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The Athletes Speak Out
***Next Bar Chat not until Monday p.m., Sept. 7***
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Arizona Wildcats Quiz: In honor of the passing of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson, name five players from his 1996-97 team that won the national title. Answer below.
Note: Friends, this is Bar Chat No. 2,317…the first one being Feb. 22, 1999. The first few years I did three a week but they were much shorter. I was also younger and more productive.
But just as is the case with that other column I do, the one like no other for covering the entire world…geopolitics and global financial markets every single week since 1999, Bar Chat has covered the world of sports and culture in the same fashion.
Think of it, I have virtually covered Tiger Woods' entire career in great detail. I covered the steroids story in baseball. Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams, Tom Brady’s full career, college football and basketball in great detail for over two decades.
All the time giving you opinion from both sides when it came to the major controversies that came along, or just a retelling of greatness.
Many a time I have gone outside the traditional realm of just being a reporter, as Ed Hardin talks about below. You have been along for the ride on my many travels, which is probably the most book-worthy material I have. You have been in the bars and pubs of the world (much to the chagrin of my parents)…you have been to China and Russia, Turkey and Lebanon, multiple times…You have been to the DMZ, Micronesia (where I built a church), New Zealand, and the single stupidest trip I ever took, to Paraguay. Along the way I have given you many a history lesson, as well.
But today, we are a divided nation. As I write in my “Week in Review” column, we hate each other. These next seven weeks are going to suck. And after Nov. 3, we may hate each other more.
So I understand that a lot of you don’t want to read about social injustice and protests that have now enveloped the sports world.
At the same time, because of my life experiences, especially in the people I’ve met, learning about different cultures and being a student of history, I never suffered fools gladly. I have also never trafficked in disinformation. If you don’t like the following…so be it. I don’t need new friends at this stage in my life.
It’s also a good time, calendar-wise, to take a brief break.
For now, the following column by Mr. Hardin echoes my feelings. Ed is a good friend of our Phil W., my great friend from Wake Forest (via New Jersey). When Phil had to deal with immense tragedy in his life a few years ago, Ed was there to offer his total support, and then help get out what was a big story in North Carolina (and over time will be nationally). As I read columnists from around the country, Ed is also as good as they come.
See you in a week.
Social Injustice and Today’s Athletes
Ed Hardin / Greensboro News & Record
“Sometimes just opening my emails can cause migraines.
“So I heard from a few of my readers this week. Seems not all of them are on the same page as the athletes across the country who are expressing their outrage, supporting their teammates and making history.
“Sticking to sports got a lot harder the past few days, and judging from the comments from my peers and colleagues, sports columnists are now targets.
“The news that spilled out of the NBA bubble on Wednesday swept across the sports spectrum like a tidal wave, even slipping into golf, sort of, and NASCAR, which has already had a season of introspection. I’ve been reading emails from race fans for months now. Almost none of them are signed.
“Mr. Hardin, I’ve been reading your articles for years and I usually like what you have to say. But this Bubba Wallace stuff is too much for me. He owes me and ever (sic) race fan around an apology. THAT WAS NOT A NOOSE! – unsigned.
“Yes, unsigned, it was.
“Stock-car fans have been feeling what many in America are just now coming to terms with. The world is changing around us, and it’s for the good. Some people just won’t accept that. They see the social movements across the country and equate them to attacks from foreign adversaries.
“These are our neighbors who are in the streets. Granted, there are those coming out at night with ill intentions. But the movement is about being heard and respected. Everything on the periphery is garbage. And that includes my fan mail.
“WOW, loved your article about the career criminal killed in Wisconsin by the police. The article stated he was walking to his car when he was shot. Uh, did you leave anything out? I guess if you wrote an article about a tragic day concerning our 16th President, you would say, ‘President Lincoln and his wife went to the theater for the evening.’ – fp
“I didn’t write an article about Jacob Blake, fp. But can you say his name?
“The column was about how athletes are going to be empowered now to speak out and effect change, not just in sports but in all of society. Again, this is something some people simply cannot handle.
“While some of the messages were just screeds from people with racist ideologies, others were well-thought-out and reasoned.
“Hi Ed. I still think you’re a good sports writer when you stick to sports, but when you venture into medicine and politics it’s not something most sports fans want to hear, or that you are particularly well-qualified to write about. Nor do I think the political opinions of talented and wealthy, but self-centered and mostly uneducated athletes need to be forced on the rest of us, who simply do not care or, often, vehemently disagree. – Don.
“Thanks Don. I agree that this new world is going to be hard on some of us. I didn’t wake up Wednesday thinking I was going to be writing about NBA players striking for political and societal change in America. I had already written a column about UNC football and was on my boat when I got a call from my editor.
“Everything changed Wednesday.
