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CFP Final Four Taking Shape
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Baseball Quiz: As noted below, Jacob deGrom won the N.L. Cy Young Award, thus becoming the seventh pitcher to win both the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. Name the other six. Answer below.
College Football Review
[Comments written prior to release of AP Poll...CFP Rankings Tues.]
No upsets in the top eight, and there won’t be any changes in the rankings among them on Tuesday, but the traditional “Cupcake Saturday” in the SEC, the week when the big powers take on a creampuff opponent prior to a regular season-ending rivalry game, wasn’t as easy as expected for some.
No. 1 Alabama was a 54 ½-point favorite over FCS Citadel and it was 10-10 at the half! But then ‘Bama rolled behind Tua Tagovailoa’s three TD passes (18/22, 340) and Alabama remains at the top of the rankings with a 50-17 win. But congrats to the Bulldogs for beating the spread and hopefully they partied down back on campus with their winnings.
No. 2 Clemson was down to Duke 6-0 after the first quarter, then rolled, 35-6, outgaining the Blue Devils (7-4) 459-262, while holding potential first-round draft pick, quarterback Daniel Jones, to just 158 yards on 43 attempts.
In what was supposed to be an entertaining contest at Yankee Stadium, No. 3 Notre Dame had its way with 12 Syracuse, 36-3, as Ian Book threw for two touchdowns, the Fighting Irish outgaining the Orange (8-3) 463-234.
4 Michigan toughed it out in the end against Indiana (5-6), 31-20, to improve to 10-1, no doubt looking ahead to Ohio State next Saturday.
5 Georgia beat UMass (4-8) 66-27, but I was anxious to see how Minutemen wide receiver Andy Isabella would do, the Div. I leader at the position, and he didn’t disappoint...15 receptions for 219 yards and two receptions. Keep an eye out for this classic Bill Belichick-type slot receiver come draft time. [It was his fifth game this season in double-figures for receptions.]
6 Oklahoma (which shouldn’t be sixth), defeated Kansas (3-8) 55-40, Kyler Murray with two touchdowns passing, three rushing. Jayhawks freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr. had 252 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries.
7 LSU beat Rice, a 42-point underdog, only by 42-10, so Owls fans can celebrate this small victory, though the boys are now 1-11, probably the worst team in either the FBS or FCS.
8 Washington State is now 10-1 after a 69-28 thrashing of Arizona (5-6), Gardner Minshew with a school-record seven touchdown passes (43/55, 473, 7-0). He’ll get an invite to New York for the Tua Tagovailoa Heisman Trophy Show.
Which brings us to No. 9 West Virginia, or soon-to-be formerly No. 9 WVU, which lost at Oklahoma State (6-5), 45-41, in what to me was the unveiling of senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius.
Yes, Cornelius, suddenly very intriguing come draft time, threw for 500 yards the week before in that heartbreaking loss to the Sooners, but this was the game I think the casual fan, such as moi, realized what I imagine many NFL scouts are now thinking, ‘Hey, this kid could be a real sleeper...put him in the right system and in maybe 2 or 3 years you have a keeper.’
Cornelius, who backed up Mason Rudolph for three seasons and thus saw little PT, was 30/46, 338, 5-2, but also rushed for 106 yards and another score. The Cowboys were down 41-31 with 7:37 to play, when Cornelius engineered two scoring drives for the win.
I was more impressed with his NFL potential than even Mountaineer QB Will Grier’s, Grier in his own right a legitimate prospect, 27/48, 364, 2-0, and another who will get an invite to New York.
10 Ohio State is 10-1 as it readies itself for the biggie against Michigan, but this is not a great Buckeye team by any stretch and they should be counting their lucky stars today after squeaking by Maryland, down at College Park, 52-51 in overtime, the Terrapins stopped on a two-point conversion attempt for the win (an overthrown pass...but the right call to go for it).
OSU’s Dwayne Haskins did throw for 405 and three scores, but it was J.K. Dobbins, 37 carries for 203 yards, and a TD, that really saved the day.
For Maryland, freshman back Anthony McFarland rushed for a spectacular 298 on 21 carries and two TDs, a week after going off for 210 against Indiana (another crushing loss for the Terrapins, 34-32).
But the game also highlighted the clear health issues concerning Ohio State's Urban Meyer, who was recently candid in a Yahoo Sports interview, saying he has been dealing with a congenital arachnoid cyst on his brain for several years, and there were times during the game he was hunched over, seemingly in significant pain. He looked pained in the postgame interview as well. He will no doubt be stepping away after the season, if not before, depending on the OSU-Michigan outcome.
