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Harper Gets His....
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
NBA Quiz: The other night, James Harden had 58 points in a 121-118 win over Miami. It was Harden’s 15th career 50-point effort, which is 5th all time, breaking a tie with Rick Barry. Name the four with more. Answer below.
College Basketball Review
--Wednesday, after I last posted, 2 Virginia whipped Georgia Tech, 81-51; 7 Tennessee kept pace in the SEC title chase with a 73-71 road win at Ole Miss; and 8 Houston kept rolling, 99-65 over East Carolina.
Villanova, struggling mightily recently, came up with a nice win over 10 Marquette, 67-61; and my No. 12 Nevada Wolfpack beat UNLV 89-73.
No. 1 Gonzaga is now 29-2, 16-0, after a 69-55 win at Saint Mary’s (20-11, 11-5).
2 Virginia had such an easy time in Charlottesville defeating Pitt (12-17, 2-14) 73-49, that it actually played its bench some (more so than the Georgia Tech game)...the Cavaliers now playing their best hoops of the year at the right time, their record 26-2, 14-2.
3 Duke, again without Zion Williamson, who has “no timetable” on his return, according to Coach K., ran by Miami (12-16, 4-12) 87-57, the Blue Devils 25-4, 13-3.
In a huge SEC contest, 4 Kentucky traveled to Knoxville to face 7 Tennessee and the Volunteers easily handled the Wildcats 71-52; Kentucky 24-5, 13-3, Tennessee 26-3, 14-2.
5 North Carolina was on the road to face Clemson and just hung on to defeat the snake-bit Tigers (17-12, 7-9) 81-79, as the Tar Heels (24-5, 14-2) were led by assistant coach Steve Robinson in the second half, coach Roy Williams having to leave at halftime due to a bout of vertigo. Williams is fine, but he’s had the problem before and this time it was set off with a quick move of the head. [About four years ago I suddenly developed vertigo for a spell. Must say, the first time is kind of scary until you understand what is going on.]
Clemson has now lost four games this season essentially at the buzzer, though yesterday’s contest was decided on a very tight offensive foul call on the Tigers.
So the Tar Heels remain tied atop the ACC with Virginia.
6 Michigan State (23-6, 14-4) lost on the road to Indiana (15-14, 6-12) 63-62, the Hoosiers sweeping the regular-season series, the only thing that has gone right for them in a really crappy campaign.
I finally caught some of No. 8 Houston, the Cougars playing UCF at home, and while the Knights upset them, 69-64, I was actually impressed with Houston. They’ll make it to the Sweet 16, says your editor.
As for 7’6” Tacko Fall of UCF, he had 13 points and 10 rebounds, but here’s the deal. Because he shoots 36% from the foul line, 1-of-5 yesterday, you have to take him out at the end in a close game. So how useful is the guy?
But he does move well. He’s an interesting call for an NBA GM without an All-Star big man. Certainly worth a shot.
Today, 9 Michigan played at 17 Maryland, and the Wolverines won a biggie, 69-62, to stay in touch with Purdue, Michigan now 26-4, 15-4. Maryland is 21-9, 12-7.
10 Marquette hosted Creighton and the Golden Eagles lost another, 66-60, the Bluejays (sic) 16-13, 7-9; Marquette falling to 23-6, 12-4. Markus Howard had 33, but Marquette committed 22 turnovers. This week is going to cost them bigly in terms of seeding.
Back to Saturday, in other games with conference title implications....
11 Texas Tech (24-5, 12-4) beat TCU (18-11, 6-10) 81-66.
13 LSU stayed tied atop the SEC with Tennessee after a 74-69 win at Alabama (17-12, 8-8), the Tigers 24-5, 14-2.
14 Purdue is suddenly all alone at the top of the Big Ten at 22-7, 15-3, following an 86-51 win over Ohio State (18-11, 8-10), the Buckeyes’ program a total mess for a myriad of reasons.
15 Kansas is 22-7, 11-5, after a 72-67 win at Oklahoma State (10-19, 3-13), Kansas a game back in the Big 12 as it tries to win its 15th consecutive regular-season title.
