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The Games Are Over
--The Mets entered play Tuesday at Citi Field against the Nationals having scored 3.7 runs per game, 29 out of 30 in the majors (Pittsburgh worst). On the last road trip to Miami and Philadelphia, they batted .153 with runners in scoring position.
They’ve basically sucked all year, save for some solid stretches with both the starting pitching and the bullpen.
Yesterday, the acting GM, Zack Scott, partially blamed unnamed players, for not following the approved training regimen, which is leading to all manner of ‘soft tissue’ injuries, and, boy, the Mets have had their share of oblique and hamstring strains.
So last night the Mets hosted the Nationals and the game went all of one inning before rain suspended play, with the game to be resumed in its entirety this afternoon, followed by a seven-inning game. Heat index 105.
NL East race thru Tuesday:
New York 56-55…2
--The Yankees have split their first two in Kansas City, committing 4 errors in an 8-4 loss Tuesday, after a stirring 8-6 win in 11 innings on Monday.
New York has been dealing with some Covid issues, as pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery, as well as first baseman Anthony Rizzo and catcher Gary Sanchez were all placed on the Covid IL, all dealing with symptoms. Reading between the lines, it seems like Rizzo was pretty sick for a day or two. It was back in June he told reporters in Chicago he wasn’t getting vaccinated until he had more “data” on it.
It's now come out in the Chicago press that there was a schism on the Cubs between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated players.
AL Wild Card race thru Tuesday:
New York 62-51…2
--Dallas’ Luka Doncic agreed to a five-year, $207 million supermax rookie extension. The guy is all of 22.
--After dealing with Covid-19 twice, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said he is still undecided about whether he’ll get vaccinated.
Jackson said he believes getting a vaccine is a personal decision and that he will discuss the choice with his family and the Ravens’ doctors.
“I just got off the Covid list,” Jackson said. “I got to talk to my team doctors and try to see how they feel about it. Keep learning as much as I can about it and we’ll go from there.”
Jackson previously tested positive in November, forcing him to miss Baltimore’s Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was pushed back because of an outbreak within the Ravens’ organization. He returned a week later for a game against the Cowboys.
But then he tested positive again, right before training camp, which forced him to miss the first 10 days. Jackson said he experienced fatigue over the past few weeks, similar to his first bout with the disease. Jackson could smell and taste his food this time, which he couldn’t do when he had Covid last year.
--The first big preseason ranking, the USA TODAY Sports AFCA football coaches poll, was released yesterday. Guess what? Looks kind of familiar.
4. Ohio State
6. Texas A&M
7. Notre Dame
8. Iowa State
9. North Carolina
20. Penn State
24. Coastal Carolina
--I posted before the playoff at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational on Sunday, and a very deserving Abraham Ancer finally picked up his first career PGA Tour win at age 30, winning on the second hole of a three-man playoff with Hideki Matsuyama and Sam Burns.
The man from Mexico has had a solid last four years, but has really stepped up his game in the 2020-21 season with seven Top 10s and now this.
But Sunday was also about the implosion of Harris English and Bryson DeChambeau.
John Feinstein / Golf Digest
“There’s no doubting Sunday’s finish…was about as crazy as any seen on tour this season. Just when it looked as if Bryson DeChambeau would chase Harris English to the finish line, both men had epic back-nine meltdowns. English was 20 under par, DeChambeau was 18 under. Playing in the final group, they had opened a gap between themselves and the rest of the field. And then, remarkably, both men forgot how to play golf. English double bogeyed two par 3s and limped home with a back-nine 40. That made him low man in the twosome. DeChambeau threw in a triple bogey and shot 41.”
But we had an alternate field event Sunday, the Barracuda, which also gives players a chance to earn FedEx points, and Erik Van Rooyen ended up winning it, his first PGA Tour win. The 31-year-old South African was No. 139 on the points list going in, and the win jumped him to 78th.
So now, this week, we have the final tournament before the FedEx Cup Playoffs…the last chance for golfers to get in the top 125 to qualify, as well as receive their 2021-22 Tour card, if they haven’t already earned it through other avenues, like a win.
And among the notables, who need to, first off, make the cut, but then finish high enough up the leaderboard, are….
Adam Scott…No. 121 on the FedEx Cup points list
Scott Piercy…126…after a third at the Barracuda
So it should be a tension convention on Sunday.
--Last time, I ripped Bryson DeChambeau for his stance on vaccinations. But I do have to agree with Golf Digest’s Shane Ryan that the endless chanting of “Brooksy” and “Brooks” by groups following DeChambeau has evolved from something almost funny, the effort egged on by Brooks Koepka and the seeming rivalry between the two, into flat-out bullying. It clearly has gotten into DeChambeau’s head in a big way and that part isn’t fair.
Koepka needs to cool it. Plus we have the Ryder Cup down the road in September. Kind of stupid to have a ‘feud’ with both on the U.S. squad.
