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07/21/2014

Rory Takes Liverpool!

[Posted Sunday PM]

NFL Quiz: [Hey, training camps open this week!] Name the three longest-tenured coaches in the league today. Answer below.

The Open Championship...Rory gets No. 3

It’s official...we’ve been looking for the next Tiger Woods and it’s Rory McIlroy. Pretty easy statement to make now that Rory has joined Tiger and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to win three majors by age 25; Rory winning Sunday at Royal Liverpool by two over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy’s two previous major victories were by eight shots each at the 2011 U.S. Open (Congressional) and 2012 PGA (Kiawah).

Golf has needed a shot in the arm as Tiger struggles mightily in his comeback from back surgery, and Phil Mickelson is simply getting old, and Rory supplied it.

How great can Rory be? Well look at the other two in the exclusive club he just joined. From here it’s about health and motivation.

--10 years ago, as you are all aware of by now, McIlroy’s father, Gerry, and three friends made a legal bet of 400 British pounds (100 each, equivalent to $170 currently) that the then-15-year-old Rory would win the Open Championship by the age of 26. The odds were 500-1.

So with Rory at 25 years, 2 months and 16 days on Sunday, his father and friends were to have collected 200,000 pounds, or roughly $340,000 ($85,000 each).

But wait...that was the standard story this week, only after Rory won, Ladbrokes confirmed that Gerry had two of those bets, so he takes home $170,000 ($171,000 at current currency rates).

And it was only two other friends, not three, and their bets weren’t the same 500/1 as first believed and I’m thus not including them for the archives, except to say the other two will receive a combined $136,700, according to ESPN.com.

McIlroy won $1.66 million himself.

--Congrats to 64-year-old Tom Watson for making the cut. Among those who didn’t were Lee Westwood (who has now missed four cuts in a row...rather worrisome), Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed (self-proclaimed “top five in the world”), Ernie Els and Webb Simpson.

The elder Watson shot a final round 68. Next year he has been granted a special exemption to finish his Open career at St. Andrews. We’ll all be pulling for him to somehow make the cut in that one.

Ernie Els never recovered from his first drive of the tournament, which hit a spectator in the face. The victim was a bloody mess and hospitalized, but soon released. Ernie shot a 79. Phil Mickelson said he tried to comfort Ernie but it was no use.

Nick Faldo gave it another go but went 76-77.

And hats off to factory worker John Singleton, who makes paints and varnishes in a local Liverpool area resin factory, but qualified for Hoylake. He opened with a 78, but then shot 70 in the second round and while he didn’t make the cut, the 30-year-old is suddenly rethinking whether he should attempt to make a go of the sport for a career.

--Back to Rickie Fowler, he is the only golfer with three top fives in the majors this year, including back-to-back seconds the last two. [Yet he has missed the cut in seven tournaments for the full wraparound season going back to last fall.]

--McIlroy had a 396 yard drive on No. 17 in Friday’s round.

--Pretty amazing that for the first time in Open history, on Saturday they went off two tees, in threesomes, to avoid the weather and it proved to be a very smart move. No players complained about this one, even if some fans thought it was giving Rory a big advantage. Conditions proved to be unplayable just 15-30 minutes after the round was wrapped up and that would have meant, in all likelihood, a Monday finish.

--For the record, Tiger won 14 of his first 46 majors and is now 0 for his last 19, with just two top 3s. He finished 60th this week, his worst 72-hole finish in a major...69-77-73-75...+6.

Afterwards, Tiger said he wants to be one of Tom Watson’s three captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup. Watson has to make the three at-large selections following the second FedEx Cup event, which ends Sept. 1, with the picks made the next day.

So Tiger better show his stuff at the PGA and then the first two FedEx Cup tournaments. I’m guessing if he just has three top 20s in them, Watson will pick him (and I wouldn’t disagree with that). You have to be realistic who you’re dealing with.

But...first he has to qualify for the FedEx Cup!...and that requires top-three finishes in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA. Of course Tiger has cleaned up at Firestone.

Watson, who beat Tiger this week, said, “If he doesn’t make the FedEx Cup, what do I do then?”

Phil Mickelson isn’t a lock either.

--Sergio’s second-place finish was his fourth in a major.

--Martin Kaymer, who won The Players Championship and the U.S. Open this year, finished 70th.

--But Mickelson at least had a solid 68 in the final round to finish T-23.

--Kudos to Jim Furyk for his sterling 4th round 65 that placed him fourth at -13.

--Meanwhile, Rory’s former fiancée, Caroline Wozniacki, ironically won her first WTA tennis title in nine months in taking the Istanbul Cup on Sunday.

What’s good about this is it adds a little more drama, perhaps, for the upcoming U.S. Tennis Open if Caroline’s game is really back. She had dropped to No. 15 in the world after rising to No. 1 earlier, despite never winning a Grand Slam event.

--I saw another story that the golf course that Gil Hanse designed for the 2016 Olympics in Rio remains hopelessly behind in its construction (despite what the R&A’s Peter Dawson said Sunday). The International Golf Federation’s Ty Votaw (who’s also a PGA Tour exec) said the Brazilian government is ultimately responsible.

Sodding has only recently begun. The goal is to have the grassing complete by November, but if that comes to pass, that means a test tournament couldn’t be held until just months before the Olympics.

Dawson confirmed that the Olympic tournament will be 72-hole stroke-play events for 60 men and 60 women. The fields will be based on world rankings as of July 11, 2016.

The top 15 players in the world will be eligible, but no more than four from any one country. The IGF will then go down the rankings until the field has been filled. Brazil, as host, will be granted at least one male and one female.

This should be a pisser. There will be tremendous competition from the likes of the U.S., Australia, various European countries, South Africa, Japan, Korea and the like to be among the four to qualify in your country. So beginning next summer this will be the tournament within the tournament for the following 12 months.

Of course everything I just mentioned holds true for the women. The competition for the four U.S. slots will be fierce. Imagine for the Koreans! [Alistair Tait / Golfweek]

--There’s word major progress has been made towards putting together a senior Ryder Cup for fall 2015. 10 players, not 12. I’d be afraid some of the guys would have heart attacks if they missed a critical 3-footer.

While jogging after The Open today I also came up with the idea that each side should have to have two 60-year-olds. Maybe hold a little 18-holer to determine the qualifiers (perfect for Golf Channel) if they aren’t already on the list.

Ball Bits

--It’s official. After losing Saturday and Sunday to the lowly Padres, the Mets are ‘sellers.’ Pathetic. They scored one run in the two games.

--CC Sabathia is having season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He has vowed he’ll be ready for spring training and if the surgery is successful no reason why he wouldn’t.

But...if the initial surgery doesn’t work, then microfracture surgery would be required and that’s likely career ending, taking into account who it is, his age, size...just laying out the facts.

So we wish CC good luck.

Having lost 4/5s of their Opening Day rotation to injury now, including Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, at least new acquisition Brandon McCarthy was electric in a 7-1 win over the Reds Saturday at the Little Bandbox formerly known as Yankee Stadium.

[The Yanks did storm out of the gate following the All-Star break and swept the Reds to stay in the playoff hunt.]

