Haven’t had time to write this week, and not just because I’ve been playing with the iPad. Dissertation, grading, baby, new season of Mad Men on DVD… Life is busy at Chez Panoptiblog. But there are three sports-related stories I would hate to miss commenting on…


I wanted to get this post in before today’s Iowa game, which scares me a little. I’ll be on a plane, or in airports, for much of the evening, so I won’t see them play Michigan State. Regardless of how this season ends, right now I’m having a shockingly good season as a fan. And it’s not just how well my teams are performing, but how unlikely these performances are individually, much less simultaneously.

Iowa: 7-0, alone at the top of the Big Ten, which only happens every fifteen or twenty years. Second-longest winning streak at 11 straight wins. The last time the Hawkeyes had a double-digit winning streak? The 1920s.

Denver: 6-0, in control of the AFC West. The surprise of the year. The optimistic predictions out there had them winning six games all year. Others said they’d win three. New coach, new QB, new offensive and defensive schemes.

Philadelphia Phillies: In the World Series for the second consecutive year. That hasn’t happened in the NL since the early 90s.

It’s been a wild run so far.

Nick Laham, Getty Images

Nick Laham, Getty Images

I admit that I doubted them. How could I foresee that Cliff Lee would become dominant again, Brad Lidge would turn back into Brad Lidge, that the bullpen could flip a switch and shut down a hot Rockies team and a dangerous Dodgers team? As Jason Werth just said on TV, “It’s a crazy game.”

Bring on the Yankees.

Uh-oh. Non-Iowans are starting to buy into the Hawkeyes.

I can see why. The Hawkeyes are now 7-0, with impressive road wins at Penn State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes, who were previously assumed to be very capable of dropping Iowa on November 14, lost their second game of the season. The Hawks are now, in sports cliche-speak, “in control of their own destiny.”

It’s easy to be upset about the first BCS rankings that came out, with Iowa sitting at number six behind a team from the WAC (Boise State) one from the Big East (Cincinatti). You look at those two teams’ schedules and it makes you ill. Who have they beaten? But asStewart Mandell points out for SI.com, Boise State’s weak schedule is going to catch up to them in the computer polls.

And while I have a lot of respect for Pete Carroll, I really, really don’t want to hear him complain about not being ranked higher in the polls. Why is there a “huge discrepancy” between the human and computer polls? Because computers don’t understand USC and the other big programs are supposed to get special treatment. You’ve had every benefit of the doubt for nearly a decade, coach. Don’t drop games to teams you should beat and it won’t be a problem.


The Broncos have beaten the Chargers at San Diego. It’s not just that Kyle Orton has 9 TDs to 1 INT, or that Elvis Dumervil already has ten sacks. It’s not just that they’re 6-0 heading into their bye week. Try this on: they’re 2-0 in their division, with both games against the Chiefs, and home games against the Raiders and Chargers remaining. Wow.

The Phillies just came back to shock the Dodgers 5-4, with SS Jimmy Rollins hitting a two-out, two-run double. First guy since Kirk Gibson to bring a team back with a walk-off run when they’re only one out away from losing in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer in the first inning to tie a record for consecutive games with an RBI. Who else holds the record? Lou Gehrig. When you start throwing the names Kirk Gibson and Lou Gehrig around, you know you’re doing something right. They’re one win away from a second consecutive World Series. Wow.

After spending weeks trying to trade for Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay without giving up their entire AAA club, my Phillies have turned to plan B: Cleveland pitcher and reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. And they had to give up exactly zero of the top-flight prospects that the Jays were demanding. Word is, the Philly management decided to leave the negotiating table after the Toronto GM asked if they wanted to see a magic trick:

7:48: Phils lead! Watching this on the CBS Sportsline graphics… sad.

7:26: I’m just hoping the game lasts long enough for me to get home and see the final out, if this is a Phillies win. You’ve got to give the edge to Philadelphia: looking at it as a whole new game, where you get 4 innings at bat and your opponent gets 3, and where your two hottest pitchers out of the bullpen will be available on the mound…

It should be over tonight.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.