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Nadal, not Djokovic, Bags No. 21!
Add-on….posted Tues. p.m. from St. Bonaventure, NY (Allegany, NY)
A Look Back at the NFL Conference Championship Games
--Matthew Stafford’s fourth-quarter stats:
11-for-14, 121 yards, 1 touchdown, 126.5 passer rating.
But if 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt hadn’t dropped a sure interception late in the fourth with San Francisco up three points, we have a totally different story.
--Chiefs fans have every right to be disgusted with their team for not only blowing a 21-3 lead, but for the awful play-calling at the end of the first half, when Tyreek Hill was tackled at the 1-yard line as time out.
And you have to wonder about Patrick Mahomes’ collapse in the third and fourth quarters. He was 18-of-22, 220, and three touchdowns in the first half, and 8-of-18, 55 yards and two interceptions in the second half.
--Odell Beckham Jr. has picked up $2.75 million in incentive money in the postseason, with a chance for another $1M with ai Super Bowl win, according to ESPN.
--Yes, Tony Romo’s game analysis at the end of Chiefs-Bengals was rather quizzical, floating the idea that the Chiefs may want to try to run as much clock as they could before scoring, and also suggesting the Bengals may just want to let the Chiefs score a touchdown quickly so they’d have time to try to engineer a game-winning drive.
Huh? You could tell Jim Nantz was also like, ‘Huh.’
--Separately, when I posted Sunday night, I didn’t feel comfortable saying the Raiders had hired Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as their head coach, after hiring Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler as their general manager, but that’s what we have. A package deal.
McDaniels was the coach at Denver for two seasons (2009-10), hired when he was just 33 and going 11-17, before eventually heading back to New England to be Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator, all these years, and he’s still just 45.
Monday, in his introductory press conference, McDaniels said of his first go-round in Denver: “I didn’t really know people and how important that aspect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was. I failed, and I didn’t succeed at it.
“Looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person, as a coach. What do I need to do different, how do I need to handle my role, if I have another opportunity, and do better at it?”
--I was right initially on Tom Brady and retirement. Monday, on his SiriusXM show “Let’s Go” with co-host Jim Gray, Brady disputed Saturday’s report from ESPN that he’s decided to retire.
Gray asked if anything had changed, in light of the rumored retirement.
“No, it was a good week for me and I’m still going through the process that I said I was going through,” Brady said. “Sometimes it takes some time to really evaluate how you feel, what you want to do. I think when the time’s right, I’ll be ready to make a decision one way or another just like I said last week.”
Brady’s father, Tom Sr., also refuted the ESPN story. The network stands by its report.
I wrote the above before I hopped in the car to head to St. Bonaventure and whaddya know? A half-hour into my road trip, the radio is blaring Brady retired.
Like I said last time, you don’t need a lot of extra commentary on this topic, but next weekend I’ll have a few things. The timing is just poor with my little trip and not having access to a lot of stuff. Another long ride home tomorrow.
--And we now have this Brian Flores situation. I was scrolling through the headlines before I went to the game and my initial thought was, “What the hell is he doing?” And then, no wonder Stephen Ross fired him.
--Regarding the Super Bowl, Monday morning, StubHub listed four seats on the 50-yard line at $46,681 each. For four seats, the sale price was $234,814.69, including a service fee of $48,081.68 and a “fulfillment fee” of $8.
I hate when they nick you for that fulfillment fee.
--Rams vs. Bengals…Rams going all-in to win now with their various roster moves, including the trade for Stafford, the midseason acquisition of Von Miller and the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. …versus the Bengals, who have built through the draft.
--Us Jets and Giants fans in the New York area were reminded just how far our teams have to go before we can dream of making a Super Bowl run. It’s rather depressing.
--New AP Top 25 (records a/o Sun.)
1. Auburn (49) 20-1
2. Gonzaga (12) 17-2
3. UCLA 16-2
4. Purdue 18-3
5. Kentucky 17-4…up 7
6. Houston 18-2
7. Arizona 17-2
8. Baylor 18-3
9. Duke 17-3
10. Kansas 17-3
11. Wisconsin 17-3
12. Villanova 16-5
13. Michigan State 16-4
14. Texas Tech 16-5
15. Providence 18-2
16. Ohio State 13-5
17. UConn 15-4
18. Illinois 15-5
19. Southern Cal 18-3
20. Iowa State 16-5
21. Xavier 15-5
22. Tennessee 14-6
23. Texas 16-5
24. Marquette 15-7
25. LSU 16-5
Boy, I wish I was up here when it was warmer and without snow, but I love the area. The long drive, 5 hours+, was at least mostly scenic, but then Pennsylvania (which you drive thru for hours) and upstate New York are two of the more underrated parts of the country in terms of beauty. [Some of the towns you go thru, however, admittedly are kind of depressed. But then many of my relatives in western Pennsylvania didn’t exactly live a life of luxury. In fact, as a kid at the main headquarters of the family, I used an outhouse.]
