|Articles||Go Fund Me||All-Species List||Hot Spots||Go Fund Me|
|Web Epoch NJ Web Design | (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.|
It's Clemson vs. LSU
[Posted Sunday p.m., prior to the conclusion of Seattle-San Francisco and final NFC seedings. I’m ready for the holidays to be over...]
NHL Quiz: As some of us will be catching at least a little of the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, name the seven players with 700 career goals. Answer below.
College Football’s Big Saturday
Prelude to the semis....Dan Wolken / USA TODAY Sports
“As the College Football Playoff celebrates its sixth birthday this week, it’s become clear that giving more teams access to play for a national title has not actually given more of them a chance to win it. If anything, the divide now is even greater between the handful of programs that stockpile the best talent in recruiting and the plucky overachievers who might have been able to pull off one upset in the BCS era but now have to do it twice.
“We’re getting to the point, though, where even that standard doesn’t paint a complete picture of how difficult it’s becoming to win a national championship in this era of college football. Not only do you need a roster full of blue chips and luck to be on your side, but unless you have an elite quarterback, you can probably forget reaching the ultimate prize.
“ ‘You look at the four teams in it right now – and I don’t watch sports and I don’t watch ‘SportsCenter’ - but the best four quarterbacks are on the top four teams,’ LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger said. ‘I think that’s the key to college football right now.’
“For the first time in the history of the CFP, all four participants would consider the quarterback position the strength of their team. Though a slow start hurt his numbers, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is still on track to be the No. 1 NFL draft pick in 2021. Ohio State’s Justin Fields had an absurd 40 touchdowns to 1 interception ratio in his first season as a college starter and made a late Heisman Trophy push. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, who finished second in the Heisman voting, not only threw for 3,634 yards but was also the Sooners’ leading rusher by a pretty significant margin. And LSU’s Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman in a runaway, put up a historically great 76% completion rate on nearly 37 attempts per game.
“It’s the most talented and accomplished collective group of quarterbacks ever in the Playoff, and it illustrates how important that position has become in an era in which teams that struggle to score are increasingly destined to fall short....
“It’s no great revelation that having an elite quarterback can change the complexion of a team....
“But far more often in college football, you’d see great teams that didn’t necessarily have great quarterbacks. Even as recently as 2015, Alabama won a national title with Jake Coker, who now sells insurance in the Mobile area after a very brief attempt to play in the NFL....
“Decades from now, we’ll probably look at Deshaun Watson as a key turning point in the history of college football. Though Watson and Clemson lost a 45-40 shootout to Alabama for the national title in 2015, everyone understood coming out of that game that something had changed.”
So I had a family obligation during the first semi – LSU v. Oklahoma – watching only to when it was 7-7, and it was rather startling to learn after I got home that LSU had taken a 49-14 halftime lead on Heisman winner Joe Burrow’s seven touchdown passes, Burrow 29/39, 493, 7-0 for the game, receiver Justin Jefferson an equally spectacular 14-227-4.
LSU outgained the Sooners 692-322, final score 63-28.
Yes, if I had to miss one of the two, this was it.
But what a startling second game. Clemson should have been blown out of this one, but in the first half, three times they held Ohio State to field goals when Buckeye drives stalled inside the red zone. Instead of a 16-0 lead, it should have been 24- or 28-0.
But with each defensive stop to limit the damage, Clemson was gaining confidence, and the Tigers finally responded on offense, putting up two touchdowns in the final 3:00 of the half, including a spectacular 67-yard TD run from Trevor Lawrence.
The second half was nothing but a tension convention, Lawrence and Clemson once again clutch down the stretch.
Ohio State fans have reason to be angry, with some critical plays going against the Buckeyes, including a roughing-the-punter penalty early in the third quarter that enabled Lawrence to connect on a 53-yard screen-pass touchdown to Travis Etienne to make it 21-16.
The Buckeyes were also the victim of three video reviews that went against them, though all were the correct call. That said, you can understand the hurt all around Columbus today.
