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12/06/2021

Final Four Revealed

[Posted Sun. p.m. before late sports action.]

***Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil were just elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame!!! I literally cried when I heard Hodges’ name.

All super deserving.  Dick Allen one vote short, which bodes well in the future.  But also too late.

Add-On up top by noon, Wednesday.

Georgia Football Quiz: 1) Vince Dooley coached the Bulldogs from 1964-1988.  Mark Richt was 2001-2015, and Kirby Smart took over in 2016.  Who were the two head coaches between Dooley and Richt, 1989-2000?  2) Who is the all-time passing yardage leader at Georgia?  Answers below.

College Football Review

[Comments written prior to release of final CFP Rankings]

There was a time yesterday, especially with 9 Baylor up 21-6 at the half over 5 Oklahoma State, when suddenly idle 6 Notre Dame’s path to the final four seemed clear.  All the Fighting Irish needed was for Alabama, Cincinnati or Michigan to stumble in their games later and they would be in. The selection committee no doubt was pleased to see ND move quickly on the coaching front in hiring defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, a very popular choice, to replace the departed Brian Kelly, so the instability the committee talked of last Tuesday was no longer an issue.  Notre Dame would have out of nowhere been, in my mind, a very popular pick.

Admit it, that’s what a vast majority of you were thinking around 2:00 p.m. ET Saturday.

And you were still thinking that at 4:00 p.m., when 1 Georgia vs. 3 Alabama, and 21 Houston vs. 4 Cincinnati were kicking off, because Baylor (11-2) held off a late OK State charge to prevail in the Big 12 championship 21-16 on a spectacular individual defensive effort by Baylor safety Jairon McVea, who knocked running back Dezmon Jackson out of bounds, inches shy of the goal line pylon with 24 seconds remaining.

The Cowboys (11-2) had four cracks at the end zone from the 2 and couldn’t put it in and coach Mike Gundy will be having nightmares all postseason, though the pain will be soothed a little in knowing it wouldn’t have mattered in terms of the CFP. 

But we still had the issue of Notre Dame, watching at home.

And so all eyes were glued on ‘Bama-Georgia and after the Bulldogs took a 10-0 lead at the start of the second quarter on a Stetson Bennett short touchdown pass, your 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young went to work and immediately connected on a spectacular 67-yard scoring strike with Jameson Williams, who has a second gear unlike any I’ve seen all year.  As I commented to Johnny Mac as soon as the play was over, ‘that boy just made himself $millions.’

Alabama would go on to lead 24-17 at the half, a 24-point second-quarter blitzkrieg that was a Young highlight reel, including an 11-yard touchdown run, and with 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, ‘Bama was up 38-17, game over…Nick Saban’s latest edition securing their CFP berth 41-24, rolling up 539 yards of offense on what had been touted, rightfully so to this point, as the best defense in the country.

Young finished 26/44, 421, 3-0, with some of his throws NFL All-Pro caliber, including a second 55-yard strike to Williams, who finished with seven catches for 184 yards and the two scores.

So Alabama (12-1) has now qualified for 7 of 8 playoffs since the CFP format was introduced.  Georgia (12-1) is left thinking, ‘We might have to face these guys again!’  [Yeah, if you’re lucky.]

Meanwhile, while I was fixated on this one, Cincinnati was taking a 14-13 halftime lead over Houston, knowing exactly what they had to do to convince the committee…just win…and they opened up the second half with 21 unanswered on the way to a 35-20 win over the Cougars (11-2), the Bearcats completing a perfect 13-0 campaign.

Jerome Ford was impressive with touchdown runs of 76- and 42-yards, 187 yards rushing overall, while Desmond Ridder had three touchdown passes for Cincy.  [Yet they only had 14 first downs…not sure I’ve ever seen that from an offense that scored 35 points.]

Well, after these two, Notre Dame’s hopes came down to 2 Michigan vs. 13 Iowa and the Wolverines (12-1) are CFP bound with a rather convincing 42-3 win over the Hawkeyes (10-3).  For Jim Harbaugh’s boys, their first Big Ten championship since 2004.

And just like that, the dreams of 2:00 p.m. were crushed by about 10:30 p.m. with Michigan up 21-3 after three quarters.

For ACC fans that left 15 Pitt vs. 16 Wake Forest and, boy, this one started out as advertised, two of the better offenses in the land lighting it up early, the Demon Deacons and quarterback Sam Hartman jumping to a 21-14 lead after the opening quarter.

And then something happened that literally had not happened all season for the Deacs.  The offense ground to a halt, literally, and us Wake fans had a reoccurrence of the nightmare that ended last season.

Wake was playing Wisconsin in a bowl game and Hartman had a startling performance in a 42-28 loss to the Badgers.  The Deacs had taken a 14-0 lead, Hartman looking sharp, and then the guy who had thrown just one interception in the Covid-shortened regular season threw four awful picks as the team collapsed around him.

Any good Wake fan has had this memory in the back of their minds this entire season.  Every time that Hartman threw a bad pass that wasn’t even close, or threw a pick, trust me, we were thinking about the Wisconsin game.

So it really wasn’t surprising that suddenly last night, Hartman became unglued…four interceptions, some of them beyond belief, and our dream season has now been reduced to a very good one.

Final score…Pitt 45, Wake 21.

We’ll see what bowl we are assigned, but I’m not too confident it will be a great matchup.

As for Pitt, good for them.  Their first ACC championship and it’s great having the program back up top…good for the city and a football-crazy part of the country.

Lastly, however, Kenny Pickett’s fake slide on the Panthers’ opening drive that then resulted in him going 58 yards for the first score of the game was highly dubious, though there is no existing rule against it, which will change in the offseason.  I’m glad the broadcasting crew pointed this out in detail in the second half.  It happened so quickly at the time, and seemed so ingenious, that even though many of us thought ‘he can’t do that,’ we moved on during the helter-skelter first quarter.

In other games….

Friday night, 17 Utah (10-3) secured its first-ever Rose Bowl bid, winning the Pac-12 title over 10 Oregon (10-3) 38-10, as the Ducks’ Anthony Brown threw two interceptions, one returned by the Utes for a score.  The Utah defense held Oregon to just 221 yards of offense, an almost identical result from their first matchup, just two weeks ago, when the Utes won it 38-7 to spoil Oregon’s CFP hopes.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was awaiting word on an extension as he’s been rumored to be taking the Miami job, where he won two national titles as a player.

Utah dedicated their season to two players who died in the past year; Ty Jordan last Christmas from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and Aaron Lowe, who was shot and killed at a house party in September.

Yesterday, Utah State (10-3) blitzed 19 San Diego State (11-2) 46-13 to take the Mountain West title.

24 Louisiana (12-1), in Billy Napier’s last game as head coach as he heads to Florida, won the Sun Belt Conference championship with a 24-16 win over Appalachian State (10-3).

And now we await the inevitable final four picks by the selection committee.  Alabama and Georgia can’t play each other in the first round (because it would be stupid), so it has to be Alabama vs. Cincinnati, Georgia vs. Michigan….

---

And that’s what we have…CFP rankings….

