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09/15/2014

A Bleak Time for Roger Goodell

NFL Quiz: Phil W. passed along some info from NFL Communications, which didn’t include any videos (just sayin’), and the question for today is, name the top ten colleges (actually eleven since there is a tie at the bottom of the list) in terms of number of players on NFL rosters as of opening weekend. Try to name as many of the top ten/eleven as possible. Here’s your big clue. All but one is a big time, traditional program. The other surprises me. Answer below.

The NFL’s Awful Week, continued....

Steve Almond / New York Daily News

“By now, every sports fan in America – and most non-sport fans – knows all about Ray Rice, the former star running back for the Baltimore Ravens. They know that in February he knocked his then-fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious... They know that he managed to avoid serving any time in jail for this assault, and that he was initially given a paltry two-game suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – to the disgust of most observers....

“Last week, a video of the assault itself surfaced. The Ravens cut Rice and Goodell made the suspension indefinite.

“But he continued to maintain that neither he, nor any of his staff, had seen the video of the assault. Wednesday afternoon, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press anonymously that he had sent the league a copy of the video, back in April. A female from NFL headquarters even confirmed receipt, observing, according to the Associated Press report, ‘You’re right. It’s terrible.’

“Amid widespread calls for his firing, Goodell has called for an independent investigation of the league’s own investigation, which will be conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller....

“As of Friday, Goodell had two new scandals to contend with: a report that Adrian Peterson, the league’s most famous running back, had been arrested for allegedly beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, and the league’s own admission, in court documents, that it anticipates up to a third of its retired players will develop long-term cognitive problems.

“It is this second revelation that calls into question the larger morality of football, and Goodell’s own integrity, especially given a much more obscure but consequential Goodell misstep that took place back in 2007.

“The previous year, Goodell had taken over the league from his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, and inherited what was by all accounts a moral dilemma....

“Several prominent ex-NFL players were showing signs of brain damage, including Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster, who had died at age 50 of a heart attack....

“Hoping to get ahead of the story, Goodell organized a conference during which several experts presented what was by all accounts some very disturbing data. Dr. Julian Bailes, one of the top neurosurgeons in the country and a huge football fan, presented slide after slide of the brains of former players, each showing the same telltale signs of CTE.

“The link between playing football and brain damage was medically incontrovertible.

“And yet, after listening to Bailes and others, Roger Goodell offered a public response whose essential purpose was to obscure the link between football and brain damage.

“ ‘I’m not a doctor, but you have to look at their entire medical history,’ he announced. ‘To look at something that is isolated without looking at their entire medical history I think is irresponsible.’....

“It took more than two years for the NFL to face the truth. ‘It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems,’ is how spokesman Greg Aiello phrased it in December of 2009.....

“In the past few years, Goodell has made a great show of tweaking the rules of football to cut down on the number of big hits to the head. He deserves credit for this.

“But crucially, he and his owners also have studiously refused to acknowledge disturbing new medical evidence that, if taken to heart, would be a body blow to the sport. The current consensus among researchers is that CTE is caused not simply by a handful of concussions, but by a steady accretion of sub-concussive hits. These are the smaller, medically invisible brain traumas that occur whenever players collide, whether in practice or a game....

“In other words... Goodell and his minions had orchestrated a cover-up....

“Whether or not Roger Goodell can weather the storm and cling to his tenure as commissioner – and he has at least 44 million reasons to try – the larger moral question that looms over him and the NFL and us fans is whether we should be consuming as a form of entertainment a sport whose end result is, in too many cases, permanent brain damage.”

Back to Ray Rice, he told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16 that he punched Janay Palmer, four sources told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” an assertion contradicting Goodell’s statement this week that “when we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.” And you still have the issue of the second tape.

Mike Lupica / New York Daily News

“If it can be proved that Goodell, who says he didn’t see that video until Monday morning, actually saw it back in April, then he is through. He will be the first NFL commissioner to be fired from that job, leave a job as big as we have ever had in American sports the way Nixon left his after Watergate.

“Of course it is open season on Goodell now, with even the National Organization for Women calling for him to resign. They sound more than somewhat like the media, although if people in our business lost jobs when we were wrong, and sometimes egregiously and aggressively wrong, the unemployment numbers in this country would be much worse than they already are.

“Somehow, because of the way Goodell has bungled his handling of the Rice matter from the time he handed the guy only a two-game suspension, he is the one now treated as being as bad as Ray Rice, as if it is Goodell who is the bad guy now and not a football player who hit a woman the way he used to get hit on a football field.

“Somehow, because of the continuing fallout from that punch Rice threw in Atlantic City, an almost nuclear fallout, it is as if Goodell is the criminal here and not Rice....

“(More) than a defendant and more than a perp, Goodell has just made himself into something much easier for everybody now: An easy target. It is still worth remembering he isn’t automatically guilty because he looks guilty, or because a source says he is. The guilty party remains a bum who thinks it’s all right to hit a woman.

“It remains to be seen if Ray Rice knocked out the commissioner of the National Football League that night as well as Janay Palmer.”

We learned this week that the pretrial intervention program offered to Rice was granted in less than 1 percent of all domestic violence cases from 2010-2013 that were resolved, according to New Jersey Judiciary data obtained by “Outside the Lines.”

Rice made his first public appearance on Saturday at his old high school in New Rochelle, New York, during a football game. He was treated like a returning hero. At Thursday’s Ravens-Steelers game, many women wore Ray Rice jerseys. Pathetic. For the most part, they say the NFL and the Ravens had no right taking Rice’s livelihood away. Another common sentiment, expressed by one fan at the game, was, “(It’s) their business. His wife obviously forgave him, why can’t we?”

Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times:

The Shield has become a sham. America’s game has become America’s embarrassment. Credibility has been sacked, decency has been clotheslined, and a substitution needs to be made.

“Roger Goodell needs to be gone, cut as quickly and coldly as one of his players, waived, whacked, dumped, bring in your playbook, clean out your locker, now....

‘It now appears that beyond being clueless, he may also have been lying. There now exists evidence his office actually received the tape five months ago. Goodell now looks like the sort of sleazy player he has long taken great pride in suspending, with a darkly ironic twist. The reckless bum who should get kicked out of the league for disgracing The Shield is him....

Owners loved (Goodell) for protecting them... But they need to realize he is not protecting them now, but leaving them vulnerable to a loss of valuable sponsor and government support, not to mention a further loss of grass-root fan support.”

Mark Maske and Adam Goldman / Washington Post

“The hiring of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to investigate the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice case throws the controversy into a new and unpredictable phase that could lead to severe sanctions against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former FBI officials and people close to NFL team owners said Thursday.

“While Goodell continues to have solid support among many of the NFL’s 32 owners, the owners are prepared to act against him, potentially considering his dismissal, if Mueller’s probe concludes he misrepresented what he knew about the Rice investigation or orchestrated a cover-up, several people familiar with the owners’ views said.

“ ‘He’s been a very good commissioner, and he’s done great things for the league,’ a high-ranking executive with one NFL team said. ‘The presumption is that he’s telling the truth and the investigation will demonstrate that....If the report says something different, we’ll take the appropriate action.’”

John M. Dowd, who was hired by Major League Baseball to investigate several matters, including reports that Pete Rose gambled on baseball, told the New York Times’ Ken Belson:

“(Mueller’s) reputation is really on the line. If it comes out too light, it won’t look good. At the end of the day, what’s most important to him is his reputation, which means more to him than money. I can’t believe he’ll want to pull his punches.”

Belson: “Mueller’s report may be more damaging to the league because it will look at behavior in NFL headquarters, and allegations of a potential cover-up.”

But there are also all kinds of conflicts of interest, including Mueller may have to interview former FBI agents now working for the NFL.

If it turns out Goodell was lying about not seeing the elevator video, he could get fired by a three-quarters vote of the 32 owners.

But some are wondering if Goodell would quit rather than having his name dragged through the mud. On the other hand, it’s hard to walk away from $44 million annual paydays with a contract not expiring until the spring of 2019.

As for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings deactivated him for the home opener against the Patriots after he turned himself in early Saturday to face charges of abusing his 4-year-old son. He posted $15,000 bond and was released. A date hasn’t been set for his first court appearance, but most defendants in Texas get probation if they have an otherwise clean criminal history.

Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the league, said Saturday that Peterson’s case “will be reviewed under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.”

It’s unclear how injuring a child would fall under Roger Goodell’s new domestic violence penalty: six weeks for a first offense and at least a year for a second.

Peterson, 29, sent a series of texts to the boy’s mother in Minnesota, saying he “felt bad after the fact.”

Peterson struck his son at least 10 times, causing cuts and bruises to his back, legs, buttocks and scrotum, according to CBS’ Houston affiliate.

The Houston Police Department said the boy apparently pushed a 5-year-old boy, also Peterson’s son, from a video game. Peterson’s new attorney, Rusty Hardin (see Roger Clemens), said Peterson was only trying to discipline his son and never intended to hurt him.

If convicted, Peterson could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. He does not have a criminal history.

Phil Grant, first assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, Texas, said: “Obviously, parents are entitled to discipline their children as they see fit, except for when that discipline exceeds what the community would say is reasonable.”

Last year, Peterson’s 2-year-old son was tragically beaten to death by the boyfriend of the tot’s mother. Peterson had never met the child and only learned he existed a few weeks beforehand.

Christine Brennan / USA TODAY Sports...prior to word the Panthers deactivated Greg Hardy Sunday morning... keeping it in for context.

“Adrian Peterson has been convicted of nothing, yet he is sitting out Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings game. Greg Hardy has been convicted of some terrible things, awful violence against his former girlfriend, but he is playing for the Carolina Panthers.

“Ray Rice...is finished with the Baltimore Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the league. Ray McDonald has been accused of domestic violence but been convicted of nothing, and he plays on for the San Francisco 49ers.

“The NFL announced what was seen as a tough new policy on domestic violence little more than two weeks ago. It’s already a shambles.

“This isn’t a policy. It’s a mess.

“How embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is allowing Hardy in particular to play Sunday is beyond comprehension. Hardy was found guilty by a judge in a bench trial in July. He is appealing to a jury trial, which is the loophole that allows the Panthers to play him....

“Is there no one in a position of power in Charlotte to do the right thing and bench Hardy (with or without pay)? Panthers owner Jerry Richardson cries a good game, as we saw the other day while accepting an award, but why does he allow his team to embarrass itself?

“Shame on the Panthers for letting Hardy play. Shame on the NFL for not stopping it....

“(At least) it appears the Vikings truly understand what has happened this week. They seem to grasp the NFL’s new normal, while the Panthers are stuck in some kind of pre-Rice elevator time warp in which people hear about domestic violence and picture a fight in the kitchen between a husband and a wife, shrug and forget about it.”

Jarrett Bell / USA TODAY Sports

“The Vikings demonstrated a moral compass clearly lacking with other teams....

“The Panthers and 49ers should have taken a similar wait-and-see approach with Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald...

“Peterson deserves his day in court. That’s the American way.

“McDonald deserves the due process of the legal system, too. So does Hardy.

“But due process should not be confused with the right to play.

“High school kids get benched for poor grades, yet a pass-rusher appealing a felony conviction can keep on playing?

“It does not make sense.”

As for Hardy, a jury trial is set for Nov. 17 in Charlotte, at least as of today, though Hardy’s attorney says it won’t occur until early 2015 due to a court backlog. Coach Ron Rivera, who two days earlier said he planned to start Hardy, was obviously told by higher ups this wouldn’t be the case as the owners scramble to protect Goodell.

As for the games....

The Panthers went to 2-0 in defeating the Lions 24-7.

Cleveland upset New Orleans, now 0-2, 26-24.

Buffalo moved to 2-0 in besting Miami 29-10, as rookie Sammy Watkins had his first big game, 8 receptions for 117 yards and a TD.

Dallas rebounded to defeat Tennessee 26-10 as DeMarco Murray rushed for 167 yards (285 his first two).

New England prevented a 0-2 start in beating Minnesota 30-7. The Pats only had 292 yards of offense but took advantage of four Vikings turnovers, four Matt Cassel picks.

In a biggie for more than one reason in Washington, the Redskins won 41-10 behind Kirk Cousins, who replaced the injured RG 3, after Griffin left with a dislocated ankle. ‘Skins fans have been clamoring for Cousins and he came through....22/33, 250, 2-0. For Washington, DeSean Jackson also left early with a shoulder injury. [Griffin handled himself beautifully after the game, I have to add.]

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and the Redskins D had franchise tying sack marks of four and 10, respectively. 10!

Cincinnati moved to 2-0 with a 24-10 over the Falcons. Great piece in Sports Illustrated by Phil Taylor on quarterback Andy Dalton...the much-maligned Andy Dalton. As in Dalton his first three seasons had a 30-18 record, Peyton Manning 26-22.

Yes, Dalton is under big-time pressure with his huge contract extension, but as Taylor notes, “Essentially, Cincinnati committed $25 million over the next two seasons, but the contract [Ed. up to $115 million with major incentives] becomes a year-to-year deal after that.”