Chuck Culpepper / Washington Post
“An odd but dramatic Fiesta Bowl national semifinal went to Clemson on Saturday night, yet will keep on going, into a loud future with Trevor Lawrence’s reputation booming further and Buckeye nation fuming forever, given the litany of excruciations it suffered.
“The 29-23 finish at State Farm Stadium provided Clemson a 29th straight win, pushed the Tigers (14-0) into a fourth national championship game in five years, opposite LSU this time, and came about because a statuesque Clemson quarterback and his chums took the ball with 3:07 left and a scary amount of terrain up ahead, then traveled those 94 yards with haste and aplomb.
“It took them four plays. It took them 78 seconds. It ended with 1:49 left. It went boom, boom, boom and boom.
“ ‘It was just a real poise,’ Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said.
“Lawrence threw 11 yards to the right to Justyn Ross. Lawrence backed briefly into the pocket and then roamed an open prairie to his right for 11 more. Lawrence threw deep down the middle to Amari Rodgers for 38 yards to the 34-yard line.
“Then, for the kind of touchdown that decorates a story, the sophomore quarterback and defending national champion pretended to tuck in the ball to run, something he had done 16 times for 107 sorely needed yards – including a 67-yard touchdown stomp before halftime – then looked up and threw. It went a short way to monster running back Travis Etienne, who blasted the last 25 yards or so for another touchdown for a dynasty’s gathering collection of moments, while giving Etienne a team-leading 98 yards on three receptions.
“ ‘Whatever it takes to win,’ Lawrence said on the field afterward.
“Ohio State wound up as both great and sad and set to cringe for as long as memories allow. The Buckeyes led 16-0 early on and 23-21 after a masterful 84-yard drive from pilot Justin Fields, whose 23-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave came on fourth-and-one and 11:46 from the end. they also killed off almost seven minutes from the 9:59 mark to the 3:07 mark on their next possession, before punting. They also moved 52 more yards through the gasping final two minutes to both the Clemson 23-yard line and the frayed nerve endings of 71,330.
“On a second down with 43 seconds left, Fields threw down the middle to the end zone, with Olave zigzagging left in what Fields called a basic miscommunication. The ball flew toward nowhere until safety Nolan Turner ran across and intercepted it, Fields’ second interception of the night and his third across 14 long games of late summer, fall and early winter.”
So now Clemson and Dabo Swinney are headed back to the national championship for the fourth time in five years, Monday, Jan. 13, vs. No. 1 LSU. It’s another delicious matchup.
--Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, whose daughter-in-law was one of five killed in a plane crash on her way to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl.
--In other games of note...as in the only ones remotely worth mentioning...
10 Penn State assured itself a position in the final AP top 10 with a solid 53-39 win over 17 Memphis (12-2), the Nittany Lions finished up 11-2. Journey Brown rushed for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Memphis was down 28-13 but fought back to 45-39 midway through the fourth before Penn State clinched it with a 75-yard TD drive.
15 Notre Dame finished 11-2, 33-9 winners over Iowa State (7-6). The Fighting Irish deserved a better opponent.
Boy, my Wake Forest Demon Deacons laid an egg of major proportions in the second half of their Pinstripe Bowl contest against Michigan State. Wake was rolling on offense in the first half, up 21-20 at the intermission with Jamie Newman throwing three touchdowns, the Deacs with 250 yards of offense.
And then the Spartans (7-6) shut them down in the second half, Wake held scoreless, only 101 yards from scrimmage, MSU winning 27-21. Just a terrible way to end an otherwise solid 8-5 season.
Newman missed a ton of throws, and it also looked like the Deacs weren’t wearing the right shoes, slipping far more on the Yankee Stadium turf than the Spartans.
Anyway, Wake should be OK next year and hopefully gets its fifth straight bowl bid.
