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09/01/2014

College Football's Opener

[Posted 8:30 Sunday PM...prior to finish of NASCAR race]

Baseball Quiz: Down below I note the paucity of .300 hitters this year and compare it to the steroid-infused 2000 season. For example, no one is hitting .340 this season in MLB, but back in 2000, eight players did so. How many of these can you name? [Now you’ll need some help and most baseball fans see a number and that’s enough to jog the memory. So I’ll give you the eight batting averages. .372, .372, .355, .355, .351, .345, .344, .344] Answer below.

College Football

I have a long held policy here...never make too much of the first two weeks of both the college football and NFL seasons. And so this being Season No. 16 for Bar Chat, I’m not about to change now, kids.

--The only game that could perhaps be called even a minor upset was No. 21 Texas A&M’s rout of No. 9 South Carolina in Columbia, 52-28, as Johnny Manziel’s replacement at QB for the Aggies, sophomore Kenny Hill, was 44 for 60 and a school record 511 yards, with three touchdowns. As Ronald Reagan would have said, “Not bad, not bad at all.”

But get this. In 17 games against SEC opponents since joining the conference, Texas A&M is averaging 39.5 points and 539 total yards per game, according to CBSSports.com.

--So we now know not only was South Carolina way overrated, but is No. 2 Alabama as well? They were very unimpressive in defeating West Virginia, 33-23, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Running back T.J. Yeldon did have 126 yards rushing in 23 carries.

But we have to congratulate the Mountaineers for handily beating the spread, 26 points, and as you all know, that’s really all that matters.

--No. 1 Florida State was hardly impressive either in defeating Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 37-31, as Heisman winner Jameis Winston was 25/40, 370 yards, but only one touchdown pass and two interceptions.

--My No. 3 Oregon Ducks...quack quack...slammed South Dakota 62-13. Nothing more needs to be said on this one, except I’m told the Lady Duck cheerleaders were in mid-season form.

--I really did believe No. 5 Ohio State would lose to Navy in Baltimore, but the Buckeyes prevailed 34-17 after being down 7-6 at the half. Coach Urban Meyer can’t be happy his team gave up 370 yards on the ground to the Midshipmen, even if that is what Navy does better than anyone.

At least the fill-in for injured QB Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, looked solid, 12/15, 226, 2-1, with 50 yards rushing.

--No. 6 Auburn beat Arkansas 45-21.

--No. 7 UCLA was another top-tenner that failed to impress in defeating Virginia, 28-20, in Charlottesville. The Bruins would have lost were it not for a fumble and interception being returned for touchdowns. Heisman candidate Brett Hundley was a highly pedestrian 20/33, 242, zero TD passes. UVA outgained UCLA 386-358.

--Boy, No. 12 Georgia did look impressive in whipping No. 16 Clemson 45-21. But, again, it’s early. Nonetheless Georgia running back Todd Gurley staked his early claim to the Heisman with 198 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 15 carries...PLUS...a 100-yard kickoff return!

--No. 13 LSU rallied back at home from a 24-7 deficit to defeat No. 14 Wisconsin, 28-24.

--No. 17 Notre Dame defeated Rice 48-17, after Rice professors and monitors spent a week on the ND campus as part of an agreement with the NCAA to help clean up the institution.

--Rutgers pulled off a mini-shocker in defeating Washington State, way out yonder (Seattle), 41-38, though Cougars QB Connor Halliday was 40/56, 532, 5-1.

--Pitt destroyed Delaware 62-0 and I actually think it’s pretty significant. Last Dec. 30 in this space, I wrote after Pitt defeated Bowling Green 30-27 in a highly entertaining bowl game in which then freshman running back James Conner rumbled for 229 yards, and also appeared late in the game as an effective pass rusher:

“If Pitt can come up with a quarterback for next year, they can surprise because they will have the best sophomore tandem at RB and wide receiver in the nation, the latter being current freshman Tyler Boyd....”

Well Conner rushed for 145 yards and four touchdowns on just 13 carries, Saturday, and while Boyd’s numbers were not spectacular (107 all-purpose yards), quarterback Chad Voytik played well and the Panther defense yielded just 51 total yards.

So I’m sticking by my call that Pitt will surprise. I’ll go with 8-4. But they need to beat Steve D.’s Boston College squad up there on Friday night to do so. [BC opened with a 30-7 win over UMass.]

--Sept. 1, 2007. Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32.

The college football upset of all-time...nay, one of the biggest upsets in sports history. My good friend Phil W. was there in Ann Arbor, with his daughter, then an App State student. Coach Jerry Moore had his I-AA team up 28-17 at half, only to barely hang on as Corey Lynch blocked Jason Gingell’s 37-yard field-goal attempt with 5 seconds left for the win.

Fast forward to Aug. 30, 2014. Michigan 52 Appalachian State 14. The line was 34 ½, so the Apps can’t even claim victory on that front.

--Finally, here’s my deal with my alma mater, Wake Forest, this academic sports year. I am not going to be mean-spirited in any fashion. We are what we are...for both football and basketball. Programs under new management and zero talent. It will take at least two years for football coach Dave Clawson and basketball coach Danny Manning to install their systems and recruit their own athletes. I am going to be patient. I’m also likely not to give a damn for long stretches.

And so it was that Wake lost to UL-Monroe on Thursday, 17-10, as the Deacons racked up a whopping 94 yards of total offense. 94 freakin’ yards! Five first downs! I watched about half of the game, like the first and fourth quarters, and we were dreadful. But don’t blame Clawson.

--You know, I printed all this stuff out on the Josh Shaw case, that of the USC senior cornerback who claimed to have sprained both of his ankles while rescuing his 7-year-old nephew from a pool last Saturday, only to admit later he made it all up, and I just don’t care.

The bottom line is that new coach Steve Sarkisian’s Trojans, ranked No. 15, whipped Fresno State 52-13 in the opener, this despite USC senior back Anthony Brown, who quit the team a week ago, claiming Sarkisian was a racist.

[Brown posted on Instagram, “Sark treated me like a slave in his Office...Can’t play for a racist MAN!!!! #Fighton”...though he later deleted it. Sarkisian said he was totally blindsided by the comments. Players came to Sark’s defense immediately.]

OK, I do have to note for the archives, I guess, that the LAPD is investigating whether Shaw was involved in an incident of domestic violence with his girlfriend on Saturday, which was the day he suffered the injuries. Many are also wondering how the heck Shaw was able to hire high-profile attorney Donald Etra (whose clients have included Rihanna and Snoop Dogg).

Ball Bits

--Very psyched Adam Dunn got traded to Oakland. He has announced this is probably his last season and he’s never been in the playoffs. It’s a rebirth for him. If he can hit just .250 with pop (and his usual high volume of walks), he’ll be a huge addition.

