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College Football...Covid Bytes
Note: Posted Sunday p.m. No midweek B.C. for multiple reasons, including I’ve been ignoring some major site issues for far too long. Back in a week.
NASCAR Quiz: Last Wednesday, in the long-delayed finish due to weather at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch, the defending Cup Series champion, finally won his first of the year, importantly making it 16 years in a row with at least one win. How good is this? Name the only other five drivers in NASCAR history with 16 or more consecutive years with a win. Answer below.
College Football Review
[Comments posted prior to release of latest AP Poll]
The plot thickens…with Trevor Lawrence being ruled out of next week’s Clemson-Notre Dame game, and with Oklahoma State’s loss, meaning no possibility of a Big 12 team in the College Football Playoffs, that opens the door to certainly a second SEC team, and maybe now, Cincinnati!
And the Heisman race is suddenly wide open.
But for now a quick review of the key action.
No. 1 Clemson, needing to start freshman D.J. Uiagalelei in place of Lawrence, out with his positive Covid test, threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns, but Boston College (4-3) raced off to a shocking 28-10 lead, 28-13 at the half, behind the play of Notre Dame transfer QB Phil Jurkovec.
But then the Clemson ‘D’ slammed the door shut in the second half, and Travis Etienne ended up with a personal best 264 yards of total offense (84 rushing, 140 receiving, 40 on a single kickoff return), two touchdowns, and the Tigers rallied 34-28 to remain undefeated at 7-0.
Etienne also broke Ted Brown’s ACC rushing record of 4,602 yards, Brown doing that at N.C. State from 1975 to ’78 (man, I feel so old), as well as scoring a touchdown in 42 games for his career, breaking a tie with Donnel Pumphrey (SDSU…2013-16) for most in FBS history.
No. 2 Alabama (6-0) cruised 41-0 over Mississippi State (1-4), as Mac Jones becomes the new Heisman frontrunner with Trevor Lawrence missing two games. Jones was 24/31, 291, 4-0, with all four TDs going to receiver DeVonta Smith, who had himself quite a day, 11-203-4. So much for missing Jaylen Waddle, though ‘Bama seems thin at WR (after Smith and John Metchie III).
3 Ohio State is 2-0 after a 38-25 win in Covid (UnHappy) Valley over 18 Penn State (0-2), as the other Heisman frontrunner, Justin Fields*, led the Buckeyes at QB, 28/34, 318, 4-0.
*Gonna be hard to give the Heisman to a guy, Fields, who may play just six or so games.
4 Notre Dame (6-0) defeated Georgia Tech (2-5) 31-13 and now gets ready for Clemson.
5 Georgia (4-1) remains in the CFP hunt with a 14-3 win over Kentucky (2-4), though the offense blows.
7 Cincinnati (5-0) won a biggie, 49-10 over a solid Memphis (3-2) team, holding the Tigers to a mere 3 yards rushing, the Bearcats with possibly the best ‘D’ in the land.
But 6 Oklahoma State (4-1) threw away any chance of representing the Big 12 in the CFP, losing to Texas 41-34, despite outgaining the Longhorns (4-2) 527-287.
It was all about turnovers, the Cowboys coughing it up 4 times, Texas none, as well as committing a critical roughing-the-punter penalty on a fourth-and-22 play with a five-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. OSU star Chuba Hubbard was held to 69 yards rushing on 24 carries, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger with 3 touchdown passes.
The real story for the Longhorns, though, was linebacker Joseph Ossai, who had one of the best games in recent memory, 3 sacks, six tackles for a loss, recovered a fumble, and forced another. With one effort, he turned himself into a high first-round draft pick….just a guess here.
In other games….
10 Florida (3-1) is very much in the CFP conversation with a brawl-filled 41-17 win over Missouri (2-3). Kyle Trask had another four touchdown game, making it 18 TD passes in four.
The Gators play Georgia next week and can vault over them.
11 BYU is 7-0 after a 41-10 win over Western Kentucky.
So much for the Jim Harbaugh Era, which was never an era to begin with. The guy has sucked at Michigan, the 13 Wolverines losing to Michigan State 27-24. Harbaugh is now 3-3 against MSU and 0-5 against Ohio State. Bye-bye, Mr. Khaki.
Rutgers fairy-tale season is over in Week 2, falling to 17 Indiana (2-0) 37-21, as Rutgers QB Noah Vedral was intercepted 3 times, the Hoosiers’ Michael Penix Jr. continuing his fine play at quarterback after the upset of Penn State.
15 North Carolina’s major bowl hopes were crushed with a 44-41 loss at Virginia (2-4), the Tar Heels falling to 4-2 despite quarterback Sam Howell’s spectacular 23/28, 443, 4-0 performance.
Equally spectacular was the play of his main target, junior wide receiver Dyami Brown, who had 11 receptions for 240 yards and 3 TDs. Brown had a great 2019, but hadn’t done too much early this season before yesterday’s breakout.
But, still, Virginia came away with the win.
