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Kids Will Be Kids...CFB's struggles...
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
NFL Hall of Fame Quiz: Name the four running backs in Canton whose last name starts with ‘T’. Three should be fairly easy, but I’ll tell you the fourth played from 1947-55 with the Chicago Cardinals. Answer below.
***There is a major story tonight…the NFL’s Covid testing procedures suck! The Jets yesterday had ten false positives! Other teams are reporting scores of false positives. Which means there could be false negatives!!!...developing….
Very entertaining race, and multiple reminders that us race fans all give thanks for the safety features added over the years, primarily the SAFER barriers that have saved many a life the last two decades.
Japan’s Takuma Sato won his second 500 in the last three years, the race ending under caution after a bad crash involving American Spencer Pigot; a crash, that as my brother and I discussed after, would have potentially killed scores because the car could have gone flying into pit road.
And there were other hard crashes that in the past would have caused serious injury.
As for Sato, his team (prime owner Bobby Rahal…whose son finished third) is partially owned by none other than David Letterman, which is so cool. There he was in Victory Lane, rocking his full beard (which I don’t understand…looks awful).
Sato held off Scott Dixon, who led 111 of the 200 laps.
I wanted Marco Andretti, who started on the pole, but he just didn’t seem to have the car today and finished 13th.
College Sports / Football
--The NCAA Division I Board of Directors on Friday cleared the way for postponed championships in fall sports to be staged in the spring, should circumstances with the Covid-19 pandemic permit.
“We want to provide opportunities for student-athletes whenever possible,” said acting board chair Denise Trauth, president of Texas State. “We understand it will be complicated and different, and we’re not certain how it will look. But we believe it’s important to try to give students that championship experience.”
The board also approved a blanket waiver granting fall sport athletes an additional year of eligibility regardless of whether they play in fall, spring or decide against participation due to health concerns.
But this requires adjustments to scholarship limits to the respective sports, including football, and men’s and women’s soccer. Baseball is another, going back to last spring.
The schools have no revenue coming in. This is a mess.
As for football, a number of new schools have had players test positive, such as Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State and Auburn since my last chat.
Ed Hardin / Greensboro Record
“Lost in the chaos of kicking the can down the road is the apparent discovery of a college football bubble.
“The uptick in positive tests, particularly in North Carolina, has forced universities to send students home for online education. But not football players.
“If this wasn’t somehow planned, and there are those who believe it was, it has still delivered a perfect alibi for college football and for the schools who are depositing money from tuition from students who aren’t on campus.
“Invite them to campus, await the inevitable coronavirus outbreaks, keep the cash, send them all home and voila! We have a bubble.
“It sounds genius on one level, insidious on another. But despite mounting evidence that bringing students onto campus and jamming them into dormitories was idiotic, the schools can just blame it on the students, test the heck out of the football players and still look at themselves in the mirror.
“Phase two of this disastrous plan will be able to throw the unpaid football players onto the gridiron on Saturdays and rake in the TV money. The fat cats will get priority seating while the students watch from home.
“This is the model they’ve stumbled upon in what has been a comedy of errors for schools and athletics departments willing to sacrifice the health and safety of the football players and the economies of the towns in which they’re located.
“They’re getting some pushback from students, parents and lawyers. This might not end well.
“Carolina’s outbreak caused a national stir. Once again, the school is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
“N.C. State, Appalachian State and East Carolina are all dealing with virus clusters that have caused the football teams to pause and come up with new plans for practicing in a pandemic…. Notre Dame, which is still planning to join the ACC to play football this season, is having trouble controlling the virus and the storyline.
“Students and some faculty are outraged that the Irish football team is being tested periodically while students are being turned away from testing. More than 20 percent of the tests at Notre Dame have been for football players on a campus of 12,000 students.
“Football is driving the schools now, and the presidents and even the medical experts are standing down. The NCAA Board of Directors is telling schools to review insurance coverage and hinting that the lawyers are sniffing around.
“And yet, no one’s in charge….
“Colleges across the country aren’t even pretending any more. This is all about money. While schools in the Big Ten are talking about $100 million shortfalls, the three remaining Power Five leagues are taking cues.