--So the Mets’ Curtis Granderson had his bobblehead doll night on Saturday and of course he went 0-for-4, bringing his mark for the month of August to .147 (16-for-109) with just two extra-base hits. He’s in year one of a four-year, $60 million contract and is hitting .214 with 16 homers and 49 RBI.

Here’s his season thus far....

April .145 batting average
May .253
June .300
July .242
August .147

--The Mets’ record at the All-Star break and their final mark.

2009...42-45...70-92
2010...48-40...79-83
2011...46-45...77-85
2012...46-40...74-88
2013...41-50...74-88
2014...45-50...64-73 [thru Sunday]

Oh yeah, it’s just been a real barrel of monkeys for Mets fans these last six seasons.

Saturday, they became the first N.L. team ever to have 10 straight home games with 6 or fewer hits...but in Sunday’s 6-5 win, they busted through for 11. [The 1980 Oakland A’s were the only other team to accomplish the feat.]

Michael Powell / New York Times

“Ah, to be a Mets fan in late August. The twilight is cool and sharp shadowed, and Citi Field is a retro delight. As for the state of the team as it makes its inevitable turn toward the autumn moon?

“Not so gorgeous.

“Manager Terry Collins walked into his postgame news conference Thursday night looking like a funeral director who decided to dress up in a Mets uniform. His jaw was taut as piano wire, his eyes slits....

“There is a metronomic regularity to this annual Mets ruination. The team shows glimmers of hope in the spring, goes on a nice little run in June or July, and elicits hopeful nouns, verbs and adjectives from the news media.

“At which point, the Mets collapse, totally, thoroughly and profoundly. The joint goes somnolent. Scalpers despair – how do you maintain line discipline when there are more sellers than fans stepping off the 7 train?”

As Powell and everyone else also point out, it is utterly disgraceful the Mets rank 24th in the major leagues in team payroll. And then when they do decide to spend money, it’s on 33-year-old Granderson (I admit to thinking this was an OK move, initially), $20 million per for a rapidly aging David Wright, and the one no one will ever forget, $7.25 million for outfielder Chris Young for one year when they could have had Nelson Cruz, he of the 35 home runs for Baltimore, for $8 or $9 million (he signed for $8M). 

Larry Brooks / New York Post

“This is a vanilla operation, largely devoid of personality and charisma, and more likely than not by design of the decision-makers in ownership and management. There’s no edge to the Mets. This is as homogenized a group you can find in a locker room or clubhouse in pro sports, even given the disparate nationalities and backgrounds of the athletes.

“Oh, boy, is Matt Harvey missed. His is missed on the mound every five days, but perhaps even more so he is missed as a presence with a Don Draper-like DNA that compels him to act on instinct, to question authority, to extend boundaries beyond those adopted by company men. Harvey’s mission is to take his teammates by the scruff of their collective necks and drag them across the finish line.

“So he can sometimes be a pain for the company. So the Mets need to live with that. So the Mets need to collect more large personalities and encourage them to be themselves; to flaunt what they’ve got.”

--The Mets’ David Wright had his first RBI in 15 games on Sunday, a career worst for the $20 million per captain.

--Some big-time hurlers had rough starts the past few days. The Yankees got nine...nine...consecutive hits off Detroit’s David Price the other night in an 8-4 New York victory. I mean Price had not given up nine hits in any of his last 14 starts. In his previous three starts he had allowed a combined nine hits.

[But then a few nights later, the Yanks were one-hit by Toronto. The Yanks’ Jacoby Ellsbury, who was hot as a pistol, 20-of-44, came up with an ankle injury at the worst possible time and could be out a while, though he pinch-hit Sunday, singled, and was promptly removed for a pinch-runner.]

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals had their way on Friday in Seattle against Felix Hernandez, lighting him up for 5 earned on 10 hits in 7 innings, with King Felix striking out just one, plus he gave up four home runs in a single start for the first time ever.

Understand, Hernandez entered the game 13-4, 2.07, but it also helps shine a light on his remarkable streak that was recently broken...a major-league record 16 straight of seven innings and no more than two runs. He hasn’t done this in his last three starts. 

--Yankee ace Masahiro Tanaka had a setback in his rehabilitation of a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and it seems increasingly likely he will undergo Tommy John surgery  that would cost him the 2015 season. It’s a shame...a very expensive, $155 million+ shame.

--San Francisco pitcher Yusmeiro Petit set a major league record when he retired his 46th batter in a row, as the Giants beat the Rockies on Thursday.

Petit got the first eight hitters, breaking Mark Buehrle’s record of 45 straight with the White Sox in 2009. Two pitches later, Rockies starter Jordan Lyles doubled.

Petit’s streak covered eight games, six of them in relief.

--As USA TODAY Sports’ Stan McNeal points out, as of about a week ago, 21 hitters in baseball were hitting .300 (minimum 400 plate appearances), which is a third of the total of the mark reached in the offensive explosion of 2000.

Granted, it’s not 1968, when only six players hit .300 and Carl Yastrzemski won the A.L. batting title with a .301 average, “but if 21 players finish at .300 this season, the figure would be the fewest since 1985 (when there were 20).”

Back to the Mets...since the All-Star break they are hitting .214 thru Sat.  As my grandfather (Phillies fan) would say, “Gee Willickers!” [We’re talking like he was born in 1900, so you need to give him a pass.]

NFL

After the uproar following his decision to give Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice just a two-game suspension for domestic abuse, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally reversed course and said the first such penalty will be six games in the future, with a second offense for domestic violence resulting in a lifetime ban.

But it remains to be seen just how Goodell will enforce this new edict, and the Players Association is rather uncomfortable with what the process will be...as in, “if we believe that players’ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’ rights,” the NFLPA said in a statement. 

[Sunday, Goodell received his first test. San Francisco defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested on domestic violence charges. As I do in all cases of this kind, I’ll wait for the facts before commenting further.]

Mike Lupica / New York Daily News

“Roger Goodell suspended Ray Rice, seen dragging the unconscious woman who is now his wife out of an elevator in Atlantic City last February, for two games. It is not the first mistake Goodell has made as NFL commissioner, it was just the biggest. He got tagged for it, but good, here and everywhere else.

“But Goodell comes back from that this week, even before the official NFL season begins, and even though there were those who wanted him impeached for not hitting Rice nearly hard enough. But that’s the way we often roll in this business when somebody doesn’t react the way we want them to in the moment. We overreact. So it goes....

“So Goodell sent out a letter this past week to his owners, the ones who elected him, and here was the most important part, before he got to the part about the next player guilty of domestic violence getting a six-game suspension, then getting kicked right out of the league for a second offense:

“ ‘At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.’....

“Goodell doesn’t get the game ball for doing the right thing after doing the wrong thing, that would be like celebrating old political candidates for being against the war in Iraq after they were for it. He still fixed this before the first ball is snapped for real, not in one of his rip-off preseason games.”

On the NFL cut front....

