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On to the Super Bowl
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
College Basketball Quiz: As noted below, this week marked the 50th anniversary of the historic Houston-UCLA game in the Astrodome. That 1967-68 college season, Houston’s Elvin Hayes averaged 36.8 points per game, but two players averaged more, both of whom went on to NBA Hall of Fame careers, as did Hayes. Who were they? [Alcindor isn’t one of them.] Answer below.
Super Bowl....it’s New England and Philadelphia! [A delicious finale.]
Wednesday, Tom Brady, in a handoff to running back Rex Burkhead in practice, cut his right throwing hand, 10 stitches being required. In typical fashion the Patriots kept the injury under wraps as much as they could, though it was known the injury didn’t cause any ligament damage, let alone bone breaks.
Nonetheless, as game time approached Sunday in Foxborough, Brady was followed closely in his warmups and seemed to be throwing well, and without the protective glove he had been seen wearing after the injury.
But Jacksonville and their tough defense came out fired up and behind solid quarterback play by Blake Bortles the Jags took a shocking 14-3 lead with 7:00 to play in the second, and then that was basically it.
The Pats cut it to 14-10 at the half on a James White touchdown run in the final minute of the half, but prior to that, New England lost Rob Gronkowski to a concussion, the victim of a vicious helmet-on-helmet hit by the Jags’ Barry Church, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
It was ugly, and scary...yours truly having just typed up an opinion piece you’ll see below. Football is barely surviving, the inevitable death on the field coming.
But after the half, the Jags’ ‘D’ kept up its great play and Josh Lambo kicked two field goals of 54 and 43 yards to make it 20-10, and with 14:52 to play, New England and Brady sure had their work cut out for them.
I’ll let the New York Post’s Brian Costello describe the rest.
“Thumbs up for Tom Brady.
“The Patriots quarterback led yet another comeback, injured hand and all...to beat the Jaguars 24-20 in the AFC Championship game and return to the Super Bowl for the eighth time in his magnificent career....
“(Down 20-10) first, Brady found Danny Amendola for a 21-yard completion on third-and-18 on a killer play for the Jaguars. Brady followed that up with a 31-yard pass to Phillip Dorsett, then found Amendola for a 9-yard touchdown pass that cut the score to 20-17 with 8:44 left.”
Jacksonville’s offense stalled inside its own 10 and the ensuing punt was returned by Amendola 20 yards to the Jags’ 30.
“It took Brady five plays to put the ball in the end zone, the go-ahead touchdown a 4-yard strike to Amendola in the back of the end zone that gave the Patriots a 24-20 lead.”
The Jags had one last chance, and got it inside New England territory, but the drive stalled from there. On a fourth-and-15, Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore batted away a Bortles pass intended for Dede Westbrook, game over.
Brady finished 26/38, 290, 2-0, 108.4. Blake Bortles had zero to be embarrassed about, going 23/36, 293, 1-0, 98.5, though he was only 10 of 21 in the second half.
So now it’s on to the Super Bowl against Philadelphia and a sixth ring.
As for Jacksonville’s future, Bortles exhibited a lot of toughness in the playoffs, no doubt, but is he the answer for president Tom Coughlin and crew? You know Coughlin would love Eli Manning for two years, but it seems tonight that this is not happening with Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur headed to the Giants and wanting Eli for one season while the team works on the future at the same time.
As for the Eagles’ 38-7 demolition of the Vikings, look no further than quarterback Nick Foles and the Philly defense. Foles went 26/33, 352, 3-0, 141.4...Carson Wentz who? Amazing job by him. Some of us knew he could do it after the injury to Wentz depressed the entire city beyond belief.
And the Philadelphia ‘D’ emasculated Vikings QB Case Keenum, 28/48, 271, 1-2, 63.8, Keenum also losing a fumble, while the first pick was returned for a touchdown.
So it’s Super Bowl No. 3 for Philly, the first since 2004.
[More next chat...and then there is zero to say until The Game.]
--The Titans moved quickly to replace coach Mike Mularkey, hiring former NFL linebacker and Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
Vrabel won three Super Bowls with the Patriots from 2001-08, which overlapped with Titans GM Jon Robinson’s time in New England’s personnel department.
