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Knockout Round Taking Shape
[Posted Wed. p.m.]
U.S. Senior Open Quiz: The first one was held in 1980, won by Roberto De Vicenzo. 1) Name the only three-time winner. 2) Who was the 1992 winner, initials L.L.? 3) Who won in 2002, initials D.P. Answers below.
In recent action, it was all about Lionel Messi and Argentina pulling it out in the 86th minute on a terrific Marcus Rojo last minute score against a very solid Nigeria squad yesterday, 2-1, when only a win would let Argentina play on.
Argentina was so close to being eliminated, especially after they missed a perfect opportunity to go ahead at the 79’ mark.
Messi scored the first goal early, but he was hardly spectacular the rest of the way.
Now, however, that his team has advanced, and the pressure to advance lifted, even if momentarily, Messi could shine. He is one of a select few who can singlehandedly take a team to the promise land.
By the way, the crowd in St. Petersburg, Russia, was as electric as any I’ve ever seen, any sport.
But as the Wall Street Journal reported today, the fans of Argentina, Brazil and Colombia are getting bad grades for duping scores of Russian women into saying sexually charged phrases on tape, the women clearly not understanding the language and what they are then speaking.
This is on top of the Mexico fans and their homophobic chants (which they have stopped after being blistered in their first match).
As for Portugal, it was denied the top spot in its group and thus has to play a very tough Uruguay, with Ronaldo missing a penalty kick in a controversy filled 1-1 draw with Iran, which denied Iran a spot in the knockout stage.
Today, though, was about Germany, the defending champion, becoming the third straight titleholder not to make it out of the Group Stage the following Cup, the Germans losing to South Korea 2-0, the Koreans not breaking the 0-0 tie until the 92nd minute and then adding a finisher.
At the same time, Mexico was getting whipped by Sweden, 3-0, so the Swedes took the top spot in Group F, but Mexico needed the Koreans to tie or defeat the Germans, or Mexico would have gone home.
You can imagine the fans of Mexico, watching the Germany-Korea contest remain scoreless well towards the 90’ mark, only to then see the Korean goal posted, securing Mexico’s berth in the last 16, despite the poor effort against Sweden.
Back to Germany, this was the first time in their history (including as West Germany), that they failed to get out of the Group Stage.
And this afternoon, Brazil and Switzerland advanced, the former defeating Serbia 2-0, and Switzerland with a late game-winner against Costa Rica, until it wasn’t...Switzerland stupidly giving up a penalty kick at 92’ that CR converted...final 2-2.
--The Knockout Round, last 16, is taking shape as six groups have been settled, the final two on Thursday, Groups G and H, where we already know Belgium and England will be advancing in G, while in H, it’s a scramble between Japan, Senegal and Colombia.
Group A saw Uruguay and Russia go through.
Group B had Spain and Portugal.
Group C is represented by France and Denmark
Group D by Croatia and Argentina.
Group E by Brazil and Switzerland
Group F sent forward Sweden and Mexico
So in the knockout matches that are set thus far, Saturday is must-see TV for football fans.
France v. Argentina; Uruguay v. Portugal
Messi and Ronaldo on display.
Sun., we have:
Croatia v. Denmark; Spain v. Russia
Mon., we know one game has Mexico v. Brazil
Tues., we have Sweden v. Switzerland
--Iceland’s fairy-tale ended early, as the team picked up just one point in three games, though it was hardly embarrassed. The nation should be proud.
--Martin Rogers / USA TODAY
“This is a good time to be a soccer fan and a horrible time to be a soccer hater.
“If you appreciate the beautiful game, you are getting treated to one of the most enjoyable World Cups in recent times. And, if you are one of those souls who dares to pour scorn on the world’s most popular sport, you’re suffering from a frustrating lack of ammunition.
“Soccer haters are generally a pretty unimaginative bunch. They have one, primary, go-to insult.
