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Football, James Harden, MLB and Phli Spector
[Posted Sun. p.m. …prior to Bucs-Saints…and the conclusion of golf…gotta move on at some point. And I just want to enjoy the game myself, frankly.]
NFL Playoff Quiz: Who are the only four to appear in 29 or more playoff games? [Requires some thought. One is a Hall of Famer.] Answer below.
--Buffalo handled Lamar Jackson, and the best kicker in NFL history Justin Tucker shockingly missed two field goals early, the Bills won in windy Buffalo 17-3 last night.
Jackson, before he was knocked out with a concussion, was 14/24, 162, 0-1, 61.5, with just 34 yards rushing on nine carries…the interception the first of his entire NFL career in the red zone, run back for a 101-yard record pick six by Taron Johnson. It also didn’t help Ravens center Patrick Mekari was sailing shotgun snaps all night, which proved costly when early in the fourth, Jackson chased one down, threw the ball away, and had his head bounced off the turf, exit Lamar, thus ending any hopes of a dramatic comeback.
Josh Allen did just enough from his end, throwing for 206 yards and no turnovers, Stefon Diggs catching eight for 106 and the other Bills touchdown.
So the Bills are returning to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994, back when they were a team that made reaching but losing Super Bowls a nasty habit.
It was good to see a crowd of 6,772 fans at Bills Stadium.
--Early Saturday evening, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay had their way on offense against Los Angeles and the best defense in the league, 32-18, as the Packers outgained the Rams 484-244, Rodgers 23/36, 296, 2-0, 108.1. Green Bay added 188 yards on the ground, led by Aaron Jones’ 99 and a touchdown.
Rodgers, who will be named the NFL MVP for the season, was in complete control, thanks in no small part to yeoman’s work by his offensive line, who he said after “were the stars of the game tonight. They dominated.”
For the Rams, Jared Goff got the nod at quarterback and he wasn’t bad…21/27, 174, 1-0, 105.9, making some great throws, and Cam Akers ran for 90 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown, but the Rams, after cutting it to 25-18 end of the third, simply had no answers for Rodgers and Co., Allen Lazard the recipient of a 58-yard touchdown strike from Rodgers to close it out.
What L.A. fans can take away from the game is that Goff showed he might still be the starter next season, with the Rams organization needing to do some real soul-searching. John Wolford proved he is a capable backup, but do they draft a QB early? They can’t just trade Goff, easily, given his huge contract.
Meanwhile, as we await the New Orleans-Tampa Bay game to see who the Packers will host next Sunday, the early weather forecast for Green Bay is absolutely delicious. Snowy and in the 20s. And depending on the timing of the weather system, potentially very snowy. Just the way we like it!
--Then this afternoon, what a game…Chiefs 22, Browns 17…it had everything. I have to start out with K.C., 16-3, but Browns driving near the end of the first half, Mayfield to Rashard Higgins, who fumbles it before hitting the pylon, the ball then going out of the endzone, touchback.
As CBS went to commercial, they showed the hit on Higgins and clearly Sorensen hit him, helmet-to-helmet. Tony Romo and Jim Nantz said nothing.
Dr. Bortrum calls me immediately and questions the non-call, and I tell him, I couldn’t remember the difference between the college game and the NFL, but in college, that’s like a 5-minute review whether to kick Sorensen out of the game!
So what I forgot, as they then came out of commercial, and Nantz and Romo admitted they missed it, that this was non-reviewable in the NFL. Which is f’n outrageous…and will be changed in the offseason. Count on it. And I liked Bill Cowher’s comment that it shouldn’t be ball K.C., but place it on the 20, Cleveland ball.
Anyway, the Chiefs quickly marched down for a field goal, and instead of 16-10 at the half, it was 19-3.
But Cleveland in the second half remembered they had a running game, and Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 89 yards in the half and Cleveland came back, cutting it to 22-17, as Patrick Mahomes went out with a concussion on a clean hit, Chad Henne replacing him.
