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College Football's Opening Weekend
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
NFL Quiz: Gotta get some basics out of the way before start of the season. Name the five rushers with 14,000 yards for their career. Answer below.
--Very important series this weekend, Arizona at Los Angeles. The Dodgers won 3-2 Friday on a Justin Turner home run off Zack Greinke, and then L.A. won again by the same score Saturday on a Matt Kemp 3-run 8th inning shot; Clayton Kershaw going seven innings, 2 runs, for the no-decision.
So today, as I was about to go to post, incredibly, the Dodgers won again by the same 3-2 score, as Matt Kemp doubled home two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Dodger Stadium must have been going nuts. What a weekend for Dave Roberts’ boys.
N.L. Wild Card
Milwaukee 77-61... +0.5
St. Louis 76-61... --
Colorado 74-62... 1.5
Arizona 74-63... 2
Philadelphia 72-64... 3.5
--With an 11-7 loss to the Tigers today at The Stadium, the Yankees went a pathetic 3-4 the last seven against the ChiSox and Detroit, as they now head to the west coast for six against Oakland and Seattle.
The Yankees could also be going the rest of the way without closer Aroldis Chapman, and that would be a huge blow. Chapman’s recovery from left knee tendinitis isn’t going well, according to general manager Brian Cashman.
As for the injured Aaron Judge, it’s impossible to know when he’ll be back, so the Yankees went out and acquired veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Giants for two minor league prospects, neither of which was viewed among the club’s top 30. McCutchen has not gotten off to a good start in New York, 0-for-7.
A.L. Wild Card
New York 86-51... +4.5
Oakland 82-56... --
Seattle 76-61... +5.5
In their own critical series, Oakland and Seattle split four games this weekend.
--The Mets lost to the Giants in San Francisco on Friday night 7-0 in an otherwise meaningless game, but I have to note that starter Zack Wheeler, who suffered the loss despite allowing just one run in seven innings, now has a 1.04 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break...eight straight allowing two earned runs or fewer. As Ronald Reagan would have said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
Us Mets fans have been looking for small victories this otherwise desultory season. Like Steven Matz on Saturday had his best start of the year, 1 run in seven innings, 11 Ks, as the Mets won 2-1 in 11 innings. And then today, Noah Syndergaard, who has kind of sucked recently, threw just the 13th complete game in the N.L. this season against the Giants, 11 strikeouts, Mets winning 4-1, “Thor” now 10-3, 3.33.
--Thursday night, the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton finally hit career home run No. 300, after being stuck on 299 since Aug. 18, and the fan who caught the ball at The Little Bandbox in The Bronx, Tim K., was given the following package of gifts in return for the ball, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network.
A chance to meet Stanton, autographed baseballs, tickets to a future game, a clubhouse/field tour, and...really....two Bud Lights!
I’m disappointed Tim didn’t hold out for more beer, but we can’t get too greedy.
--I have to note the game Christian Yelich had the other day, 6-for-6, including his first career cycle as the Brewers defeated the Reds 13-12 in ten innings.
Yelich became the fourth player in the live ball era (since 1920) to have six hits in a cycle, Ian Kinsler the most recent to do so in 2009.
[Yelich hit a grand slam today in a 9-4 Brewers win over the Nationals and is a legitimate MVP candidate.]
--David P. passed along a piece from Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe on the 100th anniversary of Ted Williams’ birth, Aug. 30.
“The Kid would be 100 Thursday.
“Ted Williams was born on Aug. 30, 1918.
“How could The Kid ever turn 100?
“We lost Ted Williams in July of 2002, but imagine if he had lived. We’d have headlines screaming, ‘Kid Turns 100!’ We’d have quotes from Ted about how sweet it was finally seeing the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004, 2007, and 2013. We’d have him delivering an homage to his dear friend, John McCain. And I’d love to hear what The Kid would have to say about this newfangled ‘launch angle,’ which Ted invented sometime back in the 1930s.
“Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, David Ortiz, and Tom Brady delivered spectacular service and won 21 championships in the name of Boston, but Ted Williams forever will be the No. 1 sports star in the history of our region.
“Ted ruled baseball when baseball was king. He lost five big league seasons serving his country in two wars during the prime of his career. He forged a friendship with Dr. Sidney Farber and put the Jimmy Fund on the map in the battle against childhood cancer. With the exception of John F. Kennedy, Ted Williams was Boston’s top newsmaker of the 20th century. Don’t believe me? Look it up.
