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06/08/2020

The Issues in Reopening...and Society

[Posted Sun. p.m.]

1976 Pitt Panthers Quiz: In honor of the death of former coach Johnny Majors and his leading the Panthers to the national title in 1976 behind Tony Dorsett… 1) Name the quarterback on that 12-0 team.  2) Name the second leading rusher.  3) Name one of the three leading receivers. 4) Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy in this his senior season.  Who was second in the voting, who then was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1977 NFL Draft, Dorsett taken second overall by Dallas.  Answers below.

MLB

This is it…do or die time…and it doesn’t look good at all for the prospects of salvaging some kind of baseball season.   I’m pissed and tired of this dance.

Tyler Kepner / New York Times

“This was a chance for both sides to recognize and work together toward a greater good that would have helped them all.  If that had been the backdrop of these talks, they could have agreed by now on the particulars.  Give a little here, take a little there, and let’s play ball.

“ ‘When the industry as a whole thrives, then everybody benefits,’ (Bob) Costas said.  ‘The owners won some concessions in the early 2000s, some.  But overall, when the game thrives, we can’t say that the players as a group didn’t thrive.  They did.

“ ‘So to win certain points at the negotiating table may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory, because if the industry itself flounders, then everybody takes a hit.’

“If the season was canceled or derailed solely over virus-related health concerns, Costas said, fans would understand.

“ ‘But if it’s ‘Here we go again, baseball and its labor troubles,’ people don’t have much patience for that under any circumstances,’ he said.

“And if those labor troubles lead to a 17-month period without baseball, it would be ‘disastrous,’ Costas said.  Even under ideal circumstances, he added, some fans would be hesitant to return to the stands in 2021 – some from fear of large gatherings, others because their discretionary income will be down because of the economic devastation the virus has wrought.

“ ‘If you add to that: resentment?’ Costas said.  ‘They’re turning a potential positive, which is to come back before anybody else and have this strange circumstance play to their advantage in a certain sense – maybe only a small positive, but a positive – into a gigantic negative.’….

“Some of us are baseball addicts, and would watch a two-week schedule with keen interest. But baseball does not need the folks who are hooked.  It needs to retain casual fans and recruit new ones. The process should be well underway by now.

“The longer the players and the owners wait, the more chances they miss.  They must understand this, right?

“ ‘I’m not an economist and I’m not a labor expert,’ Costas said.  ‘But there have to be ways for them to see their mutual interest and not self-destruct.’”

NBA is coming back….

The NBA Board of Governors voted 29-1 Thursday to bring back their season, with training camp beginning June 30 and the season reopener July 31 with a 22-team format in Orlando, Fla.

But commissioner Adam Silver touched a nerve when he indicated there may be rules in place to prevent elderly coaches from being on the bench in Disney World.  He apparently quickly reversed course.

Three coaches – Houston’s Mike D’Antoni, 69, New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry, 65, and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, 72 – fall in the age 65 and over Covid danger zone and because of that Silver had said “some older coaches may not be able to be the bench coach in order to protect them.”

Silver did confirm the league would not shut down “if a single player tested positive,” adding everyone will “maintain certain social distance protocols.”

Testing protocols still need to be worked out.

The additional six teams beyond the 16 playoff qualifiers based on the March 11 standings are Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix and Washington.

Thankfully my Knicks can stay home, though it needs to be noted they might have had an edge, given that they haven’t played defense in ages and with the social distancing orders, they would have had experience at same….

….I was just informed the defender doesn’t have to be six feet away.  Sorry, that’s what we’ve been used to seeing at the Garden.

Frankly, I don’t care about the seeding tournament details now…except there will be eight regular-season games called “seeding games,” and then a play-in event between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds in each conference – but only if the ninth seed is within four games of the playoff spot.

Wake me up when this process is over.  Yeah, I know it’s Live Sports, but San Antonio vs. Sacramento won’t move the needle for me.

What would interest all sports fans is a Lakers-Bucks Final.

And, yes, Zion Williamson and the Pelicans are winners because they have a shot at the ninth seed and a play-in.

CFB

--We note the passing of College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Majors, the coach of Pitt’s 1976 national championship team and a former coach and star player at Tennessee.  He was 85.

Majors was a mediocre 24-30-1 in five seasons at Iowa State before moving on to Pitt in 1973, taking over a Panthers team that had gone 1-10 the season before.  But Majors’ arrival coincided with that of running back Tony Dorsett, who quickly made his mark.  It was a steady progression for the two.

1973…6-5-1
1974…7-4-0
1975…8-4-0
1976…12-0-0

It was so much fun following this team those four years, being a Pitt fan back then, the Panthers finally competitive.  I was at Pitt in 1975 as T.D. rushed for 303 yards against Notre Dame, when no running back had ever gained 200 against the Fighting Irish.  Dorsett had 151 yards on his first four carries.

Johnny Majors had been a legend at Tennessee, where his No. 45 jersey was retired in 2012.  Majors starred for the Volunteers from 1954-56 as a single-wing tailback and punter and twice was named the SEC player of the year. 

During the 1956 season, Majors rushed for seven touchdowns, threw five TD passes and punted and returned kicks while leading Tennessee to a 10-1 record and Sugar Bowl appearance.  He finished his Volunteers’ playing career with 1,622 yards rushing and 1,135 yards passing.

