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[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Super Bowl Quiz: Name the five teams to appear in at least six Super Bowls. Answer below.
College Basketball Review
Since our last chat....
--Wednesday, No. 1 Tennessee held on to beat Vanderbilt (9-9, 0-6) on the road, 88-83 in overtime, behind Grant Williams’ 43 points.
--Thursday, 6 Michigan State (18-2, 9-0) beat 19 Iowa (16-0, 5-4) on the road, 82-67.
23 Louisville (14-5, 5-1) defeated 21 North Carolina State (15-4, 3-3) 84-77.
And I can’t help but note 5 Gonzaga’s effort at Santa Clara. If you had Santa Clara and 58 points, you lost!...the Zags winning 98-39 to improve to 19-2, 6-0, while the Broncos fell to 11-10, 3-4. Gonzaga had just two turnovers, while Santa Clara shot 13-for-48 from the field.
--So yesterday, Tennessee had a much easier time at home, whipping West Virginia (9-11) in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game 83-66.
No. 2 Duke struggled to take out Georgia Tech (11-9, 3-4) 66-53, the Blue Devils a disturbing 2-of-21 from three, which doesn’t bode well come tournament time. Duke is 17-2, 6-1.
3 Virginia (18-1, 6-1) looked outstanding in beating Notre Dame (11-9, 1-6) in South Bend, the Cavaliers with just two turnovers, while holding the Fighting Irish to 36% shooting from the field. UVA should replace Duke at No. 2 in tomorrow’s AP poll.
In another SEC/Big 12 contest, 8 Kentucky (16-3) continued its recent roll, taking out 9 Kansas (16-4) 71-63, in a major game come tournament seeding time.
10 Virginia Tech (16-3, 5-2) had a much-needed big win over Syracuse (14-6, 5-2) 78-52, after its two maulings at the hands of Duke and Virginia.
13 Maryland (16-5) laid a major egg in losing at home to Illinois (6-14) 78-67.
And I lost my Ferraro’s of Westfield lunch bet (drat!) to B.C. alum Steve D., Wake Forest losing to Boston College 65-61 in Winston-Salem. The Deacs held Eagles star Ky Bowman to just 14 points, but he hit a spectacular three with the score knotted at 61-61 and 15 seconds remaining.
Wake didn’t score a single point the last 4:30...disgraceful, the Deacs falling to 8-11, 1-6, while B.C. improved to 11-7, 2-4.
--Today, Purdue hosted 6 Michigan State and the Boilermakers came up with a terrific effort, winning 73-63 at home and essentially formally punching their ticket to the Big Dance, Purdue now 14-6, but 7-2 in the Big Ten.
But this is only part of the story. The Spartans trailed 55-32 with 13 ½ minutes remaining when they roared back to cut it to 60-56 with 5:14 to play. Gut check time for Purdue. And they responded.
Michigan State fell to 19-3, 9-1; the loss snapping a 21-game winning streak in conference play.
And also today, 18 Villanova is heading back up...80-52 winners over Seton Hall (12-8, 3-5), the Wildcats now 16-4, 7-0. One thing we know...Jay Wright can freakin’ coach.
--James Harden continued his amazing streak of 30-point games, Harden scoring 35 on Friday night in a 121-119 win over Toronto, while contributing a key defensive stop late to boot.
Granted, Harden was just 9-for-25 from the field, 2-of-13 from three, but he went 15-for-15 on free throws.
So Harden’s streak is at 22, the fourth-longest all-time, the others held by Wilt, and he’s averaging 42.8 points during the run. He’s actually averaging 40 points over his last 27, with only Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor having averaged at least 40 points over as many games.
Houston is 16-6 during Harden’s streak to improve to 28-20, and this despite playing the last six without key center Clint Capela and the last 17 games without star Chris Paul. [Paul was slated to return tonight.]
I also just have to add that when I posted last Wednesday morning, I mused that with Harden visiting Madison Square Garden that night, he might score 70.
Well I was close, Harden scored 61, tying the opponent scoring record at the Garden set by Kobe Bryant in 2009.
I watched the entire game and what struck me was just how effortlessly he was racking up his points, 36 by halftime, even though I thought the Knicks played solid defense against him, and the Knicks nearly stole the game, before falling 114-110. Harden was only 5-of-20 from three.
