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Strasburg and Cole Break the Bank
[Posted Wed. A.m.]
NFL Quiz: New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas already has 121 receptions for 1424 yards. He is likely in the Saints’ final three contests to pass the all-time record for a season of 143. 1) Name the only three to catch 130 in a season. 2) Name the first two to catch 100, both from the early 1960s and the AFL. Answers below.
--Looking at the bowl game lineup, eegads, there is some mighty crapola on the slate.
Here are the only ones I’m interested in, aside from the CFP semis.
SMU vs. Florida Atlantic is mildly interesting, Dec. 21.
Appalachian State vs. UAB, only because I want to see the Apps and some of their potential NFL talent, Dec. 21.
Michigan State vs. Wake Forest, for parochial reasons only...crappy matchup for us with the Spartans just 6-6; deserved better, Dec. 27.
Air Force vs. Washington State, solely to see the Cougars’ Anthony Gordon, Dec. 27...except it comes on at 10:15 Eastern!
Penn State vs. Memphis (Cotton Bowl), terrific matchup, Dec. 28.
Florida vs. Virginia (Orange Bowl), will be rooting major league for ACC, Dec. 30...perfect time slot...Monday night before New Year’s Eve.
Michigan vs. Alabama (Citrus Bowl), should be quality contest, Jan. 1.
Oregon vs. Wisconsin (Rose Bowl), excellent game due to the Badgers’ improved play on offense recently, Jan. 1.
And then we have a slew of games after Jan. 1 that shouldn’t be allowed. I will root for Boston College as it faces Cincinnati, Jan. 2, but games like Ohio vs. Nevada and Louisiana vs. Miami (OH)? Are you kidding me?
I do have to add, the lineup New Year’s Eve totally blows, though I’ll probably have the games on out of boredom. I mean No. 11 Utah (11-2) facing Texas (7-5) in the Valero Alamo Bowl in prime time, 7:30, is a total insult. The Utes deserve much better, Oklahoma State, for starters, given the parameters. I feel like rioting....
Actually, I’ll watch a movie... “Jeremiah Johnson” is always a good winter flick.
Worst bowl matchup...Florida International vs. Arkansas State...no offense to students and alum of both.
--In the FCS (Div. I-AA) playoffs we are down to the final eight, games to be played Friday and Saturday.
No. 1 North Dakota State takes on Illinois State; 5 Montana State vs. Austin Peay (which upset 4 Sacramento State in the second round); 3 Weber State vs. 6 Montana; and Northern Iowa vs. 2 James Madison.
--Just four finalists for the Heisman Trophy show Saturday night in New York – the winner, Joe Burow, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts and Chase Young.
It is pretty funny that the QBs all transferred to their current school. Burrow left Ohio State and joined LSU in 2018 as a graduate transfer. Hurts left Alabama for Oklahoma after a rather storied three seasons with the Tide. And Fields left Georgia for Ohio State after his freshman year.
Separately, congratulations to Justin Herbert for winning the William V. Campbell Trophy for combined academic and athletic excellence among college football players.
Known as the Academic Heisman, Herbert’s 4.01 GPA won’t hurt him in next spring’s draft, one can imagine.
--Finally, ESPN assembled a blue-ribbon panel of 150 media members, administrators and former players and coaches, to span more than a century of the sport to select the 150 Greatest Coaches (for 150 years of history).
1. Paul (Bear) Bryant
2. Nick Saban
3. Knute Rockne
4. Tom Osborne
5. Eddie Robinson
6. Charles (Bud) Wilkinson
7. Joe Paterno
8. Bobby Bowden
9. Woody Hayes
10. Frank Leahy
12. John McKay
13. Barry Switzer
15. Ara Parseghian
16. John Gagliardi
19. Earl (Red) Blaik
20. Bo Schembechler
I do have to note the ‘experts’ had Harold (Tubby) Raymond at No. 25, a very appropriate selection; Raymond being the great coach at Delaware (1966-2001) that those of us of a certain age, and geographical location, were most familiar with. Plus my Uncle C. was a long-time professor at Delaware.
Dabo Swinney is No. 31, which is fair...but with each year he should be moving up 2 or 3 slots, so that in ten years, if not sooner, he is firmly ensconced in the top ten.
