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Donald Trump and the Sports World
[Posted Sun. p.m., prior to Browns-Steelers]
NFL AP All-Pro Quiz: Aaron Donald and Bobby Wagner were selected to their sixth AP All-Pro team the other day. Name the only four to be selected at least nine times. Hint: Two of them played from 1960-74, and 1960-71. Three in all are offensive linemen. Answer below.
--In the first wildcard game, Buffalo beat Indianapolis 27-24, as Josh Allen threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns, overcoming a hideous performance by wideout John Brown, for the Bills first playoff win since 1995. Allen also rushed for 54 yards and a score.
Allen had a super sweet 35-yard TD strike to Stefon Diggs to make it 24-10, Indianapolis, behind the gutty play of Philip Rivers (27/46, 309, 2-0, 93.5) cut it to 27-24 with 6:13 left, but that’s where it ended, a last-second Rivers heave near the end zone batted down.
The turning point was when the Colts, up 10-7, were stopped on four plays from the 4-yard line.
--The Rams then took on the Seahawks in Seattle, John Wolford getting the nod at quarterback over starter Jared Goff for the Rams after Wolford’s solid play in Week 17 clinched a playoff berth for L.A.
But just ten minutes into the game, Rams leading 3-0, Wolford took a dirty hit from Seattle’s Jamal Adams (leave it up to a former Jet to take out my main man from Wake Forest), and that forced L.A. to go with Goff, who just two weeks ago had surgery on a broken thumb. Out of nowhere, the Rams took it, 30-20.
Goff was hardly spectacular, 9 of 19, though for 155 yards and a score, but rookie running back Cam Akers was superb…131 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown, plus 45 yards on two receptions.
And the Rams defense did the rest, keeping Russell Wilson well in check, 11/27, 174, 2-1, 72.1, while sacking him five times. The one pick was a brilliant effort by L.A.’s Darious Williams, who jumped the wideout screen and took it 42 yards for a score to make it 13-3 and the Rams knew they could pull this off.
Wolford, thankfully, after being taken to the hospital with a neck injury, was diagnosed as having a stinger, according to coach Sean McVay after the game, and Wolford was indeed in the locker room celebrating with the team.
But all-World defensive tackle Aaron Donald was determined to be questionable for next week as he suffered a rib injury that left him visibly in pain, this after two sacks of Wilson.
--In Saturday’s nightcap, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers defeated pesky Washington 31-23, Brady throwing for 381 yards and two touchdowns. But a key for Tampa Bay was the outstanding overall effort from running back Leonard Fournette, who had a disappointing regular season but rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown, while catching four passes for another 39.
Redskins fans, while not happy to lose, nonetheless have hope for the future as the WFT gave a solid all-around effort, with Taylor Heinicke, the Old Dominion grad (or near grad), subbing for the injured Alex Smith, showing he has some game, 26/44, 306, 1-1, plus 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Smith said after he will take a few weeks before deciding on his future after his terrific comeback from an almost deadly injury.
Retire! You did it. A comeback for the ages. Don’t risk it.
--Today, Baltimore and Lamar Jackson won their first playoff game since 2014, Jackson his first in three attempts, 20-13 over Tennessee. Jackson only threw for 179 yards and had a bad interception, but he rushed for 136 on 16 carries, including a super 48-yard scamper for a score.
For the Titans, the story was Derrick Henry. The 2,000-yard rusher had just 40 on 18 carries, Tennessee held to only 51 yards in all on the ground, as the Ravens defense simply bottled him up.
The Titans had a chance to tie it up, but with 1:50 to go, the Ravens’ Marcus Peters intercepted Ryan Tannehill and that was all she wrote.
But, boy, there is some intrigue in Tennessee tonight. What happened to big play receiver Corey Davis? He was seen on the sidelines with his helmet off, after no receptions early, and at the end of the game, Derrick Henry was seen having an animated conversation with Davis. To me it was like, ‘Hey, did you just quit on the team?’ [I have no idea as I go to post…if he was injured I didn’t see it.]
--In the Bears-Saints contest in the Superdome, down 7-0, Mitchell Trubisky of the Bears hit Javon Wims on a sweet 28-yard pass down the right sideline, and then on the following play, Wims dropped a 40-yard touchdown pass in the end zone. Game over…New Orleans cruised 21-9, Drew Brees improving to 9-8 career in the postseason, throwing for 265 yards and two touchdowns, Alvin Kamara with 99 yards on the ground and a score.
So the NFC playoffs are set….
Rams at Green Bay, Sat.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans, Sun.
AFC matchups depend on Browns-Steelers.
--It kind of feels strange but the College Football Playoff championship game is Monday, Ohio State-Alabama.
