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NFL Playoff Mess
[Posted Sun. p.m., prior to Titans-Packers]
Hoops Quiz: The great K.C. Jones passed away, story down below. He is one of eight in basketball history to win an NCAA championship, an Olympic gold medal, and an NBA title. Name the other seven. Actually, I’ll give you the first, Clyde Lovellette. So name the other six. Answer below.
--Friday, the Saints (11-4) beat the Vikings (6-9) 52-33 and I have a problem with this one. A big problem. No offense to Ernie Nevers and his family, but I just looked up his stats on pro-football-reference.com, looking for something on the season he had in 1929 with the Chicago Cardinals, when he had an NFL record six touchdowns rushing in a single game, and there is nothing! Just season-end touchdown totals. And he’s a Hall of Famer! Well, he was one of the first to play the game, five seasons, five times All-Pro, leather helmet and all that stuff.
But, c’mon. What did the guy really do? We know what Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were doing every day that year. And to take it further, we know that Beattie Feathers was the first NFL back to rush for 1,000 yards back in 1934 with the Chicago Bears, and his stats are totally legit.
[Feathers is near and dear to the heart of Wake Forest alum of a certain age. When I got to campus in 1976, he was an assistant coach for the Deacs, to us students mostly a fixture at the players’ dining area, which was next to ours. We knew they got better meals, but we mingled with each other, and there was Beattie, keeping things in order. He died my senior year and I wish I had appreciated his greatness, but I didn’t. I would have shaken his hand and gotten to know him. I mean we all were friends with lots of the football players back then as there was nothing special about the housing arrangements or really anything for the athletes in those days. Hell, the basketball players lived in the dorm where my frat was…the pot smoke wafting out their suite door….but I digress….]
Anyway, so on Friday, the Saints beat the Vikings and all-purpose running back, future Hall of Famer, Alvin Kamara, tied Ernie Nevers’ NFL record six rushing touchdowns in a game. It’s just Nevers and Kamara. To me, I’m sorry, it’s just Kamara. I mean I toss aside baseball stats from pre-1900…like Cap Anson-type stuff. It’s just not realistic.
So Kamara rushed 22 times for 155 yards and the six scores (from 40, 1, 5, 6, 7, and 3).
Check out his first four seasons. He’s averaging 5.0 yards per carry (672-3,340), 43 touchdowns, and another 326 receptions, 2,824 yards, 8.7 avg., 15 TDs. Receiving, you talk about consistent excellence…81, 81, 81, 83 receptions his four years.
No wonder he’s made four Pro Bowls.
Meanwhile, for those of you watching the Saints game, you saw how much Drew Brees sucked. He’s finished. Dr. W. and I were commenting on a simple fact everyone saw…he can’t throw it more than 25 yards. In the playoffs this is a huge issue. It’s team first. If the future Hall of Famer starts off poorly, Sean Payton has to yank him. [Yeah, yeah…it’s amazing Brees is even playing after his rib and lung injuries…but if it’s impacting him, he shouldn’t be out there….just like the Giants brought back Daniel Jones too soon two weeks ago.]
--Saturday, we had three games.
In the first, playoff bound Tampa Bay (10-5) raced out to a 34-0 lead at half over Detroit (5-10) as Tom Brady was literally perfect, 22/27, 348, 4-0, 158.3 (a perfect rating). In one half! Needless to say, there was zero reason to bring him back for the second and the Buccaneers cruised, 47-7.
Brady now has a franchise-record 36 touchdown passes.
For the Lions, Matthew Stafford was knocked out early with an ankle injury, plus they were without five coaches due to Covid contact tracing, including interim head coach Darren Bevell.
Ryan Fitzpatrick turned into FitzMagic yet again as he entered the Miami-Vegas game in relief of an ineffective Tua Tagovailoa, who while completing 17 of 22 passes, threw for just 94 yards. With the offense stuck in neutral, coach Brian Flores made the gutty call to go with the wily veteran and FitzMagic responded, going 9-for-13 for 182 yards and a TD, the Dolphins prevailing 26-25.