“Statues and tunnels have been dedicated in Ted’s honor. There’s a never-ending glut of Ted Williams books and documentaries, and it’s just a matter of time before he gets the major motion picture. The Hall of Fame legend is secure, and we can recite his deeds (.406, 521 homers, two Triple Crowns, etc.) as easily as we can name our parents and siblings.”
College Football Review
[As we start a new season, understand I am in no way attempting to cover everyone’s favorite. The rankings are AP until the CFP comes out.]
--Thursday, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons opened up at Tulane and squeaked by 23-17 in overtime, but two things. Tulane is supposed to be a respectable team this season and, second, freshman QB Sam Hartman was most impressive...31/51, 378, 2-2, save for a ghastly mistake late that almost cost us the game. What we saw, though, is the kid has real talent.
--Friday, No. 11 Michigan State barely escaped with a 38-31 win over Utah State at Spartan Stadium.
No. 13 Stanford easily handled San Diego State 31-10, but Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love was held to 29 yards on 18 carries as the Aztecs focused their defense on stopping the lad.
--Saturday, in a rather inspiring upset, Maryland defeated No. 23 Texas at College Park, a day filled with emotion.
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“On the first Saturday of a mournful season, the expectations of low tolerance for Maryland football conceded to a stronger and more uplifting reality. The death of Jordan McNair* didn’t make the game difficult to watch. In fact, the players honoring him made it necessary. And when a marquee game that refused to end tested their nerve, their patience and their ability, the Terrapins rose, as high as the No. 79 McNair tribute flag that offensive lineman Ellis McKennie lifted, so high that they made every compassionate soul at FedEx Field swoon with admiration.
*McNair died on June 13 after suffering from heatstroke during a workout.
“The resiliency of young people continues to astound. After a summer of grieving, Maryland was able to turn the football field into a refuge. In a 34-29 victory over No. 23 Texas, the Terrapins upset the mighty Longhorns for a second straight season, this time in a marathon that didn’t conclude until nearly 5 hours 30 minutes after kickoff and included an 86-minute severe weather delay.
“It was the kind of game an unfocused team cannot win. It was the kind of game a disjointed team cannot win. It was the kind of game that a team simply playing on emotion cannot win. Maryland wasn’t just motivated to play for McNair. This performance said something even greater about these players and coaches. They have an impressive level of resolve, but this was also about talent and preparation. And it was about the positive things that Coach DJ Durkin, who is away from the team and on leave pending the investigation into McNair’s death, has done in building this program.
“It’s only right to scrutinize the culture Durkin has created right now. He might lose his job because of the team’s strenuous workouts. But this is evidence that, when evaluating Durkin and everyone who has contributed to Maryland’s rebuilding, there are many complex things to consider. This is evidence that good – lots of it – remains in the program, even though it is lost in tragedy.”
Having dedicated the season to McNair, an offensive lineman, the Terrapins paid tribute to him by lining up with 10 players on their first offensive play of the game. Maryland waited for a delay of game to be called, and Texas declined the penalty in a show of sportsmanship.
In other games, No. 1 Alabama blitzed Louisville 51-14; No. 2 Clemson handled Furman 48-7, with the Tigers scoring on all five of freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s drives; and No. 3 Georgia whipped Austin Peay 45-0.
No. 7 Oklahoma beat Florida Atlantic 63-14, as Kyler Murray, taking over for Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Murray, a junior, who was a first-round Major League Baseball draft pick by Oakland and will play just one season of college football, was 9 of 11 in under a half of action.
No. 9 Auburn beat 6 Washington 21-16 in Atlanta, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, a game with early-season playoff implications...as in for Washington in particular, a loss would be very difficult to overcome. The Huskies now need to run the table, and get lots of help.
Veteran Washington QB Jake Browning was so-so, 18/32, 296, 1-1, while Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham was an efficient 26/36, 273, 1-0, in a defensive struggle.
No. 10 Penn State barely survived underdog Appalachian State 45-38 in Happy Valley. Almost 11 years to the day that the then I-AA Apps pulled off an upset for the ages in Ann Arbor against Michigan, App State outgained PSU 451-434, mounting a furious fourth-quarter, 28-point rally to send the game into OT. Apps QB Zac Thomas, 25/38, 270, 2-1, was heroic in defeat.