We had two significant games since I posted last. Sunday night, the Rams stayed relevant at 8-5 with a solid 28-12 win over Seattle (10-3), a big blow for the Seahawks and their attempts to gain home-field advantage for the playoffs. Jared Goff had his second straight solid game, 22/31, 293, 2-2, 95.2, outplaying Russell Wilson, 22/36, 245, 0-1, 69.8; Wilson less than scintillating of late after having been anointed MVP a month earlier.
So as you see below, the Rams need to keep running the table and hope the Vikings slip up, especially as the Vikings have the Packers and Bears their final two.
And then Monday night, in what ordinarily would have been a totally meaningless game, the 2-10 Giants at 5-7 Philadelphia, the fact that the Eagles rallied for a 23-17 in overtime means they are tied with Dallas atop the godawful NFC East, and, whether you like it or not, under the U.S. Constitution (really, I swear), one of these two gets to move on to the playoffs. I mean the Framers envisioned this scenario, but as Alexander Hamilton said during a heated debate, “Whaddya gonna do?”
So there we had Eli Manning, starting in place of the injured Daniel Jones at quarterback for potentially the last time in his career (at least with the Giants), and Eli lit it up early , hardly looking rusty in combining with rookie receiver Darius Slayton on two touchdown passes, Slayton responsible for 154 of Eli’s 179 first-half passing yardage.
It was 17-3 at the intermission, Eagles fans booing their team unmercifully off the field, and for a few minutes, no doubt many Giants fans were wondering, ‘Were we really smart to bench Eli when we did? Is this a different season if we hadn’t done so?’
Ah, but then the second half started and Eli and the Giants were beyond atrocious, Carson Wentz (33/50, 325, 2-0, 97.5) rallying the Eagles to two touchdowns and overtime, despite an ongoing series of dropped balls by his receivers, and then when the Eagles won the toss in OT, Wentz marched his boys down the field for 75 yards and the winning TD, a 2-yard pass to Wentz’ favorite target (and essentially only one these days, what with all the Eagles’ injuries), Zach Ertz. Final score 23-17.
Manning was just 4 of 11 in the second half for 24 yards, running back Saquon Barkley with another subpar effort of his own, 17 carries for 66 yards, 3 receptions for a single yard.
Giants fans are rightfully concerned over Barkley’s play since he returned from a high-ankle sprain. In his last seven games, his long run is 22 yards.
I’ll give you something you won’t find anywhere else. Last year, Barkley had ten games with a long run over 22 yards.
Barkley just isn’t playing anywhere near his sensational rookie level, and he denies that he’s not 100%, but clearly something is wrong. There is no acceleration in his runs, no extra gear for him to turn to.
One more on Eli. His career record is now 116-117-0, 8-26 his last three seasons. But he’s got two rings, so, whatever...he gets a Hall of Fame blazer, most say.
--Speaking of runners who have looked like a shell of their former selves, you have the Jets’ Le’Veon Bell. I gave him a pass the first eight weeks or so, citing the hideous offensive line for his dismal stats, but you just don’t see that burst through the line that was characteristic of Bell’s five seasons in Pittsburgh.
At the same time, Le’Veon had been a model citizen, a leader in the locker room for the Jets, never throwing anyone under the bus, including his coach, Adam Gase, who hasn’t been using him appropriately.
But then that all changed the other day. Bell was held out of the Miami game because we were told he was suffering from the flu. Then we found out the night before the game he was out bowling.
Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post
“It’s bad optics. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a bad look.
“After a trying first season with the Jets in which Le’Veon Bell has projected nothing but a series of good looks as an exemplary teammate, one of the hardest-working players and a star who projects himself as anything but a diva, Bell screwed up Saturday night.
“The running back didn’t break any laws trying to bust up some pins while hanging with some fellow keglers at the Boonton Lanes in New Jersey until 1 a.m., as The Post exclusively reported.
“So, Bell won’t be called into NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office to explain himself over anything that was a violation of league rules.
“There isn’t even any evidence that Bell was even drinking alcohol, though according to eyewitnesses, his group had alcohol at the table.
“The only rule Bell broke was the rule of common sense.
“The issue here is that Bell missed practices on Thursday and Friday with the flu. Coach Adam Gase, in fact, said he sent Bell home on Friday to avoid any of Bell’s teammates catching what he had.
“Bell was not present at the Saturday team walk-through.
