Today in sports: Analyzing the historic greatness of Sunday's Australian Open final, the Carolina Panthers have an aggressive new logo, and the problem with baseball's new playoff format.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig said over the weekend that he's pressing ahead with his plan to add an extra wild card playoff team next season, an idea we're still not excited about, but at least now understand thanks to MLB.com columnist Richard Justice. "There will be a second Wild Card team in each league, but there will not be an additional postseason series," Justice explains. "Instead, the two Wild Card teams will engage in a one-game playoff for the right to go on to the Division Series." And despite Selig's assurances, the expanded playoff format may not kick in until 2013, because the schedule for the upcoming season is already locked, without any space allocated for the new winner take-all wild card round. In past seasons, this wouldn't be a problem, but a source tells the AP that under the terms of the game's new collective bargaining agreement, "ties for division titles will be broken on the field" with a one-game playoff the day after the regular season. Since the loser of that game could conceivably then have to play in the wild card tiebreaker, the union wants to make sure enough travel time is allocated, which could imperil the October 8 start of the best-of-five Division Series. Negotiators from the league and players' union are going to take up the subject this week, and final decision will be made no later March 1. [MLB.com]
The New York Post valiantly tries to put a human face on this year's Super Bowl with a piece about New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who will be covered Sunday by New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty. Both went to high school in Northern New Jersey and, according to The Post, McCourty is "the guy who took [Cruz's] scholarship" to Rutgers, thus forcing Cruz to play his college ball at the University of Massachusetts, a Division-1AA program. This narrative doesn't exactly hang together, as McCourty's brother Jason (a cornerback with the Tennessee Titans) pointed out on the Twitter account he shares with his brother, that Devin McCourty graduated high school in 2005, while Cruz graduated in 2004. "So the scholarship wasn't a battle," he explains. [New York Post]
How great was yesterday's 5-hour, 53 minute matchup between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the final round of the Australian Open? Well, ESPN.com tennis writer Ravi Ubha has already gone ahead and proclaimed it the greatest Grand Slam men's singles final in history. Grantland's Brian Phillips compared Djokovic's win to "old-school naval warfare" and said that in a just world, Nadal's loss would be "a bigger honor than winning the tournament under less amazing circumstances." If you didn't get up at 3:30 a.m. EST to watch it, or just want to relive it, ESPN has the entire match available online. [Fox Sports]
For the first time since entering the NFL in 1995, the Carolina Panthers have changed their logo. They're keeping the oh-so-mid-90s aqua and black color scheme, but according to the team, the new design offers an "aggressive, contemporary look" that is also "more three-dimensional for ever-increasing digital use." Based on our side-by-side comparison of the old logo (left) and the new one (right), they've also touched up their graying whiskers.
The decision by former Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano to leave the school and coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is going to cost him $800,000. Of that amount, $500,000 has to be paid to the school within the next 30 days, as part of a buyout penalty in Schiano's contract. [Newark Star-Ledger]
If you landed zero and zero in your Super Bowl box pool, The Wall Street Journal has some good news: that's the best box you can have, based on their exhaustive and interactive look at the quarter-end score of every NFL game this season. The worst pair of numbers? That would be a pair of fives. [The Wall Street Journal]