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Football...College Hoops' Crazy Saturday...and the Bar Chat Awards
[Posted Sunday p.m., before the ball drops....]
NBA Quiz: Wednesday night, the Pelicans’ Rajon Rondo had a career-high 25 assists (in just 30 minutes) in New Orleans’ 128-113 win over Brooklyn. 1) Who holds the single-game record with 30 (modern-day player). 2) What two rookies hold the record with 25, initials N.M. and E.D. (both modern-day as well). Answers below.
NFL Playoff Picture
Sat. 5 Tennessee at 4 Kansas City; 6 Atlanta at 3 Los Angeles
Sun. 6 Buffalo at 3 Jacksonville; 5 Carolina at 4 New Orleans
At first blush, I expect all four of these games to blow.
AFC: 1. New England 2. Pittsburgh
NFC: 1. Philadelphia 2. Minnesota
But what a finish Sunday, and good on the NFL for scheduling as it did, with the Buffalo Bills breaking a 17-year drought.
First, Atlanta secured the second wild-card slot in the NFC with a 22-10 win over the moribund Panthers, Cam Newton again sucking royally, 14/34, 180, 1-3, 31.5.
But the real story was in the AFC, and two late games...Buffalo at Miami, and Cincinnati at Baltimore.
The Bills were in if Baltimore lost, and recall that Ravens coach John Harbaugh was bitching all week about the time of the game being changed.
Buffalo took care of business, defeating the Dolphins 22-16, as Miami played 2014 sixth-round draft pick, by the Bears, David Fales, who only five people in the country knew of. Fales was auditioning for a 2018 backup job, it seems, and he was mediocre at best.
The Bills lost star running back LeSean McCoy to an ankle injury, a big blow, but afterwards they went into the locker room to see if the Bengals could beat the Ravens.
[I love that Jack Nicklaus was in the Miami stands wearing a Bills jersey, his grandson Nick O’Leary catching a 26-yard TD pass from Tyrod Taylor for the first score of the game.]
And then out of nowhere, “Good Andy” Dalton showed up for Cincinnati when it mattered most, with a stunning fourth-and-12, 49-yard TD pass to former Pitt Panther Tyler Boyd, just 0:44 left, giving the Bungles a 31-27 win over the Ravens...Baltimore out of the playoffs, Bills in for the first time since 1999. What a finish to the regular season.
Tennessee secured their first berth since 2008 with a 15-10 win over Jacksonville.
Otherwise, aside from the local stories below, the only other game I feel like mentioning is the Steelers’ 28-24 win over the Browns, securing Cleveland’s 0-16 season; just the second team to do so, the other being the 2008 Detroit Lions. Cleveland coach Hue Jackson is 1-31 in two years, but is apparently coming back. This guy can’t possibly ever have a good night’s sleep again.
One more. I should note that Jimmy Garoppolo did it again, now 5-0 as a 49ers starter, 7-0 in his career, after a 34-13 win over the Rams. Granted, L.A. knew where they stood playoff wise and thus rested a number of key players, including Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald, but still Garoppolo threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns (plus two picks) and looked great at times.
San Francisco fans should be over the moon heading into next season.
As to the locals....
--The Giants didn’t wait until the season ended to see who they could go after for the GM job, announcing Friday at a news conference that the position was going to 66-year-old Dave Gettleman, who replaces Jerry Reese, fired Dec. 4 along with coach Ben McAdoo.
“I’ve been hired to win,” Gettleman said. The only promise I can make is I’m going to do everything in my power to lead this organization back to where it belongs.”
Gettleman worked for the Giants for 15 years before leaving in 2013 to become the general manager of the Carolina Panthers. He helped them reach the Super Bowl in 2015, but was fired after the team missed the playoffs the next season. It was said he had some personality issues and he is known to be a no-nonsense guy, which is what the Giants need.
Gettleman believes in old-fashioned football and running the ball, while stopping the run and pressuring the passer.
It’s tough to know what he’ll decide to do with Eli Manning, but he said Eli is his starter next season. First off, though, Gettleman needs to find a coach. [No way interim coach Steve Spagnuolo is getting anything more than a courtesy interview.]
And he’ll also have to deal with Odell Beckham Jr.’s contract, which has one year left at $8.5 million, though Odell is coming off a broken ankle that ended his season in Week 5. The superstar is looking to be paid mightily in any extension.
Gettleman also scoffed at the idea that because he is 66, he is just a caretaker GM.
“My plan is to come in here and kick ass every day.”
Well he started the next day, firing Marc Ross, the team’s vice president for player evaluation for the last five seasons. Among the players drafted under Ross were OBJ, Sterling Shepard, Landon Collins and Jason Pierre-Paul, but he had some busts.
Former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, currently the defensive coordinator at Philadelphia, is said to be among the favorites for the Giants head job. Schwartz was 29-51, after inheriting an 0-16 team that he then took to the playoffs his third year. Four of his five seasons were losing ones, however. With Philadelphia, he’s done a terrific job with the defense.
As for today’s season ender vs. Washington, the Giants won 18-10 in frigid MetLife Stadium, New York rushing for a rather stupendous 260 yards on 44 carries, including a career-high 154 from Orleans Darkwa, after two O’Line changes instigated by Gettleman.
Eli Manning was abysmal in what was potentially his last game in a Giants uniform, 10/28, 132, 1-1, 48.5, but hey, they got a ‘W’ to finish 3-13. [Eegads.]
For Washington, understand that what follows I wrote before the game, so ignore the fact Kirk
Cousins was 20/37, 158, 0-3, 31.1. Yup, set this game aside, though no doubt Washington fans won’t.
Redskins fans, and management, can’t seem to make up their minds about Cousins and his future. All the 29-year-old has done the last three seasons is toss 81 TD passes, with just 33 interceptions, while accumulating a passer rating of about 100...outstanding. [But his win-loss record is a less impressive 24-22-1 over that period, though he’s been surrounded by crapola.]
But in so many eyes in D.C. he’s not seen as a franchise QB, while playing like one. There are a lot of teams that will be looking at him in free agency, unless Washington once again slaps the franchise-tag on him as they’ve done the past two years.
The deadline for doing this is March 6, which as Washington sports writers note is also about the same time the season-long furor over Bryce Harper’s looming free agency will be kicking into gear. [That is going to be interesting, especially if Harper can’t stay healthy, which would further fuel the debate.]