“ ‘Dude, there’s no goals. How can you have a 0-0 tie? It’s STOOPID.’
“How infuriating it must be for these insecure individuals that soccer’s greatest showcase is producing not only action of the highest quality, but also seeing the goals fly at an energetic rate.
“After 11 days and 32 matches in the group stage, by which time each of the 32 nations had played twice, there had not been a single 0-0 tie. The dreaded ‘bore draw’ came close to fruition a couple of times.... [Ed. on Tues., France and Denmark tied 0-0, both moving on.]
“(But) through Sunday’s games, 2.66 goals were being scored per game....
“To cut the soccer haters some slack – not that they deserve it – these developments are not exactly normal....
“To harp on repeatedly about the worst aspect of a sport is rather ludicrous. Most of the soccer-hating brigade comes from the ranks of (American) football fans, so let’s use that as an example....
“Do gridiron fans truly love the fact that only a few microseconds of actual action are packed into each hour. Or that you’ll see as many commercials as snaps? Or NBA fans, does a thrilling chill run down your spine every time a game on the hardwood descends into its painfully inevitable spate of foul-free throw-foul-free throwzzzz?
“Yes, we’d all like more goals in soccer, but what would the score of an NFL game be if a team was awarded just one point for its most difficult task (and the equivalent of a soccer goal) – a touchdown? Yes, it would normally be a greater tally than your average soccer game, but that’s after three-and-a-half hourzzz...
“Don’t even get started on flopping. That’s now becoming all-too common in American sports. Cases in point: Griffin, Blake. Harden, James....
“Game over, soccer haters, there is nothing left to deride. But wait, of course there is! The World Cup must be ‘stoopid’ because the United States isn’t even in it!
“How can you have a world championship that doesn’t have an American team? Heck, how can you even have a world championship where teams from other parts of the world are even allowed to take part?
“The ‘World’ Series doesn’t have that problem, nor does the NFL ‘world’ championship, or the NBA ‘world’ championship. Down with soccer!
“Or maybe not.”
--Lastly, any day with a Kate Abdo sighting is a good one.
--The Yankees lost catcher Gary Sanchez to a groin injury for 3-4 weeks, but Austin Romine is a more than capable backup. And after losing three in a row in Tampa, the Yanks have taken the first two of a series in Philadelphia, 4-2 and 6-0, the latter last night as Luis Severino threw seven scoreless in improving to 12-2, 2.10 ERA.
--The putrid Mets are 32-45, 21-44 after their 11-1 start, while general manager Sandy Alderson announced Tuesday he was taking a leave of absence to deal with a recurrence of cancer. Alderson has been in charge of the team since he was hired in 2010, and the Mets did go to World Series in 2015, but he has left the club in tatters and with about four legitimate prospects in their entire minor league system.
Now the Mets will operate with a triumvirate in the GM chair, which suggests further chaos ahead of the trade deadline, key decisions to be made. I’m ready to trade our top two pitchers, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, but only if we get the boatload of prospects we’d deserve in return, and who can have confidence the new trio is capable of obtaining that in return?
Meanwhile, prior to last night’s 4-3 win in ten innings against Pittsburgh at Citi Field, which snapped a seven-game losing streak, the Mets entered play with a batting average of .215 at home, the worst in the majors in 50 years!
--It’s kind of funny that every baseball fan just assumes that looming free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will each receive a 10-year, $350-400 million deal.
Yet Harper is having a miserable season. Despite 19 home runs, he’s hitting .219 with an .841 OPS.
And while Machado is batting .301, 19 homers, 55 ribbies, .923 OPS, he’s playing on one of the worst teams in recent memory, the 23-55 Orioles, and on Tuesday he was booed loudly at Camden Yards after he casually trotted up the first base line on a double-play ball he might have beaten out if he had been quicker out of the box.
With that kind of attitude, GMs have to wonder how Machado would be with so much money coming to him, and so many years on the contract.
As for Harper, no way I sign him for what he’ll be asking.