But the Raiders took a 25-23 lead on a 22-yard field goal with 22 seconds left, only to see FitzMagic complete a desperation 34-yard pass to Mack Hollins as the clock ran down. On the play, though, the Raiders’ Arden Key was called for roughing Fitzpatrick after yanking his helmet nearly off with a blatant facemask. That moved the ball to the Raiders’ 26-yard line and cleared the way for Jason Sanders’ winning 44-yard field goal.
Also Saturday, the 49ers (6-9) dealt the Cardinals (8-7) a potentially devastating blow in terms of Arizona’s playoff hopes. Behind third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard and an out of nowhere performance from running back Jeff Wilson Jr., San Francisco prevailed 20-12.
Beathard, making his first start since 2018, and 1-9 as a starting quarterback before Saturday, was pressed into action because of injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens.
Beathard was playing for his brother, Clayton, who was fatally stabbed last December outside a bar in Nashville, Tennessee. C.J. is popular with his teammates and as Wilson said, “That’s why people don’t mind breaking their neck for him.”
Beathard was 13 of 22 for 182 yards and three touchdowns, while Wilson ran for 183 yards on 22 carries.
For the Cardinals, who now no longer control their own destiny in the playoff race, Kyler Murray needed 50 passes, completing 31, to reach 247 yards…no touchdowns, one interception. It was not a clutch performance when the team needed it most.
Consider that DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald combined for 14 receptions, which sounds pretty good, right? Not one of them was longer than nine yards!
--Sunday, the Jets took on the Browns, who were missing their four top receivers after they came into “close, high-risk contact” with linebacker B.J. Goodson, who tested positive on Saturday.
The Browns had announced earlier Saturday they were delaying their flight to New Jersey after a player tested positive for Covid.
So two receivers off the practice squad were elevated, one of whom “is a dog trainer in his spare time,” according to the Browns.
Well, Cleveland was then expected to try to run the ball down the Jets’ throats and it didn’t pan out, the Jets pulling off another upset, 23-16, the defense playing great again under interim defensive coordinator Frank Bush. He’s the only guy I’m happy for.
Of course I don’t want the Jets (2-13) to win. There will be increasing talk of sticking with Sam Darnold one more year and trading the No. 2 pick away for a haul rather than going in a different direction at QB (with some very intriguing picks beyond Trevor Lawrence, as discussed below).
Darnold was mediocre today, but the Jets’ ‘D’ held the Browns to just 45 yards on the ground and had Baker Mayfield scrambling all over the place, Mayfield a dismal 28/53, 285, 0-0, 68.5, the Browns now 10-5.
But here’s the deal. As we discussed weeks ago, the NFL has a huge problem with the Covid protocols and the upcoming playoffs. If this was a playoff week, you can’t take Cleveland’s top four receivers away. And you can’t have an issue, as is a distinct possibility, where a starting quarterback could be ruled out for the Super Bowl. It’s why the NFL, for all its obstinance, needs to be flexible with the schedule.
This season has been an admirable one, given the circumstances, no asterisks required…yet. Let’s keep it that way.
Meanwhile, the AFC playoff picture is a jumbled mess, which I’ll sort out next time.
--The Steelers (12-3), however, finally got their act together, beating the Colts (10-5…who are part of the mess) 28-24, as Ben Roethlisberger and Co. got the aerial game going, Big Ben 34/49, 342, 3-0, 109.4, virtually all the damage in the second half as Pittsburgh came back from a 24-7 deficit to score the last 21. In the process, Pittsburgh wrapped up the AFC North.
--Baltimore stayed very much in the hunt for a playoff berth, moving to 10-5 with a 27-13 easy win over the Giants (5-10), New York, amazingly, still with a pulse, re their own playoff hopes, thanks to wins by Carolina and Dallas.
Lamar Jackson had a solid game for the Ravens. For New York, Daniel Jones returned and was highly mediocre. And now there will be more questions on his future as the ‘franchise quarterback.’
--So the Panthers (5-10) beat the Washington Football Team (6-9) 20-13, as Washington’s Dwayne Haskins confirmed he is one of the bigger first-round busts of all time, throwing two interceptions. He was replaced by Old Dominion’s (the school, not the country music act) Taylor Heinicke, who at least showed some life.