Johnny Mac said his No. 20 Coastal Carolina boys were being disrespected, favored over Georgia State by only 3 ½, as the Chanticleers then crushed the Panthers 51-0 behind quarterback Grayson McCall’s five touchdowns (4 throwing, 1 rushing).
Coastal Carolina outgained Georgia State 530-106! Eegads.
And my Wake Forest Demon Deacons are suddenly 4-2, needing just two more wins to get to another bowl game, 38-14 winners at Syracuse (1-6). Kenneth Walker III had three touchdowns on the ground and Wake QB Sam Hartman continued his efficient play, 19/33, 250, 1-0.
The redshirt sophomore Hartman doesn’t have spectacular overall numbers, but the bottom line is he has thrown 150 passes this season without an interception, and as Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy in reading the Sunday sports pages, Nancy making him an omelette, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
Of course I haven’t yet addressed the elephant in the room…Covid. Specifically as it pertains to No. 9 Wisconsin, which had to cancel, not just postpone, it’s contest with Nebraska due to 22 positive Covid tests (12 players, 10 staff). On Tuesday we’ll learn if the Badgers will be able to play Purdue next Saturday. How many other Big Ten teams, Covid surging throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio, in particular, will be hit with a similar surge in cases among their teams?
19 Marshall (5-0) had its game with Florida International (0-3) also postponed, due to ongoing issues at FIU.
When us outsiders looked at the college football season and playing amidst a pandemic, we generally thought November would be the problem. Well now November is here, yet we’ve already had a ton of issues.
But we hope for the best…both for the country and the sport.
--And now the new AP Poll….
1. Clemson (33) 7-0
2. Alabama (29) 6-0
3. Ohio State 2-0
4. Notre Dame 6-0
5. Georgia 4-1
6. Cincinnati 5-0
7. Texas A&M 4-1…yes, kind of dissing them
8. Florida 3-1…gaining more respect for them
9. BYU 7-0
10. Wisconsin 1-0…stupid ranking
11. Miami 5-1
13. Indiana 2-0
15. Coastal Carolina 6-0…wow!!!!
16. Marshall 5-0
18. SMU 6-1
25. Liberty 6-0…huh!
So this coming weekend, aside from Clemson-Notre Dame and Florida-Georgia, we have BYU at 21 Boise State and Liberty at Virginia Tech, a super intriguing contest suddenly.
--Locally, for us Jets fans, all that matters is that we keep losing and we do! Now 0-8 following a 35-9 loss at Kansas City (7-1). And those betting K.C. would win by 19 ½ breathed a big sigh of relief after a 21-9 halftime score. You needn’t have worried. The Jets are the worst second half team in the history of the sport.
Patrick Mahomes was rather outstanding…31/42, 416, 5-0, 144.4. The Jets did hold the Chiefs to only 50 yards rushing on 20 carries, Le’Veon Bell with 7 on six. But he had 31 on three receptions.
Anyway, we are full throttle for Trevor! [Assuming he doesn’t have long-term lung issues with his positive Covid test. I’m not writing that to be funny.]
--My friend Pete M., Patriots fan, however, now wants Trevor too; the Pats losing 24-21 to the Bills (6-2) to fall to 2-5 as Cam Newton coughed it up late in a critical situation. As in the Pats play the Jets twice, including next Monday night!
As in…we could see some strange things. Bill Belichick doesn’t want Cam anymore. I’m guessing we have lots of sudden hammie and stomach issues, each team trying to lose. Boy, whatever you do, don’t bet on this one, Sportsbookers.
--Joe Burrow had another outstanding game for the Bengals (2-5-1), 26/37, 249, 2-0, in leading Cincinnati to a 31-20 upset of the Titans (5-2) despite Derrick Henry’s 112 yards on 18 carries.
--Cleveland had a bad 16-6 loss at home to Las Vegas, the Raiders improving to 4-3, the Browns now 5-3. Josh Jacobs rushed for 128 yards for Vegas.
--The Vikings (2-5) upset the Packers (5-2) in Green Bay, 28-22, and it was the Dalvin Cook Show…163 yards rushing and three TDs on 30 carries, and another 63 and a score on two receptions. If the dude could just stay on the field, he’s the ultimate stud in the game. As I told you would be the case when he was drafted.
*I just saw Cook was the first in NFL history to score four touchdowns on the team’s first four possessions.
--In Tua Tagovailoa’s debut as a starter, the Dolphins improved to 4-3, though not because of Tua’s play…12/22, just 93 yards, one touchdown, but no INTs. In one of the more incredible summaries, Miami won 28-17 over the Rams (5-3) despite being outgained 471-145! The Rams committed 4 turnovers, while Miami had a fumble return for a touchdown and a punt return for same.
The Rams had 31 first downs to the Dolphins’ 8! Good lord.
--In the biggie of the week, talk about being outgained, the Steelers (7-0) lost the yardage battle to the Ravens (5-2), 457-221, yet won, 28-24, stopping Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson on a fourth down play inside the ten as the clock expired.
The Ravens had 4 turnovers to one for the Steelers, Jackson throwing two picks. Yet Baltimore had 265 yards rushing, Ohio State rookie J.K. Dobbins with 113.