--I failed to mention Si Woo Kim’s tale of woe Sunday at the WGC, when on the par-3 11th, he put five straight shots into the water on his way to a 13…the highest on a par-3 on the PGA Tour – outside of the four majors – since 1983.
Olympics / Beijing
It’s hard to believe, but in about six months, the 2022 Winter Games are due to be staged in Beijing.
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“It was a forgivable mistake to award an Olympics to Beijing in 2008. It’s unforgivable to hold one there now. If you want a world pocked by concentration camps, in which Xi Jinping surveils your den, takes over Taiwan and threatens a shooting war in Australia, then by all means send an American delegation to the 2022 Winter Games. Western democracies that participate will only be helping to promote, finance and propagandize their own destruction, which after all is Xi’s clearly stated aim, with his talk of ‘heads bashed bloody against a Great Wall of steel.’
“Boycotts work – among other things, a boycott helped end apartheid. But a ‘diplomatic’ boycott is not a real boycott; it’s just a timorous, droning half-measure suggested by wishful thinkers not yet ready to recognize that the 2022 Winter Games will be the most dangerous Olympics since Berlin in 1936. You have to work on Capitol Hill to think that the word ‘diplomatic’ before ‘boycott’ will do anything but put people to sleep.
“When the International Olympic Committee, that hundred-year handmaiden to racist totalitarians, awarded the 2008 Summer Games to Beijing back in 2001, the standard view was that commerce would liberalize China. This was a horrible misreading and mistake. Before the Games ever began, the Chinese government reneged on its human rights promises and the invitees found themselves gagged and elbow-twisted, forced into complicity with censorship, torture and forced labor. The Olympics became a pageant for the party-state.
“Ignorance is no longer an excuse. Anyone who thinks the China party-state’s intentions have grown any kinder should listen to Xi’s words when he spoke on July 1 at the party’s centenary. ‘The people of China are not only good at destroying the old world but also good at building a new one,’ he said.
And then there was this: Resolving the Taiwan question and bringing about China’s ‘reunification’ is a ‘historic mission’ of the Communist Party of China.
“But sure. Give Xi more free prizes. More prestige and propaganda victories, and evidence that the West is too weak to oppose him.
“ ‘The historical record shows that these Games don’t chasten the authoritarians; they motivate them further,’ says David Feith, a former deputy assistant secretary of state of East Asian and Pacific affairs.”
Such was the case with Hitler and Berlin in 1936.
“The Biden administration should lean on NBC and Olympic sponsors Coca-Cola, Intel, Visa, Airbnb and Procter & Gamble, hard. Are these American companies – or have they been so coercively leveraged by ‘the anaconda in the chandelier,’ to use author Perry Link’s freezing phrase for how the Chinese party-state controls all who engage it commercially, that they are willing to undermine their own country?
“When you invite a big snake into your own ceiling, it takes over the house. It’s not a stretch to say some of these companies’ dealings and data-shares with China may actively damage the security of Americans. Chinese security thugs have hacked and stolen. They’ve started showing up on doorsteps from San Diego to New Jersey. [Ed. As I’ve noted in that other column I do, they’ve been in my building.] Sponsoring a Beijing Olympics would not just reward China for the crimes against humanity taking place in remote Xinjiang but also for incursions against you and me at home….
“You don’t want to live in a world of growing China party-state encroachments. You really don’t. It’s a world where pregnancy tests taken by millions of women globally have wound up in the hands of the Chinese military and where our National Security Council warns that China’s record of amassing biodata for nefarious purposes, from surveillance to targeting populations, makes it a multipronged threat to Americans’ security. It’s a world in which a Chinese official threatens Australia to ‘correct its mistakes’ or face the consequences, and Canadian business executives are seized and held in Chinese prisons for two years without evidence, simply as political retaliation.
“Failure to remove the Games from Beijing would not merely result in a status quo. It would seriously embolden a vicious aggressor. ‘If you have an interest in giving China less coercive commercial power, fewer propaganda channels and less confidence that it can do repressive things at home and aggressive things overseas without being checked by outside powers, clearly holding the Olympics in China cuts against all those interests,’ Feith says. Take them away.”
The new 2021-22 season starts this weekend. The BBC’s Phil McNulty’s predicted top six.
1. Man City
4. Man U
6. Tottenham…is Harry Kane playing in the opener against Man City? Not clear to this fan quite yet.
--We note the passing of Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito, who died Tuesday, age 78. The cause was pancreatic cancer, as announced by the Chicago Blackhawks.
After a season with the Montreal Canadiens in 1968-69, where he was the backup goalie on a Stanley Cup championship team, Esposito, brother of fellow great, Phil Esposito, settled in for 15 seasons in Chicago, including an astounding 15 shutouts as a rookie, 1969-70. That season he won the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year and the first of three Vezina Trophies as the league’s best goaltender.
This was the era when I was coming of age as a hockey fan, a diehard Rangers fan as well, and the league was terrific. The Blackhawks were colorful, and largely successful, but while they made two trips to the finals with Esposito in goal, 1971 and ’73, they lost both times to Montreal.
