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The NFL Opens Up...College Football's Struggles Continue
[Posted Sun. p.m. …after an epic U.S. Open men’s title finale…]
Baseball Quiz: Cy Young is first in career innings pitched with 7,356, followed by Pud Galvin (6,003) and Walter Johnson (5,914). Johnson retired in 1927. Nos. 4-6 on the list are all modern-day hurlers who pitched at least some in the 1960s. Name ‘em. Answer below.
Christine Brennan / USA TODAY
“I love college football, always have, always will. When I was growing up in Ohio, right on the Michigan border, went to University of Michigan games on fall Saturday afternoons, then University of Toledo games at night. Our very own football doubleheaders, my father called them.
“In college, I never missed a home game at Northwestern, although I probably should have because we lost almost all of them. These days, NU wins quite a bit, so not only do I go back to campus for a game or two every season, I’ve attended 10 of the Wildcats’ last 11 bowl games.
“College football also has been a cornerstone of my journalism career, from my early beats covering the University of Florida and University of Miami to reporting on a dozen or so national championship games.
“I tell you this as a prelude to what happened over Labor Day weekend. I turned on one of the college football games on TV, watched a few plays, then turned it off. The next day, I did the same. Turned it on. Turned it off.
“As I said, I love college football, but I can’t watch it. Not this year.
“In what has to be the riskiest roll of the dice in the history of college sports, 76 universities, many of them in the South and Southwest, are embarking on the most reckless action ever perpetuated on college campuses in the name of athletics, pressing on with their quest to play football in the middle of a pandemic.
“These schools are going to ridiculous lengths, twisting themselves into pretzels, hiding Covid-19 test results and cobbling together starting lineups with those who aren’t quarantined, to justify the unjustifiable; allowing student-athletes to play a sport that is the antithesis of social distancing on campuses teeming with coronavirus.
“College presidents at these schools, including the entire ACC, SEC and Big 12, are making the biggest gamble of their careers: That their decision to play football this fall won’t kill people.
“Right now, they have no idea if it will or if it won’t. Open those stadiums, play those games and who knows what will happen. You can take all the precautions in the world but then a person tailgating because the school president is allowing a game to be played ends up passing the virus to another tailgater who takes it home to a spouse or gives it to a neighbor, and someone gets sick and dies. Or a worker in that stadium infects another worker who wouldn’t be there if the school had postponed fall sports.
“By now, we know the tragic storylines. Some scoff at them, saying fans need their football and colleges (and college towns) need the money. They might end up being right. We’ll know soon enough.
“But at the moment, what we do know is that the dozens of schools playing football have no idea if by allowing fall sports to be played, they will bring illness, hospitalization and even death to their campuses and communities. They can’t know what they will unleash. They’re just guessing and just hoping.”
I led with Ms. Brennan because she echoes my sentiments. I love college football more than the NFL variety, if I had to make a choice, and I watched some of UNC-Syracuse, won by the Tar Heels 31-6, and 10 Notre Dame vs. Duke, won by the Fighting Irish, 27-13, and then most of No. 1 Clemson against Wake Forest, with the Tigers rolling 37-13 (but Wake covering the spread!), and my attitude is like, does it really matter? I mean who are we kidding? You have the instances detailed below, and there are going to be more and more inevitably like them, and you might have the Big Ten and Pac-12 attempting to start up late fall or in January, and the whole thing is so disjointed. Rankings are basically meaningless.
I will say that for the players, yes, it’s an opportunity to showcase their talents for the NFL and that’s important, but at what cost?
Players, coaches and parents in the Big Ten and Pac-12 are bitching that there are no games, but where will be as a nation come November? The coronavirus isn’t going away….it could be getting significantly worse by then.
I’m sorry, but for me the games are a diversion, and chances are I’ll be watching more baseball and the playoffs on weekends then college football in October, which I wouldn’t have said in decades.
And who knows about baseball in October?
Meanwhile, the Sun Belt conference had a good Saturday, with No. 23 Iowa State, 13-point favorites, losing at home to Louisiana, 31-14, and Kansas State falling to Arkansas State, 35-31.
And the Sun Belt’s Coastal Carolina defeated Kansas for a second year in a row, 38-23.
Just a horrible weekend for the Big 12’s national reputation.
Army is 2-0, after a 37-7 win over the Sun Belt’s UL Monroe!
And back to Wake Forest-Clemson, if you’re an underdog like the Deacs were, you need to get the early breaks and Wake failed to get an obvious pass-interference call, and then our receiver, AT Perry, dropped a perfect long bomb from quarterback Sam Hartman, and there’s your ballgame. Plus, once again, coach Dave Clawson, who we all love, was way too conservative on some fourth-and-one, fourth-and-two calls.
