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Trying To Move On
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
College World Series Quiz: Without college sports this spring, time for a look back. Normally this time of year, we’d have conference championships taking place and qualifying for the NCAA tournament, and the final eight in the CWS. So… 1) Name the last back-to-back CWS champion. 2) Name the last non-Power Five school to win it. 3) Name the only four schools to win five or more CWS titles, the first one held in 1947. [Hint: No tricks, all Power Five schools.] Answers below.
Sports Opening Up, Part XIX
Monday, the governors of New York, California and Texas announced their support for pro sports returning in their states.
“New York State is ready and willing to partner with major sports teams that are interested in playing games safely, without fans,” New York’s Andrew Cuomo wrote on Twitter. ‘If our professional sports teams can make it work (& be safe) on their end, we’re supportive.”
So MLB, the NBA and NHL are all exploring completing their respective seasons, while the NFL has the luxury of time.
All sports have been dealing with issues such as access to testing, procedures for sanitizing facilities and protocols to be followed if a player, coach or team staffer tests positive. Leagues and owners also must work through economic considerations with unions and players, based on a sharp decline in revenue. Some players have expressed reservations about returning to play, citing health concerns.
There’s an issue in California, specifically Los Angeles County, which might extend its safer-at-home order for three months even while easing some restrictions, but Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he can foresee pro sports returning early next month, albeit with restrictions.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that professional sports can resume May 31 without spectators.
As I go to post, still no word on the players’ response to the owners’ proposal for reopening the season, money the prime hang-up.
But we are getting details on MLB’s plan to keep everyone safe and as the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond put it, “Baseball might be played this summer – but for everyone involved, it won’t be much fun.”
MLB’s 2020 operations manual explains how it envisions staging something resembling a season, with new health and safety protocols in painstaking detail, “down to labeled diagrams showing exactly where everybody should stand and sit in the dugout to maintain proper social distancing.
“Any baseball put in play and touched by multiple defenders will be removed and exchanged for a new one, according to the guidelines, and infielders are ‘strongly discouraged’ from throwing around the horn after an out. Fighting will result in ‘severe discipline.’* All players are supposed to wash or sanitize their hands every half-inning.
*Drat! No going after the freakin’ Astros!
“But for as careful and thorough as MLB’s idea looks, reading through it also serves as a stark reminder of the enormity of the undertaking at hand. Playing baseball while trying to avoid spreading Covid-19 will require everybody in the industry – from players to coaches to umpires – to accept a heavily restrictive professional routine and completely overhaul their private lives.
“Even MLB seems to recognize the challenge ahead, the need for absolute cooperation and how quickly the slightest misstep of moment of thoughtlessness could send the entire construct crumbling into oblivion. In a section headed ‘Conduct Outside of Club Facilities,’ the league warns that ‘the careless actions of a single member of the team places the entire team (and their families) at risk.’ Those are the stakes involved with restarting baseball, with billions of dollars on the line if the plan fails. It’s like walking a on tightrope on a dark blustery night – and nobody can predict when the next gust of wind will come rolling through.”
I went through all the mask protocols last time, with only the manager, coaches and players “likely to enter the game,” in the dugout…the rest in the stands.
“When the ball is out of play or between pitches, ‘fielders are encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner.’ Socializing and fraternizing between players on opposing teams is forbidden. Players must stay at least 6 feet apart during the singing of the national anthem and ‘God Bless America,’ suggesting those traditions will continue without fans in the building.
“Spitting, that time-honored baseball tradition, has been banned, as have sunflower seeds, tobacco and communal water jugs.”
Life on the road is going to be drastically different. The players and traveling party can only leave the hotel or congregate in communal areas after receiving club permission. The hotel pool, fitness center and restaurant are off-limits. Instead, there will be a dedicated area in the hotel for food service.
MLB did say it understands it will be impossible to eliminate all Covid infections and a positive test won’t result in the season shutting down.
The union and league are getting together sometime this week (digitally) and no one should be surprised if the players balk at such severe restrictions. And you still have the compensation issue.
--Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Starling Marte announced on social media that his wife Noelia has died of a heart attack.
“Today I go through the great pain of making public the unfortunate death of my wife Noelia, due to a heart attack,” Marte wrote on Instagram on Monday. “It is a moment of indescribable pain.”
Marte had played his entire eight-year big league career with the Pirates before being traded to the Diamondbacks during the offseason.
The Last Dance
So the ten-part documentary on Michael Jordan and their sixth and final title in 1998 wrapped up Sunday evening and I can’t help but repeat that I thought it was simply outstanding. So well done.