After the game, in a class move, Penn State coach James Franklin couldn’t stop praising his opponent, ditto QB Trace McSorley, and major credit to the Nittany Lions’ faithful for giving App State a standing ovation as they left the field.
I was remembering decades ago, 1978, when as a junior at Wake Forest, the Deacs traveled to Death Valley to play then No. 10 LSU. A Wake squad that would finish 1-10 played its hearts out in a 13-11 loss and the Tigers’ fans gave us a huge ovation at the end.
No. 12 Notre Dame beat 14 Michigan in South Bend, Saturday night, 24-17, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Frankly, neither looked that good. And if you’re a Michigan fan, that is even worse because this is year four of the Jim Harbaugh era and there is zero improvement...in fact regression.
2015...10-3 final AP No. 12
Harbaugh’s teams have a reputation for coming up very small in big games, such as last season’s losses to Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
That’s not good enough for a program that is supposed to be a perennial top ten, with an occasional CFP berth.
Jeff Seidel / Detroit Free Press
“For all the talk about Michigan’s ‘new’ offense under quarterback Shea Patterson, it looked awfully familiar and weak.
“For all the talk about all the changes – the new coaches and new strength coach – the Wolverines had more cramps than touchdowns.
“For all the talk about Michigan’s ‘great’ and ‘feared’ defense – yikes, Notre Dame just scored again.
“For all the talk about Michigan’s ‘improved’ offensive line – uh, no. Don’t even go there.
“The Wolverines came out and fizzled on Saturday night, cramping up with fatigue and mistakes, mounting a late charge but losing.....
“Once again, the Wolverines couldn’t run the ball.
“Once again, the Wolverines couldn’t find a spark. Not until a late fourth-quarter push.
“Once again, the Wolverines couldn’t find enough big plays when it mattered the most.
“And once again, Michigan couldn’t beat a ranked team on the road. Stop me if that sounds like a broken record.
“This, obviously, is on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. His preparation failed. His changes have yet to work. And Michigan isn’t new and improved. It looked beaten and broken for most of the game....
“ ‘It’s not the end,’ Harbaugh said. ‘It’s the beginning for us.’
“Actually, it felt like a continuation.”
In October, Michigan has consecutive games against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State. If Harbaugh doesn’t win at least one of these, he’ll be run out of town.
No. 15 USC beat UNLV 43-21, as freshman QB JT Daniels had a successful debut, 22/35, 282, 1-0. Not having watched any of this outside of clips, I didn’t see if the Trojans cheerleaders were in mid-season form. Because at the end of the day....
[Steve G. just sent me a note from Colombia, yes, Colombia, to remind me to mention Auburn’s cheerleaders...I had to respond that Washington’s weren’t bad either. We then had a conversation that can’t be repeated here or I would face suspension from the International Web Site Association (IWSA), which supersedes Facebook and Google, in case you were wondering, Congressional hearings on their likes coming up this week.]
No. 17 West Virginia rode the passing of Heisman candidate Will Grier, 429 yards and five touchdowns, to help the Mountaineers rout Tennessee 40-14. WVU could be a real sleeper.
--Lastly, with coach Urban Meyer serving the first of a three-game suspension, new starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. had a record-setting day, throwing for five touchdowns as No. 5 Ohio State routed Oregon State 77-31. The Buckeyes’ Mike Weber rushed 20 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
Meyer will be allowed to return to practice on Monday, although he won’t be on the coaching sidelines for the Rutgers and TCU games.
But Friday morning, Meyer, in a Twitter statement, said he was not suspended by the university because he condoned alleged domestic abuse and that he did not lie to reporters at Big Ten Media Days last month.
“My fault was in not taking action sooner against a troubled employee about his work-related issues,” Meyer said, adding that investigators found “I did not lie at Big Ten Media Days,” though the report did say that Meyer said things in Chicago that were “plainly not accurate.”
Nancy Armour / USA TODAY Sports
“Urban Meyer’s breathtakingly bad judgment goes beyond his personnel decisions, media appearances and phone settings.
“A day before his Ohio State team kicks off the season, Meyer took to Twitter on Friday morning to cherry-pick his way through the investigative findings that led to his three-game suspension. He said he wasn’t suspended because he knew about or condoned domestic abuse. He said he didn’t lie at Big Ten media day. He said his only misdeed was trying too hard to help a misguided soul who was struggling at work.