In other games of import....
No. 11 UCF remained undefeated at 10-0, win No. 23 in a row, longest in the nation, with a solid victory over 24 Cincinnati (9-2), 38-13. McKenzie Milton had three touchdown passes and another score on the ground for the Knights, who nonetheless remain out of the CFP conversation.
14 Penn State is 8-3 and headed to a decent bowl contest, 20-7 winners over Rutgers, the Scarlet Pumpkins now 1-10. Rutgers freshman QB Artur Sitkowski now has four touchdown passes and 18 interceptions on the year, after throwing another two INTs yesterday. This is not a good ratio, sports fans. I’d blame his parents for failing to add an ‘h’ to his first name. In fact first thing I’d do in the offseason if I were Mr. Sitkowski is march down to the courthouse and start the process of adding an ‘h’. Bring Vanna White along.
In beating Minnesota 24-14, No. 22 Northwestern, 7-4, improved to 7-1 in the Big Ten West and thus is now moving on to play the winner of Ohio State-Michigan in the conference championship. [Good time to do some Christmas shopping while this one is on.]
Wake Forest’s attempt at a third straight bowl game took a hit, the Deacs now 5-6 after a 34-13 loss to Pitt, which is suddenly 7-4 and headed to the ACC title game against Clemson.
What’s frustrating for Demon Deacon fans is that our defense did a pretty good job, leading 10-6 at the half, and holding Pitt’s running back duo, Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, to 96 yards combined on the ground for the game, a week after the pair rushed for over 400 against Virginia Tech. But Panther QB Kenny Pickett looked terrific, 23/30, 316, 3-0, clearly his best performance of the season.
Does Pitt have a shot at upsetting Clemson? Absolutely, they’ve done it before. And with an emerging passing game, I may have to place a wager on the lads (depending on how many points I’d get).
North Carolina State moved to 7-3 with a 52-10 win over Louisville (2-9), which I only mention because the Cardinals have now given up 56, 77, 54 and 52 points the last four games.
[By the way, Louisville’s former coach, Bobby Petrino, who was fired after last week’s loss to Syracuse, 54-23, is owed a $14.1 million buyout, according to ESPN.]
USC coach Clay Helton will be fired after the Trojans, a sickly 5-6, lost to crosstown rival UCLA (3-8) 34-27, Bruins running back Joshua Kelly with 289 yards on 40 carries and two touchdowns. USC, with just Notre Dame left, is on the verge of not qualifying for a bowl game for the first time since 2000. [Two seasons they had bowl-eligible records but were on probation and thus couldn’t participate.]
Thank god L.A. has the Rams and Chargers.
I have to give a shout-out to Nebraska’s first-year coach Scott Frost, his Cornhuskers, after an 0-6 start, now 4-7 following a 9-6 win over Michigan State (6-5) in Lincoln. There is hope after all. College football is better if Nebraska is a perennial contender. Ditto USC. [Otherwise the latter’s cheerleaders are being underutilized.]
Today, Colorado fired coach Mike MacIntyre after the Buffaloes’ sixth straight loss yesterday, 30-7 at home to Utah. Startlingly, CU is 5-6 after starting out 5-0.
MacIntyre led Colorado the Pac-12 championship game in 2016 and earned AP College Football Coach of the Year honors that fall, but overall, he is 30-44 at the university. Among those immediately under consideration is former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who is currently the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator. I thought it was interesting that West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen also might be in the mix, the feeling being he could be looking for a change of scenery.
But MacIntye’s contract runs through 2021 and has $10.3 million remaining. So he can just kick back and smoke a lot of weed while staring at the Rockies...and at the end of the day....
A few more....
Colgate (9-1), held its own against Army at West Point, before succumbing 28-14 to the Knights, who are now 9-2, 10-2 after beating Navy...cough cough...ahem....and headed to what should be a nice bowl contest.
Colgate, No. 6 in the FCS heading into the weekend, is hoping for a bye in their upcoming playoffs.*
And Princeton completed its perfect season, 10-0, with a 42-14 win over Penn.
Finally, in Harvard’s 45-27 win over Yale at Fenway Park (the 50th anniversary of the famous “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” contest), Harvard running back Devin Darrington had a 27-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter called back on a taunting penalty. He flipped off Yale defenders giving him chase as he cruised into the end zone, an amazingly classless gesture.
