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Goodbye, Johnny Miller
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
Super Bowl Coaching Quiz: 1) Name the 13 coaches to win at least two Super Bowls. 2) Name the three to go 0-4. Answers below.
Just play it, already. It’s always a long two weeks after the conference championships, that is if you make it so. [I’ve used the time to watch some movies and TV docs.] There isn’t one thing that has interested me in the lead-up to Super Sunday thus far, and it’s not healthy for the sport when there is still so much talk about New Orleans getting robbed. [And sports fans in that city overall are in an even surlier mood after Pelicans’ superstar Anthony Davis requested a trade. More on that below.]
So just a little note from Super Bowl III instead. There was a lot of talk in these parts around Jan. 12, it being the 50-year anniversary, Jan. 12, 1969, of Joe Namath and the Jets and their historic win. [For us fans, the lone moment of glory! Geezuz.]
The Star-Ledger’s sportswriter emeritus, Jerry Izenberg, has been around forever and seen it all. He covered Muhammad Ali’s career as extensively as anyone in the nation and he was covering SB III down in Miami. So the following are some of Izenberg’s remembrances.
But before the Jets even got to Miami (the team staying in Ft. Lauderdale), Namath had fired the first shots when he proclaimed, “We’ve got five quarterbacks in our league who are better than (Earl) Morrall (the Colts’ starter) – and that includes Babe Parilli, my backup.”
“The Colts immediately took the bait.
“Not since Hannibal drove his elephants across the Alps have men at war touched off such a trail of fertilizer long before the actual battle took place.
“The Colts’ Bubba Smith, perhaps the best defensive lineman then in the NFL, said: ‘I have a lot of respect for Joe. He’s an exceptional quarterback, but a very good football player doesn’t need to talk.
“ ‘The Green Bay Packers were real champions and they never talked. That’s how I feel about real champions. The real ones are dignified and humble.’
“But as the great impresario P.T. Barnum might have said about Namath: ‘The Colts ain’t seen nothing or heard nothing yet.’
“Namath hit Miami on Sunday (a week before the game) with all the subtlety of a falling safe. That night, he and his roommate, Jim Hudson, checked out the town. They wound up at Jimmy Fazio’s restaurant, where the Colts’ Lou Michaels, a defensive tackle, and his teammate Dan Sullivan were having dinner.
“The pair immediately got up and walked to Namath’s table. Michaels introduced himself. All he got from Namath was a nod. So he went on the attack.
“ ‘You’re doing a lot of talking,’ Michaels said.
“ ‘I got a lot to talk about,’ Namath replied. ‘We’re going to kick the crap out of you.’
“ ‘Ever heard of humility?’
“Either Namath had not, or he didn’t even hear the question. His response was, ‘You still here?’
“ ‘I never heard (Johnny) Unitas or Bobby Layne ever talk that way.’
“ ‘I’m gonna pick you apart.’
“When the checks came, Namath paid for both, then drove the two Colts back to their hotel. During their discussion, voices were raised.
“The next morning, local newspapers reported they had engaged in a brawl.
“On Thursday, Namath went by limo to Miami Springs, where he was being honored as the NFL Player of the Year. Johnnie Walker Red Label scotch was not an unknown traveling companion. Namath went to the microphone, glass in hand, and said:
“ ‘We are going to win on Sunday. I guarantee it.’
“Nobody had believed him in New York when he launched his verbal attack. Nobody had believed him when they read the well-reported transcript of his confrontation with Michaels. And nobody believed him when he told the world that he guaranteed the upset of all upsets.
“But who could blame the non-believers?
“The Jets, after all, were the lineal descendants of one of the worst front offices ever assembled. They would try to control the ferocious Smith with Dave Herman, who would give away 40 pounds. They had to contend with a team that had beaten 15 of 16 opponents that year.
“Now it was time for Namath to put up or shut up.
“And what of Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank, who once won a championship with the Colts and now faced them in the game of games? The year after the Jets’ miracle, I asked him what he had told them when he sent them in to battle.
“ ‘I didn’t know what to say,’ he told me. ‘I thought we would win. I thought we practiced well. I couldn’t think of anything to say. So I told them a dirty joke.’