“More than a month after Meyer was forced to fire Zach Smith when his history of domestic violence came to light, it’s clear the coach still doesn’t have a clue what this whole fiasco is about. A woman was beaten by her husband, with photographs, text messages and police reports that support her allegations, and Meyer enabled him.
“Meyer pins his defense on investigators saying they believed he would have fired Zach Smith on the spot if he ‘came to learn or believe’ he’d abused his wife. But there’s a problem with that: Meyer had learned Smith had abused his wife, back in 2009.
“Smith was arrested then, and the report by the Gainesville police labels him as the aggressor. Yet Meyer acknowledges, even now, that he doesn’t think abuse occurred. That it was, as he termed it at Big Ten media days, a ‘he said, she said’ story.
“That, however, is not Meyer’s determination to make.
“The legion of Meyer and Ohio State fans who have delighted in trashing Courtney Smith point to the lack of any charges against Zach Smith, which is true. But if you know anything about domestic violence, you know how little that means.
“Domestic abuse cases are notoriously hard to prosecute, and victims opt not to press charges for myriad of reasons. The absence of charges does not equal absence of abuse. If Meyer had as much ‘respect for women’ as he claims, he’d know this.
“Or at least have bothered to try and educate himself after 2009, rather than anointing himself as the Smiths’ marriage counselor....
“The investigators ‘cannot logically square’ Meyers denials of any knowledge of the 2015 incident with a group text exchange that day and the day before discussing that very thing. They found he ‘misstated his lack of knowledge of all relevant events.’
“Even Ohio State president Michael Drake, whom Meyer cites to defend himself, said the coach ‘was not as complete and accurate at Media Days and did not uphold the high standards and values of the university that day.’
“Meyer enabled an abuser, lied about it and got caught. His petulant attempt to ‘correct’ the record shows that his only remorse is being held to account.”
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“Read the public documents Ohio State collected in its investigation of Urban Meyer, and you will never again be able to view him as anything but boneless. He comes off like Plato’s silly description of a Man as someone who stands on two legs without feathers. In reply to which, Diogenes brought Plato a plucked chicken.
“ ‘Here is Plato’s man,’ he said dismissively.
“Next time you’re in the grocery, see whether you can pass the poultry aisle without thinking of Urban Meyer.
“The batch of memos, police reports and emails that Ohio State dropped on its website Tuesday are incomplete, with more to come, but they fully illustrate how weak-handed Meyer was with a louse and delinquent. His longtime coddling of assistant coach Zach Smith, the accused domestic abuser and Twitter rager, is merely in keeping with his previous record at Florida, where 30 players were arrested in six seasons. But what’s amazing about these latest details is how vividly damning they are despite Ohio State’s attempt to muffle them, the institutional coverup covering for the coach’s coverup.”
--In college football, the first few weeks contain a lot of so-called “guarantee” games, lesser, non-Power Five conference schools getting big paydays to play the role of Washington Generals for Power Five opponents.
USA TODAY had its annual look and one good example of what I’m talking about is Kent State, which is collecting $3.65 million by playing three of its first four games this season at Illinois (who they almost beat, losing 31-24 yesterday), Penn State and Mississippi. Next season, Kent State is set for a $1.9 million payday from Auburn and $1.5 million from Arizona State, a nice way to fatten up the coffers for the rest of the school’s athletic program and non-revenue sports. In 2020, Kent State will receive $5 million for games at Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama.
Middle Tennessee State is receiving $3.1 million this season to play Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky. Last season, Syracuse paid MTSU $950,000 to appear in the Carrier Dome and the Blue Raiders won!
And last year, Northern Illinois received $820,000 from Nebraska and proceeded to upset the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. [Not sure what App State received for its efforts.]
--The Raiders spent the offseason trying to get a deal done with 2016 Defense Player of the Year Khalil Mack and in the end they pulled off a stunner instead with the Bears that sends Mack to Chicago for reportedly two future first-round picks, plus some other unspecified compensation. Since the Bears only have one first-rounder in 2019, this means they just traded away their top pick in both 2019 and 2020.
It’s a shocking end to the saga. How could the Raiders possibly trade away their best defensive player? Owner Mark Davis apparently didn’t want to do it, but new coach Jon Gruden, he of the 10-year, $100 million contract, was open to it.
Gruden made clear in the offseason he thought the Raiders’ defense was poor last year, even with Mack.