“The bottom line is: He was wrong,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “I’m just so grateful to our team he didn’t have to learn that the absolute hard way of trying to live with that for a year or however many years.”
Yeah, Coach, but Darrington’s name goes into the ‘December file’ for ‘Jerk of the Year’ consideration. Maybe even ‘A-hole’ hardware.
*And the eight byes, as just announced, for the FCS playoffs....
1. North Dakota State
2. Weber State
3. Eastern Washington
4. Kennesaw State
5. South Dakota State
6. UC Davis
8. Colgate! [Pete M. is celebrating mightily...the Red Raiders, I mean, Raiders, face the winner of James Madison-Delaware...an excellent first-rounder.]
Shu’s Elon is in a first-round contest against Wofford.
And now the new AP Poll!
1. Alabama 11-0 (61)
2. Clemson 11-0
3. Notre Dame 11-0
4. Michigan 10-1
5. Georgia 10-1
6. Oklahoma 10-1
7. Washington State 10-1
T-8. UCF 10-0
T-8. LSU 9-2
10. Ohio State 10-1
11. Texas 8-3
12. West Virginia 8-2
14. Utah State 10-1...Group of Five, New Year’s Six bowl bid is theirs if UCF stumbles
20. Northwestern 7-4
23. Army 9-2!
24. Pitt 7-4... “Yay, Pitt! Sock it to ‘em!” [As my parents tell me, that was the cheer, like 70 years ago.]
Just a few notes on today’s action.
--Odell Beckham Jr. said after the Giants defeated the 49ers the other day in a Monday Night Football game that they could win 8 in a row to finish 9-7 and make the playoffs.
Well, make that two in a row, New York now 3-7 after a 38-35 win over Tampa Bay at the Meadowlands. Eli Manning, playing for his job, was rather spectacular, 17/18, 231, 2-0, 155.8, Beckham 4-74-1, and first-round pick Saquon Barkley rushing for 142 yards and two scores.
Jameis Winston played heroically in place of the ineffective Ryan FitzMagic, who threw three interceptions, Winston then going 12/16, 199, 2-1, 129.9 as he rallied the Bucs back from a 31-14 deficit to make a game of it.
--Dallas improved to 5-5 with a 22-19 win over Atlanta (4-6) on a 42-yard Brett Mahrer field goal as time expired. The Cowboys’ whole offense was Ezekiel Elliott, who had 122 yards rushing and another 79 receiving.
--You’ve gotta love Indianapolis, now 5-5 after a 38-10 beatdown of Tennessee, also 5-5, with Andrew Luck throwing for three touchdowns, T.Y. Hilton with nine receptions for 155 and two scores.
The Colts are one of the better stories of the season.
--Houston is another...after an 0-3 start, now 7-3 after beating Washington 23-21, the first time this has happened since, get this, the 1925 Giants. But Washington lost quarterback Alex Smith to a grisly injury, which turned out to be a broken leg, season over for him. The Redskins, 6-4, are not in good shape, even if Colt McCoy did well in place of Smith.
--The Steelers (7-2-1) had a rather stirring comeback in winning their sixth in a row, 20-16 over Jacksonville (3-7). The Jags, your Bar Chat “Pick to Click” Super Bowl champs, cough cough...hack hack...got off to a 16-0 start and then folded, Ben Roethlisberger recovering to throw for two touchdowns, despite three INTs, engineering deciding drives in the final minutes of 80 and 68 yards.
--Detroit is 4-6 after beating the Panthers (6-4) 20-19.
--And in Los Angeles, the Chargers fell to 7-3, 23-22 losers to Denver (4-6), and it was Summit’s Michael Badgley who has to share some of the blame with Philip Rivers, who made a really dumb move near the end, giving the Broncos too much time to drive for the deciding field goal.
Badgley, who in his brief time in the NFL is now 8-of-8 on field goals after kicking three today, missed his first extra point in 11 attempts and it proved costly.
Yes, it is the loneliest job in sports...that of a placekicker. Badgley, in just a few weeks, was viewed as indestructible by his teammates. We will see how they respond to him this week.
--Thursday, the Packers may have kissed their playoff hopes goodbye with a 27-24 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle, dropping Green Bay to 4-5-1, which would represent another season in Aaron Rodgers’ prime where the Packers aren’t in the postseason, a total waste of one of the top three quarterbacks in the history of the game. [Tom Brady and Nathan Peterman the other two....just seeing if you’re paying attention!]