--The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Orange County made a huge acquisition in picking up All-Star closer Huston Street from the San Diego Padres for a bunch of minor leaguers. Street, 30, has 24 saves in 25 opportunities and a 1.09 ERA.

[Street threw a scoreless inning in his debut on Saturday for the Angels.]

Street was very classy in his statements about the Padres’ organization, which has been struggling, to say the least.

Recently the Angels also picked up Pirates closer Jason Grilli.

--Strange situation in Houston as the Astros failed to come to terms with the first pick in this year’s draft, San Diego high school left-hander Brady Aiken. They initially offered him a $6.5 million signing bonus, but then the team expressed concern over Aiken’s elbow ligament and lowered the offer.

The Major League Baseball Players Association has expressed its displeasure, especially with Houston failing to come to terms with their fifth-round pick as well.

“Today, two young men should be one step closer to realizing their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers,” union head Tony Clark said.

Major League Baseball is defending the Astros.

Aiken was just the third high school pitcher to be selected first overall, joining fellow lefties Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees) and David Clyde (1973, Rangers). Aiken will now go to UCLA, along with the fifth-round selection, pitcher Jacob Nix.

--In an article on Tommy John surgery, Stan Conte, the Dodgers’ vice president of medical services, said studies show three in four pitchers return from it at least as effective as they were before the procedure.

“People think Tommy John surgery is 90-95% successful. That’s not true,” Conte said.

And those studies track pitchers in the majors, not high school.

Bill Shaikin in the L.A. Times had a piece on Lucas Giolito, who was drafted by the Nationals out of Harvard-Westlake High with the 16th pick in the 2012 MLB draft despite the fact he was headed for TJ surgery. The kid “was hitting 100mph” his senior year and projected as the first overall pick in the draft. Then his elbow gave out, but the Nats still took him in the first round and gave him a $2.925 million bonus.

So how’s he doing? He played in the Futures Game last week and his fastball hit 97, one year after his return from surgery.

But Conte said the perception is that pitchers usually return after 12 months and the reality is closer to 17 months. [The Mets have a pitcher, Jeremy Hefner, who has just started pitching again in the minors only 11 months after surgery.]

Conte added there appears to be an increased risk of the new ligament rupturing for the first two to three years after the pitcher returns.

Giolito said the Nationals are guiding him the way they did with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

Here’s the thing. The sport is still trying to figure out what the correct protocols are and how to prevent the injury in the first place.

Dr. James Andrews recently released a position paper citing “a strong link between too much competitive pitching [as a youngster] and arm injuries.”

Said Giolito: “There are 10-year-old travel ball kids playing hundreds and thousands of innings a year of nonstop baseball. I don’t think that’s good.” [Sure isn’t, for all number of reasons.]

Giolito said he did not pitch much until 14 or 15, so overuse can’t be blamed.

“It was a brutal combination of me throwing too hard,” he said, “and my body not being developed enough.”

--As noted in a Wall Street Journal piece by Jo Craven McGinty, there were 2,132 interleague games played from 1997 through 2013 and the A.L. won 57.5% of the games played at home, while the N.L. won 52.7% of its home contests. The difference is the DH. American League teams build their rosters around the position in terms of having a slugger for the role, while National League teams improvise when they play their games in A.L. parks.

Some, such as Bill James, just say the A.L. teams were better in this era. But I agree with Mets analyst Bobby Ojeda, who says, “When a National League team goes to an American League yard, they don’t have that bat on their bench. It’s not even close.”

For example when an N.L. team uses its best hitter as the DH, a less skillful hitter is replacing him in the lineup.

--Mike Lupica / New York Daily News...on what the Yankees lose when Derek Jeter retires.

“(Once) Jeter is gone, there is no one who connects to (the Yankees dynasty era). There really is no one.... You could never properly quantify what Jeter has meant to the brand, and still means.

Tim Duncan will never be treated or considered the way Jeter has been, like that kind of surpassing and iconic star of this time in American sports. Duncan never had New York, never had the Yankees, never was marketed that way because he frankly didn’t want to be. But the two of them are remarkably the same, and not just because they have each won five championships.

“Duncan came along in 1997, one year after Jeter became the Yankee starter at shortstop. Only now, after all the winning he has done with the Spurs, he still is part of the Core Three in San Antonio along with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. They just won another NBA title together a month ago, and thrilled us all the way they did. The supporting cast in San Antonio, incidentally, has been replenished without spending a fortune year after year – after year – on hired guns.”

It’s funny the sudden comparisons between Duncan and Jeter. Derek has something to do with this.

Harvey Araton / New York Times...on Jeter’s All-Star Game appearance...

“(Jeter’s legacy) represents baseball’s most enduring and endearing qualities, an appreciation of nuance that sets it apart from its primary competition.

“Consider, for instance, how Tim Duncan wasn’t even voted by fans or coaches to the NBA All-Star Game last February. In the context of what Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs achieved in the playoffs, let’s assume the coaches will not repeat that egregious oversight next season, in what could be the final go-round for one of that sport’s purest fundamental, team-oriented stars.

“In many measures of style and substance, Duncan is the Jeter of pro basketball, so it should be no surprise that Jeter, a pretty fair high school basketball player, has long been a Duncan fan and was pleased to hear that Duncan, when told of Jeter’s admiration, was genuinely flattered.

“ ‘I have not met him, but Tim is a guy who does everything right on the basketball court,’ Jeter said. ‘I mean, he’s not dunking from half court or spinning around and doing 360s. Fundamentally, he’s as good as anyone who’s ever played the game.’

“Jeter scoffed at the popular opinion that Duncan wasn’t sexy enough to sell the game, adding that this would be the view only of those who didn’t understand basketball.

“ ‘We’re in an atmosphere or culture where it’s all about the highlights,’ he said. ‘But when you get to the playoffs, it’s about finding a way to win games and championships.’

“Reminded that he and Duncan had each won five rings, Jeter flashed a crooked smile.

“ ‘Yeah, very true,’ he said.”

[Ratings for the All-Star Game ticked up this year, owing to Jeter’s farewell and thus breaking a downward trend.]

--Meanwhile, the Yankees are holding a special day for Jeter on Sept. 7, which may seem a little early but for a number of reasons makes sense, except...it’s the NFL’s opening Sunday.

But this is classic Yankees. They have upped the cheapest ticket for the game from $16 to $250!

Outrageous! Prices for the best seats sold on its Web site are up from $5,550 to $9,999. [I just did a cursory check on the most expensive and none were available so can’t verify this information from the Sunday New York Post.]

--The Nationals’ Anthony Rendon caught a little heat the other day for telling the Washington Post during the All-Star break, “I don’t watch baseball – it’s too long and boring.”

Rendon had just missed making the All-Star Game in final balloting and he went on to say he never watched baseball growing up – he prefers the History Channel – and doesn’t talk about the game when he visits his family.

His manager, Matt Williams, defended him.

“Anthony’s just being funny. You know, baseball, when you watch it and you play it every day, can get boring. Because, you know, you’re always there in it. And when you step outside of it, it’s not easy to watch for a player.”