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, said in a statement, “From his arrival in the Windy City in the late 1960s through an illustrious playing career and decades as a franchise icon, Tony left an indelible mark – both on the ice and the community – over the next 52 years.”
After two seasons in the minor leagues, Tony Esposito started his first NHL game with the Canadiens against his brother’s Boston Bruins. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, and Phil Esposito scored both Boston goals. His mother accused him of trying to ruin his brother’s career before it even started, but Phil assured her that Tony had done well.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted early Sun. p.m. I will have an Add-On up top Wed. a.m.]
NFL Quiz: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers are the top four in the active career passing yards list. Who are the actives behind them, Nos. 5-10. Answer below.
Final Olympic Bits
--It’s over, and thanks to a late gold rush by Team USA, the Americans edged out China for most golds (yippee!) and had the overwhelming lead in overall medals at 113.
U.S. …39 (G) -41 (S) -33 (B)…113
Great Britain …22-21-22…65
--The U.S. women finished these Games with 66 medals to lead the team. The women first took control of the U.S. medals in London 2012, winning 61 to 55 for the men. In Rio five years ago, they claimed 58 to the men’s 55.
--The Japanese benefited with the addition of baseball/softball (which the Japanese swept), karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing creating 62 new medal opportunities. While 27 countries claimed at least one, Japan was far and away the winner with 14.
In Rio, Japan had 41 medals, with 12 of them gold.
--Three countries claimed their first-ever Olympic medals – Burkina Faso, Turkmenistan and San Marino.
San Marino, the country of 34,000 surrounded by Italy, actually claimed three medals, in wrestling and trap shooting.
Bermuda, Qatar and the Philippines broke through with their first Olympic gold medals during these Games.
--The U.S. women’s basketball team won its seventh straight Olympics, beating Japan in the title game today, 90-75, while the women’s water polo squad won its third gold in a row and volleyball took its first.
American Molly Seidel had a performance for the ages in taking bronze in the women’s marathon, just the third marathon she’s ever run. Amazing.
--And you had Allyson Felix. After claiming bronze in the 400 meters for her tenth Olympic medal, tying Carl Lewis for most by an American track athlete, she broke the record with her 11th as part of the winning women’s 4X400 relay team.
--One of the better stories of these Games was Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, who became the first athlete since 1980 (third in history) to retain an Olympic marathon title on Sunday.
Dealing with the excessive heat and humidity better than anyone else, Kipchoge won in 2 hours 8 minutes 38 seconds, as he cemented his title as the greatest marathoner of all time.
The 36-year-old finished 80 seconds ahead of the Netherlands’ Abdi Hageeye.
“I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back. I hope now to help inspire the next generation,” the world record holder said.
“Tokyo 2020 has happened, it means a lot. It means there is hope. It means we are on the right track to a normal life,” he told BBC Sport. “We are on the track to our normal lives, that is the meaning of the Olympics.
“I am happy to defend my title and to show the next generation, if you respect the sport and be disciplined you can accomplish your assignment.”
--But when it comes to distance running, it’s hard to beat what Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands did.
As I wrote a while ago, her competitors were astounded when Hassan announced she would enter the big three…the 1,500…5,000…and 10,000…an unfathomable task.
But Hassan then won medals in all three. Gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, and bronze in the 1,500.
Hassan, 28, was born in Ethiopia but came to the Netherlands as a refugee in 2008. She is now in the conversation as one of the greatest distance runners in Olympic history.
She said all week she battled an inner monologue that was characterized by equal parts confidence and doubt.
“It’s possible,” she said she would tell herself. But then, just as quickly, she would hear herself saying, “No, this is not possible.” She was fueled by one emotion in particular.
“I think I have enough fear,” she said. “I think the fear makes you strong.”
In a sheer sign of strength, Hassan fell during the bell lap of her first-round heat of the 1,500, yet she got to her feet and chased down the rest of the field to win and advance.
--So back to Allyson Felix, you talk about a dream team for the 4X400 relay. This was easily one of the greatest teams of all time.
400-meter hurdle gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin, her silver medalist partner, Dalilah Muhammad, 800-meter champ Athing Mu, and the veteran Felix, who a day earlier had taken bronze in the 400 to become the most-decorated woman in Olympic track.
The girls won the race in 3:16.85, by nearly 4seconds over Poland (3:20.53) and Jamaica (3:21.24).
Felix has zero plans to go any further.
“I feel at peace,” the 35-year-old mother said. “I went out, had all the confidence in these amazing women. I wanted to take it all in one last time around, and it was special.”
It was clearly special for Felix’s teammates.
The win came on McLaughlin’s 22nd birthday, who can forever say she won gold with an idol, Felix.
Muhammad, another highly likeable U.S. track star, said of her reaction when she was presented with Saturday’s electric lineup, “I was just honored… I’ve just been inspired by (Felix) throughout my entire career.”
I’ve followed Allyson Felix’s career every step of the way in these pages. I’ve seen her up close on countless occasions. What a thrill. What a Great American.