“For the first time in months, the momentum of not playing feels like it has slowed. While the medical experts’ dire warnings of Covid-19 outbreaks are coming true, the opposite effect on football programs seems to be winning the day. They now know that with the students gone, the athletes are indeed in a bubble.
“Just like they planned it.
Rachel Bachman and Laine Higgins / Wall Street Journal
“Mary Sue Coleman loves college football so much that the former president at Iowa and Michigan plans to spend each autumn of her retirement in Ann Arbor, Mich. But as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the U.S., she sees a big problem for the roughly 70 schools still trying to play a 2020 season.
“It’s increasingly unlikely that any university will be able to hold in-person classes, Coleman said. And that conflicts with the NCAA’s longtime view that being a college athlete means being fully integrated into the student body.
“ ‘I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, we can use the model of [some pro sports] and put them in a bubble,’’ said Coleman, who is also a member of the NCAA’s board of governors. ‘You can’t put them in a bubble, because they’re students and they have to go to class. I mean, if they’re on campus and they’re not going to class, they’re not learning anything, then it isn’t any longer the academic environment. It flies in the face of what the NCAA means.’
‘The NCAA seemed unequivocal about this a few months ago. ‘All of the Division I commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus,’ NCAA president Mark Emmert said in May.
“But college campuses’ rocky reopenings during the pandemic are testing that consensus. Some big schools seem determined to play football even if all other students are sent home….
“North Carolina reported 135 new cases on the Chapel Hill campus one week after classes began, pushing quarantine dorms toward 70% capacity. Its move to online instruction for undergraduates means that only international students, those with hardships and athletes can stay on campus.
“Athletic director Bubba Cunningham didn’t directly address why athletes were given an exemption. ‘Many of our students have told us they want to play,’ he said in a statement. ‘Their health, as well as the health and safety of our coaches and staff and community is our priority.’….
“Before the start of classes in South Bend, Ind., Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick predicted that how returning students affect viral trend lines will ‘determine more than anything what we do’ regarding sports. He declined to comment this week.
“A spokesperson for the Big 12, where football is still on, wrote in an email to the Journal, ‘absent completely shutting a campus down and making it inaccessible, continuing to have student-athletes on campus for the fall semester is foreseeable provided it is tethered to an academic component.’
“U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala (D. Fla.), a former president of Miami (Fl.) and chancellor of Wisconsin, said the schools going forward with football are trying to maintain a revenue source that helps support the rest of their athletic departments, including Olympic sports. Still, she doubts the attempt to play will succeed during the pandemic.
“ ‘I never thought they were going to pull it off,’ she said.”
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“Football is supposed to teach teamwork. But what’s coming out of the Power Five is abiding selfishness and a cringeworthy egotism. There is no recognition that in a pandemic, no person’s well-being can be fully separable from another’s. There is no recognition, at all, that football complicates the already highly problematic exercise of reopening and may act as an infection accelerant.
“Instead, the return-to-play debate in college football blots out all common feeling and common sense. Critics of postponement want to know why it’s okay to hold an English class at Michigan but it’s not okay to play a game. Because football is an exercise in heavy-breathing piles of large men of immense body mass who trade sweat, blood, spit, phlegm, and other spraying droplets and it commandeers precious testing resources, that’s why.
“Or they want to know why college football at Ohio State isn’t allowed when high school football in Ohio is. Because conducting a football program on a 24-hour communal living campus of 40,000 people with large interstate travel parties is an entirely different proposition, that’s why.
“Big Ten players and parents say they’re willing to assume the risk. But Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields shouldn’t get a waiver to unintentionally sicken somebody, any more than some undergrad in Georgia should go unmasked into a pub. One is a university-sanctioned activity. One is not. Fields seems like a very nice guy – who shows not an inkling that there’s a world of interdependence larger than his friends and teammates.
“ ‘We believe that we should have the right to make decisions about what is best for our health and our future,’ Fields wrote in his petition to the Big Ten. Sure, but he doesn’t have the right to make decisions about what is best for the health and future of others.
“Alabama Coach Nick Saban bemoaned to ESPN that a spring schedule could be ‘sort of a JV season’ and that NFL prospects won’t get to ‘create value for themselves’ where play is postponed.
“Value for themselves? Where is the value of others in this conversation?