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“Everybody in the NFL knows what Cousins is – except the owner and team president of his own team. And a faction of this city’s fans, too. Familiarity really does breed contempt for quarterbacks. Their worst or unluckiest plays are scrutinized, but their statistics – even a staggering 47-straight-game resume in Cousin’s case – can be twisted, misinterpreted or ignored.
“This is who Cousins is. And this is the quarterback Washington is probably about to lose. In the last three years, out of all quarterbacks with 250 pass attempts, Cousins ranks third in the NFL in yards and fourth in quarterback rating....
“When you consider that Cousins is only 29, while several of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, such as Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Brees, Eli Manning and Brady, are near the end of their careers, his future in the league looks even better....
“In effect, Washington may have groomed him through a 24-22-1 record over three seasons so that he could finally become his best somewhere else....
“Some teams would kill to get a quarterback such as Cousins. Will Washington be one of them? Will it want him enough to keep him on a one-year franchise tag for more than $34 million, even though he would be totally free after 2018? Will it transition-tag him at more than $28 million, then be willing to match what might be an astronomical offer, far over $100 million, from another team?
“How much is a quarterback worth who wears a Christmas suit with pictures of gingerbread men on it? In Cousin’s case, maybe more, in ways that have nothing to do with money, than Washington knows how to offer.”
--The Jets announced Friday that they have extended the contracts of general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles through 2020, both having a year to go as it was. Acting owner and CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement, “I believe we are headed in the right direction.”
Yeah, but couldn’t there be someone better out there to man the sidelines, Mr. Johnson? [The real owner, Woody Johnson is President Trump’s ambassador to Britain.]
The players, however, were unanimous in their support of the move to bring their coach back, citing it was important to have consistency and stability.
All good....except we expect a 10-6 season next year, boys.
And in terms of Sunday, the Jets stunk, 26-6 losers to the Pats, who secured home-field advantage. Tom Brady wasn’t great at all, given the 11-degree temps and brutal wind chill, and New York’s Bryce Petty wasn’t any better. The Jets finished 5-11...us fans move on to pitchers and catchers.
Earlier in the week, the Patriots signed former Steelers linebacker James Harrison, after Pittsburgh had released the 39-year-old all-time franchise sacks leader. Harrison immediately posted a photo of himself and 40-year-old Tom Brady on his Instagram account, joking that he finally had a teammate who is older than him.
But no one was laughing in Pittsburgh. Yes, it was totally predictable Bill Belichick and the Pats would offer Harrison a job, with another Steelers-Patriots rematch looming. Pittsburgh players said that the team wasn’t to blame for releasing Harrison, but that the linebacker “wanted out.”
Then Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree took a scorched-earth approach in criticizing his former teammate during his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.
“It feels like he went to the Patriots just to spit in coach Tomlin and Mr. Rooney’s face. That’s all it was to us. Like basically you spit on your teammates, you spit on us because the whole season you’ve been shown as someone different than what you were supposed to, so-called, be to us – other than a leader.”
--Last Monday night, in the Raiders-Eagles game, Philadelphia laying 8 ½, it was 10-10 with just 57 seconds remaining. Oakland is covering...done.
Only it wasn’t.
Ronald Darby picked off Derek Carr’s errant pass to set up a 21-yard Eagles drive, culminating in Jake Elliott’s 48-yard field goal. With 22 seconds left, the Eagles were on top 13-10. DeAndre Washington’s strong kickoff return set Oakland up at its own 36 with 17 seconds left. But after three incompletions, the Raiders’ ill-conceived final play was fumbled. Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett scooped up the loose ball and barreled into the end zone with no time remaining. Final score, 19-10. Eagles’ covered.
--Our own Johnny Mac was quoted in the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick’s column the other day, for commenting on the Pats-Steelers controversial call that Jesse James didn’t “survive the ground.” As J. Mac said, “In the final analysis, none of us do.”
--Finally, Larry Fitzgerald proved once again why some of us want him to run for political office, and while I’d in all seriousness vote for him for president one day.
Fitzgerald, kind of out of nowhere, penned a touching tribute to Sen. John McCain for Christmas.
“When I think about Christmas, and I think about Senator McCain, I think of giving...
“The sacrifices John McCain has made for our country, and especially the men and women he served with in the military, are incredible. I saw the very jail cell where he was held as a POW and I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be him. I took a photo of myself next to his flight suit, the suit he was wearing when he got shot down. So powerful. So meaningful. Those images will never leave my mind.
“Senator John McCain again finds himself in a battle. This time it’s with cancer, and the treatment he’s undergoing is exhausting. I’ll wish him a Merry Christmas today, and I pray he lives another 20 years.”
In the only bowl games I remotely cared about since the last chat....
--Tuesday, Duke importantly finished 7-6 with a nice 36-14 win over Northern Illinois (8-5) in the Quickie Bowl in Detroit. Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns, plus he picked up another 86 on the ground and a score.
Tuesday night, Kansas State defeated UCLA (6-7) 35-17 in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, the Bruins playing without Josh Rosen, the potential No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft (if it’s not Cleveland...who he has announced he does not want to play for), Rosen held out with a concussion. [I’m tellin’ ya....if I’m a GM I’d be very careful in selecting him. I don’t like what I hear on the health front.]
But for the Wildcats, who finished a solid 8-5, it’s about 78-year-old coach Bill Snyder, who has a career record of 210-110 – all at K-State. Will he be back? “That’s hasn’t been decided yet,” said the taciturn one. What a classic he is. I mean this is a guy who retired in 2005, only to return in 2008. All he’s done in this second go-round is lead his team to eight straight bowl games.
--Wednesday, in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, Iowa finished the season 8-5 with a 27-20 win over Boston College (7-6), despite the fact the Eagles outgained the Hawkeyes 383-200.
B.C. quarterback Darius Wade turned it over three times, while Iowa got 171 yards in kick returns from Akrum Wadley.
Eagles running back A.J. Dillon finished up a super freshman year in style with 157 yards on 32 carries. [1,589 yards, 5.3 avg., overall.]
--Thursday, Navy finished 7-6 in annihilating Virginia (6-7) 49-7 in the Military Bowl, the Midshipmen rushing it 76 times for 452 yards and the seven touchdowns, passing it just once.