Pittsburgh just very, very fortunate…Jeff B. ecstatic as he goes to bed tonight, Kathy B. telling him to stop saying “Yes, yes, yes!”
--The Broncos’ Drew Luck engineered an 81-yard drive in the final 2:30 for a 31-30 win over the Chargers in Denver, the Broncos now 3-4, L.A. a disappointing 2-5, as rookie Justin Herbert threw for three touchdowns but also two interceptions.
Thankfully, after two ‘off’ games, Chargers kicker, and Summit native, Michael Badgley, was perfect; 3 for 3 on both field goals and extra points. Phew.
‘Cuz you see…it’s all about Summit, people. Did you know Willie Wilson came from here? And CNBC’s Jim Cramer lives here. [I love how he sent his kids to public school. Eli Manning started out doing that but now has them at a private school in town. Remember, I went to elementary school with Ice T in my class…but I digress. “And when your engine light comes on….it’s Game Over!…”]
That cracks me up every time I see it because I visualize him in sixth grade. Good guy, but also a wise ass…as in it made perfect sense he would go on to become Ice T.
--Seattle is now 6-1 after beating San Francisco (4-4) 37-27, Russell Wilson with 4 touchdown passes, two to stud DK Metcalf (12-161-2).
--We note the passing of Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley, who played for Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packer teams that won five NFL championships in the 1960s, including the first two Super Bowls, and then helped take the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl victory. He was 81.
Adderley arrived at the Packers camp in 1961 as a first-round draft pick out of Michigan State and it was expected he’d back up Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung at running back. But he was stuck behind them.
Lombardi, though, saw Adderley as the best pure athlete on the team and had him work with the defense in the secondary. He’d go on to play nine seasons at left cornerback, and three with the Cowboys, intercepting 48 passes, returning seven of them for touchdowns. He took an interception 60 yards for a score when the Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.
Adderley was selected for the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1960s, alongside fellow Hall of Famers Willie Wood, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson. [Wood and Davis died earlier this year.]
As one of the few blacks on the Packers back then, when he was a rookie he was forced to live in a “shack” on the outskirts of Green Bay with teammates Davis and running back Elijah Pitts. Then Lombardi stepped in, met with real estate agents, and “the following year, it was different. We had decent housing,” Adderley once recalled. “He opened a lot of doors for Black folks and Black families – many that had nothing to do with the Packers.”
The Packers would trade Adderley to the Cowboys in September 1970, teaming with future Hall of Famer Mel Renfro at cornerback when the Cowboys lost to the Colts in the Super Bowl after the 1970 season, and then defeated Miami the next year.
--Jimmy Orr, the sure-handed wide receiver who played 13 years in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers, died Tuesday at the age of 85.
Orr was a two-time All Pro and a member of two championship teams, catching 400 passes for 7,914 yards and 66 touchdowns in his career. Three times he led the NFL in yards per reception, including a spectacular rookie season with the Steelers where he caught 33 passes for 910 yards, a phenomenal 27.6 average. This was in 1958 when the passing game wasn’t anywhere near as prominent as it is today.
But Jimmy Orr is perhaps best known for something he didn’t do.
In Super Bowl III against the New York Jets, the Colts ran a flea-flicker late in the first half that left Orr streaking down the sideline all by himself for what looked like an easy touchdown. But quarterback Earl Morrall never saw him and his pass over the middle was intercepted by the Jets’ Jim Hudson.
Orr starred in college at Georgia, leading the SEC in receiving in 1955 and 1957.
World Series…a look back…
I posted prior to Game 6, the Dodgers clinching the Series with a 3-1 win over the Rays, L.A. using seven pitchers, Mookie Betts with a home run and some terrific baserunning.
But the game will forever be known in World Series lore for the move Rays Manager Kevin Cash made, taking out starter Blake Snell, who was dominating the Dodgers, after just 73 pitches.
Bill Madden / New York Daily News
“Three years ago, I was sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Tropicana Field along with another veteran baseball scribe, Hal Bodley, of MLB.com and formerly USA Today. We were talking to a prominent baseball person who shall remain nameless here about the state of the game. ‘You know what’s really sad,’ this third person said, nodding at Cash in the opposite dugout. ‘We will never know how good a manager that guy really is.’
“In all likelihood, Cash will be a runaway winner of the American League manager of the year award. He guided the Rays (payroll $74.8 million…Ed. $28m pro-rated, the figure being quoted more often) to an AL East title over the Yankees (payroll $165.7 million). But throughout the course of the season, during the playoffs and most especially in Game 6 of the World Series, Cash made no bones about the fact that he manages strictly by the plan set up by the Rays’ analytics department.
“With one out in the sixth of that fateful game, Cash came to get his ace Blake Snell, who was pitching the game of his life. Snell had just given up his second hit of the game, to the Dodgers’ No. 9 hitter, Austin Barnes, and it was evident just how thoroughly the soul of the game has been destroyed.
