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Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
NCAA Division I Women’s Spring Championship Quiz: Yes, the girls have gotten short shrift here so time to make that up. Sadly, no championships this year for golf or outdoor track and field, which truly blows. 1) Re: Women’s NCAA golf, the D-I championship has been held since 1982. Which are the only two schools to have more than 3 titles? 2) Where did individual titleholder Annika Sorenstam (1991) go to school? 3) Re: Women’s outdoor track and field, this too has been held since 1982. Name the only three schools to win 4 or more titles. Answers below.
College Football…and reopening, Part XLI
As I noted last time, it’s chaos. With no single head of the NCAA for football, i.e., a commissioner, every conference is operating on its own and Sunday, Dr. Mark Schlissel, president at the University of Michigan, told the Wall Street Journal that if there are no students on campus this fall, there will be no college football.
Schlissel is an immunologist by training.
“If there is no on-campus instruction then there won’t be intercollegiate athletics, at least for Michigan,” Schlissel said. He also expressed “some degree of doubt as to whether there will be college athletics (anywhere), at least in the fall.”
Schlissel said a decision on whether students will return this fall could be made “in the coming weeks.”
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s football team will reportedly return to Columbus on June 8.
Elsewhere in the state, Central Michigan, Ferris State and Western Michigan have all announced they will welcome students on campus for the fall semester. Michigan State has said it will wait until July to make a decision on the fall semester.
Schlissesl told the Journal that when football returns to campus, the players and staff could be tested regularly. He also expressed doubts about the ability to allow fans to attend games at Michigan Stadium, which has a capacity of 107,601.
“ ‘I can’t imagine a way to do that safely,’ Schlissel said.”
We learned what the owners’ latest proposal is for restarting the season in terms of player compensation and they are asking the game’s biggest stars to accept less than half their pay for the 2020 season – should it even take place.
For example, a player due $35 million (Gerrit Cole) would instead make about $7.8 million.
A player due $10 million would make about $2.9 million.
A player due $1 million would make about $434,000.
The players’ union came away from the two-hour virtual meeting yesterday “extremely disappointed,” saying MLB’s proposed cuts were “massive,” according to the Washington Post.
The union remains steadfast in abiding by the money agreement the two sides reached in March, which stated the union would earn their salaries on a prorated basis – without pay cuts – with the return of baseball.
But as I’ve been writing, MLB says that agreement included a provision that would allow for further negotiating should games be played without fans, which would be the case because of the pandemic.
In a statement, MLB said it “made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport. We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA.”
MLB is hoping to begin the season in July, but a lot of us now have serious doubts. The two sides really need to reach an agreement on economic issues – as well as the complex health and safety protocols, which the two sides are also far apart on – by early next week to open “spring training 2.0” in mid-June, with Opening Day around July 4.
The league confirmed the restart formula I laid out last time, “The Return to Play Plan,” though we won’t see hockey until July. 24 teams, with the top four teams in each conference receiving a bye into the first round, though they will play a round-robin to determine their playoff seeding. Teams seeded Nos. 5 to 12 will participate in best-of-five qualification series to play their way into the 16-team field.
The remainder of the regular season, generally about 11 or 12 games for most teams, will be scrapped.
The Match: Champions For Charity
The ratings were fantastic for Sunday’s most-entertaining event, an average of 5.8 million across TBS, TNT et al, peaking at 6.3 million viewers; the largest golf audience ever on cable, exceeding the 4.9 million for the first round of the 2010 Masters on ESPN. The 5.8m is also greater than the last round of last year’s PGA Championship, and well ahead of the 2.3 million that watched Rory, DJ and Rickie on “Driving Relief” the night before.
I had some brief comments last time, but one guy who’s getting unanimous kudos is Justin Thomas for his broadcast debut. Just a natural. And all are in agreement the banter between the participants, and Charles Barkley, was great. “Tiger’s tee shot was like me, in that we are both black.”
Barkley enhances any telecast…NHL, horse racing…hell, put him on for the political conventions this summer (in whatever shape and form they are held… ‘This Biden guy, I don’t know…’).
Give the sport major kudos for getting restarted safely thus far without fans. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 was completed after I posted due to a 68-minute rain delay, and the longest race of the year didn’t end until after midnight, Brad Keselowski emerging victorious in overtime.
