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A Good Sunday for the NFL
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Philadelphia Eagles Quiz: Kind of easy. 1) Name the four to throw for 15,000 yards in an Eagles uniform (also the only four with 100 TD passes). 2) Name the four to rush for 5,000 yards (one an old-timer, but Hall of Famer). Answers below.
[I’ll get into the playoff picture following tonight’s Cowboys-Raiders game, and tomorrow’s Falcons-Bucs contest.]
--Boy, the NFL got a real shot in the arm with the finish to Pittsburgh-New England, the Pats a stunning 27-24 winner on a last-play pick of a Ben Roethlisberger pass when it appeared the Steelers were going to tie it up and send this terrific game into OT.
After watching the 1:00 contests, I had to do my Mom-care thing at the local nursing home, but thankfully she has a terrific television so I caught the second quarter and part of the third there, before rushing home for the rest.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski masterfully picked up 11 points in three minutes to overcome a 24-16 deficit, taking the lead at the 0:56 mark.
But then Roethlisberger and JuJu-Smith Schuster hooked up on a spectacular 69-yard pass play (all Schuster), to set the Steelers up at the New England 10. Big Ben then hit tight end Jesse James for an apparent 10-yard score and the lead, but it was ruled (correctly) that James didn’t have possession through the play as he crossed the goal line and as for the rest and the interception that ended it, Roethlisberger picked off in the end zone when he could have spiked it and kicked the game-tying field goal, they’ll be talking about this one for a long time, assuming New England now goes on to gain home-field advantage, both 11-3 but the Pats with the tie-breaker.
Much more on this next time.
Meanwhile, the Steelers and their fans are worried sick about the status of star receiver Antonio Brown, who went out with a left calf injury.
--The Los Angeles Rams are now 10-4 after a 42-7 win over the Seattle, 8-6, dealing the Seahawks a potentially fatal blow for their playoff hopes; outgained 352-149. It was the Todd Gurley II show, 152 yards rushing and 3 TDs, plus another touchdown receiving. [Fantasy heaven.]
--Steve G.’s Jacksonville Jaguars are 10-4 after a 45-7 mauling of 4-10 Houston, the much-maligned Blake Bortles with his third straight great effort, 21/29, 326, 3-0, 143.8.
Steve was once again reporting in from a sports bar in Denver, first notifying me of Tommy Bohanon’s two one-yard touchdown carries, Bohanon a Wake Forest alum.
But the star, aside from Bortles, was unsung receiver Keelan Cole out of Kentucky Wesleyan who had seven receptions for 186 yards and a TD.
--Green Bay (7-7) is out of the picture, in all reality, after a 31-24 loss to the Panthers (10-4). Aaron Rodgers returned, 26/45, 290 and three touchdowns, but three picks. Not good. Cam Newton threw for four touchdowns.
Afterwards we learned that Carolina’s 81-year-old owner Jerry Richardson is being forced to sell the team due to a sexual misconduct investigation. More on this too, later.
--Minnesota is still in the running for home-field advantage at 11-3 after a 34-7 win over the Bengals (5-9), as Case Keenum rebounded from a poor outing last week to go 20/23, 236, 2-0, 138.4. For Cincy, “Bad Andy” showed up, Dalton 11/22, 113, 0-2, 27.3. That blows, sports fans.
--Baltimore remained in the conversation at 8-6 with a 27-10 win over 0-14 Cleveland.
--Ditto Buffalo, also 8-6, 24-16 winners at home over Miami (6-8) as the Dolphins’ Jay Cutler threw three picks, while the Bills’ LeSean McCoy passed the 10,000-yard mark for his career, though he was only 20 carries for 50. But he had a TD rushing and one receiving.
Actually, as of now, Buffalo is in, Baltimore a slot behind in the 7-hole.
--San Francisco seems to have made a brilliant move in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo, now 5-0 career as a starter and three straight since taking the helm in San Fran (4-10), 23-22 winners today over the Titans (8-6) in dramatic fashion. Garoppolo drove the 49ers into field goal range for Robbie Gould after Tennessee had taken a 22-20 lead on a 50-yard Ryan Succup field goal with 1:07 left. Gould hit a career high six FGs on the day.
49ers fans have a right to be fired up about the future, Garoppolo throwing for 381 yards and no picks.
Gotta admit...I love this story.