But as Tony Soprano would have said, “Whaddya gonna do?” I mean it’s not worth committing hari-kari over, know what I’m sayin’?
[At least we performed better than the prior two meetings with Clemson; 52-3 and 63-3 beatdowns.]
--Memphis’ Sept. 18 game against Houston is in jeopardy of being postponed or canceled due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the Tigers’ football program, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told the Commercial Appeal on Friday.
The person said the Tigers have at least 20 within the program who have tested positive and are currently in a 10-day isolation period; and have “at least another 20” people in quarantine due to contact tracing. Most of the players who either tested positive for Covid or are in quarantine are on the defensive side of the ball, the person said.
The dramatic uptick in positive tests, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation, has been attributed to a party bus that members of the team were on after last Saturday’s season-opening win against Arkansas State.
Can you believe that?
--Virginia Tech’s season opener against Virginia on Sept. 19 has been postponed because of “Covid-19 issues” at Virginia Tech, the school announced Saturday.
Va Tech also said that it would pause football activities for four days.
The Hokies are now scheduled to play their first game Sept. 26 against N.C. State; that game was previously postponed from Sept. 12 because of an increase in coronavirus cases in the Wolfpack athletic department.
On its web page, Virginia Tech reported Friday that it had 219 positive tests for the coronavirus in the previous seven days, putting its total infections at 633 since testing began Aug. 3.
But the school has not been releasing athletic-specific results.
Virginia said none of its football players have tested positive as yet.
--Jamain Stephens – a 20-year-old defensive lineman at the California University of Pennsylania and the son of a former NFLer – died after suffering complications from the coronavirus, according to the school and his obituary on Tuesday.
Known by his nickname “Juice,” the Pittsburgh native would have turned 21 on Sept. 21. His father, also named Jamain Stephens, was a Steelers offensive tackle who played five seasons in the NFL in the mid-90s.
Stephens had appeared in 32 games in three prior seasons at Cal U.
--Quite a few interesting story lines for Week One….
So I put the Jets on as they opened up at Buffalo and by 1:50 p.m. ET, the Jets down 21-0, I did what any good fan would do…took a nap. I mean the Jets were hideous.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen, despite two fumbles, threw for 161 yards and two touchdowns at the intermission, with another 59 rushing and a score, and the Bills cruised 27-17; Allen ending up with a career-high 312 yards, 33/46, 2-0.
Bills fans have high expectations and rightfully so. Jets fans have zero expectations and can safely take naps prior to the half.
The new-look Patriots, with Cam Newton behind center, beat the Dolphins 21-11, Newton 15/19 through the air, 155 yards, and then 75 yards and two scores on the ground.
Ryan Fitzmagic threw three interceptions for the Dolphins, Miami fans no doubt already calling for Tua.
Seattle beat the Falcons in Atlanta, 38-25, as Russell Wilson was rather sublime, 31/35, 4-0, 143.1 PR. As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy while she made him waffles, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
Disgruntled Aaron Rodgers guided the Packers to a 43-34 win over the Vikings, Rodgers 32/44, 364, 4-0…Davante Adams with 14 receptions for 156 yards and two scores.
Baltimore whipped Cleveland 38-6, as last year’s MVP, Lamar Jackson, was 20/25, 275, 3-0, 152.1, while only needing to run it seven times for another 45.
The Browns’ Baker Mayfield sucked…21/39, 189, 1-1, 65.0.
Jacksonville upset the Colts, 27-20, as quarterback Gardner Minshew II was 19 of 20 for 173 yards and three scores, a 142.3 PR. For one week he forestalled further talk of ‘tanking for Trevor’…Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, that is.
New Colts QB Philip Rivers had a typical performance…36/46 for 362 yards, but two key interceptions.
Washington had a nice opening win, 27-17 over Philadelphia, as the Redskins’ pass rush was the star, eight sacks of Carson ‘Senor Wences’*, Washington first-round pick Chase Young with 1 ½ of them.
*I recognize you have to be at least 60 years old to understand this reference, but with his play today (or rather the offensive line’s performance), it fits.
--Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow made his NFL debut and he fell short, the No. 1 pick in last spring’s draft falling to the Los Angeles Chargers, 16-13; Burrow 23/36, 193, 0-1, 66.1, but a 23-yard TD run early.
Summit’s Michael Badgley was 3-of-4 on field goals for the Chargers.
--And then you had Tom Brady’s debut for Tampa Bay, taking on the Saints in New Orleans, but sans fans…Drew Brees and Co. emerging victorious, Brady not on the same page with his receivers at times.