Anyway, among the alumni of St. Bonaventure University are Neil Cavuto, Chuck Daly, baseball Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings (from way back), all-time manager John McGraw, Bob Lanier, Ted Marchibroda, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, sports journalists Mike Vaccaro and Adrian Wojnarowski, and Father Mychal Judge.
Yes, the great Mychal Judge…the chaplain who was the first victim of the 9/11 attacks. I kind of tear up just typing this.
The Bonnies were 16-5 last season, 11-4 in the A-10, first, and got to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the first round to LSU.
But the thing is, they had all five starters returning, all seniors, three of whom had played together for four years, they had a lockdown defense last season, and it’s why a lot of us thought this season could be something special.
The Bonnies then started out 5-0, winning one of the early tournaments, beating Boise State, Clemson and Marquette in doing so, and they were ranked No. 16 in the AP Poll. Great, I was writing you all, but warning of big games against UConn and Virginia Tech, which they then lost, the latter very badly, and it’s been a struggle since…and you wonder why.
So I’m watching Saturday’s win against St. Joe’s and whoever was doing the game (never caught his name) said he was hanging out at the shootaround with St. Bonaventure’s 15-year coach Mark Schmidt, asking Coach about why the team was so mediocre on defense compared to last year – allowing opponents to shoot .352 percent from three vs. last year’s .307 – especially with the veteran starting five the Bonnies have, and Schmidt told him, ‘Sometimes the guys just get tired of the same voice.’ And it made so much sense.
These starters have been around together for a long time, no new blood coming in, energizing the team in different ways, and you can see why the team is just kind of ‘blah.’
So then what happened tonight? More of the same. Davidson shot 12 of 28 from three, the Bonnies just 5 of 17, and St. Bonaventure lost, 81-76. They fought back gamely late after trailing by 15 with mere minutes left, but they missed some key shots.
Davidson is now 18-3, 8-1; Bonnies 12-6, 4-3. The only way they go dancing is in winning the A-10 tournament. As I told my new friends in the seats around me, all St. Bonaventure alum (I had a great seat, I must admit), what an incredibly disappointing season.
I’ll catch up on a lot of stuff this weekend, sports fans.
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
Add-On up top, maybe, by noon, Wed. Lots of travel that day.
Winter Olympics Quiz: Since 1960, six U.S. Men and Women have won Gold in either the slalom or downhill…three women, three men…three in the downhill, three in the slalom. One is very difficult, says moi. Name ‘em. Answer below.
***Love that Rafael Nadal bagged No. 21 today. More below.
--In today’s first game, Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes rocketed off to a 21-3 lead over Cincinnati, Mahomes going 13/14, 154, 3-0, 152.1…three touchdowns first three possessions. Pretty, pretty good.
But the Bengals answered with a 70-yard touchdown drive, Samara Perjne going 41 yards for a TD on a short pass from Joe Burrow.
And so it was 21-10 at the half. However, the Bengals had a golden opportunity at the end of the half to make it either 24-10 or 28-10 and Mahomes’ short pass to Tyreek Hill gained nothing and the Chiefs didn’t even have a shot at field goal. Awful play-calling and execution on the part of the Chiefs. Great play by Cincy.
In the third quarter it was then an Evan McPherson field goal and a short TD pass from Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase, who had all of two receptions for 8 yards in the first half, with Burrow converting on the 2-point play to tie it at 21-21 end of the third.
In the fourth quarter, Burrow converted two 3rd-and-7 plays with his legs and McPherson booted a 52-yard field goal to take a 24-21 lead, 6:04 left in the game.
Mahomes then drove the Chiefs 49 yards, chewing up the clock on 14 plays, with Harrison Butker booting a 44-yard field goal to tie it as the clock expired.
We’re going to overtime…24-24.
After all the action of last weekend, we get this.
The Chiefs won the toss, and we know what that means,
Cincy corner Eli Apple then missed a sure-fire walk-off pick from Mahomes, yet on the very next play, Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates III deflected Mahomes’ pass to Travis Kelce, which was picked out of the air by Vonn Bell, and the Bengals would move it down the field for the game-winner from McPherson from 31…Cincinnati defeating the Chiefs, at Arrowhead, 27-24.