Also Friday, North Carolina completed a highly-successful, if not incredibly frustrating, first season under Mack Brown, 55-13 winners over Temple (8-5). The Tar Heels finished 7-6, after going 2-9 and 3-9 the prior two seasons, but each of UNC’s six losses was by seven points or less, including that now infamous 21-20 loss to Clemson.
The Tar Heels’ future is bright, with freshman quarterback Sam Howell, a big-time NFL prospect already, having a superb first year, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
One program on the decline, on the other hand, is 22 USC (8-5), embarrassing 49-24 losers to 16 Iowa (10-3). Embarrassing not because the Hawkeyes are bad...they sure aren’t...but the Trojans are supposed to be upholding a storied tradition, and now, after retaining head coach Clay Helton, inexplicably, Helton 13-12 his last two seasons, the future looks worse than bleak.
The game was the Trojans’ worst bowl loss since 1948. It also heightened the anxiety over USC’s season opener next Sept. 5...against Alabama in Texas.
Thursday, Pitt (8-5) defeated Eastern Michigan (6-7) 34-30, a game that is notable only for the end of the contest, when EMU quarterback Mike Glass III punched two Pitt players and then accidentally punched the referee. Another Eagles player was ejected for spitting on a Pitt player, the Panthers keeping their cool when they needed to.
It was Pitt’s first bowl win after four losses, but the season was emblematic of the last ten, the Panthers with records of 5-7 to 8-5 during that period, the program stuck in neutral for far too long.
Tuesday, Hawaii improved to 10-5 with a 38-34 win over BYU (7-6), notable for Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald’s passing effort, 28/46, 493, 4-0. McDonald could be a high pick in the 2021 draft assuming he has a strong senior campaign.
Actually, he hasn’t made up his mind yet and he still might go out next spring.
--We note the passing of hall of fame football coach, Hayden Fry, who revived the University of Iowa’s flagging program, leading the team to three Big Ten championships and three Rose Bowls during his 20-year career. Fry was 90.
When Fry took over the Iowa program in 1979, the Hawkeyes were coming off 17 consecutive losing seasons. He went 5-6 and 4-7 his first two years before guiding Iowa to 10 AP final top 25 rankings in the next 16 seasons.
Fry’s greatest season was 1985, when the Hawkeyes were No. 1 for five weeks and had the Heisman Trophy runner-up Chuck Long at quarterback, Iowa finishing 10-2, Big Ten champions, and ranked 10th. Unfortunately, as was the case in 1985, Fry’s three Rose Bowl teams all lost in the Granddaddy of them all.
--We now know it’s Tennessee at New England next wildcard weekend, Buffalo at Houston in the AFC, after the Patriots blew it, losing 27-24 at home to Miami (5-11). Tom Brady was again so-so, 16/29, 221, 2-1, 88.4.
The Pats are playing in the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009, plus they’ve never made it to the Super Bowl starting in this fashion.
Give Miami credit, as Ryan Fitzpatrick engineered a 75-yard drive at the end of the game for the win, FitzMagic leading Miami to a 5-4 record after starting out 0-7. The dude has no doubt earned a contract somewhere next year. He’s the perfect backup.
But the Dolphins won’t be getting Joe Burrow.
--Burrow is in Cincinatti’s pocket, the Bengals with the No. 1 pick, finishing 2-14 after defeating Cleveland today, 33-23, Browns coach Freddie Kitchens fired immediately after, the Brownies a dreadful 6-10 after most experts pegged them as a potential Super Bowl contender.
--But back to New England having to play in a wildcard game, the Chiefs clinched the bye with the Patriots’ loss by beating the Chargers (5-11) 31-21; K.C. finishing 12-4.
--Tennessee earned the right to travel to New England with a 35-14 win over the Texans (10-6), whose slot was locked up. Derrick Henry had a monster game for the Titans, 32-211-3 on the ground. What a year he has had. The Pats are in deep trouble next weekend.