I also understand the issues that some have, including the treatment of Bulls GM Jerry Krause, but he is far from blameless.
And having said the 1997-98 season was the last for the Bulls lineup and for coach Phil Jackson, Krause made a flurry of moves when it was over, with Jackson leaving the team, Scottie Pippen traded, and Dennis Rodman released. Michael Jordan retired.
But in the closing minutes of episode ten, Jordan suggested that while the team’s higher-ups had made up their minds on rebuilding, they could have orchestrated another title run if they really wanted to.
Jackson, though, said he left at the conclusion of the season because he felt like his time had come, though Jordan put the blame for his departure on Krause.
“In ’98, Krause already said at the beginning of the season that Phil could go 82-0 and he was never going to be the coach,” Jordan said. “So when Phil said it was the last dance, we knew it was going to be the last dance.
“Now, they could have nixed all of that at the beginning of ’98. Why say that at the beginning of ’98?”
Jackson also left because he didn’t want to coach a bad team, with Steve Kerr, Pippen and Rodman having been jettisoned. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf explained it would have been “suicidal” to bring everybody back.
“Their market value individually was going to be too high,” Reinsdorf said. “They weren’t going to be worth the money they were going to get in the market. …I had no doubt that Krause would have built another championship team in a couple of years, but it wasn’t going to happen instantly.”
Jordan saw it differently. He believed everyone would have taken a smaller deal to chase a seventh ring.
“If you asked all the guys who would have won in ’98, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler,” he said. “We gave you a one-year contract to try for the seventh. Do you think they would have signed it? Yes, they would have signed it.
“Would I have signed for one year? Yes, I would have signed for one year. I had been signing one-year contracts up to then. Would Phil have done it? Yes.”
Jordan admitted Pippen might have needed some “convincing,” but if Jordan, Jackson and Rodman were all on board, he believed Pippen would have eventually come around.
Instead, Jordan retired for a second time. He returned to play for the Wizards in 2001, but left for good after two uneventful seasons.
“It was maddening because I felt like we could have won seven,” Jordan said. “I really believe that. We may not have, but man, not being able to try, that’s something that I just can’t accept.”
Episode 9 had Steve Kerr’s story – his father’s backstory, as well. The father, Malcolm, was a professor of Middle Eastern studies at UCLA, who then became president of the American University in Beirut. He was assassinated in 1984, and it was clear how painful that memory is for Steve Kerr to this day. He also said he and Jordan never discussed the loss of their fathers.
Jerry Krause, who died in 2017, was not interviewed for “The Last Dance.” His family released his unpublished memoirs to NBC Sports Chicago, hoping to add more context into his decision making. In those memoires, Krause said his thinking had nothing to do with personality clashes with Jackson or hoping he can prove he can build a winning roster without Jordan. Instead, he said it had everything to do with receiving detailed information from the training staff that confirmed his observations that the team’s roster would not age gracefully. Krause said that Jackson also told Bulls ownership that he needed to take a year off in his Montana home to recharge.
After the Bulls won their sixth title, Reinsdorf met with Jackson to reconsider. He politely declined.
“I think I should just take a break,” Jackson recalled saying. “I don’t think it would be fair to Jerry and I know it would be difficult for him to accept that.”
In the end, was “The Last Dance” simply a Michael Jordan vanity project? Perhaps. But it did pull the curtain back some on the greatest player in the history of the game, and while it may not be fair in its portrayal of some figures, my bottom line is it was highly entertaining…at a time we desperately needed it.
As for the ratings, the final episodes averaged 5.6 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2, up 10% from the previous week (5.1m) and up 2% from two weeks ago (5.5m).
The full series averaged 5.6 million in the initial airings, which means only one ESPN film ranks ahead of “The Last Dance” – the Dale Earnhardt movie “3” in 2004 (7.25 million).
Meanwhile, Jordan’s autographed trainers from 1985 sold for a record $560,000 in an online auction through Sotheby’s.
The Nike Air Jordan 1s, worn by Jordan during his rookie season with the Bulls, were expected to fetch between $100,000-$150,000.
--The “Driving Relief” charity golf event on Sunday averaged 2.35 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN, Golf Channel and digital platforms. Not a home run, but as good a foursome as we had with Rory, DJ, Rickie and Matthew Wolff, it wasn’t Tiger and Phil (plus Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) as we’ll have this coming Sunday. And it wasn’t an actual tournament.
The 2.35 million fell short of the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 8, which averaged 2.59 million on NBC.
