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02/08/2016

Denver 24 Carolina 10

[Posted late Sunday PM ET]

College Basketball Quiz: 1) Blake Ahearn (Missouri State) is the career leader in Div. I for free throw shooting (min. 300 attempts) at .9457.  Derek Raivio (Gonzaga) is second, Gary Buchanan (Villanova) is third.  Who is fourth?  He’s playing in the NBA today and it’s not Steph Curry.  2) Sports-reference.com has been keeping track of assists since 1994-95.  Two players from the ACC (original schools, not like a Pitt) are the D-I record holders for single-season assists and career assists.  Name them.  Answers below.

As The NFL Dies A Slow Death.....

Congratulations to Denver for their third Super Bowl triumph, 24-10 over the Carolina Panthers and that wimp, Cam Newton.  Mr. Big Talk showed the nation what he was really about when he failed to go into the pile on that last fumble.  The guy is a major league loser, until he proves otherwise.

Yes, Denver’s defense, under the direction of Wade Phillips, was outstanding throughout the playoffs, but I have to admit I love seeing Cam bite the dust.

As for Peyton Manning, hey, he goes out a winner for a second time and that is huge for his legacy because as we all know, 20 years from now no one will remember this game, specifically; they’ll just remember Peyton has two rings...and in this sport, two is way better than one.

But for the record, in this hideous contest:

Manning was 13/23, 141, 0-1, 56.6.

Newton was 18/41, 265, 0-1, 55.4...plus Cam lost two fumbles, including that critical last one.

Von Miller, 2 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles, was the deserved MVP.

And not for nothing, I told you what the over/under would be.  Carolina had zero first downs in its first two possessions.  I said if Denver held them to one or less they’d win.

As Ronald Reagan would have said...not bad, not bad at all.  [Heck, no one else offered this winning pregame analysis.]

One more...as Couch Slouch, aka Norman Chad wrote, we all could count on Mike Carey blowing it.  And the very first challenge CBS threw to the twit, guess what?  He blew the call and we never heard from him again.

Just a really lousy four hours all around (though I was actually watching the golf playoff the first one).

I do have to note that Lady Gaga did a great job with the National Anthem, I thought the halftime show was fine, and I liked the Butterfingers (“you’ll spoil your dinner”) and the Honda sheep commercial best.

But I think over the past year+ of criticizing the sport while I’ve covered it as extensively as anyone else, it’s clear it’s dying.  And what follows was written before the game.  After this pathetic show, the commentary will only get worse...as I’m sure I’ll be noting next time.

Roger Goodell

Steve Politi / NJ.com

Bad news, American football fans. If you were planning on settling in on your couch to watch Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, the commissioner of the NFL himself has issued a stern warning.  That couch is what might kill you.

“This happened as Goodell tried to defend a sport that is growing increasingly indefensible, during the end of his yearly state-of-the-NFL news conference. He was asked if he felt comfortable encouraging parents to allow their teenage sons to play football with mounting evidence it could lead to irreversible brain damage, and this was his response:

“ ‘From my standpoint, I played football for nine years though high school and I wouldn’t give up a single day of that,’ he said.  ‘If I had a son, I’d love to have him play the game of football because of the values you get.  There is risk in life. There is risk in sitting on the couch.’

“No really.  He said that.  There is risk in sitting on the couch. It truly makes you wonder what kind of sofa configuration the commissioner has in his house....

“It was an amazing moment, a quote that should live on long after Goodell’s reign as NFL czar is over, because it shows how little grasp he has over the biggest problems facing his billion-dollar business.  It isn’t that the Pro Bowl ratings are down, or that his referees can’t handle discipline issues on the field, or the St. Louis fans are angry about losing the Rams to Los Angeles.

“That he seemed to take all of those more seriously on Friday than the big one is rather remarkable.

What threatens football more than anything is that a generation of mothers have ample evidence now to insist that little Johnny Halfback run track or play the trombone rather than sign up for the Pop Warner league.

Super Bowl 50 is going to be a cash bonanza as usual. Do you want to bet that Super Bowl 100 will be, giving what we’re learning about the damage to the brains of the most prominent players?....

“(Goodell) fell back on old clichés during his news conference on Friday.  Forget the risk of brain injuries, moms and dads, and remember all the good stuff about football.  Leadership. Teamwork. Values.

It’s a line of B.S. that even some of his own players don’t believe. ‘I mean, honestly, if I had sons, I probably wouldn’t be raising them to play football,’ (Broncos offensive lineman Evan) Mathis said.  ‘There’s a lot of money in baseball.’

“Goodell brushed off a question about how some top stars, including Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, are walking away from the sport in their prime. More, the commissioner insisted, want to play forever....

“ ‘There is no higher priority than player safety,’ Goodell said.

“But is football really any safer?  No one knows, but it’s a safe bet it’s a wee bit riskier than settling in on your couch to watch it.”

Bart Hubbuck / New York Post

Roger Goodell apparently has been on some very dangerous couches....

“Goodell’s outlandish comparison, which quickly went viral, was in response to a question from The Post about whether he still recommends tackle football for teens and preteens after the deaths of at least seven high school players this past season from injuries in practice or games.”

Gary Myers / New York Daily News

Roger Goodell was the captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams his senior year at Bronxville High School.

“He was a safety and tight end on the football team – he was a quarterback for a number of years – and had offers to play college football.  Jackie Sherrill at Pitt was interested.

“ ‘I hurt my knee late in the spring,’ he said.

“Any thoughts of playing college football were out, even at small college Washington and Lee, where he enrolled.  ‘If there is ever a regret in my life, it’s not playing college football,’ Goodell told me years ago.

“The knee injury might have been the best thing that happened to him.  It eventually could save his life.  Instead of playing college football and perhaps suffering multiple concussions, he used his free time away from the classroom and library tending bar, which in most cases is much safer....

“Goodell has twin teenage daughters, so he’s never faced the issue of whether to allow his kids to play middle school or high school football.  But he insisted Friday at his annual state-of-the-NFL news conference that if he had a son, he would not only endorse him playing, he would encourage him to lace ‘em up.

“He said this despite the sad state of so many former players who are suffering and at least nine high school kids* who died as a result of football injuries last season....

“Anybody who plays football should be fully educated about what they are getting themselves into before they put on a helmet and shoulder pads.

“Goodell’s way of looking at the risk makes him look silly and defensive.

“ ‘What we want to do is get people active,’ Goodell said.  ‘I want them to experience the game of football.  It will teach you values – discipline, teamwork, perseverance. Those are values and those are skills that will lead you through life.  I believe football is the best at teaching it.’

“All that is true, but he left out the physical risk.”

*Yes, uncertainty over the number of deaths last year, but it is at least seven.

Nancy Armour / USA TODAY Sports

“It’s an exercise in futility to expect substantive answers from Roger Goodell. Any shred of compassion, either.

“Goodell held his annual state of the NFL address Friday and, apparently, everything is hunky dory. The tough new personal-conduct policy is working, never mind that slap-down by a federal judge over Deflategate. The quality of play has never been better, though the fans in Jacksonville, Cleveland and Dallas probably would beg to disagree.....

There’s been ‘great progress’ on concussion prevention, even as an as-yet-untreatable disease continues to rob an alarming number of former NFL players of their personalities and quality of life.

“As for those high school players who died this season, well, yes, it’s tragic anytime there’s a loss of life. But there’s a risk in sitting on the couch, too.”

Sally Jenkins / Washington Post

“(Goodell) takes you and me for stupid.  The commissioner’s annual address is a performance with a backdrop of triumphal music and glittering gold shield and shining trophies.  You end up feeling like you’re sitting in a Roman praetorium listening to an army imperator. There are planted questions, clearly stage-managed propaganda moments, all calculated to distract or sew confusion and doubt over brain science....

“It’s not working.  No one believes Goodell, least of all mothers, despite the league’s brazen Mommy marketing. In response to Goodell’s remark that football is a better teacher than other games, tennis great Chris Evert, who has three sons, tweeted: ‘I can name a few. And they’re safer.’