For the record, I thought Haskins was going to be solid and felt the Giants should have taken the local lad. As Nelson on the Simpsons would have said, “Hah Hah….”
--Dallas (6-9) is very much in it heading into the final weekend, 37-17 victors over Philadelphia (4-10-1), the Eagles eliminated in the NFC East. [Feels strange to write that…eliminated at 4-10-1…like no s---. Except it’s 2020.]
For the Cowboys, Good Andy showed up again, Andy Dalton 22/30, 377, 3-1, 134.7, while out of nowhere, Ezekiel Elliott looked like his old self, rushing for 105 yards.
Dallas plays New York next weekend, while Washington faces Philly.
--Chicago (8-7) stayed very much in the playoff hunt, cruising 41-17 over the Jaguars (1-14), who wrapped up the Trevor Lawrence Sweepstakes, and a year’s supply of Whammy Sticks by picking the box where Carol Merrill was standing.
--Seattle is 11-4 after a 20-9 win over the L.A. Rams (9-6); the Rams not clinching a spot yet.
--The Chiefs (14-1) locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a totally unimpressive performance against the Falcons (4-11), 17-14. Patrick Mahomes had a rare off day, going just 24/44, 278, 2-1, 79.6.
The Falcons could have sent the contest into overtime in the end, only to have All-Pro kicker Younghoe Koo, 35 of 36 on the season, miss a 39-yarder.
--The Chargers (6-9) won their third in a row in the drive to save coach Anthony Lynn’s job, 19-16 over Denver (5-10). Summit’s Michael Badgley, struggling in 2020, was 4-for-4 on field goals, including the decider with 0:41 to play.
For all his issues, the fact is Badgley is 31-for-31 from inside the 40 for his career…and at the end of the day, he’ll have a job in the league next season.
--In the only bowl game I cared about since last chat, until Saturday, Buffalo (6-1) beat Marshall (7-3) 17-10, as the Bulls played without Jaret Patterson, out with a knee injury, though Kevin Marks picked up 138 tough yards on 35 carries. Patterson, a junior, who had that spectacular two-game run, 710 yards, said he was coming back for his senior year.
And then last night, the nation watching, No. 9 Coastal Carolina blew it, losing their first of the season, 37-34 to Liberty down in Orlando.
For the Chanticleers, quarterback Grayson McCall had a fine game, 21/32, 318, 3-1, plus 96 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but it wasn’t enough as the vaunted Chants defense yielded 254 yards on the ground to the Flames, QB Malik Willis with 137 of them and four touchdowns.
But what a crazy finish. You really had to see to believe it. Coastal Carolina was down 31-19 early in the fourth quarter, but with 3:00 to play, tied the score at 34-34, McCall running for the two-point conversion.
Liberty then quickly drove down the field, but the Flames’ Joshua Mack fumbled inside the 1 with 41 seconds left in the game. Again, you had to see the sequence to believe it…it was both smart, and absurd. The Flames clearly wanted to run the clock down and kick the chippie field goal to win it, not wanting to give McCall any time to bring the Chants back for a score. But Mack had other ideas and fumbled it.
Then in overtime, Alex Barbir booted a 44-yard field goal on the first extra possession, and the Flames’ Elijah James blocked Massimo Biscardi’s 42-yard tying effort; Liberty finishing 10-1, its finest season ever, the only loss to North Carolina State on a blocked field goal.
For the Chanticleers, a bitter ending to their dream season.
--Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post had an article on the 2021 NFL draft QB class, which is obviously more than Trevor Lawrence, and I’m on record as warming bigly to the Jets at No. 2, not trading it away and sticking with Sam Darnold one more year, but going for BYU’s Zach Wilson…over Ohio State’s Justin Fields, who most say is the No. 2 QB choice.
Aside from these three, you have Alabama’s Mac Jones, who has had as spectacular a season, stat-wise, as anyone in the sport ever has, Florida’s Kyle Trask, and the ever-intriguing Trey Lance of North Dakota State.
“There has never been a better time to need a rookie quarterback. The sport has grown more efficient at developing NFL quarterbacks, and gradual rule changes have made it easier – easier, not easy – to learn the position at the highest level. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, all drafted last year, have all validated their franchise to varying degrees in less than a full season.”