Vrabel also played with the Steelers and Chiefs in his 14-year career, so aside from learning the game under Bill Belichick, he also had some time with Bill Cowher. He played his college ball at Ohio State.
--The Steelers fired offensive coordinator Todd Haley after his disastrous calls in the loss to the Jaguars, with Pittsburgh replacing him with quarterbacks coach Randy Fichter, who Ben Roethlisberger lobbied hard for, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
Fichter has been the quarterbacks coach for Pittsburgh the past eight years, so needless to say he has a close relationship with Big Ben, who has committed to coming back next season.
Haley has ties to Jets head coach Todd Bowles, and he could be in line to replace John Morton, who New York fired as its OC.
--I told Johnny Mac that with Jets receiver Robby Anderson already wrapping up “Idiot” and “Dirtball” of the year awards, and we’re not even out of January, I was tempted to lay off the 16 employees I have dedicated to the year-end awards show. But Johnny wisely told me to be patient. There will be others.
That said, here’s one of the headlines from New York area papers Saturday:
“Anderson piling up the felony charges: Two more on Friday mean troubled WR could be cut” [Star-Ledger]
Robby Anderson had a terrific second season in the NFL, the undrafted product out of Temple with 63 receptions for 941 yards, 14.9, and 7 touchdowns. He made some truly great catches and is about the only player on the team capable of turning a 10-yard slant route into 60.
But Jets fans watching this guy all season, always had a feeling of unease. Anderson is a true dirtball. A bad person. It is extremely hard to root for the man beyond the fact he wears your favorite team’s jersey. He shouldn’t be in the NFL. And that was before this....
From the Ledger’s Darryl Slater and Connor Hughes:
“Anderson faces nine charges – including two felonies – after being arrested for allegedly speeding away from police at 105 mph early Friday, then threatening to sexually assault the wife of the arresting officer, according to police records.”
You read that last bit right.
“This makes three felonies hanging over Anderson. Last May, he was arrested at a music festival in Miami Beach for allegedly pushing a police officer during a dispute. He received a felony charge for that – resisting an officer with violence. His trial is scheduled to begin March 19.”
So in this latest deal, Anderson was arrested at 2:15 a.m. Friday in Sunrise, Florida.
“According to the police report obtained by NJ Advance Media, an officer was conducting a traffic stop when he observed a white SUV rapidly approaching. As the vehicle approached, Anderson stared at the officer as he passed, then ‘rapidly accelerated.’”
[Pause to let this action sink in...Anderson staring at the officer, then taking off...]
“The officer clocked the vehicle at 105 mph in a 45 mph zone for three-quarters of a mile, according to the police report.
“Anderson then slowed his car to 45 mph at a red light, before running it, and a subsequent red light, the report said.”
Anderson was all over the road, the report said. He was then eventually pulled over and when he was asked why he was driving so recklessly, Anderson replied by invoking his rights to speak with a lawyer. When officers tried to put Anderson in the back of a patrol car, he “began to brace, tense, and refuse to get in the back of the vehicle.”
Once Anderson got in the car, he used vulgar language and made a sexual comment about the police officer’s wife.
“He continued to make other verbal threats towards my family,” said the arresting officer, Jonathan Hennessy, in his report. “Based on his statements, it was clear he wanted to sexually assault my wife.”
Then, according to the report, Anderson “began to brag about how much money he has and how all I was doing was trying...to ‘ruin his fun.’”
Anderson’s rookie contract runs through the 2018 season. The Jets will no doubt cut him, eating just $3,333 (his prorated signing bonus).
So we have two serious situations directly involving officers. Bye-bye, Robby. You are an amazing idiot and dirtball.
[Ironically, the story in the Ledger next to Anderson’s is about none other than Tim Tebow. Talk about contrasting characters. You know how I feel about him. He’s the real deal. Tebow’s just a good dude, with a long list of examples of him helping his fellow man. The Mets invited him to another training camp and here’s hoping he hangs in there. Hits a homer or two, and then is granted another shot at Class-A ball to see where it goes.]