As for the Bears, they then had to do what the Raiders couldn’t do...sign Mack, which they did, granting him a six-year, $141 million extension that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, $90 million guaranteed.
--As we approach opening week, there were other contracts of note since my last chat....
Aaron Donald, the reigning NFL defense player of the year, was awarded by the Rams with what was the richest contract ever for a defensive player, a six-year, $135 million extension with $87 million in guarantees; that is until the Khalil Mack deal.
Donald, a four-time Pro Bowl player, had stayed away from training camp last year and this one to coax the Rams into compensating him for outperforming his rookie contract. He earned $1.7 million in 2017 and will earn $6.9 million this season before the extension kicks in.
Separately, the New England Patriots sweetened the deal for All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. The max value of his contract for 2018 now sits at $13.05, after the Pats added $1 million in per-game bonuses and $3.3 million in potential incentives. If Gronkowski meets or surpasses three of the following four targets, he will earn $1.1 million for each: 80% of playing time, 70 receptions, 1,085 yards, and/or nine touchdowns.
Oh, and not for nothing, but Aaron Rodgers signed an extension in Green Bay that granted him $103 million guaranteed ($57.5 million signing bonus), $134 million in total, that keeps him in Green Bay until 2023, when he will be 40. Girlfriend Danica Patrick no doubt went “Vrooooom.”
--The Jets traded Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints for a 2019 third-round draft pick, while sending New Orleans their sixth-round pick for next year.
A third-rounder is probably the best GM Mike Maccagnan could’ve hoped for in return for the QB, and the team did the right thing. You can get quality with it.
The gamble, as I wrote before, was waiting until the season started and maybe getting a second-round selection, or even a first, from a team whose starting quarterback had gone down to injury, but you will find no Jets fans complaining.
The Jets made a brilliant little move in signing Bridgewater for nothing, at zero risk, helped him rehabilitate himself from injury and to re-establish he can play at a high level in the NFL again.
[There is some issue as to what the Jets would have had to pay Bridgewater if they kept him on the opening day roster, and no doubt this played into the decision to move him now.]
Separately, the Jets signed former Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford last Wednesday, and a day later he got most of the snaps in the final exhibition game, a 10-9 loss to the Eagles. Wolford sucked, 8/20, 89, 0-1, and then was waived. But he could yet be placed on the taxi squad...or as they say these days, practice squad. But what a roller coaster of emotions it must have been for him.
--And in a total stunner today, the Giants’ backup, Davis Webb, the presumed heir to Eli Manning in a year, or three, was waived! The Giants are opting to go with rookie Kyle Lauletta and journeyman Alex Tanney to backup Manning. Man, Webb should be going to another team before this post settles into the search engines. He can be good!
--Andrew Beaton / Wall Street Journal
“With less than a week until the 2018 NFL season kicks off, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that interest in the league remains far lower than it once was, and fans are deeply divided over player protests during the national anthem.
“The numbers paint a problematic picture. Fewer people, in particular Republicans, are following the NFL closely than they did four years ago. And many of those fans are the ones who also judge the player protests – which began in 2016 to call attention to social injustices and racial inequality – to be not appropriate.
“Overall, 52% of people said they follow the NFL closely. That is an increase from 49% in January, but the figure remains down from below 58% in 2014. The recent rebound falls within the poll’s margin of error.
“The poll is ‘still reflecting a lower audience base than we measured in 2014,’ said Micah Roberts, a Republican pollster who helped conduct the poll along with Democratic pollster Fred Yang. ‘It’s not going in the right direction.’"
Regardless of political party, “interest in the NFL among white respondents has dropped about the same amount since 2014. White Democrats who follow the NFL closely has fallen from 59% to 50%... Nonwhite Democrats have held steady, following the league closely at 58%.
“At the same time, the fans who are increasingly tuning out the NFL are also those at odds with the player protests. While 43% of respondents said they view the protests as appropriate – compared with 54% who said they are not – only 10% of Republicans and 38% of white people said they think the demonstrations are appropriate. The poll didn’t ask if people’s habits changed based on the player protests, but Mr. Roberts said that, judging by the subgroups that showed the biggest changes, ‘the anthem protests are having an effect on the viewership.’”
--The Browns released 27-year-old linebacker Mychal Kendricks Wednesday, hours after he was charged by federal prosecutors in Philadelphia with insider trading.