16 Kansas State stays tied in the Big 12 with Texas Tech after the Wildcats beat Baylor (19-10, 10-6) 66-60.
But then we have your “Pick to Click” No. 12 Nevada Wolfpack, who will be sliding down another few spots after an 81-76 road loss at tough Utah State (24-6, 14-3), the Aggies punching their ticket into the NCAAs with the key win. Nevada, however, now 26-3, 13-3, was furious at how the Utah State fans stormed the court after the game, and forward Jordan Caroline punched out the glass of a fire extinguisher in the hallway, cutting himself, while coach Eric Musselman went on a profanity-laced tirade and had to be restrained by police. The fans apparently touched some of the players, and it was reported a Utah State assistant hurled a few expletives of his own at Nevada. The Mountain West Conference is investigating.
Two others of note yesterday....
24 Wofford completed its Southern Conference regular season undefeated, 18-0, 26-4 overall, with an 85-64 win at Samford (16-15, 6-12). Senior sharpshooter Fletcher Magee had 36 on 8-of-14 shooting from three for the Terriers, who continue to shoot lights out from downtown, 14-of-30 yesterday, .418 for the season, second in the nation behind Lehigh.
Wofford’s four losses are to North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State.
And finally, we have my Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the school from where I obtained a sheepskin that says I actually graduated. Wake hosted Syracuse and lost 79-54 to fall to 11-17, 4-12, the ‘Cuse needing this one, now 19-10, 10-6.
But here’s the thing. Wake has lost nine games this season by 20+ points, including our last six losses. I mean that is hideous, vs. say, Clemson, with all of its tight defeats, five by two points or less, and just one by 20 points.
Well, Phil W. was the first to inform me of some good news. Our athletic director, Ron Wellman, is retiring...step one in our rehabilitation; step two being the firing of coach Danny Manning.
John Currie is replacing Wellman (who I didn’t realize was the longest-tenured D-I AD, having led the Deacs’ athletic program since 1992). Currie is a former Wake grad who has been AD at Kansas State, very successfully, and Tennessee, a disaster; think the intended hiring of Greg Schiano to be football coach, which escalated from there into Currie’s firing.
--One more week of regular-season play....
Texas Tech 12-4
Kansas State 12-4
Michigan State 14-4
--There is really only one story in the NBA these days, now that James Harden’s and Russell Westbrook’s streaks are over...that being the collapse of LeBron’s Lakers; Saturday, L.A. falling to the worst team in the league, Phoenix, 118-109, LeBron missing two key free throws near the end.
The Lakers, 30-33, have lost four of their last five and eight of 11 (3-7 since LeBron’s return from injury) to fall 4 ½ games behind the Clippers for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Lakers fans have a right to be fuming and LeBron will rue the day he ever chose to go out there.
--Actually, Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young has become kind of a story for the hoops cognoscenti. Young had a career-high 49 points in a staggering 168-161, four overtime thriller Friday night, though the Hawks fell to the Bulls. It was the third-highest-scoring NBA game ever. [On Dec. 13, 1983, Detroit won at Denver, 186-184, and on March 6, 1982, San Antonio won at home against Milwaukee, 171-166.]
Young was 17-33 from the field, 6-13 from three, and he chipped in 16 assists and 8 rebounds in playing 56 minutes. [42-year-old Vince Carter played 45 minutes, the oldest player in NBA history to do so.]
But Young also had back-to-back 36-point efforts the two prior games, thus becoming the first rookie with 120 points in a three-game span since Allen Iverson in April 1997. He also became the first rookie to have a 45-point, 10-assist game since Michael Jordan did it on January 26, 1985.
Poor John Collins, the budding star forward for Atlanta. He couldn’t participate in the fun, out with the flu.
I don’t know the Hawks’ cap space situation, but if I’m a high-profile free agent, nothing wrong with joining a team anchored by Young and Collins. There’s a future there.
Oops, today, before posting, I see that while the Hawks beat the Bulls 123-118, Trae Young had 18 points in 18 minutes...ejected in the third quarter for taunting.
