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Football...and the Annual Bar Chat Awards
[Posted Wed. p.m., prior to Sugar Bowl]
Happy New Year!
*We learned this afternoon of the death of former NBA commissioner David Stern, and it’s impossible for me to do his life justice in such a short period of time. So next chat. For now, quite simply, he was the greatest commissioner in our era (the PGA Tour’s Tim Finchem a close second), in terms of creating a brand and raising the athletes’ (and owners') value beyond their wildest dreams (Finchem is second because Tiger Woods had something to do with his success, though Michael Jordan helped Stern’s).
NHL Quiz, part II: So the other day when I asked you to identify the seven who scored 700 goals in their career (Gretzky, Howe, Jagr, Hull, Dionne, Esposito, and Mike Gartner), Johnny Mac had the terrific observation that if you take away every one of Gretzky’s 894 goals (WHA/NHL), he is still the all-time points leader.
As in Gretzky’s 1,963 assists top No. 2 Jaromir Jagr’s 1,921 points.
But who is second in NHL history to Gretzky in assists? [Hint: He is not one of the seven in the 700-goal club.] You get this one, you’re good. Answer below.
Sat. 4:35 p.m....No. 5 Buffalo (10-6) at No. 4 Houston Texans (10-6)
Sat. 8:15 p.m....No. 6 Tennessee (9-7) at No. 3 New England (12-4)...cold rain, yippee!
Sun. 1:05 p.m....No. 6 Minnesota (10-6) at No. 3 New Orleans (13-3)
Sun. 4:40 p.m....No. 5 Seattle (11-5) at No. 4 Philadelphia (9-7)
--After Cleveland fired head coach Freddie Kitchens Sunday night as I went to post, the New York Giants fired head coach Pat Shurmur Monday morning, but retained GM Dave Gettleman, leaving many Giants fans wondering why both weren’t fired.
Shurmur was a miserable 9-23 in his two-year stint, but Gettleman is the player personnel guy, after all, and he left Shurmur nothing, save for an exciting (when healthy) running back in Saquon Barkley, and what looks to be a franchise quarterback in Daniel Jones, which were Gettleman’s last two first-round draft picks.
That said, again, Shurmur had zero to work with otherwise. It just kind of makes sense if you’re going to change head coaches (in the Giants’ case 3rd change in four years), you’d also bring in a new GM. At least that is the opinion of a majority of the fans.
But it’s also clear that what changed this offseason is that whereas co-owner John Mara always made the football decisions for the organization, and he actually wanted to retain both Shurmur and Gettleman for another season, fellow co-owner (50% partner) Steve Tisch, who ran the ‘business’ side of the organization, is now insisting on more control over the football decisions (three consecutive seasons going 3-13, 5-11, and 4-12 will do that) and it looks like a classic compromise between the two. ‘Hey, John, you want to keep both, I want to fire both. Let’s agree to fire Shurmur, and we’ll give Gettleman one more year.’
Because on Monday during Mara’s press conference, he said of Gettleman: “He does know that the batting average has gotta increase going forward.”
Well Mara and Tisch have to do a better job than Ben McAdoo and Shurmur. Early on, there is a lot of talk concerning Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who some say who would do a much better job than Shurmur did of motivating Gettleman’s very young squad. And Rhule is a child of New York.
Mara said: “I’m really looking for leadership, that’s the big thing going forward. Somebody who can come in and take control of this roster, help build a culture that is gonna lead to winning. “
That’s Matt Rhule, most would agree. Rhule did wonders at Temple and Baylor. And current NFL players who were with Rhule at Temple have nothing but praise for the guy. Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson says he owes Rhule everything.
“There were a lot of times we didn’t see eye-to-eye about a lot of things because when I was young, I was a little stubborn. But he always had my best interests at heart. He’s a hell of a coach. He’s a great man, too.” [Steve Serby/ New York Post]
Interestingly, Rhule declined a chance to interview with the Browns for their head-coaching job, which I don’t know if that’s a really good move, in terms of how it looks. There are tons of guys dying for NFL interviews. But Rhule seems convinced the Giants are making him the focus of their search, while Carolina could be in play. [Rhule seems like a David Tepper-type guy, if you ask me.]
Rhule thus far is maintaining he is staying at Baylor, while he prepared his team for tonight’s Sugar Bowl.
Among those said to be in line for interviews with the Giants is former Packers coach Mick McCarthy.
McCarthy is also among those slated to interview with the Browns. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is another (for both teams).
But can we go back to the aforementioned Dave Gettleman? The GM gave his first press conference in 160 days Tuesday....you are reading that right...the jerk has been silent the entire season. And as all the beat writers put it, he picked up where he left off: “skirting accountability and making the Giants look out of touch.”
