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Pray for Ukraine
Add-On posted early Wed. a.m.
Sports Takes Out the Russians
Sporting bodies moved to bar Russian athletes from competing in international events, with FIFA and UEFA suspending Russia’s national teams and clubs from international football. The move makes it likely that Russia will be excluded from this year’s World Cup and the women’s Euro 2022 tournament.
“FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice,” UEFA said in a statement.
As I noted last Chat, Russia was due to play Poland in a semifinal ahead of a potential final against Sweden or the Czech Republic in March. The three had said they refused to play Russia.
In a statement, the Russian Football Federation said it “categorically disagreed” with the decision and added that it was contrary to the ‘spirit of sports.’
Technically, the suspension could be lifted before the scheduled Russia-Poland playoff semifinal on March 24, so it’s not totally accurate to say Russia is out, yet. Obviously, if Russian forces suddenly withdrew (admittedly not likely) by, say, March 10, it would tough to bar the Russian team. Just my opinion.
The Ukrainian men’s soccer team is set to play Scotland in Glasgow in a semifinal on March 24. There are three groups of four teams remaining in the UEFA World Cup playoffs (10 European teams having already qualified), with the winners earning the final three spots in the World Cup.
UEFA also confirmed RB Leipzig was given a walkover into the Europa League quarterfinals after their last-16 match with Spartak Moscow was called off and added that the governing body has cancelled its sponsorship with Russian energy company Gazprom.
Earlier on Monday, the International Olympic Committee executive board recommended sports federations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from competing in events. The IOC said its executive board made the decision “in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”
The British and German Olympic committees also demanded the immediate exclusion of Russian and Belarus from international sport.
Meanwhile, Russian billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich, who the other day turned over stewardship of the Chelsea Premier League club to trustees, accepted a Ukrainian request to help negotiate an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich was asked by Ukraine to help mediate because of his background in Russia, where he made a fortune in the chaotic 1990s period of post-communist privatization.
--In a bit of a surprise, negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association lasted late into Monday night and into Tuesday, 16 ½ hours, covering enough ground to convince the owners to move their deadline for starting the season on time to Tuesday at 5 p.m. local time. The two sides then resumed talks Tuesday morning at 11 a.m.
“We made progress and we want to exhaust every possibility,” an MLB spokesperson said. If a new Basic Agreements isn’t completed by 5:00 p.m., the league stressed, then Opening Day, scheduled for March 31, would be canceled and players’ pay docked.
Among the issues where progress was made was an agreement on a postseason featuring 12 teams, the players’ preference. The competitive-balance tax (luxury tax) would be closer to the existing Basic Agreement. The players and teams made progress on a draft lottery and methods to mitigate service-time manipulation.
But significant gaps remain on the CBT threshold, minimum player salary and the pre-arbitration bonus pool.
The following commentary was written prior to Tuesday’s session.
Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY
“Let’s be honest, if you surveyed the casual sports fan, most wouldn’t have even been aware there was a baseball lockout until the day after the Super Bowl.
“Wait, what do you mean spring training is delayed?
“Major League Baseball can’t afford to delay the start of the season. It would be catastrophic to see even a week of games canceled.
“This time, there is no Cal Ripken consecutive-game streak to command our attention.
“There is no Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase to captivate the country.
“Who’s going to save it this time?
“ ‘This already looks bad,’ former Blue Jays All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells said on the Toronto-based ‘Deep Left Field’ podcast. ‘The NHL is doing well. The NFL just probably had its greatest postseason ever. The NBA has constantly done such a great job of marketing its players and the game being so entertaining that baseball (had) already taken a step back. Now you add this on, we’re falling back even more.’
“Ticket sales are down throughout the industry thanks to the lockout, with the Boston Red Sox reporting 30% decline in ticket sales this winter. It’s hardly as if fans are going to storm the gates once the lockout is over. Attendance has been down the past four years….
“Fans already are growing awfully wary about the product, particularly the young audience, and a shortened season would infuriate the baseball purists.”
Ken Rosenthal / The Athletic
“Who is running this show anyway? The small- and mid-market clubs seemingly are dictating the league’s hard-line positions, particularly on the luxury-tax thresholds and penalties. Those teams outnumber the big-market behemoths, making them important to Manfred politically. But a commissioner with vision would recognize that suffocating the big-market behemoths is not necessarily a wise strategy for the league, which needs those teams to thrive.
“Fans might be divided on that question, based upon their rooting interests. But they seem fairly unanimous – and aligned with the players – in their contempt for Manfred. In past labor negotiations, fans generally have been quick to blame players, viewing them as lucky to be paid at all for playing a child’s game. Many fans today, however, are well aware the owners are much wealthier than the players and part of the industry for much longer. And every time Manfred opens his mouth publicly, he only makes matters worse.
“He called the lockout ‘defensive’ when it was nothing of the sort. He said the strategy was intended to ‘jumpstart’ negotiations, then waited 43 days to make an offer. He claimed the owners could make more in the stock market than with the resales of their clubs. He portrayed himself as a master negotiator, practically a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, while his negotiations were going nowhere.
“Manfred can’t deal with this union? He breathed life into this union. Yes, his job is difficult, more difficult than many of us know. But it’s his responsibility to lead the owners, and by extension the sport. Give him credit for this much: He said missing games would be a disastrous outcome for the industry. On that point, he’s about to be proven right.”
Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“Amid the Nero fiddling, critical existential questions go unanswered. Baseball’s national mindshare is shrinking – the timeless sport is considered out of sync with busy lives, its television ratings are in a funk, and efforts to accelerate gameplay aren’t happening fast enough.
“This is an entertainment crisis. As the Journal’s Jared Diamond has chronicled, baseball is now a feast-or-famine sport – launch angle-obsessed hitters swinging strictly for the fences, pitchers on short pitch counts throwing full gas before yielding to the next gas thrower. The interstitial stuff that gives baseball character – opposite-field hitting, stolen bases, don’t even ask about bunts – is in shorter supply. It’s gotten to the point that even the most ardent baseball defenders – the folks who used to sniff, if you don’t like it, go find another sport! – are now admitting: OK, this needs a fix.
“Baseball seems to understand its predicament – in recent years it has begun making mild tweaks – but watching it try to modernize itself is like watching a 3-year-old try to put on socks and boots before preschool. What is taking so long?
“Now, a potential work stoppage – a toxic pill for a sport with no credit to burn, that can’t afford to push more viewers away. It’s as if baseball is soaked in hubris, and doesn’t really appreciate what it’s up against….
“(None) of this is a very big deal, considering the state of the world at the moment. Still, baseball should ask itself: What if the world just up and moves on?”
Well, as you all know by now, Tuesday’s roughly six-hour session went poorly and the two sides failed to agree on a new CBA and Manfred postponed the first two series of the season. The games will not be made up.
“I had hoped against hope I would not have to have this particular press conference in which I am going to have to cancel some regular season games,” Manfred said. “I want to assure our fans that our failure…was not due to a lack of effort by either party.”
Talks might resume in New York on Thursday. The entire month of April will be in deep trouble if talks aren’t being held by Monday.
Jayson Stark / The Athletic: “And so baseball begins its tumble down the Canyon of Disastrous Outcomes. Needless and embarrassing. When trying to prove you’re right means more than the disaster that ensues, here’s what that means: You own all the disastrous consequences that will follow.”
This is 99% on the owners, 100% on Rob Manfred. He will be reviled the rest of his days on this earth. This bastard locked the players out in December, and then didn’t hold a negotiating session for 43 days. It basically starts and ends there.
It’s bad enough not starting the season on time. But if an agreement isn’t reached early next week, this will be catastrophic. The NBA and NHL playoffs will be starting soon. The PGA Tour has some big events, commencing with The Players Championship in two week and then on through the summer. The NFL will once again be dominating the sports talk shows with free agency and the Draft. Even auto racing is gaining more traction.
--In a kind of stunning move, Derek Jeter announced he was stepping down as CEO of the Miami Marlins. In a statement that Jeter didn’t distribute through the Marlins, the Hall of Famer said “the vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead. Now is the right time for me to step aside as a new season begins.”
Jeter was part of a group that purchased the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria for $1.2 billion in September 2017, but he was only given a 4% stake. He was then tasked with running the baseball operation.
In four full seasons, the Marlins have gone 218-327. At the start, Jeter traded off high-priced players such as Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, but over time, he (and his aides) built a top farm system that it seemed was beginning to bear fruit.
On the business side, Jeter secured a naming rights deal and a new TV package, and hired Kim Ng, the first woman GM in baseball. While the Marlins lost 95 games last season, they signed Avisail Garcia and traded for Joey Wendle, prior to the lockout.
But Jeter and principal owner Bruce Sherman had a disagreement over the size of Jeter’s ownership share and the financial commitment to the roster. Jeter had a year left on his contract and Sherman, in a statement, said Jeter’s stepping down was a mutually-agreed-upon decision.
Of course after yesterday’s debacle, no one really gives a s--- about Jeter and the Marlins.
--New AP Top 25 Poll (records a/o Sunday)
1. Gonzaga (46) 24-3
2. Arizona 25-3
3. Baylor (4) 24-5…up 7
4. Duke (11) 25-4…up 3
5. Auburn 25-4
6. Kansas 23-5
7. Kentucky 23-6
8. Purdue 24-5…down 4
9. Providence 24-3
10. Wisconsin 23-5
11. Villanova 21-7
12. Texas Tech 22-7
13. Tennessee 21-7
T-14. Houston 24-4
T-14. Arkansas 23-6
16. Southern Cal 25-4
17. UCLA 21-6
18. UConn 21-7
19. Saint Mary’s 24-6
20. Illinois 20-8
21. Texas 21-8
22. Murray State 28-2
23. Ohio State 18-8
24. Iowa 20-8
25. Alabama 19-10
--Wake Forest and Rutgers received zero votes. And the only other ACC team to receive a few was Notre Dame, which is why I can say that while I think Wake has now wrapped up a spot in the NCAA tournament, barring a disaster Wed. against N.C. State, nothing is guaranteed in the ACC this year. The Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC will be getting the lion’s share of bids.
So I wrote that Monday. Tuesday I looked at the latest bracketology from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBSSports’ Jerry Palm. They both spell trouble for Wake and Rutgers.
Palm doesn’t have RU anywhere on his board, including “Last Four In,” “First Four Out,” etc. He has Wake as First Four…an 11-seed vs. 11-seed to advance to the full bracket.
Lunardi has Wake among his “Last Four Byes,” with Rutgers “Last Four In.”
So the Deacs, again, must beat the Wolfpack or they don’t deserve to get in (unless they got to the ACC tournament finals), while Rutgers must win at Indiana, Wed., and then beat Penn State at home, Sunday. And even then, they most likely need a win in the Big Ten conference tourney.
--St. Bonaventure is at least on Lunardi’s radar as a “Next Four Out,” but that was before last night’s game at VCU. Earlier in the year, the Bonnies had their best win of the season against the A-10-leading Rams, 73-53, but VCU (21-7, 14-3) got its revenge on its home court, 74-51.
What I didn’t know is that at the end of the Saint Joseph’s game on Saturday, Bonnie center Osun Osunniyi, a critical cog, turned an ankle and he was out yesterday. St. Bonaventure didn’t have a chance and shot 18 of 55 from the field (3 of 16 from three).
So put a fork in the Bonnies’ NCAA tournament hopes…unless they miraculously win the A-10 tournament. They’re 19-8, 11-5, but with some brutal losses. What a disappointing season.
--We had some biggies in the top ten last night….
6 Kansas lost to TCU, 74-64.
8 Purdue fell to 10 Wisconsin, 70-67.
9 Providence lost to 11 Villanova, 76-74.
As in Saturday’s upsets in the top ten, all of the above lost on the road. These are critical games in terms of NCAA seeding.
--Ja Morant did it again, another career-high, 52 points, including a highlight reel dunk over 7-foot Jakob Poeltl, the Grizzlies beating the Spurs, 118-104, to move to 43-20, third in the West behind Golden State and Phoenix. Morant was 22 of 30 from the field, including all four from three. It was the first 50-point game in Grizzlies franchise history.
--There was a lot of initial confusion when New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced in a statement Sunday that as long as Covid-19 numbers continue to decrease, the city is looking at March 7 as the date to remove vaccination requirements for “indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues” and what that meant in terms of the Brooklyn Nets and the unvaccinated Kyrie Irving.
Adams made clear Monday that while he wants to see Irving playing home games, to make an exception for the star “would send the wrong message” to the rest of the city.
Adams agreed that the current rule keeping Irving from playing home games “makes no sense” since away players who are unvaccinated are allowed to play in games in New York City. But he added that even though he thought the rule as written is “ridiculous…these are the rules and I have to follow the rules. If I don’t, I’m going to open the door that is sending the wrong message to everyday employees.”
Adams told CNBC: “Businesses have their vaccine mandates. City employees have their vaccine mandates. I have to follow the rules.”
So the Nets had a home-and-home series, Monday and Tuesday.
Monday, in Brooklyn, ergo no Kyrie, Toronto blew out the Nets 133-97.
Tuesday, up in Toronto, the Nets without Kyrie again, this time due to an undisclosed injury (at least I couldn’t find it), fell to Toronto in a heartbreaker, 109-108.
But the Nets (32-31) get Kevin Durant back on Thursday.
--The Champions Tour event wrapped up as I was going to post Sunday and I had been following the leaderboard and, boy, this tour has zero juice.
I mean 58-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez, a crowd favorite, picked up career win No. 12 on the senior circuit in taking the Cologuard Classic at Omni Tucson National, and finishing second, along with Woody Austin, was 64-year-old Bernhard Langer.
But you look at the rest of the leaderboard and it’s one giant yawn. A bunch of middling, at best, former PGA Tour players.
Unless Langer or Jimenez is at the top, you’d only watch a Champions Tour event if you wanted to be put in a catatonic state.
I bring this up because it’s just another example of what an idiot Phil Mickelson was with his Super League shenanigans. As I wrote what’s now like two weeks ago, he had the golfing world by the balls after his Kiawah win. He could pick his spots on the PGA Tour, from time to time be a factor, well into his late 50s at Augusta, and dominate the senior circuit. He’d keep his exposure level up, advertisers would still love him, do some broadcasting, where he’s proven to be highly-entertaining, and be the Elder Statesman of his sport.
That’s basically all out the window now.
Morning Read / SI / USA TODAY held a roundtable of five golf writers.
Jeff Ritter: “Every Mickelson story over the past week has packed a surprise. The Tour’s ‘obnoxious greed.’ The Saudi bombshell. Even his statement (last) Tuesday was stunningly light on apologies or contrition. He just keeps digging himself into a deeper hole.”
Mike Purkey: “He wants us to believe it was something bigger, that professional golf is fundamentally broken and he’s the only one to save it. It’s grandiose thinking at the very least, pathological at worst. Or was it just a ruse? The bottom line is the bottom line – he was trying to get as much money as possible for himself as quick as possible.”
Gary Van Sickle: “League czar Greg Norman has to cough up details – dates, sites, purses – and start playing. As soon as your Billy Horschel-types see Padraig Harrington and Adam Scott cashing $20 million in winner’s checks, they might change their tunes. But the league’s only chance is to quit yapping and start playing.”
Mike Purkey: “If you’ll notice his statement [Ed. pseudo-apology], he said not one word about apologizing or making amends with the Tour and the players. He is approaching pariah status, if he’s not already there. Which means no Ryder Cup captaincy* and no television job. If the Saudi League is dead, so is Mickelson’s career.”
*Zach Johnson was just named 2023 American captain.
Jeff Ritter: “His fellow players should be thrilled – the PGA Tour is reportedly overhauling its fall schedule to be more player-friendly, adding prize money to its purses and boosting the PIP bonus, among other changes. Much of that stems from the threat of the rival Saudi league, so the players should thank Phil for his role in that. As for fans, everyone loves a comeback story, and Phil is unquestionably a fan favorite. If he returns at Augusta, I’d expect him to be cheered louder than ever.”
Gary Van Sickle: “They aren’t burnt bridges but they are bridges over troubled waters. Phil’s anti-Tour comments may actually benefit his fellow players if the Tour responds, as some rumors say, with increased purses and some inventive fall events, possibly including team events such as what the Super League was planning. If every PGA Tour event bumps its first prize from a little over $1 million to $2.5 million, it won’t be an accident. It’s because of the Super League and, in his own way, Phil. Was Phil simply being greedy? When it’s someone else, it’s greedy. When it’s you, it’s a ‘business decision.’ Eye of the beholder.”
Alex Miceli: “Yes. Time heals all, if you let it. The question is, will Mickelson let it?”
--Also after I posted last time, Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup race at Fontana, California, formerly California Speedway, in a caution-filled race, his 17th career Cup win. Austin Dillon finished second.
Daniel Suarez had a strong effort, finishing fourth behind Erik Jones.
In the first two NASCAR races of your editor’s DraftKings season, five of his 12 cars have either gone out with engine issues or crashed out. For the kiddies reading this, ages 6-12, that’s not how you win on your bets.
--Well, I said the Art Briles experiment at Grambling wouldn’t work out and Monday he informed the school that he’ll no longer be its offensive coordinator, saying he did not want to be a “distraction” to the team.
--Ali Marpet, the Pro Bowl guard for Tampa Bay, announced his retirement at the age of just 28 and after seven seasons.
In an Instagram post he didn’t give a reason why but good for him. He earned some good money, seemingly has his health (though you never know with NFLers until down the road), and he has a Super Bowl ring.
Marpet was well-liked and a terrific player on the O-Line, with Bucs coach Bruce Arians saying, in part, in a statement: “He has been a consummate professional and has been a rock for us in the interior of our offensive line. We will miss him on the field and in the locker room, but I happy that he gets to go out as a Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler. It is never easy saying goodbye to a player who has meant so much to our success, but I support and respect his decision and wish him a great life after football.”
Marpet is notable for being the first NFL player to come out of Division III Hobart College since Fred King in 1937.
--In the NFL free agent television wars, Amazon is reportedly targeting ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit for its lead NFL Thursday night game analyst spot. While Herbstreit is under contract with ESPN for around $6-plus million per year, according to the New York Post, the deal with ESPN is written in such a way that he would be allowed to do the NFL with another entity, while continuing on college for ESPN. The Post said the contract language could be interpreted differently by each party.
Al Michaels is in line to do the play-by-play for Amazon, but he’s not signing until he sees who his partner would be. I can’t imagine he’d have a problem with Herbstreit, who I’ve always found to be likeable and certainly a solid analyst.
--The only unused ticket known to exist from Michael Jordan’s NBA debut in 1984 was expected to fetch a whopping price after a stub from the same game sold for $264,000 in December.
So Mike Cole knew he’d get a fair sum for his ticket to the Oct. 26, 1984, Chicago Bulls game and it sold for $468,000, according to Heritage Auctions.
This was thought to be a record for a ticket, but at the same auction, a ticket stub from Jackie Robinson’s debut game on April 15, 1947, when he broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, sold for $480,000. Now that is cool.
Brad K., I’m scouring my shoeboxes for key ticket stubs.
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.
NCAA Basketball Quiz: Name the eight schools to win 3 or more NCAA titles. [Reminder: Oregon won the first in 1939.] Answer below.
Sports and Russia
Friends, to state the obvious, there are far more important things in the world these days than a college basketball game, or marauding bears in Lake Tahoe, unless they are Russian bears.
We pray for Ukraine, our friends in Eastern Europe, and the world, frankly. Things could easily spin totally out of control.
But the sports world is playing its part, and don’t believe it can’t have an impact on those surrounding that little piece of shit in the Kremlin.
--The Champions League final that was scheduled to be in St. Petersburg in May has been moved to Paris. Governing body UEFA was just going for the money in bringing it to the Russian city in the first place after a sponsorship with Russia’s state energy company Gazprom.
German soccer club Schalke 04 had a 15-year partnership with Gazprom but said they were removing the firm’s logo from their jersey. Gazprom owns the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that you’ve heard so much about.
Manchester United withdrew its Russian airline Aeroflot’s sponsorship rights.
--Formula One canceled the Russian Grand Prix, due to be held in Sochi in September. Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel first spoke out Thursday and said it was “wrong” to race in Russia. Then world champion Max Verstappen agreed with him and the decision was an easy one.
Vettel: “I’m sorry for the innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed for stupid reasons and a very, very strange and mad leadership.”
U.S.-owned Haas has a Russian driver, Nikita Mazepin, whose father, Dmitry, owns Uralkali, a potash producer that is a major sponsor for the Haas team. Make that “was” a sponsor. Haas removed them.
The title sponsor of the Russian Grand Prix is the VTB Group, whose VTB Bank was hit with sanctions by the United States and Britain following the Russian invasion.
--The men’s tennis governing body said next week’s ATP Challenger event in Moscow will not take place as scheduled over player safety and uncertainty related to international travel.
--The Polish Football Association said it refuses to play Russia in their upcoming World Cup playoff. The Poles were due to face Russia in Moscow on March 24th in a playoff semifinal for the WC in Qatar later this year.
Polish star Robert Lewandowski said he supported the Polish FA’s decision to boycott the match.
“It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues.
“Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”
The winners of the match were due to play Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place in the tournament. We’ll see how FIFA handles this.
--Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has given trustees of the London side’s charitable foundation stewardship of the Premier League club, the Russian said on Saturday. Abramovich, who bought the club in 2003, said the foundation was in the “best position to look after the interests” of the club. “I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities,” he said in a statement. “I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values.”
Abramovich and Chelsea did not reveal why he was giving the foundation stewardship. However, several Russian individuals and entities have been put under sanctions by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
--Hall of Fame boxers Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko are part of Ukraine’s fight. Both said they will take up arms. Vitali has served as mayor of Kyiv since retiring from boxing in 2013.
Vitali, known as “Dr. Ironfist” during his fighting days, said in an interview, “I don’t have another choice, I have to do that. I’ll be fighting.”
--Washington Capitals Russian-born star Alex Ovechkin, a supporter of Vladimir Putin and friend, told reporters on Friday he hoped there would be peace.
“It’s a hard situation. I have lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine, and it’s hard to see the war. I hope soon it’s going to be over and there’s going to be peace in the whole world.”
Ovechkin was active in supporting Putin ahead of the 2017 Russian presidential election, so he was asked whether he supports Vlad the Impaler amid the invasion.
“He’s my president but…I’m not in politics,” Ovechkin said. “I’m an athlete and how I said, I hope everything is going to be done soon. It’s a hard situation right now for both sides. …I’m not in control of the situation.”
Ovechkin’s wife, children and other family members are in Russia.
“I don’t want to see nobody get hurt, nobody get killed,” he said of the war. “I hope it’s going to be over and we’re going to live in a good world.”
Ovechkin concluded: “Please, no more war. It doesn’t matter who’s in a war. Russia, Ukraine, different countries. I think we live in a world, like, we have to live in peace and a great world.”
After these comments, Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek called for the NHL to suspend all Russian players.
Hasek, now 57 and a native of the Czech Republic, took to Twitter to criticize Ovechkin, for his past support of Putin and his comments.
“What!? Not only an ablist, a chicken shit, but also a liar! Every adult in Europe knows well, that Putin is a mad killer and that Russia is waging an offensive war against a free country and its people.”
No way the NHL is suspending Russian players, nor should it.
--As I was going to bed last night, I glanced at the Saint Mary’s-Gonzaga score and thought, huh, not a good day for the top ten….not good at all.
As in yesterday was historic…the top six in the AP Poll going down, and No. 9…7 in all in the top ten…never happened before, ever. So we’ll have a shakeup in Monday’s poll…mostly in having a few currently occupying the 11-15 slots moving into the top ten.
For the record…..
23 Saint Mary’s (24-6, 12-3) upset 1 Gonzaga (24-3, 13-1), 67-57
Colorado (19-10, 11-8) beat 2 Arizona (25-3, 15-2), 79-63
3 Auburn (25-4, 13-3) lost to 17 Tennessee (21-7, 12-4), 67-62
4 Purdue (24-5, 13-5) fell to Michigan State (19-9, 10-7), 68-65
5 Kansas (23-5, 12-3) was beaten by 10 Baylor (24-5, 12-4), 80-70
6 Kentucky (23-6, 12-4) lost to 18 Arkansas (23-6, 12-4), 75-73
All top six teams lost on the road, as did 9 Texas Tech (22-7, 11-5), 69-66 to TCU (18-9, 7-8).
7 Duke (25-4, 15-3) will certainly move up some after a 97-72 road win at Syracuse (15-14, 9-7).
Gonzaga had beaten the Gaels handily just two weeks ago, 74-58, but in this one Saint Mary’s led from the start, up 36-21 at the half, as Zags star Drew Timme was 0-for-8 from the floor (2-of-10 for the game).
But with Tennessee-Auburn, I like what Vols coach Rick Barnes said in response to the Tennessee student section chanting “overrated” with 1:34 to play.
Barnes waved his right arm toward the chant. He is not a fan.
“Wherever I have been, when fans start doing that, I am like, ‘Stop,’” Barnes said. “Give us credit. Don’t demean what we just did. We just beat an outstanding basketball team.”
“You just had a great, quality win against a team that first of all is not (overrated),” Barnes continued. “Your fans are acting like you beat nobody. Well, we did. We just beat a top-five team.”
--Rutgers’ NCAA hopes were dealt a big blow when they fell to 13 Wisconsin (23-5, 14-4) in Piscataway, 66-61.
After defeating four straight top-25 teams, a run that had never been seen before, the Scarlet Knights have dropped three straight (the other two to Purdue and Michigan), to fall to 16-12, 10-8.
--Wake Forest may have locked up an NCAA bid with a solid 99-77 win at home Saturday night against Louisville (12-16, 6-12), the Deacs (22-8, 12-7) going 13 of 27 from three.
Wake desperately needed this one after an absolutely hideous loss at Clemson on Wednesday, 80-69, where the Deacs simply didn’t show up, and lost key reserve Khadim Sy to an ankle injury.
So my boys have a very slim shot at a top four in the ACC and the double-bye in the tournament, but just need to focus for now on more game before then, N.C. State on Wednesday.
--Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure continues to roll, barely, with a 54-52 win at Saint Joseph’s (10-17, 4-12), despite shooting just 2 of 18 from three.
The Bonnies (19-7, 11-4) have now won seven straight, with two more A-10 games to go before the conference tourney…two tough ones…at VCU (13-3 in the A-10) and home to Richmond (10-6). Fingers crossed. They don’t want to have to win the A-10 championship to qualify for the Big Dance.
--New York City Mayor Eric Adams is going to get rid of the city’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, but said Friday it may take a “few weeks.”
“Within these next few weeks, you are going to see many of these mandates dissipate – so when my doctors tell me Eric, it’s good to peel back another layer, we’re going to pull back another layer.”
So those of us in the New York area know it’s really about one man…the Nets’ Kyrie Irving. Dropping the mandate would allow him to play home games. Of the Nets’ 21 remaining games, Irving is eligible for only eight right now, after he played in Saturday’s game at Milwaukee.
Speaking of which, Kyrie then had a superb 38-point effort as the Nets upset the Bucks, 126-123, a huge win for Brooklyn (32-29) amid its struggle for a playoff spot.
Kevin Durant is due back this week. Veteran Goran Dragic, recently signed, made his debut last night. Still no word on Ben Simmons.
--Former Net James Harden made his debut Friday night for the Sixers and was terrific, 27 points, 12 assists, and Philadelphia rolled, 133-102, Joel Embiid with 34 points and 10 rebounds.
Harden also had a game-best plus-minus figure of +35, which is rather super.
--It’s impossible to watch the Knicks these days, who entered Sunday afternoon’s game against Philadelphia 25-35 after a dismal 115-100 loss at home to the Heat on Friday.
RJ Barrett made his return from an ankle injury and scored a career-high 46 points, but the first game out of the All-Start break was Black Friday, as Derrick Rose, who was to return, underwent another ankle procedure and might be lost for the season. Rookie guard Quentin Grimes, who had been seeing a lot of playing time, then suffered a partially dislocated kneecap after entering the game. Earlier in the week, the Knicks announced Kemba Walker was out for the year.
--So then this afternoon, the Sixers took on the Knicks at the Garden, New York putting up a good fight until folding late, Philadelphia now 37-23 after the 125-109 win.
Harden became the first player in NBA history to have 25 points and 10 assists in his first two games with a new club, 29-10-16, plus five steals, while his new running mate, Mr. Embiid, had 37 points, going 23-27 from the free throw line.
These two love each other so far. Can the good karma last into June?
The Eastern Conference playoffs could be terrific, once we get to the semi-finals.
--The Chicago Bulls opened their post-All-Star Break slate in the same fashion they went into it, winning thanks to DeMar DeRozan. The star knocked down the go-ahead jumper while being fouled with 15.1 second left and the Bulls beat the Hawks 112-108.
DeRozan had 37 points on 15 of 21 shooting and extended his record NBA streak of at least 35 points on 50% shooting to eight games. He also has an NBA-best 455 points in the fourth quarter.
But then Saturday, the Bulls (39-22) lost to the Grizzlies (42-20), 116-110, as Ja Morant had a career-high 46 points and Steven Adams had 21 rebounds.
For his part, DeRozan had 31 points on 10-29 shooting, so the streak is over, but he still has ten straight with 30 points.
--Eastern Conference, as I go to post:
--It’s become abundantly clear that the Pelicans' Zion Williamson is a total asshole. Williamson, the first overall pick in 2019, has played in 85 games, while New Orleans has played 204. Zion has been out all season with a foot injury.
But what we learned this week is that it took Williamson forever to contact new teammate C.J. McCollum, and former teammate J.J. Redick called him out.
Redick: "This is a pattern of behavior with Zion that we are seeing again and again. I was his teammate. I can describe him as a detached teammate. That is an accurate statement. This is basic level of humanity being a teammate. Send a text to a guy when he gets traded to your team. That is just normal behavior. That’s the bare minimum that you have to do. And the Pelicans yesterday sent out an email for season tickets for next year, and guess whose name was not in the email? Zion’s. What the heck is going on in New Orleans?”
Williamson has not been rehabbing with the team, but in Portland. Last summer, Williamson’s family* was not happy with the direction of the organization. Into the December file he goes.
*The recruiting of Williamson was a very dirty process, Duke denying funds were exchanged, but some of the depositions in the broad-based college bribery scandal in which Williamson was a topic said otherwise.
--It was a less than thrilling leaderboard heading into today’s final round of The Honda Classic, down in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Daniel Berger was seeking his fifth win on tour, just trying not to choke with a five-stroke lead.
Shane Lowry -6
Sepp Straka -6
Kurt Kitayama -6
Chris Kirk -6
But then Berger had a horrendous day, blowing the lead, Shane Lowry got hot, and Lowry led after 13….
BUT…Austrian Sepp Straka, playing a hole ahead, birdied 14 to go to -8.
Berger then birdied 14, he’s -8….
Straka then birdied Nos. 16 and 18 to finish -10.
Lowry, in the pouring rain that suddenly popped up with two holes to go, missed a long birdie putt on 18, Berger dumped it in the water….
And 28-year-old Sepp Straka, who played his college golf at Georgia, wins his first PGA Tour event. Good for him. [First Austrian to win on the tour.]
But, boy, Shane Lowry was pissed. He had the tournament by the balls and just mishit a few shots down the stretch.
--The Mickelson Saga continues…none of it good for Lefty. Words have consequences (as your editor well knows), and on Friday, he lost two more sponsors – Callaway Golf and Workday.
Mickelson had a 17-year partnership with Callaway, and in 2017, they agreed to extend that partnership for the remainder of his playing career.
“Callaway does not condone Phil Mickelson’s comments and we were very disappointed in his choice of words – they in no way reflect our values or what we stand for as a company,” the company said in a statement. “Phil has apologized and we know he regrets how he handled recent events. We recognize his desire to take time away from the game and respect that decision. At this time we have agreed to pause our partnership & will reevaluate our ongoing relationship at a later date.”
KPMG and Amstel Light had previously cut ties with Mickelson.
And then on Saturday, Phil was dropped by American Express; Lefty being the host of the Amex event in La Quinta, California. The Mickelson Foundation will also no longer be the charitable arm of the tournament. The foundation, formed specifically to fill that role, had a contract with the American Express through 2024.
--Jack Nicklaus was asked about the Saudi-backed Super Golf League this week:
“(The PGA Tour’s) brought millions and millions of dollars to communities, it’s brought great competition, great television,” Nicklaus said. “Why would I not support that? Instead, I’m going to go support for my own benefit, see 40 guys break away from the PGA Tour at the whim of an advertising agency in Saudi Arabia? What happens to the other guys? I just don’t like it. I don’t think it’s right.”
What’s significant about Jack’s comments is that he is a big supporter of Donald Trump, who is reportedly trying to play host to multiple tournaments for the proposed league.
But the Super League is basically history, killed in a matter of weeks, ostensibly by Phil Mickelson.
Oh, Greg Norman, who’s leading LIV Golf Investments’ Saudi-backed efforts, said he was not backing down and that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s declaration that any player jumping ship would be banned from playing on the Tour was illegal, and that Norman and his attorneys will be fighting it.
Norman, in a letter to Monahan, said in part:
“But when you try to bluff and intimidate players by bullying and threatening them, you are guilty of going too far, being unfair, and you likely are in violation of the law,” he wrote. “Simply put, you can’t ban players from playing golf. Players have the right and the freedom to play where we like.”
Norman said “many PGA players” remain interested in playing in a new league.
Name one, Shark…outside of aging losers like Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.
For his part, Monahan met with the players Tuesday afternoon at the Honda Classic and told them, “we’re moving on and anyone on the fence needs to make a decision.”
“All this talk about the league and about money has been distracting to our players, our partners and most importantly our fans,” Monahan said. “We’re focused on legacy, not leverage. You saw it last week with Joaquin Niemann winning, receiving the trophy from a legend (tournament host Tiger Woods) who inspired him to take up the game.
“Those moments can’t be replicated.”
Monahan declined to comment when asked if Mickelson had been suspended or faces punishment, citing the tour’s longstanding policy of not discussing discipline.
Eamon Lynch / Golfweek, USA TODAY
“Legend has it that Marcus Licinius Crassus of Rome was killed by the mutineering men he’d led into a failed battle, who poured molten gold down their leader’s throat in mockery of his thirst for wealth. Philip Alfred Mickelson of Rancho Santa Fe, on the other hand, was merely deserted by his bootless troops as the cause in which he had conscripted them slipped away. As for the symbolic choking on needless greed, he served and swallowed that ruinous cocktail himself.”
On Mickelson’s apology, which I reported on in the last Add-On:
“Mickelson’s entire statement was self-serving tripe in which he brazenly postured as a Rosa Parks for the prosperous, standing against the injustice and ‘taking the hits publicly’ that such displays of courage entail. He would have golf fans believe that he is martyring himself for the betterment of the game, while in truth he has allied himself with people richly experienced in creating martyrs….
“Mickelson’s explicit admission that he has worked to set up a rival circuit should see him face disciplinary action, perhaps even a lifetime ban from the Tour that enriched him, regardless of how much of that bullion remains.
“If Monahan needed receipts before he could impose sanctions, Mickelson just cashiered himself….
“Falls from grace in sport can be slow and grounded in unethical behavior, like Lance Armstrong’s. Or, like that of Tiger Woods, rapid and owing to private shortcomings. Mickelson’s sets a new standard for precipitous disgrace, brought about by his cozying up to a murderous government because he was denied permission to use media he doesn’t own to create content few would buy.
“No doubt he imagines himself a pioneer – a ‘disrupter,’ in the nomenclature of bullshitters – but Mickelson is setting out in search of new gold from a mine that is far from exhausted. What has been depleted is the forbearance of his peers for his preening self-regard, his mercenary selfishness, and his callous indifference to the abuses of his allies in Riyadh.
“ ‘Everyone is tired of Phil,’ one exasperated player texted. ‘Just a general consensus.’
“If Mickelson chooses to move on – or if he is ushered toward the door marked ‘Exit’ by Monahan – he should be mourned. He has been the second most sublime player of his generation, compiled a record that deserves to be spoken of among the greatest of all time, and engaged fans in a manner that drew comparisons to Arnold Palmer, no matter how disingenuous the performance.
“Mourned but not missed.
“A few hours before Mickelson waded back into the fray, sixteen hungry men lined up at a nondescript course in Florida for a sudden-death playoff to earn one spot in this week’s Honda Classic. Fifteen of them left with nothing more than a dream of someday reaping the rewards that Mickelson deems insufficient. If his spot in the locker room is vacated, there will be no shortage of worthy takers. The game will survive his sad unraveling. We can only hope that he does too.”
That one spot was earned by Argentina’s Martin Contini, who then teed it up in his first PGA Tour event, making the cut. There was a great scene in the third round, Contini having hit a tee shot into the grandstands, whereupon he climbed up there, obliged fans with photos, and his face expressed pure joy.
--Bryson DeChambeau will attempt to defend his title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week, answering a big question we’ve had since injuries have knocked him out of one tournament and forced him to withdraw from another.
His agent said in a text Bryson intends to be there, barring no setbacks in his rehab.
DeChambeau has not won since winning at Bay Hill a year ago.
--The owners set a Monday deadline for salvaging Opening Day on March 31, and on Friday, commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA chief Tony Clark met face-to-face as the two sides made progress on one issue, closing in on an agreement for a new lottery draft system – specifically how many teams should be in it, and other details.
And at least negotiations lasted five hours, but there were big differences on some of the other issues. I mean I’ve brought ‘em all up and it’s at the point where, just let us know when you guys work out a deal, whenever that is.
So I wrote the above early Saturday, but then it turns out Saturday’s session was disastrous.
Ken Davidoff / New York Post…from Jupiter, Fla.
“If it’s looking increasingly like you’re screwed if you love baseball, Saturday did at least provide some clarity at the unsubtly named Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium:
“We now have ourselves a bona fide side to blame.
“Because on Day 6 of the Jupiter Summit, with only two days left before Major League Baseball’s deadline to cancel the scheduled Opening Day of March 31, the MLB Players Association won the race to reach a reasonable neighborhood with its proposal. And the owners, still receiving their mail in the imaginary world of Pleasantville, responded like Dikembe Mutombo in the lane, blocking the notion and wagging their collective finger.
“Which infuriated the players. Which made an on-time start to the season less likely than ever, even with the sides agreeing to meet again Sunday.
“After what transpired on Saturday, it’s impossible to not conclude that the owners – or, to be fair, a sufficient percentage of them – would be perfectly fine punting on the revenue sinkhole that is April.”
The players made some big moves on arbitration eligibility and revenue sharing Saturday, and the owners did nothing on their end.
Bill Shaikin / Los Angeles Times
“There are 30 owners of major league teams. Whatever differences they might have, they do not tend to air them on social media. For that matter, they do not tend to use social media.
“There are more than 1,000 players. We are three months into the owner-imposed lockout, and two weeks past the scheduled start of spring training. All the owners would have needed to do to spread the impression that player unity might be splintering would be to seize upon one or two social media posts along the lines of, ‘Hey, it’s time to play ball. Let’s take the best deal we can get, and get into camp.’
“No such posts. It’s remarkable, really. Three months, and not one player reaching for his phone in an intemperate moment, publicly second-guessing the negotiating strategy of his union.”
--It’s all about NFL TV Free Agency these days.
Troy Aikman is leaving FOX to join ESPN for beaucoup de bucks to call Monday Night Football, reportedly five years, $90 million.
Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is negotiating with FOX Sports about replacing Aikman as the network’s top game analyst, potentially a one-year, $10 million deal to see how it goes. Payton could always return to coaching.
I understand the Aikman move, given it’s an upgrade from what ESPN has now for MNF, and obviously Steve Levy won’t be doing the play-by-play. ESPN would love to pair Aikman with Joe Buck, but Buck has another year on his contract with FOX.
But it kind of pisses me off that others at FOX aren’t given a shot…imagine how they feel. But everyone needs a “name.”
--Cris Collinsworth agreed to a $12.5 million a year deal to team with Mike Tirico on NBC’s next iteration of “Sunday Night Football.”
So Collinsworth won’t be teaming with Al Michaels, who has been negotiating with Amazon for its exclusive broadcasting of “Thursday Night Football” next fall, though Michaels won’t close the deal until he sees who Amazon brings in as his partner.
Rams coach Sean McVay said he was recommitting to staying in L.A. as head coach and wouldn’t pursue any television opportunities.
--In college football, we had the distressing hiring of former Baylor head coach Art Briles as the new offensive coordinator at Grambling. This is the same Briles fired by Baylor in 2016 following a sexual assault scandal surrounding the university’s football program.
Grambling Athletic Director Trayveon Scott told ESPN that they “did the homework” on Briles and were “able to move forward in support of Coach (Hue) Jackson’s recommendation.”
“We felt it (was appropriate) to give him a chance to really redeem himself after understanding where the facts lie,” Scott told the outlet.
But needless to say, many Gambling alum are outraged by the hiring. I don’t see this going through.
--Results from key weekend games….
Tottenham whipped Leeds 4-0, much needed after a horrendous 1-0 loss on Wednesday to Burnley, after which manager Antonio Conte conceded he could lose his job.
Manchester United and lowly Watford played to a 0-0 draw.
Manchester City beat Everton (which is suddenly in relegation danger) 1-0.
Newcastle, no longer in danger of relegation and hot as hell, 2-0 over Brentford.
--So, the standings…Played (of 38) – Points
1. City…27 – 66
2. Liverpool…26 – 60
3. Chelsea…25 – 50
4. Man U…27 – 47
5. West Ham…27 – 45
6. Arsenal…24 – 45
7. Tottenham…25 – 42
--They completed the first legs in the Round of 16 in the Champions League, and PL clubs Man City, Liverpool, and Chelsea won their matches, while Man U played to a draw with Atletico Madrid.
--Former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo said on Wednesday the women’s national team’s $24-million settlement with U.S. Soccer over an equal pay lawsuit was not the huge win it was being trumpeted as but rather “heartbreaking and infuriating.”
“Read the fine print. ‘Contingent upon the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement’,” Solo wrote in a social media post. “It doesn’t exist yet and is not guaranteed. If the players had ever been successful in negotiating an equal CBA, there would’ve been no reason to sue the federation in the first place.”
Solo said Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, in particular, “know this is not a win. They know it’s an easy out of a fight they were never really in,” wrote Solo. She insinuates that the promise of equal pay and “backpay for a select group of players” was not equal pay nor what the fight was about…as in makes you wonder if some of the players, i.e., like Rapinoe and Morgan, are receiving special ‘cuts.’
I have no freakin’ idea, but Hope Solo was the original leader of this movement, so you have to listen to her opinion.
--Online sports betting commenced in New York in early January, and almost immediately easily surpassed Nevada, the gambling mecca, and New Jersey, which captured the No. 1 spot in mobile sports betting after legalizing it in 2018.
As of Friday, Feb. 18, New York had already taken in $78.5 million in tax revenue in about six weeks, almost all of it earmarked to fund education, which is far more than the $49 million that the state budget office initially estimated it would receive in the first three months of 2022. That estimate has recently been increased to $110 million, and the state also collected some $200 million in license fees from operators. [Jesse McKinley / New York Times]
The operators are getting killed, thus my snarky comments on DraftKings, which like the rest of them, is spending gobs of money on each prospect….all the commercials you see on television aren’t free. I’ve been with DraftKings since day one. I only bet, very small wagers, on golf and now a new NASCAR season…with like 2 to 4 individual sports bets a year.
But I’m a consistent client. That said, they are losing money on me when all their costs are taken into account.
--California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say Hank the Tank is not alone in the Lake Tahoe area. They now believe they are looking for a trio of bears responsible for damaging at least 30 properties in recent months.
Authorities thought they were looking for a single 500-pound black bear that you’ve seen a picture of, but DNA testing led them to announce Friday they were looking for at least three big bears. A total of 150 incident reports have now been linked to the trio.
One of the bears, known as “Big Guy,” has no fear of humans, officials said. If trapping is successful, they won’t be killed…just released to a more “suitable” habitat.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/25/67: #1 “Kind Of A Drag” (The Buckinghams) #2 “Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone” (The Supremes) #3 “Ruby Tuesday” (The Rolling Stones)…and…#4 “I’m A Believer” (The Monkees) #5 “Georgy Girl” (The Seekers) #6 “The Beat Goes On” (Sonny & Cher) #7 “Gimme Some Lovin’” (The Spencer Davis Group) #8 “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (The Casinos) #9 “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” (Blues Magoos) #10 “Baby I Need Your Lovin’” (Johnny Rivers…A- week…)
NCAA Basketball Quiz Answer: Eight schools to win 3 or more NCAA titles….
North Carolina 6
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.