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On to the Conference Championships
Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
Shiffrin Gets Win 83!
Mikaela Shiffrin did it…broke fellow American legend Lindsey Vonn’s record 82 World Cup Alpine wins, picking up her 83rd at the Italian resort of Kronplatz, beating Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland in a giant slalom, Shiffrin now just three shy of Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 wins.
Shiffrin races in another GS Wednesday at Kronplatz, before two slaloms this weekend in the Czech Republic.
So Mikaela has nine wins already this season, and as I wrote the other week, how far can she push the record. Vonn retired at 34, Stenmark was 33 when he won the last of his 86. Shiffrin turns 28 in March.
Shiffrin said after: “It’s hard to find words actually. I don’t think there are words to explain all the feelings because during the day it’s stressful, sometimes peaceful, sometimes nervous, sometimes exciting.
“These days with two runs and everything, they are long days. They’re exhausting and at the end of it there’s too much excitement to feel. I don’t know if that makes sense.”
She is so brutally honest. And look at what she’s done after shockingly not coming close to a medal in six disciplines last winter in Beijing.
Baseball Hall of Fame
Would Scott Rolen get in? Would Todd Helton and Billy Wagner get into the 60s? What kind of start would Carlos Beltran’s candidacy get off to?
These were the main questions as they released the results of the Hall of Fame vote Tuesday evening.
And Rolen got the requisite 75 percent, 76.3.
They will both get in next year. [Adrian Beltre is on the ballot for a first time then.]
Andruw Jones is up to 58.1 with four more years to go….he’ll be in.
Gary Sheffield jumped to 55.0…but with just one year left, he’ll be the big discussion next December. I have zero problem with him getting in.
Alex Rodriguez, in his second season on the ballot, garnered just 35.7 vs. 34.3 his initial year…as it should be.
Jeff Kent picked up 46.5 percent in his final year, but as I wrote last time, if there was ever anyone who was primed for the Veterans Committee, it’s him.
As for Beltran, he starts off at 46.5, and he is on his way…maybe in three years, no more than four.
I just have to add, I looked back at Billy Wagner’s record. This guy was great! He should be in, and he’ll get his plaque next year.
NFL Conference Championship Games, Sunday…
3:00…49ers at Eagles, FOX…weather fine (drat)
6:30…Bengals at Chiefs, CBS…bitterly cold…could be tough for the kickers.
Cincy’s Evan McPherson is 17-for-17 on field goals in the postseason; K.C.’s Harrison Butker 17-for-20.
--In the first game, Christian McCaffrey has a calf issue and is considered “day-to-day,” according to coach Kyle Shanahan. McCaffrey will play, but we should know early if this is an issue. Niners fans hope it isn’t.
--In the nightcap, we know Patrick Mahomes won’t be 100 percent after suffering a high ankle sprain that thankfully wasn’t worse. [On the exact same type of tackle, Dallas running back Tony Pollard broke his leg.]
But it’s going to be freezing, which won’t help Mahomes’ ankle any, and the Chiefs’ offensive line must protect him.
--On his weekly SiriusXM podcast, “Let’s Go!” with Jim Gray, Tom Brady was asked if he has a timetable as to when he will decide whether he will retire or return for a 24th NFL season.
“Jim, if I knew what I was going to f---ing do, I’d have already f---ing done it,” Brady, once again a free agent, said. “I’m taking it a day at a time.”
--Back to Tony Pollard…the poor guy could not have suffered his injury at a worse time. He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March and just had an outstanding season, with 1,007 yards on 193 carries, 12 touchdowns, in the regular season. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. Dallas’ running game was nothing without with him when he went out late in the first half.
And speaking of the Dallas-San Francisco game, among the many pathetic developments on the Cowboys’ final drive was Dalton Schultz failing to get out of bounds properly, twice. Almost comical, when you look back on it.
--Regarding the Giants, I said the other day that they’d pay both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, both unrestricted free agents. The Giants have since strongly said Jones is their guy and you can be virtually assured he is getting his long-term deal.
As for Barkley, I didn’t mean to be so flippant. The Giants have a lot of players to take care of, and you all know the opinion on running backs…there are only a select few worth big money.
Look at Isiah Pacheco of the Chiefs. He was a seventh-round pick in last spring’s draft and went on to have a terrific rookie season, 830 yards on the ground, 4.9 avg., and then a super effort against the Jaguars. As I told you Sunday, he was nothing at Rutgers…in four seasons, his freshman campaign was his best.
But obviously great scouting.
So you see a Pacheco and if you’re a GM, why give Saquon Barkley a huge deal?
I just think the Giants will show some loyalty and have honest discussions with him, and Barkley may realize he should stay put if the two sides can work it out. He’s very popular, has been receiving endorsements, and New York is where he belongs.
--There were local rumors Tuesday that the Jets are seriously considering a trade for Aaron Rodgers. I’d take him.
--In college ball, Georgia wide receiver Rodarius Thomas was arrested early Monday morning on a felony charge of false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery-family violence, according to an Athens-Clarke County Jail official.
