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Final Four Is In
[Posted late Sunday p.m., after Steelers-Chiefs]
Baseball Hall of Fame Quiz: Every big baseball fan should know the first class of inductees in 1936: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. But who were the three players selected in 1937, a class that included managers John McGraw and Connie Mack, plus some execs? Answer below.
Conference Championships Jan. 22
Green Bay at Atlanta...3:05 ET Fox
Pittsburgh at New England...6:40 CBS...45 degrees! Drat!
[Continue to short natural gas. This year’s winter is in Europe, not here.]
Geezuz, through Saturday were the playoffs a giant yawner or what? Though at least I was able to stay up for the conclusion of Patriots-Texans, mainly because I was curious to see the opening of “Saturday Night Live.”
The Patriots and Tom Brady hardly looked like world-beaters, with Brady getting picked off twice (after only two regular-season interceptions), but New England rode a record-setting performance by all-everything Dion Lewis.
Lewis became the first player in NFL history to score touchdowns via a catch, rush, and kickoff return in a postseason game as the Pats prevailed 34-16, in a game that was briefly close, 14-13 with 10:00 left in the second quarter, but then New England quickly pulled away to 24-13 after three.
While Houston cut it to 24-16 early in the fourth, the result was never really in question as the Texans’ Brock Osweiler was betrayed by some of his receivers with critical drops, especially early, and he finished with a putrid slash line of 23/40, 198, 1-3, 47.7.
For his part Brady was only 18/38, 287, 2-2, 68.6, though Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan combined for 12 catches for 232 of the 287 through the air.
New England needs to improve, but everyone knows that and they get another home game for the conference title next Sunday.
One last item...with New England’s field goal at the 6:37 mark of the fourth to make it 34-16, the Patriots beat the spread of 15 ½, and as we all know, at the end of the day, boys and girls....
Earlier, the Falcons had their way with the Seahawks, 36-20, but had one key play gone Seattle’s way, the result could have been far different.
Seattle was leading 10-7 in the second quarter when they forced the Falcons to punt. Devin Hester fielded it and went about 80 yards, before being knocked out of bounds deep in Falcons territory for what seemed a certain eventual Seahawks touchdown and a 17-7 lead. [Atlanta with the league’s worst ‘red-zone’ defense.]
Except the return was called back on a holding call on Seattle linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, which not only negated Hester’s run, it put Seattle on its own 7-yard line, instead of the Atlanta 7, and two plays later, quarterback Russell Wilson fell backward into the end zone for a safety, making it 10-9 Seattle.
Atlanta, behind the precision passing of Matt Ryan (26/37, 338, 3-0, 125.7), then scored the next 17 for a 26-10 early third quarter lead and it was game over.
For Seattle, Wilson was mediocre at best, 17/30, 225, 2-2, 75.0, as the Falcons certainly will be a tough out next week.
Ryan, the leading candidate for MVP with a regular-season passer rating of 117.1 (fifth best in league history), has 14 touchdown passes and 0 INTs in his last five games.
But Sunday, an actual thriller broke out....
The Packers and Aaron Rodgers burst out of the gate and before you could say Zeke Bratkowski, it was 21-3 Green Bay with 7:37 to go in the second quarter following a Rodgers TD pass and two short touchdown runs by Ty Montgomery. Game over, right?
Nope. Dak Prescott threw a 40-yard TD strike to Dez Bryant and a Dan Bailey field goal made it 21-13 at half. We still had a game.
But the only scoring in the third was an Aaron Rodgers to Jared Cook 3-yard touchdown pass and with 15 minutes to go it was Green Bay 28, Dallas 13. Game over again, right?
Nope. Dak Prescott, hardly looking like a rookie, rallied the Cowboys with TD passes to Jason Witten and a second one to Dez Bryant. 28-28, 4:08 to play, after Prescott ran it in himself for the two-point conversion following the second TD.
I ran to the refrigerator for another Coors Light, while the rest of America went for the domestic or premium of their choice, and settled in for the finale.
And what an exchange we had...one of the best of all time.
Aaron Rodgers got the Packers 37 yards, enough for a Mason Crosby 56-yard field goal attempt with 1:38 to play and the man who had made 21 straight in the postseason nailed it. 31-28 Packers.
But Dak Prescott quickly drove his Cowboys 42 yards, enough for a 52-yard Dan Bailey field goal attempt and Bailey nailed that one! 31-31...only there was 44 seconds left and Green Bay had two timeouts left.
After a touchback on the kickoff gave the Packers the ball at the 25, and after two plays, one good, one bad, that had Rodgers and the Pack at their 32, the Packer great rolled left and eventually found Jared Cook for 36 yards at the sideline, an awesome play by Cook, and with 0:03 left, the Packers had it at the Cowboys 32.
They spotted it back a yard or so and after a Dallas timeout to attempt to freeze Crosby, the now-legend nailed the 51-yarder for the victory, sneaking it in the left post. What a performance by the kickers in the final two minutes and what a game.
If the Packers end up winning the Super Bowl, Mason Crosby deserves to be in the Packers’ Ring of Honor. But we have a ways to go for that to happen.