“The truest words spoken about this whole deal were uttered by a former first lady on Monday night, with a hammer-on-the-nail sentence. The return-to-play debate at the Power Five universities is merely reflective of fractured, selfish policies throughout the country. But it’s somehow especially angering and disheartening to see it at so many of these schools, which, as Michelle Obama said of the nation, are ‘underperforming not simply on matters of policy but on matters of character.’”
John Feinstein / Washington Post
“I have had many heroes in journalism, from men and women I looked up to as a young reporter to colleagues I read and learned from as I got older.
“Now, I have a new group of heroes, all of them many years younger than me: the staff of The Daily Tar Heel, the University of North Carolina’s student newspaper.
“Last week, the editors of the Tar Heel informed the world they would no longer use the heinous phrase ‘student-athlete.’ They pointed out that their own school had run a scam for 20 years that allowed athletes (and others) to take ‘paper classes,’ course that involved almost no work for students but that allowed them to remain eligible as athletes. And they noted – correctly – that the term ‘student-athletes’ has been used for years by college administrators, coaches and (sadly) some in the media as a barrier to the notion that college athletes should be compensated for the work they do – and for the millions of dollars they help generate for their schools.
“ ‘To accept the term ‘student athlete’ is to accept the…agenda that these athletes are not employees,’ the editors wrote.
“Bless them. Soon after, Julie Kliegman, the copy chief at Sports Illustrated, tweeted that, following in the Daily Tar Heel’s footsteps, SI would no longer use the phrase, either. According to Kliegman the issue had already been on the publication’s radar, and the student editorial was a tipping point….
“This, in an era when elite basketball stars only bother going to college for one year – after which the rules allow them to enter the NBA draft – and when football players can’t wait for their required three-year servitude to end so they can take a shot at the NFL.
“There’s nothing wrong with young athletes aspiring to play pro ball. But let’s call them what they are: players. Period….
“Now, at a moment when players are increasingly organizing and voicing their opinions, when Congress is introducing legislation designed to give athletes the right to make money off their names and images, it took a bunch of college kids to point out the hypocrisy of the ‘student-athlete’ term to their elders.
“As with so much of the NCAA, it reminds me yet again of the Emperor’s New Clothes. While the adults gawked at the naked emperor, it was a child who blurted out the truth.
“ ‘Student-athletes’ has been a naked hypocrisy for years, used by the media and others to promote absurd myths dreamed up by the emperors of college athletics.
“Let’s hail the kids at The Daily Tar Heel for pointing out the truth.”
--One player issue…IF there is a season in the ACC. The Deacs suffered a big blow when future NFL receiver Sage Surratt suddenly opted out the other day, citing “uncertainties and risks associated with Covid-19.” Wake is pathetically thin at the WR position now. As Charlie Brown, and Phil W., would say, “Drat!”
--Johnny Mac and I were musing, just when we were beginning to become mildly interested in the 12-14 Mets, their season came to a screeching halt when last week a player and staff member tested positive while the team was in Miami to play the Marlins. That then wiped out the following Subway Series against the Yankees that was to take place this weekend at Citi Field.
The news has been better since in that no one else has tested positive so the Mets should be resuming play Tuesday against the Marlins in New York. But it sucks.
10 MLB teams have suffered postponements due to Covid-19 outbreaks or related precautionary measures, led by the Cardinals, who had 14 games postponed from July 31-Aug. 13, making up three thus far.
As for the Yankees, man, they’ve had a ton of injuries, starting off with sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, and DJ LeMahieu, and closer Zack Britton. And then starter James Paxton and shortstop Gleyber Torres.
Why all the injuries? Paxton said, “I think it’s pretty simple: short spring training,” referring to the spring training 2.0 that lasted less than half the length of spring training 1.0. “We didn’t get enough time going at a lower speed to kind of build up, and now you’re seeing a few weeks into the season, guys are not fresh anymore. The tiredness is building up. We don’t have that base we normally have.”
--The Washington Nationals placed Stephen Strasburg on the 60-day injured list, and the starter will undergo surgery in the coming days for carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand. His season is over, the team hoping to have him healthy for spring training in February.
Strasburg had thrown just five innings this summer. He was first bothered by nerve irritation in his right hand in early July, leading him to miss his first two appearances.