Michael Sam was cut by the St. Louis Rams, losing out to undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks. But I’m guessing the Rams place him on the practice squad. Head coach Jeff Fisher said it was strictly a football decision. I believe him.

[Sam was not claimed on waivers and can now sign with any practice squad, though late Sunday, Fisher made it sound like Sam wouldn’t be a member of the Rams’ extras.]

The Jets cut receiver Stephen Hill, the former second-rounder out of Georgia Tech that I thought was a decent pick at the time, giving them the deep threat they haven’t had since Wesley Walker (or so it seems). But his two seasons with Gang Green were a huge disappointment. ...just 45 catches for 594 yards and four touchdowns (two of which were in his very first game). He was often injured, dropped it too many times, and just didn’t perform.

So his agent got all bent out of shape, saying Rex Ryan et al didn’t give his client a good enough opportunity and I’m like, whatever. It’s football. It’s a dirty business.

The Jets released quarterback Matt Simms, but I’m guessing he ends up on the taxi squad. With the fragile Michael Vick on the roster, Simms could be using Uber to move back up to the big time within a week or two. [Former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd was also cut, but he’ll end up somewhere else for sure. He’ll just end up being a late-bloomer.]

Then there is the bizarre case of Dimitri Patterson, the Jets cornerback, who was cut. Patterson went AWOL last week, failing to show up for the Aug. 22 Jets-Giants preseason contest after participating in a team meal earlier in the day and he was suspended for a week. The immediate thought was that the Jets might keep him because they are perilously thin at the d-back spot and Patterson, a veteran, had been signed to a one-year, $3 million deal, to start at corner. [$1 million was in the form of a signing bonus that the Jets are highly unlikely to get back, even though they could claim he falls under the “forfeitable breach” provision of the collective bargaining agreement in skipping a preseason game.]

I knew nothing about the guy, but during training camp the word ‘diva’ was attached to him and then he pulled his disappearing act.

So when the Jets suspended him for a week, he claimed he was somehow being mistreated and on Thursday, in a statement to ESPN, said the team knew where he had been when he was supposed to be at the game, yet neither he nor his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have supplied the Jets with the reason why!

Patterson then denied he went AWOL because of his position on the depth chart.

“As it relates to my whereabouts and me missing for 48 hours without being seen or heard from me or my representative is completely false,” he said in a statement. “My agent reached out to the Jets organization multiple times several hours prior to Friday night’s game.”

At the time, several of Patterson’s teammates said he would not be welcomed back into the locker room. No need to worry about that now.

--For the Giants, former Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib made the team as the No. 2 QB over Curtis Painter.

--Yippee! Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro made the Baltimore Ravens squad! Go Deacs! It’s the start of a long career for the lad. According to the Baltimore Sun, he had signed a four-year, $2.287 million contract, though with just a $67,500 signing bonus and a base salary the first year of $420,000...the rest of course not being guaranteed. He’ll receive it all.

[Speaking of Wake, I was frankly surprised that D-back/special teams player Josh Bush made the Jets again. He was injured in the last preseason game and everything I read said he was going to be cut. Wake Fullback Tommy Bohanon and linebacker Calvin Pace also made the Jets again...the Demon Deacons take Gotham!]

--Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, 36, announced his retirement. He played ten seasons with the Steelers before his final season last year with the Bengals.

--Offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, he of the Miami bullying scandal, made the San Francisco roster.

--San Francisco star pass rusher Aldon Smith was suspended nine games by the NFL on Friday for violations of the league’s personal and substance-abuse conduct policies. Smith was arrested last September for DUI and also had three felony gun charges. [The suspension was four games for violating the substance abuse policy and five for bad conduct.]

Smith missed five games last season while seeking treatment. In his first three season, he had 42 sacks in just 43 games.

--Cleveland’s Josh Gordon lost his appeal of his one-year suspension for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. Whether this is the right penalty or not for Gordon, I don’t know, but I’ve been pissed at the shoddy reporting, wherein some act like he got a year for smoking pot, once. “How can he get one year and Ray Rice just two games,” these folks say.

Wrong. One has nothing to do with the other. Gordon had like four different issues to deal with.

--The New York Post reported that Jon Bon Jovi will not be part of the group seeking to buy the Buffalo Bills. Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Male Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which controls the Maple Leafs and Raptors, and Edward Rogers, chairman of Rogers Communications – thought they could win the Bills’ auction without Bon Jovi. Donald Trump is said to still be in the bidding.

--Jerry Jones said in an ESPN profile Thursday he felt Jerry Jones the general manager made the wrong call in not drafting Johnny Manziel. “I am still so mad. I get madder every day about missin’ him.” With the No. 16 pick, the Cowboys picked offensive lineman Zack Martin.

The big problem is the contract Tony Romo has...seven years, $119 million with $55 million guaranteed.

Golf Balls

--Sad story on the PGA Tour this week. Matt Kuchar’s caddie, Lance Bennett, lost his wife, Angela, of a seizure on Wednesday. They have a 4-year-old daughter and a trust fund is being set up for her.

In the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup, Kooch fell back in the third round, Sunday (Monday finish for this one), and enters the fourth round T-21. Russell Henley leads, Rory two back after going low today.

Phil Mickelson made the cut (but is T-59 after three). However, there was news on Sunday of a different kind for Lefty. The New York Post’s John Aidan Byrne said the insider trading probe involving Mickelson, Carl Icahn and Vegas gambling hotshot “Billy” Walters continues. One legal source told the Post, “Certainly regulators are looking for scalps.” Mickelson would appear to be in trouble more over his Dean Foods trades with Walters than with the original Clorox trade, but as yet no wrongdoing has been uncovered, according to the Post. [Actually, I’m really not sure this is even a story at this point...just wonder why over the weekend the Post made such a big deal of it.]

Tuesday is selection day for the Ryder Cup.

--Fred Couples shot 61 in the final round to take the Champions Tour event in Alberta, winning by one over Wake’s Billy Andrade, who had a 62.

U.S. Open

Boy, does the U.S. suck in tennis these days or what? Serena Williams is the only American singles player to have made it to the fourth round, though at least she is in peak form. Or as Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News writes:

“Fans can get all excited about Sloane Stephens, CiCi Bellis, Madison Keys, John Isner, Jack Sock and the next great 5-year-old boy or girl. The fact remains that as the U.S. Open makes its turn toward the second week, the American tennis players, the ones besides Serena, are all gone in the main singles draws. Their Labor Day is about as meaningful as the Mets’ September....

“The U.S. men are hopeless, they have no trophy potential. We keep hearing about the young women, how they are going to change the landscape soon enough. Maybe they will someday. But when Nicole Gibbs lost Saturday in a third rounder to Flavia Pennetta, and when Williams disposed of Varvara Lepchenko, Serena was the only American woman standing in the Round of 16 for the third time in the last four Opens....

“Help wanted – more American tennis legends needed. Male or female candidates encouraged to apply.”