“And, on a day when injured safety Jamal Adams was standing on sideline benches urging on his teammates and the home crowd in an energetic, towel-waving display of support during the game, it’s believed that Bell wasn’t even at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for the 22-21 win over the Dolphins....
“Many of his teammates, before they got to know him, expected Bell to come to the locker room with an air of arrogance and self-importance. Yet Bell has been the opposite of that, and quickly become one of the most popular players in the room.
“The problem with Saturday night is that he made Gase and the Jets look bad. Because going bowling until 1 a.m., just hours before your team kicks off a game you’re too sick to participate in is disrespectful.”
Adam Gase never wanted the Jets to sign Bell because his offensive philosophy devalues running backs, especially given the money Le’Veon is making. So everyone now knows he’ll be traded in the offseason, with Gase a virtual lock to keep his own job.
Late today, Gase said he won’t discipline Bell because no team rules were violated, but he acknowledged it was a bad optic for Bell and the organization.
1. Baltimore 11-2...New York Jets / Thurs. night
2. New England 10-3...at Cincinnati
3. Kansas City 9-4...Denver
4. Houston 8-5...at Tennessee*
5. Buffalo 9-4...at Pittsburgh / Sun. night
6. Pittsburgh 8-5...Buffalo
7. *Tennessee 8-5
Cleveland 6-7, Oakland 6-7, Indianapolis 6-7.
1. San Francisco 11-2...Atlanta
2. Green Bay 10-3...at Chicago
3. New Orleans 10-3...Indianapolis / Mon. night
4. Dallas 6-7...Los Angeles Rams
5. Seattle 10-3...at Carolina
6. Minnesota 9-4...at Los Angeles Chargers
7. Los Angeles 8-5
8. Chicago 7-6
Dallas 6-7...wins tie break over Philadelphia based on head-to-head win percentage, but they play again
--I saw a stat reflective of Drew Brees’ diminished arm strength. His average throw has traveled just 6.3 yards, trailing only his backup, Teddy Bridgewater, per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
--The New England Patriots acknowledged that they broke league rules when a team videographer was caught taping from the press box during Sunday’s Cleveland-Cincinnati game.
In a statement released Monday night, the Patriots indicated that they use an independent production crew for its “Do Your Job” documentary series, and that the video crew “unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box.” The Bengals host the Pats this Sunday.
The Patriots’ statement read: “For the past year, the New England Patriots content team has produced a series of behind-the-scenes features on various departments within the organization. The seven previous ‘Do Your Job’ episodes are archived on patriots.com. On Sunday, Dec. 8, the content team sent a three-person video crew to the Bengals’ Browns game at FirstEnergy Stadium in order to capture one part of a longer feature on the Patriots scouting department, in this case a Patriots pro personnel scout while he was working in the press box.
“While we sought and were granted credentialed access from the Cleveland Browns for the video crew, our failure to inform the Bengals and the League was an unintended oversight. In addition to filming the scout, the production crew – without specific knowledge of League rules – inappropriately filmed the field from the press box. The sole purpose of the filming was to provide an illustration of an advance scout at work on the road. There was no intention of using the footage for any other purpose. We understand and acknowledge that our video crew, which included independent contractors who shot the video, unknowingly violated a league policy by filming the field and sideline from the press box. When questioned, the crew immediately turned over all footage to the league and cooperated fully.”
The NFL is looking into the matter to determine if the Patriots had recorded the Bengals’ sideline.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick denied any involvement when asked about the incident in an interview with WEEI.
“Yeah I heard about this,” Belichick said. “You know, evidently this is our production people on the TV show that were there. We have nothing to do with anything they produce...I’ve never even seen their tapes.”
The Patriots were disciplined in 2007 for illegally filming the play signals coming from opposing team benches in the scandal that became known as Spygate. The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell fined Belichick $500,000, the maximum penalty allowed by league rules. The league also fined the franchise $250,000 and forced New England to forfeit its first-round selection for the 2008 NFL draft.
In the here and now, Tom Brady has a passer rating of 78.9 his last 10 games, 25th out of 27 qualified passers. In the Pats’ three losses in their last five games, Brady and Co. have fallen to Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes – a changing of the guard.
--New AP Poll (records thru Sun.)