--Pittsburgh before today needed to beat the Ravens and have Tennessee lose to get the wildcard slot, but even as Baltimore rested Lamar Jackson, having earned the No. 1 seed, the Steelers still couldn’t do it, 28-10 losers, as it is rather clear quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges is not the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger; Hodges 9/25, 95, 47.9. Eegads, that sucks....regardless of the awful weather throughout much of the eastern half of the country today.
--Meanwhile, Buffalo (11-5) lost to the Jets (7-9), knowing they were already in the playoffs, and ended up earning a trip to Houston next weekend, which is fine with the Bills.
The Jets finished up 6-2 after a 1-7 start and I do have to give credit to defensive coordinator Greg Williams.
But this was another sub-.500 season, and another year of playing ‘what if....’ Had quarterback Sam Darnold not had his ruptured spleen issue, there is no doubt the Jets could have been 9-7 and in the hunt.
Then again, as Tony Soprano would have said, ‘whaddya gonna do.’ Tonight it’s all irrelevant.
--In the NFC, the Eagles (9-7) won the East, 34-17 over the Giants, who finish 4-12. No doubt New York coach Pat Shurmur will be fired by the time many of you read this.
Philly earned the right to host a wildcard game, while Dallas (8-8) needed an Eagles loss. The Cowboys did their part, albeit way too late, beating the Redskins (3-13) 47-16.
Dallas finished the season 8-0 when leading at halftime, but 0-8 when trailing at the intermission. Jason Garrett is no doubt gone, probably tomorrow.
--Green Bay finished 13-3, kind of shockingly, with a 23-20 win over Detroit (3-12-1). I mean the Pack just hasn’t been that good this season.
--New Orleans also finished 13-3 with a 42-10 win over Carolina (5-11).
--Minnesota already knew it had earned the 6-seed, so it rested Kirk Cousins, the Vikings losing to Chicago (8-8) 21-19.
I do have to note since my last post that in losing to Green Bay last Monday night, Cousins is 0-9 on MNF.
--And I have to note Tampa Bay’s loss to Atlanta in overtime, the Bucs’ Jameis Winston throwing a deciding pick-six to Falcons linebacker Deion Jones, both teams finishing 7-9.
It was Winston’s 30th INT, the most since Vinny Testaverde’s 35 in 1988, also for Tampa Bay, while also becoming just the eighth QB to pass for over 5,000 yards in a season. But he is the first to ever throw for 30 touchdowns (33) and 30 interceptions.
And he had a startling seven pick-sixes this season, as well as 24 INTs at home! Yikes.
Winston’s contract is up and Coach Bruce Arians was certainly acting after the game as if Jameis’ stint with the Bucs was over.
--We’ve gone through a quiet patch in the schedule, but after Kentucky had fallen to No. 19 in the AP poll, the Wildcats beat 3 Louisville on Saturday, 78-70.
But then today, 22 West Virginia (11-1) upset 2 Ohio State (11-2) in Columbus, 67-59. Great win for coach Bob Huggins, a favorite of mine.
The season doesn’t heat up again until next weekend and then it’s nothing but action through March.
Gonzaga became the sixth team to hit No. 1 in the AP Top 25 this past week and could stay there for a while.
--Christmas Day I watched a bit of each of four of the games, and you had some important contests. The Clippers handed the suddenly struggling Lakers their fourth straight loss, 121-106, the Clippers moving to 23-10, the Lakers 24-7. Kawhi Leonard showed everyone who was boss, 35 points and 12 rebounds.
Boston said, ‘Hey, don’t forget about us’ in whipping the Raptors (21-10) in Toronto, 118-102, the Celtics 21-7.
And the 76ers went to 23-10 with a very impressive 121-109 win over the Bucks (27-5) as Philadelphia hit 21 of 44 from three, Joel Embiid with 31 points and 11 rebounds.
But then on Friday, the 76ers inexplicably lost to the Magic (14-17) 98-97 in Orlando. Just another example of the 76ers playing down to their competition.
--Saturday, the Lakers snapped their losing streak, 128-120 at Portland, as LeBron shook off a nagging groin injury to score 21 and dish out 16 assist.