Green Bay is 0-5 on the road. True, it’s not over yet, but they’re in a big hole.
Rodgers was 21/30, 332, 2-0, 128.8, and this season has thrown 19 TD passes with just one INT.
The Heidi Game
We take you back to fifty years ago, Nov. 17, 1968, and one of the worst days for the NBC network. The fall of ’68 was a great one for fans of AFL football. The games were fun to watch and full of legendary characters. As the battle between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets drew near, both teams were at 7-2 and seemed on a collision course for the AFL championship and the right to represent the league at Super Bowl III.
The game was living up to its billing when with 65 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, the Jets’ Jim Turner kicked a 26-yard field goal to put the Jets up 32-29.
The game was being televised on NBC and had started at 4:07 p.m. Eastern Time. As 7:00 p.m. drew near, executives at the network were preparing to make television history...and they didn’t know it.
After the kickoff from the Jets, the Raiders had 60 seconds on the clock to try and at least tie the game up. They took the ball on their own 22-yard line and quarterback Daryl Lamonica worked a 20-yard pass play to Charlie Smith. But a 15-yard facemask penalty moved the ball down to about the Jets 43 when suddenly the millions of viewers watching across the land, including yours truly, were treated to 60 seconds of commercials and a musical billboard leading into the movie “Heidi.”
The switchboard lit up at NBC’s New York City headquarters, as well as stations across the land. I remember how ticked off I was...even though I wanted to watch the movie as well, I have to admit.
Actually, at 6:53 p.m. ET, network officials had decided to stick with the game but NBC later said it was confusion in their communications system that caused the cutoff.
And so what we all missed was seeing a 43-yard touchdown pass from Lamonica to Smith that put Oakland ahead, 35-32, with 42 seconds to play. Then on the ensuing kickoff, the Jets’ Earl Christy fumbled and the Raiders recovered in the end zone with 33 seconds left for the final score, Raiders 43 - Jets 32.
The calls into the network were so crushing that the board shut down. It wasn’t until 22 minutes into “Heidi” that NBC ran a crawl on the bottom of the screen giving the final score. [This was long before ESPN or the Internet, folks. If you couldn’t quickly switch on the Raiders’ or Jets’ radio networks, you were totally in the dark.]
The viewer outrage lasted well over 24 hours. NBC president Julius Goodman actually issued a statement from his home around 8:30 p.m. telling the world that he, too, was a bit miffed he hadn’t seen the conclusion of the game either, but that “it was a forgivable error committed by humans who were concerned about children expecting to see Heidi.”
As for the Jets and Raiders, the Jets recovered to win their last four games, finishing 11-3, while the Raiders went on to close with a 12-2 record. The Raiders then had a playoff with the 12-2 Kansas City Chiefs for the right to meet the Jets for the AFL Championship.
The Raiders whipped the Chiefs 41-6 and then the Jets defeated the Raiders in the grudge match, 27-23. For Joe Namath and Company, it was on to the Super Bowl and destiny.
One other postscript: Seven years later, the Raiders and Washington Redskins were tied at 23-23 at the end of regulation with “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” scheduled to begin when the game ended. NBC wisely stuck with the game for 45 minutes before George Blanda’s field goal gave the Raiders a 26-23 victory. In the Eastern time zone, viewers missed the movie’s first 45 minutes. [Source: “Total Football”]
--Lastly, the Tim Green story on “60 Minutes” tonight won’t help the game of football, even as he says he has no regrets...Green, a one-time great on the defensive line for Atlanta (and Syracuse), is now afflicted with ALS.
--Yippee! Jacob deGrom was named National League Cy Young Award winner, receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America – topping the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, who received the other first-place vote (I have no problem with the San Diego writer who gave it to him...the dude receiving some heat on the Gotham airwaves...).
DeGrom thus joins Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and R.A. Dickey as the only Mets players to win the award.
DeGrom only finished 10-9, but every major league baseball fan recognized his excellence, not just in his MLB-best 1.70 ERA, but in finishing the season with 29 straight starts surrendering three runs or fewer, a major-league record, which is to me almost unfathomable (except I saw all the starts and, err, seeing is believing), while also setting a record with 24 straight quality starts, six innings, three runs or fewer.
DeGrom credited a conversation he had with Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz for helping change his approach this season. Smoltz suggested deGrom increase his workload, returning to throwing two bullpen sessions between starts.
In the A.L., Blake Snell was a deserving winner after a super 21-5, 1.89, campaign for the Rays, capturing 17 of the 30 first-place votes, Justin Verlander the other 13 in a tight race, though it was clear-cut to your editor that Snell should be putting up the hardware on his mantel.