[Felix finished her Olympic career with seven golds, three silvers, and the bronze in Tokyo.]
--The much-maligned U.S. men’s track team, goldless, finally rose to the challenge in their last speed event, the 4X400, as Michael Norman and Michael Cherry (who both finished just outside the top three in the 400), teamed with 400-m hurdles silver medalist Rai Benjamin and Bryce Deadmon to capture the gold over the Netherlands.
The U.S. has now won this event eight of the last ten Olympics.
As opposed to the 4X100 relay team, which couldn’t even get out of its heat and into the finals, as Fred Kerley and Ronnie Baker mistimed the second handoff and required at least three attempts to complete it. At that point, it was impossible to make up the time lost, and they finished sixth in the heat.
Legend Carl Lewis won two of his nine gold medals running the 4X100. After Thursday’s failure, he tweeted:
“The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay. The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I saw.”
--At least Americans Ryan Crouser (shot put) and Kate Nageotte (pole vault) came through with gold medals. It was Crouser’s second consecutive Olympic triumph.
--The U.S. women’s soccer team captured the bronze, 4-3 over Australia. Whoopty-damn-do.
--As for the U.S. men’s basketball team, major kudos to Kevin Durant, who joined Carmelo Anthony as the only three-time men’s gold medalist in Olympic history, the U.S. holding off France, 87-82, for the title in Tokyo.
Durant led the way with 29 points and was the clear star, and leader, of the squad.
He didn’t have to be there. It was a long, grueling NBA season, and there is a very short break before the league seeks to get back to normal this fall.
And kudos to coach Gregg Popovich, who some folks can’t stand because he’s not afraid to speak his mind on topics outside the realm of basketball, but who I’ve always liked.
After the U.S. problems in the exhibition round, and then in losing their first-round game to France, Popovich was blasted in the U.S. press, ditto the players, but they came together and didn’t lose again.
“Each and every one of us put in that work every single day, from coaches to the trainers to the players,” Durant said. “We all came in with that goal of, ‘Let’s finish this thing off. Let’s build a family. Let’s build this team. Let’s grow this team every day.’ …Man, it’s just incredible to be a part of something so special, and I’m bonding with these guys for life, this family for life.”
And that’s the truth. These guys will be close friends forever.
And how about Jrue Holiday, who once he and teammate Khris Middletown (along with Phoenix’ Devin Booker) joined the team in Tokyo after the NBA Finals, became a critical cog. He played great, despite obviously being gassed. His teammates labeled him “super-champion.”
Aside from Middleton, Holiday joins an exclusive club of those winning an NBA title and Olympic gold in the same calendar year…LeBron in 2012, and Kyrie Irving four years laer.
Imagine the bond Middletown and Holiday now share.
Congratulations, men. This is one American who is proud of you.
--Great job by American Paul Chelimo in diving at the line for the bronze medal in the men’s 5,000 meters on Friday. Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, the world record holder, won it, with Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed earning silver.
Chelimo won silver in Rio and the 30-year-old said he might not be finished. Paris is only three years away, after all.
--Jessica Springsteen ended up being part of the silver medal-winning U.S. equestrian jumping team, which fell just short of gold, falling to Sweden in a jump-off Saturday.
Good for her, Jessica the 29-year-old daughter of Bruuuuce and Patti Scialfa. It was her Olympic debut.
--As for my final thoughts on the Tokyo Games, I thought it was nuts to hold them, but now that’s over, I’m very happy for the athletes, and it does provide important continuity for the history of the likes of track and field, swimming and gymnastics. It didn’t end up mattering that there weren’t big crowds in the stands. I watched not even thinking of that.
What sucked, aside from the Covid aspect, was the weather and it’s clear Tokyo should never host again unless it was in October, but that’s not happening because of the NFL and college football.
--Last Sunday morning, the Mets were 4 ½ games ahead of the Phillies, but after losing six of seven, including Saturday in Philadelphia, 5-3, the Phils, winners of seven straight, were 1 ½ games in front.
Saturday, the Mets were down 5-0 in the top of the ninth, when they suddenly went back-to-back-to-back to open the frame, the Phillies lead in an instant cut to 5-3. The Mets then had runners on first and second, one out, but Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis struck out swinging on six straight fastballs up in the zone, game over.
I grow increasingly irritated with Alonso (it’s been growing all season). Something about his personality I don’t like, and when they need him most, the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Power Hitter” has gone 0-for-17.
Manager Luis Rojas nailed it earlier in the week. The Mets hitters just can’t hit the fastball, which is pathetic.
And the team is playing with no life…totally listless, and this happens to coincide with the arrival of Javy Baez, who is 6-for-34 at the plate with 13 strikeouts, which actually is right on his ratio for the season.
Meanwhile, befitting a team on a hot streak, Philadelphia is playing with tremendous enthusiasm.
After Saturday’s game, over their last 51 games, the Mets’ starters, get this, were 4-19. Four wins! That’s what happens when you don’t have Jacob deGrom available for long stretches.