Toronto got its revenge against the Celtics in Boston, 113-97, Kyle Lowry with 30.
The surprising Miami Heat (24-8) beat the 76ers 117-116 in Philly.
In a 141-121 win over the Warriors, Luka Doncic had a rather solid effort, 31-12-15, in his second game back from injury.
And the Utah Jazz (20-12) beat the Clippers 120-107.
--So entering Sunday’s play, teams 10 games over .500....
Anyone of these ten can take it all.
--This idea of an in-season tournament featuring all 30 teams is, in the words of Dallas owner Mark Cuban, “so dumb.”
The New York Times’ Marc Stein first reported that NBA teams were sent a memo, “detailing a proposed $15 million pot for the championship team and $1.5 million for a winning coaching staff, ‘incentives for teams and fans’ were listed as ‘to be determined.’
No doubt the NBA is beginning to panic, as its ratings on ESPN and TNT through mid-December were down a sizable 15 percent compared with last year, and the idea of an in-season tournament is meant to inject excitement into the regular season schedule.
But Commissioner Adam Silver told the Washington Post the other day, “I’m not surprised that our ratings are down thus far. I’m not concerned, either....We’re up in attendance over a record-setting high from last year. Social media engagement remains in the magnitude of 1.6 billion people on a global basis....Our merchandising sales are up.”
Numerous early-season games, however, failed to average at least 1 million viewers, a benchmark for success. By contrast, NFL ratings are up.
To be fair to the NBA, it hasn’t helped that the Golden State Warriors, the premier ratings driver in recent years, lost Kevin Durant to free agency and Klay Thompson to a knee injury, and then Steph Curry to a broken hand and sit at 9-25.
And it hasn’t helped that No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson has yet to play due to a knee injury. Williamson’s Pelicans were slated to appear on TNT, ESPN or NBA TV in 11 of their first 20 games had Williamson been playing. The Pelicans are a notch ahead of the Warriors at 10-23.
And it hasn’t helped that the New York Knicks are 9-24 after going 17-65 last season and sucking wind for two decades. The league needs a good team in the Garden.
But the NBA has a nine-year, $24 billion combined domestic media rights deal with ESPN and Turner that commenced in 2014 and it’s critical revenue.
As the Washington Post’s Ben Golliver put it: “The NBA’s future media strategy is slowly beginning to unfold: It must reduce its reliance on cable television as a distribution method while growing its presence on streaming platforms, mobile devices and tablets and by delving into related sectors with crossover potential such as sports gambling, video games and virtual reality.
“ ‘The league needs to think about how it expands its audience for live games after teaching a generation to watch highlights instead of the game itself,’ LightShed Partners media analyst Rich Greenfield said.”
MLB...catching up since last chat....
--One of the final top-tier free agents left on the market, N.L. ERA champion Hyun-Jin Ryu, signed a four-year, $80 million contract with the Blue Jays. This is a risky move. Ryu enjoyed his healthiest season in 2019, 182 2/3 innings, 2.32 ERA, finishing second to the Mets’ Jacob deGrom in the Cy Young race.
But he does have an injury history, so here’s hoping for Toronto’s sake that Ryu stays healthy.
--The White Sox signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year, $12 million contract. He had 34 home runs in 109 games for Seattle and the Yankees last season, and has now hit 30+ eight straight seasons, 414 for his career. Another good move by the ChiSox, who I’m liking more and more as the surprise team of 2020.
--The Mets signed four-time All-Star reliever Dellin Betances to a one-year deal worth $10.5 million, with incentives for appearances. Injury issues kept him out almost all of last season, but this is a guy who has 621 strikeouts in 381 2/3 career innings, 2.36 ERA.
Much like the Mets’ signings of starters Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, this is another low-risk, high-reward move.
--Voting members for the Hall of Fame have to get their ballots in by Dec. 31, with the results announced Jan. 21.