For the record, Aaron Rodgers was 28/43, 356, 2-1, 96.3. Dak Prescott was 24/38, 302, 3-1, 103.2 in a terrific effort that should have dispelled forever any thoughts of retaining Tony Romo. Dak is the future.
[Ezekiel Elliott had 125 yards on the ground in 22 carries, while Dez Bryant was 9-132-2 in an outstanding effort. For the Packers, Jared Cook had six receptions for 104 yards and a score.]
As Joe Buck called it, this game was “like a great heavyweight fight.”
Then we had Sunday’s nightcap, Pittsburgh at Kansas City, which was rescheduled to the evening due to K.C.’s weather forecast (and I won’t criticize this decision in the least).
This one sure didn’t start out like a barnburner, with the Steelers’ Chris Boswell kicking four field goals in the first half for a 12-7 Pittsburgh lead.
The thing is, despite Ben Roethlisberger’s 170 yards passing, Antonio Brown’s five catches for 101 and Le’Veon Bell’s 101 yards rushing, they had just those 12 points.
Well, Boswell added another two field goals, his six a postseason record, and the Steelers held on for an 18-16 win, as a K.C. two-point conversion for the tie was called back on a holding penalty caused by James Harrison’s pressure. Heartbreaking for Chiefs fans.
But we have some classic Conference Championship matchups for next Sunday.
--After more than a half-century in San Diego, the Chargers are moving up to Los Angeles to be the second team there beginning with the 2017 season. Dean Spanos, the chairman of the Chargers, made it official on Thursday that his boys would join the Rams, who relocated to L.A. from St. Louis last year.
So Los Angeles, whose citizens were never big NFL fans to begin with, now have two lousy teams to pretend they are interested in. What a joke.
It was back in 1994 that the Rams and Raiders left L.A., leaving the market without a team until this past season, but then the Rams were beyond blowdom, and the Chargers threaten same.
The league and L.A. are totally pinning their hopes on Rams owner Stan Kroenke and his palatial stadium in Inglewood, set for completion in 2019. I have to admit, the multi-faceted project looks way cool.
But lots of comment on the Chargers’ move.
Editorial / San Diego Union-Tribune
“This isn’t goodbye. It’s good riddance.
“The Chargers are finally someone else’s problem.
“After compiling a 416-427-11 record over 56 seasons, missing the playoffs in 39 of those seasons and in seven of the past eight years, and failing to build community support for a new stadium, the team is moving to Los Angeles, where it played one season in 1960. Oh well.
“The fans who packed Qualcomm Stadium for years will experience a flood of emotions now that Chargers CEO Dean Spanos has at last made his decision to quit on San Diego. If there’s a saving grace in this miserable season of difficult defeats and utter uncertainty, it’s that we have felt these emotions before. Anxiety. Sadness. Anger. Disbelief. Be sure to add another emotion to that list: relief.
“Will the Chargers have better luck in a shiny new stadium in the nation’s second-biggest media market? Who cares.
“Were the Chargers really serious about staying in San Diego? Who cares.
“Whose fault is it that they’re leaving? Who cares.
“These questions don’t matter anymore. Don’t give the Spanos family a second thought.
“The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board recently wrote that Spanos should stay in San Diego because he has lived here for decades and because the region is better for it, and because we had faith a stadium deal could get done in San Diego. We meant it. Fans told us they still loved the team despite everything Spanos had done to disenfranchise them. They meant it.
“Now Spanos has given up on us.
“It was only last year that he flatly and falsely said, ‘We’ve had nine different proposals that we’ve made, all of them were basically rejected by the city.’ The problem with that, of course, is that they weren’t rejected by the city and they weren’t even plans....
“It has been 17 years since Alex Spanos first frustrated fans by telling a reporter, ‘We need a new stadium,’ and 14 years since the team’s proposal to redevelop the Qualcomm site fell prey to the city’s pension crisis and a crumbling economy, and eight years since the team first expressed interest in the East Village site voters ultimately rejected in November. Spanos could have given up on the lure of Los Angeles, renegotiated his lease at the nearly 50-year-old Qualcomm Stadium and worked with city and county politicians to build a stadium in the right place at the right cost.
“But who cares.”
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“Every relationship is built on honesty, so the San Diego Chargers should hear this as their moving vans are chugging up the 5 Freeway on their noble mission of greed.
“We. Don’t. Want. You. ....
“Wow, just what we need, the return of a professional sports team with no buzz, no tradition, few local fans north of south Orange County, limited success, and an owner who just stole them away from a place where they were loved unconditionally for 56 years.
“What was the NFL thinking? What are the Chargers thinking? I know what Spanos is thinking, that he is leaving behind those unwashed heathens who didn’t want their tax dollars to pay for a football stadium and sliding into Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood palace to ride piggyback on the Rams.
“What a guy. What a joke.
“The problem is not that Los Angeles must now be asked to support two NFL teams after 22 years of somehow surviving with none. We knew this would happen. This was the deal when the Rams returned last year. This is what the NFL has always wanted for Inglewood, so there was no avoiding it.
“The problem is the second team should have been the Raiders. The Southland is filled with Raiders fans everywhere. I have still never met a single Chargers fans.