And Henne delivered…and all are in agreement, coach Andy Reid is The Man, The Man For All Seasons…Loveable Andy Reid. Wish he was f’n President of the United States.
All Reid did was on a fourth-and-one, in K.C. territory, after a terrific scramble by Henne had just fallen short of the first, Reid let Henne pass it, rather than punting and pinning Cleveland down deep, and Henne completed the short pass to Tyreek Hill for the first, game over.
So now we await the reports on Monday and Tuesday as to Mahomes’ condition, and no doubt the Chiefs will play it as close to the vest for as long as they can to keep the Buffalo Bills guessing.
The early weather forecast for next Sunday is cold, damp, rain/snow….super! But football fans hope Mahomes is on the field.
As for Cleveland, they played heroically in their own right. This season has been a total shitshow, but the Browns performed and the future is good.
--The Jets are being universally praised for their selection of 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh on Thursday, reportedly to a five-year deal.
Saleh is coming off a four-year tenure with San Francisco, where he was highly successful, and step one will be reworking the Jet’ defense.
And then you have the elephant in the room…what to do with quarterback Sam Darnold and thus the No. 2 pick in April’s draft. But that’s for Saleh and GM Joe Douglas to decide over the coming weeks, and months.
Steve Serby / New York Post
“There is too much to like about Robert Saleh to obsess over the fact he has never been a head coach in the NFL.
“What the Jets needed, more than anything, was a leader of men, and anyone who has coached with him or played for him, most recently during his time as 49ers defensive coordinator, will vouch for that.
“Think of it this way: he is the anti-Adam Gase.
“Saleh will be more Joe Judge than Gase in this regard: he can command a room, and be the football CEO the Jets crave.
‘He will infuse the entire building with belief and hope, a chip off the old Pete Carroll block from his time in Seattle with him.”
It’s about finally building a culture. Saleh will do that. This fan is psyched.
--As expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars have hired Urban Meyer to be their next head coach, Meyer thus becoming an NFL head coach for the first time at age 56. He spent 17 super successful seasons in the college ranks at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State, winning two national titles at Florida and one at Ohio State.
He stepped aside at Ohio State in December 2018, citing health concerns, among other issues, as he headed into what was supposed to be a retirement from coaching.
“I believe I will not coach again,” Meyer said then.
The Jaguars must hope that Meyer’s jump from the college coaching ranks to the NFL will be more like that of Pete Carroll, a Super Bowl winner with the Seahawks, after winning one national title and splitting another in college at USC. Jacksonville doesn’t want Meyer to follow in the footsteps of Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban and Chip Kelly.
Meyer’s arrival in Jacksonville raises the issue of whether the Jaguars might opt for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, rather than Trevor Lawrence at No. 1.
--Scores of games have been canceled as the season plows ahead to what is hopefully still a legitimate conclusion in Indianapolis.
In games played Saturday of note:
2 Baylor (12-0) beat 15 Texas Tech 68-60.
7 Michigan (11-1, 6-1) suffered its first loss at 23 Minnesota (11-4, 4-4) 75-57.
8 Creighton (10-3, 6-2) had a bad road loss at Butler (4-7, 2-5) 70-66.
18 Virginia (9-2, 5-0) whipped 12 Clemson (9-2, 3-2) 85-50, as the Cavs shot a sizzling 34-of-56 from the field (60.7%); 15-of-27 from three.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Gonzaga kept rolling, beat Saint Mary’s (9-5, 0-3) on the road, 73-59, the Zags now 14-0, 5-0.
This afternoon, 5 Iowa improved to 12-2, 6-1, with an easy 96-73 win over Northwestern (6-6, 3-5).
But we’ll have a shakeup in the Top 25 with Monday’s poll.
--In a startling blockbuster trade, the Rockets sent James Harden to the Nets in a four-team deal that also involved the Cavaliers and Pacers. It wasn’t startling that Harden was traded, rather what Houston received in return.