1. Alabama*
2. Michigan
3. Georgia
4. Cincinnati…first Group of Five semifinalist

5. Notre Dame
6. Ohio State
7. Baylor
8. Ole Miss
9. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan State
11. Utah
12. Pitt
13. BYU
14. Oregon
15. Iowa
16. Oklahoma
17. Wake Forest
18. NC State
19. Clemson
20. Houston
21. Arkansas
22. Kentucky
23. Louisiana
24. San Diego State…why?  Utah State killed ‘em.
25. Texas A&M

*But ‘Bama believes receiver John Metchie III will miss the playoffs after suffering what they believe was a torn ACL in Saturday’s game, injured on a non-contact play.

At Alabama, though, it’s next wide receiver up, as they churn out one future NFL star after another at the position.

--The AP confirmed the top five CFP selections but has Baylor 6 and Ohio State 7.

8. Ole Miss
9. Oklahoma State
10. Utah
11. Michigan State
12. BYU
13. Pitt
14. Oklahoma
15. Oregon
16. Louisiana
17. Iowa
18. NC State
19. Clemson
20. Wake Forest
21. Houston
22. Arkansas
23. Texas A&M
24. UTSA
25. Kentucky

Alabama is No. 1 in the AP Poll for the 137th time, the most in the history of the ranking, which dates to 1936.

Ohio State is second with 105 appearances, followed by Oklahoma with 101.

Kind of interesting the lack of respect the CFP had for Louisiana vs. the AP.

And that the CFP ranks Wake ahead of NC State and Clemson (after all, they weren’t in the ACC championship game), but the AP has Wake behind them.

--Due to time constraints, I will get into all the bowl games in my mid-week “Add-On,” and, warning, it may be a bit irreverent, and I could be liable for lawsuits on a number of levels, but for now in the other four New Year’s Six games….

Michigan State-Pitt in the Peach Bowl…only so-so
Notre Dame-Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl…eh
Ohio State-Utah in the Rose Bowl…double eh
Ole Miss-Baylor in the Sugar Bowl…triple eh

Notre Dame alum Mark R. and I agree a delicious matchup would have been ND and Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, but with all the freakin’ conference affiliations, you obviously can’t have OK State and Baylor playing again and it’s complicated.

Or as Tony Soprano would have said, “Whaddya gonna do?”

To my Wake Forest friends, no, I am not going to the Gator Bowl to see us play Texas A&M.  I have a ton of stuff going on at yearend with the site, as some of you are aware, but if the Deacs had qualified for a New Year’s Six game, I’d have to be there…as I was in 2006 at the Orange Bowl.

And that’s a memo….

--USC’s new head coach Lincoln Riley is poaching his old team, flipping three Oklahoma recruits to commit to USC, OU with at least four decommitments in the 2022 class and four in the 2023 cycle.

And we had word today that Oklahoma is going to name Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to become the next Sooners’ coach.  Wow, big blow for Dabo Swinney, who has made sure Venables is the highest paid assistant in the land.  The guy has turned down numerous offers in the past to stay at Clemson.  I mean his latest contract extension has him making $2.5 million annually.

Venables apparently is targeting Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby to take over the role at OU.

--New LSU coach Brian Kelly is attempting to perfect a southern accent and making a fool of himself.

--In the Division I-AA/FCS championship, all top eight seeds (Sam Houston No. 1) advanced to the quarterfinals except 4-seed Sacramento State, which fell to South Dakota State.

Both Montana and Montana State remain, and it’s conceivable they could match up in the finals if they each win their next two.

NFL

--Another lost weekend for New York area football fans.  Zach Wilson got off to a hot start for the Jets, 12 of 14, a couple of short TD passes and 1-yard run for a score.

But the Jets’ new kicker, soon to be ex-kicker, Alex Kessman, of the law firm Bertelsman, Kessman & Parker, missed the first two extra-point attempts and before you could say, Britney Spears, the Eagles cruised to a 33-18 victory to move to 6-7, very much in the wild card conversation.

The thing is, it wasn’t Jalen Hurts at QB for Philly, but Gardner Minshew, in place of the injured Hurts, and he was super-efficient, 20/25, 242, 2-0, 133.7.

Wilson, after the good start, went 11 of 24 the rest of the way, some bad throws on his part and an equal number of drops, as the Jets fall to 3-9.

Meanwhile, in the same 1:00 time slot, which us Jets/Giants fans are now thankful for, instead of six hours+ of hideous football at 1:00 and 4:00, the Giants were losing to the red-hot Dolphins 20-9 down in Miami.

Mike Glennon started for New York (4-8) in place of the injured Daniel Jones and was ineffective, while Brian Flores’ Dolphins have now won five straight after seven straight losses.

As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy, while reading the Sunday morning sports pages, Nancy preparing his favorite blueberry pancakes and bacon, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’

--Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, Rob Gronkowski catching two of them, Chris Godwin with 15 receptions for 143 yards, and Tampa Bay is 9-3 after a 30-17 win at Atlanta (5-7).

--Arizona is an NFL-best 10-2 with a 33-22 win at Chicago (4-8).  Bears fans have learned what Bengals’ supporters learned after years in Cincinnati…there is “Good Andy” and “Bad Andy,” and Bad Andy Dalton showed up today for Chicago, four interceptions.

The Cardinals didn’t have to do anything for this one…just 257 yards of offense.

--The Chargers (7-5) had a huge win in Cincinnati (7-5) today, 41-22, as Justin Herbert threw three touchdown passes, while the Bengals had four turnovers, 3 by quarterback Joe Burrow, the other a fumble returned for a touchdown.

--Indianapolis is very relevant at 7-6 after a 31-0 whitewashing (can we still say this?) of Houston (2-10), the Colts holding the Texans to 141 yards of offense, while Jonathan Taylor rumbled for 143 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns.

But we had a huge development in this one.  While Summit, New Jersey’s Michael Badgley was perfect on his four extra-point attempts, he missed a field goal from 35 yards…the first miss of his career from inside 40, now 38 of 39 (he connected from 23).

All the massive Bazooka Joe royalties go out the window…though the editorial board at Bar Chat reserves the right to continue to use Bazooka Joe for future references.

--Good for Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions, ditto coach Dan Campbell, as on the last play of the game, Goff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown (Saint Brown the patron saint of colors, not that this has anything to do with the game) for a 29-27 win at home over Minnesota, the Lions’ first win of the season (1-10-1).

But what a devastating loss for the Vikes, who fall to 5-7.

--In the late games…as I run out of time…

The Rams (8-4) broke their 3-game losing streak with a 37-7 win over the Jaguars (2-10), who played like kitties.

Washington had a huge 17-16 win in Las Vegas on a Brian Johnson field goal at 0:41from 44 yards to go to 6-6, while the Raiders are 6-6 as well, a devastating loss for them in the AFC wild card hunt.

WFT is hopefully celebrating in the bars and….actually, I think I’ll stop here.

--In a super finish, Pittsburgh (6-5-1) stayed in the hunt with an amazing 20-19 win over Baltimore (8-4), as the Steelers denied Lamar Jackson and Co. a winning 2-point conversion with 0:12 to play.  Too late to say more.

--And in San Francisco-Seattle, the 49ers down 30-23, ball at the Seattle 3, fourth-and-goal denied!  The 49ers 6-6, Seattle 4-8.

--The NFL suspended Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards for three games each after determining that they had misrepresented their vaccination status, the league announced Thursday.