“While the Rams returned home in triumph, Spanos will come to Los Angeles in shame. Remember how Art Modell gave 35 years of his life to owning the Cleveland Browns, then suddenly moved them to Baltimore? The once-beloved Modell spent the rest of his days as the scourge of Cleveland. The same will happen to Spanos in San Diego, his legacy sold up the freeway.
“And who exactly will be coming up that freeway with him? Who cares? The Chargers have better players than the Rams, but they still generally stink...They have a 35-year-old quarterback named Philip Rivers who’s a pretty good dude, but how much longer will he keep playing?
“The team will be unfortunate, unwitting participants in this mess, and it’s hard to imagine them initially being received as much more than a novelty act.”
The Chargers will not be playing in the L.A. Coliseum as the Rams are, until the new stadium in Inglewood is completed, but rather will play in the StubHub Center, a 30,000-seat capacity facility that is the home for Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy. Actually, this will be a pretty cool cozy experience for fans for two seasons. The Chargers initially wanted to play in the Coliseum as well, but the lease terms would’ve had to be changed to accommodate a second NFL tenant. Now, the Chargers have a better chance of carving out their own identity, prior to moving to Stan’s place.
Meanwhile, San Diego hired former Buffalo offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn as its next head coach, Lynn having been initially thought to be a shoe-in to replace Rex Ryan.
Buffalo then agreed to terms with Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. The Bills have not made the postseason since 1999 under Wade Phillips, a 17-year drought that is the longest active streak in the NFL.
The L.A. Rams hired Sean McVay, the offensive coordinator of the Redskins, who becomes the youngest head coach in NFL history, at just shy of age 31.
Vance Joseph was named the new head coach of the Denver Broncos. Joseph, 44, was the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator. Prior to this he had been a long-time defensive backs coach before becoming defensive coordinator with Miami this past season.
Only San Francisco is left with a head coaching vacancy.
--In some games of note since last chat....
No. 11 North Carolina beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem 93-87. Once again the Deacs put up a good fight, down big early, came back, but couldn’t get it done as they fell to 10-7, 1-4.
No. 8 Creighton beat 12 Butler at home, 75-64.
North Carolina hosted smokin’ hot 9 Florida State, but the Tar Heels ran away with it in the final minutes, 96-83, to move to 16-3, 4-1, while the Seminoles dropped just their second, 16-2, 4-1.
14 Louisville had an important 78-69 win over 7 Duke in Louisville, as the Cardinals move to 15-3, 3-2, while the Blue Devils are now 14-4, 2-3, and will no doubt drop out of the top ten. Grayson Allen had 23 points in defeat and didn’t trip anyone, though he got slapped in the face by a Louisville player during a scrum.
20 Notre Dame is suddenly the only undefeated team in the ACC in conference play after a 76-71 win at Virginia Tech (13-4, 2-3). The Fighting Irish are 16-2, 5-0, and should move up to 13 or so in the next AP rankings. [They better be ahead of Duke or we’ll have to announce a congressional hearing.]
Syracuse, for all its problems, is 3-2 in ACC play, 11-7 overall, after an easy 76-53 win over Boston College (9-9, 2-3).
And No. 1 Baylor (soon to be 4 or 5) rebounded from its loss to West Virginia on Tuesday to beat 25 Kansas State (13-4, 2-3) 77-68, the Bears now 16-1, 4-1.
10 West Virginia improved to 15-2, 4-1, with a 74-72 win over Texas (7-10, 1-4) in Austin.
--The UConn women did it again, shattering their own NCAA-record winning streak on Saturday, jumping out to a 16-0 lead over SMU and obliterating the Mustangs, 88-48, for win number 91 in a row.
From 2008 to 2010, the Lady Huskies had fashioned a 90 straight streak, overtaking UCLA’s men’s team, who had an 88-game one ended in 1974. In 2010, UConn finally lost to Stanford.
But now how far can they go? Seeing as I don’t follow the women’s game a lick, I have no freakin’ idea! They say the next potential challenge is at home, Feb. 13, against No. 5 South Carolina, which could easily be win No. 100 by then.
--The NBA is worried, and rightfully so, about the pace of their games, especially near the end of contests (which of course is an issue in college basketball, as well as the NFL and college football), but at least NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is saying he’s concerned and he’s going to do something about it.
The issue is our young people have the attention span of a gnat, which actually isn’t being fair to the latter as when I’m trying to kill them, they seem most attentive and have moves worthy of Tiny Archibald, but I digress....
A 2015 study by Microsoft revealed that the average attention span of a millennial is eight seconds – which USA TODAY notes is less than that of a goldfish.
Silver said the league has been tracking closely the end of games, specifically the number of timeouts, and that the competition committee will take a “fresh look” at game length at the end of the season.
So I’m guessing for starters they will limit timeouts in the final two minutes to one (vs. the current two). At least that is what I would do. Also make the last one a 20-second TO, and only show the dancers on TV during that time, though maybe that is for us older folks because I’m not sure millennials care about the dancers either, which is worrisome when it comes to population growth...demographics having everything to do with the economy, GDP and paying for old folks’ pensions, Social Security and such...but now I’ve just lost all the millennials reading this....