--In the MVP balloting, Boston’s Mookie Betts and Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich were easy winners in their respective leagues; Betts receiving 28 first-place votes (Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez the other two), and Yelich picking up 29 of the 30, Jacob deGrom the other.
A lot of us fans are psyched for Yelich, a very likeable ballplayer who has been under the radar, but no longer.
One interesting tidbit that emerged from the balloting is that Mike Trout has now finished an unprecedented first or second six of his first seven seasons. [Fourth in the other.]
--I’ve been meaning to note the recovery period for Shohei Ohtani, who last month had Tommy John surgery but is not hitting the mound again until 2020. He can still DH next season.
The rehabilitation for him consists of just healing the first three months, with a splint or brace protecting the ligament. He will then begin range-of-motion, stretching and strengthening exercises in the fourth month, at which point position players can usually begin swinging a bat.
Ergo, Ohtani should be DHing for the Angels come spring training.
--How costly were Manny Machado’s comments during the postseason about not hustling to his free agency and a giant contract? At the owners meeting in Atlanta the other day, Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner discussed the state of the team, and the fact they have money to spend after coming in under the luxury tax threshold last season for the first time since the penalty took effect in 2003. While the top priority is starting pitching, Machado is definitely on the board.
But after Manny said he’s “not the type of player that’s going to be Johnny Hustle” after he jogged out a ground ball during the NLCS, Steinbrenner said: “Certainly, those comments are troubling,” though he quickly added it would be the job of general manager Brian Cashman to determine whether the comments are disqualifying.
But then Cashman backed up his boss. Few believe the Yankees will be pursuing Manny, though they still have this gap with the Red Sox that they have to make up.
--Back to Christian Yelich. How good a guy is he? A day after he won his award, he hosted an early Thanksgiving dinner Friday night for a few hundred victims and first responders of the Woolsey Fire and Borderline shooting, Yelich having grown up in Thousand Oaks and spending his offseasons in Westlake Village. He was an All-American at Westlake High.
Said one woman at the dinner, Emily Capretta, when Yelich won the MVP, “It was a triumph for us in our dark times.” Capretta is the owner of Proactive Sports Performance Lab in Westlake, where Yelich and other sports stars work out.
--Finally, as ESPN’s Buster Olney observed this weekend, if baseball is dead, as detractors often write (tweet) following a long playoff game, or when decrying all the strikeouts, then why did “MLB and Fox just agree to a seven-year, $5.1 billion extension of the current deal – an agreement with an increase in fees of 36 percent?”
“If baseball was dying, then players wouldn’t glean the record-setting salaries. If baseball was dying, then the franchise values wouldn’t climb substantially, which they have. This is not a charity, but a massive business that apparently is thriving to the degree that Commissioner Rob Manfred just got a five-year extension from his bosses.
“Sure, the World Series ratings were down; regular-season attendance was down. But just about 70 million people went to games last summer, and if you spent any time walking around the ballpark in St. Louis, or Milwaukee, or Boston, or Houston, or Anaheim, or San Francisco, or on the North Side of Chicago, you wade through an ocean of humanity. Nobody cares, except everybody who’s there, and there are a lot of people in those places.”
Yup, if baseball is dying, “Check with the companies that have chosen to partner with MLB, including Amazon, Google and Apple. Check with the folks at Fox, who were well aware of the dip in the TV ratings and just signed up for more. Watch the many incredible young players that the sport now features, from Francisco Lindor to Ronald Acuna Jr. to Shohei Ohtani to Alex Bregman.
“And don’t believe those baseball-is-dying Twitter responses that are so reflexive and so ridiculous that they may as well come from bots.”
Personally, I blame the Russians for this last bit.
--So during last Monday’s drama in the Warriors’ loss to the Clippers, during which, and after, Draymond Green got into an argument, then tussle, with Kevin Durant, Durant was seen to say to himself, “That’s why I’m out,” referring to his free agency at the end of the season.
Green drew a fine and one-game suspension from the team for reportedly calling Durant a “bitch” repeatedly in the locker room. Green then supposedly brought up Durant’s loyalty given his impending status and the team’s overall annoyance, as reported, that Durant, rather than insisting he is focusing on this season, apparently keeps bringing it up.
But as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com reported:
“During a two-minute monologue after shootaround Thursday in which he never actually apologized for anything, Green also wouldn’t address why this was the moment that cracked the façade, only to say his emotions got the best of him.
