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Sports Makes the Best of a Lousy Situation
Add-On posted Tues. p.m.
Folks, with New Year’s Eve on Friday, which is when I do that other column, the one I sign, and it being an important yearend one for Wall Street stats, etc., AND, the College Football Playoffs that day, I desperately have to get a lot of work done Wed. and Thurs.
Thus, I need to post something tonight, but then I see that John Madden died, and of course I can’t pay him an appropriate tribute tonight….so I will over the weekend. Like all football fans of my era, just loved the guy.
And things are happening so fast on the Covid front with the bowl games, let alone the other sports, that there’s only so much I can do.
NFL Playoff Standings
1. Kansas City 11-4
2. Tennessee 10-5
3. Cincinnati 9-6
4. Buffalo 9-6
5. Indianapolis 9-6*
6. New England 9-6…Jacksonville, Miami remaining
7. Miami 8-7…Tennessee, New England (H)
8. Baltimore 8-7…LA Rams, Pittsburgh
9. LA Chargers 8-7
10. Las Vegas 8-7
11. Pittsburgh 7-7-1
*Tuesday, Indy QB Carson ‘Senor Wences’ was placed on the Covid list. Wentz, as you’ll recall, is unvaccinated. He may still be able to play on Sunday, however.
1. Green Bay 12-3
2. Dallas 11-4
3. LA Rams 11-4
4. Tampa Bay 11-4
5. Arizona 10-5
6. San Francisco 8-7…Houston, LA Rams
7. Philadelphia 8-7…Washington, Dallas
8. Minnesota 7-8…Green Bay, Chicago
9. Atlanta 7-8
10. New Orleans 7-8
--Last night, Miami became the first team in NFL history to win seven straight after losing seven straight with a 20-3 win in New Orleans. What a great story being written by coach Brian Flores, who I said amidst the losing streak I was rooting for being he’s such a likeable guy. Just seems he has the perfect demeanor for an NFL coach. And he knows his stuff.
But Miami caught a huge break in this immensely boring game (259-164 in total offense), as the Saints were without quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian due to Covid protocols and were forced to go with rookie Ian Book, who thew two picks, including one in the first quarter returned for a touchdown by Miami’s Nik Needham.
The Dolphins also sacked Book eight times, tying a team record.
On offense, Tua was adequate, but rookie sensation Jaylen Waddle caught 10 passes for 92 yards to move within five of Anquan Boldin’s rookie receptions record of 101.
--The Eagles are right there at the No. 7 slot with three straight wins and improved play from quarterback Jaylen Hurts. But they are going to have to navigate their last two without running backs Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard. At least that would appear to be the word as I go to post; Sanders with a broken bone in his hand and Howard with a stinger injury that in 2019, forced him to the shelf for almost the entire second half of the season.
Sanders could be back for Dallas.
--Speaking of Dallas, they demolished the WFT 56-14 on Sunday night, Dak Prescott with four touchdown passes and a 131.4 PR, while the Cowboys’ ‘D’ had an interception return for a TD, along with a blocked punt for another score.
--I refuse to cover games at this point in the season involving two teams with a losing record, but as the Bears (5-10) rallied behind Nick Foles for a 25-24 win over the Seahawks (5-10), that benefited the Jets in a huge way as they pick up Seattle’s first-round pick as a result of the Jamal Adams trade.
Right now that means the Jets have Seattle’s No. 7 pick as well as their own, currently No. 4.
This is awesome, potentially, but then the Jets have a way of messing up first-round picks, though I’m still in on Zach Wilson, even as I thought the New York sportswriters went a little overboard after Sunday’s performance. It was Jacksonville, after all, not Dallas.
--As for the Giants, I mentioned last time the story that owner John Mara was planning on bringing back head coach Joe Judge, which has left New York area sports fans more than a bit flummoxed.
Steve Politi / NJ.com (Star-Ledger)
“It’s hard to know what, exactly, the Giants hoped to gain by leaking word on Sunday morning that head coach Joe Judge would return regardless of what happened in the season’s final three games. If the goal was to inspire the team for its trip to Philadelphia, well, at least no one choked on a cheesesteak during an otherwise humiliating 34-10 loss to the Eagles.