He said significant “behind the scenes” organizational changes include that “we’ve hired four computer folks, software” to redo their scouting system. He said he met recently with “a big analytics guy” to “learn from my mistakes.”
And he said every coaching candidate will have the opportunity “to look me in the eye and say, ‘Hey, Dave, what up?’” to establish a working relationship.
Pat Leonard / New York Daily News
“But here’s what’s up: Gettleman’s first press conference since July did nothing to convince Pat Shurmur’s potential replacements that the Giants are open to dramatically changing their ways.
“Here is a run-down of the headlines from the GM’s 30-minute press conference and why there are more questions than answers coming out of it.
“Gettleman said ‘I take my share of culpability’ in his prepared opening statement, but quickly reminded everyone ‘where we started,’ an allusion to scapegoat predecessor Jerry Reese.
“Gettleman said he’d consider a role change to ‘whatever’s in the best interest’ of the Giants – depending on what the new coach wants – but in the same breath, he insisted ‘there were no major decisions made without everybody’s opinion’ while Shurmur was here.
“ ‘Be assured no decision is made in a vacuum. We believe in collaboration among ownership, coaching and personnel,’ he said.
“That is disingenuous. Gettleman has been the authority on personnel. And if what he says were true, why is the GM given credit and more time for drafting Daniel Jones while Shurmur is shown the door?
“ ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, very frankly. No idea,’ Gettleman said.
“Gettleman also got caught in a bind when asked why he doesn’t speak publicly more often and stand accountable when everything goes wrong.
“ ‘We’ve looked at [how often I talk publicly], alright?’ he said. ‘And we probably need to address it, and it may change next year. But there are very few GMs that talk in season.’”
What a freakin’ jerk. The guy also blamed his roster’s high turnover on a “culture issue” that was “well-documented,” and insisted there is no longer a culture problem with the team.
As one of the local guys on sports radio said, what is it with the new overuse of the word “culture” when it comes to sports teams. Throw all your mistakes in a bag and blame it on the “culture.”
“Part of the problem is when you lose year after year after year, you’ve got to get that winning feeling back,” said Gettleman, who has a 9-23 record as GM. “In terms of culture problems downstairs this year, I know this: I saw a team that came out, practiced hard every day and played hard on Sundays. So I’m not sure where that [perception] comes from.”
Oh, go culture yourself, Gettleman. You’re the guy responsible for the 9-23. You have now largely built this team. You have some pieces, for sure, but it’s time for Ws.
“Unfortunately, it takes time,” Gettleman said.
Well, Gettleman received more time, Pat Shurmur didn’t.
The more you analyze it, both deserved to go. Who would want to coach this s---show? You want to work for this jerk?
--Meanwhile, the Redskins, having fired long-time team president Bruce Allen, have hired former Carolina head coach Ron Rivera for the coaching position in Washington, which is a shock to some of us. It seemed like Rivera was a lock to work with Dave Gettleman, the two having worked successfully together with the Panthers, but Redskins owner Dan Snyder, perhaps the worst owner in all of professional sports, somehow got Rivera to bite quickly on a reported five-year deal. It’s assumed Rivera will have a lot of control.
As for Allen, the son of legend George Allen, he wielded tremendous power in the organization, overseeing both business and football operations for most of his time with the team.
--Jacksonville has opted to retain head coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell for 2020 after the Jags’ disappointing 6-10 season. Marrone is 22-28 with a 2-1 mark in the playoffs in Jacksonville.
It was a chaotic season for the Jags, as they had signed quarterback Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract ($50.125m guaranteed), and then he suffered a broken collarbone 11 snaps into the season opener, only to come back in Week 11 and suck. At least rookie sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew showed promised as a potential QB should Jacksonville figure out a way to dump/trade Foles without taking a ginormous salary cap hit.
--Just to finish up on the regular season, aside from Jameis Winston becoming the first quarterback to ever throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same year (33-30), I have to note Christian McCaffrey’s big achievement, becoming just the third player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season (1,387 rushing, 14 TDs; 1,005 receiving, 4 TDs)
The 2,392 yards from scrimmage is third behind Chris Johnson and Marshall Faulk.
But McCaffrey’s contributions were all for naught, Carolina finishing 5-11, losers of their last eight.
New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas finished one shy of 150 receptions, 149 for 1,725 yards, nonetheless now holding the season record.
Because of injuries, Mark R. points out the Eagles’ Carson Wentz, who didn’t play like Senor Wences his last four starts (all wins), is the first to throw for 4,000 without having a wide receiver with 500 yards. [Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert had 916, 607, respectively, and running back Miles Sanders collected 509 yards receiving.]
