In case you didn't notice, we're hitting the "Wow, I can kind of see what the NFL playoffs might look like!" part of the 2011 season. What better time to bring in our old friend Mike Lombardi of NFL.com and the NFL Network! We tried to figure out the six playoff teams in each conference, Super Bowl sleepers, the one "contender" that should start fading out of the picture in each conference and all that other good stuff get ready for 50 solid minutes of NFL bliss. Thanks to Mike, as always, for being so generous with his time.
Yes, the so-called "Game of the Century" was an epic SEC war, but The Solid Verbal guys can't help but feel let down with a 9-6 final tally after so much hype. In this week's episode, the boys break down LSU's hard-nosed victory, Jarrett Lee's demotion, conservative play-calling, and the potential for a rematch.
Plus, Ty Hildenbrandt and Dan Rubenstein wonder what's eating Brady Hoke, discuss Nebraska's dud against Northwestern, analyze South Carolina's running game, and play another rousing batch of listener voice messages
Sod the tactics. In this week's podcast, the Men In Blazers bear witness to a new era of EPL footie, where goals rain heavy and defense is a mere afterthought. The gentlemen examine why so many teams are leaking so many goals this season, praise Robin van Persie's class, consider Steven Gerrard’s medical mystery, and dig deep into John Terry’s downfall via the 7th century theological musings of a karma expert.
Plus, Michael offer listeners some advice he once received from his father — never hunch in the rain.
The questions about Clemson potentially going unbeaten have been answered. But in their latest pod, The Solid Verbal guys debate whether the Tigers "Clemsoned" themselves in Atlanta, or if Saturday's loss was of a more honorable ilk. Plus, with even more shake-up in the top five, they discuss how much more likely Boise State is to be ignored in its quest to play in the BCS Championship.
Also, Ty Hildenbrandt and Dan Rubenstein break down the offensive explosion in State College, Andrew Luck's laser arm, the fake quarterback controversy at Oregon, and the Turner Gill experiment at Kansas. And, as expected, another round of listener voice messages.
The Arab Spring came to Manchester this weekend as an outstanding City humiliated ten-man United. Michael Davies and Roger Bennett review that seismic victory and the rest of the Premier League slate, including Mario Balotelli's philosophic musings, Iraqi supporter scarves, and Andre Villas-Boas' turn as a high school mean girl.
The Men In Blazers are then joined by proper broadcaster and comedian John Oliver, who has just become Liverpool Football Club's Most Famous Fan in Exile after the recent death of Muammar Gaddafi. The conversation quickly turns to human anatomy though as John shares his life-changing bathroom encounter with former Arsenal striker Alan Smith. All in the name of association football.
Grantland contributor Jane Leavy spent the past decade writing sports biographies about Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle (recently released in paperback). We talked about Koufax and Mantle, Jane's experiences in being part of the first wave of female sports reporters, why Mantle means so much to guys over 50, and why it's so hard to find a good topic for a future sports book. PS: Buy Jane's latest two books if you like sports and like to read.
After getting bumped from Monday's BS Report by the NBA lockout, a chastened Cousin Sal brought his A-game to today's podcast, beating me in our weekly guessing of the Week 8 lines and unleashing a flawless Mad Dog Russo imitation to boot. Sal was followed by 30 for 30 director Mike Tollin (he did the USFL one), who produced ESPN's new documentary, The Real Rocky (about boxer Chuck Wepner, premiering tonight on ESPN), as part of our "We Can't Call These 30 for 30 Even Though We Should Have" series.
So I get a call from an unfamiliar area code. “Hey, it’s Jalen," says the caller. "I wanted to talk to you about doing a podcast.” Next thing you know, Jalen Rose is in the Grantland studio at L.A. Live, telling me what it is like playing for Larry Bird, how he slowed down Michael Jordan and that he has been benched on every team that he played for. It was shocking how much Jalen Rose knows NBA basketball, and how willing he was air it all out. I felt like my sole purpose for being across the table from him was to keep him from saying something that would get us both fired. It was not easy.
There are still some kinks to work out, but the foundation of chemistry, drastically different viewpoints and unforced enjoyment is already in place. Check back into the Grantland Network for more Jalen and other new projects as we continue to expand the roster.
I'll just cut to the chase: We built a state-of-the-art podcast studio in the Grantland offices at L.A. Live. Dave Jacoby and I spent the past three months conceiving it, building it, decorating it and having arguments that included sentences like, "You can't have another Red Sox picture in here, you already have two!" and "We need more NBA players from the early 1980s and that's final!"
Why a podcast studio? Because I wanted a place to tape pods that didn't sound like I was recording them from my house (which, by the way, I currently am). Because we wanted a place that would make any celebrity guests say, "Wow, this studio is pretty cool, this feels like a real thing" instead of, "Wow, I can't believe I had to come over to this dude's house to tape a podcast, this is weird." Because we wanted the ability to tape complete podcasts, then edit them into "Best of " shows with multiple guests that could run in the wee hours on ESPN and ESPN2 instead of Day 10 of the 2005 World Series of Poker. Because we're running little 90-second snippets from some of them on the 1 a.m. SportsCenter every other Tuesday night, so it would have been weird if we didn't have a place to tape them. And for a few other reasons that I will reveal down the road.
Our first guest in the new digs: my favorite boxer ever, Sugar Ray Leonard. This turned out to be an especially candid conversation, and I'm not entirely sure why that happened, or how we got there, but we did and that's what matters. It's worth a listen. Thanks so much to Ray for his time and candor.