--The Eagles won their first under backup Nick Foles to get to 12-2; 34-29 victors over the Giants (2-12) with Foles throwing 4 touchdown passes, no interceptions. In defeat Eli Manning was 37/57, 434, 3-1. The Giants are now gunning for the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft and Eli’s successor.
--Once again the NFL scheduled the Jets and Giants at the same time, which sucks, but I bounced around both and while losing 31-19 to the Saints in New Orleans, at least my now 5-9 Jets were competitive. Bryce Petty was far from good, but he wasn’t awful despite the 49.0 rating (19/39, 179, 1-2). He made some good throws, just not enough of them. I hope he plays well the last two to solidify a contract as a backup. He can get better and still have a long career.
[Thinking of the Petty family...another free feature of Bar Chat.]
Meanwhile, the Jets lost because they didn’t take advantage of three New Orleans turnovers, the Saints now 10-4.
Separately, the Jets’ once-star lineman, Muhammad Wilkerson, is a late entrant into the December file for both “Jerk of the Year” and “A-hole,” having been suspended for the game against the Saints after he showed up late for practice, again. Wilkerson is blatantly disrespecting Todd Bowles.
There was a time Wilkerson was one of the top lineman in the game, a Pro Bowler in 2015, but then he signed a five-year contract, earning $37 million the first two years, 2016-17, while playing like he didn’t give a damn, and, shockingly, he would earn $16.75 million next season if he was playing to his potential, but now the Jets can quickly cut him at season’s end and take a relatively minimal cap hit vs. the $20 million he would take up otherwise.
The thing is, Wilkerson has now been late for meetings three straight seasons, and this was the second time this year for him, thus the suspension for an entire game. As the Star-Ledger’s Darryl Slater stated, “It is a baffling level of selfishness.”
--Saturday, the Detroit Lions stayed alive at 8-6 with a 20-10 win over the Bears (4-10) as Matthew Stafford had a solid game, 25/33, 237, 2-0, 115.3, while Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky was picked off three times and the Bears managed only 43 yards on the ground.
Then last night in an important one, San Diego (7-7) picked the wrong time to play one of its worst games of the season, falling to the Chiefs (8-6) 30-13 in a battle for the AFC West lead.
San Diego held a 13-10 lead midway through the third before the Chiefs rolled as they picked off Philip Rivers three times and Austin Ekeler coughed up a fumble. Six of Rivers’ 10 interceptions this season have come in the two games against K.C. as he came into the contest red hot...8 TDs, 0 INTs during a four-game winning streak that got San Diego back into the race.
For the Chiefs, Kareem Hunt rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown, plus he had 7 receptions for 51 and another score.
--Sports Illustrated had a graphic on just how many key players are either out for the year, or missed substantial time this season. Just a few:
Ryan Shazier (PIT), Brandon Marshall (NYG), Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) Richard Sherman (SEA), Allen Robinson (JAX), J.J. Watt (HOU), David Johnson (ARI), Sam Bradford (MIN), Jason Peters (PHI), Carson Palmer (ARI), Dalvin Cook (MIN), Eric Berry (KC), Deshaun Watson (HOU), Carson Wentz (PHI), Aaron Rodgers (GB), Greg Olsen (CAR), Julian Edelman (NE).
--We note the passing of the great linebacker Tommy Nobis, 74. Why this guy isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame I’ll never know, but it’s a travesty.
Nobis has his No. 60 retired at the University of Texas, where he starred on both sides of the line, winning the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best all-around player and the Outland Trophy as top lineman his senior year, even though he played with a knee injury. He finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting, best among those who played on defense, and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
So the expansion Falcons picked him first overall in the fall of 1965, ahead of that franchise’s first season in ’66, but he was also tabbed by the Houston Oilers, setting up a bidding war.
As the Associated Press noted in his obituary, “While orbiting Earth in his Gemini spacecraft, the astronaut Frank Borman – whose two sons were ball boys for the Oilers – urged Nobis to sign with Houston.”
But he signed with Atlanta and would become “Mr. Falcon,” playing his entire 11-year career there. He was among the first inductees into the team’s “Ring of Honor” in 2004.
Nobis, a middle linebacker, had the misfortune to play in the shadows of Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, Tommy never getting a chance to play for a great NFL team; Atlanta going a cumulative 50-100-4 during his career, with only two winning seasons, and this appears to be the stupid reason he’s not in the Hall. I have to admit, I never thought about this or I would have been screaming for years.
