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March Madness Begins...amidst the dysfunction...
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
Golf Quiz: Heading into the fifth major, The Players Championship, who are the top ten in the Official World Golf Ranking. Answer below. [Yes, this is a short-term memory quiz, if you catch my drift.]
New AP Poll (records a/o Sunday)
This is an important one as it’s the last before Selection Sunday.
1. Gonzaga (61) 24-0
2. Baylor (2) 21-1
3. Illinois 20-6
4. Michigan 19-3
5. Iowa 20-7
6. Alabama 21-6
7. Houston 21-3
8. Arkansas 21-5…in top ten for first time since 1995
9. Ohio State 18-8
10. West Virginia 18-8
11. Kansas 19-8
12. Oklahoma State 18-7
13. Texas 17-7
14. Villanova 16-5
15. Florida State 15-5
16. Virginia 17-6
17. Creighton 18-7
18. Loyola Chicago 24-4
19. San Diego State 20-4 …Aztecwear keeping me awake with its shenanigans in the sports drawer…
T-20. Texas Tech 17-9
T-20. Purdue 18-8
22. Virginia Tech 15-5
23. Colorado 20-7
24. USC 21-6 …need cheerleaders in Sweet Sixteen…
25. Oklahoma 14-9
--Among those punching their tickets to the Big Dance Monday-Tuesday were Appalachian State, 80-73 over Georgia State in the Sun Belt Conference final for their first tourney bid since 2000, while UNCG (where we used to go at Wake looking for something different…cough cough…) beat Mercer in the Southern Conference championship, 69-61.
And tonight, Drexel beat Shu’s Elon 63-56 for the CAA title, and Mount St. Mary’s is goin’ dancin’ after defeating Bryant 73-68 for the NEC crown.
But, boy, I’m a bit depressed as I post (sympathy appreciated) after Wake Forest lost on a buzzer-beater, 80-77 to Notre Dame, as the Deacs scored all of two points the final 7:19 (up 75-63 at that point).
It’s been such a brutal season, Wake playing hard much of it, but then folding down the stretch, only to give us fans a real effort tonight…and then fall short.
I’m praying we can keep the returning core, which isn’t great, mind you, but they have some potential. That said, Wake finishes 6-16.
But Arnold Palmer and Tim Duncan went to Wake, and Maya Angelou taught there so take that! [Plus I finished next to last in my class…but they gave me a sheepskin. And at the end of the day….]
One more…Iona beat Quinnipiac (the team that doubles as pollsters) 72-48 in the first round of the MAAC tournament. I kind of want Iona to win it and get into the NCAAs…because it’s Rick Pitino, and whether you like the guy or not, it’s a story. And stories sell.
--I was a little surprised that Creighton lifted Greg McDermott’s suspension for twice using the term “plantation” as part of an analogy urging team unity. The university had suspended him indefinitely on Thursday after he had coached in a Wednesday loss at Villanova. Assistant coach Alan Huss was in charge for the Bluejays’ 93-73 home win over Butler on Saturday. McDermott will now thus be with the team for the Big East Tournament this week and the Big Dance.
Athletic director Bruce Rasmussen said he and university President the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson had discussions with players and their parents, former players and recruits as well as other stakeholders.
The team’s black players had shot a video that was shown before the Butler game. Rasmussen said: “Let me be clear: Coach McDermott’s use of the ‘plantation’ analogy was egregious and has absolutely no place in our society. His remarks have caused significant hurt to many on our campus and in our community.”
Noting McDermott’s public apologies and difficult discussions with his players and others, Rasmussen said the coach has shown a willingness to learn from the mistake.
“I believe his apology, his commitment to grow from this, to learn, and to regain the trust of his student-athletes and others impacted by his words,” Rasmussen said. “From our conversations, he understands that forgiveness must be earned, and he is willing to work for it. His actions during his career reveal an individual committed to his team and his community.”
The season restarts Wednesday after the All-Star break (no, I didn’t care about the game, or the 3-point and slam-dunk contests…hell, I was one of 17 million+ watching Oprah, Harry & Meghan), but the Brooklyn Nets did agree to a deal with Blake Griffin, who became a free agent after the Pistons agreed to buy out the remaining year-and-change of his contract, a mutual decision.