OSU quarterback Justin Fields said in a Zoom call Thursday afternoon, “I’ll be good by Monday night.” Fields was injured in the second quarter of Ohio State’s 49-28 victory over Clemson in the semis, taking a vicious hit to the ribs, but he missed only one play.
But after the game, Fields said his body was “pretty messed up” though he kept playing.
The Buckeyes have some Covid issues and there had been talk earlier in the week of postponing the game one week, but coach Ryan Day said Thursday, “We’ll have plenty of players.”
I’m expecting Alabama to rout OSU, 42-17, with many of us going to bed early, like at 10:59 Eastern.
--When I saw the headline that Jim Harbaugh is staying at Michigan, at first I was shocked. But then I started thinking, continuity is important, especially with recruiting, plus Harbaugh’s new extension that will keep him in Ann Arbor through 2025 is at a lower base salary than he is currently being paid.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Harbaugh will make between $4 million and $4.4 million the next five seasons, plus some nice bonus incentives. He had been scheduled to earn a $7.79 million salary for 2021 – the fourth-highest figure in the country.
Harbaugh, 57, has a 49-22 record since being hired before the 2015 season, but he has yet to beat Ohio State or advance to the Big Ten championship game. And the Wolverines had a 2-4 record in 2020, including losses to heavy underdog Michigan State, to Indiana for the first time since 1987 and a winless-at-the-time Penn State.
--No. 3 Villanova (8-1) has had to pause due to Covid issues and was forced to postpone its next four games. The Wildcats will not have played from between Dec. 23 and Jan. 19. This is their third pause of the season. Coach Jay Wright said two members of the team had tested positive.
Eight of 11 Big East teams have had pauses this season.
--In games of import this weekend, 15 Rutgers will be out of the top 25 when the next AP poll is released Monday, 79-68 losers at home to Ohio State (9-3, 3-3). Suddenly, the Scarlet Knights have lost three in a row, though to be fair it’s to the Buckeyes, Michigan State and Iowa. But RU falls to 7-4.
4 Texas (10-1) won at 14 West Virginia (9-4) 72-70.
And this afternoon, 5 Iowa (11-2, 5-1) beat 16 Minnesota (10-4, 3-4) 86-71, behind Luka Garza’s 33 points and Jordan Bohannon’s 19 points and 14 assists. No one gets 14 assists in the college game these days…outstanding. Bohannon is just a terrific player. He will have a long NBA career.
I want Iowa to win it all this year, by the way, if Rutgers can’t make a lot of noise (or Seton Hall, which has been super up-and-down thus far).
--Duke beat Wake Forest Saturday, as expected, 79-68, but the story was Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his comments in his post-game press conference.
When asked about the actions of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, Coach K called it an “insurrection” and that those involved should be prosecuted and the politicians who fanned the flames of violence chastised.
“The sorriest day outside of 9/11, shooting at schools where kids have gotten shot and killed. …I know everyone went under desks at the Capitol. I’d like to ask how many times teachers have had to do that at schools when there’s gun violence.
“Wednesday was a horrible day. It was an insurrection. It went to the very fabric of this great country,” said Krzyzewski, a West Point graduate who rose to the rank of captain before leaving the Army almost 50 years ago. “The symbol of our democracy is that Capitol, and we allowed that symbol to be really just spit on and stepped on.”
“If someone’s doing something bad, Congress has the responsibility of stepping forward. …Where are our values? Our nation has been built on values. …
“This is not about being a Republican or a Democrat; it’s about being a damn American,” he said. “Be an American. You know, work together. Let’s get this thing back. People say, that’s not who we are – that is who we are right now. We need to change who we are. We need to get back to the basic principles that have founded this country.”
--One player from an obscure place to watch in terms of the next NBA draft is Austin Peay’s Terry Taylor. The 6’5” senior guard already had had an outstanding career coming into this season, and he’s averaging 21.2 points and 11.4 rebounds. In a 74-71 win over Eastern Illinois Saturday, he had 38 points and 17 rebounds.
--Saturday night, the Charlotte Hornets beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-105 and in the game, LaMelo Ball, the third overall pick in November’s draft, became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Ball at 19 years, 140 days, became the youngest over Markelle Fultz, who set the previous mark at 19 years, 317 days when he had a triple-double for the Philadelphia 76ers on April 11, 2018.
“It’s like he’s been doing this for a number of years,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “A 19-year-old rookie does not look like this. This is just rare what you’re seeing.”
And Ball did this coming off the bench and in 31 minutes.
Lonzo Ball held the record for youngest triple-double before Fultz.
Fultz, by the way, just suffered a season-ending knee injury, playing for Orlando.
--Philadelphia played its game Saturday against the Denver Nuggets and lost, 115-103, despite guard Seth Curry having tested positive for Covid on Thursday.