--In the College World Series, Game One was rained out Monday, so Tuesday, Arkansas and Oregon State finally squared off and the Razorbacks scored four fifth-inning runs against OSU ace Luke Heimlich, Arkansas winning 4-1.
Heimlich fell to 16-3, and hasn’t distinguished himself in three CWS starts, which could very well be his last in the sport unless he pursues a career in the minors with an independent team. Recall, it was revealed after he had arrived at Oregon State that he had pleaded guilty to molesting a young relative when he was 15. He left the team, but the university allowed him to return through a treatment program, and then Heimlich denied wrongdoing in recent interviews with the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, though a player who should have been a first-rounder in the recent college baseball draft, went undrafted.
Game 2 in the best-of-three format is Wednesday.
But Pat Borzi had a piece in the New York Times on a serious issue for the college game overall...pace of play. Watching the sport at this level is often a painful experience. The games just go on far too long, far longer than their major-league brethren.
Like the 13 games in the College World Series leading up to the championship averaged 3 hours, 30 minutes, a 25-minute increase over just two years ago!
The opener of the CWS, North Carolina and Oregon State, was the longest nine-inning game, by time, in the tournament’s 72-year history – 4:24! Oregon State pitchers threw 187 pitches in an eventual 8-6 win for the Tar Heels, owing to walks and errors.
A normal baseball game shouldn’t exceed three hours.
I know so many of you don’t like soccer, but there is a lot to be said for a sport whose games are over in exactly two hours. 45-minute halves, plus maybe five minutes of extra-time per, and a brief intermission. In and out, and hit the pubs, where there is no time limit...on purpose, but I digress.
--Reader Mark R.’s favorite golfer, Bubba Watson, donated $200,000 of his winnings ($1.26 million) from this past weekend at the Travelers Championship to the event’s prime charity, which is a terrific one, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, originally started by actor Paul Newman. With Watson’s donation, Travelers is able to give The Hole in the Wall group $2 million!
Now that’s giving back...both as an individual and on the corporate side. And golf does this week in and week out. The NFL? I can guarantee you, peanuts by comparison.
But there is the other side of Bubba. An ESPN player survey listed him as the player his fellow peers would least be likely to help out in a fight – though Bubba is presumed to be in the top-10 for most charitable players on Tour.
--The parents of Tyler Hilinski, the former quarterback at Washington State who took his own life in January, revealed that they learned through testing that their son suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Mark and Kym Hilinski told Sports Illustrated in a new documentary, chronicling Tyler’s death and the aftermath, that researchers at the Mayo Clinic offered to examine their son’s brain.
At first, Kym said they didn’t want to do it, given the trauma of losing their son, but then opted to and now they welcome the findings, because as Mark told NBC News, “we wanted to know everything we could and find out anything we could.”
This is a devastating story in terms of the future of the sport. What is important is that Tyler had played football since he was a kid, at all youth levels, yet his action was fairly limited his first two seasons with the Cougars (though he most likely would have been the starter this coming season).
So it probably wasn’t at Washington State where he took his worst hits, but it was obviously the accumulation of hits, and undiagnosed concussions, from his earliest years in the sport on.
And that’s exactly what every single parent in America will eventually hear. This story is far bigger than a lot of other football CTE tragedies.
Obviously, the only way the sport survives is to totally eliminate tackling until high school, and it must start, realistically given where we are in the year, for the 2019-20 youth football season on a national level.
--On a related topic, former Montreal Canadiens goaltender, and Hall of Famer, Ken Dryden, in an editorial in the Washington Post:
“Extensive portions of video depositions related to a concussion lawsuit brought against the National Hockey League by about 150 former players became public this month. The videos include sworn testimony from Commissioner Gary Bettman, Boston Bruins owner and chairman of the league’s Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs, other team owners, senior league executives and doctors.
“The video depositions make for infuriating viewing.