--Paul S. Auerbach / Wall Street Journal
“Football is entertaining to watch, but it’s a violent collision sport that causes the majority of traumatic brain injuries in athletes. During a high-school season, one study finds, nearly 1 in 5 players on any given team will suffer a concussion. [Ed. Holy s---. I didn’t know the percentage was this high.] Many will suffer more than one. The football establishment needs to address this issue emphatically – and it can do so without changing the essence of the game that millions of Americans love.
“Concussions occur when the brain moves suddenly and forcefully within the skull, back and forth or rotationally, like a lump of Jell-O in a box. The brain may require weeks to recover; what effects ultimately linger, doctors cannot fully predict. They diminish brain function, including cognition, memory, attention span, learning ability, emotional and behavioral stability and other features of ‘executive function.’ A repeat concussion that occurs before the first one has healed can cause second-impact syndrome, which is far more severe.”
Gee, want your kid to play football about now? We continue.
“Beyond the acute suffering, football concussions lead to permanent neurological impairments, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, whose symptoms can include depression, aggression and dementia. The cascade begins with the first injury, which might occur in a youth football league. Each year on the field, the risks are compounded – with concussion, prevention is everything, because there is no treatment except to hope there is no permanent impairment.
“I’ve served on the sidelines as a team physician at high-school, college and professional football games, so I know the sport well and its potential to cause harm. As an emergency physician, I have diagnosed and treated too many concussions, and worse traumatic brain injuries, suffered while playing football. After all this experience, I’m convinced that adding one new rule would go a long way toward ending the scourge of football head injuries. That change would be to eliminate opposing ‘down linemen’ from the game.....
“When the ball is snapped, these opposing linemen collide head to head like rams in a territorial dispute. Their brains decelerate quickly – play after play after play.
“The players wear helmets, but there is virtually no evidence that they prevent concussions. A helmet cushions the head but does not sufficiently prevent the brain from dangerously sliding and rotating within the skull. Down linemen are believed to incur frequent ‘subconcussive’ hits – concussions that are asymptomatic or nearly so. Thousands of these over the course of a career may cumulatively cause permanent and devastating brain damage. While the NFL and other football leagues have taken steps to address the most dramatic collisions, which produce the visible, severe acute injuries, they have largely neglected the nonobvious repetitive injuries that pose the greatest danger of chronic traumatic encephalopathy....
“But if everyone knows what is happening to the brains of these players, why is it taking so long to make the rules changes necessary to protect them?
“The answer is that football is a massive ecosystem of socioeconomic forces. Colleges, coaches, owners, municipalities, advertisers and television networks pay and are paid large sums to maintain a culture of football.....
“Yet rule changes are the only interventions that have been proven to prevent concussions. The most common argument against them is that rule changes would make the sport less appealing to spectators: ‘It just wouldn’t be the same.’
“It wouldn’t – but making football safer might make it better.”
Well, I don’t see this guy’s ideas going far.
College Basketball Review...since last chat....
SMU (13-6) upset 7 Wichita State (15-3) 83-78, and Alabama (12-6) took out 17 Auburn (16-2) at home, 76-71.
Texas (12-6) upset 8 Texas Tech (15-3) 67-58, and Stanford (11-8) beat 16 Arizona State (14-4) 86-77.
And 19 Seton Hall (15-4) fell to Creighton (15-4) in Omaha, 80-63.
No. 1 Villanova whipped UConn (10-9) with ease, 81-61, as the Wildcats are now 18-1; the class of college basketball today.
4 Oklahoma (14-4) lost in Stillwater to Oklahoma State (13-6) 83-81 in overtime, despite Trae Young’s 48 points, though it was on 14 of 39 from the field, 8 of 20 from three. No other Sooner was in double figures. You have to question how far a one-man team like this can go come March Madness.
7 Wichita State lost again, this time at Houston (15-4), 73-59, as my Shockers are now 15-4 and headed to No. 14 in the next AP Poll.
8 Texas Tech (15-4) lost for a second time this week, this time at Iowa State (11-7), 70-52.
And in a key Big East contest, your “Pick to Click for the Final Four” Seton Hall Pirates lost a bad one at home to 11 Xavier (18-3), 73-64, as the Musketeers’ J.P. Macura had a terrific all-around game, including a season-high 27 points.