He finished second to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung in the 1956 Heisman Trophy balloting.

Majors left Pitt for the head job at Tennessee after winning the national championship and he had a successful career in Knoxville, going 116-62-8 in 16 seasons, before a disastrous return to Pitt for a final four seasons, Majors’ final mark as a coach, overall, 185-137-10.

“Dynamic on the field.  Fierce on the sidelines. Distinguished Tennessean,” Tennessee’s football program tweeted.  “We mourn the loss of legendary player and coach Johnny Majors – a man who left an indelible mark on Tennessee Football.”

Tony Dorsett wrote on Twitter: “Rest in Heaven, Coach.  Words could never express what you meant to me.  Catch you on the other side.”

--I failed to note last time the passing of Auburn coaching legend Pat Dye, who died Monday at the age of 80.

Alan Blinder / New York Times

“Under Dye, Auburn – its teams variously featuring one of the most skilled running backs ever to play the college game, a top pick in the National Football League draft and a defensive tackle who was later memorialized in a mural at the university’s Jorden-Hare Stadium – contended for national glory and became a counterweight to its in-state archrival, the University of Alabama.”

Dye had a record of 99-39-4 in 12 seasons at Auburn, finishing in the top 10 five times.

Blinder:

“Dye reshaped the very architecture and culture of the rivalry that consumes the state, especially in November.  Irritated by how the annual Iron Bowl showdowns were played at the not-truly-neutral Legion Field in Birmingham, which essentially served as an Alabama stronghold, Dye was largely responsible for bringing the series to Auburn’s home stadium regularly.

“When the game was first played in Auburn in 1989, he coached the Tigers to a 30-20 victory.

“ ‘This is the reason we work you in the summertime, in January and February and in the spring,’ Dye told his team afterward.  ‘This is the reason we push you beyond what you think you can do, to experience moments like this.’”

Dye, like Johnny Majors, was a big star himself in college, a two-way starter at Georgia.  After stints in Canadian football and the Army, Dye was hired as an assistant coach at Alabama in 1965 by Bear Bryant, who was beginning to make the Crimson Tide a mainstay of the biggest bowl games.  Dye remained at ‘Bama for nine seasons, before a successful head coaching stint at East Carolina, and one year at Wyoming, led to his hiring for the Auburn job in 1981.

After an initial 5-6 record, in 1982, Bo Jackson arrived on campus and after a shaky start, the Tigers finished 9-3, including a 23-22 win over Bear Bryant in his final Iron Bowl appearance; Jackson scoring on a fourth-and-goal late in the contest to overcome Alabama’s lead.

College Basketball

--Billy Witz and Adam Zagoria / New York Times

“In what may be a chilling sign for schools ensnarled in the federal college basketball corruption scandal, the NCAA on Friday handed Oklahoma State a one-year tournament ban, along with fines and the loss of scholarships in the first penalties that were handed down by the governing body of college sports in the aftermath of the scandal.

“The tournament ban is a gut punch for the Cowboys, who had assembled an elite freshman class, centered around 6-foot-7 point guard Cade Cunningham, who could be the top pick in next year’s NBA draft.

“While the school plans to appeal, the sanctions may be viewed ominously by nearly a dozen other schools – Kansas, Arizona and Louisville among them – who were more extensively involved in the FBI bribery and conspiracy case in which witnesses testified in federal court that money was funneled by agents and shoe company representatives to players and their families.

“ ‘You see the severity of this penalty, goodness, what’s the next thing to come down the pike?’ Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said in a conference call.  ‘I’ll be fascinated to watch.’

“He added: ‘The expectation on our part is if this is upheld for us, then there should be some significant penalties coming down in the future.’”

An OSU former assistant coach, Lamont Evans, pleaded guilty to accepting $22,000 in bribes to direct players to a financial advisor, but the school says he operated as a lone wolf and did so only for personal gain.

Evans, who did not cooperate with NCAA investigators, was hit with a 10-year show-cause penalty, effectively banning him from coaching for a decade.

It seems Oklahoma State is trying to get the appeal process stretched out long enough that the Cowboys would be able to play in the NCAA tournament next season, though this is unlikely.

As for Cade Cunningham, coach Mike Boynton said he would discuss with him whether he should stay at OSU, where his brother, Cannen, was hired as an assistant last year, or consider other possibilities – from transferring, heading overseas or the G-League.

Boynton said he did talk to Cunningham briefly Friday morning.  “I’ll tell you what I told him.  I didn’t spend four years recruiting him and telling him how much I cared about him to now abandon what’s important to him.”

He added: “Whatever his family and he decide is best, I’m going to get in tow with that and I’m going to support it 100 percent.”

PGA Tour

--It’s a loaded field for the first event om the Tour since March, next week at Colonial, with the top five players in the world – Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson – and 16 of the top 20, the best field this tournament has seen in its 74-year history.

Others of note include Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler, plus young guns Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland.

--But the big news on Friday was Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine saying spectators will be allowed to attend the Memorial Golf Tournament to be held July 13-19.

Now the John Deere Classic is occurring the week before, also at Muirfield, because it had to be moved due to coronavirus concerns, including lack of sponsorship, but that tourney will played without fans. [And the John Deere will return in 2021 to its Silvis, Illinois location.]

