The Opening Pitch: The Falcons blew it.
It seems I am the only one who thinks Matt Ryan wasn't the particularly transcendent top pick for the Falcons that people are saying he was.
The Falcons didn't draft Ryan because he was truly great or worthy of his top 3 draft position; the Falcons could have waited a year for Georgia's Matt Stafford for that.
No: Atlanta drafted Ryan because he isn't Mike Vick.
And that makes his selection a PR stunt. They drafted him because all of the yapping heads in sports media would approve, perhaps laying off criticizing the Falcons for the first time in a year. "New 'face' of the franchise?" That has everything to do with appearances -- and nothing to do with winning.
It is the most cynical draft strategy I have ever seen, and everyone who approves of the pick plays right into it.
Perhaps Ryan was the top-rated QB of the 2008 draft, but in this draft class, that wasn't saying much. Joe Flacco, unknown six months ago, was the only other QB taken in the first round; the next QB taken was late-second-rounder Brian Brohm, notable more for being the 2007 draft's Matt Ryan (umm ... if only Brohm had the good sense to have entered it).
The Falcons could have had dominant defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, whom they supposedly loved, and Brohm, the same QB the so-called experts pegged as the No. 1 overall pick a year ago. Instead, in their place, the Falcons get Ryan and overachieving LB Curtis Lofton -- that's a worse deal. (Exclude Sam Baker and just focus on those two Falcons picks.)
Other teams had good -- even great -- drafts: The Chiefs are being widely praised (and deserve it) ... is it any coincidence Dorsey anchored their draft?
Interesting: You don't hear anyone listing the Falcons as having a great draft. It's because they didn't, and it starts at the top with Matt Ryan.
"Matty Ice" is now simply "Anyone But Vick."
More Draft Notes: Darren McFadden will have the best-selling jersey of any NFL rookie ... Either the Packers over-reached for Brohm or admitted it was a mistake to draft Aaron Rodgers: Which one? ... I'm obviously biased, but I think the Jags made the bold move(-up) they needed by drafting Derrick Harvey so they could better compete with the Pats in the AFC ... Wow, everyone seems to agree the Titans first-round pick of Chris Johnson was the worst of the draft ... Day 2 intrigue: Mario Manningham a risky pick for the Giants? After their success last season, I wouldn't doubt their draft scouts ...
Finally: Will Army's Caleb Campbell make the Lions after being drafted in the seventh round? His fallback isn't the Arena League or the CFL: It's going to Iraq.
Scandal Watch: Roger Clemens and Mindy McCready! Which revelation in the New York Daily News will damage Clemens' rep (even) more?
(a) He had a 10-year affair with the country music star?
(b) It allegedly started when she was 15.
Whether the relationship was physical (something Clemens' lawyer denies, obviously) or just emotional, it was highly inappropriate.
Extramarital affairs are a part of a jock's life -- everyone gets that (and most people don't care); this seems much skeevier.
It's the implication: If he can cheat on his wife (again, either physically OR emotionally) for a decade, what else could he do?
(To answer my own question, for those having problems getting my gist: It's steroids. That's what else he could do: Steroids.)
NBA Playoffs: Where Lameness Happens. For a sport that is supposed to be coming off some sort of "renaissance" regular season, the NBA playoffs have so far been a huge dud.
Out of eight series, exactly one is competitive. (And that's only on paper: After last night's Pistons win in Philly to even their series 2-2, do you really give the Sixers any chance to oust Detroit?)
*Spurs-Suns, the so-called headliner, is all but over, the Suns' win in Phoenix yesterday to make the series 3-1 in San Antonio's favor was merely a nod to professional pride -- more than "too little" but definitely "too late."
*The best series in the East (or at least its most entertaining), Cavs-Wiz is also all but over, with LeBron and Co. gritting one out in D.C. yesterday for a 3-1 lead.
*The Hornets are a wonderful story, but their domination of the Mavs (up 3-1 after last night's win in Dallas) doesn't make for must-see viewing. (Classy "winner's" move by Jason Kidd in getting ejected.)
Let's get to the conference semis, as soon as possible. It's the only way we might see a compelling series. ("Might." I'm not convinced the semis will be any more competitive.)
Good seats remain on the Rays' bandwagon! Tampa finished a sweep of the Red Sox behind James Shields' first career shutout (7-1 K-BB) and is tied for first place in the AL East, three games over .500 the latest in a season in franchise history -- and, yes, it's still April!
More MLB Instant History: There isn't a better pitcher in baseball this season than Brandon Webb, and he proved it by out-dueling Jake Peavy yesterday ... Edinson Volquez! (No, seriously: Barry Zito is the worst pitcher in baseball) ... Fantasy Dud: Justin Verlander (6 ER in a loss) ... Add another name to the one you never thought you'd see on a DL: Jorge Posada ... Separately, James Loney and Paul Konerko ... Here's a big, fat "finally" for Troy Glaus with the Cardinals ...
One Thing To Know About the NHL Playoffs: There are comebacks, and then there are four-goal third periods. Dallas might still be two wins away from ousting the Sharks, but it sure feels like a done deal.
BCS Watch: Don't expect any changes to the system, based on early returns from the meetings of the BCS cabal. I hate the plus-one idea anyway, so that doesn't bother me. (Why do I hate it? Because it doesn't solve anything.)
But if the most vocal playoff proponents -- like presidents Bernie Machen from Florida and Michael Adams from Georgia -- want to see a their true playoff, they will have to take me up on my plan for the SEC to "SEC-ede" from the BCS and create its own playoff with willing co-conspirators, daring the rest to proclaim a "national champ" without them.
CBB Coaching Carousel: Stanford gets a high-profile hire in Duke's Johnny Dawkins. He has the coaching pedigree, but no actual head-coaching experience. I suspect he is in over his head.
NBA Draft Early Entry: The only reason Tyler Hansbrough is returning to UNC is because he knows he will be a mediocre NBA player. If the NBA wanted him, they would have gotten him -- last year, in fact.
Now, all Psycho-T does is assure himself of all sorts of "reward-him-for-staying-in-college" love from the media, which all but hands him a second straight CBB player of the year award.
But as we have seen with Hansbrough over the past three NCAA Tournaments, his ability to lead UNC to a national championship is as obviously limited as his NBA potential.
(Meanwhile, Darren Collison's return to UCLA will create a very awkward situation with incoming freshman stud guard Jrue Holiday. It's one thing to mesh with a post wunderkind like Kevin Love; it's another to mesh with a phenom who plays your position.)
Move over, Danica: Ashley Force became the National Hot Rod Association's first woman winner (adding intrigue, she beat her own father, John, a dynastic force in the sport).
Drag racing isn't open-wheel Indy Car racing. Then again, open wheel Indy Car racing isn't NASCAR. What both represent is progress -- in back-to-back weeks, no less -- for women athletes in sports perpetually dominated by men.
The Last Word: "Mr. Irrelevant." It is the name of one of the great sports blogs (h/t: Mottram Bros.), but before that it was -- and still is -- arguably the most memorable title bestowed in sports, annually given to the last pick of the NFL draft.
This season, the winner was David Vobora, an OLB from Idaho picked by the Rams who will receive more attention today than he will for the rest of his pro football career.
But I would rather be the talent ranked right after Mr. Irrelevant: At that point in the draft, a player is better off as an Undrafted Free Agent, picking their optimal team for a tryout.
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.
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