“With a chuckle, the Jets ran into battle.”
Well you know the rest (if you’re old like moi). It was 16-0 in the fourth, 16-7 in the end; Namath playing mistake free, 17/28, 206, 0-0, and Matt Snell rumbling for 121 yards and a score on 30 carries...the Jets defense picking off Morrall 3 times, Johnny Unitas once in relief.
“I called the copy desk in my office when I got back to the hotel to make sure my copy was OK.
“ ‘What the hell happened?’ copy editor Abe Abulkoff asked me.
“ ‘Simple,’ I told him. ‘On the way to the slaughterhouse, the cow bit the butcher.’”
AP Poll (Jan. 28)
1. Tennessee (48) 18-1
2. Duke (14) 17-2
3. Virginia (4) 18-1
4. Gonzaga 19-2
5. Michigan 19-1
6. Michigan State 18-3
7. Kentucky 16-3
8. Nevada 19-1
9. North Carolina 15-4...strange year for them thus far
10. Marquette 18-3
11. Kansas 16-4
12. Virginia Tech 16-3
14. Villanova 16-4
15. Louisville 15-5...up 8 slots
17. Purdue 14-6
18. Buffalo 18-2
No major upsets since the rankings came out.
Monday, Duke cruised on the road at Notre Dame (11-9, 1-6) 83-61.
Tuesday, No. 1 Tennessee whipped South Carolina (10-10, 5-2) 92-70 in Columbia.
3 Virginia had to struggle, though, blowing a 53-46 lead with 3:30 to play against 23 N.C. State (16-5, 4-3) in Raleigh, the Wolfpack forcing overtime, before the Cavaliers prevailed 66-65 in an entertaining affair. I love watching Virginia play.
5 Michigan had no problem with struggling Ohio State (13-7, 3-6) 65-49.
7 Kentucky continued its great play, 87-52 at Vanderbilt (9-11, 0-7).
Your Bar Chat “Pick to Click” No. 8 Nevada had no problem at UNLV (11-9, 5-3), 87-70.
And 9 North Carolina beat Georgia Tech (11-10, 3-5) 77-54.
Outside the top ten, 11 Kansas continued to struggle, now 16-5, 5-3, losing to Shaka Smart’s (Shaka Smart...Shaka Smart...) Texas Longhorns in Austin, 73-63, Texas improving to 12-9, 4-4.
--I take you back to Thomas Boswell’s column on the lack of offers for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and his comparing the situation to that of the NBA and its stars, and how in the NBA, the stars call the shots, while in MLB, it’s the owners.
And there is no better example of this than what happened Monday when New Orleans Pelicans star center Anthony Davis requested a trade, through his agent, Rich Paul, who also happens to represent LeBron James.
How conveeeenient! LeBron, of course, is on the record as wanting A.D. to join L.A., and the NBA’s Mike Bass told USA TODAY Sports, “We commenced an investigation this (Monday) morning upon reading the reports (from ESPN that day) regarding Anthony Davis.”
ESPN had reported that Davis will not sign a rather lucrative five-year, $239.5 million extension with New Orleans and wants a trade.
Rich Paul said: “Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship. Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. That’s in the best interests of both Anthony’s and the organization’s future.”
But public trade requests are a no-no in the NBA. In 2009, the Knicks’ Nate Robinson was fined $25,000 after his agent told reporters that he asked the Knicks to trade his client. You are supposed to go to a team privately and requesting a trade or telling a team that a player will not re-sign are not punishable.
But freakin’ LeBron has been the instigator, very publicly talking about his desire to play with A.D., and the NBA sent a memo after, reiterating the league’s anti-tampering policy, which is expressed in the NBA Constitution.
“In addition, recent attention has been paid to the issue of public comments by players,” the memo noted. “Generally speaking, it is not tampering when a player makes a comment about his interest in playing with another team’s player. However, if there are other aggravating factors – such as sustained public recruiting or evidence that the player making such a comment is coordinating with his team – then there may be a basis for a tampering violation.”
[Tonight, Tuesday, Anthony Davis was indeed fined a hefty $50,000, as these things go; the most he can be fined without the player filing a grievance. However, cough cough...Davis is making $25,434,263 this season.]