The suspensions are without pay.  Free agent wide receiver John Franklin III, formerly of the Buccaneers, also faces a three-game suspension if signed by a team, according to the league.

Brown’s suspension comes after a report that he obtained a fake vaccination card to evade league protocols for unvaccinated players.  The league and the NFLPA investigated the matter after a former live-in chef for Brown alleged that Brown had done just that.

--We note the passing of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Claude Humphrey, 77.

Humphrey was an 8X Pro Bowler, 2X All-Pro for Atlanta and Philadelphia.  He was the No. 3 overall pick by the Falcons out of Tennessee State in 1968 and went on to play 13 seasons, credited with 130 sacks (unofficial during his time, but we’ve been able to go back and calculate the figures).

He was the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1968.

Humphrey was saddled by playing on mostly losing teams and so it took far too long for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.  He is in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor.

--And we also lost Hall of Fame nose tackle Curley Culp, a 6X Pro Bowler who was on the great Kansas City Chiefs defense that won Super Bowl IV over the heavily favored Vikings, the follow-up to the Jets’ win in SB III.

Culp was a force in a defense that featured four other future Hall of Famers: Buck Buchanan, linebackers Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier, and the cornerback Emmitt Thomas.

“It was almost unfair to have Culp and Buchanan and Lanier and all those guys,” Joe Namath, the Jets’ star quarterback of that era, told the Kansas City Star in 2013.  “How did they find all those guys in Kansas City?”

Culp spent six full seasons with the Chiefs and was also with Houston and Detroit.  He was credited with 68.5 sacks for his career.

He was an All-American in wrestling and football at Arizona State and won the NCAA heavyweight title in 1967, pinning his finals opponent in 51 seconds.

It was so much fun watching the old AFL…the Jets, Raiders and Chiefs in particular.

College Basketball

--I thought I’d be writing that we’ve had no upsets in the top ten since I last posted, but then on Saturday, 16 Alabama (7-1) defeated 3 Gonzaga (7-2) in Seattle, 91-82.  Wow.  The Zags are struggling a bit.

--We did have another significant upset Wednesday night when Utah Valley defeated 12 BYU 72-65 in overtime.

The ‘Wolverines’ of the Western Athletic Conference, a motley bunch, picked up their first ever victory over a ranked opponent.  They had been 0-9 in previous games against same since becoming a full Division I member in the 2009-10 season.

--Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon was fired Friday after the Terps got off to a 5-3 start.  It was shocking to the team and his staff, but the Washington Post reported that a source close to the program said Turgeon seemed to be upset with how the fans were expressing their discontent, such as in a loss to Virginia Tech at home on Wednesday.

The school is honoring Turgeon’s buyout clause…$5 million.

So Wake Forest fans are grinning because assistant Danny Manning is taking over on an interim basis.  [Manning was 78-111 in his six seasons in Winston-Salem, 30-80 in ACC play.]

Manning’s team then lost this afternoon at home against Northwestern, 67-61.

--Speaking of the Demon Deacons, we are going to be gaining more AP top 25 votes with the next poll on Monday.  After beating Northwestern in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge midweek, Saturday we had a very nice road win in Blacksburg, demolishing Virginia Tech (6-3) 80-61, Wake (8-1) shooting 63.5% from the field.

I mean the Hokies had the 2nd-best scoring defense in the country coming into this one.

--My 2021-22 feature team, St. Bonaventure, defeated Buffalo yesterday at home, 68-65, to move to 7-1. But in an earlier win against Coppin State, star point guard Kyle Lofton suffered a high ankle sprain and while there is no structural damage, he could be out for weeks, just as the Bonnies prepare to play UConn on Dec. 11.  Drat!  This could be a killer injury, especially in terms of NCAA seeding down the round.

--If you are a Rutgers sports fan, you can’t be a happy camper.  Your football team just had another dreadful season, but your basketball squad, which went to its first NCAA tournament last campaign in 30 years, was supposed to be even better with some key starters returning rather than testing the NBA draft waters.

So the Scarlet Knights are a whopping 4-4, having lost to Lafayette and DePaul, and then 86-51 to Illinois (6-2) Friday night.

If you’re trying to raise money to upgrade the facilities, as Rutgers is, it doesn’t help when your two high-profile programs blow.

--UCLA’s game scheduled for today at Washington was canceled due to Covid-19 issues in the Huskies’ program, resulting in a Washington forfeit, which really sucks.  Just another reminder for all sports…it could still be a long winter.

NBA

--Golden State hadn’t played since losing to Phoenix on Tuesday when the two squared off again in San Francisco Friday night, though the Suns had defeated the Pistons at home Thursday to stretch their franchise-record winning streak to 18.

And the Warriors got revenge for Tuesday’s loss, 118-96, as Steph Curry rebounded from his worst shooting performance ever when attempting at least 20 shots to go 8-of-20 (6-of-11 on 3s), 23 points in all.

Phoenix was missing Devon Booker, out with a hamstring strain suffered in Tuesday’s Warriors game.

But then the Warriors had a big letdown Saturday night, falling to the Spurs, as Curry was just 7-of-28 (5-of-17 from three).

So at the end of this big week, the Warriors and the Suns were both 19-4.

--After beating the Knicks at the Garden on Thursday, the Bulls had a big win in Brooklyn yesterday, 111-107, as they improved to 16-8, the Nets 16-7.

--LeBron returned after missing just one game due to Covid protocols Friday night against the Clippers, but the Clippers took it 119-115 to improve to 12-11, the Lakers falling to 12-12.  James had 23.

It seems LeBron clearly had a false positive, as he said he had no symptoms and then tested negative a number of times.

--The aforementioned Knicks are in freefall, now 11-12 after another disheartening loss at the Garden Saturday afternoon, 113-99 at the hands of the mediocre Nuggets (11-11).  Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is beside himself.  He demands total effort every game and he just isn’t getting it from these Knicks, after such a promising 2020-2021 season.  The Nuggets were up 30 at one point in this contest.

It’s perplexing.  The Knicks are 5-8 at home.  I would have said that would be impossible when the season started.

--Thursday night, the Memphis Grizzlies put themselves in the NBA record book with the largest margin of victory, ever, 152-79 over Oklahoma City.  The 73-point win surpassed a 68-point victory by Cleveland over Miami on Dec. 17, 1991.

This one was 72-36 at the half, and then the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 80-43 in the second.  80 points!  Good lord. They had 93 bench points.

NHL

--Alex Ovechkin scored his 20th goal of the season Saturday night as the Capital beat Columbus 3-1.  It was the 750th of his storied career as Washington improved to 15-4-6.

The 36-year-old is getting better with age…39 points now in the first 25 games.  He is just 16 goals behind Jaromir Jagr for third on the all-time list.

--Not for nothing, but with the Knicks stinking up the Garden, at least the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ has the Rangers, who are on fire, winners of 10 of 11, and 16-4-3…a point behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division.

MLB

So we have our lockout.  As I’ve written, I am not concerned.  The barbs between the owners and players will be non-stop through December and early January, and then cooler heads will prevail and serious negotiations will commence with an agreement by Feb. 1 so that training camps can open up on time two weeks later.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

In the meantime, the players want a larger share of the revenue.  Historically it has hovered around 50-50 in the modern era, but currently the owners get 57 percent while the players receive 43 percent.

