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Stumbling to March Madness
[Posted Sun. p.m., prior to Harry and Meghan…cough cough…]
MLB Quiz: Name the eight active pitchers with 150 or more wins lifetime. Answer below.
--As Laine Higgins noted in the Wall Street Journal this weekend:
“The 2020-21 men’s college basketball season never stopped being weird….
“(The) regular season is wrapping up this weekend and it’s finally clear that it’s been a season of epic disruption. Of the 5,000-some games slated for this winter, over 20% did not happen on their intended date, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. About half of those, or a total of 9.7%, were canceled altogether.
“Now that’s it’s March, however, there’s little flexibility left. The tipoffs for bracket-style conference championships and the NCAA tournament are set in stone, meaning that there’s no more time for teams with outbreaks to go on pause and self-isolate. Postponements and cancellations are about to be replaced by forfeits….
“Once the tournament gets under way, coronavirus outbreaks can eliminate teams: if a team lacks enough healthy players, its opponent automatically moves onto the next round.”
This coming week is conference tournament time for all the big boys and every athletic director, coach, players and the fans, at least of those expecting a bid on Selection Sunday, are keeping their fingers crossed. Just stay healthy.
Look at Baylor. Nine players tested positive for Covid in February. The quarantined Bears then went 21 days without playing.
As the Journal points out, not a single league had all of its members play the same number of contests. At the same time, a lot of teams need to decide whether it is worth playing in the conference tournament or just taking an at-large bid. After all, remember, teams just needed to play 13 games to be eligible.
No. 1 Gonzaga was considering not playing in their conference championship in order to avoid another road trip and another potential chance at being exposed to Covid, though the Zags opted to head to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference Championship.
But as Jay Bilas said, of all teams: “If they don’t play (in the conference tournament), the competitive integrity of the event is at risk. And also the integrity of their automatic bid is at risk. That’s not a reasonable way to go about this.”
--14 Creighton suspended coach Greg McDermott indefinitely over racially insensitive remarks he made last weekend.
McDermott responded on Twitter Thursday to the suspension: “I made a mistake and I own it. Mistakes come with consequences, and I accept and agree with the suspension.”
Tuesday, McDermott apologized for making “a terribly inappropriate analogy.”
“Specifically, I said: ‘Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation.’”
McDermott coached in Creighton’s 72-60 loss to 10 Villanova on Wednesday night. Saturday, the Bluejays beat Butler 93-73 with assistant coach Al Huss in charge.
I don’t see how McDermott survives.
In the Villanova game, the Wildcats lost starting guard Collin Gillespie to a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, a huge blow. The senior was averaging 14 points a game, along with 4.6 assists.
As Villanova coach Jay Wright said, “We are all devasted for Collin. He is the heart and soul of our program. We know we can’t replace him. We all just want to step up and play so that we honor him.”
‘Nova (16-5, 11-4) then lost Saturday to Providence (13-12, 9-10), 54-52. And lost guard Justin Moore to a “pretty severe” sprained ankle, in Jay Wright’s words.
--In other key games Saturday, 4 Illinois wrapped up a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament with a 73-68 win over 7 Ohio State (18-8, 12-8), the Illini 20-6, 16-4.
17 Oklahoma State (18-7, 11-7) handed 6 West Virginia (18-8, 11-6) a big defeat in Morgantown, 85-80, the Mountaineers needing this for any shot at a 2-seed (just my guess).
Notre Dame (10-14, 7-11) upset 11 Florida State (15-5, 11-4).
North Carolina (16-9, 10-6) whipped Duke 91-73, dropping the Blue Devils to 11-11, 9-9. Chants of “N-I-T” emanated from the student section at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill. So unless Duke makes it to the ACC championship final next week, their 24-year run of appearing in the NCAAs is over.
In two huge games involving locals, NCAA bids clearly on the line, Rutgers has punched its ticket to the Big Dance with a 77-70 overtime road win at Minnesota (13-14, 6-14). I tuned in with six minutes to go and the Scarlet Knights (14-10, 10-10) up ten, 61-51, and then Rutgers was absolutely atrocious in blowing the lead. If Minnesota didn’t also suck, Rutgers’ season is over.
If you’re wondering why 14-10, 10-10, is good enough for the NCAAs, Rutgers is nonetheless seventh in the Big Ten (which is really the Big Thirteen and Nebraska), the preeminent conference by far this year.