Griffin is a shell of his former high-flying self and over an injury-plagued two seasons, 2019-21, just 38 games, he’s shooting just 36% from the field. Let’s face it, he’s an ‘old’ 31.
But, to be fair, in 2018-19 with Detroit he did average 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists and all the Nets want is an experienced body who can come off the bench and provide some consistent play. And no doubt from time to time he’ll flash his old self.
It’s funny how the New York area is split on the move. I think it’s terrific for the Nets. A no-lose situation. Griffin just wants to win a championship and will do anything he can to accomplish that. I suspect he’ll be a terrific teammate. And he’s insurance if Kevin Durant’s nagging injuries persist, or if there are more Covid issues, which there are bound to be (Durant has had those as well…and look at the All-Star Game and Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons having to sit out because of contact with a Covid-positive barber).
--As we wait to see what happens to quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Sam Darnold, if anything, Dallas and Dak Prescott reached agreement Monday on a record four-year, $160 million contract that includes $126 million guaranteed and a no-trade clause. The deal can reach as high as $164 million with incentives.
The Cowboys have expressed confidence Prescott will be able to return to the field this season after he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in Week 5 against the Giants.
The first three years of the deal will average $42 million and his signing bonus of $66 million will be the largest in NFL history, according to ESPN.
Dallas previously had the option to have the 27-year-old play this year on the franchise tag, again, at around $37.7 million. Doing a multi-year contract allows the team to spread out his salary cap hit.
Prescott had gotten off to a stellar start last season under new coach Mike McCarthy, averaging 371.2 yards per game and a 99.6 passer rating (9 touchdown passes, four INTs), but the Cowboys’ porous defense left them 2-3 through the five. Dallas has missed the playoffs three of the past four seasons, including last year in a down NFC East.
But now the pressure on Prescott will be immense. He’s 42-27 as a starter in his five seasons, 106 TD passes, 40 INTs, solid 97.3 PR. But he has to be special at this contract level…Super Bowl special.
--Kansas released Les Miles as head football coach on Monday, after sexual harassment allegations from his time at LSU came to light last week.
Miles had been placed on administrative leave Friday as Kansas took time to review two reports commissioned by LSU in 2013, as I noted last Chat.
“I am extremely disappointed for our university, fans and everyone involved with our football program,” Jeff Long, the school’s athletic director said in a statement. “There is a lot of young talent on this football team, and I have no doubt we will identify the right individual to lead the program. We will begin the search for a new head coach immediately with an outside firm to assist in this process. We need to win football games, and that is exactly what we’re going to do.”
Miles denies the allegations in the reports that accused him of texting female students, making them feel uncomfortable, being alone with them in his condo, and once kissing a student in his car along with suggesting she accompany him to a hotel after saying he could help her career.
He does admit to driving alone with the one girl, but said he was only mentoring the school’s young women, the ones he had requested that were “blondes with big boobs,” according to the reports.
Miles said in a statement: “This is certainly a difficult day for me and for my family. I love this university and the young men in our football program. I have truly enjoyed being the head coach at KU and know that it is in a better place now than when I arrived. To our student-athletes, I want you to remember that you came to play for KU and earn a degree here. So, I implore you to stay and build on what we started and do all of the things we talked about doing together. There is a bright future for all of you and for KU Football.”
Miles’ lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, had blasted the decision to place his client on administrative leave and ripped LSU’s response to the sexual harassment claims.
“Kansas’ decision to put Les Miles on administrative leave is both disturbing and unfair. To fail to recognize that a person’s career should not be compromised by unsubstantiated allegations hardly is consistent with the example an institution of higher learning should champion.”
--48 of the top 50 in the world (and the FedEx cup standings) are teeing it up at The Players Championship this week. It would have been 49 of 50 except Brooks Koepka had to withdraw due to a strained right knee.
What’s worrisome is this was the good knee. Koepka has battled injuries to his left knee, which required multiple stem-call treatments, and hip. He missed the Presidents Cup in December 2019 and needed another two-month layoff last year, skipping the FedEx Cup playoffs and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, to allow his injuries to heal properly.
But then he won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February and finished tied for second at the WGC event at The Concession. That week he was dealing with a neck injury.