So what the heck. Go Andy Dalton, unless you are playing my Jets.

Speaking of which....the Jets went up 21-3 on the Packers in the blink of an eye, and then proceeded to go down in flames, 31-24, as we totally lost our composure. Just sucks. For Green Bay, Jordy Nelson had a career day, nine receptions, 209 yards.

As for the other New York team, the Giants fell to 0-2 and there is zero reason to believe they can turn it around as they fell to a Cardinals team that was missing quarterback Carson Palmer, 25-14 in the Meadowlands. The Giants had one of the worst fourth quarters in the history of the game...giving up a punt return for a touchdown, fumbling a kickoff return, dropping five passes, and allowing the deciding 15 points. They had four turnovers overall and Eli Manning now has four interceptions his first two contests of 2014 after leading the league last season with 27.

--The NFL’s Players Association and the league supposedly approved a new drug testing program that would include testing for HGH, but the players are balking at the testing procedures and appeals process.

The two sides did approve a proposal to significantly increase the threshold for positive marijuana tests.

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon’s yearlong suspension has been reduced to 10 games, once a deal has been agreed to, while Wes Welker would be eligible to return immediately.

--St. Louis signed star defensive end Robert Quinn to a four-year contract extension that is worth $66.575 million, of which $41.2 million is guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Quinn was second in the league last season with 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

College Football

--So here is some of the background behind Penn State at Rutgers, both entering the contest at 2-0, with this being Rutgers’ initiation to the Big Ten. The last time they played was 1995, Penn State winning 59-34, and as Dave Caldwell of the Wall Street Journal noted:

“It ended with Rutgers coach Doug Graber angrily confronting (Coach Joe) Paterno after backup Penn State quarterback Mike McQueary (who would later be entwined in the Sandusky scandal) lobbed a 42-yard scoring pass with 58 seconds left. The touchdown conveniently covered the 20-point spread.” [Classy move, Joe Pa.]

But the two schools had actually decided to renew their “rivalry” in 2009, scheduling contests in 2014/15, years before Rutgers would join the Big Ten. As I noted the other day, the term rivalry is used rather loosely, as in its one-sided. Rutgers would consider it a rivalry, Penn State hardly would. Penn State, after all, has won 22 of the 24 times they have gotten together prior to Saturday.

It’s really about recruiting. Penn State has 15 players from New Jersey on its current roster and has always pillaged the state, while this year Rutgers has 12 players from Pennsylvania.

So...what happened in the game?

Rutgers blew it, losing 13-10 in a heartbreaker.

Steve Politi / Star-Ledger

“You kept thinking that maybe it would be different this time. Maybe the new conference, the new TV network on campus all day, the new enthusiasm among the fans that led to every seat in the house being filled at kickoff would make a difference.

“You kept thinking maybe this would be the one, that next big victory for this football team that never seems to come, the one that would announce to the Big Ten that, thanks for the invite, but we’re more than just cable boxes.

“You kept thinking, as the defense held and held and held again, that maybe it would be enough, that a program that leads the nation in agony would gut one out, because on this night the defense had plenty of that:

“Guts.

“But there it was. Penn State with the football, trailing just 10-6, and there was that sickening feeling that something would happen. That something bad would happen. That the Big Ten debut would be like the Louisville loss two years ago, or that night in West Virginia eight years ago, or like so many of the moments on the national stage.

Christian Hackenberg had a third and forever on the Rutgers 30. He had just seen a touchdown pass erased by a holding call, and this was the talented quarterback’s last chance to steal a victory for the visiting team.

“And all the guts in the world couldn’t cover receiver Geno Lewis on the play. He was wide open on the 6-yard line, catching the ball in front of the Penn State fans, and you didn’t need to read the script to know what would happen in this sequel.

“Penn State scored two plays later, and there was no way that the Rutgers offense was going to overcome that 13-10 deficit on a last drive. Not with Gary Nova looking every bit as shell-shocked as he did for most of last season, throwing five interceptions with each one looking worse than the last.”

So much for first impressions. And Nova was absolutely awful. The guy was so incredibly reckless, time and again throwing across field, that he easily could have had eight picks. As it is he finished 15/30, 192, 0-5.

Thankfully, I’m not a Rutgers, but I also don’t like Penn State.

I will say, however, the Rutgers faithful could not have put on a better show last night. Whether they will show the same enthusiasm the rest of the season remains to be seen.

As for talk of a new rivalry, yes, I guess it has been reborn, but is it a rivalry if one school has now won 23 of 25?

Separately, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood earlier in the week signed a contract extension that will make him the state’s highest-paid employee next year when his salary goes up to $1.25 million, which by today’s standards isn’t outrageous, in my mind.

But just another reason to bring up the fact that last year, the highest-paid state employee was Rutgers women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer, which was, and is, totally outrageous. Stringer has a new four-year deal paying her $700,000 guaranteed annually through April 2018. She can actually earn up to another $790,000 in bonuses, plus if the team makes the third round of the NCAA Tournament just once over the next four seasons, she earns a one-time retention payment of $500,000. I’m sorry...this is incredibly stupid, even if she is in the Hall of Fame. [The Lady Scarlet Knights haven’t done squat the last three seasons.]

Elsewhere in college football....

No. 2 Oregon spotted Wyoming a 7-0 lead at home in Eugene, but then rolled 48-14 as your 2014 Heisman lock, quarterback Marcus Mariota, was 19/23, 221, 2-0, through the air, with another 71 yards and two scores on the ground.

No. 3 Alabama blitzed Southern Miss 52-12, but the line was 47 ½.

No. 4 Oklahoma should have made its fans happy all around in defeating Tennessee 34-10, with a line of 21. “I’ll buy the next round, Billy Bob.” “No, I got ya covered on this one, Johnny!”

Steve Spurrier is now 16-6 all-time against Georgia, with the No. 24 Gamecocks winning a thriller in Columbia, 38-35, over the No. 6 Bulldogs. South Carolina had a goal line stand at the end and then Georgia missed a short field goal to tie it.

No. 8 Baylor destroyed Buffalo 63-21 as Heisman candidate Bryce Petty threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns.

In one of the bigger upsets in quite some time in the northeast, No. 9 USC flew all the way out to Boston, Chestnut Hill, specifically, and proceeded to lose to Boston College, 37-31, as the Eagles rolled up 452 yards on the ground in 54 carries, led by quarterback Tyler Murphy’s 191.

The Trojans, on the other hand, once known as Tailback U., had all of 20 yards rushing.

You know, before the game I was reading an interview with USC coach Steve Sarkisian that Dan Patrick conducted for his show and Sports Illustrated, and knowing the penalties Southern Cal is still playing under, Patrick asked Sarkisian how many scholarship players he was dressing these days. Try 52 (out of a potential 60, vs. the normal 85 for Div. I). Sometimes that’s hard to overcome.

Continuing.....

No. 12 UCLA has not looked good in its three wins, including a 20-17 victory over a lousy Texas team in Arlington. But the Bruins were able to pull the game out despite losing their Heisman candidate, quarterback Brett Hundley, to an elbow injury. Jerry Neuheisel, son of former UCLA quarterback and coach Rick Neuheisel, tossed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with three minutes left for the win. No word on the extent of the Hundley injury as yet.

How good is No. 14 Ole Miss.? La.-Lafayette is no great shakes, but the 3-0 Rebels did defeat UL-L 56-15 as quarterback Bo Wallace was 23/28, 316, 4-1.

No. 17 Virginia Tech, hot off its stirring win at Ohio State, went home to Blacksburg and promptly laid an egg against East Carolina, 28-21. No other school in America has a chip on its shoulder like the Pirates and it was good to see them come through with one of the biggest wins in its history.

I mean picture being an ECU fan, with all the press coverage in the region for Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson and South Carolina (sometimes, in good times, Wake Forest sneaks in there too), while the Pirates are totally ignored.

Meanwhile, Virginia had a big 23-21 win over No. 21 Louisville.

No. 22 Ohio State annihilated Kent State 66-0 as J.T. Barrett tied a school record with six touchdown passes.

West Virginia’s Clint Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns as the Mountaineers defeated Maryland 40-37 on a 47-yard field goal as time expired. Trickett’s yardage was the second-highest in school history behind Geno Smith’s 656-yard performance in 2012.

Duke served notice it is for real again, whipping Kansas in Durham, 41-3, to move to 3-0. The story is freshman running back Shaun Wilson, who wasn’t even on the depth chart, yet had a school-record 245 yards rushing on just 12 carries, with TD runs of 69, 68 and 45. I mean the guy has 334 yards on just 21 carries in his first three contests.

Pitt spotted a poor Florida International team a 16-0 lead in Miami, but roared (they’re the Panthers, after all) back to prevail 42-25. James Conner had 177 yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns. Quarterback Chad Voytik chipped in with 114 yards rushing of his own. Pitt has rushed for at least 300 yards in each of its first three games. 

My Wake Forest Demon Deacons were 15-point underdogs to Utah State out in Logan and the Deacs covered! They lost only 36-24! This despite minus-25 yards on 24 carries! Yup, 2-10, here we come.

Phil W., a Wake classmate, sent a note the other day noting that of Wake’s past five head football coaches, prior to Dave Clawson, three coached in the NFL...John Mackovic, Al Groh, and Jim Caldwell.. The other two, Bill Dooley and Jim Grobe, certainly could have had a shot had they wanted it. It’s easy to forget that there was a time just a few years ago that Grobe was as respected as anyone in his profession. And Bill Dooley was one quality coach for three separate programs...Wake, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

And...your new AP Poll

1. Florida State
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. Oklahoma
5. Auburn
6. Texas A&M
7. Baylor
8. LSU
9. Notre Dame
10. Ole Miss!
13. Georgia
14. South Carolina

--Funny story by John Branch in the New York Times. If you think the Oregon Duck looks like Donald Duck, the answer is, yes, it’s Donald Duck.

“It has been this way since 1947. By then, the university’s original nickname for its sports teams, the Webfoots, had morphed into Ducks. Live ducks, usually named Puddles, took turns patrolling the sideline during games. But in the 1940s, Oregon wanted a consistent Duck image.

“The university was in luck because Oregon’s athletic director at the time, Leo Harris, was a friend of Walt Disney’s. Disney told Harris that the university was welcome to use Donald Duck, who debuted in 1934, as the mascot, provided it was in good taste....

“After Disney died in 1966, officials realized that there was no formal agreement between the parties to share the image of Donald Duck. But Oregon produced a photograph of Disney wearing an Oregon letterman’s jacket, with the Donald Duck logo on the chest, and a written contract was signed in 1973.”

From a merchandising standpoint, Disney asked that sales of the Donald logo be restricted to mostly around Eugene and Portland, Oregon.

Ball Bits

--It was sickening seeing Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton get drilled by a pitch from Milwaukee’s Mike Fiers on Thursday night. He was driven off the field in an ambulance, after suffering facial fractures, lacerations and dental damage. The immediate reaction from Marlins manager Mike Redmond said it all: “We’ve lost our MVP. It doesn’t look good.”

The umpire actually ruled Stanton swung at the pitch, setting up an 0-2 count. Reed Johnson pinch hit for Stanton and was immediately hit in the hand by Fiers’ next pitch. Both benches emptied, though no punches were thrown.

Fiers tweeted after, “I am deeply sorry about what happened tonight. I can’t imagine what you and your family are going through. [2]...my thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. I feel horrible and hope for a speedy recovery.”

On Friday, Stanton tweeted “I’m much better today & deeply appreciate your prayers!”

The good news was the team didn’t think he would require surgery.

Stanton finishes his year with 37 home runs and 105 RBI, both leading the league at the moment. It’s between him and Clayton Kershaw for MVP.

Every time I think of Stanton, I cringe. I can’t imagine taking an 88-mph fastball to the face.

--Baltimore slugger Chris Davis, he of the MLB-leading 53 home runs, 138 RBI in 2013, was suspended for 25 games without pay after testing positive for amphetamines. Davis, 28, issued a statement:

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans. I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”

Granted, Davis was only hitting .196 this season after a .286 average in 2013, but he still had 26 homers and 72 RBI and would have been an important cog in the playoffs.

But now he’ll miss the first eight games of Baltimore’s postseason should they get to play that long. The guy is an idiot. He had recently moved to third base to replace the injured Manny Machado, who sustained a season-ending knee injury.

Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY Sports

“You couldn’t help but feel sorry for Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis last year.

“He had the mother of all breakout seasons, hitting a major-league leading 53 home runs, and all of the while, fending off the insinuation and constant questions that he must be cheating.

“Well, on this day, you can’t help but feel sorry once again for Chris Davis, wondering how a man can possibly be this stupid....

“Quite likely, Davis is done for the year.

“He better pray the Orioles aren’t done as well, knowing they likely will need to reach the World Series for any possibility of Davis setting foot on the field again in 2014....

“He should be suspended for sheer stupidity.

“Davis, diagnosed years ago with attention deficit disorder, did not bother seeking an exemption for at least the last two years, according to a person close to Davis with direct knowledge of the condition.....