So the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner had a piece this weekend on the candidacy of Larry Walker, who is on the ballot for a final time. Last year his vote total climbed to 54.6 percent, and this year’s public ballots thus far suggest he will pass the required 75 percent, which shows you how voters are reassessing his career.
Yes, as Kepner readily admits, he benefited from Coors Field, where he hit .381with an otherworldly 1.172 OPS. But he was no chump on the road, .278 BA, .865 OPS (he was .348 BA at home overall, including his years in Montreal).
Walker slammed 383 home runs, drove in 1,311, hit .313, .965 OPS, was an MVP, won three batting titles, 7 Gold Gloves...pretty, pretty good.
Well with only Derek Jeter a sure thing this go ‘round, Walker has a shot, while all other eyes are on the vote totals for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
I won’t be upset if Walker gets in. I can’t imagine too many would be.
The crush is in full swing, with clubs playing three games in a week, between Boxing Day and New Year’s.
What is eminently clear, though, as we hit the halfway point in the season, is Liverpool is on its way to the title, 13 points clear (game in hand), which is insurmountable.
Consider for 2019, the Reds lost one league game and are on a 35-game unbeaten run.
Boxing Day, they whipped second-place Leicester City 4-0, the biggest margin of victory in a meeting between teams starting the day in the top two positions since then leaders Manchester City won 6-1 at Manchester United in October 2011.
Liverpool finished up Boxing Day with the joint-highest lead any team has had – on a par with Man U’s advantage in 1993-94, when they went on to become champions.
And they won the Champions League last May, and recently won the FIFA Club World Cup.
But their sights are set on that first Premier League title in 30 years and it’s a lock.
I won’t go through all the games of the past four days, but I watched eight hours of action on Boxing Day, great entertainment, and thankfully my Tottenham Spurs pulled out a 2-1 win over Brighton. But then Saturday, they had to struggle to gain a draw with last-place Norwich City, not good.
Leicester City rebounded from the Liverpool ass-whoopin' with a 2-1 road win at West Ham.
Then Friday, Man City officially signed off in terms of any hope they had at defending their PL title, 3-2 losers at Wolverhampton.
One other story that merits attention...that of Everton, which beat Burnley 1-0 and then Newcastle 2-1 the last four days, two for two for new manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Just two weeks ago it looked like Everton and its long history might be tumbling toward relegation. Now they are back up to tenth. Good for them. [Years ago when I visited the crash site where Buddy Holly and others went down, outside Clear Lake, Iowa, an Everton fan had left their scarf hanging on the fence...one of those little things I’ll never forget.]
Today, Liverpool beat the Wolves 1-0, Chelsea came back with two goals late (83’, 87’) to defeat Arsenal, 2-1, and Man City beat a luckless Sheffield, 2-0.
So the standings after this weekend, with more action to come New Year’s Day (and Jan. 2)....
Played / Points
1. Liverpool 19 – 55*
2. Leicester City 20 – 42
3. Man City 20 – 41
4. Chelsea 20 – 35...Champion League line
5. Man U 20 – 31
6. Tottenham 20 – 30
7. Wolves 20 – 30
17. West Ham 19 – 19...relegation line
18. Aston Villa 20 – 18
19. Watford 20 – 16
20. Norwich 20 - 13
*As the fellow doing the Boxing Day match with Leicester City for NBCSN put it, “Liverpool is collecting points on an industrial scale.”
The current world’s greatest athlete (you come up with someone better), Mikaela Shiffrin, won a giant slalom and slalom at Lienz, Austria, this weekend.
The slalom win was her 43rd career World Cup win in that discipline, tying the 43 downhill wins Lindsey Vonn had before retiring last season, the WC record for a woman in a single discipline – although Shiffrin is still 18 victories shy of Vonn’s overall women’s mark of 82.
But Shiffrin is just 24!!! Simply staggering! I respect the hell out of her. I told my dinner guests tonight what I’ve told you many times before...I respect skiers and auto racers more than any other athletes.