It’s expected the number of fans at the Memorial will be limited in some fashion.  This is also expected to be Tiger Woods’ first appearance of the reopened Tour.

The George Floyd Protests

[It’s been a rough stretch for the country.  The following has to be told, especially for my archives.  I would also encourage everyone to go back and watch the videos of Kaepernick and his interviews from back in Aug. 2016…YouTube ‘em.]

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees got in major hot water for saying in an interview with Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” when asked about players kneeling like Colin Kaepernick to protest police brutality. 

“Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States.  I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp.  Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about….

“And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not.  We still have a long way to go.  But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity.  It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”

Brees then came under immense heat from fellow players, teammates and others.

LeBron James: “WOW MAN!!  Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??  Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of us and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free.  My father-in-law was one of those.”

Brees then offered a mild apology and that came under attack from Republican politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz, who called Brees a baby, while President Trump weighed in that Brees “should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.”

Brees’ apology read in part: “We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black community.  We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week.  We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.”

Brees then directly addressed the president on social media, writing: “Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag.  It has never been.”

But Brees didn’t invoke Kaepernick’s name.

Jerry Brewer / Washington Post

“Take all of him into account, and Drew Brees is among the most exceptional human beings in sports.  If we agreed on criteria and a system to rank humanity, there is a chance he could finish No. 1.  From his multifaceted efforts to revitalize New Orleans post-Katrina to his $5 million commitment to feed the needy in Louisiana during the pandemic, Brees epitomizes the character, benevolence and grace that people seek in a sports role model.

“Yet he was still capable of sounding like a misguided, insensitive dolt.

“For all his usual good intentions, he defaced one aspect of the most important potential movement in this burning nation.  He hurt people even though he has dedicated much of his life to helping them.

“It doesn’t make him a covert enemy.  However, it does expose him as a sometimes ignorant, lazy thinker in desperate need of a broadened perspective.   There is a single word for his kind, and keep it in mind as we proceed: normal.  Astonishingly, unconsciously, pervasively normal.”

Nancy Armour / USA TODAY

“What Brees said isn’t just disingenuous, it’s self-absorbed, the kind of entitled view only a white person can have.  And with the country roiled by protests as it tries to reckon with the brutal consequences of its endemic racism, it’s dangerous.

“Hurtful, too.

“In a searing video on Instagram, Malcolm Jenkins blasted his teammate’s ignorance and insensitivity.

“ ‘The whole country’s on fire and the first thing you do is criticize one’s peaceful protest,’ said Jenkins, who raised his fist during the anthem in 2016 and 2017.

“Truth is, the protests by Kaepernick and other players were never about the flag, the anthem or the military.  There had been a string of high-profile cases of black and brown people dying at the hands of police, most of which had gone unpunished, and Kaepernick was trying to get white America’s attention.

“To get us to care.  That police treated people of color worse, yes.  But also that our entire society is rigged against minorities, the ugly legacy of slavery and colonization….

“And it is lost on no one that protesters, and even some law enforcement officials, are making the same gesture Kaepernick did.

“ ‘I was one of the people who initially thought Colin Kaepernick kneeling was disrespectful.  I reacted to WHAT he was doing instead of WHY,’ U.S. women’s hockey player Kendall Coyne Schofield said in a post on social media Tuesday.

“ ‘Then I listened and learned,’ Coyne Schofield continued.  ‘So let me be absolutely clear: It was NEVER about the flag. It was never about my family members who serve(d).  It wasn’t about me.  It always was and IS about George Floyd and the countless others who came before him.’

“That kind of introspection and honesty by white Americans is essential if we’re ever going to achieve that more perfect union.  Making his first public comments since Floyd’s death, Aaron Rodgers took issue with Brees’ message, stating emphatically that the protests have ‘NEVER’ been about the flag or the anthem.

“ ‘Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action,’ Rodgers posted….

“Brees has spent most of his life surrounded by teammates of all colors and backgrounds. He has played the bulk of his career for Sean Payton, probably the most enlightened white coach there is in the NFL.  And still Brees said what he did.

“ ‘He don’t know no better,’ teammate Michael Thomas said on Twitter.

“But ignorance is no longer an excuse.  And given the reaction there was on social media, it’s no longer going to be tolerated, either.

“ ‘If you don’t understand that other people’s experience is something totally different than you, then when you talk about the brotherhood and all this other bullshit, it’s just lip service.  Or it’s only on the field,’ Jenkins said, choking back tears.

“ ‘Because when we step off this field and I take my helmet off, I’m a black man walking around America.  I’m telling you I’m dealing with these things and I’m telling you my community is dealing with these things, and your response to me is, ‘Don’t talk about that here, this is not the place.’

“ ‘Where is the place Drew?’

“Our flag and our anthem are meant to be symbols of our nation’s most cherished ideals. To not understand, to prioritize the former over the latter that is the ultimate sign of disrespect.”

Meanwhile, Roger Goodell struck a more specific chord on Thursday.  After his first attempt at a response to the protests fell far short of the mark to the players, Goodell said in a post.

“It has been a difficult time for our country, in particular black people in our country.  First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality.”

Goodell then said:

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression, of black people.  We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.  We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.  I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country.  Without black players, there would be no National Football League.  And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”

“We are listening. I am listening,” Goodell said.  “And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

Players said the commissioner fell short again because he specifically didn’t mention Colin Kaepernick.

