Expect the unexpected (sometimes)

Phil Consuegra

Surprises, surprises. If there’s one thing I love, it’s always a good surprise. Especially when it comes to the sports world. So why can’t anyone point them out? Let me try to shed some light on some of the biggest sports surprises (and no surprises) this season. Read on, and try not to be surprised.

Surprise! The Cleveland Indians are actually in the playoff hunt. The Tribe has proven that they are among the baseball elite by hanging in the Wild Card race with the Yankees and then making it a race with the White Sox for the AL Central. Bob Wickman is nearly automatic. Kevin Millwood is the AL leader in ERA. This team is actually for real, and is this year’s Cinderella Story. Minnesota who?

No surprise: The Philadelphia Phillies are choking. Come on, you didn’t really think they’d make the playoffs with that pitching staff, did you?

Surprise! The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2. Some people thought (like every year) that this was the year for the Vikes to make the big game. No Randy Moss equals ineffective Daunte Culpepper. Sorry Vikes, but without a standout receiver, this team is pretty worthless.

No surprise: the Chargers are 0-2. Did anyone think that Drew Brees’ last season was for real? A contract year will always bring out the best in professional athletes.

Surprise! The New England Patriots are 1-1. No one expected that kind of performance against Carolina. But hey, if you’re going to get the kinks out – that was the time to do it.

No surprise: The Steelers are mad good. Bill Cowher has his eyes on actually winning the big one this year. If they play their cards right – and can get past the Patriots – he may just get his wish.

Surprise! Oklahoma is out of the Top 25 and falling fast. No one could have thought it would be this bad. The loss to TCU was weak, but come on, blown out by UCLA? The Bruins are underrated, but at least give ’em a game!

No surprise: Texas, in my opinion, is clearly the best team in college football. It’s no easy task to go into the Horseshoe and beat Ohio State. Vincent Young will be in contention for the Heisman, and USC better be ready for a beating in the Rose Bowl.

Surprise! The NHL is back with a vengeance. They screwed up with the lockout, but man did they make up for it with some impressive off-season moves (see: shootouts after overtime). Get this: the Penguins and the Thrashers are among the top teams in the league. The Devils will be toward the bottom. Pittsburgh and Atlanta are actually excited about hockey again. Wow, what a salary cap can do to sports.

No surprise: Practically the only team to not capitalize (no pun intended) on the NHL re-shifting is the Washington Capitals. This team could maybe compete with some local college teams. Will they please give our nation’s capital something to cheer about?

Surprise! The Sacramento Monarchs won the WNBA title.

No surprise: No one watched it happen.

Surprise! Georgia Tech is back on the rise. After going into Auburn and shocking the Tigers, the Yellow Jackets are back in the Top 25 and have upset on their minds this week against Virginia Tech. If only Reggie Ball were healthy…

No surprise: Dave Wannstedt has actually made Pitt worse. Couldn’t cut it in the NFL, can’t cut it in the NCAA either.

Surprise! After a dismal start to the season, the Oakland Athletics are in the middle of the race for the AL West, just a game and a half back from the Angels. Now this is the kind of thing we love to see in sports.

No surprise: The Washington Nationals, after bursting out of the gates leading the division by almost seven games, have faded into the depths of the NL East. It was heartwarming while it lasted, but this team will be back next year.

Surprise! The best player on the PGA Tour at this very moment? Retief Goosen.

No surprise: Don’t kid yourself. Tiger is still the best player in the world.

Surprise! James Blake is back in tennis and looking better than ever. The sentimental favorite in New York has beaten injuries and cancer, and has never wanted a title more than he has now. Look out, tennis world – a star is back.

No surprise: Blake can work all he wants, no one will ever be as good as Roger Federer.

Surprise! That’s all the surprises I had room for.

No surprise: Fortunately, for you all, I will be back next week.