1. Louisville (55) 9-0
2. Kansas (4) 7-1
3. Ohio State (5) 9-0
4. Maryland 10-0
5. Michigan 8-1
6. Gonzaga 10-1
7. Duke 9-1
8. Kentucky 7-1
9. Virginia 8-1
10. Oregon 7-2
11. Baylor 7-1
14. Dayton 7-1
16. Michigan State 6-3
17. North Carolina 6-3
18. Butler 9-0
22. Seton Hall 6-3
24. Colorado 7-1
25. San Diego State 10-0...Aztecwear stirring in sports drawer...it’s been awhile
--One thing we’ve learned early this season, while it’s a cliché to say every March that ‘anyone can win it all,’ this year we might find ourselves saying even a team not in the top 25 can do so.
Tuesday, No. 1 Louisville was upset by Texas Tech (6-3) 70-57, though this is a Red Raider team that went to the national final last season.
And 4 Maryland lost at Penn State (8-2) 76-69, the Terps having lost their last four games at Bryce Jordan Center.
Uh oh...No. 24 Colorado lost its second straight, now 7-2, falling at home to Northern Iowa (9-1) 79-76.
--Sunday night, Seton Hall fell to Iowa State 76-66, after beating them days earlier at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, 84-76. In that one, the Pirates’ second-leading scorer, Sandro Mamukelashvili scored 18.
But Sunday, Mamukelashvili was out of the game after five minutes with a broken right wrist (he shoots lefty) and is now assumed to be out for six to eight weeks.
This is a critical period for the Hall. They have to stay afloat until Mamukelashvili (out of Tblisi, Georgia) returns and then get on a run. My “Pick to Click” will rise again! [He wrote nervously.]
--Also Sunday, I didn’t have a chance to comment on Virginia’s 56-47 win over North Carolina, after the two teams had been blown out earlier in the week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by Purdue and Ohio State, respectively.
Shockingly, Carolina was held to under 50 points for a second consecutive game, the worst two-game stretch for UNC since the 1947-48 season! The Tar Heels hit just 1 of 14 from three. Coach Roy Williams said he was at wits’ end.
“I’ve never been so frustrated...I’m beside myself.”
Carolina’s offense is broken and Williams said that for the first time in 32 years, he has no answers.
Cole Anthony, the one-game wunderkind, and erstwhile All-American point guard and lottery pick after one season, is shooting 36.8% from the field. Moreover, Sunday against Virginia, he had six turnovers and zero assists. Williams said he’d never had a point guard produce those numbers.
--Kind of funny that the Brooklyn Nets started the season off 4-7, even with Kyrie Irving averaging 28 points a game, but since he went down with a shoulder injury, the Nets are 9-3, thanks in no small part to the terrific play of his fill-in, Spencer Dinwiddie. In those 12 contests, Dinwiddie has averaged 23.8 points, 7.6 assists, and come up with one clutch play after another.
It’s said the Nets will be even better when Kyrie returns because they’ll be deeper. We’ll see.
--Sunday night, the Lakers (21-3) won again, 142-125 over the T’Wolves, as Anthony Davis had a season-high 50 points, going 20 of 29 from the field and making all 10 of his free throws.
--Last night, the Knicks started their west coast road trip with a 115-87 loss at Portland, the Knicks shooting 7 of 38 from three. New York is now 4-20.
--As I said last time, this is a totally different free agent market from last year. The MLBPA can’t complain. I mean there was Stephen Strasburg, Monday, reaching an agreement with the Nationals to stay in Washington, seven years, $245 million – the largest annual value for a pitcher in MLB history (at least until Gerrit Cole signs). It tops the seven-year, $210 million deal the Nats gave Max Scherzer in 2015. It’s also three years and $145 million more than the contract Strasburg opted out of last month. The contract apparently includes a full no-trade clause as well.
Good for Washington and its fans. Ownership has spoken. Yes, they’ve also said they can’t afford both...Strasburg and Anthony Rendon...so Rendon will sign elsewhere, but no one could have possibly thought any team would be able to take on both.
Barry Svrluga / Washington Post
“This feels right. This is how it should have ended. Merry Strasmas, all these years later.
“World Series winners don’t stay together fully intact, and understandably so. But Stephen Strasburg, World Series MVP, couldn’t leave the stage at the east end of Constitution Avenue and reemerge in another team’s uniform. It would have felt...wrong. Sports is a business, sure. We just didn’t need such an in-your-face reminder, not after all that October brought.
