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Is Phil Mickelson Suspended?
Add-On posted early Wed. a.m.
--New AP Poll (record thru Sun.)
1. Gonzaga (61) 23-2
2. Arizona 24-2
3. Auburn 24-3
4. Purdue 24-4
5. Kansas 22-4
6. Kentucky 22-5
7. Duke 23-4
8. Villanova 21-6
9. Texas Tech 21-6
10. Baylor 22-5
11. Providence 22-3
12. UCLA 19-5
13. Wisconsin 21-5
14. Houston 22-4
15. Illinois 19-7
16. USC 23-4
17. Tennessee 19-7
18. Arkansas 21-6
19. Murray State 26-2 …senior forward KJ Williams carrying the team
20. Texas 19-8
21. UConn 19-7
22. Ohio State 16-7
23. St. Mary’s 22-6
24. Alabama 17-10
25. Iowa 18-8
If you carry out the votes, Rutgers is No. 27, Wake Forest No. 35, befitting the 9-seed Joe Lunardi has us at currently.
Rutgers ended up losing to then-No. 5 Purdue on Sunday, 84-72, ending its historic run of wins over top 25 teams, four in a road. They were actually the first unranked team in college basketball history to defeat four consecutive ranked opponents.
--Tuesday, 21 UConn defeated 8 Villanova, 71-69.
And St. Bonaventure continued its resurgence, 73-55 over Rhode Island in Olean, N.Y. The Bonnies have won six straight to move to 18-7, 10-4. There is still hope.
--But the big story in college basketball was Sunday afternoon’s brawl after the Michigan-Wisconsin game, when Michigan coach Juwan Howard took an open-handed swipe across the face of Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft.
It doesn’t matter if Howard had a reason to be miffed at Badgers head coach Greg Gard for calling a timeout, resetting the 10-second half-court clock, Michigan down 15 points with 15 seconds left. Howard, after all, rather than calling his guys off, had them pressing the Badgers’ backups.
Gard tried to explain in the handshake line when he saw how miffed Howard was and then all hell broke loose, with a number of players also exchanging blows.
After the game, Howard didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation. He said he felt the “need to defend himself,” that someone – presumably Gard – touched him first.
Seriously? Howard is 6-foot-9. And after the initial skirmish, Howard returned for more.
Monday, the Wolverines suspended Howard for five games – the remainder of the regular season – and he was fined $40,000 by the Big Ten, which also suspended 3 players for one game each. Coach Greg Gard received a $10,000 fine.
Howard, in a statement released by the university, said he realizes “how unacceptable” his actions and words were.
He offered apologies to his team, their families, his staff, family and Michigan fans. He also apologized to coach Krabbenhoft and his family.
“Lastly, I speak a lot about being a Michigan man and representing the University of Michigan with class and pride, I did not do that, nor did I set the right example in the right way for my student-athletes. I will learn from my mistake and this mistake will never happen again. No excuses!”
It’s up in the air what the school will do for the Big Ten tournament and any postseason participation.
Rutgers goes to Michigan on Wednesday, with the Wolverines in some turmoil (two of the three players suspended were from Michigan as well, including starter Moussa Diabate).
--Phoenix is first in the Western Conference with a gaudy 48-10 record, 6 ½ games ahead of Golden State (42-17), but they’ve now lost Chris Paul for 6-8 weeks with a right thumb fracture suffered in last Wednesday’s game. Eight weeks for Paul would take him right to the beginning of the playoffs, April 16-17.
--The remainder of the regular season, it’ s really about who makes it to the play-in rounds, Nos. 7-10 in each conference.
9. Charlotte 29-31
10. Atlanta 28-30
11. Washington 27-31
12. New York 25-34…yuck
9. Lakers 27-31
10. Portland 25-34
11. San Antonio 23-36
12. New Orleans 23-36
--I didn’t have a chance last time to note the achievement of the great Bernhard Langer, who at the age of 64, won the Chubb Classic on the Champions Tour wire to wire, with a 54-hole score of 16-under, beating runner-up Tim Petrovic by three.
It was Langer’s 43rd victory on the tour, moving him within two of Hale Irwin’s Champions Tour record.
Langer admitted after that he has Irwin’s record squarely in his sights. “More and more so,” he said, “I’m coming after you, Hale.” He did say this with a smile.
But think about it…Langer has won in every year since his first senior victory in October 2007, 16 straight years, five years longer than Irwin. He also has now won 10 times since turning 60, which would be good enough to stand alone as an outstanding senior career.
Oh, and he shot his age in the opening round.
One other note on the Chub Classic, held in Naples, Fla., at the Tiburon Golf Club. A sponsor’s exemption was extended to a local director of golf for a nearby club, Mike Balliet, and as Phil W. alerted me to, Balliet shot 90-95-96, +65. He actually picked up $736 for his effort.
Gee, I hope this guy isn’t giving lessons.
--The following was written prior to the big apology…which then follows…
The musings of Phil Mickelson continue to reverberate around the game of golf, and he has hurt his legacy big time. After winning the PGA Championship last year at Kiawah, he had the world by the balls.
He could still play the majors, play some on the senior tour, and do a little golf commentary, which he’s shown already he’s outstanding at. And he could keep cutting commercials and lead an awesome life.
Well, he still has tons of money, so he can do whatever he wants, go wherever he chooses, but the good golf fan, and Phil’s peers, have lost a ton of respect for the guy.
In the course of just a few days, it is also safe to say that the Saudi league he had reportedly helped design, is history.
Bob Harig / Morning Read (SI)
“Mickelson’s incendiary comments have led to harsh backlash, more so than Mickelson has ever endured in his career, and served to cast a pall over the Genesis Invitational, won by Joaquin Niemann on Sunday. Mickelson’s had his moments of controversy, just like anyone in a prominent position would over three decades (including the messy business with the Securities & Exchange Commission), but nothing like this.
“Once viewed as the smiling, accommodating, autograph-signing opposite to the stone-cold ultra-focused Tiger Woods, Mickelson now appears increasingly to be golf’s bad guy.
“Both Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau – long believed to be in Mickelson’s corner as part of a group of players strongly looking at the LIV Golf Investments strategy for a new tour – issued statements on Sunday in which they said they would remain with the PGA Tour.
“Rory McIlroy piled on, saying he didn’t want to kick Mickelson while he was down before doing exactly that by calling him ‘naïve, selfish, egotistical, ignorant.’
“They have joined other prominent players such as Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa in saying they are staying with the PGA Tour.
“Mickelson looks to be swimming alone in the ocean without a life jacket. And the entire episode is sad.
“Not because Phil went looking for more riches, explored the possibility of something new or even criticized the PGA Tour.
“Sad, because Mickelson has been such a positive force for the game for so long. Sad, because while nobody proved to be the ultimate adversary to Woods, Mickelson stepped up as well or better than any other player. Sad, because he was destined to be an incredible elder statesmen, a Ryder Cup captain, a possible lively and entertaining presence in the TV booth.
“Is all of that now gone? A source said that Mickelson in recent days lost two of his sponsors. He’s seen some of his allies in this quest back down. There is a concern the PGA Tour could suspend him.
“Perhaps all of this eventually blows over but when you call out the PGA Tour for its ‘obnoxious greed’ in an interview with Golf Digest and then are reported to have made comments to The Fire Pit Collective in November that appeared last week (Ed. Alan Shipnuck’s interview for a book he is doing on Lefty) in which he said the Tour has ‘been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics, but we, the players, had no recourse’ – those are strong words that have left a bad taste.
“The irony is that some of Mickelson’s complaints are not without merit. The PGA Tour has been known to be secretive about its financial dealings, a frustration to players for years. There are more than a few who seem rankled by the fact that the commissioner (first Tim Finchem, now Jay Monahan) can make more in salary and bonuses than the No. 1 player on the money list….
“These are fair points worth vetting, but it’s the venom that has seemingly put people off.”
Back to Dustin Johnson, he issued a statement via social media, but significantly released by the Tour, Sunday.
“Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour; much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf,” DJ wrote. “I feel it’s now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to play the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family. While there will always be areas where our Tour can improve and evolve, I am thankful for our leadership and the many sponsors who make the PGA Tour golf’s premier tour.”
DeChambeau issued a statement after DJ: “While there has been a lot of speculation surrounding my support for another tour, I want to make it very clear that as long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I. As of now, I am focused on getting myself healthy and competing again soon. I appreciate the support.”
Rory McIlroy, after hearing of the strong support for the Tour from many of the biggest names in golf, concluded the Saudi Golf League was dead.
“Who’s left? Who’s left to go? I mean, there’s no one. It’s dead in the water in my opinion. Yeah, I just can’t see any reason why anyone would go.”
McIlroy said he didn’t know where DeChambeau stood until after his final round Sunday.
“No one really knew where Bryson stood,” Rory said. “I was really glad to see DJ and Bryson put out those statements. We all want to play against the best players in the world and they’re certainly two of the best players in the world and it’s nice to know that they’re committed to playing here and committed to making this the best tour in the world.”
McIlroy then aimed a few arrows at Greg Norman.
“I knew the way these guys have operated and it’s all been smoke and mirrors and they’ve created rumors and spread rumors and tried to play one guy off another and said one thing to one manager and said a different thing to another manager and just sort of created this chaos and confusion around that group, and everyone’s questioning everyone else’s motives so they’re just kind of playing everyone off one another. I think it’s nice now that we all can sit down and say, look, we’re all on the same page here,” he said.
McIlroy added, “I would say don’t try to fix something that’s not broken. I don’t think that the Tour and the system is broken.”
One other golfer weighed in on Mickelson, Billy Horschel, who said on a podcast that his comments were “idiotic” and untrue, while asserting Phil had tarnished his legacy.
Tuesday, Mickelson tweeted an apology, sparking further backlash.
“Although it doesn’t look this way now given my recent comments, my actions throughout this process have always been with the best interests of golf, my peers, sponsors and fans,” Mickelson wrote. “There is the problem of off-the-record comments being shared out of context and without my consent, but the bigger issue is that I used words that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions.
“It was reckless, I offended people, and I am deeply sorry for my choice of words. I’m beyond disappointed and will make every effort to self-reflect and learn from this.
“The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level,” Lefty continued. “I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.
“My experience with LIV Golf Investments has been very positive,” Mickelson wrote. “I apologize for anything I said that was taken out of context. The specific people I have worked with are visionaries and have only been supportive. More importantly they love golf and share my drive to make the game better.
“Golf desperately needs change, and real change is always preceded by disruption. I have always known that criticism would come with exploring anything new. I still chose to put myself at the forefront of this to inspire change, taking the hits publicly to do work behind the scenes.”
Mickelson said he has given his sponsors, which include Callaway and Amstel Light, the opportunity to pause their relationships with him. KPMG followed suit, becoming the first to announce an end of its partnership with Mickelson, a decision the company said was mutual. “We wish him the best,” KPMG said in an email.
“I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and many have been shared with the public,” Mickelson wrote. “My intent was never to hurt anyone and I’m sorry to the people I have negatively impacted. This has always been about supporting the players and I appreciate all the people who have given me the benefit of the doubt.”
Alan Shipnuck fired back, standing by the excerpt from his soon-to-be-released “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar.”
“He sent me a text on the morning the excerpt dropped. He was less than thrilled,” Shipnuck wrote in a column on the Fire Pit Collective. “Just as in the statement he released on Tuesday afternoon, Mickelson made a half-hearted attempt at revisionist history, trying to say our talk had been a private conversation, but I shut that down real quick.
“He knew I was working on a book about him and asked to speak, saying he wanted to discuss media rights and his grievances with the PGA Tour, both of which inevitably lead back to Saudi Arabia. If the subject of a biography phones the author, the content of that conversation is always going to inform the book, unless it is expressly agreed otherwise.”
There was no agreement, Shipnuck said.
“Not once in our texts or when we got on the phone did Mickelson request to go off-the-record and I never consented to it; if he had asked, I would have pushed back hard, as this was obviously material I wanted for the book,” Shipnuck wrote. “Mickelson simply called me up and opened a vein. To claim now that the comments were off-the-record is false and duplicitous.”
Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who has ripped Mickelson in the past, was not buying Phil’s apology.
“The statement was six paragraphs,” Chamblee said in a Golf Channel interview. The first paragraph was about him pretending to be a victim. The second paragraph was about him pretending to be an activist. The third and fourth paragraphs were spin damage control about him getting paid either now or certainly in the future, when you consider he wrote the Saudi operating agreement for this tour.
“The last two paragraphs were him reminding everyone that he’s a good guy.”
Chamblee said golf is in a good place and disputed Mickelson’s contention the game desperately needs change.
“How does it (golf) desperately need change?” Chamblee said. “The game of golf is booming. [Golf manufacturers] for the first time ever are having to deal with supply. Do they have enough supply to furnish all those fans of the game that are out there playing in record numbers. The PGA Tour is doing extraordinarily well.”
Chamblee, who ripped Mickelson for playing in Saudi Arabia in 2019, said this is another instance where Mickelson was trying to have it both ways, comparing it to the time Lefty took down Tom Watson after the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s loss to the Europeans in 2014.
Chamblee – who spoke out against Mickelson’s actions at the time – said Mickelson called him a few days later and the two talked for around 30 minutes, where “he told me all kinds of bad things about Tom Watson, trying to make the case that this was all Tom’s fault [and] certainly not his fault.”
“When I hung up, I thought it was Phil at his manipulative best, trying to call me to put words in my mouth, so that I will not continue [to criticize him.],” Chamblee said. “What I think was more telling after that, was that a week or two after that I began to hear other journalists essentially, almost verbatim, spitting out the very words that Phil had told me (about Watson), which made me think that Phil had probably called numerous journalists – again trying to work both sides of the room – so that he could come back and wrap his arms around the Ryder Cup as if he were the triumphant savior.
“Meanwhile, he’s the one that had been punching holes in the boat, but he wanted to steer it into the harbor and act like he was the heroic captain.”
Chamblee later said in the interview that one group that didn’t receive any apology was the PGA Tour.
“There was no effort to mend fences with the PGA Tour [in the statement],” Chamblee said. “He made quite an effort to mend fences with LIV Golf. Quite an effort there, because there it’s about money and control.”
Chamblee also said Mickelson has roughly a $250 million pension plan after he’s done playing and he wouldn’t be getting that in any Saudi-backed tour.
At this point, we all need a break from Phil.
Final Thought on Beijing
John Powers / Boston Globe
“Whatever were the Beijing Games that closed Sunday, there was nothing majestic nor heavenly about them.
“The five Olympic rings might as well have been part of a chain link fence that walled off the athletes from both city and the world for a forbidding fortnight. These were Games that were marked by anxiety, by isolation, by controversy and, finally, by relief that they were over.
“The best thing that could be said about them is that they were superbly organized and that the competitors were spared having their events disrupted by the Covid surge that swept through their homelands.
“But the closed loop that limited the athletes to the Olympic Village and the venues and kept out their families and friends deprived these Games – which IOC president Thomas Bach called ‘unforgettable’ – of their customary camaraderie and joy. The 2022 medalists were not so much victors as survivors.
“Assuming that the pandemic has passed by then the next edition should be decidedly more celebratory. Cortina, a charming resort tucked away next to a river in the Dolomites, has much the same vibe as it did in 1956 when the Games were significantly smaller and more intimate, when all of the events were outdoors and athletes stayed in hotels.
“ ‘It was just gorgeous,’ figure skater Carol Heiss recalled half a century later. ‘Everyone was wearing fur coats. It was that kind of ambience.’
“The Winter Games always had a snowshoes, sweaters, and schnapps feeling to them. The early ones were held in places like Chamonix and St. Moritz, Lake Placid and Garmisch, that existed for the savoring of snow and ice.
“Once the sports program doubled in size and the number of participants tripled the Games outgrew mountain hideaways and went to cities like Calgary and Turin that had the necessary space and infrastructure. And once the price tag soared fivefold and bidders dwindled, the Lords of the Rings went to dictatorships where cost was irrelevant and dissent was non-existent.
“These Games only were held in Beijing because there was no better place that wanted them. Oslo, the 1952 host and a winter sports hub, was the favorite during the 2015 bidding process. The city already had most of the necessary facilities and there were mountains and a sledding venue in nearby Lillehammer, the 1994 site.
“But the Norwegians were sobered by the $50 billion that Sochi had spent a year earlier and appalled by the royal treatment that the IOC expected for its members which included cocktails with King Harald V, chauffeured cars, 24-hour service in a posh hotel, and ‘seasonal fruits and cakes’ in the rooms among other lavish perks.
“So the country’s parliament voted against a financial subsidy, Oslo withdrew and the 2022 Games were awarded to a repressive country with a horrifying human rights record because it was the ‘safe’ choice, guaranteed to organize the event impeccably.
“Even before this winter the IOC had resolved to choose future sites differently, consulting early on with interested candidates, guiding them through the intricacies of organizing the Games and then handpicking one.
“It’s no coincidence that the next three selections – Paris, Milan-Cortina, and Los Angeles – all are previous Olympic hosts that will use existing facilities or create temporary ones.
“The 2032 Summer Games already have been awarded to Brisbane and it seems likely that the 2030 winter version will go to either Salt Lake City or Vancouver, both recent hosts. What all of them have in common is that their countries are democracies. At some point, you run out of dictatorships that can build a bobsled run.
“The IOC correctly was pilloried for taking the easy way out with Sochi and Beijing. The advantage of dealing with authoritarian states is that it’s one-stop shopping. You talk to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, explain the requirements, and it’s done. The disadvantage is that those countries tend not to embrace the values of Olympism.
“The IOC prefers to ignore the discordant discrepancy, insisting that the Games must be beyond politics. What it has realized, if belatedly, is that much of the world views that notion as hopelessly naïve.
“Going back to Cortina will be a romantic return to a simpler time for the Olympics, a time before state-sponsored doping and professionalism and budgets of billions upon billions. None of the present realities, of course, will have changed by 2026.
“The enduring memory of the Games just concluded is that a nation that was required to compete without its name, flag, or anthem as punishment for its past and ongoing addiction to banned drugs had the most successful medal haul in its history. And that a 15-year-old girl was the sobbing face of these Games.”
--The great Emile “The Cat” Francis died over the weekend. He was 95.
A former goaltender in the NHL, though playing in only 95 games for the Black Hawks and New York Rangers, Francis became a one-man operation with New York as the Rangers’ general manager from 1964 to 1976, coaching the team from 1965-75 (a few of the years starting off with someone else behind the bench before Francis would take over himself), guiding the Rangers to the playoffs nine straight seasons in what were my formative years as a hockey fan. But no Stanley Cup…the 1971-72 edition losing the Finals to the Bruins.
Nonetheless, great memories, watching on Saturday nights, going to an occasional game, listening to the games during the week on the radio, with Marv Albert doing them.
As longtime New York Post hockey writer Larry Brooks wrote on Francis’ passing:
“A generation of fans mourns, but celebrates the era in which the Rangers were imperfect, flawed and unable to win the Cup, but outstanding, exciting, entertaining and charismatic. Those teams and those players were beloved. Even without a Cup, you will never convince me or my brethren that these were not the best and brightest of times and that these Rangers were not representatives of the franchise’s Greatest Generation.”
Francis coached stars like Eddie Giacomin, Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Brad Park.
But he made some controversial moves that cost him his job, including releasing Giacomin, a huge fan favorite (I had a poster of him in my room), who was then claimed by the Red Wings, playing in the Garden two nights later, with fans chanting “Kill the Cat.”
A week after the Giacomin move, Francis traded Park and Ratelle to the Bruins for Phil Esposito and defenseman Carol Vadnais, another highly unpopular move with mixed results, and Francis was fired as general manager in January 1976, after which he became the general manager and coach of the St. Louis Blues. He was later a senior executive of the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes).
Francis was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a “builder” of the game in 1982.
--The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission finally acted and announced it was stripping the since-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, of the Kentucky Derby crown from last year after testing positive for a legal drug banned for use on race day. It’s only the third time a winner has been disqualified in the 146-year history of the race.
With the DQ, Mandaloun becomes the winner. However, there will be no refunds or payouts for anyone who bet on the horse. There is a class-action lawsuit working its way through the courts for bettors.
In addition, trainer Bob Baffert was suspended for 90 days and fined $7,500. The suspension is scheduled to begin March 8 and end June 5, but that will be put on hold as Baffert’s attorneys plan to appeal the decision. If the suspension were to stand, it would be honored by all states, not just Kentucky. The winner’s purse of $1.86 million also has to be returned if the appeal fails.
Churchill Downs, which had earlier suspended Baffert for two years, supported the decision by the KHRC.
Owners now have to choose between loyalty to Baffert or moving their horses to another trainer. The first win-and-you-are-in race was held this past weekend. Baffert has a slew of horses that otherwise probably would have qualified.
--Major League Baseball and the Players Association resumed their negotiations Monday in Jupiter, Fla., with MLB making some slight moves to the players’ position.
MLB increased its offer of a bonus pool for pre-arbitration players by $5 million to $20 million, a fraction of the $115 million the union has asked for.
Clubs also increased their proposal for a lottery for the amateur draft from the top three picks to the top four. Players have asked for the top eight.
--U.S. women soccer players reached a landmark agreement with the sport’s American governing body to end a six-year legal battle over equal pay, a deal in which they are promised $24 million plus bonuses that match those of the men.
The U.S. Soccer Federation and the women announced a deal Tuesday that will have players split $22 million, about one-third of what they had sought in damages. The USSF also agreed to establish a fund with $2 million to benefit the players in their post-soccer careers and charitable efforts aimed at growing the sport for women.
The USSF committed to providing an equal rate of pay for the women’s and men’s national teams – including World Cup bonuses – subject to collective bargaining agreements with the unions that separately represent the women and men.
“For our generation, knowing that we’re going to leave the game in an exponentially better place than when we found it is everything,” 36-year-old midfielder Megan Rapinoe said during an interview with the Associated Press. “That’s what it’s all about because, to be honest, there is no justice in all of this if we don’t make sure it never happens again.”
U.S. women have won four World cups since the program’s start in 1985, while the men haven’t reached a semifinal since 1930.
The $22 million will be split into individual amounts proposed by the players, subject to the District Court’s approval.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.
Daytona 500 Quiz: Name the following winners…you get the initials.
1967 / M.A. 1980 / B.B. 1986 / G.B. 1990 / D.C. 2002 W.B. Answers below.
--At the Genesis Invitational at Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades, CA., 23-year-old Chilean Joaquin Niemann went low, 63-63 in the opening two rounds, breaking the 36-hole record here by four strokes!
I mean you never see a leaderboard spread out like this after two rounds…
Cameron Young -14 ….Go Deacs, played with Will Zalatoris
Justin Thomas -11
Jordan Spieth -9
Adam Scott -9
Collin Morikawa -8
So would this terrific pack of pursuers make up any ground in the third round to make Sunday’s finale exciting?
Not exactly…after three rounds…
Niemann -19 (3rd round 3-under 68)
Viktor Hovland -13…after an opening 71, 64-65
And Niemann closed the deal, wire-to-wire, an even-par 71, enough to do it, two ahead of Young and Morikawa….great effort by Young.
But Niemann, with his second win, is yet another who has sent a message…he’s obviously for real, yet another 20-something contender for the majors.
It’s going to be great fun on the PGA Tour this year.
--Missing the cut this week were Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Sam Burns (third straight MC for him…huh…he’s costing a lot of DraftKings players a lot of money….)
Speaking of DraftKings, I continue to suck royally with my golf lineups, and I’ve been placed on probation, yet again, by DK authorities. When advised of this, I told them, “Well at least I’m not losing $100s of millions a quarter like you losers are!” At which point they extended my probation from six to 12 months. This is what happens when you don’t follow your own ‘24-hour rule.’
--Phil Mickelson is looking to be suspended, if he hasn’t been already (the tour keeping such penalties secret, unless the player wants to talk about it). In an interview with journalist Alan Shipnuck, who is writing a book on Mickelson, due out in May, Phil said that he recruited three other “top players” for the Saudi-backed golf league and they paid attorneys to write the operating agreement for the proposed league. And he added that his end game is more about a chance to reshape the PGA Tour than for the Saudi league to succeed.
“They’re scary mother---ers to get involved with,” Mickelson says. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson said the PGA Tour has used “manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics” because players had no recourse. He said Commissioner Jay Monahan might seem to be a nice person, but without leverage, “he won’t do what’s right.”
“The Tour is supposed to be a nonprofit that distributes money to charity. How the (hell) is it legal for them to have that much cash on hand (Phil says $800 million)? The answer is, it’s not. But they always want more and more. They have to control everything. Their ego won’t allow them to make the concessions they need to.”
“The Tour likes to pretend it’s a democracy, but it’s really a dictatorship,” Mickelson told Shipnuck.
Joel Beall / Golf Digest
“Phil Mickelson’s association with a proposed Saudi-backed golf league is many things. A financial windfall, a power play, a move spurred by misguided vengeance. But if Thursday’s report from the Fire Pit Collective is true, he’s not so much an associate of the Super League as he is an architect. And that engineering could spell the end of his time with the PGA Tour.
“There are enough juicy portions from Mickelson’s November interview with Alan Shipnuck (as just revealed) to make a Thanksgiving meal with leftovers for the week. But at the heart of those astonishing comments and fiery claims is this report from Shipnuck: That Mickelson allegedly recruited three other players to the league and that Mickelson and those players paid attorneys to draw up the operating agreement for the breakaway circuit. Essentially, Mickelson is not joining another tour; he built it.
“PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has been unequivocal on his stance to tour members, stating multiple times that any player who defects will be immediately suspended and could face a lifetime ban (the tour will hold a players meeting at next week’s Honda Classic, where Monahan is expected to repeat this message and provide details on the tour’s position regarding the Super Golf League). As discussed in a Golf Digest piece two weeks ago, legal experts believe the tour owns the legal authority to enforce such punishment. But if the above report is true, has Mickelson already done enough to warrant a suspension from the PGA Tour?....
“As a refresher, the PGA Tour, like any other employer or organization, has the discretion to enact rules of conduct of its members, employees and independent contractors. One of the provisions in the PGA Tour Player Handbook and Tournament Regulations is that each PGA Tour member acknowledges the commissioner, the tour’s policy board and the appeals committee have the authority to permanently ban a member from playing in tour co-sponsored, approved or coordinated tournaments if the member violates its regulations. The handbook also provides that a player ceases to be a member of the PGA Tour if, in the judgment of the policy board, the member commits a serious breach of the Tournament Regulations, the PGA Tour’s Code of Ethics or otherwise conducts himself in a manner unbecoming of a professional golfer….
“When asked if Mickelson’s currently suspended from the PGA Tour, a tour spokesperson told Golf Digest, ‘We don’t plan to comment.’ Mickelson is not in this week’s Genesis Invitational field; he last played on tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, with his last worldwide start at the Saudi International. As for what could be keeping the tour from suspending Mickelson, the Saudi-golf effort has already become a distraction at the Genesis Invitational, one of the tour’s marquee events. While punishing Mickelson could be seen as regaining control of the narrative, it would also overshadow the weekend at Riviera. There’s the chance the tour – again, if the report is true – is waiting to suspend Mickelson until early next week.
“Mickelson could have already come to peace with this fate, particularly if he believes Monahan’s threat to be true. Then again, Mickelson told Shipnuck he’s doing what he’s doing to ultimately better the PGA Tour. Unfortunately for Mickelson, that ship – for him – has likely sailed.”
Rory McIlroy, for one, is tired of all the Super League talk, and despite all the rumors, there has not been one player who has said formally he would jump to a rival league, even Phil.
McIlroy has repeatedly said he would not join and at times has been pointed with his remarks about the proposed circuit. But Rory’s voice carries weight and carries far.
“Not so Super League,” McIlroy said when a question about the league was being asked Wednesday during his news conference ahead of the Genesis Invitational.
“Oh, I’m so sick of it.”
But he added:
“I guess I’m intrigued who would (join). Certainly for the younger guys, like it just seems a massive risk,” McIlroy said. “I can maybe make sense of it for the guys that are getting to the latter stages of their career, for sure. I don’t think that’s what a rival golf league is really; that’s not what they’re going to want, is it?
“They don’t want some sort of league that’s like a pre-Champions tour. I don’t know. I understand the financial part of it for guys that are later on in their career. But you look at the people that have already said no. (Jon) Rahm, No. 1 in the world, Collin Morikawa, myself. Like, you’ve got the top players in the world saying no, so that has to tell you something.”
Add Tiger, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas to the list, too.
Separately, but related to the above, the Washington Post reported Saturday that former President Donald Trump’s company “is angling to host events at his golf courses for the controversial Saudi golf league, according to three people familiar with the matter, potentially handing Trump a lucrative business partnership with an oppressive regime he defended as president.
“At least two of Trump’s courses in Bedminster, N.J., and Doral, Fla., could be named as sites for the nascent tour, according to the people familiar with the talks, who like others requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Officials from LIV Golf Investments, the apparatus funded by the Saudis to host the tour, have held conversations with the Trump Organization, these people said.
“One of the people familiar with the matter said Trump had spoken to Greg Norman, the head of LIV Golf Investments, about having his properties involved in the tour….
“(A deal between Trump and the Saudis) would provide a measure of revenge for Trump against the PGA Tour, an organization that he courted for years but that later enraged him when politics came between them. While Trump campaigned in the summer of 2016, the PGA Tour announced it was yanking its elite World Golf Championship tournament from Doral and moving it to Mexico City.
“Trump also lost the PGA Championship from his course in New Jersey last year, as the organization pulled its event days after the Jan. 6 insurrection by a pro-Trump mob at the U.S. Capitol.”
--Tiger Woods said in a pre-tournament interview on Wednesday that he is not able to give a timetable for his return.
“I wish I could tell you when I’m playing again,” Woods said at Riviera. “I want to know, but I don’t. My golf activity has been very limited. I can chip and putt really well and hit short irons very well, but I haven’t done any long stuff seriously. I’m still working.
“I’m still working on the walking part. My foot was a little messed up there about a year ago, so the walking part is something that I’m still working on, working on strength and development in that. It takes time.”
Woods repeated the same sentiments on air Saturday with Jim Nantz in the CBS booth. There’s no way he can walk Augusta’s hilly track so forget about this year’s Masters, says moi, but as Nantz tried to goad him into some kind of definitive answer on any targets Tiger might have, The Open Championship at St. Andrews is a possibility because it is a relatively flat course. But we’re still talking four rounds in four days….I just don’t see it this year. Maybe a fall event.
Tiger reminded reporters that he also still has his back issue.
“Don’t forget when my back was bad, when we had rain delays and had to reactivate everything and go back out there again. I’ve still got that issue, too. I’ve got a long way to go.”
--In a tragic event, the clubhouse at historic Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, a suburb of Detroit, Mich., the site of numerous major championships, was destroyed by fire Thursday morning.
The fire broke out in the clubhouse attic and eventually the roof collapsed, fire officials calling it “almost a total loss.”
Walter Hagen was the club’s first head professional.
The club was adorned with irreplaceable golf tournament memorabilia and art going back a century. Members stood outside while firemen handed them what could be saved, details of which I’m sure we’ll find out later. For golf fans, just a sad event. I can tell you that nearby historic Baltusrol Golf Club is filled with similar memorabilia and I’m sure members at such clubs all over the country, and the British Isles, are talking of contingency plans in the event of such a disaster.
--Going back to Wednesday, after I last posted, the surging Scarlet Knights of Rutgers beat 12 Illinois 70-59, RU’s fourth straight win over a top 25 team to improve to 16-9, 10-5.
Illinois on Saturday then beat 19 Michigan State (18-8, 9-6) 79-74, the Illini 19-7, 12-4.
[I’m posting this before the conclusion of Rutgers’ game with Purdue, the Scarlet Knights down 56-42 with 12:30 to play.]
--Also Saturday, the only upset in the top ten was a biggie, Florida (17-10, 7-7) defeating 2 Auburn (24-3, 12-2) 63-62.
--Then there is Wake Forest. Needing a win in the worst way to ensure a bid in the NCAA tournament, the Deacs came up big, a 79-74 home win against Notre Dame (19-8, 12-4), Wake now 21-7, 11-6. Alondes Williams was only 2 of 12 from the field in the first half as the Deacs trailed 41-35, but Williams, as he is wont to do, took over in the second half, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds and, significantly, only two turnovers, while Jake LaRavia had 20 points and 9 rebounds and backup center/forward Khadim Sy had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Sy improving by leaps and bounds recently.
It's a fun team…this Wake Forest squad under coach Steve Forbes. Infuriating at times, but certainly worthy of a 9-seed, or thereabouts, as things stand today.
But they can’t let up…they have three very winnable games to finish out the regular season…at Clemson, and then home to Louisville and N.C. State. One at a time, boys…one at a time.
--Today, 8 Providence (22-3, 12-2) avoided disaster at Butler (13-15, 6-11), coming back from 19 down to beat the Bulldogs 71-70 in overtime.
But the big story concerned a game I would have not written of…Michigan and 15 Wisconsin, the Badgers (21-5, 12-4) prevailing 77-63.
The thing is, after the game Michigan coach Juwan Howard, for a very stupid reason, Wisconsin calling timeouts in the final minute of a then-15-point game, decided to throw a punch after arguing with Wisconsin coach Greg Gard during the postgame handshake line.
Howard pointed a finger at Gard, it escalated, and he ended up hitting Badger assistant Joe Krabbenhoft, which got other players involved and with Michigan having a disappointing season (14-11, 8-7), Howard could be fired. At best I’m guessing he is suspended for the remainder of the season.
Howard is also now a potential ‘Idiot of the Year,’ his name firmly ensconced in the December file, and in all honesty, that should concern him more.
--Lastly, St. Bonaventure is clawing back into contention for an NCAA tourney bid, though they still have a long way to go.
The Bonnies defeated UMass 83-71 on Wednesday as Kyle Lofton continued his sterling recent play with a stupendous 17 assists, and then they crushed lowly Duquesne on Saturday, 81-55 in Olean, N.Y., to move to 17-7, 9-4…winners of five straight.
--No, I didn’t watch a second of the NBA’s All-Star weekend. I didn’t watch a second of the NHL’s All-Star gathering, and I think I was 8 years old when I last watched the NFL’s Pro Bowl.
And I really don’t know why I watch baseball’s All-Star Game anymore. These are nice breaks for me.
But I do watch a lot of games and the Nets have become kind of entertaining for us locals. Lots of story lines for sure. I hope Ben Simmons makes his debut soon.
The Knicks (25-34) are a total disaster, giving up a 28-point lead against the Nets at the Garden on Wednesday in losing 111-106; but then Brooklyn lost the next night to the Wizards 117-103 to fall to 31-28 at the break.
--The struggling Lakers (27-31, ninth in the West) lost Anthony Davis for four weeks due to a mid-foot sprain. They’re lucky they didn’t lose him for the season because it looked even worse when he was carted off Wednesday in a game against Utah. He’s going to miss the Lakers first 11 games after the All-Star break if the four weeks is accurate.
--Cleveland’s Josh Giddey became the second rookie in NBA history to record three straight triple-doubles. The other? Oscar Robertson.
--Congratulations to Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, the legendary Knickerbocker already in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, but now he will be inducted a second time as this year’s recipient of the Curt Gowdy Award for excellence in electronic media.
Go Clyde! We love him…the Knicks’ game analyst for more than 30 years, a highly entertaining one who, I swear, at age 76 is getting better.
NASCAR’s new season opened up with its Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, and the sport is hoping after a long slump that the excitement is reemerging. NASCAR president Steve Phelps said, “There’s an energy right now that we haven’t experienced in a while. This is the earliest (the 500) has been sold out in 50 years. Right now, this sport is on a different plane than it was before, and that feels good.”
There’s new ownership, new venues, a new car (Next Gen, which has been in the works for years), and optimism.
NASCAR needed to reset after the 2018 season, with a slew of retirements among popular drivers – Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and Carl Edwards.
But now Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson – all under 30 – have burst onto the scene, Elliott and Larson winning Cup championships.
New faces have also entered the sport, including Michael Jordan, Pitbull, Emmitt Smith and Floyd Mayweather. And the experiment the other week at the Los Angeles Coliseum, a massive risk as all the drivers admitted, turned out to be a smashing success, with over 70% of the fans in attendance never having been to a NASCAR race before and giving a thumbs up after.
So prior to the race, good job, NASCAR, in having a real country superstar, Luke Combs, in a little concert, and singing his smash hit “Doin’ This,” a terrific tune.
And who won it? Well, as so often happens at Daytona, it’s a no-name, 23-year-old Austin Cindric, in just his eighth NASCAR Cup series start, edging out Bubba Wallace by a half-car length in a restart, after two big crashes in the final laps.
Wallace was disappointed after…a win obviously would have sent shockwaves around the sports world…but he’s proven he’s a force for 2022.
--In Formula 1, for those who watched or followed F1’s fantastic and controversial season finale in December at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 race director Michael Masi was fired after an investigation into his handling of the finish.
Masi botched the finish between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, which was settled by a one-lap sprint, which saw Verstappen pass Hamilton to win the title after the safety car restart rules were incorrectly applied by Masi.
Masi created that last-lap showdown when he only let a certain number of lapped cars overtake Hamilton, moving Verstappen right up behind him on brand new tires, before restarting the race one lap before the regulations said he was supposed to in that situation.
Masi was overwhelmed in the moment by messages he was receiving from the two teams, Mercedes and Red Bull. The ability to send such messages to the race director directly will no longer be allowed.
--This is getting depressing. Major League Baseball formally delayed the start of spring training games as labor negotiations between team owners and the players union continue.
MLB announced Friday that spring training games will start no earlier than March 5 – a week later than originally scheduled.
Friday’s negotiating session lasted all of 15 minutes. The Mets’ Luis Guillorme tweeted, “I’m pretty sure I’ve had at bats longer than this meeting…”
It’s all about the luxury tax, competitive-balance tax, according to followers of the negotiations. If the two sides can reach agreement on this, the rest might fall into place. But the two are far apart on the CBT.
Supposedly, the two sides are going to meet every day next week, but one thing is clear. Without an agreement by Monday, Feb. 28, the regular season will not start on time.
--So with no spring training, we have college baseball, which got underway on Friday, Lafayette visiting Wake Forest down in Winston-Salem, and going to the bottom of the fifth, the Deacs were leading just 1-0.
At the end of the frame, it was 17-0, Wake going on to win 25-3 in seven innings.
Poor Joe Skapinetz. He hurled one inning of relief for the Leopards, allowing 11 earned on 9 hits and 5 walks. I hope he’s able to shake it off and goes on to have a productive life. I wouldn’t be able to…I’d have to ride the rails.
--The former communications director of the Los Angeles Angels was found guilty of providing the drugs that killed pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019, after a trial that raised questions about the prevalence of opioid use in Major League Baseball.
A federal jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for three hours before finding Eric Kay guilty of two counts of drug dealing: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance, fentanyl, resulting in Skagg’s death.
Kay, who worked as the liaison between the Angels’ players and the reporters who covered them, was found guilty of giving Skaggs a lethal mixture of oxycodone and fentanyl, leading to his death in his Southlake, Tex., hotel room. His body was found July 1, 2019. He was 27.
Kay faces a minimum sentence of 20 years and could be behind bars for the rest of his life.
“I’m sorry but I have to order you taken into custody,” U.S. District Judge Terry Means said after the verdict was read.
“I understand, your honor,” Kay replied.
Sentencing is set for June 28.
The Skaggs family said in a statement: “We are very grateful to the government and the jury for seeing this important case through to the right verdict.”
The Skaggs family sued the Angels and Kay last year and with the guilty verdict in hand, their attorney, Rusty Hardin, said, “We are looking forward to holding the team accountable.”
The Angels, in a statement, called the trial’s testimony “incredibly difficult for our organization to hear, and it is a reminder that too often drug use and addiction are hidden away.”
Meanwhile, pitcher Matt Harvey, a free agent who testified he provided opioids to Tyler Skaggs, could immediately be suspended by Major League Baseball IF he finds a team willing to sign him.
It is very likely Matt Harvey’s career is over…good riddance. For a brief time he was a shooting star when he was brought up by the Mets. But now he will be remembered with total disdain.
--When baseball does return at some point, one of the big stories will involve the future of Washington Nationals superstar Juan Soto, who reportedly turned down a 13-year, $350 million contract extension from the Nats before the lockout began, according to ESPN. Soto is not a free agent until 2024, but for those angling to go after him, they now know what the bar is…and his agent is Scott Borass….sorry, I mean Boras.
It was all about Tottenham’s Harry Kane this weekend. The England captain and Spurs striker put on what they call in the sport a “masterclass” in scoring twice, including the decider in stoppage-time, in a stunning 3-2 win over Manchester City at Etihad Stadium that totally upended the title race and gave the Spurs renewed hope that they can grab one of the four Champions League slots.
In other games of note Saturday, West Ham and Newcastle played to a 1-1 draw, United picking up another key point in the battle to avoid relegation; Arsenal beat Brentford 2-1; Chelsea edged Crystal Palace 1-0; and Liverpool drew closer to City with a 3-1 win over Norwich.
Today…Manchester United defeated Leeds 4-2.
So the standings….Played (of 38) – Points
1. Man City…26 – 63
2. Liverpool…25 – 57
3. Chelsea…25 – 50
4. Man U…26 – 46
5. West Ham…26 – 42
6. Arsenal…23 – 42
7. Tottenham…23 – 39
Liverpool is suddenly very much back in it.
Arsenal and Tottenham, with games in hand, very much in the Champions League hunt.
--As was the case with the ladies’ figure skating short program on Tuesday, I watched Kamila Valieva’s long program live, Thursday morning, eastern time, and in a stunning development that ricocheted around the world, the 15-year-old Russian superstar fell twice, stumbled countless times and ended up fourth.
I have to admit my initial reaction, while she was still on the ice, was ‘yes!’ Not because I love seeing human suffering, but because I wanted the true gold, silver and bronze medalists to be able to celebrate their success that moment, the IOC having decreed that if Valieva medaled, there wouldn’t be a medals ceremony, everything put in limbo until her case was investigated and ruled on. I thought no way would the judges give her a score that would at least capture the bronze.
But as the drama further unfolded as Valieva got off the ice and into the arms of her coach, my mood quickly changed, as I’m sure all of yours did when you watched, either live or later on tape. It was heartbreaking, and also disgraceful in the way her coach acted.
As Valieva had taken the ice for her expected coronation, NBC’s Tara Lipinski, gold medalist in 1998, said, “There isn’t a lonelier place than standing center ice. I can’t imagine what she’s feeling right now.”
When Valieva finished her free skate, as she skated around the ice before coming off, Lipinski said, “It makes me angry that the adults around here weren’t able to make better decisions and be there for her, because she is the one now dealing with the consequences and she’s just 15 and that’s not fair,” she said. “Again, with that being said, she should not have been allowed to skate in this Olympic event.”
“On a human level, I can’t imagine going through what she has been through,” Lipinski’s broadcast partner Johnny Weir said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that she should have been nowhere near this competition. Every athlete at this level knows and understands that if you test positive for a banned substance, you will not compete.”
Valieva left the ice hiding tears behind her hands and sobbed in the ‘kiss and cry’ area as her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, confronted her. “Why did you let it go? Explain it to me, why? Why did you stop fighting completely? Somewhere after the axel you let it go,” Tutberidze said.
During Thursday morning’s live coverage, afterward, NBC’s Jimmy Roberts said, “This is my 18th Olympic Games, and I can honestly say I do not think I have ever seen anything like this. Raw emotions everywhere. A stunning resolution to the story, and it’s one I can’t imagine anyone saw coming.”
For the record, Valieva’s teammates, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova took gold and silver, while Kaori Sakamoto of Japan won the bronze.
Yes, Shcherbakova and Trusova are also under the wings of Tutberidze, so you can’t help but wonder if they are clean as well.
Trusova threw a fit after Valieva’s performance, saying “I hate it!” “I don’t want to do anything in figure skating ever in my life!” I heard those comments, via Johnny Weir, who speaks Russian. I thought initially, when watching it live, that Trusova was blasting the coaches for letting the situation with Valieva happen. I didn’t learn until rewatching the coverage at night that Trusova was actually bitching about herself as she also said, “Everyone has a gold except me.” She landed five quads and felt her performance was better than her teammate’s.
Well, I told you Tuesday, I wanted Shcherbakova to win the gold and Sakamoto to medal.
Americans Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell acquitted themselves well, finishing seventh and tenth, respectively.
IOC president Thomas Bach said it had been “chilling” to witness Valieva crumble under pressure.
“I must say I was very, very disturbed yesterday when I watched the competition on TV,” Bach told a news conference. “How high the pressure on her must have been.”
“To see her struggling on the ice, to see her, how she tries to compose herself again, how then she tries to finish her program and you could see in every movement, in the body language, you could feel that this is immense, immense mental stress and maybe she would have preferred to just leave the ice and try to leave this story behind her,” said Bach.
Bach added: “When I afterwards saw how she was received by her close entourage…it was chilling to see this. Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try and help her you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance and if you were interpreting the body language of them, it got even worse because this was even some kind of dismissive gestures. All of this does not give me much confidence in Kamila’s closest entourage.”
NBC Olympics host Mike Tirico called on the IOC to take action after Valieva’s coaches “failed to protect” her.
“The adults in the room left her alone,” Tirico said from a studio during the network’s Thursday night coverage of the Games. “Portrayed by some this week as the villain, by others as the victim, she is, in fact, the victim of the villains. The coaches and National Olympic Committee surrounding Kamila Valieva, whether they orchestrated, prescribed or enabled all of this is unclear, but what is certain: They failed to protect her.”
“It’s time for the IOC to stand up, whether it’s about blocking Russia from hosting events for a very long time or stringent and globally transparent testing for Russian athletes going forward,” Tirico said in a pointed monologue, especially notable coming from the face of the Olympics’ longtime American broadcast partner. “If swift action from the top of the Olympic movement does not happen quickly, the very future of the Games could be in jeopardy.”
Noting Russia’s past doping scandal, Tirico said: “Guilt by association is often unfair, but it’s called for here. …The deal that was brokered was supposed to ensure a level playing field while giving clean Russian athletes a chance to compete. But that scenario totally broke down here. Now a failed drug test from one of their athletes has tarnished one of the marquee events in the Games and taken away from every skater’s moment.”
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“Kamila Valieva was crying, sandwiched between two consoling coaches. She would not rise. She bent over, head approaching her knees. She tilted over, falling into the lap of choreographer Daniil Gleikhengauz.
“The Russian figure skater, just 15 and lost in doping purgatory, glued herself to the anguish for 2 ½ minutes. It hurt like 2 ½ hours. On Thursday night, the sport did what the Court of Arbitration for Sport declined to do after her positive drug test shook these Beijing Games. It took action and handed down the cruelest punishment possible.
“The result broke the child. After a disastrous long program, Valieva tumbled from first to fourth place in the women’s individual competition, a supposed sure thing left to watch gold, silver and bronze evade her. There was no need for asterisks, provisional medals or any other winging-it International Olympic Committee gestures to manage a cumbersome situation. The girl lost. She wasn’t crowned, pending the outcome of her peculiar and unsettled case. In the end, she wasn’t recognized at all.
“Valieva wasn’t recognizable, either. She fell to the ice twice. She stumbled again and again, resembling a woozy boxer. Almost nothing in her repertoire worked for her: the quadruple jumps, the triples, simple gliding. The more she fought, the worse she looked. Her fundamentals collapsed. Her body stopped working with her, knees not bending, shoulders not straightening.
“As she came off the ice, the television cameras caught her perplexed coach, Eteri Tutberidze, saying in Russian: ‘Explain it to me.’
“Failure and misery are more prevalent in sports than we care to acknowledge, but this was another level. This was torture on ice. Consider it happened to a teenager – one experiencing vilification for a possible doping plot that she couldn’t have devised on her own – and her agonizing four-minute free skate stands as perhaps the most abusive moment in sports history.
“ ‘You let it go completely,’ Tutberidze said. ‘I don’t get it. Everything was fine.’
“Two weeks ago, Valieva was a sensation earmarked for best-of-the-best candidacy, a defining figure skating talent. Then on Feb. 8 came the revelation that trimetazidine – a heart medication that could be used to enhance endurance – had been found in her system. The gold medal she helped the Russian Olympic Committee win in the team event is locked away somewhere until her case is tried. But the CAS ruled Valieva could vie for the individual title despite the hovering cloud, saying it wanted to shield her from the ‘irreparable harm’ of missing out on the Olympic dream because of a case in limbo.
“It proved to be a fragile shield.
“Some might consider Valieva’s meltdown a form of justice. You know, the skates don’t lie, or something like that. But even fervent protectors of fair play and integrity had to cringe while watching Valieva suffer….
“After all the ugliness of the past week, the Winter Olympics are over, closed before they close. They’re over like a party that ends early because of a drunken brawl, a forced evacuation for your own safety. Get out of here. Go. Now. You shouldn’t be subjected to more emotional trauma….
“The IOC averted the shame of its contingency plan to name provisional medalists. Yet there was no relief. Few outside of Russia were probably rooting for Valieva, but who could have wanted her to lose like this?
“Early in the Olympics, before the controversy, Valieva wowed the world during the team competition. A reporter asked afterward if she was unbeatable. The question was translated to Valieva, and she shook her head, smiled a sheepish kid’s smile and spoke in English.
“ ‘No,’ she said.
“It pains me to realize how right she was.”
--The U.S. figure skaters who won silver in the team competition did not receive their medals before the end of the Games, after appealing a decision by the IOC not to award any medals for the event until the doping case of Valieva is resolved. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) denied the appeal.
Just another thing that sucked about these Olympics. The skaters know the Valieva issue may not be resolved fully for potentially years. They deserve their silver medals, and to be able to market themselves with them, or show them off at schools, whatever. They earned them. If they eventually turn to gold, great, but don’t deny them their opportunities today, you assholes.
[Japan’s eight skaters, who won the bronze, also don’t get their medals yet.]
Speaking of a-holes, the Russians plan to fight the IOC in order to get their team golds, despite the investigation.
--Eileen Gu, the U.S.-born contrived sports champion, won a second gold medal in the women’s freeski halfpipe finals. She also picked up silver in slopestyle.
But Gu represented China, and she represents a classic case of issues faced by Chinese-Americans today, or so we are being told.
No. She is already making $millions representing numerous companies in China. That’s a fact.
I wish the incoming Stanford freshman well. But otherwise, ask me if I’d ever buy anything he’s shilling for.
--Mikaela Shiffrin finished off her disastrous Olympics with zippo, nada. Shiffrin and the American mixed ski team missed out on a medal by 0.42 seconds, losing in the bronze matchup Sunday to cap an exasperating Games for the two-time gold medalist.
The top-ranked Austrians won gold in the Winter Games’ second iteration of the mixed team parallel event, holding off Germany in the final. Norway took the bronze.
To be fair, this was a strong effort on the team front…Team USA having performed very poorly on the World Cup circuit this year, save for Shiffrin and Breezy Johnson, with just one win for the men all season.
But Shiffrin went 0 for 5 in individual events, reaching the finish line in only two of them…a ninth in the super-G and 18th in the downhill…having skied out of the other three, two of them in five gates, and just 10 gates into the third.
You know how much I have supported Mikaela Shiffrin over the years. For starters, there aren’t that many people who’ve written of her as much as I have…the ups and downs.
But I do not agree with some of the articles I’m seeing today, praising her for her character and ability to come back from adversity, a la the Simone Biles angle.
Sorry. This is a stain on her legacy. But as I also said the other day, it’s now back to her ongoing quest to break Lindsey Vonn’s all-time World Cup titles record, Shiffrin at 73 wins to Vonn’s 82. I sincerely hope in this regard that Shiffrin closes the deal in the 2022-23 season.
For the remainder of this WC campaign, she has five races remaining in her two best disciplines…slalom and giant slalom.
--Go Finland! Out of nowhere, they upset the Russia Olympic Committee on Sunday for the men’s hockey gold, a fiercely contested 2-1 victory.
With the NHL not deciding to send its players to Beijing, Russia was the decided favorite because they were able to build a roster around their superb Kontinental Hockey League.
Shockingly, both the U.S. and Canada didn’t even make it to the semifinals, the U.S. taken out by Slovakia in a shootout, Canada shut out by Sweden in their quarterfinal.
--The U.S. women’s hockey team was defeated by rival Canada in the gold-medal game, 3-2. Canada snatched back gold from the U.S. after the Americans failed to defend their Olympic crown from four years ago.
--Congrats to Elana Meyers Taylor, who after winning silver in the women’s monobob, took the bronze in the two-woman bobsled Saturday, bringing her total medal count to five. The 37-year-old pilot who paired with brakewoman Sylvia Hoffman is the most decorated Black athlete in the Winter Olympics, passing speedskater Shani Davis, and has the most Olympic medals for any female bobsledder and U.S. bobsledder.
--In one of the few events worth watching over the decades of the Winter Games, the four-man bobsled, Germany took gold and silver. Earlier, the country became the first nation to sweep a podium at the Beijing Games, winning all three medals in the two-man bobsled competition.
--The torch was passed today to Paris, which in 2024 will hopefully stage a normal Summer Olympics, though Vladimir Putin may have something to say about that, in all sincerity. Milan-Cortina host the next Winter Games in 2026.
--The Pittsburgh Steelers hired former Miami head coach Brian Flores to be a defensive assistant. To state the obvious, the perfect landing spot for Flores, who will continue with his lawsuit against the NFL.
“I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement.
Tomlin is the NFL’s longest-tenured Black head coach.
--We note the passing of NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Charley Taylor, 80. Taylor was one of Washington’s all-time greats.
Taylor, a first-round pick by the Redskins out of Arizona State, played with Washington from 1964-77 (missing 1976 due to injury), and the 8-time Pro Bowler (when it meant something) had 649 receptions for 9,110 yards (14.0 avg.) and 79 touchdowns.
But Taylor started his career as one of the greatest overall offensive players of all time, rookie of the year that first season, as he rushed for 755 yards while catching 53 passes for 814 yards.
In his NFL debut, Taylor scored on a 17-yard run and caught eight passes for 88 yards.
In his fifth game as a rookie, Washington played Philadelphia, in what was Redskins quarterback Sonny Jurgensen’s first game against his old team, which had traded for him before the season. (Jurgensen passed for five touchdowns in a 35-20 Washington victory.)
Charley ran for 61 yards and caught three passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns in that one.
He was fun to watch, often taking short passes and turning them into big gains with his 6-3 frame and 9.6 speed in the 100-yard dash.
It was in 1966, after Otto Graham became Washington’s head coach, that Taylor was moved from running back to split end, forming a remarkable receiving corps that included Hall of Fame flanker Bobby Mitchell and tight end Jerry Smith.
--Men’s Division I Hockey Poll (Coaches)
1. Minnesota State (40)
2. Michigan (8)
3. Denver (2)
6. Western Michigan
8. St. Cloud State
9. North Dakota
--University of Pennsylvania senior Lia Thomas, who spent three seasons on the men’s team at Penn, before switching sides, won her second title at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday at Harvard, setting a meet record in the 200-yard freestyle.
Thomas was nearly 3 seconds faster than Harvard’s Samantha Shelton.
Iszac Henig, another transgender swimmer, won the 50 free for Yale.
No comment, unless Thomas, in particular, is swimming in the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, March 16-19. As of today, she will be.
--A search is on for a 500-pound bear in California after it broke into homes, but an advocacy group doesn’t want the animal to be killed.
CBS 13 reports the bear has broken into 38 homes in South Lake Tahoe, resulting in more than 150 calls to police. And now the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says there is only one option to resolve the issue: Killing the bear.
A representative of Bear League, an advocacy group, said her group doesn’t “want the bear to pay the price for human ignorance.”
Here at Bar Chat, our official stance is to support Mr. Bear as well.
But I do have to add a good friend of mine in nearby Chatham Township has been dealing with a 500-pound bear of his own…I’ve seen the videos. It’s a monster, my friend living on the edge of the Great Swamp.
When you see a 500-pound bear on your porch, it’s a bit disconcerting. But then Jimbo’s multiple birdfeeders were the draw.
--A shark killed a swimmer off a Sydney beach on Wednesday in the city’s first fatal attack in nearly 60 years, causing “catastrophic injuries,” police and ambulance services said. If you saw the gruesome video of the blood in the water, you’d probably call that an understatement… whatever word is worse than ‘catastrophic.’
Witnesses told local television they had seen the attack on a swimmer wearing a wetsuit.
“Some guy was swimming and a shark came and attacked him vertically,” witness Kirs Linto told Nine.
“We heard a yell and turned around and it looked like a car had landed in the water, a big splash then the shark was chomping at the body and there was blood everywhere.”
The New South Wales state government has spent millions of dollars on technology in an attempt to reduce shark attacks along its coast amid public concern, deploying nets at 51 beaches, as well as drones and shark listening stations that can track white sharks by satellite and send an alert when one is sighted.
It was the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963.
I’ve been to these beaches. I can’t imagine being on one when this occurred, about 4:30 p.m.
Needless to say, all the beaches were closed and last I saw the shark, certainly a great white, had not been found.
--Sir Paul McCartney announced a new tour for this spring, 13 cities, starting on April 28 in Spokane, Washington, and going through June 16 with a final show in the Meadowlands at MetLife Stadium.
And May 21st, he’s playing at Truist Field in Winston-Salem, home of the Deacs! What a coup.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/26/66: #1 “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” (Nancy Sinatra) #2 “Lightnin’ Strikes” (Lou Christie) #3 “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” (SSgt. Barry Sadler)…and…#4 “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (Stevie Wonder) #5 “My World Is Empty Without You” (The Supremes) #6 “My Love” (Petula Clark) #7 “Don’t Mess With Bill” (The Marvelettes) #8 “California Dreamin’” (The Mamas and the Papas) #9 “Elusive Butterfly” (Bob Lind…liked this one as a kid…doesn’t make me a bad person…) #10 “Working My Way Back To You” (The 4 Seasons…outstanding week, ‘A’…)
Daytona 500 Quiz Answers: 1967: Mario Andretti; 1980: Buddy Baker; 1986: Geoffrey Bodine; 1990: Derrike Cope; 2002: Ward Burton. [Harrison Burton, the 21-year-old who crashed out today, is the son of former driver Jeff Burton, and nephew of Ward.]
I will have an Add-On up top by noon, Wed.