--Looking back at Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bryson DeChambeau did indeed earn some new fans and he couldn’t have been better in his post-round comments, some of which weren’t available to me as I went to post.
“It’s amazing to win Mr. Palmer’s tournament – it’s going to make me cry,” DeChambeau said. “He’s had an influence on me for the longest time and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.”
DeChambeau slipped on the XL red cardigan the winner receives – “It barely fits,” he said – and referenced Palmer and Tiger Woods and how proud he was to wear it. Bryson had received a Sunday morning text from Woods.
“When I got that text, I’m like, wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now,” DeChambeau said of Woods.
“So I just texted him, I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You’re going to get through it. You’re the hardest working person I’ve ever met and you’ll persevere through this pretty much.’ One of the things that we talked about was, it’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down. It’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward.
“And I think this red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing that place he’s in right now.”
As an aside, I am going through the latest issue of Golfweek (hard copy) and you know how last Chat I addressed the whole Rickie Fowler sponsorship issue? GW has a story on how Rickie’s major sponsor, Cobra Puma Golf, from which all the orange hats, shirts and gear have been sold, also has DeChambeau in the fold, and this article was before Bison’s high-profile Bay Hill win.
As in….DeChambeau will no doubt shortly be cutting into Rickie’s deals…unless Rickie starts producing.
--When I went to post last time I noted that Mikaela Shiffrin had defeated rival Petra Vlhova in the slalom at Vlhova’s home course of Jasna, Slovakia. And I noted that Vlhova then got a win the next day, Sunday, in the giant slalom.
What I didn’t know was the backstory of Sunday’s action. I knew Shiffrin had a narrow lead after the opening leg of the GS (I really do follow this stuff closely and watch a lot of the action, tape-delayed, on NBCSN), but I didn’t know of her complaint prior to her second run, which she talked about after.
Shiffrin said Slovakian race organizers were “unprofessional” for making her wait at the start gate for what she felt was too long.
Holding the slim lead after the first run, Shiffrin was ready to start (Vlhova having already gone down and the time to beat), but had to wait two minutes while course workers replaced a broken gate.
Finally allowed to go, Shiffrin posted only the 11th-fastest time and dropped to third, 0.37 behind Vlhova.
“It took (two) minutes to fix a gate, that should take 30 seconds,” Shiffrin said. “I just felt like she is a good enough skier to win these races on her own and doesn’t need this unprofessional act from something that she doesn’t have control over, I don’t have control over, but just to say, ‘Oh, she is in the lead, let’s see if we can do something to get into (Shiffrin’s) head.’”
Now those of you who watch skiing and the coverage from the top and the start gate, know how choreographed the process is in terms of getting into it and a minimal wait time. Two minutes, when you’re expecting far less, is an eternity.
“It’s one thing if an athlete falls and gets injured, but it’s another thing when it’s fixing a gate and that takes (two) minutes with two people and they can’t find the flag, or I don’t know what was happening,” Mikaela said. “It was a bit ridiculous and that’s really obvious.”
Shiffrin then acknowledged she should “handle these situations better” after her delayed start got to her.
Jasna is not a regular stop on the World Cup circuit and the previous time races were held at the resort in the Low Tatras was back in 2016, when Shiffrin also won the slalom. But there was huge pressure on Vlhova to deliver and it seems she received a little help.
I do have to note that Alice Robinson of New Zealand, finished second in the giant slalom. First off, New Zealand, despite its spectacular mountains, obviously hasn’t produced a lot of world class skiers. But Robinson was in the 2018 Winter Olympics as a 16-year-old and at 18, won her only two World Cup titles in the GS last season. So a belated International Women’s Day shoutout to Alice Robinson.
[Actually, had to look it up because I was curious…having made the statement about New Zealand and the World Cup circuit. Prior to Robinson winning her first of two last season, the last previous New Zealand woman to win a WC race was Claudia Riegler in 1997! As Gandalf would have said, “Saaa-lute!”]
--Kobe Bryant’s rookie card, in “pristine condition,” fetched $1.795 million at auction over the weekend, making it one of the most valuable basketball cards (and the most expensive Bryant card) ever. According to Goldin Auctions, the auction house that facilitated the sale, the card is in near-perfect condition with top quality grades across the board.