But it also had to compete with the return of NASCAR and real competition at Darlington, which averaged a strong 6.32 million on FOX.
So NASCAR’s Sunday rating marked the highest-rated and most-watched Cup Series race outside of the Daytona 500 since Atlanta in 2017 (6.60m).
It was the most-watched May race since Talladega in 2016 (6.66m).
So good on NASCAR. It will be interesting to see what the ratings are for tomorrow night’s (Wed.) race, again at Darlington*, as the sport runs a condensed schedule the next few weeks. Especially without baseball and NBA and NHL playoffs, NASCAR has the mid-week stage to itself.
*DraftKings just advised me the start time is being moved up due to potential weather…this sucks in terms of exposure. But get your lineup in now, kids!
--Legendary Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley is in a Washington-area hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. According to the Washington Post, Manley was hospitalized Friday after having trouble breathing.
Manley’s daughter told the Post her father was “very weak, worn down and discouraged after two weeks with a persistent fever and shortness of breath,” but has not been placed on a ventilator.
The daughter said Manley was wearing a mask regularly and diligent about washing his hands, but suspects he contracted the virus one day when he didn’t have his mask but had to stop at a gas station convenience store.
Manley earned the nickname “The Secretary of Defense” as one of the Redskins’ leaders in the 1980s. In a four-year span from 1983 to 1986, Manley averaged almost 15 sacks per season.
--The New York Racing Association made it official…the Belmont Stakes will be held June 20, the first time in history this has been the first leg of the Triple Crown. There will be no spectators. As opposed to other sports without fans, this seems like it will be the most bizarre, especially because it’s such a big deal, as opposed to your standard NASCAR race, PGA Tour event, baseball game, etc.
The race is only going to be nine furlongs, 1 1/8 miles rather than the traditional 1 1/2 miles.
With the Kentucky Derby now at Sept. 5, and the Preakness Oct. 3, I haven’t seen if the Preakness will be increased in distance.
The Derby is 1 1/4 miles, and that shouldn’t change, but the Preakness is normally 1 3/16 miles (9.5 furlongs).
For those of you who like to jog/run around your local high school track, a good diversion is to think about the difference that extra quarter-mile is. As in Secretariat still holds the Belmont record at 1:59.40 for a mile-and-a-half…as in while you are jogging around the track at, say, a 9-minute mile clip (I’m talking your normal jogger, not runner), Secretariat was at a 20-second clip for each lap. That is simply unfathomable.
Which is why you don’t see a lot of horse racing done at high school tracks, boys and girls…and now you know, the rest of the story.
By the way, as Johnny Mac and I observed, boy, do trainers like Bob Baffert have their work cut out for them. The 3-year-olds were trained since last fall to peak coming into the Derby, in May, so I would just submit that there isn’t a soul on the planet who can tell with certainty who wins the Belmont as I write this today.
And then you have this huge delay until the Derby…instead of the second-leg being two weeks later. It’s going to be fascinating. Ratings should be ginormous on June 20.
As Frank would sing… “Start spreading the news…”
J. Mac and Shu…we’ll have a friendly bet between us.
--One of the great television figures of all time, Eddie Haskell, or rather the actor Ken Osmond, died on Monday of pulmonary and arterial disease. He was 76.
As Katharine Q. Seelye of the New York Times put it in her obituary, “Osmond played the duplicitous teenager Eddie Haskell on the long-running sitcom ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ one moment a smarmy young man when talking to parents, the next moment a devilish troublemaker when the adults were out of sight.”
Osmond appeared in all six seasons of “Leave It to Beaver,” 1957 to 1963, one of the most-watched television sitcoms of the era. He reprised the role as an adult version of Eddie in the Disney Channel revival series “The New Leave It to Beaver” in the 1980s.
Osmond guest-starred on other popular series of the ’50 and ‘60s, including “Lassie,” “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “Wagon Train” and “The Loretta Young Show.”
But for those of us of a certain generation, Ken Osmond will always be Eddie Haskell, Wally Cleaver’s friend, Wally the strait-laced good guy played by Tony Dow.
“The Cleavers represented the classic white middle-class family of the Eisenhower era, while Eddie represented danger in a ‘50s kind of way – he chewed gum and wore a jean jacket.
“Mostly, he sucked up to Wally’s parents, June and Ward Cleaver, played by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, and then poked fun at them when they weren’t looking. He treated Wally’s little brother, Theodore, nicknamed the Beaver, played by Jerry Mathers, as a useless irritant.