--I watched a lot of the Warriors-Celtics Saturday night, Golden State winning its tenth straight, 115-111 in Boston, and it’s now clear...with the addition of center DeMarcus Cousins, just hand Golden State another title.
This is also the sixth straight season the Warriors have had a winning streak of at least 10 games, a mark matched only by the San Antonio Spurs, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
--The Indiana Pacers were playing superb ball, 32-15, when they suffered a huge blow Wednesday night in a 110-106 win over the Raptors, with star Victor Oladipo suffering a season-ending knee injury. Devastating. Indiana lost Saturday night in their first game without him, 106-103 at Memphis.
Oladipo, who had a breakout season in 2018, earning the most improved player award, and all-defensive first-team, was averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists, and would have been an All-Star selection. Gotta feel sorry for Indiana fans.
--The surging Brooklyn Nets, 27-23, were dealt a blow this week when the NBA’s best Sixth Man this season, Spencer Dinwiddie, injured his thumb and will undergo surgery Monday that will have him missing three to six weeks.
Dinwiddie is averaging 17.2 points and 5.0 assists off the bench.
But the Nets are hoping to get guard Caris LeVert back sometime in February, which would be amazing considering the gruesome nature of his mid-November injury, a dislocated right foot.
--I have been a backer of Knicks first-year coach David Fizdale, saying it appeared he was the perfect selection for a team in major rebuild, Knicks fans with zero expectations this season.
But after a 109-99 loss Friday to the Nets at Barclays Center, the Knicks’ 21st in 23 games to fall to 10-37, Fizdale said some bizarre things in his postgame press conference.
The coach held out center Enes Kanter for a second straight game, saying at first he didn’t want to put Kanter into the game late in the second half because it was “unfair” to him. Understand Kanter, a rebounding machine who has played great against the Nets in the past, was what was needed, the Knicks outrebounded 59-33 for the game.
Yes, Kanter has defensive deficiencies, and he is not in the team’s long-term plans, but it’s clear the Knicks are tanking and the league doesn’t take kindly to that.
Fizdale also took a shot at Tim Hardaway, who was just 2 of 14 from the field, saying, “Tim Hardaway Jr. is making $18 million (per) for two more years with us. He’s a part of our future from that standpoint”...which was a shot at the GM, who signed Hardaway to what now appears to be an absurd contract.
It could be an explosive final few months for both coach and team, as the amazingly patient fans finally grow disgusted with the product on the court.
--As reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was fined $26,739 by the NFL for a helmet-to-helmet hit on New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis that was not flagged during the NFC Championship Game.
League sources also told Schefter that Saints coach Sean Payton reached out to the league to see how it was going to publicly handle the controversial ending to regulation.
Sources said Payton did eventually talk to commissioner Roger Goodell.
Robey-Coleman said that he is going to pay his fine and not appeal it.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday that the team had not heard anything from the league office since Sunday night.
--As the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick wrote the other day: “Is CBS’s Tony Romo, currently riding a rocket as a foresighted NFL analyst well worth our attention as he speaks to us in relaxed, regular-guy English, a good analyst because he’s a deviation from the norm, or because he’s that good, thus stands out like a Sunday Statue of Liberty?”
Conclusion: Romo is not only good, but the competition on the other networks is pretty mediocre.
“Consider that in Sunday’s first game, Rams-Saints, Troy Aikman sounded much as he did during his first telecast, in 2002, as Fox’s lead analyst: Dreary, wordy, uptight, cliché-ridden. His predilection to tell us that players have to ‘step up,’ plays must be ‘dialed up’ and that there are those who ‘play with a chip on their shoulder’ – whatever that means; he leaves it at that – should have been cured 15 years ago.”
“Consider that Cris Collinsworth, who acceded to NBC’s top analyst, has receded. Once enjoyed as credible and concise, he’s now insufferable as a know-it-all who, over three hours, won’t cease talking. Is there no one at NBC to stop him? Or are the bosses good with that, unaware that he has become a burden?
