The AtD playoffs are officialy underway and round one features the highly-anticipated showdown between staff writers No. 1 Duncan Slobodzian, No. 4 Justin Jez and No. 7 Brandon Lee. Ref James Queally, arts & entertainment editor, will hold the fate of the contestants in his hands as he will decide who will be the first to advance to the championship and who will be knocked out of the tournament.
1. After being slowed by a severe case of mono in the beginning of the year, tennis juggernaut Roger Federer has yet to reach a tournament final in 2008. Is this the year Federer loses his stranglehold on the ATP? Or will he come back and claim the majors?
DS: I think Federer is still eons ahead of the competition on the ATP tour – ? la Tiger on the PGA – and it’s unlikely that this injury persists for the entire tennis season. The aura surrounding him should be taken into consideration as well: like other great teams and individual athletes, Federer is facing the absolute best effort out of his opponent across the net every time out. A lower seeded player who is mostly unheard of even in sports circles has all the incentive he needs when playing Federer. The letdown against Roddick and others will prove to be more of a blip on the radar than a watershed moment.
JJ: Federer is the most dominant athlete in his sport. Yes, he has been less than superhuman in his first four tournaments of the year, but he’s Roger Federer. His dominance will be restored as soon as the side-effects of mono are gone. He’s still the No. 1 ranked player, by far, over Rafael Nadal. I know the comparison is a little cliché, but Tiger goes through these kinds of slumps now and again, too. Look at what he is able to accomplish when on hot streaks. The point is, like Tiger, Federer is and will continue to be the most dominant player in tennis. A little sickness and a two-month slump can’t slow the 26-year-old phenom.
BL: Roger Federer owns the tennis world the way Tiger Woods owns the golf world. Mono, shmono – he’ll own the majors and continue his dominance in tennis and prove that he is the best tennis player ever. The French Open is coming up in May and then Wimbledon following after. The only major he hasn’t won yet is the French Open, and that’s one of the things preventing him from being the undisputed best player of all-time. Federer also has a five-year win streak at stake in Wimbledon, so expect him to come out guns blazing.
JQ: Wow, it’s not like any of you have a man crush on Tiger. Similar answers across the board, but Duncan picks up 3 for pointing out the “nothing-to-lose” factor that may be contributing to the upsets. It’s pretty obvious Roddick had to be perfect to beat Federer last week. Jez grabs 2 for passing this off as a mono-related slump, which it probably is. Brandon, talking about his accomplishments is great, but I want to know what lies ahead. Uno.
2. The Dallas Cowboys have been courting controversial cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones for the past few weeks. Is he a good fit for the defending NFC East Champs?
DS: While Pacman’s skill set is a good fit for any NFL roster (we’ve seen in recent years the type of impact a dynamic returner can have on a game-to-game basis), the risk/reward doesn’t bode well with making this leap of faith. Dallas’ defense was actually first in the entire league for the 2007 season, so it appears they’d only be interested in Pacman for special teams. How effective he could be in that limited role is a question to be answered. Plus, Pacman’s been so preoccupied with getting back in the good graces of the league and telling people he’s changed; his public actions have yet to follow suit.
JJ: Hell yeah it is. When I first heard these rumblings of Jones coming to Dallas, I immediately applauded Jerry Jones for his aggressiveness and willingness to take chances. The Cowboys have proven that they can take in unwanted delinquents and win. They took T.O. after two tumultuous trials with other teams. They took Tank Johnson after he was found with enough weaponry to invade Norway. If those two guys were able to flourish in Dallas, so can Pacman. Jones can also be an elite return man for Dallas, which is another reason why the Cowboys should seek out his services if reinstated by the league.
BL: If the Cowboys don’t give up anything higher than a third-round pick, then he’ll be amazing and will get along just fine in Dallas. The Cowboys desperately need an upgrade in the secondary after the Giants shredded their Swiss cheese defensive back corps. Pacman will give them a true shutdown corner, and no, Terrance Newman is not a true shutdown corner, and he’ll give them a special teams threat. Pacman will have to be a good citizen or risk never playing in the NFL ever again, so I think he’ll be as good of a teammate and citizen as T.O. The Cowboys’ only flaw on its team is its secondary and getting Jones will make them Super Bowl favorites.
JQ: So we think the Cowboys can tame Pacman but we don’t congratulate Wade Phillips for his disciplinarian head coaching tactics? For shame! Jez grabs 3 for commenting on the Cowboys’ track record for rejuvenating controversial players’ careers, listing Jones’ attributes, and allowing me to imagine Tank Johnson as the Prince Regent of Norway. Brandon grabs 2 for a solid breakdown of Pac Man’s possible additions to the Boys, but the Giants didn’t exactly shred Dallas’ defense. Duncan still had a good argument, but it was just the weakest in a strong round. 1.5 points.
3. What’s the best developing storyline of the MLB’s opening weeks? Cincinnati Reds’ upstart Johnny Cueto’s explosive debut, Barry Bonds’ search for a home, the Red Sox vs. Japan? Do you have one of your own?
DS: Well, I’m confident the story du jour is definitely not Bonds’ job hunt – not even his overinflated ego could garner much attention from GM’s or fans this offseason. He’s become a non-story, as the baseball community has begun picking up the pieces the steroid era left behind. To me, the process of reconciliation is really the most accurate marker of the young season. When was the last time a steroid accusation or indictment actually distracted us from the games being played? People like Jose Canseco might try, but fans are ready to actually watch the games instead of testimony. Heated pennant races and emerging stars don’t hurt the resurgence, either.
JJ: The best “developing” story is the changes concerning the nation’s oldest, most beloved ballparks. Bonds is irrelevant now that news about him is minimal. The Sox in Japan is a dead issue because the games are over. Cueto’s game was impressive but was just one of many he’ll pitch this season. Renaming Wrigley Field and abandoning the “house that Ruth built” are the storylines in the minds of most baseball aficionados. As two of the most coveted fan destinations, their impending maiming and annihilation is a big concern. Wrigley and Yankee Stadium are iconic and should be left unscathed for generations to come.
BL: The Red Sox in Japan was simply, the Red Sox in Japan (and a marketing bonanza.) Everyone hates Barry Bonds and he’s getting what he deserves. Everyone loves a rookie sensation who can sweep them off their feet, and that’s Cueto. Cueto was pitching a perfect game until Justin Upton homered in the sixth inning. There really is nothing more exciting than a young pitching prospect who has ace potential. See: Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, etc.
JQ: 3 points to Brandon. Cueto’s stunning debut will make his starts primetime television for at least the next few weeks. The name dropping didn’t hurt either. Watching Chamberlain’s star rise in 2007 was fun as hell. Duncan takes 2 for his “love of the game” argument and it will be interesting to see if baseball can wade through 2008 scandal free. Jez, I asked for an interesting developing story. The end of Yankee stadium is old, old news. It will be a solemn summer in the Bronx, but the demolition of Ruth’s house is inevitable. 1 point.
With a tight finish of 6.5-6-6, Duncan heads to the Championship