Consider his rookie year, where, unofficially, he was credited with more than 21 solo and assisted tackles a game!
I was a fan of this unsung superstar because his was one of the first football cards I remember vividly when I started collecting them.
Sadly, Nobis suffered from dementia and other neurological disorders in his final years. When the Falcons made the Super Bowl last season, his wife told The Houston Chronicle that she was not sure if he had any idea what his former team had accomplished.
--Mount Union won its 13th NCAA Division III championship Friday night, defeating last year’s champ, Mary Hardin-Baylor, 12-0 in Salem, Virginia.
The Purple Raiders (15-0) lost in the semifinals to Mary Hardin last season; the Crusaders (14-1) having their 29-game winning streak snapped this go ‘round.
--And in the FCS (Div. I-AA) playoffs, mighty No. 1 James Madison (14-0) won its 26th straight, tying an FCS record, 51-16 over fifth-seeded South Dakota State (11-3) in the semifinals. They will now face No. 2 seed North Dakota State (13-1 and 55-13 winners over Sam Houston State), in a rematch of last year’s semifinal, won by the Dukes as they then went on to take the national title. [North Dakota State having won each of the previous five years.]
But get this, in Saturday’s game, JMU forced ten turnovers! S.D. State committed five on their first five drives of the game, yet the Dukes only had seven points to show for it. JMU then rolled to a 30-0 third quarter.
James Madison entered the game with the best scoring defense in the FCS, allowing just 10.3 points per game, with 25 interceptions.
So on to what should be a titanic title game, Jan. 6, noon ET, in Frisco, Texas. I’m kind of psyched. You can be sure it will be better than the NFL wild-card games that day.
--I couldn’t care less about most of the bowl games, but I do have to note No. 25 Boise State (11-3) defeated Oregon (7-6), 38-28, in the Las Vegas Bowl, with Brett Rypien throwing for 362 yards and two touchdowns. It’s one of those important wins for recruiting, and it clinches the Broncos’ third Top 25 ranking in six seasons. Plus they have all 11 defenders back next season, so they’ll be making a run at a New Year’s Six bowl game.
--Marshall (8-5) beat Colorado State (7-6) 31-28 in Albuquerque, which I only mention because the Thundering Herd are 11-2 in bowl games, and 5-0 under coach Doc Holliday. As Ronald Reagan would have said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--And Troy finishes 11-2 with a 50-30 win over North Texas (9-5) at the Superdome.
--Wow, yesterday was a bad day for your editor and his “Picks to Click.”
Oklahoma (8-1) took out No. 3 Wichita State (8-2) 91-83 in Wichita as the nation got a good look at freshman sensation Trae Young, who had 29 points and 10 assists for the Sooners. Young had 16 points in the first nine minutes and has scored at least 28 points in seven consecutive games. At one point late, the Shockers were down 80-63 before making it seem closer than it actually was.
And Rutgers (10-3) upset No. 15 Seton Hall (9-2) 71-65 at the RAC, with Corey Sanders coming up big with a season-high 22 points, giving the Scarlet Knights their first win over a ranked opponent since 2015. Great win for Rutgers and a great game for New Jersey hoops, as fans’ allegiances in the state are essentially divided between these two.
For the Pirates, Angel Delgado had 21 rebounds, but only 7 points, and senior Khadeen Carrington was just 4 of 17 from the field, continuing a worrisome trend. The guy is just way off in his shooting compared to prior years and it’s the senior leadership on this team that I’ve pegged my Final Four prediction on.
Also Saturday, Indiana (6-5) picked up an important win for its struggling program, 80-77 in overtime against 18 Notre Dame (8-3).
And Oklahoma State (8-2) upset No. 19 Florida State 71-70, handing the Seminoles their first loss, now 9-1.
UNC-Greensboro (8-3) upset North Carolina State (8-3) 81-76, though the Wolfpack were playing without point guard Markell Johnson, who was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
Jim Boeheim and Patrick Ewing squared off against each other for the first time in ages, Ewing now the coach at Georgetown, and this one was entertaining, the Orange (9-1) coming away with an 86-79 win over the Hoyas (8-1) in D.C. Syracuse looks like they have another intriguing team that could make some noise come March. Georgetown, not so much, but they played hard.
Lastly, today, No. 5 Arizona State moved to 10-0 with a 76-64 win over Vanderbilt (3-7), while 7 North Carolina (10-1) defeated 20 Tennessee (7-2) 78-73.