But we have heard little from NFL owners, many of whom support President Trump.  It’s not known what the league will do when they start kneeling and/or raising a fist during the anthem.

LeBron tweeted in response to Fox host Laura Ingraham, who said Brees is “allowed to have an opinion” two years after she admonished James to “shut up and dribble.”

“If you still haven’t figured out why the protesting is going on.  Why we’re acting as we are is because we are simply F-N tired of this treatment right here! Can we break it down for you any simpler than this right here???? And to my people don’t worry I won’t stop until I see CHANGE.”

Michael Jordan and the Jordan brand, produced by Nike Inc., released a joint statement Friday pledging to donate $100 million over 10 years to “organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

Jordan has previously been criticized in the past for what was seen as his reluctance to advocate for social causes.

Stuff

--NASCAR had a race in Atlanta today, won by Kevin Harvick, his 51st, 12th all-time.  [I fell just a few points short in my DraftKings lineup.]

More importantly, NASCAR had the drivers pull into the pits in the middle of the pace laps, as its president read a statement on the sport, George Floyd, the protests, and racism in America. The drivers then, as some NFL Players did this week, showed a video they cut on how the sport has to do better.  It was super.

I love NASCAR.  But we all know it’s been filled with racism.  I’ve been to at least seven races over the years and these days, it’s kind of jarring to still see Confederate flags in the parking lots and on top of RVs.

I’ve written it would be terrific for the sport if the only African-American driver, Bubba Wallace, won, or even Daniel Suarez (from Mexico), but, alas, they aren’t in the elite as yet.

I’ve written years ago that one of the tragedies of the accident that paralyzed former Wake Forest-NBAer, Rodney Rogers, was that he was a huge NASCAR fan and seemed determined to make his mark on the sport, which would have done wonders.

But what NASCAR did today was a good start.  They are to be commended, and I continue to love how they were the first to bring back live sports.  Their formula has worked thus far.

--A 10-foot great white shark attacked and killed a 60-year-old Australian man on Sunday while he was surging in the north of New South Wales state, police said.

Several board-riders came to the assistance of the Queensland man and fought the shark off before pulling him to shore at Salt Beach, near Kingscliff, some 500 miles north of Sydney.

The shark bit the man’s thigh, and then circled those who came to his aid, reportedly ramming one of their boards.

“He was rendered first aid for serious injuries to his left leg but died at the scene,” police said in a statement.

It was the third fatal shark attack in Australia this year, after no fatalities last year.

Police are authorized to kill sharks believed to be considered a threat to human life but they were unable to kill this one and the shark left the area after several hours.

--Whit W. passed on a classic quote from an ex-college football receiver, JaQuay Savage, who played with Texas A&M, Louisville and Cincinnati (as a grad transfer).

While at Louisville, he played under the despicable Bobby Petrino, who has been excoriated in this space.  Petrino is just a bad guy. 

So in keeping with the commentary over the protests this week, and the Drew Brees issue, Savage explained on Twitter that Petrino isn’t a “respect the flag” guy.  He’s not even a “I think there are good and bad people on both sides” guy.  He hates everyone equally.

“That’s one thing you could never say about my college coach Bobby Petrino.  He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.  That mf hated everybody

--Singer Tom Jones turned 80 today, June 7.  Man, time flies.  He said he will keep singing “as long as there’s breath in my body.”

Jones has been brilliant at reinventing himself at various stages as he became one of the world’s biggest stars, with his live Las Vegas performances earning the admiration of those from Elvis to Sinatra.

I’ll never forget how in 1968, I was in Copenhagen, Denmark with the family, we stroll into Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park, and there he was performing.  A surprise treat.

Top 3 songs for the week of 6/5/65: #1 “Help Me, Rhonda” (The Beach Boys)  #2 “Wooly Bully” (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs)  #3 “Back In My Arms Again” (The Supremes)…and…#4 “Crying In The Chapel” (Elvis Presley)  #5 “Ticket To Ride” (The Beatles)  #6 “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” (Herman’s Hermits)   #7 “I Can’t Help Myself” (Four Tops)  #8 “Just A Little” (The Beau Brummels)  #9 “Engine Engine #9” (Roger Miller)  #10 “It’s Not Unusual” (Tom Jones…great week… A- …)

1976 Pitt Panther Quiz: 1) Matt Cavanaugh was the quarterback, though he was only 65-110, 1,046 yards, 9 TD – 3 INT.  2) Elliott Walker was the second option out of the backfield, 85-389, 4.6 avg.  Dorsett was the offense, carrying it 370 times for 2,150 yards, 5.8 avg., and 22 TDs.  3) Jim Corbett (34-538-15.8-2 TDs); Gordon Jones (21-386-18.4, 5 TDs); and Willie Taylor (18-320-17.8, 3 TDs) were the options for Cavanaugh and backup Thomas Yewcic.  4) USC running back Ricky Bell finished second to Dorsett in the Heisman balloting, then was taken first overall by Tampa Bay in the 1977 Draft. Bell, save for one season, was largely a bust, 822-3,063, 3.7 avg., while you know what Dorsett did, rushing for 12,739 yards, with another 3,554 on 398 receptions.

I do have to add that the Pitt defense in ’76 yielded just 245 yards per game, including only 2.6 yards per carry.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday…or sooner…



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-06/08/2020-      
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Bar Chat

06/08/2020

The Issues in Reopening...and Society

[Posted Sun. p.m.]