“But by offering a lengthy statement in which he said he believes the Warriors will grow stronger from the incident – and by not taking follow-up questions during his post-shootaround session with reporters – Green avoided saying something that could potentially do more damage to the team.
“ ‘You know, at the end of the day, as I’ve said before, whatever Kevin decides to do, whatever Klay [Thompson] decides to do, whatever who decides to do, we had great years together,’ Green said. ‘And I support everybody wholeheartedly, 100 percent. Because as a man, as a human being, you got the right to do what you want with your life. So I will never question that.’”
--Philadelphia fans, waiting to see if the acquisition of Jimmy Butler would have a Dave DeBusschere-type impact on the team (that’s for old-time Knicks fans and the Dec. 1968 trade that solidified our championship runs in 1969-70, and 1972-73), got a hint, perhaps, on Saturday night down in Charlotte, the Sixers pulling out a 122-119 win in overtime, despite Hornets’ guard Kemba Walker’s franchise-high 60 points.
With the score tied at 119 and under 30 seconds left, Walker drove down the right side of the lane against Butler and rose up for a floater. But Butler rose up just a bit higher and blocked the shot, making an acrobatic save to keep the ball from going out of bounds.
So after a timeout to set up a final play, Butler dribbled the clock down and nailed a step-back 3 with under a second left to give Philly the win. I think Sixers fan Mark R. would agree that Ronald Reagan would have observed the sequence and mused, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--Friday night, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell took 35 shots in the team’s 113-107 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, making 13, but he had zero assists. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it’s the first 35-shot, zero-assist outing in the NBA since Carmelo Anthony’s 62-point performance for the New York Knicks in a win over Charlotte on Jan. 24, 2014.
Mitchell is averaging 21.2 points per game but shooting just 40.8 percent from the floor, which frankly blows.
--LeBron James passed Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Wednesday night against the Trail Blazers.
The top three scorers in league history all played for the Lakers at some point in their careers. Kareem (38,387) is first, Karl Malone (36,928) is second and Bryant (33,643) is third. Including Chamberlain and James, five of the top six scorers in NBA history played for the Lakers at some point.
Michael Jordan is fourth (32,292), so LeBron, at 31,447, will pass him later this year.
I’m embarrassed. I forgot Malone finished his career in L.A., just 42 games. Must have killed that brain cell in a pub in Ireland.
--The Houston Rockets bid adieu to the aforementioned Carmelo Anthony after just 11 games, forcing the 34-year-old to find another team if he is to extend his career.
I love how one writer put it (can’t remember his name or I’d give him proper credit). Anthony is the classic case of having to fit a square peg into a round hole. At this stage he’s not even a good complementary piece.
There was a stunner in Villanova, PA, Saturday, as Furman upset the defending national champion Wildcats 76-68 in overtime, the surging Paladins out of Greenville, S.C., now 5-0 for the first time in 30 years.
Furman, a member of the Southern Conference, has gone 23-10 and 23-12 the last two seasons, but has not participated in the NCAA Tournament since 1980.
Meanwhile, ‘Nova will be plummeting in the next AP rankings, it having lost to Michigan earlier in the week by 27 points (73-46) in their rematch of April’s national championship game. But the Wildcats will be back by March. Just gotta work in a lot of new players, to meld with the two remaining starters from the title team. Coach Jay Wright will get it right eventually.
--I’d say it was a pretty strong Fall Season, with the following winners....
Kevin Tway (a traditional type Fall first-timer), Marc Leishman, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Champ (the sudden new star), Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar (grizzled vet with first win since 2014), and, this week, wow, Charles Howell III won it today in a playoff with Patrick Rodgers at the RSM Classic at Sea Island, GA.
The significance was huge...the immensely talented Howell having gone 4,291 days since his last win in 2007...this being the third of his career. As I’ve written more than once, Howell is a money machine, but just can’t close the deal. He has won $1 million 18 consecutive years. Good for him.
By the way, during the week, Cameron Champ, who finished sixth, went viral for a 221 yard 7-iron on the par-3 12th to tap-in range. As Golfweek noted, “Yes, there was a little ‘helping wind,’ but that’s still ridiculous, not to mention it was around 50 degrees” when he hit the shot.
--I didn’t have a chance last time to pass along a story I saw from Golfweek that players at the Ryder Cup were surprised when officials from the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) arrived unannounced to conduct random drug tests. It was the first time drug tests were administered at a Ryder Cup.