“ ‘You’ve seen all the research and the data,’ Bettman said, responding to an opposing lawyer during his July 2015 examination, which lasted several hours. ‘There’s no medical or scientific certainty that concussions lead to CTE.’....
“Bettman was consistent in answering the many questions in his deposition: Because there is no medical or scientific certainty, he said, there is no reason to warn NHL players about the risks of CTE. Nor is there reason, even after the premature deaths in recent years of several NHL ‘enforcers’ such as Bob Probert, Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard, to look for a link between fighting in hockey and brain injuries. ‘I think the sample has been too small,’ Bettman said when asked about the players who died. ‘I would respectfully suggest that, as tragic and as unfortunate as it is, there isn’t even enough circumstantial evidence to draw any conclusions.’ Asked whether he had ever spoken to family members of these players about symptoms they had exhibited before their deaths, he replied: ‘I don’t believe so.’ Again, no causal link, no certainty, no reason – why would he?....
“Hockey fans have seen players go down hard, never to play the same way again. They have seen the obituaries for players only a few years after they retired. Hockey fans know something is going on. Then they hear these parsed, pinched words.
“The former players’ case has proceeded at a crawl through U.S. District Court in Minneapolis for more than four years. Regardless of the suit’s fate, it has already performed an important service.”
As for the team owners, “They fight a lawsuit to avoid a payout to players that they don’t think is merited. They use arguments that made sense for so long inside the NHL’s community of experts but suddenly in the public light of day are just embarrassing. Losing face is something team owners dislike even more than losing money, especially in front of their families, friends, neighbors and members of the same clubs.
“For Bettman and the league’s owners, this isn’t going to get any easier.
“These video depositions are revelatory, but they will look tame compared with what is likely to air if the case goes to trial. In the meantime, just as Congress held its first hearing about brain injuries and professional football in 2009, lawmakers in the United States and Canada must surely be readying themselves to start asking questions about the slippery sport of hockey.”
--Former San Antonio Spurs player Bruce Bowen, who won three championships with the team, is the latest among the Spurs alumni royalty to speak out against the year-long saga of Kawhi Leonard. Appearing on Sirius XM NBA the other day, Bowen said of Leonard’s ongoing issues, “there’s nothing but excuses going on.”
“He’s getting bad advice,” Bowen said. “What you’re starting to see now is an individual given a certain amount of advice, and it’s not the right advice. Here it is: You were protected in San Antonio. You were able to come up during a time where you still could lean on Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili]....
“Look here: You got $18 million this year, and you think that they’re trying to rush you? You didn’t play for the most part a full season this year. And you’re the go-to guy, you’re the franchise and you want to say that they didn’t have your best interest at heart? Are you kidding me?”
And Bowen, a six-time all-defensive first teamer, said of Leonard’s absence during the playoffs.
“As a player, if I’m a leader of a team, my team goes on the road in the playoffs, I’m with my guys...When that didn’t happen, it’s all kinds of sirens and alarm signals that says to me, ‘Is this person fully vested?’...I don’t want to take on a player who’s not willing to support his guys during the course of their time needing him.”
--James Harden won the Most Valuable Player award in the NBA the other night, after believing he should have won it last season and failing to do so, finishing second to Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
Harden held off LeBron James, who was denied his fifth MVP trophy. Harden led the league in scoring, averaging 30.4 points while leading the Rockets to a franchise-record 65 victories.
--Jason Johnson, a World of Outlaws sprint car driver, died of injuries he sustained in a crash Saturday night at Wisconsin’s Beaver Dam Raceway. He was 41.
Johnson crashed on the 18th lap of a 40-lap race as he was battling Daryn Pittman for the lead after a restart on the 1/3-mile long dirt oval; Johnson’s car climbing the wall in the third turn, flipped and crashed through a billboard, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The racing world expressed its grief and prayers for Johnson’s family. As Dale Earnhardt Jr. put it, “When a racer loses his life, the world of motorsports across all disciplines takes notice and pays its respects.”