So then after contact tracing, the Sixers played without All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, out with injuries, Curry and Tobias Harris over virus concerns.
The team met the minimum eight active players by including forward Mike Scott, who was not actually able to play. So seven played the entire game.
At least the Sixers got to see Tyrese Maxey, the team’s first-round pick out of Kentucky, score 39 points in his first start.
Coach Doc Rivers said, “We’ve got to be very careful in how we navigate the next week,” adding the real problem for the team is not Covid, necessarily, but injuries.
--Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol.
“We all hope that the people we elect to lead us, who are supposed to be modeling leadership, will do so in a way that is motivated by serving others, by showing compassion, by acting gracefully,” Stevens said. “Instead, we elected a president, who luckily is on his way out, and others who have not shown that kind of grace. It has been consistent and operated at a win-at-all-costs attitude. I’ve always felt that if you operated at a win-at-all-costs attitude, it’s going to be an unfulfilling ending. In this case, it’s a disgraceful ending.
“So I’m looking forward to two weeks from now, and I know a lot of other people are, too.”
--Mets fans received a belated Christmas present from our Uncle Stevie as we acquired superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor from Cleveland, along with solid starter Carlos Carrasco, for infielders Andres Gimenz, Amed Rosario, and two minor leaguers. The Mets totally fleeced the Indians.
In six seasons for Cleveland, Lindor made four All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves, slammed 30 homers three seasons, and already has extensive postseason experience.
The thing is the Mets control him just this 2021 season, which is why Cleveland wanted to trade him now, knowing they couldn’t give him the deal he’ll deserve, and there is no doubt the Mets and Steve Cohen will step up, possibly before the season starts, and put together a deal.
But as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman notes, billionaire Cohen doesn’t have a limitless pocketbook and the Mets have some big decisions to make in terms of future contracts, namely handing outfielder Michael Conforto the extension he deserves following this season, and they do have the albatross of Robinson Cano’s contract. Cano, out this season after failing another PED test, is still owed $40.5 million for 2022-23 whether he is on the roster or not.
Plus George Springer and Trevor Bauer are still out there.
Sherman does point out that if the Mets are to give Lindor a Manny Machado type contract, 10 years at $300 million, the careers of two similar players at this stage, Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez, would argue for caution. Both of them after their age 26 seasons seemed destined for Cooperstown and, while they had success after, were nowhere near the players they were in their first years, especially by age 30.
But for now, Mets fans, let’s enjoy what could be a terrific season (assuming we get another starting pitcher). It’s as good a lineup as any in the game.
--Washington signed slugger Kyle Schwarber to a one-year, $7 million contract, with a $3 million buyout. The deal includes an $11 million mutual option for 2022.
Schwarber, who burst on the scene in 2015 with a super postseason for the Cubs, hit 94 home runs between 2017-19, but was awful in 191 at-bats last season and can’t field. For now, though, the plan would be for the Nationals to shift Juan Soto from left to right field and play Schwarber in left.
So Washington is relying on big bounceback seasons from both Schwarber and slugger Josh Bell, who they acquired from Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve.
--Mike DiGiovanna / Los Angeles Times
“The text message from then-Houston Astros star Gerrit Cole to former Angels visiting clubhouse manager Brian ‘Bubba’ Harkins was sent Jan. 17, 2019, at 11:39 a.m.
“ ‘Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation,’ the pitcher wrote, adding a wink emoji. ‘We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold.’
“The exchange between Cole, now the New York Yankees ace, and Harkins, who was fired last March for providing illegal ball-doctoring substances to visiting pitchers, was submitted in Orange County Superior Court as evidence Thursday by an attorney claiming Harkins was made a ‘public scapegoat’ in baseball’s efforts to crack down on the use of foreign substances.
“Harkins, who spent almost four decades with the Angels, was dismissed after the Angels learned through an MLB investigation that he was providing a blend of sticky substances to visiting pitchers to aid their grip of the baseball.”
Harkins filed a defamation complaint against the Angels and MLB in August. The Angels and MLB filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in November.
In an opposition to the motion, filed Thursday, “Harkins claimed many Angles used his concoction of rosin and pine tar over the years, ‘including Troy Percival…’” and a lot of middling hurlers aside from Cole and Dylan Bundy.
Of all the things to care about in the world of sports these days, let alone the real world, I couldn’t care less about this. But I understand Major League Baseball wanting to crack down. It’s just not steroids.
I also don’t care that Gerrit Cole may have been doctoring the baseball. Opposing managers could have been checking him each game if they wanted to.
--After 71 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the baseball world lost Tommy Lasorda. He died of a heart attack at his home in California, age 93. He had a history of heart problems, including a heart attack in 1996 that ended his managerial career, and then he had another in 2012.