Once again the hardluck loser was Chase Elliott, who was leading late until a caution flag forced him to pit. The Wednesday before at Darlington, Elliott was forced out by Kyle Busch’s bonehead move.
And then Keselowski held off Jimmie Johnson on the OT restart, extending Johnson’s losing streak to 102 races, this being the seven-time Cup champion’s last year. Elliott rallied to finish third.
It was the first win of the year for Keselowski and his first Coca-Cola 600.
Wednesday night, they are back in Charlotte for a 500km race, or 310.6 miles, just 208 laps, or virtually half as long as Sunday’s 600-miler (400 laps). But the weather forecast is not good.
Gale Sayers' Speech
The New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro had a terrific piece on a certain 50-year anniversary, May 25, 1970.
“The evening was winding down, at last, the rostrum of speakers dragging the proceedings ever closer to the midnight hour. Much of the night…had been a procession of sharp one-liners and clever retorts, 600 people gathered in a ballroom at the old Americana Hotel on 7th Avenue and 53rd Street, bedecked in black tie, sipping champagne.”
[Frank Gifford emceed the event, the annual Pro Football Writers Awards Dinner. Dick Cavett was part of the proceedings, Pete Rozelle, Joe Kapp and Hank Stram, who had just squared off against each other in Super Bowl IV.]
“By the time the last award was given, the crowd was weary, and some were eager to beat a hasty escape for the exits. Out of respect they lingered, because the guest of honor was someone they all liked a great deal: Gale Sayers, running back of the Chicago Bears. On Nov. 10, 1968, Sayers had complexly blown out his right knee at Wrigley Field [Ed. correct] while the Bears were playing the 49ers.
“Most believed Sayers would never play again. Yet in 1969, against all reasonable odds, the Kansas Comet had not only returned to the Bears, he’d played all 14 games and somehow led the league in rushing with 1,032 yards for an awful team that went 1-13. He was the writers’ unanimous pick to win the George S. Halas Most Courageous Player trophy.”
Normally the award was given in August, in Chicago at the Halas Dinner, but Sayers had requested his presentation be moved up. Many thought it was because Sayers wanted to focus on training camp. But it was for a different reason.
When Sayers began to speak, thanking his teammates, and Halas, and his doctors, many in the audience were reaching for their coats.
“ ‘It is something special to do a job many say can’t be done,’ Sayers said quietly, barely audibly. ‘Maybe that’s how courage is spelled out – at least in my case.’
“More polite clapping. Typical Sayers: Quick, Humble, Bland, Unmem… ‘But I’d like you to know about my friend, Brian Piccolo.’
“This was unexpected. Piccolo? He was an unremarkable running back who’d partnered in Sayers’ backfield as a mostly forgettable blocking back. He’d filled in ably when Sayers had been hurt in ’68, but he wasn’t a name most in the room were terribly familiar with.
“ ‘In the middle of last season, Brian was struck down by the deadliest, most shocking enemy any of us can ever face – cancer.’
“Now he had the room’s undivided attention.
“ ‘Compare his courage with the kind I’m supposed to possess. There was never any doubt that I’d return, knee injury or no. But think of Brian and his fortitude in the months since last November, in and out of hospitals, hoping to play football again, but not too sure at any time what the score was or might be. He has the heart of a giant. He has the mental attitude that makes me proud to have a friend who spells out the word ‘courage’ 24 hours a day, every day of his life.’
“He paused. Six hundred men in tuxedos sat in silence, glassy-eyed, numb. Then, somehow, Gale Sayers summoned the strength to finish his speech with this: ‘You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award. It is mine tonight, it is Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow.
“ ‘I love Brian Piccolo, and I’d like all of you to love him, too. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.’
“Fifty years ago Monday, 600 men waited a beat, then jumped to their feet, filling the room and the hotel (now the Sheraton Times Square) with a roar most could still feel in their ears years later. Brian Piccolo died 22 days later at the age of 26, a few blocks away, at what is now called Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
“On Nov. 30, 1971, ‘Brian’s Song,’ starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, premiered on ABC. It was the most-watched made-for-TV movie in history, it remains one of the greatest sports movies ever made, and it is impossible to watch, even now, without feeling much the same way those 600 men in tuxedos felt when it was born at the Americana Hotel on May 25, 1970, a man asking you to love his friend as he did.”