Then we had St. John’s (16-10, 10-9) beating Seton Hall (13-12, 10-9) 81-71, this after The Hall had raced off to an 18-0 lead to start the game! Just a horrible season for the Pirates, who had a bid locked up weeks ago, only to lose their last four. As for the Johnnies, it is doubtful they receive one.
Granted, for both, a run to the Big East tourney finals could change everything.
Meanwhile, in the Patriot League tournament, Colgate is 12-1 after beating Boston University (7-11) in the quarterfinals. Next up, Bucknell.
Tourney fave Navy (15-3, 12-1) was upset by Loyola (Md.) 76-68. The “Greyhounds” (I had no clue what their nickname was) are just 5-10, 4-10. Bad job, Midshipmen. Bobby C., you can’t be happy.
--Morehead State (23-7, 17-3) punched its ticket into the Big Dance Saturday night with an 86-71 win over Belmont (26-4, 18-2) in the Ohio Valley Conference championship. I watched the second half of this one and, yes, the Eagles of Morehead State are a real sleeper in the NCAA tournament. Actually, they deserve a pretty good seed, like maybe an 11.
But Joe Lunardi has them as a 14! This would be a national travesty! Storm ESPN headquarters!
[Belmont, despite the gaudy record, goes hungry and that’s unfortunate, but they looked awful when it really counted.]
--Today, we had more biggies…
5 Iowa (20-7, 14-6) should be a 2-seed after a 77-73 win over 25 Wisconsin (16-11, 10-10), Luka Garza with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
9 Houston (21-3, 14-3) beat Memphis (15-7, 11-4) 67-64. I don’t think I’ve seen a second of the Cougars this year.
3 Baylor (21-1, 13-1) beat 18 Texas Tech (17-9, 9-8) 88-73.
But Michigan State (15-11, 9-11) upset 2 Michigan (19-3, 14-3) 70-64. Michigan had beaten MSU 69-50 on Thursday.
20 Loyola Chicago (24-4, 16-2) is returning to the tournament after a 75-65 win over Drake (25-4, 15-3) in the Missouri Valley Conference final. Drake is still expected to get a bid.
And in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament final, Liberty vs. North Alabama, because the latter beat Stetson in the semis to advance to the championship game, that assured Liberty of gaining the automatic NCAA tournament bid, regardless of today’s result. Why? Because North Alabama is in a four-year Division I transition period and ineligible for the postseason.
Well Liberty (23-5, 11-2) did it on its own…79-75.
Monday’s AP Top 25 poll is huge…the last one before Selection Sunday.
--Lastly, the NCAA has charged Arizona with five Level I rules violation allegations, including two alleged instances of academic misconduct within the men’s basketball program. It’s a lengthy report and frankly bores me, but the allegations are severe, including, according to the NCAA, “intentional violations involving fraudulent academic transcripts, receipt of cash bribes, facilitating a meeting with an aspiring agent, impermissible inducements and recruiting violations all within an 18-month period. The ultimate responsibility for the integrity of the men’s basketball program rested with (head coach Sean) Miller and his staff’s actions reflect on Miller as the head coach.”
All the charges emanate from the federal government’s long-running investigation into bribes and other corruption in college basketball
Miller has been coach of the Wildcats since 2010-11, with a sterling 302-109 record, but no Final Fours.
At the All-Star Break….
1. Philadelphia 24-12
2. Brooklyn 24-13
3. Milwaukee 22-14
4. Boston 19-17…suddenly playing well
5. Knicks 19-18
1. Utah 27-9
2. Phoenix 24-11
3. L.A. Lakers 24-13…but 3-7 last ten
4. L.A. Clippers 24-14…4-6 last ten
5. Portland 21-14
6. Denver 21-15
Philadelphia sent a message Wednesday with a 131-123 overtime win over Utah, Joel Embiid with 40 points and 19 rebounds; Embiid having a monster season thus far, averaging 30.2 points and 11.6 rebounds.
[Embiid and teammate Ben Simmons then had to sit out the All-Star game after coming into contact with a barber who has since tested positive for Covid.]
Knicks fans are ecstatic with our surprising start…BUT…we have a bear of a schedule the rest of the way…starting with the following six games out of the break.