McPherson is 12-of-12 this postseason. Total respect for the dude. Cincy is back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989 (1988 season).
In the nightcap, Rams-49ers in Los Angeles, 60%+ of the crowd were San Francisco fans, despite L.A.’s best efforts to restrict the tickets to those not living within 4 blocks of SoFi Stadium, and it was 0-0 after the first quarter.
The Rams went out front, 97 yards on 18 plays, culminating in a Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp 16-yard TD.
But that was it, the San Francisco defense tightening up, and the 49ers doing enough on offense for a 10-7 halftime lead.
It was Joe Montana in 1989 beating Boomer Esiason in the Super Bowl. Would we get a rematch, only this time Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Burrow?
It’s Matthew Stafford vs. Burrow.
Stafford, acquired to get the Rams to the Big Game, did just that, 20-17, as the best player in the NFL, Aaron Donald, made the key clutch play, pressuring Garoppolo into a late interception that clinched it for L.A.
Stafford ended up throwing for 337 yards, Kupp 11-142-2, Odell Beckham Jr. 9-113, and we have a terrific Super Bowl matchup with great story lines.
A lot of talent in the Kelly Stafford box, I can’t help but add. Go Rams!
--Saturday, there were all kinds of stories, first put forward by ESPN, that Tom Brady was retiring.
Well I told you he was, but I thought the timing was not Bradylike. He’s a classy guy and I figured he’d wait until after the Super Bowl so that the focus wouldn’t be on him but rather the game.
After all, in terms of the football calendar, the Super Bowl is Feb. 13 and the first real deadline after in terms of player moves is Feb. 22, the first day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
And March 14-16, when clubs can begin contact and enter into contract negotiations with agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2021 player contracts at 4:00 p.m. ET, on March 16.
The Draft isn’t until April 28-30.
As in Brady could tell Tampa Bay management of his plans so they begin looking to the post-Brady future with certainty, and then just lay low a while and let the games be the focus.
So, yes, you had the story that Brady’s personal assistant was contacting other quarterbacks, and, again, yes, Brady is retiring.
But after his retirement was announced on social media by TB12 Sports, the health and wellness company that the quarterback developed with his longtime trainer, Alex Guerrero, it was also reported by ESPN, citing unnamed sources.
Then Brady’s company deleted his retirement post, and Brady, apparently, hasn’t informed the Bucs that he’s done playing for them.
But that didn’t stop everyone paying tribute to the guy. You can be sure when he does announce his retirement I won’t be doing the same. Just as in the Baseball Hall of Fame vote issue, everything has already been said about Tom Brady! When he retires, I’ll recite all the stats for the archives, but we’ve only been living in a Brady 24/7 world for two decades!
Yes, he’s the GOAT. I don’t need to read all these encomiums on his life, career and meaning to the NFL.
That said, I will include maybe a passage or two from one of the Boston Globe reporters who know him best at the appropriate time.
--In the coaching carousel….Jim Harbaugh interviewed for the Minnesota head coaching job so it’s official, Harbaugh is willing to leave his alma mater, Michigan, for a return to the NFL. The Vikings would appear to be a good fit as their new GM, Adofo-Mensah, started working in the research and development department with the 49ers in 2013, when Harbaugh was in his third of four seasons coaching the team.
--The Giants selected Brian Daboll, 46, to be their new head coach. This was a popular pick.
Daboll has been the offensive coordinator for the Bills (2018-21), helping develop Josh Allen. He was also tight ends coach at New England (2014-16), and assistant coach for the Patriots (2013); offensive coordinator for the Chiefs (2012); OC for the Dolphins (2011); OC for the Browns (2009-10); quarterbacks coach for the Jets (2007-08); wide receivers coach for the Patriot (2002-06), and defensive assistant for the Pats (2000-01).
Ergo, lots of good experience, including under Bill Belichick, and he was a natural after the Giants picked former Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen as their new GM last week.
The problem is the Giants’ incumbent QB, Daniel Jones, is no Josh Allen,
Daboll has a reputation as a strong leader in the room, and he’s got his opportunity. But the Giants are lacking in every area, literally, and the fanbase has had it. They won’t suffer through what needs to be another rebuild patiently. Lots of empty seats the result.
--Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones on Friday said Mike McCarthy’s future as head coach was never in question and that he and McCarthy worked together to make sure defensive coordinator Dan Quinn would remain with the team.