Serena is basically the only highly-seeded woman left standing, period. No. 5 Maria Sharapova remains, but I think Serena’s record against her is something like 16-2. I liked Lupica’s description of Sharapova’s shrieking “every time she hits the ball as if she is being water-boarded.”

But wait...what’s this? No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki took out Sharapova on Sunday!!! The Woz-Rory story continues. Both have performed at their best since the big breakup. 

Back to the American men, last year was the first time in the Open era that no American made it through to the fourth round, and then it happened again on Saturday with the ouster of No. 13 John Isner and unranked Sam Querrey.

--I’m happy for 15-year-old CiCi Bellis and her upset in the first round of the 12-seed, ol’ whatshername, but it’s kind of pathetic to launch CiCi-palooza until she follows it up with a second win, which she didn’t. That said, yes, American tennis needs her.

Tony Stewart

Stewart returned to racing this weekend at the Sprint Cup race in Atlanta. Friday, he spoke for about two minutes, reading from a prepared statement, saying the incident where he struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt track event in upstate New York was “one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with.”

Stewart said he hadn’t raced since the accident out of respect for the family.

“This is something that will definitely affect my life forever,” he said. Naming members of Ward’s family, he added, “Every day I’m thinking about them.”

Stewart hasn’t contacted the family but sent flowers and a card for the funeral.

Premier League

--So I saw the shocking 6-3 score, Chelsea over Everton, and totally forgot that Everton’s goalie was none other than Tim Howard.   Chelsea is title favorites this season.

--Yikes...my team for this season, Tottenham, was blitzed on Sunday by Liverpool, 3-0.

--Manchester United remains winless after three, two draws, including a 0-0 affair against lowly Burnley, wherever the heck that is.

--A great early story is Swansea City, 3-0-0, after finishing 12th last year. But I won’t be a turncoat. My Spurs (Tottenham) will finish in the top four!!! Why it’s the Bar Chat Guarantee! [Jeff B., you can’t comment.]

Stuff

--We note the passing of former Villanova coaching great, Jack Kraft, age 93. Kraft coached hoops there from 1961 to 1973, and led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament six times, while also reaching the NIT five times when that was a great event. He then went on to Rhode Island and had success there (think Sly Williams...who I once had more than a few beers with...).

But it was Kraft’s 1970-71 team that many of us will remember, as they almost took down UCLA in the title game before succumbing 68-62.

The finale was tarnished, though, when it was learned star player Howard Porter had signed a contract during the regular season to go and play for the Pittsburgh Condors of the ABA. The NCAA vacated ‘Nova’s victories in the tournament, and the school was forced to return the proceeds, which sucked all around.

[Western Kentucky’s Jim McDaniels, a big-time star that year, also had signed a contract prematurely, thus wiping out the Hilltoppers’ record as well; Western Kentucky losing in the semis to Villanova, 92-89, in double OT in one of the great tournament games of all time.]

So who was on the rosters for Villanova and UCLA?

NOVA

Howard Porter, Hank Siemiontkowski, Clarence Smith, Tom Ingelsby and Chris Ford played the lion’s share of the minutes.

[Totally forgot about Siemiontkowski. #Embarrassed.]

UCLA


Steve Patterson, Henry Bibby, Curtis Rowe, Sidney Wicks, Terry Schofield and Kenny Booker were the mainstays for the Bruins. Stars Rowe and Wicks were held to a combined 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field in the title game, but Patterson had 29, while Porter had 25 for the Wildcats.

--In the 2014 FIBA World Cup b-ball event, the United States is off to a flying start, Team USA blitzing Finland 114-55, Saturday, and then roaring back from a 40-35 halftime deficit against Turkey to prevail 98-77.

The U.S. has 12 NBA players, while Spain has six, and France, Australia, and Brazil each have four.

--Kind of cool. Whale sightings right off the New Jersey coast are way up, with marine biologists saying it has everything to do with cleaner water and thus plentiful schools of small fish that whales chow down. Alas, the great white season hasn’t been as plentiful as I had hoped and it has hurt Bar Chat’s ratings.

--We note the passing of Pancho, “Florida’s most wanted crocodile,” who succumbed after a 24-hour hunt, precipitated by his alleged biting of two swimmers in a lake at the exclusive Gables by the Sea community. Pancho, 12-feet, 300 pounds, died while fighting his capture.

--In an interview with Sopranos creator David Chase, speaking with his friend, writer and literature professor Martha P. Nochimson, Chase appeared to put to rest the question ‘what happened to Tony when the final episode aired in 2007?’

“Chase startled me by turning toward me and saying with sudden, explosive anger, ‘Why are we talking about this?’

“I answered, ‘I’m just curious.’ And then, for whatever reason, he told me...”

So is Tony dead?

“No,” Chase told her. “No he isn’t.”

Chase was also asked about a character in one of the most famous episodes.

“What happened to the Russian in the Pine Barrens?” Did he survive?

“I don’t give a f--- about the Russian,” Chase replied. [Scott Ellis / Sydney Morning Herald]

A day after Vox.com posted the interview, Chase, through his publicist, released a statement saying he was “misconstrued.” 

Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.” To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. Which is actually how I wanted it to be, being one of the few at the time who thought the ending was brilliant.

--The original bass player for Jethro Tull, Glenn Cornick, died of congestive heart failure at the age of 67. He lived in Hilo, Hawaii, and was receiving hospice care.

Top 3 songs for the week 9/2/72: #1 “Alone Again (Naturally)” (Gilbert O’Sullivan...another excuse to note this is one of the most depressing songs of all time...) #2 “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” (The Hollies... about Rihanna...or maybe not...) #3 “I’m Still In Love With You” (Al Green...my favorite of his...)...and...#4 “Brandy” (Looking Glass) #5 “Hold Your Head Up” (Argent) #6 “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (Mac Davis...one of the more underrated entertainers, in the old sense of the word, of all time...) #7 “Goodbye To Love” (Carpenters) #8 “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” (Jim Croce) #9 “Rock And Roll Part 2” (Gary Glitter...we need to move along quickly now...if you catch my drift...) #10 “Back Stabbers” (O’Jays...Clintons theme song....)

Baseball Quiz Answer: Eight to hit .340 in 2000.

.372 Todd Helton, Colorado
.372 Nomar Garciaparra, Boston
.355 Darin Erstad, Anaheim Angels
.355 Moises Alou, Houston
.351 Manny Ramirez, Cleveland
.345 Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal
.344 Carlos Delgado, Toronto
.344 Ellis Burks, San Francisco

.339 Derek Jeter

Next Bar Chat, Thursday...your EXCLUSIVE Super Bowl prediction! [Our crack staff will be crunching the data, utilizing our Commodore computer...assuming we can rid it of the 6,000 viruses, first.]

*I can’t help but wish Joan Rivers a speedy recovery. We all know the facts. Anything more at this point wouldn’t be prudent. Prayers sent.