“Not even his constituency is buying it.  Mike Ditka has said he wouldn’t let a son play football because he has too many friends who are debilitated.  Brett Favre, too, has confessed anxiety over whether his young grandsons should play tackle because, as he told ESPN, ‘I don’t think the cumulative of playing 20 years of football, plus in college, plus in high school, has a positive effect on you.’

“We all know the truth: The NFL has no moral center on this, no defensible posture, just marketing....

At some point, the league is in for a reckoning. When players retire at 25 and even your own legends don’t buy your bull, you’re asking for the bottom to fall out of your business.  You’re also asking for a future of endless litigation and perhaps enforced regulation.”

--Joe Montana is handling the coin toss at the big game and in an interview with USA TODAY Sports, he detailed the extensive physical problems he suffers from more than two decades after retiring.

“The mental part was hard initially when I first retired,” Montana, 59, said.  “Because it’s quick – cold turkey, the game’s gone. Then the physical stuff tries to catch up with you.”

He has arthritis in one of his elbows, his knees and his hands.

My hands have been, oh my gosh, in the middle of the night they hurt like crazy,” he said.

Then there’s the balky knee he can’t straighten despite a half-dozen surgeries.  “I can’t really run or do much with it.”

And he’s had three neck fusions, with another in the future.

Oh, and he has nerve damage in one of his eyes.

--I wrote the following of Johnny Manziel on 2/1 in this space:

As for Manziel, I’m tired of writing about him.  I’d be shocked if he’s playing in the NFL next fall.  I won’t be shocked if he ends up in a ditch in the next six months.”

The last few days everyone else is understanding this is it for the guy.

Dallas police announced they were investigating the domestic violence assault complaint filed against Johnny Jerkoff. 

Earlier police had closed the investigation into allegations Manziel hit his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, last Saturday.

Crowley then spoke to Dallas police on Friday and we are where we are.

But, the same day, Manziel’s agent dropped him, and his father, Paul Manziel, told the Dallas Morning News that if Johnny didn’t get help, “he feared his son wouldn’t make it to his 24th birthday in December.”  [ESPN.com]

Also, Crowley got a two-year protection order against Manziel.

There are also reports that Manziel had two chances last week to enter rehab and didn’t.

What a waste. But, boy, his parents were enablers from way back.

--Brett Favre and Ken Stabler headline the latest class of inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Joining Favre from the ‘modern-era’ are Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, Colts receiver Marvin Harrison and linebacker Kevin Greene, who played for the Rams, Steelers, Panthers and 49ers.

Stabler got in, finally, in the senior category, along with guard Dick Stanfel. 

Ed DeBartolo Jr. was elected in the contributor category.

College Basketball Review

--Just another Saturday of upsets...and another shakeup at the top of the polls coming on Monday.

No. 1 Oklahoma (19-3, 7-3) lost to Kansas State (14-9, 3-7) in Manhattan, 80-69 with the Sooners going just 6 of 24 from three-point land, while K-State hit 27 of 51 from the field.

No. 2 North Carolina (19-4, 8-2) lost its second in a row, 80-76 to Notre Dame (16-7, 7-4) in South Bend as the Tar Heels held the Fighting Irish to just 34.8% shooting from the field.  But Carolina was called for 27 fouls to ND’s 16 and the Irish went 31 of 38 at the line, while UNC was 16 of 21.  There’s your difference.

So will No. 3 Villanova (20-3, 10-1) be elevated to No. 1 following their 72-60 win over No. 11 Providence (18-6, 6-5) in Providence?  Why not?

No. 4 Maryland (21-3, 10-2) could make a claim of its own after a 72-61 defeat of 18 Purdue (19-5, 7-4) in College Park.

In other games...

25 South Carolina (20-3, 7-3) had a nice road win over 8 Texas A&M (18-5, 7-3) 81-78.

Penn State (12-12, 3-8) shocked 22 Indiana (19-5, 9-2) 68-63.

And Wake Forest (10-13, 1-10) lost its eighth straight in ACC play, another dismal 91-71 drubbing at home at the hands of Florida State (16-7, 6-5).

Then there was the game I was glued to the whole way...San Diego State hosting New Mexico, always a dogfight.

In incredible fashion, the Aztecs pulled it out 78-71 in overtime to advance to 18-6, 11-0 in Mountain West conference play, as the Lobos fall to 14-9, 7-3.

What was amazing was SDSU got a 3-point rainbow from forward Malik Pope with six seconds in regulation to send it into OT, with the Aztecs shooting just 4 of 27 from three-point land for the game (including 1 of 11 from guard Trey Kell).  But by tying it up and then prevailing, San Diego State extended their unfathomable streak of winning games when they have the lead with five minutes to play to 161!

The streak was over, but then Pope saves the day and this could be huge for the team the rest of the way.  Pope has as much raw ability as anyone in the college game yet he’s had a hugely disappointing sophomore season, but what I liked even more than the shot (in terms of showing off his talent) was an incredible rebound in overtime. 

Well, my “Pick to Click” is now a lock to win the regular season Mountain West title and maybe this will be enough after all to get them into the Big Dance, though they would still have to make it at least to the final of the conference tournament.

Sunday, 16 Oregon (19-4, 8-2) defeated Utah (17-6, 6-4) 69-58, bringing us all that much closer to March Madness with the No. 1 Oregon cheerleaders, and for this Male America should be most appreciative.

Lastly, 19 Louisville (19-4, 8-2) manhandled pathetic Boston College (7-16, 0-10) 79-47, but this was only part of the story.  To wit....

--Louisville imposed a one-year postseason ban on its men’s basketball team as the investigation into the alleged recruiting scandal grinds on.  University president James R. Ramsey acknowledged at a news conference Friday that it was “reasonable to conclude violations have occurred in the past.”

“I recognize that this is a significant penalty for our program,” he said, with coach Rick Pitino and AD Tom Jurich by his side.

Pitino said he and Jurich have been “kept in the dark” on details of the investigation and that the ban came as a shock.  “This is a decision that’s as harsh as anything I’ve seen.”

Ramsey said he thought self-imposing the postseason ban would satisfy the NCAA and help the school avoid further penalties.

I feel bad for Louisville’s star backcourt of Trey Lewis and Damion Lee in particular because they were graduate transfers who came to Louisville this season so they could play in an NCAA tournament for the first time. 

Lewis, who is averaging 12 points per game, came over from Cleveland State, while Lee, who is averaging 17, had starred at Drexel.

When Coach Pitino told them of the self-imposed penalty by the school, the two cried upon hearing the news, according to Pitino.

Phil W. passed along the thoughts of Bob Valvano, Jim’s brother, who does color commentary for UofL basketball, via WAVE 3 News.

The kids involved with this team, specifically Lee and Lewis, had nothing to do with these allegations.  It seems the decision to self-impose might be better for the institution, but certainly not for the kids.

“I would have been more impressed had the school said it has reason to think mistakes were made and violations occurred, and then imposed penalties that did not involve missing this postseason.

“Or, if the school felt a postseason ban was appropriate, do it next year, allowing this year’s group of players in their last year an opportunity to play in the postseason, while next year’s incoming crop of freshmen could be given the option to not attend if they choose, knowing there is a postseason ban in place. This way, the institution pays for whatever transgressions occurred, but players, particularly Lee and Lewis, who did nothing wrong, could fulfill their dream.

“Keep in mind the NCAA can impose its own set of punishments come the spring or summer.  So the institution would pay for whatever wrongdoing; this is no ploy to sidestep discipline. It’s just trying to find a fairer discipline.

As for Pitino, knowing him as I do, I’m sure he’s seething that by his own admission, he still doesn’t know what exactly the investigation has uncovered, and that he wasn’t consulted about the postseason ban....

“I can’t imagine Pitino is content with not having been part of the process.”

Clearly there is a rift between Pitino and President Ramsey so will Pitino stay?  I’m on his side in this one for sure, assuming there is no smoking gun that somehow implicates him directly in the scandal.

So now after the B.C. game on Saturday, the Cardinals’ season consists of just eight regular season games remaining.

Pitino was pumped because he had the kind of backcourt that often makes for long runs in the tournament.

Louisville thus joins SMU as two high-profile teams that will miss the NCAAs.; SMU having been banned for multiple violations, including academic fraud and unethical conduct.