So this afternoon, the Metsies’ Brandon Nimmo led off the game with a double off Phillies ace, and former Met, Zack Wheeler, and they couldn’t get Nimmo home. An instant 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
For the Metropolitans, the slumping Taijuan Walker was on the mound and he promptly gave up first-inning solo homers to Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
And it was 3-0, after Bryce Harper homered off Walker and that’s where it ended up, Wheeler retiring 22 in a row at one point, allowing one walk and just another single to Nimmo, striking out 11, as he went the distance for this third complete game of the season. Wheeler is now 10-6, 2.42 on the season.
Philadelphia won its eighth straight for the first time since 2011 and is now 2 ½ in front of the putrid team from Gotham. The “World’s Greatest Power Hitter,” Mr. Alonso, is 0-for-21.
Oh, and the Mets lost Javy Baez to hip soreness. We might be better off without him.
--And with Atlanta’s 5-4 win over Washington this afternoon, the Braves leapfrogged the Mets into second place in the NL East, 2 back of Philly.
--Over in the Bronx, the Yankees came into play today just 1 ½ games behind Oakland for the second wild card spot, winners of five in a row, including the last three over Seattle at the Little Bandbox that Ruth Didn’t Build.
But the Yanks lost 2-0 to the Mariners today, four pitchers combining for the shutout for Seattle, Aaron Judge caught looking at a third strike right down the middle with the tying run on base in the bottom of the ninth.
--The slumping Red Sox had an 8-6 lead going to the bottom of the eighth against the Blue Jays in Toronto, and then George Springer blasted a 3-run homer and Toronto won 9-8, Boston’s ninth loss in 11 games, the Blue Jays staying very much in the wild card hunt. Vlad Guerrero Jr. clubbed his 35th homer for Toronto.
At least Boston said Chris Sale, out with Tommy John surgery since March 2020, will make his first start next Saturday.
--After the Dodgers lost to the Angels at Dodger Stadium on Friday, 4-3 in ten innings, they stood at 65-45, but a stunning 1-12 in extra-inning games.
L.A., who traded for Max Scherzer last week and then signed Cole Hamels on Wednesday, won’t have Trevor Bauer (if they want him back) through at least Aug. 13 as his administrative leave was extended another seven days.
A civil hearing for the temporary restraining order that was obtained against Bauer will begin three days after that, Aug. 16-19. That means Bauer’s leave is likely to be extended further, unless MLB or the City of Pasadena Police Department wrap up their investigations before then.
Bauer’s accuser released new pictures which were damning.
As for Hamels, 37, he reported to the Dodgers’ training complex to build up his arm strength and they hope he might be available for September, slotting with Walker Buehler, Scherzer, Julio Urias and David Price.
L.A. needed to sign Hamels, who in workouts was said to look great, when righty Tony Gonsolin was placed on the IL with shoulder inflammation, let alone the Bauer situation.
Hamels pitched only one game in 2020, shelved by a shoulder issue.
--The Giants, with a 5-4 win today in Milwaukee, took 2 of 3 against the NL Central-leading Brewers, and now have a 4 ½ game lead over Los Angeles in the NL West, depending on the conclusion of the Dodgers-Angels today.
--Ramon Laureano, one of the more valuable members of the Oakland A’s, received a season-ending 80-game suspension from Major League Baseball after he tested positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid.
Laureano, batting .246 with 14 home runs and 21 stolen bases, had largely been playing center field until the A’s acquired Starling Marte from the Marlins, after which he was shifted to right field.
--The Indians agreed to a 15-year lease extension at Progressive Field, keeping them at the downtown ballpark through 2036 and perhaps longer, thus ending any talk of the team bolting.
--Steph Curry and the Warriors agreed to a 4-year, $215 million contract extension.
--John Collins and the Hawks agreed to a 5-year, $125 million contract; amazing money for a guy who is very solid, but not yet a real star.
--As in Collins is basically making the same money as Julius Randle, the Knicks’ All-Star who agreed to a 4-year, $106.4 million extension.
--But the big Knicks move, which its fans were hoping for after a lackluster start to free agency and the draft, was their signing of New York high school legend Kemba Walker…2 years, $16 million.
Yes, everyone says the 31-year-old Walker’s best days are behind him, and he’s dealt with numerous injuries, but this is the perfect spot for him, and he doesn’t have to play 40 minutes a game. Love this one. And Kemba’s pumped.
--Miami Heat All-Star guard Jimmy Butler has signed a four-year, $184 million contract extension with the team.
Butler is extending off of his $36 million salary for the 2021-22 season and holds a player option for $37.6 million in the 2022-23 season.
So Butler will be teaming with Olympic gold medalist Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry, in a solid Big Three, plus they have sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.
--Kevin Durant is living quite a life these days. Prior to the Olympic gold medal game, he agreed to a four-year, $198 million maximum contract extension with the Nets.