1976 Pitt Panthers Quiz: In honor of the death of former coach Johnny Majors and his leading the Panthers to the national title in 1976 behind Tony Dorsett… 1) Name the quarterback on that 12-0 team.  2) Name the second leading rusher.  3) Name one of the three leading receivers. 4) Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy in this his senior season.  Who was second in the voting, who then was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1977 NFL Draft, Dorsett taken second overall by Dallas.  Answers below.

MLB

This is it…do or die time…and it doesn’t look good at all for the prospects of salvaging some kind of baseball season.   I’m pissed and tired of this dance.

Tyler Kepner / New York Times

“This was a chance for both sides to recognize and work together toward a greater good that would have helped them all.  If that had been the backdrop of these talks, they could have agreed by now on the particulars.  Give a little here, take a little there, and let’s play ball.

“ ‘When the industry as a whole thrives, then everybody benefits,’ (Bob) Costas said.  ‘The owners won some concessions in the early 2000s, some.  But overall, when the game thrives, we can’t say that the players as a group didn’t thrive.  They did.

“ ‘So to win certain points at the negotiating table may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory, because if the industry itself flounders, then everybody takes a hit.’

“If the season was canceled or derailed solely over virus-related health concerns, Costas said, fans would understand.

“ ‘But if it’s ‘Here we go again, baseball and its labor troubles,’ people don’t have much patience for that under any circumstances,’ he said.

“And if those labor troubles lead to a 17-month period without baseball, it would be ‘disastrous,’ Costas said.  Even under ideal circumstances, he added, some fans would be hesitant to return to the stands in 2021 – some from fear of large gatherings, others because their discretionary income will be down because of the economic devastation the virus has wrought.

“ ‘If you add to that: resentment?’ Costas said.  ‘They’re turning a potential positive, which is to come back before anybody else and have this strange circumstance play to their advantage in a certain sense – maybe only a small positive, but a positive – into a gigantic negative.’….

“Some of us are baseball addicts, and would watch a two-week schedule with keen interest. But baseball does not need the folks who are hooked.  It needs to retain casual fans and recruit new ones. The process should be well underway by now.

“The longer the players and the owners wait, the more chances they miss.  They must understand this, right?

“ ‘I’m not an economist and I’m not a labor expert,’ Costas said.  ‘But there have to be ways for them to see their mutual interest and not self-destruct.’”

NBA is coming back….

The NBA Board of Governors voted 29-1 Thursday to bring back their season, with training camp beginning June 30 and the season reopener July 31 with a 22-team format in Orlando, Fla.

But commissioner Adam Silver touched a nerve when he indicated there may be rules in place to prevent elderly coaches from being on the bench in Disney World.  He apparently quickly reversed course.

Three coaches – Houston’s Mike D’Antoni, 69, New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry, 65, and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, 72 – fall in the age 65 and over Covid danger zone and because of that Silver had said “some older coaches may not be able to be the bench coach in order to protect them.”

Silver did confirm the league would not shut down “if a single player tested positive,” adding everyone will “maintain certain social distance protocols.”

Testing protocols still need to be worked out.

The additional six teams beyond the 16 playoff qualifiers based on the March 11 standings are Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix and Washington.

Thankfully my Knicks can stay home, though it needs to be noted they might have had an edge, given that they haven’t played defense in ages and with the social distancing orders, they would have had experience at same….

….I was just informed the defender doesn’t have to be six feet away.  Sorry, that’s what we’ve been used to seeing at the Garden.

Frankly, I don’t care about the seeding tournament details now…except there will be eight regular-season games called “seeding games,” and then a play-in event between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds in each conference – but only if the ninth seed is within four games of the playoff spot.

Wake me up when this process is over.  Yeah, I know it’s Live Sports, but San Antonio vs. Sacramento won’t move the needle for me.

What would interest all sports fans is a Lakers-Bucks Final.

And, yes, Zion Williamson and the Pelicans are winners because they have a shot at the ninth seed and a play-in.

CFB

--We note the passing of College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Majors, the coach of Pitt’s 1976 national championship team and a former coach and star player at Tennessee.  He was 85.

Majors was a mediocre 24-30-1 in five seasons at Iowa State before moving on to Pitt in 1973, taking over a Panthers team that had gone 1-10 the season before.  But Majors’ arrival coincided with that of running back Tony Dorsett, who quickly made his mark.  It was a steady progression for the two.

1973…6-5-1
1974…7-4-0
1975…8-4-0
1976…12-0-0

It was so much fun following this team those four years, being a Pitt fan back then, the Panthers finally competitive.  I was at Pitt in 1975 as T.D. rushed for 303 yards against Notre Dame, when no running back had ever gained 200 against the Fighting Irish.  Dorsett had 151 yards on his first four carries.

Johnny Majors had been a legend at Tennessee, where his No. 45 jersey was retired in 2012.  Majors starred for the Volunteers from 1954-56 as a single-wing tailback and punter and twice was named the SEC player of the year. 

During the 1956 season, Majors rushed for seven touchdowns, threw five TD passes and punted and returned kicks while leading Tennessee to a 10-1 record and Sugar Bowl appearance.  He finished his Volunteers’ playing career with 1,622 yards rushing and 1,135 yards passing.