After being the MVP in the Nationals’ World Series triumph last season, he signed a seven-year, $245 million contract in the offseason.
--The White Sox were 17-11 after Saturday night’s 7-4 victory over the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field. Jose Abreu had his first career three-homer game, giving him five in two games, after clubbing two roundtrippers in Friday’s 10-1 win over the Cubs.
The White Sox hit nine home runs Friday and Saturday, giving them a major league record 27 over the past seven days.
In a sign of the times, entering Sunday’s play, the White Sox last 19 runs have all scored via the home run.
Well, today, make that the last 20 runs via homer, Abreu going deep again (and tying the record for four home runs in four consecutive at-bats), but the ChiSox lost to the Cubs 2-1 behind Yu Darvish. I’ve been so out of touch I had no idea Darvish was now 5-1, 1.70, throwing seven strong with 10 Ks today.
--So last time I wrote of how San Diego Padres manager Jayce Tingler was a little miffed at his budding superstar, Fernando Tatis Jr., for missing a take sign on a 3-0 pitch with a seven-run lead in the eighth inning, Tatis then blasting a grand slam. The game was 10-3 at the time and the Padres won it 14-4.
I then got blistered by some readers for omitting one line. A seven-run lead in baseball is nothing these days. Tatis, while he missed the sign, didn’t do anything egregious. Yes, I believe that too, guys, I just forgot to add it.
But the topic stirred up a big debate, which was more about the old baseball norms in general vs. today.
Adam Kilgore / Washington Post
“The most passive act in baseball is to take a strike, to stand and watch, and the game’s current crop of young stars is generally averse to inactivity. Monday night in Arlington, Tex., Fernando Tatis Jr.’s third base coach instructed him to take a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and the San Diego Padres ahead by seven runs. Tatis missed the sign, he said later, and had no conception of why swinging could be perceived as impolite.
“Juan Nicaso grooved a plump fastball, and for years what would have happened is nothing. Tatis would have abided his manager’s sign, or he would have known the other dugout would take exception to swinging. But while Tatis grew up in the game as the son of a big leaguer, he is part of a generation emboldened by a different code. Action erupted in waves that have not ceased.
“Tatis’ swing, and the titanic grand slam it produced, resurfaced the age-old conversation about baseball’s esoteric etiquette and codes, typically referred to as the sport’s unwritten rules. The oversight of not writing them down means not everybody agrees on them, interprets them alike or even knows of their existence, which over the decades has led to repetitive conflict, abundant resentment and a lot of seam marks imprinted on a lot of body parts.
“The unwritten rule Tatis violated that led to a week of debate: no swinging 3-0 late in a blowout. Reliever Ian Gibaut replaced Nicasio and rifled his first pitch behind Tatis’ teammate, Manny Machado, which led to Gibaut’s ejection and, later, MLB’s suspension of Gibaut and Rangers Manager Chris Woodward. Immediately after the game, Woodward expressed displeasure but allowed ‘norms are being challenged on a daily basis.’ Padres Manager Jayce Tingler said the Padres were ‘not trying to run up the score,’ and Tatis apologized afterward, saying it would be a learning experience.
“The avalanche of opinion and discussion, which included a wave of 30- and 40-something managers and current players chiming in on social media, revealed the degree to which baseball’s codes are evolving and perhaps fraying. Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said the only thing Tatis did wrong was apologize. Cincinnati Reds iconoclast/ace Trevor Bauer instructed Tatis to swing any time he wants. New York Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, a third-generation big leaguer, said some of the mores have become ‘silly.’ Woodward’s mild rebuke of Tatis received backlash from most players who spoke out, and even Woodward backtracked and reexplained himself the next day.
“Author Jason Turbow released ‘The Baseball Codes,’ a book delving into baseball’s unwritten rules, in 2010. Ten years ago, he estimated, maybe 50 percent of players and coaches, and maybe more, would have stood against Tatis’ 3-0 swing.
“ ‘Now, the overwhelming chorus of opinion is, ‘Why are you going to suppress a bright young star like that for any reason?’’ Turbow said. ‘It is the latest example of dissonance between the institutional mandate of ‘Let the kids play’ and a sport being populated by people brought up in a way contrary to that.’