And as part of a six-game road trip in May, we have consecutive games against Denver, Phoenix, the Clippers and Lakers.
As in as a fan, I will be very happy with a 34-38 final record, which would get us into the playoffs. I’m of the school that believes gaining playoff experience for this young team is more valuable than not being in them and moving up a few slots in the Draft.
--The Athletic is reporting there is no chance Major League Baseball and the Players Association will agree to expanded playoffs and a universal DH for this season; discussions on both pushed off to negotiations on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, the current one expiring Dec. 1.
This sucks, I say for selfish reasons, because my Mets are built for the DH this season.
The players are concerned an expanded postseason harms competition, disincentivizing teams from adding talent they would otherwise pursue for a chance to crack a smaller field. The league believes the effect would be the opposite, that the format would encourage teams to upgrade in an effort to claim additional spots.
As for the DH, MLB sees it as a question of fairness in instituting it in the NL at this point, and many teams like the Mets have a roster constructed for it after it was adopted for health and safety reasons last season. The union wants a DH, too, but MLB sought to link the two in a package deal.
Meanwhile, the Dec. 1 deadline is already fast approaching and the two sides hate each other. Enjoy 2021. 2022 could start with a long lockout.
--Yankees fans, and local area followers of the sport, were taken by surprise Wednesday on learning that manager Aaron Boone was in a hospital for surgery to receive a pacemaker and was taking a medical leave of absence. I, like many, didn’t know he had undergone open-heart surgery in 2009 and, in a statement, Boone said he had been experiencing symptoms of lightheadedness, low energy and shortness of breath.
But Boone was back in spring training camp on Saturday! So Yankees fans breathed a sigh of relief. He’s a very good man and hopefully this resolves his issues.
--The early reports from spring training on the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani are basically off the charts. As the L.A. Times’ Dylan Hernandez put it, “What started as a make-or-break spring has morphed into a season of renewed possibilities.
“Two days after walloping a 468-foot home run over the batter’s eye at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Ohtani touched 100 mph with his fastball and struck out five Oakland A’s over 1 2/3 innings Friday in the Angels’ 7-3 spring training win in seven innings at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz.
“Suddenly, the 26-year-old Ohtani resembles the two-way player who dominated Japanese baseball and was the subject of hyperbolic scouting reports.
“He looks like Superman.”
Every baseball fan should hope Ohtani has a terrific season. No one deserves it more than teammate Mike Trout, I hasten to add.
--Milwaukee signed free-agent outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for two years, $24 million, with an opt-out after the first year if he grows tired of Usinger’s Sausages….which I never would, but then I’m not Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley spent eight seasons with the Red Sox. He’s a quality fielder, with lots of highlight reel catches in center and a Gold Glove in 2018, and he has some pop, but he’s also a .239 career hitter.
I’m glad my Mets didn’t sign him for that money as was a potentiality.
--Houston signed free-agent right-hander Jake Odorizzi to a two-year deal, $ figure not known as I write. Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 2019 for Minnesota, but last season was a washout, just four starts due to bruised ribs and a blister. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is 62-56, 3.92, in his big league career.
The Astros, without Justin Verlander in 2021 due to Tommy John surgery, also lost starter Framber Valdez for an indefinite period of time after the left-hander suffered a fractured left ring finger during his spring training debut.
--California is finally progressing on the state’s Covid scale towards being able to allow fans at its ballparks (Disneyland too, finally). Granted, it would be severely limited initially in the case of the Padres, Angels and Dodgers. Oakland and the Giants could bring in up to 20% of capacity from the start.
--Former major league manager Joe Altobelli died. He was 88.
Altobelli led the Orioles to the World Series title in 1983, managing Baltimore 1983-85. He also managed the Giants (1977-79) and the Cubs (1991). Overall he had a career record of 437-407.
He reached the major leagues as a player with the Indians and Twins, getting 257 at-bats and batting .210.
--The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill had the misfortune of being sandwiched between last week’s WGC event and next week’s Players Championship, so No. 1 Dustin Johnson, 2 Jon Rahm, 3 Justin Thomas, 4 Collin Morikawa, and 5 Xander Schauffele took the week off.
But we had an interesting leaderboard heading into today’s final round….