Sayers suffered another knee injury in training camp, 1970, and played just a few more games in ’70 and ’71 before retiring. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 at the age of 34, still the youngest to ever be enshrined in Canton.
Students at Wake Forest University, Brian Piccolo’s alma mater, started the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund Drive in 1980. We cherish the memory of “Pic.”
Lastly, I forgot this story that comes from Wikipedia about Piccolo, who as a senior at Wake, 1964, had a super season and was named ACC Player of the Year.
A season earlier in 1963, “Darryl Hill of the University of Maryland was the first and only African-American football player in the ACC. According to Lee Corso, a Maryland assistant coach at that time, Wake Forest had ‘the worst atmosphere’ of any campus the Maryland football team visited. Piccolo went over to the Maryland bench, walked Hill over to the area in front of the student section and put his arm around him, silencing the crowd.”
--The New York Times and Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday cited unidentified sources in reporting that two horses from the barn of two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert have tested positive for a banned substance.
According to the Times, one of the horses to test positive was Charlatan, an undefeated colt considered a top contender for the Belmont Stakes on June 20.
The Times reported Baffert’s other horse is Gamine, a 3-year-old filly.
Both horses tested positive during the recent meet at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. The substance at issue is lidocaine, a regulated anesthetic widely used in equine medicine.
Lidocaine is considered a Class 2 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and use of it carries a penalty of a 15- to 60-day suspension and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense, The Times said. Without mitigating circumstances, a horse would be disqualified and forfeit its purse. Charlatan earned $300,000 for first place in the Arkansas Derby.
But as the Times’ Joe Drape notes: “Lidocaine can be used legitimately for suturing wounds or as a diagnostic tool to determine whether horses are sound enough to compete. The drug may also be present in ointments or creams used on cuts or abrasions. It is regulated because of its potential to mask lameness in an unsound horse.”
“The rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission mandate confidentiality concerning any investigation into an alleged rule violation until there is a written decision of the Stewards,” Baffert said in a written statement. “I am extremely disappointed that, in this instance, the Commission has not followed its own rules on confidentiality.
“I am hoping for an expedited investigation and look forward to being able to speak soon about any written decision by the Stewards, if and when it becomes necessary and I’m allowed to under the Commission’s confidentiality rules,” he said.
When reached by the Associated Press Tuesday night, Baffert was asked how premature it is to leak an initial test before a second test is conducted. “I think it’s a great question that someone besides me should answer,” he replied.
The Commission vowed to act quickly and have the issue cleared up by the Belmont.
--I did not watch ESPN’s documentary on Lance Armstrong and, frankly, I’ve seen enough of the guy. But I’ll let USA TODAY’s Christine Brennan opine on the topic.
“Lance Armstrong, the most despicable cheater in sports history, is not a changed man. The first five seconds of a new documentary on ESPN reveal that hardly-shocking truth.
“The documentary begins with these words from Armstrong: ‘When my life took the turn that it took…’
“Not, ‘When I did all those terrible things…’
“Or, ‘When I duped thousands of cancer victims and survivors and their families…’
“Or, ‘When I cheated and lied and then started ruining people’s lives…’
“No, his life just took a turn and somehow ran right into performance-enhancing drugs. It’s not Armstrong’s fault. It’s never his fault. It’s that darn turn in his life. It’s the turn’s fault.
“After soldiering through two and a half months of a pandemic, what did we do to deserve this, another TV network giving Armstrong airtime to share childhood pictures and his inner-most feelings as he retells his enduringly reprehensible story?
“Earlier in the day, Turner Sports’ celebrity golf match featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning raised $20 million for Covid-19 relief. Then ESPN put this liar, this con man, this American embarrassment on the air and ruined the rest of the sports evening….
“(Armstrong’s) wasn’t just any old cheating binge, the kind that baseball players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa delivered to America in the late 1990s and early 21st century. This wasn’t the fraud perpetrated by sprinters Ben Johnson or Marion Jones, as diabolical and awful as their doping and lies were.
“This was a ruse for the ages, and programs such as Sunday night’s actually help to keep it going, simply by allowing him to show his face on a reputable sports network, and talk, and talk, and talk.
“It’s not like he has anything new to say. The jury is not out on what kind of person Armstrong is. We don’t need two hours of television to help us. We lived through this. We know. Armstrong is the worst of us; a lying, cheating, vindictive scoundrel.