“Judge is coming back, and now the only suspense is how John Mara will explain that decision. The co-owner is likely to cite injuries – the most-hollow excuse in a Covid-impacted season filled with shuffled rosters all around the NFL – and try to convince an already apocalyptic fan base that Judge hasn’t ‘lost the locker room.’ Hey, Judge’s plucky Giants did score a fourth-quarter touchdown, after all, to cut the Eagles’ lead to 24.
“It would be hard to find one single thing that Judge has done to deserve a third season. His players are undisciplined, his decisions are too conservative and his press conferences are borderline delusional. He promised an ‘old-school’ and ‘hard-nosed’ team that would ‘punch you in the nose for 60 minutes’ at his introductory press conference, and the Giants are a LOL-level distance from that.
“But retaining Judge, in itself, is not the problem here. Yes, Judge is 10-21 as a head coach, but Vince Lombardi might be staring at a 4-11 record with this offense. It isn’t Judge’s fault that the offensive line is a disaster, or that his team still has the weakest collection of playmakers in the NFL, or that Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon were his quarterback options on Sunday.
“All of that is on GM Dave Gettleman.
“No, the problem is this: Mara reportedly is taking one of the most important franchise-shaping decisions out of the hands of the Giants’ next general manager.* That will not only limit the field of Gettleman replacements – few top-level candidates will want to be told who their head coach is – but will make it more likely that either Judge helps pick his new boss or that the next GM is already in the Giants’ front office.
“So which is more egregious? Letting a head coach who is 11 games below .500 have an outsized role in choosing the new personnel chief? Or tapping someone who had any role in building this inadequate roster or digging this team into its current salary-cap hell – a.k.a., Giants VP Kevin Abrams – as the next GM in some warped succession path?
“Oh, and that new GM also inherits his quarterback. That was the second half of Adam Schefter’s report on Sunday morning, that the Giants have decided that Daniel Jones will be their starter in 2022 – a decision that didn’t have to be made until September, but one that confirms the internal dysfunction that any new general manager faces in East Rutherford….
“The Giants are about to marry a new GM with an embattled head coach, a partnership that rarely works – just ask the Jets, Rex Ryan and John Idzik. It speaks to a level of dysfunction at an ownership level that matches what fans have seen on the field – which, come to think of it, might be the more impressive thing the Giants have done this season.”
--More on Dirtball Antonio Brown. After his 10-catch, 101-yard day in his return from suspension for faking his vaccination status, Brown lashed out during his postgame news conference about “drama” he said is created by others.
“It’s a lot of drama you guys create. A lot of drama people create who want stuff from me. That’s a part of life, a part of being in the position. I can’t control what people want from me, what people write about me,” Brown told reporters after the Buccaneers’ 32-6 win over the Panthers.
“I’m just here to do my job. I can’t control what people write, how people try to frame me. People try to bring me down,” Brown continued. “Life is about obstacles and persevering and doing what’s right… I’m standing before you guys grateful, humble, thankful.”
What?! Cue Jeff Spicoli.
Brown is just a bad person.
--Regarding the above playoff standings…Jarrett Bell / USA TODAY
“This is exactly what the NFL planned…like decades ago when Pete Rozelle was commish.
“With two weekends left in the longest regular season ever, 12 of the NFL’s 32 teams are floating along with seven or eight wins. That’s Pete’s Parity for you. There’s still hope and hype for playoff glory for some teams that have no business being rewarded for bad football.
“What a mess.
“Look at the Baltimore Ravens. John Harbaugh’s physically decimated, gritty team lost its fourth consecutive game on Sunday as the depleted defense was shredded for 525 yards by Joe ‘Gold Jacket’ Burrow. Yet a few hours after getting blown out, the Ravens (8-7) backed into the final playoff slot (at least temporarily) after the Steelers were thrashed in Kansas City.