But the fact it was Paris shouldn’t surprise anyone, after the experiences with the Tour de France. The country takes its anti-doping laws seriously.
So eight golfers were tested, four from each squad, and an AFLD official only confirmed this much, so we don’t know who was tested or how the names were selected. There were rumors at a Fall Tour event that a U.S. player tested positive, but it’s my understanding this knowledge wouldn’t be known for quite a while.
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which works with the AFLD, it’s up to the player to disclose a positive test.
Yes, drug testing is golf’s third rail that no one wants to touch.
But of the 24 players involved at the Ryder Cup, only four representatives came forward to comment. Reps for Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen said they had not been asked for a sample, while agents for Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter confirmed they were among the eight tested.
Of course you and I have long heard rumors about certain U.S. players, so I don’t need to mention their names here. We just don’t know if they were among the four for Team America selected to give it up.
--Speaking of Rory McIlroy, like some European players he’s wrestled with trying to stay eligible on both the European and PGA Tours, each with their own minimum requirements, and it has no doubt been detrimental to Rory’s success, with only one win on either tour the last two seasons.
So it being a non-Ryder Cup year, Rory said he’ll probably just try to maintain his PGA Tour card, especially with the condensed new schedule (and the FedEx Cup Playoffs ending before Labor Day), the majors and the Tour Championship, the Big Five, from March through July.
--In the finale of the season, you had the Big Three – Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and defending champ Martin Truex Jr. – plus Joey Logano. Whoever crossed the line first won the championship. I love this format.
So no one in the rest of the field wants to be the one to accidentally knock out one of the Final Four, which otherwise is a regular feature of the circuit, and as we wound down to the final laps, these four indeed were #s 1-4.
And the 28-year-old Logano won it, the 2009 Rookie of the Year finally winning his first Cup title, Roger Penske team owner.
But, boy, did the work of the pit crews come into focus in such a taut environment...and I might be writing next time of Kyle Busch’s crew, which blew its next-to-last one, though I’m not sure it’s fair to say this was a decider.
--The sport remains in big trouble, however, with television ratings this year down 20% compared to 2017, according to Nielsen; down a staggering 62.6% from the sport’s all-time high in 2005. It hasn’t helped that in just the last three years, we’ve had the retirements of popular drivers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
That said, many a weekend it is still the most-watched sports draw on cable.
But some big sponsors are pulling out, like Lowe’s, which is exiting Jimmie Johnson’s team, and Martin Truex Jr.’s little Furniture Row Racing is closing just one year after he won the championship, and while he competed for another.
Target, Subway and Home Depot are leaving or have left the sport. Monster Energy (and those awesome girls) are returning in 2019 as the Cup title sponsor, but afterwards, NASCAR is said to be going to a tiered format, with multiple companies paying smaller amounts than Monster’s $20 million annually.
Many complain the season is too long, February (Daytona 500) through November (Homestead), 36 races. It’s been this way since 2001. Many of the races are also three hours or longer, which leaves a lot of time for fans to critique the sport. I know that unless it’s Daytona, or some of the summer night races, I’m just bopping in and out, and that’s mostly to check my DraftKings lineup. [Hey, I won today!]
--No Premier League action this weekend...it was “Nations Play” week. And in a ‘friendly,’ England whipped the U.S. 3-0, which doesn’t speak well for our future.
Next Saturday, a huge one, Tottenham and Chelsea.
--In the NCAA Soccer Championship, Wake Forest, the #1 seed, had a bye and then today faced Colgate, winners over New Hampshire, and the Deacs defeated the Raiders 2-0 to move on, next up Akron, which beat Syracuse.
--We note the passing of Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman, 87. Goldman penned the scripts for the seminal Robert Redford films, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men,” as well as for the comedy “The Princess Bride.”
Goldman once famously wrote of Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess – and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
This line came from his 1983 book, “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” that became required reading for aspiring screenwriters and later influenced the likes of Ron Howard and Ben Stiller.
Goldman wrote of directors: “Some of the best directors in Hollywood are writer killers. What writer killers do is they work with you on a project, and they ask for apples and you try to give them apples, then they say no, pomegranates. ...Then they bring in a friend – who conceivably they wanted to bring all along – and the friend does the screenplay.”
It was Goldman who coined another great American line in politics: “Follow the money,” which instantly defined the Watergate scandal.
Director Rob Reiner, who worked with Goldman on “The Princess Bride,” said he visited him last Saturday. “He was very weak but his mind still had the Goldman edge. I told him I loved him. He smiled & said...you,” using an expletive.