New Orleans prevailed 34-23, Brees far from great but no mistakes, while Brady was a highly-pedestrian 23/36, 239, 2-2, 78.3, including a 36-yard touchdown return of a Brady throw by Janoris Jenkins to make it 24-7 Saints early in the third.
--I am not one who is going to make much of the early NFL ratings. Thursday’s Chiefs-Titans game averaged 19.3 million TV viewers, according to Nielsen data, a decline of nearly 13% compared with last year when the Packers opened the season against the Vikings.
There’s a lot of competition for the eyeballs these days, namely NBA and NHL playoffs, that the league isn’t normally up against, plus the ongoing baseball season, now in pennant mode.
But we’ll see in about three weeks where the NFL is.
Speaking of the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, they easily handled the Titans, 34-20, as Patrick Mahomes was 24/32, 211, 3-0, while rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, out of LSU, showed he’s the real deal, 25-138-1.
--Ed Hardin / Greensboro Record
“Football is back, at least for now. The unlikely season is about to begin.
“Until today, sports hasn’t seemed real with games being played in bubbles in front of cardboard cutout fans amid a pandemic.
“And now we’re about to begin an NFL season that will really hit home Sunday when the Panthers play the Raiders.
“The Las Vegas Raiders.
“So assuming for just a second that this actually works, that we get a full 16-game season from all 32 teams and then a Super Bowl playoff run after that, just what are we getting ready to watch?
“Here in the Carolinas, where the virus has used I-85 as a highway to hell and back, we’re going to have a football game in front of zero fans having seen a Thursday game between the Super Bowl champion Chiefs and the Houston Texans with about 22,000 people in the stands [Ed. 16,000].
“This is how the unlikely season will begin.
“Aside from all the hoops and hurdles yet to be navigated by the NFL, what will it feel like? Will it feel real? Or have we already put an asterisk on sports in 2020 that will forever mark it as something to be forgotten?....
“This is going to be surreal, and for many NFL fans it will be too bizarre to fathom. Until now, the idea of professional athletes slamming into each other for our entertainment and money has been a weird dream. Now we’re going to watch it play out before us in real time, in real games in the middle of a real pandemic.
“The crowded airplanes will begin shipping players and coaches and doctors and trainers and support staff all over the country as cities from Charlotte to LA curiously anticipate teams from all over the continent bringing teams and equipment and God knows what else into their ZIP codes.
“Some players will kneel before the games. Some will have personal statements of protest that will inspire some of us and infuriate others as we await a real NFL response to the social justice movement across the world.
“We have no idea what we’re about to see….
“We can only assume this will end well when deep down we fear it won’t.
“The unlikely season is upon us, descending from above like a bubble blown in by rolling thunder.
“We can only pray it doesn’t burst.”
--[The following opinion pieces are more political than standard Bar Chat fare…but that is what the NFL is this year…largely political…]
LZ Granderson / Los Angeles Times
“Ever since the most powerful football fan in the world trained his sights on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, the league has been scrambling to find ways to appease both him and his hyper-local, hyper-vocal base. NFL owners, following Donald Trump’s lead, pivoted the anthem conversation toward patriotism rather than the criminal justice reform it is really about….
“And now it’s the NFL owners’ turn to be played. With the release of taped interviews between Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward and President Trump on Wednesday, we now know that Trump purposely downplayed the risks of the coronavirus….
“Think about this: Trump privately admitted he knew how serious the coronavirus threat was a week after the Super Bowl but three weeks later, publicly characterized the virus as the latest Democratic hoax. On April 23, the first day of the NFL draft, Trump suggested using bleach as a treatment. The next day the country eclipsed 50,000 Covid-19 deaths. The country will likely eclipse 200,000 later this month.
“How many lives were lost because Trump purposely downplayed the threat? How many businesses were hurt? How much suffering has occurred? View it through a sports lens. Minor league baseball has been ravaged to the brink of extinction. Many high school seniors were robbed of a final season. Vendors, videographers, parking attendants all have gone without work to put food on their tables.
“NFL stadiums are opening to largely empty stadiums this week…because the pandemic wasn’t taken seriously enough by the politicians to whom the owners of these stadiums have donated millions.
“The politician who used their league as a proxy in the culture war and who screamed at the NBA and U.S. women’s national soccer team to stick to sports even as he nakedly married sports and politics.
“The politician who held a highly efficient, winning quarterback up as a totem of anti-Americanism even as that athlete championed the most sacred, if cynically manipulated, American value: equality. (Owner Michael) Bidwill’s Cardinals alone have had seven starting quarterbacks since (Colin) Kaepernick last took a snap. Still, four years later, he is trying to convince audiences he has no idea why Kaepernick hasn’t received a call.