“As Cash explained, he didn’t want Snell facing the Dodger lineup the third time around, the prime tenet of modern analytics for starting pitchers. It didn’t matter if Snell had thrown only 73 pitches to that point, or that the first three batters in the Dodgers lineup, Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner had previously been a combined 0-for-6 with six strikeouts against him. The stats say over the last five years opposing batters’ slash lines jump from .252/.317/.422 the first two times around the order against a starting pitcher to .269/.333/.463 the third time.
“Those are the hard, cold facts – which have absolutely nothing to do with how the starting pitcher is pitching to that point, how stressful his pitch count, or perhaps most importantly his heart and his makeup. ‘I am definitely disappointed and upset,’ Snell said after the game. ‘I just want the ball. I felt good. I did everything I could to prove my case to stay out there and then for us to lose, it just sucks.’
“So the baseball audience was deprived once again from potentially seeing the kind of great postseason pitching performance which has been all but obliterated. Somewhere up in Baseball Heaven, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson were looking down and throwing up.”
Ed. I’m thinking Seaver and Gibson had a wicked game of catch, firing it at each other as hard as they could to relieve the stress of what they were observing, while yelling at each other between pitches, “Those F’n Analytics Bastards!” “You got that right, Tom. Catch this slider!”
“Meanwhile, a direct contrast to the Snell pulling was Dusty Baker, one of the few remaining old-school managers in the game. In the sixth inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, the red-hot Randy Arozarena was coming up with two men on, one out. Baker strode to the mound, had a brief conference with his ace, Zack Greinke, and elected to leave him in.
“After Greinke struck out Arozarena, the Rays were able to load the bases with an infield single by Ji-man Choi and still Baker, managing with his gut and trusting Greinke’s heart, didn’t make a move. His confidence was rewarded when Greinke struck out Mike Brosseau to end the inning.
“If you ask me, you could make just as strong a case for Baker for AL Manager of the Year – for very different reasons than Cash. Baker took on one of the most unenviable jobs imaginable this year, the cheating Astros being the most hated team in baseball. He had to create an ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality while also convincing his players to put all the outside noise out of their heads and just play their game – which they did all the way to one game from the World Series.
“This is more than just the analytics’ emasculation of starting pitchers. It’s also the neutering of managers, who are no longer allowed to come on the field to argue plays. And beyond that, it’s another example of salary repression in baseball. For the longest time, owners have been trying to drive down the salaries of managers and they’ve slowly been able to do that by hiring analytics-driven GMs who, in turn, hire inexperienced managers on the cheap who are perfectly willing to allow the front office to run the games for them….
“Joe Torre was the first old school manager to sound the alarm when Yankee GM Brian Cashman began intruding on his turf. ‘You can’t remove the human element from the game,’ he said.
“But more and more they have, turning players into numbers….
“The one owner in baseball who has resisted going all-in on analytics has been the White Sox board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and last week he took his old school beliefs to a new level by hiring his former manager, 76-year-old Hall-of-Famer Tony La Russa to guide his up-and-coming team for next year. It was an eyebrow-raising move to be sure, and one which I’m told met fierce resistance from Reinsdorf’s own baseball people. It remains to be seen how La Russa can adapt to the new age game that has changed so much since he last managed in 2011.
“Despite their statement of support, the Hall of Fame and their board of directors (of which Reinsdorf is a member) cannot be happy about this development. There is a reason the Hall lists as requirements for election for managers and executives by the Veterans Committee they be either over 65 or officially retired. The idea is for them to be voted on for their record in its entirety.
“This is the first time a manager in the Hall of Fame has elected to come out of retirement….
“(It) was suggested by one former Veterans Committee member that Reinsdorf should have to pay for the new plaque for La Russa once he passes John McGraw for second place on the all-time managers wins list; he’s 35 short. If La Russa is able to also add another championship to his Hall of Fame resume Reinsdorf will no doubt be delighted.”
Barry Svrluga / Washington Post
“At war Tuesday night at Globe Life Field weren’t so much the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays, who had a World Series to decide. Rather, the opposing forces: computers vs. humans.
“The humans won.
‘The Los Angeles Dodgers are World Series champions for the first time in 32 years because they beat the Rays, 3-1, in Game 6. The result solidifies the legacy of Clayton Kershaw, the iconic left-hander who won two games in this series. It confirms the status of the Dodgers not just as a development machine that consistently cranks out more regular season wins than anyone else but as a club with a championship pedigree. They have a core that comes back again and again and again, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll stop.
“But there’s no way to analyze the Dodgers’ title, to watch the pile of bodies in those beautiful blue-and-white uniforms celebrate the accomplishment, and not think, ‘What if Kevin Cash had left Blake Snell in?’
“ ‘Fair question,’ Cash, the Rays’ manager, said as the Dodgers received the trophy on the field. ‘I don’t know if I’ve got the best answer right now. He did above and beyond what any of us could have asked for.’
“Snell’s reward for his work: the hook…. The analytics-driven Rays removed a starting pitcher who had a 1-0 lead, who had gotten one out in the sixth, who had struck out nine, who had given up two measly singles and hadn’t walked anyone.
“Read that sentence. Know the result. Consider whether it makes any sense….
“This is the part of modern baseball that just, frankly, stinks. It is built on analysis and probability, and there’s nothing wrong with that – until it strips the human beings playing and running the game of the ability to make decisions based on what they feel, what they see….