But this is 2020 and there are no guarantees the Senior Bowl is coming off in terms of evaluating this year’s talent. The NFL combine? Who knows.
Zach Wilson, for example, came into the season not exactly highly thought of in terms of an NFL prospect, but he has certainly shown the goods this fall. That said it’s been against largely sub-par competition.
As for Trey Lance, as a sophomore, he led NDSU to a national title, throwing 28 touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for 1,100 yards. Even at 6-4, 226 pounds, he is likely to be the fastest quarterback in the draft, faster than Justin Fields. Lance is being compared to Dak Prescott and Josh Allen, and he’s known as a high character guy with a strong work ethic, big plusses.
But his college experience consists of just 16 games as North Dakota State’s conference canceled its season owing to the pandemic. He had entered the season third, behind Lawrence and Fields.
Separately, Mac Jones, Kyle Trask, Trevor Lawrence and Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith were revealed to be the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy, which will be announced on Jan. 5.
Alabama running back Najee Harris finished No. 5 in the voting, thus narrowly missing finalist status. This makes Alabama just the second team to have three players finish in the top five in Heisman voting.
The 1946 Army football team saw Glenn Davis win the Heisman, fellow running back Doc Blanchard finish fourth and quarterback Arnold Tucker finish fifth.
Back to Zach Wilson, he didn’t hurt his draft standing any with an outstanding effort Tuesday night in the Boca Raton Bowl against Central Florida (6-4), Wilson 26/34, 425, 3-0, while rushing for two touchdowns. The Cougars finish 11-1 for the season.
--North Carolina running back Javonte Williams is opting out of the Orange Bowl and will enter the 2021 draft. Williams rushed for 1,140 yards on 157 carries with 19 touchdowns this season, making history in the process when he and teammate Michael Carter combined for 544 rushing yards against Miami – an NCAA record for two teammates.
Williams is ranked as the No. 3 running back on ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest Big Board.
But Michael Carter announced he was also forgoing UNC’s bowl game to enter the draft.
Ergo, so much for the Orange Bowl and the Tar Heels’ matchup with No. 5 Texas A&M.
--But Miami quarterback D’Eriq King said he’s returning to the school for 2021, a huge deal for the Hurricanes. King had transferred to Miami from Houston in 2020, believing he would get only one season to play, but because of the pandemic, all players received one extra year of eligibility if they chose to take it.
This season, King has thrown for 2,573 yards, 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions, while rushing for 520 yards and four scores.
--Finally, we note the tragic death of Utah freshman running back Ty Jordan, 19.
Denton, Texas, police told ESPN that its officers responded to a shooting call Friday night and discovered a gunshot victim who had been shot one time. Jordan was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“Following a preliminary investigation, we do believe that this was an accidental shooting, where the victim accidentally shot himself,” a Denton Police Department spokesman said.
Jordan was the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year after running for 597 yards with six touchdowns on 83 carries in five games for the Utes. He was the first Utah freshman to have three consecutive 100-yard rushing games since 1995. Jordan played his high school ball at West Mesquite High, Mesquite, Texas.
Just devastating news for the Utes and the university.
--Boy, the NBA had Christmas Day basically to itself, and we had five scintillating contests…NOT!
Lakers 138-115 over the Mavs
Heat 111-98 over the Pelicans
Bucks 138-99 over the Warriors
Nets 123-95 over the Celtics
Clippers 121-108 over the Nuggets
Nets fans are, however, for good reason excited. Kevin Durant looks terrific. It’s early, but there are more than a few in the area jumping on the Brooklyn bandwagon, which has ample seating because mass transit ridership is off about 80% due to the pandemic.
I will not be one of them, though…at least until the playoffs.
Yup, born a Knicks fan I’ll die one…and, boy, watching them (as I did last night) is like watching your own death. They are truly godawful.
--Mark Medina / USA TODAY
“No matter how much time passes, Karl-Anthony Towns will never stop feeling grief.