“A decade ago, Strasburg became one of the first reasons to be at all optimistic about the Washington Nationals. There were times he tested your patience, sure. How distant does that seem? It’s a measure of his transformation, more than complete now, that his seven-year, $245 million contract agreed to Monday is reason for optimism in 2020, and well beyond.
“There are cautionary notes, for sure... But what should be heartening to Nationals fans still reveling in the World Series glow is that their club identified its top target, pursued him aggressively and reeled him in with a massive deal that is simultaneously fair-market value and a record total for a pitcher.
“Monday arrived because Strasburg opted out of the seven-year, $175 million extension he signed in May 2016 – a deal that worked out well for the Nats, who watched him blossom from fragile to fearsome under the security the deal provided, and brilliantly for Strasburg, who used the first of two opt-outs to cash in on his dominant postseason. Entering free agency was a business decision, and a sensible one. The Nats were neither surprised nor offended.”
And then last night, the Yankees went for it, signing Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal, with an opt-out after year five.
The 29-year-old righthander went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 33 starts last year. He struck out a league-high 326 and walked just 48 batter.
The deal shattered the previous record for a pitcher set, oh, 24 hours earlier. The Evil Empire is back.
Ironically, the Yankees had drafted Cole in the first round in 2008, only to see him fulfill his commitment to UCLA, and then tried to acquire him in a trade in 2018.
Needless to say, future Yankee free agents Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres were thrilled with Cole’s contract.
Joel Sherman / New York Post
“It cost the Yankees. More than ever for a pitcher More than ever on an annual basis for anyone – even Mike Trout.
“And that is why Cole will not play with Trout. The Angels were believed to be the other finalist for the righty’s services. But Tuesday night the Yankees reached agreement with Cole on a nine-year, $324 million contract that gives them what they have chased since 2008 – Cole. It gives then the unquestioned ace they have craved as they try to win their first championship since 2009. It probably gives them the designation of 2020 World Series favorite as rosters stand now.”
--One other deal of note Tuesday. The Phillies signed former Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year. $14 million contract. Gregorius missed the first half of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled, batting .238 in 82 games, knocking him out of the top tier of free agents this winter, but now he can play his way into a bigger contract.
It’s presumed Didi will become the Phillies’ everyday shortstop, pushing Jean Segura to second base.
Very good move for the Phils.
--Meanwhile, at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, the elephant in the room is the Astros and what punishment awaits them for the cheating scandal. Houston manager AJ Hinch admitted, “It’s not comfortable” being there.
Speaking at a 20-minute roundtable session, Hinch wouldn’t even say whether he felt the use of electronic devices to steal signs constituted cheating. All he could admit was that he was cooperating with MLB’s investigation.
--I saw the news about Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller getting elected to the Hall of Fame, through the Modern Era Committee, after I posted Sunday, but then added a blurb that I was happy for both. [Miller received 12 of 16 votes, exactly the 75% required; Simmons was on 13 ballots. Dwight Evans was third with eight.]
I just think that Simmons, a nine-time All-Star, 2,472 hits, 248 home runs, 1,389 RBI (second to Yogi Berra’s 1,430 among those primarily catchers), .285 batting average, eight years with 90+ RBIs, a power-hitter (for his era) who never struck out more than 57 times in a season, the lion’s share of his time as a catcher, measured up. I know as a kid when you got a Ted Simmons card in your pack you looked at it differently, treated it with respect.
Simmons was hurt by being compared with his HOF contemporaries, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk, but when it comes to Fisk, oh, puh-leeze. Bench and Carter, on the other hand, are top five at their position all-time. Simmons is a notch below but deserving.
I’ll tell you what is really outrageous. Simmons was on the original Hall of Fame ballot just one year, 1994, booted off after receiving just 3.7%.
Then there is Marvin Miller.
Tyler Kepner / New York Times
“The big story on the first full day of baseball’s winter meetings on Monday was Stephen Strasburg becoming the richest pitcher in major league history. Strasburg reached an agreement to stay with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $245 million. If he had wanted to sign elsewhere, perhaps with his hometown San Diego Padres, he could have done that. But now he is back with the team he just led to a title, and he probably will never pitch for anyone else.