--Saturday, in Mexico City, Phoenix’ Devin Booker scored a career-high 39 points for the second straight game as the Suns beat San Antonio, 108-105.
Booker is the second-year pro out of Kentucky who is clearly busting out, averaging 31 ppg his last five and now 20.3 for the season. The shooting guard doesn’t turn 21 until October. He was the 13th pick in the 2015 draft.
--The Derrick Rose saga continued. Since last chat, he returned from his AWOL stint to play last Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the Knicks suffering a crushing 98-97 loss, blowing a 10-point lead in the final 2:30, as the Sixers’ T.J. McConnell scored on a spinning, off-balance 10-footer. Rose played well, 25 points and four assists, but it was New York’s ninth loss in 10 games.
Thursday, the Knicks bounced back for a 104-89 victory at the Garden, Rose playing well.
Sunday in Toronto, New York then allowed 69 points in the first half, five Raptors players in double-figures, as the Knicks went on to lose 116-101 to fall to 18-23. Just freakin’ shoot me.
As for Rose, he is a free-agent and is seeking a max $150 million contract over five years. Everyone knows the Knicks would be nuts to give him this, but this is one dumb organization.
The other night I was watching Charles Barkley on TNT and he was incredulous Rose wasn’t suspended for going AWOL and instead just fined. All of us were astounded.
--This new Big3 league, three-on-three basketball that Ice Cube is backing, will be a colossal failure. Boy, if you are caught watching this you need to get a life.
The league is advertising that it will have eight franchises, rosters of five, with the likes of ex-NBA stars Mike Bibby, Chauncey Billups, Rashard Lewis, and Kenyon Martin among those who have agreed to play. Allen Iverson is going to be the key figure as a player/coach.
All eight teams will head to a city for four minigames on the same day. Games will be played on Saturdays, starting June 24 and continuing through the summer.
“The summer is boring,” Ice Cube said. “There’s nothing on.”
Speak for yourself, dude. We got baseball and golf.
Anyway, you have this description of how the Big3 is going down.
“Showmanship will be an integral part of the league. Player introductions will be done boxing-style, with individualized music, and organizers promising spectacular halftime shows.”
Jeff Kwatinetz, an entertainment executive and founder of the league, told the New York Times: “This is going to be a party: music, lights, dancing, energy. Incredible basketball will be at the forefront.”
Oh, puh-leeze. Who wants to see a bunch of old, washed-up hoops players? They’ll also all get hurt the first weekend (heck, Kenyon Martin was a walking injury his entire career), which has been the issue with other failed attempts at old-timer leagues, like the baseball one founded in 1989 in Florida with the likes of Vida Blue and Bobby Bonds. It lasted a season and a half, so they say. I don’t recall ever seeing any of the action. Ditto another attempt at a basketball league, the Legends Classic, which was scrapped in the 1990s due to injuries.
Everyone has some “way too early” 2017 preseason polls...but for the record I have to note these two.
3. Penn State
4. Florida State
7. Ohio State
1. Florida State
3. Ohio State
8. Penn State
10. Oklahoma State
--I forgot to note last time that the championship game between ‘Bama and Clemson drew 680,000 fewer viewers on TV and online than last year’s matchup. But combined viewership for all the New Year’s Six bowls and title game was up 15 percent, ESPN announced. That’s encouraging.
Both this year’s and last year’s championship games drew over 26 million viewers.
--We’ve been talking about Justin Thomas and his wanting to join the conversation in a big way, so after winning the Tournament of Champions last week at Kapalua, all he did in the first round of the Sony Open in Honolulu on Thursday is fire a 59...only the seventh player in PGA Tour history to break 60.*
Then Thomas went out and shot 64 in the second round for the Tour record for 36 holes and a five-shot lead. 123 shots in two rounds.
Thomas would go on to win the event with a Tour record 253, 7 shots clear of runner-up Justin Rose; Thomas’ fourth win, his third in four starts!
J.T. joins Ernie Els (2003) as the only players to sweep Hawaii as they now head back to the mainland.
*The others to break 60 are Jim Furyk (record 58 last summer at the Travelers Championship; plus he also shot a 59 in 2013); Al Geiberger (1977); Chip Beck (1991); David Duval (1999); Paul Goydos (2010); and Stuart Appleby (2010).
--Speaking of Furyk, he was named U.S. captain of the 2018 Ryder Cup squad, the event taking place in Paris, which should be fun (unless you are an American...depending on the geopolitical situation, this could be an explosive event, and I’m not talking about terrorism). Anyway, Furyk was a natural selection (even if his own Cup record is a lousy 10-20-4).
--Rory McIlroy hadn’t played competitive golf in two months but on Thursday, he stepped up at the first tee (his 10th) at the South African Open and cranked the drive 392 yards. The only reason to mention this is Rory is playing with new clubs, after his sponsor, Nike, exited from the equipment making business.
So Rory is using a Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic driver, Callaway Apex MB irons, Titleist Vokey wedges, an Odyssey putter, and a Titleist ProV1x ball.