--Kudos to Kansas coach Bill Self for castigating one of his players, Brannen Greene, for a dunk at the end of Kansas’ rout of Kansas State 77-59.

Self opened his postgame news conference by apologizing to “the K-State team, their program, coaches (and) players,” according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Calling it “totally classless,” Self also addressed Greene’s dunk in a postgame radio interview and guaranteed “it will never happen again.”

“Brannen Greene, we’ve put up with him doing some stuff in the past, but that was probably the biggest d--- move I’ve ever had a player do during a game,” Self said in the radio interview, according to the Topeka newspaper.  “To dunk the ball like that when the other team – even their players are going, ‘How disrespectful to the game.’

“It certainly showed unbelievably poor sportsmanship.”

Now some can say coach Self shouldn’t throw his player under the bus like that and that it should be handled in private, but clearly Greene has gotten under his skin countless times before or he wouldn’t have gone off on the guy like this.

--Our friend Jamie Pifalo of the College of Staten Island led the Lady Dolphins to a 70-58 victory over York College on Saturday as CSI is now 14-7, 10-3 in CUNYAC play.  Pifalo’s back-to-back threes in the fourth re-ignited the Dolphins after they almost blew a 17-point lead and enabled them to pull away.  Jamie had 15 points in the contest, along with three steals.

NBA

--I have to note Steph Curry’s performance last Wednesday night in Washington, as it came after I posted my last chat.

Curry scored 36 of his 51 points in the first half on the way to a 134-121 win over the Wizards, as he made 13 of his first 14 shots and finished 19 of 28, including 11 for 26 from three-point land, which tied a career high and was one short of the NBA record, held by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall.

--The Knicks were having a back and forth season, winning three or four in a row, losing three or four, but they had gotten their record to 22-22 and appeared in good position to make a playoff run, only to lose 9 of 10 and tumble to 23-31 after Sunday’s 101-96 loss to 21-31 Denver.

The biggest issue has been the availability of Carmelo Anthony, who has had a strong year, but they are 0-7 when he’s been out of the lineup, mostly due to a balky knee.  They desperately need a good point guard, rookie Kristaps Porzingis has pretty much hit the rookie wall (though I have to admit his last two games have been OK), and Knicks president Phil Jackson has boycotted the media.  In fact he hasn’t spoken since September, which is beyond inexcusable.

--Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin underwent a second procedure on his broken right hand this week.  The initial timeframe of a 4-6 recovery period is still in place, while the NBA investigates the altercation with the Clippers’ equipment manager.

--San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili is out for at least a month after surgery Thursday for a testicle injury he suffered during the team’s win over New Orleans earlier this week.  Ginobili was injured when New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson had his back turned to Ginobili as he was working toward the basket when he spun quickly and struck the guard squarely in the groin with his right knee.

Man, this is awful.

[Very classy ceremony honoring Kobe Bryant before the Lakers-Spurs game in San Antonio Saturday night, won by the Spurs.  But then everything the Spurs do is classy.]

Premier League

Amazing Leicester continues to write one of the great sports stories, worldwide.

Remember, this is a squad that finished 14th in the 20-team Premier League last season, with a total of 41 points, just six points above the relegation line, and yet here they are...five points clear in first after stunning Manchester City 3-1 at Etihad Stadium (Man City’s home).

Man City has all of these incredibly expensive players on their squad, seemingly like ten times the payroll of Leicester, but the Foxes have heart and Claudio Ranieri as their manager.

In other games my Tottenham Spurs won again, 1-0 against Watford, while Everton rolled over Stoke 3-0.

Sunday, Chelsea eked out a 1-1 draw against Manchester United.

Next Sunday is a huge day...Leicester travels to Arsenal, and Tottenham heads to Etihad to take on Man City.

So after 25 of 38....

1. Leicester 53 points
2. Tottenham 48
3. Arsenal 48 (ties broken by goal differential)
4. Man City 47
5. Man U 41
6. West Ham 39
7. Southampton 37
8. Everton 35
9. Liverpool 35
13. Chelsea 30

17. Newcastle 24
18. Norwich 23
19. Sunderland 20
20. Aston Villa 16 [Nos. 18-20 are relegated]

Tottenham has given up only 19 goals, fewest in the league.

Golf Balls

--What a final round...and last few holes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which traditionally provides some of us solid entertainment rather than watching a four-hour Super Bowl pre-game show.

But this was potentially important in terms of the new wave taking over the sport.  Rickie Fowler, trying to bust through and create a Big Four instead of the Big Three (Spieth, Day and McIlroy), had a two-stroke lead with two holes to go as he went to the short par-4 17th that all are tempted to drive. So Fowler proceeded to blast his drive through the green and in the water behind.  Into a playoff we went with 23-year-old Japanese budding star Hideki Matsuyama.

Both golfers made one clutch putt after another but in the end, the action returned to the 17th on the fourth hole of sudden death and once again, Fowler hit it into the water, only this time wide left, short of the green. Matsuyama took advantage of it and picked up his second tour victory.

All of us feel bad for Fowler, though, who had his entire family, including his grandparents, with him for the first time and they just assumed he was going to win heading to the 17 tee.  Rickie was visibly upset after.  But now it’s about winning that first major and the sport needs him to do so.

Meanwhile, Matsuyama can easily become the fifth Beatle.

One more thing.  For the record the event drew a Tour record 618,000 over the four days.

--Local Phoenix area resident Shu swears by the “thunderdog,” “a quarter pound all-beef hot dog that’s boiled in beer then grilled to perfection” at the Waste Management Open  Chef Martin Calfee has been serving them up for 19 years.  Frankly, I’m drooling and can’t find my bib....

Bob and Ray

Bob Elliott, the surviving half of Bob and Ray, the legendary radio comedy team that came to fame in the 1950s, died Tuesday.  He was 92.  His son, comic Chris Elliott, announced the cause was throat cancer.

In a more than four-decade comedy partnership that was born in a Boston radio station after World War II, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were blessed with what a writer for the New Yorker once described as an “infinite sense of the ridiculous.”

If you’re of a certain generation, you loved these guys.  Some of us were fortunate growing up to listen to their afternoon show on WOR radio, or if you are older you heard the CBS radio spots they did.

As the Los Angeles Times’ Dennis McLellan writes:

“Vocally adept comic actors with perfect timing and delivery, Bob and Ray were masters of subtle, unabrasive satire delivered in two-man sketches featuring an array of colorfully memorable characters.

“Their primary target was radio itself.

“As Elliott told the New York Daily News in 1992: ‘Our original premise was that radio was too pompous.’

“Sketches ranged from the ‘Bob and Ray Mystery Tune’ (winners received $18 ‘in cash,’ plus a free breakfast at Rudy’s House of Dry Toast) to the call-in opinion program ‘Speaking Out’ (‘I think the Prince of Wales should be a civil service job’).  And they poked fun at commercials, with ‘sponsors’ such as Cool Canadian Air (‘Packed fresh every day in the Hudson Bay and shipped to your door.’).

Elliott portrayed characters such as Wally Ballou, the inept newsman, and other characters such as Dr. Daryll Dexter, the world-renowned Komodo dragon authority from Upper Montclair, N.J.; and Harlow P. Whitcomb, president and recording secretary of the Slow Talkers of America.

Johnny Carson called Bob and Ray “two of the funniest – and most influential – humorists of their time.”

Those influenced by, or simply fans of Bob and Ray, included Jay Leno, David Letterman, George Carlin, Garrison Keillor and Kurt Vonnegut.

Ray Goulding died in 1990 at age 68.

Stuff

--This is huge...Congratulations to Drew Hunter, a senior out of Loudoun Valley High School in Virginia for breaking the U.S. indoor record in the mile, running a 3:58.25 at the Armory Track Invitational on Saturday in New York.

I was reading a story this week on Hunter and it didn’t seem possible because due to the blizzard and a bad cold, his training going into the race had been severely limited.

Hunter broke Alan Webb’s record 3:59.86 set back in 2001 as the two are the only American high school students in indoor history to break the 4-minute mark.