Thomas, a junior, recently transferred to Georgia from Mississippi State. He faces immediate suspension from the Georgia football team.
The Bulldogs needed Thomas, who had 44 receptions for 626 yards and seven touchdowns for Mississippi State in 2022; Georgia having lost receiver Adonai Mitchell to the transfer portal (Texas).
But Georgia also added Missouri’s Dominic Lovett, who led the Tigers with 56 catches for 846 yards and three scores this past season.
What with the Darius Miles situation at Alabama, the SEC really needs to put out its own crime blotter.
--New AP Top 25 poll (records thru Sunday)
1. Purdue (39) 19-1…only loss to Rutgers
2. Alabama (23) 17-2…highest since 2002-03
3. Houston 18-2
4. Tennessee 16-3…up 5
5. Kansas State 17-2…up 8…highest ranking since 2010-11
6. Arizona 17-3
7. Virginia 15-3
8. UCLA 17-3
9. Kansas 16-3…down 7…and headed down further
10. Texas 16-3
11. TCU 15-4
12. Iowa State 14-4
13. Xavier 16-4
14. Gonzaga 17-4…down 8
15. Auburn 16-3
17. Baylor 14-5
18. Charleston 21-1
19. UConn 16-5
20. Miami (Fla.) 15-4
21. Florida Atlantic 19-1
22. Saint Mary’s 18-4
23. Providence 15-5
24. Clemson 16-4
25. New Mexico 18-2
Duke* was 26th if you carried out the votes, Rutgers 29.
--So Monday, 17 Baylor handed Kansas its third straight loss, 75-69, both teams 5-3 in the Big 12. The Jayhawks haven’t lost more than three in a row under Bill Self (since 2003-04).
And New Mexico lost at Nevada (16-5, 6-2), 97-94 in double overtime, the Lobos 5-3 in Mountain West play; Jamal Mashburn Jr. with 33 for New Mexico.
The Lobos shot the ball great, 34-for-63, 8-for-18 from downtown, but turned the ball over 19 times…eegads….with the Wolfpack having just nine TOs.
And there, friends, is your ballgame.
*Duke then lost Monday to a lousy Virginia Tech team (12-8, 2-7), 78-75, the Blue Devils falling to 14-6, 5-4.
--Tuesday, 12 Iowa State (15-4, 6-2) beat 5 Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) in Ames, 80-76, as former St. Bonaventure stars Osun Osunniyi and Jaren Holmes combined for 39 points.
After his scary fall and hospitalization over the weekend, North Carolina State’s Terquavion Smith was back in the lineup as the Wolfpack (16-5, 6-4) defeated Notre Dame (9-12, 1-9) 85-82; Smith with 17 points, though only 2 of 14 from the field.
Rutgers (14-6, 6-3) beat Penn State (13-7, 4-5) at the RAC, 65-45.
--Big announcement for Angels fans (and maybe Mets fans later on) as owner Arte Moreno announced Monday that he plans to continue overseeing the franchise for the foreseeable future, after exploring the possibility of selling the team five months ago.
At the time, Angels supporters thought for sure a new owner would want to keep the club’s No. 1 asset, Shohei Ohtani (Mike Trout being 1A).
But in a statement, the 76-year-old Moreno wrote that as talks about selling the team “began to crystalize, we realized our hearts remain with the Angels, and we are not ready to part ways with the fans, players and our employees.”
Moreno bought the team from the Walt Disney Co. for $183.5 million in 2003, the year after the first and only championship in franchise history, and a sale today was thought to be in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion. A sale actually seemed imminent.
The Angels have made some nice offseason moves, but Ohtani is a free agent after this season. L.A. has to sign him, basically now, or trade him at the deadline (or before) for maximum value. They can’t wait until the season’s over and risk receiving nothing in return. Ohtani signed a one-year, $30 million contract for 2023 to avoid arbitration.
--The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, San Diego, is a Wed. thru Sat. affair, so as not to conflict with the NFL Conference Championships contests, Jim Nantz doing Saturday’s golf finish remote as he’ll be doing Sunday’s Bengals-Chiefs game.
And Jon Rahm is teeing it up, part of an excellent field for this non-‘elevated’ tour stop this year. Rahm now has four wins in his last six worldwide events, including two DP World Tour titles late last year.
Rahm has said his work ethic will keep him going in this rich vein of form, taking inspiration from his idol, the late Kobe Bryant, who Rahm watched while in college at Arizona State.
Rahm sees in himself the same perfectionist traits Bryant demonstrated. Last Sunday night after his win at The American Express, Rahm said:
“In college one [athlete] who got very near to my heart, if we go outside of golf, was Kobe Bryant. I [saw] a lot of similarities between us and in the way we approach our crafts. Craft is a key word for Kobe; having that obsessiveness that we both have over our game. Work ethic beats talent every day of the week, period.”
“Given his talent for recasting excruciating humiliations as bold victories, it’s surprising that Greg Norman doesn’t present himself annually at the gate of Augusta National wearing a green jacket and insisting that what happened in 1996 – or ’86, ’87, ’89 and ’99 – was actually a triumph worthy of a place setting at the Champions Dinner.
“ ‘A momentous day for LIV Golf,’ is how Norman described his league’s just-announced broadcast deal with The CW, the nation’s 25th most-watched network, or 29th if you’re chasing the 18-49 demographic who might be drawn to ‘golf, but louder.’ (To be fair, the CW’s average viewer is 58, so they watch every show louder).
“Alert to an opportunity to impress his boss, LIV’s chief media officer, Will Staeger, conjured a version of events that would have even George Santos calling for narrative restraint.
“ ‘Following a competitive bidding window with multiple U.S. networks and streaming platforms, the sports story of 2022 has just moved into pole position for the top story of 2023,’ he wrote in a social media post.
“Staeger’s comment raises two questions for those among us predisposed to cynicism: did autocorrect change ‘begging’ to ‘bidding,’ and how does a competitive process among multiple parties result in giving away the product for free to the worst-case option?
“Mute the marketing and the reality of this deal has to be dispiriting for LIV and its hookworm hangers-on. No money changed hands, no network (major or minor) was willing to pay a fee for the product, and not a single legitimate sponsor has been attached to it. And those are only the facts apparent right now.
“The agreement has been described as a revenue-share, though LIV currently generates no revenue, at least not for itself (MBS’s checkbook has blessed many a washed-up player, executive and politician with revenue beyond their worth). It’s feasible and sympathetic sponsors might materialize, especially if the Saudi Public Investment Fund – which owns 93% of LIV and covers 100% of its costs, all while claiming it isn’t subject to U.S. laws as it does business here – puts a squeeze on its partners.
“Advertising could eventually provide a pay-off for The CW, but it won’t cover LIV’s production costs, much less the premium it has already paid to own Bryson’s tantrums and Brooks’ melancholy. It bears noting that The CW doesn’t submit to the standard Nielsen viewer ratings outside of weekday prime time hours, so actual audience figures for LIV broadcasts will be unavailable, or at least unvouched for. Advertisers will demand reporting metrics based on something more credible than Greg’s guff….
“For all the spin put forth by Norman and his team, LIV has simply found a lesser storefront for the very same product that was ignored when given the largest platform possible. What was announced this week is less a broadcast deal than a distress sale, which is not to imply that anyone was willing to pay for it.”
--We are working our way through the quarterfinals and America’s remaining hope on the women’s side, 3 Jessica Pegula, lost to 24 Victoria Azarenka.
--On the men’s side, 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece) will be meeting 18 Karen Khachanov (Russia) in one semi, after Khachanov defeated American Sebastian Korda, the 29-seed, in the quarters.
But America will have one entrant in the semis, as unseeded Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul battle it out in a quarterfinal late Tuesday night (U.S. time).
4 Novak Djokovic squares off against 5 Andrey Rublev (Russia) in their quarterfinal match Wednesday (3:30 a.m. ET) to see who meets the Shelton-Paul winner.
Well, Tommy Paul reached his first Grand Slam semifinal by dispatching of Ben Shelton in four.
And Paul will now be facing Novak Djokovic, who just took out Rublev in straight sets.
--Tottenham picked up a needed win at Fulham on Monday, 1-0, on Harry Kane’s goal, his 266th for the Spurs, tying Jimmy Greaves for most in club history (199 in the Premier League).
--I missed the passing of the great Arthur Duncan the other day. He was 97.
Arthur Duncan? Why he was the tap-dancing master best known for his 18-year run on “The Lawrence Welk Show” and the only Black cast member, widely regarded as a trailblazer for a mainstream television variety show.
Duncan died a few weeks ago at a care center, but it took a while for word of his death – from complications related to a stroke and pneumonia – to get out.
“The Lawrence Welk Show” was a staple at the editor’s house growing up. Hell, my parents were watching the replays until about 6 years ago.
Ah yes, Myron Floren, Dick Dale, Joe Feeney, Jimmy Roberts, Bobby Burgess, The Lennon Sisters, Bob Ralston.
The best was hearing Lawrence pronounce “Cho Feeney.”
Seriously, I just YouTubed some Feeney performances…the guy was awesome.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
NFL Quiz: The Conference Championship Games started in 1970. Name the nine teams, both AFC and NFC, to win five. Answer below.
--Unlike the Wild Card playoffs, Saturday’s Divisional Round games basically sucked, the second one really so….but we did have the drama of Patrick Mahomes and his injured ankle.
Mahomes led the Chiefs down the field in methodic fashion on their initial drive against 9 ½-point underdog Jacksonville, but on his second drive, Mahomes severely injured his ankle, so we all thought as he hobbled off, arguing with Coach Andy Reid and the medical staff that he should be allowed back in.
But after backup Chad Henne enhanced his brand by driving the Chiefs 98 yards for a TD, Mahomes on the bench, to make it 17-7, Mahomes came back in for the duration and Kansas City won it 27-20, the score only made closer by a late Jacksonville field goal that covered the spread!