16 Michigan State finished 10-3 with a 42-17 win over 18 Washington State (9-4) in the Holiday Bowl.
22 Virginia Tech finished 9-4, losing to 19 Oklahoma State (10-3) 30-21 behind quarterback Mason Rudolph, who finished up his sterling career, passing for 352 yards and two touchdowns, one to fellow All-American James Washington, both of whom will be high draft picks next spring. [Speaking of spring, how many days to pitchers and catchers. I am so freakin’ tired of the cold weather this week...with more on the way.]
And in a game I saw zippo of, 15 TCU finished 11-3 with a 39-37 win over 13 Stanford (9-5) in the Valero Alamo Bowl, TCU quarterback Kenny Hill passing for 314 yards and two touchdowns, while running for another 60 and a score, the Horned Frogs winning it on a Cole Bunce field goal with 3 minutes to play.
In defeat, Cardinal running back Bryce Love rushed for 145 yards and two TDs as he now heads to the NFL.
--What a game Friday for Wake Forest, 55-52 winners over Texas A&M (7-6) in the Belk Bowl, the Deacs finishing 8-5, their second straight winning season and second bowl win under coach Dave Clawson.
The start time on this one, 1:00, was deadly as I had to write a yearend write-up for that other column I do, but I had this one on the entire time (often without the sound), and what a show, the Deacs quickly falling behind 14-0, A&M blocking a punt for its first score, but Wake then roared back to score the next 31, 31-14, then 38-28 at the half...nonstop action on both sides.
Wake quarterback John Wolford had 256 yards and four touchdowns at the intermission!
So then A&M came out and outscored the Deacs 17-3 to take a 45-41 lead with 12:39 to go in the game, only to have Wake run it in twice from short yardage, the last TD with 2:18 to play to give the Deacs the final 55-52 margin of victory. Except to be fair, Wake caught a break when a pass interference call deep in Deacon territory was missed by the refs.
Wolford finished 32/49, 400, 4-0, plus another 68 yards on the ground. Matt Colburn was terrific at running back with 150 yards on 21 carries and a score. Scotty Washington had nine receptions for 138 and a TD.
But the guy who improved his NFL Draft status bigly was tight end Cam Serigne, who I’ve been telling you is a can’t miss prospect, as all he did was catch nine for 112 and a touchdown. [In the process he became the ACC’s career leader in touchdown receptions as a tight end.]
Meanwhile, for A&M, playing with an interim coach before the Jimbo Fisher era begins, freshman quarterback Nick Starkel was terrific, 42/63, 499, 4-1 in defeat.
The two teams combined for 1,260 yards and 107 points, the fourth-most points in college bowl game history.
And a final comment on John Wolford. It’s worth one more look at his career, as I pointed out a month ago, Wolford being a starter since day one, though with many injuries along the way.
2014: 12 TDs – 14 INTs
2015: 9 – 11
2016: 9 – 10
2017: 29 – 6 !!!
As the guy commenting on the game put it, he has never seen a turnaround at this level. Wolford deserves a look in the NFL.
Also Friday, we had what should have been a huge matchup for a non-playoff game, 8 USC vs. 5 Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, but what a yawner it turned out to be, the Buckeyes ending the season 12-2 with a bunch of ‘what ifs’...like what if their two blowout losses were just a little closer...after a 24-7 win over the listless Trojans.
What a deceiving game if you just looked at the stats. USC outgained Ohio State 413-277, and potential No. 1 draft pick Sam Darnold threw for 356 yards, but at the same time he sucked. Zero touchdowns and his lone pick was returned for a touchdown.
The game was labeled “embarrassing” by multiple writers I read, especially when you consider that Ohio State’s top D-back, Denzel Ward, sat it out in order to avoid injury prior to the draft.
Darnold might have thrown for 356, but he was only 26 of 45, plus he was sacked eight times and lost two fumbles, including one at OSU’s 12-yard line.
After the game, Darnold said he was still undecided about his future and whether to come back for another year.
Bill Plaschke / L.A. Times
“It was a typical farewell party for someone who should not be leaving, but has to be going.
“Sam Darnold’s likely last game as a USC quarterback Friday night was awkwardly painful, consistently sloppy and not a bit sentimental.
“With every mistake, Darnold showed everyone why, for football reasons, he needs to play another season at USC.
“But every hard hit offered a loud reminder why, for financial reasons, he probably won’t play another minute.
“Darnold was given every chance to pull the Trojans out of the muck that became Ohio State’s 24-7 victory in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. But by the time his final pass sailed nowhere, and to nobody, Darnold had become that muck.
“In every big moment, he came up short, or long. In every big play, the ball slipped or soared.
“He threw an interception that was returned for a Buckeyes touchdown. He lost a fumble that led to a Buckeyes touchdown. He lost another fumble that ended any comeback attempt.
“The likely last game of his two-year collegiate career was arguably the worst game of his collegiate career, as he had three turnovers and no touchdown passes, while blowing a great defensive effort that held the mighty Buckeyes offense to 277 total yards.
“The kid clearly isn’t ready. But the kid is also clearly not dumb.
“If Darnold foregoes a third season at USC and enters the NFL draft, his potential has led him to be projected as a top-five pick, and you know what top-five picks can make by just showing up? Mitchell Trubisky, the quarterback who was the No. 2 overall pick this year by the Bears, received a $19.25 million signing bonus.”
Darnold had his moments this season. But he also turned it over 22 times, a staggering total. His play overall was a far cry from last year’s Rose Bowl brilliance against Penn State that had him entering the season as the Heisman Trophy favorite.
He’s also a good kid. As Bill Plaschke concluded:
“This is then, farewell to a class act who personified the Trojan spirit.
“Now go get paid.”
One more on Friday, New Mexico State won its first bowl game in 57 years; yes, not since 1960, in defeating Utah State (6-7) 26-20 in the Hanta Virus Bowl in Tucson.
On to Saturday....
Iowa State had a nice win for the program, 21-20 over 20 Memphis (10-3) in the Liberty Bowl as the Cyclones held the high-powered Memphis offense in check, Tigers quarterback (and future high NFL draft pick) Riley Ferguson just 21/33, 286, 2-0, while my main man at receiver, Anthony Miller, had just four receptions for 55. ISU finished 8-5.
23 Mississippi State finished 9-4 with a 31-27 win over Louisville (8-5) in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Bowl in Jacksonville, as the Cardinals’ Lamar Jackson finished up his stellar career with a real stinker, 13/31, 171, 2-4...4 interceptions...though he rushed for 158 on 24 carries.