“Not writing about it with everything swirling around us would be to ignore what’s right in front of us. No matter what you believe or how you were raised or the color of your skin, you have to agree that there’s a segment of our society that has been treated unfairly, disgustingly so, for more than 400 years.
“We are going to listen to them. That’s only fair.
“YOU ARE ENTITLED TO YOUR OPINION, BUT NOT YOUR OWN FACTS. AND YOU ARE A REPORTER, NOT AN OPINION BOBBLE HEAD, CORRECT? WELL SOMETIMES YOUR COLUMNS ARE OPINION PIECES. SO DESIGNATE THEM AS SUCH.
“When you see my mug attached to a newspaper story, that’s an opinion column. And don’t yell at me.
“IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS ANYONE WHO REFUSED AN ORDER TO STOP BY A COP OR RESISTED ARREST, A FELONY, THE POLICE WERE ALLOWED TO USE LETHAL FORCE. SADLY THAT RULE IS NOW GONE.
“Yeah, that’s not true. In the ‘good old days,’ my best friend’s mom was a police officer, my Little League coach was a police officer, and one of the men I coached basketball with was a police officer. They didn’t shoot people. That’s a recent phenomenon. That’s what this is all about. You get that, don’t you?
“WE ARE SICK OF LIBERALS IN MEDIA AND ACADEMICS BEING CLUELESS HYPOCRITES AND LIARS AND BRAINWASHERS AND PANDERING WEASELS. SICK OF YOU ALL.
“WE ARE SICK OF SO CALLED TEACHERS BEING INDOCTRINATION NAZIS. SICK OF CONSERVATIVES BEING UNINVITED INTO TEACHING PROFESSION AND RUN OFF. SICK OF LIBERALISM. THE DISEASE OF THE MIND.
“YOU WILL GET FASCIM. YOU WILL DESERVE FASCISM. -unsigned.
“OK, I think your 15 seconds is up, whoever you are.
“The sickness is real. It’s pervasive and it’s contagious. And in this new world of social media, everyone has a voice, some in uppercase.
“Those of us in the so-called mainstream media, we are not your enemy. I’ve covered news during my career. I’ve covered politics. I was on the cop beat early on. Now I write sports columns. And you know what? It feels the same whether I’m in Cameron Indoor Stadium or in the Forsyth County Courthouse covering a trial. When I was covering news, we mostly talked about sports in our downtime. Now that I’m in sports, we mostly talk about the news.
“Your (sic) pathetic Hardin. Nobody cares what you think. Your (sic) not a doctor. Your (sic) just a sports writer who hate (sic) sports. Stop writing about the so called virus and your politics. Your just bias. – unsigned.
“Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for reaching out. My family has just found out in recent days that my mom, my uncle and my aunt all have tested positive for coronavirus. I’ll be checking out for a while.
“Pray for them. Pray for all of us. And keep those cards and letters coming.
Howard Bryant / ESPN.com
“The United States has come apart, its reckoning regarding the police’s disproportionate use of violence toward its Black citizens sharply pronounced in sports because of its influential Black population and the industry’s reaction to their Black advocacy, emblematic by (Colin) Kaepernick’s banishment but also by the hostile climate surrounding them.
“Underneath it all – the passive-aggressive questions about what walking out will prove, how people will never, ever watch the NBA again – is threat, questions less in search of illumination but designed to diminish the players, to question their authenticity and disavow them of any thought of self-determination. There is no citizenship beneath their tank tops, and even less humanity. You’re here to entertain us. No, you’re literally here to entertain us. That’s your job.
“Underneath that layer of threat is more threat, which is to say you better be grateful there are people willing to watch, because if we don’t watch, you’re back to being nothing. The message is, of course, to remind these Black players of how precarious their positions are, to let them know in case they forgot how thin the margin is, that one misstep, injury or arrest, backtalk or protest can put you back there with the rest. Never forget who you owe.
“Yet everyone in America knows what the players are feeling right now, because they have felt it themselves, when the pain that lives down deep rises up and paralyzes them – body, heart, mind – and playing a game really doesn’t matter. Nothing feels like it matters. We remember that from Sept. 11. We remember that from the Boston Marathon bombing. We remember that when family and the closest people to us die. We remember that when the constant racism breaks our hearts, and then our backs. Going to work doesn’t matter. It simply isn’t that important. There is no doubt many people have felt it during the more hopeless moments of the coronavirus pandemic, where it is difficult to see a future around the corner….
“In the weeks of reckoning since the death of George Floyd, a sneaking belief grew in prominence that the moment had become co-opted, performative, corporatized. The image of Jacob Blake being shot seven times in the back provided a reminder that this is not a branding opportunity.
“The result is a group of predominantly Black men and women who have decided to tie the rhetoric into a primary demand: They will be allowed to be admired for their wondrous athletic gifts, but accompanying those gifts is their humanity. They do not exist solely for the entertainment of the public, especially a white public that often seems to thrive on diminishing Black pain. As a job, yes, the players provide entertainment. As people, no. This is the bargain. The accumulation of what is happening to Black people in this country is real, coming at a real cost. The pain is real. The responsibility is real.
