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World Cup Fever...Catch It!
[Posted Sunday p.m. ...I had major self-inflicted technical problems today. Picture, I do the columns in Word, to then transfer to the site, and I did something I’ve never done before. After closing out a major segment to do something else, namely, go out to hit some golf balls, I pressed ‘don’t save.’ Doh! Yes, had to recreate it all over again...what a freakin’ idiot I am....]
PGA Tour Quiz: This is for old-timers such as moi, but I was thinking during a jog the other day how back in my youth, so many Tour events were named after celebrities (Hollywood / music types...I’m not talking about Byron Nelson or, today, Arnie). So in 1974, eight such events were named after celebs. Name ‘em. Answer below. [It’s actually not that hard, old folk.]
--The debate is over for now...Cristiano Ronaldo is the GOAT (greatest of all time), not Lionel Messi. Shockingly, Messi and Argentina lost 3-0 to Croatia, Thursday, and now the team’s odds on advancing in the Cup are slim; Iceland and Argentina having tied at 1-1 in their initial match, and then Nigeria defeated Iceland.
The thing is, during Messi’s brilliant career, he has steered Argentina to zero titles. Zero. No World Cups, no Copa Americas (think Champions League).
Messi cares deeply about this lack of success, which impacts his legacy, but in his sport, you need some support, and a good coach. And there is a major controversy with the current one, Jorge Sampaoli. It’s the players against him.
Group D [W-D-L-GD-Pts]
Iceland 0-1-1- (-2) -1
Argentina 0-1-1- (-3) -1
Tues. Iceland v. Croatia; Nigeria v. Argentina
Needless to say, to stave off embarrassment, Messi & Co need to win and get help.
In Group F, we had a dramatic, critically important game on Saturday that was as good as it gets; Germany, a man down the last 13 minutes or so, including extra time, needing Toni Kroos’ sweet bender from outside the box for a 2-1 win over Sweden; the defending champion Germans down 1-0 at the half and facing elimination. Super contest all the way. The very best of WC soccer.
Korea 0-0-2- (-2)-0
Wed. Korea v. Germany; Mexico v. Sweden
Both of these will be terrific to follow.
And in Group G, it’s all about Belgium and England, both securing berths in the knockout stage.
Belgium showed off its superior depth, as good as any team in the WC, with a 5-2 dominating performance against Tunisia, while today, England blasted Panama 6-1 behind Harry Kane’s hat-trick, which gives him five goals in two games. John Stones also chipped in with two.
It was the biggest margin of victory in World Cup history for England.
Thurs. England v. Belgium. If the two draw, it comes down to fewest yellow cards.
As for Group H, today Japan and Senegal tied 2-2, while Colombia blitzed Poland 3-0.
Poland 0-0-2- (-4) -0
Thurs. Japan v. Poland; Senegal v. Colombia. Ooh, baby. This latter one will be delicious.
Actually, between this one and England-Belgium (at different times), Thursday is must-see WC action, sports fans! Tell your boss to kiss off... “I’m hitting the bar.” [Make sure he or she likes you before attempting this, I hasten to add.]
--Holy Toledo, the Yankees were just swept in Tampa, losing today 7-6 in 12, despite Giancarlo Stanton’s 5-for-5, 2 doubles, a homer, 2 RBIs. The Rays won on Jake Bauers’ home run. The Yanks lost 2-1 and 4-0, Friday and Saturday.
And a huge potential blow for the Yanks...Gary Sanchez suffered a groin injury and appears headed to the DL. If your editor ever gets one, he’ll keep working.
So with Boston defeating Seattle 5-0 behind Chris Sale’s (7-4, 2.56) 7 scoreless, 13 strikeouts, the Red Sox and Yanks are tied at the top of the A.L. East.
New York 50-25
Game more than on....going to be fun to watch the rest of the way. [Of course as a Mets fan I’ll be gritting my teeth.]
--Speaking of my Metropolitans, they have now lost six in a row after today’s 8-7 loss in 11 innings to the Dodgers. Mets pitchers gave up seven home runs! And the decider in the 11th was a blast from ex-Met Justin Turner...so fitting.
From an 11-1 start to the season to 31-44. Give your young kids a math project for the summer, to track just how lousy the Mets’ play is since the first 12.
“Bobby, the Mets are now 36-94....what is their record starting in the 13th game?”