Well, the Lakers, regardless of the above, no doubt are exploring all options to bring Davis on board. The trade deadline is Feb. 7. After this, Davis would not be available until the summer, at which point the Celtics would be free of a contractual restraint in the collective bargaining agreement and be allowed to make New Orleans a better offer while keeping Kyrie Irving.
The focus is now on Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations for the Lakers, to get it done. LeBron’s window is already closing, witness his longer-than-expected recovery from his groin strain. The Pelicans, though, won’t bite unless it is a huge package...like one including Carrol Merrill and what’s behind the curtain. Just sayin’.
Tuesday night, L.A. lost to the 76ers 121-105, LeBron sitting out his sixteenth game, during which time the Lakers (26-25) are 5-11.
--James Harden increased his 30-plus-point streak to 24 on Tuesday, but the Rockets had a poor loss at home to the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans, 121-116. Harden did not play well, despite scoring 37, going 11-of-32 from the field, 6-of-18 from downtown.
--This is going to be a sentimental weekend, with Johnny Miller’s last appearance after 29 years in the booth! I liked the guy. He sure was different from the colorless analysts of my youth, who were friends with everyone on Tour and thus didn’t like to offer up criticisms.
At first, I kept hearing Miller’s last day was Saturday, the third round, and I thought that had to be a mistake, but now of course it makes sense.
So get ready to have some Kleenex handy. Miller is a deeply religious, man of conviction, who when he says “there is nothing more important than family,” you know he means it. There will be lots of talk, I imagine, of how ‘sometimes I wish I had retired earlier to spend more time with the kids and grandkids,’ that kind of thing. And he might muse about his playing career, which some say was disappointing, given his immense talent, but Miller had a ton of success.
NBC, which is doing the telecast, wanted Sunday’s final round to focus on the golf and Paul Azinger, who is replacing Johnny, slides into Miller’s chair that day.
As a longtime contributor to Golf World and Golf Digest, Miller provided a ton of commentary, aside from his weekend gigs in the booth. He often praised his own ability, but was also brutally honest in his shortcomings and those of others.
“Honesty and truth,” he says, “will always prevail.”
“I won the British Open by six strokes, won at Phoenix by 14, won at Tucson by nine, and won other tournaments by eight, seven, six and five. I wasn’t winning tournaments by accident. This was going out and saying to the guys, This thing is history early.”
“I wasn’t consistent. I want to point that out. I was not a guy you could bank on every week. But when I was on and playing my best, I might have played as good golf as most anybody. I don’t want to be the one to say it, but some of my golf at the time was pretty unusual. Let’s leave it at that.”
“Jack made me look like a hack in the majors. He had a very calculating, conservative and, for me, too-boring style of play. I’m just not willing to play that kind of golf; I get off on flooring it. For me to stay in traffic for three-fourths of the trip and then in the last quarter hope that people break down – then you step on the pedal just a touch, and that’s what wins you the tournaments – that wasn’t my brand of doing things in life.”
“I didn’t value enough what it was to be a champion. I didn’t buy into the majors as much as I should have. ...I think some of that was because I grew up caring more about Snead’s record for career victories than how many majors somebody had won. But when I started winning, Jack had sort of reversed the priority, and I never adjusted.”
“Players who win a bunch of majors are special creatures. It’s not normal. Under heavy pressure, their brains are able to still process information smoothly. But if it’s not in your DNA, I don’t think you can really learn it.”
“My only regret – a little bit – was not winning the Masters. [Miller was second three times.] Only because it would be cool to go to that Champions Dinner.”
“I think ’74 and ’75 took a pretty big piece out of me. After all the years Nicklaus had been in Arnold’s shadow, everybody had finally fallen in love with Jack. And as I was challenging Jack, a lot of people were like, ‘Don’t even think about comparing him to Nicklaus.’ Like they were angry at me. I started feeling, Why bother if they aren’t going to accept me? I couldn’t really enjoy what I’d done, and I felt pressure to do more.”
