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Hall of Fame: four in...Bonds, Clemens still out
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
College Basketball Quiz: Since 1985-86, name the only two major conference players to average 30 points per game for a season. [Hint: think 1993-94 and 1988-89; both went on to solid NBA careers.] Answer below.
New England vs. Los Angeles
New England is currently favored by 2-2.5...over/under 57.5-58.
Minutes after the conference title games the Rams were installed as a one-point favorite, but then as Foghorn Leghorn would have said, “Ah ah ah...hold on there...”
Steve Serby / New York Post
“All of Arrowhead, all of a long-suffering football city began willing Patrick Mahomes to the Super Bowl right from the start, willed him every step of the way to take the torch from Tom Brady, even if Brady will never be ready to pass it until he is home for good with Gisele.
“On every play they could, across every minute, for 60 minutes and beyond, they came to unleash the kind of rumbling thunder you would expect from a fan base that has been waiting 49 long years to get back to a Super Bowl and win it, and remind Brady’s 41-year-old ears he picked the wrong time and the wrong place to be so greedy and continue his assault on history.
“And picked the wrong quarterback.
“A fearless young gunslinger who would relish a shootout with the great Brady, who would like his chances if he happened to be the last man with the ball at the end with his team begging him to drive it to Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII to face the Rams.
“Except there was no fear in Brady either, never has been on these big stages, in these big moments. Mahomes takes your breath away. Brady takes your heart away.
“It was Brady who had announced to his teammates in the days leading up to this AFC Championship bout:
“ ‘I am the baddest mother----er on the planet.’
“And when his team needed him to be the baddest motherbleeper on the planet, at the end of regulation and in overtime, he sure was.
“Matthew Slater called heads and Brady got the ball first in OT and never let Mahomes have it.
“ ‘As soon as I saw it was heads, I know what happens at the end of this one,’ Devin McCourty said.
“They all did.”
Brady to Chris Hogan for 10, then to Julian Edelman for 20, then Edelman again for 15, then Gronkowski for 15.
After that, Rex Burkhead took over, going in from the 2.
“ ‘What a game!’ Brady said to Jim Nantz.
“What a GOAT.”
Of course at the end of regulation, down 28-24, Brady rallied his team to take a 31-28 lead in the final 2:03.
But with 0:39 on the clock, Mahomes worked his own magic, quickly driving the Chiefs to the tying 39-yard field goal at 0:08.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post...on the other game...
“It was going to happen just like this eventually. Every week of every football season brings an egregious call or three from across the league, the kind for which the NFL must apologize a few days later – as if there’s any consolation in that.
“But you get one stolen from you in Week 6, you can come back from that.
“You get one stolen from you in Week 20....
“Well, your dreams die. Your season ends. Your jacked-up stadium turns silent in an instant, but not before the partisans paste the referees with bile, spittle and slander – all of it absolutely well-earned.
“And make no mistake: The refs stole this NFC Championship from the Saints. No disrespect to the Rams, who overcame an early 13-0 hole to make a wonderful game of this and who made the key play in overtime when safety John Johnson intercepted a Drew Brees pass on his back – yes, on his back – before kicker Greg ‘The Leg’ Zuerlein boomed a clinching 57-yard field goal that might have been good from 77.
“But by the time Zuerlein sent the Rams to Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII with a 26-23 win, he should’ve been back in a quiet visiting locker room comforting his teammates. The Superdome should have been a deafening madhouse of sound and fury, the 73,028 in the house celebrating a second trip to the Big Game.
“But that’s not how it worked out.
“Because the refs got in the way. They stole this one as surely as if they’d walked into a bank like Willie Sutton. It wasn’t an anonymous Week 6 game this time. It was the NFC Championship. And in a time when refereeing has never been more in the spotlight and more under the gun, this is one that will be remembered forever.
“And this time, the league didn’t even have to wait a few days to cop to the officials’ incompetence. This time, they talked to Sean Payton right after he walked off the field.
“ ‘Just got off the phone with the league office,’ Payton said. ‘They blew the call.’
“Payton’s expression mirrored that of his team and his fans and his city: Thanks for nothing, league office.
“The call was actually a non-call – and let’s really describe it properly: the most egregious non-call, perhaps, in NFL history. The Saints were driving for a go-ahead score late in regulation, facing third-and-10 from the Rams’ 13 when with 1 minute 48 seconds left, Brees dropped back and threw toward his wideout, Tommylee Lewis. But before Lewis could catch the ball, a beaten and desperate Rams cornerback named Nickell Robey-Coleman did the only sensible thing he could do: He ran into Lewis.
“As an added bonus, Robey-Coleman also made helmet-to-helmet contact with Lewis.
“With the two penalties, the Saints would have been set up first-and-goal inside the 5. The Rams had only one timeout, so the Saints could have taken three knees, run about 82 seconds off the clock and would have kicked the chip-shot go-ahead field goal with about 25 seconds left in the game. [Ed. less than that.]
