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[Posted late Sun. p.m.]
World Cup Quiz: Name the only three nations to win the Cup four times. Answer below.
The following is written as it happened....
The conditions for Round One were brutal...a stiff breeze wreaking havoc on the par-70 Shinnecock Hills layout that had the likes of Jordan Spieth (78), Jason Day (79), Rory McIlroy (80), Jon Rahm (78) and Tiger Woods (78) struggling mightily, while four were tied at the top at just -1...Russell Henley, Dustin Johnson, Scott Piercy and Ian Poulter.
Day Two saw much easier conditions, with an unexpected rain in the morning, but it was still difficult.
Entering the weekend:
Dustin Johnson -4
Scott Piercy Even
Charley Hoffman Even
Tommy Fleetwood +1
Henrik Stenson +1
Justin Rose +1
Brooks Koepka +1
Ian Poulter +1
An outstanding leaderboard.
Meanwhile, with the cut at +8, among those missing it were Rahm +15, Garcia +14, Kuchar +12, Day +12, Watson +11, Tiger +10 and Rory +10.
Scott Gregory, who shot an opening round 92!, recovered for a second-round 75. The 92 was the highest score in the championship since a 92 by Felix Casas in the second round at Bethpage Black in 2002.
On to Round 3...and it proved to be a freak show, as the wind returned, and Shinnecock dried out, in the afternoon, some players complaining “the course is lost,” meaning it was unplayable.
By the end, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau, who teed off in the morning, both prior to 11:00 a.m., started the day 11 shots off Dustin Johnson’s lead and proceeded to each shoot 66. Incredibly, by the end of the day, they were tied for the lead and found themselves in the final pairing.
The eight players in the final four pairings on Saturday were a combined 46-over par.
“We thought it would be a great day,” USGA CEO Mike Davis said. “Frankly, we missed it with the wind. The speed of the greens was too much for the wind we had. It was a very tough test, but probably too tough this afternoon.”
We had zero players under par through 54 holes for the first time in the Open since Oakmont in 2007.
And so entering the fourth round:
Daniel Berger +3
Tony Finau +3
Brooks Koepka +3
Dustin Johnson +3
Justin Rose +4
Henrik Stenson +5
Golf fans all had the same thing on their mind. Would we have a similar situation to Round 3, where someone shoots 66 in the morning and just sits back and watches as everyone crumbles in the crunchy, super highway, conditions in the afternoon?
Well one golfer did...Tommy Fleetwood, who started +9 and proceeded to shoot a record-tying 63 to get to +2. Would the field drop back to him? Would Fleetwood, who finished well over two hours before the final pairing, regret he had a real shot at 62?
He would. Brooks Koepka shot a final-round 69, just super golf, coming up clutch when he needed to, and one shot ahead of Fleetwood, becoming the first golfer to go back-to-back in the U.S. Open since Wake Forest’s Curtis Strange, 1988-89.
The 28-year-old Koepka now has ‘just’ three wins on the PGA Tour, but two are majors. Rather Andy North-like, only this is not Andy North. Koepka is obviously destined for a Hall of Fame career*.
*To me, two majors and ten wins is good enough in our modern era.
Dustin Johnson, who finished third at +3, didn’t choke, he just suddenly lost his putting stroke over the weekend.
As for runner-up Fleetwood, his four rounds mirrored the weather and conditions for the championship. 75-66-78-63.
Despite what is written below, Shinnecock was a big winner this week...and the USGA dodged a bullet when the winds didn’t kick up today as feared. Scoring wise, it was exactly what golf fans like to see...including a U.S. Open where no one breaks par.
In all seriousness, it’s why in all facets of life, including as a sports fan, it’s more often than not best to ‘wait 24 hours,’ your editor’s guiding dictum.
Then there was....
The Mickelson Controversy...and the USGA
Alex Miceli / Morning Read (former Golfweek writer)
“All we needed was a bearded lady and a snake charmer and the circus that was the third round of the U.S. Open would have been complete.