47-year-old Lee Westwood! -11
Bryson DeChambeau -10
Corey Conners -10
Jordan Spieth -9
Keegan Bradley -9
Tommy Fleetwood -8
Westwood’s two PGA Tour titles (never having been a regular) were in 1998 and 2010.
Saturday’s third round was most entertaining, with Spieth acing the par-3 second, and Bison driving (sort of) the par-5 sixth hole. That’s not a typo. The hole for mere mortals requires three shots to the green, winding around a lake, but DeChambeau, with the wind in a favorable direction, attempted a straight-line carry over the water, 340 yards in the air, and he unleashed a 370-yard bomb. It wasn’t exactly on a line with the green, but just right of a bunker not far from it. So we’ll give it to him, and it was exciting. He pitched up and ended up with an easy birdie.
So today, Bryson held on, a one-shot winner over Westwood, who hung in there admirably. It was DeChambeau’s 8th win, and first at Bay Hill. In his post-round interview, Bryson mentioned that Tiger had texted him in the morning, offering his support.
Jordan Spieth finished T4.
On to the Players….unfortunately, we learned today that Brooks Koepka is out due to a knee issue, which is worrisome.
--Early in the week, Nick Faldo quote-tweeted a response to a tweet that noted that Rickie Fowler has yet to qualify for the Masters, writing, “Good news is if he misses the Masters he can shoot another six commercials that week!”
Some thought this was rather mean, but I’ve discussed Rickie’s lack of results in great detail, while he continues to flood the airwaves with his commercials, and both continued this week. Fowler made the cut, but started the final round, last, 72nd.
And that’s where he ended up, last, after going 76-77 on the weekend.
Rickie started out the 2019-20 wraparound season with a T5 and T10. Then came the Covid lockdown. Since play resumed, this week represented his 20th event.
His best finishes in eight tournaments to conclude the 2019-20 season were a T12 and T15, and now in 12 events for 2020-21, he has one T20…that’s it. He’s also missed eight of 20 cuts over the two years.
For a guy with all the juice on Madison Ave., he’s become a total flop, stuck on five wins for his career, one of which was a Players Championship; hardly the success you’d think he was if all you did was see him hawking multiple products.
Rickie Fowler is a great guy. Fans love him, he is good with the press, but at age 32, he’s got to win some.
As Faldo would say later, “I wish Rickie well. I want him to play great, get out there, play to the top of the leaderboard, and that will all be fantastic for all of us.”
But Sir Nick did apologize for “digging in a little too deep.”
That said it was Fowler himself who told Golf Digest last year that he estimates he spends 25-30 days a year shooting commercials.
--Tiger Woods has told authorities he doesn’t remember the rollover crash that left him with metal rods and pins in his leg.
But as Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times notes:
“(The) SUV he was driving does.
“Like other modern cars and trucks, the Genesis GV80 that Woods was driving when he crashed was equipped with an electronic data recorder and other computer hardware meant to serve as a digital witness of sorts – filled with information investigators can use to piece together the seconds before and during the accident.
“The devices are part of a broader array of safety technology built into many newer vehicles. Vehicles in the Genesis line, for example, also feature artificial intelligence software that keeps a watchful eye, sending alerts if it detects the driver is distracted or closes his or her eyes while driving.”
So it wasn’t surprising investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant this week to retrieve the data on the SUV’s computers. It’s important to figure out “what was happening at the time of the impact, and with that more information they attribute the cause of the crash,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
There’s been some mumbling that a toxicology test wasn’t performed, or asked for, in the initial hours (I’m not one of those mumbling), and Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, the first on the scene and the lead crash investigator reiterated Woods was calm and lucid.
But what the heck happened? Like the rest of you are thinking, it’s just strange there were no skid marks or other signs of braking, which is the main reason investigators sought the warrant for the data.
Thankfully there was no death or injury of another person, so the investigation will stay pretty rudimentary, as these things go. But if Woods synched up his cell phone to the vehicle’s infotainment system, “that creates a mini clone of their phone in the car,” expert Amy Amico told the Times.
And now there is a new issue as a local resident has come forward, his name being withheld, who said he got to the crash scene first and Woods was initially unconscious. So it’s raising the question if the sleep medication zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien, was a factor. Woods was on it when he had his Memorial Day 2017 incident in Florida, where he was found asleep at the wheel.
Ambien was undoubtedly also a factor in his single-car crash in Florida in 2009.