“Except the most obvious pass-interference call of the year went uncalled. And so did the helmet-to-helmet. The Saints kicked the field goal with 1:45 left. The Rams got the ball back with 101 seconds left in the game and needed only 82 of them to drive for the field goal that forced overtime.
“ ‘I don’t know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call,’ Payton said.
“We can save him the time and the energy and the research: There has not.”
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“As Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal sailed through the dead middle of the uprights on a Sunday afternoon at the deafening Superdome, the sudden quiet that descended upon the celebrating winners was quite possibly the most beautiful sound in the history of Los Angeles sports.
“Meanwhile, back home, the Southland screamed.
“The Rams are going to the Super Bowl!
“For the first time in 35 years, America’s most celebrated sporting event will feature a Los Angeles team after the Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints 26-23 in overtime Sunday afternoon....
“Yeah, that’s right, it’s the real Super Bowl, this thing Los Angeles has long only watched from bars and patios and poolside parties. Now, we’re like, in it, actually in it, seriously, and if you think your neighbors are excited, listen to the guys who are taking you there, a Rams team that bounced off the field and into one another’s arms in a locker room scene that set a playoff record for prolonged hugs....
“The last time a Los Angeles team played in the Super Bowl was the Raiders in 1984, when they defeated the Washington Redskins. The only other Los Angeles team to appear was the Rams in 1980, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
But the Saints, despite “The Call,” made a slew of mistakes that could have otherwise led to a victory, and Jared Goff lead the Rams 45 yards on the game-tying drive, including completing a 16-yard pass to a wide-open Robert Woods down the middle.
Or you could go back to the beginning, when the Rams, down 13-0 and being totally dominated, went with Johnny Hekker on a fake punt pass for a first down that led to a field goal. That was probably the key play for the Rams in the entire game.
Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“This is a pretty delicious Super Bowl, but I can already tell the matchup is making America cranky.
“They’re mad in New Orleans, angry at game officials for a ghastly missed penalty – truly, a historic, game-altering bungle – which cost their beloved Saints a chance at playing for the NFL title
“They’re bummed in Kansas City, about a legit-but-still-annoying offsides call that negated a huge interception – and cost their beloved Chiefs a chance at playing for the NFL title. (They’re also a little baffled by the bizarre rules of NFL overtime.)
“Meanwhile, they’re annoyed in every state in the union besides Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine – because once more, the flippin’ New England Patriots will play for the NFL title.
“This is New England’s first Super Bowl appearance since 2018. It is the team’s second Super Bowl appearance since 2017. It is the third Patriots Super Bowl appearance since 2015.
“They’ve made three in a row, four of the last five. It gets worse. This year’s Patriots see themselves as ‘underdogs.’ It’s like listening to a plutocrat call a $50 million penthouse a ‘fixer-upper.’....
“It’s gotten old, hasn’t it? Wasn’t it old five years ago? The Patriots, doormats in their early decades, have risen to become football’s never-ending nightmare, its destroyer of dreams, its eradicator of souls – and that’s putting it gently.
“They are invincible, the opposite of adorable. Bill Belichick could go to 8,000 Super Bowls in a row and he’s still going to scowl like the Grumpy Lobster Boat Captain. Tom Brady is the guy who never left high school and keeps on winning homecoming king. Rob Gronkowski? OK, Gronk’s adorable – a human bouncy castle with legs.
“It isn’t fair, even if life isn’t fair. The Patriots dynasty...Brady’s impeccable existence... Belichick’s sustained brilliance...the way Dunkin’ donuts just tastes better when you’re in New England...the vast conspiracy of hidden forces paying off underworld dragon lords with unicorn blood to ensure the city of Boston wins as many sports championships as possible between 2000 and 2020....
“Do you realize there are people in Boston still hung over from the Red Sox World Series parade, which was barely 80 days ago? I have a daughter who just turned 4 – this will be the fourth Patriots Super Bowl of her life....
“OK. The Rams. The Rams are good. Very good. Good enough to beat New England. They’re going to be positioned as Football Future in the coming two weeks, because they play with tempo and brazen creativity, but most of all, because Rams quarterback Jared Goff is 24, and head coach Sean McVay is 14, and still in the eighth grade. Belichick has a desk drawer full of scissored-off sweatshirt sleeves that are older than Sean McVay....This Darth versus Luke angle will be run into the ground by kickoff....
“Like Warren Beatty inhabiting a QB’s body for a climactic scene, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from plenty of reanimated Rams fans in the next two weeks. But these 2019 Rams are not a frenzied allegiance like the Steelers, the Cowboys – or the Patriots, for that matter. They’re more of an idea, like autonomous cars. These Rams feel smart and inevitable....