The Nets sent Houston a package that included multiple players and draft picks and features guard Caris LeVert, who was then traded to the Pacers for Victor Oladipo.
Center Jarret Allen and forward Taurean Prince head from the Nets to the Cavs, and other lesser players were involved.
But the big item was Houston receiving Brooklyn’s three unprotected first-round picks – in 2022, 2024 and 2026 – plus pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027. The Rockets also get Cleveland’s 2022 first-round pick, via the Bucks, and Houston sends a 2023 second-round pick to the Pacers.
This is nuts for Brooklyn, but they are obviously going all in…this season…pairing Harden with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
And just as a dispassionate fan of the sport, and not necessarily of the Nets, Brooklyn should not have traded center Jarrett Allen.
The “NBA on TNT” crew blasted the trade. Shaquille O’Neal immediately went off on Harden, saying that the guard didn’t tell the truth when he said he gave the city of Houston all he had. Shaq then broke down all the things the organization did for Harden to try to give him a championship team and then Shaq broke down the bad games Harden had when seasons were on the line.
And he finished all of that by saying that Harden and the Nets have to win a championship this season or the year will be a bust.
The issue was how the heck do ball-hogs Harden and Irving share it?
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“Well, it’s a pretty simple equation for the Nets now. There is only one end result that can possibly justify what they did Wednesday afternoon.
“They must win an NBA championship.
“They must conduct a parade route that will start at Barclays Center, where Atlantic meets Flatbush, climaxes with a rally in the wide plaza of Boro Hall, bathed in ticker tape, the Brooklyn Bridge proudly overseeing the whole festivity…
“Otherwise, the deal Sean Marks made Wednesday will go down as the most ludicrous swap in the history of sports. Marks is bringing James Harden to Brooklyn, teaming him with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, whenever Irving decides to go back to work.
“That will be some eye-popping basketball on a lot of nights….
“But there is only acceptable result now…
“Taking the Bucks to seven games in an epic Eastern final won’t be enough. Falling to the Lakers in a memorable Finals? Nope. The Nets aren’t just all-in for the next 2-3 years, they are all in for the rest of the decade. Their viability exists in the here and now, defined by a simple equation;
“Parade or no parade?....
“Maybe the only other transaction that belongs in the same sentence as this was the Oct. 12, 1989 trade that sent running back Herschel Walker from Dallas to Minnesota in exchange for eight future Vikings draft picks. The Cowboys ultimately won two Super Bowls. The Vikings went 21-21 with Walker.
“Next to this, that will look like Brock-for-Broglio unless the Nets win a title….
“Only one thing is certain:
“No team in the history of sports has ever been required to win a championship to justify their existence. Until now. Until these Nets. From this point forward, there is only one permissible end result: Barclays to Borough Hall, the O’Brien Trophy in tow.
“Anything else will be unacceptable. No, actually: it’s more than that:
“Anything else will be abject failure.”
It’s going to be all about the Harden-Irving dynamic.
Oh, and the Nets have a rookie coach…Steve Nash. [Though former Houston coach Mike D’Antoni is his assistant, and that’s important, because Harden generally played well under him.]
Well, Saturday night Harden made his debut, playing alongside Durant, but with Irving still absent, and it was rather glorious. As the Nets beat Orlando at Barclays Center 122-115, Harden shared the ball and ended up with 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds, becoming the first player in NBA history with a 30-point triple-double in his debut with a team.
And Durant had 42 seemingly effortless points, 5-for-8 from three. “Man it was incredible,” Durant said of Harden. “You could see him trying to figure out the best way to play.”
But as for the absent Irving, Charles Barkley said of the guy: “It’s time for Kyrie to grow up and be a great player. When you become a professional and you’re making $30 (to) $40 million dollars a year, you are held to different standards than most people. He has to show up to work. …It’s time for Kyrie to grow up and be a great player, not just a talented player – be a great player and be professional.”