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-09/01/2014-      
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Bar Chat

09/01/2014

College Football's Opener

[Posted 8:30 Sunday PM...prior to finish of NASCAR race]

Baseball Quiz: Down below I note the paucity of .300 hitters this year and compare it to the steroid-infused 2000 season. For example, no one is hitting .340 this season in MLB, but back in 2000, eight players did so. How many of these can you name? [Now you’ll need some help and most baseball fans see a number and that’s enough to jog the memory. So I’ll give you the eight batting averages. .372, .372, .355, .355, .351, .345, .344, .344] Answer below.

College Football

I have a long held policy here...never make too much of the first two weeks of both the college football and NFL seasons. And so this being Season No. 16 for Bar Chat, I’m not about to change now, kids.

--The only game that could perhaps be called even a minor upset was No. 21 Texas A&M’s rout of No. 9 South Carolina in Columbia, 52-28, as Johnny Manziel’s replacement at QB for the Aggies, sophomore Kenny Hill, was 44 for 60 and a school record 511 yards, with three touchdowns. As Ronald Reagan would have said, “Not bad, not bad at all.”

But get this. In 17 games against SEC opponents since joining the conference, Texas A&M is averaging 39.5 points and 539 total yards per game, according to CBSSports.com.

--So we now know not only was South Carolina way overrated, but is No. 2 Alabama as well? They were very unimpressive in defeating West Virginia, 33-23, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Running back T.J. Yeldon did have 126 yards rushing in 23 carries.

But we have to congratulate the Mountaineers for handily beating the spread, 26 points, and as you all know, that’s really all that matters.

--No. 1 Florida State was hardly impressive either in defeating Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 37-31, as Heisman winner Jameis Winston was 25/40, 370 yards, but only one touchdown pass and two interceptions.

--My No. 3 Oregon Ducks...quack quack...slammed South Dakota 62-13. Nothing more needs to be said on this one, except I’m told the Lady Duck cheerleaders were in mid-season form.

--I really did believe No. 5 Ohio State would lose to Navy in Baltimore, but the Buckeyes prevailed 34-17 after being down 7-6 at the half. Coach Urban Meyer can’t be happy his team gave up 370 yards on the ground to the Midshipmen, even if that is what Navy does better than anyone.

At least the fill-in for injured QB Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, looked solid, 12/15, 226, 2-1, with 50 yards rushing.

--No. 6 Auburn beat Arkansas 45-21.

--No. 7 UCLA was another top-tenner that failed to impress in defeating Virginia, 28-20, in Charlottesville. The Bruins would have lost were it not for a fumble and interception being returned for touchdowns. Heisman candidate Brett Hundley was a highly pedestrian 20/33, 242, zero TD passes. UVA outgained UCLA 386-358.

--Boy, No. 12 Georgia did look impressive in whipping No. 16 Clemson 45-21. But, again, it’s early. Nonetheless Georgia running back Todd Gurley staked his early claim to the Heisman with 198 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 15 carries...PLUS...a 100-yard kickoff return!

--No. 13 LSU rallied back at home from a 24-7 deficit to defeat No. 14 Wisconsin, 28-24.

--No. 17 Notre Dame defeated Rice 48-17, after Rice professors and monitors spent a week on the ND campus as part of an agreement with the NCAA to help clean up the institution.

--Rutgers pulled off a mini-shocker in defeating Washington State, way out yonder (Seattle), 41-38, though Cougars QB Connor Halliday was 40/56, 532, 5-1.

--Pitt destroyed Delaware 62-0 and I actually think it’s pretty significant. Last Dec. 30 in this space, I wrote after Pitt defeated Bowling Green 30-27 in a highly entertaining bowl game in which then freshman running back James Conner rumbled for 229 yards, and also appeared late in the game as an effective pass rusher:

“If Pitt can come up with a quarterback for next year, they can surprise because they will have the best sophomore tandem at RB and wide receiver in the nation, the latter being current freshman Tyler Boyd....”

Well Conner rushed for 145 yards and four touchdowns on just 13 carries, Saturday, and while Boyd’s numbers were not spectacular (107 all-purpose yards), quarterback Chad Voytik played well and the Panther defense yielded just 51 total yards.

So I’m sticking by my call that Pitt will surprise. I’ll go with 8-4. But they need to beat Steve D.’s Boston College squad up there on Friday night to do so. [BC opened with a 30-7 win over UMass.]

--Sept. 1, 2007. Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32.

The college football upset of all-time...nay, one of the biggest upsets in sports history. My good friend Phil W. was there in Ann Arbor, with his daughter, then an App State student. Coach Jerry Moore had his I-AA team up 28-17 at half, only to barely hang on as Corey Lynch blocked Jason Gingell’s 37-yard field-goal attempt with 5 seconds left for the win.

Fast forward to Aug. 30, 2014. Michigan 52 Appalachian State 14. The line was 34 ½, so the Apps can’t even claim victory on that front.

--Finally, here’s my deal with my alma mater, Wake Forest, this academic sports year. I am not going to be mean-spirited in any fashion. We are what we are...for both football and basketball. Programs under new management and zero talent. It will take at least two years for football coach Dave Clawson and basketball coach Danny Manning to install their systems and recruit their own athletes. I am going to be patient. I’m also likely not to give a damn for long stretches.

And so it was that Wake lost to UL-Monroe on Thursday, 17-10, as the Deacons racked up a whopping 94 yards of total offense. 94 freakin’ yards! Five first downs! I watched about half of the game, like the first and fourth quarters, and we were dreadful. But don’t blame Clawson.

--You know, I printed all this stuff out on the Josh Shaw case, that of the USC senior cornerback who claimed to have sprained both of his ankles while rescuing his 7-year-old nephew from a pool last Saturday, only to admit later he made it all up, and I just don’t care.

The bottom line is that new coach Steve Sarkisian’s Trojans, ranked No. 15, whipped Fresno State 52-13 in the opener, this despite USC senior back Anthony Brown, who quit the team a week ago, claiming Sarkisian was a racist.

[Brown posted on Instagram, “Sark treated me like a slave in his Office...Can’t play for a racist MAN!!!! #Fighton”...though he later deleted it. Sarkisian said he was totally blindsided by the comments. Players came to Sark’s defense immediately.]

OK, I do have to note for the archives, I guess, that the LAPD is investigating whether Shaw was involved in an incident of domestic violence with his girlfriend on Saturday, which was the day he suffered the injuries. Many are also wondering how the heck Shaw was able to hire high-profile attorney Donald Etra (whose clients have included Rihanna and Snoop Dogg).

Ball Bits

--Very psyched Adam Dunn got traded to Oakland. He has announced this is probably his last season and he’s never been in the playoffs. It’s a rebirth for him. If he can hit just .250 with pop (and his usual high volume of walks), he’ll be a huge addition.