“My father instilled in me tremendous things – positive thinking, always calling me Champ. He would say, ‘Hey, Champ, you’re going to make it.’ I promise you that there has never been a father that helped his son and has been a better father/instructor to pave the way for a player to get on tour than my father. There is no way there has ever been a father to match him.”
“My dad always talked about self-esteem, how the psyche is so fragile, and how it gets attacked by the game. Everything with my dad was positive. He always found something good. The most powerful thing a son will ever hear is affirmation from his father.”
“We have a saying in the [Mormon] church, ‘No amount of success in anything else can compensate for failure in the home.’ In 1976, I was fighting with myself. I had the responsibility of the position I had in the game, plus having children in ’70, ’72, ’74, ’76, ’78 and ’80. I was thinking, I’m not failing in the home, but obviously, to play at the level that I was expected to play would require tremendous sacrifices in the home and a lot of other areas. I was fighting the fact that I had sort of done all the things I wanted to do in the game. I was just content. And when you’re content, you’re basically done. I was happy. Everything was great. It was like, Well, that’s done. I climbed that mountain. Check out the view and enjoy it. Be a good dad and go fishing. I had lost that passionate love for the game. I really can honestly say that at that point, it became work for me.”
“As a Tour player, by far the toughest moment was when I was packing my suitcase to head off to a tournament. My youngest son, Todd, was pulling at my pants leg, pleading, ‘Daddy, please don’t go! Can you stay so we can go fishing?’ He followed me to the car, and to this day I can still see him in my rearview mirror, trotting after the car, reaching out with his hands, crying. The thought of that still makes me cry.”
“Let’s face it, professional golf and family don’t really mix very well. If you look at most of the Hall of Fame golfers, look at the family life – you can’t say it was red hot.”
“To become a first-rate player, it’s simple: You must control distance with your irons. When I felt my iron game was at its peak, I’d sometimes ask my caddie for the distance to half a yard. You control distance by hitting the ball solidly and varying the length and speed of your swing. If you do that well, you become more precise, which rubs off on your direction, too. The week I won the 1974 Tucson Open, I hit the hole or the flagstick 10 times.
“I feel my first responsibility is to the game of golf and to the viewers, and not so much to the tour players. In the past, the first responsibility of an announcer was to keep friendships he had on tour, and being nice so everybody would like him. I’m not doing it because I want to be different or because I want to be looked at as a great announcer. I’m doing it because I love to teach. I want people to leave the telecast saying, That was a great telecast. I learned something...and I got to get inside their heads. I can’t wait to tune in next week.”
“As a TV commentator, ignoring the fact that athletes choke is disingenuous. Gagging under pressure is an issue with every person who plays the game, and it’s especially critical for professionals who have a lot at stake. The entire history of golf has been shaped by players who choked when it counted or got a handle on it and survived.”
“I choked so many times over the years that it’s a joke. To me, it wasn’t the result of a character flaw. It wasn’t that I lacked courage. Choking isn’t like that at all. It’s merely stress manifesting itself mentally and physically.”
“I’ve never been unduly harsh, except for the time at the Ryder Cup when I suggested that Justin Leonard should have stayed home – a comment I later apologized for.”
“My theory in life is, honesty and truth will always prevail. Some people don’t like to hear the truth, but to me, that’s their problem. This job is bigger than me and my friends. That has not been the easiest thing for me. I could play it right down the middle as an announcer, not walk the edges of the rough like I do. I’m just teetering on falling into water hazards all the time. It would be much easier for me to be Mr. Nice Guy and just sort of do a nice fairy-tale walk through TV land, but I’ve always been one to notice little things, little flaws or little boo-boos.” [Mike O’Malley / Golf World]
Miller entered the broadcast booth at NBC in January 1990. It had been three years since his last PGA Tour victory, 1987, and it had been about 15 years since he was the hottest golfer on the planet, winning 15 times between 1974-76, including eight in ’74.
So in his first gig 29 years ago at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, as Golfweek noted, with Mike Ditka competing in the pro-am, NBC showed footage of Coach ranting on the sidelines of a game, and Miller likened his histrionics to Curtis Strange after a three-putt. “Watching from his brother’s couch, Strange was angered by what he saw as a slap below the Sansabelt. ‘Now I laugh. At the time I was really pissed off,’ he admitted. ‘He’s been good for the game. He’s been good for TV. A lot of people like him, but there’s some that don’t.’”