“Davis simply believed he didn’t need the medication any longer.

“Yet, when Davis started to struggle this year, what does he do?

“He turned to Adderall.

“And here’s the kick to the stomach:

“Under the Major League Baseball drug testing program, if you test positive the first time for amphetamines, you are issued only a warning. There is no suspension. You are suspended only if you are caught a second time.

“Yes, so this means that Davis actually tested positive twice this season.

“Come on, dude, wasn’t the first time scary enough?

“What didn’t you understand about a warning, knowing that if you tried it again, you were suspended?....

“The worst part for Davis is that his reputation now is sullied, and there’s a cloud over everything he accomplished last year.”

Davis is earning $10.35 million for 2014 and is eligible for salary arbitration this winter, but the Orioles may simply non-tender him.

--Mets fans have enjoyed Chris Young’s resurgence in the Bronx...NOT! After he was one of the bigger busts in Mets history this season, they released him, he latched on with the Yanks, and all the outfielder has done is go 10-for-25, 4 doubles, 3 homers 8 RBI (going into the Sunday night contest with the Orioles). Gee willickers, as my grandfather would have said.

--Meanwhile, the Mets lost on Sunday to the Nationals, 3-0, and in the last 15 games at Citi Field between these two teams, Washington leads 14-1, having outscored New York 96-30.

Further, the Mets, who love to bitch about how hard it is to hit home runs in their home park, have been outhomered over those 15 games, 35-7!!! God I’m sick of this Mets garbage.

“It’s so hard!” complain the little babies, making $millions.

You know what’s hard? Trying to take out ISIS.

--In Saturday’s Nationals 10-3 win over the Mets, Washington shortstop Ian Desmond became the fourth shortstop in baseball history to notch three seasons of at least 20 home runs and 20 steals, joining Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins.

--Clayton Kershaw moved to 19-3, 1.70, as the Dodgers beat the Giants 4-2 on Sunday. Kershaw allowed two runs in 8 innings with 9 strikeouts. L.A. is now 3 games up on San Francisco after taking 2 out of 3.

--We note the passing of Frank Torre, 82, the older brother of Joe Torre, who played first base from 1956-63 with Milwaukee and Philadelphia. While he had only 13 home runs and 179 RBI in his major-league career, hitting .273, he had two homers in the 1957 World Series as the Braves defeated the Yankees for the title.

But it was in 1996 that he stirred New York area fans when he survived a heart transplant and watched from a hospital bed as brother Joe managed the Yanks to his first World Series title as skipper.

Joe Torre, nine years younger, was very close to Frank and more than once commented, “He has been a constant in my life from the time I was a young boy.”

Golf Balls

Billy Horschel played the greatest golf ever in the eight FedEx Cup Playoffs; a second, first and first the last three events to not only win Sunday’s Tour Championship, but also the FedEx Cup title and the $10 million bonus.

So Horschel won $13.5 million the last three weeks. Good for him. We thought he was going to bust through a year ago, then he had a totally mediocre 2014, only he caught fire like no one before him at the Deutsche Bank and it carried forward the last two events.

Well, we’ll see if Captain Tom Watson will regret not selecting him over Webb Simpson, but to be fair, Watson would have had only the second place finish in Boston to go on and I can’t blame him for not going with Billy. But clearly, Horschel is the epitome of want you want on a Ryder Cup squad. [For the record, Horschel now has three PGA Tour wins for his career.]

--Rory McIlroy on the absence of Tiger and Phil Mickelson at the Tour Championship.

“They’re just getting older. Phil’s 43 or whatever, and Tiger’s nearly 40. So they’re getting into the sort of last few holes of their careers, and that’s what happens.”

Yup, including the upcoming Ryder Cup, Phil has maybe 162 holes left and Tiger about 42. [Just kidding, Tiger and Lefty!]

But not for nothing, Tiger and Phil combined for just one top ten in 28 events this year.

--So I’m looking at the Golfweek preseason college golf rankings and for the men, the top five are:

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma State
3. Georgia Tech
4. Illinois
5. Alabama (last year’s champs)

Wake Forest isn’t in the top 30, nor does it have any of the top 30 individuals. [Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans is rated No. 1]

Oh well, at least the guy I mentioned a few weeks ago, Will Zalatoris, is rated a top freshman.

On the women’s side the preseason top five are:

1. Stanford
2. USC
3. UCLA
4. Arizona
5. Washington

[UCLA’s Allison Lee is rated No. 1]
The Wake Forest women are ranked No. 27.
I forgot to wish Arnold Palmer a Happy 85th birthday (Sept. 10). You’re still the King, Arnie!

--Finally, what an awful near tragedy. It’s bad enough as it is, though. Greg Norman had an accident while using a chainsaw to cut back a small tree and nearly lost his left hand on Saturday. He tweeted a picture from the hospital, saying: “I was one lucky man today. Damaged but not down & out. Still have left hand.”

In a telephone interview with the AP Sunday morning, Norman said, “At least I can still play tennis.” He was already back home recovering, with a big foam pad around his hand.

As Norman described it, the blade hit him just below where a person would be wearing a wrist watch. He said doctors told him it missed his artery by a fraction of an inch, as described by the AP.

“Thank God the blade wasn’t running full speed or it would have taken my hand off,” Norman said. “I handled everything as calmly as I could. There is no major damage. There is nerve damage, but no muscular damage. They fixed me up and here I am.”

It seems as he was cutting back trees in his South Florida home, the weight of a branch pulled his left hand toward the chain saw.

Man, if his artery had been hit, he probably bleeds to death before he can get help. 

The Danny Ferry Fallout

Last chat I reported Hawks GM Danny Ferry described then-free agent Luol Deng on a recorded conference call as someone who “has a little African in him.”

“He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back,” said Ferry.

The Hawks announced Friday that Ferry was taking an indefinite leave of absence. Ferry said:

“I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me. I will maximize my time during this leave to meet with community leaders and further educate myself and others on the extremely sensitive issues surrounding race, diversity, and inclusion. I will find a way to make a positive difference in this area.”

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony said he believes future free agents will shun the Hawks in light of Ferry’s statements.

“[There] ain’t nobody [who] would want to go there,” Anthony said Saturday at his basketball camp in Manhattan. “At the end of the day, I think it puts Atlanta back even further now, from that standpoint.

“Atlanta is a great city, a great market, great people, great atmosphere. But as far as the comments [that] were made, I think it was uncalled for. From an owner, from a GM, those are not things you play with.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has come to Ferry’s defense.

“The fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks...and frankly my opinion...is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said that an extensive investigation (the one that then ended up taking down co-owner Bruce Levenson), which included reading “every email Danny Ferry has ever sent as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks,” contained no other negative information.

Others, such as Magic Johnson and Atlanta civil rights leaders, have called for Ferry to resign.

Ferry called Deng to personally apologize. Deng had commented earlier he was “saddened and disappointed.”

Deng added: “I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little.’ For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength.... I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage.”

To say the Hawks have a big problem with their image in Atlanta and an already apathetic fan base would be a huge understatement.

NASCAR

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship began this week. Reminder, the rules have changed again and I think it’s terrific. It’s a 10-race elimination contest. After the first three races, four of the 16 competing for the Cup will be eliminated, four more after the next three, and four more after the ninth race. Then its winner take all for the “final four” drivers at Miami’s Homestead Speedway on Nov. 16. The highest finisher, that is, wins. Seriously, I know that will be an NFL Sunday, but if you’re a sports fan you just have to tune in for the final 50 laps or so.

So...Brad Keselowski won the first leg, his season-leading fifth win of the year at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bob Crewe...and the Four Seasons

With the death of the great songwriter/producer Bob Crewe the other day at the age of 83, it’s a good time to once again tell the Four Seasons story, Crewe having created a number of their indelible hits. The following is from a 2005 Bar Chat.

Legendary DJ, Bruce Morrow (“Cousin Brucie”):

“When you talk about some of the great American vocal groups, you’ve gotta talk about the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons. The Beach Boys were for the West Coast suburban kids with T-Birds and money to spend foolin’ around in the sunshine. But the Four Seasons were urban, they were East Coast - they were New York rock!...When I hear the Beach Boys I think of getting tanned and surfin’ and summer love and all that crap, but when I hear the Four Seasons belting ‘Rag Doll’ or ‘Dawn, go away I’m no good for you,’ man, I picture smokestacks, dirty streets, tenements in the Bronx, and poor, tough kids that are survivors.”

And a survivor is what Frankie Valli was. Born Francis Castelluccio on 5/3/37 in Newark, NJ, Valli was a tough kid who cut class and hung out in pool halls. He says of his childhood, “It was West Side Story time...I saw a lot of my friends fall by the wayside and get wasted; found in a car with their heads blown off or in the city dump in the trunk of a car. I’m not (b---s-------) you.”

Once a kid shook Frankie down in high school so the next day Valli walked in and whacked the bully with a baseball bat. He could have killed him but the guy came into school the next day with a bandage wrapped all around his head, along with 18 stitches.

Valli was befriended by a country singer, Texas Jean Valley, who heard Frankie sing “White Christmas” at a school play (the name “Valli” was a result of this relationship) and, encouraged by her advice, he began singing in his mid-teens with a group called the Variatones. The group, which included Frank Majewski and the DeVito brothers, later changed its name to the Four Lovers and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 with the song “You’re The Apple Of My Eye.”

Then the Four Lovers changed their name to the Four Seasons. The boys had been playing local spots in Newark and Passaic but they came up with the name as a result of some gigs at the Four Seasons Bowling Alley in Union. Now it may be hard for some of you to imagine performing at such a spot, but the Four Seasons had a cocktail lounge called the Branch Room.

[Update: See a story I added down below about this chapter in their lives. It’s in dispute with the VH-1 Rock Encyclopedia which says the boys played here.]

In 1960 producer Bob Crewe joined the team, to be followed by songwriter Bob Gaudio. But the Four Seasons couldn’t hit the big time (they actually changed back to the Four Lovers for a spell) and Valli nearly quit because of lack of success.

That all changed in 1962 when Gaudio wrote a tune in 15 minutes, originally labeled “Jackie” as a tribute to the First Lady. The song was then re-titled “Sherry” and the rest is history. Soon the group performed it on American Bandstand and the record company received requests for 180,000 copies. In 4 weeks “Sherry” was #1, eventually selling 2 million discs domestically.

[For those of you from New Jersey, before the release of “Sherry” in the summer of ‘62, the Four Seasons were playing Martell’s Sea Breeze in Point Pleasant. Oh to be there then.]

They followed up “Sherry” with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man,” both also hitting #1, making them the first group to score consecutive #1’s with their first 3 singles.

It’s always interesting to learn how someone comes up with a song. From Timothy White’s “Rock Lives,” Bob Crewe describes the background behind the second hit.

“After ‘Sherry,’ we didn’t know what the hell to follow it up with. I was up late one night in my apartment, worrying and watching a dreadful movie, I think it was with John Payne and
some blonde bombshell. I had been drinking out of desperation, and I was drifting in and out of sleep. I woke up at one point, and Payne was smacking the blonde across the face and knocked her on her bottom. He said something like, ‘Well, whadda ya think of that, baby?’ She gets up, straightens her dress, pushes her hair back, stares at him, and says, ‘Big girls don’t cry!’ and
storms out the door. I ran and jotted down the line. The next day Bob (Gaudio) and I knocked out the song in no time.”

[Ed. 9/14/14...ahhh, these were pre-Ray Rice days.]

The story behind the Four Seasons 4th #1 hit, 1964’s “Rag Doll,” is a little different. Gaudio recalls:

“Back around 1964, there was one particular place on Tenth Avenue, I think, in New York City where there’s a long traffic light; it must have been forty-five seconds long. I’d go by there a lot, and there were little kids around it that would come up and offer to clean your car windows while you were waiting. You’d pay them a quarter or fifty cents. One particular time this little girl came over to me, and I had no change at all; the smallest thing I had was a five-dollar bill, so I gave it to her because it would have broken my heart to not give her anything.

“The look on her face - she didn’t say anything - stayed with me for weeks. The description of the rag doll in the song was a description of that little girl. I guess you could say the five dollars was an investment.”

The Four Seasons managed to stay competitive, even during the Beatles’ onslaught. “Dawn” hit #3 in February 1964, kept out of #1 by the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”

In 1965, they recorded a Bob Dylan tune, “Don’t Think Twice,” but used the pseudonym “The Wonder Who.” They actually fooled more than a few people for a while when it was first released.

By the end of 1966, the group had 23 of its eventual 30 Top 40 hits. [Valli was to have 9 Top 40 solo efforts, including the #2 “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”]

In 1967, they started experimenting with psychedelia and the hits began to dry up.

A little remembered fact concerning Valli was the severe problem he had with his hearing. Back in ‘67, he was performing when he couldn’t even hear the music being played, though he could hear his own voice. He went to a doctor who simply handed him a slip of paper, “You’re going deaf. You’ll never hear again.” Then the doctor walked away.