Lasorda attended the Dodgers’ Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Oct. 27 in Texas that clinched the team’s first World Series title since 1988.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “It feels appropriate that in his final months, he saw his beloved Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since his 1988 team.”
For the last 14 years, Lasorda had served as special adviser to team owner and chairman Mark Walter.
Tommy Lasorda worked as a player, scout, manager and front office executive with the Dodgers dating back to their roots in Brooklyn.
As a player, Lasorda only appeared in 26 games as a starter/reliever for Brooklyn and Kansas City, 1954-56, going 0-4, but then as a longtime manager of the Dodgers, 1977-96 (two games in ’76), he compiled a 1,599-1,439 record, won World Series titles in 1981 and ’88, four N.L. pennants and eight division titles.
He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1997 as a manager and then guided the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Vin Scully commented: “There are two things about Tommy I will always remember. The first is his boundless enthusiasm. Tommy would get up in the morning full of beans and maintain that as long as he was with anybody else. The other was his determination. He was a fellow with limited ability and he pushed himself to be a very good Triple-A pitcher. He never quite had that something extra that makes a major leaguer, but it wasn’t because he didn’t try.”
[In the minor leagues he once struck out 25 in a 15-inning game. In his next two starts, he fanned 15 and 13, gaining the attention of the Dodgers.]
Lasorda often proclaimed, “I bleed Dodger blue” and he kept a bronze plaque on his desk reading: “Dodger Stadium was his address, but every ballpark was his home.”
Tyler Kepner / New York Times
“Like Walter Alston, his predecessor as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lasorda appeared only briefly as a major league player. Alston was hitless in one at-bat; Lasorda was winless in a handful of starts. Yet they managed the team in an unbroken line from 1954 to 1996, combining for all six of the franchise’s championships before 2020.
“ ‘Their strength was the strength of the Dodgers: They knew the minor league system, they knew how players got to be major leaguers, they understood the importance of scouts and player development – they knew it from the ground up,’ Fred Claire, the former Dodgers general manager, said on Friday. ‘Their personalities were different, but their foundations were nearly identical.’….
“With Lasorda…the games were only part of the story. He was a genuine celebrity, a friend of Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles who always knew where to find a camera. He could share wisdom as a pointy-capped wizard on a children’s TV show (‘The Baseball Bunch’) or spew profane hilarity at a reporter who dared to ask for his opinion of a rival’s performance. Jon Lovitz played him on ‘Saturday Night Live.’
“Lasorda had a thing about mascots. In 1989, he ordered the umpires to eject Youppi! – a jolly orange blob in a Montreal Expos jersey – for noisily cavorting on top of the Dodgers dugout. A year earlier, he wrestled the Phillie Phanatic to the turf at Veterans Stadium and beat him with a stuffed Dodgers dummy.
“Lasorda and the Phanatic, then played by Dave Raymond, had formed an act, of sorts, on a Major League Baseball goodwill trip to Japan in 1979. The mascot would mock the manager, whose feigned outrage got a laugh from fans. But Lasorda snapped that day in Philadelphia, and an all-time highlight was born.
“ ‘All the other times I was interacting with him, he was really doing it with tongue in cheek, but I knew he was mad because he was using my name and he strung together a few choice expletives,’ Raymond said on Friday. ‘I was king of confused – ‘I think he’s really angry!’ – and when my head almost came off, I was really angry….
“Years later, when Lasorda spotted an out-of-costume Raymond in a hotel lobby at baseball’s winter meetings, he regaled friends with a blow-by-blow recap of their brawl. It was all part of the show with Lasorda, who would always ask Raymond about his father, Tubby, the longtime football coach at the University of Delaware.
“ ‘The biggest sadness – beyond his family and his close friends and the Dodger family – is for baseball, because Tommy was the best ambassador,’ Raymond said. ‘We don’t have people like Tommy Lasorda or Earl Weaver or Tug McGraw or Jay Johnstone anymore. Those types of people seem to be weeded out….
“Lasorda’s most profound legacy, perhaps, is in the way he changed the role of manager. While Alston could be distant and taciturn, Lasorda was an unabashed cheerleader for his players, creating an environment where young players thrived, and motivating players as few could.”
The son of Italian immigrants who grew up in Norristown, Pa., Lasorda credited his father, Sabatino, for teaching him the lessons of life – lessons which he used as the manager acclaimed as one of the greatest motivators of players in baseball history.
Lasorda had been managing seven years in the Dodger system when he was named to succeed Walter Alston in 1976. The Dodgers’ up-and-coming young core – first baseman Steve Garvey, catchers Joe Ferguson and Steve Yeager, outfielder Bill Buckner, second baseman Davey Lopes and shortstop Bill Russell – had all played for Lasorda in the minors and he was quick to accentuate the bond he’d already formed with them. “I want to be like a father to the players, to know their families, everything about them,” he said. “Managing is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too tight and you kill it; not hard enough and it flies away.”
