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NBA and NHL Playoffs
Add-On…early Tuesday p.m. Found a little time to clear the table of some big events since last post.
--Much-maligned Paul George came up big for the Clippers Monday night in a do-or-die Game 5, L.A. defeating Phoenix 116-102, the series now 3-2 Suns.
George had a playoff career-high 41 points on 15 of 20 from the field, along with 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. chipped in with 23 and 22 points, respectively, for L.A., picking up the slack from an injured Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers shot 54.8% from the field.
So the Suns could have wrapped it up at home, but now go back to L.A. for Game 6 on Wednesday.
--Tonight, the Hawks are taking on the Bucks in Atlanta, Milwaukee up 2-1 in the series.
Sunday, after I posted, the Bucks took Game 3 in Atlanta, 113-102, as the unassuming All-Star, Khris Middleton, scored 20 of a playoff career-high 38 points in the fourth quarter, Middletown also with 11 rebounds and seven assists.
But Hawks star Trae Young is ‘questionable’ for tonight’s game, Young suffering a sprained ankle late in the third quarter Sunday, which was later diagnosed as a bone bruise. If he can’t play, bye-bye Atlanta.
--Meanwhile, both Portland and Dallas are being criticized for filling their head coaching slots with Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd, both of whom have had issues surrounding assault allegations. Billups, hired to be the Trail Blazers’ new coach, is facing media and fan backlash related to a 1997 sexual assault incident, which while he was never formally charged with a crime, was settled out of court with the woman.
Kidd was arrested in 2001 for domestic violence and had a 2012 DUI arrest.
As a result of Portland’s hiring of Billups, star guard Damian Lillard is upset and may push for a trade, which is where the Knicks potentially come in.
Stanley Cup Finals
--Defending champion Tampa Bay demolished Montreal 5-1 in Game 1 last night. Game 2 is Wednesday.
--The amazing Kyle Schwarber homered two more times against the Mets Monday night in Washington, the Nats defeating the Metropolitans 8-4 in a makeup game.
Schwarber’s power-surge is becoming legendary. He’s hit seven home runs against the Mets the last three times they’ve played. And he became the first player in major league history to hit 15 home runs in a 17-day span. 15 homers in 17 games joins Barry Bonds (2001) and Sammy Sosa (1998) in that regard.
And…his 11 homers in his last nine games is tied for the most in any nine-game span since 1901. Frank Howard did it in 1968 for the Washington Senators.
Schwarber’s 15 home runs in June are a franchise record for a month.
Again, manager Davey Martinez’ decision to insert Schwarber into the leadoff spot, after which Schwarber went on his tear, looks like sheer brilliance.
More importantly in terms of the NL East race, the Nationals have won 12 of 15 to return to .500 (38-38), and moved to within three games of the Mets (40-34), whose offense is simply atrocious, worst in baseball in terms of runs. If the likes of Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, Dom Smith, and Michael Conforto don’t start picking it up, now, it’s going to be a long summer for the lads, especially in how the fans treat them.
And Pete Alonso, shockingly, has just one of his 12 home runs at home! Good gawd!
--Shohei Ohtani performed for the first time in Yankee Stadium in three years and connected for a 117.2 mph home run in the first inning of Monday night’s 5-3 Angels win over the stumbling Yanks. It was his ninth homer in 12 games, 26 for the year, tying him with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the MLB lead.
The Angels got 7 1/3 strong innings from their bullpen after starter Dylan Bundy got sick in the second inning with heat exhaustion.
For New York, it was their fourth straight loss, following the sweep up in Fenway over the weekend, and fourth four-game losing streak this season.
Separately, the Angels transferred Mike Trout to the 60-day IL, ruling out his return until July 17, Trout ailing with a strained right calf.
--In the College World Series, Vanderbilt rode a seven-run first inning to an 8-2 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals, as the Commodores attempt to win a second straight national championship.
--In a stunner, Switzerland’s Yann Sommer saved France striker Kylian Mbappe’s penalty to secure a 5-4 shootout win over the world champions following a thrilling 3-3 draw after extra time on Monday to reach the quarterfinals, where the Swiss will meet Spain.
The so-called “Nati” came from 3-1 down with two goals in the final five minutes to force extra time and eventually penalties.