Highly regarded MSU QB, freshman Keytaon Thompson, in for the injured Nick Fitzgerald, outplayed Jackson.
Then we had 9 Penn State finishing the year 11-2 with a 35-28 win over 11 Washington (10-3) in the Fiesta Bowl, Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns (though with two picks), while future top five pick in the draft, running back Saquon Barkley, rushed for 137 and two TDs on 18 carries, including a stirring 92-yard jaunt (meaning he didn’t do squat the rest of the game).
And then I was focused Saturday night on the Orange Bowl, 10 Miami and 6 Wisconsin, and the Badgers finished up a sterling 13-1 with a 34-24 win over the Hurricanes (10-3), who lost their last three, a bursting of that bubble.
For Wisconsin, much-maligned quarterback Alex Hornibrook was superb, 23/34, 258, 4-0 (one of his top two games of the season), while freshman running back Jonathan Taylor had 130 yards on the ground to bring his season total to an FBS freshman record 1,977 yards, 6.6 average.
For Miami, the erratic Malik Rosier, who is a superb athlete, but makes some incredibly dumb decisions, was awful, 11/26, 203, 1-3, though of course some credit has to go to the Wisconsin ‘D’.
Rosier finished his junior season completing just 54.0% of his passes, not good for the college game these days, with a 26-14, TD-INT split, also far from good.
The Hurricanes, however, had a chance to pull to within 7 with about seven minutes to play, when Summit’s Michael Badgley, who I’ve been telling you all season was having a sub-par senior year in an otherwise stellar career, inexplicably missed a 23-yarder.
The thing is, after missing a 53-yarder in the first quarter, he blasted a 41-yard FG that was as explosive a kick, straight down the middle, good from 60 effort, that you’ve ever seen. And then he blew it from 23. It’s going to be interesting to see what NFL teams give him a look. After being known as a long-range bomber, he was only 3 of 8 from 40+ this season.
So it’s on to Monday’s national semi-finals, the Big Ten not in the picture, though they went 7-0 in bowl games. Message sent.
College Basketball Wrap-up....
Going back to last Monday....
AP Poll (Dec. 25...records as of 12/23)
1. Villanova 12-0 (43)
2. Michigan State 12-1 (16)
3. Arizona State 12-0 (6)
4. Duke 12-1
5. Texas A&M 11-1
6. Xavier 12-1
7. West Virginia 11-1
8. Wichita State 10-2
9. Virginia 11-1
10. TCU 12-0 ...highest position ever
12. Oklahoma 10-1
19. Tennessee 9-2
23. Seton Hall 11-2
So in games since then....
Wed. ... Villanova whipped DePaul (7-6) 103-85, and Xavier beat Marquette (9-4) 91-87.
Thurs. ...in a biggie for your Final Four “Pick to Click” Seton Hall Pirates, they defeated No. 25 Creighton (10-3) 90-84 in a major early-conference test, the Hall down 53-42 at the half, before erupting in the second behind seniors Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado, who combined for 59 points, Delgado also with 14 rebounds.
So I those of us on the Pirate Train should feel better about our boys. Even Ismael Sanogo returned from his suspension.
Fri. ...in their big rivalry game, 16 Kentucky (10-2) rolled over Louisville (10-3) 90-61 at Rupp Arena.
So after a light post-Christmas interlude, the college game was officially back in action Saturday with a slew of conference openers, and then, as a headline on ESPN.com so aptly put it, the college basketball world went nuts...four of the top ten went down and there are no longer any undefeated teams left...before we entered the new year!
But to start out....
In a highly disappointing ending for Demon Deacon fans, Wake Forest lost at Chapel Hill, 73-69, as the Deacs had a 69-65 lead over the No. 13 Tar Heels with 2 ½ minutes to play and then went scoreless with four incredibly awful possessions down the stretch. Yes, that’s coaching. The Deacs had played a gritty second half and then blew it. Carolina is 12-2, Wake 7-6.
Boston College (10-4) had a chance to upset No. 9 Virginia (12-1) in Charlottesville, but Nik Popovic was called on an offensive foul with 3 seconds to play, the Eagles losing 59-58. For the Cavaliers, Ty Jerome scored 31, with six three-pointers.
In a truly terrific game down in Durham, 24 Florida State had a 49-45 lead at half over No. 4 Duke, as the Seminoles’ Phil Cofer had 22 points on 9 of 10 shooting, including 4 of 5 from three.
It was then back and forth the entire second half, with FSU up 93-91 with 3:30 to play, only to finish like Wake Forest had earlier, the Blue Devils scoring the final 9 points for the 100-93 win.
Freshman sensation, and first pick in next spring’s draft, Marvin Bagley III, had a monster game, 32 points and 21 rebounds, while fellow freshman big man Wendell Carter Jr. had 14 points and 16 boards.
Then in a game I totally forgot to watch because I was tuned in to Penn State-Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, freshman sensation Trae Young poured in 39 points, with 14 assists, as 12 Oklahoma (11-1) defeated 10 TCU, 90-89, handing the Horned Frogs their first loss at 12-1. Young made the winning free throws with 7.9 seconds left and TCU missed a final opportunity to win it.
At the same time, I did catch the end of No. 1 Villanova going down, 101-83 at unranked Butler (12-3), though not for long, as the Bulldogs shot 15 of 22 from downtown, 68%!
And Alabama (9-4) took out 5 Texas A&M (11-2) 79-57.
Then later Saturday night, it was 3 Arizona losing its first, 84-78 at 17 Arizona State (11-3) behind Tra Holder’s 31. For the Wildcats (12-1), freshman big man DeAndre Ayton had 23 points and 19 rebounds (a top five pick in the upcoming draft).
Oh, I can’t wait to see the next AP Poll later Monday.
Sunday, the future No. 1, 2 Michigan State (14-1), hosted Savannah State (3-12), and after leading just 37-36 in the first half, let’s just say the Spartans went on a 71-16 run to win it 108-52. Kind of staggering, I think you’d agree. The “Tigers” were held scoreless the final 8:50 of the game, MSU going off for 32.
Savannah State, as Johnny Mac pointed out to me, has been picking up some nice road checks playing the role of the Washington Generals to those hosting it. Like try games thus far at Baylor, Virginia, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and now Michigan State...all in the top 25.
Seton Hall won again Sunday, now 13-2, after a 75-70 win over St. John’s (10-4). The Big Three Seniors with another 59 points combined.