MLB...and the Bryce Harper Signing....
Our long, national nightmare is over...Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, besting Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million extension signed with the Marlins, and Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres.
Agent Scott Boras first told the New York Post: “The goal was to get the longest contract possible. Bryce wanted one city for the rest of his career. That is what I was instructed to do. It is very difficult in this time to get length of contract that takes a player to age 37, 38, 39.”
[Boras fell far short in his effort to make Harper the highest-paid player by annual salary.]
Harper, 26, is already a six-time All-Star; a .279 average with 184 homers, 521 RBIs and a .388 on-base percentage over his career.
At Citizens Bank Park, Harper has 14 career home runs, with a .564 career slugging percentage, which ranks first among 71 players with at least 200 plate appearances there.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Citizens Bank Park is tied with Miller Park for most home run friendly National League stadium for left-handed batters in the last three seasons.
But Harper has played 140+ games in just three of his seven seasons, and the last four, he’s had batting averages and OPS’ as follows.
2015: .330, 1.109...MVP
2016: .243, .814
2017: .319, 1.008
2018: .249, .889...though he did drive in 100, which was a first for him.
2012-2014, he was a decent player, only, despite enormous hype.
As I noted in that other column I do, Phillies fans are smart enough to know that assuming Harper really stays all 13 seasons, there are going to be some clunkers, especially versus what he is being paid. And Harper is smart enough to know he’ll be blistered by the home fans during those stretches, thus he understands it’s important to lay out all the charm possible this first year in particular.
Bill Madden / New York Daily News...Saturday....
“And then, at precisely 2:02 p.m., they all emerged up a hastily constructed wooden stair case from the tunnel that leads to the visitors’ clubhouse to the top of the dugout – Phillies owner John Middleton, GM Matt Klentac, Harper and his agent Scott Boras – all of them beaming like Cheshire cats at having just completed the most lucrative contract in baseball history. About all that was missing – and the Phillies really did miss the boat on what would have been a perfect tie-in – was the theme from ‘Rocky’ blaring out of the center field sound system. For after all, this really was a Rocky-like triumph for the city of Philadelphia, wasn’t it?
“According to Harper it sure was. Throughout the hour-long press conference he couldn’t say it enough – how much he was looking forward to spending the next 13 years as a Phillie where, after all the marathon back-and-forth negotiations, ‘it felt right.’
“ ‘I want to be part of the organization and Phillies Nation for a good long time,’ he said, adding that the reason there were no opt-outs in the contract (a perk he playfully acknowledged was invented by Boras) was that he ‘wanted to dig my roots somewhere.’ He reiterated that when asked about the Dodgers, who reportedly came in at the end with a five-year offer with a record annual average value of $45 million. ‘Throughout the process I left my door open, but it was all about the long haul and digging roots,’ Harper said.
[Harper also reportedly had an offer from the San Francisco Giants of 12 years, $310 million. Plus he had that earlier 10-, and $300m offer from Washington.]
The Phillies sold 220,000 tickets in the first 48 hours since the signing.
“The intel I get is that people are going crazy,” Middleton said. “My friends are texting me and e-mailing me. This feels really unbelievable.”
Tyler Kepner / New York Times
“Maybe the faucets were just a little rusty. Spring training games are well underway, but, finally, baseball has opened up its money spigot.
“After a winter notable for a sluggish free-agent market that still includes a handful of prominent unsigned players, cash is now flowing to the major leagues’ top stars. On Thursday, Bryce Harper became the latest in a string of players to set a new salary standard, reaching a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for 13 years and $330 million, the most ever guaranteed to a baseball player.
“Last week, Manny Machado became the first free agent to earn a $300 million contract when he signed a 10-year deal with the San Diego Padres. One Wednesday, the Colorado Rockies made Nolan Arenado the game’s highest-paid position player on an annual basis, at $33.5 million per season on an eight-year, $260 million extension.