--My New York Knickerbockers have suddenly won four in a row to move to 16-13, winning just their second game on the road against the Nets Thursday, 111-104, and then beating the Thunder (14-15) 111-96 in Carmelo Anthony’s homecoming at the Garden, Melo going just 5 of 18 from the field, while the enigmatic Michael Beasley, subbing for the injured Kristaps Porzingis (what else), poured in 30.
So the Knicks are now 14-5 at home, but 2-8 on the road. You can do the math. New York needs to do some travelin’...know what I’m sayin’?
As for OKC, they missed center Steven Adams, out with a concussion. Also, the Thunder were no doubt gassed Saturday after a triple-overtime thriller the night before in Philly, a 119-117 win, with Russell Westbrook scoring 27 points (though on 10 of 33 shooting), with 18 rebounds and 15 assists. He was also 5 of 12 from the foul line, where he is just .717 this season, compared with .820 for his career.
--Charles Barkley weighed in on the topic of LaVar Ball. As Colin Ward-Henninger of CBSSports.com put it, “The common defense of LaVar is that, for all his exploits, he has still been a good father to his sons and has their best interests at heart. Barkley does not agree.”
Appearing on ESPN Radio’s “Golic & Wingo” show, Sir Charles said:
“I just feel sadness that the media – CNN, ESPN – has given this guy a platform. He represents everything that is bad about sports. It’s all about him. I just feel bad for those kids.
“Everybody has been talking about how he might be a good father, this and that. No he’s not. He’s just exploiting his kids. ...He’s all about Big Baller Brand. He has no foreseeable talent. He’s trying to make money on his kids, and I just feel sadness for those kids because they’re going to do whatever he tells them to do. I just don’t like the guy at all, plain and simple. And don’t tell me he’s a good father. Just because you exploit your kids, trying to make money because you have no talent, that does not make you a good father. That makes you exploiting your kids. And I don’t like the guy at all. And I wish they would quit putting him on television.”
As for sending LaMelo and LiAngelo to Lithuania to play professionally, Barkley said:
“First of all, I would never leave my kids over there. If he’s a legit father, he should stay over there with those kids the entire time. That would prove something to me.”
Go Charles! Ken P. and I have been exchanging notes on the looming debacle with the Lithuania decision. I’d fear for the kids over there, especially knowing they aren’t in Vilnius, but some little village. It’s all nuts. As Ken says, criminal child abuse. I mean think about it. One kid, LiAngelo, receives no college (pulled out of UCLA), and the other, LaMelo, doesn’t even graduate from high school.
--The Yankees and CC Sabathia agreed on a one-year, $10 million contract, a smart move, as the 37-year-old lefty had said he wanted to stay in The Bronx and the team couldn’t just let him go elsewhere. Sabathia, coming off a very solid 14-5, 3.69 ERA campaign, thus joins Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery in the rotation, while New York continues to go after Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole, though the Pirates are demanding top prospect Gleyber Torres in return.
The Yanks are also desperately trying to unload 34-year-old outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, holder of one of the worst contracts of all time; Ellsbury with a full no-trade clause and due $63 million over the next three years, plus a $5 million buyout for 2021.
--The Phillies made a big move, signing first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million contract, while they were also trading shortstop Freddy Galvis to San Diego for a minor league pitcher, and finalized two-year deals with relievers Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek.
Santana hit 23 homers and drove in 79 for Cleveland, where he played eight seasons; a guy who in Philadelphia’s bandbox should bang out 30.
The signing also means slugger Rhys Hoskins will stay in left field. The odd man out is Tommy Joseph, who has slugged 21 and 22 home runs his two years in Philly while playing at first.
As for Galvis’ replacement at short, that will be J.P. Crawford, a 2013 first-round pick.
Gotta love what Philadelphia is doing. They have some real talent, and getting a solid veteran in Santana has to be a big help, plus with only his contract as a major future commitment, the Phillies are looking to be aggressive next offseason, the big free-agent class that could include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and Clayton Kershaw (should he opt out).
--The Angels continued to be active, signing All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart to a three-year, $38 million contract, Cozart agreeing to shift to third with Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons ensconced at short. Cozart broke through last season with Cincinnati, having his best year at the plate, .297 with 24 homers and a .913 OPS.
Wednesday, the Angels traded for Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, a four-time All-Star whose production was down in 2017, but he still hit 22 homers and picked up a Gold Glove. Detroit received two prospects in return as they were looking to unload Kinsler’s $11 million salary for this coming season, plus he turns 36 in June.