--Back to Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians was asked Monday if he believes the Bucs could win with another quarterback, Winston a free agent if they don’t offer him a contract extension. “Another quarterback? Oh, yeah. [If] we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one too. We’re going to have this defense.”
Yup, not exactly a vote of confidence for a guy expecting to be paid $30 million per year with his next deal.
--The Jets had the worst offense in football, 273.0 yards per game, a second-worst 78.6 on the ground. Not what us fans expected after bringing in Le’Veon Bell, who averaged only 3.2 yards per, 52.6 ypg. His longest carry of the season was a mere 19 yards.
--The Cowboys had the best offense, 431.5 ypg, all the more reason it is beyond pathetic the Cowboys didn’t make it to the postseason. Hey Jerry, would you fire Garrett already?!
--Top four defenses:
New England 275.9 yards per game
San Francisco 281.8
Gee, see a trend?
[Alas, the Steelers were fifth.]
--I’ve decided that while I recognize the calendar doesn’t always cooperate, when the Orange Bowl isn’t one of the CFP semi sites, the game is best suited for the day before New Year’s Eve...just a solid time slot.
So this year we had 9 Florida vs. 24 Virginia and I was just hoping the Cavs would hang in there, seeing as they really didn’t deserve to play in a Big Six game, and whaddya know, Virginia beat the spread (16 ½), only losing 36-28, which warmed the soul of Thomas Jefferson, whose final words were “at the end of the day...” [Or maybe not....]
For the Gators, Lamical Perine picked a good time to have his best game, the senior rushing for a career-high 138 yards and two touchdowns, plus another TD on one of his five receptions for 43.
Florida finishes 11-2, solidifying its final top 10 AP ranking, and Virginia ends up 9-5.
My only complaint is that in a year when Clemson makes the playoffs, the second-best team in the ACC should not automatically get a Big Six bid, as is the current arrangement with the Orange Bowl.
--New Year’s Eve we had some exciting contests.
Kentucky finished 8-5 with a 37-30 thriller over Virginia Tech (8-5), as Kentucky’s one-time NFL receiving prospect, Lynn Bowden Jr., who took over at quarterback mid-season, rushed for 233 yards on 34 carries and a touchdown, after rushing for 284 in the regular season finale against Louisville. Ergo, 517 yards on the ground, plus six touchdowns, in two games against two competitive football teams. As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy while reading the Wednesday morning sports pages, Nancy preparing New Year’s Day crepes, ‘Not bad, not bad all.’
But it was Lynn Bowden’s arm that saved the day for the Wildcats with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Josh Ali with 15 seconds left that sealed a comeback.
Meanwhile, Bowden, who is leaving a year early for the NFL, is a rather cocky sort, and escaped pre-game punishment for throwing a punch against a Virginia Tech player, but it was over an hour before the game and the referees weren’t on the field to levy any penalty.
I do agree with Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, however, that had Bowden been the starting quarterback since the beginning of the season, he would have been a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Separately, this was the last game for Hokies’ defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who is retiring after 32 seasons at Va Tech.
23 Navy assured itself only its third AP final top 25 ranking since 1963, 20-17 winners over Kansas State (8-5), Navy finishing 11-2 for the biggest turnaround of any team in college football this season following a 3-10 mark in 2018.
For the Midshipmen, quarterback Malcolm Perry made history with his 213 yards on the ground (plus another 57 passing), finishing the year with 2,017 to set an FBS record, breaking the mark owned by Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, who had 1,920 in 2013.
But it was CJ Williams’ 41-yard completion on a halfback option to Chance Warren on fourth-and-3 in the final minute that gave Navy first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Bijan Nichols then kicking a 23-yard field goal for the win.
Congratulations to good friend, and Naval Academy grad, Bobby C.
I just saw that Navy opens the 2020 season Aug. 29 by facing Notre Dame at Dublin, Ireland. Now that would be a fun road trip. Start hydrating early for it.
Lastly in terms of New Year’s Eve action, preseason, Texas was ranked in the top ten, expected to be a national title contender, perhaps, behind junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who was coming off a fine sophomore campaign, 25 touchdown passes, just five interceptions, the Longhorns 10-4, Sugar Bowl winners, AP final No. 9.
But then Texas got off to a dreadful 3-4 start, Ehlinger was just so-so, and Texas was lucky to rally some to become even bowl eligible.
Whereupon they upset No. 11 Utah 38-10 in the Alamo Bowl, Ehlinger throwing three touchdown passes and running for a fourth as the Longhorns finish 8-5 and with renewed hope for 2020.