Go Drew Hunter.  What I also love about the kid is he’s headed to the University of Oregon.  No doubt he’s already made a pilgrimage to Pre’s Rock

Webb, by the way, has been advising Hunter.  He had a frustrating career himself.  While he ran the fastest mile in American history (3:46.91 in 2007), he never broke out in the major competitions and competed just in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

--Lindsey Vonn did it again, winning her fifth downhill of the World Cup season in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday, extending her career record number of downhills to 38, or half her 76 overall World Cup victories, moving within ten of Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 victories.

Vonn then finished third to Lara Gut in the super G on Sunday.  Vonn leads Gut in the overall standings.

Also, I’ve been noting it’s been a very poor season for the U.S. men’s team but Steven Nyman picked up his first podium finish of the season in the men’s downhill at a course that will be used for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea.  Nyman finished third behind Kjetil Jansrud of Norway and Dominik Paris of Italy.

--Florida State appears to have wrapped up the No. 1 football recruiting class after national signing day, according to many of the rating services.  Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher picked up 16 of ESPN’s top 300, for example.

LSU coach Les Miles, who was basically fired, only to have players and fans overrule boosters and the administration, garnered what many feel is the No. 2 class.

Phil W. passed on that among Wake Forest’s signees was punter Dom Maggio out of Baltimore, MD. Phil wondered if the kid would break the mark of 56 consecutive possessions ending in a punt, given our lack of offense. 

--Roger Federer underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus that he suffered in his Australian Open semifinal against Novak Djokovic.  But he should be fine in time for the French Open in mid-May.

--Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta agreed to a hefty $10.7 million, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration with the highest one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of major league service.  The NL Cy Young Award winner finished with a 22-6 record and a 1.77 ERA.  He was rewarded with a $7.07 million raise.

--I need to get down for the archives the 20-game suspension handed down to Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman for his hit on linesman Don Henderson a week ago.  The hit was so outrageous, even as Wideman said it was unintentional.  Hell, it was totally premeditated.

So Wideman is going in the December file.

--It’s almost time to start thinking about the Kentucky Derby (certainly talk heats up in about four weeks in a big way).  Saturday, a Bob Baffert horse, Mor Spirit, won a key prep race at Santa Anita.  This is Baffert’s top 3-year-old and was ridden by the great Gary Stevens.

--The Daytona 500 is coming up in a few weeks and it will be missing one of the sport’s biggest stars, Tony Stewart, who broke his back in a dune-buggy accident in the California desert last Sunday.

Stewart has never won at Daytona and this is expected to be his retirement season.  Many of the fans who followed the newly retired Jeff Gordon were expected to line up behind “Smoke.”  But now there’s no telling how long he’ll be out.  It really is a big blow, especially from a marketing standpoint.

No replacement for Smoke has been named on the Stewart-Haas Racing team.

--A 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti, which set a lap record at the 24 hours of Le Mans race and competed in the original Mille Miglia rally, was sold for more than $35 million, including taxes and the buyer’s premium.  Yes, this is the world’s most expensive car, sold at auction in Paris on Friday.  The winner in frantic bidding, as described by the Financial Times, was only said to be an “international buyer.”

This is cool.  The car was driven by Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and Wolfgang von Trips.  It was capable of 300km per hour (186 mph), “and yet had no seat belts”!

--Antonio Docampo Garcia died last week at the age of 107 and his family says he attributed his old age to his drinking habits – four bottles of red wine a day, and no water.

Really.  His son told the Daily Telegraph he “could get through 200 litres of wine a month.  He never drank water.”

Docampo, who lived in northwest Spain, was founder of the wine company Bodegas Docampo.

--Congratulations to Poway, California’s Brian Fagan, who the other day caught a 74.2-pound white sea bass off La Jolla.  He did it while he was out on his kayak, just as the sun was rising, using an Avet reel on a Sabre rod, if you’re into these things.  I was just amazed by a picture I saw in the San Diego Union Tribune.

But the catch was short of the state record of 78 pounds, set by David Sternberg (sic) in 2002 in Monterey, according to the International Game Fish Association.

--We note the passing of astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.  I’ll have something to say about him in that other column I do later this week, but this was the mission where crewmate, Captain Alan Shepard, hit a golf ball, reporting later that it travelled “miles and miles and miles” in the low lunar gravity.  He later estimated it went 400 yards.

--Finally, the music world lost yet another giant on Thursday, Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, one of my favorite acts of all time, to say the least.  Brother and bandmate, the great Verdine White, first confirmed the news with the Associated Press.  White has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease since the ‘90s and he remained behind the scenes as the act continued to tour.

Born in Memphis, Tenn. on Dec. 19. 1941, White sang in his church’s gospel choir at an early age, but his interest quickly turned to the drums.  He earned his first gig backing Booker T. Jones before the organist founded the MGs.  White moved to Chicago in the early ‘60s and studied composition at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and would later become a session drummer for the likes of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

But after backing jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis in the ‘60s, White moved to Los Angeles in 1969 with a band called the Salty Peppers.  The group  failed to gain much traction and he changed the name to Earth, Wind and Fire, which White chose because of his spiritual approach to music and a love of astrology.

“In the beginning,” White told the Chicago Tribune in 1988, “My message was basically trying to relate to the community. From that it grew into more of a universal consciousness; the idea was to give the people something that was useful.”

The group evolved and eventually included vocalist Phillip Bailey and brother Verdine, both of whom have been staples ever since.

When EWF found less commercial success in the ‘80s, White’s career eventually expanded into production, and he collaborated with Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and El DeBarge.

But before that you had that great run in the 1970s, and while the group had a #29 in “Mighty Mighty” and #33 in “Devotion” in 1975, it was the following year that they truly burst on the scene with the #1 “Shining Star.”

When I first heard it my initial thought was, ‘wow...this is cool.’  It was so distinctive.  And then they followed it up with the #12 “That’s The Way of the World” and #5 “Sing A Song” and they were off and running.  White helped write all of the songs.

1976 brought “Getaway,” “Serpentine Fire,” and 1978 saw “Fantasy,” with the #8 “September” which I’ve told you on many occasions I saw them perform in Greensboro on literally the 21st night of September with some Wake Forest friends.  It was just a great moment.

Everything EWF did was positive, and such a contrast with a lot of what followed.  White said in an interview with the AP in 2000 that he wanted the band’s music to inspire people rather than just entertain them.

“That was the whole objective, to try to inspire young people to believe in themselves and to follow through on their ideas.  We’ve touched so many people with these songs.”

In an interview with Newsweek, White said, “We live in a negative society. Most people can’t see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine.”

The group has sold over 90 million albums.

EWF was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and they are due to receive a lifetime achievement award at the upcoming Grammys, which should be moving.

I’ve been humming their songs nonstop the past few days, “Can’t Hide Love” being my personal favorite.

In a tweet, Questlove, the drummer for the Roots and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” said: “Maurice was everything...Everything.”

RIP, Maurice White...and thank you.

Top 3 songs for the week 2/7/76: #1 “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon)  #2 “Love To Love You Baby” (Donna Summer....huh....huh...probably shouldn’t sing this one in the office...)  #3 “You Sexy Thing” (Hot Chocolate)...and...#4 “I Write The Songs” (Barry Manilow)  #5 “Sing A Song” (Earth, Wind & Fire...appropriate...)  #6 “Love Rollercoaster” (Ohio Players...yow!...)   #7 “Times Of Your Life” (Paul Anka...beautiful tune, but not a good one to listen to if you’re depressed at how old you’re getting...)  #8 “Theme From S.W.A.T.” (Rhythm Heritage...talk about a song not aging well...eegads, this blows...)  #9 “Convoy” (C.W. McCall...ditto...)  #10 “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” (Neil Sedaka...whereas virtually everything this guy did sounds just as good 40 years later...)

College Basketball Quiz Answers: 1) No. 4 all time in free throw percentage is J.J. Redick, .9118, while at Duke (2003-06). Redick is currently having another solid season with the Clippers.  2) Kendall Marshall (UNC) holds the single-season record for assists at 351 in 2011-12; Ed Cota (UNC) holds the career record with 1,030 (1997-2000).

By the way, Doug Gottlieb is No. 5 on the career assists list (again, since 1994-95) while at Oklahoma State, but he averaged only 5 ppg for his career, including his freshman season at Notre Dame before he transferred. 

Next Bar Chat, Thursday...Super Bowl fallout.