Ahh, how about to see the tendencies of other teams and pitchers, Skipper?]

--Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson, Mike, is tearing it up in the Orioles’ farm system this year. He is hitting .314, 11 HR 63 RBI, 13 triples! .910 OPS.

The 23-year-old center fielder was drafted by the Red Sox in 2009 out of high school, but opted to play at Vanderbilt instead and the Orioles drafted him in the 14th round in 2013.

He was just promoted to AA Bowie and thru Saturday was 6-for-12 there.

--Going to be interesting to see if the Dodgers move Matt Kemp before the trade deadline. Granted, he still has $107 million remaining on his contract from 2015-2019 and L.A. would have to pick up a big chunk of the money, plus he has a no-trade clause.

But Kemp, who back in 2011 was 39-126, .324, and should have been MVP but lost out to Ryan Braun, has been injury-riddled since though now is seemingly healthy and still just 29.

The thing is he’s not the same player. 8 HR 35 RBI, .265 in 88 games and not playing every day with the Dodgers having a crowded outfield.

Kemp did say, however, he is now open to a trade.

NBA Fever

--Minnesota and Cleveland are still working on a trade that would send Kevin Love to the Cavs for No.1 overall picks the past two seasons, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Other players and considerations are probably part of any deal.

I didn’t realize that if the Cavs go ahead and sign Wiggins, they would have to wait 30 days before trading him.

[Bennett, by the way, has played very well in the summer league thus far. He’s apparently in much better shape. Ergo, if I’m the T’Wolves, I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand getting Wiggins and Bennett and probably another future first-rounder for Love.]

--A Los Angeles judge ruled against Donald Sterling and his attempt to stop his wife’s sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer. “Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas said he had no authority to throw out the testimony and written reports of two doctors who in May found Sterling mentally incapable of continuing as a trustee of the Sterling Family Trust.” [James Rainey / Los Angeles Times]

The judge also sharply limited testimony he will hear from Sterling’s lawyers when they begin presenting their side on Monday.

Ballmer’s attorney, Adam (“Evergreen”) Streisand, told the judge to hurry up so a deal can be completed.

NFL

--This whole Chris Kluwe deal frankly bores the hell out of me and I’m not even going to go over the decision by the Vikings to suspend their special teams coordinator for three games over a homophobic remark he allegedly made that Kluwe, the Vikings’ former punter, insisted be investigated, with Kluwe still not satisfied after the Vikings conducted an investigation.

Kluwe was cut in 2013 and through his attorney said he’ll still file suit against the Vikings and seek damages of $10 million. Everyone in this story is a freakin’ jerk.

Len Bias

I saw the other day that the University of Maryland announced it would induct Len Bias into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in October, and my initial reaction was, good...only it should have been done at halftime of one of the Terrapins’ last ACC basketball games. [Or, preferably, years earlier.]

Bias was drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics in June 1986, but died two days later from cardiac arrest related to a cocaine overdose.

Like many of you I watched Len Bias play a ton (plus I worked in Washington, D.C., briefly, when he was at College Park) and he was as good a college basketball player as there’s ever been. He was a man among boys. Amazing talent.

[Bias’ senior year he averaged 23.2 ppg, 7.0 reb., .544 FG, .864 FT...all from a 6’8” athlete with strength and grace. He was a consensus first-team All-American.]

And, yes, he threw it all away...but he is still worthy of the honor.

Alas, all are not in agreement.

John Feinstein / Washington Post

“More than 28 years after his death rocked the sports world, Len Bias is going to be inducted to the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame...

“Almost 25 years after being banned from baseball for betting on games, Pete Rose still is begging to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The question is this: Should either one of them be in any hall of fame?....

“(Greatness) as a player has never been an issue with either Rose or Bias. Rose is banned from baseball and can’t be inducted to Cooperstown unless he is reinstated by Commissioner Bud Selig or whoever replaces Selig next year. Bias’ number has hung from the Comcast Center rafters for years, but the school has never seen fit to make him a Hall of Famer until now.

“There is no doubt a stain of mendacity on Rose that never fell on Bias. Rose repeatedly lied in depositions for the Dowd Report, the findings of which led to Rose accepting a ban from baseball in 1989. Rose only stopped lying about betting on baseball in 2004 because he was peddling a book and because he believed – as he said as recently as this week – that if he finally fessed up, Selig would reinstate him. He didn’t do it because his conscience caught up with him but because he was trying to sell books and because he thought he would get off the hook if he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, you got me.’

“It hasn’t worked out that way. And Rose has become a pathetic figure... His latest rationale is that what he did wasn’t as bad as what steroid users did. That’s debatable – but it’s also irrelevant to his case for induction.

“There’s a character clause on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, which is why no one should ever vote for Rose or any of those who took steroids and lied about taking them.

“There also is a character clause attached to the Maryland Hall of Fame. Apparently the committee decided 28 years was enough time either to look the other way or believe that dying of a cocaine overdose doesn’t represent a major character flaw....

“The question, ultimately, in deciding whether someone is a hall of famer is whether they elevated their sport, their school or their profession.

“Some sports halls of fame rely strictly on numbers, even though they often paint an incomplete picture.

“In the cases of Bias and Rose, there is no ignoring the numbers – but they can’t stand alone in making final judgment.

“Baseball was sullied and damaged by Rose’s actions, which should mean the privilege of being in the Hall of Fame is taken from him in spite of his remarkable achievements.

“The same, sadly, should be true of Bias. There’s no questioning he lit up the Maryland campus for four years. But there’s also no questioning he left it in darkness for many years in the wake of his death.

“Unlike Rose, Bias should be forgiven. He was young and foolish and paid the most horrible price possible for his mistake. But, like Rose, he should not be honored.

Pitied, certainly. But honored? No.

Jeff Ermann / Washington Post

The time to stop punishing Len Bias passed long ago.

“It’s true, his death cast a cloud over the University of Maryland. And how he died won’t be celebrated. But short of an apology from the grave, what do we need to justify celebrating his basketball career?

“Even with powerful backing from Gary Williams – the very man who trudged through the aftershock of the Bias tragedy – John Feinstein’s objection to Maryland inducting Bias into its Hall of Fame feels sanctimonious and simplistic. On-court brilliance aside, there’s one difference between Len Bias and you, me or anyone else who can remember doing something dangerous or illegal as a young adult: He died for his mistake.

“Whether Bias was using cocaine for the first time or not, at this point, is nothing more than a curiosity. It matters none.  He was not an axe murderer, or even a petty thief. His wasn’t a crime against humanity or an affront to his sport’s integrity, like Pete Rose’s gambling. He was a star athlete who made an ill-fated decision to use when so many others were too.

“What percentage of politicians, players and other celebrities we honor daily have done the same or worse?

“How many star athletes, even hall of famers, have been arrested, done drugs, cheated, used steroids, driven drunk, and so on? Had Bias only been arrested and gone on to make things right like in so many other redemption stories, we wouldn’t be having this conversation nearly 30 years later.