The NBA fined Irving $50,000, and he will also forfeit $816,889 for the two games he was out during a league-imposed five-day quarantine for violating the league’s health and safety protocols.
Social media videos surfaced showing a maskless Irving dancing and standing next to his sister while she blew out candles at her birthday party. The league’s health and safety protocols prohibit players from going to bars, clubs, lounges and gatherings of 15 or more people.
Lastly, Caris LeVert, now with Indiana, is out indefinitely after an MRI revealed a small mass on his left kidney, the team announced. The mass was found during a physical prior to the Pacers finalizing the trade to acquire LeVert. He will undergo further tests.
LeVert said in a statement: “On behalf of my family and myself, we want to thank the Indiana Pacers for their support and guidance.”
LeVert is a good character guy, aside from being a big talent, and hopefully this issue can be resolved fairly quickly.
For now, the Nets are sending the Pacers a 2024 second-round pick and cash, as further compensation following the diagnosis.
--Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.
The diagnosis is especially hard for Towns, as his mother died at 59 on April 13 of complications from coronavirus, and Towns said before the season began that six other family members have also died from the virus.
Towns said he “will immediately isolate and follow every protocol. I pray every day that this nightmare of a virus will subside and I beg everyone to continue to take it seriously by taking all the necessary precautions. …
“It breaks my heart that my family, and particularly my father and sister continue to suffer from the anxiety that comes along with this diagnosis as we know all too well what the end result could be.”
Minnesota’s game with Memphis for Friday was postponed because of contact tracing in the T’Wolves organization.
As I go to post, Minnesota is scheduled to play Atlanta tomorrow afternoon for MLK Day.
--Nice win by the Knicks today in Boston, 105-75, to break a 5-game losing streak, now 6-8, the Celts 8-4. Rookie Immanuel Quickley had 17 points in 21 minutes off the bench and he is looking like an outstanding selection at No. 25 in the draft.
--It’s mid-January and we’re still looking at spring training opening in a month, though there are lots of questions.
But with the pandemic clearly going to be with us for months longer, though hopefully at a drastically reduced rate come, say, April, MLB has to plan on further havoc with their scheduling, so it is proposing the return of seven-inning doubleheaders and extra-inning games beginning with a runner on second base.
MLB and the Players Association are in the midst of on-going negotiations, but as USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reports, the players actually liked some of the rules changes so the two above will likely be approved.
“Change is abundant now,” Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin said last month, “in every walk of life. And if you don’t embrace it, you get stuck in the mud.”
But on the issues of the universal DH or an expanded postseason with the rosters remaining at 26 players, the two sides still have not agreed on which direction to take.
MLB has proposed implementing a universal DH in exchange for an expanded postseason – which would generate additional revenue with the extra round of playoffs televised by ESPN – but Nightengale reports the two sides are stuck.
The owners are OK with the universal DH but must get the expanded playoffs in return (14 teams – two fewer than a year ago but four more than their format since 2012, with the best record in each league receiving a first-round bye).
Regardless, the universal DH will be here to stay come the new collective bargaining agreement, starting in 2022.
Mets president Sandy Alderson said recently, “Both from a Mets standpoint and from a general baseball standpoint, having a DH in the National League is a good thing. The fact is, pitchers can’t even bunt anymore. So I’m in favor of putting a hitter in that additional slot. Ultimately it makes the game more exciting. More offense, or more opportunity for offense, a bigger challenge for the pitchers.”
Agent Scott Boras, whose opinion has to be taken into consideration whether the owners like it or not due to his clout, said a 16-team playoff is better because teams go stale with a bye. He has an interesting idea, that in a first-round best of three, the team with the best record in each league just needs to win one of the three, not two; a greater reward rather than simply playing the lowest-seeded team.
For now, let’s just pray we’re seeing a semi-normal spring training.
--The Yankees are signing two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a one-year, $11 million deal, pending a physical. This is a smart move, especially if you have the money.
