Spencer Hall's Sports Meme Power Rankings list the top 10 most-discussed sports stories on the Internet and beyond each week. These are determined by a rigorous process that incorporates a complex formula involving none of your business.
1. We Arrive At The Empty Quarter.
I know when it happened to me: it was 11:30 p.m. on Monday night, and I was looking through disreputable corners of the internet for pirate feeds of Six Nations Rugby matches, and I realized: I'm looking for rugby just shy of midnight on a Monday, and we have arrived at the Empty Quarter of the sporting year.
Living a sporting life without football sounds refreshing for a few days. In many ways it is like being told you are going to play a real life game of Oregon Trail. You forage for your own entertainment for a few days. ("Hey, who knew I liked fishing for my dinner!") You acquire some skills you may have forgotten or never learned in your pampered former life. ("Look at me changing a wagon tire and talking to my wife for the first time in six months!") The ample free time and fresh air is amazing. ("Hey, look at this place called 'outside!'")
Then you enter the desert, you run out of buffalo meat, and there's not a general store until the tiny town of March Madness some 200 miles across the merciless, bone-strewn sands of February. Millie dies of a broken arm. You can't catch anything to eat hunting. (This pixel-shooting rifle sucks.) Somewhere in this tangled Oregon Trail metaphor you die of dysentery, but like every other game you just reset and do it again until you make it across the desert.
This is one way of saying nothing is going on in sports right now. Another is to say that the second biggest story this week involves the wake of a game that has already happened, and its attendant lawsuits. Gird thy loins: the Empty Quarter is no place for the faint of heart, and by that we mean you're going to have to sort of care about basketball for a while to get by. Any port in a storm, sailor.
2. The Super Bowl Inconveniences People Wealthy Or Foolish Enough To Pay For Tickets To The Super Bowl.
Jerry Jones attempted to throw the biggest, most lavish Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls, an aspiration not unlike saying you're going to create the most vomitous vomitorium the Roman Empire ever saw. That sounds harsh, but remember that the Roman Empire was one of the better places on earth to be in its time, and that it did give Russell Crowe an excuse to be thin and ripped once when he had to play a gladiator. (I'm sure Russell thinks that was the Roman Empire's purpose, anyway.)
So in the micro understanding, the Super Bowl was a logistical disaster. The worst weather in 25 years hit Dallas, reduced the partying to an isolated series of poorly-attended frostbitten corporate hubbubs cut off by horrendous Dallas road conditions, and came to a head when five spectators were injured by falling ice at the Jerry Dome and hundreds of ticketholders turned out to not actually have tickets. The Black Eyed Peas did a cover of "Sweet Child O'Mine." I don't know if that killed anyone, but I will assume it did in order to prosecute them for war crimes.
In the macro sense, I have good news for Jerry Jones: calling this a disaster is in error. A real sports disaster involves people being crushed in an African soccer stampeded or killed when a car rockets into the stands at Le Mans, not when an NFL owner has a bad cake party in front of millions of spectators. A second note to Jerry Jones: do not assume this means you have to win this title, too. ("Hooooweeee, I'll have a Texas-sized building collapse. Another one, I mean.")
This will all be forgotten a.) in the wake of an upcoming lockout, or b.) by the cacophony of pained bored cries when sportswriters have to spend a week in Indianapolis instead of Miami or New Orleans next year for the next Super Bowl.
3. The Mayans Were Incorrect: The World Ends On March 3rd.
The NFL's collective bargaining agreement ends on March 3rd, and the prospects of renegotiating successfully fell somewhat this morning when both sides cancelled a negotiating session. We're going to need HR to step in, and to do so quickly.
"Tell the dolphin where the owners touched you, NFLPA." The high comedy in this will be the NFL's owners insisting they are not making money in a year when Roger Goodell announced the Super Bowl as being "the most-watched television program in the history of the world." Soccer bros like to get uppity over this, but please: your entire schtick is being more cosmopolitan and using words like "kit" and "pitch," not venting mock fury over something as provincial as the NFL. Goodell's announcement does have a basis in a certain understanding of the world.