--So the Mets’ Curtis Granderson had his bobblehead doll night on Saturday and of course he went 0-for-4, bringing his mark for the month of August to .147 (16-for-109) with just two extra-base hits. He’s in year one of a four-year, $60 million contract and is hitting .214 with 16 homers and 49 RBI.

Here’s his season thus far....

April .145 batting average
May .253
June .300
July .242
August .147

--The Mets’ record at the All-Star break and their final mark.

2009...42-45...70-92
2010...48-40...79-83
2011...46-45...77-85
2012...46-40...74-88
2013...41-50...74-88
2014...45-50...64-73 [thru Sunday]

Oh yeah, it’s just been a real barrel of monkeys for Mets fans these last six seasons.

Saturday, they became the first N.L. team ever to have 10 straight home games with 6 or fewer hits...but in Sunday’s 6-5 win, they busted through for 11. [The 1980 Oakland A’s were the only other team to accomplish the feat.]

Michael Powell / New York Times

“Ah, to be a Mets fan in late August. The twilight is cool and sharp shadowed, and Citi Field is a retro delight. As for the state of the team as it makes its inevitable turn toward the autumn moon?

“Not so gorgeous.

“Manager Terry Collins walked into his postgame news conference Thursday night looking like a funeral director who decided to dress up in a Mets uniform. His jaw was taut as piano wire, his eyes slits....

“There is a metronomic regularity to this annual Mets ruination. The team shows glimmers of hope in the spring, goes on a nice little run in June or July, and elicits hopeful nouns, verbs and adjectives from the news media.

“At which point, the Mets collapse, totally, thoroughly and profoundly. The joint goes somnolent. Scalpers despair – how do you maintain line discipline when there are more sellers than fans stepping off the 7 train?”

As Powell and everyone else also point out, it is utterly disgraceful the Mets rank 24th in the major leagues in team payroll. And then when they do decide to spend money, it’s on 33-year-old Granderson (I admit to thinking this was an OK move, initially), $20 million per for a rapidly aging David Wright, and the one no one will ever forget, $7.25 million for outfielder Chris Young for one year when they could have had Nelson Cruz, he of the 35 home runs for Baltimore, for $8 or $9 million (he signed for $8M). 

Larry Brooks / New York Post

“This is a vanilla operation, largely devoid of personality and charisma, and more likely than not by design of the decision-makers in ownership and management. There’s no edge to the Mets. This is as homogenized a group you can find in a locker room or clubhouse in pro sports, even given the disparate nationalities and backgrounds of the athletes.

“Oh, boy, is Matt Harvey missed. His is missed on the mound every five days, but perhaps even more so he is missed as a presence with a Don Draper-like DNA that compels him to act on instinct, to question authority, to extend boundaries beyond those adopted by company men. Harvey’s mission is to take his teammates by the scruff of their collective necks and drag them across the finish line.

“So he can sometimes be a pain for the company. So the Mets need to live with that. So the Mets need to collect more large personalities and encourage them to be themselves; to flaunt what they’ve got.”

--The Mets’ David Wright had his first RBI in 15 games on Sunday, a career worst for the $20 million per captain.

--Some big-time hurlers had rough starts the past few days. The Yankees got nine...nine...consecutive hits off Detroit’s David Price the other night in an 8-4 New York victory. I mean Price had not given up nine hits in any of his last 14 starts. In his previous three starts he had allowed a combined nine hits.

[But then a few nights later, the Yanks were one-hit by Toronto. The Yanks’ Jacoby Ellsbury, who was hot as a pistol, 20-of-44, came up with an ankle injury at the worst possible time and could be out a while, though he pinch-hit Sunday, singled, and was promptly removed for a pinch-runner.]

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals had their way on Friday in Seattle against Felix Hernandez, lighting him up for 5 earned on 10 hits in 7 innings, with King Felix striking out just one, plus he gave up four home runs in a single start for the first time ever.

Understand, Hernandez entered the game 13-4, 2.07, but it also helps shine a light on his remarkable streak that was recently broken...a major-league record 16 straight of seven innings and no more than two runs. He hasn’t done this in his last three starts. 

--Yankee ace Masahiro Tanaka had a setback in his rehabilitation of a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and it seems increasingly likely he will undergo Tommy John surgery  that would cost him the 2015 season. It’s a shame...a very expensive, $155 million+ shame.

--San Francisco pitcher Yusmeiro Petit set a major league record when he retired his 46th batter in a row, as the Giants beat the Rockies on Thursday.

Petit got the first eight hitters, breaking Mark Buehrle’s record of 45 straight with the White Sox in 2009. Two pitches later, Rockies starter Jordan Lyles doubled.

Petit’s streak covered eight games, six of them in relief.

--As USA TODAY Sports’ Stan McNeal points out, as of about a week ago, 21 hitters in baseball were hitting .300 (minimum 400 plate appearances), which is a third of the total of the mark reached in the offensive explosion of 2000.

Granted, it’s not 1968, when only six players hit .300 and Carl Yastrzemski won the A.L. batting title with a .301 average, “but if 21 players finish at .300 this season, the figure would be the fewest since 1985 (when there were 20).”

Back to the Mets...since the All-Star break they are hitting .214 thru Sat.  As my grandfather (Phillies fan) would say, “Gee Willickers!” [We’re talking like he was born in 1900, so you need to give him a pass.]

NFL

After the uproar following his decision to give Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice just a two-game suspension for domestic abuse, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally reversed course and said the first such penalty will be six games in the future, with a second offense for domestic violence resulting in a lifetime ban.

But it remains to be seen just how Goodell will enforce this new edict, and the Players Association is rather uncomfortable with what the process will be...as in, “if we believe that players’ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’ rights,” the NFLPA said in a statement. 

[Sunday, Goodell received his first test. San Francisco defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested on domestic violence charges. As I do in all cases of this kind, I’ll wait for the facts before commenting further.]

Mike Lupica / New York Daily News

“Roger Goodell suspended Ray Rice, seen dragging the unconscious woman who is now his wife out of an elevator in Atlantic City last February, for two games. It is not the first mistake Goodell has made as NFL commissioner, it was just the biggest. He got tagged for it, but good, here and everywhere else.

“But Goodell comes back from that this week, even before the official NFL season begins, and even though there were those who wanted him impeached for not hitting Rice nearly hard enough. But that’s the way we often roll in this business when somebody doesn’t react the way we want them to in the moment. We overreact. So it goes....

“So Goodell sent out a letter this past week to his owners, the ones who elected him, and here was the most important part, before he got to the part about the next player guilty of domestic violence getting a six-game suspension, then getting kicked right out of the league for a second offense:

“ ‘At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.’....

“Goodell doesn’t get the game ball for doing the right thing after doing the wrong thing, that would be like celebrating old political candidates for being against the war in Iraq after they were for it. He still fixed this before the first ball is snapped for real, not in one of his rip-off preseason games.”

On the NFL cut front....