While Durant was limited to 35 regular-season games for Brooklyn last season due to a combination of Covid absences and a hamstring injury, he averaged 34.3 point, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 12 playoff games, including a 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double while playing all 48 minutes of a 114-108 victory over Milwaukee in Game 5. He then played all 53 minutes, scoring another 48, in Brooklyn’s Game 7 loss.
--Covid-19 is going to be a huge issue this season. Fans, and teams, are going to have to get used to the fact there could be forfeits, and imagine if you’re the opposing team and you don’t get paid for the game as well as the offenders. How pissed will you be?! You’ll want to kill the opponents responsible next time you see them on the field. [Literally…a lot of these guys aren’t very nice people, as the crime blotters tell us.]
So there is Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who evaded direct answers to questions about his vaccination status Thursday, instead suggesting alternatives to avoid being infected with the coronavirus.
Cousins returned to practice after missing most of the week on the team’s reserve/Covid-19 list as a high-risk close contact of backup Kellen Mond, who had reportedly tested positive. He was asked if he should be vaccinated and if he was considering it as the starting “quarterback, perhaps the most important player on the team.”
“I do believe as the leader of the team it’s very important to follow the protocols to avoid this close contact because that is what it’s going to come down to, is did you have a close contact, and so I’m going to be vigilant about avoiding a close contact,” Cousins told reporters. “I’ve even thought about, should I just set up literally plexiglass around where I sit so that this could never happen again…. We’re going to avoid this close contact thing and look forward to making sure I’m playing for every game this year.”
Asked repeatedly if it didn’t make more sense just to get vaccinated, Cousins said “the NFL has encouraged us to get vaccinated and as I said it’s just a very private health decision and I’m going to keep it private as such.”
What a jerk. The Vikings are apparently the least-vaccinated team in the NFL, Washington second, last I saw.
--The Bills signed quarterback Josh Allen to a 6-year, $258 million extension, with a record $150 million guaranteed, the most for a single contract in NFL history, exceeding Patrick Mahomes’ $141.5 million.
--I didn’t watch any of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021, but among the names we had were Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Edgerrin James, Isaac Bruce, Donnie Shell, Troy Polamalu, Calvin Johnson, John Lynch, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Cowher and Tom Flores; while the veterans committee inductees (Centennial Class) included Cliff Harris, Alex Karras, Drew Pearson and Harold Carmichael.
Harris, Pearson and Carmichael should have been enshrined long ago.
But since I’ve written a lot on him in the past, I have to note that Steelers’ scout and executive Bill Nunn was inducted as a contributor to the game.
Ken Belson / New York Times
“Bill Nunn Jr.’s contributions to the game were and still are more impactful than any (of the others enshrined), though he will never be as famous.
“Nunn, who died in 2014 at 89, became the first Black scout and front office executive in the NFL when the Pittsburgh Steelers hired him in 1967 to help recruit players from historically Black colleges and universities. Having covered these schools for years as a sportswriter, Nunn helped turn a moribund Steelers franchise into a dynasty in the 1970s, when they won four Super Bowls, and ushered in an era during which players from H.B.C.U.s dominated the NFL draft.
“Nunn identified some of the greatest untapped football talent in the country – Joe Greene, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount and many others – but he was far more than a scout. He ran Steelers training camp, which gave him a close look at rookies and veterans alike. At times, he recommended that players switch positions, like when he signed Shell, an undrafted rookie linebacker from South Carolina State, and converted him into a safety.
“He also had rookies and veterans share rooms during training camp to build team chemistry and helped many Black players like Shell, who came from the South, adjust to life in Pittsburgh. His role as confidant gave the Steelers a big advantage, but it was not the norm for executives at the time.
“ ‘You know what made me comfortable?’ Shell said. ‘When I got to training camp, I saw another guy who looked like me who wasn’t a football player.’
“Nunn nudged the league that had been slow to diversify on and off the field. In 1959, 12 percent of the league’s players were Black. That number jumped to 30 percent in 1970, when the NFL absorbed the more diverse AFL. The rate steadily grew to about two-thirds of the league by the 1990s. Almost 10 percent of players inducted to the Hall of Fame – 30 of 318 members – went to H.B.C.U.s.”
Well you can read more on Nunn in my archives, but a well-deserved honor, even if posthumously.
--One of the winningest college football coaches of all time, Bobby Bowden, died this weekend at his home in Tallahassee, Florida, age 91, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. His death was announced by Florida State.
Jumping to his record, Bowden was 357-124-4 in his career, spanning 1970-2009. His first six years were at West Virginia, 1970-75, where he went 42-26. Florida State then hired him and over 34 years, 1976-2009, Bowden was 315-98-4.
But it’s the stretch from 1987-2000 where he should forever be remembered, finishing in the AP final top 5, 14 consecutive seasons, winning two national titles in the process. Contrast that with Bear Bryant, Tom Osborne and Woody Hayes, who never had more three teams in a row finish top 5.
Among the active great coaches, Nick Saban had five in a row and Dabo Swinney currently sits at six consecutive top 5s.
[Dennis Erickson and Jimmy Johnson combined for seven straight at Miami, 1986-92.]