Let’s ditch the silly pretenses. Honoring Bias’ greatness on the basketball court and his sentimental importance to fans isn’t condoning drugs to the youth. Neither athletes nor the small segment of young kids who know his story are going to view it as justification to do cocaine. After all, it did kill him, right?

The Rose analogy is equally flawed, and Feinstein admits as much but leans on it anyway. Rose repeatedly and intentionally violated one of the most fundamental laws of competition, may have fixed games, lied about it endlessly and proved to be an all-around weasel. There’s no parallel....

“Had Feinstein written this column 20 years ago, it would’ve had more merit. But by now, the remaining Bias baggage is mostly sadness and curiosity – not resentment or controversy. Williams willed his way through it all and won a national title, lifting the dark shadow cast by Bias’ death.

“Boiling it all down, it’s a simple question: what’s the statute of limitations on a 22-year-old college kid doing drugs? By my count, it’s been 28 years.”

I totally concur with Mr. Ermann. I’m the guy, after all, who is solely responsible for putting together a celebration of the athletic career of a local superstar in my town, who, ironically, turned down a football scholarship to Maryland to pursue a major league baseball career. He turned out to be an All-Star, won a batting title and a World Series ring. Oh, he had some issues, but I was incredulous to find out Summit had never honored him for his incredible achievements at my high school, and later, so I set out to do something about it.

I’ll never forget talking to a local city official when I was lining up speakers and support for the event and this guy blasted the man who had become my friend. I bit my tongue, but I wanted to tell the a-hole, ‘That was over 20 years ago! And it wasn’t like he was hurting any of us. He hurt himself.’

You see, right now, I’m remembering what a tremendous hoops player Len Bias was. Good for Maryland for belatedly recognizing this in such a special way.

Stuff

--We note the passing of actor James Garner, 86, a Hollywood fixture for more than 50 years and as likable a leading man as has graced our lifetime.

Garner once said: “I’m a Spencer Tracy-type actor. His idea was to be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth. Most every actor tries to make it something it isn’t [or] looks for the easy way out. I don’t think acting is that difficult if you can put yourself aside and do what the writer wrote.”

Garner was able to glide seamlessly from the big screen to the small one, and back and forth, with ease. From The Great Escape to Maverick, from Grand Prix (incredibly underrated flick) to The Rockford Files.

Garner was born in Norman, Oklahoma, the son of a carpet layer. His mother died when he was 4. After dropping out of high school he joined the Merchant Marines and later served in the Army during the Korean War, where he was wounded in action and earned two Purple Hearts.

How good a guy was James Garner? Oh, you and I really don’t know for sure, I guess, but we know what we saw when he was off screen plus you have this:

He married Lois Clarke two weeks after they met in 1956 and they remained together until his death.

--In Forbes annual list of the world’s most valuable sports teams, Real Madrid comes out on top, with the football club being worth an estimated $3.44 billion. Barcelona is second at $3.2 billion; Manchester United third, $2.81 billion.

The New York Yankees are fourth, $2.5 billion, with the Dallas Cowboys, worth $2.3 billion, in fifth.

The Mets dropped out of the top 50.

--SHARK!!! Authorities in the Bahamas early last week concluded that a 63-year-old chiropractor from Longview, Texas, was attacked by a shark in a night-diving excursion. U.S. Coast Guard crews found only dive gear, but no body, after an exhaustive search that involved Bahamian authorities.

John Petty was part of a multi-day adventure with Florida-based outfitter Jim Abernethy, “a famous but controversial figure among the commercial shark-diving fraternity.”

The normal expedition takes place during daylight hours, with tiger sharks lured in with bait.

Abernethy lost a client to a fatal shark attack in 2008. He himself was bitten on the arm by a lemon shark while diving in the Bahamas in 2011. [Yahoo News]

--There was a story in TIME by Bryan Walsh on Invasive Species and we’ve always been screwing up in this country. Like in 1871, the president of the American Acclimitization Society, Eugene Schieffelin, sought to introduce “useful or interesting” animals and plants to America and later released 60 European starlings in New York’s Central Park, part of his dream to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare to North America. There are now 200 million European starlings in the U.S.

Of course you have Burmese pythons occupying every inch of Florida’s Everglades these days, and the Asian carp, and the Emerald Ash Borer, the Snakehead Fish, the Zebra Mussel, feral hogs....it really sucks.

Speaking of Burmese pythons, you know how the other day I wrote of a 20-footer suspected of being in Lake Hopatcong, N.J.? Turns out it’s an Anaconda, according to a snake expert who has seen it twice, but it has yet to be captured and needless to say the residents around this large body of water are on edge.

--Hundreds of wild boars have begun invading the outskirts of Marseille, France. A campaign for a cull has intensified after a 24-year-old woman was bitten on the arm earlier this month. The boars’ base is in a nearby national park where they are protected. Kind of like the Taliban launching an attack in Afghanistan and then running back into Pakistan afterwards.

Stupidly, some in Marseille are throwing food scraps out of the windows and the boars are getting used to being fed. [Irish Independent]

--My brother alerted me to a lawsuit brought by a New Jersey man against Wal-Mart and Ticketmaster because he couldn’t get the Beach Boys tickets he wanted. An appellate court agreed with the dismissal of what a judge called “the most frivolous complaint I have ever seen.”

Edward M. used a self-service Ticketmaster kiosk at a Wal-Mart to purchase Beach Boys tickets that were advertised to go on sale at 10 a.m.

At 10 a.m. exactly, the guy tried to buy reserved seats for $153 per ticket, but according to his lawsuit, “the opportunity was squandered” because a Wal-Mart employee was not immediately available to complete the transaction.

Instead, the jerk was able to buy “outer perimeter” seats tickets for $91.50 at 10:04 a.m.

The guy then alleges that because he couldn’t get the seats he wanted it was a violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

--We note the passing of legendary blues guitarist, Johnny Winter, at age 70. He died in a Zurich, Switzerland hotel room after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

Winter grew up in Beaumont, Texas, with his younger brother Edgar, who was better known in terms of landing some tunes on the pop charts.

Johnny was more a blues guitarist and in 1988 became the first white musician named to the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

Top 3 songs for the week 7/21/62: #1 “Roses Are Red (My Love)” (Bobby Vinton) #2 “The Wah Watusi” (The Orlons...hasn’t aged well) #3 “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (Ray Charles... timeless...)...and...#4 “The Stripper” (David Rose...ah yes, Noxema commercials...) #5 “Sealed With A Kiss” (Brian Hyland...another great one...) #6 “Wolverton Mountain” (Claude King) #7 “Johnny Get Angry” (Joanie Sommers...she did a lot of Pepsi jingles...) #8 “Speedy Gonzales” (Pat Boone) #9 “Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)” (Dee Dee Sharp) #10 “Palisades Park” (Freddy Cannon...Bergen County, New Jersey...)

NFL Quiz Answer: Three longest-tenured coaches...

Bill Belichick / Pats / 2000
Marvin Lewis / Bengals / 2003...I figured many wouldn’t get him
Tom Coughlin / Giants / 2004

Mike McCarthy / Packers / 2006
Sean Payton / Saints / 2006
Mike Tomlin / Steelers / 2007

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.