“Play turned comical Saturday afternoon, starting when Phil Mickelson hit a moving ball.
“Any golfer knows that such an act is an explicit no-no, even if they’re not familiar with Rule 14-5 (‘Playing Moving Ball’).
“At the time, many observers were amused as Mickelson ran after his putt as it sailed past Shinnecock Hills’ 13th hole. When he caught up to it, he decided to play hockey and hit the ball before it could roll off the green, sending the ball back past the hole.
“Mickelson clearly was frustrated with his play on his 48th birthday. The infraction would have been understandable, maybe even forgivable, knowing what winning the national championship would mean to the six-time Open runner-up.
“But then he explained his actions, which were purely arrogant.
“ ‘I don’t mean disrespect by anybody,’ said Mickelson, shortly after he shot 11-over 81, including a 10 on the par-4 13th, and tumbled into a tie for 64th. ‘I know it’s a two-shot penalty. At that time, I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over. I took the two-shot penalty and moved on. It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that; I just finally did it.’
“After the round, Mickelson said he called Mike Davis, the USGA’s chief executive, to clarify his actions.
“Does Mickelson have that big of an ego that he thinks he is bigger than the game and knows the rules better than anyone else? He was disrespectful to the game, the U.S. Open, golf fans and his competitors.
“You have to wonder what his brother and caddie Tim Mickelson would have done with a player who would purposely hit a moving ball when he was the head coach at Arizona State.
“In the second ring of the U.S. Open three-ring circus sits the USGA’s response to Mickelson’s actions.
“As Mickelson was finishing his round, the USGA supposedly held a meeting of the rules committee and determined that a two-shot penalty should be assessed under Rule 14-5. Mickelson was not disqualified under Rule 1-2 (‘Exerting Influence on Movement of Ball or Altering Physical Conditions’), because the committee decided that he didn’t purposely deflect or stop the ball.
“The committee members must have been clairvoyant. They didn’t talk with Mickelson, who was finishing his round. How they knew what Mickelson might be thinking was unclear.
“After the round, the USGA held a news conference and said that when Mickelson hit the moving ball, he was committing a stroke. Because he made a stroke, the USGA said, that was why it didn’t disqualify him.
“How about the act itself and his sheer disregard for the game?
“ ‘Does the penalty fit the crime?’ said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s managing director of championship and governance. ‘I’ll let others decide.’
“Part of the USGA’s mission is to protect the game. With this incident, the USGA failed.
“An unapologetic Mickelson explained his actions to the media, but with Mickelson there’s always an ulterior motive. In this case, it might have been his view of the golf course setup.
“The USGA promised anyone who would listen that it would not repeat the final-round mistakes made here during the 2004 U.S. Open. In that Open, the seventh green became unplayable, required a mid-round watering, which disadvantaged the early players.
“For about half of Saturday’s round, Shinnecock Hills was under control. As Mickelson was explaining his actions to the media, golfers who were finishing play stated what the leaderboard was confirming: the USGA had lost the course....
“When second-round leader Dustin Johnson made the turn at 6-over 41, the players’ complaints had been validated.
“The USGA conceded that some of the greens were over the top and that good shots not only went unrewarded but in some cases were penalized.
“But again, officials parsed their words and said that what happened on Saturday was not similar to the Sunday in 2004 because they didn’t need to put water on the greens between groups.
“I’m sure anyone who was playing after noon would disagree with that assessment....
“In the end, the lack of moisture in the greens once again was the culprit, just as it was in 2004. The advanced technology that had been installed at the course failed, resulting in inequities for the leaders who played later Saturday.
“Phil Mickelson, the rules committee and the USGA showed poor judgment Saturday, and their collective arrogance failed the game.
“At this point, you have to wonder whether the USGA is the proper organization to run this championship.”
Mickelson also said after his round concerning the rules breach: “If somebody is offended by that, I apologize to them, but toughen up. This is not meant that way. It’s’ just simply that I wanted to get on to the next hole and I didn’t see that happening at the time. I’ll gladly take my two strokes and move on.”