But the Angels have one interesting infield now, with Albert Pujols getting most of the time at first. Mike Trout should be pleased with management’s aggressiveness.
--The Atlanta Braves and Dodgers engineered a whopper that looks bigger than it actually is, Atlanta trading Matt Kemp back to L.A. for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson, the Braves also receiving cash and immediately designating Gonzalez for assignment after the veteran waived his no-trade clause, knowing Atlanta is set at first with Freddie Freeman.
Ergo, Gonzalez, whose best years are long past and had no future in L.A., can attempt to hook on with someone who will give him playing time.
Kemp is owed $43 million over the next two seasons and there are doubts he’ll even make it to spring training as both teams are looking to position themselves for the 2018 free agent market noted above, the Dodgers dumping nearly $50 million in salary committed to the three main players going to the Braves. The Dodgers now are under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million, after five seasons on the wrong side of it.
McCarthy, if he can stay healthy, could be a serviceable pitcher for Atlanta, ditto Kazmir, who didn’t pitch an inning last year but says he’s ready to give it another go. But, again, the Braves were just acquiring expiring contracts...much like NBA teams do.
One more on the Braves. By getting rid of Kemp, who was dreadful in left field, they open up the position for the top prospect in the game, Ronald Acuna.
--The Derek Jeter saga continues. Miami traded left fielder Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals for a few prospects, the third All-Star Jeter has jettisoned, after deals involving Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon.
Ozuna, 27, had a huge season, .312, 37 home runs, 124 RBIs, plus he won a Gold Glove.
Yes, as Giancarlo put it, Marlins fans are “going to go through some more tough years, but I would advise them not to give up. Just keep hope. Maybe watch from afar, if you’re going to watch.”
Yup, lots of crowds of 9,000 coming up.
Agent Scott Boras derided the Marlins as “a pawnshop that is trying to pay the rent of the building rather than focusing on the diamonds.”
Then again, as the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner put it: “Recent history has rewarded rebuilding teams. The last two champions, the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros, each underwent an ownership change, a payroll reduction, a farm system renewal and a major league revival.”
Dave Hyde / Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale)
“Precisely which planet is Derek Jeter living on? And does it get emergency alerts? Because, earth to Jeter, earth to Jeter: The Dolphins didn’t need you last Monday. The Marlins did.
“You can’t sit in the odd orbit of a Dolphins luxury box on Monday night, getting face-time on national television, while the baseball world wonders why the new face of the Marlins franchise was too busy to come to Orlando and answer up to questions at the winter meetings.
“What a disappointment this guy’s opening innings are. Not because he traded Giancarlo Stanton. No, not that. Any new Marlins owners had to do that dirty deed thanks to the inherited mess of a back-loaded, $325 million contract on top of other roster fiascos. This wasn’t on Jeter. It was on Jeffrey Loria. And Jeter owed it to the disappearing Marlins fans to say so on a national stage.
“That’s what baseball fans needed to see as the developed rage at Jeter became a public stoning over the trade. Not him at a Dolphins game. Not him mulling a fourth-and-2 play. Not him on some parallel sports planet. Not that....
“What should really scare Marlins fans is Jeter either doesn’t understand his role as the new face and lone voice of a troubled franchise – or he doesn’t care about filling that particular role....
“If he can’t understand his role, if he doesn’t get this simple concept of public leadership, if he can’t grasp how much this franchise needs a good baseball voice, how can he get the more difficult stuff right?”
--Finally, we note the passing of former Detroit Tigers star hurler Frank Lary, 87. Lary pitched for the Tigers from 1954-64, going 123-110, 3.46 ERA (128-116 overall lifetime), winning 20 games twice and making two All-Star teams. His best season, 1961, he was 23-9 and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting, behind Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn, winning a Gold Glove in the process too. [There was just one Cy Young for both leagues at the time.]
But Lary was a Yankee Killer, going an astounding 27-10 against them from 1955 to 1961 (28-13 overall, including when he was on the downside of his career). I mean the Yankees were winning six pennants in this stretch.
Lary was born in Northport, Ala., his father a cotton farmer and former semipro pitcher.
--In Saturday’s big one, Manchester City extended its record winning streak to 16 with a masterful 4-1 thrashing of Tottenham, whose only score came late in extra time. Manager Pep Guardiola now has his sights set on the European Big Five league record streak of 19, held by Bayern Munich, Oct. 2013-March 2014, when the boss was none other than...Pep Guardiola.