“Nonetheless, for some reason, every now and then, a U.S. network decides it simply must devote time to him. It was NBC Sports last year. Now it’s ESPN.
“Enough is enough, folks. Let this be the end of it.”
--On Monday Japan fully lifted a state of emergency and declared success in checking the coronavirus, despite bucking much of the consensus about best practices for governments in the pandemic fight.
Japan has had fewer Covid-19 cases and deaths per capita than most Western countries despite not enforcing a strict lockdown or testing widely. There have been fewer than 10 new cases on most days in Tokyo recently.
So while the above will also be part of the next “Week in Review,” the reason why I bring up here is, barring a second wave in the fall/winter, it gives the Abe government reason for hope re staging the Olympics next summer (though this is still highly unlikely…it’s not just about Japan, it’s about the world…and vaccines…).
--Speaking of Covid-19, Georgetown basketball coach and NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing was released from the hospital and is recovering from the coronavirus at home. Good news…I was a little worried when I first heard he went in.
--I saw a very cool idea that is apparently going to come to fruition. A downhill ski race that would be the longest in the World Cup is being planned to join the men’s circuit on a course connecting Switzerland and Italy near the Matterhorn mountain.
Officials in Zermatt told Swiss daily NZZ a 3- mile race could be ready to start in November 2022.
Racers would start at around 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) altitude on the Swiss side of the border and drop 1,100 meters (3,600 feet) into Italy.
The new race wouldn’t conflict with or challenge Switzerland’s traditional men’s downhill run at Wengen in January.
--The following story made every single news outlet across America over the Memorial Day weekend…the warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that with humans stuck inside under stay-at-home orders, rats and other rodents have become more aggressive while scavenging for food.
In other words, we need to be ready for rats to unleash a wave of “aggressive rodent behavior.”
“Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas,” the CDC said. “Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food.”
“Follow established guidelines when cleaning up after rodent infestations to prevent exposure to rodent-borne diseases,” the advisory said. “Fleas are common on rodents. In areas of heavy rodent infestations, workers should consider using a repellant registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency…”
Rodents, particularly in urban areas, have been fighting each other, often eating the young.
New Orleans is a prime target for the rats.
“I turn the corner, there’s about 30 rats at the corner, feasting on something in the middle of the street,” Charles Marsala of New Orleans Insider Tours told CBS News, adding that he had never seen anything like it.
I suggest you just stay inside at night and keep all your doors and windows locked.
--Dr. Bortrum and I agree…we have never seen more squirrels and chipmunks than what we have in our area this year. The carnage on the roads is considerable. You also know that in the case of the chipmunk, there is quite a black market going on underground, and it’s not being taxed! This must stop! Freakin’ Alvin. He took his “Christmas, Christmas” royalties and parlayed it into an empire that is not being investigated as it should.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/26/62: #1 “Stranger On The Shore” (Mr. Acker Bilk…good tune…for its time…) #2 “Soldier Boy” (The Shirelles) #3 “Mashed Potato Time” (Dee Dee Sharp)…and…#4 “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (Ray Charles…terrific song…) #5 “Old Rivers” (Walter Brennan…yes, that Walter Brennan…) #6 “Everybody Loves Me But You” (Brenda Lee) #7 “She Cried” (Jay & The Americans) #8 “P.T. 109” (Jimmy Dean) #9 “Johnny Angel” (Shelley Fabares) #10 “Lovers Who Wander” (Dion…just laying the predicate for what is arriving in 21 months…)
NCAA Division I Women’s Spring Championship Quiz Answers: 1) Golf: Arizona State has 8 team titles, Duke has 7, including 2019 over Wake Forest. No other school has more than 3. 2) Annika Sorenstam, 1991 individual NCAA champion, went to Arizona. 3) Outdoor track and field: LSU has a staggering 14 titles, including 11 in-a-row, 1987-1997. Texas A&M, 4, and Texas, 4, are next. No ACC school has won a team title.
Which is why when it comes to spring NCAA championships, ACC fans quickly misdirect the chat at the bar to Men’s Hoops, Clemson Football, but, yes, Duke Women’s Golf!
*Last Chat, I mentioned the success of the USC men’s track team and Mark R. reminded me that Louis Zamperini was a member of the ’35 and ’36 teams that were part of the 1935-43 NCAA championship run for the Trojans.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.