“And within those realities, the players’ refusal to play has changed the deal. Unlike 2014 [Ed. the Donald Sterling situation] and the years that followed, the players have sent a message: For a public that expects performance while being indifferent or hostile to the bodies that live inside the jerseys, they will be seen in full dimension, or, sometimes, not at all.”
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“In the end, NBA players chose not to detonate their season and their livelihood. They resisted setting an example that could have created a cataclysmic American sports avalanche. They will play again. Frivolity and diversion survived.
“Exhale, sigh or scream in anger. Just don’t be lulled into a sense of relief because, in this climate, that can be only an ephemeral feeling. The games continue, but the discomfort will intensify.
“It’s too early to determine the exact legacy of the NBA players’ unified protest against racial injustice and their decision to skip playoff games for multiple days. Time and history will sort out all of the specifics. But there is one theme that already rings out, and it further complicates the roiling conflict between sports and society.
“There is a new standard of civil disobedience. The repercussions for ignoring athletes’ concerns have risen to an unprecedented level. It’s uncomfortable and, for some, infuriating. But this is where we are: A precedent has been set that amends the playbook of purposeful defiance.
“In sports, precedents are explosive. Copycat tendencies are prevalent. I don’t know if we will ever see a league refuse to play specifically for social justice again. But for all matters in which athletes feel people aren’t listening, this tactic is now in their repertoire. And there’s a possibility the strength of such resistance could be enhanced….
“For the second time in less than six months, something stopped that hamster wheel. One day, there will be a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, and the issue of excessive police force won’t be so prominent. But suffering and inequality will never end, and neither will indifference to them.
“It is inevitable that those things will keep diminishing the playfulness of sports. We are left with three options: Leave in a huff. Bark aimlessly for the preservation of ignorance. Or assuage the concerns of these sports figures, supposedly beloved, no longer willing to compromise their humanity.”
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll spoke out Saturday, calling on other coaches to use their platforms to speak out against social justice, while stressing the need to vote in November and for white people to finally listen to the people of color around them.
“This is about racism in America that white people don’t know. They don’t know enough. And they need to be coached up and they need to be educated about what the heck is going on in this world.”
Carroll said when “white guys came over from Europe” they had a “great idea” about freedom and equality for all that has never come to fruition.
“That’s not what happened because we went down this other road here – follow the economics and rich white guys making money,” he said. “And they put together a system of slavery.
“And we’ve never left it, really. It’s never gone away. And the really amazing thing that I’ve learned is Black people know the truth. They know exactly what’s going on. It’s white people that don’t know.”
Carroll called on his fellow coaches in the conservative National Football League to step up to combat racism.
“Let’s step up. No more being quiet. No more being afraid to talk to topics. No more, you know, I might lose my job over this, because I’ve taken a stand here. Screw it.”
--The league and the players issued a joint statement on Friday after players refused to play games for two days (following Wednesday’s walkout), the two sides reaching agreement for new efforts aimed at achieving social betterment and attacking racial injustices.
The NBA and NBPA announced three commitments, including one to commit to turning arenas the teams own into voting centers.
As well, the league, players and broadcast partners will work on developing advertisements promoting “greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.”
“We understand how strong our voice is, how powerful our voice is,” said Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul, the president of the NBPA. “And ultimately we decided that if we go away from this stage, we don’t necessarily have that same platform. So, we stood in solidarity. We’re going to continue to play. But we’re also going to continue to make sure that our voices are heard. We’re about action.”
“The shootings that continue to happen, it creates a lot of unrest, a whole lot of unrest,” Paul said. “For us to have a predominantly African-American league, to see our black brothers shot and killed on a daily basis, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to us.”
“Everyone expects us to go out and play; I get it. But we needed some time. All of us. We needed some time to refocus and understand that we can do that. We’re human at the end of the day.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said: “The key to this thing is that I think we all needed to take a breath. We needed a moment to breathe. It’s not been lost on me that George Floyd didn’t get that moment. But we did. And we took it. And the players took it, and they got to refocus on the things that they wanted to focus on outside of their jobs.”
--President Trump said on Friday that what he viewed as political activity by the NBA would destroy the sport. “I think what they’re doing to the NBA in particular is gonna destroy basketball,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One. He said it would be “threatening” to the NBA.
Trump said people did not want to be confronted with politics when watching sports. “It’s very bad for the NBA, and it’s gonna prove to be very bad for football.”
Trump rebuked all professional sports athletes and teams for canceling games to protest racial injustice.
“You know when you watch sports, you want to relax, but this is a whole different world,” Trump said.