“The idea of Mike twisting in the wind wasn’t the case at all,” Jones told a local Dallas sports talk radio station. “We were trying to keep Dan Quinn and maintain continuity on the coaching staff.”
Jones said he believes Quinn turned down a head-coaching opportunity to sign an extension with the Cowboys “for years to come.”
It seems to clear to me. As long as the Cowboys defense performs next season, if the team nonetheless falls on its face, like in the first round again, Quinn will take over for McCarthy.
--The Bears hired Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as their head coach. Eberflus, 51, had also been considered a candidate for the Jacksonville job.
--Denver selected Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to serve as the franchise’s 18th head coach, fueling rumors Aaron Rodgers could go to the Broncos.
--So as I go to post, six vacancies remain…New Orleans, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Miami, Houston, and Las Vegas.
--Ben Roethlisberger formally hung it up on Thursday. “The time has come to clean out my locker, hang up my cleats and continue to be all I can be to my wife and children. I retire from football a truly grateful man.”
Big Ben thus joins his fellow 2004 draft-mates, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, in retirement.
His on-field accomplishments, including two Super Bowls, were colored by several off-field incidents involving sexual assault allegations. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first six games of the 2010 season over violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
But, boy, are Steelers fans going to miss him because this team isn’t going anywhere fast.
--One college football note…Ole Miss and coach Lane Kiffin grabbed USC transfer and quarterback Jaxson Dart, one of the highest-profile players in the transfer portal.
Dart wasn’t outstanding as a freshman at USC, but he was a five-star talent out of high school and he did throw for 391 yards and four touchdowns in his first college start. Kiffin is the guy to mold him into a star, and probably keep Kiffin at Ole Miss if next season he realizes he might be able to win a national title with the kid, say in 2023. Really.
--No. 1 Auburn locked up coach Bruce Pearl “for life” by granting him a contract extension, on top of the deal he signed in July 2020, which wasn’t expiring until April 30, 2025. Terms weren’t announced but he’ll clearly be one of the top-10 highest-paid men’s basketball coaches in the country.
Auburn (20-1) then went out and whipped Oklahoma (13-8) in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, 86-68.
--I watched a lot of 9 Duke against Louisville Saturday, Duke (17-3, 7-2) taking it 74-65 over the Cardinals (11-10, 5-6), and all I have to say is Duke is winning it all. If they can get any kind of guard play, they have too much talent. A.J. Griffin is exploding before our eyes, and his NBA Draft lottery status soaring, I imagine. The guy is going to be an instant All-Star (by his second year). He just fills it up from three like no other, with incredible athleticism. He’ll take over the tournament come March.
Louisville had fired coach Chris Mack earlier in the week, Mack ending a tumultuous 3+ seasons with the Cardinals, going 63-36, 38-23 in the ACC. There have just been all kinds of issues outside the play on the court and Mack left in a classy manner: “I’m not bitter in any way. Loved our experiences here. It was hard telling my girls. But I never will feel like a victim in anything I do.”
Mike Pegues is interim coach.
Mack was done in by a scandal involving former assistant coach Dino Gaudio, who after he was fired in March of 2021, threatened to expose NCAA rules violations within the program – related to the production of recruiting videos – unless Louisville paid him 17 months of salary or a lump-sum payment.
Mack recorded a meeting in which Gaudio (the former Wake Forest coach) made the threats. Gaudio was later sentenced to a year of probation and a $10,000 fine for attempting to extort the program. But the alleged violations he brought up raised new issues for the NCAA, already investigating Louisville for alleged rules violations under former coach Rick Pitino.
Mack had been suspended by the school for the first six regular-season games this season, in which Pegues went 5-1 as acting head coach. Mack was then 6-8 when he returned, six of the losses against teams ranked outside the top 75 at analytics site KenPom.com.
--Defending champion Baylor continues to struggle in recent weeks, the No. 4 Bears (18-3) falling to Alabama (14-7), 87-78, in another Big 12/SEC Challenge.
--And in yet another Big 12/SEC contest, the SEC shined again, 12 Kentucky (17-4) kind of shockingly manhandling 5 Kansas (17-3) at Allen Fieldhouse, 80-62. Kentucky hadn’t won in the place since 1985!
So a huge weekend for the SEC, and the tournament selection committee, as I’ve been saying the Big 12 is the best conference this season. [The Big 12 won a lot of the other Challenge games, but the SEC took the three highest-profile contests.]
--There were some who thought Seton Hall was a Final Four team, but now The Hall is not going to even make the tournament, unless it shockingly wins the Big East tourney.