It was Switzerland’s first knockout stage victory at a tournament since 1938 and the first time they made the last eight since the 1954 World Cup which they hosted.
Spain beat Croatia 5-3 yesterday.
The powerful NCAA Division I Council, a group that includes conference commissioners and athletic directors, recommended Monday that student-athletes be allowed for the first time to earn money from autograph signings, personal appearances, endorsements and their social-media platforms, which would be a groundbreaking shift that could see players earn millions of dollars.
The NCAA has faced severe pressure to abandon its longstanding position that athletes should, at most, be allowed to receive scholarships and stipends for some living costs.
The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors, which is largely comprised of university chancellors and presidents, is expected to sign off on Wednesday, and the new approach would go into effect the next day, July 1.
Which is convenient, because that is the day that new laws in eight states will go into effect, giving athletes the opportunity to earn money off their fame, no matter what the NCAA did. Last week, the Supreme Court offered a ruling that left the NCAA vulnerable to antitrust cases brought in connection to athletes’ payments.
The New York Times’ Alan Blinder reported that some athletes have already begun making plans to cash in on their renown, such as Univ. of Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon, who has announced plans for an apparel line that will debut on Thursday, while Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz posted a video with a personal logo.
Success for many athletes on the endorsement front will be tied to their social-media presence. Paige Bueckers, the women’s basketball star at Connecticut, has more than 829,000 followers on Instagram.
Richard Ensor, the commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference since 1988, said the NCAA’s move is “a recognition that we have to adjust our business practices as it relates to student-athletes.”
Ensor added that NCAA leaders were “in a position where they had to build a policy that allowed us to start reacting to the reality, but recognizing that there’s a lot to be learned over the next months and we’ll need to adjust as it goes along.”
U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
So I can’t emphasize enough that having gone to three of these events over the years in Eugene, Oregon, just how extreme last weekend’s weather was. To have to suspend the action until evening, 11:30 p.m. Eastern, was necessitated by the 110-degree air temps late Sunday afternoon. I’ve sat through some hot days at the trials, but that was maybe 85 degrees. Normally it’s in the 70s. Every time I’ve then gone to the coast for the midweek break in Newport, it was downright chilly.
Well, they got the final events in, after I had gone to bed, and a New Jersey local, Sydney McLaughlin, broke the world record in the women’s 400-meter hurdles to qualify for her second Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old recorded a time of 51.90 seconds, becoming the first woman to break the 52-second barrier.
I’ve written of Sydney for years, and the last few weeks of Dr. Bortrum’s life, I passed her high school, Union Catholic Regional HS in Scotch Plains, on the way to the hospice. Us New Jerseyans will be pulling for her big time in Tokyo. Back in 2016, as a 16-year-old, McLaughlin was the youngest American on the track and field team. She placed fifth in her semifinal heat in Rio but did not make the final. She did win a silver medal at the 2019 world championships in the event.
And not for nothing, but Dalilah Muhammad, who finished second in Sunday’s final, was the previous record holder at 52.16 seconds, so Team USA is loaded.
Meanwhile, Noah Lyles, who surprisingly didn’t make the Olympic team in the 100 meters, won the 200, posting a world-leading time of 19.74 seconds, after lackluster rounds in both the 100 and 200.
17-year-old Erriyon Knighton finished third, making him the youngest male member of the Olympic track team since Jim Ryun in 1964.
And back to the women…another girl from New Jersey, teenager Athing Mu, won the women’s 800 meters. The 19-year-old ran the best time in the world this season, recovering from an early stumble in the pack, 1:56.07.
Mu is from Trenton, NJ, her parents emigrating from Sudan before she was born.
Oregon freshman Cole Hocker won the men’s 1,500 meters, edging the 2016 gold medal winner, Matthew Centrowitz Jr., Hocker running 3:35.28.
But that is .28 seconds shy of the Olympic standard so he awaits a ruling on whether he can compete. Rules are rules…I’d be surprised if he’s cut a break.
And how about JuVaughn Harrison, a 22-year-old from LSU, who won two men’s titles on the same day, the high jump and the long jump, the first American to make the Olympics in both since Jim Thorpe in 1912. Goodness gracious. I can’t fathom this double.
--I didn’t have a chance last time to note 22-year-old Nelly Korda’s breakthrough win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, her first major after 26 starts in the big events. She also became the first American to win an LPGA major since 2018, which is kind of startling.