Kluber suffered a tear in his right shoulder muscle just 18 pitches into his only start for Texas in 2020, his first start since suffering a broken right forearm when he was hit by a line drive on May 1, 2019. Texas then declined to pick up his $18 million option for 2021 after the season.
In his first nine seasons with Cleveland, Kluber was often dominant, going 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA, while throwing at least 200 innings for five consecutive season. He won his first Cy Young in 2014, and added No. 2 in 2017.
At age 34, this is a good gamble for New York.
But the bigger news for Yankees fans was the re-signing of star DJ LeMahieu to a six-year deal for $90 million.
LeMahieu, 32, had been with the Yankees on a two-year, $24 million flier, and after a super 2019, where he hit .327 with 102 RBIs, finishing fourth in the MVP vote, DJ batted .364 in the shortened 2020 season, winning the battle title.
So some are wondering why he only signed for $15 million per when he was certainly entitled, as a free agent, to far more.
But LeMahieu wanted the guarantee of $90 million over six years, and he wanted to stay in New York, so who can blame him.
So with the Mets trading for superstar Francisco Lindor, and new owner Steve Cohen making an early mark, all the more reason why New York area baseball fans pray for an almost normal season, because it’s going to be a lot of fun.
--With the time difference, gotta move on and I’m posting before the conclusion of the Sony Open at Waialae. Good story involving Brendan Steele, covered next time.
--The tournament not only saw 47-year-old Stewart Cink perform solidly, but some golden oldies also made the cut…50-year-olds K.J. Choi, Jim Furyk, and Mike Weir, plus 54-year-old Jerry Kelly.
--Justin Thomas’ reputation has taken a severe hit after he muttered a homophobic slur on missing a putt at last week’s Tournament of Champions, Ralph Lauren ending its sponsorship of J.T. The company has sponsored Thomas since he first turned pro in 2013.
“We are disheartened by Mr. Thomas’ recent language, which is entirely inconsistent with our values,” the company said in a statement. “While we acknowledge that he has apologized and recognizes the severity of his words, he is a paid ambassador of our brand and his actions conflict with the inclusive culture that we strive to uphold.”
I can’t disagree. The Ralph Lauren brand is a wee bit bigger than Justin Thomas.
But the company also said it would reconsider resuming its sponsorship of J.T. in the future if he committed to “learning, growing and ultimately using his platform to promote inclusion.”
And this, too, is the right stance.
--Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, who won the 2009 Masters and the 2007 U.S. Open, was arrested on Thursday in Brazil and faces extradition to his native Argentina. [As Johnny Mac said, you know you’re in trouble when you’re being extradited between these two.]
Cabrera was taken in by Brazil’s federal police for extradition to his homeland to face charges for multiple crimes dating back to 2016. He has been on Interpol’s red code list.
The AP report says that “officials in Argentina have charged the suspect with assault, theft, illegal intimidation and repeated disrespect to authorities.”
Media outlets in Argentina had reported earlier this month that Cabrera’s ex-wife and former girlfriend have accused him of rather atrocious behavior, including threats to kill them.
--Some biggies today…as the league struggles with Covid.
Liverpool and Manchester United played to a 0-0 draw, extending the Reds’ winless streak to a startling four games, Man U remaining on top of the table.
Surging Manchester City is now second with a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace.
And my Tottenham Spurs stayed relevant, 3-1 over Sheffield.
--So the standings….Played – Points
1. Man U …18 – 37
2. Man City …17 – 35
3. Leicester City …18 – 35
4. Liverpool …18 – 34 …Champions League line
5. Tottenham …18 – 33
6. Everton …17 – 32
7. Chelsea …18 – 29
8. Southampton …18 – 29
9. West Ham …18 – 29
10. Aston Villa …15 – 26 …it is going to be increasingly difficult to make up the matches as the season goes on…some of the opponents aren’t going to be happy. Major decisions to make for PL officials.