“(Reliever Nick) Anderson (who replaced Snell) had given up runs in each of his past six outings. During that time, a stretch of 9 2/3 innings, hitters ripped Anderson for a .342 batting average and a 1.010 OPS.
“See what’s coming?
“ ‘News flash!!!’ a big leaguer wrote by text just after the move. ‘Baseball is not played inside a computer. I love this!!!!! This makes me so happy. Why would you take that guy out????’
“That’s what dugouts and clubhouses feel in the modern era. The information is great. But baseball has a heart and soul, and it’s being ripped out….
“The computer that generated the algorithms that led to Kevin Cash’s move in the sixth game of the World Series needs to be turned off to get its winter’s rest. With his offseason here, Cash, a human being, actually has to get some sleep.
“Good luck with that.”
As for Justin Turner and his positive Covid test that forced the team to pull him in the seventh inning of Game 6, only to see Turner return to the field for the championship celebration, at times taking his mask off, with time, that is a non-story. He was a jerk.
It would not have been a non-story, however, had the Dodgers not won Game 6 and there was a Game 7.
Commissioner Rob Manfred may have been forced to delay matters in order to follow health protocols and assess whether Turner had infected others around him.
As of this posting, I haven’t seen if any other Dodgers or staff have tested positive.
Mets and Steve Cohen
It’s official…Mets fans got their man, mega-$billionaire Steve Cohen (hereafter “Uncle Stevie”), who was approved by the other Major League owners and then New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to be a (cue Jeff Spicoli) and signed off as well.
So having closed his $2.4 billion deal to acquire the team from Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, it’s time to get down to business, free agency starting Sunday night. Cohen made it clear he is anxious to get started and the rest of baseball is on notice.
Mets fans know we need to fill two positions more than anything else…find a starting catcher (J.T. Realmuto) and a starting pitcher (Trevor Bauer). Sign those two and the Mets are already measurably better. They could also go for George Springer.
[Realmuto supposedly doesn’t want to leave Philly, but money talks…and I can show him some great places in Jersey to live.]
New team president Sandy Alderson will also be busy reshaping the front office. The chances of GM Brodie Van Wagenen returning, even with two years remaining on his contract, are virtually nil. Alderson has a helluva rolodex.
Other Ball Bits….
--That didn’t take long…MLB doesn’t like teams making moves during the playoffs, let alone the World Series, so the Tigers moved quickly after to name A.J. Hinch, cheatin’ A.J., as their new manager, though for just a two-year contract, which is interesting. Hinch served his one-year suspension for his role in the scandal that rocked baseball last offseason, and he can’t hide he was the leader and public face of a team universally loathed by baseball fans across the land.
Does Hinch deserve this job so soon? He served his time, but it’s disappointing there wasn’t some kind of agreement that he’d stay away another year or two.
--Meanwhile, it seems as though the Red Sox will bring back Alex Cora. Cora also served a suspension for the 2020 season for his role when he was Hinch’s bench coach, as well as being part of an investigation into the 2018 issue that revealed another sign-stealing scheme, though MLB deemed it to be smaller in scope.
--Back to La Russa, yes, he’s 76, so the Angels’ Joe Maddon, 66, is no longer the oldest manager in the big leagues.
But is La Russa out of touch with the modern game, since retiring as manager in 2011? Of course not! He’s remained in the game in various front office positions, most recently with the Angels, and he’s a very smart guy.
You know what, I’ll be rooting for the White Sox, kind of having a soft spot for them going back to when they had Dick Allen…until they face my Mets in the World Series! Now wouldn’t that be delicious? Uncle Stevie Cohen vs. La Russa and Reinsdorf.
Of course the Mets would have to get through L.A., which is returning everyone and has a strong farm system.
Sean Connery…a true legend…
From the BBC:
“For many, Sean Connery was the definitive James Bond. Suave and cold-hearted, his 007 was every inch the Cold War dinosaur of the books.
“He strode across the screen, licensed to kill. He moved like a panther, hungry and in search of prey. There was no contest. His great rival, Roger Moore, by contrast, simply cocked an eyebrow, smiled and did a quip.
“But whereas Ian Fleming’s hero went to Eton, Connery’s own background was noticeably short of fast cars, beautiful women and vodka Martinis – either shaken or stirred.
“Thomas Sean Connery was born in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh on Aug. 25, 1930, the son of a Catholic factory worker and a Protestant domestic cleaner.
“His father’s family had emigrated from Ireland in the 19th Century; his mother traced her line back to Gaelic speakers from the Isle of Skye.
“The area had been in decline for years. Young Tommy Connery was brought up in one room of a tenement with a shared toilet and no hot water.
“He left school at 13 with no qualifications and delivered milk, polished coffins and laid bricks, before joining the Royal Navy. Three years later, he was invalided out of the service with stomach ulcers. His arms by now had tattoos which proclaimed his passions; ‘Scotland forever’ and ‘Mum & Dad.’