The Pirates are 12-7, 3-6, losers of four of five, the natives are restless and very surly, and for good reason. There is a lot of talent on the team, and coach Kevin Willard is clearly on thin ice.
The last loss was at home Wednesday to No. 22 Marquette, who was red-hot, seven straight, heading into a Sunday afternoon contest at 17 Providence.
And what a college basketball game. The Friars (18-2, 7-1) prevailed 65-63, dropping the Golden Eagles to 15-7, 7-4. Providence’s senior big man, Nate Watson (17 points, 6 rebounds), should have a long NBA career as a Rick Mahorn-type enforcer down low. He won’t be a draft pick, but teams will be clamoring to bring him into camp.
--Back to New Jersey, Rutgers is 12-8, 6-4 in the Big Ten but in no shape or form headed to the NCAAs after losing to lowlifes Minnesota and Maryland, and barely beating 0-10 Nebraska yesterday, 63-61.
--As for my Wake Forest Demon Deacons, they laid an egg at Syracuse Saturday night, 94-72. Not that a loss in the Carrier Dome to a Cuse team that I said weeks ago was better than its record (now 10-11, 4-6) was bad, but it was how the Deacs imploded after being up 42-39 at the half that folks will pay attention to, i.e., the Selection Committee.
So Wake, after winning 4 straight conference games, sits at 17-5, 7-4. Bye-bye AP Top 25 votes. The Deacs need to get back on track against a lousy Pitt team Wednesday in Winston-Salem. They must finish over .500 in the ACC and win a first-round tourney game, maybe a second, if they are to make the NCAA field, despite some of the NCAA bracket predictions you’ve seen.
--Lastly, my rare college ‘pick to click’ team for 2021-22, mid-majors (the only others being San Diego State and Murray State over the 23 years of Bar Chat), St. Bonaventure, had another bad loss midweek at George Mason, 75-66, before rebounding yesterday at home over St. Joe’s, 80-69, the Bonnies now 12-5, 4-2.
Yes, I’m going to Tuesday’s game at the Reilly Center (Bob Lanier Court) against 25 Davidson (17-3, 7-1) in what is a must-win for the Bonnies if they are to get into the NCAA tournament. Otherwise, they have to win the A-10 conference tourney to do so.
--Knicks fans are either apoplectic or apathetic when it comes to this 2021-22 edition. After last year’s promising 41-31 season and the first playoff berth in 8 years, there were high hopes for this team, at least advancing in the playoffs after getting knocked out in the first round last time.
And the Knicks got off to a 5-1 start. All good for Tom Thibodeau’s boys. But then it was downhill…and now New York is 23-27 after losing six of seven. With the trade deadline approaching, most of us want management to clean house and just commit to some of our promising young players, like Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, newcomer Cam Reddish, Mitchell Robinson and, oh yeah, RJ Barrett, who is still not even 22 years old and yet is in his third season and a solid performer. None of this group is older than 24 (actually, until March and April, and the birthdays for Toppin and Robinson, none of them are older than 23!).
The fans would more easily accept this…just admit what we get; signing guys like Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, while seemingly adding scoring power, backfired in a big way.
And then there’s Julius Randle, who as I’ve written has mysteriously disappeared…a total shell of the great player, All-Star, of last season and now a surly, sulking asshole who can’t stand the heat when it comes to the fans.
The thing is, we have a coach, Tom Thibodeau, who I thought was the right man for the job, obviously did well in his first season last year, but then disagreed with management’s moves in the offseason, lost his favorite player Derrick Rose to injury, and just doesn’t like playing the young guys. Never has, probably never will. He likes veterans.
Well, that’s your Knicks rant for now. They have home games Monday and Wednesday against Sacramento and Memphis before a brutal 5-game road trip. The Garden crowd will be an angry mob if the Knicks don’t at least show effort this week, but by the time they come back from the west coast swing, with stops in Denver and Utah, they could easily be 23-34. Yikes!
--For the archives, last Wednesday night, Charlotte scored a franchise record 158 points, 158-126 over Indiana, as the Hornets made 24 3-pointers, led by Kelly Oubre jr.’s career-high 39 and career-best 10 3-pointers. LaMelo Ball had his fourth triple-double of the season with 29 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.
--I posted last Tuesday night before finding out the Wizards blew a 35-point lead against the Clippers, 116-115, tying the second-largest blown lead since 1996-97.
Luke Kennard scored seven points inside the final 9 seconds, including a go-ahead four-point play with 1.9 remaining.
The game was 66-36 at the half, so since 1996-97, the second-biggest halftime deficit that was overcome.