Kendricks had signed a one-year contract with the Browns in June after winning a Super Bowl last season with the Eagles. He allegedly used tips from an acquaintance to make about $1.2 million in illegal profits on four major deals, prosecutors said.
Kendricks earlier admitted his guilt and apologized. But the Browns decided upon learning more about the case that they couldn’t go forward with him. Kendricks was slated to start for the team.
Cleveland said it was aware of a financial situation involving Kendricks before they signed him, but that their due diligence, and that of the NFL, made it seem he was cooperating as a victim.
“Recently,” the team said Wednesday, “we were provided an update on the matter and the circumstances have changed. We are now dealing with a different set of facts.”
Kendricks is facing possible prison time and further discipline from the NFL.
--Colin Kaepernick gained a preliminary ruling in his favor, essentially granting a full hearing in his case accusing the league of colluding to keep him off the field because of the player protests during the national anthem that he instigated.
The ruling was from the arbitrator, Stephen B. Burbank, who was appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association. The league has tried to have the case dismissed.
So a hearing could begin by the end of the year, unless the two sides settle, which is always possible. Kaepernick is seeking damages equal to what he would have earned if he were still playing in the league.
More early upsets on the women’s side, four of the top five seeds losing already, including fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber and fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova on Saturday. Earlier, top-seeded Simona Halep and second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki lost.
All of the losses took place at the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, and just three of the top 10 seeds in the women’s draw reached the fourth round, this after a Wimbledon in which only one of the top 10 women’s seeds made the fourth round, and none reached the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Friday night, 17-seed Serena Williams beat sister Venus, the 16-seed, 6-1, 6-2, in 72 minutes, serving notice Serena is certainly back and capable of winning another Grand Slam title, especially now with the depleted field ahead of her.
The loss dropped Venus to 12-18 against her sister. Serena leads 11-5 in Grand Slams, having taken 9 of the last 11.
Serena owns 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Venus seven.
Serena then moved on today with a 3-set win over Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
On the men’s side, fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets, Zverev the highest-seeded man to lose thus far.
Zverev is supposed to be the future of men’s tennis, as the Big Three (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) eventually fade from the scene, but he has only reached one quarterfinal in a Grand Slam event.
Today, 5-seed Kevin Anderson went down, falling to 9-seed Dominic Thiem.
Meanwhile, the Big Three is rolling on, including Nadal this afternoon.
Brutally hot weather returns tomorrow in the New York area. Drink plenty of Coors Light....I mean, fluids....fluids...non-alcoholic.... [Phew....almost got in trouble there...thank god the editors caught it.]
Let’s start by reviewing the standings after Week Four, shall we?
1. Liverpool 4-0-0...12 ...W-D-L, ties broken by goal differential
2. Chelsea 4-0-0...12
3. Watford 4-0-0...12
4. Man City 3-1-0...10
5. Tottenham 3-0-1...9
9. Arsenal 2-0-2...6
10. Man U 2-0-2...6
20. West Ham 0-0-4...0
Now what stands out? WTF is Watford doing there? Slated for relegation, according to some experts, today the “Hornets” (I had forgotten their nickname, because over the years there has been zero reason to care) shocked Tottenham at home, 2-1, after the Spurs had taken a 1-0 lead in the second half.
I mean this is a Watford team that was promoted to the PL for the 2015/16 season and has finished 13, 17 and 14 (last season).
In case you were wondering, because I was, the season before Leicester City’s miracle run of 2015/16, they too were 14th the prior year.
And I do have to note that until just watching an NBC Sports Update, I didn’t realize that Elton John was a former owner of Watford and was at the game today, which is way cool. [It wasn’t televised in my area.] To paraphrase Pig Pen, “Sort of makes you want to treat them with more respect.”
Meanwhile, once again Spurs fans have cause to be worried early. After no action next weekend in the PL due to FA Cup qualifying and other stuff, Tottenham next faces Liverpool, Sept. 15, before jumping into Champions League action a few days later. Brutal. More on the CL next time.
As for some of the other play this weekend, Liverpool defeated Leicester 2-1, Chelsea beat Bournemouth 2-0, Wolverhampton handed West Ham its fourth loss 1-0, Man City beat Newcastle 2-1, Arsenal scored late for a 3-2 win at Cardiff, and embattled Jose Mourinho saw his Man U boys defeat Burnley 2-0.
--This is the one weekend of the year with a Monday scheduled finish and I love it, it being Labor Day and all...the Dell Technologies Championship up in Norton, Mass., though the tour schedule is changing next year.