“Gee, Mom. This team really sucks, doesn’t it?” [Bobby living in Dubuque, Iowa, and thus spared the daily carnage on the local airwaves and in print.]
Saturday night, the Mets lost 8-3 in a matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Jacob deGrom, Kershaw making his first start since his latest stint on the DL.
Kershaw was pitch-limited and went just three innings, giving up 2 runs while striking out 4.
DeGrom yielded 3 earned in six innings, the first time he had given up 3 runs since April 16!
Yet as the bullpen imploded anew, deGrom’s record fell to 5-3 despite a 1.69 ERA! Overall, the Mets are a startling 6-10 in his starts. It’s sickening.
And the Mets are now 13-24 at home. Oh yeah, that’s a way to get the fans to keep coming back.
I told Johnny Mac before today’s game that if Chris Flexen appeared, I’d demand the sword, parcel post.
So Flexen gave up the homer to Turner and Johnny said he’s using the sword on himself and his wife, Ellen, will send it.
I told Johnny when I see him upstairs we’ll pick a new team. [Don’t worry about Ellen, she’ll be fine.]
One more. Prior to today’s game, the Mets were 5-for-73 with runners in scoring position over their past 15 home games. If I was in Pyongyang, I’d request that Lil’ Kim use one of his cannons on me rather than waiting on the mail.
--Toronto closer Roberto Osuna was suspended 75 games without pay for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy related to an incident in May, the league announced Friday.
Osuna was arrested by Toronto police on May 8, on suspicion of assaulting a woman. The suspension is retroactive to that date. Osuna will be eligible to return to the roster on Aug. 4. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Osuna had 9 saves in 15 appearances this season, and 36 and 39, respectively, the last two seasons, though he blew 16 saves over those two years.
--In the College World Series, it’s going to be Oregon State and Arkansas in the best of three finals; the Beavers advancing Saturday night with a 5-2 win over Mississippi State. Friday, Arkansas beat defending champion Florida to advance.
The Beaverwear was stirring in the sports drawer, clawing over the Deaconwear, at least for the next few days.
Oregon State, just as they did in 2006, when they won the first of two straight national titles, came back from losing the CWS opener to win four-in-a-row and make the finals.
[South Carolina is the only other team since 2006 to make the finals after a loss in its opener, in 2010, and go on to win it.]
As for Arkansas, it is making its first appearance in a championship game since it was runner-up in 1979.
The best-of-three begins Monday.
--We note the passing of former long-time Yankees pitching coach, Billy Connors, 76. Connors was a confidante of George Steinbrenner, who held various positions as part of Boss George’s ‘brain trust,’ but is best known for honing reliever Mariano Rivera’s often unhittable cut fastball, and for teaching the cutter to Andy Pettitte, as well as CC Sabathia.
Connors was also a pitching coach for Kansas City, the Cubs (twice) and Seattle before the Yankees hired him in 1989 for the first of three tours.
--For the record, the top ten in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
1. Suns – Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
2. Kings – Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke
3. Hawks – Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia (traded to Mavs)
4. Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Michigan State
5. Mavericks – Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma (traded to Hawks)
6. Magic – Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
7. Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke
8. Cavs (via Nets) – Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
9. Knicks – Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky
10. 76ers (via Lakers) – Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova (traded to Suns)
11. Hornets – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Kentucky (traded to Clippers)
12. Clippers (via Pistons) – Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State (traded to Hornets)
13. Clippers – Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College
14. Nuggets – Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri
15. Wizards – Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon
16. Suns (via Heat) – Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech (traded to 76ers)
17. Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanoa
19. Hawks (via Timberwolves) – Kevin Huerter, SG/SF, Maryland...very intriguing player...
21. Jazz – Grayson Allen, SG, Duke
26. 76ers – Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State
30. Hawks (via Rockets) – Omari Spellman, C, Villanova
33. Mavericks – Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
37. Kings – Gary Trent Jr., PG/SG, Duke (traded to Trail Blazers)
53. Thunder – Devon Hall, SG, Virginia...a steal...
I have no problem with the Knicks taking Knox, as in, ‘Who the hell knows with any of the these guys?’
[Knicks fans, though, wanted the team to gamble on Michael Porter Jr. But management can’t afford to miss this year, and there are major risks with the guy’s health.]
Hopefully Jaren Jackson, who is explosive and has tremendous potential, isn’t buried in Memphis with the rest of the team, while I would expect Wendell Carter Jr. to shine in Chicago. I like the Carlos Boozer comparison for him.