“He knows why.
“I know why.
“We all know why.
“Don’t get this twisted. This isn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans. This is a President Trump-versus-the-NFL conversation, which has taken a critical turn now that Trump has admitted he purposely downplayed the dangers of the virus at a time in which the truth could have saved all of us a lot more than grief, but lives. Nine owners contributed nearly $8 million to Trump’s inauguration committee alone, including $1 million from the Rams’ Stan Kroenke, whose shiny new $5-billion stadium sits empty because of the pandemic.
“If I was an NFL team owner, I would not be happy about the loss of revenue the pandemic will cause. I would be angry knowing that loss of millions might have been avoided had the president I supported with millions not lied to the public about the virus. I would feel foolish supporting that president again. But I’m not an NFL owner. I’m just a guy wondering if NFL stadiums would be packed this week had the country taken Covid-19 seriously back in February when the president clearly knew better, but opted not to do better.”
Bruce Jenkins / San Francisco Chronicle…as passed on by “San Francisco Bob”.
“The NFL season is upon us, and we know one thing for certain after watching the pregame scenes in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday night: President Trump can’t be happy.
“Then again, who is?
“With a chance to set the tone for the league’s stance on social justice, the Chiefs, Houston Texans and the spectators went their separate ways. A number of statements were made, but for those trying to forecast what’s coming with a full schedule Sunday, good luck. The current state of affairs is confusion.
“Nothing short of instant kickoff – no gestures, no protests, and a national anthem fully honored – will satisfy the White House, so expect a barrage of ridicule from there. The Chiefs chose not to kneel, except that one player (Alex Okafor) did. The Texans decided to simply ignore the anthem, remaining in the locker room until it was over.
“As decreed by the NFL for the entire season, two anthems were played, with Alicia Keys’ stirring rendition of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ known as the Black national anthem. About the time fans were ready for some football, the two teams came together and linked arms in a collective show of unity – and they were booed by a crowd amounting to some 16,000.
“Booing unity? That’s a little bit strange, even in 2020.
“Possible explanation: Those fans were setting their own agenda. Just as NBC’s Al Michaels announced that ‘they are all spaced apart and wearing masks’ at the game’s outset, a shot of the stands revealed nothing of the sort. Throughout the game, there were small clusters of people sitting close together. Many were not wearing masks, or leaving them tied below the face. Between tailgating and the stadium sale of alcohol, some of these people were pretty well tanked. They’d gone through a number of safety protocols just to get inside the stadium, and after 15 minutes of social-justice ceremony, maybe they just wanted the damn game to start.
“At least one NFL team has made its intentions clear. The Miami Dolphins have decided to stay inside during both anthems on game days. In a 2-minute, 17-second video demanding action rather than ‘empty gestures’ in the fight against racial injustice and police brutality, 18 players – both Black and white – combined to say, ‘This attempt to unify only creates more divide. So we’ll skip this song and dance, and as a team we’ll stay inside. …We need changed hearts, not just a response to pressure. …We need owners with influence and pockets bigger than ours to call up officials and flex political power.’
“It won’t be long before some questions must be asked: With only scattered attendance, or none at all in some NFL settings, for whom are the anthems being played? What’s the point, if they only lead to divisiveness and discord? And shouldn’t more people be listening to Miami linebacker Elandon Roberts?
“ ‘So if my dad was a soldier but the cops killed my brother,’ Roberts says in the Dolphins’ video, ‘do I stand for one anthem and kneel for the other?’”
--A Washington Post poll found that a majority of football fans say it is acceptable for professional athletes to kneel during the national anthem, and an even larger percentage say athletes should use their platforms to tackle social issues.
62 percent of Americans say professional athletes should use their platforms to express their views on national issues, including over 8 in 10 Black Americans and 7 in 10 adults under age 50.
Opinions are similar among football fans, with 59 percent saying kneeling during the national anthem is an appropriate way to protest racial inequality and 64 percent saying athletes should express views on national issues in general.
A July NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 52 percent of registered voters felt it was appropriate for athletes to kneel in protest.
According to the Post poll, 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents say it is appropriate to kneel during the anthem in protest, while 36 percent of Republicans say it is appropriate.
But the 63 percent of Republicans who say it is inappropriate is down from the 88 percent who registered that sentiment in a 2018 Post poll.
--The Yankees had started 16-6, and then shockingly went 5-15 to drop to .500, in danger of missing the playoffs, but after a 3-1 win over the Orioles today, New York has won five-in-a-row, now 26-21, solidly in the playoffs, the pitching staff having yielded just five runs in the five wins, including Gerrit Cole’s 7-inning shutout Friday in a doubleheader to move to 5-3, 3.20.