“Sure, the Minnesota Timberwolves star might find some relative comfort playing in games and bonding with teammates. As he has made clear with his words and body language in the past month, however, Towns will never fully recover from his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, and six other family members dying this year due to coronavirus complications.
“ ‘You may see me smiling and stuff, but that Karl died on April 13th,’ Towns said Wednesday night, referring to the date of his mother’s death. ‘He’s never coming back. I don’t remember that man. I don’t know that man. You’re talking to the physical me. But my soul has been killed off a long time ago.’
“These comments should leave everyone heartbroken for the over 300,000 people that have died from Covid-19 – as well as those individuals’ family members and friends. These comments should leave everyone with anger for those that have contributed to the death rate by refusing to take mask-wearing and social distancing rules seriously.
“As it pertains to the NBA world, Houston Rockets star James Harden should look at Towns’ pain and see why he needs to stop being so selfish.
“The NBA issued a $50,000 fine to Harden on Wednesday for violating the league’s health and safety protocols. Harden has defended himself, saying he did not attend a strip club, as some suspected. But that does not matter, necessarily.
“What matters is that Harden attended a private indoor party that had far more than the 15 people that the league permits for any gathering. What matters is Harden attended an establishment that the league has outlawed.”
While Harden didn’t test positive, the NBA postponed the Rockets’ season opener against Oklahoma City because of too many cases within his team. The league reported that three players “returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive.” Four other Rockets were also quarantined because of contact tracing protocols.
[Houston played its first game last night, losing 128-126 in overtime at Portland; Harden with 44 points and 17 assists. C.J. McCollum had 44 for the Trail Blazers, including 9 of 16 from three.]
--We note the passing of Basketball Hall of Famer K.C. Jones, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time NCAA champion who won eight consecutive NBA titles during the Celtics’ Bill Russell era and then coached the Boston teams with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish to two more championships in the 1980s. He was 88, dying in an assisted living facility in Connecticut, where he had been receiving care for Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
“K.C. was the nicest man I ever met. He always went out of his way to make people feel good, and it was such an honor to play for him,” Bird said in a statement. “His accomplishments are too many to list, but, to me, his greatest accomplishment was being such an outstanding person to all who had the privilege of knowing him. I will miss him dearly.”
Jones was the Celtics head coach when they went to the NBA Finals four straight years from 1984-87, winning it all in ’84 and again two years later with a team that won a then-record 67 regular-season games and went 15-3 in the postseason.
A point guard who excelled on defense, Jones teamed with Bill Russell to lead San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1955-56. The two also played on the U.S. team that won the Olympic gold medal at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, and then K.C. reunited with Russell in Boston to win eight straight NBA titles from 1959-66.
“Friends for life,” Russell posted on Twitter.
Jones is the third Hall of Famer from the 1965 NBA champions to die this year: John Thompson died in August, and Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn passed away last month.
--Going back to Wednesday, 11 Rutgers had a 59-51 lead at 23 Ohio State with under nine minutes to play, headed towards a win that would vault the Scarlet Knights into the top ten for the first time since 1975-76, but then RU was outscored 29-9 the rest of the way, falling 80-68.
Rutgers was furious at the officiating, with starting center Myles Johnson fouling out after just 15 minutes on the court. But RU was charged with 21 total fouls, the Buckeyes 20.
Friday, 4 Iowa suffered its second loss, now 7-2, falling to Minnesota (8-1) 102-95 in overtime, despite Luka Garza’s 32 points and 17 rebounds.
Then yesterday, I watched a big chunk of the battle between 16 Virginia (4-2) and No. 1 Gonzaga (7-0), the Zags whipping the Cavaliers 98-75, as forward Corey Kispert put on a show, hitting 9-of-13 from three-point land, 32 points in all. Drew Timme chimed in with a career-high 29, Gonzaga sure looking like the best team in the land.
Meanwhile, my Wake Forest Demon Deacons have still played just two games, both in November, and, if lucky, will finally play their third Jan. 3 against Georgia Tech. What a shitshow.
Redshirt freshman forward Tariq Ingraham is out for the season as he recovers from Covid-19, while graduate transfer Ian DuBose, the Deacs’ best player their first two contests, is out indefinitely for medical reasons. The school’s announcement Tuesday didn’t discuss additional details for either, citing medical privacy laws.