The Dodgers would win the National League pennant in his first two years, in 1977 and ’78, losing to the Yankees in the World Series both times. Then three years later, he extracted his revenge, when, after losing the first two games of the ’81 World Series, he reeled off four straight against New York to complete an upset. Then in 1988, the Dodgers upset the 100-win Mets (against whom they’d been 1-10 during the regular season) in the NLCS, and then faced 104-win Oakland in the World Series. Gimpy-kneed Kirk Gibson hit the Game 1-winning home run off Oaklands vaunted closer Dennis Eckersley, and the Dodgers went on to sweep the A’s for a second unlikely world championship for Lasorda.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“He was a giant with the eyes of a child, a fighter with the softest of hearts, a Hall of Fame manager who acted like a high school cheerleader, a stalking and howling and gesturing ball of contradictions who spent nearly seven decades following a single truth.
“Tommy Lasorda loved the Dodgers. He loved them beyond all reason, at the highest of volumes, through every chapter of a 93-year-old life. He loved them as their struggling pitcher, as their fiery manager, as their headstrong executive, as their wisecracking ambassador. In the end, he loved them as a frail elderly gentleman who watched his final games at Dodger Stadium in the owner’s box, huddled underneath his Dodger blue jacket, often alone, but always at home….
“Tommy Lasorda loved the Dodgers so much, he became the Dodgers, the interlocking ‘L’ and ‘A’ forming the beginning of his name, and his loss creates a gaping hole in their culture. There will never be another Tommy. The sports establishment has become too businesslike to create one and, if it did, sports fans would be too cynical to accept him.
“Lasorda was more than the tough manager who won World Series titles in 1981 and 1988. He was also the guy who once seemingly coached an injured child out of a coma and eventually used him as a batboy.
“Lasorda was more than the second winningest manager in Dodgers history, with the second-most playoff wins. He was also a legendary eater who turned a weight loss challenge from Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson into a campaign that built a new convent for the Sisters of Mercy in Nashville….
“Up close, his powerful presence was cratered with incongruities. Sometimes I loved him for making people so happy. Other times I wanted to scream at him for delivering little slights to those who would challenge him.
“He was always loud, always hungry, always scheming. But he was also always hugging, always giving, so much that his players’ children called him ‘Uncle Tommy.’
“One minute, he would be smiling and signing an hour’s worth of autographs for children. The next minute, he would scold one of the children for not being grateful.
“He would remember nicknames and stories about every former player, and when those players returned after retirement, he would greet them like lost sons. But if he felt a former colleague had disrespected him, he would act as if they never existed….
“He was an all-star eater, constantly surrounding himself with food, with pregame meals so big and messy that he would often have to change his uniform shirt before heading to the dugout. But he always insisted on sharing, his Dodger Stadium manager’s office serving as a free buffet open to all.
“He made big money for motivational speeches, and would travel the country for the chance to make a buck. But he never charged schools, churches or the military….
“If you hung out with him long enough, he would give you a scoop. If you were the last person sitting on his office couch before the game, he might even give you a headline….
“I always tried to be the last person Lasorda saw before the first pitch, because drama would often ensue.
“One time he suddenly decided to take a shower, so I stood diligently outside the stall, steam soaking my notebook, as he gave me some roster insights.
“Another time he found himself with extra pregame pizza, and begged me to eat with him just before the national anthem was played, but I had been eating his food all afternoon and couldn’t stomach another bite.
“ ‘Eat one more piece with me, and I’ll tell ya something,’ he suddenly shouted.
“I ate. And just before Lasorda rushed out to stand for the flag, he gave me an injury report….
“The Dodgers were indeed his address, his heart, his life, and even the voice mail message on a cell phone whose number never changed.
“ ‘If you don’t cheer for the Dodgers, you might not get into heaven,’ Lasorda warned callers.
“Today that heaven is a little louder, a little messier, and a lot more blue.”
--At the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, the traditional opening event in January, Harris English and Joaquin Niemann are in a playoff as I go to post.
--Boy, Justin Thomas screwed up, royally. J.T. called himself a homophobic slur in Saturday’s third round after missing a 4-foot putt for par, and he was caught on a Golf Channel microphone.
Thomas was apologetic when he discovered his slur was caught on TV after his round.
“There’s just no excuse. I’m an adult, I’m a grown man,” Thomas told the Golf Channel after his round. “There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible. I’m extremely embarrassed. It’s not who I am. It’s not the kind of person that I am. But it’s…unfortunately, I did it and I have to own up to it and I’m very apologetic.”
Thomas vowed that he will learn from this incident.
I’m shocked J.T., who I, like everyone else, likes a lot, uttered the word.