 



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Bar Chat

02/08/2016

Denver 24 Carolina 10

[Posted late Sunday PM ET]

College Basketball Quiz: 1) Blake Ahearn (Missouri State) is the career leader in Div. I for free throw shooting (min. 300 attempts) at .9457.  Derek Raivio (Gonzaga) is second, Gary Buchanan (Villanova) is third.  Who is fourth?  He’s playing in the NBA today and it’s not Steph Curry.  2) Sports-reference.com has been keeping track of assists since 1994-95.  Two players from the ACC (original schools, not like a Pitt) are the D-I record holders for single-season assists and career assists.  Name them.  Answers below.

As The NFL Dies A Slow Death.....

Congratulations to Denver for their third Super Bowl triumph, 24-10 over the Carolina Panthers and that wimp, Cam Newton.  Mr. Big Talk showed the nation what he was really about when he failed to go into the pile on that last fumble.  The guy is a major league loser, until he proves otherwise.

Yes, Denver’s defense, under the direction of Wade Phillips, was outstanding throughout the playoffs, but I have to admit I love seeing Cam bite the dust.

As for Peyton Manning, hey, he goes out a winner for a second time and that is huge for his legacy because as we all know, 20 years from now no one will remember this game, specifically; they’ll just remember Peyton has two rings...and in this sport, two is way better than one.

But for the record, in this hideous contest:

Manning was 13/23, 141, 0-1, 56.6.

Newton was 18/41, 265, 0-1, 55.4...plus Cam lost two fumbles, including that critical last one.

Von Miller, 2 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles, was the deserved MVP.

And not for nothing, I told you what the over/under would be.  Carolina had zero first downs in its first two possessions.  I said if Denver held them to one or less they’d win.

As Ronald Reagan would have said...not bad, not bad at all.  [Heck, no one else offered this winning pregame analysis.]

One more...as Couch Slouch, aka Norman Chad wrote, we all could count on Mike Carey blowing it.  And the very first challenge CBS threw to the twit, guess what?  He blew the call and we never heard from him again.

Just a really lousy four hours all around (though I was actually watching the golf playoff the first one).

I do have to note that Lady Gaga did a great job with the National Anthem, I thought the halftime show was fine, and I liked the Butterfingers (“you’ll spoil your dinner”) and the Honda sheep commercial best.

But I think over the past year+ of criticizing the sport while I’ve covered it as extensively as anyone else, it’s clear it’s dying.  And what follows was written before the game.  After this pathetic show, the commentary will only get worse...as I’m sure I’ll be noting next time.

Roger Goodell

Steve Politi / NJ.com

Bad news, American football fans. If you were planning on settling in on your couch to watch Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, the commissioner of the NFL himself has issued a stern warning.  That couch is what might kill you.

“This happened as Goodell tried to defend a sport that is growing increasingly indefensible, during the end of his yearly state-of-the-NFL news conference. He was asked if he felt comfortable encouraging parents to allow their teenage sons to play football with mounting evidence it could lead to irreversible brain damage, and this was his response:

“ ‘From my standpoint, I played football for nine years though high school and I wouldn’t give up a single day of that,’ he said.  ‘If I had a son, I’d love to have him play the game of football because of the values you get.  There is risk in life. There is risk in sitting on the couch.’

“No really.  He said that.  There is risk in sitting on the couch. It truly makes you wonder what kind of sofa configuration the commissioner has in his house....

“It was an amazing moment, a quote that should live on long after Goodell’s reign as NFL czar is over, because it shows how little grasp he has over the biggest problems facing his billion-dollar business.  It isn’t that the Pro Bowl ratings are down, or that his referees can’t handle discipline issues on the field, or the St. Louis fans are angry about losing the Rams to Los Angeles.

“That he seemed to take all of those more seriously on Friday than the big one is rather remarkable.

What threatens football more than anything is that a generation of mothers have ample evidence now to insist that little Johnny Halfback run track or play the trombone rather than sign up for the Pop Warner league.

Super Bowl 50 is going to be a cash bonanza as usual. Do you want to bet that Super Bowl 100 will be, giving what we’re learning about the damage to the brains of the most prominent players?....

“(Goodell) fell back on old clichés during his news conference on Friday.  Forget the risk of brain injuries, moms and dads, and remember all the good stuff about football.  Leadership. Teamwork. Values.

It’s a line of B.S. that even some of his own players don’t believe. ‘I mean, honestly, if I had sons, I probably wouldn’t be raising them to play football,’ (Broncos offensive lineman Evan) Mathis said.  ‘There’s a lot of money in baseball.’

“Goodell brushed off a question about how some top stars, including Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, are walking away from the sport in their prime. More, the commissioner insisted, want to play forever....

“ ‘There is no higher priority than player safety,’ Goodell said.

“But is football really any safer?  No one knows, but it’s a safe bet it’s a wee bit riskier than settling in on your couch to watch it.”

Bart Hubbuck / New York Post

Roger Goodell apparently has been on some very dangerous couches....

“Goodell’s outlandish comparison, which quickly went viral, was in response to a question from The Post about whether he still recommends tackle football for teens and preteens after the deaths of at least seven high school players this past season from injuries in practice or games.”

Gary Myers / New York Daily News

Roger Goodell was the captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams his senior year at Bronxville High School.

“He was a safety and tight end on the football team – he was a quarterback for a number of years – and had offers to play college football.  Jackie Sherrill at Pitt was interested.

“ ‘I hurt my knee late in the spring,’ he said.

“Any thoughts of playing college football were out, even at small college Washington and Lee, where he enrolled.  ‘If there is ever a regret in my life, it’s not playing college football,’ Goodell told me years ago.

“The knee injury might have been the best thing that happened to him.  It eventually could save his life.  Instead of playing college football and perhaps suffering multiple concussions, he used his free time away from the classroom and library tending bar, which in most cases is much safer....

“Goodell has twin teenage daughters, so he’s never faced the issue of whether to allow his kids to play middle school or high school football.  But he insisted Friday at his annual state-of-the-NFL news conference that if he had a son, he would not only endorse him playing, he would encourage him to lace ‘em up.

“He said this despite the sad state of so many former players who are suffering and at least nine high school kids* who died as a result of football injuries last season....

“Anybody who plays football should be fully educated about what they are getting themselves into before they put on a helmet and shoulder pads.

“Goodell’s way of looking at the risk makes him look silly and defensive.

“ ‘What we want to do is get people active,’ Goodell said.  ‘I want them to experience the game of football.  It will teach you values – discipline, teamwork, perseverance. Those are values and those are skills that will lead you through life.  I believe football is the best at teaching it.’

“All that is true, but he left out the physical risk.”

*Yes, uncertainty over the number of deaths last year, but it is at least seven.

Nancy Armour / USA TODAY Sports

“It’s an exercise in futility to expect substantive answers from Roger Goodell. Any shred of compassion, either.

“Goodell held his annual state of the NFL address Friday and, apparently, everything is hunky dory. The tough new personal-conduct policy is working, never mind that slap-down by a federal judge over Deflategate. The quality of play has never been better, though the fans in Jacksonville, Cleveland and Dallas probably would beg to disagree.....

There’s been ‘great progress’ on concussion prevention, even as an as-yet-untreatable disease continues to rob an alarming number of former NFL players of their personalities and quality of life.

“As for those high school players who died this season, well, yes, it’s tragic anytime there’s a loss of life. But there’s a risk in sitting on the couch, too.”

Sally Jenkins / Washington Post

“(Goodell) takes you and me for stupid.  The commissioner’s annual address is a performance with a backdrop of triumphal music and glittering gold shield and shining trophies.  You end up feeling like you’re sitting in a Roman praetorium listening to an army imperator. There are planted questions, clearly stage-managed propaganda moments, all calculated to distract or sew confusion and doubt over brain science....

“It’s not working.  No one believes Goodell, least of all mothers, despite the league’s brazen Mommy marketing. In response to Goodell’s remark that football is a better teacher than other games, tennis great Chris Evert, who has three sons, tweeted: ‘I can name a few. And they’re safer.’

