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Kansas City vs. Philadelphia
Add-on posted very early Wed. a.m.
Folks Monday morning were still buzzing over Patrick Mahomes’ gutsy performance for the ages, as he limped and hobbled around for 326 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and then that memorable scramble with 17 seconds left for five yards and a first down, drawing a personal foul on Bengals linebacker Joseph Ossai – just one play in a wild fourth quarter.
There is little doubt Mahomes should be much healthier for the Super Bowl, given the extra week, and the Chiefs will need that, as the Eagles are running on all cylinders and healthy, including at quarterback, where the team is 16-1 when Jalen Hurts starts.
So Kansas City advances to its third Super Bowl in four years.
Philly advance to their second Super Bowl in five years.
We have the first matchup in history with two Black starting quarterbacks.
We also have an Idiot of the Year candidate in Cincinnati cornerback Mike Hilton for dubbing Arrowhead Stadium “Burrowhead.” Ah, that backfired.
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“As his Ankle Game progressed, Patrick Mahomes limped and winced more often. He would run-hop after plays, a kind of forced gallop letting you know that, despite some of his sensational throws, he ached in ways that pain medication and clever taping techniques could not sufficiently restrain.
“He’s the quarterback of a football team, after all. Playing eight days after suffering a high-ankle sprain could only mean exacerbating the injury. On Sunday night, with a Super Bowl berth at stake, Mahomes threw 43 passes, braced himself to absorb three sacks from Cincinnati Bengals defenders and crashed to the Arrowhead Stadium turf several more times as the Kansas City Chiefs tried to defeat the one team that had repeatedly solved them during their showstopping era.
“It took an extraterrestrial effort for Mahomes to play – and play well – in the AFC championship game. But the Chiefs kept needing more from their superstar to hold back the Bengals, a glowing-hot team led by the coolest franchise quarterback in the NFL. And just when it seemed Mahomes might not have enough to outlast all of the challenges, he attempted to do the one thing he hadn’t shown all week.
“On one good leg, he ran.
“He ran for the sideline, he ran for the AFC title, and considering the fragility of his movement, it seemed as if he ran for his life, too.
“With eight seconds remaining in a tie game, he reached the sideline after a five-yard gain that secured a first down. After he strained to get out of bounds, Cincinnati defensive end Joseph Ossai knocked him over and received a 15-yard penalty for the late hit. The error put the Chiefs in field goal range, and Harrison Butker made the 45-yard kick to deliver Kansas City the AFC title with a 23-20 victory.
“Of all the brilliance Mahomes has unfurled in five seasons as an NFL starter, that hobbling, game-clinching display of determination says the most about him. It has been clear for quite some time that Mahomes is the most gifted quarterback in the NFL. He might have the most awe-inspiring toolbox of any quarterback in the sport’s history. But this time, he showed his guts. He didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, but after a performance such as this, he verified that there’s more to his greatness than his athleticism….
“Said Chiefs owner Clark Hunt: ‘Superman got his cape on and got it done for us.’”
--As for Joseph Ossai’s all-time bonehead play, I can’t imagine what his teammates are saying behind his back, while outwardly supporting him. Ossai said after it was extremely tough to process the sentiment. You could tell he truly felt awful and he won’t be sleeping well this offseason.
“I gotta learn from experience. I gotta know not to get close to that quarterback when he’s close to that sideline if it’s anything that could possibly cause a penalty in a dire situation like that. I gotta do better.”
--Monday, San Francisco got the dreaded news on Brock Purdy…a torn UCL in his throwing elbow as a result of his first-quarter hit. He will be out at least six months.
While this is an estimate, with Purdy getting a second opinion on whether he needs surgery, the 49ers reportedly want him to go ahead with it, in the hope he can avoid reconstructive surgery (aka Tommy John).
San Fran didn’t want to have to re-sign Jimmy Garoppolo, who is set to become a free agent, but now with Trey Lance having had to undergo a second surgery for his ankle, there are no healthy, active-roster quarterbacks under contract. What a freakin’ mess.
But what an awful break for Purdy, who electrified the football world with his rise from irrelevancy, as they say.
--New York fans were rightfully pissed off when the Empire State Building went green on Sunday night, moments after the Eagles whipped the 49ers. The official Twitter account for the New York City landmark announced it would illuminate in green and white to celebrate.
“Fly @Eagles Fy! We’re going Green and White in honor of the Eagles NFC Championship victory,” the message read.
The fallout was swift, particularly given that the Eagles had handed a beating to the state’s own New York Giants the week before.
A common reply on Twitter was “Wtf are you doing Empire State Building?!! