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Rams Went All-In This Season...Mission Accomplished
Add-On posted early Wed. a.m.
--AP Top 25 Poll (records thru Sunday)
1. Gonzaga (56) 21-2
2. Auburn (4) 23-2
3. Arizona 22-2
4. Kentucky 21-4
5. Purdue 22-4
6. Kansas 20-4
7. Baylor 21-4
8. Providence 21-2
9. Duke 21-4
10. Villanova 19-6
11. Texas Tech 19-6
12. Illinois 18-6
13. UCLA 17-5
14. Houston 20-4…down 8 spots after losses to SMU and Memphis
15. Wisconsin 19-5
16. Tennessee 18-6
17. USC 21-4
18. Ohio State 15-6
19. Michigan State 18-6
20. Texas 18-7
21. Murray State 24-2…Go Racers
22. Wyoming 21-3…only second time in Top 25 since 1987-88
23. Arkansas 19-6
24. UConn 17-7
25. Alabama 16-9
Gonzaga has been No. 1 at least four weeks each season since 2018-19. That’s called a “program,” boys and girls. 31 weeks out of 72 at No. 1 over that time.
Rutgers would be No. 34 if you carry out the votes.
--Monday, St. Bonaventure stayed relevant, now 15-7, 7-4, after a second win over Saint Louis (17-8, 8-4) in four days, 83-79 in Olean, NY, after beating the Billikens on Friday in St. Louis.
But what a strange game. Saint Louis shot 56.3% from the field, was 9 of 19 from three, and 16-17 from the free throw line. The Bonnies, once again, were dreadful from downtown, 4-18, and just 9-16 from the foul line.
However, the Billikens had 17 turnovers and the Bonnies just five.
St. Bonaventure has to be feeling much better heading into the stretch run.
--And last night, Wake Forest traveled to Duke to take on Coach K one last time in the regular season. It was an infuriating first half for this fan, the Deacs trailing 42-33, because Duke wasn’t whistled for its first foul until 8:42 remained in the half.
Starting the second half, Coach K was not on the sideline, replaced by Jon Scheyer, who takes over for Krzyzewski next season, and Duke built a 57-38 lead with 14:49 to play.
I was praying the Deacs could cut it to under ten by the end, so that it would look a little better come NCAA tournament selection time, but instead, Wake staged a stirring comeback, led by Alondes Williams, who was saddled with his third foul at 5:33 of the first half, and it was 74-74, seconds left, but the Blue Devils’ Mark Williams dunked in Paolo Banchero’s driving miss and Duke escaped to improve to 22-4, 12-3.
The Deacs, 20-7, 10-6, now face a must-win situation at home Saturday against Notre Dame.
But I was proud of them. We have a coach, Steve Forbes…for once, a real coach, and the comeback showed me everything.
No word on what Coach K’s ailment was, but he did turn 75 on Sunday.
--In other games last night, there are a lot of folks who say 4 Kentucky is the real No. 1 in the country these days, but 16 Tennessee (19-6, 10-3) upset the Wildcats (21-5, 10-3) 76-63 in Knoxville, the Vols holding Kentucky to 34.3% from the field.
10 Villanova (20-6, 13-3) beat 8 Providence (21-3, 11-2) 89-84.
And New Mexico (11-14, 3-8) upset 22 Wyoming (21-4, 10-2) at The Pit, 75-66.
--What a disaster…the Knicks returning home after their five-game western swing and promptly losing to the lowly, tanking Thunder (18-39), 127-123 in overtime. And it was all on Coach Tom Thibodeau, who admitted as much afterwards.
I watched the fourth quarter on and for starters, inexplicably, with a final shot at tying the game in overtime, 3.4 seconds left, Thibodeau subbed in Immanuel Quickley on a designed play to have him take the 3-pointer to tie it. This is the same Quickley who had missed 17 of his previous 19 treys, and was 0 for 6, 0 for 4 from three, in the game. He bricked it, game over (OKC getting a free throw after being fouled on the rebound).
Quickley is now 2-20 on threes…4 for his last 29…
But Thibodeau also wasted his lone challenge with 1:07 remaining in regulation on a foul that had no chance of getting overturned. About 30 seconds later, he bizarrely tried to challenge again and instead forfeited the team’s final timeout.
Last year’s Coach of the Year will be fired, the Knicks a pathetic 25-33 after starting the season 5-1 (and going a shocking 41-31 last season).
--I told you Seth Curry, part of the James Harden-Ben Simmons trade, would be an instant success and fan favorite for Brooklyn and Monday night he came through at the Barclays Center, 23 points, 10 of 18 from the field, as the Nets finally broke an 11-game losing streak, 109-85 over the Kings (22-37), the Nets back to 30-27, 8th in the Eastern Conference.
No word on when Ben Simmons is going to be available to finally play, being idle all season thus far.
--First in the East is Chicago (37-21), which Monday got more heroics from All-Star DeMar DeRozan, who scored 19 of his 40 in the fourth quarter of a 120-109 win over the Spurs (22-36).
DeRozan has scored 30 or more in seven straight games, the first Bull to do so since Michael Jordan in 1996-97. This guy is so freakin’ good.
Final Thoughts on the Super Bowl
--Mark Maske / Washington Post
“The Los Angeles Rams cashed in on the big bets they made on themselves. They are Super Bowl champions.
“Their season of high-stakes, all-in roster maneuvers culminated with a victory Sunday on football’s grandest stage. The Rams delivered in the final minutes to beat the upstart Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, at SoFi Stadium in Super Bowl LVI.
“ ‘That’s what makes this team great,’ Rams Coach Sean McVay said. ‘That’s why they’re world champs because our best players stepped up in the most crucial and critical moments.’
“Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s one-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp with 1:25 remaining won it for the Rams. It was a penalty-filled decisive drive. The Bengals were called for holding, an illegal hit on Kupp and pass interference in the final sequence. Kupp remained in the game after absorbing a jarring hit on a would-be touchdown catch a few plays earlier that was nullified by offsetting penalties….
“(The) Bengals could not hold on or respond to the Rams’ final touchdown. The Bengals’ last-gasp drive ended with a fourth-down incompletion by Burrow, under heavy pressure, with 39 seconds to play….
“(Joe) Burrow was sacked seven times, including twice each by Aaron Donald and Von Miller, and grabbed his right knee after one play late in the game.
“ ‘We’ll get it checked out after the game and when we get back to Cincinnati,’ Burrow said. ‘But I wasn’t coming out.’
“The Bengals remained without a Super Bowl triumph, falling to 0-3 in football’s signature event. They were the feel-good story of the NFL postseason, but they failed to achieve a gratifying victorious ending.
“ ‘We’re proud of what we’ve done,’ Coach Zac Taylor said. ‘We’ve done it the right way. We are a first-class organization from top to bottom. I think that we’ve given the fans something really to be proud of and cheer about. And that’s a plus for us.’….
“No one was mistaking the Rams for underdogs, not with their star-laden roster and their Super Bowl-or-bust approach to this season. They traded for Stafford last offseason. They continued during the regular season, trading for Miller and signing Beckham after he was released by the Cleveland Browns in November.
“The moves paid off handsomely. Stafford had been winless in the playoffs over a dozen seasons with the Detroit Lions. Now, in his first season with the Rams, he helped to secure four postseason victories and is a champion. So, too, is McVay, who had admitted to being out-coached by Bill Belichick three years ago when the Rams, with Jared Goff at quarterback, lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
“ ‘This is just a long time coming for a lot of guys,’ Stafford said….
“The Rams secured their first Super Bowl win since January 2000, when the franchise was based in St. Louis and Kurt Warner was throwing passes to Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. This was their first Super Bowl victory as a Los Angeles-based team.”
Mike Jones / USA TODAY
“The Rams can thank their lucky stars that they have such a talented defense, because the unit anchored by Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd harassed Burrow throughout the second half, holding the Bengals in check and essentially keeping their team in the game….
“But as the clock began to become a factor, pressure mounted on McVay’s offense.
“When the game reached its most crucial points, the Rams went to their bread and butter: Stafford to Kupp, Stafford to Kupp, Stafford to Kupp again including for the game-winning touchdown – and then Donald slammed the door with the sack of Burrow, and strutted up the field, pointing to his ring finger.”
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“Amid the blaring of blue and gold horns, on a super-sized Sunday fit for an ascension, the Los Angeles sports heavens just got a little more crowded.
“Make room for the Rams.
“Move over, Lakers. Back up, Dodgers. Everybody clear space for the oldest of friends, the newest of heroes, the prodigal sons turned Super Bowl champions.
“Six years after returning to Los Angeles with helmet in hand, the Rams raised those helmets to the sky Sunday…
“Requiring a winning drive in the final moments for a third consecutive playoff game, the Rams got it – Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp, just like Magic to Kareem, Bulldog to Scioscia, again and again and again, pushing 79 yards downfield and ending with a one-yard touchdown pass lofted by Stafford and cradled by Kupp with 1:25 remaining.
“Then, in the final minute, requiring one more great play from the planet’s greatest defensive player, the Rams got it, again, Aaron Donald throwing Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to the ground with 39 seconds remaining on fourth down for a game-ending incompletion.
“Boom. Done. Won. The exhausted Rams stalked triumphantly off their sidelines, falling into padded embraces as their fans began chanting the familiar ‘Whose house? …Rams’ house!’ ….
“Maybe now, L.A. will start to really love the Rams….
“In a city of champions, they needed a title to be considered legitimate citizens. Today, they belong.”
--Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale ended up losing $9.5 million betting on the Bengals but got up Monday morning, put on his “big boy britches” and was back to work selling furniture.
I wrote a week ago that he had placed a $4.5 million bet when he drove from Texas into Louisiana and placed the bet on his phone while pulled over at a gas station, placing it with Caesars Sportsbook.
And then it turns out last Friday morning, after driving across the border to Louisiana again, he pulled over at a rest stop and placed a $5 million bet on Caesars’ mobile app, both bets on the moneyline, not taking points.
“The Bengals lost, and it broke my heart because I wanted to see the customers get their money back, but it didn’t work out that way.”
You see, Mattress Mack had run a promotion that offered customers who spent at least $3,000 on mattresses and furniture at his store their money back if the Bengals won.
McIngvale said business has been booming at his store. “We’re busier than ever.”
He watched the Super Bowl at Camp Hope, an interim housing facility in Houston for combat veterans dealing with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
“You sit around and look at those guys whose lives have been totally [messed] up…and they’re trying to rebuild their lives, and all of a sudden, losing a football game isn’t no big deal.”
We love Mattress Mack!
--NBC said a total of 112.3 million people watched the Super Bowl, including 11.2 million streaming the game. An estimated 101.1 million watched on television on NBC and Telemundo, up from last year’s 95.2 million, the lowest since 2006,
Beijing Bits…Kamila Valieva
--Many of us knew before the Beijing Games began that this was a sham Olympics, and now it’s become a disgrace…an entire sport being called into question over the issue of 15-year-old Russian figure skater, superstar, Kamila Valieva.
On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared Valieva to compete in the women’s skating event, which commenced Tuesday.
CAS said preventing the Russian from competing would have caused her “irreparable harm.”
“The athlete should benefit from the following exceptional circumstances: She is under 16 and a protected person under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code,” added CAS’ Matthieu Reeb.
CAS, which is sport’s highest court, said “serious issues of untimely notification of the results” of the failed test – which came during the Games and nearly six weeks after she gave the sample – had also played a part in its decision.
“Such late notification was not her fault, in the middle of the Olympic Winter Games,” the ruling said.
However, if she does claim a medal the IOC has already said there will be no ceremony afterwards. Meanwhile the Russian’s doping case is ongoing and it could mean that her results – and any medals – from Beijing are stripped from her in the months ahead.
On Tuesday, Valieva broke her silence by saying that the doping scandal has left her tearful and “emotionally fatigued.”
“Apparently, this is a stage I have to live through,” she added. “I hear so many good wishes. I have seen outdoor banners in Moscow. It is very pleasing, this support is very important for me in this difficult time. I thought I was alone but my closest friends and family will never abandon me.”
Valieva’s legal team claimed her positive drug test may have come from a contaminated glass of water that contained traces of her grandfather’s heart medication, an explanation confirmed by the IOC as her team’s given cause for Valieva’s positive test for the banned angina drug trimetazidine.
The Russian newspaper Pravda said that Valieva’s lawyer Anna Kozmenko made a similar argument when the skater’s court of arbitration for sport hearing took place on Sunday.
“There can be completely different ways how it got into her body,” Kozmenko is reported to have said. “For example, grandfather drank something from a glass, saliva got in, this glass was somehow later used by an athlete. Or the drug lay down on some surface, traces remained, the drug lay down on this surface, which the athlete then drank.”
You can stop laughing.
Valieva testified during the CAS’s lengthy hearing, which lasted seven hours.
Valieva and her entourage will be investigated by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and WADA after the Olympics. But even if the Russian investigation clears her, the ruling will likely be appealed.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee issued a strong statement following the CAS decision. Team USA finished second to the Russians in the team figure skating competition, which Valieva shined in.
“We are disappointed by the message this decision sends,” USOPC president Sarah Hirschland said. “It is the collective responsibility of the entire Olympic community to protect the integrity of sport and to hold our athletes, coaches and all involved to the highest of standards.
“Athletes have the right to know they are competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately, today that right is being denied. This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.”
Former Team USA stars Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, two of figure skating’s most prominent voices thanks to their roles as analysts on NBC, strongly denounced the CAS allowing Valieva to compete during an on-air hit Monday.
“I strongly disagree with this decision… Clean sport is the only thing that matters at an Olympic Games,” Lipinski, the 1998 gold medalist, said. “What we love about an Olympic Games is that we get to marvel at humans pushing athletic limits and doing the impossible but with one caveat, to do it fairly and cleanly.”
“I have to condemn this decision with every ounce of my soul. The Olympics has to be clean or it’s not fair. If you won’t play fair then you can’t play,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or the timing of when the test results have come in, you have to be responsible for what happens to your body to compete at the Olympics.
“This is a slap in the face to the Olympic Games, to our sport and to every athlete that has ever competed at the Olympics clean. It’s hard to make it to the Olympics and anybody that will try to find the easy way out is in the wrong and should not be able to compete.”
I watched Valieva’s short program, live, Tuesday morning ET, where she made just one little mistake and finished first, setting up Thursday’s long program for the gold.
Personally, I hope Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova wins the gold (currently second) and that Japan’s Sakamoto gets a medal.
But before, and after, Valieva’s performance, Tara Lipinski was blistering in her commentary… “a tremendous scar on our sport,” disgraceful that the skaters won’t have the podium experience, “watching their flags go up, hearing the national anthem.” This whole situation “questions everything,” “you give up everything to get to this point…why?”
Yes, why is Valieva allowed to perform?
--Mikaela Shiffrin finished 18th in the downhill, far behind gold medalist Corinne Suter of Switzerland.
The event served as Shiffrin’s preparation for Thursday’s combined – one run of the slalom and one run of the downhill – that is the final individual event and her last opportunity for a medal.
Like I said, it’s really all about finishing the World Cup season strong. I hope she is at least top five in the combined.
--Since I posted last, Kallie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States finished 1-2 in the inaugural monobob event, in which one female athlete pushes and pilots her sled.
I would not have been a good monobob sledder, having learned late in my life I am not a man of danger.
--French skier Clement Noel won the slalom by a large margin with a phenomenal second run. Johannes Strolz of Austria, gold medalist in the combined, took silver, with world champion Sebastian Foss-Solevaag of Norway winning the bronze.
--Team USA’s Alex Hall won the men’s freestyle skiing slopestyle event, with fellow American Nick Goepper capturing the silver.
--The United States suffered a shocking 3-2 quarterfinal shootout loss to Slovakia in the men’s hockey tournament. Slovakia has never medaled in the sport.
Finland and the Russian Olympic Committee advanced.
Canada faces off against Sweden in the final quarterfinal.
--Bryson DeChambeau took to Twitter to clarify his absence from this week’s Genesis Invitational, Tiger’s tournament at Riviera (Tiger the host for an event that benefits his foundation).
I’ve been writing for weeks about Bison, and his various injuries and withdrawals, missed cuts, amid rumors he is going to sign on with the fledgling Saudi-backed Asian Tour (Super Golf League).
DeChambeau said he isn’t playing in Los Angeles due to injury and addressed the “false reports.”
“I am very disappointed to miss [The Genesis Invitational] this week at one of my favorite golf courses on tour,” he tweeted. “I am currently in the process of rehabbing a hip and hand injury, which I am making positive progress on day by day.
“There are many false reports going around by the media that are completely inaccurate. Any news regarding my health or playing schedule will come directly from me and my team only. This is just another inaccurate report. I look forward to getting healthy and seeing everyone soon!”
DeChambeau’s statement came hours after the popular No Laying Up podcast relayed from sources that he had told his fellow players he was done playing the PGA Tour. Bryson had originally stated to the players, according to the podcast, that the Sony Open would be his last event, although he withdrew from the Hawaiian tournament due to a wrist injury. DeChambeau would later play in the Farmers Insurance Open in late January.
According to No Laying Up, DeChambeau again told fellow players he was done competing on the PGA Tour during the Saudi Invitational two weeks ago. He only played one round before withdrawing with hand and hip pain, saying after it wasn’t due to his speed or weight training but a fall.
There have been reports DeChambeau was offered nine figures to join the new league, which he has denied. Of course that would be nuts if the guy is already damaged goods.
Bison won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year, and this year’s event begins March 3. Will he be there? It would be rather disgraceful if he isn’t.
--Collin Morikawa, in an interview prior to this week’s event at Riviera, said he’s all in for the PGA Tour, despite being approached by the Super Golf League.
Monday, PGA Tour pro Kramer Hickok told a podcast that more than a dozen players have already committed to play in the Saudi-backed project, some of the events to be held in the U.S., or so Hickok said.
--Former Angels/Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was called to testify in the trial of Eric Kay Tuesday.
Harvey spent most of the 2019 season with the Angels. His suspected drug use surfaced at various points through the trial’s first five days as the government attempts to prove to the jury that Kay, a former Angels communications director, gave Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs the drugs that led to his death on the night of July 1, 2019 – and that Kay provided them in Texas, not in California.
The scope of possible drug activity in the Angels organization around Skaggs’ death broadened again Monday when a retired Drug Enforcement Administration special agent testified that former Angels pitcher Garrett Richards sent Kay $1,700 on Venmo across three transactions between Nov. 2016 and Nov. 2017.
Last week during its opening statement, the defense said Harvey provided drugs to Skaggs.
On Monday, DEA special agent Michael Ferry testified he found texts from Skaggs to Harvey months prior to his death asking for drugs to get “loosey goosey.” The Angels released Harvey three weeks after Skaggs died. He is currently a free agent after pitching for Baltimore in 2021.
Then yesterday, Harvey and three other players testified they received oxycodone pills from Eric Kay, who faces drug distribution and conspiracy charges.
Mets fans can only shake their heads in disgust as Harvey acknowledged being a cocaine user before and during his season with the Angels in 2019. Harvey said he tried oxycodone provided by Skaggs and also provided drugs to Skaggs.
Harvey said he had his own drug supplier on the East Coast, and said he got oxy for Skaggs from that supplier.
Matt Harvey, just another loser.
--Novak Djokovic said on Monday that he will not defend his Wimbledon or French Open titles if the tournaments require mandatory vaccination for competitors.
“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” Djokovic told the BBC when asked if he would sacrifice participating in the competitions.
“I say that everybody has the right to choose or act or say or feel whatever is appropriate for them.”
The world number one added, he would forego the tournaments “because the principles of decision making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.”
“I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can,” he added.
You’re a jerk.
--We note the passing of legendary movie producer and director Ivan Reitman, 75. Reitman worked on iconic comedies such as “Animal House” (producer) and “Ghostbusters.”
He made his directorial debut working with Bill Murray in his first starring role in 1979’s summer camp comedy “Meatballs,” and then “Stripes,” but his most significant success came with 1984’s “Ghostbusters.”
The irreverent supernatural comedy starring Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis grossed nearly $300 million worldwide and earned two Oscar nominations, spawning a veritable franchise, including spinoffs, television shows and a new movie,” Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” that opened last year which his son, filmmaker Jason Reitman, directed.
Ivan Reitman was born in Komarno, Czechoslovakia, in 1946 where his father owned the country’s biggest vinegar factory. When the communists began cracking down on capitalists, the family decided to flee when Ivan was only 4.
The family joined a relative in Toronto, where Ivan began to display his show biz inclinations, such as starting a puppet theater, entertaining at summer camps, and playing coffee houses with a folk music group. He studied music and drama at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and began making movie shorts and it was upward from there.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted Sun. p.m., right after the Super Bowl]
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.
College Basketball Quiz: Ten players have 3,000 career points. I’ll give you the initials. Name ‘em.
P.M., F.W., C.C., L.S., A.F., D.M., M.D., H.K., K.C., H.H.
[Hints: Three hit the 3,000 level since 2010. A fourth played his college ball in New Jersey.]
Super Bowl LVI
[As is always the case, no way I can do the game justice on my timeline, and I never try to.]
Los Angeles 23…Cincinnati 20
--At the half, it was 13-10, Los Angeles, but a Johnny Hekker muff on a snap for an extra point cost the Rams, potentially.
As did a seemingly crippling injury for Odell Beckham Jr., who had caught the first touchdown pass of the game from Matthew Stafford.
And then the opening play of the second half was a 75-yard touchdown strike from Joe Burrow to Tee Higgins, 17-13, Cincinnati, and then a second Matthew Stafford interception ended up in an Evan McPherson field goal, 20-13.
L.A. drove 52 yards for a field goal…20-16 after three.
And then on a critical 3rd down, Cincy’s Tyler Boyd dropped a Burrow pass, according to Al Michaels, his first drop of the season.
Stafford and Cooper Kupp then worked it down the field, an amazing, all-time drive for the ages, 15 plays, 79 yards, Kupp scoring on a 1-yard TD pass. 23-20.
And while the Bengals got the ball back, needing only a field goal to tie it, Aaron Donald made two amazing plays, back-to-back, and Cincinnati was stopped on fourth down, game over.
Donald and Stafford get their rings. Even Odell Beckham, Jr. And Wake Forest’s John Wolford! Good for all of them. The Rams had a plan in trading for Stafford, going all-in for the title, and they did it.
Kupp was the MVP.
Much more in my Chat Add-On, but what an NFL postseason we had.
--Commercials were outstanding, and, boy, do I want to see the Jurassic Park finale in a theater. Us Larry David fans were also pleased.
The one promo for a movie that sucked, though, was Jordan Peele’s “Nope.” As in, no way I will see that one.
--As for the halftime show, all my old friends immediately wrote in to say they hated it, which was very predictable.
Hey, I’ve long given up on having Up With People and Al Hirt. Plus they are all dead.
Over the years, of course I loved when U2, Paul McCartney, the Stones and Springsteen did a show.
But this event is for a much younger generation now. As Tony Soprano would have said, ‘Whaddya gonna do?’
I also have to admit, I always thought Dr. Dre was one of the cooler guys on the planet, and seeing as he’s worth a couple hundred $million, at least, and that he controls so many of the artists these days, you try keeping him off that stage.
Lastly, Ice-T should have been part of this…my man, Tracy Marrow…elementary school classmate. And you can look it up.
--Who the heck was that girl, sorry, woman, with Emmitt Smith?! Good lord. Guys, this is what happens when you are the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Just don’t let your wife know you are shaking your head, yes.
--The NFL’s 2021 Award Winners
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. Watt, LB, Steelers
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Parsons, LB, Cowboys
Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel, Titans
Comeback Player of the Year: Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals
Walter Payton Man of the Year: Andrew Whitworth, OT, Rams
For Rodgers it was his fourth MVP award, with only Peyton Manning’s five ahead of him.
Tom Brady won three, along with Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas and Brett Favre.
It’s always cool typing ‘Johnny Unitas.’
--Will Leitch / Washington Post
“Roger Goodell’s annual state-of-the-league news conference during Super Bowl week is highly anticipated by the media – mainly because it’s the only 45-minute stretch all year when the National Football League commissioner faces open questions from reporters, even if one of those reporters is always a super-cute little kid. At Wednesday’s conference, Goodell tried to square several very round circles. It is remarkable how good at this he has become since taking over in 2006.
“When former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed suit against the NFL for racial discrimination in its hiring policies last week, it created a dilemma for Goodell, and for the league. The NFL had just mounted what might have been its most successful season in a decade, and the last thing the NFL wanted was to look insensitive to racial issues, particularly with a player base that is about 70 percent black.
“But this is also the NFL, a multibillion-dollar operation that does not take well to being sued by its employees. Thus, the league’s initial reaction to Flores’ suit was to thunder that it was ‘without merit.’ But then, over the weekend, Goodell also sent out a memo to teams saying the underwhelming effort to promote diversity among head coaches was ‘unacceptable.’ Which was it?
“In the news conference, Goodell appeared to try to reconcile the two contradictory stances by claiming that the ‘without merit’ attack was just a ‘legal’ distinction – even though the NFL’s response was in a news release, sent out over social media – and then acknowledged that there was ‘work to do.’
“The NFL believes in ‘diversity as a value,’ Goodell said – this, in a league that has only three Black head coaches, two of whom were named in the days since Flores’ Feb. 1 suit was filed.
“You almost wanted to believe him. The Goodell of 2014, the one who was sweaty and nervous at a famous news conference in New York City – when the hot NFL scandal involved domestic violence – bore no resemblance to the man outside SoFi Stadium on Wednesday.
“This Goodell was smooth, comfortable and in control, but he also made sure to let you know he felt your pain. It was, dare to say, downright Clintonian.
“How did he get so good at this? The nuances of Goodell’s performance are perhaps best evaluated by public relations professionals and theater critics, but it is also worth noting what Goodell’s job actually is.
“The public tends to have the general idea that a sports commissioner is some sort of altruistic steward with the Best Interests of the Game in mind. This is incredibly, almost laughably incorrect; the job of any sports commissioner is to be a public representative of the owners, to be their spokesperson and primary advocate – to keep the money train always moving….
“Hence the Goodell two-step on Wednesday: When discussing matters such as the NFL’s ratings or revenue, he presented the league as a powerful, unified juggernaut; on difficult matters such as hiring Black head coaches, the league suddenly seemed a collection of 32 solo artists mysteriously falling short of expectations.
“Goodell masterfully deployed the deflection tools of PR 101 for 45 minutes on Wednesday, then he waved and smiled and thanked everyone for coming. The clock had run out.
“At the beginning of the news conference, a reporter asked Goodell how he felt about being asked about the league’s struggle with racial issues, just as he had been last year. I’ll confess: I saw last year’s news conference and had completely forgotten that questions about the league and race were the primary driver.
“The subject will probably lead next year’s news conference, too. Goodell has trained us not to remember – to get through it, to focus on the games, to let it all slide by. It worked last year. It worked this year. It’ll probably work again next year.”
Separately, there are reports Goodell has been frantically trying to get Robert F. Smith, the nation’s richest black man, to buy the Denver Broncos – but thus far he has shown a reluctance to bid.
Smith – a New York-based private-equity tycoon who famously spent $34 million in 2019 to pay off the student loans of the entire graduating class of Morehouse College – is a Denver native and would become the first black owner of an NFL team if he purchased the Broncos.
But Smith, 59, who has an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, according to Forbes, is in the middle of raising a $20 billion-plus fund for his Austin, Texas-based buyout firm, Vista Equity Partners.
The New York Post quoted a source who said, “Smith grew up as a Broncos fan and might want to buy a team, but not now while he is raising a fund.”
The Post reported that a well-placed banking source said, “I think it’s 50/50 whether he bids for the team. The NFL desperately wants Smith to bid. Right now, he doesn’t want to. If Smith bids, he wins.”
--Rob Gronkowski said he thinks Tom Brady’s retirement is temporary and that he’ll play again in a couple of years.
“The guy can play at any age,” Gronk told USA TODAY Sports. “If he’s 50 years old he can still come back. I think he’s going to come back in a couple of years. The guy’s a beast. He can play anytime.”
Gronkowski once retired himself, before the 2019 season, but returned in 2020, reuniting with Brady and winning the Super Bowl.
As for his own future, he said he’ll figure it out later. “I’m just relaxing, letting my body heal.”
--Among those selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 is Sam Mills, the former New Orleans and Carolina linebacker out of little Montclair State, about 20 minutes from here. Great story.
The others: Tony Boselli (OT), Cliff Branch (WR), Leroy Butler (S), Richard Seymour (DL), Bryant Young (DL), head coach Dick Vermeil and official Art McNally.
--If you want to raise a Super Bowl quarterback, name your boy Joe.
Only two quarterbacks have led their teams to college football national championships and Super Bowl victories…Joe Montana and Joe Namath. Was Joe Burrow the third?
Meanwhile, you have Joe Theismann and Joe Flacco…so seven overall SB titles for ‘Joe,’ (Montana with four).
There’s only one other name with seven and that is ‘Tom.’
“Unfortunately, there is one Tom Brady and four of us,” said Theismann.
--It happened…right before Thursday’s trade deadline, the Philadelphia 76ers sent Ben Simmons, as well as Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden, and others.
Simmons has a new start. Will he take advantage of it? Seth Curry is a terrific pickup who should be a crowd favorite. Brooklyn also got two first-round picks, though one is in 2027 when I’ll be dead. [Just a little future draft humor, sports fans.]
Teaming Harden with Joel Embiid can help put the Sixers over the top.
Kyrie Irving, who said his status as a part-time player with the Nets “maybe could’ve impacted things” with Harden, expressed optimism Thursday night that an eventual relaxation of Covid-19 vaccination mandates could alter his part-time status at some point this season.
Why are we still talking about this? What a selfish jerk.
But it gets worse. After the Nets lost their 11th straight last night, 115-111 at Miami, Kyrie with a solid effort, 29 points, including 20 in the fourth quarter, the team is now home for four straight, including a game at the Garden against the Knicks, so four games without Irving.
After the game, Irving was asked if he felt any guilt over his inability to join his teammates until their Feb. 26 game at Milwaukee. Of the Nets’ remaining 26 games, Irving is only eligible for eight. Of Brooklyn’s next eight games, Irving is eligible for one of them.
“Please respect my boundaries, man. That’s all I’m asking, bro,” Irving said in response to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “There’s no guilt that I feel. I’m the only player that has to deal with this in New York City because I play there. If I was anywhere else, it probably wouldn’t be the same circumstances.
“But because I’m there, we have [Mayor] Eric Adams, we have the New York mandate, we have things going on that are real-life circumstances that are not just affecting me, bro. So if you’re asking me these questions, I don’t feel guilt. I’m just living my life like everybody else that missed these last two years.”
Irving said “the NBA and NBPA made it very clear that there would be things that I would be able to do to work around this and that’s off the table. So you tell me if I’m just alone out here or if I have support from everybody else that’s dealing with the same thing.”
Recall, Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors was the only other player to take a stand like Irving, San Francisco with its own mandate at the time, but he then got the shot and will be starting in the All-Star Game Feb. 20.
The Big Three – Durant, Harden and Irving – ended up playing a whopping 16 games together…total. Three this season.
As for Joel Embiid and his thoughts on Ben Simmons, after Simmons’ failures in the 2021 playoffs, as well as a tumultuous offseason where he requested a trade and did not play a single game for the Sixers again, Embiid is happy that the saga is over.
“I honestly don’t care,” Embiid said of Simmons. “Like I always said, it’s unfortunate how everything happened because you look at the history. Obviously, we didn’t get it done as far as winning in the playoffs, but you look at the history being on the court, what we did in the regular season, we were dominant so it’s unfortunate that winning was not the biggest factor.”
“It’s unfortunate that, for him, having his own team and I guess being a star was more of his priorities,” Embiid added. “I’ve always thought that everything was great. The fit was great, but unfortunately Ben thought that it wasn’t, but we all move on.”
--Among the other trades, the Dallas Mavericks sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie, and the Wizards dealt Montrezl Harrell to the Charlotte Hornets.
The entertaining and suddenly contending Cavaliers also brilliantly picked up Caris LeVert from Indiana.
Surprisingly, the Lakers didn’t make a move and after Saturday’s 117-115 loss at Golden State are a sickly 26-31.
--The Knicks supposedly put Julius Randle on the trade block but any offers that materialized weren’t sufficient so the Knicks stood pat. They actually had a nice 116-114 win over the Warriors in San Francisco Thursday night, but then lost to the Trail Blazers yesterday in Portland, 112-103, thus ending their five-game road trip at 1-4, 25-32 overall. What a disaster.
The only good thing is that Julius Randle has been playing his best ball of the season, but who gives a s--- if the losses keep piling up?
--The big story in these parts is Rutgers and its stunning reversal of fortune, a historic reversal.
Yesterday, the Scarlet Knights beat 14 Wisconsin (19-5, 10-4) 73-65, their first win in Madison, ever, and the first time Rutgers has not only defeated three straight ranked opponents, but also done so in three consecutive games. Wednesday, RU had a stunning 10-0 run to end the game, a 66-64 win against 16 Ohio State.
Rutgers (15-9, 9-5), which should get a ton of votes in the next AP poll, still faces 13 Illinois and 3 Purdue in their brutal five-game run.
But this is a team that was dead and buried. Great job by coach Steve Pikiell in rallying a team that suffered some potentially still-deadly early season losses to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass (all in a row) when it comes to the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Stars Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. are stepping up in a huge way when it counts.
--Staying in the Big Ten, Thursday, 3 Purdue lost to Michigan 82-58.
Purdue (22-4, 11-4) held off Maryland (11-14, 3-11), 62-61, while 13 Illinois (18-6, 11-3) beat Northwestern (12-11, 5-9), 73-66.
So the Big Ten standings….
Michigan State 9-4
Ohio State 8-4
Yes, Rutgers has an opportunity to make more noise this week.
--Meanwhile, my Wake Forest lads suffered a bad loss at home yesterday, 76-72 to Miami (18-7, 10-4). Not that Miami is bad…they are certainly solid, but Wake star Alondes Williams, despite his 25 points and probable All-America honors down the road, is a turnover machine, another seven yesterday, including some outrageously careless ones, and it cost us dearly. Williams’ foul shooting is also atrocious (70.2%, but only 5 of his last 11).
Earlier in the week, the Deacs, now 20-6, 10-5, had a terrific 69-51 win on the road at North Carolina State, closing out what had been a tight game with a 16-0 run.
The Deacs now face Duke on Tuesday, and then a red-hot Notre Dame on Saturday. Wake cannot be 10-7 in conference play after these two.
Nothing is guaranteed in the ACC this year, save for Duke, when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, regardless of what the experts say.
ACC standings thru today….
Notre Dame 11-3
The top four get the crucial double-bye in the ACC tournament, which is all the more reason why yesterday’s Wake loss was so costly.
--In other games impacting the AP rankings since my last post….
Wednesday, SMU beat 6 Houston 85-83, the Mustangs improving to 17-5, 8-2.
But then Houston lost again on Saturday to Memphis (14-8, 8-4), 69-59, the Cougars falling to 20-4, 9-2.
--21 USC (21-4, 10-4) had a big win over crosstown rival 12 UCLA (17-5, 9-4) last night. Lots of talent on the sidelines in this one.
--Seton Hall was playing better heading to 15 Villanova Saturday afternoon, the Pirates defeating 25 Xavier on Wednesday, 73-71.
But they fell short yesterday, 73-67, in a terrific ballgame, as The Hall desperately needed this one for their fleeting NCAA tourney hopes, now 15-8, 6-7. Nova improved to 19-6, 12-3.
Seton Hall has top talent. Just a disappointing season.
--St. Bonaventure (14-7, 6-4) played like many of us thought they would all season last Friday, defeating a solid Saint Louis team on the road, 68-61, despite the Bonnies being just 3 of 13 from three. They played great defense and point guard Kyle Lofton is playing like the All-American he was supposed to be start of the season.
The two teams hook up again on Monday in Olean, NY, due to Covid rescheduling. This should be interesting. Two straight wins over the Billikens (17-7, 8-3) will certainly give the Bonnies confidence the rest of the way. The Billikens, I can’t help but add, have one of the best mascots in the land.
But I was shocked to see how many St. Bonaventure fans that I recognized from my trip there were in the stands in St. Louis. Man, these folks are loyal. Understand, it is not easy getting from Olean to the Gateway City.
--After two rounds of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the leader was Sahith Theegala, a rising star who was the collegiate golfer of the year in 2020 at Pepperdine.
Theegala had a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, with Patrick Cantlay another shot back. Pretty good bunch of pursuers.
Theegala earned his PGA Tour card off his Korn Ferry Tour performance last year but needed a sponsor’s exemption to get into this one.
And after three rounds, Theegala was still in the lead….
Theegala -14 (after a third round, 2-under 69)
Scottie Scheffler -12
Talor Gooch -12
Four Ryder Cuppers on this board…Koepka, Scheffler, Cantlay, Schauffele…
And the four finished in the top five.
The WM has as good a finishing four for entertainment value as there is on Tour and it all came into play down the stretch, Theegala, too pumped up after his experience on No. 16, blowing his tee shot on the terrific short par-4 17th in the water for an eventual bogey.
Schauffele and Cantlay, playing ahead, hit terrific wedges out of trouble into the par-4 18th, but missed their birdie putts.
Koepka, playing from behind the entire round due to atrocious wedge play, got his game together late and finished a shot short.
Theegala got a clutch par at 18, but he fell short as well.
Scheffler, after a great birdie at 17, missed his short birdie putt on 18.
So after 72 holes….
I mean, you won’t have a better final five all year, especially given Theegala’s potential to rock the tour.
And in the end, as I frantically flipped back and forth with the Super Bowl, Scottie Scheffler, the best player not to win a tour event, prevailed over Cantlay on the third playoff hole.
I must say, I was super impressed at how many fans stayed for the finish, given The Game was beginning, and you’re picturing ‘til they got home to watch, it would be halftime, easily.
--Sam Ryder will forever be known for acing No. 16 on a Saturday at the WM, in front of the biggest crowd in golf. Carlos Ortiz did today, but not the same impact on Super Bowl Sunday.
--Charley Hoffman is not known as a bomb thrower, but he was furious with the PGA Tour on Friday after his second round, after a rules issue cost him a penalty stroke on a drop. Hoffman, in a lengthy Instagram post, criticized the Tour’s rules officials, who he thinks aren’t held accountable, and accused the Tour of not protecting its players.
On the 13th hole, Hoffman hit his tee shot in the water, which added a penalty stroke to his score. The trouble began when he tried dropping for his third stroke. Hoffman explained in the post that he dropped twice in the side of a hill that didn’t have any grass. He explained that he finally found a “small tuff of grass” for the ball to lay, but when he turned around, the ball rolled back into the water.
Hoffman was a forced to take another penalty stroke, even though he thought the USGA had changed that rule, which made his next shot his fourth stroke. He finished the par-5 hole with a double-bogey.
“I was under the impression that the @usga had changed that rule,” Hoffman wrote in his post. “I was wrong. Had to take another penalty for doing nothing wrong at all. Did everything by the book. It’s still mind blowing that a group of amateurs rule the professional game of golf.”
Hoffman, who is a member of the PGA Tour’s policy board, suggested that episodes like this are why players are considering playing on other tours. Which is stupid. The ‘other’ tours are simply about money, not playing conditions or the rules.
But, having made the cut, Hoffman should have had the stroke removed on further review.
The guy then shot 79 in the third round and ended up last.
--Among those missing the cut were Seamus Power, Sam Burns (second cut in a row after white-hot start to 2021-22 season), Rickie Fowler (third straight ‘MC’), Tony Finau, Daniel Berger, Viktor Hovland, and Harold Varner III (last week’s winner in Saudi Arabia).
Another who missed the cut was Charles Howell III. I’ve written frequently of him for his longevity, consistent play, but lack of wins, and this week marked his 600th career PGA Tour start. $41 million in earnings, but just three victories.
Until last season, Howell had 14 straight top-100 seasons in the points standings.
The 42-year-old has spaced out his three wins…2002, 2007, 2018-19.
--I can’t help but mention this week’s Korn Ferry Tour event, down in Bogota, Colombia. Brandon Matthews won it, his first win, but a Jersey boy, Ryan McCormick, finished T-2.
McCormick is the son of Mark McCormick, an old friend from when I belonged to Suburban Golf Club.
Father Mark made the U.S. Open field at Olympic in 2012, which was a very cool story for us members back then.
In Bogota, Phil W. and I were rooting for the son of a Wake Forest friend, Thomas Walsh, who made the cut…all part of the journey.
--To say I’m underwhelmed by the Olympics is an understatement. From Friday night on, I have watched zippo, nada…Friday night, conveniently after I finished that other column I do, I had the St. Bonaventure game to watch.
But we did have a cool result today…American Erin Jackson became the first Black woman to win a speedskating medal at the Winter Games…a gold one at that…winning the 500 meters. I didn’t realize the American speedskating program hadn’t picked up an individual medal since 2010.
Actually, Jackson was also the first U.S. woman to win a speedskating gold since Bonnie Blair did so in 1994. Good lord.
The 29-year-old joined fellow American Shani Davis as the only Black athletes to win long-track speedskating medals at the Olympics.
But recall, Jackson almost didn’t make it to Beijing after she had slipped during qualifying trials, but her teammate and friend Brittany Bowe gave up her own spot to ensure the world’s No. 1 was able go to.
So Brittany Bowe goes in the December file for all the right reasons!
--Figure skater Nathan Chen completed his quest for the gold medal and became just the seventh American male to do so, the last being Evan Lysacek in 2010.
The only two-time American male gold medalist in figure skating is Dick Button (1948, 1952).
Chen deserves all the endorsements he can scarf up and I hope he does well in that regard. He’s also only 22, so no reason why we shouldn’t expect to see him in 2026.
--Chloe Kim won gold for Team USA in the women’s halfpipe, her second straight gold medal in the event.
--Thursday night (ET, Friday Beijing time), I stayed up to watch Mikaela Shiffrin’s run in the super-G, and I’m glad she made it down, finishing ninth, and that she was smiling.
In actuality, though, it’s about getting her mind right for the remainder of the World Cup season, and her ongoing pursuit of Lindsey Vonn’s all-time women’s titles record.
--Am I really supposed to care about snowboarders Nick Baumgartner and Lindsey Jacobellis earning gold in the first-ever mixed-team snowboard cross event?
I don’t…but good for Lindsey getting her second gold.
--As for the controversy surrounding Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva and her receiving a positive drug test result, this is a classic situation of ‘wait 24 hours.’
More than six weeks went by between Valieva’s sample being taken on Dec. 25 and Feb. 8, when she was notified by a lab in Stockholm, Sweden, that she had tested positive for the banned heart medication trimetazidine. Valieva and her Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team won a gold medal a day earlier.
The Stockholm lab is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), but the ROC and the Russian Anti-Doping Association have questioned the timeline and they have a point.
On Saturday, the IOC said the delay was a question for WADA.
Valieva was suspended by the Russian anti-doping body after the positive test report, but the suspension was lifted a day later after she appealed, allowing her to continue to compete.
The women’s singles figure skating starts Tuesday (Monday night, ET).
Editorial / Washington Post
“The episode is a reminder of why Russian athletes are competing in Beijing under the ROC banner in the first place, rather than the Russian flag and national anthem. In 2016, the former head of the Russian testing laboratory revealed that he had helped dose dozens of athletes with performance-enhancing drugs in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Anti-doping officials and members of Russia’s security service then replaced urine samples with clean ones collected months earlier.
“In 2019, Russia was theoretically barred from the Olympics and other international competitions, though athletes could still participate as members of the national Olympic committee. Ultimately, the ban has been a sham, which is set to expire this December. It obviously has failed to deter further Russian cheating.
“That the subject of the latest doping is Ms. Valieva, a child who entered senior competition only last year, is particularly despicable. She could not have given informed consent to taking the drug, if she were even aware she was being administered it. And she could suffer long-term consequences. Former East German athletes who were subjected to a state-sponsored doping program experienced serious harm to their physical and mental health….
“Ms. Valieva’s case raises a number of questions. If the sample was taken in December, why did global authorities learn of the result only this week – especially given Russia’s history? And what measures are in place to prevent this from happening again? Russia’s drug-testing agency was suspended for three years after the Sochi reports emerged, but it was reinstated to the global anti-doping community in 2018. That decision, made on questionable grounds at the time, should be reevaluated.”
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is slated to issue a ruling Monday.
--Marco Odermatt has owned the giant slalom this year and on Sunday he took the gold in the snow and wind. The 24-year-old Swiss skier said “I really risked everything in the second run because I wanted not just the medal, I wanted the gold medal. It’s difficult because you can lose everything but today it paid off.”
Good for you, Marco!
It was the first time real snow fell during an Alpine skiing race at this year’s Olympics, in case you were wondering if it really does snow at the site.
Zan Kranjec of Slovenia took silver, and world champion Mathieu Faivre of France earned the bronze.
Team USA’s River Radamus just missed out on the podium, finishing fourth.
--Shaun White ended his unprecedented halfpipe career with a fourth-place showing in Friday’s finale. The 35-year-old, three-time gold medalist, said he will retire following these Olympics.
Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, won the gold.
Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY
“Well, any surge of optimism that Major League players will soon be taking the field was loudly and swiftly doused Saturday, creating more anxiety and concern the start of the regular season will be delayed.
“Major League Baseball presented a comprehensive new set of proposals in hopes of accelerating talks towards a labor deal, but Major League Players Association officials and several players say they were thoroughly unimpressed, and did not view it as progress.
“The cold-hearted reality now is that 72 days since the MLB imposed the lockout in hopes of accelerating talks towards a new labor deal, MLB and the union are barely any closer now towards a deal than they were at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 2.
“The two sides met for only the fifth time Saturday, and the first in 11 days on core economic issues, but there was little progress towards a deal.
“Spring training will now be delayed.”
Pitchers and catchers were due to report Thursday. Spring training games are scheduled to begin Feb. 26. Players don’t begin receiving paychecks until Opening Day.
The deadline for an agreement to preserve the start of the season is Feb. 28, and that’s still a stretch to get players ready for the March 31 start to the season.
MLB presented a 130-page proposal yesterday, covering every facet of the collective bargaining agreement, but the players said it was “miniscule movement given the calendar.”
The players’ union is supposed to present a counterproposal within a week.
Without getting into all the specifics, the two sides are far apart on the luxury tax, and minimum salary, but you’d think there is room to meet somewhere in the middle.
Bottom line, we’ll learn a lot more next weekend.
--Former major league player Jeremy Giambi committed suicide on Wednesday. He was 47.
Jeremy was the brother of Jason Giambi, a five-time All-Star during his time in Oakland.
Jeremy played six seasons from 1998-2003 with the Royals, A’s, Phillies and Red Sox. He had 52 home runs, 209 RBIs in his career, batting .263.
Giambi played in the postseason twice with the A’s and was famously tagged out at home on Derek Jeter’s “flip” in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees.
Giambi was also implicated with his older brother in the BALCO performance-enhancing drug scandal and testified before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area lab that distributed PEDs to elite athletes. In testimony obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Jeremy Giambi admitted injecting substances received from Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds’ personal trainer and one of the key targets of the probe.
After an extensive period of international and other play, the Premier League got going again.
Saturday, Manchester City blitzed Norwich 4-0, while Manchester United managed just a 1-1 draw with tough Southampton.
Sunday, my Tottenham Spurs suffered a devastating loss in terms of their Champions League hopes, their third straight, falling to the Wolves 2-0.
Liverpool edged Burnley 1-0, Newcastle had a big win in the battle to avoid relegation, 1-0 over Aston Villa, and West Ham got a dramatic 90th-minute equalizer at Leicester to salvage a critical point, 2-2.
Standings…Played (of 38) – Points
1. Man City…25 – 63
2. Liverpool…24 – 54
3. Chelsea…24 – 47
4. West Ham…25 – 41 …Champions League line
5. United…24 – 40
6. Arsenal…22 – 39
7. Wolves…23 – 37
8. Tottenham…22 – 36 …bloom off the Antonio Conte rose…drat!
The relegation fight….last three sent down
17. Newcastle…23 – 21
18. Norwich…24 – 17
19. Watford…23 – 15
--Medina Spirit may have died of a heart attack but a necropsy report was inconclusive, according to California regulators on Friday. Hair, blood and urine samples showed no evidence of doping.
The colt, whose victory in the 2021 Kentucky Derby has been called into question by a failed post-race drug test, died on Dec. 6 after working five furlongs at the Santa Anita Park racetrack. The necropsy was conducted by veterinarians and forensic experts at the University of California, Davis.
“A definitive cause of death was not established despite extensive testing,” the California Horse Racing Board said in a statement.
Medina Spirit had swollen lungs, foam in his windpipe and an enlarged spleen, all common when horses die suddenly, the board said. Those conditions are “compatible with, but not specific for a cardiac cause of death,” it said.
It’s unusual to reach an inconclusive necropsy, but for Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit’s trainer, at least extensive toxicological testing revealed no doping and the cardiac arrest wasn’t caused by the use of medications.
But the necropsy doesn’t resolve whether Medina Spirit’s Derby victory will be allowed to stand. Kentucky racing officials are meeting Monday to determine whether his first-place finish should be vacated.
At stake for the owner, Amr Zedan, is the Derby’s $1.8 million first-place check, which would be awarded to the owners of Mandaloun, the second-place finisher, if Medina Spirit’s victory is invalidated. It was also a record seventh Derby victory for Baffert.
Meanwhile, with the 2022 Kentucky Derby fast approaching, as of now, none of Baffert’s contenders will make the Derby starting gate because he has been barred for two years from Churchill Downs and thus his horses are not receiving any qualifying points in the Derby prelim races being held to determine the field. It sucks.
--Sadly, Australia has listed the koala as an endangered species across most of its east coast, after a dramatic decline in numbers.
The once-thriving marsupial has been ravaged by land clearing, bushfires, drought, disease and other threats.
Last year, New South Wales inquiry found koalas would be extinct there by 2050 unless there was urgent action.
It estimated the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 had killed 5,000 koalas and affected 24% of habitats in New South Wales alone.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/20/65: #1 You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (The Righteous Brothers) #2 “Downtown” (Petula Clark) #3 “This Diamond Ring” (Gary Lewis and The Playboys)…and…#4 “The Name Game” (Shirley Ellis) #5 “My Girl” (The Temptations) #6 “Hold What You’ve Got” (Joe Tex…forgot that this good one…ya never hear it today…) #7 “All Day And All Of The Night” (The Kinks) #8 “Shake” (Sam Cooke) #9 “The Jolly Green Giant” (The Kingsmen) #10 “I Go To Pieces” (Peter and Gordon…A- week…)
College Basketball Quiz Answer:
1. Pete Maravich 3,667 (1968-70) LSU
2. Freeman Williams 3,249 (1975-78) Portland State
3. Chris Clemons 3,225 (2016-19) Campbell
4. Lionel Simmons 3,217 (1987-90) La Salle
5. Alphonso Ford 3,165 (1990-93) Mississippi Valley State
6. Doug McDermott 3,150 (2011-14) Creighton
7. Mike Daum 3, 067 (2016-19) South Dakota State
8. Harry Kelly 3,066 (1980-83) Texas Southern
9. Keydren Clark 3,058 (2003-06) Saint Peter’s (Jersey City, NJ)
10. Hersey Hawkins 3,008 (1985-88) Bradley
11. Oscar Robertson 2,973 (1958-60) Cincinnati
12. Danny Manning 2,951 (1985-88) Kansas
Amazing to think Maravich and the Big “O” amassed these totals in just three years.
Add-On up top by noon, Wednesday.