Michael Sam was cut by the St. Louis Rams, losing out to undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks. But I’m guessing the Rams place him on the practice squad. Head coach Jeff Fisher said it was strictly a football decision. I believe him.

[Sam was not claimed on waivers and can now sign with any practice squad, though late Sunday, Fisher made it sound like Sam wouldn’t be a member of the Rams’ extras.]

The Jets cut receiver Stephen Hill, the former second-rounder out of Georgia Tech that I thought was a decent pick at the time, giving them the deep threat they haven’t had since Wesley Walker (or so it seems). But his two seasons with Gang Green were a huge disappointment. ...just 45 catches for 594 yards and four touchdowns (two of which were in his very first game). He was often injured, dropped it too many times, and just didn’t perform.

So his agent got all bent out of shape, saying Rex Ryan et al didn’t give his client a good enough opportunity and I’m like, whatever. It’s football. It’s a dirty business.

The Jets released quarterback Matt Simms, but I’m guessing he ends up on the taxi squad. With the fragile Michael Vick on the roster, Simms could be using Uber to move back up to the big time within a week or two. [Former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd was also cut, but he’ll end up somewhere else for sure. He’ll just end up being a late-bloomer.]

Then there is the bizarre case of Dimitri Patterson, the Jets cornerback, who was cut. Patterson went AWOL last week, failing to show up for the Aug. 22 Jets-Giants preseason contest after participating in a team meal earlier in the day and he was suspended for a week. The immediate thought was that the Jets might keep him because they are perilously thin at the d-back spot and Patterson, a veteran, had been signed to a one-year, $3 million deal, to start at corner. [$1 million was in the form of a signing bonus that the Jets are highly unlikely to get back, even though they could claim he falls under the “forfeitable breach” provision of the collective bargaining agreement in skipping a preseason game.]

I knew nothing about the guy, but during training camp the word ‘diva’ was attached to him and then he pulled his disappearing act.

So when the Jets suspended him for a week, he claimed he was somehow being mistreated and on Thursday, in a statement to ESPN, said the team knew where he had been when he was supposed to be at the game, yet neither he nor his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have supplied the Jets with the reason why!

Patterson then denied he went AWOL because of his position on the depth chart.

“As it relates to my whereabouts and me missing for 48 hours without being seen or heard from me or my representative is completely false,” he said in a statement. “My agent reached out to the Jets organization multiple times several hours prior to Friday night’s game.”

At the time, several of Patterson’s teammates said he would not be welcomed back into the locker room. No need to worry about that now.

--For the Giants, former Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib made the team as the No. 2 QB over Curtis Painter.

--Yippee! Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro made the Baltimore Ravens squad! Go Deacs! It’s the start of a long career for the lad. According to the Baltimore Sun, he had signed a four-year, $2.287 million contract, though with just a $67,500 signing bonus and a base salary the first year of $420,000...the rest of course not being guaranteed. He’ll receive it all.

[Speaking of Wake, I was frankly surprised that D-back/special teams player Josh Bush made the Jets again. He was injured in the last preseason game and everything I read said he was going to be cut. Wake Fullback Tommy Bohanon and linebacker Calvin Pace also made the Jets again...the Demon Deacons take Gotham!]

--Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, 36, announced his retirement. He played ten seasons with the Steelers before his final season last year with the Bengals.

--Offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, he of the Miami bullying scandal, made the San Francisco roster.

--San Francisco star pass rusher Aldon Smith was suspended nine games by the NFL on Friday for violations of the league’s personal and substance-abuse conduct policies. Smith was arrested last September for DUI and also had three felony gun charges. [The suspension was four games for violating the substance abuse policy and five for bad conduct.]

Smith missed five games last season while seeking treatment. In his first three season, he had 42 sacks in just 43 games.

--Cleveland’s Josh Gordon lost his appeal of his one-year suspension for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. Whether this is the right penalty or not for Gordon, I don’t know, but I’ve been pissed at the shoddy reporting, wherein some act like he got a year for smoking pot, once. “How can he get one year and Ray Rice just two games,” these folks say.

Wrong. One has nothing to do with the other. Gordon had like four different issues to deal with.

--The New York Post reported that Jon Bon Jovi will not be part of the group seeking to buy the Buffalo Bills. Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Male Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which controls the Maple Leafs and Raptors, and Edward Rogers, chairman of Rogers Communications – thought they could win the Bills’ auction without Bon Jovi. Donald Trump is said to still be in the bidding.

--Jerry Jones said in an ESPN profile Thursday he felt Jerry Jones the general manager made the wrong call in not drafting Johnny Manziel. “I am still so mad. I get madder every day about missin’ him.” With the No. 16 pick, the Cowboys picked offensive lineman Zack Martin.

The big problem is the contract Tony Romo has...seven years, $119 million with $55 million guaranteed.

Golf Balls

--Sad story on the PGA Tour this week. Matt Kuchar’s caddie, Lance Bennett, lost his wife, Angela, of a seizure on Wednesday. They have a 4-year-old daughter and a trust fund is being set up for her.

In the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup, Kooch fell back in the third round, Sunday (Monday finish for this one), and enters the fourth round T-21. Russell Henley leads, Rory two back after going low today.

Phil Mickelson made the cut (but is T-59 after three). However, there was news on Sunday of a different kind for Lefty. The New York Post’s John Aidan Byrne said the insider trading probe involving Mickelson, Carl Icahn and Vegas gambling hotshot “Billy” Walters continues. One legal source told the Post, “Certainly regulators are looking for scalps.” Mickelson would appear to be in trouble more over his Dean Foods trades with Walters than with the original Clorox trade, but as yet no wrongdoing has been uncovered, according to the Post. [Actually, I’m really not sure this is even a story at this point...just wonder why over the weekend the Post made such a big deal of it.]

Tuesday is selection day for the Ryder Cup.

--Fred Couples shot 61 in the final round to take the Champions Tour event in Alberta, winning by one over Wake’s Billy Andrade, who had a 62.

U.S. Open

Boy, does the U.S. suck in tennis these days or what? Serena Williams is the only American singles player to have made it to the fourth round, though at least she is in peak form. Or as Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News writes:

“Fans can get all excited about Sloane Stephens, CiCi Bellis, Madison Keys, John Isner, Jack Sock and the next great 5-year-old boy or girl. The fact remains that as the U.S. Open makes its turn toward the second week, the American tennis players, the ones besides Serena, are all gone in the main singles draws. Their Labor Day is about as meaningful as the Mets’ September....

“The U.S. men are hopeless, they have no trophy potential. We keep hearing about the young women, how they are going to change the landscape soon enough. Maybe they will someday. But when Nicole Gibbs lost Saturday in a third rounder to Flavia Pennetta, and when Williams disposed of Varvara Lepchenko, Serena was the only American woman standing in the Round of 16 for the third time in the last four Opens....

“Help wanted – more American tennis legends needed. Male or female candidates encouraged to apply.”