Ian O’Connor / ESPN.com
“Those are the first two words Phil Mickelson should say publicly Sunday morning after a fitful night of sleep.
“Those are the next words Mickelson should say on his way out of the U.S. Open and into a better and brighter tomorrow.
“Mickelson made a mockery of his sport’s national championship on his 48th birthday, and he should now do the honorable thing and remove himself from the tournament...
“The cover-up is always worse than the crime. Mickelson turned the one major championship he has failed to win into a mini-golf misadventure, minus the windmill and clown’s mouth. Now it’s time for him to pick up his ball and go home....
“ ‘I don’t mean it [to be] disrespectful. If you’re taking it that way, that’s not on me. I’m sorry you’re taking it that way. It’s certainly not meant that way. Sometimes in these situations it’s just easier to take the two shots and move on.’
“Actually, sometimes in these situations it’s just easier to tell the truth, apologize and withdraw....
“Asked if he is concerned that his standing as a wildly entertaining player might’ve taken a lethal strike, Mickelson had the audacity to suggest that those who had a problem with his stunt needed to quit acting like wimps.
“ ‘I don’t see how,’ the five-time major champ said of potential harm to his reputation, ‘and if somebody’s offended by that, I apologize to them. But toughen up because this is not meant that way. It’s just simply, I wanted to get on to the next hole, and I didn’t see that happening at the time.’”
The problem with Phil’s story about knowing the impact of the penalty is that his playing partner, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, said he told Mickelson, “Sorry, but I can’t help but laugh at that. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.” Johnston also had this to say of his exchange with Mickelson: “He said, ‘I don’t know what that is. I don’t know what score that is or what happens now.’ And he started speaking to the rules official. It was a strange moment.”
“No, as Mickelson’s Tuesday golfing partner Tom Brady once said, ‘This isn’t ISIS. No one’s dying.’ Mickelson’s legacy as an all-time great and all-time lover of all things New York doesn’t go up in smoke because he lost his cool like an overheated motorist on the Long Island Expressway. But he should have come clean on what was clear to all astonished witnesses....
“Mickelson did himself no favors by saying that he should’ve called his audible a couple of times at the 15th hole at the Masters. (Yeah, that would’ve gone over well with the green jackets.) When he was finished selling his story to reporters outside the scoring room, Mickelson accommodated an endless line of thrilled autograph seekers and heard one man invite him to the beach for a beer.
“Phil always does the right thing for the fans. Now it’s time for him to do the right thing for the game by saying he’s sorry, saying goodbye and telling everyone that he looks forward to seeing them at Pebble Beach next June.”
Brian Wacker / Golf World
“(In doing what Phil did) it was an act of disrespect, goes against the spirit of the rules and it provided an example of how not to conduct oneself at his age or anyone else’s. This was give-up stuff, unprofessional and pure nonsense. The explanation straight from the principal’s office....
“(This is) Mickelson, an ambassador of golf and World Golf Hall of Famer, the same guy who once looked at Arnold Palmer and said I wanna be like that guy. Thumbs up? Try two thumbs down.
“ ‘Toughen up,’ Mickelson said at one point to those offended by what he did. Ironic from someone who hit the ball while it was still moving to avoid having to play a tougher shot....
“ ‘I don’t believe he really knows that rule,’ the USGA’s former chief executive David Fay said on Fox of Mickelson. “I think his explanation made things complicated. I would’ve thought long and hard about it and after hearing everything I’ve heard I would’ve lobbied for disqualification.’”
[David Fay was outstanding Saturday, ditto the Fox team of Buck, Azinger, and Strange.]
Josh Peter / USA TODAY
“Phil Mickelson turned 48 on Saturday. Now he needs to grow up....
“While Mickelson played the role of the punky reform school kid, the USGA played the role of enabling parent....
“During a session with the media after his round of 11-over Saturday that left him 17 over for the tournament, Mickelson apologized to those who might have taken what he did at hole No. 13 ‘the wrong way.’ But of those same people, Mickelson later said, ‘Toughen up.’