“This is the NFL today. A month ago, the Ravens held the top seed for the AFC playoffs. Now, clawing to claim the last spot. Pending Miami’s result on Monday night in New Orleans against a team with 20 players on the Covid list as of Sunday, Baltimore has a chance to win out and get in as a wild-card entrant. And it’s still possible the Ravens could win the AFC North if the Bengals flip again and lose out.
“That’s just one of a thousand wild scenarios….
“Makes me wonder: Did the NFL really need to give us the extra playoff slots, seven in each conference, while expanding the schedule to 17 games? Of course not. It could have served 17 games without expanding the playoffs. The benefit to the league (more revenue) and the TV networks (more revenue) is obvious, but it comes at the cost of presenting mediocre playoff football – as if mediocre regular-season football isn’t enough.
[Ed. I thought the NFL overall has sucked the last month. Look at the total yardage in more than half the games, and it’s not like we are watching the great Steelers or Bears defenses of yore.]
“Maybe it gets better in the future. Yet it’s been a bad idea for this particular season, with Covid wreaking more havoc the deeper the campaign goes, on top of the usual injury risks.
“Can anybody top the now-buff-again Chiefs in the AFC? It sure won’t be a seventh seed.
“On the NFC side, there’s more projected playoff intrigue. And it starts at the top.
“The team that ultimately gets in as the seventh seed – Philadelphia (8-7) holds that card in the NFC field – is likely destined to be one-and-done in January. A second playoff bye, as in the past, still makes for better playoff competition.
“In other words, Seed No. 7 looks like dead weight; raw meat for the No. 2 seed in opening the playoffs.”
--Are we having fun yet with this bowl season? One freakin’ cancellation after another, the latest being the Arizona Bowl on Monday night after Boise State pulled out due to Covid-19 issues within the program. The Broncos were to play Central Michigan on Friday.
[Tonight, UCLA bagged out on its Holiday Bowl game against North Carolina State at the last minute….a total travesty. I hope that the Wolfpack get their revenge…either on the gridiron or the NCAA basketball tournament in the coming years.]
So now Central Michigan is going to play Washington State in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, Friday,* as one of the lead-ins to the College Football Playoffs New Year’s Eve, replacing Miami in a game that will be broadcast on CBS. The Sun Bowl comes with a greater payout to teams ($4.55 million) than the Arizona Bowl ($350,000), according to Sports Illustrated.
*Miami pulled out of the Sun Bowl on Sunday, five days after announcing the program had been shut down because of a Covid outbreak.
Barstool Sports was the sponsor of the Arizona Bowl, which would have been streamed on its platforms. This was the fourth bowl canceled this season. [Make it five.]
I loath Dave Portnoy, by the way. A real [begins with P-…]
--Today, 20 Houston finishes 12-2 with a 17-13 win over Auburn (6-7) in the Whatever Bowl.
But nice win for the Cougars’ program.
--Air Force is 10-3 after a 31-28 win over Louisville (6-7).
--As for the CFPs, in case you were wondering, the AP Preseason Poll had Alabama No. 1, Georgia No. 5, Cincinnati No. 8 and Michigan…if you carried out the votes…32!
--Monday, the Grizzlies (21-14) handed the Suns (26-7) another loss in Phoenix, 114-113, on a last-second runner from Ja Morant (33 points). There are many believing Memphis is a sleeper come playoff time. I love center Steven Adams (13 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists), who knows his role and is just tough…old school tough.
And Memphis has a developing star in sharpshooter Desmond Bane, the second-year guard out of TCU who had 32 against Phoenix and is shooting 42.6% from three this season.
--Meanwhile, the Nets (23-9) won again without Kevin Durant (and Kyrie Irving), beating the Clippers (17-17) in Los Angeles, as James Harden had 39 points, 8 rebounds and 15 assists.
How the hell can you get interested in the sport when at least half the games are being canceled? It sucks!
So with zero enthusiasm, I note the latest AP Top 25, sort of (records thru Sun.)
1. Baylor (61) 11-0
2. Duke 11-1
3. Purdue 11-1
4. Gonzaga 10-2
5. UCLA 8-1*
6. Kansas 9-1
7. Southern Cal 12-0*
8. Iowa State 12-0
9. Iowa State 12-0
9. Arizona 11-1
10. Michigan State 10-2…two losses to Baylor and Kansas
15. Seton Hall 9-1
20. Colorado State 10-0
Wake Forest received four votes.
*UCLA and USC postponed four more games between them. The Bruins haven’t played since Dec. 11.
What really blows is that marquee games, UCLA-Arizona, and USC-Arizona, are among the victims.
--Duke postponed its games with Clemson (Wed.) and Notre Dame (next Saturday).
--The SEC and Big East updated their policies for basketball game postponements, cancellations and rescheduling to provide more leniency for teams that are unable to play because of spiking Covid cases.
Men’s and women’s teams in the two conferences will be required to play if seven scholarship athletes and one countable coaching staff member are available. The SEC gives teams the option to play with fewer players or coaches if they choose.
Both leagues say teams will do their best to reschedule, if necessary, or declare a no contest. Previously, a game was forfeited and a loss given to any team unable to play.
The Mid-American Conference and Conference USA announced similar policies.
In the case of the Big East, the forfeiture classification that had applied to four league games will now be removed and the league will try to reschedule them.
Who knows what is going to transpire in February at the Winter Games, China having Covid issues of its own, locking down a city, Xi’an, of 13 million!
Monday, Mikaela Shiffrin said she tested positive for Covid and will miss the World Cup races today and Wednesday in Lienz, Austria.
This sucks in terms of her preparation for Beijing.
“I wanted to let you all know that I’m doing well, but unfortunately I had a positive Covid test,” Shiffrin wrote on Instagram. “I am following protocol and isolating.”
I told you last time how she just picked up a first and second in two giant slalom races in Courchevel, France, and was now the overall WC points leader. But Shiffrin talked of being tired after her races there.
What sucks even more about Shiffrin’s condition is she is missing a giant slalom and slalom race in Lienz.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m. The year-end Bar Chat Awards! [I’m still working on a host and entertainment for you all. My people have been in touch with Taylor Swift, but her people haven’t gotten back to them yet. Actually, Dierks Bentley is a possibility.]
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
Abbreviated Add-On up top probably by noon on Wed.
Golf Quiz: List the final top ten in the Official World Golf Rankings for 2021. Answer below.
Hope you all had a good Christmas. I was traveling a lot the last two days, but it was 60 degrees at Bethany Beach, DE, so only one thing to do…hit the sand! It was crowded yesterday afternoon there.
Sports In Flux
--The NHL pushed back its return from an already extended holiday break an extra day by postponing its entire 14-game Monday schedule for Covid-19 testing reasons.
The league said it now plans to resume play Tuesday in a decision that increases the total of postponed games to 64 this season. The decision will allow what the NHL called “an adequate opportunity to analyze league-wide testing results and to assess clubs’ readiness to play.”
With the NHL exercising its right to withdraw from participating in the Winter Olympics, the league will instead use its previously scheduled Olympic break, Feb. 6-22, to make up its postponed games in order to complete an 82-game season.
Boy, I don’t know about being able to complete 82 games at this rate, but good luck.
*Late today, the NHL announced it was implementing taxi squads and allowing teams to call-up players from the minors more quickly as part of their plan to play all the games.
--Christmas Day, Aaron Rodgers broke Brett Favre’s team record with three touchdown passes, giving him 445 vs. Favre’s 442 as a Packer, as Green Bay held on for a 24-22 win over Cleveland (7-8), the Packers now 12-3 as they retain the top seed in the NFC.
The Browns are essentially out of the wild card chase, with Baker Mayfield throwing four interceptions and getting sacked five times, Cleveland wasting a strong effort on the part of the running game, 219 yards, 126 of which came from Nick Chubb on just 17 carries.
--Also yesterday, the surging Colts have now won 8 of 10 to help solidify their playoff prospects, now 9-6 overall after a 22-16 win in Arizona against the slumping Cardinals (10-5, but losers of three straight).
Carson Wentz was solid (18/28, 225, 2-0, 113.0) for Cincy, while Jonathan Taylor did his thing on the ground…27 carries for 108 yards. Summit’s Michael Badgley was 2 of 3 on field goals and is now 15 of 18, 37 of 37 on extra points for Indy, which is just fine.
--Thursday, Tennessee improved to 10-5 with a 20-17 win over San Francisco (8-7) on a Randy Bullock 44-yard field goal with 0:04 remaining. The 49ers, though, remain in the playoff hunt.
--So today, lots of big games with major playoff implications.
The Bengals are 9-6 and in the lead of the AFC North with a 41-21 win over the Ravens (8-7), who were forced to go with Josh Johnson at QB with Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley out. Johnson actually did fine.
But Joe Burrow had the third-most passing yards in NFL history, 525, with four touchdowns. Tee Higgins had 12 receptions for 194 and two scores. Joe Mixon had a TD receiving, one rushing, and it was quite a show for the Cincinnati offense, 33 first downs.
--The Bills took the lead in the AFC East at 9-6, owning the tiebreaker over the Patriots (now also 9-6) after a 33-21 win in Foxborough; Josh Allen with three touchdown passes and 64 yards on the ground, while the Pats’ Mac Jones was abysmal (14/32, 145, 0-2, 31.4).
--The Rams (11-4) dealt a huge blow to the Vikings’ playoff hopes, Minnesota falling to 7-8 after a 30-23 loss to L.A. despite picking off Matthew Stafford three times.
The Rams got 131 yards rushing and a TD from Sony Michel, while Brandon Powell returned a punt 61 yards for a score.
--The lowly Texans (4-11) dealt the visiting Chargers (8-7) a big blow, 41-29.
--And the Raiders stayed in the hunt, now 8-7, with a major 17-13 win over Denver (7-8) in Vegas. Bye-bye Broncos.
--But Steelers fans are distraught, getting their butts kicked in Kansas City, the Chiefs 11-4 after a 36-10 demolition of Pittsburgh (7-7-1, but still in it).
K.C. thus clinched its sixth straight divisional title.
--The Buccaneers are 11-4 after a 32-6 win over the hapless Panthers (5-10).
Antonio Brown returned to the Tampa Bay roster after missing the last three weeks for faking a Covid-19 vaccination card and I wish this dirtball the worst.
Making it worse, though, is the fact he can earn $1 million in bonus money down the stretch; a trio of performance-related incentive at $333,333 each for reaching statistical plateaus in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Specifically, he needs to reach 50 receptions, 600 yards, and seven touchdowns for the season to pick up the three bonus checks. Which would be despicable. He should give them all to a food bank.
But today he caught ten passes for 101 yards…now within striking distance of at least one of the three goals. His updated splits are 39-519-4.
--Meanwhile, I watched the entire Jets-Jaguars game because that’s what I do. It’s my team and following same has taken years off my life…just as being a Jags fan has impacted Steve G. adversely. Steve told me today that you have to imagine what the bartender at his favored spot in Nashville did when Steve asked if he could put on the Jags-Jets. I told Steve he really needs to be more careful.
Well the Jets won! 26-21, as Zach Wilson rushed for 91 yards, including a franchise record 52-yard TD scamper, shockingly the longest run for a quarterback in Jets franchise history.
Braxton Berrios contributed a 103-yard kickoff return for New York (4-11), while rookie running back Michael Carter rushed for 118 yards, the Jets accumulating 273 on the ground overall.
And along with 20 players out for Covid, Ron Middleton coached the Jets instead of Robert Salah.
So Jets fans are partying alllll night.
Jags fans, with their team 2-13, are doing other things…all 63 of them, nationwide.
--The Giants are also 4-11 after a 34-10 loss to the Eagles (8-7…and very relevant). Without Daniel Jones, out for the season with a neck injury, New York’s QB duo of Jake Fromm and Mike Glennon was a combined 23/44, 108, 1-2, 46.8.