So on a sweltering Sunday down in Johns Creek, Georgia, Nelly fulfilled the promise she’d shown from a young age.
--No one has had a more charmed final years on the PGA Tour than Steve Stricker. At age 54, Stricker can still be competitive playing with the younger folk, but he mixes in some Champions Tour events and Sunday he won the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, his seventh win on the Champions Tour, to go along with his 12 PGA Tour wins.
He’s always been, in good times and bad, just one of the classiest people in sports, period. Good things do happen to good people.
Stricker’s great Wisconsin friend, Jerry Kelly, another good dude, finished second.
With the win, Stricker qualifies for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass next March, which he is pumped for.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m. Enjoy the Fourth!
Folks, with the death of Dr. Bortrum, aka Dad, there are a ton of things going on that impact yours truly. No midweek Bar Chat, unless I can carve out a little time. Check above like mid-Wednesday.
NBA Quiz: The Phoenix Suns have never won an NBA title, advancing to the finals twice. The 1992-93 edition, coached by Paul Westphal, went 62-20, and then lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 4-2 in the finals. Name the nine main rotation pieces that season. Answer below.
--The Clippers are finally running out of gas, losing 84-80 to the Phoenix Suns in L.A. on Saturday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, the Clippers now facing a 3-1 deficit and elimination on Tuesday in Game 5 in Phoenix. And there are no signs Kawhi Leonard will be able to return after missing the past six games with a right knee injury.
Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 22 rebounds for the Suns.
For the Clippers, Paul George, who came up big in L.A.’s 106-92 Game 3 win, was just 5 of 20 from the field in Game 4, including 1 of 9 from three.
Los Angeles has overcome 0-2 series deficits against Dallas and Utah, but this is too tall an order against Phoenix.
For one, the Clippers have played 17 games in 36 nights.
--In the Atlanta-Milwaukee Eastern Conference final, Trae Young went off for 48 points and 11 assists in the Hawks’ 116-113 victory in Game 1 in Milwaukee.
But then the Bucks rolled 125-91 in Game 2 Friday, Milwaukee building a 77-45 halftime lead, the Hawks’ starters relegated to the bench. Young had nine turnovers in 28 minutes.
So that set up Game 3 tonight in Atlanta, after I’ve gone to post.
--The Dallas Mavericks agreed to terms with Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd to be their head coach, while longtime Nike executive Nico Harrison will become the general manager and run the franchise’s basketball operations.
Kidd, who had two stints with the Mavericks during his playing career and starred on the 2020-11 championship team, has had the support of Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki and others who have been advising team owner Mark Cuban.
Kidd has a career regular-season record of 183-190 as a head coach, and his teams have gone 9-15 in three playoff appearances, coaching Brooklyn in 2013-14 and Milwaukee from 2014 to 2018. He has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the Lakers.
Meanwhile, former Mavs coach Rick Carlisle took the Indiana Pacers’ head job on Thursday. Carlisle thoroughly endorsed Kidd for the Dallas job.
--Portland is finalizing a deal with Chauncey Billups to be its next head coach. Billups is an assistant with the Clippers.
Billups, 44, spent 17 years in the NBA and won a championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. He was named Finals MVP. He was also a five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA selection and two-time All-Defensive selection.
Billups is tasked with taking a team featuring Damian Lillard and maximizing its potential in a deep Western Conference. The sixth-seeded Blazers lost to Denver in six games in the first round of the playoffs. They could trade Lillard for mega draft picks, at least that’s one scenario being floated out there.
--Team USA tentatively announced a 12-man roster for the Tokyo Games on Wednesday. While stars such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis will sit out after an injury-laden season, with Steph Curry reportedly joining their ranks this week, and recent injuries that have sidelined Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving, the team still has star power.
Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum, Zach LaVine, Bam Adebayo, Kevin Love, Jerami Grant, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton. James Harden has also said he wanted in, contingent on his hamstring healing.
But in the case of Booker, Holiday and Middleton, the latest possible date for a Game 7 of the NBA Finals is July 22, just three days before Team USA is scheduled to meet France in its first game in Tokyo.