So entering tomorrow’s final round, the second leg in the FedExCup Playoffs, Abraham “Anybody Here....” Ancer has the lead, looking for his first Tour win, one shot over Bryson DeChambeau (drat) and England’s pain in the butt Tyrrell Hatton.
But after tomorrow, Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk will tab three of his four captain’s picks, and he has to say Tiger Woods, who is playing solid, T-16, and Phil Mickelson, T-50, and DeChambeau (drat...just don’t like him).
Which will leave Furyk with his final selection after next week’s BMW Championship. And it has to be one of the good people on the planet, Tony Finau, who is once again playing well with the pressure on, T-8. There should not be anyone else in the conversation at this point.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
--Tony Romo, competing as an amateur, squeaked through a pre-stage Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament, shooting a two-over 74 in the third and final round; 72-72-74 overall.
Romo was actually a shot off of moving on, but a late DQ due to an incorrect scorecard from another golfer moved Romo up to T-36 and allowed him to advance in his pursuit of earning a Web.com Tour card for 2019.
Romo now competes at the next stage, at one of 12 sites. The CBS football analyst will have to juggle his schedule a bit. He still has a ways to go before getting through Q School, but we wish him well.
--Ryan Herrington of Golf World had a piece on the PGA Tour’s money list. Curtis Strange was the first to earn $1 million in a single season on tour, 30 years ago, 1988.
So this year, through last week’s Northern Trust, the number of golfers who have cracked the $1 million barrier in the latest Tour season is 114, including every golfer in the field at this week’s Dell Technologies event.
--I’m putting Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving’s name in the December file for all the right reasons. Recently, Irving, who discovered he has Sioux Indian roots, was adopted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of the Dakotas and he visited the tribe, the Lakotas, who gave him the name Little Mountain in a naming ceremony. Irving’s late mother was enrolled in the tribe before being adopted as a youth.
It was cool enough that Irving embraced his heritage in such a fashion, but I just saw this weekend in the Rapid City Journal that he has donated $110,000 to the tribe, with the stipulation it support the reservation’s youth. Kyrie said during his visit he considers the tribe “family for life,” having also supported the tribe’s battle against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Kyrie Irving... “Good Guy.”
--It was cool seeing Dikembe Mutombo at John McCain’s funeral service Saturday. The two formed a fast friendship over Mutombo’s charitable work, including his heavy involvement in overseeing refugee camps as a spokesman for the relief group CARE.
Also in attendance at the National Cathedral was Vitali Klitschko, the former boxer-turned-Ukrainian politician, who credited McCain for leading the passage of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act that I wrote of the other day.
“I was close with him,” Klitschko said. “He followed my sports career. He came to my fights and went to fights to watch my brother, Wladimir. He always gave me advice. Not many people remember the Ali law. He was a great person.”
Speaking of Saturday’s moving service for McCain, not one of you who watched will ever think of “Danny Boy” the same way. I know I’m one who will think of the great American hero and patriot every time I hear it. It’s been on my brain over 24 hours later...and that’s not a bad thing.
One more on the past week’s remembrances. I hope you now understand why years...years...ago, I said that Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was a special human being. Some of his character was on display Thursday at McCain’s Phoenix service. Fitzgerald is destined for far greater things. America needs him....I mean that.
--I loved the comments from New York Knicks all-time great, and broadcaster, Walt “Clyde” Frazier on Kevin Durant. Frazier said Durant has hurt his legacy by hopping on the Warriors’ championship bandwagon, even saying the Finals MVP’s accomplishments deserve an “asterisk.”
“Durant, as great a player as he is, I would still hold back [giving him credit] because he joined a team that really didn’t need him,” the Knicks legend told SiriusXM NBA Radio last week. “He’s right there with LeBron, probably would’ve surpassed LeBron as the best player in the game soon, but for him doing that I still don’t give him the full credit that he probably would’ve deserved if he stayed in OKC and won a title with that team.”
“It’s not something I would’ve done,” Clyde added. “I would’ve never joined [Jerry] West, [Bill] Russell or [Wilt] Chamberlain. I wanted to kick their butts.”
“You never know what guys are thinking today,” said Frazier. “But today’s players, they have this camaraderie. They want to play together. [Carmelo Anthony] going to Houston with Chris Paul. They’ve had that going on a long time that they wanted to be teammates.”