“This is the world that Marvin Miller – and perhaps he alone – envisioned decades ago. Miller, the first executive director of the players’ association, was finally elected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday night, posthumously, by a 16-person panel of executives, historians and former players who also elected the former catcher Ted Simmons. The game has not withered because of the free agency rights players gained under Miller; it has thrived.
“ ‘There was some anxiety at first, because there was this stigma about unionizing athletes – who did they think they were?’ said Jim Kaat, the former pitcher, by phone on Monday. ‘What Marvin did, gradually, was show us our value and give us more self-esteem.’
“It is hard to imagine that player mind-set now, in an era when Gerrit Cole wears a cap with his agent’s logo minutes after his Houston Astros lose Game 7 of the World Series to forecast his coming bonanza on the open market. But in 1966, when the players elected Miller to lead their union, they had been trained to think of themselves as easily replaceable.
“ ‘Players had been told for so long that they were irrelevant, and the game was bigger than them, and they didn’t appreciate how special their talent was,’ Gene Orza, the former general counsel and chief operating officer for the union, said on Monday. ‘They had been beaten up by teams for 100 years – you should be lucky you’re playing this game and happy with what we’re paying you – that they were not proud. The first thing Marvin had to do was let them know how important and unique they really were.’
“By empowering players to speak up at meetings, and nudging them along with sensible arguments emphasizing their collective power, Miller created a colossus. Teams could still keep their players, but they would have to pay them what their talents demanded....
“Miller’s path to Cooperstown did not come without one last battle. He was rejected six times by various compositions of the veterans committee, and in 2008 he made a formal request to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America – whose Historical Oversight Committee composes the ballot – to stop considering him.
“ ‘The anti-union bias of the powers who control the Hall has consistently prevented recognition of the historic significance of the changes to baseball brought about by collective bargaining,’ Miller wrote then, but he continued to be nominated, even after his death in 2012.
“Orza, who spoke with Miller’s daughter, Susan, on Monday, said Miller’s two children had no plans to represent him at the induction ceremony in Cooperstown next July.
“ ‘Before he passed away,’ Orza said, ‘Marvin sat them down and said, ‘If by some strange combination of events the Hall of Fame should come calling, I don’t want you to have anything to do with it.’
“To Orza, the Hall of Fame gains more than Miller by electing him. By formally recognizing him at last, the Hall’s plaque gallery will more accurately tell the game’s story.
“Outside of that room, though, his influence has long been undeniable. We see it most acutely every off-season, when teams find new avenues to make themselves better and world-class players decide how to maximize their earning power.
“ ‘Look at the players today: They’re living in mansions and making millions,’ Kaat said. ‘Marvin was the right man at the right time to get us to stick together, make little gains, and show us what we could do.’”
For his part, Ted Simmons was asked about being inducted with Miller next summer in Cooperstown, Simmons once involved in a high-profile contract dispute in 1972. He recalled how Miller had the ability to unite a disparate group of players.
“Marvin would patiently wait for every single player to speak their mind,” Simmons said. “No matter how inane, no matter how un-thought out, no matter how off the mark the question came, Marvin painstakingly, patiently waded through it all. And in the end, after everyone had spoke their mind, he would bring it all together and present it in a way that everyone felt as though, yes, this is exactly what we collectively think.”
--With the Presidents Cup this weekend in Australia, Patrick Reed’s cheating episode at Tiger’s event last weekend has caught the attention of the International team. Cameron Smith was asked at the Australian Open, where he and a number of his teammates teed it up, whether fans at Royal Melbourne should let Reed hear it and Smith didn’t hold back.
“I hope so,” Smith said. “I don’t have any sympathy for anyone that cheats.
“I hope the crowd absolutely gives it to not only him, but everyone [on the American team] next week.”
Smith wasn’t buying Reed’s explanation that the camera angle made his actions look worse than they were.
“If you make a mistake maybe once, you could maybe understand, but to give a bit of a bulls—t response like the camera angle...that’s pretty up there.”
--Chelsea and Liverpool joined their Premier League brethren, Tottenham and Manchester City, in qualifying for the last 16; Chelsea defeating Lille 2-1, while Liverpool beat RB Salzburg 2-0.
Pairings for the next round are announced Thursday.
--Sunday night, Stanford defeated North Carolina 5-4 in penalty kicks to secure the Women’s National Soccer championship, in what was described as an all-time classic, 0-0 through regulation and extra time.