“The appropriate response: ‘Grow up.’”
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“Mickelson, mostly, has led an exemplary golfing life, even if his failures have become a little Shakespearean through the years. You’ll recall the blockheaded way he all but kicked away the 2006 Open at Winged Foot on the 72nd hole, and how he gave a quote for the ages afterward, one that belongs in Bartlett’s: ‘I’m such an idiot.’
“He actually would’ve been better off repeating those four words Saturday as opposed to his tedious defense that he meant no offense, that he knew the rules, that other people should ‘toughen up’ if they took umbrage at his behavior. And while it’s true golfing folks tend to take themselves more seriously than Constitutional Law, this is also true:
“Have you ever seen that before? Ever? Especially from someone who is probably one of the 20 or so best players who ever have lived?....
“ ‘It wasn’t disrespectful of me or the Open,’ (Andrew) Johnston insisted, and if the man who was closest to Mickelson during his meltdown can feel that way, perhaps the rest of us can take a deep breath, too....
“Of course, all the way on the other end of the leaderboard, Dustin Johnson also reminded us what a maddening game golf can be, and it’s Johnson, not Mickelson, who is supposed to be the sport’s loveable knucklehead.
“Somehow, Johnson didn’t lose his mind. Not for the whole world to see, anyway.”
As for my opinion...I like Lefty. I think some of my friends misunderstand my hero worship of the guy. I just want what is best for the sport. If Mickelson and Woods are playing well, on the weekend, how is that not good?
But, just as in the case of Tiger, I have chronicled a lion’s share of Phil’s career in these very pages...good and bad. There is Good Phil...and A-hole Phil...it’s all here. And what we saw Saturday was clearly A-hole Phil.
Aside from my ‘wait 24 hours’ principle, one of my guiding thoughts is ‘What would Arnie do?’ Well, we know what he would have told Phil on Saturday. “You freakin’ jerk!!!”
There is zero defense for Mickelson’s actions. He should have indeed withdrawn Sunday morning.
Instead, he has hurt his image, including with his many sponsors. He can’t just laugh it off. He disgraced the game.
But I’ll bring up something you haven’t seen anywhere else. I have to believe wife Amy is blasting him bigly. Jacking him up against the wall...ditto his eldest daughter.
“You acted like a jerk, Dad!” [As they are thinking, ‘You cost the family money, too.’]
*Amy Mickelson defended her husband, but publicly she had to.
--It’s clear...Tiger Woods could easily not win another tournament the rest of his career after observing him this year. And another major? That’s now a stretch.
We’ve seen some great play by Tiger in some events, but there has been zero consistency, except you can say he’s been consistently bad on the greens. You can’t win without having a consistent all-around week and Tiger’s window is closing.
I want the guy to succeed. It will just make watching the sport better. He brings the juice. But while I was optimistic before, I no longer am.
--Matt Bonesteel had a piece in the Washington Post on the traffic nightmares players, and fans, had to deal with and how some of the golfers found accommodations near the club, like renting villas at next-door Sebonack. But I loved this bit:
“Jason Day, Jimmy Walker and Bubba Watson, meanwhile, are avoiding the traffic by staying in RVs stationed right near the course’s parking lot. Day is a noted RV enthusiast and uses his to get to around 15 PGA Tour events per year, while Watson just joined the club this year and perhaps is still working on his RV-community manners.
“ ‘Bubba just got one this year, and I’m very kind of more private, and he’s – he’s – yeah, he’s a little bit more outgoing,’ Day said Tuesday. ‘And I think we’re at Augusta, and he walks under my bus, and he’s like, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing? I’m just sitting in the bus watching TV. He’s like okay. And he’s standing there. And I’m like, ‘Do you want to come inside?’ And he’s eating a burrito, and he decides to come in and talk to me for about 30 minutes. He gets his burrito all over the ground and then just leaves. Actually, it’s nice to have people like that around, you know, to mess your buss up when you need them to.’”