“There were others receiving extensions this week: Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks (seven years, $70 million) and St. Louis Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas (four years, $68 million). And while Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke still claims the highest average annual value ($34.44 million per year on his six-year, $206.5 million deal), Harper stands alone for the richest overall contract.”
But as for Scott Boras’ comment that Harper wanted to go to one city, “build a brand and identity and recruit players,” that means one player in particular...Mike Trout, born and raised in southern New Jersey, where he still lives, Trout eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. Suffice it to say, this is all you’re going to hear about in certain circles. An obvious key will be how well the Angels do this season and whether they can develop some talent that gives Trout hope, and the desire to stick around beyond 2020. You talk about being the perfect soldier, he’s been Example A in that regard.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“This was before a Game 7 many years ago, back when Eric Lindros was one of the bold-faced names in all of sports. Lindros’ Flyers were a day away from hosting the Devils for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup final, and Philadelphia was electric with anticipation.
“Someone asked Lindros, ‘If you win, you’ll be a king around here.’
“Lindros, by then 500 games into his career, a Hart Trophy already on his mantel, smiled and said, ‘For the weekend, at least.’
“We like to think we’re a tough room in New York. But years later, when Lindros was playing for the Rangers, Lindros said, ‘They get on you here, sure, but they also appreciate your body of work. You don’t have to dance for your dinner every shift, the way you have to in other cities.’
“He didn’t mention the city in question. He didn’t have to.
“This is what Bryce Harper has jumped into. On the one hand, he has been playing in the NL East for years, he’s played either nine or 10 games in each of those years at Citizens Bank Park, he has heard what a Philly crowd can be about. He’s been lustily booed for most of his appearances there.
“But there is a difference between being booed as a visitor and being booed as a member of the home team. And Philly, more than any sports city in America, prides itself on holding its own athletes to a high standard....
“This is where, according to legend, Santa Clause was booed by Eagles fans.
“There is some question as to whether that actually happened, but, as the man in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ said; ‘When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’....
“(They) don’t boo guys in Los Angeles like they boo them in Philly. They don’t boo guys in San Francisco the way they boo them in Philly. Harper could have gotten silly rich in California. Manny Machado got silly rich last month – but he’ll be counting his money in user-friendly San Diego. Nolan Arenado got silly rich last month – but he’ll be spending the next seven years in Denver, where booing the home teams is a civic felony....
“Of course, there is an upside. If you do win it all in Philly, then all booing bets are off – ask Nick Foles. In the last 60 years, going back to the 1960 seasons, Philadelphia has won a total of eight championships – two each among the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. If you do scale that mountain, you are bulletproof. You are Chuck Bednarik. You are Julius Erving. You are Bobby Clarke. You are Chase Utley.
“But you must earn your way into that pantheon. Bryce Harper hasn’t had to do that yet....
“When the (Nationals) underachieved – and it never did win a playoff series with him – there was a shrug and a sigh and a chorus of ‘Wait till next year.’
“He could have had that for the rest of his career. He chose something else. He’ll know soon enough just how profoundly different that path is.”
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“(Harper’s) drama feels like a parable, but not the kind that we usually tell little children at bedtime if we want them to sleep tight. For no particularly compelling reason, except that he got trapped without any other appealing destination, Harper left the only team he has never known – the Washington Nationals – where he was a third of the way to a Hall of Famer career.
“Five months ago, Harper turned down $300 million for 10 years from the Nats, albeit much of it in deferred payments, so he could discover his value. What he found was a shockingly barren market.
“One losing team wanted him for 10 years: the 89-loss Giants, weighted with bad anchor contracts and aging starts. That’s winning the lottery? One great franchise that he’s always imagined himself playing for – the Los Angeles Dodgers – apparently offered Harper less than half the guaranteed money he’d already turned down in D.C. Well, you can’t save face that way.
“And then there’s Philadelphia, a mere 37-hour drive from his home in Las Vegas....
“When Harper comes back to Nats Park on April 2, he’ll face a Nats pitching rotation where Max Scherzer ($30 million a year), Stephen Strasburg ($25 million) and Patrick Corbin ($23.3 million) all make almost as much, or more than Harper per year. He left adulation and a city that loved him, and that he claimed to embrace in return, for a new start in America’s No. 1 town for boos....