For The Hall, who will fall out of the top 25, I’ve said that what is eminently clear is this team is indeed Final Four material with its big three seniors...or a flameout in the round of 32. And what’s also really clear is that Khadeen Carrington has to shoot well. Saturday he was a pathetic 5 of 19 from the field, including 0 for 7 from three. And while Angel Delgado had another monster game on the boards with 18 rebounds, he only had 8 points.
But Johnny Mac and I are not getting off the Pirate Train. [There’s only three potential stops we could disembark if we wanted to anyway between Summit and South Orange...Short Hills, Millburn and Maplewood...so might as well ride it all the way...seeing as we also already paid full fare....]
Two more...18 Kentucky (14-5) lost at home to Florida (14-5) 66-64 as John Calipari’s squad is in very real danger of falling out of the top 25, which is kind of staggering.
And tonight, in a game involving No. 2 Virginia, the Cavaliers beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, 59-49, in what must have been a hideous contest; the Cavaliers now 18-1, 7-0, while the Deacs fall to 8-11, 1-6. It’s not even worth committing hari-kari over, I have to admit, seeing the Deacons implode this season. On to baseball.
Lastly, back to my “Pick to Click” for the title, Wichita State, and final four guarantee, Seton Hall, it isn’t just a coincidence that after my “Pick to Click” Pittsburgh Steelers fell last weekend to the Jaguars, the Shockers and Pirates have gone 0-4!
There are evil forces at work here. I’m also on UFO watch.
--No. 5 Duke defeated Pitt 81-54 on Saturday to improve to 17-2, and two hours later, they nabbed the No. 1 high school player in the land, Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Zion Williamson. Whether he is truly the best is an unknown (see Trae Young...who wasn’t seen as a future star in his senior year...), but Williamson is the best known, as he wants it.
Williamson said in his announcement live on ESPN2: “Duke stood out because ‘The Brotherhood’ represents a family. Coach K, he’s just the most legendary coach to coach college basketball. I felt like going to Duke University I can learn a lot from him in my time there.”
The kid has amassed more than 30 million views for his dunks and blocked shots on social media, and through this fame he’s got “friends” like hip hop icon Drake wearing his high school jersey on his Instagram. Oh brother.
Williamson is Duke’s fourth McDonald’s All American recruit for the 2018 class. None of them will be there more than 2 years for sure. I mean look at this year’s team. Freshmen Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., and Gary Trent Jr. are all sure to head to the NBA. Probably Trevon Duval too.
But back to Williamson, he was recruited by Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky and North Carolina. As J. Mac and I agree, if he’s only sticking around a year, why not stay at home and become a legend at Clemson or USC?
Johnny, who has been following the kid from his perch in nearby Asheville, N.C. (local television covering both areas), said not only is Williamson more than full of himself, saying:
“Coach K., when he came to my house and spoke to me and my family, it wasn’t just about basketball and what he could do for me in like one year. It was how he could build Zion as a brand on and off the court for the next 20 years and the rest of my life.”
It’s also about the kid’s step-father, who Johnny says is LaVar II. “(The father) hasn’t met a television camera he doesn’t love.” The guy also coached his kid’s Adidas-sponsored summer league team...ergo, Step-Dad is a surefire pain in the ass.
I can see Coach K. setting the guy straight right away. But if he doesn’t listen, Coach K.’s blood pressure will hit a new all-time high and he might just go off into space.
--Finally, as alluded to above, Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the “Game of the Century” between No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Houston in the Astrodome in front of a crowd of 52,693. Houston won 71-69 behind Elvin Hayes’ 39 points and 15 rebounds, topping Lew Alcindor’s team (Alcindor was suffering from a scratched cornea, suffered the game before, and was basically playing with one eye...going just 4 of 18 from the field, 15 points).* The Houston Cougars, in their game with Wichita State, honored players from the game and staff at halftime to mark the event...very cool. It was truly an historic moment for the sport and helped catapult it into the big time. [The first nationally televised college basketball game in prime time.]
*UCLA then got their revenge on Houston in the Final Four, blitzing the Cougars 101-69; a healthy Alcindor with 19 points and 18 rebounds, Hayes just 10 and 5.