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Bar Chat

07/21/2014

Rory Takes Liverpool!

[Posted Sunday PM]

NFL Quiz: [Hey, training camps open this week!] Name the three longest-tenured coaches in the league today. Answer below.

The Open Championship...Rory gets No. 3

It’s official...we’ve been looking for the next Tiger Woods and it’s Rory McIlroy. Pretty easy statement to make now that Rory has joined Tiger and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to win three majors by age 25; Rory winning Sunday at Royal Liverpool by two over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy’s two previous major victories were by eight shots each at the 2011 U.S. Open (Congressional) and 2012 PGA (Kiawah).

Golf has needed a shot in the arm as Tiger struggles mightily in his comeback from back surgery, and Phil Mickelson is simply getting old, and Rory supplied it.

How great can Rory be? Well look at the other two in the exclusive club he just joined. From here it’s about health and motivation.

--10 years ago, as you are all aware of by now, McIlroy’s father, Gerry, and three friends made a legal bet of 400 British pounds (100 each, equivalent to $170 currently) that the then-15-year-old Rory would win the Open Championship by the age of 26. The odds were 500-1.

So with Rory at 25 years, 2 months and 16 days on Sunday, his father and friends were to have collected 200,000 pounds, or roughly $340,000 ($85,000 each).

But wait...that was the standard story this week, only after Rory won, Ladbrokes confirmed that Gerry had two of those bets, so he takes home $170,000 ($171,000 at current currency rates).

And it was only two other friends, not three, and their bets weren’t the same 500/1 as first believed and I’m thus not including them for the archives, except to say the other two will receive a combined $136,700, according to ESPN.com.

McIlroy won $1.66 million himself.

--Congrats to 64-year-old Tom Watson for making the cut. Among those who didn’t were Lee Westwood (who has now missed four cuts in a row...rather worrisome), Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed (self-proclaimed “top five in the world”), Ernie Els and Webb Simpson.

The elder Watson shot a final round 68. Next year he has been granted a special exemption to finish his Open career at St. Andrews. We’ll all be pulling for him to somehow make the cut in that one.

Ernie Els never recovered from his first drive of the tournament, which hit a spectator in the face. The victim was a bloody mess and hospitalized, but soon released. Ernie shot a 79. Phil Mickelson said he tried to comfort Ernie but it was no use.

Nick Faldo gave it another go but went 76-77.

And hats off to factory worker John Singleton, who makes paints and varnishes in a local Liverpool area resin factory, but qualified for Hoylake. He opened with a 78, but then shot 70 in the second round and while he didn’t make the cut, the 30-year-old is suddenly rethinking whether he should attempt to make a go of the sport for a career.

--Back to Rickie Fowler, he is the only golfer with three top fives in the majors this year, including back-to-back seconds the last two. [Yet he has missed the cut in seven tournaments for the full wraparound season going back to last fall.]

--McIlroy had a 396 yard drive on No. 17 in Friday’s round.

--Pretty amazing that for the first time in Open history, on Saturday they went off two tees, in threesomes, to avoid the weather and it proved to be a very smart move. No players complained about this one, even if some fans thought it was giving Rory a big advantage. Conditions proved to be unplayable just 15-30 minutes after the round was wrapped up and that would have meant, in all likelihood, a Monday finish.

--For the record, Tiger won 14 of his first 46 majors and is now 0 for his last 19, with just two top 3s. He finished 60th this week, his worst 72-hole finish in a major...69-77-73-75...+6.

Afterwards, Tiger said he wants to be one of Tom Watson’s three captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup. Watson has to make the three at-large selections following the second FedEx Cup event, which ends Sept. 1, with the picks made the next day.

So Tiger better show his stuff at the PGA and then the first two FedEx Cup tournaments. I’m guessing if he just has three top 20s in them, Watson will pick him (and I wouldn’t disagree with that). You have to be realistic who you’re dealing with.

But...first he has to qualify for the FedEx Cup!...and that requires top-three finishes in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA. Of course Tiger has cleaned up at Firestone.

Watson, who beat Tiger this week, said, “If he doesn’t make the FedEx Cup, what do I do then?”

Phil Mickelson isn’t a lock either.

--Sergio’s second-place finish was his fourth in a major.

--Martin Kaymer, who won The Players Championship and the U.S. Open this year, finished 70th.

--But Mickelson at least had a solid 68 in the final round to finish T-23.

--Kudos to Jim Furyk for his sterling 4th round 65 that placed him fourth at -13.

--Meanwhile, Rory’s former fiancée, Caroline Wozniacki, ironically won her first WTA tennis title in nine months in taking the Istanbul Cup on Sunday.

What’s good about this is it adds a little more drama, perhaps, for the upcoming U.S. Tennis Open if Caroline’s game is really back. She had dropped to No. 15 in the world after rising to No. 1 earlier, despite never winning a Grand Slam event.

--I saw another story that the golf course that Gil Hanse designed for the 2016 Olympics in Rio remains hopelessly behind in its construction (despite what the R&A’s Peter Dawson said Sunday). The International Golf Federation’s Ty Votaw (who’s also a PGA Tour exec) said the Brazilian government is ultimately responsible.

Sodding has only recently begun. The goal is to have the grassing complete by November, but if that comes to pass, that means a test tournament couldn’t be held until just months before the Olympics.

Dawson confirmed that the Olympic tournament will be 72-hole stroke-play events for 60 men and 60 women. The fields will be based on world rankings as of July 11, 2016.

The top 15 players in the world will be eligible, but no more than four from any one country. The IGF will then go down the rankings until the field has been filled. Brazil, as host, will be granted at least one male and one female.

This should be a pisser. There will be tremendous competition from the likes of the U.S., Australia, various European countries, South Africa, Japan, Korea and the like to be among the four to qualify in your country. So beginning next summer this will be the tournament within the tournament for the following 12 months.

Of course everything I just mentioned holds true for the women. The competition for the four U.S. slots will be fierce. Imagine for the Koreans! [Alistair Tait / Golfweek]

--There’s word major progress has been made towards putting together a senior Ryder Cup for fall 2015. 10 players, not 12. I’d be afraid some of the guys would have heart attacks if they missed a critical 3-footer.

While jogging after The Open today I also came up with the idea that each side should have to have two 60-year-olds. Maybe hold a little 18-holer to determine the qualifiers (perfect for Golf Channel) if they aren’t already on the list.

Ball Bits

--It’s official. After losing Saturday and Sunday to the lowly Padres, the Mets are ‘sellers.’ Pathetic. They scored one run in the two games.

--CC Sabathia is having season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He has vowed he’ll be ready for spring training and if the surgery is successful no reason why he wouldn’t.

But...if the initial surgery doesn’t work, then microfracture surgery would be required and that’s likely career ending, taking into account who it is, his age, size...just laying out the facts.

So we wish CC good luck.

Having lost 4/5s of their Opening Day rotation to injury now, including Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, at least new acquisition Brandon McCarthy was electric in a 7-1 win over the Reds Saturday at the Little Bandbox formerly known as Yankee Stadium.

[The Yanks did storm out of the gate following the All-Star break and swept the Reds to stay in the playoff hunt.]