The players also want to end service time manipulation, or diminish its effect on their earning power; i.e., teams keeping young players in the minor leagues longer than necessary in order to depress salary and keep a player under team control longer.

And the players are hoping to steer franchises away from using the luxury tax as a de facto salary cap, wanting to at least set the tax ceiling at a much higher level than its current $210 million for the 2021 season.  There should be room to compromise on this issue.

On another issue, the owners want a 14-team playoff arrangement and the players are amenable to this, but only if suitable rewards are built in for division titles and top seeds (so that teams aim for such privileges by constructing better and pricier rosters).

And it definitely seems apparent we are headed for a universal designated hitter, which is fine by me.

As for what’s really important for the sport’s future, pace of play, we’ll see if anything of consequence is done.  I say, not likely, as MLB will offer that they will continue to experiment in the minor leagues and there will be an agreement between the owners and players to meet separately on this, without breaking the CBA, at the end of the 2022 season.

For now, coaches and front office personnel will not be able to communicate with players.  No one can sign contracts.  No offseason training allowed.

In the final hours before the lockout, pitcher Marcus Stroman, 30, who made a league-leading 33 starts for the Mets this past season, with a 3.02 ERA, signed a reported three-year, $71 million contract with the Cubs.

The Red Sox and Brewers swung a significant trade before the deadline, with Boston shipping outfielder Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee for a package centered around Jackie Bradley Jr., who was a mainstay for Boston from 2013 to 2020, starring defensively in the outfield before he signed a two-year deal with the Brewers last offseason.

But Bradley, who is only a lifetime .230 hitter, batted just .163 last season with six homers in 134 games (389 at-bats).

Renfroe on the other hand slammed 31 home runs and drove in 96.

The Red Sox received two minor leaguers from the Brewers.

--We note the passing of former AL Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt, 66, following a lengthy illness.

Hoyt went 98-68 during eight major-league seasons with the White Sox and Padres.  He had a 3.99 ERA.

In 1983 he went 24-10 for Chicago with a 3.66 ERA, helping the “Winning Ugly” Sox to the AL West title.

“Mr first impression of LaMarr was, ‘Here is a pitcher,’” said Tony La Russa, who managed the Sox from 1979-86 and returned to the team in 2021, in a statement.  “He had average stuff but amazing command and tremendous confidence, and he never showed fear…nothing bothered him. …What a great competitor.”

By the way, in 1983 he started the season 2-6 but went 22-4 the rest of the way. He led the AL in wins both 1982 and ’83, going 19-15 in ’82.

--And former outfielder Don Demeter died. He was 86.

Demeter was installed in center field for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959, supplanting future Hall of Famer Duke Snider, touted as a star of the future.  He hit 18 home runs and drove in 70, helping propel the Dodgers to a World Series championship, a six-game victory over the White Sox, in their second season since leaving Brooklyn.

But he never fulfilled expectations as a Dodger and was eventually traded to the Phillies, where he had the best season of an 11-year career in 1962…29 home runs, 107 RBIs, .307 BA.

Overall, Demeter, who also played with Detroit, Boston and Cleveland, slammed 163 home runs, five seasons of 20+, batting .265.

NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship

Four teams are left…Clemson vs. Notre Dame in one semifinal next Friday, Georgetown vs. Washington in the other.

8 Clemson took out 1-seed Oregon State 1-1 on penalty kicks, while 4 Notre Dame beat 5 Pitt, also 1-1 on PKs.

Ditto 3 Georgetown over 11 West Virginia (1-1, PKs), while 2 Washington defeated 10 Saint Louis 2-0.

In the Women’s Soccer Championship, Florida State defeated Rutgers 1-0 in one semifinal, and BYU beat Santa Clara, 0-0, PKs in the other.

So Florida State and BYU face off Monday for the NCAA title, 8:00 PM, ESPNU.

Premier League

In games of note Saturday and Sunday….

West Ham had a biggie at home, 3-2 over Chelsea, knocking Dr. W.’s Blues out of the top spot, Manchester City now in first after a 3-1 win at Watford. Liverpool is a point behind City after a 1-0 win over the Wolves.  So Chelsea fell to third, West Ham fourth.

Tottenham won its third straight under new manager Antonio Conte, 3-0 over Norwich, so my Spurs are suddenly back in the conversation, while Manchester United defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 on “Fred’s” late goal in Ralf Rangnick’s first game as interim manager.

But in the battle to avoid relegation, Newcastle finally won, 1-0 over Burnley.

So we have Newcastle, Burnley and Norwich tied for the bottom three at 10 points, three points behind 17-place Watford.

FIS Alpine World Cup

--Team USA on the men’s side finally picked up a podium finish in the 2021-22 WC season…Travis Ganong with a third in a super-G at Beaver Creek.

--But on the women’s side, with two downhills at Lake Louise, American Breezy Johnson was second in both to Italy’s Soffia Goggia, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the event, who is obviously in top form for Beijing.  But we have an American to root for.

Goggia then won today’s super-G at Lake Louise; Mikaela Shiffrin not a factor this weekend as these aren’t her specialties, ditto Petra Vlhova.

Stuff

--Police in Oregon are investigating the deaths of eight grey wolves, who died earlier this year.  Tests later confirmed that a “poisonous substance” had killed them.  A $26,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction.

While the killings happened months ago, police say they have exhausted all leads in the case and need help from the public.

A conviction for taking or possessing a wolf – a felony – could result in a prison sentence of up to five years and fines of up to $125,000.

Grey wolves were once nearly wiped out across the contiguous U.S.  The Endangered Species Act of 1974 created federal protections that saved the species from extinction and led to sustained population recovery efforts.

But the animals were delisted by the Trump administration last year and management of the species has since fallen to the states.  The Biden administration is reportedly considering relisting grey wolves on the Endangered Species List.

The wolves deserve their revenge.

--Local New York area fans learned that WFAN is replacing their midday team of Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis, with former Giants star Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney.  Barber and Tierney have been a team on CBS Sports Radio for eight years.

I was just starting to listen to Maggie and ‘Moose’ more.  I generally catch ‘Boomer and Gio’ during my morning errands, only listening to the FAN when in the car.

Top 3 songs for the week 12/9/72:  #1 “I Am Woman” (Helen Reddy)  #2 “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” (The Temptations)  #3 “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes)…and…#4 “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash)  #5 “You Ought To Be With Me” (Al Green)  #6 “Me And Mrs. Jones” (Billy Paul…great tune)  #7 “It Never Rains In Southern California” (Albert Hammond) #8 “Ventura Highway” (America)  #9 “Clair” (Gilbert O’Sullivan)  #10 “I’m Stone In Love With You” (The Stylistics…B week…)

Georgia Football Quiz Answer: 1) Ray Goff (46-34-1) was coach from 1989-95; Jim Donnan (40-19-0) from 1996-2000.  Donnan, who I can’t recall at all, was 4-0 in bowl games.  2) Passing yardage: Aaron Murray, 13,166 from 2010-13.

*I kind of feel obligated every few years to note to my newer readers, and I do get them, all the time, as others inevitably fall off, that my Ronald Reagan reference is to his famous Farewell Address.  Pure Ronnie…and Peggy Noonan.

Add-On up top by noon, Wednesday.