“It will be a long week for the fine people of New Orleans. And a long week for the fine people of Kansas City. The Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl. Talk about smart and inevitable.”
--Kansas City fired their defensive coordinator Bob Sutton yesterday. The Chiefs finished 31st in total defense in 2018, allowing 405.5 yards per game. Despite tying for first in sacks with 52, the unit also ranked second-to-last in passing yards allowed per game (273).
In the loss to New England, K.C. gave up 524 total yards, including 176 on the ground.
Sutton had been the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator since Reid’s arrival in 2013.
There’s a rumor floating around that Rex Ryan could be a fit to replace Sutton. Kind of makes sense (having an experienced head coach alongside Reid, who won’t be around forever).
--The ratings for Patriots-Chiefs were off the charts, with CBS estimating 53.9 million viewers, up 26 percent from the late window (6:40 p.m. ET kickoff) of last year’s Eagles-Vikings conference championship game. It was the third-highest AFC title game rating since 1987.
Rams-Saints (3:05 p.m. ET kickoff) drew a 27.1 rating, or roughly 31.2 million viewers, slightly behind last year’s Jaguars-Patriots AFC championship.
--The baseball writers have weighed in and Mariano Rivera became the first to be selected for the Hall of Fame by a unanimous vote, on all 425 ballots. Edgar Martinez also made it in his final year of eligibility at 85.4 percent (75 needed for enshrinement), the same percentage as the late-Roy Halladay. Mike Mussina was the fourth to be voted in in his sixth year with 76.7 percent.
No baseball fan can argue with these selections.
So attention refocused on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who only edged up in their seventh year of eligibility, three left.
Bonds 53.8 (2017)...56.4 (2018)...59.1 (2019)
It seems clear now this is going down to the wire, certainly a ninth if not tenth year for the two.
Meanwhile, Curt Schilling made solid progress in his seventh season, Schilling receiving 60.9 percent vs. 51.2 last year.
Fred McGriff, in his final year of eligibility, picked up just 39.8 percent and is now headed to the Veterans Committee, which no doubt will vote him in.
One other...Colorado slugger Larry Walker had a big jump from 34.1 to 54.6 in his ninth year of eligibility, and you can bet all next December there will be a slew of articles debating his candidacy for his final year.
On the 2020 ballot, the only newcomer that matters is Derek Jeter, which gives even more of an opportunity for Walker and Schilling to gain attention.
--The Yankees finally traded right-hander Sonny Gray to the Reds, who then signed the 29-year-old to a three-year $30.5 million contract extension through 2022. Gray was 11-9, 4.90 ERA in 30 games (23 starts) for New York last season.
The Yankees, among other considerations, received second base prospect Shed Long, and then sent Long to Seattle for a minor league outfielder.
--Preseason College Baseball Rankings, via Baseball America
5. North Carolina
6. Florida State
8. Texas Tech
9. Mississippi State
10. Oregon State (last year’s champion)...time to get the Beaverwear out again
College Basketball Review
AP Poll (Jan. 21)
1. Tennessee (48) 16-1...Congrats, Vols fans!
2. Duke (11) 15-2
3. Virginia (3) 16-1
4. Gonzaga 18-2
5. Michigan 17-1
6. Michigan State (2) 16-2
7. Nevada 17-1
8. Kentucky 14-3
9. Kansas 15-3
10. Virginia Tech 15-2
11. North Carolina 14-4
12. Marquette 16-3
13. Maryland 16-3
T-14. Texas 15-3
T-14. Buffalo 17-1
I was surprised at how many first-place votes Tennessee received, not that they didn’t deserve them.
So Monday, 13 Maryland fell to 7-2 in Big Ten play, losing at Michigan State, 8-0, 69-55.
North Carolina improved to 5-1 in the ACC with a 103-82 win at home against Virginia Tech (4-2 in league). The Hokies have laid an egg in their two big tests thus far, getting whipped by Virginia and now the Tar Heels, though to be fair both were on the road. We’ll see if they get any revenge against UVA at home later on, while they host Duke (but not UNC).
Tuesday, Duke manhandled Pitt (12-7, 2-4) 79-64 in Pittsburgh, while Virginia whipped Wake Forest (8-10, 1-5) 68-45 in Charlottesville.
5 Michigan edged Minnesota (14-5, 4-4) 59-57 in Ann Arbor.
But the two teams tied for fourteenth lost last night, both on the road in conference matchups.
Buffalo fell to Northern Illinois (11-8, 4-2) 77-75, while Kansas State (15-4, 5-2) took care of Texas Tech 58-45.
--Monday, as the Warriors dominated the Lakers 130-111, Klay Thompson tied a record by making 10 straight three-pointers (10 of 11 for the game), hitting 17 of 20 shots overall from the field on his way to 44 points.