The entire college basketball season is a freakin’ mess. As in the following….
--The Duke women’s basketball team ended its season Friday amid the pandemic.
“The student-athletes on the Duke women’s basketball team have made the difficult decision to conclude their current season due to safety concerns,” a university spokesman said.
“We support their decision, as we have supported the choices made by all student-athletes at Duke during this unprecedented time.
The women’s team has been on pause since Dec. 16 because of two positive tests and contact tracing within the program’s travel party. The Lady Blue Devils were 3-1.
Duke thus became the first Power Five team to drop out after starting the season. The Ivy League had opted out of playing winter sports in November before the basketball season started.
New coach Kara Lawson, who was hired in July, had said this month: “I don’t think we should be playing right now. That’s my opinion on it.” That came a day after men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski questioned why college basketball was being played at all.
--First baseman Josh Bell was rumored to be headed to the Yankees, but then the Pirates pulled off a deal with Washington, the Nationals getting the slugger for young pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean.
Nats GM Mike Rizzo said in a statement: “We are thrilled to be adding a player of Josh Bell’s caliber to our team. He adds a switch-hitting power bat to our lineup. And we know Josh will be an outstanding addition to our clubhouse and our community.”
Bell, 28, was an All-Star in 2019, following a torrid first half in which he hit .302 with 27 home runs and 84 RBIs, but in the past year-plus, he has tailed off, batting .233 with 10 home funs during an injury-shortened second half of 2019 and hit just eight homers while batting a career-low .226 in 57 games for the Pirates in 2020.
Bell is under contractual control through at least the 2022 season.
--Today, we lost yet another Baseball Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro, 81. In a career that spanned 24 seasons, Niekro used his signature knuckleball to win 318 games.
Niekro pitched from 1964 to 1987, 20 of his seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. He didn’t become a starter until his fourth season, 1967, when he was already 28, but he retired at age 48. At age 45 and 46, Niekro was 16-8 and 16-12 for the Yankees.
Niekro won 20 games three seasons, and was a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover. He had three top-five Cy Young Award finishes.
He also notched 121 victories after he turned 40, a major league record. Only Cy Young, “Pud” Galvin and Walter Johnson pitched more innings than Niekro’s 5,404.
Bob Uecker caught Niekro the first four years of his career. Uecker acknowledged he did a lot of chasing.
“Catching Niekro’s knuckleball was great,” Uecker, the Hall of Fame announcer said. “I got to meet a lot of important people. They all sit behind home plate.”
Former Yankees All-Star Bobby Murcer once said, “Trying to hit Phil Niekro is like trying to eat Jell-O with chopsticks.”
“It actually giggles at you as it goes by,” said former outfielder Rick Monday.
Growing up in Blaine, Ohio, it was Phil Niekro Sr., a laborer and part-time semi-pro pitcher, who taught his sons, Phil Jr. and Joe, the pitch when they were youngsters. They learned well, combining for 539 victories (Joe 221-204), an MLB record for siblings that still stands, ten more than Gaylord and Jim Perry.
Joe Niekro defeated his big brother 5-4 in their careers when they squared off as mound opponents.
Phil was preceded in death by Joe, who suffered a fatal brain aneurysm in 2006.
Needless to say, this has been an awful year for baseball greats, as I was going to be discussing next Chat, so we’ll go through the list of Hall of Famers we’ve lost then.
--The intense holiday schedule continues.
Saturday, Manchester United and Leicester City played to a 2-2 draw, while Manchester City beat Newcastle 2-0. Everton defeated Sheffield 1-0
But the biggie, at least for Arsenal fans, was their huge 3-1 win over struggling Chelsea, the Gunners breaking a 7-game winless streak that had supporters worried about, of all things, relegation.
Today, Liverpool had a horrible 1-1 draw with 19-place West Brom, while Tottenham once again gave up a late goal, geezuz, drawing with Wolverhampton 1-1 when a win was desperately needed.
My Spurs just two weeks ago were in first place but are now winless in four (0-2-2).