--The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Orange County made a huge acquisition in picking up All-Star closer Huston Street from the San Diego Padres for a bunch of minor leaguers. Street, 30, has 24 saves in 25 opportunities and a 1.09 ERA.

[Street threw a scoreless inning in his debut on Saturday for the Angels.]

Street was very classy in his statements about the Padres’ organization, which has been struggling, to say the least.

Recently the Angels also picked up Pirates closer Jason Grilli.

--Strange situation in Houston as the Astros failed to come to terms with the first pick in this year’s draft, San Diego high school left-hander Brady Aiken. They initially offered him a $6.5 million signing bonus, but then the team expressed concern over Aiken’s elbow ligament and lowered the offer.

The Major League Baseball Players Association has expressed its displeasure, especially with Houston failing to come to terms with their fifth-round pick as well.

“Today, two young men should be one step closer to realizing their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers,” union head Tony Clark said.

Major League Baseball is defending the Astros.

Aiken was just the third high school pitcher to be selected first overall, joining fellow lefties Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees) and David Clyde (1973, Rangers). Aiken will now go to UCLA, along with the fifth-round selection, pitcher Jacob Nix.

--In an article on Tommy John surgery, Stan Conte, the Dodgers’ vice president of medical services, said studies show three in four pitchers return from it at least as effective as they were before the procedure.

“People think Tommy John surgery is 90-95% successful. That’s not true,” Conte said.

And those studies track pitchers in the majors, not high school.

Bill Shaikin in the L.A. Times had a piece on Lucas Giolito, who was drafted by the Nationals out of Harvard-Westlake High with the 16th pick in the 2012 MLB draft despite the fact he was headed for TJ surgery. The kid “was hitting 100mph” his senior year and projected as the first overall pick in the draft. Then his elbow gave out, but the Nats still took him in the first round and gave him a $2.925 million bonus.

So how’s he doing? He played in the Futures Game last week and his fastball hit 97, one year after his return from surgery.

But Conte said the perception is that pitchers usually return after 12 months and the reality is closer to 17 months. [The Mets have a pitcher, Jeremy Hefner, who has just started pitching again in the minors only 11 months after surgery.]

Conte added there appears to be an increased risk of the new ligament rupturing for the first two to three years after the pitcher returns.

Giolito said the Nationals are guiding him the way they did with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

Here’s the thing. The sport is still trying to figure out what the correct protocols are and how to prevent the injury in the first place.

Dr. James Andrews recently released a position paper citing “a strong link between too much competitive pitching [as a youngster] and arm injuries.”

Said Giolito: “There are 10-year-old travel ball kids playing hundreds and thousands of innings a year of nonstop baseball. I don’t think that’s good.” [Sure isn’t, for all number of reasons.]

Giolito said he did not pitch much until 14 or 15, so overuse can’t be blamed.

“It was a brutal combination of me throwing too hard,” he said, “and my body not being developed enough.”

--As noted in a Wall Street Journal piece by Jo Craven McGinty, there were 2,132 interleague games played from 1997 through 2013 and the A.L. won 57.5% of the games played at home, while the N.L. won 52.7% of its home contests. The difference is the DH. American League teams build their rosters around the position in terms of having a slugger for the role, while National League teams improvise when they play their games in A.L. parks.

Some, such as Bill James, just say the A.L. teams were better in this era. But I agree with Mets analyst Bobby Ojeda, who says, “When a National League team goes to an American League yard, they don’t have that bat on their bench. It’s not even close.”

For example when an N.L. team uses its best hitter as the DH, a less skillful hitter is replacing him in the lineup.

--Mike Lupica / New York Daily News...on what the Yankees lose when Derek Jeter retires.

“(Once) Jeter is gone, there is no one who connects to (the Yankees dynasty era). There really is no one.... You could never properly quantify what Jeter has meant to the brand, and still means.

Tim Duncan will never be treated or considered the way Jeter has been, like that kind of surpassing and iconic star of this time in American sports. Duncan never had New York, never had the Yankees, never was marketed that way because he frankly didn’t want to be. But the two of them are remarkably the same, and not just because they have each won five championships.

“Duncan came along in 1997, one year after Jeter became the Yankee starter at shortstop. Only now, after all the winning he has done with the Spurs, he still is part of the Core Three in San Antonio along with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. They just won another NBA title together a month ago, and thrilled us all the way they did. The supporting cast in San Antonio, incidentally, has been replenished without spending a fortune year after year – after year – on hired guns.”

It’s funny the sudden comparisons between Duncan and Jeter. Derek has something to do with this.

Harvey Araton / New York Times...on Jeter’s All-Star Game appearance...

“(Jeter’s legacy) represents baseball’s most enduring and endearing qualities, an appreciation of nuance that sets it apart from its primary competition.

“Consider, for instance, how Tim Duncan wasn’t even voted by fans or coaches to the NBA All-Star Game last February. In the context of what Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs achieved in the playoffs, let’s assume the coaches will not repeat that egregious oversight next season, in what could be the final go-round for one of that sport’s purest fundamental, team-oriented stars.

“In many measures of style and substance, Duncan is the Jeter of pro basketball, so it should be no surprise that Jeter, a pretty fair high school basketball player, has long been a Duncan fan and was pleased to hear that Duncan, when told of Jeter’s admiration, was genuinely flattered.

“ ‘I have not met him, but Tim is a guy who does everything right on the basketball court,’ Jeter said. ‘I mean, he’s not dunking from half court or spinning around and doing 360s. Fundamentally, he’s as good as anyone who’s ever played the game.’

“Jeter scoffed at the popular opinion that Duncan wasn’t sexy enough to sell the game, adding that this would be the view only of those who didn’t understand basketball.

“ ‘We’re in an atmosphere or culture where it’s all about the highlights,’ he said. ‘But when you get to the playoffs, it’s about finding a way to win games and championships.’

“Reminded that he and Duncan had each won five rings, Jeter flashed a crooked smile.

“ ‘Yeah, very true,’ he said.”

[Ratings for the All-Star Game ticked up this year, owing to Jeter’s farewell and thus breaking a downward trend.]

--Meanwhile, the Yankees are holding a special day for Jeter on Sept. 7, which may seem a little early but for a number of reasons makes sense, except...it’s the NFL’s opening Sunday.

But this is classic Yankees. They have upped the cheapest ticket for the game from $16 to $250!

Outrageous! Prices for the best seats sold on its Web site are up from $5,550 to $9,999. [I just did a cursory check on the most expensive and none were available so can’t verify this information from the Sunday New York Post.]

--The Nationals’ Anthony Rendon caught a little heat the other day for telling the Washington Post during the All-Star break, “I don’t watch baseball – it’s too long and boring.”

Rendon had just missed making the All-Star Game in final balloting and he went on to say he never watched baseball growing up – he prefers the History Channel – and doesn’t talk about the game when he visits his family.

His manager, Matt Williams, defended him.

“Anthony’s just being funny. You know, baseball, when you watch it and you play it every day, can get boring. Because, you know, you’re always there in it. And when you step outside of it, it’s not easy to watch for a player.”