“In Edinburgh, he gained a reputation as ‘hard man’ when six gang members tried to steal from his coat. When he stopped them, he was followed. Connery launched a one-man assault which the future Bond won hands down.
“He scraped a living any way he could. He drove trucks, worked as a lifeguard and posed as a model at the Edinburgh College of Art. He spent his spare time bodybuilding.
“The artist Richard Demarco, who as a student often painted Connery, described him as ‘too beautiful for words, a virtual Adonis.’
“A keen footballer, Connery was good enough to attract the attention of Matt Busby, who offered him a 25-pound-a-week contract at Manchester United. [Hey, Bro and Dr. Whit. I never knew this angle.]
“But, bitten by the acting bug when odd-jobbing at a local theater, he decided a footballer’s career was potentially too short and opted to pursue his luck on the stage. It was, he later said, ‘one of my more intelligent moves.’
“In 1953, he was in London competing in the Mr. Universe competition. He heard that there were parts going in the chorus of a production of the musical South Pacific. By the following year, he was playing the role of Lieutenant Buzz Adams, made famous on Broadway by Larry Hagman.”
Well, American actor Robert Henderson lent Connery works by Ibsen, Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw for the purpose of ‘educating himself,’ and persuaded Connery to take elocution lessons.
Connery then began receiving bit parts in movies and on television, and in 1957, he got his first leading role in Blood Money, a BBC reworking of Requiem for a Heavyweight. Jack Palance played the part in America, and when Palance refused to travel to London, the director’s wife suggested Sean.
“The ladies will like him,” she said.
A year later Connery had a role alongside Lana Turner, and her boyfriend, mobster Johnny Stompanato, reacted badly to rumors of an affair. So he stormed the set and pulled out a gun. Connery grabbed it and overpowered him, before others stepped in.
Meanwhile, producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had acquired the rights to film Ian Fleming’s novels and were looking for an actor to play 007.
Richard Burton, Cary Grant and Rex Harrison were all considered, and it was Broccoli’s wife who persuaded her husband that Connery had the magnetism and sexual chemistry for the part.
Ian Fleming, however, said, “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stuntman.”
But Broccoli prevailed, and Fleming was convinced when he saw Connery on screen.
Connery made the character his own, blending ruthlessness with sardonic wit. Some of the reviews were scathing. But the public loved him.
The action scenes, sex and exotic locations were a winning formula. The first film, “Dr. No,” made a ton at the box office. President Kennedy requested a private screening at the White House.
Then the hits flowed – “From Russia With Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball” (1965) and “You Only Live Twice” (1967).
It was exhausting and occasionally dangerous work. By the time “You Only Live Twice” was completed, Connery was tiring of Bond and afraid of being typecast.
“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was given to George Lazenby when Connery turned it down. Lazenby never recovered.
Saltzman and Broccoli lured Connery back for “Diamonds Are Forever” in 1971, meeting his fee for a then-record $1.25 million. Connery used it to set up the Scottish International Education Trust, supporting up-and-coming Scottish artists.
The reviews weren’t great, and Roger Moore took over the role.
Connery then starred in the Rudyard Kipling tale “The Man Who Would Be King,” an outstanding flick, alongside his great friend Michael Caine.
Then came a series of supporting roles and having lost a lot of money in a Scottish land deal, he accepted a lucrative offer to play Bond again in “Never Say Never Again.” This time Bond was an ageing, wiser and self-deprecating hero, but still hard as nails.
A few years later, Connery won an Oscar for best supporting actor in “The Untouchables.” He also would achieve box office success for “The Hunt for Red October.”
But he turned down the role of Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” in 2006, declaring himself tired of acting and sick of the “idiots now making films in Hollywood.”
One thing you remember as a kid growing up with Bond, was that Sean Connery never sought out the Hollywood lifestyle, preferring to play golf at his homes in Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean.
Sean Connery was 59 when People magazine declared him the “sexiest man alive” in 1989. He was an ardent supporter of Scotland’s independence and was knighted, far too late (no doubt due to his stance on Scotland), at age 69 by Queen Elizabeth in 2000.
In a 1983 interview, Connery summed up the ideal Bond film as having “marvelous locations, interesting ambience, good stories, interesting characters – like a detective story with espionage and exotic settings and nice birds.”
And truth be told he preferred beer to Bond’s vodka martinis.
Daniel Craig: “He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in megawatts; he helped create the modern blockbuster… Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course,” a nod to Connery’s passion for the game.
For those of you who have golfed in Ireland, Connery once punched out a guy he was playing with on County Sligo, a cool track.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a one-month lockdown in his country due to a surge in the coronavirus, which is beginning to overwhelm the healthcare system with record numbers of cases and hospitalizations.
BUT…Johnson was smart to add, the Premier League will go on…sans fans, as it has been.
Now, somehow we just have to keep a vast majority of the players healthy!
In some of this weekend’s action, Man City beat Sheffield 1-0, Southampton defeated Aston Villa 4-3 (must have been entertaining, didn’t see it), Chelsea blew out Burnley 3-0, Liverpool beat West Ham 2-1 and resumed its place atop the standings, Newcastle upset Everton 2-1, Arsenal picked up a much needed win over Man U, 1-0.