Boy, I didn’t realize Zach LaVine averaged 27.4 per game this season.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
--Incredibly, no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, but now Montreal has a shot at ending the drought after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in overtime in Game 6 on Thursday night. The surprising Canadiens, who clinched the league’s final playoff spot with 59 points, are the first team from Canada to reach the Stanley Cup Final since the 2011 Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins.
After trailing 3-1 in the first round, the Canadiens have now won 11 of their last 13 games to upset the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets in the North Division, before taking down the Golden Knights.
So Montreal squares off against defending champion Tampa Bay, which ended the Islanders’ hopes, 1-0 in Game 7 Friday night in Tampa, Andrei Vasilevskiy with the shutout.
Game 1 of the Finals is Monday night in Tampa. Montreal’s interim coach, Dominique Ducharme, who has been out after testing positive for Covid-19, serving a full 14 days of isolation, will be allowed behind the bench for Game 3.
Ducharme, who had received his second vaccine shot less than two weeks earlier, said he had followed all of the NHL’s protocols. None of the coach’s close contacts – including Canadiens players and coaches – have also tested positive.
For the Islanders, it was the second straight year they lost in the semifinals.
--Jacob deGrom was back on the mound Saturday afternoon for the Mets against the Phillies and we learned he’s human, giving up two runs on three hits over six innings, while striking out just five. His ERA soared to 0.69, as his scoreless innings streak ended at 31.
Overall, deGrom’s line is 78 innings, 30 hits, 6 earned runs, 122 strikeouts, 11 walks.
While Jake got a no-decision, the Mets won the game 4-3, rallying for two in the bottom of the ninth. They’ve now shockingly won deGrom’s last eight starts.
But Friday night, the Mets and Phils split a doubleheader, 2-1 the final score in each, but I was furious with my boys for allowing Phillies starter Aaron Nola to strike out 10 in a row in the first game, thus tying a record that had stood for 51 years, held by Tom Seaver. That sucks. Us Mets fans only wanted someone like Jacob deGrom to tie the mark. And not by doing it against the Mets.
At least the Mets won the game. Nola had a no-decision, striking out 12 overall in just 5 1/3.
But they lost today, 4-2, as Zack Wheeler threw seven shutout innings for Philadelphia.
Wheeler has been everything Philly wanted when they signed him two years ago as a free agent, entering the game 9-6, 2.59 for them over the past two seasons.
So the Mets fall to 40-33, 4 ahead of the Nationals.
--Following losses Friday and Saturday to the Red Sox up in Fenway Park, the Yankees trailed first-place Tampa Bay by six games, Boston by 5 1/2, and the calls for heads to roll picked up again.
It was the Yanks’ fifth straight loss to the Red Sox (46-31), and now New York is a combined 5-13 against Boston and Tampa Bay, while 35-23 against the rest.
Make that six straight losses to Boston, New York losing today 9-2, Gerrit Cole lit up for five earned in five innings. He hasn’t been the same since MLB announced its crackdown on foreign substances.
--Watching the Mets game, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez were talking about the San Francisco Giants and how they were the first team in baseball to reach 50 wins this season, 50-26. Shockingly, this is the first time the Giants have done this since 1938! Who wudda thunk it?
--Saturday, the Arizona Diamondbacks finally ended their MLB-record 24-game road losing streak, beating the Padres 10-1. Shu, no wonder why you left Feenix for California.
--The Angels (37-40) broke a five-game losing streak today, beating the Rays 6-4, as Shohei Ohtani doubled and homered (no. 25), driving in three. He now has 45 extra-base hits, which is pretty darn good.
--Four Cubs pitchers combined for the seventh no-hitter in the majors this year, matching the most in a season since 1900, as Chicago blanked the Dodgers 4-0 Thursday night. The Dodgers drew eight walks, getting at least one from each opposing pitcher, but managed no other baserunners.
Starter Zach Davies (5-4) issued five walks while scrapping through six spotless innings, and then relievers Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel closed it out.
2021 matches 1990, 1991, 2012 and 2015 for the most no-hitters in a single MLB season.
The loser for the Dodgers in the game, Walker Buehler (7-1), hadn’t lost in 23 straight regular-season starts.
--Since Washington Nationals Manager Davey Martinez inserted Kyle Schwarber into the leadoff spot in the order on June 12, Schwarber has hit 13 home runs in 15 games through Saturday’s play.