“The week of debate, which persisted in part because of Tatis’ stature as one of baseball’s most dazzling talents, led many to conclude the game’s unwritten rules are dying. That is not true. Every profession has its own code of conduct, and baseball is no exception….
“Turbow recalled a conversation he had in the late 2000s with Dusty Baker, who told him, in his recollection: ‘These rules are not mine to hold. They’re mine to absorb and pass on.’
“ ‘The way it’s being passed on now, and to whom it’s being passed, are different than ever before,’ Turbow said. ‘It’s an alive thing. The unwritten rules are perpetually evolving. They may be less stringent now than ever before. But that does not mean they exist any less than before.’
“Tony La Russa, the longtime manager and proud guardian of the game’s codes who is in his 57th year in baseball, put it another way.
“ ‘If you don’t think sportsmanship belongs in the game,’ La Russa said, ‘you’re full of s---.’….
“Setting aside the team-vs.-individual notion, there is also competitive justification for Tatis swinging. Three days after his grand slam, the Blue Jays fell behind the Phillies by seven runs before rallying to win.
“But the reasons go beyond such comebacks. Had Tatis grounded out on a less-friendly 3-1 pitch, the Rangers would have been a walk, a bloop single and a homer away from making it a four-run game in the bottom of the eighth. Then the Padres, who have endured bullpen issues that include an injury to closer Kirby Yates, probably would have gotten their closer warm at the first hint of trouble. Even if the Padres escaped with relative ease, those warmup pitches could affect the next day’s game. In baseball, there is tangible benefit of winning big.
“One Padres official asked Tingler how he felt up 10-3, and he replied he felt good, but not assured because of San Diego’s recent bullpen performance. Then he asked how Tingler felt being up 14-3. Tingler said he felt great. The point was made.
“Presented with the argument, La Russa stood firm.
“ ‘It’s the judgement the manager has to make,’ La Russa said. ‘When is it pouring on? And when can I explain it to where I maintain the respect of the competition? The manager in San Diego, he decided a seven-run lead, he decided that seven runs was enough. If you’re not good enough to get six outs with at least a seven-run lead, then you’re not good enough to win the game.’”
Tatis, by the way, entered today’s play with 12 home runs and 29 RBI in 29 games, San Diego a very solid 17-12.
Some nice ball being played out on the west coast, Oakland 19-9 and the Dodgers 21-8. L.A.’s pitching staff has a 2.63 ERA.
--Meanwhile, speaking of grand slams and the Padres, they became the first in major-league history to hit one in four consecutive games.
Tatis started the streak with his controversial blast, followed by Wil Myers on Tuesday, Manny Machado Wednesday, and then Eric Hosmer Thursday.
And then Saturday, the Padres’ Trent Grisham, who I had never heard of (hey, I can’t keep track of Alexander Lukashenko, Takuma Sato and Trent Grisham all at once at my advanced age), had three home runs and six RBIs in a 13-2 win over the Astros yesterday.
--Cleveland pitcher Shane Bieber is off to a rather spectacular start, 5-0, 1.11 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 40 2/3. This is no fluke. The 3rd-year starter was 15-8, 3.28, last season with 259 Ks.
The Indians entered today 17-10 in the competitive AL Central, with the 17-11 White Sox and 18-10 Twinkies.
--Since I last posted, we had the issue with now suspended Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman for an on-air anti-gay slur he delivered.
Steve Buckley / The Athletic (formerly with the Boston Herald and openly gay)
“I’m not naïve. There are haters in the locker rooms, haters in the press box, haters everywhere. That’s not news. That’s the world in which we live. But I’ve always cited the late Jackie Robinson whenever there’s a discussion about gay men in sports, this because for many years a lot of well-meaning people would ask: ‘Who’s going to be the gay Jackie Robinson?’
“The mangled analogy here is that Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 made him the first Black man in the 20th century to play in the big leagues. By extension, the first openly gay man to play major-league team sports in North America would be…the gay Jackie Robinson.
“Well, no. The discussion stopped being relevant when NBA veteran Jason Collins came out in 2014, but the Jackie Robinson analogy was never any good. Robinson walked into a Brooklyn clubhouse filled with players who had few if any Black friends or family members. And, anyway, its not like Robinson could hide who he was.