--North Carolina State starting point guard Markell Johnson, who was suspended indefinitely back on Dec. 16 for “a violation of the Student-Athletic Code of Conduct,” is facing felonious assault charges in Ohio, stemming from an Oct. 8 incident in his hometown of Cleveland.
Johnson was indicted along with three other men, according to The Herald-Sun, on Dec. 5 and jailed Dec. 20 before being released on bail.
The school didn’t learn of the indictment until Dec. 14. Gee, sounds like a high-character guy.
In recent games of note....
Going back to Christmas Day...
The Warriors beat the Cavaliers in their rematch, 99-92, as Cleveland shot just 30% from the field, 28 of 88, LeBron held to 20 points, while Kevin Love had 31 points and 18 rebounds.
Kevin Durant, 25, and Klay Thompson, 24, led the way for the Warriors.
Washington beat Boston on the road, 111-103, as John Wall showed why he is an All-Star with 21 points and 14 assists.
Thurs. ...Boston (29-10) came from 26 points down at home to beat Houston (25-8) 99-98, though there was a controversial offensive foul call on James Harden at the end that cost the Rockets. Harden was just 7 of 27 from the field, though still managed 34 points and 10 assists, but 8 turnovers.
Fri. ...Charlotte upset Golden State (28-8) on the road, 111-100, the Hornets just 13-22.
As for my Knicks, the big stretch on the road has begun. After a bad loss to the 76ers at the Garden on Christmas Day, the Knicks falling apart in crunch time and wasting a 31 point, 22 rebound effort from Enes Kanter, the Knicks lost in Chicago on Wednesday, 92-87, scoring one point the final 3 minutes, and then lost in San Antonio the next night, 119-107, as Kristaps Porzingis just isn’t stepping up his game when the team needs him most.
Then the Knicks traveled to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans Saturday and what should happen, but the Knicks won! 105-103. I watched a ton of this one, including the fourth quarter, and for once Porzingis (30 points) and point guard Jarrett Jack came up big in the fourth quarter. Great win, as the Knicks even their record at 18-18 and, more importantly, pick up a needed win on the road, now 3-12. [The Pelicans fell to 18-18, despite 60 points and 28 rebounds combined from their two-headed monster, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.]
Also Saturday, Stephen Curry made his return after an 11-game absence due to an ankle injury, during which time the Warriors went 9-2, and Curry was phenomenal. Rusty? Try 13 of 17 from the field, 10 of 13 from three (the first in the league to make 10 this season), for 38 points as Golden State (29-8) beat the Grizzlies (11-25) in Oakland, 141-128.
Lastly, Cleveland (24-12) lost to Utah (16-21) in Salt Lake City, 104-101.
Tons of action over the holidays, as only the PL can stage it.
Boxing Day...my Tottenham Spurs whipped Southampton 5-2, with Harry Kane getting his second straight hat trick. Remarkable.
Kane thus set a new calendar year record with 39 league goals for 2017, breaking the previous mark of 36 by Alan Shearer set with Blackburn in 1995.
Kane also finished the year with 56 goals for club and country (the metric for European football), two more than Barcelona and Argentina striker Lionel Messi. He is also the first with six PL hat tricks in a single calendar year.
In other games...Chelsea 2-0 over Brighton, Manchester United and Burnley played to a 2-2 draw, and Liverpool destroyed Swansea 5-0.
Wednesday, Manchester City did it again, No. 18 in a row, one away from the European Big Five League record of 19 by Bayern Munich, with a 1-0 win over Newcastle.
Thursday, Arsenal edged Crystal Palace 3-2.
Saturday, Chelsea slaughtered Stoke 5-0; Liverpool came back against Leicester to win 2-1 behind Mohamed Salah’s double in the second half; Man U had another draw, 0-0 against Southampton; and in a great story, lowly Swansea beat Watford 2-1, with goals at 86’ and 90’, thus giving manager Carlos Carvalhal a win in his first game in charge.
And then Sunday, out of nowhere, Crystal Palace played Manchester City to a draw, 0-0, that was the most exciting goalless contest you ever saw, City trying desperately at the end to keep their streak alive.
The thing is, Palace had a chance to win it outright, but City goalkeeper Ederson had a spectacular save on Luka Milivojevic’s penalty kick in the 92nd minute. So at least City remains unbeaten in 21 matches.
But the draw could prove quite costly for them as Gabriel Jesus left the field injured and in tears in the first half, and the league’s best player in the first half of the season, assist-maker Kevin de Bruyne, was stretchered off at the end after a heavy tackle, though at last word it appears he avoided serious injury; a renewal of Champions League play just five weeks away.
One other Sunday, Arsenal had a dreadful 1-1 draw with cellar dweller West Brom, which moved up a notch as a result.
Standings after 21 of 38 matches....ties settled by goal differential...
1. Manchester City 59 points
2. Chelsea 45
3. Manchester United 44
4. Liverpool 41 ...Champions League line
5. Arsenal 38
6. Tottenham 37 (20 games)
7. Burnley 34
16. Newcastle 19
17. Crystal Palace 19
18. West Ham 18
19. West Brom 16
20. Swansea 16
What a battle we have setting up to avoid relegation.
Hall of Famer Willie McCovey spoke out against fellow Hall member Joe Morgan’s now famous email to voters that implored them to keep steroid users out of Cooperstown.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame,” Morgan wrote. “They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.”
Clearly, while mentioning no names, Morgan was referring to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in particular.
So McCovey told the San Francisco Chronicle this weekend that Bonds belongs in the Hall.
“I just think it’s a sin he’s not in there,” the slugger said. “If anybody deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, it’s Barry.”
McCovey added, “You’re naïve if you don’t think it was aimed at Barry.” He added Morgan is one of his best friends. He simply disagrees with his stance and wants nothing to do with any protest.
The inductees will be announced Jan. 24 after the votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America are tallied, but a Hall of Fame ballot tracker compiled by Ryan Thibodaux has Bonds receiving 72.5 percent of the vote based on the 32.5 percent of the ballots that are known. [Writers making their votes public thus far.] Which means that based on past experience, the percentage will come down. [Clemens has received the same percentage thus far.]
--As for the game today, boy, there are a slew of big free agents still out there, like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez* and Yu Darvish, but as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman points out, teams are so gun-shy about handing anyone long-term contracts, especially if the player is over 30. More on this topic as we progress thru Jan. and Feb.