Valli had a condition labeled ‘otosclerosis’ where excessive calcium deposits built up in the ear. It bothered him greatly but it wasn’t until 1976 that he had successful surgery on first one, then the other ear. The reason why he didn’t get anything done sooner was that it was a dangerous procedure and he was scared he’d permanently lose everything.

And in 1973, a fellow by the name of Gerald Zelmanowitz testified before a Senate subcommittee that the Four Seasons had ties to organized crime, a charge he later retracted.

Meanwhile, the group attempted to recapture the magic, signing on with Motown. But Berry Gordy sat on “My Eyes Adored You” (a Valli solo) for almost two years before Frankie bought it back and released it himself. All it did was climb to #1 in 1975. The Four Seasons then completed the comeback with the #3 “Who Loves You” and their 5th #1, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night).” In 1978, Valli scored his second #1 solo hit with “Grease.”

In 1990, the original Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, solidifying their place in music history.

*Update: Brad Parks of the Star-Ledger had a piece the other day that adds a little more meat to how the Four Seasons took their name.

The Four Seasons Bowling Alley, which opened in 1960, “was the height of suburban entertainment.” In addition to the lanes, it had this cocktail lounge with a California look and a waterfall.

“It was a real sharp-looking place,” said former manager Joe LaGregor, now 70. The lounge, which seated about 100, dropped $150 to $200 a night on live music, a large amount for such a spot back in 1961 when Frankie Valli and the boys stopped by for an audition. LaGregor had heard the group in other clubs and was enthusiastic about them performing at his place, but the owner of the Four Seasons said they were “too loud.”

LaGregor said, “He was interested in creating a living room-type atmosphere. He wanted a piano player, something that would be soft and relaxing. And here comes Frankie and his guys, and they were really blasting it out.”

LaGregor argued to no avail. But as Valli and his group departed, they decided to take the name of the alley for their name. The Four Seasons closed in 1989 and is now part of a Costco parking lot.

[So did they really play there or what?! I’ll go with LaGregor’s version.]

Well, I realize after reading all the above I didn’t give Crewe enough credit. Together, in some cases, with Bob Gaudio he had a major hand in “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and Frankie Valli’s signature anthem, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

But back in the 1950s, Crewe’s first hit, written with Frank Slay, was the ’57 single “Silhouettes,” a Top 10 for the Rays, and later for Herman’s Hermits in 1965. That same year he produced “Devil With a Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly” for Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

Among the other things Crewe did, he recorded some songs as the Bob Crewe Generation, including the instrumental hit “Music to Watch Girls By.” And he produced “Good Morning Starshine” for Oliver from the score of the musical “Hair.”

One of his last chart-toppers was the 1970s soul hit “Lady Marmalade” for Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash of the vocal group LaBelle. You know who co-wrote that, to me, groundbreaking tune? Kenny Nolan!

Frankie Valli said on Friday, “Sometimes I wonder if the industry really realized what a talent (Crewe) was.”

Crewe was born on Nov. 12, 1930, in Newark and grew up in Belleville, N.J., though he didn’t meet any of the future Four Seasons who also grew up there until much later. He was gay and is portrayed overtly so in “Jersey Boys,” but most say he was discreet in many of his social circles. However Gaudio said, “He was elated with his portrayal and thrilled with the show. He talked about it incessantly.”

Bob Crewe was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985

Stuff

--I have to admit, after watching the first few games, I totally ignored the Basketball World Cup, but for the record, the U.S. crushed Serbia, 129-92, for the gold as Kyrie Irving was named MVP.

--Floyd Mayweather won a unanimous 12-round decision over Argentina’s Marcos Maidana to retain his welterweight and super welterweight titles in Las Vegas Saturday night. In the eighth round, Mayweather claimed Maidana bit him on his wrist. “Money” remains unbeaten in 47 fights in earning $32 million for this rematch.

Next up? Manny Pacquiao? Will this ever get done? Mayweather is under contract to Showtime, Pacquiao to HBO, but talks are said to be underway to finally do it. But first Pacquiao has to defeat Chris Algieri in Macau on Nov. 22.

--We note the passing of Bob Suter, a defenseman on the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. gold medal-winning hockey team in 1980. He was just 57 and died from a suspected heart attack. I heard a ‘sports minute’ from John Feinstein and according to him, Suter is the first to die from the team that will forever be in U.S. sports lore.

Suter hadn’t played beyond the college level – Univ. of Wisconsin in his case – when he was recruited by Herb Brooks, but about three months before Lake Placid, he suffered a broken ankle in a preliminary game.

Suter recovered and was on the ice during its upset of the Soviet Union, the Soviets having won every gold medal in hockey since 1964.

Suter had been drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1977 but continued playing in college. In 1981 he signed with the Minnesota North Stars, but never played in the NHL. He is the father of Ryan Suter, a star for the Minnesota Wild.

--With the Rutgers-Penn State game, the Star-Ledger ran a number of articles on how poorly Rutgers does in the fundraising game, despite being a large school and having the bulk of its alum in a very wealthy state.

To wit:

According to the 2013 ranking of endowments by NACUBO and the Commonfund Institute, Harvard is No. 1 at $32.3 billion, followed by Yale ($20.8 billion), the Univ. of Texas System ($20.4bn), Stanford ($18.7bn) and Princeton ($18.2bn). Rutgers is just at $783 million.

Regarding Princeton, and for that matter the schools ahead of them, the Star-Ledger noted their $18bn+ endowment is greater than the GNP of the likes of Cambodia, Iceland, Jamaica and Honduras.

--It’s been a few days since last chat so I have to note the passing of Bond villain, Richard Kiel, “Jaws,” at the age of 74. Jaws appeared in both “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker.” 

Kiel was a legitimate 7 ft. 2 in. and also appeared in the Adam Sandler pic, “Happy Gilmore.”

But it was as the cable-chomping, shark killing henchman opposite Roger Moore where Kiel gained his fame.

Before acting, picture he sold vacuum cleaners door to door. Would you have let him in?

Regarding his Bond gig, Steve Chawkins noted in the Los Angeles Times:

“When his agent arranged a meeting for him with Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, the producer of many Bond films, Kiel was ambivalent. Broccoli told him over lunch that his character would be ‘a guy with teeth like a pliers, like a tool, like a shark,’ Kiel said in a 2005 interview with the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram and Gazette.

“ ‘And I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is like a monster part.’ It was almost like ‘I don’t think I really want to do this,’ but there’s a little voice in my head saying, ‘Richard, this is a James Bond movie. Just make the best of it.’’”

By all accounts, Richard Kiel was a terrific person. RIP.

--Sad story involving actress and singer Pia Zadora. She was badly injured in a golf-cart accident the other day. Zadora, now 60, if you can believe it, was thrown from the cart driven by her 17-year-old son as it made a turn on a street near the family’s Nevada home. She suffered a head injury, among other things, according to her husband.

--For the record, the mountain lion believed to have attacked the 6-year-old boy in Cupertino, California was killed Wednesday (after I had posted). The 65-pound cougar was spotted 70 feet up a tree by wildlife experts, using tracking dogs, of course, and in a statement from the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, as reported by the L.A. Times’ Adolfo Flores, “The big cat was unusually aggressive and fixated on an officer, officials said, before being shot with a rifle.”

Gee, this would have made for a good straight to video flick...the lion leaping down to, err, you know, have his way with the rifleman, and then running back into the woods, continuing a reign of terror. [Of course you have to throw in a totally gratuitous, Kate Upton on the beach scene; Ms. Upton’s character having once dated the researcher who performs the necropsies.]

Anyway, the tracking dogs were rewarded with Chipotle gift certificates. With over 1600 locations nationwide, they shouldn’t have trouble tracking one down.

--So you know how I told you a few weeks ago about the killer spider in Ireland (that literally killed a man), whose origins are in Australia? The other day the Irish Independent had the story of a man who called the National Exotic Animal Sanctuary after he abandoned a house. The issue...he “left over 100 spiders, which he had bought over the internet.”

This is insane. The experts moved in and destroyed the potentially lethal ones, which included black widow and funnel-web spiders, as well as scorpions and tarantulas.

It seems this is a growing problem in Ireland, and I guess everywhere in the world, for that matter. People buying exotic “pets” on the Web. I’d snuff out the buyers.

I mean to tell you, the Independent story said they recently discovered, get this, a “North American raccoon” in Co. Tipperary that somehow the owner had purchased online.

--From David Harding / New York Daily News:

“A man-eating leopard in India is targeting drunks as they stumble home in the dark.

“The big cat is believed to have killed 12 people in a Himalayan village since 2012.

“Its latest victim was a 44-year-old man who was attacked on Thursday.

“Villagers are said to be living in a state of fear that the leopard will attack again.”

I’ve actually written of this particular leopard before. It seems to target those who have just exited an outdoor toilet.

Which is why when you buy a new home, or rent an apartment these days, it’s best to look for places with indoor plumbing. Especially in light of the above. You don’t if your neighbor has purchased a grizzly or cobra online.

--Rachel Feltman / Washington Post

“When it wasn’t putting T. rex to shame, the dinosaur Spinosaurus spent its time swimming – and chowing down on sharks.

“Until now, scientists didn’t have any proof that there were swimming dinosaurs. There were some marine reptiles prowling the seas, to be sure, but paleontologists couldn’t find fossils that put dinosaurs in the water.

“New fossil evidence published Thursday in Science changes that, and the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is breaking records left and right. It’s now the largest predatory dinosaur to have ever roamed the planet – nearly 10 feet longer than the largest T. rex specimen – although the carnivore was still dwarfed by some of its plant-eating contemporaries. But more importantly, Spinosaurus has the distinction of providing our first ever evidence for a semi-aquatic dinosaur.”

As Pig Pen would say, kind of makes you want to treat Spino (pronounced Spee-no...at least I am so decreeing it here) with more respect. Pig Pen, by the way, isn’t doing well. Major lung issues and so we send our best to him. [Too much time in China.]

Spino is now on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington through April 12.

--Hats off to Mark R. for catching his first white marlin. As Mark told me, it wasn’t quite on his bucket list, but on the fish list. Next up for him a tarpon. 

--While Oscar Pistorius could receive anything from a fine to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 13 for his conviction on “culpable homicide” (involuntary manslaughter), experts believe the state just has too much evidence in its favor not to appeal, while an appeal from Pistorius, should he be given any substantial jail time, is likely as well.

--Sports Illustrated’s “Sign of the Apocalypse”:

“Robert Morris has become the first school offering athletic scholarships for its varsity video game team.”

--I liked what Tim McGraw told the Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Wolfe about why he doesn’t like making music videos.

When you hear a song, “you superimpose the events in your life or something you feel or something in your childhood onto the song, and you create your own movie,” he says. “So when you do a video you might take a little bit of somebody else’s movie away from them.” He wants the experience to feel like he’s “sitting in a bar, talking across the table from somebody and telling them a story.”

--Sept. 14 marks 200 years since The Star-Spangled Bannerwas put to paper by Francis Scott Key during the British bombardment at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. President Hoover officially made the song the country's national anthem in 1931 and it quickly became a part of American tradition.

--We note the passing of jazz pioneer Joe Sample, 75, a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders, who helped pioneer the electronic jazz-funk fusion style that I so loved in the 1970s and 1980s (in no small part because of a great jazz station in New York, 101.9).

Sample was the keyboardist and The Crusaders (as they evolved into) became a successful crossover act with hits such as “Street Life.”

Top 3 songs for the week 9/11/76: #1 “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” (KC & The Sunshine Band) #2 “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (Lou Rawls) #3 “Play That Funky Music” (Wild Cherry...big hit at TOG my freshman year at Wake...the drinking age being 18 back in the day...)...and...#4 “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” (England Dan & John Ford Coley...not a big hit at TOG...not good for beer sales, if you catch my drift...) #5 “A Fifth Of Beethoven” (Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band...where’s my sword!) #6 “You Should Be Dancing” (Bee Gees...ughhh...close to dropping out of school after just three weeks because the music sucked so bad...) #7 “Lowdown” (Boz Scaggs....but then Boz saved the day with “Silk Degrees”) #8 “Let ‘Em In” (Wings...Queen Elizabeth asked, “Why should I knight you after such drivel?”) #9 “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (Elton John & Kiki Dee) #10 “Summer” (War...great group...)

NFL Quiz Answer: Top colleges in terms of # of NFL players on opening week rosters.

LSU 38
Southern California 37
Alabama 36
Georgia 34
Florida 33
Florida State 33
Miami 31
California 29...surprised?
Ohio State 29
Notre Dame 28
Tennessee 28

Wisconsin 27

USC, by the way, has both the highest number of QBs, 4, as well as linebackers, 9. Stanford leads with 6 at the tight end position! California leads with 5 at running back. Florida and Miami each have 7 wide receivers.

In a different category, the Bears have the most players 30 and over at 16 and it’s not even close. Next is Arizona at 13. St. Louis and Tampa Bay had the fewest at just 3.

Thanks again, Phil. Keep it comin’.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.
 