Since he was 0-for-4 Saturday, he actually had 13 homers in a 14-game stretch, the second-most since at least 1901, behind only Barry Bonds’ 14 in 14 in 2001.
During one five-game span, Schwarber had eight homers and 15 RBI, joining Frank Howard, Manny Ramirez and Shawn Green as the only players to notch such totals over that span.
--In the College World Series, it’s going to be Vanderbilt against Mississippi State in the finals.
North Carolina State was in the driver’s seat for making the finals, but on Friday, they had just 13 players because of Covid-related issues, using 12 of them, as they fell to Vandy 3-1.
The Wolfpack were forced to use a freshman pitcher who’d thrown just 8 2/3 innings all season, and four position players who’d combined for just 27 at-bats, yet N.C. State almost pulled it off.
After Friday’s loss, Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent declined to say whether he has encouraged his players to be vaccinated and wouldn’t say whether he has been.
“If you want to talk baseball, we can talk baseball,” Avent said. “If you want to talk politics or stuff like that, you can go talk to my head of sports medicine, Rob Murphy.”
Well, in the end, the NCAA and Nebraska health officials ruled the Wolfpack out for their rematch with Vanderbilt that would have determined who played Mississippi State, and the Commodores moved on. A horrible ending for N.C. State, which was on a Cinderella run for the history books.
--The Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., has the dubious distinction of following the U.S. Open every year, but because tournament sponsors have a reputation for treating the players and their families very well, they always manage to attract a top field and this week was no exception.
Entering the final round….
Kramer Hickok -10 …no clue who he is
Bubba Watson -10
Cam Smith -9
Russell Henley -9
Jason Day -9
Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau among those three back at -7.
Pretty intriguing, particularly for Watson and Day, both of whom haven’t won since 2018. I can’t believe Day is still just 33. It seems like he’s been around forever.
So after No. 13, Bubba Watson, seemingly firmly in control, had a one-shot lead, and a lot of us basically ‘booked it.’
Until we didn’t.
Bubba went bogey, bogey, bogey, double, bogey…+6 over the final five.
Meanwhile, Harris English and Kramer Hickok nailed super clutch birdie putts on 18 to force a playoff between the two.
For a course that has yielded a 60 (Patrick Cantlay) and Jim Furyk’s all-time record 58, TPC River Highlands has a most interesting finish, including the short par-4 14th that Bubba and others (I’m talkin’ about you, Russell Henley) totally butchered.
As for the playoff…I’m typing this after seven holes! Both English and Hickok have parred the first seven, rotating between Nos. 18 and 17.
Kudos to CBS for sticking with it when they could have gone to Golf Channel.
And Harris English wins his fourth career title on the eighth hole, tied for second-longest playoff ever in PGA Tour history. Wow. Awesome stuff.
I would have been calling my father a number of times during it.
--Rickie Fowler missed another cut. The 32-year-old sure is at a crossroads, now 116th on the FedEx Cup points list, 8 missed cuts in 20 events in the 2020-21 season. He also has only three top tens the last two seasons, no top threes. He didn’t qualify for either the Masters or U.S. Open.
--The American team for the Olympics, with the maximum of four qualifiers allowed per country, tied to the Official World Golf Ranking, will be Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau. Dustin Johnson would have qualified but announced in March that he would not participate.
Countries were limited to four players, provided all four were in the top 15 of the OWGR. Beyond that, countries were limited to two players if both were inside the top 60. The field will consist of 60 players for the 72-hole stroke-play competition.
A number of top golfers, such as Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Tyrell Hatton have turned down the opportunity to play. Can’t say I blame them, but this opened up spots for the likes of Matthew Fitzpatrick and Paul Casey, who can further boost their Q-Score with big performances on the global stage.
U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
--Saturday night at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, Gabby Thomas took first in the women’s 200 meters with a super time of 21.61 seconds. Only one woman has sprinted half a lap faster and that was Florence Griffith Joyner, who way back in 1988 ran a 21.34.
In fact four athletes left Hayward Field ranked second-best all-time in the world in their event. Two of them, hurdlers Rai Benjamin and Grant Holloway, came within a half of a tenth of a second of toppling a world record. Hammer thrower DeAnna Price, broke her own American record – twice.