Johnson is the second driver in four years to die from injuries sustained in a sprint-car crash at the track.
Johnson is survived by a wife and a 5-year-old son.
--We note the passing of the great rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey, Dan Ingram, 83.
As Richard Sandomir wrote in the New York Times, Ingram’s “wisecracks and double entendres rippled through the air at rock ‘n’ roll stations in New York City from the early 1960s to the early 21st century.”
Ingram had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, but his son told the Times he died choking on a piece of steak. Poor guy.
“Mr. Ingram preceded the era of shock jocks, but he was a quick-thinking, somewhat bawdy jester who mocked songs, singers, sponsors and the weather at WABC-AM, a powerful Top 40 station that grew in the ‘60s with the popularity of the Beatles, the Motown stable of artists and others.
“Later, at WCBS-FM, the groundbreaking oldies station, he continued his drollery while exhuming the music he had played decades earlier....
“His irreverence was usually heard in short bursts, often during musical introductions before a song was sung.
“In those exquisitely timed moments, called ‘talk-ups,’ he might ridicule a song by Rosie and the Originals (‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, the worst record ever recorded, ‘Angel Baby’’), tinker with the title of Elton John’s hit ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ (as ‘Someone Shaved My Wife Tonight’) and refer to Herb Alpert’s group, the Tijuana Brass, as ‘the Teeny Weeny Brass.’
“Once, giving the weather report, he said: ‘I love brief showers. They’re fun. Watch those briefs coming down!’
“Allan Sniffen, who runs MusicRadio77, a website devoted to the Top 40 legacy of WABC-AM, called Mr. Ingram ‘the greatest of his generation.’ In a telephone interview, he added: ‘He was technically the best. He could make the records fit together, he was funny, and he was the best ad-libber I ever heard.’
“ ‘Mr. Ingram,’ Mr. Sniffen said, ‘inspired a generation of young listeners to become radio people.’
“With a deep voice that conveyed mischief, Mr. Ingram addressed his fans as ‘Kemosabe’ (the Native American character Tonto’s term of endearment for the Lone Ranger).”
Ingram joined WABC-AM in 1961 as it battled WMCA-AM for supremacy among rock listeners in the New York market. The other personalities at WABC included Bruce Morrow (“Cousin Brucie”), Ron Lundy, Chuck Leonard and Herb Oscar Anderson. [Ron Lundy was a personal fave of mine.]
Ingram stayed with WABC until it changed to a talk format in 1982, but while he stayed in the field, and did commercial voice-overs, it was not until 1991 that he returned to prominence when he joined WCBS-FM, a powerhouse station built on playing classic rock ‘n’ roll.
I loved both WABC and WCBS, and was super pissed off when WCBS changed their format a number of years ago. I barely listen to it today, as a result.
RIP, Mr. Ingram. You were truly one of a kind, and left a lot of us with great memories.
--I’ll have a few words on the passing of Joe Jackson next time.
Top 3 songs for week of 6/24/67: #1 “Groovin’” (The Young Rascals) #2 “Respect” (Aretha Franklin) #3 “She’d Rather Be With Me” (The Turtles)...and...#4 “Windy” (The Association) #5 “Little Bit O’Soul” (The Music Explosion) #6 “San Francisco” (Scott McKenzie) #7 “Somebody To Love” (Jefferson Airplane) #8 “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (Frankie Valli) #9 “Sunday Will Never Be The Same” (Spanky & Our Gang) #10 “Let’s Live For Today” (The Grass Roots...one helluva week...)
U.S. Senior Open Quiz Answers: 1) Only three-time winner is Miller Barber (1982, 84, 85). [Arnie won it in 1981. Nicklaus, Player, Irwin, Kenny Perry, and Allen Doyle all won it twice.] 2) Larry Laoretti won in 1992. 3) Don Pooley in 2002.
This year’s event is this weekend at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.