“The Nats can start getting their video board ‘tribute’ ready for Harper in that third game of the season. Washington fans can give Bryce one huge cheer of thanks. Then, with luck, with Harper homers and hair on fire, with Harper strikeouts and strangulation, all hell will break loose, now and for years to come.”
Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“I can’t be the only person who paused Thursday when word arrived that the Philadelphia Phillies are signing the free-agent baseball star Bryce Harper to an eye-popping 13-year contract with no player opt-out.
“Thirteen years! No opt-out! A commitment that’s so committed, it’s basically as if the Phillies adopted a Galapagos Gray Tortoise.
“Keep in mind: I didn’t pause at the $330 million the Phillies have agreed to pay Harper....
“But a 13-year deal?....
“I know the baseball wonks will give me reasons this Harper deal makes perfect sense. I’m sure they’re right. I don’t want to argue with the baseball wonks.
“I just don’t know if it’s possible in 2019 to commit 13 years in advance to anything. I can’t even commit to lunch next Wednesday.
“My wife and I are due to celebrate 10 years of marriage this summer. Every anniversary, she looks me straight in the eye and says, ‘Yeah, we’ll see how it goes, pal.’
“My kids? I love them, but they’re both on two-year deals, with a parent option. If they’re not out of the house within 13 years, I’m removing them both with a forklift.
“Only our cat has a lifetime deal. Have you ever tried to negotiate with a cat?
“This is a common dilemma. Few of us have security anymore; loyalty is a dying quality. The Journal could toss me out the door at any minute, replace this column with a nice, bird-watching column, maybe a crossword puzzle, and you’d all probably be better off.
“I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but not a single one of us is promised tomorrow. This is life. When you think about it, we’re all technically on short-term deals.
“But not Harper and the Phillies. They must really be in love....
“Where does such deal making confidence come from? Nothing lasts anymore. People rotate through jobs, houses, spouses, banks, cars, gyms, phones, hairstyles. That restaurant down the street used to be a pharmacy, which used to be a veterinarian’s office, which used to be a jail.
“Who knows what the planet will look like in 13 years? It’s entirely possible we’ll all be living in space, drinking space juice and eating space pizza. The robots will have taken all of our jobs. The President of the United States will be Bill Belichick. The Marlins might be good. Or playing on an island....
“I haven’t even gotten to the fact that Philadelphia sports fans can be...how shall we say...occasionally hard-to-please? Thirteen years could wind up feeling like 1,300.”
Actually, I’m kind of surprised Jason Gay didn’t mention the fact that the world will end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change, according to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
It’s all so complicated! I just want to see baseball again, and rely on it to be there for me every day and night through October, to give me a break from the political garbage.
--I have to admit that when it comes to the NFL Combine, I’m not watching any of it. Just tell me who my team is supposed to be targeting, as in the Jets have the third selection and, save for quarterback, and maybe safety, they need everything, but mostly offensive line help.
That said, it would be hard to turn down Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who has been a consensus top six or so probable pick on most draft boards, and at the combine, despite being 6-foot-3, 303 pounds, Williams ran a 4.87 40-yard dash, a spectacular time for a man that size.
His agent, Nicole Lynn told him that was enough. But Williams ran it a second time and turned in an unofficial 4.84, later corrected to 4.83! This was the fourth-fastest by any 300-lb player at the Combine since 2006.
As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy, while reading the Sunday sports section and eating Grape Nuts, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
So if you’re the Jets, do you take the ‘best available athlete,’ as all the GMs say they’ll do?
Or do the Jets go with D.K. Metcalf, the Mississippi wide receiver, who startled the combine with a spectacular 40-yard dash time of 4.33, a 40.5-inch vertical leap and an 11-foot-2 broad jump...while being 6-foot-3, 228?
Metcalf missed the second half of last year due to injury, but he’s obviously healthy. Suddenly the guy is being talked of as a top-10 pick.