Serena is basically the only highly-seeded woman left standing, period. No. 5 Maria Sharapova remains, but I think Serena’s record against her is something like 16-2. I liked Lupica’s description of Sharapova’s shrieking “every time she hits the ball as if she is being water-boarded.”

But wait...what’s this? No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki took out Sharapova on Sunday!!! The Woz-Rory story continues. Both have performed at their best since the big breakup. 

Back to the American men, last year was the first time in the Open era that no American made it through to the fourth round, and then it happened again on Saturday with the ouster of No. 13 John Isner and unranked Sam Querrey.

--I’m happy for 15-year-old CiCi Bellis and her upset in the first round of the 12-seed, ol’ whatshername, but it’s kind of pathetic to launch CiCi-palooza until she follows it up with a second win, which she didn’t. That said, yes, American tennis needs her.

Tony Stewart

Stewart returned to racing this weekend at the Sprint Cup race in Atlanta. Friday, he spoke for about two minutes, reading from a prepared statement, saying the incident where he struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt track event in upstate New York was “one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with.”

Stewart said he hadn’t raced since the accident out of respect for the family.

“This is something that will definitely affect my life forever,” he said. Naming members of Ward’s family, he added, “Every day I’m thinking about them.”

Stewart hasn’t contacted the family but sent flowers and a card for the funeral.

Premier League

--So I saw the shocking 6-3 score, Chelsea over Everton, and totally forgot that Everton’s goalie was none other than Tim Howard.   Chelsea is title favorites this season.

--Yikes...my team for this season, Tottenham, was blitzed on Sunday by Liverpool, 3-0.

--Manchester United remains winless after three, two draws, including a 0-0 affair against lowly Burnley, wherever the heck that is.

--A great early story is Swansea City, 3-0-0, after finishing 12th last year. But I won’t be a turncoat. My Spurs (Tottenham) will finish in the top four!!! Why it’s the Bar Chat Guarantee! [Jeff B., you can’t comment.]

Stuff

--We note the passing of former Villanova coaching great, Jack Kraft, age 93. Kraft coached hoops there from 1961 to 1973, and led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament six times, while also reaching the NIT five times when that was a great event. He then went on to Rhode Island and had success there (think Sly Williams...who I once had more than a few beers with...).

But it was Kraft’s 1970-71 team that many of us will remember, as they almost took down UCLA in the title game before succumbing 68-62.

The finale was tarnished, though, when it was learned star player Howard Porter had signed a contract during the regular season to go and play for the Pittsburgh Condors of the ABA. The NCAA vacated ‘Nova’s victories in the tournament, and the school was forced to return the proceeds, which sucked all around.

[Western Kentucky’s Jim McDaniels, a big-time star that year, also had signed a contract prematurely, thus wiping out the Hilltoppers’ record as well; Western Kentucky losing in the semis to Villanova, 92-89, in double OT in one of the great tournament games of all time.]

So who was on the rosters for Villanova and UCLA?

NOVA

Howard Porter, Hank Siemiontkowski, Clarence Smith, Tom Ingelsby and Chris Ford played the lion’s share of the minutes.

[Totally forgot about Siemiontkowski. #Embarrassed.]

UCLA


Steve Patterson, Henry Bibby, Curtis Rowe, Sidney Wicks, Terry Schofield and Kenny Booker were the mainstays for the Bruins. Stars Rowe and Wicks were held to a combined 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field in the title game, but Patterson had 29, while Porter had 25 for the Wildcats.

--In the 2014 FIBA World Cup b-ball event, the United States is off to a flying start, Team USA blitzing Finland 114-55, Saturday, and then roaring back from a 40-35 halftime deficit against Turkey to prevail 98-77.

The U.S. has 12 NBA players, while Spain has six, and France, Australia, and Brazil each have four.

--Kind of cool. Whale sightings right off the New Jersey coast are way up, with marine biologists saying it has everything to do with cleaner water and thus plentiful schools of small fish that whales chow down. Alas, the great white season hasn’t been as plentiful as I had hoped and it has hurt Bar Chat’s ratings.

--We note the passing of Pancho, “Florida’s most wanted crocodile,” who succumbed after a 24-hour hunt, precipitated by his alleged biting of two swimmers in a lake at the exclusive Gables by the Sea community. Pancho, 12-feet, 300 pounds, died while fighting his capture.

--In an interview with Sopranos creator David Chase, speaking with his friend, writer and literature professor Martha P. Nochimson, Chase appeared to put to rest the question ‘what happened to Tony when the final episode aired in 2007?’

“Chase startled me by turning toward me and saying with sudden, explosive anger, ‘Why are we talking about this?’

“I answered, ‘I’m just curious.’ And then, for whatever reason, he told me...”

So is Tony dead?

“No,” Chase told her. “No he isn’t.”

Chase was also asked about a character in one of the most famous episodes.

“What happened to the Russian in the Pine Barrens?” Did he survive?

“I don’t give a f--- about the Russian,” Chase replied. [Scott Ellis / Sydney Morning Herald]

A day after Vox.com posted the interview, Chase, through his publicist, released a statement saying he was “misconstrued.” 

Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.” To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. Which is actually how I wanted it to be, being one of the few at the time who thought the ending was brilliant.

--The original bass player for Jethro Tull, Glenn Cornick, died of congestive heart failure at the age of 67. He lived in Hilo, Hawaii, and was receiving hospice care.

Top 3 songs for the week 9/2/72: #1 “Alone Again (Naturally)” (Gilbert O’Sullivan...another excuse to note this is one of the most depressing songs of all time...) #2 “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” (The Hollies... about Rihanna...or maybe not...) #3 “I’m Still In Love With You” (Al Green...my favorite of his...)...and...#4 “Brandy” (Looking Glass) #5 “Hold Your Head Up” (Argent) #6 “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (Mac Davis...one of the more underrated entertainers, in the old sense of the word, of all time...) #7 “Goodbye To Love” (Carpenters) #8 “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” (Jim Croce) #9 “Rock And Roll Part 2” (Gary Glitter...we need to move along quickly now...if you catch my drift...) #10 “Back Stabbers” (O’Jays...Clintons theme song....)

Baseball Quiz Answer: Eight to hit .340 in 2000.

.372 Todd Helton, Colorado
.372 Nomar Garciaparra, Boston
.355 Darin Erstad, Anaheim Angels
.355 Moises Alou, Houston
.351 Manny Ramirez, Cleveland
.345 Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal
.344 Carlos Delgado, Toronto
.344 Ellis Burks, San Francisco

.339 Derek Jeter

Next Bar Chat, Thursday...your EXCLUSIVE Super Bowl prediction! [Our crack staff will be crunching the data, utilizing our Commodore computer...assuming we can rid it of the 6,000 viruses, first.]

*I can’t help but wish Joan Rivers a speedy recovery. We all know the facts. Anything more at this point wouldn’t be prudent. Prayers sent.