--The NHL season is underway and talk about a wild opening, the Rangers looked dismal in losing their opener to the Islanders, 4-0, but then last night returned the favor, blitzing the Isles 5-0.
Again, you’re looking at 8-team divisions (7 in the Canadian division), each team playing each other 8 times through early May, so lots of two-game series to limit the Covid travel risk.
--Talk about carrying out a season amid a pandemic, you have the World Cup Ski season. This weekend the men had all kinds of issues. In the span of three days, scheduled competition in Wengen, Switzerland was moved to Kitzbuhel, Austria, but because of Covid issues there, it was then quickly moved to Flachau, Austria.
The women held two giant slalom races at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia this weekend, with Marta Bassino of Italy winning both, and Mikaela Shiffrin finishing sixth in each. [Marta has that ‘girl next door’ look…just sayin’…]
But earlier in the week, Shiffrin won her 68th Cup race, now just 14 behind all-time leader Lindsey Vonn, in taking a race at Flachau.
It was Shiffrin’s second win of the season after her return from personal tragedy, and 100th podium finish, as well as 44th slalom win.
--Forty-seven tennis players were forced into two weeks of hotel quarantine in Melbourne, Australia after three coronavirus infections were reported on two chartered flights carrying them to the year’s first grand slam, tournament organizers said this week.
Two dozen players who arrived from Los Angeles entered strict hotel quarantine after an aircrew member and Australian Open participant who is not a player tested positive.
Later, another non-player passenger on a flight from Abu Dhabi tested positive, prompting the organizers to usher 23 players into hotel quarantine.
All the players have to stay in the hotel for 14 days and are not able to practice.
Australia has agreed to accept about 1,200 players, officials and staff on 15 flights for the event that is due to begin next month.
American Madison Keys pulled out last week after she tested positive.
--As the New York Times’ Matthew Futterman reported, plans for the Tokyo Olympic Games “are growing more uncertain by the day.”
Hell, last year I didn’t see how they could possibly carry out the games this coming summer because, for starters, it’s not like Africa is going to be vaccinating this spring on any wide scale. Plus the virus has been running through Japan itself the last few weeks, with record case and death figures. Holding the Games just doesn’t seem feasible
And the Japanese people are far less supportive of staging the Games in Tokyo than they were in the past. A survey conducted this month by Japanese broadcaster NHK found that nearly 80 percent of respondents believed the Games should be postponed again or canceled entirely. In October, less than half of respondents said that. The figure rose to 71 percent in December.
Thomas Bach, the president of the I.O.C., has said that postponing the Games again is not an option, and that if the event cannot take place this summer, it will not happen at all.
Obviously, some big decisions need to be made sooner than later.
--Klete Keller, a two-time U.S. Olympic swimming gold medalist, was charged for participating in last week’s riots at the Capitol, Jan. 6. Keller faces 3 federal changes for obstructing law enforcement, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds.
Into the December file goes Keller, “Dirtball” category.
--A Mickey Mantle baseball card has shattered a 5-month-old record for highest-selling sports card of all time, going for $5.2 million, PWCC Marketplace announced on Thursday.
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 9 – PSA is a grading system that ranges from 1-10 – took the record from a one-of-one Mike Trout rookie card that sold for $3.94 million in August. It’s believed that there are only six PSA 9s of the Mantle card still in existence.
Rob Gough, the actor who acquired streetwear brand Dope in 2017, purchased the ’52 Mantle.
“The 1952 Topps Mantle is the holy grail of sports cards,” Gough said. “As a kid ripping packs in the ‘90s, I always dreamt of owning one. …I felt this Mantle was highly underpriced.”
There has been a true surge in big-money sports memorabilia sales, with eight cards having now sold for $900,000 or more, with six of those sales in the last 12 months.
And get this, there are three known PSA 10 Mantles in existence, which are valued at more than $10 million each. [Dan Hajducky / ESPN.com]
--A vintage issue of “Batman #1” was bought for more than $2.2 million, breaking the record for the priciest Batman comic book ever sold.