--As I’ve been writing, it’s now official. Russia was banned from the Olympics and world championships in a range of sports for four years on Monday after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ruled to punish it for manipulating laboratory data, as announced by WADA.
WADA concluded that Moscow had tampered with lab data by planting fake evidence and deleting files linked to positive doping tests that could have helped identify drug cheats.
The decision by WADA’s executive committee was unanimous, a spokesman said.
Russia has been embroiled in doping scandals since a 2015 report commissioned by WADA found evidence of doping by Russian athletes.
The ban excludes Russia from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, among other events such as the World Cup.
Many of Russia’s athletes have been sidelined from the past two Olympics and the country stripped of its flag altogether at last year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for state-sponsored doping cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Games.
One of the conditions for the reinstatement of Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA had been that Moscow provide an authentic copy of the laboratory data. Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov last month attributed the discrepancies in the lab data to technical issues.
The punishment does leave the door open for clean Russian athletes to compete at major international sporting events without their flag or anthem for four years, as was the case during the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“What the Olympics need is a clean start. By that I don’t mean a ‘pure’ start, as opposed to a ‘dirty’ one, or any of the other uselessly simplistic terms used by the World Anti-Doping Agency to perpetuate its junk science. I mean a complete philosophical, ethical and scientific rethinking. The kind resisted by conflict of interest-riddled anti-doping bureaucrats, whose superficial ‘banning’ of Russia from competition would be more meaningful if WADA was any better than, well, Russia. What you have here is a battle between crooked cops and creeps, with a lot of athletes caught in between.
“To begin with, WADA has not really banned Russia from the Tokyo Games; it has merely banned its song and its flag. A melody and a swatch of cloth – that is the perfect gesture from an organization dedicated solely to cosmetics and buttocks-covering. Scores of individual Russian athletes still can compete – and rightly so, given that they may have been non-complicit, victimized by a state-sponsored system or simply unwitting violators of a nonsensical banned list bereft of any scientific worth. WADA is not fit to sort out the guilty from the bystanders. It’s just another bad actor.
“More importantly, it is a tainted instrument, the results and judgments of which cannot be trusted. No one can be happy with Russia’s conduct – state doping is a human rights scourge – but WADA is simply not a legitimate adjudicator. It was never designed by the international Olympic Committee to go after powerful states or a state-sanctioned apparatus such as the U.S. Olympic Committee, which presided over a child molestation coverup that makes Russian doping look benign. The IOC founded WADA purposely to focus guilt on individual athletes – and shift attention away from guilty governing bodies.”
--I didn’t have a chance to write of the passing of Caroll Spinney, who played “Big Bird” and “Oscar the Grouch” on “Sesame Street.” He was 85. Spinney retired just last year, having portrayed the characters – including their voices – since the show’s start in 1969.
Spinney developed a love for puppetry at the age of five and explored it through his childhood and teenage years and used his performances to raise money for college tuition.
After serving in the Air Force, he performed as a professional puppeteer in Las Vegas and Boston in the 1950s and 1960s, eventually meeting Muppets creator Jim Henson, who also starred in Sesame Street. Spinney later joined the cast for the show’s inaugural series.
Spinney met his wife of 40 years, Debra, on the Sesame Street set in 1973.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/11/71: #1 “Family Affair” (Sly & The Family Stone) #2 “Theme From Shaft” (Isaac Hayes) #3 “Have You Seen Her” (Chi-Lites)...and...#4 “Got To Be There” (Michael Jackson...his / their best...) #5 “An Old Fashioned Love Song” (Three Dog Night) #6 “Baby I’m - A Want You” (Bread) #7 “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” (Cher) #8 “All I Ever Need Is You” (Sonny & Cher) #9 “Brand New Key” (Melanie) #10 “Desiderata” (Les Crane...this last one takes the week from an A- to a B-…)
NFL Quiz Answers: 1) The top three Michael Thomas is chasing for the all-time single-season receptions record are...Marvin Harrison, 143, 2002, IND; Antonio Brown, 136, 2015, PIT; Julio Jones, 136, 2015, ATL. 2) The first two receivers with 100 receptions were Lionel Taylor, 100, 1961, DEN, and Charley Hennigan, 101, 1964, HOU. After these two, who accomplished their feats in a 14-game schedule, it wasn’t until 1984 and Washington’s Art Monk that someone caught 100 in a season, Monk with 106 that year.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.