For Utah, however, just a few weeks ago, heading into the Pac-12 title game against Oregon, the Utes harbored hopes of a CFP berth. But then the Ducks pummeled them 37-15, and then we have this egg, Utah finishing a fine 11-3, but with a decidedly bitter taste in their mouths. A flat-out major choke job, boys and girls.
--Today, 18 Minnesota (11-2) had a huge 31-24 win over 12 Auburn (9-4) in terms of the impact on the overall program, receiver Tyler Johnson with 204 yards and two touchdowns on 12 receptions. Great win for coach P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers, their first 11-win campaign since 1904.
13 Alabama finished 11-2 as it whipped Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, who finish 9-4, in the first “I can’t believe you’re eating soy” Bowl. [Citrus Bowl]
For ‘Bama, they set a record with their ninth consecutive year with 11 wins, the longest in AP history. Also, since 2008, the Tide at one point of the season has been ranked #1.
And then 6 Oregon (12-2) beat 8 Wisconsin (10-4) 28-27, as Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert, potentially a top-6 or so pick in the upcoming draft, ran for three touchdowns, including the deciding 30-yard scamper following a Badger fumble with under 8:00 to play.
The score was deceptive, if you didn’t watch any of it, as Wisconsin outgained Oregon 322-204. But the Badgers committed four turnovers, one returned for a touchdown, and the Ducks found a way to win.
--Meanwhile, Wake Forest fans suffered a huge blow Tuesday when we learned that, out of nowhere, redshirt junior quarterback Jamie Newman had entered the Transfer Portal.
Head Coach Dave Clawson issued a terse statement: “Jamie informed me today that he will finish his eligibility at another school as a graduate transfer.”
I didn’t realize the kid picked up his degree this month. So it’s comparable to when Russell Wilson left North Carolina State with a year of eligibility to play at Wisconsin. Or Jalen Hurts. [Justin Fields and Joe Burrow were different situations, straight transfers.]
Anyway, Newman, should he have a solid senior season, is a sure-fire first-round pick, but he decided he couldn’t accomplish as much at Wake, which has to be incredibly deflating to Clawson and his staff...as in, ‘How do we build a really top program with attitudes like this out there?’
Thankfully, we have a redshirt sophomore Sam Hartman, who was a starter two years ago and then redshirted this season. He’s got a lot of ability and already proven that. But the Newman move leaves Wake with literally zero depth at the position and we always have injuries.
So just a major-league suck job for us all.
As for where Newman might end up, think any program lacking a sure-fire No. 1, but otherwise considering itself ‘elite.’
One early possibility, as Phil W. passed along, is Oregon. With Justin Herbert now gone, there is no clear-cut choice for 2020 and Newman could easily be that guy. This evening’s Rose Bowl ending didn’t hurt the Ducks (or make Jaime’s decision difficult) if they feel Newman could be their guy for next fall.
AP Top 25...records thru Sun.
1. Gonzaga (63) 13-1
2. Duke (1) 11-1
3. Kansas (1) 10-2
4. Oregon 11-2
5. Ohio State 11-2
6. Baylor 9-1
7. Louisville 11-2
8. Auburn 12-0
9. Memphis 11-1
10. Villanova 9-2
11. Butler 12-1
13. San Diego State 13-0...wow...best start in nine seasons
16. West Virginia 11-1
21. Penn State 11-2
Auburn and SDSU only remaining undefeated teams.
As of this posting, no major upsets since the above was released. This coming weekend, however, things heat up. Get psyched.
Slew of games New Year’s Day (holiday season in this sport is simply awesome, watched a ton of it) and Brighton pulled off a big draw late, 1-1, against Chelsea. So that helped Tottenham and its hopes for another Champions League (top four) berth, but my Spurs then lost at Southampton, 1-0, as we mailed it in, totally listless, and Harry Kane exited with a hamstring injury. Geezuz, this star can’t complete a whole season without one or two leg/ankle issues.
Leicester City whipped Newcastle on the road, 3-0. Aston Villa had a massive 2-1 win over Burnley in terms of the relegation race.
The Wolves, gunning for a CL slot, suffered a major 2-1 loss at 19 Watford, a ginormous win for them.
Man City beat Everton 2-1. And Arsenal defeated Man U 2-0.
Liverpool plays Sheffield tomorrow, then FA Cup action next weekend, and I’ll do the standings at that time.
--Yippee, golf is back this weekend, the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. The field is strong, what with Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele (defending champ), Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland.
DJ’s fiancee (are these guys actually married yet?), Paulina Gretzky, hopefully graces us with a few views (Instagram shots, snappy outfits on the course...you know).