“And now? One of the fringe benefits of being out is listening to the many people in sports who want to gab about the gay people in their lives. I’ve been hearing the stories for years, and it’s important for closeted athletes to know it: Every clubhouse and every locker room is filled with players who have gay people in their lives. Once everyone understands this reality, and once coming out becomes routine, professional sports will continue to hum along nicely.
“We’ll have openly gay home run hitters, quarterbacks and goaltenders appearing on our flat screens, with or without Thom Brennaman to provide the play-by-play….
“It wasn’t so much what Brennaman said, though the words themselves added up to a fireable offense. But it was the manner in which he spoke the words – caustically, so full of high-brow indignation – that leaves one to wonder why it took so long for him to be pulled off the air. It was during the first game of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals that Brennaman, thinking he was off-air, made a remark into a hot mic about ‘one of the f-g capitals of the world.’* It wasn’t until the fifth inning of the second game that he was dismissed from the telecast, but not before delivering a clumsy apology that only made matters worse.
“Brennaman’s on-air apology contained four go-to’s that are so tired and hackneyed by today’s standards that even those who might be willing to support him had to be quivering.
“He used the ‘if’ word, as in, ‘If I have hurt anyone out there, I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart I’m so very, very sorry.’
“He invoked his faith, which has nothing to do with this discussion.
“He said, ‘I’m not that person,’ which is flat out wrong, because, well, he is precisely that person. He wasn’t talking about the guy doing the game in the Royals booth. He’s the one who said it, he’s the one who was awkwardly apologizing for it.
“And while he directed apologizes to the Reds, to his co-workers and to the various entities that employ him, he never got around to apologizing to the LGBTQ+ community – unless his intention was to lump the LGBTQ+ folks in with the anybody-I-offended crowd.
“Brennaman has already lost his Fox football gig, and we’ll find out soon what the Reds’ plans are….
“But firings or no firings, apologies or no apologies, what’s even better is that actual big-league athletes are criticizing Brennaman. And for big-league athletes to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community in this fashion is more important than all the Pride Nights in all the ballparks in all the land.”
*The context of Brennaman’s hot-mic comment has yet to be established, but you can draw your own conclusions. I have mine and will keep them to myself.
--Entering the final round of the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the Northern Trust at TPC Boston, Dustin Johnson had a commanding five-shot lead, gunning for his 22nd career win, DJ with a phenomenal 67-60-64… 22-under par.
Johnson was “disappointed” in his 60 because he was 11-under after 11! He led Harris English and Scottie Scheffler, both at -17.
All Scheffler did on Friday was fire a 59, becoming the 11th player in PGA Tour history to shoot sub-60. The 24-year-old, who almost won the PGA Championship two weeks ago, is certainly for real.
Jim Furyk is the only golfer to go sub-60 twice; Furyk with the all-time record at 58, which he shot in the 2016 Travelers Championship.
Nine of the sub-60 rounds have occurred since 2010.
So today, the field was trying to ensure it got into the top 70 in FedEx points to be eligible for the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Golf Club outside Chicago next week.
Johnson built his lead to nine with just six players left on the course when the weather interrupted….ah, yes, he’s bagged No. 22.
But wait, they are furiously trying to finish after the weather went through, there being little light…I can’t post yet! Crap!
And DJ finishes at -30, tied for second-best all time. And wins by 11 shots (over Harris English)! Biggest margin in at least a decade.
--Jordan Spieth was among those failing to end the week in the top 70…more next time on this group.
--Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods played indifferent golf this week. After making the cut, the two were paired both Sat. and Sun., Tiger a 73 Sat., Rory a 74. And then today Tiger was able to take away something positive with a 5-under 66, while Rory shot a 69.
--Phil Mickelson, in missing the cut, failed to make the final 70 for the BMW Championship so he’s going to make his Champions Tour debut this coming week instead.
--Brooks Koepka withdrew from the Northern Trust before it began, thus ending his FedEx Cup title quest, Koepka citing a knee and hip-related injury.
He entered this week No. 97 on the points list so needed to play well enough to get in the final 70.
But this could be a blessing in disguise as he has ample time to rest up prior to the U.S. Open, which starts Sept. 14. I’ve written he had been playing a lot and that couldn’t have been good for his knee, for starters, though he had some solid finishes.