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Bar Chat

12/06/2021

Final Four Revealed

[Posted Sun. p.m. before late sports action.]

***Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil were just elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame!!! I literally cried when I heard Hodges’ name.

All super deserving.  Dick Allen one vote short, which bodes well in the future.  But also too late.

Add-On up top by noon, Wednesday.

Georgia Football Quiz: 1) Vince Dooley coached the Bulldogs from 1964-1988.  Mark Richt was 2001-2015, and Kirby Smart took over in 2016.  Who were the two head coaches between Dooley and Richt, 1989-2000?  2) Who is the all-time passing yardage leader at Georgia?  Answers below.

College Football Review

[Comments written prior to release of final CFP Rankings]

There was a time yesterday, especially with 9 Baylor up 21-6 at the half over 5 Oklahoma State, when suddenly idle 6 Notre Dame’s path to the final four seemed clear.  All the Fighting Irish needed was for Alabama, Cincinnati or Michigan to stumble in their games later and they would be in. The selection committee no doubt was pleased to see ND move quickly on the coaching front in hiring defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, a very popular choice, to replace the departed Brian Kelly, so the instability the committee talked of last Tuesday was no longer an issue.  Notre Dame would have out of nowhere been, in my mind, a very popular pick.

Admit it, that’s what a vast majority of you were thinking around 2:00 p.m. ET Saturday.

And you were still thinking that at 4:00 p.m., when 1 Georgia vs. 3 Alabama, and 21 Houston vs. 4 Cincinnati were kicking off, because Baylor (11-2) held off a late OK State charge to prevail in the Big 12 championship 21-16 on a spectacular individual defensive effort by Baylor safety Jairon McVea, who knocked running back Dezmon Jackson out of bounds, inches shy of the goal line pylon with 24 seconds remaining.

The Cowboys (11-2) had four cracks at the end zone from the 2 and couldn’t put it in and coach Mike Gundy will be having nightmares all postseason, though the pain will be soothed a little in knowing it wouldn’t have mattered in terms of the CFP. 

But we still had the issue of Notre Dame, watching at home.

And so all eyes were glued on ‘Bama-Georgia and after the Bulldogs took a 10-0 lead at the start of the second quarter on a Stetson Bennett short touchdown pass, your 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young went to work and immediately connected on a spectacular 67-yard scoring strike with Jameson Williams, who has a second gear unlike any I’ve seen all year.  As I commented to Johnny Mac as soon as the play was over, ‘that boy just made himself $millions.’

Alabama would go on to lead 24-17 at the half, a 24-point second-quarter blitzkrieg that was a Young highlight reel, including an 11-yard touchdown run, and with 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, ‘Bama was up 38-17, game over…Nick Saban’s latest edition securing their CFP berth 41-24, rolling up 539 yards of offense on what had been touted, rightfully so to this point, as the best defense in the country.

Young finished 26/44, 421, 3-0, with some of his throws NFL All-Pro caliber, including a second 55-yard strike to Williams, who finished with seven catches for 184 yards and the two scores.

So Alabama (12-1) has now qualified for 7 of 8 playoffs since the CFP format was introduced.  Georgia (12-1) is left thinking, ‘We might have to face these guys again!’  [Yeah, if you’re lucky.]

Meanwhile, while I was fixated on this one, Cincinnati was taking a 14-13 halftime lead over Houston, knowing exactly what they had to do to convince the committee…just win…and they opened up the second half with 21 unanswered on the way to a 35-20 win over the Cougars (11-2), the Bearcats completing a perfect 13-0 campaign.

Jerome Ford was impressive with touchdown runs of 76- and 42-yards, 187 yards rushing overall, while Desmond Ridder had three touchdown passes for Cincy.  [Yet they only had 14 first downs…not sure I’ve ever seen that from an offense that scored 35 points.]

Well, after these two, Notre Dame’s hopes came down to 2 Michigan vs. 13 Iowa and the Wolverines (12-1) are CFP bound with a rather convincing 42-3 win over the Hawkeyes (10-3).  For Jim Harbaugh’s boys, their first Big Ten championship since 2004.

And just like that, the dreams of 2:00 p.m. were crushed by about 10:30 p.m. with Michigan up 21-3 after three quarters.

For ACC fans that left 15 Pitt vs. 16 Wake Forest and, boy, this one started out as advertised, two of the better offenses in the land lighting it up early, the Demon Deacons and quarterback Sam Hartman jumping to a 21-14 lead after the opening quarter.

And then something happened that literally had not happened all season for the Deacs.  The offense ground to a halt, literally, and us Wake fans had a reoccurrence of the nightmare that ended last season.

Wake was playing Wisconsin in a bowl game and Hartman had a startling performance in a 42-28 loss to the Badgers.  The Deacs had taken a 14-0 lead, Hartman looking sharp, and then the guy who had thrown just one interception in the Covid-shortened regular season threw four awful picks as the team collapsed around him.

Any good Wake fan has had this memory in the back of their minds this entire season.  Every time that Hartman threw a bad pass that wasn’t even close, or threw a pick, trust me, we were thinking about the Wisconsin game.

So it really wasn’t surprising that suddenly last night, Hartman became unglued…four interceptions, some of them beyond belief, and our dream season has now been reduced to a very good one.

Final score…Pitt 45, Wake 21.

We’ll see what bowl we are assigned, but I’m not too confident it will be a great matchup.

As for Pitt, good for them.  Their first ACC championship and it’s great having the program back up top…good for the city and a football-crazy part of the country.

Lastly, however, Kenny Pickett’s fake slide on the Panthers’ opening drive that then resulted in him going 58 yards for the first score of the game was highly dubious, though there is no existing rule against it, which will change in the offseason.  I’m glad the broadcasting crew pointed this out in detail in the second half.  It happened so quickly at the time, and seemed so ingenious, that even though many of us thought ‘he can’t do that,’ we moved on during the helter-skelter first quarter.

In other games….

Friday night, 17 Utah (10-3) secured its first-ever Rose Bowl bid, winning the Pac-12 title over 10 Oregon (10-3) 38-10, as the Ducks’ Anthony Brown threw two interceptions, one returned by the Utes for a score.  The Utah defense held Oregon to just 221 yards of offense, an almost identical result from their first matchup, just two weeks ago, when the Utes won it 38-7 to spoil Oregon’s CFP hopes.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was awaiting word on an extension as he’s been rumored to be taking the Miami job, where he won two national titles as a player.

Utah dedicated their season to two players who died in the past year; Ty Jordan last Christmas from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and Aaron Lowe, who was shot and killed at a house party in September.

Yesterday, Utah State (10-3) blitzed 19 San Diego State (11-2) 46-13 to take the Mountain West title.

24 Louisiana (12-1), in Billy Napier’s last game as head coach as he heads to Florida, won the Sun Belt Conference championship with a 24-16 win over Appalachian State (10-3).

And now we await the inevitable final four picks by the selection committee.  Alabama and Georgia can’t play each other in the first round (because it would be stupid), so it has to be Alabama vs. Cincinnati, Georgia vs. Michigan….

---

And that’s what we have…CFP rankings….