--As for my Metsies, Friday night in Buffalo, for a second straight time the Mets supported Jacob deGrom with a plethora of runs, 18 of ‘em in an 18-1 win over the Blue Jays, after scoring 14 for the two-time Cy Young Award winner in a victory over the Phillies.
DeGrom, now 4-1, with an ERA of 1.67, actually has a shot at a third straight Cy Young award with three remaining starts scheduled for the season.
But the Mets, overall, fell to 21-26 after losing the past two to Toronto (26-20), including 7-3 today. Stick a fork in ‘em. What a disappointing, stupid year.
--The White Sox entered play today 29-16, first in the AL Central, as slugger Jose Abreu, after a 2 homer, 7 RBI game Saturday against Detroit, had 15 home runs and 47 RBIs, while shortstop Tim Anderson is playing his butt off, batting.358 at the top of the order.
And Chicago beat the Tigers (20-26) again today, 5-2, to move to 30-16…Anderson two more hits (now .362), Abreu another RBI, his 48th.
The ChiSox will be fun to watch in the playoffs.
--The Cubs’ Alec Mills, who I frankly never heard of though he is now 5-3 this season, threw a no-hitter today, 12-0 over the Brewers, Mills walking three and striking out five. It took him 114 pitches.
Not for nothing but for the disappointing Brewers (20-24), one of the five best players in the game, Christian Yelich, is batting .199. C’mon, Christian. Get it together.
--Atlanta set a franchise record for runs on Wednesday night, 29-9 over Miami in Atlanta.
The Braves broke loose for 11 runs in the second and nearly matched the modern scoring mark since 1900, set by the Texas Rangers in a 30-3 rout of the Orioles in 2007.
Adam Duvall drove in nine runs with three homers, including a grand slam. It was his second, three-homer game in a week.
The Braves topped their old franchise mark (including stops in Boston and Milwaukee) by six runs.
Separately, Mets castoff Travis d’Arnaud is the new cleanup hitter in Atlanta and he’s responded with 28 RBIs in 125 at-bats, batting .320 with pop in the process.
--Johnny Mac mentioned to me the other day he had never seen worse pitching, and as a matter of fact, eight teams had a staff ERA of over 5.00 entering play today, with another three at 4.92-4.96.
So I looked it up. Seven teams in 2019 finished with ERAs over 5.00, just one in 2018, 3 in 2017, 2 in 2016, 1 in 2015.
--Two last notes on Tom Seaver, the first passed on by reader Bill C., via the New York Times’ Vincent M. Mallozzi.
Elena Gustines, a longtime baseball fan, walked away from the sport in 1994 amid the player strike that wiped out the playoffs. The next spring, when most fans returned to the national pastime, Gustines said she would not.
The devoted Mets fan left the door open a crack, however, saying, “The only way I’ll go back to baseball is if Tom Seaver himself invites me back.”
Ten years later she hadn’t budged. Even when Mets center fielder Mike Cameron sent her a handwritten letter, pleading with her to come back.
“Nope,” Ms. Gustines said, “I told you, it has to be Tom Seaver.”
So in 2004, determined to get her back to the game, a few of Ms. Gustines’ friends and colleagues at The New York Times, where she still works, tried the only thing left to try. They wrote Mets P.R. director Jay Horwitz, described the situation, and practically begged him to reach out to Seaver himself.
In May, Gustines received a birthday card.
“Dear Elena, we miss you! Please come back to the baseball family. The game really needs you and so do the Mets! Your friend, Tom Seaver.”
“When it was announced last week that Mr. Seaver had died, Ms. Gustines had already spilled enough tears to postpone a baseball game when she began accepting heartfelt condolences from family and friends.”
Gustines met Seaver through a contact at the Times in 2009 and the two had kept in touch.
A marketing agent who represented Seaver at autograph shows, Mollie Ann Bacigliano, said the other day, “Tom loved Elena. He told me, ‘You don’t know the joy I get out of somebody like her, she’s so real and so genuine.’”
Gustines made two books for Seaver, one filled with every box score from Seaver’s 61 career shutouts, and another filled with his 311 victories.
After receiving his career wins book, Gustines’ No. 1 fan turned the pages with an incredulous look on his face.
“This was a labor of love for you, wasn’t it?” he asked.
Ms. Gustines nodded.
“As pitching was for me,” he said.
One more bit that I missed in my celebration of Tom Terrific’s life the other day:
On the day Seaver was elected to the Hall of Fame, he told the New York Daily News: “My children will be able to take their children to the Hall of Fame and say: ‘There’s your grandfather. In his day, he was pretty good.’