According to Darren Rovell, the Bryant card is now the 10th most expensive card of all time.
According to Goldin, the “1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card – BGS PRISTINE/Black Label 10” is one of two in the world “at its level of perfection.”
--We note the passing of Carla Wallenda, the last surviving child of the family troupe’s founder. She was 85.
Carla spent seven decades as a member of the Flying Wallendas aerial act, making her high-wire debut when she was just six weeks old – when “my father rode the bicycle and my mother sat on his shoulders, holding me and introducing me to the public,” Carla recalled in a Sarasota television interview in 2017.
Fatal accidents took the lives of family members, including her husband, but Ms. Wallenda continued to soar to new acrobatic heights. Her signature was a heart-stopping headstand on a sway pole – a flexible steel shaft – from a perch of 100 feet (later scaled down to 65 feet as she grew older.
She once told the Sarasota Herald Tribune in 2014: “Accidents can happen anyplace. I have to make a living, and this is the only way I know or want to. I’ve done waitress work and hated every minute of it. Why should I go and do a job that I hate?”
Carla was born in Florida. Her father, Karl Wallenda, founded his acrobatic troupe in Germany before moving to the United States in 1928. She toured with her family in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and began appearing in the family’s act with her brother Mario and sister Jenny in 1947.
Carla formed her own aerial ensemble in 1961, then rejoined the family troupe in 1965 after three of her relatives were killed performing and her brother Mario was paralyzed. Her aunt Rietta Grotefent fell to her death from a 100-foot-high sway pole in 1963 when she was 43. Ms. Wallenda’s husband Richard Guzman, who was known as Chico, died in 1972 in a 60-foot plunge after his pole struck a live electrical wire.
Karl Wallenda fell to his death in 1978 while walking 100 feet high between the towers of a hotel in San Juan, P.R.
But despite all the tragedy and family squabbles, new generations of Wallendas carry on the family tradition of breathtaking performances.
Carla’s nephew, Nik Wallenda, has gained fame as an aerialist by traversing Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. When asked once if she was related to Nik, Carla replied: “No, he’s related to me – I was here first.” [Sam Roberts / New York Times]
If you want to see Karl’s gruesome ending in 1978, just YouTube it and look for the ABC News story from that day. I couldn’t resist and needed to refresh my memory because, growing up, the Wallendas were huge. In the ABC story it also tells of the collapse of their famous seven-man pyramid, developed by Karl, where two of the seven died and Carla’s brother Mario was paralyzed at an event in Detroit.
--Talk about a terrifying story. From Jamie Biggs of the Greensboro News & Record:
“A Greensboro (N.C.) man is recovering after an ‘intense’ encounter with a wild animal on Saturday.
“His experience is one of at least three separate animal attacks documented near Lake Brandt over the weekend.
“About 2 p.m. on Saturday, Scott Durham was nearing the end of the Nat Greene Trail at Lake Brandt Marina when he spotted what he says was either a fox or a small coyote. He was about 100 yards from the marina – so close he could hear people talking in the parking lot.
“Durham, who was alone, said the animal was gray and weighed around 35 or 40 pounds.
“ ‘It was on the trail about 20 yards in front of me, walking toward me,’ Durham said. ‘It wasn’t showing any signs of aggression. The fur on the back wasn’t sticking up. It wasn’t baring any teeth. It was walking normally.’
“Thinking it might be a mother trying to protect her pups, Durham scanned the area, but saw no other animals.
“He said he stood to the left side of the trail and the animal passed by him on the right, within about two feet of him.
“ ‘We were looking at each other the whole time,’ Durham said, ‘but then I stupidly turned around – turned my back on it.’
“That’s when the animal came after Durham, biting into his left calf. He kneed the animal off of him, but it returned, grabbing his left pant leg and ‘shaking it like a dog does a toy,’ Durham said.
“Durham said he managed to beat the animal off of him once again, but the fox or coyote continued jumping at him. He was bit on the left forearm, then under the chin, on his lip and the left side of his face. After getting a bite on the right forearm, Durham said he decided he’d had enough.
“ ‘I grabbed it by the scruff of the neck with both hands and pinned it to the ground,’ he said.