Washington began the season 10-3 but after a loss to the Grizzlies Saturday, is now 23-26.
--LeBron James made his record 18th consecutive All-Star Game.* Ja Morant was just 5 years old when LeBron made his first game in 2005. And now Morant, 22, was selected.
*Kareem made 19 overall, Kobe also 18.
Starters from the East: Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan, Atlanta’s Trae Young, Milwaukee’s Giannis, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
Starters from the West: LeBron, Memphis’ Morant, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Golden State’s Steph Curry, and Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins.
The reserves will be announced Thursday.
Durant, out with a sprained MCL, will be replaced by a player chosen by Commissioner Adam Silver.
Wiggins was a big surprise, making his first All-Star appearance.
--Kareem Abdul-Jappar criticized fellow Basketball Hall of Famer John Stockton’s comments about Covid-19 mask mandates and vaccines on Wednesday.
“I think statements like (Stockton’s) make the public look upon athletes as basically dumb jocks for trying to explain away something. This is obviously a pandemic, and the best way to fight pandemics is through vaccination and testing,” Kareem said during a CNN appearance following the revelation Stockton has been banned from attending Gonzaga basketball games. “Those are the means by which we identify the problem and do our best to mitigate it.
“I don’t understand anyone saying anything else that makes sense. It doesn’t make sense what he’s saying,” Abdul-Jabbar continued. “This is a preventative measure that has been useful in many different circumstances.”
Detlef Schrempf, who had a 16-year career in the NBA, also chimed in on social media with his thoughts on Stockton’s take.
“Bat (expletive) crazy,” Schrempt wrote on Twitter. “I am so disappointed we have so many role models not up to the task. This is not Helping!”
--Rafael Nadal turned back the clock and picked up Grand Slam No. 21, one better than Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. As I said weeks, this was fitting…poetic justice after all the crap Djokovic put everyone through, thinking he was the one who rightfully would break the tie at the top of the all-time Grand Slams list.
But nooo…Rafa staged a heroic rally, down 2-6, 6-7, to take the next three sets 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, in a five-hour+ marathon over the great Russian, Daniil Medvedev.
Nadal is the first Australian Open champion to come back to win after dropping the first two sets of the final since Roy Emerson in 1965.
The 25-year-old Medvedev, whose lone Grand Slam title is last year’s U.S. Open, when he upset Djokovic’s calendar-year Grand Slam hopes, should dominate the sport the next 5-7 years, but Nadal gutted it out in amazing fashion, especially given he had played just two matches in the second half of 2021 because he was sidelined with a chronic foot injury, as well as overcoming a serious bout of Covid-19.
“For me, it’s just amazing. Being honest, one month and a half ago, I didn’t know if I’d be able to play on the tour again,” Nadal said. “Without a doubt, [it’s] probably been one of the most emotional months in my tennis career.
“The huge support I’ve received for the last three weeks will stay in my heart for the rest of my life.”
Incredibly, this was Nadal’s first Aussie title since 2009, as he became just the fourth in history to win all four of the sport’s major titles at least twice.
U.S. Open: 4
Nadal is now 21-8 in major finals. Djokovic and Federer are both 20-11.
--On the women’s side, Ash Barty recovered from 5-1 down in the second set to win the final 6-3, 7-6 (2) over American 27th-seed Danielle Collins, ending a 44-year drought for Australian women at their home Grand Slam event.
It was the top-ranked Barty’s third Grand Slam title – the others at the 2019 French Open and then last year at Wimbledon.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won the tournament four consecutive times between 1974-77, presented the trophy to Barty. What a story Ms. Goolagong Cawley was back in the day. One of the all-time greats.
Barty pocketed $2,009,000 for the win.
--With the unique Wed.-Sat. format, the PGA Tour not wanting to compete with the NFL Conference Championships on Sunday, we had a fascinating leaderboard entering Saturday’s final round at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open.
Will Zalatoris -14
Jason Day -14
Aaron Rai -13
Jon Rahm -13
Sungjae Im -12
Justin Thomas -12
Cameron Tringale -12
Zalatoris, Rai and Tringale were looking for their first wins on tour. Ditto Zalatoris’ Wake Forest teammate Cameron Young, among a group at -11.
And Wake’s Bill Haas, long in the golfing wilderness, started the day -10.
I mean to tell ya, us Demon Deacon fans were kind of psyched.
We really wanted Zalatoris, though, as he has that ‘It’ factor…but the guy just can’t putt.
The field chased Zalatoris all day as he refused to wilt under the pressure, though he wasn’t making any birdies.
