same stage last season), who else do they have that can beat you?
It's baaaaaack. The NBA Shootaround crew is here to go over the best and brightest story lines coming out of media day and the opening days of NBA training camp. Basketball, basketball, basketball, basketball, basketball!!!
Kobe Clearly Still Mad About the Ellen Kid; Lying About Having the Ball in Hands; Wishes He Were a Transformer
Quick sidebar: Does Craig Sager make it through a day of his life on Earth without having a professional basketball player question his ability to dress himself or ... ask questions? It's the FIRST DAY and Kobe is already treating him like an emotional speed bag. This dude's life is Groundhog Day and the day he is reliving is the first day of high school, with 6-foot-6 guys stuffing him in a locker. The humanity!
Anyway, Kobe's back. Despite the new constellation of supernovas in Lakers purple, no star burns brighter than no. 24. And don't you ever forget it. Somehow Bryant was able to spend media day at once shirking responsibility (on handling the ball less this season: "Thank God") and reasserting his dominance over his surroundings ("I get to be Megatron"). (Yes, he was referring to being able to "run routes," à la Calvin Johnson, while new point guard Steve Nash takes care of the ball ... but let's just pretend he meant he gets to be the evil Transformer. It's much more on-brand.)
This made me giddy. Putting aside that I am willfully misinterpreting what he said, do you know how extra-Kobe Kobe Bryant is going to have to be this year to make sure we're all paying attention to him? In the face of the media-friendly Nash, the confounding Dwight Howard, and the downright weird Metta World Peace, Bryant is going to have to be in full Prince Joffrey mode. I can't wait to watch the throne this season.
— Chris Ryan
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit a preview for each of that weekend's games. The best preview from each game will be selected and combined with the others into one comprehensive guide, where points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do too.
Bears at Packers
[Ed. note: The deadline for submissions was prior to last night's Lambeau Massacre]
I’m a Bears fan. This week, I desperately fear the Packers defense. I fear they’ve prepared with the white-hot intensity of 1,000 ninja warriors. I fear they’ll strafe the field at Lambeau with thunderous hellfire, spitting shrapnel and leaving nothing but Bear parts where the Bears once stood. I fear their emotion. I fear their will to win. I fear Clay Matthews will eat me while I’m waiting to board an airplane. I am just plain sceeeered.
Brandon Marshall and the Bears D all looked extremely solid last week, but I’m not sure I would start either of them if I had James Jones (who is my call for Aaron Rodgers's boyfriend receiver this year), Randall Cobb, or the Packers D. Matt Forte is probably not a bad bet, but I’m just so scared of those Packers! I hope I’m wrong.
Tonight begins Week 1 of the NFL's regular season, and with it, Week 1 of Fantasy Island — Grantland's competition to find our fantasy football writer. The Fantasy Island Draft was last night, and within the first 15 minutes the league was already chastising someone for a celebrity name drop. You'd never think these people were 10 strangers picked to live in an Internet house. And with that, here are your Fantasy Island contestants:
Owner: Shane Morris (Nashville, Tennessee)
Bio: Most of my time is spent around music, so being able to write about fantasy football is a nice reprieve. Like most men in about nine Southern states, I believe I know more about football than anyone.
For some sports fans (this guy), July is a dark stretch. The NBA season is over, and considering the baseball team of my youth is busy trying to destroy every bit of goodwill its fans have left, times are tough. That got me thinking — maybe it’s time to get excited about football again. Training camp is only a few weeks away, and soon our lives will be filled with stories of how well Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are getting along, how Andrew Luck is a natural-born leader, and just how comfortable Alex Smith looks in his second year under Jim Harbaugh [Editor's note: So comfortable, bro.] So in the meantime, The Triangle is going to be bringing you a clip a day to rev up the excitement as we count down.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
There will be a new champion in the NHL! The Washington Capitals pulled off a stunning 2-1 overtime victory to beat the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Wild Joel Ward slammed home a rebound at 2:57 in the extra period. I know I've been tough on hockey in this space before, so I've decided to compose a little ode in honor of this great day:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama picked his official March Madness bracket, putting Kentucky, Ohio State, North Carolina, and Missouri in the Final Four, with the Tar Heels winning the championship. At least that's what ESPN is reporting; according to several Republican sources, Obama actually picked a Final Four of Harvard, Duke, Kim Jong-un, and the Nairobi Fake Birth Certificate Corporation, with Duke winning it all.
In the First Four in Dayton, South Florida took the fight to Cal early, running up a big lead and winning 65-54. That leaves just one team from the Pac-12 in the tournament, but conference officials are confident that Colorado will restore their honor by winning the national title.
On Saturday night, the Detroit Lions play the New Orleans Saints. I've got my baby carrots and Nicorette lozenges, which translates to me being really excited. Why the hyped-up state when I have no rooting or gambling interest? Well, you know how people say football is a results-oriented business? You know how people say that to you in, like, the bank? Well, it's not. It's about the journey. It's about how things unfold and the road you take to get to where you're going.
Here's where I get into trouble: I fixate on how I think the narrative of a football game should play out and I get upset when things deviate from that. So for my sanity and your entertainment, here are three different (all totally plausible!) ways this Lions and Saints matchup could down that I would find acceptable.
Is Week 8 too early to start breaking down the NFL Most Valuable Player race? Heck no. We'd start handicapping the 2014 MVP race now if we could. (Andrew Luck won't be ready yet. Just throwing a name out there: Tyrod Taylor. Why'd you throw it back?) The 2011 season is just about at its halfway point, but there's an obvious candidate left as the favorite and several interesting options waiting in the wings for him to slip.
In 2008, I wrote a story for ESPN the Magazine that used history to set three "rules" for the MVP vote. Ironically, nobody qualified under the rules that year. This season, though, has given us a handful of candidates who qualify under our three MVP rules:
Your team must win a division title.
You've got to lead your position in fantasy points.
If you're not a quarterback, you have to set a statistical record or have an otherwise transcendent season.
There's a certain air of anonymity to most NFL players. Outside of quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger's recklessness, Tom Brady's cool), these masked men, by choice or by circumstance (they are, after all, masked) don't exhibit a ton of personality. And fans aren't all that bothered, right? One could argue, much to Arian Foster's dismay, that the stat/fantasy value of a player is way more important to fans these days than the person who is putting up the numbers. It's a faceless league right now. And that's why Calvin Johnson is the perfect face for it.