And Erriyon Knight, a 17-year-old from Tampa, chased down Noah Lyles in the homestretch of a 200-meter semifinal and pointed at the clock as he crossed the line. It read 19.88, .05 seconds faster than the junior world record Usain Bolt set in 2004 and a declaration the kid could actually make it to Tokyo.
But Allyson Felix, already heading to Tokyo by virtue of qualifying in the 400 meters, finished fifth in the 200 final, the last race she will ever run at the trials.
Holloway ran a 12.81 in a 110-meter hurdle semifinal, missing by .01 seconds the record of Aries Merritt. He won the final in 12.96.
Benjamin breezed in the 400 hurdles, 46.83, just shy of Kevin Young’s mark of 46.78 from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and he wasn’t really trying.
And so I originally was going to hold off on posting until after NBC’s 7:00-8:00 p.m. ET hour for the final coverage tonight, but I knew the forecast was brutal….temps up to 110! Air temp.
We’re talking all-time records, for any day!
And the announcement was made they would attempt to finish the competition at 8:30 p.m. local, 11:30 p.m. Eastern.
--We had a weekend doubleheader at Pocono Raceway for NASCAR and Alex Bowman won Saturday’s opener, as the white-hot Kyle Larson, winner of three consecutive points races and leading heading into the final few laps, saw his left front tire go flat, and seconds later his No. 5 Chevrolet was crashing into the Turn 3 outside wall, allowing teammate Alex Bowman to pick up his third victory of the season.
Larson was seeking to become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 to win four consecutive Cup points races.
Hendrick Motorsports’ Cup Series win streak is now six, which ties its team record for consecutive wins also set in 2007 when Johnson was on the team.
So drivers had a second go-round at Pocono this afternoon…and Kyle Busch bagged his second win of the year (No. 59 for his career) for Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Larson second.
I had Nos. 1 and 2 in my DraftKings lineup and still freakin’ flamed out. In a major slump of epic proportions in this regard.
--Jeff Gordon is leaving Fox Sports’ broadcast team after six seasons to become the vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, putting him second in line to team chairman and majority owner Rick Hendrick.
Gordon’s move is far from surprising, especially after Hendrick told Autoweek in 2018: “Whenever I finally step away, it’ll be Jeff Gordon in my place.”
Gordon has been an equity owner of Hendrick Motorsports since 1999 and won all four of his championships and 93 races while racing for the team.
But this is a big blow for Fox. Viewership for NASCAR has been declining, but in terms of his professionalism and entertainment value, Gordon is as good as any color commentator in sports, period. His replacement has yet to be determined, NBC Sports having taken over for the second half of the NASCAR season.
--I haven’t been following this one closely, but now that we’re in the Last 16, I can’t help but note that the Czech Republic had a major upset today in defeating Netherlands 2-0. The Czechs, ranked 40th in the world, 24 places behind the Dutch, will now take on Denmark in the quarterfinals, the Danes, riding the wave of emotions over Christian Eriksen’s recovery from cardiac arrest, beat Wales 4-0.
--And also this afternoon, the world’s highest-ranked team, Belgium, beat Portugal 1-0 and will now play Italy on Friday in a delicious quarterfinal.
--I haven’t had a chance to note a recent story by Matthew Stanmyre of the Star-Ledger on a consequence of the pandemic and the future of high school athletics, particularly in the inner cities.
I talked a few months ago about the state of urban basketball programs, and high school sports in general in terms of filling rosters once seasons restarted, such as an inner-city Newark school that once fielded over 20 players, struggling to get 10, along with opponents to play. A key outlet for our youth was being shut down.
But when it comes to college football, understand that a lot of top players who a year ago were looking at receiving a number of Division I scholarship offers upon graduation this spring, were suddenly shut out.
Matthew Stanmyre notes the story of Barringer (Newark) High School’s Corey Walker. After his junior season in 2019, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker had netted seven scholarship offers from schools like Rutgers, West Virginia and Syracuse. He even was tabbed as a coveted three-star recruit by a major national recruiting service.
So by 2020, he had visions of playing in front of packed stadiums. But 18 months later, those dreams were unfulfilled.
“All of those Division I offers have been pulled off the table. No big-time colleges are banging down his door anymore. Rather than preparing to play for a top program in one of the country’s premier conferences, Walker likely will be attending community college or prep school in the fall.