--Dan Barry / New York Times
“Growing up in the New York metropolitan area, you are indoctrinated in the belief that this city is the biggest, the best, the greatest: Look, ma, I’m the capital of the world! We are the ultimate closers, you are taught, embracing the winners-and-losers philosophy espoused in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ David Mamet’s play about real estate sales.
“First place: a Cadillac Eldorado.
“Second place: a set of steak knives.
“When we deign to participate in silly competitions with other cities – over the best museums, the best pizza, the best organized crime – we do so with an eye roll so exaggerated that it can unite this divided country in a shared loathing of New York. You could say our condescension is a patriotic act.
“But throughout the decade about to close, smaller American cities have been able to wipe the smirk from New York’s collective countenance by bringing up one subject. It is the Goliath-toppling stone in David’s arsenal:
“ ‘How nice it must be to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art anytime you want,’ Kansas City, Mo., might say. ‘By the way, how are those Mets?’
“ ‘That ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ play on Broadway is supposed to be wonderful,’ Boston might say. ‘Speaking of which, what’s up with your Jets?’
“And pretty much any city could simply ask:
“ ‘Are the Knicks still in the NBA?’
“Consider how the rest of the country experienced the last decade. The Golden State Warriors reached the NBA finals five times and won three championships. The New England Patriots made it to the Super Bowl five times, and won three. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup three times. The San Francisco Giants won three World Series, and the Boston Red Sox won two. The Los Angeles Galaxy won three Major League Soccer championships, and the Seattle Sounders won two.
“If you were to plot a map of winning sports cities over the last 10 years, you’d run out of pushpins. Meanwhile, the New York area has at least two teams competing in most of the major sports. And how many championships did the area’s 12 teams – including the New York Liberty and the New Jersey Devils – bring home?
“The Giants prevailed in the Super Bowl back in 2012, distant enough for that Eldorado to be sold for parts by now at some chop shop in Queens. Otherwise, it’s been a decade of: Here’s your set of steak knives, New York; use them responsibly.
“In fact, New York has won second-place steak knives only three times in the past decade: once in baseball (the Mets in 2015) and twice in hockey (the Devils in 2012 and the Rangers in 2014). With the occasional interruption of a futile playoff run, the rest of the decade brings to the troubled mind a quotation attributed to the poet William Butler Yeats: ‘Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.’
“Replace ‘Being Irish’ with ‘Being a New York sports fan,’ and there you have it for him, her, them and us.”
--I watched some of the Rangers-Edmonton Oilers hockey game New Year’s Eve, that is until the Rangers fell behind 5-0. It would become 6-0...and then New York rallied back, but fell short, 7-5.
But here’s why I mention the contest. I never knew that no team in NHL history has come from down six goals to win a game. So history was almost made.
I do have to add that not for nothing, the Rangers’ Artemi Panarin is sixth in the league in scoring (after four points last night). New York never has someone that high on the list.
The Rangers signed the Russian after four very solid campaigns in Chicago and Columbus and the move looks brilliant thus far, but only if my boys make the playoffs. I must say I’m going to start watching more the second half of the season because of him.
--We lost some major figures in the world of sports this year, perhaps headlined by Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, along with Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr, Nick Buoniconti, Jim Bouton, Bill Buckner, Don Newcombe, Mel Stottlemyre, Peter Snell, Willie Brown, Jack Whitaker, Dan Jenkins, Al Jackson (for Mets fans), Bob Friend (for Pirates fans...and a favorite of moi for his totally unique baseball card), John Havlicek, Forrest Gregg, Gino Marchetti, Tyler Skaggs, Niki Lauda, Gene Littler, Ted Lindsay, King Kong Bundy, Pernell Whitaker and Junior Johnson.
In rock and roll, we lost drummer Ginger Baker, leaving Eric Clapton as the last living member of Cream. And the Cars’ Rick Ocasek, Eddie Money, Peter Tork of the Monkees, Daryl Dragon of Captain & Tennille, Leon Redbone, Dick Dale, Dr. John, and Art Neville.
And in recent days that I didn’t have a chance to write on previously, we lost Broadway composer lyricist Jerry Herman, who gave us old-fashioned musicals “Hello, Dolly!” and “Mame” in the 1960s and Broadway’s first musical featuring gay lovers, “La Cage aux Folles,” in the 1980s. He was 88.
As Robert McFadden wrote in the New York Times, “Herman wrote music that left the nation singing – rich melodies with powerful lyrics that stopped shows, dazzled critics, kept audiences returning for more and paved Broadway with gold for producers and performers.
“To millions, he was the postwar theater’s clearest successor to Irving Berlin, a throwback to an era of songwriters who touched the heart with sophisticated simplicity, bringing audiences to their feet at the curtain calls and sending them home humming the unforgettable tune: ‘Hell-oh, Doll-ee!’"
