Bob Smizik: Winning, not geography, might be Burnett’s preference

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• There's been lots of speculation on where A.J. Burnett will end up pitching, but little actual information. To the best of my knowledge, Burnett has yet to utter a word about his contract or his status this winter. This looks to be a completely under-the-radar deal. The popular consensus is he wants to stay close to home. My guess is he wants to go out a winner and geography will be third to victory -- which will be second to money.

• The Super Bowl might have been a dud from a competitive standpoint, but its estimated TV audience of 111.5 million viewers was the largest in the history of the game, which means, of course, the largest in the history of U.S. television. It was the fourth time in five years the game set a viewing record. Someone please remind me how Roger Goodell is ruining the sport.

• How will we know when the NHL has risen from being a distant fourth among the major pro sports leagues? When it is sure enough of itself to thumb its nose at the Olympics and tell the world the Stanley Cup is more important than a gold medal. It might claim to say that now but the facts -- abandoning its regular season for more than two weeks -- say otherwise.

• In his final NFL rankings, Peter King of SI.com had the Steelers 14th and said this about them: "Most important job for the Steelers this offseason isn’t going to be personnel addition. It’s going to be cap subtraction."

• Sign of the times: The Parade All-American High School Football Lineup was announced Saturday and included 57 players. Of that number, there were none from Pennsylvania and one from Ohio.

• In discussing Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke, who fell off a cliff in the second half of last season after making the All-Star team, Dan Szymborski of ESPN.com makes these salient points: "Soft-tossers who don't strike anybody out are generally poor long-term bets, and the ones who do survive tend to have excellent control (or are knuckleballers). Seeing as Locke led the National League in walks allowed, we can't praise his command."

• Peyton Manning is on record as saying his health will determine whether he plays in the 2014 season. That would provide a convenient out for Manning, but it’s hard to imagine him walking away with the taste of that horrible showing against Seattle in his mouth.

• Syracuse-Duke was one of those games that outdid the hype. What an athletic contest! No disrespect intended but what happened 18 hours later with Pitt and Virginia, it was almost a different sport.

• In his early picks on the National League postseason teams, Buster Olney has one shocker. As might be expected, he picked Washington, St. Louis and Los Angeles to win division titles. Atlanta, as one wildcard, was not a surprise but his choice of San Diego as the other was quite the shocker.

• The MLB Network ranked Neil Walker as the eighth best second baseman.

• London Perrantes, a teenage freshman point guard for Virginia, had a shot so off the mark in the first half against Pitt Sunday that it touched nothing, which is famously known as an air ball. This prompted the much-celebrated Pitt student section, known as the Oakland zoo, to chant "air ball, air ball, air ball" not only immediately after the shot but every time Perrantes touched the ball for most of the remainder of the game. Some people consider this good fun. I would call it taunting. And, yes, I know, some people consider taunting good fun.

• More than a century ago, one of the founding principles of college athletics was the promotion of sportsmanship.

• Definition of having too much time on your hands: Pondering the Hall of Fame credentials of Lance Berkman.

• The end of the much-maligned and truly dreadful Pro Bowl is nowhere in sight. It drew 11.7 million viewers last month, which means, among other sports, it is outdrawn by the World Series and the NBA Finals and not much else. Such numbers prove once again the hold the NFL has on the sporting public.

• Words of wisdom from a man who has a lot of them, Mike Krzyzewski, after the epic Duke-Syracuse game Saturday, the first meeting between the teams in the ACC: "Great rivalries don't have to be built on hatred. They're built on respect, on a respect for excellence."

• Jayson Stark does a excellent job of debunking the notion that the same teams win every year in MLB and that the NFL has true parity. Some of the better information he provided: Baseball hasn't had a season in which more than half of its playoff teams repeated since 2005; the NFL is working on a streak of five straight seasons in which at least half of its playoff teams were repeaters. Six NFL teams have not had a winning record for the past five years; only two MLB teams fall into that category.

• ESPN.com’s Keith Law calls left-handed hitting Jaff Decker, recently acquired by the Pirates from San Diego, an "on-base machine," who would be "a good platoon right fielder."


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