And in the late game, my Tottenham Spurs moved into second in the standings with a 2-1 win over Brighton. What is so great about this one is Gareth Bale had his first goal, the decider, as a Spur. Big development. It may be lockdown city for the UK, but there was no doubt some home partying in Tottenham. [Hopefully restricted solely to family members, but I doubt it.]
--The field at the Bermuda Championship, played at beautiful Port Royal Golf Course, may have had a weak field, but it produced a cool winner, 48-year-old Brian Gay, who picked up his fifth career win by defeating Wyndham Clark on the first hole of sudden death, Clark seeking his first win.
Wake Forest fans should be psyched because in finishing T-16, Will Zalatoris easily picked up enough points to essentially earn his tour card.
Now as I’ve explained before, unless you win an event, due to Covid, those who had a 2019-20 tour card automatically received one for 2020-21, meaning the Korn Ferry types can’t get a card until next year (again, unless they win on the big tour or get multiple Korn Ferry wins).
But Zalatoris had a certain number of events to accumulate some points to earn multiple sponsor exemptions and any tour event would love to have him in the field, so except for majors and invitationals, you’ll see a lot of him and he’ll get an official card for next season.
--And we had this this weekend in Bermuda. Shockingly, 64-year-old Fred Funk made the cut! 69-72. As Joel Beall of Golfworld wrote, “If that sounds remarkable, it is: Funk becomes just the fourth player in tour history to make a cut at 64 years or older, joining Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead and Tom Watson.”
“Shoot, I didn’t know they were that old and still played a tour event,” Funk said Friday afternoon. “I knew Watson had maybe. Wow, that’s pretty good. Say that again? Watson, Nicklaus and Snead? That’s really good. And then Funk. You throw that in there, it doesn’t sound right, does it?”
Understand something. He is last in driving distance, averaging 234.8 yards off the tee his first two rounds, but his putting was sixth best, at 1.571 strokes per green.
Next time you are at a high school track getting some exercise, take a look at the football field. Picture Funk’s drive at one end, and Bryson DeChambeau’s at the other end…that’s the difference. Kind of amazing what Funk did. He finished the weekend 75-71 and finished T59.
Great job, Fred!
--Phil Mickelson has decided to play next week at the Houston Open, the tune-up for the Masters the following week, rather than play the senior tour event. At first he balked because there will be some fans in Houston (there were a lot in Bermuda, by the way) and he was afraid of picking up a positive Covid test right before Augusta.
As we headed into Martinsville today for the final Round of 8 race, Joey Logano had punched his ticket into next week’s finale in Phoenix, the final four drivers, with his win at Kansas two weeks ago (Kyle Busch having failed to qualify for the Round of 8).
Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski were above the cut line; Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch below it.
And Chase Elliott won it to punch his ticket into the final four, while, out of nowhere, Kevin Harvick tragically fell short even as he dominated all year with nine wins. Harvick failed to pass Kyle Busch on the last lap, instead crashing into him, with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski taking the last two spots in the final.
I know 98% of you aren’t NASCAR fans, but try to tune in near the end next Sunday. It’s sports, after all….a break from watching the inevitable post-election violence across the nation.
--Ben Cohen and Louis Radnofsky had an extensive piece in the Wall Street Journal on the lessons learned in the first wave of sports we just completed…the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons.
First off, we thank the leaders and players of all the leagues for getting things done under enormous pressure, the NBA and NHL operating out of bubbles, MLB stumbling badly at times because it wasn’t, but then with a smart ending to the playoffs.
For all the leagues, such as the NFL, the keys are “testing,” “Act like you are in a bubble,” “Pandemic fatigue is real,” and “The biggest risks are not what you expect. Sports initially feared on-field transmission, but the real threats were off the field.”
The biggest issue now, however, is the financial future. It is bleak.
“The economic consequences of the pandemic will outlast the virus….
“Sports are back now, but the economic recovery of sports won’t begin until fans are back, too. What is happening in October 2020 would have been unthinkable in March – and may be financially unfeasible if it is still happening in October 2021.
“The ultimate policy takeaway from sports is that the most challenging months are yet to come.”
--Trump administration officials on Thursday stripped Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in most of the U.S., ending longstanding federal safeguards and putting states and tribes in charge of overseeing their predators.
I try to keep politics out of this column as much as possible, and, frankly, I’ve done a good job of that, especially the last few years, but what kind of sucks about this move is the timing. Just ahead of the election, with the announcement probably leading to the resumption of wolf hunts in, guess where? Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin…three big battleground states.
As Church Lady would have said, “How conveeenient.”
--Brad K. first alerted me to the following tragedy, through his myriad contacts, and then the New York Times’ Jason Gutierrez reported on it.
“A police officer in the Philippines was killed this week after a fighting rooster slashed him during a raid on an illegal cockfighting den to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“The officer (I don’t want to list his name, his family has enough to deal with), was part of a team that descended on an arena in the province of Northern Samar on Monday, after it was suspected of violating lockdown rules against mass gatherings.