Think about that. 44 passing attempts…108 yards.
One-time supposed franchise stud, Saquon Barkley, had 32 yards on 15 carries.
Barkley is a nice guy. But the Giants need to move on from him, rather than extend him beyond 2022. [They have a similar situation with Jones and whether to exercise an option for next season. Late word is both Jones and coach Joe Judge are coming back, which is nuts, in terms of the latter.]
With tonight’s Washington-Dallas game, and then tomorrow, Miami at New Orleans, I’ll update the whole playoff situation in my midweek Add-On.
--The Hawaii Bowl was scheduled for Friday, Memphis vs. Hawaii in Honolulu, but Memphis’ season ended Thursday after Hawaii said it couldn’t participate due to Covid issues, injuries and transfers.
Memphis had already made the long trip, so imagine how bummed they were! They had been in Honolulu since Sunday and held their final practice Thursday morning when they received word.
Tigers coach Ryan Silverfield said all the right things and added that while he was “upset for our seniors and the rest of the team… We’ve had a terrific time here in Hawaii.”
I’m guessing he let them really cut loose the final night. Par-tay! Covid be damned.
--But Thursday night we did have a pretty important bowl game, especially for the state of Florida. UCF beat Florida 29-17 and the Knights made, as they tweeted, a “Sunshine STATEment.”
It was UCF’s first win over Florida and the program’s first win over any Power 5 program in the talent-rich state. Huge. Good for them. At 9-4, UCF also finished with the best record in Florida.
But as for the Gators, who finished 6-7, what an embarrassing loss to end a season filled with them. This was also Florida’s first loss to an in-state school not named Florida State or Miami since Stetson in 1938. And the Knights won the game despite a long injury list to some of their top players, including quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who is no longer with the team after transferring to UCLA. [Gabriel is solid and had a super 2020 in particular. Great for the Bruins.]
--Texas A&M-Wake Forest in the Gator Bowl, New Year’s Eve, was looking like a real good contest and lead-in to the CFP playoffs, but then as I alluded to in my last Add-On, A&M had to cancel due to Covid and suddenly, 5-7 Rutgers was selected as a replacement. What a travesty.
Steve Politi / NJ.com
“It sounds like the pitch for a bad B-grade sports movie.
“When a powerhouse college football program can’t fill its spot in a holiday bowl game after an illness ransacks its roster, a ragtag team with a losing record from New Jersey gets an unexpected second chance. But this date with a national TV audience can only happen if the head coach can get his players back together just before Christmas. Can he beat the odds – and the clock – and make history?!
“If you read that description for a Lifetime original, you would roll your eyes and change the channel. But, remarkably, this is real life. But, somehow, this is Rutgers with a shot to replace Covid-sidelined Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
“Oh, it sounds enticing on the surface, too. The Gator Bowl would be the best postseason berth in Rutgers history, and it’s not even close. Wake Forest, the opponent, isn’t exactly Alabama. And the national exposure could help a rebuilding program.
“Just imagine the headlines if Rutgers, dragged in as a last-minute substitute about a week before kickoff, actually won the game.
“Spoiler alert: That outcome is a longshot, to put it mildly. Wake Forest is 10-3, has a prolific offense and, for a hot minute this season, entertained hopes of crashing the four-team playoff. Oh, and you may remember, the last time Rutgers played a football game it had a chance to qualify for a bowl and was stomped by a mediocre Maryland team at SHI Stadium.
“That was 25 days ago….”
The Rutgers players have scattered to the wind, with some of the key ones having made it clear that they are moving on. The defensive coordinator was fired, among other coaching changes, and Covid #s are skyrocketing in my state. No doubt many players when they return to campus will be testing positive, having been hanging out at home with friends and family.
Plus, while Rutgers has stopped practicing, Wake has not.
As Steve Politi put it: “This is a really, really bad idea.”
Politi, and yours truly, never thought 5-7 Rutgers should accept a bowl game if they had somehow received an invitation, but I also told you coach Greg Schiano wants to eliminate the bowl game drought (2014) for recruiting purposes, as bogus as that will be.