“Not even his constituency is buying it.  Mike Ditka has said he wouldn’t let a son play football because he has too many friends who are debilitated.  Brett Favre, too, has confessed anxiety over whether his young grandsons should play tackle because, as he told ESPN, ‘I don’t think the cumulative of playing 20 years of football, plus in college, plus in high school, has a positive effect on you.’

“We all know the truth: The NFL has no moral center on this, no defensible posture, just marketing....

At some point, the league is in for a reckoning. When players retire at 25 and even your own legends don’t buy your bull, you’re asking for the bottom to fall out of your business.  You’re also asking for a future of endless litigation and perhaps enforced regulation.”

--Joe Montana is handling the coin toss at the big game and in an interview with USA TODAY Sports, he detailed the extensive physical problems he suffers from more than two decades after retiring.

“The mental part was hard initially when I first retired,” Montana, 59, said.  “Because it’s quick – cold turkey, the game’s gone. Then the physical stuff tries to catch up with you.”

He has arthritis in one of his elbows, his knees and his hands.

My hands have been, oh my gosh, in the middle of the night they hurt like crazy,” he said.

Then there’s the balky knee he can’t straighten despite a half-dozen surgeries.  “I can’t really run or do much with it.”

And he’s had three neck fusions, with another in the future.

Oh, and he has nerve damage in one of his eyes.

--I wrote the following of Johnny Manziel on 2/1 in this space:

As for Manziel, I’m tired of writing about him.  I’d be shocked if he’s playing in the NFL next fall.  I won’t be shocked if he ends up in a ditch in the next six months.”

The last few days everyone else is understanding this is it for the guy.

Dallas police announced they were investigating the domestic violence assault complaint filed against Johnny Jerkoff. 

Earlier police had closed the investigation into allegations Manziel hit his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, last Saturday.

Crowley then spoke to Dallas police on Friday and we are where we are.

But, the same day, Manziel’s agent dropped him, and his father, Paul Manziel, told the Dallas Morning News that if Johnny didn’t get help, “he feared his son wouldn’t make it to his 24th birthday in December.”  [ESPN.com]

Also, Crowley got a two-year protection order against Manziel.

There are also reports that Manziel had two chances last week to enter rehab and didn’t.

What a waste. But, boy, his parents were enablers from way back.

--Brett Favre and Ken Stabler headline the latest class of inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Joining Favre from the ‘modern-era’ are Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, Colts receiver Marvin Harrison and linebacker Kevin Greene, who played for the Rams, Steelers, Panthers and 49ers.

Stabler got in, finally, in the senior category, along with guard Dick Stanfel. 

Ed DeBartolo Jr. was elected in the contributor category.

College Basketball Review

--Just another Saturday of upsets...and another shakeup at the top of the polls coming on Monday.

No. 1 Oklahoma (19-3, 7-3) lost to Kansas State (14-9, 3-7) in Manhattan, 80-69 with the Sooners going just 6 of 24 from three-point land, while K-State hit 27 of 51 from the field.

No. 2 North Carolina (19-4, 8-2) lost its second in a row, 80-76 to Notre Dame (16-7, 7-4) in South Bend as the Tar Heels held the Fighting Irish to just 34.8% shooting from the field.  But Carolina was called for 27 fouls to ND’s 16 and the Irish went 31 of 38 at the line, while UNC was 16 of 21.  There’s your difference.

So will No. 3 Villanova (20-3, 10-1) be elevated to No. 1 following their 72-60 win over No. 11 Providence (18-6, 6-5) in Providence?  Why not?

No. 4 Maryland (21-3, 10-2) could make a claim of its own after a 72-61 defeat of 18 Purdue (19-5, 7-4) in College Park.

In other games...

25 South Carolina (20-3, 7-3) had a nice road win over 8 Texas A&M (18-5, 7-3) 81-78.

Penn State (12-12, 3-8) shocked 22 Indiana (19-5, 9-2) 68-63.

And Wake Forest (10-13, 1-10) lost its eighth straight in ACC play, another dismal 91-71 drubbing at home at the hands of Florida State (16-7, 6-5).

Then there was the game I was glued to the whole way...San Diego State hosting New Mexico, always a dogfight.

In incredible fashion, the Aztecs pulled it out 78-71 in overtime to advance to 18-6, 11-0 in Mountain West conference play, as the Lobos fall to 14-9, 7-3.

What was amazing was SDSU got a 3-point rainbow from forward Malik Pope with six seconds in regulation to send it into OT, with the Aztecs shooting just 4 of 27 from three-point land for the game (including 1 of 11 from guard Trey Kell).  But by tying it up and then prevailing, San Diego State extended their unfathomable streak of winning games when they have the lead with five minutes to play to 161!

The streak was over, but then Pope saves the day and this could be huge for the team the rest of the way.  Pope has as much raw ability as anyone in the college game yet he’s had a hugely disappointing sophomore season, but what I liked even more than the shot (in terms of showing off his talent) was an incredible rebound in overtime. 

Well, my “Pick to Click” is now a lock to win the regular season Mountain West title and maybe this will be enough after all to get them into the Big Dance, though they would still have to make it at least to the final of the conference tournament.

Sunday, 16 Oregon (19-4, 8-2) defeated Utah (17-6, 6-4) 69-58, bringing us all that much closer to March Madness with the No. 1 Oregon cheerleaders, and for this Male America should be most appreciative.

Lastly, 19 Louisville (19-4, 8-2) manhandled pathetic Boston College (7-16, 0-10) 79-47, but this was only part of the story.  To wit....

--Louisville imposed a one-year postseason ban on its men’s basketball team as the investigation into the alleged recruiting scandal grinds on.  University president James R. Ramsey acknowledged at a news conference Friday that it was “reasonable to conclude violations have occurred in the past.”

“I recognize that this is a significant penalty for our program,” he said, with coach Rick Pitino and AD Tom Jurich by his side.

Pitino said he and Jurich have been “kept in the dark” on details of the investigation and that the ban came as a shock.  “This is a decision that’s as harsh as anything I’ve seen.”

Ramsey said he thought self-imposing the postseason ban would satisfy the NCAA and help the school avoid further penalties.

I feel bad for Louisville’s star backcourt of Trey Lewis and Damion Lee in particular because they were graduate transfers who came to Louisville this season so they could play in an NCAA tournament for the first time. 

Lewis, who is averaging 12 points per game, came over from Cleveland State, while Lee, who is averaging 17, had starred at Drexel.

When Coach Pitino told them of the self-imposed penalty by the school, the two cried upon hearing the news, according to Pitino.

Phil W. passed along the thoughts of Bob Valvano, Jim’s brother, who does color commentary for UofL basketball, via WAVE 3 News.

The kids involved with this team, specifically Lee and Lewis, had nothing to do with these allegations.  It seems the decision to self-impose might be better for the institution, but certainly not for the kids.

“I would have been more impressed had the school said it has reason to think mistakes were made and violations occurred, and then imposed penalties that did not involve missing this postseason.

“Or, if the school felt a postseason ban was appropriate, do it next year, allowing this year’s group of players in their last year an opportunity to play in the postseason, while next year’s incoming crop of freshmen could be given the option to not attend if they choose, knowing there is a postseason ban in place. This way, the institution pays for whatever transgressions occurred, but players, particularly Lee and Lewis, who did nothing wrong, could fulfill their dream.

“Keep in mind the NCAA can impose its own set of punishments come the spring or summer.  So the institution would pay for whatever wrongdoing; this is no ploy to sidestep discipline. It’s just trying to find a fairer discipline.

As for Pitino, knowing him as I do, I’m sure he’s seething that by his own admission, he still doesn’t know what exactly the investigation has uncovered, and that he wasn’t consulted about the postseason ban....

“I can’t imagine Pitino is content with not having been part of the process.”

Clearly there is a rift between Pitino and President Ramsey so will Pitino stay?  I’m on his side in this one for sure, assuming there is no smoking gun that somehow implicates him directly in the scandal.

So now after the B.C. game on Saturday, the Cardinals’ season consists of just eight regular season games remaining.

Pitino was pumped because he had the kind of backcourt that often makes for long runs in the tournament.

Louisville thus joins SMU as two high-profile teams that will miss the NCAAs.; SMU having been banned for multiple violations, including academic fraud and unethical conduct.