1. Alabama*
2. Michigan
3. Georgia
4. Cincinnati…first Group of Five semifinalist

5. Notre Dame
6. Ohio State
7. Baylor
8. Ole Miss
9. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan State
11. Utah
12. Pitt
13. BYU
14. Oregon
15. Iowa
16. Oklahoma
17. Wake Forest
18. NC State
19. Clemson
20. Houston
21. Arkansas
22. Kentucky
23. Louisiana
24. San Diego State…why?  Utah State killed ‘em.
25. Texas A&M

*But ‘Bama believes receiver John Metchie III will miss the playoffs after suffering what they believe was a torn ACL in Saturday’s game, injured on a non-contact play.

At Alabama, though, it’s next wide receiver up, as they churn out one future NFL star after another at the position.

--The AP confirmed the top five CFP selections but has Baylor 6 and Ohio State 7.

8. Ole Miss
9. Oklahoma State
10. Utah
11. Michigan State
12. BYU
13. Pitt
14. Oklahoma
15. Oregon
16. Louisiana
17. Iowa
18. NC State
19. Clemson
20. Wake Forest
21. Houston
22. Arkansas
23. Texas A&M
24. UTSA
25. Kentucky

Alabama is No. 1 in the AP Poll for the 137th time, the most in the history of the ranking, which dates to 1936.

Ohio State is second with 105 appearances, followed by Oklahoma with 101.

Kind of interesting the lack of respect the CFP had for Louisiana vs. the AP.

And that the CFP ranks Wake ahead of NC State and Clemson (after all, they weren’t in the ACC championship game), but the AP has Wake behind them.

--Due to time constraints, I will get into all the bowl games in my mid-week “Add-On,” and, warning, it may be a bit irreverent, and I could be liable for lawsuits on a number of levels, but for now in the other four New Year’s Six games….

Michigan State-Pitt in the Peach Bowl…only so-so
Notre Dame-Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl…eh
Ohio State-Utah in the Rose Bowl…double eh
Ole Miss-Baylor in the Sugar Bowl…triple eh

Notre Dame alum Mark R. and I agree a delicious matchup would have been ND and Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, but with all the freakin’ conference affiliations, you obviously can’t have OK State and Baylor playing again and it’s complicated.

Or as Tony Soprano would have said, “Whaddya gonna do?”

To my Wake Forest friends, no, I am not going to the Gator Bowl to see us play Texas A&M.  I have a ton of stuff going on at yearend with the site, as some of you are aware, but if the Deacs had qualified for a New Year’s Six game, I’d have to be there…as I was in 2006 at the Orange Bowl.

And that’s a memo….

--USC’s new head coach Lincoln Riley is poaching his old team, flipping three Oklahoma recruits to commit to USC, OU with at least four decommitments in the 2022 class and four in the 2023 cycle.

And we had word today that Oklahoma is going to name Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to become the next Sooners’ coach.  Wow, big blow for Dabo Swinney, who has made sure Venables is the highest paid assistant in the land.  The guy has turned down numerous offers in the past to stay at Clemson.  I mean his latest contract extension has him making $2.5 million annually.

Venables apparently is targeting Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby to take over the role at OU.

--New LSU coach Brian Kelly is attempting to perfect a southern accent and making a fool of himself.

--In the Division I-AA/FCS championship, all top eight seeds (Sam Houston No. 1) advanced to the quarterfinals except 4-seed Sacramento State, which fell to South Dakota State.

Both Montana and Montana State remain, and it’s conceivable they could match up in the finals if they each win their next two.

NFL

--Another lost weekend for New York area football fans.  Zach Wilson got off to a hot start for the Jets, 12 of 14, a couple of short TD passes and 1-yard run for a score.

But the Jets’ new kicker, soon to be ex-kicker, Alex Kessman, of the law firm Bertelsman, Kessman & Parker, missed the first two extra-point attempts and before you could say, Britney Spears, the Eagles cruised to a 33-18 victory to move to 6-7, very much in the wild card conversation.

The thing is, it wasn’t Jalen Hurts at QB for Philly, but Gardner Minshew, in place of the injured Hurts, and he was super-efficient, 20/25, 242, 2-0, 133.7.

Wilson, after the good start, went 11 of 24 the rest of the way, some bad throws on his part and an equal number of drops, as the Jets fall to 3-9.

Meanwhile, in the same 1:00 time slot, which us Jets/Giants fans are now thankful for, instead of six hours+ of hideous football at 1:00 and 4:00, the Giants were losing to the red-hot Dolphins 20-9 down in Miami.

Mike Glennon started for New York (4-8) in place of the injured Daniel Jones and was ineffective, while Brian Flores’ Dolphins have now won five straight after seven straight losses.

As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy, while reading the Sunday morning sports pages, Nancy preparing his favorite blueberry pancakes and bacon, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’

--Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, Rob Gronkowski catching two of them, Chris Godwin with 15 receptions for 143 yards, and Tampa Bay is 9-3 after a 30-17 win at Atlanta (5-7).

--Arizona is an NFL-best 10-2 with a 33-22 win at Chicago (4-8).  Bears fans have learned what Bengals’ supporters learned after years in Cincinnati…there is “Good Andy” and “Bad Andy,” and Bad Andy Dalton showed up today for Chicago, four interceptions.

The Cardinals didn’t have to do anything for this one…just 257 yards of offense.

--The Chargers (7-5) had a huge win in Cincinnati (7-5) today, 41-22, as Justin Herbert threw three touchdown passes, while the Bengals had four turnovers, 3 by quarterback Joe Burrow, the other a fumble returned for a touchdown.

--Indianapolis is very relevant at 7-6 after a 31-0 whitewashing (can we still say this?) of Houston (2-10), the Colts holding the Texans to 141 yards of offense, while Jonathan Taylor rumbled for 143 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns.

But we had a huge development in this one.  While Summit, New Jersey’s Michael Badgley was perfect on his four extra-point attempts, he missed a field goal from 35 yards…the first miss of his career from inside 40, now 38 of 39 (he connected from 23).

All the massive Bazooka Joe royalties go out the window…though the editorial board at Bar Chat reserves the right to continue to use Bazooka Joe for future references.

--Good for Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions, ditto coach Dan Campbell, as on the last play of the game, Goff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown (Saint Brown the patron saint of colors, not that this has anything to do with the game) for a 29-27 win at home over Minnesota, the Lions’ first win of the season (1-10-1).

But what a devastating loss for the Vikes, who fall to 5-7.

--In the late games…as I run out of time…

The Rams (8-4) broke their 3-game losing streak with a 37-7 win over the Jaguars (2-10), who played like kitties.

Washington had a huge 17-16 win in Las Vegas on a Brian Johnson field goal at 0:41from 44 yards to go to 6-6, while the Raiders are 6-6 as well, a devastating loss for them in the AFC wild card hunt.

WFT is hopefully celebrating in the bars and….actually, I think I’ll stop here.

--In a super finish, Pittsburgh (6-5-1) stayed in the hunt with an amazing 20-19 win over Baltimore (8-4), as the Steelers denied Lamar Jackson and Co. a winning 2-point conversion with 0:12 to play.  Too late to say more.

--And in San Francisco-Seattle, the 49ers down 30-23, ball at the Seattle 3, fourth-and-goal denied!  The 49ers 6-6, Seattle 4-8.

--The NFL suspended Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards for three games each after determining that they had misrepresented their vaccination status, the league announced Thursday.

