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Add-On posted Wed. a.m. ….with the annual Christmas Special at the bottom.
According to numerous reports, the NHL has decided its players will not participate in the Beijing Winter Olympics, though it has time to make a formal announcement on the matter. The league and the Players Association have agreed to make the move after the spike in coronavirus cases, with about 15 percent of the players currently in Covid protocols, the NHL having halted its season from Wednesday through Sunday.
With the two-week Olympic break no longer needed, the league and players must decide whether to use this time to make up all the games that have been postponed. But many arenas have booked other events during this time.
And now national hockey federations have to figure out their rosters without the NHL players they were expecting.
It sucks but it would really be foolish to go to Beijing, for all manner of reasons.
Meanwhile, the English Premier League is pushing ahead with its full holiday schedule, starting with Boxing Day (Dec. 26) and many of the coaches are not happy, calling it “absurd” given the level of Covid cases and normal injuries. Some of the teams will be stretching mightily to field the needed 13 players, plus a goalkeeper (including a few reserves).
What seems silly is that the PL, unlike its European counterparts, including Scotland and Wales, is going to continue with packed stadiums (obviously for financial reasons), and in the case of England, that’s a further recipe for disaster in terms of the health care system.
Everybody has an opinion on how sports should proceed at this time with Omicron surging through the country and overseas. I do agree with the principle of allowing players to ‘test out’ more easily from their positive Covid tests as long as they are asymptomatic and vaccinated. It only makes sense…just as the quarantine guidelines for the overall public need to be adjusted down in such situations.
But in terms of the NFL’s new guidelines, there will be rampant cheating and more than a few individuals will pay the price and that’s unfortunate.
College sports is a totally different situation and just a mess.
Nancy Armour / USA TODAY
“After almost two years of treating Covid-19 with the appropriate seriousness, letting science be the guide in developing protocols, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have thrown in the towel.
“With a new, more contagious variant threatening to wreak havoc on the postseason, their solution is to test less. Rather than the daily testing for all players that the NFLPA initially requested, the league and the union have decided the answer is, in part, to rely on vaccinated players to ‘self-report’ if they have symptoms.
“Putting the onus on players to report is optimistic under the best of circumstances. When they know their absence could negatively impact their team’s playoff hopes, as well as their individual futures in the forms of roster spots and bonuses, it’s incredibly naïve.
“ ‘I personally have a lot of confidence in our clubs and our players that they have their desire to keep themselves and everyone else safe,’ Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. ‘I believe we’re going to continue to see that going forward.’
“And there are people who believe the Detroit Lions have turned a corner. But faith and hope doesn’t necessarily make it so, and the 51 players who landed on the Covid-19 reserve list Monday – the first day of the new, scaled-down testing plan – did not exactly provide reassurance.
“The most glaring flaw in the new strategy is that there is a long history in the NFL, and other elite sports, of athletes hiding or ignoring injuries and physical ailments to stay on the field.
“Peyton Manning and others have talked about manipulating their baseline concussion tests so they’d have a better chance of being able to keep playing if they had a head injury during the season. Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson said in 2017 that he’d had concussions and hadn’t told his coaches, and that he wasn’t the only one….
“It’s not just the players, either. The Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders have all been fined in recent seasons for not properly reporting injuries – and those are just the blatant cases.
“Sure, there will be some players who will be responsible enough to say they’re sick, as Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did this season. Teams concerned enough to go above and beyond the NFL’s protocols, as the Seattle Seahawks have this season.
“Bus some players have already shown a willingness to skirt Covid protocols – welcome back from your three-game suspension, Antonio Brown – while teams like the Green Bay Packers have shown how hard it can be to hold players, particularly the big-name ones, accountable.
“With the playoffs looming and the stakes for each game rising, so, too, will the pressure for everyone to be available.
“No matter what.
“This is even assuming players know they’re sick.
“Because the NFL was so proactive about vaccinations and boosters, many of the players and coaches who are testing positive now are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Of the Washington Football Team’s 23 cases last week, only two were noticeably sick enough to have raised concerns without testing.
“I think the telling number is that there are two that I would’ve kept out of a practice had I not known they had Covid,’ said Dr. Tony Casolaro, the WFT’s chief medical officer and president of the NFL Physicians Society.
“And therein lies the problem. The Omicron variant is still new enough that, while we know it can cause breakthrough cases, we don’t know how easily it’s spread by vaccinated people.
“The NFL is currently in intensive protocols that require everyone to wear masks at facilities, but those are being revisited this week. If a vaccinated player has Covid-19 but is asymptomatic, isn’t being tested on a regular basis and mask requirements are lifted, how can the NFL be confident there won’t be more outbreaks like the ones there were last week?
“ ‘We’re always worried about spread,’ Sills said. ‘We just have not seen that happening within the course of the season, widespread outbreaks driven by people who are sick.’
“We’ve not seen a variant like Omicron, though, either.
“Until now, the NFL has been the gold standard in modeling good behavior to keep Covid-19 at bay. But continuing that likely meant further disruptions to the season and the playoffs, as well as a possible asterisk next to the Super Bowl champion.
“So after two years of vigilance, living with Covid-19 suddenly didn’t seem so bad.”
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“It seems the NFL’s owners, players and coaches are done with Covid-19. They don’t want it interrupting their season, messing with their money or delivering any kind of bad news. Omicron variant? This ain’t no spelling bee; they’re sticking to football.
“The NFL – misguided, shortsighted, danger-seeking fools, all of them – is behaving exactly the way a contagious, constantly mutating virus wants people to act.
“Just like the rest of society, the sports world is amid a wave of holiday-season coronavirus infections, leaving team personnel sick and altering schedules in just about every professional and major college league. The chaos signals a need to rethink strategies and reduce the risk of a spread that could lead to temporary stoppages. Or, if you’re participating in the NFL, the concern is more about eliminating the annoyance….
“The fix was in long before that final negotiation Saturday. Never mind that asymptomatic carriers can still spread the virus. Never mind that NFL players aren’t walled off from society, and so the decisions those people make have the potential to affect more than just the league. Never mind that football, at its core, is a sport that has long rewarded players for toughing it out, taping it up and keeping whatever’s wrong with their body quiet.
“You want to have a Covid-19 honor system in the NFL? This amounts to a don’t-ask, don’t-tell coronavirus policy. It’s dangerous. It’s foolish. If you can trust that the league’s 94 percent vaccination rate is accurate – if you can believe Antonio Brown’s fake vaccination claim is an aberration and not a prevalent scam – then the NFL probably finishes the season without a major incident. Probably. But it would be much wiser to know the severity of the problem now, mitigate it and send an honest message to society. Instead, all parties are willing to let the virus wander through team facilities however it wishes and lean on the hope that a sport full of young, fit men will be just fine – and that a fan base desperate for finality won’t care.”
--Monday night, the Browns fell to 7-7 with a 16-14 loss to the Raiders (7-7) in Cleveland.
Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson booted a 48-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to hand the Browns a heartbreaking defeat.
So Cleveland fell to the fourth and final spot in the AFC North, behind Cincinnati (8-6), Baltimore (8-6) and Pittsburgh (7-6-1).
The Browns had 22 players on the Covid-19 list – nine of them considered starters. Three coaches missed the game, including head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Third-string quarterback Nick Mullens started with Baker Mayfield and backup Case Keenum unable to test out of Covid-19 protocols in time for the game.
The virus ripping through the Browns had caused the NFL and NFLPA to postpone the game from 4:30 p.m. Saturday until 5 p.m. Monday.
--Sunday night after I posted, in a truly hideous contest, Tom Brady suffered his first shutout in 15 years, as the Bucs (10-4) fell to the Saints (7-7) 9-0; New Orleans staying relevant, Tampa Bay losing the top seed in the NFC.
Brady was just 26/48, 214, 0-1, 57.1.
And the Bucs lost top receiver Chris Godwin (98 receptions this season for 1,103 yards and five touchdowns) to a torn ACL. They also lost a core special teams player, Patrick O’Connor, to a season-ending knee injury.
As for the Saints, they beat the Bucs for the seventh straight time during the regular season – fourth since Brady left New England for Tampa Bay in 2020, even without coach Sean Payton, sidelined after testing positive.
--In another awful game to watch, Minnesota stayed in the playoff hunt with a 17-9 win over Chicago (4-10), the Vikes joining the logjam at 7-7.
--Tuesday, the Rams moved to 10-4 with a 20-10 win over the dismal Seahawks (5-9), Russell Wilson with another stinker for Seattle.
But for Los Angeles, it continues to be the Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp Show, as Kupp, in catching nine for 136 yards and two touchdowns, now has 122 receptions on the year for 1,625 yards and 14 TDs.