Now you all rush out and copy his set, OK?
But Rory lost a playoff for the title to England’s Graeme Storm, No. 251 in the world. It was Storm’s second European Tour title and first since the French Open in 2007.
--In Golf Digest’s annual ranking of money in the sport, Rory McIlroy is the new No. 1.
1. Rory...$17,514,505 on course...$32,000,000 off course...$49,514,505 total
2. Arnold Palmer...$40,000,000 off course...love it...
3. Phil Mickelson...$4,267,628 / $33,500,000...$37,767,628
4. Tiger Woods...$107,000 / $34,500,000...$34,607,000
5. Jordan Spieth...$6,403,470 / $24,000,000...$30,403,470
6. Jack Nicklaus...$42,000 / $20,000,000...$20,042,000
Tiger Woods hauled in $122m, $117m and $121m at his peak earnings from 2007-09. For his career, Golf Digest calculates he has earned $1,454,539,473, on course and off.
--The Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. ET. Forget Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who will fall short. The talk now is, aside from Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, who else gets in? Some say not only Ivan Rodriguez will join those two, but Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman are also knocking on the door.
But as for the new transparency, with many of the over 400 baseball writers eligible to vote posting their ballots prior to the deadline, I think it sucks. Ryan Thibodaux, a 35-year-old Athletics fan in Oakland started it, sort of, when he began tracking those who published their votes weeks ahead, though I don’t think he was intending to change things that much. It’s just that many of the younger voters, clearly for social media purposes (and trying to save their careers by proving to their bosses they have readers...and, believe me, I get this) have kind of ruined the mystery of it all, to say the least.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond noted this weekend, 45% of the ballots have already been made public; when in 2014, only a third of voters revealed their ballots before the announcement.
So I like how Diamond quotes Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication, psychology and political science at Stanford University: “Identifying how each person voted is actually in violation of principles of democratic elections.”
But at the same time, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has voted to mandate that all ballots be revealed after the results announcement starting in 2018, which is good.
Some voters with the BBWAA, however, have stopped submitting ballots because of social-media outrage over their ballots, which is not good.
--Joel Sherman of the New York Post has it exactly right, Mets fans.
“Four weeks before pitchers and catchers and the Mets are a World Series possibility. But also in contention for the most volatile team in the sport. You could possibly imagine the Mets blowing up – either way. The rotation can be great or a physical wreck, the lineup deep or a DL caravan, the bullpen powerful or too shallow.
“Four members of the rotation will be working back from some form of arm surgery. Three starting infielders are returning from serious back injuries. [Ed. David Wright, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda] The closer faces a ban via the domestic abuse protocols. There are too many outfielders – particularly lefty-hitting ones – and too few reliable relievers.”
As Sherman continues, there are a million question marks. The fan base is also going to be more nervous than ever before during spring training because of the health issues. But bring it on!
--The Cubs’ Jake Arrieta settled with the team on a 1-year, $15.635 million contract, Arrieta not being a free agent until next year.
--Finally, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports had an interview with Bo Jackson that made news.
“Bo Jackson, the world’s greatest living athlete, and the only man to be an All-Star in baseball and a Pro Bowler in football, now has a confession to make.
“If Bo knew back in his playing days what he knows now:
“Bo never would have won a Heisman Trophy at Auburn. Bo never would have been inducted into the college football Hall of Fame. Bo never would have worn a Los Angeles Raiders uniform. Bo never would have trampled Brian Bosworth on Monday Night Football. And Bo never would have suffered the dislocated left hip that ended his football career.
“ ‘If I knew back then what I know now,’ Jackson tells USA TODAY Sports, ‘I would have never played football. Never. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.
“ ‘The game has gotten so violent, so rough. We’re so much more educated on this CTE stuff (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), there’s no way I would ever allow my kids to play football today.
“ ‘Even though I love the sport, I’d smack them in the mouth if they said they wanted to play football.
“ ‘I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’’
“Jackson was leery of the game’s exploitative tendencies when he came out of Auburn – a suspicion that he says played a significant role in his shunning of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – and that, in concert with greater knowledge of head injuries and their effect on deceased stars such as Junior Seau, forced a greater re-examination of the sport.
“And without football, there’s no telling what Jackson might have accomplished in his other sport.”
Jackson maintains he still wouldn’t change a thing and that he has no regrets.
But he revealed to Bob Nightengale for the first time that he had plans to retire from the NFL after the 1990 season. He still had a contract with the Los Angeles Raiders, making the Pro Bowl that season, but he was ready to walk away and concentrate on baseball in 1991.
Instead, a hit from Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Kevin Walker on Jan. 13, 1991, forced him into retirement. The hit fractured and dislocated his left hip in the third quarter of their playoff game. He never put on a football uniform again. He was also never the same as a baseball player.
But I forgot what went down in 1986, when Tampa Bay selected him with the first overall pick in the draft following his four years at Auburn. Jackson refused to sign. He said he was willing to play for any other team but not them.
“Jackson believed the Bucs were responsible for him becoming ineligible to play baseball his senior season at Auburn. They sent a private plane to pick up Jackson for a physical in Tampa and allegedly reported the infraction to the NCAA.