The suspensions are without pay.  Free agent wide receiver John Franklin III, formerly of the Buccaneers, also faces a three-game suspension if signed by a team, according to the league.

Brown’s suspension comes after a report that he obtained a fake vaccination card to evade league protocols for unvaccinated players.  The league and the NFLPA investigated the matter after a former live-in chef for Brown alleged that Brown had done just that.

--We note the passing of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Claude Humphrey, 77.

Humphrey was an 8X Pro Bowler, 2X All-Pro for Atlanta and Philadelphia.  He was the No. 3 overall pick by the Falcons out of Tennessee State in 1968 and went on to play 13 seasons, credited with 130 sacks (unofficial during his time, but we’ve been able to go back and calculate the figures).

He was the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1968.

Humphrey was saddled by playing on mostly losing teams and so it took far too long for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.  He is in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor.

--And we also lost Hall of Fame nose tackle Curley Culp, a 6X Pro Bowler who was on the great Kansas City Chiefs defense that won Super Bowl IV over the heavily favored Vikings, the follow-up to the Jets’ win in SB III.

Culp was a force in a defense that featured four other future Hall of Famers: Buck Buchanan, linebackers Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier, and the cornerback Emmitt Thomas.

“It was almost unfair to have Culp and Buchanan and Lanier and all those guys,” Joe Namath, the Jets’ star quarterback of that era, told the Kansas City Star in 2013.  “How did they find all those guys in Kansas City?”

Culp spent six full seasons with the Chiefs and was also with Houston and Detroit.  He was credited with 68.5 sacks for his career.

He was an All-American in wrestling and football at Arizona State and won the NCAA heavyweight title in 1967, pinning his finals opponent in 51 seconds.

It was so much fun watching the old AFL…the Jets, Raiders and Chiefs in particular.

College Basketball

--I thought I’d be writing that we’ve had no upsets in the top ten since I last posted, but then on Saturday, 16 Alabama (7-1) defeated 3 Gonzaga (7-2) in Seattle, 91-82.  Wow.  The Zags are struggling a bit.

--We did have another significant upset Wednesday night when Utah Valley defeated 12 BYU 72-65 in overtime.

The ‘Wolverines’ of the Western Athletic Conference, a motley bunch, picked up their first ever victory over a ranked opponent.  They had been 0-9 in previous games against same since becoming a full Division I member in the 2009-10 season.

--Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon was fired Friday after the Terps got off to a 5-3 start.  It was shocking to the team and his staff, but the Washington Post reported that a source close to the program said Turgeon seemed to be upset with how the fans were expressing their discontent, such as in a loss to Virginia Tech at home on Wednesday.

The school is honoring Turgeon’s buyout clause…$5 million.

So Wake Forest fans are grinning because assistant Danny Manning is taking over on an interim basis.  [Manning was 78-111 in his six seasons in Winston-Salem, 30-80 in ACC play.]

Manning’s team then lost this afternoon at home against Northwestern, 67-61.

--Speaking of the Demon Deacons, we are going to be gaining more AP top 25 votes with the next poll on Monday.  After beating Northwestern in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge midweek, Saturday we had a very nice road win in Blacksburg, demolishing Virginia Tech (6-3) 80-61, Wake (8-1) shooting 63.5% from the field.

I mean the Hokies had the 2nd-best scoring defense in the country coming into this one.

--My 2021-22 feature team, St. Bonaventure, defeated Buffalo yesterday at home, 68-65, to move to 7-1. But in an earlier win against Coppin State, star point guard Kyle Lofton suffered a high ankle sprain and while there is no structural damage, he could be out for weeks, just as the Bonnies prepare to play UConn on Dec. 11.  Drat!  This could be a killer injury, especially in terms of NCAA seeding down the round.

--If you are a Rutgers sports fan, you can’t be a happy camper.  Your football team just had another dreadful season, but your basketball squad, which went to its first NCAA tournament last campaign in 30 years, was supposed to be even better with some key starters returning rather than testing the NBA draft waters.

So the Scarlet Knights are a whopping 4-4, having lost to Lafayette and DePaul, and then 86-51 to Illinois (6-2) Friday night.

If you’re trying to raise money to upgrade the facilities, as Rutgers is, it doesn’t help when your two high-profile programs blow.

--UCLA’s game scheduled for today at Washington was canceled due to Covid-19 issues in the Huskies’ program, resulting in a Washington forfeit, which really sucks.  Just another reminder for all sports…it could still be a long winter.

NBA

--Golden State hadn’t played since losing to Phoenix on Tuesday when the two squared off again in San Francisco Friday night, though the Suns had defeated the Pistons at home Thursday to stretch their franchise-record winning streak to 18.

And the Warriors got revenge for Tuesday’s loss, 118-96, as Steph Curry rebounded from his worst shooting performance ever when attempting at least 20 shots to go 8-of-20 (6-of-11 on 3s), 23 points in all.

Phoenix was missing Devon Booker, out with a hamstring strain suffered in Tuesday’s Warriors game.

But then the Warriors had a big letdown Saturday night, falling to the Spurs, as Curry was just 7-of-28 (5-of-17 from three).

So at the end of this big week, the Warriors and the Suns were both 19-4.

--After beating the Knicks at the Garden on Thursday, the Bulls had a big win in Brooklyn yesterday, 111-107, as they improved to 16-8, the Nets 16-7.

--LeBron returned after missing just one game due to Covid protocols Friday night against the Clippers, but the Clippers took it 119-115 to improve to 12-11, the Lakers falling to 12-12.  James had 23.

It seems LeBron clearly had a false positive, as he said he had no symptoms and then tested negative a number of times.

--The aforementioned Knicks are in freefall, now 11-12 after another disheartening loss at the Garden Saturday afternoon, 113-99 at the hands of the mediocre Nuggets (11-11).  Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is beside himself.  He demands total effort every game and he just isn’t getting it from these Knicks, after such a promising 2020-2021 season.  The Nuggets were up 30 at one point in this contest.

It’s perplexing.  The Knicks are 5-8 at home.  I would have said that would be impossible when the season started.

--Thursday night, the Memphis Grizzlies put themselves in the NBA record book with the largest margin of victory, ever, 152-79 over Oklahoma City.  The 73-point win surpassed a 68-point victory by Cleveland over Miami on Dec. 17, 1991.

This one was 72-36 at the half, and then the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 80-43 in the second.  80 points!  Good lord. They had 93 bench points.

NHL

--Alex Ovechkin scored his 20th goal of the season Saturday night as the Capital beat Columbus 3-1.  It was the 750th of his storied career as Washington improved to 15-4-6.

The 36-year-old is getting better with age…39 points now in the first 25 games.  He is just 16 goals behind Jaromir Jagr for third on the all-time list.

--Not for nothing, but with the Knicks stinking up the Garden, at least the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ has the Rangers, who are on fire, winners of 10 of 11, and 16-4-3…a point behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division.

MLB

So we have our lockout.  As I’ve written, I am not concerned.  The barbs between the owners and players will be non-stop through December and early January, and then cooler heads will prevail and serious negotiations will commence with an agreement by Feb. 1 so that training camps can open up on time two weeks later.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

In the meantime, the players want a larger share of the revenue.  Historically it has hovered around 50-50 in the modern era, but currently the owners get 57 percent while the players receive 43 percent.