“ ‘There was a commotion, the spectators scampered away, and when the dust cleared, Officer B. tried to pick up one of the birds, but he didn’t notice that it still had bladed spurs on,’ the provincial police chief said in an interview.
“Fighting roosters typically have a razor-sharp steel blade called a gaff attached to their legs, and the bird Lieut. B. grabbed slashed him with one.
“ ‘He was wounded in his femoral artery on the left leg and lost a lot of blood,’ Colonel A. continued. ‘Within minutes, he died. It was a freak accident.’”
This is so awful. The poor guy…just doing his job.
The regional director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the officer’s death should be a “wake-up call” for the Philippine authorities, as well as the public, that cockfighting is brutal.
“The world has evolved, and times are changing rapidly,” Ashley F. added. “It’s time for the Philippines to relegate cruel cockfighting to the history books.”
Of course cockfighting still exists in the U.S., especially in parts of New York City, and the Southwest.
--I am thoroughly disgusted with WFAN radio here in New York for allowing Craig Carton, one of the true dirtballs to ever disgrace the airwaves, to return after he served nearly a year in prison for running a Ponzi scheme.
On the other hand, we wish the man he is replacing, Joe Benigno, a happy retirement. Benigno was a true original, a ‘caller’ into the station, ‘Joe from Saddle River,’ who developed such a following, WFAN gave him a shot and he worked himself up from late-night host to mornings and afternoons, teaming lately with Evan Roberts, who is terrific.
But I won’t be listening to Carton and Roberts, the new team. In this instance, no, I don’t believe in second chances. I couldn’t stand the guy before he was arrested.
--We note the passing of Texas singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, 81. Shaver died in Waco, Texas, and had recently had a stroke.
Shaver wrote songs for many of the major outlaw figures, including Willie Nelson, Bobbie Bare and Kris Kristofferson. Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded his material, and Bob Dylan, in “I Feel A Change Comin’ On,” a song written with the Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, sang admiringly of listening to Shaver’s music, “I’m hearing Billy Joe Shaver/And I’m reading James Joyce.”
Shaver’s contributed to Waylon Jennings’ landmark 1973 album “Honky Tonk Heroes,” regarded as an anthem of outlaw country’s nonconformist spirit. “I’ve spent a lifetime making up my mind to be/More than the measure of what I thought others could see,” Jennings sings on his version of Shaver’s “Old Five and Dimers Like Me.”
Shaver wrote all but one of the ten songs on “Honky Tonk Heroes.”
Steve G. said I have to note “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train,” wherein he sings, “Hell, I just thought I’d mention, my grandma’s old-age pension/Is the reason why I’m standing here today.” Revisiting his hardscrabble childhood with dignity and pride: “I got all my country learning, milking and a-churning/Picking cotton, raising hell and bailing hay.”
But “Georgia on a Fast Train” and “You Ask Me To,” another 1973 single, barely broke into the Top 100 Country Chart. Waylon Jennings’ version of “You Ask Me To,” by contrast, was a top 10.
Billy Joe Shaver was born on Aug. 16, 1939, in Corsicana, Texas, and grew up in Waco. His father, Virgil, abandoned his mother before Billy Joe was born. His grandmother helped raise him.
Shaver dropped out of school to work in his uncle’s cotton fields before completing eighth grade. His love of music stemmed from when he accompanied his mother to the nightclub where she tended bar.
Shaver joined the Navy at 17 and after completing his service, worked odd jobs back in Texas. He then took a job in a sawmill, where he lost the index and middle fingers of this right hand in a work accident and had to relearn how to play the guitar.
Bobbie Bare eventually gave him a songwriting job at his publishing company, but it took five years for Shaver to see success when “Honky Tonk Heroes” elevated him to the ranks of the likes of Kristofferson and Guy Clark.
Shaver never met commercial success on his own.
In 2007, six years after suffering a heart attack onstage, Shaver was involved in an altercation outside a bar in Lorena, Texas, and shot a man in the face. He pleaded self-defense and was acquitted three years later. [Bill Friskics-Warren / New York Times]
Top 3 songs for the week 11/2/68: #1 “Hey Jude” (The Beatles) #2 “Those Were The Days” (Mary Hopkin) #3 “Little Green Apples” (O.C. Smith)…and…#4 “Fire” (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) #5 “Midnight Confessions” (The Grass Roots) #6 “Elenore” (The Turtles) #7 “Over You” (Gary Puckett and The Union Gap) #8 “Hold Me Tight” (Johnny Nash) #9 “Love Child” (Diana Ross and The Supremes) #10 “White Room” (Cream…strong week, A- ….)
NASCAR Quiz Answer: 16 consecutive years with a win…Kyle Busch, Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd (never would have gotten him…sorry Ricky)*, Jimmie Johnson, David Pearson (17) and Richard Petty (18). That’s a helluva record to hold. That would be like winning 15 games a year as a pitcher for 16 years…amazing consistency.
*Rudd ‘only’ had 23 for his career, after all. Wallace had 55, Busch has 57, Johnson 83, Pearson 105, Petty 200. I mean you can win some coin on this one.
***Again, no midweek Bar Chat. Back next Sunday night. VOTE!