Golfers can be a rather thin-skinned lot. Lots of them never liked Johnny.
So it was in 1994 that Miller, almost 47 years old, played in just his fifth tournament since entering the booth in 1990, and won at Pebble Beach in the AT&T National Pro-Am, win No. 25, his final one. He hadn’t won in seven years, was crippled with the putting yips, which everyone knew, and then he went out and beat all those players who had come to despise his commentary.
Brandel Chamblee missed the cut and left Pebble Beach feeling more disgusted than awestruck. “It’s the only time I ever left an event and felt embarrassed to be a Tour player,” the Golf Channel analyst recalled. “He came out of the booth, past his prime, with the yips, and still beat us.”
Miller, years later, told Chamblee at a party that his Pebble win wasn’t by accident, and that it had been a goal of his to pop out of the booth and win.
Miller only played six more Tour events after that triumph...four missed cuts and two WDs.
Perhaps Rickie Fowler, the victim of Miller’s jabs more than once, summed up Johnny’s career best.
“He spoke his mind and gave his opinion,” Fowler said. “If you don’t like his opinion, so be it, but he’s been awesome. If it was something that crossed the line, he came to me and said sorry. Nothing but respect for him. He was giving his opinion on the way things were, and you can’t blame someone for that.”
--John Feinstein has a piece in Golf World on slow play, which continues to plague the sport.
“Almost a quarter century later [Ed. after Arnold Palmer complained about the pace of play in 1994 upon completing his final round at the US Open at Oakmont], the problem remains as rampant and as infuriating as ever, The latest example came this past weekend at the Dubai Desert Classic, where the eventual winner, Bryson DeChambeau, marched to a seven-stroke victory...one tedious step at a time. By the clock of our John Huggan, DeChambeau took more than a minute to prepare for his birdie putt on the 72nd hole, a comical amount of time given his win was already assured. This came after he took one minute, 45 seconds over a putt on the 15th hole – and he wasn’t the first to putt in his group. And when one of DeChambeau’s lively conversations with his caddie was shared on social media, more than a few responded by mentioning that the lengthy exchange did little to deter others from taking their good old time....
“If there is one subject that will stir debate in a PGA Tour locker room, it is the issue of pace of play. It can also lead to confrontations, such as the time years ago when Jerry Pate and Ronnie Black stood nose-to-nose on the first hole in Greensboro after Pate told Black walking off the tee that he needed to keep moving during the round because he didn’t want to get put on the clock because of Black’s meanderings. Black didn’t take the comment well, and the two engaged in a spirited shouting match.
“The slow-play moment that might be most vividly remembered on tour took place almost 14 years ago, during the last round of the now-defunct Booz-Allen Classic, played that year at Congressional. By the (unfortunate) luck of the draw, (Rory) Sabbatini (who had to slow down most days to play at under 100 mph) was paired with Crane (who had to floor it to hit 40). Crane’s nickname among the rules officials is ‘The Anchor.’ (The best rules officials slow-play nickname is Bernhard Langer’s: Herr Sundial).
“The two men were paired on Thursday and Friday and then, because they were tied after 36 and 54 holes, ended up playing together on Saturday and Sunday. Late in the final round, Sabbatini simply couldn’t take it anymore. After hitting his ball in the water at the 17th hole, he walked up to drop before Crane had played his second shot. Then, after putting out, he left the green while Crane was still circling his putt and walked to the 18th tee.
“Paul Azinger, who was working the tournament on television, blasted Sabbatini for his lack of etiquette. So did many others in the media, in part no doubt, because Sabbatini can be prickly and because Crane is almost always a willing interview. Many players will tell you that slow play is a breach of etiquette. Playing at ‘a reasonable’ pace is considered part of the game’s etiquette.
“The day after the Sabbatini-Crane incident, I was standing on the range at Pinehurst – site of that year’s U.S. Open – when Sabbatini walked out to hit some balls. It was late afternoon and there were perhaps 20 players practicing. Almost every one of them stopped what they were doing and clapped for Sabbatini.”