The season record for receptions is held by Michael Thomas, 149, in 2019. For yardage, it’s Calvin Johnson with 1,964 in 2012, but these were of course in a 16-game schedule. If Kupp exceeds these in his 17th game, you have to put an asterisk up…at least for a few years until we all get used to readjusting the record book.
--And also last night, in a critical game with wild card implications, Philadelphia evened their record at 7-7 with a 27-17 win over Washington (6-8).
Jalen Hurts played one of his better games, 20/26, 296, 1-1 through the air, with two touchdowns rushing, while Miles Sanders picked up a career-high 131 yards on the ground on just 18 carries.
WFT was starting Garrett Gilbert at quarterback with Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen out at QB due to Covid protocols they were unable to clear in time.
--So with all teams now having played 14 of 17 games, the playoff picture in both conferences is chaotic.
1. Kansas City 10-4
2. New England 9-5
3. Tennessee 9-5
4. Cincinnati 8-6
5. Indianapolis 8-6
6. L.A. Chargers 8-6
7. Buffalo 8-6
8. Baltimore 8-6
9. Pittsburgh 7-6-1
Vegas, Miami, Cleveland and Denver all at 7-7
1. Green Bay 11-3
2. Dallas 10-4
3. Tampa Bay 10-4
4. Arizona 10-4
5. L.A. Rams 10-4
6. San Francisco 8-6
7. Minnesota 7-7
8. Philadelphia 7-7
9. New Orleans 7-7
--The Giants shelved Daniel Jones for the season as a result of his lingering neck injury.
Giants coach Joe Judge said the team decided to shut him down as a “precautionary measure” so the neck injury – described as a neck “sprain” – doesn’t turn into anything chronic or long-term. Jones is not expected to require surgery, and Judge said the combination of rest and treatment should lead to a “full recovery.”
But now the Giants’ organization is faced with the question about Jones’ future with the team. Before May 3, they must decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2023. It would be a fully guaranteed salary at $21.369 million if they exercise it.
The thing is, after three seasons, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft has shown zero signs of being a franchise quarterback.
12-25 won/loss record…45 touchdown passes, 29 interceptions, 84.3 passer rating…scores of lost fumbles.
For now, Giants fans have to deal with Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm the remaining three games of this godawful, 4-10 season.
And the Giants lost wide receiver Sterling Shepard, a solid player when he’s on the field, to a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg.
College Football Tidbits
--Last night in Frisco, Texas, 24 San Diego State finished the season with a school-record 12 wins (12-2) with a nice 38-24 win over UTSA (12-2), as quarterback Lucas Johnson had a career-high 333 yards, 3 touchdowns.
--The four teams in the College Football Playoffs have to be panicking with the spike in Covid cases and the Christmas holidays. It will be amazing if all the key players are actually healthy come the semifinals.
Phil W. told me that Texas A&M is experiencing a surge in its program, which could impact the game against Wake Forest.
--Former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, who had some good moments in his three years there, has transferred to Pitt to replace Kenny Pickett. Good move for the Panthers.
--Coastal Carolina got a huge boost as quarterback Grayson McCall announced he is returning for another year rather than test the NFL waters. Go Johnny Mac! McCall should be on a Heisman short list come next fall, though admittedly it will be exceedingly difficult for a Sun Belt player to win the award.
--Coach Prime (aka Deion Sanders) needs to check his Jackson State roster a little more carefully when it comes to the character quotient.
One player, Abdul-Malik McClain, was arrested by federal authorities Monday after being accused of devising a scheme to fraudulently obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in Covid-related unemployment benefits.
McClain allegedly orchestrated the scheme with other players while he was attending USC in 2020. He transferred to Jackson State last December and his name no longer appears on the Tigers’ roster.
McClain filed at least three dozen fraudulent applications for relief and at least $227,000 was paid out.
McClain’s brother had been suspended by USC in 2020 in connection with his role in the alleged scheme.
In addition to the above…the league is halting its season Wednesday amid a spike in coronavirus cases, becoming the first major pro sports league in North America to halt play entirely, albeit briefly.
For now, team facilities will be closed from Wednesday through Saturday, and players will return Sunday for Covid testing and practice. Games are in line to resume Monday, Dec. 27. The NHL already had a scheduled holiday break, Friday through Sunday.
Two games remained on the schedule for Tuesday, pending test results, while five were postponed. After Tuesday, about 50 games will have been postponed this season.
A key is going to be the relationship between Canada and the U.S. in terms of how Canadian authorities deal with Covid. Travel has been scrapped between the two by the NHL. The Covid numbers in Canada are awful.
College Basketball…AP Poll (records thru Sunday)
It’s impossible keeping up with the Covid situation and programs whose seasons have been put on hold.
1. Baylor (60) 10-0
2. Duke 10-1
3. Purdue 10-1
4. Gonzaga 9-2
5. UCLA 9-1
6. Arizona (1) 11-0
7. Kansas 9-1
8. USC 12-0
9. Iowa State 11-0
10. Alabama 9-2
11. Michigan State 9-2
12. Auburn 10-1
13. Houston 10-2
14. Ohio State 10-2
15. Seton Hall 9-2
16. Texas 8-2
17. LSU 11-0
18. Xavier 11-1
19. Tennessee 8-2
20. Kentucky 8-2
21. Colorado State 10-0
22. Providence 11-1…that’s cool
23. Villanova 7-4
24. Wisconsin 9-2
25. Texas Tech 8-2
Wake Forest picked up five votes…most in years. Our only loss is to LSU, by the way.
But with the college schedule in a shambles, I’m praying Wake’s game Wed. against Boston College comes off. You really don’t know often until hours before.
Well, I wrote the preceding Tuesday morning and hours later our game was indeed canceled due to Covid on the B.C. side. Wake technically gets a forfeit, which is hardly what anyone wants. Just sucks.
--And owing to Covid, Alabama scheduled Davidson at the last minute and the Wildcats (9-2) upset the Crimson Tide (9-3) 79-78 last night. Great win not just for Davidson, but the A-10.
--The NBA is plunging ahead with its schedule, including the five games on Christmas Day…at least as of this morning.
--Rafael Nadal tested positive for Covid in Spain on Monday after returning from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.
His positive casts doubt on whether he will return to the circuit next month for the Australian Open. And in his case, he does indeed have Covid.
“I am having some unpleasant moments but am counting on feeling better bit by bit,” he said in a post on Twitter in Spanish on Monday. “As a consequence of the situation, I have to maintain total flexibility with my schedule, and I will analyze my options depending on how my situation evolves.”
--Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai denied accusing anyone of sexual assault, suggesting a global wave of concern for her safety and well-being was the result of misunderstandings.
“I’ve never claimed, or written about anyone having sexually assaulted me. This is very important and needs to be clear,” said Peng, in a six-minute video interview with Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese-language publication run by state-controlled Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., that was posted online Sunday.
“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding,” Peng said in the interview, describing the situation as touching on “my personal privacy.”
The Women’s Tennis Association said Peng’s interview hasn’t eased its concerns about her.
“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault,” the organization said.
Martina Navratilova wrote on Twitter: “Total and utter BS.”
Chris Evert, in her own response on Twitter, wrote: “This is…unsettling…”
And now, our annual Christmas special....best read with the children Christmas Eve. I added a new story or two to the old favorites.
Apollo 8...51 years go....
Growing up, one of the more dramatic memories as a kid was staying up Christmas Eve 1968 to follow the remarkable voyage of Apollo 8.
If ever a nation needed a pick me up, it was America in ’68, after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, with the ongoing war in Vietnam and the dramatic Tet Offensive, and after LBJ’s sudden withdrawal from the presidential race, the turbulent Democratic Convention, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Yes, we were ready for a little space adventure.
Apollo 8 would be the first manned mission to orbit the moon. Commanded by Frank Borman, with James Lovell, Jr. and William Anders, it was launched on December 21 and on Christmas Eve the three began their orbit. What made it all even more dramatic was the first go round to the dark side of the moon, when all communication was lost for 45 minutes until they reemerged at the other side. It was the middle of the night for us viewers, at least in the Eastern time zone, and I remember that Apollo was sending back spectacular photos of Earth, including “Earthrise,” the first ever seen by humans and probably the most iconic photo in history.
Borman described the moon as “a vast, lonely and forbidding sight,” and Lovell called Earth, “a grand oasis in the big vastness of space.” The crew members then took turns reading from the Book of Genesis / Creation:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
James Lovell would later say, “Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus.” And Borman concluded with, “Merry Christmas. God bless all of you, all of you on the Good Earth.”
Ron White, author of “American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant,” had a piece in the New York Daily News (Dec. 2017) on the story of how Christmas became a national holiday, President Grant signing a proclamation on June 24, 1870 making it so.
“The Pilgrims who first came to a new England did not celebrate Christmas. Their memories of Christmas in the old England they left behind were of a season of decadence and debauchery. Nearly two centuries later, in the first year of the new United States, Congress met in session on December 25, 1789 – certainly not a holiday.
“In the early decades of the 19th century Americans began to reimagine Christmas, turning it into church- and family-centered celebrations. Charles Dickens published ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1843. Carol singing, tree decorations and gift-giving became regular parts of Christmas. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast, a German immigrant, popularized a jolly Santa Claus in his drawings.
“During the Civil War, Christmas meant a day of rest as well as memories of festivities back home. Robert Gould Shaw, who would receive fame as commander of the 54th Massachusetts, the first African-American regiment organized in the North, wrote, ‘It is Christmas morning and I hope for a happy and merry one for you all.’
“Grant, victorious Union Civil War general, emerged from the war with a passion to reunite the nation. If he had become a practitioner of a ‘hard war’ during the four-year-long conflict, as the war reached its climax he grew into an advocate of a ‘soft peace.’ He demonstrated his belief at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox when he offered Robert E. Lee a magnanimous peace.
“Grant’s decision to declare Christmas a legal public holiday reveals two sides of this self-effacing American leader. First, although he is not portrayed as a religious person in biographies, a closer look will reveal a quiet man who did not wear his faith on his sleeve, but displayed his Methodist commitment to social justice. Raised in Ohio in a devout Methodist family, he married Julia Dent, whose grandfather was a Methodist minister.
“His private faith became more public in his presidency. The Washington National Cathedral, whose construction began in 1907, is often thought to be the first national church in the nation’s capital, but Grant played a decisive role in the declaration of the actual first national church in Washington four decades earlier.
“By the Civil War, Methodism had become the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. In the early 1850s, Methodists made plans to build the first national church in Washington. When it became clear that Grant would be elected President in 1868, Methodists accelerated plans to complete their national church.
“On Feb. 28, four days before Grant’s inauguration as President, he sat in the front pew as the Metropolitan Methodist Church was dedicated. Grant would serve as a trustee, while Julia chaired the national committee to retire the debt of the church.
“Second, Grant’s commitment to making Christmas a legal holiday needs to be understood as part of his drive to unite the North and the South after the war. Grant began his presidency in 1869 as what was called Reconstruction was unraveling.
“The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution were enacted to guarantee the civil and political rights of newly emancipated African-Americans. But ex-Confederate generals and Southern newspaper editors, aided by the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, determined to quickly replace slavery with what would become Jim Crow segregation. In Grant’s finest moment as President, he would take on the Klan with the power of the federal government, even as his own Republican party retreated from its Reconstruction commitments.
“In this tumultuous year, where bitterness and acrimony seem more regnant than peace and joy, we may well ask: Does Christmas as a public holiday unite or divide? We live in a religious culture quite different than Grant’s world. Yet his public passion to unite North and South in making Christmas a national holiday can inform and inspire attempts to hold up light amid darkness at the end of 2017.”
“Silent night, holy night”
Michael E. Ruane / Washington Post
“On Christmas Eve in 1818, two men with a small guitar entered a church in Oberndorf, Austria, and prepared to sing a new Christmas carol.
“Times had been bad in Oberndorf, where many people worked on the water, manning the salt barges that plied the Salzach River. The upheaval in central Europe caused by the Napoleonic Wars had just ended.
“And only two years before, the dreadfully dark summer of 1816 – later blamed on ash from a volcanic eruption in Indonesia – had caused famine and deprivation.
“But in that fall of 1816, a young Catholic priest, Joseph Mohr, had written a six-verse Christmas poem that began ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’ - Silent Night, Holy Night – about the Nativity of a curly-haired Jesus.
“Two years later, Father Mohr enlisted a friend, Franz Xaver Gruber, a local schoolteacher and musician, to come up with a melody for the poem that could be played for Christmas on the guitar. (Legend has it that the church organ had been damaged by mice or water and was on the blink.)
“Gruber’s composition is thought to have taken him about a day to compose.
“As the two men put the words to music that day 200 years ago in Oberndorf’s St. Nicholas Church, they voiced for the first time what is probably history’s most enduring and beloved Christmas carol.
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright...
“The carol spread quickly across Europe. It was brought to the United States, where, some accounts say, it was first performed on Christmas Day, 1839, in the churchyard of New York’s Trinity Church, Wall Street, by a troupe of traveling Austrians, the Ranier Singers.
“The carol was translated into English in the 1850s by an Episcopal priest at Trinity, John Freeman Young. He published it in a book of Christmas carols in 1859. He translated the first, third and sixth verses....
“Young dispensed with Jesus’ curly hair, but added the folksy ‘yon’ and called the child ‘tender and mild.’”
Mohr’s six-string guitar survived and is said to be on display in the Silent Night Museum in Hallein, Austria, on the Salzach river, about 20 miles south of Oberndorf.
Rough translation of the original first verse in German:
Silent night! Holy night!
Everything is asleep. Only the faithful holy
couple are awake, alone.
Lovely boy with curly hair.
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.
And Episcopal priest John Freeman Young smoothed it into the classic:
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.
St. Nicholas was a Greek bishop, known as the patron of children (as well as brewers and sailors, among others), and a man who likely died in A.D. 343 in Myra, a small town now called Demre in modern-day Turkey. Though the year of his death is disputed, the day is not – December 6, now celebrated as St. Nicholas Day.
His remains are venerated worldwide, even as nobody knows for certain where he rests in peace – or more accurately, in pieces. In the early and medieval Christian tradition, the mortal remains of popular saints were scattered among various churches in numerous places to be displayed as sacred relics.
Dating and DNA tests may allow scientists to piece together which relics are actually from the same man. In 2017 Oxford University scholars announced a first step in that direction: A radiocarbon study that shows a bone long thought to be a St. Nicholas relic and housed in St. Martha of Bethany Church in Morton Grove, Illinois, does in fact date to the time of the saint’s death.
Michael Gartland / New York Post
“NORAD’s tradition of tracking Santa’s sleigh began with a wrong number.
“Right before Christmas in 1955, Sears ran an ad offering millions of toy-hungry girls and boys the chance to talk to the big man himself. In Colorado Springs, the retailer published the local phone number to the North Pole as ME2-6681.
“There was only one problem: The number was one digit off.
“And that wrong number rang on the desk of a high-ranking officer in a bunker at the Continental Air Defense Command – the predecessor of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which has the less-than-festive mission of detecting and defending the continent against nuclear attack.”
Col. Harry Shoup took the first call on the command’s red phone. In an interview with the Post, Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, recalled:
“ ‘The phone rang, and he picked up. ‘This is Colonel Shoup, commander of this combat station. Who is this?’”
Silence on the other end. Shoup repeated himself, then “a meek little boy’s voice came over the line.
“ ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ he murmured.
“Worried there had been some kind of security breach, Shoup again demanded the caller’s name. He heard crying, and another query came through the tears.
“ ‘Is this one of Santa’s elves?’
“Shoup recognized he was in a moment that could destroy the little boy’s faith in Santa.
“ ‘Yes, I am,’ he said. ‘Have you been a good boy?’
After the two talked a while, Shoup asked to speak with the boy’s mother.
“ ‘He asked her: ‘Do you have any idea who you’ve called?’’ Van Keuren said. ‘She told him to take a look at that day’s newspaper.’”
So the calls flooded in and Shoup directed his men to answer as Santa.
Weeks later, Shoup, on vacation, dropped in on his men and spotted a sleigh on the huge plexiglass map of North America in the room. A subordinate was afraid he had just lost his job.
Instead, Shoup said, “There’s something good we could do with this.”
And so Col. Shoup called a local radio station with the news the command center was tracking Santa’s sleigh. Ever since then, NORAD has been tracking Santa.
Speaking of Santa and reindeer, Edward Kosner had a piece in the Wall Street Journal (11/18/16) on the story of Rudolph, “among other things, the first real addition to American Christmas lore since the first decades of the 19th century. That’s when Washington Irving transformed churchy St. Nicholas into a clay-pipe-puffing, rotund charmer and Clement Clark Moore equipped him with eight flying reindeer and an automatically replenishing, toy-filled sleigh. Gene Autry, the singing cowpoke, made the song into a hit in 1949, and since then it’s been recorded by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and Destiny’s Child to the Temptations and Burl Ives, not to mention Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and the Cadillacs, the doo-wop group revered for ‘Speedo.’”
So the legend of Rudolph has been deconstructed in a new book by Ronald D. Lankford Jr., who has written books about popular music. In “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: An American Hero,” Lankford digs up far more than you would think was available, “a parable of American commerce cloaked in benevolence,” as Edward Kosner put it.
“The Rudolph creation story begins in Chicago in January 1939, when Robert May, a nerdy 33-year-old adman at Montgomery Ward – with its bursting catalog and more than 600 stores, a retail colossus second only to Sears, Roebuck – was assigned by his boss to dream up a Christmas giveaway, perhaps an illustrated story like the one about Ferdinand the bashful bull....(so) May came up with an awkward young reindeer mocked by his fellows whose oddity – an incandescent nose – enables him to save the day when a befogged Santa asks him to lead the team for global toy delivery.
“According to the legend, May read his poetic text to his daughter, who loved it. The Ward hierarchy didn’t; some worried that the red nose would remind too many parents of drunks. But one exec stood up for Rudolph, and the corporation wound up giving away 2.4 million copies of a 32-page illustrated pamphlet to kids brought to Ward stores by mom and dad. Seven years later, after the end of World War II, another 3.6 million copies were handed out. With an entrepreneurial corporate boost, Rudolph was launched.
“May’s ‘Rudolph’ was a work for hire owned by Ward, but the company’s chairman gave the adman the copyright in 1947, and May made the most of it....In 1949, May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the song that has enthralled or tormented people ever since. He paid $5 to the singer Guy Mitchell to make a demo and sent it to several crooners. At the end of a session to lay down two 45-rpm Christmas records, Gene Autry devoted 10 minutes to ‘Rudolph’ and made it the B-side of one of the discs. It eventually sold 2.5 million copies, his greatest hit.
“The legend only grew. In 1964, another corporate angel, RCA, swooped in and produced a stop-motion animated ‘Rudolph’ special that was shown on TV every Christmas.”
Lankford argues that Rudolph “appeals to Americans because the story is actually an inspirational Horatio Alger tale of pluck and luck leading to unlikely success. And he ponders whether Rudolph should be thought of as true folklore or as ‘fakelore,’ like Paul Bunyan, or even ‘fakelure’ – a commercial come-on. In the end, it hardly matters.
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
You’ll go down in history.”
Kosner: “And so he has.”
A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement C. Moore [Well, he really stole it, but that’s a story for another day. This is the original version.]
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap;
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof -
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
The story of Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift for You,” as told by Ronnie Spector in her book “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness…or…My Life as a Fabulous Ronette”.
“One record that did feature all three Ronettes – and just about everyone else who worked for Phil – was Phil’s Christmas album, A Christmas Gift for You. Phil is Jewish, but for some reason he always loved Christmas. Every year he would spend weeks designing his own special Christmas card, which he would send to everyone in the business. In 1963 he took that idea one step further and recorded an entire album of Christmas music, with contributions from all the acts on his Philles label. All of the groups got to do three or four songs each. The Ronettes did ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,’ ‘Sleigh Ride,’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman.’
“We worked on that one forever. Phil started recording it in the summer, and he didn’t leave the studio for about two months. We’d start recording early in the evening, and we’d work until late into the night, sometimes even into the next morning. And everybody sang on everyone else’s songs, so all of Phil’s acts really were like one big, happy family for that one album.
“While he was recording it, Phil told everyone that this Christmas album was going to be the masterpiece of his career. And he meant it. We all knew how important this project was to Phil when he walked into the studio on the last day of recording and announced that he was going to add a vocal himself. The final song on the record is a spoken message from Phil, where he thanks all the kids for buying his records and then wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, while we all sing a chorus of ‘Silent Night’ in the background. A lot of people thought the song was corny. But if you knew Phil like I did, it was very touching.
“But then I always did have a soft spot for Phil’s voice. There was something about his phrasing and diction that drove me crazy. It was so cool, so calm, so serene. Phil wasn’t a singer, but when he spoke he put me in a romantic mood like no singer could. He was the only guy I ever met who could talk me into an orgasm.
“Of course, he wasn’t doing that back then. Not yet, anyway. Phil and I were still just sweethearts in those days. We spent lots of time together, and we were very romantic, but we still hadn’t slept together. Maybe that’s why we were so romantic.
“A Christmas Gift for You finally came out in November of 1963. But in spite of all the work we put into it, the album was one of Phil’s biggest flops. It was reissued as The Phil Spector Christmas Album in the early seventies, and nowadays people talk about it like it’s one of the greatest albums in rock and roll history. But nobody bought it when it first came out.
“President Kennedy had been shot a few days before it was released, and after that people were too depressed to even look at a rock and roll record. And they stayed that way until well into the New Year of 1964, when – thank God – four long-haired English guys finally got them to go back into the record stores.”
The Gospel According to Luke
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Political commentator Pat Buchanan (The Atlantic, December 2015). The question was: “What is the greatest comeback of all time?”
Betrayed, scourged, crucified on a cross between two thieves, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead and sent his apostles to preach his doctrines to the world, out of which came Christianity and Western civilization. Then he ascended into heaven. His name is known to more people than that of any other man who walked the Earth, and the empire that crucified him is gone.
Those of us who are older remember here in the New York area the advent of WPIX’s “The Yule Log,” 1966, which looped 17 seconds of jittery 16mm film, treating apartment-dwelling New Yorkers who yearned for the joys of cozying up to a crackling fire, the first TV-screen-sized “fire,” with flames shot at the mayor’s mansion beneath a pair of stockings.
I’ll never forget seeing it for the first time. Those of us who had a house kind of laughed, but then it made total sense, and you found yourself just turning it on in those early years. It was really kind of ingenious.
In 1970, WPIX introduced an upgrade, looping seven minutes of higher-quality 35mm film. That version ran annually through 1989 and was revived in 2001.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus
A famous letter from Virginia O’Hanlon to the editorial board of the New York Sun, first printed in 1897:
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
Dear Editor -
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
World War I – Christmas Truce
By December 1914, the war had been picking up in intensity for five months. Ironically, the feeling during the initial phases was that everyone would be home by Christmas, though little did they know it would be Christmas 1918.
On Christmas Eve 1914, along the British and German lines, particularly in the Flanders area, the soldiers got into conversation with each other and it was clear to the British that the Germans wanted some sort of Christmas Armistice. Sir Edward Hulse wrote in his diary, “A scout named F. Murker went out and met a German Patrol and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message was sent back saying that if we didn’t fire at them they would not fire at us.” That night, where five days earlier there had been savage fighting, the guns fell silent.
The following morning German soldiers walked towards the British wire and the Brits went out to meet them. They exchanged caps and souvenirs and food. Then arrangements were made for the British to pick up bodies left on the German side during a recent failed raid.
Christmas Day, fraternization took place along many of the lines, including a few of the French and Belgian ones. Some joined in chasing hares, others, most famously, kicked around a soccer ball. British soldier Bruce Bairnsfather would write, “It all felt most curious: here were these sausage-eating wretches, who had elected to start this infernal European fracas, and in so doing had brought us all into the same muddy pickle as themselves. But there was not an atom of hate on either side that day; and yet, on our side, not for a moment was the will to war and the will to beat them relaxed.”
In the air the war continued and the French Foreign Legionnaires in Alsace were ordered to fight Christmas Day as well. Plus, most of the commanders on both sides were none too pleased. Nothing like the Christmas truce of 1914 would occur in succeeding years (outside of a pocket or two) and by December 26, 1914, the guns were blazing anew.
[Source: “The First World War,” by Martin Gilbert]
“May You Always”
From 1959-2002, Harry Harrison was a fixture on New York radio, the last 20+ years at the great oldies station WCBS-FM. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire, which ticked off many of us to no end, but he will forever be remembered for a brilliant greeting titled “May You Always.” Enjoy.
As the holiday bells ring out the old year, and sweethearts kiss,
And cold hands touch and warm each other against the year ahead,
May I wish you not the biggest and best of life,
But the small pleasures that make living worthwhile.
Sometime during the new year, to keep your heart in practice,
May you do someone a secret good deed and not get caught at it.
May you find a little island of time to read that book and write that letter,
And to visit that lonely friend on the other side of town.
May your next do-it-yourself project not look like you did it yourself.
May the poor relatives you helped support remember you when they win the lottery.
May your best card tricks win admiring gasps and your worst puns, admiring groans.
May all those who told you so, refrain from saying “I told you so.”
May all the predictions you’ve made for your firstborn’s future come true.
May just half of those optimistic predictions that your high school annual made for you come true.
In a time of sink or swim, may you find you can walk to shore before you call the lifeguard.
May you keep at least one ideal you can pass along to your kids.
For a change, some rainy day, when you’re a few minutes late,
May your train or bus be waiting for you.
May you accidentally overhear someone saying something nice about you.
If you run into an old school chum,
May you both remember each other’s names for introductions.
If you order your steak medium rare, may it be so.
And, if you’re on a diet, may someone tell you, “You’ve lost a little weight,” without knowing you’re on a diet.
May that long and lonely night be brightened by the telephone call that you’ve been waiting for.
When you reach into the coin slot, may you find the coin that you lost on your last wrong number.
When you trip and fall, may there be no one watching to laugh at you or feel sorry for you.
And sometime soon, may you be waved to by a celebrity, wagged at by a puppy, run to by a happy child, and counted on by someone you love.
More than this, no one can wish you.
Ross Cameron / Sydney Morning Herald…I first read this in December 2009.
“Jesus is easily the most influential person in history, and the most universally loved….
“Of his early life, the record is almost blank; we are left with a few fragments….
“He was deeply literate in Jewish scriptures but silent on writings outside that tradition. We may assume he lived his entire life within 160 km of his birthplace – he never describes a foreign custom or place. After a major spiritual moment under the influence of John, he launched into local prominence as an itinerant preacher at age 30. Tradition holds that Jesus was a public figure for three years but modern scholars strongly believe a single year is more likely….
“Riding a wave of fame and popularity, Jesus moved the road show to the heavily garrisoned provincial and religious capital of Jerusalem, entering the city in the lead-up to the most holy day of the Jewish year. The Roman authorities are not known for their tolerance of burgeoning mass movements. Jesus fairly quickly found his way to the agony and humiliation of public torture and execution by order of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate – famous for casual brutality. It was a routine event in a typical day in a Roman occupied city.
“History’s great riddle followed. His supporters immediately claimed Jesus rose from the dead. The four biographies of Jesus often contradict each other on minor details but nowhere so much as in the resurrection narratives. The difficulty with dismissing the claim altogether, however, is how otherwise to explain the instant, unprecedented explosion of the Jesus movement across the Mediterranean. The willingness of so many sane first-century beings – many of them witnesses – to suffer death rather than deny the central tenet of their faith, is also cause for reflection….
“We are left to ponder how one year in the life of a seeming nobody could transform the Roman Empire and the entire planet. The reason for the triumph of this nobody is to be found in his first recorded words. ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.’ Jesus is specially kind to the weak and the outcast – to women, the poor, children, a madman in chains and a hated tax collector.
“In the pre-Jesus record, in virtually every human society, vast faceless classes of people were less valued than domestic animals. The world’s second-greatest philosopher, Aristotle, while writing the 101 course of every academic discipline, fervently endorsed the keeping of slaves as natural and desirable to good order. Slavery continued for centuries after Jesus but the impulse to end it was Christian. Beyond the Jewish scriptures, to which Jesus gave a megaphone, no one cared about those on the margins. Jesus establishes the sublime idea that everyone matters.
“Today that single thought has transformed our sense of what it means to be human. Major political parties of the earth, whether left, centrist or right wing (with the possible exception of the Greens) agree the welfare of the whole human race is our common goal. ‘Blessed are the meek’ evolved into ‘All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
“From whatever perspective we come, thinking people ought to be able to agree, the birth of Jesus was a good day for mankind. I suspect I may never quite shake the childlike hunch that there is some uniquely divine imprint on the central individual of the human story. Happy Birthday, Jesus.”
[From Army Times]
Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army was in a dire situation during the frigid winter of 1776. His army had been defeated and chased from New York, and forced to set up winter camp for his remaining 5,000 troops at Valley Forge, Pa., only miles from the capital city of Philadelphia. With morale at its lowest point of the war and enlistments coming to an end, Washington desperately needed a victory to secure reenlistments and draw in some new recruits. The outcome of the revolution was at stake.
On Christmas night, Washington’s troops began to gather on the banks of the Delaware River at McKonkey’s Ferry. His plan was to cross the partially frozen river by midnight, march to Trenton and surround the garrison of Hessian troops (Germans fighting for the British) in the city in a predawn attack.
Before the Army had even launched a boat across the river, it began to rain, then hail, then snow. Washington was behind schedule. Remarkably, the force crossed the river without a single casualty. At 4 a.m., Dec. 26, the ill-equipped army began to march toward Trenton, some with rags wrapped around their feet instead of shoes.
Washington had achieved complete surprise with the dangerous crossing. The battle began when the Army encountered a group of unprepared Hessian sentries at about 8 a.m., and by 9:30 the garrison had surrendered. The Army had killed 22, injured 83 and taken 896 prisoners.
By noon, Washington had left Trenton, having lost two men in the battle, and returned to camp at Valley Forge. He had won a major victory, inspiring the needed reenlistments. News of the battle drew new recruits into the beleaguered Continental Army. The revolution would live to fight another day.
Smithsonian magazine had a piece on the first known references to building snowmen, or snow sculpture.
In 1494: Snow sculpture gets its Michelangelo – literally. “One winter, when a great deal of snow fell in Florence,” Giorgio Vasari wrote, Michelangelo created “a statue of snow, which was very beautiful,” in Piero de Medici’s courtyard.
1690: The first known snowmen in the Colonies are built to stand guard at the gates of Schenectady while the human sentinels head to a tavern. That night, French and Indian forces plow through the meager defenses, devastating the town.
1969: Though a creature capable of melting clearly shouldn’t smoke a corncob pipe, the “Frosty the Snowman” animated cartoon – based on the sappy 1950 song first recorded by Gene Autry – serves up the snowman archetype for generations.
A number of years ago, Rich Lowry wrote an op-ed in the New York Post on the genius of “White Christmas”:
“America’s classic Christmas song was written by a Jewish immigrant.
“Born in Russia with the name Israel Baline, he was the genius songwriter we know as Irving Berlin. He wrote ‘White Christmas’ for the 1942 Hollywood musical ‘Holiday Inn,’ starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
“On set, the movie’s hit number was presumed to be another Berlin composition, the Valentine’s Day song ‘Be Careful, It’s My Heart.’ At first, it was. Then ‘White Christmas’ captured the public’s imagination and hasn’t quite loosed its grip since....
“Some estimates point to sales of all versions of ‘White Christmas’ topping 100 million....
“It is a song built on yearning. In lines at the beginning of the original version that aren’t usually performed, Berlin writes of being out in sunny California during the holiday: ‘There’s never been such a day/in Beverly Hills, L.A./But it’s December the twenty-fourth./And I’m longing to be up North’.
“(Colleague Mark) Steyn thinks that if America had entered World War II a few years earlier, the song might never have taken off. But 1942 was the year that American men were first shipped overseas, and it was released into a wave of homesickness. (Berlin’s daughter) Mary Ellin Barrett says it first caught on with GIs in Great Britain. During the course of the war, it became the most requested song with Armed Forces Radio.
“The irony of the son of a cantor writing the characteristic American Christmas song is obvious. Yet, Berlin’s daughter says, ‘He believed in the great American Christmas.’ As a child on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he loved to look at the little Christmas tree of his Catholic neighbors. He and his Christian wife Ellin (theirs was a scandalous mixed marriage), put on elaborate, joyous Christmases for their daughters. Not until later would they reveal that the day was a painful one for them because they had lost an infant child on Christmas.
“Berlin knew he had something special with ‘White Christmas’ as soon as he wrote it. He supposedly enthused to his secretary, ‘I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written – heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!’ The song evokes the warmth of the hearth and the comforts of our Christmas traditions in a way that hasn’t stopped pulling at heartstrings yet.”
Some tidbits related to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” At first, Charles Schulz and his associates didn’t think they’d be able to pull the project off for CBS. Production was crammed into five months and CBS executives were none too pleased with the results. Schulz insisted on the biblical passage, animator Bill Melendez and producer Lee Mendelson weren’t so sure.
The rush to production (they were given just five months) led to a few mistakes, like Schroeder’s fingers coming off the keyboard while music is playing, and Pig Pen mysteriously disappearing for a second. Plus the barren Christmas tree lost, and then regained, a couple of branches. They just didn’t have time to change it.
Melendez, by the way, wrote the lyrics to “Christmas Time Is Here” in 15 minutes on an envelope, after Vince Guaraldi had come up with the music. A children’s choir recorded it just four days before the show premiered.
The show was a ratings smash when it premiered Dec. 9, 1965, on CBS. Last year, 2015, it still averaged 6 million viewers.
Separately, Mendelson recalled speaking to Schulz shortly before he died. “He said, ‘Good grief. That little kid’s never going to kick the football.’”
Linus [From “A Charlie Brown Christmas”]
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them. And they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Merry Christmas, gang!
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m. Might be late p.m. as I’m traveling that day.
[Posted Sun. p.m. before late action]
NFL HOF players from HBCUs Quiz: So in watching Jackson State vs. South Carolina State, I looked up a list of Hall of Famers who went to HBCUs. I’ll give you the name of some of them, you give me the school.
Harold Carmichael, Richard Dent, Bob Hayes, Elvin Bethea, Shannon Sharpe
Omicron Wreaks Havoc On Sports Schedule
Needless to say, it’s a waste of time to get into all the games that have been postponed or canceled (or forfeited). The NFL will plow ahead, but I’m less sure about the NBA, CBB, and NHL. And we have to pray college football can complete its playoffs with the major contributors on the final four teams staying healthy.
But we all do have individual sentiments on the situation. Honestly, I most care about the kids and keeping their high school sports schedules intact as much as possible.
Steve Politi / NJ.com
“The two most depressing words in New Jersey sports – and no, area NFL fans, they are not ‘Jets defense’ or ‘Giants offense’ – were uttered on Friday by the man who ultimately will decide whether or not we can fill an arena to watch the teams we love.
“ ‘My fear is we’re going to be getting back to capacity limits at some point,’ Gov. Phil Murphy said during an event at Port Newark, and anyone who lived through the never-ending winter-spring of 2020 knows what capacity limits mean.
“It means enjoy watching your favorite sports teams in person while you can, because you might be out of luck if you’ve got tickets to Devils, Rutgers and Seton Hall games in the coming weeks.
“Then again, Seton Hall is already canceling and forfeiting games because of a Covid-19 outbreak, a frustrating interruption to what has been a fantastic start to the season. Just when it looked like the Pirates couldn’t be stopped, an opponent that smacked it around last winter – smacked all of us around – reminded their fans just how quickly the virus can win….
“Where do sports go from here? With the Omicron numbers rising throughout the state and country, it is impossible to find any reason for optimism – unless, that is, you’re one of those cardboard cutouts that had all the best seats last winter.
“I thought – hoped? prayed? – that we were done with that for good, and it is depressing as hell that this is happening again just as sports seemed to find their footing again. The NFL playoffs are around the corner, and teams had mostly done a good job managing the virus. The NHL and NBA seasons are underway, with fans enthusiastically returning to their seats.
“ ‘The fact that we only shut down two additional teams means we are trying to avoid a full league shutdown,’ Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, told the Associated Press when the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers joined the Calgary Flames on a Covid hold. Then he added, ominously, that this was ‘subject to change based on circumstances.’ [Ed. the NHL has to figure out how to negotiate the Olympics…with a two-week break in the schedule built in due to the Games.]….
“It is possible to do everything right, to get all the jabs and follow all the protocols, and still end up with this thing. It is happening all around us right now, and the trends suggest that the numbers are going to get worse before they get better.
“With the Giants and Jets struggling again, the sports scene has been sad enough around New Jersey this fall. Now, just as things started to feel normal, the words ‘capacity limits’ are back. And that’s a different level of depressing.”
One note on the Premier League, which I told you would be a mess…it really is now.
One game was played out of six on Saturday, Arsenal beating Leeds 4-1. The other five postponed due to Covid, which you know is at crisis levels across the pond.
The 20 clubs will meet on Monday to discuss what to do. Managers and captains are holding their own meetings.
Premier League chief Richard Masters has written to clubs urging players to get the vaccine and stressed the importance of the league completing the season.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank led calls for all matches to be called off until December 26 to enable a rest.
Some feel the break should be longer – but others such as Liverpool’s Juergen Klopp do not believe it should happen.
The thing is for fans this is the best time of year, with a ton of games, whereas most of the other European leagues take a break over the holidays. The Premier League does the opposite.
But then Omicron.
Today, though, 3 of 4 games were played. Man City continued its phenomenal play, 4-0 over Newcastle, but Chelsea (0-0) against the Wolves, and Liverpool (2-2 at Tottenham) had costly draws in terms of the standings.
For the Spurs, Harry Kane ended a long scoring drought, but after Tottenham went down 2-1, Son Heung-min scored late for the equalizer. Manager Antonio Conte is now undefeated in his first five league matches.
Standings…games – points
1. Man City 18 – 44
2. Liverpool 18 – 41
3. Chelsea 18 – 38
4. Arsenal 18 – 32
5. West Ham 17 – 28
6. Man U 16 – 27
7. Tottenham 15 – 26 …get 7 points out of the three games in hand and they have the fourth spot.
--Pity us New York football fans, as we’re now a combined 7-21!
The Jets (3-11) lost to the Dolphins, 31-24, Miami’s sixth in a row to get to .500, 7-7, and still relevant. Zach Wilson sucked again at quarterback for the Jets, one of their touchdowns on a nice pick-six off Tua by Brandin (sic) Echols that tied it at 24-24, before the Jets defense once again failed, ditto Wilson on two opportunities to tie it.
And the Giants (4-10), again without Daniel Jones, saw replacement Mike Glennon throw three picks and the Cowboys (10-4) easily won it 21-6 at MetLife Stadium.
Saquon Barkley had 50 yards on 15 carries for New York, with his longest run being six yards, plus he coughed up a fumble.
Understand, New York area football fans who hit the sports radio waves have more and more fodder concerning the Giants’ draft selections of Jones and Saquon. Bye-bye GM Dave Gettleman. Like two minutes after the season finale. He’s probably already cleaned out his office. Actually, he may no longer be in the state. I mean who’s seen the guy.
--We had a shocker in Detroit. The Lions (2-11-1), 13-point underdogs, blitzed the Cardinals (10-4), as Jared Goff had arguably his best game in Detroit, 21/26, 216, 3-0, 139.7 effort.
What makes this more meaningful, for some of us guys, is that Goff’s girlfriend, Christen Harper, had gone viral after the Lions won their first game, Ms. Harper in the midst of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue photo-shoot…as in Ms. Harper is, shall we say, rather…..
Actually, I can’t go there. International Web Site Association rules and regulations, you understand.
Anyway, the Lions also got 112 yards rushing on 26 carries from Craig Reynolds.
Craig Reynolds? Had anyone heard of this guy before? I hadn’t.
But there’s a group of alumni from Kutztown University (formerly Kutztown State), who are no doubt toasting the lad tonight. Like reader Bob P., a friend and high school classmate of mine (and fine golfer, I hasten to add…unlike your editor, who blows).
For the Cards, Kyler Murray had another very subpar game and was replaced late by Colt McCoy.
--The Steelers remained very relevant at 7-6-1 with a 19-13 win over the Titans (9-5) in Pittsburgh, despite having only 168 yards of offense! Tennessee turned it over four times, including three fumbles.
T.J. Watt, with 1 ½ sacks, ran his season total to 17.5, as he chases Michael Strahan’s official record of 22.5.
--Buffalo (8-6) still has a wild-card slot after a 31-14 win over the Panthers (5-9), whose owner, David Tepper, must be thinking, ‘Why the hell did I buy this team?!’
--In the late games….
The Bengals are 8-6 after a 15-10 win at Denver (7-7). Not good for the Broncos.
--San Francisco (8-6) got a huge 31-13 win over the Falcons (6-8).
--And in the big one, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh again went for two, unsuccessfully, and the Ravens are now 8-6 after Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (11-3) defeated them in Baltimore, 31-30.
Rodgers had another terrific game, three touchdown passes, 132.2 PR, while Tyler Huntley, subbing for the injured Lamar Jackson (ankle), threw for two TDs and ran for two.
So the Ravens are now behind the Bengals in the AFC North based on head-to-head comparisons, while the Browns and Steelers are right behind. Terrific action to come the final three weeks.
--Saturday night the Colts had a big win, 27-17, over the Patriots in Indianapolis, snapping New England’s (9-5) seven-game winning streak.
And as it’s been all season, it was the Jonathan Taylor show, 170 yards on 29 carries, including the game-deciding 67-yard TD romp with 2:00 to play, after the Pats, down 20-0 after three, rallied for 17 to cut it to 20-17 with 2:21 remaining, only to then have Taylor rip off his big one.
The second year back out of Wisconsin now has 1,518 yards rushing in 14 games (a good matchup vs. the record of all-time greats like a Jim Brown in a 14-game schedule), with a 5.6 average per carry, and 19 touchdowns (2 receiving).
For the Pats, Mac Jones threw two picks and was so-so.
Summit’s Michael Badgley was 2 of 3 on his field goals for Indy, missing from 49, so he’s 13 of 15 for the Colts since being signed, and, critically, 35 of 35 on extra points.
--Thursday, the Chiefs are now 10-4, winners of seven in a row following a 34-28 win over the Chargers (8-6) in overtime; Patrick Mahomes (31/47, 410, 3-1, 105.8) outplaying Justin Herbert.
For K.C., Travis Kelce had a monster game, 10 receptions for 191 yards and two touchdowns, including the deciding 34-yard connection from Mahomes, while Tyreek Hill caught 12 for 148 and a score.
But the Chargers really gave this one away, a number of times, including a 75-yard, 8-play drive to allow the Chiefs to tie it in regulation after Los Angeles had taken a 28-21 lead with just 2:19 to play.
--It was inevitable, after Jacksonville’s 2-11 start, that Urban Meyer’s brief career in the NFL was over and early Thursday he was fired.
Owner Shad Kahn made the move hours after former Jaguars player Josh Lambo told a Florida newspaper Meyer kicked him during practice in August. It was the latest black eye – adding to an already lengthy list of embarrassments – for the three-time national championship-winning college coach who failed miserably to make the transition to the NFL.
Meyer joins former Falcons coach Bobby Petrino as college coaches whose NFL careers flamed out in stunningly swift fashion. Petrino resigned in December 2007 to take over at Arkansas, with Atlanta at 3-10.
The Jaguars unraveled in their final seven games, averaging just 9.1 points per game, ending in a five-game skid.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will serve as Jacksonville’s interim head coach for the final four games.
Owner Khan said in a statement: “I informed Urban of the change this evening. As I stated in October, regaining our trust and respect was essential. Regrettably, it did not happen.”
Meyer apologized in a phone interview Saturday with NFL.com.
“I just apologize to Jacksonville. I love Jacksonville. It’s one of the reasons I took the job. I still think Shad’s a great owner. It’s heart-breaking. I just had a dream of it becoming a destination place with a new facility he agreed to build and some day to walk into that stadium where it’s standing room only. Because I know how bad the people of Jacksonville want it. So, I’m just heartbroken that we weren’t able to do that. I still believe it’s going to be done. It’s too good of a place.”
“I tell people, losing eats away at your soul,” Meyer said. “Once you start losing, it’s hard on everybody. I thought at one point, when we won two out of three, there was some momentum, great energy, the defense was really playing well. We were running the ball and then when that dried up on us, then we started turning the ball over. We had that bye week and then James Robinson gets hurt.”
Bottom line, in college, Meyer had total control, of everything. That’s not how it works in the NFL. It doesn’t help when you have an established track record of being an inveterate liar.
Nothing changed for the Jags today, 30-16 losers to the Texans (3-11) to fall to 2-12.
--Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe played three seasons at Houston Baptist before transferring to the Hilltoppers and all the guy did was throw 56 touchdown passes in the regular season, and then another six in Saturday’s bowl game against Appalachian State, breaking Joe Burrow’s Division I record of 60 in a season. Western Kentucky rolled, 59-38.
Jerreth Sterns, a second team All-America at wide receiver, entered the contest with 137 receptions for 1,718 yards and 14 touchdowns. Tack on 13-184-3 to that.
The Hilltoppers finish 9-5, the Apps 10-4.
--So I was looking forward to Jackson State-South Carolina State for the Black college football championship, (“The Give it up for Cricket, Guys, Celebration Bowl”) Coach Prime, Deion Sanders’ Tigers 10 ½-point favorites, 11-1 coming in, over the MEAC champion Bulldogs, just 6-5, and SC State ran away with it in a bit of a shocker, 31-10.
I watched a lot of this one and it was not a good game. Five turnovers, three by Deion’s son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who was 16/36, 175, 1-2, with a fumble.
On the other side for the Bulldogs, Cory Fields Jr. was hardly a world-beater, 12/31, 166, but four of the 12 completions were for touchdowns, three to Shaquan Davis.
But good for SC State veteran coach Buddy Pough, whose boys started the season 1-4 and finished winning six of their last seven.
--Coastal Carolina beat Northern Illinois 47-41 in their bowl game, the Chanticleers needing two late touchdown passes from Grayson McCall (22/30, 315, 4-0) to pull it out.
So after a breakthrough 11-1 season last year and a final AP No. 14 ranking, the Chants finish 11-2. But it’s a disappointing 11-2, with losses to Appalachian State and Georgia State, though McCall missed the latter surprising upset.
Nonetheless, Johnny Mac’s Chants have a program, a very likable one.
As for Northern Illinois, what a job by coach Thomas Hammock, taking his 0-6 Huskies’ 2020 edition to 9-5 and the MAC title.
--In other bowl game action (I’m not trying to cover it all, mostly because I couldn’t care less about most of the contests)….
UAB finishes 9-4 with a very nice 31-28 win over 13 BYU (10-3) in the Independence Bowl. The Cougars’ Tyler Allgeier, however, solidified his draft prospects with 192 yards rushing on 27 carries and three touchdowns. This guy is a lock solid NFLer.
23 Louisiana finishes the season 13-1 with a 36-21 win over Marshall (7-6) in the New Orleans Bowl. Great job, Ragin’ Cajuns!
And Utah State now has a shot at a final AP top 25 ranking, 11-3, after a 24-13 win over Oregon State (7-6) in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, Kimmel playing the clarinet in the band.
--In a real bummer, the Peach Bowl matchup, 10 Michigan State (10-2) and 12 Pitt (11-2), looked to be an outstanding game…that is until Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett and MSU star running back Kenneth Walker III, two of the top five players in college football this season, opted out to get ready for the NFL draft.
Yeah, I get it…but it sucks.
At least with the College Football Playoffs, the stars wouldn’t dare sit out. They better not, or the fanbase would riot.
--In the NCAA Div. I-AA (FCS) playoffs, it’s now down to Montana State (12-2) vs. 8-time champ (since 2011) North Dakota State (13-1) in the finals, Jan. 8.
Montana State (which won the D I-AA title in 1984) beat unseeded South Dakota State in one semi, 31-17, while the Bison of ND State defeated James Madison 20-14.
J. Mac, remind me when this title game is on. [He knows I have 1 ½ brain cells left and need help.]
--In the recruiting wars, we had CFB’s early signing period and while there are different rankings of who did best, ESPN has the following top ten.
1. Texas A&M
5. Ohio State
6. Notre Dame
7. Penn State
9. North Carolina…kind of surprised. I mean Mack Brown isn’t going to be around much longer.
10. Missouri…huh, would be kind of cool if they cracked the top ten again one of these days.
But there are still some high-profile recruits out there and a full assessment may not be possible until February.
And then there’s Wake Forest, whose class is ranked 67th! We are seldom top 50, and that’s OK. As I wrote during the season, and as all college football fans now know, Coach Dave Clawson and his staff don’t get the 4- and 5-star recruits, but we get our fair share of 3-stars, redshirt most of them, and then develop them. And they’re normally good character guys. And they graduate.
And…we’ve now gone to six straight bowl games, which ain’t too shabby for the smallest school in the Power Five.
But in the biggest shocker of signing day, receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter, viewed by some as the top prospect in this cycle and a longtime Florida State verbal commitment, flipped to Coach Prime’s Jackson State.
In addition to a breakthrough moment for historically Black colleges and universities, Hunter’s decision is certainly a reflection of Sanders’ recruiting prowess, but also an example of how NIL (name, image and likeness rights) legislation has evened the playing field for programs chasing top recruits.
--The following was written up Saturday morning…
The Nets announced that Kyrie Irving is coming back and will compete in road games outside of New York City and Toronto, which have local vaccine mandates. Irving can’t play home games at Barclays Center because he’s unvaccinated, but would be eligible to play beginning Thursday in Portland followed by a Christmas Day showdown with the Lakers in Los Angeles.
This sucks. I’ve tried to bite my tongue the last month or so on the unvaccinated but no more. Kyrie, and the likes of John Stockton, are flat-out idiots. If you have a medical excuse, I get it. But these guys don’t.
And in no way does this help the Nets. I can’t imagine the attitude of some of the Nets players, especially Kevin Durant. Oh sure, Durant, who I’ve come to like a lot (all Americans should after his Olympic Games performance), will no doubt say the right things, but I’m guessing he’s not happy.
“After discussions with our coaches, players and staff, the organization has decided to have Kyrie Irving re-join the team for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate,” GM Sean Marks said in a statement.
What’s amazing is that the Nets have been paying Irving for road games – and he was slated to make about half of his $35 million salary this season – but then there’s the health risk.
So then we learned Saturday afternoon that Kyrie and Durant were both in health and safety protocols, along with James Harden and a slew of others (10 in all!), but the Nets signed a few players no one has heard of and actually fielded a team, losing to the lowly Magic (6-25) in Brooklyn (21-9), 100-93. Because it was home, Kyrie wouldn’t have been able to play had he been available, anyway, but the whole thing stinks.
[The NBA just postponed the Nets’ next two games due to that little spiked-protein virus we all have come to loath so much.]
--The Knicks played the Celtics in Boston Saturday night, both teams with six players out for Covid safety protocols, and Boston prevailed, 114-107, to move to 15-15, New York 13-17.
But at least Knicks fans saw an effective Kemba Walker in his return from exile, solely due to the Covid situation, Walker with 29 points, while fellow former Celtic Evan Fornier torched his old team for 32.
It’s going to be interesting to see how coach Tom Thibodeau deals with Walker when the other guards return.
--The Lakers (16-14) will be playing the Bulls in Chicago tonight without Anthony Davis, out for four weeks with a sprained knee.
--Only one upset in the top ten the last few days, and it sure wasn’t an upset to me as I’ve been dissing the No. 9 Villanova Wildcats because they just didn’t deserve the rankings they’ve had this season.
Well, they shouldn’t be in the top 25 after losing Friday to Creighton (9-3), 79-59, dropping Nova to 7-4.
--My Feature Team for 2021-22, however, St. Bonaventure, even with star point guard Kyle Lofton back, inexplicably lost to Virginia Tech (8-4) 86-49 in Charlotte on Friday. The Bonnies (8-3) shot 33.3% from the field (18 of 54), while their defense, one of the best in college basketball last season, and with the starting five returning, allowed the Hokies to shoot 54.9% from the field.
So a season that started off in such promising fashion, earning a No. 16 AP ranking, is in a shambles.
The thing is the Atlantic-10 also had a real bad weekend overall in out of conference play, so we’ll see what happens when the A-10 schedule gets going, Covid-willing, but the Bonnies could now be embarking on a campaign just to make the NCAAs, needing, I’m guessing, at worst a top-3 finish in the conference, maybe having to win the A-10 championship outright to gain a berth.
--Meanwhile, among the forfeits, postponements, and cancellations, we had Seton Hall and its aforementioned Covid situation forfeiting its game Monday against St. John’s.
Under Big East policy, while it’s a conference forfeit, at least the NCAA views it as a “no contest”, so it doesn’t impact the Hall’s overall record in their eyes come tournament selection time.
Just pray the NCAA can work out some policies to get through the wave and keep some semblance of play going. We already know the season is once again not going to be a normal one. Depressing.
--Lastly, my Wake Forest Demon Deacons are a rather surprising 11-1 after an 82-79 buzzer-beater win against Charlotte (5-5) on Friday.
Alondes Williams is playing like the best player in the country recently. Following up on a 36-point game, Williams had 34, 8 rebounds and 7 assists, including the last second pass to Isaiah Mucius for the winning three-pointer.
People around the country have to be thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’ Wake fans are thinking, ‘How the hell did we get him?!’
Just stay healthy, Alondes. Wake has been playing its last two games without starter, and fellow stud, Jake LaRavia due to Covid protocols.
FIS World Cup Alpine
--Out of nowhere, American Bryce Bennett picked up his first career win in the downhill at Val Gardena, Italy, on Saturday. The 29-year-old out of Truckee, California (a favorite webcam destination of mine to check on the Sierra Nevada mountains’ snowfall) has been on the U.S. team since 2014 and this was also his first podium finish! Wow. Good on you, Bryce!
On the women’s side, at Val d’Isere, France, Soffia Goggia took the overall points lead with wins No. 4 and 5 on the circuit this season, capturing the downhill and super-G.
Breezy Johnson of the U.S. had her third second-place finish in the downhill, while Mikaela Shiffrin was fifth in the super-G, after sitting out the downhill.
We have midweek action this coming week, with Christmas weekend off, so you should be able to catch some of it on NBCSN, I imagine, without looking at the schedule.
--Even haters of Tiger Woods had to crack a smile, at least, at seeing him back on the golf course with 12-year-old son Charlie at the PNC Championship. Woods hit some great shots, as did phenom Charlie, but what was clear is that Tiger is in no way near playing in a PGA Tour event, and he’s been very open about that.
He also said no way would he request a cart.
“No. I wouldn’t, no. Absolutely not. Not for a PGA Tour event, no,” he said on Friday. “That’s just not who I am. That’s now how I’ve always been, and if I can’t play at that level, I can’t play at that level.”
Woods reiterated that he is a long way from being able to play in a PGA Tour event. Stamina and endurance, in particular being able to walk 18 holes for four straight days on a leg he termed, “still messed up,” will be his biggest challenge if he is to make yet another comeback.
Woods has long been a proponent that walking is a fundamental part of the competition and that letting a golfer ride would give them an advantage. When Casey Martin, who suffered a degenerative circulatory disorder that obstructed blood flow from his right leg back to his heart until it was amputated earlier this year, filed suit against the PGA Tour for not allowing him to use a golf cart, Woods sided against his college teammate.
Of course Woods used a cart this week because it wasn’t an official event. “You know, you get guys that are in their 80s out here playing and if they didn’t have carts, we wouldn’t be able to see the likes of Lee Trevino and Gary Player out here – well, Gary’s different, never mind. He would probably be doing wind sprints on some of these holes and then doing push-ups and then, you know, a bunch of sit-ups on the greens and stuff.”
I’ll just take a stab at it and say Woods plays a full PGA Tour event next fall, and I’d add it’s 70/30 we see him at the 2023 Masters.
But after watching Charlie play, can you imagine what the top golf programs in the country are thinking? Does he follow Dad and go to Stanford, at least for a year?
Or…Wake Forest has to be in the picture, at least somewhat, as Tiger’s ‘half-niece,’ Cheyenne Woods, played golf for the Lady Deacs.
Of course Charlie may be so good by the time he’s 18, he just blows off college, but I’d be surprised if Dad didn’t recommend at least one year of it.
Frankly, one year of college means I’ll be 70, and I just hope I’m alive then.
--The Mets did the right thing and hired Buck Showalter to be their new manager.
Showalter, 65, won out over Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Tampa Bay bench coach Matt Quatraro.
Buck knows the ropes, having been Yankees manager, and what’s fascinating is that there were cries for him in the Bronx last year, during one of the Yankees’ many crappy stretches, and so now he has a chance to outshine Aaron Boone.
If both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are healthy through much of 2022, the Mets should take back New York, like they did in the mid- to late-80s.
--I have to repeat a bit I posted in that other column I do, the one I sign.
President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor Thursday to three soldiers who fought in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, an Army Ranger who died after stepping between Taliban fighters and a U.S. helicopter evacuating wounded in 2018; Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee, a Special Forces soldier who fought off Taliban insurgents after a massive attack in Afghanistan in 2013; and Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, 35, who suffered fatal injuries in Iraq while rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle in 2005.
Cashe becomes the first Black service member to receive the Medal of Honor for actions since Vietnam.
--We note the passing of entertainment producer, manager and philanthropist, Ken Kragen, 85.
Kragen, along with clients Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers, helped organize the 1985 all-star charity single “We Are the World.” I mean even if you hadn’t heard his name in decades, if you are of a certain age when you learned he had died, you’re thinking, ‘I remember that name. But from what?’
Well Kragen had quite a career, the Harvard MBA producing “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “The Gambler” television movies that starred Rogers, among other items.
But his most famous project began late in 1984 with a phone call from Harry Belafonte, who was anxious to raise money for starving people in Africa, notably in Ethiopia, where a famine had killed millions. The British recording “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that featured George Michael, Bono and many others had been a major success, and Belafonte wanted to organize a U.S. effort.
The thing is, Belafonte didn’t even know Kragan when he contacted him.
“I needed a younger generation of artists, the ones at the top of the charts right now: Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers and Cyndi Lauper. When I looked at the management of most of these artists, I kept seeing the same name: Ken Kragen,” Belafonte wrote in his memoir “My Song,” published in 2011.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/21/74: #1 “Cat’s In The Cradle” (Harry Chapin…can’t stand this song) #2 “Kung Fu Fighting” (Carl Douglas…ditto) #3 “Angie Baby” (Helen Reddy)…and…#4 “When Will I See You Again” (The Three Degrees) #5 “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” (Barry White) #6 “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (Elton John) #7 “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)” (Al Green) #8 “Junior’s Farm / Sally G” (Paul McCartney & Wings) #9 “I Can Help” (Billy Swan) #10 “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” (B.T. Express…C- week…)
NFL HOFers from HBCUs Quiz Answer:
Harold Carmichael (Southern); Richard Dent (Tennessee State); Bob Hayes (Florida A&M); Elvin Bethea (North Carolina A&T); Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State).
Of course Steelers fans know Donnie Shell (South Carolina State), Mel Blount (Southern), and John Stallworth (Alabama A&M).
Again, my midweek Add-On, this time posted Wed. evening, will include my annual Christmas Special.