--Webb Simpson tested positive for Covid a few days after Christmas.
“My daughter had a cold before Christmas, and when I didn’t feel great on the 26th, I thought I probably picked up what she had, but she didn’t have Covid, so I figured it was, you know, a cold or a flu or something,” he said. “But I continued to get worse and I couldn’t test until Monday and tested positive.”
So Simpson and his family self-isolated. He experienced mild symptoms including a loss of taste.
But, eventually, his symptoms subsided and he was cleared to fly to Maui for the Tournament of Champions, arriving Wednesday, just in time to tee off Thursday. He finished T15.
The thing is, in June Simpson also had to deal with the coronavirus after one of his daughters tested positive, though he believes her result was a false positive after doctors told him that some of the rapid tests like the one his daughter took produce a false positive.
Simpson admitted he’s been seeing friends, his kids have been seeing friends, though he insists he’s been careful.
[No he hasn’t…the virus has been raging in North Carolina, where he makes his home.]
--Eamon Lynch / Golfweek
“When historians eventually tally the cost of the Donald Trump era, the manifold indecencies of which culminated in Wednesday’s sacking of the United States Capitol during a failed insurrection, golf will not be counted among its casualties.
“The game will instead be portrayed as Trump’s refuge, something he did while ignoring a pandemic that has claimed 365,000 lives, refusing to acknowledge a resounding electoral defeat, and inciting feeble-minded fascists to violence that left five people dead at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
“That’s the best case scenario.
“The alternative? That a sport which prides itself on values like honesty, integrity and devotion to the rules will be characterized as a welcoming sanctuary for a brazen and amoral insurrectionist, a world in which a racist con man was never discomfited, even while taking a wrecking ball to the constitution and the rule of law.
“Like the nation itself, golf has been measurably diminished by Donald Trump’s presence, and not merely in the optics of his choosing to play in times of great crisis and at taxpayer expense (though at least golf limited the damage he might otherwise have inflicted during the hours spent on the course). The damage golf sustained over the last handful of years is trivial by comparison to the country at large, but bears accounting nonetheless.
“Two of the sport’s most iconic venues have become untouchable, at least for as long as his name remains above the door. The ‘Blue Monster’ course at Miami’s Doral Resort, which Trump bought in 2012, was home to a PGA Tour event for more than 50 years until the toxicity of his 2016 presidential campaign forced the Tour to relocate the tournament to Mexico City. Turnberry, on Scotland’s Ayrshire coast, is one of the finest venues on the Open Championship rota and has produced some of the most memorable finishes of the last 40-odd years. But the Open has stayed away since he bought it in 2014, and will likely do so for as long as he keeps it out of reach of the bailiffs.
“Other major championships have felt his caress and withered. The 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, held at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey, was a painful spectacle as most players tried to ignore the groping elephant in the room. His Bedminster course is scheduled to host the 2022 PGA Championship, a fact that now has the PGA of America bunkered down under sustained criticism for a decision made in 2014. Such are the perils of assigning championship venues far in advance; you just never know when you’ve hitched your premier event to a sociopath. Though there was a hint back in 2015, when the PGA of America chose to kill the Grand Slam of Golf rather than play it at Trump’s Los Angeles course in the wake of his racist comments about Mexicans.
“The odds that ‘22’s PGA Championship will happen as scheduled in New Jersey are about as good as the chances of you or I winning it. Seth Waugh, the PGA of America’s CEO, was a banker and has an alert for high-risk exposure. He knows that Trumpism is likely to be an equally incendiary force in the ’22 midterm elections and that any affiliation is poisonous. Waugh will be forced to move the event and face down a small but vocal faction of his membership who remain true believers. Moving its major from Trump National has been debated internally at the PGA for more than two years, but executives have been reluctant to antagonize a famously vindictive man who controls the Internal Revenue Service. Such concerns melt away in 10 days, if not sooner.
“Reputations too have been left bruised in the eyes of many golf fans. Like those of Jack Nicklaus and Nancy Lopez, both of whom have long been celebrated for their character and rectitude. Both supported Trump in the waning days of the election campaign, despite clear signs he would not accept any result he didn’t like. Nicklaus and Lopez have a right to support whatever candidate they choose, but they are not exempt from scrutiny for a choice publicly stated. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s murderous riot in Washington, D.C., Lopez at least tweeted that she disagreed with Trump and was rooting for the country to unite under President Biden. Jack has remained silent as a sphinx.
“Arguably even more sullied are the reputations of Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam*, who attended the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the man who just one day earlier had incited the mob that killed a police officer. In an ideal world, the accomplishments for which Player and Sorenstam were being recognized with one of the nation’s highest civilian honors could be viewed independently of the administration conferring the honor, but like so many other norms that standard has been laid waste by Trump….