And you have to feel sorry for Mikal Bridges and his mom, who thought they were staying home (Mom working for the Sixers!), and then he’s traded to Phoenix, which has fun bars, but then that’s probably not what Mom is thinking about. This really, really sucks, but Philly also liked Zhaire Smith. And then they picked up Landry Shamet later in the first, who should have a solid NBA career off the bench.
[I agree with you Shu, though...that the Suns could make a quick turnaround. Ayton, Booker, Jackson...Bridges...]
And isn’t it amazing how meteoric Donte DiVincenzo’s rise has been, owing to essentially one game, but it was on the biggest stage. From sixth man to first-rounder. Once a year we get an example like this and they normally pan out, according to the statistics.
Atlanta got a real steal with teammate Omari Spellman at No. 30.
But Gary Trent Jr. and the undrafted Trevon Duval were two dumb Dookies for misreading the draft. Without a doubt, they are first-rounders, probably high ones if they stay in school just one more year. Someone gave them awful advice.
--Basically, if you can stick around in the NBA for four or five years you should be set for life, but a few years beyond that and we all know the money is absurd, virtually guaranteed funny money.
Such is the case with Carmelo Anthony, who is your basic stiff these days. Yet Anthony returns to the Oklahoma City Thunder (thus ensuring the offense grinds to a halt beyond half court, despite the best efforts of Russell Westbrook), as Melo opts-in for $27.9 million to complete the five-year, $120 million contract he signed with the Knicks in 2014.
But no way the Thunder will be able to re-sign Paul George to a max-level deal once free agency opens, so Thunder fans are facing a really, really crappy season, as all Melo, 34, can do these days is set up beyond the arc and hoist threes.
He’s lucky the people of Oklahoma City are as nice as any in the country; not assholes like we are here in New York.
--Bubba Watson won his 12th PGA Tour event today in Hartford, the Travelers, and it’s pretty incredible that of the 12 wins, 8 are at three events. Three in Hartford, three in Riviera, and two Masters...a tradition unlike any other...on CBS. [Actually, all eight of those wins are on CBS. Hmmmm...]
--It took Phil Mickelson four days to apologize for his actions at the U.S. Open in the third round.
“I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down,” Mickelson said in a statement. “My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”
Of course this is a calculated lie. After the round, Lefty showed no regret about how he handled the situation and said he was simply taking advantage of the rules.
“I don’t mean it disrespectful; if you’re taking it that way, that’s not on me,” he said immediately after Saturday’s round. “I’m sorry that you’re taking it that way....Sometimes in these situations, it’s just easier to take the 2 shots and move on.”
But, recall, as playing partner Andrew Johnston said after, Phil didn’t know what he had on the hole.
I’m just amazed how golfers, from hackers on up, think it was no big deal. This isn’t about the stuffy USGA and its often ridiculous rules. It’s about the total integrity of the game (especially at the professional level), that sets golf apart from every other sport around.
And I love how some of you have written me that “you did the same thing in your casual rounds.”
Well, yeah, I have too....as I was picking up on the hole!!! I assume you all did the same. If I was playing with you and you pulled a Mickelson and just moved on, well, let’s just say I would think less of you. Character on the golf course reveals everything.
As for Mickelson’s fellow pros and their ‘who cares’ reaction, that’s to be expected. They have to play with the guy. No one wants a tension convention impacting their own game and making the cut.
Nancy Armour / USA TODAY
“Phil Mickelson is right to be embarrassed.
“He had four days to mull over his immature antics at the U.S. Open, and the best he could do was a half-hearted apology that could hae been written by one of his minions before he’d finished the third round. Not only that, he all but acknowledged that the excuse he gave Saturday was a flat-out lie.
“ ‘I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down,’ Mickelson said in a text sent Wednesday morning to reporters...
“Late is better than never when it comes to apologies, and Mickelson deserves some credit for his mea culpa. But this whole episode has revealed that Lefty is more calculated than his wide-eyed, ‘aw, shucks,’ demeanor would have everyone think....
“As far as wrongdoing goes, (what he did on the 13th hole, in hitting the ball while it was moving) was minor. Certainly not on the scale of, say, using inside information to make a killing in the stock market or racking up millions in gambling debts.
“But for someone who styles himself as one of the game’s ‘good guys,’ who can wax poetic about golf’s traditions and honor, it was the height of hypocrisy. Mickelson compounded it by claiming after the round that he had done it on purpose, preferring the two-stroke penalty to taking his chances with those diabolical greens.