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, WR, turned in a 4.31, tied for fastest thus far with, get this, Andy Isabella! The same Andy Isabella (from UMass) I mentioned a few times last year.
I mean I had no idea the dude, who I said seemed like a classic New England Patriot (Julian Edelman, Wes Welker) possession-type receiver, had this kind of speed.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has also apparently improved his stock greatly and may have suddenly elevated himself into the top-10 conversation.
--The Giants appear to have made up their minds and are going to go with Eli Manning one more season, though depending on what quarterback they draft and how the team starts the year, who knows how long into it Eli is actually starting?
GM Dave Gettleman said this week: “Yeah, at this point I want Eli back. He’s back. Get ready to go with him.”
Gettleman pointed to “the Kansas City model,” which “worked well,” he said.
Play a proven QB (Alex Smith) while the talented rookie prospect (Patrick Mahomes) waits in the wings. Then after learning while watching, make a seamless transition.
So the Giants, at 6 in the first round, are centered on Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, as they should be. But lots of local talk they will trade up with the Jets to ensure they get him.
--As reported by the New York Post and others, the prostitution case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is a complicated affair and you can see why Kraft’s legal team will be waging a vigorous defense.
After all, reportedly, the two women Kraft was caught on video with at the day spa are the 45-year-old spa manager and a 58-year-old licensed masseuse, while police say the business has ties to an international human-trafficking and prostitution ring...some of the women at the Asian spa and five other affiliated Florida properties are sex slaves from China.
To be continued....
--It was no secret that a lot of top golfers skipped this week’s Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., what with Bay Hill and The Players Championship the next two weeks, and The Masters looming (as well as the WGC-Match Play championship in between). You can’t play every week.
But this presents opportunities for some others to perhaps pick up their first career win, or in the case of 56-year-old Vijay Singh, to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history, besting Sam Snead, who was 52 years, 10 months, when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open.
Incredibly, Singh hasn’t won a tour event in 11 years, but holds the record for most victories (22) by a player over age 40.
Vijay was already a big winner this year, having reached a rumored $multi-million settlement with the tour on a 2013 allegation and three-month suspension he was given after admitting in a magazine article to using a deer antler spray supplement that contained IGF-1, a growth factor that at the time was listed on both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the tour’s prohibited substances lists. But WADA rescinded its ban on the spray, which led to the tour dropping its suspension of the big Fijian. Singh nonetheless sued the tour for damaging his reputation and won.
So that was the backdrop for today’s final round.
Wyndham Clark -7
K.H. Lee -6
Keith Mitchell -6
Rickie Fowler -5
Clark, Lee and Mitchell seeking their first titles.
Well the winner was Keith Mitchell, with a huge birdie on 18, besting Fowler and Brooks Koepka by one, Vijay 3 back in sixth.
It could have been an all-time story, but good for Mitchell, while obviously, Vijay is someone to insert in a Masters lineup, if you catch my drift.
--Going back to Wednesday’s play, Tottenham fell at Chelsea, 2-0, in the first of the Spurs’ Big Six matches, a disheartening display, while Manchester United was defeating Crystal Place 3-1, and Arsenal was blasting Bournemouth 5-1.
And at the top, Man City edged West Ham 1-0, and Liverpool had its way with Watford, 5-0.
So Saturday’s biggie had Arsenal at suddenly struggling Tottenham, and late in the game, the score 1-1 in a true tension convention, Arsenal was awarded a highly-controversial penalty and it seemed the referee had just handed the Gunners the win, which would have given the Spurs their first 3-game losing streak in league play since 2012.
Only goalkeeper Hugo Lloris saved a very weak PK from Aubameyang and it ended up being a stunning draw (Tottenham’s first of the year)...a match that the announcers described so perfectly as a contest with “no structure whatsoever” and “glorious chaos.”
It was a massive missed opportunity for Arsenal in its attempt to secure a top-four spot, and a huge sigh of relief for a Tottenham squad that was on the verge of the worst 8-day stretch in manager Mauricio Pochettino’s reign.