“That’s a wonderful thing to think about.”
--There should be no asterisk attached to the winner of the women’s title this year, with 4-seed Naomi Osaka defeating a resurgent Victoria Azarenka, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday to capture her second U.S. Open crown and third grand slam overall. The 22-year-old is the face of women’s tennis these days…and that’s a good thing.
My problem was I watched the first set, saw Osaka go down 6-1, thought, ‘well, this one is over,’ started watching other sports, and didn’t catch her dramatic comeback. Doh! My apologies to Team Osaka.
As for the 31-year-old Azarenka, she was gunning for her third grand slam, not having won since her back-to-back major championships in 2012 and 2013 at the Australian Open, losing to Serena Williams both years in the U.S. Open finals.
--Serena, who lost her semifinal to Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, thus once again failing to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, then withdrew from the upcoming Italian Open, citing the Achilles issue that bothered her in her loss to Azarenka. [Williams hasn’t won a Slam since January 2017.]
The clay-court tournament in Rome is a warm-up event for the French Open, which starts Sept. 27.
Rafael Nadal headlines the Italian Open on the men’s side, with Novak Djokovic also entered.
U.S. open finalists Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev withdrew.
Well how did these two do in their title match this evening? The 23-year-old German Zverev took the first two sets, 6-2, 6-4, but then the 27-year-old Austrian Thiem won the next two, 6-4, 6-3, setting up a fifth set.
By this time I was watching the action again and there were some terrific points, Thiem with a few awesome forehands to tie it at 5-5.
And then it went to a 6-6 tiebreak, Thiem’s legs giving out.
And in a finale they’ll be talking about for a long time, Thiem won it 7-6 (8-6)…an amazing comeback, four hours, both literally on their last legs. Wow…great stuff….and NO ASTERISK on this title either!!!
A first slam for Thiem, one of many, no doubt, while Zverev will break through soon himself.
--How much does the world suck these days? Novak Djokovic had to urge trolls to stop writing threatening and cruel posts about the lineswoman he struck last Sunday at the U.S. Open, earning an automatic disqualification.
Djokovic posted on social media in part Monday:
“Please also remember the linesperson that was hit by the ball last night needs our community’s support too. She has done nothing wrong at all. I ask you to stay especially supportive and caring to her during this time.”
--Boston defeated Toronto in their Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, 92-87. A big key was Boston’s Grant Williams missing two foul shots with 35.4 seconds left, but Jayson Tatum grabbed the offensive rebound on the second miss and was fouled. He made 1-of-2, giving the Celts a 90-87 lead.
Toronto’s Fred VanVleet launched a difficult 3-pointner with 12 seconds left, and Kemba Walker sealed the deal with two free throws.
Boston’s Marcus Smart had the defensive play of the game with a block on Normal Powell’s fastbreak layup attempt with 58.2 seconds remaining that would’ve tied the score at 89-all.
So the Celtics play Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, a series expected to begin Tuesday, the Heat surprise 4-1 winners over the Bucks earlier. This should be an entertaining matchup.
Out west, though still south, in the Orlando bubble, the Clippers had built up a 3-1 series lead in their Western Conference semis vs. the Nuggets, but today, Denver evened it at 3-3, after a 111-98 win behind Nikola Jokic’s 34 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists.
So the highly-anticipated Clippers-Lakers conference final matchup is not a certainty, the Lakers having easily dispatched of the Rockets yesterday, 119-96, taking that series 4-1.
--The Islanders had a big 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on Friday night in Edmonton to prevent going down 3-0 in their Eastern Conference final series, after the Lightning took the first two, 8-2 and 2-1.
So the teams hooked up in Game 4 this afternoon….and the Lightning had their way with the Isles again, 4-1, to take a 3-1 series lead. [Didn’t catch any of this…a lot goin’ on today!]
Saturday, Dallas went up 3-1 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final with a 2-1 win.
After an all-too-short break the EPL opened its 2020-21 season and defending champion Liverpool had a tough 4-3 win over newcomer Leeds.
For Leeds, it was a superb effort in their return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, only to lose to a late penalty in a thriller (according to my brother, Reds fan, who watched it).
Liverpool pulled it out thanks in no small part because of Mohamed Salah’s hat-trick.
But this season is going to be incredibly chaotic, having opened up a month later than normal, expected to finish on May 23, roughly normal, and for many players it’s a nightmare, what with national-team commitments, Champions League, etc. It will be a test of the players’ physical abilities, for starters.
It also potentially opens the door for a team to crash the traditional Big Six; Leicester City finishing fifth last season and Wolverhampton knocking at the door with a talented squad.