--We did start play again Saturday, and the Lakers completed their series against the Trail Blazers, Portland without the injured Damian Lillard, L.A. taking care of business 131-122 to win the series 4-1. LeBron James with a triple double, 36-10-10, and Anthony Davis with 43 points. The Lakers are unbeatable if these two can keep it going. No doubt LeBron is motivated, it’s just he’s no spring chicken and the compressed schedule could wear him down.
Meanwhile, the Bucks on Saturday closed out the Magic, 4-1, as most hoops fans continue to root for a championship final that has LeBron against Giannis.
And today, the Clippers beat the Mavericks, 111-97, to take their series 4-2; Kawhi Leonard with a dominating 33 points (14 of 23 from the field), 14 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals.
--There is a ton of pressure on the Big Ten and Pac-12 to rethink their plans and find a way to have a season, beyond waiting around until the spring. The Big Ten is thinking about starting a season Thanksgiving weekend, though it seems an early January start with an eight- or nine-game schedule at indoor venues has generated the most discussion thus far.
The Big Ten was first of the Power Five conferences to cancel its fall season on Aug. 11, with the Pac-12 then following.
But the league’s process has generated a ton criticism, with eight Nebraska players on Thursday filling a suit against the conference, demanding that the postponement decision be rescinded.
“It may be a little earlier, but around January,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a leading member of the conference’s return to play task force, told ESPN last week. “We may try to start earlier. We’re talking to all of the TV people, trying to get all of the information and see what fits. We still have to go through our chancellors and presidents to OK it.”
The Big Ten does have indoor venues in Indianapolis, Detroit and Minneapolis that could host games if they don’t want to play outside in 10-degree weather.
Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Penn State’s James Franklin have pushed for the season to start in early January and wrap up before the NFL draft.
President Trump tweeted Friday that he doesn’t want any delay to a season.
“I want Big Ten, and all other football, back – NOW…”
--The Pac-12 Conference has held preliminary discussions about a possible January start date for football, with scenarios of six- or eight-game schedules. One model involves only games within a team’s division.
--The ACC said it would begin testing three times per week during the season as part of its enhanced set of medical protocols.
The updated Medical Advisory Group also requires not just football team members, but also field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball to be tested within three days of game day.
Every athlete who tests positive for Covid will undergo a cardiac evaluation before a phased return to exercise.
Game-day protocols will eliminate all nonessential personnel from the sidelines.
Separately, Clemson, which had an early problem when football team members returned to campus said it had administered 622 tests across all athletic programs on Wednesday and none came back positive.
--I just have to note that after I last posted, Lucas Giolito pitched the first no-hitter of the season, striking out 13 and walking just one in the White Sox 4-0 win over the Pirates in Chicago.
What a last three seasons it has been for him, going from 10-13, 6.13 ERA in 2018, to 14-9, 3.41 in 2019 and now 3-2, 3.09, as the 26-year-old establishes himself as one of the better hurlers in the game.
--Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is back on the IL after straining his left calf, just days after he returned from the same injury. It’s his fourth time on the injured list in three season. He keeps making it harder and harder for Yanks management to open up the vault for a long-term extension.
Then you have the case of catcher Gary Sanchez. When he burst on the scene, 2016, he slammed 20 home runs in 201 at-bats, and followed that up in 2017 with 33 HR, 90 RBI, a .278 average and Yankees fans thought they had that kind of production for the next 10 years.
But then he had some injury issues, hit .186 in 2018, and .232 last season (though with 34 home runs), plus you had his defense, where he led the A.L. in passed balls in 2017 and 2018, the latter despite playing only 76 games as a catcher, and fans have been left wondering just who is this guy. He’s got a cannon of an arm and he can still be a perennial All-Star behind the plate, you’re thinking.
Yet in this strange season of 2020, he has 10 hits in 77 ABs, a .130 batting average (5 of the 10 hits homers). The team still has him under control for 2021 and ’22, but it’s probably time to cut the cord.
However, look down below…maybe he sticks around.
--It would seem that as of today, hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is back and finalizing a deal to buy the Mets for $2 billion, after his initial offer of $2.6 billion last winter fell apart. Alex Rodriguez and J-Lo backed out of the bidding process, for now, though still hope to stay in the picture.
And the reason why they would feel that way is MLB and its owners could easily turn down Cohen for his past issues with the SEC and separate allegations of gender discrimination in his firm.
As in the Wilpon family could approve of Cohen’s bid, but he might not get the requisite approval from the other owners and MLB.
On the other hand, it would be hard for the owners to turn down a major price offer that effectively increases their own franchises’ value.
“Alex and I are so disappointed!!,” Lopez wrote on Twitter. “We worked so hard the past 6 months with the dream of becoming the first minority couple and the first woman owner to buy her father’s favorite Major League Baseball team with her own hard earned money. We still haven’t given up!! #NY4ever”
--Meanwhile, Thursday, the Mets and Marlins bowed their heads and stood silently for 42 seconds – honoring Jackie Robinson – before walking off the field together and leaving a Black Lives Matter T-shirt draped on home plate.