Meanwhile, Man U was holding off Southampton 3-2 to leap over Arsenal in fourth, and Man City had another 1-0 win, this time over Bournemouth.
Sunday, Chelsea beat Fulham 2-1, while Liverpool could only manage a 0-0 draw at Everton.
So after 29 of 38...W-D-L...pts
1. Man City 23-2-4...71
2. Liverpool 21-7-1...70
3. Tottenham 20-1-8...61
4. Man U 17-7-5...58
5. Arsenal 17-6-6...57
6. Chelsea 17-5-6...56*
*28 games...so look who is right back in the top-four race.
In the relegation battle....
17. Southampton 6-9-14...27
18. Cardiff 7-4-18...25
19. Fulham 4-5-20...17...fans have long been drowning their sorrows
20. Huddersfield 3-5-21...14...ditto...in triplicate.
--Santa Anita had its 20th horse racing death since the meeting opened on Dec. 26 when Eskenforadrink suffered a life-ending injury during the third race on Saturday.
As John Cherwa of the Los Angeles Times has reported, the issue that is being explored is the track surface, which was sloppy Saturday, Southern California having experienced a very rainy winter. Officials had suspended racing last week for two days to examine the track and yesterday’s was the seventh death during a race on the dirt. There have been five on turf and eight others during training on the dirt.
[There have been between eight and 14 deaths in the same period the previous three seasons at Santa Anita.]
A soil and safety expert from Kentucky was brought in last week to determine whether there was anything in the dirt that was making the track unsafe and after extensive testing, Mick Peterson declared the track “100% ready” for racing.
Horses returned both for training and racing Thursday and Friday, after the shutdown.
A tragic mystery that threatens to cast a pall on the upcoming Triple Crown season.
--The mountain lion strangled by a Colorado man after it attacked him on a jogging trail last month was a young cub, weighing no more than 40 pounds and likely orphaned but not starving, state wildlife officials said on Friday, amid a growing mini-uproar.
The encounter between the young predator and Travis Kauffman garnered international headlines when authorities revealed that the 31-year-old man had not only survived a rare mountain lion attack but had suffocated the cat by stepping on its throat. A necropsy – the animal equivalent of an autopsy – showed the cougar was 4 to 5 months old, based on the condition of its teeth, and the results confirmed Kauffman’s account of the struggle, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement. “The cause of death was determined to be...blunt trauma and strangulation,” the agency said.
Kauffman suffered multiple lacerations but no permanent injuries. He could not be reached for comment Friday, after he had been on a media tour, describing his struggle.
Veterinarians performing the necropsy were hampered somewhat by the fact the dead cat had been feasted on by animals before rangers reached it.
Which means we could have witnesses! Why isn’t anyone talking about this?!
Two other cubs believed to be from the same litter were later trapped; the cats taken to an animal rehabilitation facility to give them a better chance for survival when they are released back into the wild at some point.
--From the New York Post:
“He made the ultimate sacrifice for his best friends.
“An Upper West Side couple is mourning the loss of their hero husky, Rikku, who saved them from a fire early Friday morning but perished before he could escape.
“The two-alarm fire broke out on the second floor of a five-story building at West 76th Street near West End Avenue at 1:35 a.m., the FDNY said.
“Engaged couple Quinn Demarest and Monica Molina were sound asleep in their first-floor apartment when their beloved dog came into the bedroom to wake them up and alert them to the inferno.
“ ‘He woke us up, I helped my fiancée out,’ Demarest told The Post while recovering from the blaze.
“The couple, thanks to Rikku, fled to the hallway, pulled an alarm and started knocking on doors to alert neighbors the apartment building was filling with smoke and it was time to get out.
“ ‘[Rikku] let us knock on the doors and set off the alarm that saved everyone,’ Demarest said.
“Once Molina was safely out of the building, Demarest went back for Rikku, but it was too late.
“ ‘I came back, but the fire was too big. I couldn’t get him out,’ the heartbroken dog dad said.”
Other residents who escaped said they were only able to do so after hearing the screaming from the couple.