--Lastly, I thought Fox’s coverage all around was outstanding. I’ve always been a Joe Buck fan and I get a kick out of how some who ridicule him. Who’s better, cynics? There might be equals, like Jim Nantz, but Nantz, as good as he is, has little sense of humor. He is skilled and knows exactly what he needs to do to keep cashing in a tremendous check every year. Buck, at least, isn’t afraid to take a risk now and then. [His quip on Curtis today, and taking questions, was superb.]
And then there’s Holly Sonders. I’m about to lose my remaining female readers with this, and I apologize ahead of time, but for us guys, any day with a Holly Sonders sighting is a good one. [Apologies to Mr. Sonders, who is entitled to hack into the site and destroy me.]
But here’s the deal. Back at the end of 1999, I said Peggy Fleming was the Most Beautiful American Woman of the Century, and Sophia Loren was the winner in the International category.
Holly Sonders is hands-down the Most Beautiful Woman of the 21st Century. And she does her job well...which I do recognize is more important.
The sport has a problem. Commissioner Rob Manfred has a problem. Strikeouts are at an all-time high and still rising, and the league wide batting of .244 entering Sunday’s play was the lowest it has been in 46 years and roughly the same as it was in 1907, in the heart of the Dead Ball Era. There are also fewer balls in play than at any other point in the game’s history, as noted the other day by Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post.
Many are blaming the prevalence of the defensive shift, the use of which is also at an all-time high, an average of 17 percent of all plate appearances this season.
When Manfred first took over from Bud Selig as commissioner, he told ESPN that when it came to shifts, “I would be open” to eliminating them, which would constitute the game’s biggest rule change since the adoption of the DH in 1973. He just might have to.
But the combination of the above is disconcertingly leading to a 6.6% drop in attendance entering Friday, according to Stats LLC. The sport hasn’t seen a drop of more than 6.7% in a single season since 1995, when the average crowd fell nearly 20% following the player strike that canceled the 1994 World Series. Throughout this decade, attendance had remained steady, never deviating more than 1.9% in either direction. [Crowds sank 0.7% last year and 0.8% the year before that.]
So as I noted a few weeks ago, weather obviously has been a factor. It was atrocious in a number of markets in both April and May. But then you have attendance in Toronto, which has a retractable roof...down 29%. Ditto Pittsburgh (not in the roof part)...down a like amount.
Needless to say, attendance will be watched closely this summer, and it’s not going to be easy to see a bump up with six teams – the Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Reds, Marlin and Rangers – with winning percentages below .400.
There are some teams drawing well. Milwaukee is up nearly 20% and the Yankees 11.6%.
--Meanwhile, as for the play on the field...
Friday night, the Yankees sent 23-year-old Jonathan Loaisiga to the mound for his major league debut, despite the fact he hadn’t pitched above Double-A, and all he did was throw five scoreless in New York’s 5-0 win; Gary Sanchez with a three-run double.
Loaisiga, a native of Nicaragua, began the season with Single-A Tampa and was called up from Double-A Trenton to fill in for the injured Masahiro Tanaka.
Saturday, the Yanks won 4-1 behind Luis Severino’s 8 shutout innings, Severino now 10-2, 2.09.
But today, Tampa Bay won 3-1, while Boston was beating the Mariners, 9-3, as Eduardo Rodriguez improved to 9-1, 3.59.
Yankees 46-21 --
Red Sox 49-24 --
--As for the Mets, they hadn’t scored four runs in a game since June 1, three runs or fewer in their previous 11 games, until Saturday, when they broke through for a 5-1win against the Diamondbacks in Arizona, just the Mets’ second win in 14 games, 29-38 after their 11-1 start.
And then, out of nowhere, after the U.S. Open had wrapped up, I flipped on the Metsies and lo and behold, they rallied for four in the top of the ninth for a dramatic 5-3 win.
Back-to-back games of five runs!!! I was about to pack it in for the season...really...and now, as Jesse Jackson famously said at the Democratic National Convention (in whatever year that was), “Keep Hope Alive! Keep Hope Alive!”