The high-grade 1940 issue, scripted by Bill Finger and illustrated by Bob Kane, was sold at Heritage Auctions: Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction.
“Batman #1” wasn’t the first comic to feature the Caped Crusader – that honor goes to “Detective Comic #27” from the prior year (which coincidentally held the previous record for most expensive Batman comic ever sold for when it went for $1.5 million in November).
The high price can be attributed to the landmark story’s 9.4 CGC designation, meaning that it is one of the rare high-quality holdovers – with white pages – from the Golden Age of comics.
Prior to the record sale, the copy was owned by collector Billy T. Gates, who bought the comic in 1979 at a comic store in Houston, Texas for $3,000. When he died in 2019, he passed the item along to his son.
--Phil Spector died yesterday of natural causes, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He was 81. Spector was serving a prison sentence for murder, specifically the February 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, who was found dead at his castle in Alhambra, California with a bullet wound to her head.
Spector claimed the shooting happened when Clarkson “kissed the gun” – but his trial heard from four women who claimed Spector had threatened them with guns in the past when they had spurned his advances.
Following an initial mistrial, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder and given a sentence of 19 years to life.
But at times like these, and with Spector’s tumultuous life, you try to remember his musical brilliance. The Bronx native was behind hits by the Ronettes, the Beatles, Righteous Brothers…countless others, and he had a major influence on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie.
Spector’s Wall of Sound, his personal formula for music production, changed the sound and the industry forever, making him one of the most influential figures in music history.
Among his producing credits are The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” George Harrison’s “Concert for Bangladesh,” Leonard Cohen’s “Death of a Ladies’ Man” and The Ramones’ “End of the Century.”
Spector was known for his manic behavior and his fondness of gunplay, laid bare in the murder trial.
But in his prime, Phil Spector was brash, driven and as much a star as the artists he produced. He made the Top 10 14 times between 1958 and 1965, created a signature sonic avalanche in the studio and – record by record – rearranged the landscape of popular music.
As Alex Wigglesworth and Richard Cromelin write in the Los Angeles Times:
“In the studio, Spector awoke pop music from its early-1960s doldrums and crafted a sound that would influence record-making for generations…
“Though Spector appeared to be out of steam when his first hit era ended in 1966, he returned from seclusion in 1970 to collaborate with the Beatles, producing solo works by John Lennon and George Harrison and reassembling the music that became the group’s ‘Let It Be’ album.
“ ‘Nobody, it’s fair to say, ever wrought deeper changes in the way the rock industry looked, felt, behaved…. To come out of a vacuum and force such changes at such speed, with such totality – even now it’s hard to conceive the force and self-belief it must have taken,’ author Nik Cohn wrote after spending time with Spector in 1969.
“Spector was praised by friends for his wit, passion and intelligence, but he was also identified early as a complex and troubled man. In an interview with journalist Mick Brown less than two months before Clarkson’s slaying, Spector talked about psychological struggles, saying that he was taking medication for schizophrenia and characterized himself as bipolar. He said he had ‘devils’ inside him.”
Spector was born in the Bronx, and his father, an ironworker, committed suicide when Phil was 9. Three years later his mother moved to an apartment in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District.
After graduating from Fairfax High, Spector, who was a natural musician and played numerous instruments, continued to work on music while he studied to be a court reporter at Los Angeles City College.
He ended up at a small recording studio, Gold Star, at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood, paying the owners to record an original song with some Fairfax friends and a younger member of their circle, singer Annette Kleinbard.
The group, the Teddy Bears, hooked up with a small label Dore Records and recorded “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” an atmospheric ballad written by Spector. He took the title from the inscription on his father’s grave: “To Know Him Was to Love Him.”
The Teddy Bears quickly faded away, but Spector, determined to focus on producing, signed with the respected record business veteran Lester Sill, who sent him to New York.