Goldman also wrote, among other novels, “Marathon Man.” [Nardine Saad / Los Angeles Times]
--‘Man’ falls further on the All-Species List after a story emerged that the corpse of a common dolphin washed up on a Los Angeles area beach with a bullet hole in its body, prompting an investigation and a $10,000 reward, according to a rescue group.
Peter Wallerstein, president and founder of Marine Animal Rescue, told USA TODAY, the killing was a “brutal, senseless act of aggression” likely carried out by a boater. And it’s not like the dolphin would have acted so aggressively the shooter could have been acting in self-defense.
--On the other hand, ‘Stingray’ needs to be treated with more respect, after a 42-year-old man died of a suspected stingray attack off the Tasmanian coast, Australian police say. They said the man went into cardiac arrest after “sustaining a puncture to his lower abdomen” at Lauderdale Beach. Officials told local media it was consistent with a stingray attack.
Stingrays are not considered dangerous, even though one killed Australian conservationist Steve Irwin, “Crocodile Hunter,” in 2006 (I can’t believe it was that long ago). Irwin was killed on the Great Barrier Reef.
Stingrays rarely attack humans but the barbs at the end of their tails are coated in toxic venom which they use to defend themselves.
Meanwhile, also this weekend in Australia, we had two shark attacks.
In the first one, a 24-year-old man learning to surf off a beach south of Sydney, was bit by a shark, and suffered “significant cuts and hemorrhage as well as several puncture wounds to his wetsuit and right leg...and cuts to his hand,” per an official with New South Wales Ambulance.
That attack was followed by another on Sunday, today, when a teenager was bitten on his arm and leg, police said. This lad was spearfishing in the Northern Territory when he sustained “significant injuries,” an official told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
So the number of “unprovoked” shark attacks off the country’s coast this year is now 13.
[I didn’t see the condition the two above victims were in after the attacks.]
--Lastly, the great Roy Clark passed away. He was 85. One of my favorite songs of all time was his hit “Yesterday When I Was Young.”
But Clark, to a generation of fans, despite his incredible musicianship, was best known for co-hosting “Hee Haw” with the equally talented Buck Owens. Clark was host or co-host for its entire 24-year run. I loved it. Heck, it’s where I learned about the birds and the bees, if you catch my drift, “Hee Haw” fans. I mean among the women on the show was Barbi Benton!
Roy Clark was a terrific guitar player, fiddler, maestro on the banjo, you name it. He was also a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
In his 1994 autobiography, “My Life in Spite of Myself,” he said, “Yesterday, When I Was Young” had “opened a lot of people’s eyes not only to what I could do but to the whole fertile and still largely untapped field of country music, from the Glen Campbells and the Kenny Rogerses, right on through to the Garth Brookses and Vince Gills.”
Mr. Clark was dead-on with the comment.
Roy Clark also guest hosted “The Tonight Show” a number of times, a rarity for a country performer.
One of his big fans was Mickey Mantle. The Yankees outfielder was moved to tears by “Yesterday When I Was Young” and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial – a request granted after Mantle died in 1995.
Clark opened a theatre in Branson, Mo., in 1983, one of the first country entertainers to do so. Dozens followed him. Over the years he played in the likes of Carnegie Hall and the Rossiya Theatre in Moscow.
As for “Hee Haw,” Buck Owens didn’t particularly like it, saying he endured it for “that big paycheck.”
But Clark embraced the show, telling the Associated Press in 2004 that he saw it as a family reunion.
“We became a part of the family. The viewers were sort of part owners. They identified with these clowns, and we had good music.”
Top 3 songs for the week 11/20/71: #1 “Theme From Shaft” (Isaac Hayes...you can see this cat Shaft is a bad mother (shut your mouth)...But I’m talkin’ about Shaft!...) #2 “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” (Cher) #3 “Imagine” (John Lennon Plastic Ono Band)...and...#4 “Baby I’m-A Want You” (Bread) #5 “Have You Seen Her” (Chi-Lites) #6 “Maggie May” (Rod Stewart) #7 “Peace Train” (Cat Stevens) #8 “Family Affair” (Sly & The Family Stone) #9 “Got To Be There” (Michael Jackson...his best...) #10 “Yo-Yo” (The Osmonds)
Baseball Quiz Answer: The other six to win the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award are Seaver, Gooden, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Newcombe, Rick Sutcliffe and Justin Verlander.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.