Mahomes finished 22/30, 195, 2-0, 112.5, as tight end Travis Kelce had a career-best 14 receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
K.C. also got 95 yards on the ground from Rutgers’ Isiah Pacheco, who was nothing at RU, after a solid freshman season, yet here he is…in an AFC Championship game…the Chiefs’ fifth consecutive title game with Mahomes, who is 9-3 in the playoffs.
As for the Jags, Trevor Lawrence was mediocre, 24/39, 217, 1-1, 74.4, but he took a giant step forward this season under the tutelage of Coach Doug Pederson, whose own stock soared anew.
Back to Mahomes, we’ll learn a lot more Monday, but X-rays were negative and the MRI today apparently showed a high ankle sprain.
--In Saturday’s nightcap, Jalen Hurts was back and in complete control, his right-shoulder seemingly OK, 16/24, 154, 2-0, 112.2, plus a touchdown rushing, as the Eagles’ ground game took center stage, chewing up the Giants’ ‘D’ for 268 yards…112 from Kenneth Gainwell, 90 from Miles Sanders.
The Giants were down 28-0 at the half, much to the chagrin of FOX, on the way to a 38-7 mugging.
What a comedown. Notice how your editor never hopped on the Giants’ train. So don’t blame me for the bad karma.
Giants Coach Brian Daboll said after the game it was “a crash landing… They did everything better than we did.”
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“They did. It was complete, it was thorough, it was an evisceration start to finish – and it doesn’t reduce by even one ounce what the Giants accomplished this year. If, back in August, you picked the Giants to win six games there was a term your friends used for you: eternal optimist. And even you didn’t get them to nine. Even you couldn’t have fathomed they would win a playoff game for the first time in 11 years.”
So as crushing as the loss was, the Giants have a lot to be proud of, but also with a lot to do.
The New York area sports talk shows will once again be questioning if Daniel Jones (15/27, 135, 0-1, 53.8) is worth a long-term deal (he is), ditto Saquon Barkley, just nine carries for 61 (he is…but he’s more likely to get franchise tagged).
So the Chiefs and Eagles waited to see who their opponents would be in next week’s Conference title games….
--I’m sure I’m like many of you, in wonderment at Damar Hamlin’s recovery, but also thinking, geezuz, just relax, take it easy at home, don’t overdo it.
Hamlin has been going to the Bills’ facility, seeing teammates, and that’s great, but the guy did suffer cardiac arrest.
So it was almost comforting to hear from his representative, Jordan Rooney, who is working with the family, the truth: “Damar still requires oxygen and is having his heart monitored regularly to ensure there are no setbacks or after effects. Though he is able to visit the team’s facility, Damar is not in position to travel often, and requires additional rest to help his body heal.”
But he was at the game today….to no effect.
Joe Burrow started out 9-for-9 for the Bengals, two scoring drives, 105 yards, and Cincinnati was immediately up 14-0.
It was then 17-7 at the half, Damar appeared in the locker room, Buffalo drove for a field goal to make it 17-10, but the Bengals won it handily, 27-10.
Burrow finished 23/36, 242, 2-0, 101.9 in the non-stop snow. Josh Allen is now 4-4 in postseason play, no Super Bowl, and in this one a 68.0 PR.
I do need to add that Joe Mixon was terrific for Cincy, 105 yards on the ground.
The Bengals are on to Kansas City, where it’s going to be very cold.
Allen is beginning to look like the second coming of Philip Rivers, who was 5-7 in the playoffs and no SB.
--And in San Francisco, it was Cowboys and 49ers tied at 9-9 after three, Dallas’ Brett Maher missing another extra point (blocked but would have been wide left regardless), and if you had ‘over 46.5’ as your bet, you lost!
It then was 19-12, San Fran, after a fourth Robbie Gould field goal, 3:04 to play, and that’s where it ended (despite Elijah Mitchell’s bonehead play), Dak Prescott with two more interceptions, a miserable performance, the Niners defense having something to do with that, and it’s San Francisco at Philadelphia next Sunday.
On paper, two terrific conference championship games coming up.
--In the college game…former Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders is transferring to Ole Miss, joining a crowded quarterback room that includes incumbent starter Jaxson Dart and former four-star prospect Walker Howard, who just transferred from LSU.
Sanders was at OSU four years, throwing 67 touchdowns and 40 interceptions in 43 games, adding 18 TDs on the ground.
So Rebels coach Lane Kiffin can have some fun as the three battle it out.
--And there is the situation with Florida quarterback recruit Jaden Rashada, the No. 7-ranked quarterback in the ESPN 300. Rashada requested a release from his national letter of intent Tuesday night after a $13 million name, image and likeness deal fell through.
Rashada’s arrival in Gainesville was contingent on the four-year, $13 million NIL package he signed with the Gator Collective, an independent fundraising arm that disburses money to student-athletes in all sports.
This is really pathetic. Rashada had initially picked Miami over Florida in June but changed his mind amid the Hurricanes’ disappointing season.
Sounds like a really good kid. Good character (he typed sarcastically).
In games of note since last chat….
--Wednesday, 15 UConn (15-5, 4-5) lost another, 67-66 at Seton Hall (12-8, 5-4), a very important ‘W’ for the Pirates and any hopes they have of getting into the NCAAs.
DePaul (9-10, 3-5) pulled off a shocker, defeating 8 Xavier (15-4, 7-1) 73-72.
--Thursday, 23 Rutgers (13-6, 5-3) lost at Michigan State (13-6, 5-3), 70-57.
--But also Thursday, Loyola Marymount (14-7, 4-3) ended 6 Gonzaga’s 75-game home winning streak with a 68-67 victory.
Cam Shelton, 27 points, banked in the go-ahead runner with 13 seconds left.
Significantly, for my Wake Forest Demon Deacons, they lost to Loyola 77-75 early in the season after being up 8 with less than 1:30 to play. Oh, what could have been.
--And so Saturday, the Deacs, 10-0 at home this season with wins over two ranked opponents, faced off against No. 10 Virginia and lost 76-67, the Cavaliers 15-of-34 from three.
Wake was up 12-10, then, in the blink of an eye, down 34-15 before cutting it to ten at the half, 42-32.
The Deacs then trailed 57-56 when our center Matthew Marsh could not corral a rebound that he should have stuffed home for the lead and we had no chance after, momentum lost. The little plays that are so big. [Let alone our star Tyree Appleby was going 4-for-16 from the field, totally out of control at times.]
Wake falls to 14-6, 6-3; UVA is 15-3, 7-2, and very much in the Final Four conversation, in my humble opinion.
--Also Saturday, we had a slew of mini-upsets in the top ten…2 Kansas (16-3, 5-2) lost again, and at home, 83-60 to 14 TCU (15-4, 4-3).
5 UCLA (17-3, 8-1) had its 14-game winning streak snapped at 11 Arizona (17-3, 6-3) 58-52.
--12 Iowa State (14-4, 5-2) had a bad loss at Oklahoma State (11-8, 3-4) 61-59.
Duke (14-5, 5-3) might climb back into the Top 25 with its 68-66 win in Cameron Indoor Stadium over 17 Miami (15-4, 6-3).
--After Seton Hall’s needed win over UConn, they fell flat on their face at home, falling to 20 Marquette (16-5, 8-2) 74-53, The Hall back to 12-9, 5-5.
8 Xavier (16-4, 8-1) rebounded from its loss to DePaul with a 95-82 win over hapless Georgetown (5-15, 0-9), the Hoyas’ 29th straight loss in the Big East, coach Patrick Ewing’s contract up at the end of the season, Ewing just 73-99 in his tenure at the school. Very Danny Manning-like.
--13 Kansas State (17-2, 6-1) leads the Big 12 and is Top Ten bound after beating Texas Tech (10-9, 0-7) 68-58 in Manhattan (Kansas, that is).
--Pete M.’s Colgate Red Raiders (14-7, 8-0) stayed perfect, barely, in the Patriot League, 62-61 over a tough American University squad (12-7, 4-4).
--And back in the ACC, North Carolina (14-6, 6-3) beat North Carolina State (15-5, 5-4) at the Dean Dome, 80-69. But in this one, North Carolina’s Leaky Black may have cost the Wolfpack any shot at NCAA tournament play with a hard foul (Flagrant 2 and ejection) on the ACC’s leading scorer, Terquavion Smith, late in the second half.
Smith was carted off on a stretcher with a neck and elbow injury, though he tweeted later he was OK. He then was released from the hospital Sunday and is “day to day.” These two play again Feb. 19 in Raleigh. There better be extra security on hand…just sayin’.
Also, Boston College (9-11, 3-6) beat Notre Dame (9-11, 1-8) 84-72 in South Bend, another pathetic performance from Mike Brey’s boys.
Speaking of Brey, he announced on Thursday that he was stepping down at the end of the season after 23 seasons.
While Brey is the winningest coach in program history (481-270), and he’s a good guy, what has he accomplished?
Think of this….the 2022-23 season will be the sixth straight that Notre Dame, with all its recruiting advantages, doesn’t finish in the AP Final Top 25.
Actually, it will be a fifth straight season the Fighting Irish won’t be ranked at any point in the season! Good lord, that blows.
All kinds of “precious” pieces are being written about the guy from the usual suspects.
Brey did say himself this week, “I’m probably too nice… God, I spoil everybody. Everybody. People who work with me. Everybody’s spoiled. Everybody’s spoiled.”
Well, as alum Mark R. told me, ‘Good riddance.’
--Today, Temple (12-9, 6-2) upset No. 1 Houston (18-2, 6-1) on the road, 56-55; the first win for the Owls against No. 1 since 2000.
And it was largely about free throws…Temple 20-22, Houston 11-21.
--I watch virtually every Knicks game (if Wake Forest isn’t on), and what a frustrating team to follow…up, down, up, down…
Friday, New York (25-22) lost their third straight, 139-124 at Atlanta (24-22), the Hawks on a five-game winning streak. This was after the Knicks had a desultory loss at home to Washington on Wednesday, 116-105, probably their worst effort of the year, and in this one, they lost center Mitchell Robinson to a broken thumb.