Gee, do you think he will have any problems finding a job for the next decade or so?
So Man City has 17 wins and a draw in its 18 contests this season, scoring 56 goals while giving up just 12. Once again my favorite player not with Tottenham, Kevin de Bruyne, was spectacular...just controlled the flow the entire time.
As for my Spurs, they have now failed to win the last ten times they’ve played a Big Six opponent on the road (four draws, six losses). If you can’t go .500 on the road against these teams, you’ll never win a title.
The English call what City is doing the “Invincibles,” after Preston North End, which in 1888-89, went 18-4-0 (losses) to become the original Invincibles.
Preston, by the way, won the title the next season too, but hasn’t won since (yes, since 1890). They are currently in the Championship league, the rung below the PL.
In other games of note Saturday, Chelsea beat Southampton 1-0, Arsenal 1-0 over Newcastle, Brighton played surprising Burnley to a 0-0 tie, and suddenly surging Crystal Palace whipped Leicester 3-0. Palace has now gone 7 games without a loss, after starting the season with one win and 7 losses.
Sunday, Manchester United beat West Brom 2-1, while Liverpool blasted Bournemouth 4-0.
So the standings after 18 of 38 matches....
1. Man City 52 points
2. Man U 41
3. Chelsea 38
4. Liverpool 34
5. Arsenal 33
6. Burnley 32...interloper among Big Six
7. Tottenham 31
14. Crystal Palace 17...movin’ on up....
15. West Ham 17
16. Bournemouth 16
17. Stoke City 16
18. Newcastle 15
19. West Brom 14
20. Swansea City 12
--Meanwhile, Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg of the Wall Street Journal had a piece on how the Big Six could be looking to kill the golden egg. Apparently there have been a series of tense meetings between the league and the 20 club owners, with the Big Six arguing they deserve a larger share of the money the Premier League receives for the sale of its foreign TV rights.
David Sullivan, co-owner of West Ham United, said, “I think it’s just greed. They’re very wealthy anyway.”
The foreign rights deal, which covers games from the 2016-17 season to 2018-19, is for $4.3 billion among 80 broadcasters. The league’s U.S. deal with NBC Universal, running from 2016 to 2022, is worth $1 billion on its own. Soon, the foreign rights could exceed those generated from U.K. rights, which went for $7.8 billion in 2015.
Even with the Big Six dominating the top of the league table each year, the Premier League by most measures is the most competitive of the major European leagues. And in 2015-16, English soccer produced the greatest upset in the sport’s modern history with lowly Leicester City overcoming 5,000-to-1 odds to lift the trophy.
Sullivan says: “The Premier League works because everyone has got a bit of money to buy the big names and pay their wages if they want to. So there’s no easy games in the Premier League. What [the Big Six] don’t want to be is under threat from the lower clubs.”
“When the Premier League first formed, the league’s owners agreed on a revenue-sharing model that divided 50% of any money received for U.K. television rights equally among all the clubs, with a 25% share awarded based on the final standings each season, and the other 25% based on how often clubs appeared in live TV games. Any money from foreign rights, meanwhile, was split evenly.” [Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg]
So over the years, the ratio of money to the top clubs and those to the 20th-placed team was a constant, 1.6, while in Spain’s La Liga or Germany’s Bundesliga, it has swelled to around 3.
The original Premier League agreement “was drafted on a single sheet of Ernst & Young note paper in 40 minutes at the end of a meeting that ran unexpectedly short. It became known as the Premier League ‘Founders’ Agreement’ and, until now, has always been treated as scripture.”
But at the time the foreign rights were minimal, if anything at all. Initially, the league paid broadcasters to carry their games.
Last season, though, the equal shares from overseas TV money were worth $52 million per club.
So last year, Sunderland, which finished at the bottom, took home $125 million overall from the League, or more than twice as much as Real Madrid earned from UEFA for winning the Champions League, the most prestigious trophy in Europe.
So you can see why the Big Six are now saying, ‘Wait a minute. No one in the U.S. is tuning in to watch Sunderland. They want to see us.’ True.
Yes, changes should be made, but change requires ratification by 14 clubs, or a two-thirds majority. Funneling more money to the Big Six isn’t likely to fly.
But, supposedly, 12 clubs might be in favor of a new proposal to create a sliding scale that would see the top 10 clubs increase their share based on their final league positions.