“What’s worse, Walker’s precipitous drop from the top of the recruiting world to the fringes of college football was completely out of his control. In fact, it was yet another unforeseen casualty of the unprecedented impact the coronavirus pandemic is inflicting on young athletes all over New Jersey and across the country.
“Scores of athletes preparing to graduate from high school are being affected. Experts anticipate a recruiting ripple effect that will fan out and hurt even the current junior and sophomore classes soon competing for spots at colleges. There’s also concern athletes from underserved communities could see another means of getting to college dry up.”
It’s really sad. You have to feel for kids like Walker, who dedicated himself to both football and school since his freshman year, preparing for his big day, and now he asks, “What did I do it all for?”
The major issue is that after the pandemic halted college sports in 2020, the NCAA voted to give all fall student-athletes an additional year of eligibility and an additional year to complete it through a blanket waiver. It means an untold number of scholarship athletes who normally would be graduating are keeping their spots for an extra year, which takes scholarships away from incoming freshman, like Walker. Suddenly you had a logjam of players and prospects.
Further, the NCAA approved a proposal in April allowing all college athletes to transfer one time as an undergraduate without having to sit out a season. This led to an explosion of transfers – more than 1,500 football players have entered the transfer portal since last August, according to 247sports.com – compounding the problem for incoming freshmen.
And at the same time, the NCAA kept the cap on full-ride scholarships for Division I FBS teams at 85. Colleges are trying to juggle an additional class of scholarship athletes without any additional slots.
And this vicious cycle will continue. Today’s seniors who lost offers will be going to prep school or junior colleges, and then will be back in the mix for scholarships the next cycle, which will further push the current crop of junior and sophomore recruits down the line.
Man, this sucks. All you can say is, hang in there, kids.
And nothing is more important than funding for high school athletics (and music programs), especially in the inner-cities. Some of America’s billionaires should be stepping up in this regard.
--Great white shark sightings were closing beaches from time to time on Cape Cod this weekend, while a man swimming in Northern California was bitten by one Saturday morning and is in serious condition.
The man was bitten in his right leg by what was thought to be a juvenile great white, 6 to 8 feet long.
“The male was able to swim to shore and medical aid was summoned,” the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet, and was taken to Stanford Hospital. The man required advanced life support measures.
The attack occurred off Gray Whale Cove Beach State Beach, about 15 miles southwest of downtown San Francisco.
Great white sharks are usually 4 to 5 feet long when born and are deemed juveniles until they’re about 10 feet long, when they’ve reached maturity, though they can grow as long as 21 feet.
One white shark captured off Point Vicente, near Los Angeles County’s Palos Verdes Peninsula, in 1986 was 17.6 feet long and weighed 4,140 pounds, the state said.
Shark attacks are rare in California, with 76 that led to injury since 1950.
Top 3 songs for the week of 6/29/68: #1 “This Guy’s In Love With You” (Herb Alpert) #2 “The Horse” (Cliff Nobles & Co. …beyond dreadful…and the bane of high school marching bands…) #3 “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris…simply godawful…)…and…#4 “Yummy Yummy Yummy” (Ohio Express…eegads, what a stretch after Herb’s classy opener…) #5 “The Look Of Love” (Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66) #6 “Mony Mony” (Tommy James and the Shondells) #7 “Angel Of The Morning” (Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts) #8 “Think” (Aretha Franklin) #9 “Here Comes The Judge” (Shorty Long…ugh…) #10 “Reach Out Of The Darkness” (Friend and Lover…phew, a decent tune…with this week was filled with crapola… ‘D’…)
NBA Quiz Answer: Nine main pieces for the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns….
Charles Barkley (25.6 ppg, 12.1 reb., 5.1 asst.), Dan Majerle (16.9 ppg., 4.7 reb., 3.8 asst.). Kevin Johnson (16.1 ppg., 7.8 asst.), Cedric Ceballos (12.8 ppg., 5.5reb.), Richard Dumas (15.8 ppg., 4.6 reb.), Danny Ainge (11.8 ppg.), Tom Chambers (12.2 ppg.), and then Mark West and Oliver Miller divided up most of the time at center.
Ceballos got hurt in the Western Conference finals and didn’t play in the Bulls’ series. Michael Jordan averaged a finals-record 41.0 ppg.
Next Bar Chat not until next Sun.