Robinson, averaging 7.2 points and 8.9 rebounds, is more than his numbers, a real presence down below, and with him out the next three weeks, at least, this is a critical point in the season, just as the Nets are dealing with a key absence of their own.
And the Knicks then lost this evening at Toronto (21-27), 125-116, New York 25-23.
--Speaking of which, the Nets (27-17) finally won their first without Kevin Durant, 117-106 at Utah on Friday, Kyrie Irving with a season-high 48. Brooklyn had been 0-4 without K.D.
Irving also had 11 rebounds and erupted for 21 points in the fourth quarter when the Nets needed him most.
--Kawhi Leonard has been effective when he’s been on the court for the Clippers (24-24), like with his season-high 36 Friday in a 131-126 over San Antonio.
But he’s got to stay on the court (missing 25 of 48 games), alongside running mate Paul George, who has missed 16 of 48. With both playing together, they can beat anyone in the playoffs, though as of now there is no guarantee they’ll get there.
Well, this afternoon the Clippers moved to 25-24 with a big road win at Dallas (25-23), as Leonard had 30 and George 21.
--Chris Ford, a member of the 1981 Boston Celtics championship team, a longtime NBA coach and the player credited with scoring the league’s first 3-point basket, died the other day, age 74. No official cause was given, but he had reportedly suffered a heart attack in Philadelphia, where he died, earlier in the month.
Ford was voted the Celtics’ MVP for his first season with Boston, after coming over from Detroit, averaging 15.6 points per game, the best of his 10-year career with the two teams.
He retired following the 1981-82 season and was an assistant coach for the Celtics for seven seasons from 1983 to 1990, helping coach former teammates Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to two titles in 1984 and 1986 while serving under coach K.C. Jones.
Ford played his college ball at Villanova.
--We learn early Tuesday evening whether any players received enough votes for the Hall of Fame this year. Scott Rolen is expected to get the required 75% from the Baseball Writers of America, Rolen at 63.2% last time.
Todd Helton (52%) and Billy Wagner (51%) are the only returnees who received at least 50 percent of the vote last year.
Carlos Beltran is the big newcomer on the ballot, a guy with legitimate Hall of Fame credentials (though not a first ballot guy), but a candidacy clouded by the 2017 Astros cheating scandal in which he was the only player singled out by Major League Baseball.
I am very blasé when it comes to Rolen. Yes, a terrific fielder, one of the best at his position, third base, in history, but he only played 150 games or more five times in 17 seasons, all by the time he was 28, and only one top-5 in the MVP voting, a big deal with me.
But he did have five, 100-RBI seasons and an excellent .855 career OPS.
One player who is on the ballot for a last time and deserves more consideration than he has been given is Jeff Kent, who only received 32.7% last year, his ninth on the ballot.
But to me, Kent is a natural for the Veterans Committee…377 home runs, most by any second baseman in history, 1,518 RBIs, third behind only Rogers Hornsby and Napoleon Lajoie. He’ll get in eventually.
--So in writing of Rolen, I then learned of the passing, Friday, of Sal Bando, a four-time All-Star third baseman for Oakland and later player and general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. Bando died of cancer, the teams announced Saturday.
Bando was on those great Oakland teams that won the World Series three consecutive seasons, 1972 to 1974.
He was also one of the greats out of Arizona State, which produced teammate Reggie Jackson, as well as Barry Bonds, Rick Monday and Bob Horner, among others.
But whereas Scott Rolen only played in 150 or more games five times, Bando did it ten times, including 162 three times, and 160 once.
Bando also had three top-five MVP finishes!
Yet in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, he received just 0.7% of the vote!
Now Sal Bando was not a Hall of Famer, but a helluva player…as clutch as they came.
So on second thought, no, I don’t think Scott Rolen should be in!
--At The American Express in La Quita, Calif., rookie Davis Thompson was 18-under after just two rounds, with a PGA Tour record-tying five eagles…the record for 72 holes! Thompson was two ahead of Jon Rahm.
Thompson then went eagle-less in the third round, but still a 67, tied with Rahm at -23, as the two will play the final round together, four clear of the field.
And Rahm won No. 9, one shot ahead of Thompson (no eagles), two ahead of Xander Schauffele (a big early finish for him) and Chris Kirk, who is off to a good start this final 2022-23 wraparound season.
--The rumors put forward by broadcaster David Feherty proved to be true, the LIV Golf tour has a television deal with the CW Network. The CW will air all 14 events throughout next season as well as offer a streaming option through its app.
“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights. The CW will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners as their reach includes more than 120 million households across the United States,” said Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, in a release. “We’re very proud to note how consequential it is that a league that has only existed for one year has secured a full broadcast deal in its debut full league season.”
The CW will broadcast the second and third rounds, Saturday and Sunday.
Dennis Miller, President, The CW Network, said in a release that The CW and LIV “will deliver a whole new audience and add to the growing worldwide excitement for the league.”