“ESPN’s lead college football analyst, Kirk Herbstreit, once held promise as a see-it/say-it guy. Now he operates from the corner of Inane and Arcane, ceaselessly attacking the good senses with absurd faux-slick idioms about the need to ‘get up the field vertically.’ Perhaps in the mistaken belief that he’s an attraction, he, too, has grown worse....
“And so I put it to you that in Tony Romo we have a serendipitous TV accident. Blind squirrel. We were due.”
Mushnick is spot on with Aikman in particular. But he also kind of feels bad criticizing his work because Aikman is such a good, “engaging” guy outside the booth.
--Kicker Adam Vinatieri and the Colts reached agreement on a deal that will have the 46-year-old returning for another season, giving him a chance to add to his NFL career records of 2,600 points and 690 field goals. His next game will be No. 354, breaking a tie with Gary Anderson for second on the all-time list.
He could join Anderson and George Blanda as the only players to appear in an NFL game at age 47, which he turns on Dec. 28.
But the Colts could have had Michael Badgley as a potential long-term solution, seeing as he was in camp last summer and was perfect in the exhibition season.
--Novak Djokovic whipped Rafael Nadal in Melbourne today, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, to win his record seventh Australian Open title and a third consecutive Grand Slam, doing so in just 2 hours, 4 minutes.
Djokovic’s seven Aussie titles moved him out of a tie with six-time winners Roy Emerson and Roger Federer.
So the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion now has 15 Grand Slam titles, moving him outright third ahead of American Pete Sampras on the all-time list, and trailing just Nadal (17) and Federer (20).
Nadal has not beaten Djokovic on a hard court snice the US Open final in 2013.
--On the women’s side, Danielle Collins’ dream Australian Open came to an end Thursday when two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova beat the University of Virginia grad, 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 in the semis.
But the Kvitova lost to Japan’s Naomi Osaka in Saturday’s final, 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4, Osaka becoming a back-to-back Grand Slam champion after taking down Serena Williams in last year’s US Open, Osaka now the new No. 1 in the world rankings, the first tennis player from Japan to achieve this.
Good for her. A year ago she was ranked 72nd.
--Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“We don’t know how they did it. But we know what they’ve done.
“Spring training opens in less than three weeks, and no one wants Bryce Harper. Or Manny Machado. At least no one wants them very much.
“What you hear all over baseball is the sound of one hand clapping as owners back-slap each other quietly for their marvelous miracle of salary subtraction.
“On Thursday, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed right-handed-hitting free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock for $55 million guaranteed for four years. That’s another door slamming on Harper. That Dodger trade of Yasiel Puig last month was done to open an outfielder spot for Pollock, not for Harper. He’s shut out. Again.
“I predicted this last March: ‘The $400 million Harper contract – that’s dead. Over the next year, we will find out just how deeply it’s buried under the rubble of MLB’s collapsing free agent salary structure. Is his new price more like $300 million for eight years or perhaps $250 million, if he’s lucky, for seven years?
“ ‘When the pendulum of baseball economics swings, it swings further than anybody anticipates.’
“I thought I’d exaggerated. Instead, I was cautious. Harper’s best concrete offer now is not for an average annual value of $37.5 or $35.7 million (my guesses).
“No team claims that it has any contract offer on the table to Harper at all. There’s been plenty of big talk and goo-goo eyes but no ‘sign here.’
“Now, let me make my next Boz-you-fool prediction. Harper will be funneled to Philadelphia, where I doubt that he longs to play, for less than the $300-million, 10-year offer from the Nationals that he rejected in September. He’ll end up with the Phillies because no other team in MLB will make him a competitive offer. He’ll be boxed in.
“And Machado will end up signing for perhaps $200 million with the Chicago White Sox, a team that lost 100 games last year and that, by normal baseball logic, should hold little charm for Machado. Except, hold the chuckles, the White Sox traded for his brother-in-law last month....
“I don’t want to be right. Such an outcome would be bad for MLB. In the NBA, superstar players pick teams as if they were choosing up sides with their buddies. Now, MLB risks looking like it’s choosing up sides for its players. Suspicion of uncompetitive, or anti-competitive behavior could smear the game, no matter how much all 30 teams chant, ‘We suddenly all got smart at the same time and simultaneously came to nearly identical conclusions about price and value.’
“And a whole bunch of teams decided they could be profitable in a rich sport with lots of revenue to share, so why sign expensive stars to try to win titles?