As for the RU fan base, seriously, who is going to disrupt their holiday plans to travel to Jacksonville?
Well, the school had the opportunity to say no, but Schiano prevailed.
Here’s hoping Wake takes the game seriously and destroys the Scarlet Knights. 38-20 is the least us Demon Deacon fans should accept, but I’m hoping for 48-10.
Actually, given the soaring Covid case numbers here, as I write this, Dec. 26, I don’t see how the game comes off.
--Meanwhile, two more bowl games were canceled…Boston College-East Carolina and SMU-Virginia. Good grief.
--The only Christmas Day action I caught yesterday was the last ten minutes or so of the Nets-Lakers game, where Brooklyn blew a huge lead, allowed L.A. to tie it, and then pulled away from a disgusted LeBron James (39 points) and Co., the Lakers falling to 16-18.
The Nets (22-9), without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, prevailed thanks to James Harden’s 36-10-10 effort, Patty Mills with 34.
--The Warriors regained the top spot in the West with a 116-107 win in Phoenix over the Suns (26-6), Golden State now 27-6.
The Suns had all their top guns on the court, while the Warriors were missing 3 of their top 4 scorers due to Covid (Steph Curry remaining, 33 points). For Phoenix, the loss snapped a 15-game winning streak at home.
Klay Thompson is returning shortly for Golden State. We’re talking he hasn’t played since 2019!
--The Knicks had a needed 101-87 win at the Garden against the Hawks (15-17), as Kemba Walker continued his hot play, after exiting the doghouse by necessity, due to all the Knicks guards who were injured or in safety protocols.
Walker, who had a sterling 44 points Thursday in a 124-117 loss to Washington, had a triple-double against Atlanta (10-10-12, and a +19).
FIS Alpine World Cup
--Last week Mikaela Shiffrin picked up a first and second in two giant slaloms at Courchevel, France, with Sweden’s Sara Hector getting a win and second as well, while rival Petra Vlhova finished fourth and fifth.
So Shiffrin, with a leading 8 podium finishes this season, regained the overall World Cup points lead.
--The cream is rising to the top. While three Boxing Day games were postponed due to Covid, they did play the other seven today and Manchester City beat Leicester in a shootout, 6-3; Arsenal blew out Norwich 5-0 for their fourth straight; Tottenham whipped Crystal Palace 3-0 as they remain unbeaten in Antonio Conte’s first six league games at the helm; Southampton handed West Ham a costly loss at home, 3-2; and Chelsea beat Aston Villa 3-1.
Lots more action in the next 8 days if the teams can stay healthy. I’ll hold off on standings for a while as a result of the scheduling chaos.
--Literally zero big college basketball games for like the past five days due to the Christmas holiday, save for 19 Tennessee’s 77-73 win over 6 Arizona on Wednesday, with Covid also responsible for a slew of cancellations.
There was an interesting piece in the Sunday New York Times by Jere Longman on Jackson State’s hoops team, which has been hitting the road, seven consecutive road games in six states.
It’s all about money, with their meager budget, and like other teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, they willingly accept their lumps with payouts ranging from $60,000 to more than $100,000 per game.
Marquette recently paid Jackson State $150,000, which included funds to pay for the Tigers’ flight and lodging expenses.
--A 31-year-old man was pronounced dead Friday morning due to a shark attack off the coast of Morro Bay (California) in what is believed to be San Luis Obispo County’s first such fatality in 18 years.
The man (authorities were holding off on his name until family members were contacted…not that I’d release it) appeared to be a bodyboarder. He was initially aided by a nearby female surfer, who paddled over to help. The head of the Morro Bay harbor patrol said the woman didn’t appear to be related.
The man was dragged to the beach by the surfer and when fire and police arrived, paramedics declared the bodyboarder dead.
As yet the size and type of shark has yet to be determined, though there were 25 to 30 people in the vicinity of the attack and it is most likely a great white that was responsible.