The players also want to end service time manipulation, or diminish its effect on their earning power; i.e., teams keeping young players in the minor leagues longer than necessary in order to depress salary and keep a player under team control longer.

And the players are hoping to steer franchises away from using the luxury tax as a de facto salary cap, wanting to at least set the tax ceiling at a much higher level than its current $210 million for the 2021 season.  There should be room to compromise on this issue.

On another issue, the owners want a 14-team playoff arrangement and the players are amenable to this, but only if suitable rewards are built in for division titles and top seeds (so that teams aim for such privileges by constructing better and pricier rosters).

And it definitely seems apparent we are headed for a universal designated hitter, which is fine by me.

As for what’s really important for the sport’s future, pace of play, we’ll see if anything of consequence is done.  I say, not likely, as MLB will offer that they will continue to experiment in the minor leagues and there will be an agreement between the owners and players to meet separately on this, without breaking the CBA, at the end of the 2022 season.

For now, coaches and front office personnel will not be able to communicate with players.  No one can sign contracts.  No offseason training allowed.

In the final hours before the lockout, pitcher Marcus Stroman, 30, who made a league-leading 33 starts for the Mets this past season, with a 3.02 ERA, signed a reported three-year, $71 million contract with the Cubs.

The Red Sox and Brewers swung a significant trade before the deadline, with Boston shipping outfielder Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee for a package centered around Jackie Bradley Jr., who was a mainstay for Boston from 2013 to 2020, starring defensively in the outfield before he signed a two-year deal with the Brewers last offseason.

But Bradley, who is only a lifetime .230 hitter, batted just .163 last season with six homers in 134 games (389 at-bats).

Renfroe on the other hand slammed 31 home runs and drove in 96.

The Red Sox received two minor leaguers from the Brewers.

--We note the passing of former AL Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt, 66, following a lengthy illness.

Hoyt went 98-68 during eight major-league seasons with the White Sox and Padres.  He had a 3.99 ERA.

In 1983 he went 24-10 for Chicago with a 3.66 ERA, helping the “Winning Ugly” Sox to the AL West title.

“Mr first impression of LaMarr was, ‘Here is a pitcher,’” said Tony La Russa, who managed the Sox from 1979-86 and returned to the team in 2021, in a statement.  “He had average stuff but amazing command and tremendous confidence, and he never showed fear…nothing bothered him. …What a great competitor.”

By the way, in 1983 he started the season 2-6 but went 22-4 the rest of the way. He led the AL in wins both 1982 and ’83, going 19-15 in ’82.

--And former outfielder Don Demeter died. He was 86.

Demeter was installed in center field for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959, supplanting future Hall of Famer Duke Snider, touted as a star of the future.  He hit 18 home runs and drove in 70, helping propel the Dodgers to a World Series championship, a six-game victory over the White Sox, in their second season since leaving Brooklyn.

But he never fulfilled expectations as a Dodger and was eventually traded to the Phillies, where he had the best season of an 11-year career in 1962…29 home runs, 107 RBIs, .307 BA.

Overall, Demeter, who also played with Detroit, Boston and Cleveland, slammed 163 home runs, five seasons of 20+, batting .265.

NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship

Four teams are left…Clemson vs. Notre Dame in one semifinal next Friday, Georgetown vs. Washington in the other.

8 Clemson took out 1-seed Oregon State 1-1 on penalty kicks, while 4 Notre Dame beat 5 Pitt, also 1-1 on PKs.

Ditto 3 Georgetown over 11 West Virginia (1-1, PKs), while 2 Washington defeated 10 Saint Louis 2-0.

In the Women’s Soccer Championship, Florida State defeated Rutgers 1-0 in one semifinal, and BYU beat Santa Clara, 0-0, PKs in the other.

So Florida State and BYU face off Monday for the NCAA title, 8:00 PM, ESPNU.

Premier League

In games of note Saturday and Sunday….

West Ham had a biggie at home, 3-2 over Chelsea, knocking Dr. W.’s Blues out of the top spot, Manchester City now in first after a 3-1 win at Watford. Liverpool is a point behind City after a 1-0 win over the Wolves.  So Chelsea fell to third, West Ham fourth.

Tottenham won its third straight under new manager Antonio Conte, 3-0 over Norwich, so my Spurs are suddenly back in the conversation, while Manchester United defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 on “Fred’s” late goal in Ralf Rangnick’s first game as interim manager.

But in the battle to avoid relegation, Newcastle finally won, 1-0 over Burnley.

So we have Newcastle, Burnley and Norwich tied for the bottom three at 10 points, three points behind 17-place Watford.

FIS Alpine World Cup

--Team USA on the men’s side finally picked up a podium finish in the 2021-22 WC season…Travis Ganong with a third in a super-G at Beaver Creek.

--But on the women’s side, with two downhills at Lake Louise, American Breezy Johnson was second in both to Italy’s Soffia Goggia, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the event, who is obviously in top form for Beijing.  But we have an American to root for.

Goggia then won today’s super-G at Lake Louise; Mikaela Shiffrin not a factor this weekend as these aren’t her specialties, ditto Petra Vlhova.

Stuff

--Police in Oregon are investigating the deaths of eight grey wolves, who died earlier this year.  Tests later confirmed that a “poisonous substance” had killed them.  A $26,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction.

While the killings happened months ago, police say they have exhausted all leads in the case and need help from the public.

A conviction for taking or possessing a wolf – a felony – could result in a prison sentence of up to five years and fines of up to $125,000.

Grey wolves were once nearly wiped out across the contiguous U.S.  The Endangered Species Act of 1974 created federal protections that saved the species from extinction and led to sustained population recovery efforts.

But the animals were delisted by the Trump administration last year and management of the species has since fallen to the states.  The Biden administration is reportedly considering relisting grey wolves on the Endangered Species List.

The wolves deserve their revenge.

--Local New York area fans learned that WFAN is replacing their midday team of Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis, with former Giants star Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney.  Barber and Tierney have been a team on CBS Sports Radio for eight years.

I was just starting to listen to Maggie and ‘Moose’ more.  I generally catch ‘Boomer and Gio’ during my morning errands, only listening to the FAN when in the car.

Top 3 songs for the week 12/9/72:  #1 “I Am Woman” (Helen Reddy)  #2 “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” (The Temptations)  #3 “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes)…and…#4 “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash)  #5 “You Ought To Be With Me” (Al Green)  #6 “Me And Mrs. Jones” (Billy Paul…great tune)  #7 “It Never Rains In Southern California” (Albert Hammond) #8 “Ventura Highway” (America)  #9 “Clair” (Gilbert O’Sullivan)  #10 “I’m Stone In Love With You” (The Stylistics…B week…)

Georgia Football Quiz Answer: 1) Ray Goff (46-34-1) was coach from 1989-95; Jim Donnan (40-19-0) from 1996-2000.  Donnan, who I can’t recall at all, was 4-0 in bowl games.  2) Passing yardage: Aaron Murray, 13,166 from 2010-13.

*I kind of feel obligated every few years to note to my newer readers, and I do get them, all the time, as others inevitably fall off, that my Ronald Reagan reference is to his famous Farewell Address.  Pure Ronnie…and Peggy Noonan.

Add-On up top by noon, Wednesday.