We had another doubleheader this weekend, this time at Dover (DE) International Speedway, the “Monster Mile,” and Denny Hamlin took the first Cup race on Saturday, zipping past teammate Martin Truex Jr. with less than 10 laps to go. In doing so, Hamlin matched Kevin Harvick for the season victory lead with six, matching his total from last season.
Hamlin now has 43 career wins, which puts him behind Junior Johnson (50) for most Cup victories without a championship.
But then Harvick won today…now seven on the season.
So after today’s result, we have just one race left, at Daytona next Saturday night, before the 10-race playoff series, top 16 qualifying.
--Analyst Mike Milbury has been forced to step away for the rest of the NHL playoffs in the wake of a misogynistic comment he delivered on a broadcast Thursday.
“In light of the attention caused by my recent remark, I have decided to step away from my role at NBC Sports for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” the 68-year-old Milbury said in a statement Saturday.
“I do not want my presence to interfere with the athletes as they try to win the greatest trophy in sports.”
In the waning minutes of the New York Islanders’ win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday, the NBCSN crew on the call was discussing the benefits of the Toronto bubble.
“If you enjoy playing and enjoy being with your teammates for long periods of time, it’s a perfect place,” analyst Brian Boucher said before Milbury interjected that there were “Not even any women here to disrupt…your concentration.”
His remark was condemned by the NHL, who said his words were “insensitive and insulting” and that his comment does “not reflect the NHL’s values and commitment to making our game more inclusive and welcoming to all.”
--So speaking of Islanders-Capitals, the best sports story in New York these days is indeed the Isles. After head coach Barry Trotz led the Caps to the 2017-18 Stanley Cup, he couldn’t reach an agreement on a new contract, Washington believing his demands were far too high, so they let him go, which I told you at the time was incredibly idiotic, Trotz a genius behind the bench.
The Islanders then brilliantly snapped him up and two years later, they have as good a shot as anyone at winning the Cup, while Washington today fired coach Todd Reirden, who in his two seasons failed to win a single playoff series. His regular season record was a fine 151-89-46, but it’s about the postseason, boys and girls.
Trotz takes the Isles up against the Flyers in the next series.
--We note the passing of NHL Hall of Famer, Dale Hawerchuk, who died at the age of 57 on Tuesday. The cause was stomach cancer. He had been coaching the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League and took a leave of absence last September to undergo chemotherapy.
Hawerchuk was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1981 at 18 and became an immediate star, scoring 45 goals and becoming the youngest player in NHL history at the time to reach 100 points, with 103. [Sidney Crosby broke the mark in 2006.] He was also named rookie of the year, the youngest to be so honored. And he led Winnipeg to a 48-point improvement that season, the largest single-season turnaround in NHL history.
Known as “Ducky,” Hawerchuk wasn’t blessed with size or blistering speed, but he just had a knack for getting to loose pucks and creating a play.
A five-time All-Star, he played nine seasons in Winnipeg and five with the Buffalo Sabres before finishing up his 16-year career with the Blues and Flyers, which he helped reach the Stanley Cup final in 1996-97 (Philly getting swept by the Red Wings).
Slowed by an ailing hip, Hawerchuk retired at 34, having scored 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 regular-season games. He added another 129 points in 97 playoff contests.
Seven times Hawerchuk scored 40 or more in a season, including his best year, 1984-85, when he had 53 goals and 130 points.
Born in Toronto, Ducky was playing competitively at age 4 and as a peewee, he broke Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur’s record by scoring all eight goals in an 8-1 victory in the final of a tournament in Montreal.
Hawerchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2001.
“All the experiences have been fantastic,” he said in his induction speech. “Even though I didn’t win a Stanley Cup, I still wouldn’t change a thing. I think to ask for more would be greedy.”
--The 2020 NBA Draft will be held on Oct. 16 and it seems like years ago that we saw our last college basketball action. The Timberwolves have the first pick and the consensus today is that they will go with Georgia guard Anthony Edwards to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. The other two who will be selected No. 2 or No. 3 are LaMelo Ball and big man James Wiseman.
The freakin’ Knicks, with the sixth-best odds at landing the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s Draft Lottery, ended up with the No. 8 selection.