I also agree with Clyde that Melo should not have his uniform retired for his days as a Knick.
--Flipping around the coverage of John McCain on Friday, and doing my work, CNN put on Aretha Franklin’s funeral and, lo, what do my sad, tired eyes see, but Ariana Grande, belting out “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” in a rather fetching black mini, and I thought, ‘All is good.’
I didn’t watch the whole performance, however, and so I missed Bishop Charles H. Ellis III awkwardly greet Grande on stage after she finished. Ellis held Grande well above her waist, with his fingers pressing against one side of her chest. He was forced to apologize.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. ...I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” he said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
When you look at the photos, and the clip, Grande was horrified.
But the worst part was Ellis’ attempt at humor, which required another apology. You see, Bishop Ellis joked about seeing her name on the program and thinking it was a new item on the Taco Bell menu. [“When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell.”]
“When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there,” Ellis said later.
And there was Bill Clinton onstage, enjoying himself as he watched Ariana perform, mere feet from him. [I can’t fault him for this. I mean whaddya gonna do, Guys? Look at the floor?]
--Craig Carton returned to the New York City airwaves Thursday for the first time in nearly a year. Two months away from his date in federal court for his role in a $5.6 million Ponzi scheme, one of the true dirtballs on the planet, one of the most loathsome people in this region’s history, appeared on WABC’s “Bernie and Sid in the Morning” program and reaffirmed his innocence.
Whatever. I wouldn’t be writing about the guy, though, except he proceeded to rip his old station, WFAN, blasting the show that replaced him, “Boomer and Gio,” his old partner, Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti.
Carton goes: “Take any show on FAN and bring them here [WABC], they’re not gonna beat anyone over there [on WFAN] anyway,” just because of the power of the FAN. “You can put an intern on the air, which it seems like [WFAN] kinda did,” referring to Giannotti.
Cue Jeff Spicoli. That’s what Craig Carton is.
Gregg Giannoti is terrific, by the way, and is getting great reviews from New York’s radio critics.
There are many of us in the area who never understood the fascination with Carton. Here’s hoping he is found guilty and is soon serving hard time.
--Authorities say a bow hunter was mauled by a 300-pound black bear after he shot it with an arrow in the San Bernardino Mountains of Riverside County, Calif. The man was hospitalized with what were said to be serious injuries, but I didn’t see any update on his condition. The bear died of its wound.
Gotta admire the fight in the black bear, though. That will be taken into consideration when the next All-Species List Supreme Council (ASLSC) convenes in Kazakhstan.
--A hunter was killed in northern Canada in a polar beat attack, with two other hunters receiving minor injuries.
The hunting party was from Naujaat, Nunavut, an Inuit hamlet on the Arctic Circle, and was out hunting for narwhal and caribou when they were attacked.
Both the mother and a cub were shot and killed following the incident, so just a really sh---y deal all around. It was the second fatal polar bear attack in Canada’s northernmost territory this summer.
It wasn’t clear if the hunters or authorities killed the bears. But then the CBC reported three other bears were also killed in the following days after they were drawn to the location. Depressing.
The Canadian Press did add that the two surviving injured hunters huddled for three days with the body of their friend, staying awake waiting for rescuers as several other bears circled their camp.
Well, that does it...I’m canceling my narwhal hunting trip, until we get more clarity on just what is happening up that way. I suggest you do the same.
[Narwhal hunting tips...another free feature of Bar Chat.]
Top 3 songs for the week 9/2/67: #1 “Ode To Billie Joe” (Bobbie Gentry...rather haunting tune, but brilliant...) #2 “All You Need Is Love” (The Beatles) #3 “Reflections” (Diana Ross and The Supremes)...and ...#4 “Light My Fire” (The Doors) #5 “Baby I Love You” (Aretha Franklin) #6 “Come Back When You Grow Up” (Bobby Vee) #7 “Cold Sweat – Part 1” (James Brown) #8 “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (The Monkees) #9 “You’re My Everything” (The Temptations... underrated song of theirs...) #10 “I Was Made To Love Her” (Stevie Wonder...timeless...B+/A- week...not enamored with #s 5-7...)
NFL Quiz Answer: Five with 14,000 yards rushing.
Emmitt Smith 18,355
Walter Payton 16,726
Barry Sanders 15,269
Curtis Martin 14,101
Frank Gore 14,026
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.