But you still have the pathetic case of ace Jacob deGrom, who over his last 10 starts has an ERA of 0.87, allowing six earned runs in 62 1/3, yet after the Mets lost Wednesday to Atlanta, 2-0, in his latest outing, the team is 2-8 in the ten. [It is the worst record over a pitcher’s ten starts with that kind of ERA in baseball history, at least since 1913.]
--The Dodgers beat Madison Bumgarner on Saturday night, 3-1, before a sellout crowd of 53,706 in Dodger Stadium. [So good crowds are still possible.] It was L.A.’s 21st win in 27 games since May 17, and they’ve hit a major league-high 34 homers in 13 June games, Matt Kemp homering Saturday.
So the Dodgers (37-33...after a 4-1 loss to San Fran today) continue to play great without Clayton Kershaw, a multi-year pattern at this point.
--On Saturday, Washington lost to the Blue Jays, 2-0, and it was the second straight time that Max Scherzer lost an outing by the identical score, Scherzer losing two in a row for the first time in nearly three years, falling to 10-3.
Sunday, as the Nats lost again to the Blue Jays, 8-6, Bryce Harper went 0-for-4, his average now .217!
There is a disturbing pattern for the supposed, soon-to-be, $30 million+ a year free agent.
Check it out:
2015 ... .330 BA, 42 HR 99 RBI, 1.109 OPS
2016 ... .243... .814 OPS in 147 games
2017 ... .319, 29-87, 1.008 ...in 111 games
2018 ... .217, 19-43, .834
You going to give this guy seven years at $30-$35 million a year, or more? No freakin’ way.
--In the College World Series, this weekend, North Carolina beat the Beavers of Oregon State, 8-6; Mississippi State edged Washington 1-0; and Arkansas beat Texas 11-5.
The way this was setting up, it was clear the tournament within the tournament was between the two greatest players of the past decade...Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
And boy did Ronaldo send a signal he is the GOAT, Greatest of All Time. I watched Friday’s terrific Spain-Portugal match, and Ronaldo’s phenomenal tying goal in the 88th minute is one soccer/football fans will remember forever, the free kick a thing of beauty that gave Portugal a crucial 3-3 draw against Spain.
Ronaldo also completed the hat trick, the oldest player in World Cup history at 33 to do so.
Spain badly needed a win after the federation inexplicably fired coach Julen Lopetegui two days before its tournament debut for accepting a job with Real Madrid without letting it know in advance. Fernando Hierro, a former player, was picked as Lopetegui’s replacement, though he’s had no significant coaching experience.
[Lopetegui obviously should have been allowed to coach through the World Cup.]
But both Portugal and Spain are expected to share first and second in the group and advance to the knockout round, the other two teams they’ll face being Iran and Morocco.
These two also played Friday and Iran won just the second World Cup match in its history, a 1-0 win over Morocco when Aziz Bouohaddouz headed a free kick into his own net in the fifth minute of injury time to give Iran the gift victory.
Saturday, we then had little Iceland going up against mighty Argentina and Messi, and in what can only be described as one of the better “moral victories” in recent memory, Iceland earned a 1-1 draw against their far higher-ranked opponent as Lionel Messi was denied on a penalty kick in the second half by goalie Hans Halldorsson. I thought it was a tougher save than some of the press seems to think it was, but I can guarantee you, Halldorsson will get all the free beer he ever wants back home, and in very expensive Iceland, that’s a huge deal.
In other important matches, Uruguay beat Egypt 1-0, with Egyptian star Mohamed Salah on the bench with his shoulder injury that he suffered in Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid.
Denmark spoiled Peru’s first World Cup game since 1982 (which is kind of staggering) with a 1-0 victory on Saturday.
Today, Serbia beat Costa Rica 1-0, and then Mexico shocked defending champion Germany by the same score; a tremendous win for our friends to the south.