It was Thompson’s third 40-point game where he played less than 30 minutes, and according to Elias, in the shot-clock era (1954-55), no one has done this more than once.
By the way, in case you’re wondering about Wilt Chamberlain with regards to this last stat, understand he averaged nearly 46 minutes per game for his career, and never averaged fewer than 42 minutes for a season.
--Speaking of Wilt, Houston’s James Harden scored 30 points for a 20th consecutive game, putting himself in the conversation with Chamberlain, Harden finishing with 37 in an otherwise pathetic 121-93 loss to the 76ers.
So it’s just Harden and Wilt with streaks of at least 20 games with 30 or more.
The 10-35 Knicks host the Rockets tonight. Harden might score 70.
--On the women’s side, the shocker of the tournament (until the last 12 hours) is unseeded 25-year-old American, Danielle Collins, who took out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to advance to the semifinals. Collins was a two-time NCAA champion at Virginia, but she turned pro just two years ago, having picked up her MBA. Coming into this tournament she was 0-5 in Grand Slam matches.
Others to advance in the semis were 8-seed Petra Kvitova and 4 Naomi Osaka.
But then you had Serena Williams. Up 5-1 in the third over 7 Karolina Pilskova, Serena flat-out choked, though she denied this after. Serena failed to convert four match points.
Serena said, “It’s kind of hard to say because she – there’s nothing I did wrong on those match points,” she told reporters after her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title ended.
Since Serena won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australia Open while two months pregnant, she was beaten by Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon title-decider and by Naomi Osaka in the controversial U.S. Open final in which Serena behaved like a jerk.
So it’s Collins-Kvitova; Osaka-Pilskova.
--For the men, it’s about the 20-year-old Greek, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who after stunning Roger Federer, followed it up by beating No. 22-seed Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets to become the first player from Greece to reach the final four at a major tournament.
Rafael Nadal advanced to the semis with a win over America’s Frances Tiafoe, with Nadal now taking on Tsitsipas.
28-seed Lucas Pouille of France will face top-seed Novak Djokovic in the other semi.
--Tiger Woods makes his 2019 debut this week at Torrey Pines. Including the U.S. Open, Tiger has ten percent of his career 80 wins on the course. If he’s in the hunt on Sunday, given there’s no football (I haven’t watched a single minute of the Pro Bowl since the 1960s), the ratings will be huge.
--Jack Nicklaus turned 79 on Jan. 21, and Golf World had a tribute piece with some of the more remarkable numbers of the Golden Bear’s career.
--From 1970 to 1979, Nicklaus’ worst finish at the Masters was eighth.
--At age 58, Nicklaus carded the lowest final round (68) for a senior in Masters history in 1998. He finished T-6, also setting the record for lowest total score for a senior.
--In 44 majors from 1970-1980 Nicklaus missed ONE cut. In that span he finished inside the top 10 38 times, and 30 of those were in the top 5. He won 10 of those times.
--Nicklaus holds the record for most top 10s at Augusta with 22.
--From the 1973 Masters to the 1976 Masters, Nicklaus finished in the top 10 13 straight times in majors.
--Between 1971 and 1982, Nicklaus finished outside the top ten just once in the U.S. Open.
--Nicklaus won five of the first eight Senior major championships he played in.
--Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only two players to achieve three career grand slams.
--Potentially awful news for boxer Manny Pacquiao, who after his win Saturday night against Adrien Broner in Vegas was thinking of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather, if Mayweather would accept that.
But the day after the fight Pacquiao was complaining of pain and vision loss in his left eye and, according to the New York Daily News’ Wallace Matthews, Pacquiao had to fly home to the Philippines to see an eye specialist.
One source in Pacquiao’s camp said the injury was just a minor corneal scratch (which remains the story as I go to post), but there are also fears he suffered a detached retina. No way he could risk fighting again if this were so, let alone most venues wouldn’t allow him to.
The injury came from tape on his glove, not a punch.
--After I posted last time, having described how distraught Lindsey Vonn was after her performance this past weekend at Cortina, more information became available and Vonn seems serious in considering moving up her retirement because the pain is too great. A decision is possible in the next few days.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/23/71: #1 “Knock Three Times” (Dawn) #2 “My Sweet Lord” (George Harrison) #3 “One Less Bell To Answer” (The 5th Dimension)...and...#4 “Lonely Days” (Bee Gees) #5 “Black Magic Woman” (Santana) #6 “Stoney End” (Barbra Streisand) #7 “Groove Me” (King Floyd) #8 “Your Song” (Elton John) #9 “Rose Garden” (Lynn Anderson) #10 “It’s Impossible” (Perry Como)
College Basketball Quiz Answer: Only two major conference players to average 30 points per game for a season since 1985-86....
Glenn Robinson, 30.29, 1993-94, Purdue
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (aka Chris Jackson), 30.16, 1988-89, LSU
Next Bar Chat, Monday.