“Bryson DeChambeau had shed the Trump Golf logo from his golf bag when he competed this week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Time will tell if others – like PGA Tour Champions regulars Rocco Mediate and Scott McCarron – do the same.
“The notion that an association with the outgoing president might be cause for shame will trigger Trumpers in golf, who are accustomed to justifying his obscenities with whataboutery and conspiracy theories, who foam at the mouth when confronted with views alien to their echo chamber, and who can no longer distinguish the conservatism of old from the cult of today. They passionately (and rightly) celebrate Folds of Honor veterans yet defend Cadet Bone Spurs’ many calumnies against the military and their families. They mock (rightly) Bill Clinton’s audacious score-keeping, but turn a deaf ear when Trump demands officials ‘find’ enough votes to flip a legitimate election in his favor. Golf no more belongs to that hypocritical cadre than does America itself.
“Whatever the future holds for Donald Trump after the noon hour on January 20, the events of January 6 that left five people dead ought to make him a pariah everywhere. Including in golf. This game should not be the familiar bosom to which he can safely retreat while fending off indictments. He is finally and deservedly being expelled from civic life. He needs to be driven from golf, too.”
*Here just the other day I called Sorenstam one of the cooler people on the planet. At best she exhibited awful judgement. As for Jack Nicklaus, I lost a lot of respect for him a long time ago. Gary Player? No comment.
John Feinstein / GolfDigest
“The PGA of America needs to move the 2022 PGA Championship from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.
“It needs to announce the decision today and make it very clear: We want nothing to do with soon-to-be-former President Donald J. Trump.
“This is no longer a political issue; it is no longer a case of taking a side with one political party or another. This is about a man who encouraged – all but ordered – his supporters to attempt some sort of clumsy coup d’etat on the United States government. This is about a man who, even AFTER finally telling his supporters it was time to leave the U.S. Capitol following one woman’s death and the Capitol building itself – a major part of our country’s history – had been severely damaged, tweeted: ‘We love you. You’re very special.’
“He then added, ‘These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away.’ In other words; ‘I lost, so storming the Capitol, inciting violence and breaking laws is not only allowable, but the people committing those acts are, ‘special.’’
“Again, this has nothing to do with whether one voted for Trump or President-elect Joe Biden. It has nothing to do with being in favor of The Wall or not being in favor of it. It has nothing to do with kneeling for the national anthem or pillorying those who did so.
“It has to do with a man out of control, a man who has refused to accept the results of a clear-cut election defeat and has continued claiming ‘a landslide victory,’ even though the results of the election have been verified by all 50 states and backed up by dozens of court cases that went against the claims of the president. That’s not to mention the right-leaning Supreme Court, which refused to even take up attempts to have the results of the election thrown out….
“Golf is the whitest of the major sports – in terms of players, media and fans…. If the 2020 election had been confined to the PGA Tour, there’s little doubt that Trump would have won easily. Icons like Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have vocally supported Trump with great enthusiasm.
“The sport’s tone-deafness continued Thursday when two of golf’s greatest players – Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam – accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump….
“Golfers should be allowed to take any political position they want. Golf tours are allowed to use the ‘We don’t want politics to be part of golf’ line just as often.
“But when someone does what Trump did on Wednesday, telling his followers to march up Pennsylvania Avenue and let Congress know how they felt about the election results, he wasn’t telling them to shout a few slogans and go home. ‘I’m going to lead you up there!’ he said – which, of course, he didn’t. ‘You must be strong!’ he added. What did that mean, chant in a loud voice?....
“In June 1990, after Hall Thompson, the President of Shoal Creek Club, said Blacks would not be allowed into his club – ‘That’s just not done in Birmingham,’ he said – the PGA looked to move that year’s PGA to another club. Only when a local African-American businessman named Louis Willie was granted instant membership was the event able to stay put.
“Even though Willie’s membership was clearly a token move, Shoal Creek was a historic turning point for golf. The PGA Tour, the USGA and the PGA of America, passed rules soon after saying no club that discriminated could host their events. Augusta National admitted its first black member soon after, although it took another 22 years before women were admitted. Nonetheless, it was a turning point.
“This can also be a turning point. Turn away from Donald Trump – the man, not the politician. And make it clear that anyone who incites violence for any reason, in any context in the future, is not welcome in golf.”
--There was no Premier League action this weekend because of FA Cup play, with the PL resuming Tuesday.
But the issue is Covid. Aston Villa played an FA Cup match against Liverpool on Friday, losing 4-1, without any first-team players due to an outbreak on the team. Instead, they had seven players from the under-23s, and four from the under-18 squad in the starting lineup. Imagine, one of them was 16! The youth acquitted themselves very well, given the circumstances.
It’s not known if Villa can play this coming week in the Premier League.