He finished second to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung in the 1956 Heisman Trophy balloting.

Majors left Pitt for the head job at Tennessee after winning the national championship and he had a successful career in Knoxville, going 116-62-8 in 16 seasons, before a disastrous return to Pitt for a final four seasons, Majors’ final mark as a coach, overall, 185-137-10.

“Dynamic on the field.  Fierce on the sidelines. Distinguished Tennessean,” Tennessee’s football program tweeted.  “We mourn the loss of legendary player and coach Johnny Majors – a man who left an indelible mark on Tennessee Football.”

Tony Dorsett wrote on Twitter: “Rest in Heaven, Coach.  Words could never express what you meant to me.  Catch you on the other side.”

--I failed to note last time the passing of Auburn coaching legend Pat Dye, who died Monday at the age of 80.

Alan Blinder / New York Times

“Under Dye, Auburn – its teams variously featuring one of the most skilled running backs ever to play the college game, a top pick in the National Football League draft and a defensive tackle who was later memorialized in a mural at the university’s Jorden-Hare Stadium – contended for national glory and became a counterweight to its in-state archrival, the University of Alabama.”

Dye had a record of 99-39-4 in 12 seasons at Auburn, finishing in the top 10 five times.

Blinder:

“Dye reshaped the very architecture and culture of the rivalry that consumes the state, especially in November.  Irritated by how the annual Iron Bowl showdowns were played at the not-truly-neutral Legion Field in Birmingham, which essentially served as an Alabama stronghold, Dye was largely responsible for bringing the series to Auburn’s home stadium regularly.

“When the game was first played in Auburn in 1989, he coached the Tigers to a 30-20 victory.

“ ‘This is the reason we work you in the summertime, in January and February and in the spring,’ Dye told his team afterward.  ‘This is the reason we push you beyond what you think you can do, to experience moments like this.’”

Dye, like Johnny Majors, was a big star himself in college, a two-way starter at Georgia.  After stints in Canadian football and the Army, Dye was hired as an assistant coach at Alabama in 1965 by Bear Bryant, who was beginning to make the Crimson Tide a mainstay of the biggest bowl games.  Dye remained at ‘Bama for nine seasons, before a successful head coaching stint at East Carolina, and one year at Wyoming, led to his hiring for the Auburn job in 1981.

After an initial 5-6 record, in 1982, Bo Jackson arrived on campus and after a shaky start, the Tigers finished 9-3, including a 23-22 win over Bear Bryant in his final Iron Bowl appearance; Jackson scoring on a fourth-and-goal late in the contest to overcome Alabama’s lead.

College Basketball

--Billy Witz and Adam Zagoria / New York Times

“In what may be a chilling sign for schools ensnarled in the federal college basketball corruption scandal, the NCAA on Friday handed Oklahoma State a one-year tournament ban, along with fines and the loss of scholarships in the first penalties that were handed down by the governing body of college sports in the aftermath of the scandal.

“The tournament ban is a gut punch for the Cowboys, who had assembled an elite freshman class, centered around 6-foot-7 point guard Cade Cunningham, who could be the top pick in next year’s NBA draft.

“While the school plans to appeal, the sanctions may be viewed ominously by nearly a dozen other schools – Kansas, Arizona and Louisville among them – who were more extensively involved in the FBI bribery and conspiracy case in which witnesses testified in federal court that money was funneled by agents and shoe company representatives to players and their families.

“ ‘You see the severity of this penalty, goodness, what’s the next thing to come down the pike?’ Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said in a conference call.  ‘I’ll be fascinated to watch.’

“He added: ‘The expectation on our part is if this is upheld for us, then there should be some significant penalties coming down in the future.’”

An OSU former assistant coach, Lamont Evans, pleaded guilty to accepting $22,000 in bribes to direct players to a financial advisor, but the school says he operated as a lone wolf and did so only for personal gain.

Evans, who did not cooperate with NCAA investigators, was hit with a 10-year show-cause penalty, effectively banning him from coaching for a decade.

It seems Oklahoma State is trying to get the appeal process stretched out long enough that the Cowboys would be able to play in the NCAA tournament next season, though this is unlikely.

As for Cade Cunningham, coach Mike Boynton said he would discuss with him whether he should stay at OSU, where his brother, Cannen, was hired as an assistant last year, or consider other possibilities – from transferring, heading overseas or the G-League.

Boynton said he did talk to Cunningham briefly Friday morning.  “I’ll tell you what I told him.  I didn’t spend four years recruiting him and telling him how much I cared about him to now abandon what’s important to him.”

He added: “Whatever his family and he decide is best, I’m going to get in tow with that and I’m going to support it 100 percent.”

PGA Tour

--It’s a loaded field for the first event om the Tour since March, next week at Colonial, with the top five players in the world – Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson – and 16 of the top 20, the best field this tournament has seen in its 74-year history.

Others of note include Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler, plus young guns Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland.

--But the big news on Friday was Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine saying spectators will be allowed to attend the Memorial Golf Tournament to be held July 13-19.

Now the John Deere Classic is occurring the week before, also at Muirfield, because it had to be moved due to coronavirus concerns, including lack of sponsorship, but that tourney will played without fans. [And the John Deere will return in 2021 to its Silvis, Illinois location.]