--Kudos to Kansas coach Bill Self for castigating one of his players, Brannen Greene, for a dunk at the end of Kansas’ rout of Kansas State 77-59.

Self opened his postgame news conference by apologizing to “the K-State team, their program, coaches (and) players,” according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Calling it “totally classless,” Self also addressed Greene’s dunk in a postgame radio interview and guaranteed “it will never happen again.”

“Brannen Greene, we’ve put up with him doing some stuff in the past, but that was probably the biggest d--- move I’ve ever had a player do during a game,” Self said in the radio interview, according to the Topeka newspaper.  “To dunk the ball like that when the other team – even their players are going, ‘How disrespectful to the game.’

“It certainly showed unbelievably poor sportsmanship.”

Now some can say coach Self shouldn’t throw his player under the bus like that and that it should be handled in private, but clearly Greene has gotten under his skin countless times before or he wouldn’t have gone off on the guy like this.

--Our friend Jamie Pifalo of the College of Staten Island led the Lady Dolphins to a 70-58 victory over York College on Saturday as CSI is now 14-7, 10-3 in CUNYAC play.  Pifalo’s back-to-back threes in the fourth re-ignited the Dolphins after they almost blew a 17-point lead and enabled them to pull away.  Jamie had 15 points in the contest, along with three steals.

NBA

--I have to note Steph Curry’s performance last Wednesday night in Washington, as it came after I posted my last chat.

Curry scored 36 of his 51 points in the first half on the way to a 134-121 win over the Wizards, as he made 13 of his first 14 shots and finished 19 of 28, including 11 for 26 from three-point land, which tied a career high and was one short of the NBA record, held by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall.

--The Knicks were having a back and forth season, winning three or four in a row, losing three or four, but they had gotten their record to 22-22 and appeared in good position to make a playoff run, only to lose 9 of 10 and tumble to 23-31 after Sunday’s 101-96 loss to 21-31 Denver.

The biggest issue has been the availability of Carmelo Anthony, who has had a strong year, but they are 0-7 when he’s been out of the lineup, mostly due to a balky knee.  They desperately need a good point guard, rookie Kristaps Porzingis has pretty much hit the rookie wall (though I have to admit his last two games have been OK), and Knicks president Phil Jackson has boycotted the media.  In fact he hasn’t spoken since September, which is beyond inexcusable.

--Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin underwent a second procedure on his broken right hand this week.  The initial timeframe of a 4-6 recovery period is still in place, while the NBA investigates the altercation with the Clippers’ equipment manager.

--San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili is out for at least a month after surgery Thursday for a testicle injury he suffered during the team’s win over New Orleans earlier this week.  Ginobili was injured when New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson had his back turned to Ginobili as he was working toward the basket when he spun quickly and struck the guard squarely in the groin with his right knee.

Man, this is awful.

[Very classy ceremony honoring Kobe Bryant before the Lakers-Spurs game in San Antonio Saturday night, won by the Spurs.  But then everything the Spurs do is classy.]

Premier League

Amazing Leicester continues to write one of the great sports stories, worldwide.

Remember, this is a squad that finished 14th in the 20-team Premier League last season, with a total of 41 points, just six points above the relegation line, and yet here they are...five points clear in first after stunning Manchester City 3-1 at Etihad Stadium (Man City’s home).

Man City has all of these incredibly expensive players on their squad, seemingly like ten times the payroll of Leicester, but the Foxes have heart and Claudio Ranieri as their manager.

In other games my Tottenham Spurs won again, 1-0 against Watford, while Everton rolled over Stoke 3-0.

Sunday, Chelsea eked out a 1-1 draw against Manchester United.

Next Sunday is a huge day...Leicester travels to Arsenal, and Tottenham heads to Etihad to take on Man City.

So after 25 of 38....

1. Leicester 53 points
2. Tottenham 48
3. Arsenal 48 (ties broken by goal differential)
4. Man City 47
5. Man U 41
6. West Ham 39
7. Southampton 37
8. Everton 35
9. Liverpool 35
13. Chelsea 30

17. Newcastle 24
18. Norwich 23
19. Sunderland 20
20. Aston Villa 16 [Nos. 18-20 are relegated]

Tottenham has given up only 19 goals, fewest in the league.

Golf Balls

--What a final round...and last few holes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which traditionally provides some of us solid entertainment rather than watching a four-hour Super Bowl pre-game show.

But this was potentially important in terms of the new wave taking over the sport.  Rickie Fowler, trying to bust through and create a Big Four instead of the Big Three (Spieth, Day and McIlroy), had a two-stroke lead with two holes to go as he went to the short par-4 17th that all are tempted to drive. So Fowler proceeded to blast his drive through the green and in the water behind.  Into a playoff we went with 23-year-old Japanese budding star Hideki Matsuyama.

Both golfers made one clutch putt after another but in the end, the action returned to the 17th on the fourth hole of sudden death and once again, Fowler hit it into the water, only this time wide left, short of the green. Matsuyama took advantage of it and picked up his second tour victory.

All of us feel bad for Fowler, though, who had his entire family, including his grandparents, with him for the first time and they just assumed he was going to win heading to the 17 tee.  Rickie was visibly upset after.  But now it’s about winning that first major and the sport needs him to do so.

Meanwhile, Matsuyama can easily become the fifth Beatle.

One more thing.  For the record the event drew a Tour record 618,000 over the four days.

--Local Phoenix area resident Shu swears by the “thunderdog,” “a quarter pound all-beef hot dog that’s boiled in beer then grilled to perfection” at the Waste Management Open  Chef Martin Calfee has been serving them up for 19 years.  Frankly, I’m drooling and can’t find my bib....

Bob and Ray

Bob Elliott, the surviving half of Bob and Ray, the legendary radio comedy team that came to fame in the 1950s, died Tuesday.  He was 92.  His son, comic Chris Elliott, announced the cause was throat cancer.

In a more than four-decade comedy partnership that was born in a Boston radio station after World War II, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were blessed with what a writer for the New Yorker once described as an “infinite sense of the ridiculous.”

If you’re of a certain generation, you loved these guys.  Some of us were fortunate growing up to listen to their afternoon show on WOR radio, or if you are older you heard the CBS radio spots they did.

As the Los Angeles Times’ Dennis McLellan writes:

“Vocally adept comic actors with perfect timing and delivery, Bob and Ray were masters of subtle, unabrasive satire delivered in two-man sketches featuring an array of colorfully memorable characters.

“Their primary target was radio itself.

“As Elliott told the New York Daily News in 1992: ‘Our original premise was that radio was too pompous.’

“Sketches ranged from the ‘Bob and Ray Mystery Tune’ (winners received $18 ‘in cash,’ plus a free breakfast at Rudy’s House of Dry Toast) to the call-in opinion program ‘Speaking Out’ (‘I think the Prince of Wales should be a civil service job’).  And they poked fun at commercials, with ‘sponsors’ such as Cool Canadian Air (‘Packed fresh every day in the Hudson Bay and shipped to your door.’).

Elliott portrayed characters such as Wally Ballou, the inept newsman, and other characters such as Dr. Daryll Dexter, the world-renowned Komodo dragon authority from Upper Montclair, N.J.; and Harlow P. Whitcomb, president and recording secretary of the Slow Talkers of America.

Johnny Carson called Bob and Ray “two of the funniest – and most influential – humorists of their time.”

Those influenced by, or simply fans of Bob and Ray, included Jay Leno, David Letterman, George Carlin, Garrison Keillor and Kurt Vonnegut.

Ray Goulding died in 1990 at age 68.

Stuff

--This is huge...Congratulations to Drew Hunter, a senior out of Loudoun Valley High School in Virginia for breaking the U.S. indoor record in the mile, running a 3:58.25 at the Armory Track Invitational on Saturday in New York.

I was reading a story this week on Hunter and it didn’t seem possible because due to the blizzard and a bad cold, his training going into the race had been severely limited.

Hunter broke Alan Webb’s record 3:59.86 set back in 2001 as the two are the only American high school students in indoor history to break the 4-minute mark.