UCLA also received 19 points each from Mike Lynn and Lucius Allen. Don Chaney was on that Cougars’ team.
UCLA then destroyed North Carolina 78-55 for the title.
NBA Fever...catch it....cough cough....
--Two big ones Saturday. Oklahoma City (26-20) played their best game of the year in beating Cleveland (27-18) on the road, 148-124, as the Thunder’s Big 3 (+1) went off...Carmelo Anthony with 29, Paul George 36, and Russell Westbrook 23 (plus 20 assists, his second career 20-20)...while center Steven Adams, often forgotten in this lineup, had 25 on 12 of 13 from the field.
Afterwards, LeBron James, who was held to 18, said the Cavs could go out in the early rounds of the playoffs. This team is in major disarray, losers of 9 of 12.
Saturday night, in the NBA’s marquee contest as it has a run of Saturday primetime contests, Golden State lost at Houston, 116-108, as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were held to 9 of 31 shooting from the field, while Chris Paul had 33 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists.
In his first game back from a hamstring injury, James Harden had 22 points, with a key 3-pointer to make it 114-108, and then a block on Curry’s 3-point attempt.
Golden State falls to 37-10, 21-4 on the road, while Houston is 32-12.
Afterwards, Houston coach Mike D’Antoni raved about Paul’s play.
“The guy is a winner, he’s been a winner, he’s going to win,” D’Antoni said.
Ah, Coach? Chris Paul has never been a winner. He’s never gotten his team beyond the first two rounds of the playoffs, and he couldn’t guide Wake Forest to anything of note.
One other big contest Saturday. Minnesota had a nice 115-109 win at home over Toronto (31-14) despite Kyle Lowry’s 40 points. The T’wolves, who I’m now guaranteeing play the Warriors in the conference finals (or take out the Warriors in the semis....ahem ahem....), are now 30-18.
--Meanwhile, as the Knicks continued with their seven-game road trip, 16 of 20 away from the Garden, on Wednesday they had a horrendous loss at Memphis, 105-99, the Grizzlies (15-28) fielding a G-League squad.
But Friday, the Knicks won at Utah (18-27), 117-115, behind Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 31.
Then Sunday, the Knicks were in L.A. to play the Lakers and had an 84-78 lead in the third, only to be outscored 49-23 from there...127-107 losers. Eegads! New York is 21-26, 6-17 on the road; the Lakers 17-29.
--In a potential precursor to the Pats-Jags contest, the Celtics inexplicably lost at home to the 14-32 Magic, 103-95, despite a terrific effort by Kyrie Irving, 40 points on 14 of 23 shooting. [But then the Pats came through.]
--I couldn’t care less about the NBA All-Star Game, seeing as I never watch a second of it, but for the record I do need to note the starters.
Eastern Conference: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Joe Embiid (Philadelphia), Kyrie Irving (Boston) and DeMar DeRozan (Toronto).
Western Conference: Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and New Orleans’ big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Reserves are announced Tuesday. Then James and Curry, the two captains, in a format being used for a first time, will select teams (so it’s not just East vs. West). There was some interest in this, as fans expected the ‘draft’ to be televised, but it won’t be. The NBA won’t even release the order in which the picks were made.
--San Antonio fans have to be concerned with the future of superstar Kawhi Leonard, who is back on the shelf with right quadriceps tendinopathy. Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season because of the condition, which causes pain and weakness in the knee, then he returned for nine games, only to be put back on the shelf indefinitely.
--Major League Baseball appears to be on the verge of instituting some kind of pitch clock this coming season, not 2019. The only question now is whether Commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally implements any change, as is his collectively bargained right, or whether it is negotiated/bargained over between the owners and players.
The Players Association previously rejected MLB’s proposal of a 20-second pitch clock for all pitches that would start when a pitcher has the ball on the mound and stop when the pitcher begins his windup or comes set. The pitcher would receive a warning for his first violation, then every subsequent violation would result in a ball. [The batter would be charged with a strike if he didn’t set up in time.]
Last year in MLB, the average time it took a pitcher to throw a pitch under the above parameters was 22 seconds.
