Just a little help staying ahead of the sports world learning curve heading back into the work week:
1. There’s that Sports Illustrated cover, the college football issue that came out in late August, spotlighting the Trojans’ returning quarterback with the headline: “USC’s Matt Barkley Is Back – and He Didn’t Stay To Play in the Holiday Bowl.” If your educated guess is that the Trojans somehow qualify to play in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27, the AP preseason No. 1 team should consider it self to be fortunate. How ‘bout a hookup with the Longhorns of Texas in San Diego two days after Christmas? We’ll even let the Longhorn Network air it exclusively. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — that’s already happened to many times so far. Sure, there’s a shot at the Rose Bowl dangling out there, but the first of a possible four games to end the season starts with a homecoming Saturday against Arizona State that has now gone off the radar with the Pac-12 Network picking it up with an early noon kickoff. The week after is USC-UCLA, and the Bruins have overtaken the Trojans in the BCS polls (18 and 19). A rematch with the BCS No. 3 team at their place in the Pac-12 Championship is doable. Then … ever been to El Paso?
2. “Bam! Mizdirection!!!” That’s what Jim Rome tweeted out moments after the horse he owns a majority stake in through Jungle Racing LLC came down the mountain and outlasted a field of 13 other boys to win the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint race at Santa Anita on Sunday. No matter what happened in all other events – including the $5 mil Classic – Rome’s connection to the sport, and his ability to talk it up whenever he wants on both a syndicated radio and TV show, could have a reverberating effect for those who consider thoroughbred racing a thing of the past. Rome joked that his listeners weren’t capable of taking the early-morning 20-1 odds down to 6-1 by post time by simply betting heavily on the 4-year-old gray filly. He shouldn’t underestimate their power.
3. The Numbskull Hockey League’s latest decision to cancel the outdoor Winter Classic is a public pronouncement that it can’t get out of its own bad way at this point. Nor are the players helping themselves by letting Donald Fehr stand up for them and prevent them from playing. Kings captain Dustin Brown sees the writing on the wall – he’ll be leaving for Switzerland on Tuesday to play for a team headed by former Kings coach Mark Crawford. According to a simulated season being played out on ESPN.com via EA Sports NHL 13, the Kings started this virtual season 4-6, 13th in the Western Conference, while the Anaheim Ducks are last in the whole league at 2-7-2 because of early injuries. Maybe it’s best we’re not playing for real.
4. The cancelation of the New York City Marathon was about the smartest thing that could have happened in the world of sports all weekend. Those who descended on Central Park to run anyway did so with a purpose – to help those in need, especially elderly residents trapped in their higher-rise apartments and unable to receive help after the blackouts caused by Hurricane Sandy. Everyone who entered is guaranteed a spot in next year’s race, but Ruben Arredondo of L.A. wasn’t sure that’ll happen. “I’m in the military, and I could be deployed,” the 36-year-old told the Associated Press, showing up at Central Park at 6:45 a.m. to join a group called the Replacement Marathon, which had been organized online just hours before.
5. The Lakers may never win again this season. Wait, they did? Sorry, didn’t see it on DirecTV. The next 12 games in a row are exclusive to Time Warner Cable SportsNet and the Spanish-language Deportes, but if you’re a dish customer, it may take a very long time for there to be a compelling reason to pick it up. The dish folks are taking a stand and making a point: Rights fees have got out of hand. Those who don’t have a dish for sports shouldn’t be sharing the cost. If you’re desperate you gotta find a cable guy to hook you up. Gulp.