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Underdogs, a $5 million man and other oddities

Ah, Charlottesville. It's nice to be back home. I actually was growing tired of waking up at the crack of noon and eating all of the food in my mom's house. The reality of a nine a.m. class yesterday was a bit harsh, but it's not as bad when your basketball team is ranked in the top 10 and truly plays like it.

So, in honor of the short-attention-span theater we like to call the first week of classes, here's some reading material to complement your syllabi in class or for the bathroom - wherever you do your best reading.

4 NFL Playoff Fever

I don't know about you all, but I am pumped for this weekend's playoff games. You couldn't ask for better match-ups than those that the NFL's salary cap has provided. I'm picking underdogs across the board. Take the Packers, Eagles and Patriots, and the points over St. Louis, Chicago and Oakland respectively.

I don't know how the Baltimore Ravens made it to the playoffs, but there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that the Steelers will stop them from reaching the AFC championship game for the second year in a row. The Ravens, led by that amazing defense and Trent Dilfer impersonator Elvis Grbac, have hit their stride at just the right time again. If someone gives you the points on this game, take it and laugh all the way to the bank.

4 Fiebre de F£tbol!

I think I speak for the rest of the world when I say ditch the Winter Olympics and bring on World Cup 2002. While Olympic officials are worrying that closing ceremony fireworks could send the area's moose, elk and deer populations stampeding into urban neighborhoods, I'm wondering who is going to make it out of the World Cup's Group F.

The "Group of Death", as it's being dubbed, includes perennial heavyweights England, Argentina, Nigeria and Sweden. Whoever makes it out of this bracket should be battling for the cup in Japan come June 30.

4 R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Steve Spurrier has taken a lot of grief and been ripped on by many, myself included. But Spurrier has my endorsement in Washington for two reasons. First, he acknowledged that he doesn't know enough about the NFL to be both a head coach and a general manager. Many critics expected his ego to outweigh his ability to think rationally. Spurrier was smart enough to take the $5 million a year and concentrate on coaching.

Secondly, Spurrier, who was an assistant and a head coach at Duke prior to going to Florida, had this memorable quote at his press conference: "Someone asked if I could survive [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder. I said I survived Duke twice."

Nice burn Steve.

4 Is anyone watching?

With the top five seeds gone in the men's draw of the Australian Open, I am reminded that there hasn't been an interesting or meaningful tennis match since Goran Ivanisevic upset Patrick Rafter at Wimbledon this summer.

Fortunately, the women continue to keep tennis rolling along. Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Venus Williams are all still alive, but with a little less drama than previous tourneys.

4 Miscellaneous Debris

Bud Selig needs to go. Baseball is spinning out of control administratively just as the level of play and interest in the league is returning to pre-strike levels.

The Miami Hurricanes really let the Bowl Championship Series off the hook. Commissioner John Swofford, et. al., have their work cut out for them again.

Is there still hockey on? What's that you say? They're not even at the All-Star break? Heaven help us ...

Has anyone seen or heard from DeSagna Diop lately? Good move going to the NBA, bro.

Guilty pleasure of the week - ESPN and US Magazine's World's Sexiest Athletes Web site. Vote online to pick the sexiest athlete by using an interactive playoff bracket. If there's any justice in this world, Sara Whalen will knock off Anna Kournikova for the title. And, yes ladies, there is a bracket for the men.