Another issue originally rejected by the PA was a limit of two mound visits by anyone – or even the pitcher venturing off the mound to chat with a teammate – per pitcher, per inning.
So, while the PA had previously rejected these proposals, executive director Tony Clark and Rob Manfred are meeting this coming week to discuss them again.
I really hope the two sides reach an accord, like to institute the changes in 2019, not this season, because I want labor peace. It wouldn’t be good if Manfred unilaterally does this. Just my opinion.
--Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell had the following thoughts on baseball’s overly quiet offseason when it comes to free agency; the likes of Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, J.D. Martinez, and the Kansas City trio – Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas – all still being on the market.
“So, why is baseball as quiet as a politician’s conscience? Perhaps what we’re seeing now is a new form of coordinated salary suppression by MLB teams, akin to the collusion catastrophes of the early 1980s that I covered; those two off-seasons of price-fixing ended with owners paying the players hundreds of millions in damages. I don’t think we’re there yet. This may just be a fluky slow-to-jell market. But if the storehouse of valuable unsigned free agents is still jammed to the rafters by the end of the first week in February, all my antennae will go up.
“More likely, what we’re about to see is a period of marvelous mayhem in which a lot of very good, but imperfect free agents circle the available chairs at the baseball table, playing musical millions. As each player signs, the kaleidoscope of rosters will shake. And trade options will become clearer for those teams that don’t get the free agent they wanted at the price they could afford.”
Mr. Boswell is thinking mostly of his Nationals with this last statement.
“Pitchers and catchers report in less than four weeks. Between now and then, more than 150 free agents will pick their teams. And, with more supply than demand this winter, dozens of them won’t find a home at all. It’s been a boring winter so far. That, for a certainty, is about to change (one last nod to Dusty) ‘big time.’”
--Mets fans learned formally what we long suspected. Outfielder Michael Conforto isn’t likely to return until about June 1st following his serous shoulder operation (torn posterior capsule in his left shoulder). Heretofore, Mets management was leading its fans to believe he would be playing by late April, but GM Sandy Alderson said the other day Conforto could be ready sometime in May, though we’ve learned to discount these statements. Johnny Mac just hopes we aren’t watching Pete Gray II come to the plate later on, given our medical staff’s history of incompetence.
--On the fourth hole of sudden death (after last week’s tournament went six extra holes), Jon Rahm improved his world ranking to No. 2 behind Dustin Johnson with his second PGA Tour title against Andrew Landry at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Palm Springs, the event played over three courses.
Sam Saunders, Arnie’s grandson, had his sixth career top ten, a big tourney for him.
This event has a pro-am format, with the cut after three rounds rather than two, and in his first tourney of the calendar year, Phil Mickelson missed the cut by four shots, a very poor effort.
But there was this blurb from Mike James of the L.A. Times:
“John Daly had the kind of get-me-off-the-course round (Saturday) that always makes him a gamble as a sponsor’s exemption. Four under after two rounds, he ended his tournament by nonchalanting his way to an 80 at La Quinta.”
I’m sure the amateur who shelled out big bucks to play with Daly was thrilled.
--In the first Champions Tour event of the season, Jerry Kelly picked up the third senior win of his career, besting Colin Montgomerie by one at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in New Jersey. [OK, Hawaii...just seeing if you’re paying attention.]
Bernhard Langer finished T-16, as golf fans are wondering when the 60-year-old will start showing his age. Is it now?
--Reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is out 2 ½ months with a partially torn tendon in his left wrist. He hopes to be back for the Masters...a tradition unlike any other...on CBS.
The thing is, Koepka’s wrist has bothered him since Tiger’s Hero World Challenge in early December, but he played anyway, and then again in the Tournament of Champions the other week, failing to break par in any of his four rounds.
I was following the event and wondered ‘what’s up with Brooks?’ Now we know he should have shut himself down last month.
--And this coming week, it’s Torrey Pines...and THE RETURN OF TIGER! We just want him to make the cut and feel fine after four rounds. Then the real excitement can begin. [He is going to be nervous as hell.]
In action Saturday, Chelsea blitzed Brighton 4-0, Eden Hazard with two goals; Arsenal whipped Crystal Palace 4-1; Manchester United edged Burnley on the road, 1-0; and Manchester City beat Newcastle 3-1.