And just saw my Tottenham Spurs lost today to Everton 1-0. Drat!
--Brad Keselowski punched his ticket into the Round of 12 as he won Saturday night’s playoff race in Richmond, joining Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, the other nine slots to be determined next Saturday in Bristol when the field is cut from 16 to 12. It was Keselowski’s 34th career win.
--Bubba Wallace announced he is leaving Richard Petty Motorsports after the 2020 season.
“This was not an easy decision as I have nothing but utmost respect for Richard Petty and his family, but I believe it’s time for someone else to take over the reins of the No. 43,” Wallace said in a Twitter post.
“Thank you to the King and everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to start my Cup Series career. I’ve grown so much as a driver and as a person since joining them.”
Wallace has yet to win a Cup race during his three seasons driving for Petty, but he has a career-best five top-10 finishes this season.
He has signed several big sponsorship deals that he can take with him to his next team.
--In the first event of the new 2020-21 wraparound season, the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif., the field was limited in quality with the U.S. Open the following week, and right after the FedEx Cup playoffs ended. Only natural the big names needed a break.
[I’m posting before the conclusion, 47-year-old Stewart Cink clinging to a two-shot lead with two holes to go.]
--So all eyes will be on Winged Foot next week. It threatens to be a brutal test for the golfers, just the way we like it for this major and there will be a lot of whining. For those of you not in the area, thus far the weather forecast is great, though chilly next weekend, which perhaps impacts Tiger Woods should be make the cut.
Brooks Koepka pulled out due to his nagging knee issues.
“I’m looking forward to getting healthy and competing at 100 percent again very soon,” Koepka said in a statement.
--John Daly, 54, revealed he had surgery for bladder cancer, which was successful, but he was also told there’s an 85% chance of recurrence.
“Luckily for me, they caught it early, but bladder cancer is something that I don’t know all the details,” he said the other day. “But it doesn’t look like it may go away. We will just see what happens. Maybe there’s a miracle.”
--The PGA Tour released its 2020-21 schedule this week and it features 50 events – the most in any season since 1975. With the Olympics slated for July 26-Aug. 1, it is even more packed, highlighted by the The Players Championship, March 11-14, The Masters April 8-11, the PGA Championship May 20-23, the U.S. Open June 17-20, The Open Championship July 15-18, and then the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Aug. 19-22, Aug. 26-29, with the Tour Championship Sept. 2-5.
Of course we also have The Masters, 2020 delayed version, coming up in November.
The PGA Tour is hoping by January to have near-normal events in terms of spectators being on the course in sizable numbers. It can’t go on forever without the revenue stream.
--Those of us of a certain age in particular were saddened to learn of the passing of actress Diana Rigg, who first burst into our living room as a star of the iconic 1960s spay series “The Avengers,” and then had a late star turn in “Game of Thrones.” Rigg was 82.
Rigg starred as Emma Peel alongside Patrick Macnee’s bowler-hatted John Steed in “The Avengers”; the pair an impeccably dressed duo who fought villains and traded quips in a show whose mix of adventure and humor endured for decades in re-runs.
Rigg then starred in the 1969 James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” as Tracy diVicenzo, the only woman ever to marry, albeit briefly, Agent 007.
George Lazenby, who made his only appearance as Bond in the film, said on Instagram that he was “so sad to hear of the death of Diana Rigg. She undoubtedly raised my acting game when we made On Her Majesty’s Secret Service together in 1968-9.”
In later life, Rigg played Olenna Tyrell – the formidable “Queen of Thorns” – in “Game of Thrones,” receiving an Emmy Award nomination for the role.
Diana Rigg also had a noteworthy stage career, winning a Tony Award for “Medea” on Broadway, and was nominated on three other occasions – most recently in 2018 for playing Mrs. Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”
--SHARK! From the Associated Press:
“A shark fatally mauled a surfer on Tuesday on Australia’s Gold Coast city tourist strip in a rare attack off a beach protected by shark netting, officials said.
“The man, aged in his 50s, was brought to shore by fellow surfers and lifeguards at popular Greenmount Beach with leg injuries, Queensland state Ambulance Service supervisor William Houghton said.
“Paramedics determined he was already dead on the beach, he said.
“The death is only the second fatal shark attack off one of Queensland’s 85 beaches that have been protected by shark nets and drum lines since as early as 1962, the state government said.
“The last fatal shark attack off a Gold Coast beach, 24 of which are now netted, was in 1958.
“Shark nets are suspended from floats and run parallel to beaches. They are 186 meters (610 feet) long and 6 meters (20 feet) deep. Sharks can swim under the nets and around their ends.
“No details were immediately available about the shark.”
Let’s just say the victim’s injuries were rather gruesome.