Jerry Herman was the first composer-lyricist to have three musicals run more than 1,500 consecutive performances on Broadway, the above-mentioned three, led by “Hello, Dolly!” with 2,844 – and remains one of only two to achieve that feat. [Stephen Schwartz with “Pippin,” “The Magic Show” and “Wicked,” is the second.]
I forgot that Gerald Sheldon Herman grew up in Jersey City. He studied drama at the University of Miami.
Neil Innes, the British humorist and musician who was an honorary member of Monty Python, who later made a name for himself with a number of offbeat musical and television projects, including the Beatles parody band the Rutles, died Sunday at the age of 75.
It was midway through the 1970s that Innes and Eric Idle, a Python, came up with the Rutles, who not only recorded albums but did the mock documentary “The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash” in 1978.
Innes contributed material for “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” and then appeared in the movies “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975) and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (1979).
In October 1976 Eric Idle hosted “Saturday Night Live,” then in its second season, and played a Rutles clip. Lorne Michaels became a fan and saw possibilities for a full-length mockumentary.
John J. O’Connor reviewed “All You Need Is Cash” in the New York Times. “The music and lyrics,” he wrote, “all written by Mr. Innes, smartly capture the essence of the Beatles and then, ever so cleverly, turn it to mush.”
--At year end, we had examples of ‘Man’ being both a dirtball and a hero.
Amid the devastating fires ravaging Australia, a small zoo managed to save all its animals “through the extraordinary bravery of its staff.”
Mogo Zoo houses Australia’s largest collection of primates, along with zebras, rhinos and giraffes.
The zoo was right in the line of a bushfire, but staff saved the animals because they had a precise plan in place: first the zoo keepers moved everything flammable from the area and then turned to the animals.
The larger ones like the lions, tigers and orangutans, were moved into secured night enclosures to keep them safe and calm, but the smaller ones needed extra shelter.
So the zoo director, Chad Staples, decided to simply take them to his own house.
“Right now in my house there’s animals of all descriptions in all the different rooms, that are there safe and protected...not a single animal lost,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
There is even a tiger in the back area of the house.
So Chad Staples is a “Good Guy of the Year” and would help ‘Man’ potentially move from No. 432 on the All-Species List to 429.
But then we have this.
From the AP: “A fire at a zoo in western Germany killed a large number of animals in the early hours of the new year, authorities said. They did not comment on local media reports that the fire was started by celebratory fireworks.
“The Krefeld zoo near the Dutch border said the entire ape house burned down and all the animals inside are dead; chimpanzees, orangutans and two gorillas,” along with other animals.
A separate Gorilla Garden with Gorilla Kidogo and his family survived, thankfully.
Officials wouldn’t confirm it was New Year’s fireworks but that theory is highly plausible.
‘Man’ goes back down to No. 432.
--I’m sorry, but while I do not use the word ‘hate’ easily, I would use it to describe the freakin’ woman who tried to yank the Pope’s arm off New Year’s Eve at St. Peter’s Square. When you watch the video, the woman also clearly says (in Asian), something like ‘F-U’ when the Pope remonstrates her by slapping her hand to break free.
She’s a “Jerk” and “A-hole” of the Year honoree for her actions.
[The Pope ended up forgiving her, because, you know, he's the Pope, and not your editor.]
Which leads me to the Annual Bar Chat Awards! This year we got Blake Shelton to host. Blake, thank you for doing this....Blake? You there?.....Blake? Must be a mix-up.
Well, moving along, let me just start by saying as the years have gone by, I’m a little less comfortable doing this with each one, but then you realize, so many of the following deserve the awards, especially the good guys, like the above-noted Chad Staples.
Just a reminder...as defined by Webster’s, an ‘idiot’ is “an ignorant person; foolish or stupid.” A ‘jerk’ is “annoyingly stupid or foolish.”
To me a jerk is fully aware of what they are doing, while an idiot lacks some of the basics. As for ‘dirtball,’ there has to be some malicious intent in the behavior. ‘A-hole’ is self-explanatory.
--So a ‘Good Guy’ award for the late John Havlicek. You never heard a single bad word about the guy, and he busted his butt every game.
--A Bar Chat ‘Hero Award’ for Riley Howell, the UNCC student who died of his wounds suffered during a campus shooting, but he pinned down the gunman, and in the process helped avoid even worse carnage.
--A ‘Dirtball’ award to actor Jussie Smollett. ‘Nuf said. He’ll be receiving ‘A-Hole’ hardware as well, free of charge.
--Steph Curry gets a ‘Good Guy’ award for his awesome gift of funding the Howard University golf team.