“It was nothing more than betrayal, Jackson says, and he never forgave them.
“ ‘Their people said they were looking out for me, and checked with the NCAA that it was OK for me to go on their plane for that physical,’ Jackson says, ‘but nobody checked it out. Well, I put two and two together, and figured it out. They knew I was a first-round pick in football, but they wanted to get me away from baseball, so they got me ruled ineligible. I’m 100% convinced of that. They thought that would make me forget baseball.
“ ‘I told myself, ‘All right, if you screw me, I’m going to screw you twice as hard.’ If anybody else had drafted me, I would have gone, but I wasn’t going to play for that man [Ed. Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse].”
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals, thanks to scout Kenny Gonzales, used only a fourth-round pick to select Jackson in the 1986 MLB draft.
After just 53 games in the minor leagues, Jackson was a September ’86 call-up. He hit his first career home run in the seventh game, “a 475-foot shot off Seattle Mariners pitcher Mike Moore, still the longest home run ever hit at Kauffman Stadium. He became an everyday player in 1987, and two years later, was the MVP of the 1989 All-Star Game, hitting 32 homers with 105 RBIs in a year marked by his iconic ‘Bo Knows’ Nike ad campaign.”
But football never left his soul and the Raiders drafted him in the seventh round of the 1987 draft, offering him a five-year, $7.4 million deal. Bo had a new hobby.
Jackson says he only would have played with the Raiders or 49ers, the latter because of Bill Walsh.
Playing partial seasons, Jackson was a Raider from 1987-90, rushing for 2,782 yards and a 5.4 avg.
But it was Monday night, Nov. 30, 1987, that Jackson had a spectacular 91-yard TD run that everyone of us of a certain age remembers vividly, Jackson rushing for 221 yards on 18 carries that evening, America understanding just how truly awesome this athlete was. [The aforementioned Brian Bosworth play was also in this contest.]
Jackson’s tale is both a great one and a sad one. You remember his dual career and you are left with a sense of melancholy. In a way, he’s like Gale Sayers, whose career was cut way too short by injury, though at least we had a good sample size of his greatness.
In baseball, who knows what Bo might have done? He hung on for a few more seasons after the hip injury, but he was far from the same player, finishing with 141 home runs, 415 RBIs and a .250 average from 1986-94.
Jackson leads a quiet life these days, running a training facility in Illinois for elite athletes, but he watches few sports. He didn’t even watch the Royals 2015 World Series championship. Nor did he attend the Raiders’ wild-card playoff game.
“I’m not a good spectator, I get bored watching,” Jackson says, “but I sure loved playing the game. I loved the competition....
“So there’s no reason for anyone to feel sorry for what happened to me, or what might have been. I didn’t play sports to make it to the Hall of Fame. I just played for the love of sport....
“I’m blessed. Things turned out all right.”
--This is not your father’s Tottenham as the Spurs won their sixth in a row, Saturday, tying a club record, with a 4-0 win over a decent West Brom squad as the terrific Harry Kane had a hat trick, what the announcers described as “a master class” by both Kane and the team.
Also Saturday, Chelsea beat Leicester 3-0, Arsenal whipped Swansea 4-0, West Ham put Crystal Palace in further danger of relegation with a 3-0 win, Stoke City defeated Sunderland 3-1, and in a biggie, Hull City climbed out of the basement with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth.
Sunday....in an absolutely shocking result, as well as a devastating one for Manchester City, Everton crushed City 4-0! The thing is City possessed the ball 71% of the time, but had few real chances, while the Toffees scored their four on just six attempts on goal!
For Everton, 18-year-old Tom Davies, in just his second league start, had a brilliant goal.
Then in Sunday’s nightcap, Manchester United salvaged a draw with visiting Liverpool, 1-1, on a late goal by Ibrahimovic. It was a highly entertaining second half and I loved what one of the announcers said of United’s Paul Pogba, the hugely expensive (Man U paying a record price for him) and overrated midfielder who has often played like crap this season. “Sloppy, verging on arrogant play by Pogba.” [That’s brilliant.]
--But the big story these days, aside from Tottenham’s run, is Chelsea star striker Diego Costa, who sat out the Leicester game with what many are calling a bogus back injury as the prolific goal-scorer apparently is readying to flee to China for mammoth dollars (yuan). Costa has 14 goals this season, but he’s a primo jerk, which is what you can glean from watching him for just five minutes. [As opposed to the Tim Duncanesque-Kane, typed the editor.]
--In announcing the financials for its team, Chelsea, which is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, I was reminded that the club ended a long-term apparel deal with Adidas six years early for a more lucrative one with Nike, that begins next season and is for 15- years, nearly $1.1 billion! Goodness gracious.
Standings after 21 of 38 matches....ties settled by goal differential:
1. Chelsea 52 points
2. Tottenham 45
3. Liverpool 45
4. Arsenal 44...top four Champions League
5. Man City 42
6. Man U 40...6-game winning streak ended with draw
7. Everton 33
8. West Brom 29
17. Crystal Palace 16
18. Hull City 16
19. Sunderland 15
20. Swansea City 15...last three relegated
[Tottenham visits Manchester City next Saturday...can my Spurs keep their momentum going?]