“ ‘Oh, good afternoon, Mrs. Cleaver,’ was a typical Eddie greeting. ‘I was just telling Wallace how pleasant it would be for Theodore to accompany us to the movies.’ Viewers knew that having the Beaver go to the movies with them was the last thing Eddie had in mind, and that he would find a way to ditch him.
“June would sometimes raise a skeptical eyebrow at Eddie, but for the most part she played along with his obsequious manner and almost never confronted him.
“In time, Eddie Haskell became so indelibly associated with Mr. Osmond that he found it difficult to escape being cast as an Eddie Haskell type, and he left television and joined the Los Angeles Police Department.
“Being typecast was ‘a death sentence,’ he told a radio interviewer in 2008.
“ ‘I’m not complaining, because Eddie’s been too good to me, but I found work hard to come by,’ he said. ‘In 1968, I bought my first house, in ’69 I got married, and we were going to start a family and I needed a job, so I went out and signed up for the L.A.P.D.’
“As an officer on motorcycle patrol, he grew a mustache to disguise himself. In 1980, he was shot three times in a chase with a suspected car thief but escaped serious injury: One bullet was stopped by his belt buckle, the others by his bulletproof vest. He was put on disability and retired from the force in 1988.”
Tony Dow, a lifelong friend, said Monday, “He was a terrific guy, he was a terrific actor and his character is probably one that will last forever.
“(Osmond) was one of the few guys on the show who really played a character and created it,” Dow added, chuckling as he mimicked the evil laugh Osmond would unleash when his character was launching one nefarious scheme or another and trying to pull Wally and his younger brother Beaver into it.” [Associated Press]
Ken Osmond was born in Glendale, Calif. His father was a studio carpenter and prop maker, while his mother was an agent who started taking him to auditions when he was 4.
Osmond grew up in North Hollywood and attended North Hollywood High School.
Personally, I watched “Leave It to Beaver” reruns for years…my favorite show as a kid.
--So I saw the other day that officials in the Netherlands were urging some to buy sex dolls instead of frequenting the famous/infamous red-light districts in places like Amsterdam amidst the pandemic.
Then (source ‘X’…gotta protect his name for professional reasons) tells me that in South Korea, for a Seoul FC match as they reopen in the country, they had fake fans in the stands as we’ve seen elsewhere…only social media quickly identified them as (fully clothed) sex dolls, which the officials seemingly didn’t know they were ‘seating’ appropriately.
As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus cautioned on “Hill Street Blues,” “Be careful out there, people.”
Top 3 songs for the week 5/17/80: #1 “Call Me” (Blondie…ugh…) #2 “Ride Like The Wind” (Christopher Cross…gets a pass…) #3 “Lost In Love” (Air Supply…insipid…)…and…#4 “Funkytown” (Lipps, Inc. …hasn’t aged well…do do do do dooo…do do do dooo…) #5 “With You I’m Born Again” (Billy Preston & Syreeta) #6 “Sexy Eyes” (Dr. Hook) #7 “You May Be Right” (Billy Joel…sorry, he did far better…but sort of saved the week from total blowdom…) #8 “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer” (Kenny Rogers with Kim Carnes…whatever…) #9 “Another Brick In the Wall” (Pink Floyd…absolutely hate this song…I’m an ‘early’ Pink Floyd fan… “Welcome…tooo the machine…”, “Shine…on…you crazy diamond…” …not this garbage…) #10 “Biggest Part Of Me” (Ambrosia, good tune…now this one, I have a story…but it’s too personal to tell everything…involves a woman at Wake who was the classiest, best-looking girl on campus, and she went out with me out of nowhere as we prepared for graduation… but ‘D+’ week nonetheless… So I graduate, amazingly, in four years with one of the worst GPAs in American collegiate history…and head home, without a job, to drink beer and play the ponies at the Meadowlands…amazing my parents were so patient with me…)
College World Series Quiz Answers: 1) Last school to win back-to-back was South Carolina, 2010-2011. Go Gamecocks. 2) Last non-Power Five school to win was Coastal Carolina, 2016. 3) Five or more titles: Arizona State, 5 (last 1981…surprised by this); LSU, 6 (last 2009); Texas, 6 (last 2005); USC, 12 (last 1998…they clearly haven’t been employing the cheerleaders as they should be last two decades…devastating report to follow…then again, after the story about the Kentucky cheerleader program that broke the other day….we should probably move on…sorry, Steve G., who is ensconced at an undisclosed location in Mexico…)
Hang in there, Brad K.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.