King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

With the administration buying off journalists willy-nilly, this column says in no uncertain terms: Ka-ching! Plus: John Madden and Nicollette's towel. And: Wisconsin's who-cares home winning streak.

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I don’t know how to say this any more clearly, folks: This column is for sale. This columnist is for sale. Caricature, opinions and all. You pay, I say. Have iBook, will travel. (Steve Jobs: That one was free, but call me.)

You think college sports don’t need reforming? A field-goal attempt is the most exciting play in football — with the possible exception of a squib kick? Twelve wild-card teams should make the baseball playoffs each year? Me (contingent on remittance) too!

Grub first, then ethics. It’s all the rage in journalism these days, but I was ahead of the curve. I wish I could show you the original version of my caricature, which had the words “Your Ad Here” where there’s now a crown tattoo. But now that this sort of thing is coming out into the open, maybe I can finally get on the gravy train.

We already knew that Armstrong Williams took $240,000 from the Department of Education to promote President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program on his syndicated TV and radio shows. In Wednesday’s Washington Post Howard Kurtz reported that columnist Maggie Gallagher was paid $21,500 by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration’s proposed ban on gay marriage.

“Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?” Gallagher asked Kurtz Socratically. “I don’t know. You tell me.”

Let me tell you, Magaroo: Yes. Rock on! You’re an inspiration to us all.

But here’s the best part, readers. You don’t have to be a politician or a fusty old department of the Executive Branch to be a customer. I’ve spent two years courting a certain burger chain whose slogan — extrapolated — is “(What the Heck), Ya Gotta Eat! (or you’ll starve, and eating our burgers is marginally better than starvation)” to sponsor my NFL What the Heck Pick™ of the week.

The burger people have been strangely reluctant to buy in, but their loss could be your gain. Think outside the Op-Ed page, people. Make me an offer.

Patriots to lose in the Super Bowl? Crazy camera angles are the greatest? Chris Berman, golden voice for the ages? NHL owners make MENSA look like a remedial reading class? You bet!

This column believes in the free market, and we’re open for business, baby. No typist left behind.

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This column should ankle for H’w'd [PERMALINK]

“Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry told TV writers over the weekend that Terrell Owens was a substitute in that “Monday Night Football” promo with Nicollette Sheridan that caused such a fuss two months ago that you almost remember how outraged you were. The original skit called for Sheridan, who jumped into Owens’ arms apparently in the nude, to jump into the arms of John Madden. But the announcer said no because he doesn’t like doing bits not related to football.

Ahead of the curve again. Maybe I should work in TV

The next week, ABC played it straight with the opening segment for the Monday night game. I suggested the network could have gotten big laughs by showing any player from that game’s home team, the Chiefs, “alone at his locker, as Owens was, when he’s approached by a figure in a burqa. The player tries to talk to the figure, asking what she wants, what she’s doing there. No answer. Finally, he pulls the burqa off to reveal the figure to be … John Madden!

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“‘Hey!’ a smiling Madden says. ‘What about my needs?’”

Of course, I wasn’t serious.

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Good riddance to Wisconsin’s streak [PERMALINK]

That was a pretty great basketball game in Madison, Wis., Tuesday night, No. 1 Illinois beating No. 18 Wisconsin 75-65 and ending its 38-game home winning streak. The game was closer than that final margin, which was padded in the last minute, garbage time.

I was pulling for the Badgers a little because they were the underdog, but I’m kind of glad they lost because I was tired of hearing about that home winning streak. Not to put too fine a point on it, but who cares about home winning streaks?

I suppose it’s a mildly interesting factoid that Wisconsin had that run going, but with all the attention the streak got you’d think Illinois just beat John Wooden’s Bruins.

It didn’t. In college basketball, a long home winning streak is more likely to result from having a soft home schedule than being a truly great team. Wisconsin is a good team, not a superlative one.

The Badgers are 3-3 on the road, having lost to Pepperdine (12-9, 2-4 in the West Coast Conference), Marquette (14-4, 2-3 in Conference USA) and Indiana (9-7, 4-1 in the Big Ten). Not an elite team in the bunch. They’ve won at Rutgers and Purdue, both losing teams, and middling Michigan (12-7, 3-2 in the Big Ten).

Wisconsin had some nice wins in its first 10 home games this year before the streak ended. The Badgers beat Alabama and Michigan State, both ranked in the teens, and good but not great Maryland. They also won a Big Ten game against Ohio State, which is 1-4 in the conference.

But here’s the rest of the non-conference schedule: Penn, UC-Santa Barbara, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, North Carolina-Greensboro and Western Carolina. Those wins prove that Wisconsin would be a force to be reckoned with in the Horizon League or the Southern Conference, but not much else.

Last year’s home docket featured the two state-school rivals, plus Marquette — an NIT team — Eastern Illinois, Rutgers, Detroit and College of Charleston.

What I’m trying to say is that that long home winning streak doesn’t look as impressive when you look a little more closely. It’s certainly not easy to go more than a year without losing at home. It’s not easy to go a conference season without losing at home, even in a conference as weak as the Big Ten has been lately. But it’s not that big a deal. How much of that 38-game streak was guaranteed-win padding? A third?

The nation’s longest streak is now 25. I’m telling you this so you can say, “Who cares!” It belongs to Oklahoma State, conquerer at home of Northwestern State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Sam Houston State and Northwest Oklahoma State. The next longest, 22, belongs to Air Force, which is unranked and will have to win the Mountain West to make the Tournament, and after that comes Southeast Louisiana at 20. The Lions are 12-6 overall and tied for first in the Southeast Conference.

Home win streaks don’t tell us much. Someone please beat the Cowboys in Stillwater before theirs becomes annoyingly hyped.

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