It’s expected the number of fans at the Memorial will be limited in some fashion.  This is also expected to be Tiger Woods’ first appearance of the reopened Tour.

The George Floyd Protests

[It’s been a rough stretch for the country.  The following has to be told, especially for my archives.  I would also encourage everyone to go back and watch the videos of Kaepernick and his interviews from back in Aug. 2016…YouTube ‘em.]

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees got in major hot water for saying in an interview with Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” when asked about players kneeling like Colin Kaepernick to protest police brutality. 

“Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States.  I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp.  Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about….

“And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not.  We still have a long way to go.  But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity.  It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”

Brees then came under immense heat from fellow players, teammates and others.

LeBron James: “WOW MAN!!  Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??  Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of us and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free.  My father-in-law was one of those.”

Brees then offered a mild apology and that came under attack from Republican politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz, who called Brees a baby, while President Trump weighed in that Brees “should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.”

Brees’ apology read in part: “We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black community.  We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week.  We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.”

Brees then directly addressed the president on social media, writing: “Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag.  It has never been.”

But Brees didn’t invoke Kaepernick’s name.

Jerry Brewer / Washington Post

“Take all of him into account, and Drew Brees is among the most exceptional human beings in sports.  If we agreed on criteria and a system to rank humanity, there is a chance he could finish No. 1.  From his multifaceted efforts to revitalize New Orleans post-Katrina to his $5 million commitment to feed the needy in Louisiana during the pandemic, Brees epitomizes the character, benevolence and grace that people seek in a sports role model.

“Yet he was still capable of sounding like a misguided, insensitive dolt.

“For all his usual good intentions, he defaced one aspect of the most important potential movement in this burning nation.  He hurt people even though he has dedicated much of his life to helping them.

“It doesn’t make him a covert enemy.  However, it does expose him as a sometimes ignorant, lazy thinker in desperate need of a broadened perspective.   There is a single word for his kind, and keep it in mind as we proceed: normal.  Astonishingly, unconsciously, pervasively normal.”

Nancy Armour / USA TODAY

“What Brees said isn’t just disingenuous, it’s self-absorbed, the kind of entitled view only a white person can have.  And with the country roiled by protests as it tries to reckon with the brutal consequences of its endemic racism, it’s dangerous.

“Hurtful, too.

“In a searing video on Instagram, Malcolm Jenkins blasted his teammate’s ignorance and insensitivity.

“ ‘The whole country’s on fire and the first thing you do is criticize one’s peaceful protest,’ said Jenkins, who raised his fist during the anthem in 2016 and 2017.

“Truth is, the protests by Kaepernick and other players were never about the flag, the anthem or the military.  There had been a string of high-profile cases of black and brown people dying at the hands of police, most of which had gone unpunished, and Kaepernick was trying to get white America’s attention.

“To get us to care.  That police treated people of color worse, yes.  But also that our entire society is rigged against minorities, the ugly legacy of slavery and colonization….

“And it is lost on no one that protesters, and even some law enforcement officials, are making the same gesture Kaepernick did.

“ ‘I was one of the people who initially thought Colin Kaepernick kneeling was disrespectful.  I reacted to WHAT he was doing instead of WHY,’ U.S. women’s hockey player Kendall Coyne Schofield said in a post on social media Tuesday.

“ ‘Then I listened and learned,’ Coyne Schofield continued.  ‘So let me be absolutely clear: It was NEVER about the flag. It was never about my family members who serve(d).  It wasn’t about me.  It always was and IS about George Floyd and the countless others who came before him.’

“That kind of introspection and honesty by white Americans is essential if we’re ever going to achieve that more perfect union.  Making his first public comments since Floyd’s death, Aaron Rodgers took issue with Brees’ message, stating emphatically that the protests have ‘NEVER’ been about the flag or the anthem.

“ ‘Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action,’ Rodgers posted….

“Brees has spent most of his life surrounded by teammates of all colors and backgrounds. He has played the bulk of his career for Sean Payton, probably the most enlightened white coach there is in the NFL.  And still Brees said what he did.

“ ‘He don’t know no better,’ teammate Michael Thomas said on Twitter.

“But ignorance is no longer an excuse.  And given the reaction there was on social media, it’s no longer going to be tolerated, either.

“ ‘If you don’t understand that other people’s experience is something totally different than you, then when you talk about the brotherhood and all this other bullshit, it’s just lip service.  Or it’s only on the field,’ Jenkins said, choking back tears.

“ ‘Because when we step off this field and I take my helmet off, I’m a black man walking around America.  I’m telling you I’m dealing with these things and I’m telling you my community is dealing with these things, and your response to me is, ‘Don’t talk about that here, this is not the place.’

“ ‘Where is the place Drew?’

“Our flag and our anthem are meant to be symbols of our nation’s most cherished ideals. To not understand, to prioritize the former over the latter that is the ultimate sign of disrespect.”

Meanwhile, Roger Goodell struck a more specific chord on Thursday.  After his first attempt at a response to the protests fell far short of the mark to the players, Goodell said in a post.

“It has been a difficult time for our country, in particular black people in our country.  First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality.”

Goodell then said:

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression, of black people.  We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.  We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.  I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country.  Without black players, there would be no National Football League.  And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”

“We are listening. I am listening,” Goodell said.  “And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

Players said the commissioner fell short again because he specifically didn’t mention Colin Kaepernick.