“How has this decimation of baseball salary expectations been accomplished? I don’t know. Is it legal? We’ll find out, somehow, someway, some day.
“But here’s what we know.
“The Phillies, without doubt, would offer Harper a good deal of money. They want him. They’ve sweet-talked him for hours in Vegas. They’ve bragged about the ‘stupid’ amount of money they’d offer him. But why should they make an opening bid when there are no other active bidders – out of 29 other teams.
“Machado is in a similar boat – or box. The White Sox say they love him and want him. But since the Phillies recently made it clear they would not sign both Harper and Machado, there is no rush for the White Sox to bid either. Two teams. Two stars. Just wait.
“Unless Washington, or some mystery team, gets back into the picture as a third musical chair, there is no market for these two 26-year-olds who were supposed to be the most delicious combination of talent and youth ever....
“Are we simply watching irrational excesses being wrung out of the free-agent market after too many decades in a contract Wild West? Or, in addition to that business-driven logic, are we also watching competition and entertainment value being drained from a sport for the sake of maxing profit? Or is this all an accident?”
--I love the latest move by new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the signing of veteran lefty reliever Justin Wilson, filling a hole in a deeply improved (on paper) bullpen, with the additions this offseason of Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz, to join Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, among others.
Wilson, while pitching for the Cubs last year, limited lefty hitters to a .190 batting average, though over his career he has actually fared better against righties. He does have control issues, however.
--Justin Rose is good. Very, very good...and he proved it again at Torrey Pines this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, winning by two over Adam Scott, part of a stellar leaderboard that on the back nine had Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm.
In fact, it might be the best back nine leaderboard we have all year.
The interloper was Talor Gooch, but this dude, who finished T-3 with Matsuyama, suddenly has two top fives the last two weeks. “Goooch.”
For Rose, it was PGA Tour win number ten.
Alpine World Cup
--Lindsey Vonn announced she will put off retirement talk for now.
“I am taking things day by day, and we will see what happens,” Vonn wrote on her Instagram account. “I know that I might not get the ending to my career that I had hoped for, but if there is a chance, I will take it.”
Vonn said she reinjured her left knee during training for last week’s races.
Vonn did not participate in this weekend’s downhill and super G events at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany; nor did Mikaela Shiffrin.
--13-year-old Alysa Liu became the youngest ever United States women’s national figure skating champion in Detroit this weekend. In her winning routine Liu also became the youngest female skater to land two triple axels, finishing well ahead of defending champion Bradie Tennell, 20, with Mariah Bell third.
But despite her victory, Liu is too young to compete in the next three World Championships, which have a minimum entry age of 15.
--No Premier League play this weekend, FA Cup action instead, with the PL set to resume midweek. [I’m not upset Tottenham lost in Cup play today to Crystal Palace...just finish in the top four in the PL, boys.]
But the world of football was struck with a tragedy when Emiliano Sala, an Argentinian striker who had just signed a contract with Cardiff City, after playing at a high level for Ligue 1 Nantes, went missing in a private plane accident, the aircraft going down in the English Channel on a flight from Nantes in France to Cardiff.
One of the issues is that the plane, unbeknownst to Sala’s manager, who arranged the flight, was at the hands of a part-time pilot, Dave Ibbotson, whose main flying activity was taking parachutists for jumps.
Supposedly, Ibbotson, 59, joked with friends on Facebook that he was a “bit rusty” in the days before, having aborted three attempted take-offs.
Football superstars the world over, and Argentina’s president, were among those asking for the search to resume after it was called off on Thursday, and at last word it had.
--Last night I stumbled on a WBA World Welterweight title bout between champion Keith Thurman and Josesito Lopez on Fox and what an entertaining fight, with terrific camera coverage as well. Man, Thurman, who won a majority decision (should have been unanimous) took some ugly shots to the head but stayed on his feet. Any mother watching this alongside her aspiring boxer child would have immediately said, “You aren’t going to that gym anymore, Son! Hit the books instead.”
Thurman, 29-0, who was coming off a 22-month layoff due to two serious injuries, might be lined up next against Manny Pacquiao, at least he hopes so.