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Bar Chat

09/15/2014

A Bleak Time for Roger Goodell

NFL Quiz: Phil W. passed along some info from NFL Communications, which didn’t include any videos (just sayin’), and the question for today is, name the top ten colleges (actually eleven since there is a tie at the bottom of the list) in terms of number of players on NFL rosters as of opening weekend. Try to name as many of the top ten/eleven as possible. Here’s your big clue. All but one is a big time, traditional program. The other surprises me. Answer below.

The NFL’s Awful Week, continued....

Steve Almond / New York Daily News

“By now, every sports fan in America – and most non-sport fans – knows all about Ray Rice, the former star running back for the Baltimore Ravens. They know that in February he knocked his then-fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious... They know that he managed to avoid serving any time in jail for this assault, and that he was initially given a paltry two-game suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – to the disgust of most observers....

“Last week, a video of the assault itself surfaced. The Ravens cut Rice and Goodell made the suspension indefinite.

“But he continued to maintain that neither he, nor any of his staff, had seen the video of the assault. Wednesday afternoon, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press anonymously that he had sent the league a copy of the video, back in April. A female from NFL headquarters even confirmed receipt, observing, according to the Associated Press report, ‘You’re right. It’s terrible.’

“Amid widespread calls for his firing, Goodell has called for an independent investigation of the league’s own investigation, which will be conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller....

“As of Friday, Goodell had two new scandals to contend with: a report that Adrian Peterson, the league’s most famous running back, had been arrested for allegedly beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, and the league’s own admission, in court documents, that it anticipates up to a third of its retired players will develop long-term cognitive problems.

“It is this second revelation that calls into question the larger morality of football, and Goodell’s own integrity, especially given a much more obscure but consequential Goodell misstep that took place back in 2007.

“The previous year, Goodell had taken over the league from his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, and inherited what was by all accounts a moral dilemma....

“Several prominent ex-NFL players were showing signs of brain damage, including Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster, who had died at age 50 of a heart attack....

“Hoping to get ahead of the story, Goodell organized a conference during which several experts presented what was by all accounts some very disturbing data. Dr. Julian Bailes, one of the top neurosurgeons in the country and a huge football fan, presented slide after slide of the brains of former players, each showing the same telltale signs of CTE.

“The link between playing football and brain damage was medically incontrovertible.

“And yet, after listening to Bailes and others, Roger Goodell offered a public response whose essential purpose was to obscure the link between football and brain damage.

“ ‘I’m not a doctor, but you have to look at their entire medical history,’ he announced. ‘To look at something that is isolated without looking at their entire medical history I think is irresponsible.’....

“It took more than two years for the NFL to face the truth. ‘It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems,’ is how spokesman Greg Aiello phrased it in December of 2009.....

“In the past few years, Goodell has made a great show of tweaking the rules of football to cut down on the number of big hits to the head. He deserves credit for this.

“But crucially, he and his owners also have studiously refused to acknowledge disturbing new medical evidence that, if taken to heart, would be a body blow to the sport. The current consensus among researchers is that CTE is caused not simply by a handful of concussions, but by a steady accretion of sub-concussive hits. These are the smaller, medically invisible brain traumas that occur whenever players collide, whether in practice or a game....

“In other words... Goodell and his minions had orchestrated a cover-up....

“Whether or not Roger Goodell can weather the storm and cling to his tenure as commissioner – and he has at least 44 million reasons to try – the larger moral question that looms over him and the NFL and us fans is whether we should be consuming as a form of entertainment a sport whose end result is, in too many cases, permanent brain damage.”

Back to Ray Rice, he told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16 that he punched Janay Palmer, four sources told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” an assertion contradicting Goodell’s statement this week that “when we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.” And you still have the issue of the second tape.

Mike Lupica / New York Daily News

“If it can be proved that Goodell, who says he didn’t see that video until Monday morning, actually saw it back in April, then he is through. He will be the first NFL commissioner to be fired from that job, leave a job as big as we have ever had in American sports the way Nixon left his after Watergate.

“Of course it is open season on Goodell now, with even the National Organization for Women calling for him to resign. They sound more than somewhat like the media, although if people in our business lost jobs when we were wrong, and sometimes egregiously and aggressively wrong, the unemployment numbers in this country would be much worse than they already are.

“Somehow, because of the way Goodell has bungled his handling of the Rice matter from the time he handed the guy only a two-game suspension, he is the one now treated as being as bad as Ray Rice, as if it is Goodell who is the bad guy now and not a football player who hit a woman the way he used to get hit on a football field.

“Somehow, because of the continuing fallout from that punch Rice threw in Atlantic City, an almost nuclear fallout, it is as if Goodell is the criminal here and not Rice....

“(More) than a defendant and more than a perp, Goodell has just made himself into something much easier for everybody now: An easy target. It is still worth remembering he isn’t automatically guilty because he looks guilty, or because a source says he is. The guilty party remains a bum who thinks it’s all right to hit a woman.

“It remains to be seen if Ray Rice knocked out the commissioner of the National Football League that night as well as Janay Palmer.”

We learned this week that the pretrial intervention program offered to Rice was granted in less than 1 percent of all domestic violence cases from 2010-2013 that were resolved, according to New Jersey Judiciary data obtained by “Outside the Lines.”

Rice made his first public appearance on Saturday at his old high school in New Rochelle, New York, during a football game. He was treated like a returning hero. At Thursday’s Ravens-Steelers game, many women wore Ray Rice jerseys. Pathetic. For the most part, they say the NFL and the Ravens had no right taking Rice’s livelihood away. Another common sentiment, expressed by one fan at the game, was, “(It’s) their business. His wife obviously forgave him, why can’t we?”

Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times:

The Shield has become a sham. America’s game has become America’s embarrassment. Credibility has been sacked, decency has been clotheslined, and a substitution needs to be made.

“Roger Goodell needs to be gone, cut as quickly and coldly as one of his players, waived, whacked, dumped, bring in your playbook, clean out your locker, now....

‘It now appears that beyond being clueless, he may also have been lying. There now exists evidence his office actually received the tape five months ago. Goodell now looks like the sort of sleazy player he has long taken great pride in suspending, with a darkly ironic twist. The reckless bum who should get kicked out of the league for disgracing The Shield is him....

Owners loved (Goodell) for protecting them... But they need to realize he is not protecting them now, but leaving them vulnerable to a loss of valuable sponsor and government support, not to mention a further loss of grass-root fan support.”

Mark Maske and Adam Goldman / Washington Post

“The hiring of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to investigate the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice case throws the controversy into a new and unpredictable phase that could lead to severe sanctions against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former FBI officials and people close to NFL team owners said Thursday.

“While Goodell continues to have solid support among many of the NFL’s 32 owners, the owners are prepared to act against him, potentially considering his dismissal, if Mueller’s probe concludes he misrepresented what he knew about the Rice investigation or orchestrated a cover-up, several people familiar with the owners’ views said.

“ ‘He’s been a very good commissioner, and he’s done great things for the league,’ a high-ranking executive with one NFL team said. ‘The presumption is that he’s telling the truth and the investigation will demonstrate that....If the report says something different, we’ll take the appropriate action.’”

John M. Dowd, who was hired by Major League Baseball to investigate several matters, including reports that Pete Rose gambled on baseball, told the New York Times’ Ken Belson:

“(Mueller’s) reputation is really on the line. If it comes out too light, it won’t look good. At the end of the day, what’s most important to him is his reputation, which means more to him than money. I can’t believe he’ll want to pull his punches.”

Belson: “Mueller’s report may be more damaging to the league because it will look at behavior in NFL headquarters, and allegations of a potential cover-up.”

But there are also all kinds of conflicts of interest, including Mueller may have to interview former FBI agents now working for the NFL.

If it turns out Goodell was lying about not seeing the elevator video, he could get fired by a three-quarters vote of the 32 owners.

But some are wondering if Goodell would quit rather than having his name dragged through the mud. On the other hand, it’s hard to walk away from $44 million annual paydays with a contract not expiring until the spring of 2019.

As for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings deactivated him for the home opener against the Patriots after he turned himself in early Saturday to face charges of abusing his 4-year-old son. He posted $15,000 bond and was released. A date hasn’t been set for his first court appearance, but most defendants in Texas get probation if they have an otherwise clean criminal history.

Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the league, said Saturday that Peterson’s case “will be reviewed under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.”

It’s unclear how injuring a child would fall under Roger Goodell’s new domestic violence penalty: six weeks for a first offense and at least a year for a second.

Peterson, 29, sent a series of texts to the boy’s mother in Minnesota, saying he “felt bad after the fact.”

Peterson struck his son at least 10 times, causing cuts and bruises to his back, legs, buttocks and scrotum, according to CBS’ Houston affiliate.

The Houston Police Department said the boy apparently pushed a 5-year-old boy, also Peterson’s son, from a video game. Peterson’s new attorney, Rusty Hardin (see Roger Clemens), said Peterson was only trying to discipline his son and never intended to hurt him.

If convicted, Peterson could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. He does not have a criminal history.

Phil Grant, first assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, Texas, said: “Obviously, parents are entitled to discipline their children as they see fit, except for when that discipline exceeds what the community would say is reasonable.”

Last year, Peterson’s 2-year-old son was tragically beaten to death by the boyfriend of the tot’s mother. Peterson had never met the child and only learned he existed a few weeks beforehand.

Christine Brennan / USA TODAY Sports...prior to word the Panthers deactivated Greg Hardy Sunday morning... keeping it in for context.

“Adrian Peterson has been convicted of nothing, yet he is sitting out Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings game. Greg Hardy has been convicted of some terrible things, awful violence against his former girlfriend, but he is playing for the Carolina Panthers.

“Ray Rice...is finished with the Baltimore Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the league. Ray McDonald has been accused of domestic violence but been convicted of nothing, and he plays on for the San Francisco 49ers.

“The NFL announced what was seen as a tough new policy on domestic violence little more than two weeks ago. It’s already a shambles.

“This isn’t a policy. It’s a mess.

“How embattled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is allowing Hardy in particular to play Sunday is beyond comprehension. Hardy was found guilty by a judge in a bench trial in July. He is appealing to a jury trial, which is the loophole that allows the Panthers to play him....

“Is there no one in a position of power in Charlotte to do the right thing and bench Hardy (with or without pay)? Panthers owner Jerry Richardson cries a good game, as we saw the other day while accepting an award, but why does he allow his team to embarrass itself?

“Shame on the Panthers for letting Hardy play. Shame on the NFL for not stopping it....

“(At least) it appears the Vikings truly understand what has happened this week. They seem to grasp the NFL’s new normal, while the Panthers are stuck in some kind of pre-Rice elevator time warp in which people hear about domestic violence and picture a fight in the kitchen between a husband and a wife, shrug and forget about it.”

Jarrett Bell / USA TODAY Sports

“The Vikings demonstrated a moral compass clearly lacking with other teams....

“The Panthers and 49ers should have taken a similar wait-and-see approach with Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald...

“Peterson deserves his day in court. That’s the American way.

“McDonald deserves the due process of the legal system, too. So does Hardy.

“But due process should not be confused with the right to play.

“High school kids get benched for poor grades, yet a pass-rusher appealing a felony conviction can keep on playing?

“It does not make sense.”

As for Hardy, a jury trial is set for Nov. 17 in Charlotte, at least as of today, though Hardy’s attorney says it won’t occur until early 2015 due to a court backlog. Coach Ron Rivera, who two days earlier said he planned to start Hardy, was obviously told by higher ups this wouldn’t be the case as the owners scramble to protect Goodell.

As for the games....

The Panthers went to 2-0 in defeating the Lions 24-7.

Cleveland upset New Orleans, now 0-2, 26-24.

Buffalo moved to 2-0 in besting Miami 29-10, as rookie Sammy Watkins had his first big game, 8 receptions for 117 yards and a TD.

Dallas rebounded to defeat Tennessee 26-10 as DeMarco Murray rushed for 167 yards (285 his first two).

New England prevented a 0-2 start in beating Minnesota 30-7. The Pats only had 292 yards of offense but took advantage of four Vikings turnovers, four Matt Cassel picks.

In a biggie for more than one reason in Washington, the Redskins won 41-10 behind Kirk Cousins, who replaced the injured RG 3, after Griffin left with a dislocated ankle. ‘Skins fans have been clamoring for Cousins and he came through....22/33, 250, 2-0. For Washington, DeSean Jackson also left early with a shoulder injury. [Griffin handled himself beautifully after the game, I have to add.]

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and the Redskins D had franchise tying sack marks of four and 10, respectively. 10!

Cincinnati moved to 2-0 with a 24-10 over the Falcons. Great piece in Sports Illustrated by Phil Taylor on quarterback Andy Dalton...the much-maligned Andy Dalton. As in Dalton his first three seasons had a 30-18 record, Peyton Manning 26-22.

Yes, Dalton is under big-time pressure with his huge contract extension, but as Taylor notes, “Essentially, Cincinnati committed $25 million over the next two seasons, but the contract [Ed. up to $115 million with major incentives] becomes a year-to-year deal after that.”