--Meanwhile, the Celtics completed their sweep of the Sixers today, 110-106. I’m having a hard time getting into the NBA’s reboot…but I need to remind myself they are playing some of their games in the afternoon, which is far better than watching CNBC, or news channels, as is my wont.
Congrats to the folks who run this for getting it done in their Lisbon bubble, Bayern Munich today with its sixth European title, 1-0 over Paris Saint-Germain; PSG, despite all the money they’ve spent, still seeking its first.
The match was billed as the “best player vs. the best team”…PSG’s Neymar vs. Bayern.
In the end, Kingsley Coman’s header at the 59’ mark was all Bayern needed and ‘Man of the Match,’ keeper Manuel Neuer, came up big, including right at the end.
Neymar was never a factor…at least from what I saw…as I furiously flipped all over the place in this hectic afternoon of sports.
--The NFL season is sneaking up on us…it is going to get done, it would seem, at least the start. But especially with zero game action, i.e., exhibition games that we’d be having now, there is zero to report on.
Except Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his neck, though he plans to continue on in his role with the team during his treatment.
“I was stunned,” Rivera told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “But I was angry because I feel like I’m in the best health I’ve been in.”
We wish him the very best.
--Churchill Downs announced that the Kentucky Derby will be run Sept. 5 without fans, after organizers had hoped to have a limited number of spectators. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (Dem.) said: “The virus is still aggressively spreading in Kentucky, and the White House has announced that Jefferson County and the city of Louisville are a ‘red zone’ based on increases in cases. This week alone the county had more than 2,300 new cases. I applaud Churchill Downs for continuing to monitor the virus and for making the right and responsible decision.”
In this screwed up sports season, recall that Tiz the Law won the Belmont and then the Travers Stakes, held Aug. 8, to cement himself as the foremost story for the first week of September. If he were to win the Derby 11 weeks after the Belmont, he would try for the strangest Triple Crown to date at the Preakness Stakes, which was rescheduled for Oct. 3 at Pimlico.
--Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth Friday to a cub at Washington’s National Zoo. At 22, Mei Xiang is the oldest giant panda to successfully give birth in the United States.
Now we don’t know what the kid’s name will be, but it’s rumored he or she’s (it takes a while to determine the sex of the cub) first words were, “Get me my bamboo!”
Reminder, the cub will be cute a few months and then become a major whiner.
Now you want a cute baby? This weekend at the Bristol Zoo (UK), Kala, a nine-year-old western lowland gorilla, gave birth and the first pictures are precious. This kid won’t be screaming for bamboo. This kid will change the world!!!
Top 3 songs for the week 8/23/69: #1 “Honky Tonk Women” (The Rolling Stones) #2 “A Boy Named Sue” (Johnny Cash) #3 “Crystal Blue Persuasion” (Tommy James & The Shondells…in my top three all time…)…and…#4 “Sweet Caroline” (Neil Diamond) #5 “In The Year 2525” (Zager & Evans…ugh…) #6 “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” (Jackie DeShannon) #7 “Green River” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) #8 “Polk Salad Annie” (Tony Joe White) #9 “Get Together” (The Youngbloods) #10 “Laughing” (The Guess Who… B+ …too many mediocre songs…)
NFL Hall of Fame Quiz Answers: Four running backs in the Hall whose last name begins with ‘T’: Jim Taylor, Thurman Thomas, LaDainian Tomlinson and….Charley Trippi.
Trippi had 3,506 yards rushing, a 5.1 average per carry, plus 130 receptions for the Chicago Cardinals, 1947-55, helping them to the ’47 NFL title with two touchdowns in the finale against the Eagles, 28-21. He also played some quarterback, defensive back, returned kicks and punted.
Born in Pittston, PA, he was a proud Georgia Bulldog and, wouldn’t you know, Mr. Trippi is still alive, now 98.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday…probably sooner.
***This afternoon I heard from my new best friend, Lori, at the Pike County (PA) Museum. Per my attempt to find Smoky (sic) Joe Wood’s grave, she contacted his grandson, keeper of the flame. The family does not want to divulge the exact location for various reasons, which I totally respect. I also now believe my friend and I were ‘hot’ on the trail. But since the grandson mentioned “potential liability,” I’m guessing there were mega rattlers around the site, among other things, which Lori had warned me of before.