After he had played five he was alone at -14 with nine others tied at -13.
Zalatoris -15 thru 10
Justin Rose -14…14
Billy Horschel -14…11
But then journeyman Luke List, among those looking for his first win at age 37, fired a 6-under 66 and finished well ahead of the leaders at -15. Zalatoris just needed a birdie coming in for the victory.
And he got to No. 18, still -15, but had an 8 ½-foot birdie putt on the terrific finishing par-5, uphill, and committed the cardinal sin, leaving an uphill putt, especially for the win, a little short.
Specifically, he just didn’t give it enough juice as it dived to the left at the last moment. Firmer and he secures the win.
Instead it went to a playoff, back at No. 18, and Zalatoris for the second straight time failed to put his tee shot in the fairway, List hit an amazing wedge that secured a tap-in birdie, Zalatoris missed his birdie putt and it’s List who walks away with win No. 1, not Will.
The other Deacs didn’t have a good final round; Cameron Young finishing T20 after a 73, Bill Haas a miserable 76 for a T39.
Jon Rahm, who won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines just last summer, finished one back, along with Tringale and Day, who very much looks to be ‘back.’
--Among those missing the cut at Torrey Pines were Bryson DeChambeau, who is having real problems with his wrist, Rickie Fowler, Sam Burns, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson.
So speaking of Lefty, Morning Read’s Mike Purkey had a piece on him, saying now was the perfect time for Mickelson to commit to the senior circuit or the broadcast booth “before chasing a dream turns into a delusion.”
Purkey: “If you’re listening, don’t hang onto the notion that one extraordinarily magical week means you can beat kids half your age week in and week out on the PGA Tour. Don’t let the dream morph into a delusion so that you can’t tell the difference.
“Winning the PGA Championship at age 51 was one of the best stories in golf, maybe in all of sport. Was. It’s over and you’re part of history. This is now and the truth is, bud, you’re playing old man golf out there at the moment.”
Purkey goes through some of the facts…as in the results, but I can actually cut to the chase better.
In 14 events before Kiawah, Mickelson didn’t have even a T20.
In the 8 events after Kiawah, still in the 2020-21 season, Lefty had a single T17.
In his opening four events of the 2021-22 season, Phil has a T36, T30, MC, MC.
So outside of that incredible week on the South Carolina coast (at my favorite golf resort in the U.S.), Mickelson has played 26 tournaments, before and after, with one top 20.
He’ll be in Saudi Arabia next week, getting a big appearance fee, and with 45 wins and six majors, he can do whatever he wants. Even when he’s 56, virtually every PGA Tour event would still love to have him in their field.
But he can still go out on top, by walking away, picking up lots of Ws on the Champions Tour, become a highly entertaining broadcaster (he does have the gift), and still play The Masters every year. And maybe when he’s 58 or 59, out of nowhere, he may find himself in contention on a Sunday at Augusta.
But the fact is he turns 52 in June, and he’s been playing like crap.
--I’ve said my piece on the Hall of Fame. Everyone keeps writing the same old stuff.
I will say that David Ortiz’s selection the other day helps the causes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens as Ortiz has, and will be, lobbying for them in a very public way, using his broadcast perch, and that will eventually have an impact on the 16-member “Era Committee,” formerly known as the “Veterans Committee,” which I will continue to call it.
It’s true this committee swiftly rejected the case of Mark McGwire, but I think in a few years the committee will come around.
In the meantime, yes, the numbers are overwhelming when you look at Bonds and Clemens. But I never thought they should be allowed in in their years of formal eligibility. I wouldn’t have allowed Big Papi to walk in on the first ballot. A-Rod is a no-no.
But I’m not going to bitch when Bonds and Clemens are finally admitted.
For now, here’s a balanced take from Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post:
“The ‘Not on my watch’ crew that has voted against Bonds – a ballot is offered to BBWAA members of 10 years or more – is willing to ignore all those numbers in the name of serving as gatekeepers, the lions on the pedestals sitting outside Cooperstown. There’s virtually no doubt that there are PED users in the Hall already, and there’s something holier-than-thou about keeping others out. Admission of Bonds and Clemens would spur further debate about how much steroid use enhanced what were already legendary careers. Relegation won’t wipe their accomplishments from the record.
“And yet, there are pitfalls in saying the stats should override all else. You know why? Because these guys cheated. They cheated their contemporaries. They cheated the fans. They cheated the game. What the-ends-justify-any-means lessons are we teaching the next generation if there are essentially no ramifications for knowingly and systematically using untoward means to improve your personal standing?