*Boy, I totally forgot that J.D. finished last season with 45 homers and 101 RBIs, batting .303. He flew under the radar because he split his time between Detroit and Arizona, but with the Diamondbacks, he had a staggering 29 home runs and 65 RBI in just 62 games. And he’s still only 29.
FIS Alpine Ski World Cup
In Lienz, Austria, Thurs.-Fri., American Mikaela Shiffrin won another slalom and picked up a third in a GS, as she extended her overall points lead.
--Swimmer Katie Ledecky was named the Associated Press female athlete of the year, the award voted on by U.S. editors and news directors, having been handed out since 1931; about two-thirds of the winners starring in either tennis or golf. Ledecky is the first swimmer to win the women’s award since Amy Van Dyken in 1996 and the first active college athlete to win the honor since Rebecca Lobo in 1995.
Ledecky, a sophomore at Stanford, won five golds and a silver at the world championships in Hungary in July, giving her more world titles than any other female swimmer. She also won five individual NCAA titles in 2017. And she became the first NCAA swimmer in 29 years to win individual titles in the 200-, 500- and 1,650-yard free.
Ledecky narrowly out-polled Serena Williams, whose 2017 Australian Open title gave her 23 Grand Slams. [Serena lost her post-baby debut match in Dubai this weekend, as she targets her major return at the Australian Open.]
On the male side, the winner was the Astros’ Jose Altuve...a cool choice. He beat out Tom Brady and LeBron James.
--We note the passing of a legend in Southern California horse racing, Jack Van Berg, 81. He was a staple of the tracks in the area for 40 years, but was haunted the past three decades by the Triple Crown he didn’t win.
Van Berg was the trainer of Alysheba, the colt that won the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, needing the Belmont for immortality, only to be defeated by Bet Twice, who Alysheba had beaten in the first two legs.
Back in 1997, 10 years later, Van Berg was asked by the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke if he still thought of the big miss.
“Do I still think about that race? Sure I think about it,” he said. “So does my banker. He has nightmares.”
The thing is Van Berg was inducted into the hall of fame in 1985, before his Triple Crown run.
He won 6,523 races out of 41,164, with earnings totaling almost $87 million, mostly before today’s huge purses.
Van Berg’s last race was at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26. His horse finished 11th.
--And Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower died. He was 93.
Bower led the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cup championships in the 1960s and became the oldest full-time goalie in NHL history, playing until he was 45. [Toronto hasn’t won a Cup since the 1966-67 season.]
Bower didn’t make his NHL debut until he was 29 with the New York Rangers, then he spent four more years in the minors before becoming Toronto’s full-time goaltender. He finished up with a career goals against average of just 2.51.
“John William Bower was born on Nov. 8, 1924, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the only boy in a family of nine children. He played hockey as a child on frozen ponds with a goalie stick his father shaped out of a tree branch, pads made from an old mattress and pucks carved out of horse manure.” [New York Times]
--Lastly, RIP Rose Marie, the actress, singer and comedian best known for her role as the wisecracking Sally Rogers on the popular 1960s sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. She was 94.
Some of us of a certain age also remember her as a regular on the game show “The Hollywood Squares,” where she basically stayed in character. Marie stayed with that show 14 years; in the hey-day of comic Paul Lynde, who was brilliant. [Lynde being one of the more underrated entertainers of all time, frankly.]
Rose Marie won a New York City talent contest as a 3-year-old, belting out “What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry?” in a raspy voice mature beyond her years, as her obituary in the L.A. Times put it. She would tour in vaudeville, and then made her way to Broadway in the 1950s.
“Her casting interview for ‘Dick Van Dyke’ was little more than a formality. Sylvia Miles had played the part in the pilot, but when the show didn’t sell the first time around, series creator Carl Reiner recast the major roles.
“In recommending his friend, producer Sheldon Leonard told Reiner, ‘There’s only one person to play Sally Rogers, and that is Rose Marie,’ according to ‘The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book.’
“When she learned that she would portray one of two writers who worked for Van Dyke’s character, Marie suggested Morey Amsterdam for the other role as Buddy Sorrell. She had known him since she was 11.” [Valerie J. Nelson / L.A. Times]
Well, the show was a huge hit over five seasons, from 1961 to 1966 for CBS, with great scripts and one of TV’s best ensemble casts, including Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie, wife of Van Dyke’s Rob Petrie. Richard Deacon was Mel Cooley, the producer of ‘The Alan Brady Show,’ the series within the series; and Carl Reiner was Brady.
But three years into the series, Bobby Guy, a musician who had been Marie’s husband of 18 years, died from a blood disease at 48 in 1964. Needless to say, it was a tough time.
--I know many of you have been wondering about the fate of ‘Sea Lion,’ No. 124 on the All-Species List, after the series of vicious attacks on humans by the oily, foul-smelling, part-time performers.
Well, with the holidays and all it was difficult convening the ASL Board but it has ruled Sea Lion is to be suspended for two years, though it is allowed to perform at Sea World and in local circuses for the purposes of providing income to innocent family members, only. Sea Lion cannot sign any book deals, for example.
A new ASL will be published by end of New Year’s Day.
--New Jersey had a big drop in “nuisance bear” reports this year. As of Dec. 20, the activity of 965 black bears had been reported to the Department of Environment Protection, down from 2,116 in 2016.
Why is this? I mean only 10 entered homes in 2017, down from 32 last year.
My explanation is that more bears are becoming Uber drivers.
Among the Losses in the Sports World for 2017....
Dick Enberg, Y.A. Tittle, Connie Hawkins, Jana Novotna, Darren Daulton, Ara Parseghian, Frank Broyles, Rollie Massimino, Don Baylor, Jake LaMotta, Roy Halladay, Frank Deford, Bobby Doerr, and Jim Bunning.
Some of the Celebrities We Lost....
Jerry Lewis, Frank Vincent (Sopranos), Hugh Hefner, Don Rickles, Adam West, Erin Moran, Mary Tyler Moore, Jim Nabors, Chuck Barris, Monty Hall, Harry Dean Stanton, Martin Landau, Jay Thomas, Bill Paxton, Robert Guillaume, Roger Moore, and Rose Marie.
Those We Lost in the Music World....