As for the FA Cup, perhaps the coolest competition in sports, period, because every professional club in England participates, today, fourth-tier Crawley Town defeated Leeds 3-0 in a stunning upset.
When I say fourth-tier…English football goes like this…
Championship…from which teams get promoted to the PL…and where the three teams relegated from the PL then play the following season
Crawley Town is currently sixth out of 24 teams in League Two.
So this upset is like a major league team, say, Atlanta, losing to a Class A team in baseball like the Dayton Dragons.
--American Breezy Johnson picked up her third podium finish (three 3rds) in this weekend’s World Cup downhill ski race at St. Anton (Austria). You go, girl! Italy’s Soffia Goggia won it.
--A young woman died after a rare suspected shark attack in New Zealand. The victim was rushed out of the water still alive but died at the scene despite efforts to save her life. Police said it appeared she had been injured by a shark.
The attack happened at a beach on North Island not far from the country’s biggest city Auckland.
Shark attacks are unusual in the country and this is thought to be the first fatality since 2013. The woman had been swimming right in front of the lifeguard flags on Thursday.
Police said the death was “extremely traumatic” for those who were at the scene.
--We note the passing of Italian-born actor Antonio Sabato Sr., who starred in the cult classic “Escape from the Bronx” and the 1966 racing drama “Grand Prix.” Sabato, 77, passed away in Los Angeles from coronavirus complications.
His son, actor-model Antonio Sabato Jr., confirmed the death on Twitter.
“Always & forever in Jesus’s name,” Sabato Jr. wrote, alongside an old family photo featuring his dad. “Ciao Papa,” read the caption.
The younger Sabato had mentioned earlier in the week his father had been suffering from Covid-19 at a California hospital.
Born on Sicily in 1943, Sabato Sr. made his Hollywood debut in “Grand Prix,” which my brother and reader Bob P. would agree is one of the ten best films of all time, at least the racing footage. Co-starring James Garner, Yves Montand and Eva Marie Saint, Sabato played Nino Barlini, Ferrari’s No. 2 driver.
Now I want to watch it again.
--The 2021 Grammy Awards have been postponed due to coronavirus concerns, say the organizers.
The ceremony, the only one I care to watch, was due to take place on January 31.
The event will now take place on March 14, due to rising infection numbers in Los Angeles and the state of California.
Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa led the nominations for this year’s awards, which were announced in November.
“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show,” said a statement from the Recording Academy, which runs the Grammys.
But the new date conflicts with the previously-announced Screen Actors’ Guild awards. The actors union said it was “extremely disappointed” by the scheduling conflict.
--I’m sorry this Chat was so political, but if you don’t understand the gravity of the situation this week in our country, you’re an idiot. And so I was watching the Buffalo-Indianapolis game and saw Jack Kemp’s name and number on the Bills’ Ring of Honor. Oh, how I yearn for politicians like him. Just a good man…and a real leader, with compassion.
--Ed Bruce, a country singer-songwriter who made a lasting mark with his 1975 song “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” died Friday. He was 81.
A pioneer of outlaw country music, Bruce wrote small hits for himself and popular songs for other musicians in the 1960s and early ‘70s, but his star rose with “Mamas….,” which he wrote with his wife, Patsy.
Bruce’s version of the song reached the Top 20 in the country chart, and a cover by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings proved a massive, chart-topping hit in the winter of 1978.
In 1982, Bruce reached the top of the country chart himself, with his recording of “You’re The Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had.” Other hits followed, including “My First Taste of Texas” in 1983 and “You Turn Me On Like A Radio” in ‘85.
As for his biggest hit, Bruce later told the Christian Broadcasting Network, “I just started singing, going along in the car: ‘Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to pick guitars’ is what I said first. I thought, ‘Wait a minute now,’ and I changed it to ‘cowboys.’”
Top 3 songs week of 1/14/67: #1 “I’m A Believer” (The Monkees) #2 “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” (The Royal Guardsmen) #3 “Tell It Like It Is” (Aaron Neville)…and…#4 “Good Thing” (Paul Revere & The Raiders) #5 “Sugar Town” (Nancy Sinatra…not a bad tune…) #6 “Words Of Love” (The Mamas & The Papas) #7 “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” (Four Tops) #8 “Winchester Cathedral” (The New Vaudeville Band) #9 “That’s Life” (Frank Sinatra) #10 “Georgy Girl” (The Seekers)…A- …
NFL AP All-Pro Quiz Answer: Jerry Rice and Jim Otto are the only two selected to ten teams. Ron Mix and Anthony Munoz the only two at nine.
The following greats were selected eight times: Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, Jim Brown, Bill George (Go Deacs!), Don Hutson, Jim Parker and Joe Schmidt.
Next Bar Chat, late Tues., a very brief one