So while it is not in dispute that Woods was awake when first responders arrived at the crash scene in the Los Angeles area, whether he was conscious when his vehicle drifted into the median and off the road is an open question.
--Ben Roethlisberger signed a new contract with the Steelers, Pittsburgh having made it clear they weren’t going into the new season with Big Ben’s massive cap hit.
So Roethlisberger, who turned 39 this week, took a $5 million pay cut to $14 million, with all but $1.075 million of it being a signing bonus. A signing bonus can be spread over the lifetime of the contract.
Meaning, according to NFL.com, he technically signed a five-year extension that runs through 2025, but four of those years are voidable (2022-25). So the Steelers can spread out the revised $12.925 million cap hit over five years.
Big Ben will still cost the Steelers $25.91 million in cap space this season, but that’s $15.34 million less than would otherwise have been.
No, I have no idea how cap space is figured out and don’t care, except for the actual numbers.
--Meanwhile, the Jets and Seahawks are “taking calls” on Sam Darnold and Russell Wilson. Wilson has said he would only accept a trade to four specific teams (Bears, Raiders, Saints and Cowboys). Wilson has said he finds Chicago an “intriguing market.”
But from a cap standpoint, it would be best for Seattle to wait until after June 1.
--The NFL and its media partners, including Amazon.com, are on the verge of signing new rights deals, that could see Amazon carry many games exclusively and TV networks pay as much as double their current rate, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint.
The new agreements could be in place as early as next week and would include the league’s Sunday and Monday franchises with Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN, running as long as 11 years.
A deal with Amazon would result in a significant number of Thursday night games exclusively on its Prime Video platform. Those games wouldn’t be available on traditional television outside of the local markets of the two teams playing, sources told Flint.
If completed, an Amazon deal wouldn’t take effect until after the 2022 season, when Fox’s current pact for Thursday night football expires. The networks have lost money on Thursday night games, despite the strong ratings compared with other programming.
--Tom Brady’s rookie card sold for a record $1.32 million on PWCC Marketplace. The card is a 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady, which there are only 100 of in the world. James Parker, a long-time Brady fan, was the purchaser of the card.
The card is believed to be the highest sale for a football card, beating Patrick Mahomes’ record at $861,000 which sold early in February.
--What a messed up story involving Kansas head football coach Les Miles, who was placed on administrative leave Friday night following two days of damning reports about his behavior with female students during his time at LSU. Kansas athletic director Jeff Long said the school will do a “full review.”
LSU “chronicled significant alleged misconduct” by Miles from 2009 on, according to a report released the other day by Husch Blackwell, an outside law firm the school hired to review its handling of sexual misconduct cases. That included Miles’ attempts to sexualize the staff of students working for the LSU football team in 2012, allegedly demanding he wanted “blondes with big boobs” and “pretty girls.”
But that was just the first report the school released. Then another investigation by a different law firm, Taylor Porter, going back to 2013 that was devoted solely to Miles’ conduct, was released and back then LSU issued a letter of reprimand. Then-athletic director Joe Alleva barred Miles from being alone with student workers, the Taylor Porter report said, and Husch Blackwell found Alleva was so concerned he urged LSU to fire Miles in 2013.
Miles remained at LSU until 2016, when he was dismissed after a 2-2 start. Kansas spokesman Dan Beckler said last week that the school was unaware of the allegations against Miles at LSU when he was hired in 2018.
Miles is 3-18 in two seasons, including a winless record in 2020. He is due to be paid less than $8.3 million on a contract that runs through Dec. 31, 2023. But a clause in his contracts allows Kansas to terminate him for “any conduct, which in Athletics’ or KU’s judgment brings Head Coach and/or KU into public disrepute, embarrassment, contempt or ridicule.”
Miles had a run of terrific success at LSU, going 114-34, with a national title in 2007 and a loss in the title game in 2011.
But as for Kansas, after going 12-1 in 2007, with a win in the Orange Bowl, Jayhawks football has been atrocious, not winning more than three games in a season since 2010.
The thing is, the Taylor Porter report concludes he didn’t attempt to kiss a woman who has come forward, at least so his attorneys claim, and thus “warranted no discipline.”