And yet Bobby Bowden had 14…that’s staggering. During that stretch he also won nine straight bowl games, major ones of course.
So that’s the guy’s record. But if you were a fan of an opponent going up against Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles, you hated him. You were also jealous, mused the Wake Forest alum.
Bowden liked to recall where it all began: at 13, bedridden with rheumatic fever, listening to news about World War II on the family radio in Birmingham, Ala.
“Rommel was a great tactician – he knew how to think in surprises,” Bowden once said, referring to the German field marshal dubbed “the Desert Fox.” “He could do more with less than any of the great generals. They all demonstrate discipline and that you need reserves so if you’re getting annihilated on one front, you can attack somewhere else.”
Trick plays thus became a signature of Bowden’s offenses. One of the most famous was a fake punt with 1:31 remining in the fourth quarter of a 1988 game against Clemson, fourth and four from its own 21-yard line, scored tied at 21.
Bowden ordered the fake, and safety Leroy Butler carried the ball for 78 yards to set up the winning field goal. The play became known as the “Puntrooskie.”
Bowden created a dynasty at FSU, once a backwater in college football, as the University of Miami program was also on the rise, followed by Florida, which turned the state into the center of the college football universe.
But Bowden wouldn’t have had the success he did if he couldn’t recruit, and he became known as The King of the Living Room, for his ability to win blue-chip recruits, with his Southern Baptist upbringing and speech that was peppered with “dadgum.”
Bowden did develop a reputation as well for not being able to win the big game, as in consecutive seasons, 1991 and 1992, his kickers missed two short field goals in critical moments, “Wide Right” and “Wide Right II,” that may have cost him two more national championships.
Bowden, whom admirers called “Saint Bobby,” also had a career that wasn’t without controversy. As a coach, he was sometimes criticized for being too lax with players who broke team rules or were arrested, and he once suspended five players for receiving gifts from agents.
In 2009, football was among 10 sports teams at FSU penalized by the NCAA in an academic cheating scandal. Bowden was forced to resign at the end of that season, not long after his 80th birthday.
“People love to see a hanging,” Bowden once said on ’60 Minutes II.’ “And I don’t want people hanging my players. Oh, yes, punish him for it. Punish him for it, but give him another dadgum chance. Two chances? I don’t give them two chances, you know? Coaches who can’t change with the times, Charlie, they ain’t here no more. They don’t last.”
--The Pac-12 and Big 12 are talking about how the conferences might benefit from working together or maybe even merge, but it’s kind of useless to talk about this much until details begin to emerge. For now, it’s just chatter between the commissioners of the two conferences.
--This week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational was one of just two final tour stops for players to qualify for the top 125 and the FedEx Cup Playoffs (including this week’s alternate Barracuda Championship and next week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro).
Going into the final round in Memphis we had….
Harris English -18
Bryson DeChambeau -16
Cam Smith -16
Abraham Ancer -14
Scottie Scheffler -13
Ian Poulter -13
A very intriguing leaderboard, though all are assured of moving on to the playoffs in two weeks (Liberty National in Jersey City…The Northern Trust…the first of the three playoff events).
DeChambeau, who missed the Olympics because of a positive Covid-19 test, weighed in at a press conference prior to the action this week.
Bryson said he does not regret his decision not to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.
“The vaccine doesn’t necessarily prevent it from happening,” DeChambeau told reporters. “I’m young enough, I’d rather give it [the vaccine] to people who need it. I don’t need it. I’m a healthy, young individual that will continue to work on my health.
“I don’t think taking the vaccine away from someone who needs it is a good thing. My dad is a perfect example. He got it [the vaccine] early on because he’s a diabetic. People like that need to get it. My mom got it. I don’t want to take away that ability.”
DeChambeau added: “Now as time goes on, if it [the vaccine] is mainstream, really, really mainstream, then yeah.”
You, Bryson, are a freakin’ idiot! There are no vaccine shortages.
You’re also just an amazing asshole. So we look forward to handing you some hardware at yearend in a few categories. You can add them to your trophy case.
I mean this is a guy who after testing positive, also admitted this week: “I didn’t feel anything for two days. All of a sudden, started to feel tired. Started getting fully better two or three days ago.”
Well, today, DeChambeau and Harris English both totally imploded on the back nine, and I’m posting as we are about to start a three-way playoff between Hideki Matsuyama, Sam Burns and Abraham Ancer.
Matsuyama started the day nine back! He shot 64-63 this weekend.
--Nelly Korda joined fellow American Xander Schauffele in winning the gold medal this weekend.
Korda, 23, has now won three of the last four individual tournaments. Her sister, 28-year-old Jessica, posted a 64 for the low score of the final round, and was there to greet her. A cool moment.
Of her sister’s hot streak, Jessica said: “This is like total GOAT status to me.”
--NASCAR, after a little break, resumed Cup Series action today and Kyle Larson won his fifth of the season (11th of his career) at Watkins Glen.