Go Drew Hunter.  What I also love about the kid is he’s headed to the University of Oregon.  No doubt he’s already made a pilgrimage to Pre’s Rock

Webb, by the way, has been advising Hunter.  He had a frustrating career himself.  While he ran the fastest mile in American history (3:46.91 in 2007), he never broke out in the major competitions and competed just in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

--Lindsey Vonn did it again, winning her fifth downhill of the World Cup season in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday, extending her career record number of downhills to 38, or half her 76 overall World Cup victories, moving within ten of Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 victories.

Vonn then finished third to Lara Gut in the super G on Sunday.  Vonn leads Gut in the overall standings.

Also, I’ve been noting it’s been a very poor season for the U.S. men’s team but Steven Nyman picked up his first podium finish of the season in the men’s downhill at a course that will be used for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea.  Nyman finished third behind Kjetil Jansrud of Norway and Dominik Paris of Italy.

--Florida State appears to have wrapped up the No. 1 football recruiting class after national signing day, according to many of the rating services.  Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher picked up 16 of ESPN’s top 300, for example.

LSU coach Les Miles, who was basically fired, only to have players and fans overrule boosters and the administration, garnered what many feel is the No. 2 class.

Phil W. passed on that among Wake Forest’s signees was punter Dom Maggio out of Baltimore, MD. Phil wondered if the kid would break the mark of 56 consecutive possessions ending in a punt, given our lack of offense. 

--Roger Federer underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus that he suffered in his Australian Open semifinal against Novak Djokovic.  But he should be fine in time for the French Open in mid-May.

--Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta agreed to a hefty $10.7 million, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration with the highest one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of major league service.  The NL Cy Young Award winner finished with a 22-6 record and a 1.77 ERA.  He was rewarded with a $7.07 million raise.

--I need to get down for the archives the 20-game suspension handed down to Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman for his hit on linesman Don Henderson a week ago.  The hit was so outrageous, even as Wideman said it was unintentional.  Hell, it was totally premeditated.

So Wideman is going in the December file.

--It’s almost time to start thinking about the Kentucky Derby (certainly talk heats up in about four weeks in a big way).  Saturday, a Bob Baffert horse, Mor Spirit, won a key prep race at Santa Anita.  This is Baffert’s top 3-year-old and was ridden by the great Gary Stevens.

--The Daytona 500 is coming up in a few weeks and it will be missing one of the sport’s biggest stars, Tony Stewart, who broke his back in a dune-buggy accident in the California desert last Sunday.

Stewart has never won at Daytona and this is expected to be his retirement season.  Many of the fans who followed the newly retired Jeff Gordon were expected to line up behind “Smoke.”  But now there’s no telling how long he’ll be out.  It really is a big blow, especially from a marketing standpoint.

No replacement for Smoke has been named on the Stewart-Haas Racing team.

--A 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti, which set a lap record at the 24 hours of Le Mans race and competed in the original Mille Miglia rally, was sold for more than $35 million, including taxes and the buyer’s premium.  Yes, this is the world’s most expensive car, sold at auction in Paris on Friday.  The winner in frantic bidding, as described by the Financial Times, was only said to be an “international buyer.”

This is cool.  The car was driven by Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and Wolfgang von Trips.  It was capable of 300km per hour (186 mph), “and yet had no seat belts”!

--Antonio Docampo Garcia died last week at the age of 107 and his family says he attributed his old age to his drinking habits – four bottles of red wine a day, and no water.

Really.  His son told the Daily Telegraph he “could get through 200 litres of wine a month.  He never drank water.”

Docampo, who lived in northwest Spain, was founder of the wine company Bodegas Docampo.

--Congratulations to Poway, California’s Brian Fagan, who the other day caught a 74.2-pound white sea bass off La Jolla.  He did it while he was out on his kayak, just as the sun was rising, using an Avet reel on a Sabre rod, if you’re into these things.  I was just amazed by a picture I saw in the San Diego Union Tribune.

But the catch was short of the state record of 78 pounds, set by David Sternberg (sic) in 2002 in Monterey, according to the International Game Fish Association.

--We note the passing of astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.  I’ll have something to say about him in that other column I do later this week, but this was the mission where crewmate, Captain Alan Shepard, hit a golf ball, reporting later that it travelled “miles and miles and miles” in the low lunar gravity.  He later estimated it went 400 yards.

--Finally, the music world lost yet another giant on Thursday, Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, one of my favorite acts of all time, to say the least.  Brother and bandmate, the great Verdine White, first confirmed the news with the Associated Press.  White has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease since the ‘90s and he remained behind the scenes as the act continued to tour.

Born in Memphis, Tenn. on Dec. 19. 1941, White sang in his church’s gospel choir at an early age, but his interest quickly turned to the drums.  He earned his first gig backing Booker T. Jones before the organist founded the MGs.  White moved to Chicago in the early ‘60s and studied composition at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and would later become a session drummer for the likes of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

But after backing jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis in the ‘60s, White moved to Los Angeles in 1969 with a band called the Salty Peppers.  The group  failed to gain much traction and he changed the name to Earth, Wind and Fire, which White chose because of his spiritual approach to music and a love of astrology.

“In the beginning,” White told the Chicago Tribune in 1988, “My message was basically trying to relate to the community. From that it grew into more of a universal consciousness; the idea was to give the people something that was useful.”

The group evolved and eventually included vocalist Phillip Bailey and brother Verdine, both of whom have been staples ever since.

When EWF found less commercial success in the ‘80s, White’s career eventually expanded into production, and he collaborated with Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and El DeBarge.

But before that you had that great run in the 1970s, and while the group had a #29 in “Mighty Mighty” and #33 in “Devotion” in 1975, it was the following year that they truly burst on the scene with the #1 “Shining Star.”

When I first heard it my initial thought was, ‘wow...this is cool.’  It was so distinctive.  And then they followed it up with the #12 “That’s The Way of the World” and #5 “Sing A Song” and they were off and running.  White helped write all of the songs.

1976 brought “Getaway,” “Serpentine Fire,” and 1978 saw “Fantasy,” with the #8 “September” which I’ve told you on many occasions I saw them perform in Greensboro on literally the 21st night of September with some Wake Forest friends.  It was just a great moment.

Everything EWF did was positive, and such a contrast with a lot of what followed.  White said in an interview with the AP in 2000 that he wanted the band’s music to inspire people rather than just entertain them.

“That was the whole objective, to try to inspire young people to believe in themselves and to follow through on their ideas.  We’ve touched so many people with these songs.”

In an interview with Newsweek, White said, “We live in a negative society. Most people can’t see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine.”

The group has sold over 90 million albums.

EWF was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and they are due to receive a lifetime achievement award at the upcoming Grammys, which should be moving.

I’ve been humming their songs nonstop the past few days, “Can’t Hide Love” being my personal favorite.

In a tweet, Questlove, the drummer for the Roots and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” said: “Maurice was everything...Everything.”

RIP, Maurice White...and thank you.

Top 3 songs for the week 2/7/76: #1 “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon)  #2 “Love To Love You Baby” (Donna Summer....huh....huh...probably shouldn’t sing this one in the office...)  #3 “You Sexy Thing” (Hot Chocolate)...and...#4 “I Write The Songs” (Barry Manilow)  #5 “Sing A Song” (Earth, Wind & Fire...appropriate...)  #6 “Love Rollercoaster” (Ohio Players...yow!...)   #7 “Times Of Your Life” (Paul Anka...beautiful tune, but not a good one to listen to if you’re depressed at how old you’re getting...)  #8 “Theme From S.W.A.T.” (Rhythm Heritage...talk about a song not aging well...eegads, this blows...)  #9 “Convoy” (C.W. McCall...ditto...)  #10 “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” (Neil Sedaka...whereas virtually everything this guy did sounds just as good 40 years later...)

College Basketball Quiz Answers: 1) No. 4 all time in free throw percentage is J.J. Redick, .9118, while at Duke (2003-06). Redick is currently having another solid season with the Clippers.  2) Kendall Marshall (UNC) holds the single-season record for assists at 351 in 2011-12; Ed Cota (UNC) holds the career record with 1,030 (1997-2000).

By the way, Doug Gottlieb is No. 5 on the career assists list (again, since 1994-95) while at Oklahoma State, but he averaged only 5 ppg for his career, including his freshman season at Notre Dame before he transferred. 

Next Bar Chat, Thursday...Super Bowl fallout.