So he's not lying, just obeying the terms of reality the NFL works under. The World Cup says the Super Bowl ain't shit until you get Dubai'i sheiks to make it rain on you and your family to get the game there.
4. Duke Beats UNC In Deeply Important Game For State of North Carolina.
Since I'm already in a global state of mind, I want to congratulate Duke for beating UNC on Wednesday night and for being the Italy of college basketball: a deeply talented group of mostly white dudes who mitigate the charm of their collective skill with disgusting theatrics. The comparison isn't perfect. Duke fans are nowhere near as likable as Italian fans, and certainly do not have the gumption to start throwing road flares inside Cameron or tossing whole burning Vespas onto the court. Then again, in this rivalry, am I supposed to pull for UNC, and this? I like the idea of having servants do things for me. Indeed, if henchmen aren't part of the American dream, UNC fans, i want no part of this Scylla/Charybdis arrangement you've got here.
5. Carmelo Anthony Is Going Somewhere.
You and every other red-blooded American should scream for the Lakers to acquire Carmelo Anthony, who could really be going somewhere if not L.A. The deep black hole of profligate basketball shot selection would create a convenient hole in the universe for scientists to study, but you know after a while we'd just start throwing garbage into it and anything else we didn't want. Meanwhile, in another galaxy populated by garbage-eating aliens, we'll all be regarded as heroes and gods, and they will send us amazing technology like waffle-generating ray guns.. See: I told you that you want this to happen, because a spontaneous waffle-generating-ray gun would be nothing short of miraculous.
6. The Cavaliers Have Lost 26 Games In A Row.
This picture should do for everything that needs to be said here. But if it doesn't, Jon Bois' four-act play on the losing streak does.
7. Tiger Woods Sneers At The World Cup, Was On This Oil Money Before You Even Thought Of It.
Tiger Woods played in Dubai'i this week, fulfilling the final appearance in his contract to play golf halfway around the world in an artificial oasis for a tidy $3 million appearance fee. That we're even mentioning this is a sign that nothing is going on, since he's six shots back and doing little of interest besides lighting oil money on fire. (And that's after one of the costliest divorces in history.) Message: you could make a million dollars and Tiger Woods and everyone in Dubai'i not named "guest worker" would still think you're poor.* Very, very poor, as in smelling-like-poor people poor.*
*P.S.! You're poor.
8. Wake Forest Breaks NCAA Rules With Kidney Gift.
Yes, it is a heartwarming story, and there is the obvious remark to be made about whether or not the NCAA finds this to be an illegal benefit, but do not forget the loopholes this case opens up, and by that we mean Lane Kiffin promising spare body parts to football recruits. They may not be his own, mind you, but earning a spot on the scout team sometimes means giving up a lot of things, son. In your case that means a kidney and one of your corneas. Coach Orgeron will be happy to help you with the removal.
9. Athlete Has Legal Sex.
This week, an athlete met a girl at a club and had some pretty meaningless sex. "He was pretty cool, and had no taste in decorating," said the girl of legal age who used the athlete's toothbrush without telling him. "Um, what night and what girl?" said the athlete, who then declined comment after being rudely awakened at the hour of 11:00 a.m. "I have sex a lot with many people, and I'll admit: the quality is not consistent or well-recorded." He then ate an unhealthy breakfast and still had abs and got ladies, because he is an athlete and you're not.
This is your reminder that our attempts at sexual muckraking pale in comparison to the pros of Europe, and that we as a nation still have a long way to go in developing a competitive domestic sports gossip league.
10. The Ever Present and Orbiting Brett Favre PR Death Star and Country Bear Jamboree.
Mentioned only once in the wake of the Super Bowl, but it's an eye-ripper of a reference.
"When Brett Favre came into the meeting room as I was trying to decide which agent I was going to select, I seen Brett and Brett's calling me by my name, and I was like wow," Newton said while appearing on 'NFL Total Access' on NFL Network. "It’s unheard of and it's a dream come true just to be acknowledged and being able to talk and call Brett any time I feel like."
Cam Newton is up for mentoring by Brett Favre. That will be $3,000 per contact with Cam, Brett. Love, Cecil Newton.