So what the heck. Go Andy Dalton, unless you are playing my Jets.

Speaking of which....the Jets went up 21-3 on the Packers in the blink of an eye, and then proceeded to go down in flames, 31-24, as we totally lost our composure. Just sucks. For Green Bay, Jordy Nelson had a career day, nine receptions, 209 yards.

As for the other New York team, the Giants fell to 0-2 and there is zero reason to believe they can turn it around as they fell to a Cardinals team that was missing quarterback Carson Palmer, 25-14 in the Meadowlands. The Giants had one of the worst fourth quarters in the history of the game...giving up a punt return for a touchdown, fumbling a kickoff return, dropping five passes, and allowing the deciding 15 points. They had four turnovers overall and Eli Manning now has four interceptions his first two contests of 2014 after leading the league last season with 27.

--The NFL’s Players Association and the league supposedly approved a new drug testing program that would include testing for HGH, but the players are balking at the testing procedures and appeals process.

The two sides did approve a proposal to significantly increase the threshold for positive marijuana tests.

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon’s yearlong suspension has been reduced to 10 games, once a deal has been agreed to, while Wes Welker would be eligible to return immediately.

--St. Louis signed star defensive end Robert Quinn to a four-year contract extension that is worth $66.575 million, of which $41.2 million is guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Quinn was second in the league last season with 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

College Football

--So here is some of the background behind Penn State at Rutgers, both entering the contest at 2-0, with this being Rutgers’ initiation to the Big Ten. The last time they played was 1995, Penn State winning 59-34, and as Dave Caldwell of the Wall Street Journal noted:

“It ended with Rutgers coach Doug Graber angrily confronting (Coach Joe) Paterno after backup Penn State quarterback Mike McQueary (who would later be entwined in the Sandusky scandal) lobbed a 42-yard scoring pass with 58 seconds left. The touchdown conveniently covered the 20-point spread.” [Classy move, Joe Pa.]

But the two schools had actually decided to renew their “rivalry” in 2009, scheduling contests in 2014/15, years before Rutgers would join the Big Ten. As I noted the other day, the term rivalry is used rather loosely, as in its one-sided. Rutgers would consider it a rivalry, Penn State hardly would. Penn State, after all, has won 22 of the 24 times they have gotten together prior to Saturday.

It’s really about recruiting. Penn State has 15 players from New Jersey on its current roster and has always pillaged the state, while this year Rutgers has 12 players from Pennsylvania.

So...what happened in the game?

Rutgers blew it, losing 13-10 in a heartbreaker.

Steve Politi / Star-Ledger

“You kept thinking that maybe it would be different this time. Maybe the new conference, the new TV network on campus all day, the new enthusiasm among the fans that led to every seat in the house being filled at kickoff would make a difference.

“You kept thinking maybe this would be the one, that next big victory for this football team that never seems to come, the one that would announce to the Big Ten that, thanks for the invite, but we’re more than just cable boxes.

“You kept thinking, as the defense held and held and held again, that maybe it would be enough, that a program that leads the nation in agony would gut one out, because on this night the defense had plenty of that:

“Guts.

“But there it was. Penn State with the football, trailing just 10-6, and there was that sickening feeling that something would happen. That something bad would happen. That the Big Ten debut would be like the Louisville loss two years ago, or that night in West Virginia eight years ago, or like so many of the moments on the national stage.

Christian Hackenberg had a third and forever on the Rutgers 30. He had just seen a touchdown pass erased by a holding call, and this was the talented quarterback’s last chance to steal a victory for the visiting team.

“And all the guts in the world couldn’t cover receiver Geno Lewis on the play. He was wide open on the 6-yard line, catching the ball in front of the Penn State fans, and you didn’t need to read the script to know what would happen in this sequel.

“Penn State scored two plays later, and there was no way that the Rutgers offense was going to overcome that 13-10 deficit on a last drive. Not with Gary Nova looking every bit as shell-shocked as he did for most of last season, throwing five interceptions with each one looking worse than the last.”

So much for first impressions. And Nova was absolutely awful. The guy was so incredibly reckless, time and again throwing across field, that he easily could have had eight picks. As it is he finished 15/30, 192, 0-5.

Thankfully, I’m not a Rutgers, but I also don’t like Penn State.

I will say, however, the Rutgers faithful could not have put on a better show last night. Whether they will show the same enthusiasm the rest of the season remains to be seen.

As for talk of a new rivalry, yes, I guess it has been reborn, but is it a rivalry if one school has now won 23 of 25?

Separately, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood earlier in the week signed a contract extension that will make him the state’s highest-paid employee next year when his salary goes up to $1.25 million, which by today’s standards isn’t outrageous, in my mind.

But just another reason to bring up the fact that last year, the highest-paid state employee was Rutgers women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer, which was, and is, totally outrageous. Stringer has a new four-year deal paying her $700,000 guaranteed annually through April 2018. She can actually earn up to another $790,000 in bonuses, plus if the team makes the third round of the NCAA Tournament just once over the next four seasons, she earns a one-time retention payment of $500,000. I’m sorry...this is incredibly stupid, even if she is in the Hall of Fame. [The Lady Scarlet Knights haven’t done squat the last three seasons.]

Elsewhere in college football....

No. 2 Oregon spotted Wyoming a 7-0 lead at home in Eugene, but then rolled 48-14 as your 2014 Heisman lock, quarterback Marcus Mariota, was 19/23, 221, 2-0, through the air, with another 71 yards and two scores on the ground.

No. 3 Alabama blitzed Southern Miss 52-12, but the line was 47 ½.

No. 4 Oklahoma should have made its fans happy all around in defeating Tennessee 34-10, with a line of 21. “I’ll buy the next round, Billy Bob.” “No, I got ya covered on this one, Johnny!”

Steve Spurrier is now 16-6 all-time against Georgia, with the No. 24 Gamecocks winning a thriller in Columbia, 38-35, over the No. 6 Bulldogs. South Carolina had a goal line stand at the end and then Georgia missed a short field goal to tie it.

No. 8 Baylor destroyed Buffalo 63-21 as Heisman candidate Bryce Petty threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns.

In one of the bigger upsets in quite some time in the northeast, No. 9 USC flew all the way out to Boston, Chestnut Hill, specifically, and proceeded to lose to Boston College, 37-31, as the Eagles rolled up 452 yards on the ground in 54 carries, led by quarterback Tyler Murphy’s 191.

The Trojans, on the other hand, once known as Tailback U., had all of 20 yards rushing.

You know, before the game I was reading an interview with USC coach Steve Sarkisian that Dan Patrick conducted for his show and Sports Illustrated, and knowing the penalties Southern Cal is still playing under, Patrick asked Sarkisian how many scholarship players he was dressing these days. Try 52 (out of a potential 60, vs. the normal 85 for Div. I). Sometimes that’s hard to overcome.

Continuing.....

No. 12 UCLA has not looked good in its three wins, including a 20-17 victory over a lousy Texas team in Arlington. But the Bruins were able to pull the game out despite losing their Heisman candidate, quarterback Brett Hundley, to an elbow injury. Jerry Neuheisel, son of former UCLA quarterback and coach Rick Neuheisel, tossed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with three minutes left for the win. No word on the extent of the Hundley injury as yet.

How good is No. 14 Ole Miss.? La.-Lafayette is no great shakes, but the 3-0 Rebels did defeat UL-L 56-15 as quarterback Bo Wallace was 23/28, 316, 4-1.

No. 17 Virginia Tech, hot off its stirring win at Ohio State, went home to Blacksburg and promptly laid an egg against East Carolina, 28-21. No other school in America has a chip on its shoulder like the Pirates and it was good to see them come through with one of the biggest wins in its history.

I mean picture being an ECU fan, with all the press coverage in the region for Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson and South Carolina (sometimes, in good times, Wake Forest sneaks in there too), while the Pirates are totally ignored.

Meanwhile, Virginia had a big 23-21 win over No. 21 Louisville.

No. 22 Ohio State annihilated Kent State 66-0 as J.T. Barrett tied a school record with six touchdown passes.

West Virginia’s Clint Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns as the Mountaineers defeated Maryland 40-37 on a 47-yard field goal as time expired. Trickett’s yardage was the second-highest in school history behind Geno Smith’s 656-yard performance in 2012.

Duke served notice it is for real again, whipping Kansas in Durham, 41-3, to move to 3-0. The story is freshman running back Shaun Wilson, who wasn’t even on the depth chart, yet had a school-record 245 yards rushing on just 12 carries, with TD runs of 69, 68 and 45. I mean the guy has 334 yards on just 21 carries in his first three contests.

Pitt spotted a poor Florida International team a 16-0 lead in Miami, but roared (they’re the Panthers, after all) back to prevail 42-25. James Conner had 177 yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns. Quarterback Chad Voytik chipped in with 114 yards rushing of his own. Pitt has rushed for at least 300 yards in each of its first three games. 

My Wake Forest Demon Deacons were 15-point underdogs to Utah State out in Logan and the Deacs covered! They lost only 36-24! This despite minus-25 yards on 24 carries! Yup, 2-10, here we come.

Phil W., a Wake classmate, sent a note the other day noting that of Wake’s past five head football coaches, prior to Dave Clawson, three coached in the NFL...John Mackovic, Al Groh, and Jim Caldwell.. The other two, Bill Dooley and Jim Grobe, certainly could have had a shot had they wanted it. It’s easy to forget that there was a time just a few years ago that Grobe was as respected as anyone in his profession. And Bill Dooley was one quality coach for three separate programs...Wake, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

And...your new AP Poll

1. Florida State
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. Oklahoma
5. Auburn
6. Texas A&M
7. Baylor
8. LSU
9. Notre Dame
10. Ole Miss!
13. Georgia
14. South Carolina

--Funny story by John Branch in the New York Times. If you think the Oregon Duck looks like Donald Duck, the answer is, yes, it’s Donald Duck.

“It has been this way since 1947. By then, the university’s original nickname for its sports teams, the Webfoots, had morphed into Ducks. Live ducks, usually named Puddles, took turns patrolling the sideline during games. But in the 1940s, Oregon wanted a consistent Duck image.

“The university was in luck because Oregon’s athletic director at the time, Leo Harris, was a friend of Walt Disney’s. Disney told Harris that the university was welcome to use Donald Duck, who debuted in 1934, as the mascot, provided it was in good taste....

“After Disney died in 1966, officials realized that there was no formal agreement between the parties to share the image of Donald Duck. But Oregon produced a photograph of Disney wearing an Oregon letterman’s jacket, with the Donald Duck logo on the chest, and a written contract was signed in 1973.”

From a merchandising standpoint, Disney asked that sales of the Donald logo be restricted to mostly around Eugene and Portland, Oregon.

Ball Bits

--It was sickening seeing Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton get drilled by a pitch from Milwaukee’s Mike Fiers on Thursday night. He was driven off the field in an ambulance, after suffering facial fractures, lacerations and dental damage. The immediate reaction from Marlins manager Mike Redmond said it all: “We’ve lost our MVP. It doesn’t look good.”

The umpire actually ruled Stanton swung at the pitch, setting up an 0-2 count. Reed Johnson pinch hit for Stanton and was immediately hit in the hand by Fiers’ next pitch. Both benches emptied, though no punches were thrown.

Fiers tweeted after, “I am deeply sorry about what happened tonight. I can’t imagine what you and your family are going through. [2]...my thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. I feel horrible and hope for a speedy recovery.”

On Friday, Stanton tweeted “I’m much better today & deeply appreciate your prayers!”

The good news was the team didn’t think he would require surgery.

Stanton finishes his year with 37 home runs and 105 RBI, both leading the league at the moment. It’s between him and Clayton Kershaw for MVP.

Every time I think of Stanton, I cringe. I can’t imagine taking an 88-mph fastball to the face.

--Baltimore slugger Chris Davis, he of the MLB-leading 53 home runs, 138 RBI in 2013, was suspended for 25 games without pay after testing positive for amphetamines. Davis, 28, issued a statement:

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans. I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”

Granted, Davis was only hitting .196 this season after a .286 average in 2013, but he still had 26 homers and 72 RBI and would have been an important cog in the playoffs.

But now he’ll miss the first eight games of Baltimore’s postseason should they get to play that long. The guy is an idiot. He had recently moved to third base to replace the injured Manny Machado, who sustained a season-ending knee injury.

Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY Sports

“You couldn’t help but feel sorry for Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis last year.

“He had the mother of all breakout seasons, hitting a major-league leading 53 home runs, and all of the while, fending off the insinuation and constant questions that he must be cheating.

“Well, on this day, you can’t help but feel sorry once again for Chris Davis, wondering how a man can possibly be this stupid....

“Quite likely, Davis is done for the year.

“He better pray the Orioles aren’t done as well, knowing they likely will need to reach the World Series for any possibility of Davis setting foot on the field again in 2014....

“He should be suspended for sheer stupidity.

“Davis, diagnosed years ago with attention deficit disorder, did not bother seeking an exemption for at least the last two years, according to a person close to Davis with direct knowledge of the condition.....