Australia’s last fatal shark attack was north of the Gold Coast near Fraser Island on July 4, when a 36-year-old spear fisherman was killed.
A 60-year-old surfer was killed by a great white at an unprotected beach south of the Gold Coast on June 7.
Overall, it is the seventh fatal attack in Australian waters this year, which is a lot. Normally there have been one or two in recent years.
--On a friendlier shark note, the Wall Street Journal’s Jo Craven McGinty had a piece on the Greenland Shark and the debate over how old it may be.
“If you’ve noticed a widely circulated photograph of a shark that, according to the caption, is nearly 400 years old, hang on.
“That number could soon change.
“The radiocarbon dates scientists used to estimate the shark’s age were recalibrated this year, and the researchers aren’t yet sure how the revision will affect their calculations….
“According to their research, the Greenland shark has a lifespan of at least 272 years and as much as 512, making it (as far as they know) the oldest living vertebrate.”
Well, it’s not easy doing this kind of research and we’ll never precisely know how long the shark can live, but let’s just agree it’s a long time.
By the way, the Journal notes that in terms of longevity, the Galapagos tortoise can live to 177, the red sea urchin 200, a bowhead whale 211, and an ocean quahog clam 300 years.
Oh, the stories the quahog clam can tell of life at the bottom of the sea, where Dean Martin’s “Tiny Bubbles” is piped in on a loop.
Cindy R. has suggested the All-Species List treat the Greenland Shark with more respect and I don’t disagree. I thus have sent out notice to the ASL Supreme Council in Kazakhstan to convene quickly to reassess the list. In light of the wonderful job sharks have been doing in particular the past year, a number of them could find their way into the top ten, ditto the bonobo.
I’ll try to keep the discussion from getting too partisan.
--From Joel Shannon of USA TODAY:
“Swarms of mosquitoes have killed cows, deer, horses and other livestock in Louisiana after rain from Hurricane Laura led to an explosion in the pests’ population.
“Thousands of mosquitoes have attacked animals as large as bulls, draining their blood and driving the massive creatures to pace in summer heat until they were exhausted, according to a Louisiana State University AgCenter veterinarian, agent and press release….
“Farmers near where the storm made landfall have probably lost 300 to 400 cattle, said Dr. Craig Fontenot, a large-animal veterinarian based in Ville Platte.
“ ‘They’re vicious little suckers,’ he said.”
At least the species of mosquito doesn’t transmit human diseases easily, experts say.
--Experts at the St. Louis Zoo are trying to figure out how a 62-year-old ball python laid seven eggs despite not being near a male python for at least two decades.
62 years old? That’s more worrisome.
--We note the passing of Ronald “Khalis” Bell, the self-taught musician who co-founded and sang in Kool & the Gang, the pride of Jersey City, N.J., and one of the biggest bands of the 1970s. He was 68.
Bell co-wrote many of the group’s biggest hits, including “Ladies Night,” “Jungle Boogie,” the No. 1 hit “Celebration” and “Summer Madness.”
In 1964, Bell and his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, joined neighborhood friends Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West to create a unique musical blend of jazz, soul and funk. At first they called themselves the Jazziacs, and the band went through a number of name changes before settling on Kool and the Gang, officially launched in 1969.
I’m going to have “Jungle Boogie” on my brain for a while, a great party song….and that’s OK…
Top 3 songs for the week 9/15/73: #1 “Delta Dawn” (Helen Reddy) #2 “Let’s Get It On” (Marvin Gaye) #3 “Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose” (Dawn featuring Tony Orlando)…and…#4 “Loves Me Like A Rock” (Paul Simon) #5 “We’re An American Band” (Grand Funk) #6 “Brother Louie” (Stories) #7 “Touch Me In The Morning” (Diana Ross…where…) #8 “Gypsy Man” (War) #9 “Live And Let Die” (Wings…fave of moi…) #10 “Here I Am (Come And Take Me)” (Al Green…B- week…)
Baseball Quiz Answer: The three leaders in career innings pitched behind No. 3 Walter Johnson are…4. Phil Niekro (5,404) 5. Nolan Ryan (5,386) 6. Gaylord Perry (5,350).
Perry and Ryan had 200-inning seasons at age 43, but Niekro threw his knuckler for 210 innings at age 47 in 1986. Kind of makes you want to treat all three with a little more respect, as Pigpen would say.
Tom Seaver is No. 19 on the list at 4,783.
Next Bar Chat, Wednesday. Friends, the midweek Bar Chats are going to be very brief at least the next few months I suspect.
But next time I’m going to have some thoughts on some of baseball’s rules changes, having solicited the opinions of some of you.