But the poignant moment was spoiled thanks to a hot mic incident involving Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, who is already on thin ice because of some awful personnel moves, along with the imminent change in ownership.
Van Wagenen was caught on camera ripping MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to two of his employees, accusing him of trying to circumvent the game’s postponement.
“Baseball is trying to come up with a solution, saying, ‘You know what would be super powerful,’” Van Wagenen said, relaying a conversation with Manfred. “ ‘You know it would be really great if you just have them all take the field, then they leave the field and then they come back and play at 8:10.’”
Van Wagenen told his employees that Manfred called it “a scheduling nightmare if the game was postponed,” but he told chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon that the game definitely would not be played.
Then, Van Wagenen said: “At leadership level, he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”
The video, caught on the team’s website, went viral, Van Wagenen went ballistic, letting everyone know he mistakenly thought it was Manfred’s idea for the hour delay when it was COO Jeff Wilpon’s.
Van Wagenen then said: “My frustration with the Commissioner was wrong and unfounded. I apologize to the Commissioner for my disrespectful comments and poor judgement in inaccurately describing the contents of his private conversation with Jeff Wilpon.”
Fred and Jeff Wilpon issued a pair of statements late in the evening, slamming Van Wagenen, leaving you wondering if Brodie will even survive the season. They even misspelled his name.
“I am very stressed and disappointed to learn tonight that our General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, made disrespectful and inaccurate comments about our Commissioner, a long-time close friend of mine,” owner Fred Wilpon said. “I hold Rob in the highest regard and in no way are Brody’s (sic) remarks reflective of my views or the organization’s. Rob continues to be a great leader of Major League Baseball. I apologize for any harm this incident has caused Rob.”
Jeff Wilpon piled on: “Brody’s (sic) misunderstanding of a private conversation was and is inexcusable. We fully respect our players’ and the Marlins players’ decision to not play tonight and appreciate the sincerity of all those who wish to draw attention to social injustices and racial inequalities that must be addressed. The entire Mets organization remains committed to creating meaningful change in our society.”
Commissioner Manfred fired back in a statement: “I have not attempted in any way to prevent players from expressing themselves by not playing, nor have I suggested any alternative form of protest to any club personnel or any player. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”
Meanwhile, back to the issue of social justice, Mets first baseman Dominic Smith is a good guy and a rapidly improving player for the organization. Wednesday night, he tearfully spoke of the situation in America and being black.
“I think the most difficult part is to see people still don’t care. For this to just continuously happen, it just shows the hate in people’s heart. That just sucks, you know? Black men in America, it’s not easy. Like I said, I just wasn’t there today, but I’ll bounce back, I’ll be fine.”
Smith has been vocal about the injustices he has faced, both as a citizen and in a predominantly white sport.
“His world is much different than mine,” teammate Michael Conforto said Wednesday. “So it’s definitely helped me to listen and understand where he’s coming from and where a ton of people are coming from here.”
--So back to the action, after the Mets’ Covid issues forced the postponement of last weekend’s Subway Series with the Yankees, the two scrambled to make up games this weekend, the Mets sweeping a doubleheader Friday to extend the Yanks losing streak to seven.
But then the Metropolitans lost 2-1 on Saturday night at The Little Bandbox That Ruth Didn’t Build, and today, in the first game of another seven-inning doubleheader, the Mets and f’n Edwin Diaz blew a 7-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Aaron Hicks with the tying two-run homer, and the Yanks then winning it in the bottom of the eighth.
But in the nightcap, the Yanks started Deivi Garcia, their 21-year-old phenom making his major league debut, and all he did was go six innings, zero earned (one unearned run), no walks, six strikeouts, as the Yanks went on to win again in extra innings, 5-2, as pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez hit a grand slam off Drew Smith; Sanchez now with a .134 batting average, six of 11 hits homers.
The Metsies are 15-19.
I asked Johnny Mac to send the sword, applying proper Covid protocols, but he said he had used it and was bleeding profusely. I then told him to tell his wife, Ellen, to make sure it was clean and that Johnny was a good man…a life well led. I hope folks say the same of me when I get the sword and do the honorable thing. [I am practicing my bow.]
Separately, I just have to add that Gerrit Cole, while 4-1 in seven starts for the Yanks, has yielded 10 home runs in 41 innings, his ERA 3.51. He’s a big story for New York as they are playoff bound at 19-13, despite their recent struggles.
--One Wake Forest baseball note. Will Craig, a first-round draft pick of the Pirates, a disappointing one thus far, made his major league debut this week and is 0-for-4.
--Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal notes that even without fans, and for all the weirdness of some of the changes, like seven-inning doubleheaders, which I love, and beginning extra innings with a man automatically on second base (which I’m kind of warming to), the average nine-inning game is lasting 3 hours, 7 minutes…two minutes longer than the record-setting 2019 season and seven minutes longer than 2018.
Despite a new rule put in place before the pandemic designed to limit the constant parade of relievers that has defined baseball the last few years, teams are still using an average of 4.6 pitchers per game. MLB first crossed the four-pitcher threshold in 2015.
Granted, with the reduced “summer camp”, starters are only going 4 2/3 innings, but the average length of starts had been setting a new low in each of the past four seasons.
--The NHL was the only American sports league that plowed ahead full speed on Wednesday after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play in the NBA playoffs. Belatedly, the league then decided to suspend play for two days after a group of players asked for it.
“It’s incredibly insulting as a Black man in hockey the lack of action and acknowledgement from the NHL, just straight up insulting,” Sharks wing Evander Kane said Wednesday.
It didn’t help that Islanders coach Barry Trotz appeared to be clueless before his team’s game against the Flyers on Thursday was postponed.
“I think all the sports should play. I think all the sports should play because I think the athletes in every sport have a great platform.”
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said: “I really have no idea what’s going on in the outside world. We’re in this bubble right now.”
The messaging from both was better this weekend.
--Meanwhile, the Isles and the Flyers are playing tonight, New York up 2-1 in the only series I care about.
--Quite a difference this week in round two of the FedEx Cup Playoffs between TPC Boston and Dustin Johnson’s 30-under final score, and this week at Olympia Fields, where heading into the final round today, DJ and Hideki Matsuyama were the only ones under par at -1. The course is firm and lightning fast and the rough is thick. It’s a U.S. Open course and with like conditions.
And then what a phenomenal finish we had…Dustin Johnson needing to make a bomb on 18 to force a playoff with Jon Rahm, who shot a spectacular 66-64 over the weekend, and then on the first playoff hole, where Rahm sank a 66-footer, his longest putt of the season, to defeat DJ, Rahm’s fifth career win, now No. 1 again in the world.
As Dr. Bortrum and I were calling each other with each stroke, simply the most spectacular clutch putting that perhaps the PGA Tour has ever seen…no exaggeration.
East Lake is also now set up to have the top three in the world, Justin Thomas No. 3, starting 1, 2, 3. It should make for a super ending to the 2019-20 season.
Again, thank you PGA Tour for getting this all done amidst what is otherwise the crappiest year ever for those of us born after World War II. [Ditto NASCAR.]
As always there was great drama to see who would make the Tour Championship final 30 and good to see Billy Horschel survive to take the final slot….and good on Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes for his clutch effort on No. 18.
--Webb Simpson withdrew from the BMW Championship because he said he needed to get some rest for the Tour Championship after playing four straight weeks, including a T-3 and T-6 in the four events.
Simpson was already locked into the final 30 for East Lake, but because the Tour Championship’s new scoring system – staggered off the FedEx Cup standings, the No. 1 seed begins the first round at 10 under, the No. 2 seed at 8 under, No. 3 at seven under, etc., Webb’s move did potentially hurt him as he entered the week No. 3 in the standings….and it seems he’s No. 4 now. [I’m scrambling to do all kinds of stuff at this moment…including cooking dinner.]
--Olympia Fields is 90 miles from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and in light of the Milwaukee Bucks deciding against taking the floor on Wednesday for their playoff game, with the other sports leagues following suit in one form or another, some were wondering if the PGA Tour would do anything.
After Thursday’s opening round, Tony Finau, whose cousin, Jabari Parker, plays in the NBA, said: “Anyone that’s willing to have the uncomfortable conversation about systemic racism, and just that in general in our country, I think it’s a healthy thing for all of us. We continue to learn from each other in a positive way, [and] I think this is the most important thing. We all have different perspectives as we go through our life. Listening to each other I think is a big deal…and as a society I think it’s our responsibility to just listen and pay attention to what’s going on around us.”
Cameron Champ, one of four players on the PGA Tour with Black heritage, said he considered not playing at Olympia Field, “but obviously I feel like I can do a lot more playing, and again, showing my support and expressing myself.”
Finau, who is of Tongan descent, said he did not consider sitting out, but did reinforce his previous calls on the need for change.
“I understood the magnitude of what the NBA was doing and what they were boycotting for, and I know the PGA Tour is in full support of that. And again, it’s a conversation that’s uncomfortable, sensitive for our country, but if we’re not willing to have those, I don’t think we can move forward as a country. I’m open to having a conversation with anybody on the issue, and again, I think we’re in full support of what the NBA has done.”
Tiger Woods said “all the guys were on board…on the same page.”
--After I posted last time, Phil Mickelson completed his mission and cruised to a four-stroke victory, 22-under 191, after going 61-64-66 in his first Champions Tour start. The 191 tied him with Bruce Fleisher (2002 RJR Championship) for the lowest 54-hole score on the tour.