But we have heard little from NFL owners, many of whom support President Trump.  It’s not known what the league will do when they start kneeling and/or raising a fist during the anthem.

LeBron tweeted in response to Fox host Laura Ingraham, who said Brees is “allowed to have an opinion” two years after she admonished James to “shut up and dribble.”

“If you still haven’t figured out why the protesting is going on.  Why we’re acting as we are is because we are simply F-N tired of this treatment right here! Can we break it down for you any simpler than this right here???? And to my people don’t worry I won’t stop until I see CHANGE.”

Michael Jordan and the Jordan brand, produced by Nike Inc., released a joint statement Friday pledging to donate $100 million over 10 years to “organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

Jordan has previously been criticized in the past for what was seen as his reluctance to advocate for social causes.

Stuff

--NASCAR had a race in Atlanta today, won by Kevin Harvick, his 51st, 12th all-time.  [I fell just a few points short in my DraftKings lineup.]

More importantly, NASCAR had the drivers pull into the pits in the middle of the pace laps, as its president read a statement on the sport, George Floyd, the protests, and racism in America. The drivers then, as some NFL Players did this week, showed a video they cut on how the sport has to do better.  It was super.

I love NASCAR.  But we all know it’s been filled with racism.  I’ve been to at least seven races over the years and these days, it’s kind of jarring to still see Confederate flags in the parking lots and on top of RVs.

I’ve written it would be terrific for the sport if the only African-American driver, Bubba Wallace, won, or even Daniel Suarez (from Mexico), but, alas, they aren’t in the elite as yet.

I’ve written years ago that one of the tragedies of the accident that paralyzed former Wake Forest-NBAer, Rodney Rogers, was that he was a huge NASCAR fan and seemed determined to make his mark on the sport, which would have done wonders.

But what NASCAR did today was a good start.  They are to be commended, and I continue to love how they were the first to bring back live sports.  Their formula has worked thus far.

--A 10-foot great white shark attacked and killed a 60-year-old Australian man on Sunday while he was surging in the north of New South Wales state, police said.

Several board-riders came to the assistance of the Queensland man and fought the shark off before pulling him to shore at Salt Beach, near Kingscliff, some 500 miles north of Sydney.

The shark bit the man’s thigh, and then circled those who came to his aid, reportedly ramming one of their boards.

“He was rendered first aid for serious injuries to his left leg but died at the scene,” police said in a statement.

It was the third fatal shark attack in Australia this year, after no fatalities last year.

Police are authorized to kill sharks believed to be considered a threat to human life but they were unable to kill this one and the shark left the area after several hours.

--Whit W. passed on a classic quote from an ex-college football receiver, JaQuay Savage, who played with Texas A&M, Louisville and Cincinnati (as a grad transfer).

While at Louisville, he played under the despicable Bobby Petrino, who has been excoriated in this space.  Petrino is just a bad guy. 

So in keeping with the commentary over the protests this week, and the Drew Brees issue, Savage explained on Twitter that Petrino isn’t a “respect the flag” guy.  He’s not even a “I think there are good and bad people on both sides” guy.  He hates everyone equally.

“That’s one thing you could never say about my college coach Bobby Petrino.  He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.  That mf hated everybody

--Singer Tom Jones turned 80 today, June 7.  Man, time flies.  He said he will keep singing “as long as there’s breath in my body.”

Jones has been brilliant at reinventing himself at various stages as he became one of the world’s biggest stars, with his live Las Vegas performances earning the admiration of those from Elvis to Sinatra.

I’ll never forget how in 1968, I was in Copenhagen, Denmark with the family, we stroll into Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park, and there he was performing.  A surprise treat.

Top 3 songs for the week of 6/5/65: #1 “Help Me, Rhonda” (The Beach Boys)  #2 “Wooly Bully” (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs)  #3 “Back In My Arms Again” (The Supremes)…and…#4 “Crying In The Chapel” (Elvis Presley)  #5 “Ticket To Ride” (The Beatles)  #6 “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” (Herman’s Hermits)   #7 “I Can’t Help Myself” (Four Tops)  #8 “Just A Little” (The Beau Brummels)  #9 “Engine Engine #9” (Roger Miller)  #10 “It’s Not Unusual” (Tom Jones…great week… A- …)

1976 Pitt Panther Quiz: 1) Matt Cavanaugh was the quarterback, though he was only 65-110, 1,046 yards, 9 TD – 3 INT.  2) Elliott Walker was the second option out of the backfield, 85-389, 4.6 avg.  Dorsett was the offense, carrying it 370 times for 2,150 yards, 5.8 avg., and 22 TDs.  3) Jim Corbett (34-538-15.8-2 TDs); Gordon Jones (21-386-18.4, 5 TDs); and Willie Taylor (18-320-17.8, 3 TDs) were the options for Cavanaugh and backup Thomas Yewcic.  4) USC running back Ricky Bell finished second to Dorsett in the Heisman balloting, then was taken first overall by Tampa Bay in the 1977 Draft. Bell, save for one season, was largely a bust, 822-3,063, 3.7 avg., while you know what Dorsett did, rushing for 12,739 yards, with another 3,554 on 398 receptions.

I do have to add that the Pitt defense in ’76 yielded just 245 yards per game, including only 2.6 yards per carry.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday…or sooner…