Lopez (36-8) was one game fighter and will get some big-money fights in his remaining years. [He also has an attractive girlfriend, speaking of good camera coverage.]
In all seriousness, assuming it’s on YouTube somewhere, try to look up the seventh round...as good as the sport gets, brutality and all.
--The Sundance Film Festival was rocked by an explosive documentary detailing nearly a decade of Michael Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse against two boys, who were just 5 and 10 years old, respectively, when they first met the King of Pop.
Called “Leaving Neverland,” the film has been slammed by the Jackson estate.
Many audience members apparently got up from their seats and walked out during explicit descriptions of the abuse, with the four-hour documentary running down, in vulgar terms, Jackson’s alleged relationships with the two accusers – Wade Robson and James Safechuck – which began around 1986.
“He helped me with my career,” said Robson, who went on to become a choreographer for N’SYNC and Britney Spears. “He also sexually abused me for seven years.”
I read a lengthy account and it is too disgusting to repeat here.
But as the credits rolled at the end of the premiere Friday night, Safechuck and Robson were announced as surprise guests by the director Dan Reed. The Sundance audience gave them a long standing ovation.
--The standing of ‘Black bear’ on the All-Species List, currently No. 22, is being reevaluated after the story emerged the 3-year-old North Carolina boy who vanished from his grandmother’s backyard earlier this week spent his two days in the woods with a friendly bear.
Now when my brother first pointed this out to me, I was skeptical, so I forwarded it on to the ASL High Court in Kazakhstan for their input.
Casey Lynn Hathaway was found alive Thursday night, bringing an end to an extensive search for the toddler, who was found tangled up in some brush and calling out for his mother. The boy had been missing since Tuesday, when he didn’t come inside with the other children he’d been playing with at his grandmother’s house in Enrul, a community about 100 miles southeast of Raleigh.
Casey’s aunt said her nephew told the family “he hung out with a bear for two days,” the aunt wrote in a Facebook post. “God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen.”
The toddler told a similar tale to law enforcement, who are still unsure how Casey remained mostly healthy in the woods for two days without food or water.
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes told WCTI, “He didn’t say how he was able to survive and all that. He did say he had a friend in the woods that was a bear that was with him.”
Hughes said at no point did officers believe the toddler had been abducted.
Bar Chat’s efforts to reach the bear for comment have been unsuccessful.
--Brad K. passed along the following AP piece out of York Haven, Pa.
“A Pennsylvania man says his emotional support alligator helps him deal with his depression.
“Joie Henney, 65, said ‘Wally’ likes to snuggle and give hugs, despite being a 5-foot-long alligator. The York Haven man said he received approval from his doctor to use Wally as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for depression, he told Philly.com.”
Henny said Wally is still growing and could be 16 feet long one day.
Well, I then saw a news story on this on television. It’s not too difficult to predict this will end badly, though it needs to be noted, Henney did host a show called “Joie Henney’s’ Outdoors” on ESPN Outdoors from 1989 to 2000.
--We note the passing of Michel Legrand, the romantic pianist, arranger and composer of hundreds of film scores and songs that became pop hits. He died Saturday at 86.
Legrand was a three-time Academy Award winner and five-time Grammy winner, with some of his better-know compositions being “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968), which won the Oscar for best song; “The Summer Knows,” the theme from “Summer of ‘42” (1972), LeGrand winning an Oscar for best score; and the Oscar-dominated “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” from the film “The Happy Ending” (1969).
Among Legrand’s other works was the recording of “Brian’s Song,” which made the Billboard pop chart in 1972.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/29/72: #1 “American Pie – Parts I & II” (Don McLean) #2 “Brand New Key” (Melanie) #3 “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green)...and...#4 “Sunshine” (Jonathan Edwards) #5 “Day After Day” (Badfinger) #6 “Clean Up Woman” (Betty Wright) #7 “Scorpio” (Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band) #8 “Never Been To Spain” (Three Dog Night) #9 “You Are Everything” (The Stylistics) #10 “Sugar Daddy” (The Jackson 5...B week...)
Super Bowl Quiz Answer: Five with six or more appearances....
Patriots 10 (6-4)
Steelers 8 (6-2)
Cowboys 8 (5-3)
Broncos 8 (3-5)
49ers 6 (5-1)
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.