Back to Bryson DeChambeau, the win at the Dubai Desert Classic was his first European Tour victory, to go with five on the PGA Tour. More importantly, he now has won four times in his last nine starts!
Drat! I just can’t stand the guy. His slow play is a killer for me, too.
And this morning I see that Brooks Koepka can’t stand DeChambeau’s play either.
“I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball; it’s not that hard,” Koepka said on Golf Monthly’s podcast. “It’s always between two clubs; there’s a miss short, there’s a miss long. It really drives me nuts especially when it’s a long hitter because you know you’ve got two other guys or at least one guy that’s hitting before you so you can do all your calculations; you should have your numbers....
“Guys are already so slow it’s kind of embarrassing. I just don’t get why you enforce some things and don’t enforce others.”
DeChambeau addressed the issue defensively.
“It’s actually quite impressive that we’re able to get all that stuff done in 45 seconds; people don’t realize that it’s very difficult to do everything we do in 45 seconds,” he said on Tuesday. “I think that anybody that has an issue with it, I understand, but we’re playing for our livelihoods out there, and this is what we want to do.”
This is only going to get worse, especially if DeChambeau continues to play at such a high level and is on a lot of Sunday leaderboards. The fans will let him have it, and I can guarantee he won’t respond well.
The lads played Tuesday, with more matches today, and yesterday lowly Newcastle pulled off a 2-1 stunner at home against Manchester City, while Manchester United had to perform heroically in the final minutes to gain a 2-2 draw at home against Burnley. Super exciting match.
Arsenal beat Cardiff 2-1, Cardiff playing for the first time since the disappearance of striker Emiliano Sala, who appears to have perished in a private plane crash.
Men’s College Hockey...top five, USCHO rankings (Jan. 28)
1. St. Cloud State
4. Ohio State
--Andy Murray ended up undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in London. The two-time Wimbledon champion was debating having the procedure, which involves putting a metal plate into the joint, in a final bid to prolong his career, but it is very possible, as he admitted prior to the Australian Open, the procedure may not be successful in terms of his return to tennis, but it was also about quality of life.
Murray, 31, had previously said he intended to retire after this year’s Wimbledon, but not now.
--Forgot to mention that Nathan Chen captured his third consecutive men’s title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit on Sunday. He is the reigning world champion as well.
Chen won in a rout over runner-up Vincent Zhou.
--We note the passing of R&B singer and songwriter James Ingram who died at the age of 66.
The Grammy-winner and Oscar-nominee had two Billboard number ones, with the 1986 ballad “Baby Come To Me” and 1990’s “I Don’t Have The Heart,” as well as the No. 2 “Somewhere Out There” with Linda Ronstadt, from the animated film “An American Tail.”
Ingram also co-wrote Michael Jackson’s “PYT” with Quincy Jones.
Before Ingram’s career took off, he played keyboards for Ray Charles.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/27/73: #1 “Superstition” (Stevie Wonder) #2 “You’re So Vain” (Carly Simon) #3 “Crocodile Rock” (Elton John)...and...#4 “Your Mama Don’t Dance” (Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina) #5 “Why Can’t We Live Together” (Timmy Thomas) #6 “Me And Mrs. Jones” (Billy Paul...we got a thinnnggg...goin’ onnnn.....) #7 “Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?” (Hurricane Smith...love this one...) #8 “Trouble Man” (Marvin Gaye) #9 “Rockin’ Pneumonia – Boogie Woogie Flu” (Johnny Rivers) #10 “The World Is A Ghetto” (War...B+ week...)
Super Bowl Quiz Answers: 1) 13 coaches with at least two wins: Bill Belichick 5-3; Chuck Noll 4-0; Bill Walsh 3-0; Joe Gibbs 3-1; Vince Lombardi 2-0; Tom Flores 2-0; Jimmy Johnson 2-0; George Seifert 2-0; Mike Shanahan 2-0; Tom Coughlin 2-0; Bill Parcells 2-1; Tom Landry 2-3; Don Shula 2-4. 2) Three coaches to go 0-4: Marv Levy, Bud Grant, Dan Reeves.
Next Bar Chat, Monday. Enjoy the game.