But as USA TODAY reported: “(That) mischaracterized the findings of the Taylor Porter investigators, who said they were ‘unable to determine’ what happened in a car when a female student said Miles kissed her twice after suggesting ‘they go to a hotel together and mentioned his condo as another meeting place. He also complimented her on her appearance and said he was attracted to her.’ Even if they were to accept Miles’ version of events, investigators wrote, ‘it appears that he has shown poor judgment.’”
But Husch Blackwell went into greater detail about allegations against Miles and the university’s concern over them.
The team’s longtime director of football recruiting, Sharon Lewis, in 2019 reported “significant alleged misconduct” by Miles spanning nearly seven years beginning in 2009. He took a more direct role in the hiring of female student workers, wanting that preferred “look,” after losing the 2012 national championship game (2011 season). LSU did nothing to investigate those allegations in 2019.
Lewis told Husch Blackwell that her “worst nightmare happened” when one of her student employees came to see her “completely traumatized about an incident that had happened when she was alone with Miles.”
It was in 2013 that AD Alleva sent then-LSU president F. King Alexander and the school’s legal counsel an email recommending Miles be fired:
“I want us to think about which scenario is worse for LSU. Explaining why we let him go or explaining why we let him stay,” Alleva wrote. “I think we have cause. I specifically told him not to text, call or be alone with any student workers and he obviously didn’t listen. I know there are many possible outcomes and much risk either way, but I believe it is in the best interest in the long run to make a break.”
--The NHL season is nuts, not having started until Jan. 13. Like other sports, the league desperately wants to get back to normal in terms of scheduling, so its reduced 56-game regular-season ends in early May, meaning teams are playing 16 games in both March and April.
My Rangers are back in contention for a playoff position, four points off the last spot after a six wins in eight stretch (heading into tonight’s contest with the Flyers). New York swept the Devils, Thursday and Saturday, 6-1, 6-3, to move to 10-9-3.
--We note the passing of a member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey team, Mark Pavelich, who Rangers fans remember fondly for his five solid seasons, including two 30-goal campaigns. He scored 133 goals in 341 regular season games over his five seasons with the Blueshirts.
The 63-year-old had a rough time of it after hockey and was found dead at a treatment facility in central Minnesota, where he was receiving mental health treatment. He had assaulted his neighbor in August 2019.
Pavelich starred on the U.S. squad in Lake Placid, N.Y., collecting an assist on Mike Eruzione’s goal that stood as the winner in a semifinal round upset over the Soviet Union. The Americans went on to beat Finland for the gold medal.
He then began his seven-year NHL career with the Rangers in 1981, with former Olympic coaches, Herb Brooks and Craig Patrick. Pavelich centered a line with Ron Duguay, the flamboyant winger having his only 40-goal season with Pavelich feeding him in the 1981-82 season. And Pavelich still holds the team record for his five-goal game on Feb. 23, 1983, which he shares with current Ranger Mika Zibanejad.
“The New York Rangers are saddened to learn of the passing of Mark Pavelich,” the Rangers said in a statement. “His determination, passion, and dazzling playmaking ability earned him the adoration of Rangers fans during his five-year tenure in New York. Mark helped inspire a nation through the integral role he played on the ‘Miracle on Ice’ team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Our thoughts are with Mark’s loved ones during this difficult time.”
As alluded to, Pavelich had all kinds of issues post-hockey. His wife died in 2012 at the age of 44 after falling off a balcony. In 2014, he famously sold his gold medal for $262,900, splitting the sale to help his adult daughter. He had run-ins with neighbors and family which eventually led to his incarceration for the 2019 assault in which he accused a neighbor of “spiking” his beer.
We’ll choose to remember the man who gave the nation, and Rangers fan, some great moments.
In recent games of note, Tuesday, Manchester City whipped Wolverhampton 4-1, and then Wednesday, Manchester United was held to a 0-0 draw by Crystal Palace, lengthening City’s lead further in the standings.
Thursday, Tottenham beat Fulham, 1-0, as Fulham is trying to avoid relegation. Everton, in the Champions League hunt, beat West Brom 1-0, and Chelsea defeated Liverpool by the same score.
Saturday, Leicester City defeated Brighton 2-1 to move into second place, ahead of Man U.
Today, Man City and Man U squared off in their Derby, which ordinarily would be must see TV for Premier League fans, but not as much this season. [I watched it.]