So the standings after 14/15 of 38…Games – Points
1. Liverpool…15 – 32
2. Everton…15 – 29
3. Leicester City…15 – 28
4. Man U…14 – 27 …Champions League line
5. Tottenham…15 – 26
6. Man City…14 – 26
7. Aston Villa…13 – 25 …shocking, and two games in hand
8. Chelsea…15 – 25
An insane race as we rapidly approach the mid-point of the season.
--Santa Anita had its opening day of the season on Saturday and Bob Baffert’s Charlatan, coming off an eight-month layoff, won the Grade 1 feature, the $300,000 Malibu Stakes, by 4 ½ lengths.
But the big story was the record handle, despite having no fans in the stands, $23,003,159, which topped the $20,491,016 on Dec. 26, 2018, when 41,373 were in attendance. Yup, off-track betting is a savior for the sport. Interesting.
--Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch was apparently sold to billionaire investor Ron Burkle, a former friend of Jackson’s, for $22 million, the Wall Street Journal first reported, citing public records and three people familiar with the deal. The 2,700-acre compound was first listed for $100 million in 2015. Jackson originally paid $19.5m for it back in 1987.
--Leslie West, leader of the hit band Mountain, with “Mississippi Queen” and other rock anthems of the 1970s, died Wednesday at the age of 75. The cause was cardiac arrest, said a spokesman.
West had battled various health problems, including having his lower right leg amputated because of complications of diabetes in 2011.
West, who struggled with his weight for most of his life, used his ample size to his advantage onstage. In an era ruled by rail-thin rock stars, West stood out. His guitar tone matched his girth, “uncommonly thick, with a vibrato that could shake with earthquake force,” as the New York Times’ Jim Farber put it.
When Mountain first appeared, Rolling Stone described the band as “a louder version of Cream.”
“I idolized Cream,” West told Guitar World magazine in 1987, “and here was a chance to play with one of the best musicians in rock ‘n roll and one of the best writers, too,” referring to co-lead singer and producer, Felix Pappalardi.
Mountain had two gold albums, “Climbing!” and the follow-up, “Nantucket Sleighride,” which each broke Billboard’s Top 20 in the early ‘70s.
Pappalardi, by the way, was fatally shot by his wife.
--Chad Stuart, the chief musical force behind the British duo Chad & Jeremy, died. He was 79, the cause pneumonia, according to his daughter.
Stuart and Jeremy Clyde were part of the British Invasion of the mid-1960s, turning out hits with tracks like “A Summer Song” and “Yesterday’s Gone.” They had seven top 40 hits between 1964 and ’66.
Stuart and Clyde met as undergraduates at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Clyde was an aspiring actor, and an amateur guitar player, whereas Stuart was more the musician when the two became instant friends.
Jeremy Clyde was the grandson of the Duke of Wellington, while Chad Stuart “came from a grimy little town in Northern England,” as he once told the blog Music Web Express 3000. Stuart described their friendship as “a mutual fascination society.”
When they first arrived in Los Angeles to throngs of screaming girls, they stayed at Dean Martin’s house, thanks to Clyde’s family connections, and got to hang out with Frank Sinatra.
But fame was fleeting. Clyde wanted to be an actor and eventually they broke up. Stuart hung on in the music world for a spell, but without Clyde there was little juice. Ironically, Stuart once opened for Mountain in a bowling alley in Hartford, Conn.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/23/78: #1 “Le Freak” (Chic) #2 “Too Much Heaven” (Bee Gees) #3 “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (Barbra & Neil)…and…#4 “My Life” (Billy Joel) #5 “I Love The Nightlife (Disco ‘round)” (Alicia Bridges) #6 “I Just Wanna Stop” (Gino Vannelli) #7 “Sharing The Night Together” (Dr. Hook) #8 “Y.M.C.A.” (Village People) #9 “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It Away” (Andy Gibb) #10 “Hold The Line” (Toto…awful stuff, C-…)
Hoops Quiz Answer: Eight to win an NCAA championship, Olympic gold, and an NBA title.
K.C. Jones, Clyde Lovellette, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Jerry Lucas, Quinn Buckner and Anthony Davis.
Next Bar Chat, Wednesday a.m., or sooner…the year end Bar Chat Awards.