“It was then that he saw a woman approaching.
“ ‘I told her she needed to turn around and go to the parking lot because I was being attacked,’ he said.
“Then, thinking it might be a rabid animal, Durham said he picked up the animal and began carrying it toward the parking lot. He said he made it about 10 or 20 feet before he became exhausted, dropped the animal back to the ground and pinned it there.
“He said he thought about trying to kill the animal, but wasn’t sure what the protocol was.
“ ‘I definitely had wounds to prove that I had been attacked,’ Durham said, but given that he was at a park, he didn’t know if killing the fox or coyote was legal.
“After about 30 to 40 seconds of holding the animal to the ground, catching his breath, Durham said he stood back up, picked the animal off the ground by the scruff of the neck and threw it several feet down the trail, away from the parking lot.
“ ‘I started backing up fairly quickly,’ Durham said. ‘Then (the animal) started trotting toward me again and I started backing up even more quickly and it finally stopped and turned around and headed back down the trail.’
“Durham made his way back to the parking lot where he encountered a group of people coming into the trail. He asked one to call 911.”
Well as he was tended to by the game warden and others, waiting for EMS to arrive, two girls in their 20s came out of the trail and said the animal had gone after them and they jumped in the lake to avoid it.
Later, another victim was injured, presumably by the same animal, bitten on the hand and buttocks.
The day before, another person walking on a trail around the lake was attacked and received a bite on the leg, it later emerged.
So a bunch of the trails were closed, a trap was set for the animal.
The animal’s behavior is consistent with rabies, but they can’t know for sure until it’s captured.
Durham said he thought it was a fox, not a coyote. He received the first series of rabies shots at the emergency room on Saturday and has to receive four more rounds.
Whatever the animal was, upon identification it will be duly punished in terms of the All-Species List.
--Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s rescue German Shepherd, Major, was sent back to the Biden family home in Delaware along with the older German Shepherd, Champ, after Major was involved in a “biting incident” with a member of White House security.
While many of us cheered the idea of a return of dogs to the White House, German Shepherds aren’t exactly what you want hanging around tons of strangers.
Jill Biden told Kelly Clarkson last month during an appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” “I’ve been getting obsessed with getting our dogs settled because we have an old dog and we have a very young dog. They have to take the elevator, they’re not used to that, and they have to go out on the South Lawn with lots of people watching them. So that’s what I’ve been obsessed with, getting everybody settled and calm.”
Major has been known to display agitated behavior on multiple occasions at the White House, including jumping, barking, and “charging” at staff and security, according to people CNN spoke with about the dog’s demeanor. Champ, age 13, hasn’t been a problem, largely due to his age.
Joe Biden injured his foot while playing with Major back in November.
So the All-Species List executive committee was forced to issue a ruling and Major, not the overall species, has been fined $2 and told to stay at home in Delaware for the balance of the presidency. He’ll be eligible for a nice pension if he guards the Biden compound successfully, as he no doubt will.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/9/63: #1 “Walk Like A Man” (The 4 Seasons) #2 “Ruby Baby” (Dion) #3 “Rhythm Of The Rain” (The Cascades)…and…#4 “Hey Paula” (Paul and Paula) #5 “You’re The Reason I’m Living” (Bobby Darin) #6 “Our Day Will Come” (Ruby and The Romantics) #7 “The End Of The World” (Skeeter Davis) #8 “Wild Weekend” (The Rebels) #9 “What Will Mary Say” (Johnny Mathis) #10 “Walk Right In” (The Rooftop Singers…died of exposure…B- week…)
Golf Quiz Answer: Official World Golf Ranking, Top Ten
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Jon Rahm
3. Justin Thomas
4. Collin Morikawa
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Bryson DeChambeau
7. Tyrrell Hatton
8. Patrick Reed
9. Patrick Cantlay
10. Webb Simpson…Go Deacs!
11. Rory McIlroy
12. Brooks Koepka
13. Viktor Hovland
14. Tony Finau
15. Daniel Berger
Lee Westwood is actually up to No. 31 after his second-place finish at Bay Hill.
Phil Mickelson (No. 101) fell out of the top 100 for the first time in 28 years.
Tiger is now 57 and, well, you know…
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m. The Players…and Selection Sunday…