I do have to mention that on the men’s side this weekend, Italian Dominik Paris won two downhill races at his native Bormio, Italy, the second race due to a previous cancellation on the circuit. That’s way cool.
--We note the passing of radio shock-jock pioneer Don Imus, 79. When I was a kid growing up in the New York area, I listened to WOR-AM, “Rambling with Gambling,” or WABC-AM, the big oldies station then, and really didn’t pick up on Imus until after my college years. But he would become a staple for me, especially from about 1987-2007, when I was either traveling in my territory or my long commute to Stamford, Conn., and then when I started StocksandNews, watching his show on television.
Imus was certainly one of a kind, on the air for 50 years, his career beginning way back in 1968, Imus retiring in 2018.
The former railroad worker and uranium miner, who never finished college, began his career in California and Ohio, before coming to New York in 1971 to join WNBC.
But in what would be one of many setbacks, he was fired for drug and alcohol abuse in 1977, only to return a few years later stronger than ever.
Imus moved to WFAN in 1988, the otherwise fledgling sports radio station, and his show became nationally syndicated in 1993.
Imus could speak to any topic, sports, politics, entertainment – pioneering a style of in-your-face radio now commonplace on America’s airwaves.
In the 1990s, Imus began expanding his repertoire, adding interviews with notable politicians, musicians and journalists – but he never lost his edge, routinely calling Dick Cheney a “war criminal” and Hillary Clinton “Satan.” Oprah Winfrey was “a fat phony,” Newt Gingrich “a man who would eat roadkill,” Ted Kennedy “a fat slob,” and Rush Limbaugh “a drug-addicted gas bag.”
In 1996, Imus enraged guests at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner by cracking jokes about Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs while the then-first lady sat just feet away.
“The I-Man" was often in trouble, getting fired at least four times over the course of his career.
The long ‘beginning of the end’ for Imus, in terms of my own listenership, was in 2007, when he lost his spot on WFAN and the TV gig on MSNBC after describing Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy headed hos.”
Senator Barack Obama, who was running for president, called for Imus’ removal. “He didn’t just cross the line,” Obama said. “He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America.”
He would be hired later that year by WABC and continue his career, and then his radio show was simulcast on the Fox Business Network from 2009 to 2015, but I had frankly lost interest by then and was mostly watching other stuff in the morning. To some of us, Imus lost his edge with the Rutgers situation.
Imus did help make folks like Mike Lupica, Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd household names, and one big sports broadcaster, Mike Breen, owes Imus everything for the freedom he allowed him while doing the sportscasts on The I-Man's program, which let the nation get acquainted with Breen’s personality and sense of humor, even if it was controversial at times as Breen was also doing Knicks’ broadcasts, which he still does as well as his national hoops responsibilities. Imus could not have been more supportive of his career move.
Mike Lupica / New York Daily News
“He worked without a net for nearly 50 years, on WNBC and then on WFAN and finally WABC.
“WFAN was another place where he changed everything. It was an all-sports station before he got there. Just not between six and 10. That was Imus’ time, and space. He showed up there and before long the station was the No. 1 billing in America. It wasn’t because the other guys were giving the scores, or telling you what they thought of George Steinbrenner
“People of a certain age remember him best from his years at WFAN. But you had to be listening in the 70s and the 80s when he was at WNBC, one of the iconic places of all time on a radio dial. HIs studio was like one large, permissive room. One day Howard Cosell came walking in when I was in the studio with Don and his longtime sidekick Charles McCord. Then the old basketball player Daryl Dawkins showed up. Somehow it was as if they’d all been working together the way Imus and McCord did. And was all funny as hell.
“In 1983, after the Russians shot down a Korean Air flight, Imus went down one morning and took down the Russian flag from the array of flags at Rockefeller Center. Then he went on the air and said, ‘I’ll give the Commies back their flag when they apologize for shooting innocent people out of the sky.’....