Sunday, my Tottenham Spurs traveled to Southampton in another must win situation and owing to an own goal, only managed a draw, 1-1. Harry Kane, who scored Tottenham’s only real goal, had a great chance in extra time for the win and just missed it.
Yup, the Spurs will never truly be elite unless they win games like this automatically, and then do better than .500 against the other five in the Big Six.
Standings after 24 of 38...ties broken by goal differential....
1. Man City 65 points
2. Man U 53
3. Chelsea 50
4. Liverpool 47* ...Champions League line
5. Tottenham 45
6. Arsenal 42
14. Huddersfield 24
15. Newcastle 23
16. Brighton 23
17. Stoke 23 ....Relegation line
18. Southampton 22
19. West Brom 20
20. Swansea 17*
*Monday, Liverpool is at Swansea, game 24 for each, so a sure three points for the Reds, meaning Tottenham will be a whopping five points behind Liverpool for the Champions League. This blows, sports fans.
--How profitable is big-time European football? UEFA’s annual report estimates that Europe’s top 20 clubs generated a combined 544 million euros (over $650 million) in profits after taxes, financing and transfers in 2016.
The wealthiest club is Zenit St. Petersburg, beating out the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. FC Zenit had a net profit of 77 million euros, largely because of a large net profit on transfers.
Actually, guess who No. 2 was? Tottenham, with a net profit of 44 million, Man U third at 34 million euros.
FIS Alpine Ski World Cup
They raced two downhills this weekend at Cortina, Italy and American Lindsey Vonn again served notice she is still a factor to be reckoned with at PyeongChang, Vonn winning her 79th World Cup race, seven behind all-time WC leader Ingemar Stenmark.
But the U.S. also got thirds in the two races from Mikaela Shiffrin, who is far ahead in the overall World Cup standings, and Jacqueline Wiles, just her second career podium finish.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Men’s team is still without a podium finish all season.
--The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted five new members Friday night: Robert Yates, Ray Evernham, Robert “Red” Byron, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr.
Yates was an engine builder and car owner for the likes of Dale Jarrett, Ernie Irvan and Davey Allison. Touchingly, he wrote his induction speech before he died, last October, of cancer, after learning he had been elected to the Hall on his fourth try.
Evernham is best known for his work as crew chief for Jeff Gordon.
Byron, who raced despite suffering a severe leg injury in WW II, won the first Cup Series championship in 1949.
Hornaday is the first Camping World Truck Series driver elected to the Hall, which is a very cool move for the sport. He won four championships in NASCAR’s No. 3 series, scoring 51 victories.
And Ken Squier is one of the all-time leading motorsports’ broadcast voices. He did it all, including anchoring CBS’ landmark first flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500 in 1979.
For you younger folk who’ve only known a day where everything is ‘live,’ us old-time racing fans had to deal with all kinds of tape delays, from Formula 1, to Indy, to NASCAR. Much of the time you’d only see races like Le Mans or Daytona on “Wide World of Sports,” shoehorned in with barrel jumping from Lake Placid (seriously...we had that...along with the Demolition Derby...the prize money for these events being like $300...).
--Thai police arrested a man alleged to be the head of Asia’s biggest illegal wildlife trading networks.
As reported by the BBC, “Boonchai Bach, a 40-year-old Thai of Vietnamese origin, was detained in a town on the border with Laos.
“He faces up to four years in jail for smuggling protected animal parts like rhino horns and elephant ivory.”
Friday, Bach was arrested for smuggling 14 rhino horns worth around $1 million from Africa to Thailand.
Laos is one of the main routes through which poached animal parts from Africa and Asia are moved to buyers in Vietnam and China.
It’s really too bad Mr. Bach can’t be placed in a small fenced in yard with about ten rhinos and six elephants and let him just die of fear.
‘Man’ falls another notch to 377 on the All-Species List.
--Make that ‘Man’ falls to 378, because a small Iowa town just had a situation in which two young boys vandalized a honey farm causing $60,000 in damage, as well as the deaths of 500,000 bees, according to the Sioux City Police Department. The boys, ages 12 and 13, face felony charges.