And Switzerland tied pre-tournament favorite Brazil, 1-1! Huge for the cheese and watchmakers.
What an opening to the Cup!!! Catch the fever, boys and girls.
In the tourney opener, Thursday, host Russia, the worst-ranked team in the field, destroyed Saudi Arabia 5-0.
Back to Ronaldo, his heroics came just hours after reports said his representatives reached a deal with Spanish authorities to pay a $21.8 million fine with a two-year suspended prison sentence in a tax evasion case. Under Spanish law, as a first-time offender, he can serve the sentence on probation.
The draft is coming up this week, but while free agency doesn’t start until July, the off-season began on Friday amid multiple reports that Kawhi Leonard has requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs. It’s a seismic move. We’re talking one of the best players in the game. Forget that he played only nine games last season due to a quadriceps injury. I’m sure he’s fine. There was just something strange going on last year between him and coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford. Heretofore, Leonard had been the perfect team soldier, busting his ass every game, never complaining.
So he’s as attractive as anyone will be in the free-agent market, except LeBron, and Leonard, a Southern California native, would no doubt prefer to be traded to the Lakers.
While Leonard is under contract for another season in San Antonio, NBA players have a tremendous amount of leverage in terms of their ability to demand trades.
The Lakers could trade for Leonard and still have cap space to go after both LeBron and Paul George. How’s that for a triumvirate.
Or the Spurs could trade Leonard to Boston, or Philadelphia, where he would fit in beautifully with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Then again, Leonard could opt to re-sign with the Spurs this summer, and take a “supermax” contract extension, a five-year deal worth $219 million that only San Antonio can offer, under the NBA’s salary guidelines.
--We note the passing of former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Keith Fahnhorst, 66. No cause was given.
Fahnhorst won two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the franchise and was an All-Pro in 1984.
He retired because of a neck injury in ’87 and dealt with neurological problems after his career. Teammate Dwight Clark died just two weeks ago of Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 61.
--I loved this movie review by Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post:
“I’d rather wake up next to a severed horse head than ever watch ‘Gotti’ again.
“The worst movie of the year so far, the long-awaited biopic about the Gambino crime boss’ rise from made man to top dog took four directors, 44 producers and eight years to make.
“It shows. The finished product belongs in a cement bucket at the bottom of the river.
“Keeping this Mafioso mess alive throughout all the turmoil has been John Travolta, playing John Gotti. Travolta, who’s made a career out of Italian stereotypes, obviously thought the Dapper Don would be his Don Corleone. It’s his Chef Boyardee.
“In one scene, he yells ‘whatsamattayou?!’ and slaps one of his minions. In another, after John ‘Junior’ Gotti starts a bar fight where a guy winds up dead, Travolta screams, ‘You c—ksucker! This is gonna ruin your life!’ and again slaps him in the face.
“His performance is a leather-faced freak show. And the plot is nonsensical....
“It’s the worst mob movie ever...”
--From the New York Daily News”
“A 23-foot python has swallowed a woman in central Indonesia, a village official said Saturday. The victim, 54-year-old Wa Tiba, went missing while checking her vegetable garden near her village on Muna island in Southeast Sulawesi province on Thursday evening, according to the village chief, Faris. [Dude goes by one name.]
“On Friday, her family went to look for her at the garden but found only her belongings, including sandals and a flashlight.
“The family and villagers launched a search for the woman, and found the snake with a bloated belly about 50 yards from where her belongings were found.
“The villagers killed the snake and carried it to the village.
“ ‘When they cut open the snake’s belly they found Tiba’s body still intact with all her clothes,’ Faris said. ‘She was swallowed first from her head.’”
Huh...wonder how that happened?
Apparently there are videos online of the villagers cutting open the snake to reveal the woman’s body...which is kind of like the GEICO commercial where the guy is pulled out of the sofa...though admittedly more violent and not suitable for this column.
Last March, a 25-year-old man was swallowed whole by a python in West Sulawesi province.
Remind me the next time I go to the area, not to peer into caves, which is apparently where the pythons hangs out, waiting for stupid mammals.