--As I noted last time, Carl Edwards was walking away from NASCAR and after I posted he told us why...sort of.
“I think it’s the right thing to do, as confusing as this whole thing might be,” said the 37-year-old, intensely private Edwards. “This might not make sense to people.”
Edwards cited three reasons: He is satisfied with his accomplishments; he wants to devote time to his family and his passions outside racing; and he wants to stop while he is still healthy.
“For those three reasons, I can’t come up with a good reason for why now isn’t a good time,” he said.
Edwards’ team owner, Joe Gibbs of Joe Gibbs racing, first learned of Edwards’ decision shortly before Christmas and was shocked.
“You normally have to tell an athlete, ‘Hey, it’s over,’” Gibbs, the former NFL coaching great, said. “They’re going to argue with you.”
But as Gibbs said of Edwards: “I think he’s a rare person, and him choosing this, that’s why everybody’s going, ‘There’s got to be something behind this.’ But in this case, I don’t think there’s anything there.”
Gibbs compared Edwards’ stepping away to that of running back Barry Sanders, who at the prime of his career, walked away from the NFL and the Detroit Lions in 1999, sending a two-line fax to his hometown newspaper announcing his retirement.
--With Mike Francesa retiring on WFAN here in New York after the end of this year, there is increasing talk that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could replace him. It’s kind of intriguing. Christie is immensely unpopular as a politician these days, but he knows his sports and he’s good on the radio.
By the way, I’m still astounded that Francesa has been taking in a reported $4 to $5 million a year, which is why the station won’t make a big play to keep him, unless it’s for a sizable amount less.
--Lots of news on the All-Species List front. The White House on Friday chose not to deny or confirm a report the Obama family’s Portuguese water dog Sunny bit a guest on the face at an event earlier in the week.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest side-stepped the question in a Friday press briefing, saying, “I don’t have a whole lot more light to shed on that particular situation.”
TMZ first reported that Sunny bit an 18-year-old friend of Malia Obama’s on the face during a White House visit on Monday as she tried to pet and kiss the dog. The girl had a gash near her eye and the Obama family’s physician decided she needed stitches that would leave a small scar, after which the girl captioned a Snapchat selfie of herself and Malia, “I f-----g hate sunny.” [True]
Earnest, however, said that Sunny and the Obama family’s other Portuguese water dog, Bo, represented America “quite well in their status as the First Dogs.”
“Both Bo and Sunny have been genuine ambassadors to the American people,” said Earnest, as the White House press corps chuckled. [USA TODAY]
But before I get into the penalties I’m assessing, here’s another dog tale, courtesy of Johnny Mac, from Michigan and WPBN/WGTU: “A man who was paralyzed after he slipped and fell in the snow is alive thanks to the heroic actions of his dog.
“On New Year’s Eve while many were celebrating the start of the new year, Bob was lying in the snow just feet from his home’s door, paralyzed.”
Around 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, “Bob was home with his golden retriever, Kelsey, watching football and waiting for the New Year’s Eve programming.
“During a commercial break, Bob ran outside of his house in just long johns, slippers and a shirt to get a log for his fireplace. While he was walking outside, he slipped and fell, breaking his neck.
“ ‘I was screaming for help but my nearest neighbor is about a quarter mile away and it was 10:30 p.m., but my Kelsey came,’ stated Bob from the hospital. ‘By morning my voice was gone and I couldn’t yell for help, but Kelsey didn’t stop barking.’
“Bob lay paralyzed in the snow with temperatures as low as 24 degrees for the next 20 hours. Kelsey the dog kept Bob warm by lying on top of him and licking his face and hands to keep him awake.
“ ‘She kept barking for help but never left my side,’ said Bob. ‘She kept me warm and alert. I knew I had to persevere through this and that it was my choice to stay alive.’ After 19 hours outside, Bob lost consciousness but Kelsey kept barking. ‘She was letting out this screeching howl that alerted my neighbor. He found me at 6:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day.’
Shockingly, Bob didn’t have frost bite, but he had a slew of other serious issues, with a disc herniation and acute paraplegia, let alone a core body temperature of 70 degrees. After surgery at McLaren Northern Michigan hospital, Bob started to move his extremities with greater strength. He will need intense physical and occupational therapy, but he is on the road to recovery.
Bob thanks the surgeon, Dr. Colen, and Kelsey for saving his life. “Kelsey kept me warm, alert, and never stopped barking for help. Dr. Colen saved my life and ability to move.”
So we add these two dog stories up and, despite Sunny’s atrocious behavior, Dog will retain its No. 1 status on the All-Species List, though it will be assigned 8 hours of community service. [Each dog owner is responsible for seeing that pooch completes this before fiscal 2019.]
But because Sunny is a Portuguese water dog, after extensive discussions with the All-Species List board late into Saturday night, we are levying “severe” sanctions on the nation of Portugal and its critical cork industry. One consequence of this move will be to force more wine producers to go to screw tops, which is far more convenient to begin with and adds to labor force productivity, which most experts agree has been an impediment towards Making America Great Again.