--Incredibly, the new Premier League season starts next weekend and for Tottenham fans, Harry Kane is still technically on the team, even though he has expressed strong interest in going to Man City or Man U. City signed star winger Jack Grealish in the largest transfer deal ever for an English player, 100 million pounds.
--But the big news in Euro football concerns Lionel Messi, who confirmed today he was leaving FC Barcelona after the club said it could no longer afford paying the Argentine’s high wages, adding he was in negotiations with French club Paris St. Germain over a possible move. PSG is the only team in contention for Messi and a deal will be inked by end of tomorrow, a reported two years, with an option for a third.
Messi said today, “As long as I go on being competitive and as long as my body responds (I’ll carry on playing),” he told a news conference.
Barca fans are crushed, and hundreds gathered outside the stadium to bid farewell to the player they called ‘Messiah.’
Messi, 34, became Barcelona’s all-time goal scorer with 682. He had been with the club for 21 years, starting in their youth program. Barca won 35 trophies with him.
--Steve Asmussen set a huge record at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, becoming the winningest North American thoroughbred horse trainer when 2-year-old colt Stellar Tap romped to victory in the fifth race, Asmussen claiming career win No. 9.446. That pushed him past the late Dale Baird, who finished his career in 2007 with 9,445.
--We note the passing of a Central Park favorite, Barry the Barred Owl.
Barry appeared in the park October 2020, becoming an instant celebrity amidst the pandemic and growing crowds of bird watchers, looking to get out and experience nature.
But on Friday, Barry was flying low, looking for his next meal, when the owl “made contact” with a maintenance vehicle.
I’ll never forget running early one morning in a local park when a barred owl flew right past me, at eye level, all of around ten feet in front of me. When I reversed course on the run, there it was. Sitting on a branch off the trail, also at eye level, making sure I was abiding by the trail rules.
--And a record-breaking bat that flew more than 1,200 miles from London to Russia died after being attacked by a cat.
As the BBC reported, the female Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat, the size of a human thumb, was discovered in Russia’s Pskov region.
The bat, whose wing had a “London Zoo” marking, was rescued by a bat rehabilitation group but later died.
That’s amazing, on so many aspects, including that this group found it and knew to contact the right people.
It is the furthest recorded journey by a bat from Britain across Europe.
So hats off to Russian resident Svetlana Lapina in the small village of Molgino, who reported the finding to the Bat Conservation Trust in the UK.
--Lastly, the R&B world is mourning the passing of Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang. He was 70.
Thomas died peacefully in his sleep Saturday in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair, according to a statement from his representative.
Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist. He served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. His last appearance was July Fourth at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Born Feb. 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida, Thomas was known for his prologue on the band’s 1971 hit, “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight.” Known for his hip clothes and hats, he was also the group’s wardrobe stylist. In the early days, he served as their “budget hawk,” carrying their earnings in a paper bag stuffed into the bell of his horn, the statement said.
It was in 1964, that Thomas and six other teens from Jersey City, N.J., got together to form the instrumental soul-jazz group the Jazziacs.
The band, which included brothers Ronald Bell and Robert “Kool” Bell, and friends Dennis Thomas, Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith, was impressive enough to occasionally play with jazz legends McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders.
After honing their craft while trying different names, the friends officially launched Kool & the Gang in 1969.
The band’s career was really split into two distinct halves. In the early 70s, they scored hits with foot-stomping funk songs like “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging.”
Then, with the addition of vocalist James “JT” Taylor in 1979, they morphed into a hit-making R&B band, scoring the biggest commercial success of their career as they reached their 20th anniversary.
They thrived in the 1980s, scoring huge hits with sentimental ballads like “Joanna” and “Cherish,” as well as the party anthems “Steppin’ Out,” “Get Down On It,” and “Celebration.”
Simply put, Kool & the Gang is one of the great acts of all time, yet they somehow seem underrated.
Top 3 songs for the week 8/10/74: #1 “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (Roberta Flack…beautiful tune…) #2 “The Night Chicago Died” (Paper Lace) #3 “Annie’s Song” (John Denver)…and…#4 “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (Elton John) #5 “Please Come To Boston” (Dave Loggins…I have a hankerin’ for some New England Chowdah about now…and a lobstuh roll…) #6 “Call On Me” (Chicago) #7 “Waterloo” (Abba) #8 “Sideshow” (Blue Magic…decent song…) #9 “Wildwood Weed” (Jim Stafford) #10 “Tell Me Something Good” (Rufus…the slim version of Chaka Khan…Chaka Khan Chaka Khan…B week…)
NFL Quiz Answer: Active career passing yards list.
Tom Brady 79,204
Ben Roethlisberger 60,348
Matt Ryan 55,767
Aaron Rodgers 51,245
5. Matthew Stafford 45,109
6. Joe Flacco 40,931
7. Ryan Fitzpatrick 34,977
8. Russell Wilson 33,946
9. Andy Dalton 33,764
10. Cam Newton 31,698
I will have a brief Add-On by Wednesday morning up top.