There, Spector forged important alliances with such figures as Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun, publishing kingpin Don Kirschner and many of the songwriters who would later supply him with hit material, including the teams of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.
Spector produced three Top 10 hits – including Gene Pitney’s “Every Breath I Take” – and in 1961 he and Sill founded Phillies Records.
Their first signing was the Crystals. “He’s A Rebel,” Spector’s first No. 1 record with Phillies, was credited to the Crystals, though the singers were actually an L.A. session trio known as the Blossoms.
It was during 1962 that Spector honed his Wall of Sound methodology. Up to half a dozen guitars strummed chords in unison, two, sometimes three pianos. “In the small Gold Star studio, the instruments bled together, the texture so thick that the horn and string arrangements were almost subliminal, absorbed into the great sonic mass.” [Alex Wigglesworth and Richard Cromelin]
Spector fostered a group of musicians that became known as the Wrecking Crew, and among the regulars was Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Sonny Bono and Oscar-winning arranger Jack Nitzsche.
“A driven, demanding perfectionist, Spector presided over sessions that were part party, part endurance test, part psychodrama. He would take the tapes home and labor on the mixing process for weeks.”
The record often regarded as Spector’s first masterwork was 1963’s “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes (which Brian Wilson has called the most perfect rock song ever), a New York trio whose lead singer, Veronica Bennett (later known as Ronnie Spector), utterly fascinated the producer. Spector became the hottest name in music and he loved the celebrity, hobnobbing with the Beatles and the Stones in London, surrounding himself with bodyguards, dressing flamboyantly.
1964 was kind of a dry year, then Spector came roaring back with an Orange County duo called the Righteous Brothers. Their epic lament “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” reached No. 1 in early 1965 and eventually was proclaimed the most played song in the history of radio.
The Righteous Brothers had three more big hits and then Spector subjected singer Tina Turner to his most ornate and tempestuous production, “River Deep – Mountain High”, in which she responds with a fierce, frenzied performance. But as creative as the song was, it stalled at No. 86 on the U.S. chart and Spector walked away. Phillies became inactive and its owner retreated to his Spanish-style mansion in Beverly Hills.
Spector finally returned to music and produced John Lennon’s 1970 single “Instant Karma,” then stepped in to salvage the music the Beatles had recorded for their final album. His lush orchestration on “The Long and Winding Road” was a polarizing arrangement. McCartney hated it and the reviews were mixed, but the song was a No. 1 single, and the album, “Let It Be,” also topped the charts.
And so we jump ahead. Spector’s second trial in the Clarkson death ended with his conviction and on May 30, 2009, he received a mandatory life sentence, with eligibility for parole in 2028. He was 69 at the time.
Spector knew that a bad ending can overshadow a revolutionary body of work. In an interview in the early 1990s, he said, “I don’t want to be Elvis, or Lenny Bruce (the legendary comic who was a good friend). Do you think people will remember their genius or the way they died on the bathroom floors?”
--Finally, Happy 99th Birthday to the great Betty White…a true national treasure.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/1/64 (jumping back, and a little forward, to not repeat a lot of tunes from 12/28/63): #1 “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (The Beatles…their Feb. 9 debut on Ed Sullivan fast approaching) #2 “You Don’t Own Me” (Lesley Gore) #3 “Out Of Limits” (The Marketts)…and…#4 “Surfin’ Bird” (The Trashmen) #5 “Hey Little Cobra” (The Rip Chords) #6 “Louie Louie” (The Kingsmen) #7 “There! I’ve Said It Again” (Bobby Vinton) #8 “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” (Major Lance) #9 “Anyone Who Had A Heart” (Dionne Warwick) #10 “For You” (Ricky Nelson…B week…)
NFL Playoff Quiz Answer: 29 or more playoff games.
Tom Brady…43rd today
Adam Vinatieri 32
Stephen Gostkowski 29
Jerry Rice 29
Next Bar Chat, Tuesday p.m.