Ahh, how about to see the tendencies of other teams and pitchers, Skipper?]

--Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson, Mike, is tearing it up in the Orioles’ farm system this year. He is hitting .314, 11 HR 63 RBI, 13 triples! .910 OPS.

The 23-year-old center fielder was drafted by the Red Sox in 2009 out of high school, but opted to play at Vanderbilt instead and the Orioles drafted him in the 14th round in 2013.

He was just promoted to AA Bowie and thru Saturday was 6-for-12 there.

--Going to be interesting to see if the Dodgers move Matt Kemp before the trade deadline. Granted, he still has $107 million remaining on his contract from 2015-2019 and L.A. would have to pick up a big chunk of the money, plus he has a no-trade clause.

But Kemp, who back in 2011 was 39-126, .324, and should have been MVP but lost out to Ryan Braun, has been injury-riddled since though now is seemingly healthy and still just 29.

The thing is he’s not the same player. 8 HR 35 RBI, .265 in 88 games and not playing every day with the Dodgers having a crowded outfield.

Kemp did say, however, he is now open to a trade.

NBA Fever

--Minnesota and Cleveland are still working on a trade that would send Kevin Love to the Cavs for No.1 overall picks the past two seasons, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Other players and considerations are probably part of any deal.

I didn’t realize that if the Cavs go ahead and sign Wiggins, they would have to wait 30 days before trading him.

[Bennett, by the way, has played very well in the summer league thus far. He’s apparently in much better shape. Ergo, if I’m the T’Wolves, I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand getting Wiggins and Bennett and probably another future first-rounder for Love.]

--A Los Angeles judge ruled against Donald Sterling and his attempt to stop his wife’s sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer. “Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas said he had no authority to throw out the testimony and written reports of two doctors who in May found Sterling mentally incapable of continuing as a trustee of the Sterling Family Trust.” [James Rainey / Los Angeles Times]

The judge also sharply limited testimony he will hear from Sterling’s lawyers when they begin presenting their side on Monday.

Ballmer’s attorney, Adam (“Evergreen”) Streisand, told the judge to hurry up so a deal can be completed.

NFL

--This whole Chris Kluwe deal frankly bores the hell out of me and I’m not even going to go over the decision by the Vikings to suspend their special teams coordinator for three games over a homophobic remark he allegedly made that Kluwe, the Vikings’ former punter, insisted be investigated, with Kluwe still not satisfied after the Vikings conducted an investigation.

Kluwe was cut in 2013 and through his attorney said he’ll still file suit against the Vikings and seek damages of $10 million. Everyone in this story is a freakin’ jerk.

Len Bias

I saw the other day that the University of Maryland announced it would induct Len Bias into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in October, and my initial reaction was, good...only it should have been done at halftime of one of the Terrapins’ last ACC basketball games. [Or, preferably, years earlier.]

Bias was drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics in June 1986, but died two days later from cardiac arrest related to a cocaine overdose.

Like many of you I watched Len Bias play a ton (plus I worked in Washington, D.C., briefly, when he was at College Park) and he was as good a college basketball player as there’s ever been. He was a man among boys. Amazing talent.

[Bias’ senior year he averaged 23.2 ppg, 7.0 reb., .544 FG, .864 FT...all from a 6’8” athlete with strength and grace. He was a consensus first-team All-American.]

And, yes, he threw it all away...but he is still worthy of the honor.

Alas, all are not in agreement.

John Feinstein / Washington Post

“More than 28 years after his death rocked the sports world, Len Bias is going to be inducted to the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame...

“Almost 25 years after being banned from baseball for betting on games, Pete Rose still is begging to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The question is this: Should either one of them be in any hall of fame?....

“(Greatness) as a player has never been an issue with either Rose or Bias. Rose is banned from baseball and can’t be inducted to Cooperstown unless he is reinstated by Commissioner Bud Selig or whoever replaces Selig next year. Bias’ number has hung from the Comcast Center rafters for years, but the school has never seen fit to make him a Hall of Famer until now.

“There is no doubt a stain of mendacity on Rose that never fell on Bias. Rose repeatedly lied in depositions for the Dowd Report, the findings of which led to Rose accepting a ban from baseball in 1989. Rose only stopped lying about betting on baseball in 2004 because he was peddling a book and because he believed – as he said as recently as this week – that if he finally fessed up, Selig would reinstate him. He didn’t do it because his conscience caught up with him but because he was trying to sell books and because he thought he would get off the hook if he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, you got me.’

“It hasn’t worked out that way. And Rose has become a pathetic figure... His latest rationale is that what he did wasn’t as bad as what steroid users did. That’s debatable – but it’s also irrelevant to his case for induction.

“There’s a character clause on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, which is why no one should ever vote for Rose or any of those who took steroids and lied about taking them.

“There also is a character clause attached to the Maryland Hall of Fame. Apparently the committee decided 28 years was enough time either to look the other way or believe that dying of a cocaine overdose doesn’t represent a major character flaw....

“The question, ultimately, in deciding whether someone is a hall of famer is whether they elevated their sport, their school or their profession.

“Some sports halls of fame rely strictly on numbers, even though they often paint an incomplete picture.

“In the cases of Bias and Rose, there is no ignoring the numbers – but they can’t stand alone in making final judgment.

“Baseball was sullied and damaged by Rose’s actions, which should mean the privilege of being in the Hall of Fame is taken from him in spite of his remarkable achievements.

“The same, sadly, should be true of Bias. There’s no questioning he lit up the Maryland campus for four years. But there’s also no questioning he left it in darkness for many years in the wake of his death.

“Unlike Rose, Bias should be forgiven. He was young and foolish and paid the most horrible price possible for his mistake. But, like Rose, he should not be honored.

Pitied, certainly. But honored? No.

Jeff Ermann / Washington Post

The time to stop punishing Len Bias passed long ago.

“It’s true, his death cast a cloud over the University of Maryland. And how he died won’t be celebrated. But short of an apology from the grave, what do we need to justify celebrating his basketball career?

“Even with powerful backing from Gary Williams – the very man who trudged through the aftershock of the Bias tragedy – John Feinstein’s objection to Maryland inducting Bias into its Hall of Fame feels sanctimonious and simplistic. On-court brilliance aside, there’s one difference between Len Bias and you, me or anyone else who can remember doing something dangerous or illegal as a young adult: He died for his mistake.

“Whether Bias was using cocaine for the first time or not, at this point, is nothing more than a curiosity. It matters none.  He was not an axe murderer, or even a petty thief. His wasn’t a crime against humanity or an affront to his sport’s integrity, like Pete Rose’s gambling. He was a star athlete who made an ill-fated decision to use when so many others were too.

“What percentage of politicians, players and other celebrities we honor daily have done the same or worse?

“How many star athletes, even hall of famers, have been arrested, done drugs, cheated, used steroids, driven drunk, and so on? Had Bias only been arrested and gone on to make things right like in so many other redemption stories, we wouldn’t be having this conversation nearly 30 years later.