This seems fair, but if adopted, can you imagine the pressure on the managers during the season with each match, the owners following their every move even more closely than ever before?
FIS Alpine World Cup
In an absolutely stunning development, 33-year-old Lindsey Vonn, who I wrote had suffered a potentially serious back injury just the other week, completed her latest comeback with a win in the super-G race at Val d’Isere, France on Saturday...the first win of the season for her, 78 for her phenomenal career.
Vonn has seven wins and 10 podiums at Val d’Isere, but this was the first time in 12 years her father had witnessed it there.
Vonn had asked her father if he could come to some races and she said Saturday, all choked up, “My dad’s always the one who says, ‘Never, never give up.’ He loves Winston Churchill. It’s nice to be able to share these moments with him as I approach the end of my career.”
The win was Vonn’s first since a downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in January. I just can’t believe how quickly she recovered from the back incident.
So it looks like America will have more than Mikaela Shiffrin to root for at Pyeongchang, the Olympics just about seven weeks away.
At the midway point of the Division I season, according to the Golfweek / Sagarin rankings:
1. Oklahoma State
2. Texas A&M
5. Georgia Tech
12. Wake Forest...disappointing...
...and then Phil W. first broke the news to me that Will Zalatoris, one of the best in the country, was forgoing the spring semester to turn pro! Drat!!! Geezuz, this sucks. As a junior last year he was the ACC’s player of the year and a first-team All-America and he was going to lead us into the finals, at least, of the national championship.
--On a totally different note, studies by the National Institutes of Health have shown that “a moderate dose of caffeine consumed before and during a round of golf improves golf-specific measures of performance and reduces fatigue.” The NIH also found that chewing gum was associated with enhanced productivity and reduced cognitive errors.
Jordan Spieth actually partially credited coach Cameron McCormick for his win at the Open Championship when he gave Spieth some mint gum before his rounds. Well, according to Golfworld, Spieth didn’t actually credit the gum, but hey...I’m trying it next year!
[A Colorado company has introduced “Golf Gum”... golfersgum.com.]
--As if the sport of cycling didn’t already have enough problems with its image, four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome was placed under investigation by cycling authorities on Wednesday after a doping test showed abnormally high levels of an asthma drug at the Vuelta a Espana in September.
Froome said, “It is well known that I have asthma and I know exactly what the rules are. I use an inhaler to manage my symptoms (always within the permissible limits) and I know for sure that I will be tested every day I wear the race leader’s jersey.”
Froome went on to win the Vuelta, one of cycling’s three major stage races.
A positive test for the substance involved doesn’t come with an automatic ban, but major suspensions have been imposed in the past.
--San Francisco Bay area residents are taking precautions, like double-locking their doors, after two vicious sea lion attacks on swimmers this past Thursday and Friday.
Friday, “A sea lion bit a man in the groin area as he swam in the waters off San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, park spokesman Lynn Sullivan said. It was ‘a very serious bite,’ and the man is hospitalized."
The cove hosts swimming and rowing clubs, but it is also a transit area for sea lions heading to Pier 39, where they congregate.
The area is just off Ghirardelli Square, a popular spot with shops and restaurants, now closed to swimmers.
Thursday, a swimmer was seriously injured when a sea lion bit him on the arm. This victim has undergone a few surgeries already.
The victim told San Francisco television station KGO that he believes the animal trailed him as he swam from the beach to the mouth of the cove. When he turned to swim back, the massive sea lion was right there.
Christian Einfeldt said, “I felt threatened...But I was a quarter-mile from shore. There was nothing I could do.”
Einfeldt said he was bleeding profusely and knew he couldn’t swim back, so he flagged down a sailboat.
“I was relatively calm because I wasn’t dead,” he told KGO.
A man on a sailboat pulled him aboard and called police. A tourniquet saved him.
Officials say the behavior is so unusual for sea lions that they believe the same animal attacked both swimmers. It’s also believed the animal was injured.
As for the fellow bit in the groin...we pause for station identification.....
On Monday, there was a third sea lion attack, but the swimmer was treated at the scene.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends swimmers stay 50 yards away from free swimming seals and sea lions.
I’m advising you to lock your doors because as you know, they are known to pose as meter readers.
And if you’re wondering what the All-Species List board will do in terms of the current No. 124 ranking for ‘Sea Lion,’ punishment, when handed down, will be severe.