“Early one morning he called women’s basketball players at Rutgers ‘nappy-headed hos.’ It was mean and stupid and wrong and he knew it. In a week, he was gone from WFAN and gone from television. There is no intent here to give him a pass on that, as part of the rhetoric of death. He always knew it was going to be high up in his obituary. And it is.
“But he was more than that, the way people are so often better than their worst public moments. He doesn’t get a pass for what he said about those basketball players. But he also raised millions of dollars for kids with cancer. He started the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He won four Marconi Awards, the radio equivalent of an Oscar in Hollywood. And he did something else, during the first Gulf War: For better or worse, he made politics entertaining on the radio. Suddenly he was having guests on his show like Bill Bradley and John McCain. Around all the jokes and smart-ass, Imus was now doing a morning radio show as smart as there was, here or anywhere else....
“More than anything, the guy who called himself an old cowboy was on all those mornings, all the way back to WNBC. Those mornings weren’t the same before he got to town, and were never the same after he left. It was one of the most famous broadcast voices of them all, quiet now for good.”
--Lee Mendelson, the producer who guided “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to television, died on Christmas Day, age 86.
Son Jason Mendelson said, “It is a terrible feeling...but as he would have put it, it was serendipitous to go on Christmas Day – a day when the song that he wrote was playing every 10 minutes on radio stations.”
Mendelson also wrote “Christmastime Is Here.”
What’s clear is that without his efforts, “Peanuts” never would have endured all these years on the small screen. It was Lee Mendelson who convinced a skeptical Charles Schulz to adapt his beloved characters for television.
Mendelson said he pitched a movie about Schulz’s life and the creation of the “Peanuts” comic strip. At the end of the conversation, Mendelson added that he had made a documentary about Willie Mays, the baseball great whom Schulz loved. That show had become a hit on NBC. There was a pause.
“Well,” said Schulz, “if Willie Mays can trust you with his life, maybe I can trust you with mine.”
I have a lot on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in my annual Christmas special, but it is amazing to think that in 1965, when the show debuted in 1965, 45% of the TVs in use that night tuned in to the program, according to Nielsen.
--Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in a wildfire-ravaged area north of Sydney, Australia, further diminishing the nation’s iconic marsupial.
The mid-north coast of New South Wales was home to as many as 28,000 koalas, but wildfires in the area in recent months (which continued this weekend) have significantly reduced their population.
Environment Minister Susan Ley told the Australian Broadcasting Corp., “Up to 30% of their habitat has been destroyed.”
--Finally, we note the passing of Fausta, an eastern black rhino thought to be the oldest in the world, who died in Tanzania, age 57.
Fausta was first sighted in the Ngorongoro crater in 1965 when she was three. She roamed the crater freely for more than 54 years, but health issues in her old age required her to spend her final few years receiving specialist care in a sanctuary.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/27/75: #1 “Let’s Do It Again” (The Staple Singers) #2 “Saturday Night” (Bay City Rollers...not quite the ‘next Beatles,’ as none other than Howard Cosell promoted...) #3 “That’s The Way (I Like It)” (KC & The Sunshine Band)...and...#4 “Love Rollercoaster” (Ohio Players) #5 “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know...)” (Diana Ross) #6 “I Write The Songs” (Barry Manilow) #7 “Convoy” (C.W. McCall) #8 “Fox On The Run” (Sweet) #9 “Fly, Robin, Fly” (Silver Convention...yup, disco was coming...ugh...) #10 “I Love Music” (O’Jays... ‘C’ week, at best....)
NHL Quiz Answer: Seven with 700 career goals (including WHA careers).
Wayne Gretzky 894
Gordie Howe 801
Jaromir Jagr 766
Brett Hull 741
Marcel Dionne 731
Phil Esposito 717
Mike Gartner 708
Mark Messier 694
Steve Yzerman 692
Mario Lemieux 690
Teemu Selanne 684
Alex Ovechkin 682
Next Bar Chat, Thursday....the annual Bar Chat Awards.