“Davis simply believed he didn’t need the medication any longer.

“Yet, when Davis started to struggle this year, what does he do?

“He turned to Adderall.

“And here’s the kick to the stomach:

“Under the Major League Baseball drug testing program, if you test positive the first time for amphetamines, you are issued only a warning. There is no suspension. You are suspended only if you are caught a second time.

“Yes, so this means that Davis actually tested positive twice this season.

“Come on, dude, wasn’t the first time scary enough?

“What didn’t you understand about a warning, knowing that if you tried it again, you were suspended?....

“The worst part for Davis is that his reputation now is sullied, and there’s a cloud over everything he accomplished last year.”

Davis is earning $10.35 million for 2014 and is eligible for salary arbitration this winter, but the Orioles may simply non-tender him.

--Mets fans have enjoyed Chris Young’s resurgence in the Bronx...NOT! After he was one of the bigger busts in Mets history this season, they released him, he latched on with the Yanks, and all the outfielder has done is go 10-for-25, 4 doubles, 3 homers 8 RBI (going into the Sunday night contest with the Orioles). Gee willickers, as my grandfather would have said.

--Meanwhile, the Mets lost on Sunday to the Nationals, 3-0, and in the last 15 games at Citi Field between these two teams, Washington leads 14-1, having outscored New York 96-30.

Further, the Mets, who love to bitch about how hard it is to hit home runs in their home park, have been outhomered over those 15 games, 35-7!!! God I’m sick of this Mets garbage.

“It’s so hard!” complain the little babies, making $millions.

You know what’s hard? Trying to take out ISIS.

--In Saturday’s Nationals 10-3 win over the Mets, Washington shortstop Ian Desmond became the fourth shortstop in baseball history to notch three seasons of at least 20 home runs and 20 steals, joining Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins.

--Clayton Kershaw moved to 19-3, 1.70, as the Dodgers beat the Giants 4-2 on Sunday. Kershaw allowed two runs in 8 innings with 9 strikeouts. L.A. is now 3 games up on San Francisco after taking 2 out of 3.

--We note the passing of Frank Torre, 82, the older brother of Joe Torre, who played first base from 1956-63 with Milwaukee and Philadelphia. While he had only 13 home runs and 179 RBI in his major-league career, hitting .273, he had two homers in the 1957 World Series as the Braves defeated the Yankees for the title.

But it was in 1996 that he stirred New York area fans when he survived a heart transplant and watched from a hospital bed as brother Joe managed the Yanks to his first World Series title as skipper.

Joe Torre, nine years younger, was very close to Frank and more than once commented, “He has been a constant in my life from the time I was a young boy.”

Golf Balls

Billy Horschel played the greatest golf ever in the eight FedEx Cup Playoffs; a second, first and first the last three events to not only win Sunday’s Tour Championship, but also the FedEx Cup title and the $10 million bonus.

So Horschel won $13.5 million the last three weeks. Good for him. We thought he was going to bust through a year ago, then he had a totally mediocre 2014, only he caught fire like no one before him at the Deutsche Bank and it carried forward the last two events.

Well, we’ll see if Captain Tom Watson will regret not selecting him over Webb Simpson, but to be fair, Watson would have had only the second place finish in Boston to go on and I can’t blame him for not going with Billy. But clearly, Horschel is the epitome of want you want on a Ryder Cup squad. [For the record, Horschel now has three PGA Tour wins for his career.]

--Rory McIlroy on the absence of Tiger and Phil Mickelson at the Tour Championship.

“They’re just getting older. Phil’s 43 or whatever, and Tiger’s nearly 40. So they’re getting into the sort of last few holes of their careers, and that’s what happens.”

Yup, including the upcoming Ryder Cup, Phil has maybe 162 holes left and Tiger about 42. [Just kidding, Tiger and Lefty!]

But not for nothing, Tiger and Phil combined for just one top ten in 28 events this year.

--So I’m looking at the Golfweek preseason college golf rankings and for the men, the top five are:

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma State
3. Georgia Tech
4. Illinois
5. Alabama (last year’s champs)

Wake Forest isn’t in the top 30, nor does it have any of the top 30 individuals. [Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans is rated No. 1]

Oh well, at least the guy I mentioned a few weeks ago, Will Zalatoris, is rated a top freshman.

On the women’s side the preseason top five are:

1. Stanford
2. USC
3. UCLA
4. Arizona
5. Washington

[UCLA’s Allison Lee is rated No. 1]
The Wake Forest women are ranked No. 27.
I forgot to wish Arnold Palmer a Happy 85th birthday (Sept. 10). You’re still the King, Arnie!

--Finally, what an awful near tragedy. It’s bad enough as it is, though. Greg Norman had an accident while using a chainsaw to cut back a small tree and nearly lost his left hand on Saturday. He tweeted a picture from the hospital, saying: “I was one lucky man today. Damaged but not down & out. Still have left hand.”

In a telephone interview with the AP Sunday morning, Norman said, “At least I can still play tennis.” He was already back home recovering, with a big foam pad around his hand.

As Norman described it, the blade hit him just below where a person would be wearing a wrist watch. He said doctors told him it missed his artery by a fraction of an inch, as described by the AP.

“Thank God the blade wasn’t running full speed or it would have taken my hand off,” Norman said. “I handled everything as calmly as I could. There is no major damage. There is nerve damage, but no muscular damage. They fixed me up and here I am.”

It seems as he was cutting back trees in his South Florida home, the weight of a branch pulled his left hand toward the chain saw.

Man, if his artery had been hit, he probably bleeds to death before he can get help. 

The Danny Ferry Fallout

Last chat I reported Hawks GM Danny Ferry described then-free agent Luol Deng on a recorded conference call as someone who “has a little African in him.”

“He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back,” said Ferry.

The Hawks announced Friday that Ferry was taking an indefinite leave of absence. Ferry said:

“I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me. I will maximize my time during this leave to meet with community leaders and further educate myself and others on the extremely sensitive issues surrounding race, diversity, and inclusion. I will find a way to make a positive difference in this area.”

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony said he believes future free agents will shun the Hawks in light of Ferry’s statements.

“[There] ain’t nobody [who] would want to go there,” Anthony said Saturday at his basketball camp in Manhattan. “At the end of the day, I think it puts Atlanta back even further now, from that standpoint.

“Atlanta is a great city, a great market, great people, great atmosphere. But as far as the comments [that] were made, I think it was uncalled for. From an owner, from a GM, those are not things you play with.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has come to Ferry’s defense.

“The fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks...and frankly my opinion...is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said that an extensive investigation (the one that then ended up taking down co-owner Bruce Levenson), which included reading “every email Danny Ferry has ever sent as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks,” contained no other negative information.

Others, such as Magic Johnson and Atlanta civil rights leaders, have called for Ferry to resign.

Ferry called Deng to personally apologize. Deng had commented earlier he was “saddened and disappointed.”

Deng added: “I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little.’ For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength.... I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage.”

To say the Hawks have a big problem with their image in Atlanta and an already apathetic fan base would be a huge understatement.

NASCAR

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship began this week. Reminder, the rules have changed again and I think it’s terrific. It’s a 10-race elimination contest. After the first three races, four of the 16 competing for the Cup will be eliminated, four more after the next three, and four more after the ninth race. Then its winner take all for the “final four” drivers at Miami’s Homestead Speedway on Nov. 16. The highest finisher, that is, wins. Seriously, I know that will be an NFL Sunday, but if you’re a sports fan you just have to tune in for the final 50 laps or so.

So...Brad Keselowski won the first leg, his season-leading fifth win of the year at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bob Crewe...and the Four Seasons

With the death of the great songwriter/producer Bob Crewe the other day at the age of 83, it’s a good time to once again tell the Four Seasons story, Crewe having created a number of their indelible hits. The following is from a 2005 Bar Chat.

Legendary DJ, Bruce Morrow (“Cousin Brucie”):

“When you talk about some of the great American vocal groups, you’ve gotta talk about the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons. The Beach Boys were for the West Coast suburban kids with T-Birds and money to spend foolin’ around in the sunshine. But the Four Seasons were urban, they were East Coast - they were New York rock!...When I hear the Beach Boys I think of getting tanned and surfin’ and summer love and all that crap, but when I hear the Four Seasons belting ‘Rag Doll’ or ‘Dawn, go away I’m no good for you,’ man, I picture smokestacks, dirty streets, tenements in the Bronx, and poor, tough kids that are survivors.”

And a survivor is what Frankie Valli was. Born Francis Castelluccio on 5/3/37 in Newark, NJ, Valli was a tough kid who cut class and hung out in pool halls. He says of his childhood, “It was West Side Story time...I saw a lot of my friends fall by the wayside and get wasted; found in a car with their heads blown off or in the city dump in the trunk of a car. I’m not (b---s-------) you.”

Once a kid shook Frankie down in high school so the next day Valli walked in and whacked the bully with a baseball bat. He could have killed him but the guy came into school the next day with a bandage wrapped all around his head, along with 18 stitches.

Valli was befriended by a country singer, Texas Jean Valley, who heard Frankie sing “White Christmas” at a school play (the name “Valli” was a result of this relationship) and, encouraged by her advice, he began singing in his mid-teens with a group called the Variatones. The group, which included Frank Majewski and the DeVito brothers, later changed its name to the Four Lovers and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 with the song “You’re The Apple Of My Eye.”

Then the Four Lovers changed their name to the Four Seasons. The boys had been playing local spots in Newark and Passaic but they came up with the name as a result of some gigs at the Four Seasons Bowling Alley in Union. Now it may be hard for some of you to imagine performing at such a spot, but the Four Seasons had a cocktail lounge called the Branch Room.

[Update: See a story I added down below about this chapter in their lives. It’s in dispute with the VH-1 Rock Encyclopedia which says the boys played here.]

In 1960 producer Bob Crewe joined the team, to be followed by songwriter Bob Gaudio. But the Four Seasons couldn’t hit the big time (they actually changed back to the Four Lovers for a spell) and Valli nearly quit because of lack of success.

That all changed in 1962 when Gaudio wrote a tune in 15 minutes, originally labeled “Jackie” as a tribute to the First Lady. The song was then re-titled “Sherry” and the rest is history. Soon the group performed it on American Bandstand and the record company received requests for 180,000 copies. In 4 weeks “Sherry” was #1, eventually selling 2 million discs domestically.

[For those of you from New Jersey, before the release of “Sherry” in the summer of ‘62, the Four Seasons were playing Martell’s Sea Breeze in Point Pleasant. Oh to be there then.]

They followed up “Sherry” with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man,” both also hitting #1, making them the first group to score consecutive #1’s with their first 3 singles.

It’s always interesting to learn how someone comes up with a song. From Timothy White’s “Rock Lives,” Bob Crewe describes the background behind the second hit.

“After ‘Sherry,’ we didn’t know what the hell to follow it up with. I was up late one night in my apartment, worrying and watching a dreadful movie, I think it was with John Payne and
some blonde bombshell. I had been drinking out of desperation, and I was drifting in and out of sleep. I woke up at one point, and Payne was smacking the blonde across the face and knocked her on her bottom. He said something like, ‘Well, whadda ya think of that, baby?’ She gets up, straightens her dress, pushes her hair back, stares at him, and says, ‘Big girls don’t cry!’ and
storms out the door. I ran and jotted down the line. The next day Bob (Gaudio) and I knocked out the song in no time.”

[Ed. 9/14/14...ahhh, these were pre-Ray Rice days.]

The story behind the Four Seasons 4th #1 hit, 1964’s “Rag Doll,” is a little different. Gaudio recalls:

“Back around 1964, there was one particular place on Tenth Avenue, I think, in New York City where there’s a long traffic light; it must have been forty-five seconds long. I’d go by there a lot, and there were little kids around it that would come up and offer to clean your car windows while you were waiting. You’d pay them a quarter or fifty cents. One particular time this little girl came over to me, and I had no change at all; the smallest thing I had was a five-dollar bill, so I gave it to her because it would have broken my heart to not give her anything.

“The look on her face - she didn’t say anything - stayed with me for weeks. The description of the rag doll in the song was a description of that little girl. I guess you could say the five dollars was an investment.”

The Four Seasons managed to stay competitive, even during the Beatles’ onslaught. “Dawn” hit #3 in February 1964, kept out of #1 by the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”

In 1965, they recorded a Bob Dylan tune, “Don’t Think Twice,” but used the pseudonym “The Wonder Who.” They actually fooled more than a few people for a while when it was first released.

By the end of 1966, the group had 23 of its eventual 30 Top 40 hits. [Valli was to have 9 Top 40 solo efforts, including the #2 “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”]

In 1967, they started experimenting with psychedelia and the hits began to dry up.

A little remembered fact concerning Valli was the severe problem he had with his hearing. Back in ‘67, he was performing when he couldn’t even hear the music being played, though he could hear his own voice. He went to a doctor who simply handed him a slip of paper, “You’re going deaf. You’ll never hear again.” Then the doctor walked away.