--Two more great white sharks are being tracked off the east coast, this time off North Carolina, the Myrtle Beach Sun-News reported, including a 12 ½-foot monster; all part of the expected summer offensive off Montauk, Long Island, and then Cape Cod. A force of 5,500 great whites is expected to mass, unleashing horrific attacks on Little Timmy and Sweet Susie.
Of course this is what I hope for during Web Sweeps Week, July 2-6.
--Brad K. passed on a piece from the Athens (Ga.)-Banner Herald.
“A rabid bobcat recently attacked a Hart County grandmother in her yard, spurring a furious battle that ended with the cat’s strangulation death.
“ ‘I thought, ‘Not today.’ There was no way I was going to die,’ DeDe Phillips said Thursday as she recalled the attack.
“Phillips has begun a round of rabies shot... She also has a broken finger, and numerous bite and claw wounds to her hands, arms, chest and legs....
“The unprovoked attack occurred about 6 p.m. She had been working on her truck that afternoon and posted a bumper sticker that read: ‘Women who behave rarely make history.’
“ ‘My neighbor’s dog was barking and it drew my attention,’ she said. ‘I saw the cat and I took a picture. The cat took two steps and was on top of me. ...It came for my face.’”
Phillips’ father-in-law was once a trapper of bobcats and she knew something about the animal’s behavior.
“ ‘They go for your jugular...because when they can get the vein you’re dead in a couple of minutes,’ she said.
“This bobcat did go for her upper body.
“ ‘It caught me slightly on my face, but I got him before he could do much damage there,’ she said. ‘I took it straight to the ground and started inching my hands up to its throat. I knew that was the only way I was getting out of this.’”
--We note the passing of D.J. Fontana, a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer who rose from strip joints in his native Shreveport, La., to become Elvis Presley’s first and longtime drummer. He was 87.
Presley’s former wife, Priscilla, issued a statement calling Fontana “a tremendously talented musician and a wonderful man.”
Fontana, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, was the last surviving member of Elvis’ original core of musicians. He met Presley and the others on the “Louisiana Hayride,” an influential radio and TV country music program based in Shreveport.
Then 19-year-old Presley had been recording and touring since the summer of 1954 with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, the musicians Sun Records founder Sam Phillips brought in after Presley turned up at the Memphis, Tenn.-based label’s studio.
The Blue Moon Boys, as they called themselves, were missing something, something crucial.
The Band’s Levon Helm told the Associated Press in 2004, “Elvis and Scotty and Bill were making good music, but it wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll until D.J. put the backbeat into it.”
Fontana became a permanent fixture in 1955 and stayed with Presley through much of the 1960s. He was there for Presley’s first wave of success, from such hit singles as “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” to his increasingly frenzied live shows and hip-shaking performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other TV programs. And he was on the “comeback” Christmas TV special of 1968 that featured Presley and fellow musicians jamming on a tiny stage before a studio audience, with Fontana keeping time on a guitar case.
That Christmas show (which if you haven’t seen a tape of it, look it up) was widely cited for reviving Presley’s career and it was his first live performance in years, but the last time Moore and Fontana worked with Elvis, who died in 1977.
Top 3 songs for the week 6/20/64: #1 “Chapel Of Love” (The Dixie Cups) #2 “A World Without Love” (Peter and Gordon) #3 “I Get Around” (The Beach Boys)...and...#4 “Love Me With All Your Heart” (The Ray Charles Singers) #5 “My Boy Lollipop” (Millie Small) #6 “Walk On By” (Dionne Warwick) #7 “Love Me Do” (The Beatles) #8 “People” (Barbra Streisand) #9 “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” (Gerry and The Pacemakers) #10 “Diane” (The Bachelors)
World Cup Quiz Answer: Only three four-time winners...
Brazil 5 (in 7 finals)
Germany 4 (8)
Italy 4 (6)
Incredibly, England has won the Cup just once, 1966...its only final.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday...a highly abbreviated one.