David Cassidy, Jimmy Beaumont (The Skyliners), Gregg Allman, Sonny Geraci (The Outsiders and Climax), Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Al Jarreau, Butch Trucks, Tom Petty, Walter Becker and Glen Campbell....RIP all.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/1/72: #1 “Brand New Key” (Melanie...how did this reach #1?!) #2 “American Pie” (Don McLean...would become #1 two weeks later and stay there for four...) #3 “Family Affair” (Sly & The Family Stone...had been #1 two weeks earlier)...and...#4 “An Old Fashioned Love Song” (Three Dog Night) #5 “Got To Be There” (Michael Jackson...possibly his best...but only peaked at #4...) #6 “Have You Seen Her” (Chi-Lites) #7 “Scorpio” (Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band) #8 “Sunshine” (Jonathan Edwards) #9 “Cherish” (David Cassidy) #10 “Hey Girl” (Donny Osmond)
NBA Quiz Answer: 1) Scott Skiles had 30 assists in a single game, 12/30/1990, while with Orlando. 2) Nate McMillan (Seattle, 2/23/87) and Ernie DiGregorio (Buffalo, 1/1/74) had 25 assists in a game their rookie seasons.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday. The PGA Tour is back!
And now...our Annual Bar Chat Awards!
The Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson is both a “Jerk” and an “Idiot” for throwing away a $16 million guarantee for 2018 by being late to team meetings and playing like garbage when he was on the field, the team making the right move to just cut ties (officially, shortly).
A “Jerk” award to celebrity chef and longtime girlfriend of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sandra Lee, for refusing to let House Speaker Paul Ryan join her cooking segment on Fox News, telling him, “I need you to go away.” Lee wasn’t happy to learn her segment on “Fox & Friends” would directly follow an interview with Ryan; banishing him from the kitchen. Ryan had been asked to stick around for Sandra’s feature.
An “Idiot” award to the 41-year-old French woman, Muriel B., who was bitten by a crocodile while she attempted to take a selfie with it in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park. The woman was bitten in the thigh and taken to a local hospital.
“Jerk” hardware for Steelers receiver Antonio Brown and some of his Facebook Live antics.
An “A-hole” award to SNL writer Katie Rich for her disparaging tweets about 10-year-old Barron Trump and his appearance at his father’s inauguration. Rich tweeted that “Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.” Give her some Jerk hardware too.
To the fans of Rad, Serbia’s soccer team, a “Dirtball(s)” award after they heaped vicious racist abuse on Partizan Belgrade’s Brazilian midfielder Everton Luiz at the end of a Serbian championship match between the two. Every time he touched the ball, the 28-year-old was “monkey-screamed” from a group of supporters of Rad Belgrade.
Some “Jerk” and “A-hole” hardware for “Jeopardy! College Championship” edition participant Viraj Mehta, who slyly flipped Alex Trebek the bird for about seven seconds while talking about differential geometry and pizza. Trebek appeared not to notice, but Twitter did, and then Mehta confirmed to one user that yes, the finger was quite intentional. Unfortunately the guy won the game and became a finalist in the championship series.
A Staten Island man gets an “Idiot” award for being bitten by his poisonous pet snake, a Sub-Saharan Gaboon viper, when it attacked him while he was cleaning a fish tank in his home. The jerk kept a number of exotic pets, including a boa constrictor, later found by authorities searching his place. [The viper won a year’s subscription to Bar Chat.]
“Jerkdom” for LaVar Ball when he first said he was looking for a packaged shoe deal involving his sons that would be worth $1 billion. “A billion dollars, it has to be there,” Ball told USA TODAY. “And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 million a year.” And thus was the genesis of the Big Baller Brand.
“Jerk” hardware for basketball coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State after one year for Illinois, after guiding the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament, after which they lost in the first round to Michigan. That is so wrong, and beyond disrespectful to Oklahoma State.
Another “Jerk” award goes to Mauricio Ortega, the editor of La Prensa, who stole Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey, later found in Mexico, where Ortega was an editor with the paper. When confronted by police, he turned over another Brady jersey from the 2015 Super Bowl and a helmet thought to belong to Vonn Miller of the Broncos, MVP of Super Bowl 50.
Mark R. last spring suggested I nominate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for jerkdom following his comments on the Phillies and how dangerous it was for an opposing fan to attend a game at Citizens Bank Park.
A “Good Guy” award to singer Ariana Grande for her response to the terror attack at her concert in Manchester, England. She could not have handled it better.
“I have been thinking of my fans, and of you all, non-stop over the past week,” she wrote at one point. “From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry.”
Grande said she was inspired by the outpouring of compassion, calling it “the exact opposite of the heinous intentions it must take to pull off something as evil as what happened Monday. YOU are the opposite.” She later held a benefit concert there to help and honor the victims and their families.
President Trump gets a “Jerk” award for driving on the green at Trump National.
A “Good Guy” award to Major League umpire John Tumpane, who saved a woman from death or injury when he helped prevent her from leaping from the Roberto Clemente Bridge before a Pirates game he was scheduled to work at PNC Park.
Tumpane grabbed her arm and “held on for dear life,” while getting a passerby to call 911, talking to the woman until help arrived. “I kept thinking, ‘God this has got to be a good ending, not a bad ending,’” he said later.
Conversely, fellow umpire Angel Hernandez can pick up a “Jerk” award for alleging MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre “has a history of animosity towards (him) stemming from Torre’s time as manager of the Yankees,” as he claimed in a lawsuit.
A “Courage” award to Pittsburgh Pirates hurler Jameson Taillon for his heroic comeback from testicular cancer surgery. Taillon also came back from prior Tommy John surgery and took a liner to the head in 2016.
An “A-hole” award to Rapper DMX, who was charged with 14 counts of tax evasion; allegedly failing to cough up $1.7 million in taxes, specifically, with DMX then saying outside Manhattan Federal Court, “My life is in God’s hands.” Hand him a “Jerk” award as well.
A “Good Guy” nod to tennis player Andy Murray, who the female tennis pros say “has spoken up for women’s issues and women’s rights, especially in tennis, forever,” in the words of Serena Williams. “We love Andy Murray,” she told ESPN.
“A-hole” hardware for Red Sox pitcher David Price for viciously going after Hall of Famer and broadcaster Dennis Eckersely. Eck’s offense? He muttered “yuck” when reliever Eduardo Rodriguez’s stats were shown on television.
Price confronted Eckersley on a team plane, saying at one point, “Here he is – the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!”
Eckersley tried to get a word in, at which point Price told him to “get the f--- out of here!”