While the case is likely to be tried in juvenile court, as adults they would face a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fines totaling $10,000.
But imagine how sick this is. And how premeditated...the planning involved...in destroying “all 50 of Wild Hill Honey owners Justin and Tori Engelhardt’s bee hives.”
These punks destroyed their livelihood!
On second thought, I’m dropping ‘Man’ to 379, not 378. [The incredibly underrated, intelligent honey bee is No. 32.]
--Meanwhile, in another example of why ‘Dog’ is No. 1 on the ASL, there was a piece in USA TODAY on Preston, a therapy dog, who has been attending Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing...all four days...Nassar the former sports-medicine osteopath who has admitted to committing sexual abuse, primarily members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
Preston wears a blue bandanna whenever he’s working as a canine advocate, though he sometimes adds a blue tie to dress up, according to Alex Brace, executive director of Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center, a Lansing, Mich.-based nonprofit that serves children who are survivors of physical or sexual abuse.
The bandana is “kind of a signal to him that he’s on the clock, so to speak,” said Brace. “Once he take off his bandanna, it lets him know he can go back to being a puppy who’s just wagging his tail and playing around.”
Preston, a black lab, has been on hand for the 68 women and girls who have given statements against Nassar.
--One other on the ASL, I saw a nice piece on goats today on CBS’ “Sunday Morning.” I might have to rethink their standing on the ASL, currently No. 72.
--We note the passing of former Kinks bassist Jim Rodford, who died at the age of 76. Rodford spent 18 years with the band from 1979, and also played with Argent and The Zombies.
--I wasn’t going to comment on the autopsy findings for Tom Petty because such things aren’t important to me (including the details we learned on former pitcher Roy Halladay).
But Petty did die of what we are now told was “an accidental drug overdose” the same day he found out his hip, which had been hurting him, was broken. He had been taking painkillers for the hip, and knee problems, and it seems he took too many pills...his system being found to have both fentanyl and oxycodone in it. An accidental overdose of fentanyl was the cause of Prince’s death.
You just have to be overly careful with what doctors are prescribing for any pain issues you are suffering through. At all costs, friends, stay away from fentanyl.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/22/77: #1 “I Wish” (Stevie Wonder) #2 “Car Wash” (Rose Royce...atrocious...) #3 “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” (Leo Sayer...can’t believe this was #1 two weeks earlier...)...and...#4 “Dazz” (Brick) #5 “You Don’t Have To Be A Star” (Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.) #6 “Hot Line” (The Sylvers...dreadful...) #7 “New Kid In Town” (Eagles...weak for them...) #8 “After The Lovin’” (Engelbert Humperdinck) #9 “Blinded By The Light” (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) #10 “Torn Between Two Lovers” (Mary MacGregor...one of the worst weeks of my college career...music wise...was having a blast attending ACC hoops games for the first time, the Deacs with a super team my freshman year...losing in the Elite Eight to eventual winner Marquette...)
College Basketball Quiz Answer: Two to average more than Elvin Hayes’ 36.8 ppg in the 1967-68 season: Pete Maravich (LSU) 43.8! and Calvin Murphy (Niagara) 38.2. No. 10 in the nation in scoring was Florida’s Neal Walk, who averaged 26.5 points and a nation-leading 19.8 rebounds.
Hayes was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1968 draft, ahead of Wes Unseld, while in 1969, Alcindor (who then became Abdul-Jabbar) was selected No. 1 and Neal Walk No. 2 by Phoenix. [Jo Jo White was No. 9 by Boston in that draft.]
Hey, Phil W. and J. Mac...Bazooka Joe says “the Knicks took Bill Hoskett in the first round out of Ohio State in 1968!”
Next Bar Chat, Thursday...which you know almost always means Wednesday, and I will be posting before the Hall of Fame vote is announced later that day. [I’m so swamped with that other big column I do, I just have to move on by Wed. afternoon, especially in this era of Trump.]
Anyway, according to the latest balloting (known votes), it’s looking like four players are a lock to get in: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Edgar Martinez, the last one a minor shocker to moi.
But of course all eyes are on whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens make it into the 60s, which would be a strong statement and virtually ensure they would then get the required 75 percent next year or the year after.