Seven civilians and one firefighter were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 106 firefighters were dispatched to battle the blaze. There seems little doubt, without Rikku, this story has an even more tragic ending.
Needless to say, ‘Dog’ remains No. 1 on the All-Species List.
--I had my annual physical this week and as Dr. F. is going through my bloodwork he says, “I’m a little worried with this one reading...you need to take some B-12 (and Folic Acid).”
Now I admit I don’t have the best diet in the world, but I bet you are thinking as I was, yes, I need a shot of B-12, channeling my inner Roger Clemens...cough cough....
Well, I’m taking just tablets but if you notice a little extra pep in the column, you’ll know it’s working.
--Speaking of doping, the Nordic ski world is embroiled in a “blood doping” scandal – where athletes are said to inject specially altered blood back into themselves.
Footage was leaked showing Austrian cross-country skier Max Hauke allegedly giving himself a blood transfusion.
He was one of five athletes arrested in Seefeld, Austria, which is hosting the Nordic World Ski Championships.
A police officer is also reportedly facing investigation for giving the video of Mr. Hauke to the press.
Coming in the middle of the sport’s biggest competition, you can imagine how this has rocked the sport.
--We have an entry for “Idiot of the Year.” The other night the Los Angeles Clippers’ Fox Sports Prime Ticket announcers commented on a graphic that was posted during the Clippers-Mavericks game, detailing the 1998 trade that sent Robert “Tractor” Traylor from the Mavericks to the Bucks for Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity. Announcers Ralph Lawler and Don MacLean were quick to pounce on the historically lopsided deal.
“Who’s he play for now?” Lawler mockingly asked MacLean, who responded, “The Detroit YMCA Over-40 league.”
The thing is, Traylor, a former first-round draft pick, died from a heart attack almost eight years ago.
--I haven’t decided if I’m going to watch any of HBO’s four-hour documentary on Michael Jackson, “Leaving Neverland,” which premieres tonight.
There is little wonder why the Jackson family is furious over a film that contains all kinds of lurid accusations of child molestation, nearly 10 years after his death, though the allegations had dogged Jackson long before his passing. In 1993, he was accused of child molestation for the first time, settling the following year for a reported $23 million.
Jackson’s estate is seeking $100 million in damages from HBO. Since 2009 (Jackson dying June 25 of that year), the estate has brought in more than $2 billion, according to Billboard, half of that coming from the sale of its stakes in major song catalogs.
--We note the passing of Andre Previn, the great composer, conductor and performer. He was 89.
Previn wrote or arranged the music for dozens of movies and received four Academy Awards, having been nominated for three Oscars in one year alone – 1961, for the scores for “Elmer Gantry” and “Bells Are Ringing” and the song “Faraway Part of Town” from the comedy “Pepe.”
Some audience knew him as well for being a jazz pianist, appearing with Ella Fitzgerald, among others. And he was the music director or principal conductor of a half-dozen orchestras, including the London Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/6/65: #1 “My Girl” (The Temptations) #2 “This Diamond Ring” (Gary Lewis and The Playboys) #3 “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (The Righteous Brothers)...and...#4 “The Jolly Green Giant” (The Kingsmen) #5 “Eight Days A Week” (The Beatles) #6 “Tell Her No” (The Zombies) #7 “King Of The Road” (Roger Miller) #8 “The Birds And The Bees” (Jewel Aikens) #9 “Ferry Cross The Mersey” (Gerry & The Pacemakers) #10 “Downtown” (Petula Clark...what more can you say about a week that has easily seven or eight of the Top 200 songs of the 60s and 70s...A+....)*
* “This Diamond Ring” was #1 the previous week, and “Eight Days A Week” would become #1 the week after. Kind of surprised “My Girl” was #1 just this one week, though in the top ten for eight weeks.
NBA Quiz Answer: Most 50-point games....
Wilt Chamberlain 118
Michael Jordan 31
Kobe Bryant 25
Elgin Baylor 17
James Harden 15
Rick Barry 14
LeBron James 12
Allen Iverson 11
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 10
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.