For his part, ‘Man’ moves up from 340 to 338, but thank Dr. Colen for this, not me.
--Big development off the coast of Newport Beach, California, as whale watchers were treated to an extremely rare sight the other day; a pod of killer whales, just a mile offshore...five Eastern Tropical Pacific Killer whales, including a calf. Some experts say they haven’t seen such activity in these waters in at least 35 years.
But while locals were telling the Orange County Register what an exciting development this is, are they nuts?! Clearly, the Orca are up to no good. Don’t go into the waters more than up to your ankles, unless you want to make headlines in Bar Chat, which, admittedly, would propel ‘Killer Whale’ into the Top Ten of the ASL and if it bit your head off, I’d probably have to use your full name, especially if this happened during “Web Sweeps Week.”
--We had a big coyote attack on Wednesday here in my state of New Jersey, about 20 miles west of the global HQ for S&N. A man was walking with his dogs and two friends in a Long Valley park when “A coyote came out of the woods and bit the man on his right calf and buttocks. The man fought off the coyote with a stick, according to Morris County Park Police.”
Unreal. A good friend of Bar Chat, Brad K., lives nearby and he said he is packing up the family and moving to...well, I’m not sure where he’s moving, really, but he needs to tell the wife and kids pretty soon as he’s been sitting in the car, engine running, all weekend.
Anyway, Brad was pleased that the MCPP “euthanized the coyote on-scene by shooting it.” [NJ.com / Patch]
Yes, immediate justice was applied. No word on the health of the man, but I’m assuming the coyote had rabies.
I’ve been telling you, my chief fear when I run through my favorite park is coyotes, no longer bears, though they are both there, no doubt taking odds on which one will finally take me out.
Coyote remains No. 248 on the All-Species List, though one more incident like this in Jersey and it will face a life-time ban.
--After 146 years, an American institution, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is closing forever in May. Company executives say there are a number of factors, the most important being declining attendance combined with high operating costs, as well as changing public tastes and non-stop battles with animal rights groups.
The final shows will be Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.
I’ll have more on this in that other column I do next weekend, but I have fond memories of seeing the circus in my youth at Madison Square Garden. It was always a big deal when it came to town because it coincided with the playoffs, and when you went to a Knick or Ranger game in April and May, the Garden reeked.
But this is kind of a sad day, though I imagine 95% of young people couldn’t care less. Yes, the times are changing...and big time for the worse.
--We note the passing of William Peter Blatty, author of “The Exorcist.” He was 89.
The book, about a 12-year-old girl possessed by the Devil, sold more than 13 million copies after it was published in 1971. The 1973 movie version, starring Linda Blair and directed by William Friedkin, was a huge hit and the highest-grossing film at that point for Warner Bros. studios. Blatty won an Oscar for the screenplay, plus it was the first horror movie nominated for Best Picture.
Ironically, Blatty had been one of Hollywood’s leading comedy writers, collaborating with Blake Edwards on the screenplays for “A Shot in the Dark,” “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?”, “Darling Lili,” and “Gunn,” the last one based on the television detective series “Peter Gunn.”
Blatty, by the way, was raised a Catholic and was educated at Georgetown.
--And Buddy Greco died. He was 90.
Grecco was a jazz pianist, singer and sometime member of Sinatra’s Rat Pack, who really made his name in Vegas as one of the more successful lounge acts of all time, starting at the Sands in the 1950s all the way through the 1990s.
Writing in the New York Times in 1998, Stephen Holden called Mr. Grecco “about as pure an example of the lounge-music aesthetic as you could find. He is the real thing. In fact, he helped invent it.”
Armando Joseph Grecco was born in Philadelphia.
--I was reading a piece in Crain’s New York Business on the job of playing the timpani in the New York Philharmonic (Crain’s profiles unique jobs from time to time) and I was just a little surprised, pleasantly so, that Markus Rhoten, who hails from Germany, makes a base salary of $147,000. “On top of that, principals have individual contracts with the orchestra, the terms of which are not disclosed. Rhoten is also a salaried faculty member at Juilliard.”
Glad to see these folks get paid what they deserve. It wasn’t always so. But at the same time there are a decreasing number of opportunities as some of the leading orchestras have folded or are close to doing so.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/15/72: #1 “American Pie” (Don McLean...sounds just as good 44 years later...) #2 “Brand New Key” (Melanie...this one, not so much...) # 3 “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green...not bad...)...and...#4 “Sunshine” (Jonathan Edwards...not to be confused with former Sen. John Edwards...) #5 “Family Affair” (Sly & The Family Stone...Trump theme song...) #6 “Scorpio” (Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band) #7 “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” (The New Seekers...yes, the Coca-Cola commercial was big then...) #8 “Got To Be There” (Michael Jackson...awesome tune...) #9 “Hey Girl” (Donny Osmond...another excuse to say, Marie lookin’ mighty fine these days...) #10 “Clean Up Woman” (Betty Wright)
Baseball Hall of Fame Quiz Answer: Players in the Class of 1937: Tris Speaker, Cy Young, and Nap Lajoie. [Cy Young only received 76.1% of the vote.]
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.