“That sounds like a dramatic and overwrought question to assign to what’s mostly a frivolous situation, until you envision Bonds at the lectern delivering a speech to a Cooperstown crowd and you have to explain to an 11-year-old why the all-time home run king wasn’t a shoo-in to be delivering that speech in the first place. That’s tough….
“How to feel, all these years later? There’s no need for absolutes. Barry Bonds will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and that’s both justified and a damn shame.”
[Yes, I read Fay Vincent’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on the Hall and the character issue. I’m tired of the former commissioner. Just as I’m tired of the topic.]
I’ll just add that next year it will be about another candidate, tainted by the character issue, Carlos Beltran, while we see what happens to Scott Rolen (63.2%, 5 years left), Todd Helton (52.0%, 6 years left) and Billy Wagner (51.0%, 3 years left).
The Premier League is on a break for international play, which includes World Cup qualifying in the Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) region. With five games left, the United States (5-1-3, 18 points) remains second behind Canada (5-0-4, 19), with Mexico (5-2-2, 17 points) third and Panama (4-3-2, 14) fourth.
The top three qualify for the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
The USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) likes to take advantage of the cold weather in the U.S. when it plays its Central American and Caribbean opponents and Thursday, the U.S. squeaked by El Salvador 1-0 in Columbus, Ohio.
So today, the U.S. went to Ottawa to play Canada, obviously another cold-weather game, and our boys lost 2-0. I’ll update the standings next Chat.
Wednesday, the U.S. hosts Honduras in St. Paul, Minn., where the game-time temperature is supposed to be about 7 degrees.
After this, the USMNT has a three-game finale in late March.
--Jonathan, a giant tortoise, turns 190 this year. The most famous resident of the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena is thought to have been born in 1832, 11 years after Napoleon died in exile in the British colony.
Jonathan didn’t arrive on the island from the Seychelles until 1882, when he was gifted to a man who would become St. Helena’s governor. He has spent the last 140 years eating, sleeping, and mating on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion…good work if you can find it, lads.
--According to a recent report from the International Shark Attack File, out of the University of Florida, the number of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide rose sharply in 2021…73 unprovoked shark bites on humans last year, an increase of 28 percent on the 2020 figure of 57.
There were 11 recorded fatalities in 2021 compared to 13 in 2020.
Now I have long argued the ISAF has tremendously understated the figures, with Bar Chat’s own work revealing 6,742 fatalities, most of them in the Vanuatu area, which never seem to get reported.
The ISAF says Australia led the way last year with three, all documented here, but my sources there say it’s more like 1,876.
Some day the truth will come out.
For now, according to the ISAF, Florida had 28 shark bites out of the 47 in the U.S. last year.
The ISAF does forecast more shark attacks off New England, as there have been more great white sightings than ever before, and they say the attacks are coming from “13-foot teenagers,” not 17-foot females.
Kids will be kids.
--Joni Mitchell, who is 78 and last had a hit 47 years ago, asked for her music to be removed from Spotify, joining Neil Young, 76, whose last hit was 50 years ago, in begging off the streaming platform over Covid misinformation concerns.
SiriusXM then gave Young a channel, cuz that’s how the market works. Mitchell’s work, however, is no doubt confused with that of Phoebe Snow, whose “Poetry Man” has been coursing through my brain since Mitchell’s announcement.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/26/63: #1 “Walk Right In” (The Rooftop Singers) #2 “Hey Paula” (Paul and Paula) #3 “Go Away Little Girl” (Steve Lawrence)…and…#4 “Tell Him” (The Exciters) #5 “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” (Bobby Vee…not a bad tune…not bad at all…) #6 “My Dad” (Paul Petersen) #7 “Two Lovers” (Mary Wells) #8 “Telstar” (The Tornadoes) #9 “It’s Up To You” (Rick Nelson…my fave of his…) #10 “Limbo Rock” (Chubby Checker…many of these songs just didn’t age well…C- week…)
Winter Olympics Quiz Answers: Since 1960, the six U.S. Men and Women to win Gold in either the downhill or the slalom…
1984 – Bill Johnson (Sarajevo)
1994 – Tommy Moe (Lillehammer)
2010 – Lindsey Vonn (Vancouver)
1972 – Barbara Cochran (Sapporo)
1984 – Phil Mahre (Sarajevo)
2014 – Mikaela Shiffrin (Sochi)
I’m going to try to have an Add-On up top by noon, Wed. But due to travel, I may have to bag it.