The Boston Globe reported the team handled it internally.
Price is in the midst of a seven-year, $217 million contract and is basically now a reliever. [At least that is how he finished up 2017.]
A “Good Guy” award to Texas pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife, Heidi, who donated a mansion and 100 acres of land in southwest Missouri to a charity that provides camps for children with special needs and chronic illnesses. It was to be their dream home, Heidi growing up in the area of the mansion, but when Hamels was traded, they moved to Texas, thus the Missouri donation.
More hardware for LaVar Ball, this of the “A-hole” variety. Ball went on a sexist tirade after he was ejected from an AAU game in Las Vegas, directing his frustration at a female official who was replaced mid-game when Ball attempted to pull his Big Baller Brand squad off the court until she was removed.
A “Good Guy” award to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who led the civilian search team for the World War II heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, which Allen and his cohorts found in the Pacific, 72 years after its sinking by a Japanese submarine.
There were 1,196 men on board, of whom between 800-900 survived the sinking.
But no distress call was ever received, and by the time the survivors were found by chance four days later, just 316 were left alive in the shark-infested waters.
The ship is well-known for its final, secret mission; carrying parts for the atomic bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” as well as enriched uranium fuel for its nuclear reaction. Those supplies were delivered to Tinian island, an American base, and then four days later the Indianapolis sank – less than a week before the nuclear bomb it helped to make destroyed Hiroshima.
In the movie “Jaws,” Robert Shaw (“Quint”) spoke in hushed tones of surviving the Indianapolis.
Paul Allen said the location of the Indianapolis will never be revealed out of respect for the dead and those who remain entombed in it. But this action of his provides closure to the families.
“Dirtball” hardware to the family who visited Prittlewell Priory, a museum and park in Southend-on-Sea in Britain, and decided to damage an 800-year-old sandstone coffin by placing a child into it for a photo and then knocking off a small piece, according to museum officials. Closed-circuit television cameras recorded the act. The family left without reporting the damage. That is the definition of a dirtball(s).
A “Good Guy” plaque to golfer Jordan Spieth, who donated his now famous 3-iron that he used for a miraculous ‘bogey’ in the final round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale to the club.
An “A-hole” award to Penn State football coach James Franklin for calling a timeout just as mighty Georgia State was about to kick a field goal in the final seconds of a 56-0 victory. The kicker drilled it, but it didn’t count. He then missed his next attempt from 31.
After which on his show the following Monday, WFAN’s Mike Francesa went ballistic. “He’s got to try to block a kick at 56-0?!” Francesa screamed. “He’s a horse’s ass for doing that. That’s a quote.”
Franklin said the timeout had nothing to do with preserving a shutout. “We had our fourth-team (defense) on the field and we don’t have a fourth-team field goal block that even knows how to get lined up with the mix-and-match guys we had in there. So we called timeout to get the second-team field goal block in there.”
Francesa: “He didn’t have a block team? It’s 56-0! Let him kick the ball. And then to try to lie about it? What a stooge!”
By comparison, earlier in the season, Western Michigan – down by 17 points – eased off to let USC score a PAT when blind long snapper Jake Olson delivered the ball in the final minutes of a game. [WMU receiving a “Good Sportsmanship” award as a result.]
“Good Guy” hardware for J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and his awesome fundraising effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Speaking of Harvey and “Good Guy” awards, LPGA golfer Stacy Lewis gets one for donating her entire winning check of $195,000 to Houston, a week after Harvey, Lewis being a Houston native.
And another...Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, who donated his first game check ($27,353) to three women who work in the NRG Stadium cafeteria and who were especially affected by the flooding from Harvey.
Mega “Dirtball” awards to all those men behaving badly, like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey...unfortunately way too numerous to name individually at this point.
And another “Jerk” award to LaVar Ball for not thanking President Trump, who clearly had a direct role in the release of his son, LiAngelo, and the two other UCLA freshmen after they were caught shoplifting in China.
Aside from refusing to thank Trump, LaVar said, “They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes...My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him.”
“Good Guy” hardware to one of my favorites, Bruno Mars, who donated $1 million to families in Flint, Michigan dealing with exposure to lead in the city’s water supply. “It’s a heartbreaking situation...This happened to good people. I don’t want that to be swept under the rug.”
Activism often gets a bad name...but not in this case, especially if you know his life story. Mars has also donated heavily to Puerto Rico disaster relief.
What’s this? More hardware for LaVar Ball? Yes, indeed. “Jerk” and “Dirtball” awards for allowing his kids to play overseas, without him being there.
A “Jerk” award to former Giants coach Ben McAdoo. Unless you lived in the New York metro area, it’s hard to believe just how much of a jerk he was.
“Idiots” (and Dirtballs) all....South Carolina Gamecock fans for raining bottles on Clemson football players in the Tigers’ game there.
And Ken P. wanted to make sure I noted the supposed comeback attempt of former baseball player Rafael Palmeiro at age 53. Baseball exec Dan Duquette said he has no doubt Palmeiro can because hitting is like “tying your shoes.” So we call this our “Inane Comment of the Year.”
Biggest Choke Job: U.S. men’s national soccer team failing to qualify for next summer’s World Cup for the first time since 1986, eliminated by freakin’ Trinidad and Tobago in a 2-1 loss. Second-biggest, the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl, New England scoring the last 31 for the 34-28 win. [Granted these two are interchangeable.]
Nicest (Major) Story: The Astros winning their first World Series in the aftermath of the devastation wrought on their city by Hurricane Harvey.
Most Popular College Champion: Clemson defeating Alabama for the college football championship. You can’t help but like the Tigers.
And the “Paul Newman Good Guy Award” goes to.....golfer Stacy Lewis! [You have to understand the totality of her generosity.] You go, Girl!
Finally, Animal of the Year: “Dog,” who else...the NYPD announcing that as part of its stepped up security for New Year’s Eve, they would have more dogs out. Notice the police commissioner didn’t say, “And the public will see more cat teams looking for explosives.”
An example of a 2017 hero dog was Mexico’s Frida, who located 12 people alive beneath the rubble of a devastating earthquake there (the one prior to the Mexico City quake), as well as the bodies of more than 40 dead (providing closure), according to the Mexican Navy.
Frida has been all over Central and South America, including at an earthquake in Ecuador last year, and a landslide in Guatemala.
And on that note....again, Happy New Year!
Next BC, Thursday.