And what’s this? United beat City 2-0, cutting the lead to 11 points, 10 to go (United back in second over Leicester). The loss snapped City’s 15-game PL win streak, 21-game streak all competitions.
Also today, Fulham shocked Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield, Liverpool’s sixth successive Premier League home defeat. The Reds, who won the title last season by 18 points, had gone 68 home league matches unbeaten before their current run started with a loss to Burnley in January.
A terrific win for Fulham, which has been playing well for a long stretch now.
And then in today’s last contest, my Tottenham Spurs won their third in a row, 4-1 over Crystal Palace. What did I say last week when the Spurs got off the schneid? Why hasn’t manager Jose Mourinho played Gareth Bale (on loan from Real Madrid) more? Bale had two more goals today, courtesy of sweet assists from Harry Kane, and Kane scored another two himself.
Just like that, Tottenham is back in the Champions League race.
So the standings, 26/28 of 38…Played / Points…
1. Man City 28 – 65
2. Man U 28 – 54
3. Leicester 28 – 53
4. Chelsea 27 – 47 …Champions League line
5. Everton 26 – 46
6. Tottenham 27 – 45
7. West Ham 26 – 45
7. Liverpool 28 – 43
16. Newcastle 27 – 27
17. Brighton 27 – 26 …relegation line
18. Fulham 28 – 26
19. West Brom 28 – 18
20. Sheffield 18 – 14
It’s been an interesting start to the season….recapping…
Daytona 500…Michael McDowell…first win
Daytona (road course)…Christopher Bell…first win
Homestead…William Byron…second win
So this week the boys were racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kyle Larson won his 7th, Larson having been suspended for much of 2020 for using the N-word in a virtual race during the lockdown. Pretty amazing comeback.
--In FIS World Cup ski action, Mikaela Shiffrin captured her 45th career slalom win (69th overall) in beating rival Petra Vlhova Saturday. Vlhova was attempting to gain a win at home, the race run at Jasna, Slovakia. The two have combined to win 31 of the 32 World Cup slaloms held since January 2017.
Great result for Shiffrin.
And then today, Vlhova made her countryfolk proud as she captured the giant slalom, Shiffrin third. It was Vlhova’s first win on the home course where she regularly trains.
There are only six races, all disciplines, remaining in the season, with two slaloms next week in Are, Sweden. Vlhova trails Lara Gut-Behrami by just 36 points for the overall Cup title.
--Good news…according to a collaborative study among MLB, MLS, the NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, only five of the 789 U.S. professional athletes who tested positive for coronavirus in 2020 developed serious heart disease, and none had significant issues after being cleared to return to play.
This had been a big issue early on, and for good reason. We’re still learning about the disease. But while only 0.6 percent of the athletes were found to have myocarditis or pericarditis, those conditions were found in more than 7 percent of all Covid patients, according to a study published last year in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.
--Headline in the Baltimore Sun today… “Baltimore’s strip clubs reopen as COVID pandemic perils lurk.”
Now discuss amongst yourselves.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/10/62: #1 “Hey! Baby” (Bruce Channel) #2 “Duke Of Earl” (Gene Chandler) #3 “Midnight In Moscow” (Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen…in my trips to Moscow, stayed at a hotel where the house band always played this one…which is a fun tune…)…and…#4 “Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You” (Connie Francis…super song…) #5 “Let Me In” (The Sensations) #6 “Crying In The Rain” (The Everly Brothers) #7 “Break It To Me Gently” (Brenda Lee…a classic…) #8 “Her Royal Majesty” (James Darren…the actor) #9 “The Wanderer” (Dion) #10 “What’s Your Name” (Don & Juan…not a bad week at all, in fact an A-…)
MLB Quiz Answer: Eight active pitchers with 150 wins….
Justin Verlander 226
Zack Greinke 208
Jon Lester 193
Clayton Kershaw 175
Max Scherzer 175
Felix Hernandez 169…trying to resurrect career with Orioles
Adam Wainwright 167
David Price 150
Ervin Santana 149
*I was looking at Jacob deGrom…two Cy Youngs, one third, a Rookie of the Year award, 3-1 in the postseason…yet just 70-51, 2.61. Just amazing to think he could win a third Cy Young at some point, turning 33 in June, yet end up his career with around 130 wins. Will make for a strange plaque in Cooperstown.
Next Bar Chat, Tuesday p.m.