Mickelson became the 20th player on the Champions tour to win in his debut and it sets him up for Winged Foot and the U.S. Open in three weeks.
What a fun finish Saturday night at Daytona. In what had been a largely incident-free race, we had two major pileups in the final eight laps (no one hurt), and 22-year-old William Byron picked up his first Cup win, which means he is in the Chase…the final 16 for the 10-race playoffs.
Matt DiBenedetto earned the 16th spot with a 12th place effort, but Jimmie Johnson ended up 17th in the point standings…so no playoffs in his final season.
NASCAR fans are very happy for DiBenedetto.
Not for nothing, but Bubba Wallace finished fifth last night, his best of the season.
--It was truly sad to hear of the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman, only 43, dead of colon cancer, having gone through a long battle in private.
Boseman played Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as the regal Black Panther as part of the Marvel movie universe.
His family said in a statement:
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
Born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina (from which Dr. W. hailed), Boseman graduated from Howard University, where he took acting classes under Phylicia Rashad, and he had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of baseball star Jackie Robinson in “42” drew attention in Hollywood.
His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” and then “Black Panther” followed.
In a statement, MLB said: “We are devastated by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. His transcendent performance in ‘42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come.”
Boseman just seemed like a genuinely good man who did a lot of great things in his short life.
--As alluded to above, Hall of Fame college hoops coach Lute Olson died. He was 85.
Olson spent 24 seasons at Arizona, revitalizing a fan base in the desert while transforming a program that had been to the NCAA Tournament just three times in 79 years before he was hired in 1983.
Olson first took the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament during his second season in Tucson to start a string of 25 straight appearances (the last two under different coaches). The streak would have been the third-longest in NCAA history, but the 1999 and 2008 appearances were later vacated by the NCAA for impermissible benefits to players and recruiting violations.
The Wildcats won the national championship in 1997, and Olson’s teams reached the Final Four four times, losing the 2001 national title game to Duke.
Olson won a school-record 587 games at Arizona, 11 Pac-10 titles and was named conference coach of the year seven times. He led Arizona to 20 straight 20-win seasons and is one of five coaches in NCAA history with 29 seasons of at least 20 wins.
--The positive drug test on Triple Crown winner Justify after the Santa Anita Derby, which has languished for more than two years, will finally reach the complaint stage and be heard on Sept. 20. The California Horse Racing Board voted in closed session to proceed with the matter as a condition of a settlement with Ruis Racing, owner of second-place finisher Bolt d’Oro.
However, a complaint will not be made against trainer Bob Baffert because of strong evidence of environmental contamination. A second positive in Baffert’s barn belonged to Hoppertunity, winner of the Tokyo City Cup race, on April 8, 2018, the day after the Santa Anita Derby.
“Given that Justify and Hoppertunity positives occurred over two years ago and at most the CHRB would only seek a warning, the CHRB chooses not to file complaints against Mr. Baffert in these matters,” the CHRB said in a statement.
The main issues concern the purse payouts for the Santa Anita Derby, which is $600,000 for first and $200,000 for second, and if Justify can claim to be the only Triple Crown winner who retired undefeated. He only ran six races.
It is possible that if Justify is disqualified from the Santa Anita Derby that the Kentucky Racing Commission could nullify the results of the Kentucky Derby, but as the Los Angeles Times’ John Cherwa notes, “that seems extremely unlikely especially given that the CHRB chose not to issue a complaint against Baffert.”
Justify passed all its drug tests following the Triple Crown races.
--Juliet Macur of the New York Times had a piece on the aftereffects of Stanford’s decision to cut 11 of 36 varsity programs for financial reasons. You see, these were all Olympic sports (save for squash), such as men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s fencing, men’s rowing, field hockey, synchronized swimming, and wrestling. As Macur put it, the “move sent chills through the Olympic community in the United States.”
For generations, “Stanford has been an unofficial Olympic factory. Stanford athletes have won nearly 300 Olympic medals overall, and at the 2016 Summer Games they won more than athletes from any other university – 26 medals, 14 of them gold. Stanford has been known for churning out national team members and stars like the swimmer Katie Ledecky, the decathlete Bob Mathias, the softball player Jessica Mendoza and the beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings.”
The men’s volleyball team has featured 10 Olympians.
--Johnny Mac passed on the story from the UK that the nation’s warm spring and a series of hot spells have led to copious amounts of fermenting fruit – and high survival rates for giant Asian “murder hornets” and German yellowjackets, an ideal situation for the larger-than-average and notoriously bad-tempered wasps, the Daily Mail reported.
To add to the situation, the UK’s 200 billion German yellowjackets have mostly finished their duties for the season: The species’ queen wasps are done laying eggs and no longer require tending, so worker wasps are unoccupied and becoming “drunk” off the abundant fruit.