“ ‘If someone is offended by that, I apologize to them,’ Mickelson said Saturday, ‘but toughen up because this is not meant that way.’
“Imagine, however, the uproar if Tiger Woods or Bubba Watson or Patrick Reed pulled the same stunt. Or waited four days to make a proper apology. Fans would be screaming about it for weeks. Maybe a few players, too.
“But Mickelson gets a pass because fans long ago decided that Lefty is just like them. That they’d be lifelong friends if they lived in the same neighborhood or their kids went to the same school. He’s Everyman, only with a better swing and five major championships.
“Mickelson is one of the best players golf has ever seen, and he’s been a tremendous ambassador for the game. But he’s right. This is not his finest moment.”
Ms. Armour totally nailed it. You go, girl!!!
--We note the passing of Hall of Fame golfer Hubert Green, 71. Green won 19 PGA Tour events, including the 1977 U.S. Open and the 1985 PGA Championship.
But it was during the Open that he learned of a death threat during the final round.
Richard Sandomir / New York Times
“Green had just finished the 14th hole at the ’77 U.S. Open, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., when tournament officials told him that a woman had called to say that three of her friends were going to shoot him at the 15th hole.
“Leading by one stroke, Green was told he could keep playing, wait for the course to be cleared of fans or resume play the next day without a gallery. He chose to continue without interruption, but accompanied by nine armed police officers.
“ ‘I was a little nervous playing the 15th hole, though, because that’s where I was going to be taken out,’ he told Golf Digest in 2007. ‘I was on the green in two but a long way from the hole, and when I stood over the putt, I suddenly got the sensation that I was going to be shot at any second.
“ ‘As soon as I hit the putt,’ he added, ‘I knew I’d left it short. I also knew I hadn’t heard a gunshot.’
“Despite the tension, Green managed a par on the 15th and a birdie on 16. And, after a par on 17, he hit a short putt for a bogey to win by one stroke over Lou Graham. Police officers quickly swarmed him, protecting him as he left the course.
“ ‘In the end,’ Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated, ‘it could be said that none of the Ben Hogans or Bobby Joneses or Jack Nicklauses had ever won the Open under the very special kind of pressure that Hubert Green did.’
“A year later, Green said in 2007, he received a second threat at another tournament. A note attached to his locker said: ‘Sorry I missed you last year at Tulsa on 15. We’ll see you today.’
“Green never learned who made the threats, his nephew Andrew said.”
Green’s 1985 triumph at the PGA Championship, at Cherry Hills, broke a long slump that had him 135th on the tour’s money list. He defeated Lee Trevino by two strokes.
Green won four times in 1974, and then I remember a scintillating streak in March 1976, when he won three in a row.
Green did miss a short putt on No. 18 at The Masters in 1978, having blown a seven shot lead over eventual winner Gary Player, that would have put him in a playoff.
--The other day I wrote of how the Washington Capitals’ coach, Barry Trotz, resigned from the Stanley Cup champions because the Caps weren’t offering the kind of contract he felt he deserved (which he indeed did).
Days later, Trotz signed with the New York Islanders, a huge coup for them, for what is believed to be five years, $20 million, $4 million per, more than double the $1.5 million he reportedly made the past four seasons (the Caps willing to go no higher than $2 million).
Credit new Isles GM Lou Lamoriello for jumping on the opportunity. Now if they can somehow get free agent center John Tavares to stay, Islanders fans would have a right to be super pumped over their future, with a new arena on the Island also in the wings.
--Koko, the beloved gorilla who shocked the world with her mastery of sign language and ability to communicate with humans, died in her sleep at the age of 46.
The western lowland gorilla, born on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, spent the bulk of her extraordinary life at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, CA.
When Koko was just a year old, her doctor, Francine “Penny” Patterson, decided to teach her a few basic signs including for food, drink and more. Patterson would speak the words as she signed them, according to the Gorilla Foundation.
In just three years, Koko learned more than 200 new signs and eventually her vocabulary exceeded 1,100 signs. Koko learned 2,000-plus words in English...better than many Americans, frankly.
Her celebrity brought her friends around the world, including the late Robin Williams, who met her in 2001.
“We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of his encounter with Koko in a YouTube video. “It was awesome and unforgettable,” he added.