--New York area sports fans bid adieu to Mike Francesa on Friday after 30 years on WFAN, a man who, along with former long-time partner Chris Russo, forever changed the genre.
Francesa had his legions of fans, and detractors. I put myself in the latter camp, but I have to admit, the past year, as we knew his run was coming to an end, I listened to him more than I had in years and while many won’t admit it, we’ll miss his rants big time when there is a major controversy in the sports world. Some of them were priceless.
Separately, the New York Post’s Steve Serby asked Francesa, “Who are the athletes who took your breath away the first time you saw them play?” and Francesa immediately answered Mickey Mantle. Then he goes:
“The first time I laid eyes on [Michael] Jordan – Carolina – I never saw anything like it in my life. The only other player that I ever saw physically that had that impact on me on the basketball floor was Len Bias.”
Interesting, and so sad. For those of us who got to see Bias ourselves, oh what could have been. The guy was truly spectacular...a man among boys, we used to say.
[Francesa didn’t include Lawrence Taylor because he was famous before he saw him in person.]
But I was shocked by a little tidbit this week. Eli Manning would call in every Monday during the season for a little chat with Francesa and I knew players are compensated for this kind of work, but take a guess how much Eli reportedly gets for the gig? A 2015 New York Daily News report put it at close to $250,000 a year! Yeah, Eli, having made over $200 million in salary during his playing career, probably considers this chump change, but I know a lot of you out there wouldn’t.
--Kind of interesting what actor Zack Ward, who played bully Scott Farkus in the holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” makes in royalties all these years later since the film first came out in 1983. “It’s basically about $1,800 every two years...and it comes in Canadian money because we shot in Canada,” he told the New York Post’s Page Six.
Ward was 13 years old when he starred in the film. He said he still gets recognized on the street, many coming up to him and saying, “You got your ass kicked by Ralphie.”
But Ward added he also gets a lot of free beer and free hugs.
--Formula 1’s new owners are looking into whether the sport should continue to use “grid girls,” promotional models.
Ross Brawn, F1 managing director, said, “There’s a lot of people who respect the tradition of the grid girls and there’s people who feel that it has become a bit dated.”
A bit dated?! C’mon. I mean NASCAR got a real shot in the arm with the introduction of the Monster Energy Girls! [Really...they did.....]
--Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their wedding date, May 19, and this creates a problem because that is also the day of the FA Cup Final, a huge day in the U.K. Plus Prince William is president of the Football Association, having attended and presented the winner’s trophy to Arsenal this year.
Harry is an Arsenal fan. I’ve got to believe they’ll maneuver the times for each.
--Yes!!! HBO announced there will be another season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and production starts in the spring, which means it likely airs in the fall.
When I saw Larry David doing his promos on the networks last September, prior to launch of Season 9 after a six-year layoff, you got the sense he regretted taking so much time off. After all, he’s 70. Time’s running out.
Or as he put it the other day when the announcement was made: “As I’ve said many times, when one has the opportunity to annoy someone, one should do so.”
--The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its latest inductees on Wednesday, among them the Moody Blues, Dire Straits, the Cars and Bon Jovi.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/14/68: #1 “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye) #2 “Love Child” (Diana Ross and The Supremes) #3 “For Once In My Life” (Stevie Wonder)...and...#4 “Abraham, Martin and John” (Dion) #5 “Who’s Making Love” (Johnnie Taylor) #6 “Hey Jude” (The Beatles) #7 “Wichita Lineman” (Glen Campbell...in my all-time top ten...) #8 “Stormy” (Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost...in my all-time top 40...) #9 “I Love How You Love Me” (Bobby Vinton) #10 “Magic Carpet Ride” (Steppenwolf...outstanding week...)
Philadelphia Eagles Quiz Answers: 1) 15,000 yards passing: Donovan McNabb 32,873, 216 TDs; Ron Jaworski 26,963, 175; Randall Cunningham 22,877, 150; Norm Snead 15,672, 111...Snead being a Wake Forest alum. 2) 5,000 yards rushing: LeSean McCoy 6,792; Wilbert Montgomery 6,538; Brian Westbrook 5,995; Steve Van Buren 5,860.
Van Buren, a Hall of Famer, played from 1944-51, leading the NFL in rushing four seasons.
But it was his effort in the 1949 NFL championship game that Eagles fans should all know about. Van Buren carried it 31 times for 196 yards in Philadelphia’s 14-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.