The bugs “quickly get inebriated” after consuming the fermented treats, according to the British Pest Control Association.
“Up until mid-August, workers provided food for the larva in the nest, but once the queen stops laying eggs there is no longer any need for food in the nest so the workers go out to have a good time,” Cleankill Pest Control boss Paul Bates told the Daily Mail: “They feed off barbecue scraps on plates and on fallen fermenting fruits that are in abundance at this time of year.”
Meanwhile, the “murder hornets” we’ve been warned about in the U.S., are reportedly set to spread widely in the UK this September.
--From Reuters: “A 38-year-old Dutch man was killed by a polar bear in the Norwegian Arctic Svalbard islands early on Friday, local authorities said, the first such deadly incident in nine years. The man was attacked in his tent at a camping site in the pre-dawn hours.
“The bear was shot at by people on site and walked towards the airport, which is nearby,” Svalbard Deputy Governor Soelvi Elvedahl said in a statement. “(The bear) was shortly afterwards found dead in the airport’s parking lot.”
Halfway between the northern tip of Europe and the North Pole (home to Santa Claus), the Svalbard archipelago of snow-capped mountains and glaciers is home to 2,939 people and 975 polar bears, according to Norway’s statistics office and the Norwegian Polar Institute.
Polar bears are protected species and shooting them is allowed only for self-defense and as a last resort.
--But this wasn’t the only fatal bear attack in the world the past few days.
A Canadian father says he was on the phone with his daughter when a bear attacked her and the line went dead.
“I waited on the line for two minutes, and I called her name,” Hubert E. told the Canadian Broadcasting Company. “I said, ‘hello,’ and there was no answer.”
The last thing he heard was a gurgling sound.
According to the father, he was speaking to his daughter, Stephanie, about a broken water pump in the Saskatoon cabin they co-own late Thursday afternoon, when the black bear that killed the 44-year-old mother probably crept up from a forested area that houses a small pond.
Satellite phones in the remote area reportedly get a stronger signal in the spot where the father thinks the bear grabbed his daughter by her neck.
Several minutes after Stephanie went silent, her husband, Curtis, called the father and said he was less than 100 feet away when the attack occurred and rushed to her aid.
Curtis said he sprayed the animal with pepper spray “and the bear got more angry.”
He then got a gun and dropped the bear with two shots, but it was too late to save Stephanie.
It had been nearly 40 years since a bear was last known to have killed a human in the area.
--Talk about a tragedy, ten children were killed by lightning in northwestern Uganda the other day. The children were playing football when heavy rain forced them to take a break in a nearby grass-thatched structure which was then struck.
In 2011, 18 children were killed in a lightning strike at a school in Uganda.
--Finally, on a lighter note, Brad K. reported on the story of the African Sulcata Tortoise named Solomon, who hails from Ashland City, Tenn. As reported by the Associated Press, the 150-pounder escaped from his home and set out on a journey that lasted 74 days, before he was discovered by a man and his son who spotted Solomon grazing in a valley at a construction site. Solomon was then returned to his owner, Lynn Cole.
The thing is, Solomon was just an eighth of a mile away from home.
“I guess that we will never know the full details of Solomon’s great adventure and how he managed to elude us all for so long,” Cole told WKRN-TV.
Since I’m going to be exercising at my local high school track shortly, I’m thinking that an eighth of a mile is, err, one-half of a lap.
As in I wouldn’t just assume Solomon has a book deal and movie in his future. “Day Seven: A squirrel sniffed my shell and we ended up talking about the Mets….” “Day Fourteen: It rained all day and opted to stay put.” “Day Fifty-Five: I really wanted to get to the Walmart on Rt. 12, just a few miles away, but that would have taken me six years.”
Top 3 songs for the week 8/28/71: #1 “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” (The Bee Gees) #2 “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (John Denver) #3 “Signs” (Five Man Electrical Band…what a stupid name for a group…)…and…#4 “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” (Marvin Gaye…timeless…) #5 “Mr. Big Stuff” (Jean Knight) #6 “Sweet Hitch-Hiker” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) #7 “Liar” (Three Dog Night) #8 “Smiling Faces Sometimes” (The Undisputed Truth) #9 “Spanish Harlem” (Aretha Franklin) #10 “Go Away Little Girl” (Donny Osmond…B+ week…)
Arizona Wildcats Quiz Answer: Players in the rotation for the 1996-97 NCAA championship team that defeated Kentucky 84-79 in overtime in the title game.
Michael Dickerson (18.9 ppg), Miles Simon (18.4), Mike Bibby (13.5), Jason Terry (10.6), Bennett Davison, AJ Bramlett, Donnell Harris.
Simon was then MVP in the title game when he had 30.
Next Bar Chat, Monday p.m., Sept. 7…following the completion of The Tour Championship, which has a Monday finish. Don’t forget Saturday’s Kentucky Derby!