Ahem…ahem…cough, cough. “Growing worldwide excitement”?
Well, whatever. I might tune in once or twice just to check on the quality of the broadcast. I’ll understand that if the crowds look big, it’s because tickets were reduced to like $5 (or zero) to get people to show up and drink heavily, beer being LIV’s main source of revenue. [Half-kidding]
--Steve Stricker won the opening PGA Tour Champions event this weekend on the Big Island of Hawaii, and by six strokes.
Stricker, 55, is healthy again and this does not bode well for his senior competitors. The guy now has won 12 of the 48 Champions Tour events he’s entered, and the percentage this year could be greater than that.
--After Rafael Nadal was upset, American Jenson Brooksby eliminated No. 2 seed Casper Ruud in the second round on Thursday, meaning a pair of 20-something Californians had knocked out the top two players in the men’s bracket, the other Mackenzie McDonald, who defeated an injured Nadal.
But Brooksby and McDonald then lost their third-round matches.
3-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the quarterfinals today. 4-seed Novak Djokovic is attempting to do the same while most of us are asleep tonight (3:00 a.m. ET).
--On the women’s side, Sunday, reigning Wimbledon champion and 22-seed Elena Rybakina* eliminated No. 1-seeded Iga Swiatek, while 17 Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia, and the 2017 French Open champion) got past No. 7 Coco Gauff; Rybankina and Ostapenko squaring off in the quarterfinals, Tuesday, Aussie time.
*Despite winning at Wimbledon, Rybakina is a 22 because no extra points were awarded as competitors from Russia and Belarus weren’t eligible due to the war.
3-seed Jessica Pegula (U.S.) advanced to the quarterfinals.
What a game we had today, Arsenal beating Manchester United 3-2 on a goal by Nketiah at the 90’ mark (his second of the contest), as dramatic as you can get, best game of the season. The Gunners thus have what many believe is an insurmountable lead, but let’s wait a few more weeks.
Manchester City defeated the Wolves 3-0.
Yesterday, Chelsea and Liverpool, their seasons in the toilet, of course played to a 0-0 draw.
Standings…19/20 of 38…Points – Played
1. Arnsenal…19 – 50
2. City…20 – 45
3. Newcastle…20 – 39
4. Man U…20 – 39
5. Tottenham…20 – 33
8. Brentford…20 – 30
9. Liverpool…19 – 29
10. Chelsea…20 – 29
--And just a further note about today’s Arsenal-Man U game…for United, Christian Eriksen was playing.
When you look at Damar Hamlin, remember this. Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch, June 12, 2021, and was saved, like Hamlin, by the doctors and paramedics on the field. Eight months later he was back playing with a defibrillator having been implanted.
Each case is different, but I’m kind of surprised no one is mentioning Eriksen’s case.
Hamlin doesn’t need to play again…he’ll be just fine in life…but it’s not like soccer doesn’t have a lot of contact and scary moments. So ya never know.
--I was a little surprised Mikaela Shiffrin raced in three speed events this weekend at Cortina, and she finished 4th, 7th and 7th in the two downhills and a super-G, as she looks for her record-breaking 83rd win.
But now in the coming week she has three giant slaloms and two slaloms. You go, Girl!
Meanwhile, on the men’s side, the U.S. finally picked up a podium finish…first of the season.
Travis Ganong finished 3rd in a downhill at Kitzbuhl, the discipline where he has his two career WC wins.
--Matt Kenseth was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Friday night in Charlotte (a very cool museum, by the way).
The 50-year-old drove 18 full seasons in NASCAR before retiring in 2020 with 39 Cup victories, winning the 2003 Cup Series championship and ranking 21st on NASCAR’s career wins list. He won all of the sport’s biggest races including the Daytona 500 in 2009 and 2012, the Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500.
Kenseth was inducted along with longtime driver Hershel McGriff and crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine.
--Gerrie Coetzee, a South African heavyweight boxing champion, died the other day at his home in a suburb of Cape Town. He was 67. The cause was lung cancer, according to his longtime manager.
Coetzee rejected the epithet “great white hope” and criticized apartheid, earning the respect of Nelson Mandela.
After losing bids for the World Boxing Association title in 1979 and 1980, Coetzee avenged himself in 1983 when he knocked out the previously undefeated Michael Dokes. Coetzee became Africa’s first world heavyweight champion.
Coetzee’s fame worked against apartheid. His 1979 bid for the title brought the first racially integrated crowd – 81,000 people – to Loftus Versfeld Stadium, in Pretoria. Coetzee was highly respected by the Blacks in his country.
At a news conference before the fight, Coetzee said: “What really makes me happy is for Black, brown and white people to accept me as their fighter,” adding, “People should be treated on merit and not on race or color.”
Nelson Mandela, during an imprisonment of 27 years, was one of those listening to Coetzee’s fights on radio and Mandela sent a letter of encouragement before the Dokes fight, with Coetzzee replying by sending a videotape of his victory.