--You want to know what a true ‘Idiot’ is? We have the story of Los Angeles Clippers announcers Ralph Lawler and Don MacLean. During a Clippers-Mavericks matchup, the broadcast duo commented on a graphic that was posted, detailing the 1998 trade that sent Robert “Tractor” Traylor from the Mavs to the Bucks for Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity.
Lawler and MacLean pounced on the historically lopsided deal.
“Who’s he play for now?” Lawler mockingly asked MacLean, who responded, “The Detroit YMCA Over-40 league.”
The duo were forced to apologize during the broadcast when it was brought to their attention that Traylor, a former first-round draft pick, died from a heart attack almost eight years earlier at the age of 34.
--A ‘Dirtball’ award to a Japanese sushi boss who paid a record $3.1 million for a giant tuna at the first new year’s auction in Tokyo’s fish market.
The bluefin tuna is an endangered species. The “Tuna King,” Kiyoshi K. (not giving his full name because I’m afraid the Yakuza will chop my head off), of course bragged about it. This is also a d---.
--Former USC athletic director Lynn Swann could be handed all kinds of awards for his, err, stewardship of the USC sports program, until he was finally let go.
But he gets a ‘Jerk’ award for a decision that ultimately removed the famous Song Girls cheerleaders from home basketball games for the 2018-19 college hoops season. [The decision was originally made in Nov. 2018, but caught everyone’s attention when in early 2019 an extensive story appeared on the girls’ departure in the Los Angeles Times that then riled up alumni and school supporters.]
--’Idiot’ certificates to the vandals in Dunn, North Carolina, who doused the marble statue of Gen. Lee with a flammable liquid and set it on fire.
But if they thought they were targeting Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, they got the wrong Lee. The statue stood outside the Maj. Gen. William C. Lee Airborne Museum, the birthplace of World War II hero William C. Lee, and the museum sits in the home the general and his wife owned. Lee, commanding officer of the legendary 101st Airborne Division, died in 1948.
--An ‘A-Hole’ certificate goes to New England quarterback Tom Brady for trying to appropriate and trademark the nickname, “Tom Terrific,” which belongs to Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Brady’s application was denied. Heh heh.
--A ‘Good Guy’ award to Shaquille O’Neal for defending Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey and his right to speak freely in supporting the Hong Kong protesters, which pissed off China.
--An ‘Idiot’ award to Patriots owner Robert Kraft for being charged with soliciting prostitution in Jupiter, Fla. Yes, Kraft later claimed he was innocent and a judge tossed out the evidence, but just in the past few days, authorities are saying Kraft could yet be charged with a felony that carries a sentence of five years. As Nelson on The Simpsons would say, “Hah Hah!”
--An ‘A-Hole’ award to Knicks owner James Dolan, who took exception to a fan at Madison Square Garden who suggested that he sell the team. Dolan responded by threatening to bar the fan from future games.
--A ‘Good Guy’ award to former Patriots football great Rob Gronkowski. On the second night of his retirement from professional football, Gronkowski donned a tuxedo inside a Washington, D.C., ballroom and walked to a dais. He was there to receive a USO award, which required him to give a speech.
At the microphone, Gronkowski told the roomful of generals, Medal of Honor recipients, big-money sponsors and military personnel clad in black-tie formal attire about a visit he had made that afternoon to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“I mean, I thought I went through a lot in my life,” Gronk said. “Today, I saw a troop who lost both of his legs tell me he wants to get the movement back in his legs and get prosthetics in, and get back out there and kill some mother-------.”
The room responded with gasps, a burst of spit-take laughter and shrieks of approval.
“That’s what he told me!” Gronkowski said.
Never change, Gronk. But for the sake of your health, stay retired.
--A Lifetime ‘Nebulous’ Achievement award to Coach Bill Belichick, who said of Gronkowski’s announced retirement, “offseason is offseason.”
--A ‘Good Guy’ award to Mets rookie sensation Pete Alonso, who donated 10 percent of his winnings from the 2019 All-Star Game Home Run Derby to Wounded Warriors and the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation. Just recently, the Tunnels to Towers Foundation paid off the mortgage of a Jersey City police officer who was gunned down as part of a horrific anti-Semitic attack, the deceased officer’s family being taken care of.
--A ‘Jerk’ award to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The list of specifics is too long for this column.
--A ‘Dirtball’ award to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose policies are leading to the destruction of the Amazon.
--’Idiot’ hardware to former (for now) receiver Antonio Brown, for suffering extreme frostbite caused by a cryotherapy machine. Brown was not wearing appropriate footwear when he entered the cryotherapy chamber in France and burned his feet.