But as Molly Roberts of the Washington Post wrote, “skeptical scientists questioned how much of Koko’s communication actually came from her, and how much came from our own preconceptions and projections.”
We wanted to believe that Koko’s gestures and signs meant she truly understood. But perhaps the bottom line is:
“How much apes really do resemble us in their emotional range and mental capacity will probably remain a mystery for longer than many of us will live. But when it comes to Koko, that may not really matter. Our response to a creature at once so like us and so different was to seek out the similarities – to experience empathy and to trust that Koko experienced it, too. It didn’t matter that she didn’t speak English the way we did, or even that she wasn’t human the way we were. What mattered was that somewhere in Koko’s eyes, we saw ourselves.”
--You know what scares me, aside from seeing a coyote while jogging (which thankfully hasn’t happened)? Wasps.
The other day in Wake County, N.C., a contractor was stung by wasps while working on a home, had an allergic reaction, went into cardiac arrest and died. Basically instantly, as reported by WTVD. Now that is sad....and scary.
The man and his son-in-law were tearing out some floorboards on a deck and moved to the stairs leading to a porch, and apparently there was a nest under the porch. The man was reportedly stung only twice. Paramedics worked on him for 45 minutes, but with his heart stopped, their injection didn’t circulate.
--I mention in that other column I do this weekend the passing of German U-boat commander, Reinhard Hardegen, who died at the age of 105. I venture to say that few young people in America understand the scope of the danger the United States faced off our coast during World War II. Hardegen, for example, was captain of a submarine that sat off the shores of Coney Island, New York, on Jan. 15, 1942, and he remarked later how beautiful the skyline looked with all the bright lights. Later that evening, his crew blew a British tanker out of the water, off Long Island, killing 36.
In December 1941, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the U.S. and began its U-boat campaign, with Hardegen commander of U-123. On his way to our shores, the sub sank the British freighter Cyclops near Nova Scotia, killing 99 crew members.
It was the first of nearly 400 Allied ships sunk during the campaign, according to historian Michael Gannon’s book “Operation Drumbeat.” The loss of supplies “constituted a greater strategic setback for the Allied war effort than did the defeat at Pearl Harbor,” he wrote.
By Gannon’s account, about 5,000 people were killed by U-boat attacks. Hardegen was credited by Gannon with sinking or crippling 19 ships (others say it was more).
Hardegen later told the Charlotte Observer that he was “very surprised” at the lack of maritime defenses – “no blackouts, no dimming, nothing” – and was among several German naval commanders to describe America’s Atlantic coast as a “shooting gallery.”
I’d respectfully submit it isn’t much better today. [Bobby C., feel free to weigh in.]
Later in life, as part of a well-publicized return to the U.S. after the publication of “Operatoin Drumbeat,” Hardegen said he wanted to “show Americans that the enemies of yesterday are friends of today.”
“Now I sink putts,” he told the Journal-Constitution. “Not ships.”
--Lastly, I mentioned this in “Week in Review,” which I put my name on, while never doing the same here, that I just have to note a friend of my brother’s, George Michelson Foy, wrote a terrific book on the El Faro container ship disaster from October 2015 that so many of you remember. Titled “Run The Storm,” it is a gripping account of a tragedy that was the greatest U.S. merchant marine shipping disaster since World War II.
The author is a great guy, and has a ton of personal experience in the maritime field. Perfect summer book while on the beach, but wear your shades...at some points you’ll be tearing up.
Top 3 songs for the week 6/25/66: 1 “Paperback Writer” (The Beatles) #2 “Strangers In The Night” (Frank Sinatra) #3 “Paint It, Black” (The Rolling Stones...now in my top ten all time)...and...#4 “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?” (The Lovin’ Spoonful) #5 “I Am A Rock” (Simon and Garfunkel) #6 “Red Rubber Ball” (The Cyrkle) #7 “Barefootin’” (Robert Parker) #8 “Cool Jerk” (The Capitols) #9 “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (Dusty Springfield) #10 “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” (The Chiffons...boy you had everything this week....another reason why the 60s were so awesome....)
PGA Tour Quiz Answer: Eight celeb-titled events on the 1974 PGA Tour....
Bing Crosby National Pro-Am
Dean Martin Tucson Open
Andy Williams San Diego Open Invitational
Bob Hope Desert Classic
Glen Campbell L.A. Open
Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic
Danny Thomas Memphis Classic
Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open
Today there are none.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday. I am going to wait until after Wednesday’s World Cup matches.