--Fascinating story by Alex Mitchell in the New York Post on “an unlikely pair of culprits that have been scaring great white sharks away from the coast of South Africa for years, according to scientists who began noticing the absence of the dreaded apex predator along the country’s Western Cape – known as the global ‘Great White Capital’ – back in 2017.”
“What was first suspected to have been caused by human activities such as overfishing has now been pinned on something else entirely. According to new research, it’s a particularly vicious pair or orcas, or killer whales.
“Not only are they slaughtering the great whites en masse – eight carcasses have washed ashore since 2017 and many more deaths are suspected, per the latest reports – but the orcas are also tearing apart their prey to get at the hearts and nutrient-filled livers. [Ed. I’ve written of this Orca trait before.]
“ ‘What we seem to be witnessing is a large-scale avoidance, mirroring what we see used by wild dogs in the Serengeti in Tanzania in response to increased lion presence,’ said study lead and marine biologist Alison Towner.
“The mass exodus is encouraging a new mesopredator – the bronze whaler shark, which is known to be eaten by the great white – to flood the area, only to run into the apparently insatiable interlopers.
“ ‘These Bronze Whalers are also being attacked by the Orcas too, who are indicating a level of experience and skill in hunting large sharks,’ Towner said.”
Unfortunately, this screws up the ecosystem. You need the great whites to pretty on the Cape fur seals, who can prey on critically endangered African penguins.
So while “Orca” will move up to No. 4 on the All-Species List behind Dog, Elephant and Tiger, the ASL High Council in Kazakhstan is issuing an asterisk until more is known about the survival of the penguins (No. 22).
--I’m sure you saw the story on Toadzilla, discovered by Australian park rangers, but this is really gross and kind of scary.
Deep in Conway National Park’s rainforest, rangers were “shocked” to find the animal while on patrol.
The amphibian weighed in at a record-breaking 6 pounds, the previous record set in 1961 by a Swedish pet toad at 5.8 pounds.
But this is an invasive cane toad that poses a huge threat to Australia’s ecosystem and thus was euthanized.
Cane toads’ population exploded in Australia after they were introduced in 1935 to control cane beetles and other pests because they faced no natural predators.
Park ranger Barry Nolan told Reuters “A female cane toad like potentially Toadzilla would lay up to 35,000 eggs. So their capacity to reproduce is quite staggering. And all parts of the cane toad’s breeding cycle are poisonous to Australian native species, so prevention is a big part of how we need to manage them,” he said.
By the way, another expert quoted by the BBC said this particular toad was old, and that cane toads can live up to 15 years! Holy Toledo….that’s a lot of babies, like 96 million.
Rick Shine, a professor of biology at the University of Sydney, said the cane toads currently are in very inaccessible country now in the Kimberley, which I have to go back to my Aussie geography to check out, “but it seems to be moving at 50 to 60km (31 to 37 miles) per year.”
Be very afraid. If it learns how to fly coach, we’re all screwed.
--David Crosby, co-founder of Crosby, Stills & Nash, and a founding member of The Byrds, died at the age of 81 after a long illness, surrounded by his wife and son.
Crosby formed the Byrds in the early 1960s with Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, recording the #1 classics “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” though aside from the #14 “Eight Miles High,” they really didn’t do much more.
But Crosby would join forces in 1968 with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash; Stills having been with Buffalo Springfield and Nash with The Hollies. They won the 1969 Best New Artist Grammy Award with the #28 “Marrakesh Express” and #21 “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”
Neil Young, also with Buffalo Springfield, then joined and the foursome lit it up in 1970 with the #11 “Woodstock,” #16 “Teach Your Children” and #14 “Ohio,” all three brilliant tunes, along with the #30 “Our House,” which it’s rather remarkable to think only peaked at 30. C’mon, people. What were you buying ahead of this?! I mean for crying out loud. [Wrote the kid who had a ’45 of The Singing Nun’s “Dominique.”]
Young then left for his solo career and had the #1 “Heart of Gold,” which I thought was done by America at the time.
Meanwhile, David Crosby was doing lots of drugs and alcohol, Crosby arrested a few times and needing a liver transplant.
But in the end, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both for The Byrds, in 1991, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, in 1997.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/25/75: #1 “Please Mr. Postman” (Carpenters) #2 “Laughter In The Rain” (Neil Sedaka…this one sounds as good today as it did back then…) #3 “Mandy” (Barry Manilow)…and…#4 “Fire” (Ohio Players) #5 “Boogie On Reggae Woman” (Stevie Wonder) #6 “You’re No Good” (Linda Ronstadt) #7 “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” (Paul Anka with Odia Coates) #8 “Morning Side Of The Mountain” (Donny & Marie Osmond) #9 “Never Can Say Goodbye” (Gloria Gaynor) #10 “Pick Up The Pieces” (AWB…B week…)
NFL Quiz Answer: Nine to win five Conference Championships….
San Francisco 7-10
L.A. Rams 5-6
New England 11-4
By the way, the two Conference Championship games with the highest television ratings:
NFC: Green Bay-Chicago, 2010, 57.9 million
AFC: New England-Baltimore, 2011, 54.9 million
Brief Add-on up top by noon, Wed.