Brown was later dismissed by the Oakland Raiders and he did enough other things to warrant a Lifetime ‘Jerk’ plaque.
--A ‘Good Guy’ award to Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett for declining to take a raise while extending his contract by another year, despite winning the national championship.
“[My wife] Laurel and I are in a great spot, and in the past I’ve had increases in my contract,” Bennett said in a release. “We just feel a great peace about where we’re at, all that’s taken place, and how we feel about this athletic department and this community and this school. I love being at UVA.”
Bennett asked that the money he would have received be used to pay his staff more and for improvements to both his program as well as other Virginia teams.
--Special ‘grass’ for the Goats who helped prevent a fast-growing wildfire from reaching the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Goats had been employed for this very purpose on a regular basis...to graze on vegetation near the property to help create a fire break.
Yes, goats are the G.O.A.T.
[Speaking of the California wildfires of which the above was but one this fire season, a ‘Good Horse’ award to the horse you saw in the video who helped save his fellow brethren in one particularly devastating fire.]
--A ‘Dirtball’ award to Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with his helmet. Garrett is also receiving a “POS” certificate, suitable for framing.
--’Dirtball,’ ‘Idiot,’ ‘Jerk,’ and ‘A-Hole’ hardware, the rare ‘superfecta,’ to the Lake Elsinore, Calif., stampede that flocked to the spectacular annual bloom of the poppies in Walker Canyon, trampling and destroying many of the flowers.
--A ‘Good Guy’ award to golfer Gary Woodland, for his interactions with Amy Bockerstette, the golfer with Down syndrome, at the Phoenix Open and beyond. Just a terrific moment. Woodland then goes on to win the U.S. Open, one of the two or three best stories of the year. And, Amy, we continue to root for you.
--An ‘Idiot’ plaque to Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore, who was penalized at a critical moment in his game vs. in-state rival Mississippi State for crawling and pretending to urinate like a dog (OBJ style) after celebrating a touchdown. The Ole Miss kicker then missed the now-35-yard extra point and MSU escaped with a 21-20 win in the 116th Egg Bowl. [The extra yards on the penalty also prevented Ole Miss for going for a winning 2-point conversion.]
--Bar Chat “Athlete of the Year,” skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who is beginning to rewrite the entire Women’s Alpine record book; starting with more slalom wins than any man or woman in World Cup competition. And she’s 24 (turns 25 in March).
--We have a huge competition for the individual “Sports Story of the Year,” between Gary Woodland; native Shane Lowry for his terrific win on Irish soil at the Open Championship as it returned to Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951; the University of Virginia basketball team for winning the NCAA men’s title a year after an ignominious first-round loss to UMBC; and the Washington Nationals.
I’m giving it to Virginia. Send your complaints to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
--And for the esteemed “Animal of the Year,” there was no debate over this one. Of course it had to go to military working dog “Conan,” a Belgian Malinois, for his role in taking out ISIS leader Baghdadi.
Conan, and the other hero war dogs, are not just awesome for their work in special operations, but they are terrific morale-boosters to soldiers.
***Special thanks to Jeff B., Mark R., Shu, Johnny Mac, Brad K., Steve G., Phil W., and others for your contributions and suggestions over the year, re these highly sought-after awards.
We’d also like to thank our corporate sponsor, Home Depot, for sharing in the costs. [Actually, Home Depot really isn’t a sponsor, but just trying out some push-marketing.]
Top 3 songs week of 1/3/77 (I need to skip a year or I’d be largely repeating the last list. I’ll go back to 1976 soon): #1 “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” (Marilyn McCoo & Bill Davis Jr.) #2 “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” (Leo Sayer) #3 “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” (Rod Stewart...and Britt Ekland...uhh uhhh...)...and...#4 “I Wish” (Stevie Wonder) #5 “Car Wash” (Rose Royce...just dreadful...) #6 “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” (Elton John) #7 “Dazz” (Brick) #8 “The Rubberband Man” (Spinners) #9 “After The Lovin’” (Engelbert Humperdinck) #10 “Stand Tall” (Burton Cummings...C+ week...I was in my second semester as a freshman at Wake and looking forward to the ACC conference hoops schedule. We had a great team....Skip Brown, Rod Griffin, Jerry Schellenberg, Leroy McDonald, Larry Harrison, and Frank Johnson...we’d make it to the Elite Eight, losing to eventual champion Marquette...awesome fun as a student...and we had an 18 drinking age! Oops, sorry, parents....)
NHL Quiz Answer: Second to Gretzky all time in assists is Ron Francis with 1,249. Francis also had 549 goals, playing largely in relative anonymity for Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and a last few games in Toronto; save for his years in Pittsburgh, where he helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cups.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.