--A French zoo has been temporarily shut down by local authorities after a pack of nine wolves escaped from their enclosure during visiting hours.
No people were injured during the recent incident at Trois Vallees zoo in Montredon-Labessonnie, southern France.
The animals destroyed safety hatches and climbed a fence, but never went outside the zoo.
Sadly, four were shot dead for “dangerous behavior,” a local official told AFP new agency. The remaining five were returned to their closure.
The zoo will be closed until security concerns are fixed.
The large establishment holds more than 600 animals including lions and monkeys, so no doubt some kind of insurrection against the government of President Emmanuel Macron was in the works.
In fact, it seems the Russian biker gang, The Night Wolves, which is aligned with Vladimir Putin, was in contact with the Trois Vallees Wolves as part of Putin’s ongoing attempt to destabilize the West.
It’s also possible I’m reading too much into this.
--But speaking of monkeys, Johnny Mac passed on a gruesome story from The Sun.
It seems a chimp who was sent to a Kenyan sanctuary to learn how to live with apes after spending her whole life with humans was beaten to death by fellow chimpanzees.
Baran died, age four, months after she was transferred from a zoo in Tehran to the sanctuary. The chimp had completed a 90-day quarantine and was in the second phase of her introduction to the place.
It seems Baran broke the lock on her area before entering an area housing a chimp family she had been introduced to remotely.
The other chimps then mauled Baran and zookeepers were unable to save her from her injuries.
Vets in Iran had nursed Baran for four years after her mother rejected her because she was born prematurely. So she was raised and hand fed by the zoo. It was then that it was decided to transfer Baran to another animal park for her physical and emotional development.
Very sad, but another reason why chimps will never sniff the Top 50 on the All-Species List. As I told Johnny Mac, I have nightmares involving chimps ripping my face off.
And now you know…the rest of the story….
--Hong Kong authorities have had enough with wild boars and so they have begun putting them down. 28, at last count. It’s gotten dangerous, with an exploding wild boar population that is brazenly invading urban areas. Seriously, there are already 20 cases of boars injuring residents this year on Hong Kong Island, including vicious bites. They have zero fear of people.
Off with their heads!
--We note the passing of Wanda Young of The Marvelettes, who died recently at the age of 78.
Young replaced another singer in the Michigan group when Motown head Berry Gordy signed the band in 1961. A month later, The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” became the first song on the young label to reach the top of the charts.
The group had other popular songs like “My Baby Must Be A Magician” and “Don’t Mess With Bill,” which both featured Young providing lead vocals.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/27/75: #1 “Let’s Do It Again” (The Staple Singers) #2 “Saturday Night” (Bay City Rollers) #3 “That’s The Way (I Like It)” (KC & The Sunshine Band)…and…#4 “Love Rollercoaster” (Ohio Players… ‘say what?’…) #5 “Theme From Mahogany” (Diana Ross) #6 “I Write The Songs” (Barry Manilow) #7 “Convoy” (C.W. McCall) #8 “Fox On The Run” (Sweet) #9 “Fly, Robin, Fly” (Silver Convention) #10 “I Love Music” (O’Jays… ‘C’ week…)
Golf Quiz Answer: Final top ten in the World Golf Rankings for 2021.
1. Jon Rahm, 9.5335 [You may find different point totals in various publications or sites. This is courtesy of Golf Digest…pgatour.com hadn’t updated their stats as I was writing this.]
2. Collin Morikawa, 8.7575
3. Dustin Johnson, 7.1201
4. Patrick Cantlay, 6.462
5. Bryson DeChambeau, 6.4311
6. Xander Schauffele, 6.3888
7. Justin Thomas, 6.3741
8. Viktor Hovland, 6.3341
9. Rory McIlroy, 6.2845
10. Louis Oosthuizen, 5.3015
11. Sam Burns, 5.1916
12. Scottie Scheffler, 5.079
13. Harris English, 5.0252
14. Jordan Spieth, 4.8995
15. Tony Finau, 4.8854
16. Brooks Koepka, 4.8763
Add-On up top around noon, Wed.