Let’s ditch the silly pretenses. Honoring Bias’ greatness on the basketball court and his sentimental importance to fans isn’t condoning drugs to the youth. Neither athletes nor the small segment of young kids who know his story are going to view it as justification to do cocaine. After all, it did kill him, right?

The Rose analogy is equally flawed, and Feinstein admits as much but leans on it anyway. Rose repeatedly and intentionally violated one of the most fundamental laws of competition, may have fixed games, lied about it endlessly and proved to be an all-around weasel. There’s no parallel....

“Had Feinstein written this column 20 years ago, it would’ve had more merit. But by now, the remaining Bias baggage is mostly sadness and curiosity – not resentment or controversy. Williams willed his way through it all and won a national title, lifting the dark shadow cast by Bias’ death.

“Boiling it all down, it’s a simple question: what’s the statute of limitations on a 22-year-old college kid doing drugs? By my count, it’s been 28 years.”

I totally concur with Mr. Ermann. I’m the guy, after all, who is solely responsible for putting together a celebration of the athletic career of a local superstar in my town, who, ironically, turned down a football scholarship to Maryland to pursue a major league baseball career. He turned out to be an All-Star, won a batting title and a World Series ring. Oh, he had some issues, but I was incredulous to find out Summit had never honored him for his incredible achievements at my high school, and later, so I set out to do something about it.

I’ll never forget talking to a local city official when I was lining up speakers and support for the event and this guy blasted the man who had become my friend. I bit my tongue, but I wanted to tell the a-hole, ‘That was over 20 years ago! And it wasn’t like he was hurting any of us. He hurt himself.’

You see, right now, I’m remembering what a tremendous hoops player Len Bias was. Good for Maryland for belatedly recognizing this in such a special way.

Stuff

--We note the passing of actor James Garner, 86, a Hollywood fixture for more than 50 years and as likable a leading man as has graced our lifetime.

Garner once said: “I’m a Spencer Tracy-type actor. His idea was to be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth. Most every actor tries to make it something it isn’t [or] looks for the easy way out. I don’t think acting is that difficult if you can put yourself aside and do what the writer wrote.”

Garner was able to glide seamlessly from the big screen to the small one, and back and forth, with ease. From The Great Escape to Maverick, from Grand Prix (incredibly underrated flick) to The Rockford Files.

Garner was born in Norman, Oklahoma, the son of a carpet layer. His mother died when he was 4. After dropping out of high school he joined the Merchant Marines and later served in the Army during the Korean War, where he was wounded in action and earned two Purple Hearts.

How good a guy was James Garner? Oh, you and I really don’t know for sure, I guess, but we know what we saw when he was off screen plus you have this:

He married Lois Clarke two weeks after they met in 1956 and they remained together until his death.

--In Forbes annual list of the world’s most valuable sports teams, Real Madrid comes out on top, with the football club being worth an estimated $3.44 billion. Barcelona is second at $3.2 billion; Manchester United third, $2.81 billion.

The New York Yankees are fourth, $2.5 billion, with the Dallas Cowboys, worth $2.3 billion, in fifth.

The Mets dropped out of the top 50.

--SHARK!!! Authorities in the Bahamas early last week concluded that a 63-year-old chiropractor from Longview, Texas, was attacked by a shark in a night-diving excursion. U.S. Coast Guard crews found only dive gear, but no body, after an exhaustive search that involved Bahamian authorities.

John Petty was part of a multi-day adventure with Florida-based outfitter Jim Abernethy, “a famous but controversial figure among the commercial shark-diving fraternity.”

The normal expedition takes place during daylight hours, with tiger sharks lured in with bait.

Abernethy lost a client to a fatal shark attack in 2008. He himself was bitten on the arm by a lemon shark while diving in the Bahamas in 2011. [Yahoo News]

--There was a story in TIME by Bryan Walsh on Invasive Species and we’ve always been screwing up in this country. Like in 1871, the president of the American Acclimitization Society, Eugene Schieffelin, sought to introduce “useful or interesting” animals and plants to America and later released 60 European starlings in New York’s Central Park, part of his dream to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare to North America. There are now 200 million European starlings in the U.S.

Of course you have Burmese pythons occupying every inch of Florida’s Everglades these days, and the Asian carp, and the Emerald Ash Borer, the Snakehead Fish, the Zebra Mussel, feral hogs....it really sucks.

Speaking of Burmese pythons, you know how the other day I wrote of a 20-footer suspected of being in Lake Hopatcong, N.J.? Turns out it’s an Anaconda, according to a snake expert who has seen it twice, but it has yet to be captured and needless to say the residents around this large body of water are on edge.

--Hundreds of wild boars have begun invading the outskirts of Marseille, France. A campaign for a cull has intensified after a 24-year-old woman was bitten on the arm earlier this month. The boars’ base is in a nearby national park where they are protected. Kind of like the Taliban launching an attack in Afghanistan and then running back into Pakistan afterwards.

Stupidly, some in Marseille are throwing food scraps out of the windows and the boars are getting used to being fed. [Irish Independent]

--My brother alerted me to a lawsuit brought by a New Jersey man against Wal-Mart and Ticketmaster because he couldn’t get the Beach Boys tickets he wanted. An appellate court agreed with the dismissal of what a judge called “the most frivolous complaint I have ever seen.”

Edward M. used a self-service Ticketmaster kiosk at a Wal-Mart to purchase Beach Boys tickets that were advertised to go on sale at 10 a.m.

At 10 a.m. exactly, the guy tried to buy reserved seats for $153 per ticket, but according to his lawsuit, “the opportunity was squandered” because a Wal-Mart employee was not immediately available to complete the transaction.

Instead, the jerk was able to buy “outer perimeter” seats tickets for $91.50 at 10:04 a.m.

The guy then alleges that because he couldn’t get the seats he wanted it was a violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

--We note the passing of legendary blues guitarist, Johnny Winter, at age 70. He died in a Zurich, Switzerland hotel room after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

Winter grew up in Beaumont, Texas, with his younger brother Edgar, who was better known in terms of landing some tunes on the pop charts.

Johnny was more a blues guitarist and in 1988 became the first white musician named to the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

Top 3 songs for the week 7/21/62: #1 “Roses Are Red (My Love)” (Bobby Vinton) #2 “The Wah Watusi” (The Orlons...hasn’t aged well) #3 “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (Ray Charles... timeless...)...and...#4 “The Stripper” (David Rose...ah yes, Noxema commercials...) #5 “Sealed With A Kiss” (Brian Hyland...another great one...) #6 “Wolverton Mountain” (Claude King) #7 “Johnny Get Angry” (Joanie Sommers...she did a lot of Pepsi jingles...) #8 “Speedy Gonzales” (Pat Boone) #9 “Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)” (Dee Dee Sharp) #10 “Palisades Park” (Freddy Cannon...Bergen County, New Jersey...)

NFL Quiz Answer: Three longest-tenured coaches...

Bill Belichick / Pats / 2000
Marvin Lewis / Bengals / 2003...I figured many wouldn’t get him
Tom Coughlin / Giants / 2004

Mike McCarthy / Packers / 2006
Sean Payton / Saints / 2006
Mike Tomlin / Steelers / 2007

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.