Valli had a condition labeled ‘otosclerosis’ where excessive calcium deposits built up in the ear. It bothered him greatly but it wasn’t until 1976 that he had successful surgery on first one, then the other ear. The reason why he didn’t get anything done sooner was that it was a dangerous procedure and he was scared he’d permanently lose everything.

And in 1973, a fellow by the name of Gerald Zelmanowitz testified before a Senate subcommittee that the Four Seasons had ties to organized crime, a charge he later retracted.

Meanwhile, the group attempted to recapture the magic, signing on with Motown. But Berry Gordy sat on “My Eyes Adored You” (a Valli solo) for almost two years before Frankie bought it back and released it himself. All it did was climb to #1 in 1975. The Four Seasons then completed the comeback with the #3 “Who Loves You” and their 5th #1, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night).” In 1978, Valli scored his second #1 solo hit with “Grease.”

In 1990, the original Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, solidifying their place in music history.

*Update: Brad Parks of the Star-Ledger had a piece the other day that adds a little more meat to how the Four Seasons took their name.

The Four Seasons Bowling Alley, which opened in 1960, “was the height of suburban entertainment.” In addition to the lanes, it had this cocktail lounge with a California look and a waterfall.

“It was a real sharp-looking place,” said former manager Joe LaGregor, now 70. The lounge, which seated about 100, dropped $150 to $200 a night on live music, a large amount for such a spot back in 1961 when Frankie Valli and the boys stopped by for an audition. LaGregor had heard the group in other clubs and was enthusiastic about them performing at his place, but the owner of the Four Seasons said they were “too loud.”

LaGregor said, “He was interested in creating a living room-type atmosphere. He wanted a piano player, something that would be soft and relaxing. And here comes Frankie and his guys, and they were really blasting it out.”

LaGregor argued to no avail. But as Valli and his group departed, they decided to take the name of the alley for their name. The Four Seasons closed in 1989 and is now part of a Costco parking lot.

[So did they really play there or what?! I’ll go with LaGregor’s version.]

Well, I realize after reading all the above I didn’t give Crewe enough credit. Together, in some cases, with Bob Gaudio he had a major hand in “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and Frankie Valli’s signature anthem, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

But back in the 1950s, Crewe’s first hit, written with Frank Slay, was the ’57 single “Silhouettes,” a Top 10 for the Rays, and later for Herman’s Hermits in 1965. That same year he produced “Devil With a Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly” for Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

Among the other things Crewe did, he recorded some songs as the Bob Crewe Generation, including the instrumental hit “Music to Watch Girls By.” And he produced “Good Morning Starshine” for Oliver from the score of the musical “Hair.”

One of his last chart-toppers was the 1970s soul hit “Lady Marmalade” for Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash of the vocal group LaBelle. You know who co-wrote that, to me, groundbreaking tune? Kenny Nolan!

Frankie Valli said on Friday, “Sometimes I wonder if the industry really realized what a talent (Crewe) was.”

Crewe was born on Nov. 12, 1930, in Newark and grew up in Belleville, N.J., though he didn’t meet any of the future Four Seasons who also grew up there until much later. He was gay and is portrayed overtly so in “Jersey Boys,” but most say he was discreet in many of his social circles. However Gaudio said, “He was elated with his portrayal and thrilled with the show. He talked about it incessantly.”

Bob Crewe was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985

Stuff

--I have to admit, after watching the first few games, I totally ignored the Basketball World Cup, but for the record, the U.S. crushed Serbia, 129-92, for the gold as Kyrie Irving was named MVP.

--Floyd Mayweather won a unanimous 12-round decision over Argentina’s Marcos Maidana to retain his welterweight and super welterweight titles in Las Vegas Saturday night. In the eighth round, Mayweather claimed Maidana bit him on his wrist. “Money” remains unbeaten in 47 fights in earning $32 million for this rematch.

Next up? Manny Pacquiao? Will this ever get done? Mayweather is under contract to Showtime, Pacquiao to HBO, but talks are said to be underway to finally do it. But first Pacquiao has to defeat Chris Algieri in Macau on Nov. 22.

--We note the passing of Bob Suter, a defenseman on the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. gold medal-winning hockey team in 1980. He was just 57 and died from a suspected heart attack. I heard a ‘sports minute’ from John Feinstein and according to him, Suter is the first to die from the team that will forever be in U.S. sports lore.

Suter hadn’t played beyond the college level – Univ. of Wisconsin in his case – when he was recruited by Herb Brooks, but about three months before Lake Placid, he suffered a broken ankle in a preliminary game.

Suter recovered and was on the ice during its upset of the Soviet Union, the Soviets having won every gold medal in hockey since 1964.

Suter had been drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1977 but continued playing in college. In 1981 he signed with the Minnesota North Stars, but never played in the NHL. He is the father of Ryan Suter, a star for the Minnesota Wild.

--With the Rutgers-Penn State game, the Star-Ledger ran a number of articles on how poorly Rutgers does in the fundraising game, despite being a large school and having the bulk of its alum in a very wealthy state.

To wit:

According to the 2013 ranking of endowments by NACUBO and the Commonfund Institute, Harvard is No. 1 at $32.3 billion, followed by Yale ($20.8 billion), the Univ. of Texas System ($20.4bn), Stanford ($18.7bn) and Princeton ($18.2bn). Rutgers is just at $783 million.

Regarding Princeton, and for that matter the schools ahead of them, the Star-Ledger noted their $18bn+ endowment is greater than the GNP of the likes of Cambodia, Iceland, Jamaica and Honduras.

--It’s been a few days since last chat so I have to note the passing of Bond villain, Richard Kiel, “Jaws,” at the age of 74. Jaws appeared in both “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker.” 

Kiel was a legitimate 7 ft. 2 in. and also appeared in the Adam Sandler pic, “Happy Gilmore.”

But it was as the cable-chomping, shark killing henchman opposite Roger Moore where Kiel gained his fame.

Before acting, picture he sold vacuum cleaners door to door. Would you have let him in?

Regarding his Bond gig, Steve Chawkins noted in the Los Angeles Times:

“When his agent arranged a meeting for him with Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, the producer of many Bond films, Kiel was ambivalent. Broccoli told him over lunch that his character would be ‘a guy with teeth like a pliers, like a tool, like a shark,’ Kiel said in a 2005 interview with the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram and Gazette.

“ ‘And I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is like a monster part.’ It was almost like ‘I don’t think I really want to do this,’ but there’s a little voice in my head saying, ‘Richard, this is a James Bond movie. Just make the best of it.’’”

By all accounts, Richard Kiel was a terrific person. RIP.

--Sad story involving actress and singer Pia Zadora. She was badly injured in a golf-cart accident the other day. Zadora, now 60, if you can believe it, was thrown from the cart driven by her 17-year-old son as it made a turn on a street near the family’s Nevada home. She suffered a head injury, among other things, according to her husband.

--For the record, the mountain lion believed to have attacked the 6-year-old boy in Cupertino, California was killed Wednesday (after I had posted). The 65-pound cougar was spotted 70 feet up a tree by wildlife experts, using tracking dogs, of course, and in a statement from the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, as reported by the L.A. Times’ Adolfo Flores, “The big cat was unusually aggressive and fixated on an officer, officials said, before being shot with a rifle.”

Gee, this would have made for a good straight to video flick...the lion leaping down to, err, you know, have his way with the rifleman, and then running back into the woods, continuing a reign of terror. [Of course you have to throw in a totally gratuitous, Kate Upton on the beach scene; Ms. Upton’s character having once dated the researcher who performs the necropsies.]

Anyway, the tracking dogs were rewarded with Chipotle gift certificates. With over 1600 locations nationwide, they shouldn’t have trouble tracking one down.

--So you know how I told you a few weeks ago about the killer spider in Ireland (that literally killed a man), whose origins are in Australia? The other day the Irish Independent had the story of a man who called the National Exotic Animal Sanctuary after he abandoned a house. The issue...he “left over 100 spiders, which he had bought over the internet.”

This is insane. The experts moved in and destroyed the potentially lethal ones, which included black widow and funnel-web spiders, as well as scorpions and tarantulas.

It seems this is a growing problem in Ireland, and I guess everywhere in the world, for that matter. People buying exotic “pets” on the Web. I’d snuff out the buyers.

I mean to tell you, the Independent story said they recently discovered, get this, a “North American raccoon” in Co. Tipperary that somehow the owner had purchased online.

--From David Harding / New York Daily News:

“A man-eating leopard in India is targeting drunks as they stumble home in the dark.

“The big cat is believed to have killed 12 people in a Himalayan village since 2012.

“Its latest victim was a 44-year-old man who was attacked on Thursday.

“Villagers are said to be living in a state of fear that the leopard will attack again.”

I’ve actually written of this particular leopard before. It seems to target those who have just exited an outdoor toilet.

Which is why when you buy a new home, or rent an apartment these days, it’s best to look for places with indoor plumbing. Especially in light of the above. You don’t if your neighbor has purchased a grizzly or cobra online.

--Rachel Feltman / Washington Post

“When it wasn’t putting T. rex to shame, the dinosaur Spinosaurus spent its time swimming – and chowing down on sharks.

“Until now, scientists didn’t have any proof that there were swimming dinosaurs. There were some marine reptiles prowling the seas, to be sure, but paleontologists couldn’t find fossils that put dinosaurs in the water.

“New fossil evidence published Thursday in Science changes that, and the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is breaking records left and right. It’s now the largest predatory dinosaur to have ever roamed the planet – nearly 10 feet longer than the largest T. rex specimen – although the carnivore was still dwarfed by some of its plant-eating contemporaries. But more importantly, Spinosaurus has the distinction of providing our first ever evidence for a semi-aquatic dinosaur.”

As Pig Pen would say, kind of makes you want to treat Spino (pronounced Spee-no...at least I am so decreeing it here) with more respect. Pig Pen, by the way, isn’t doing well. Major lung issues and so we send our best to him. [Too much time in China.]

Spino is now on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington through April 12.

--Hats off to Mark R. for catching his first white marlin. As Mark told me, it wasn’t quite on his bucket list, but on the fish list. Next up for him a tarpon. 

--While Oscar Pistorius could receive anything from a fine to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 13 for his conviction on “culpable homicide” (involuntary manslaughter), experts believe the state just has too much evidence in its favor not to appeal, while an appeal from Pistorius, should he be given any substantial jail time, is likely as well.

--Sports Illustrated’s “Sign of the Apocalypse”:

“Robert Morris has become the first school offering athletic scholarships for its varsity video game team.”

--I liked what Tim McGraw told the Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Wolfe about why he doesn’t like making music videos.

When you hear a song, “you superimpose the events in your life or something you feel or something in your childhood onto the song, and you create your own movie,” he says. “So when you do a video you might take a little bit of somebody else’s movie away from them.” He wants the experience to feel like he’s “sitting in a bar, talking across the table from somebody and telling them a story.”

--Sept. 14 marks 200 years since The Star-Spangled Bannerwas put to paper by Francis Scott Key during the British bombardment at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. President Hoover officially made the song the country's national anthem in 1931 and it quickly became a part of American tradition.

--We note the passing of jazz pioneer Joe Sample, 75, a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders, who helped pioneer the electronic jazz-funk fusion style that I so loved in the 1970s and 1980s (in no small part because of a great jazz station in New York, 101.9).

Sample was the keyboardist and The Crusaders (as they evolved into) became a successful crossover act with hits such as “Street Life.”

Top 3 songs for the week 9/11/76: #1 “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” (KC & The Sunshine Band) #2 “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (Lou Rawls) #3 “Play That Funky Music” (Wild Cherry...big hit at TOG my freshman year at Wake...the drinking age being 18 back in the day...)...and...#4 “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” (England Dan & John Ford Coley...not a big hit at TOG...not good for beer sales, if you catch my drift...) #5 “A Fifth Of Beethoven” (Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band...where’s my sword!) #6 “You Should Be Dancing” (Bee Gees...ughhh...close to dropping out of school after just three weeks because the music sucked so bad...) #7 “Lowdown” (Boz Scaggs....but then Boz saved the day with “Silk Degrees”) #8 “Let ‘Em In” (Wings...Queen Elizabeth asked, “Why should I knight you after such drivel?”) #9 “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (Elton John & Kiki Dee) #10 “Summer” (War...great group...)

NFL Quiz Answer: Top colleges in terms of # of NFL players on opening week rosters.

LSU 38
Southern California 37
Alabama 36
Georgia 34
Florida 33
Florida State 33
Miami 31
California 29...surprised?
Ohio State 29
Notre Dame 28
Tennessee 28

Wisconsin 27

USC, by the way, has both the highest number of QBs, 4, as well as linebackers, 9. Stanford leads with 6 at the tight end position! California leads with 5 at running back. Florida and Miami each have 7 wide receivers.

In a different category, the Bears have the most players 30 and over at 16 and it’s not even close. Next is Arizona at 13. St. Louis and Tampa Bay had the fewest at just 3.

Thanks again, Phil. Keep it comin’.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.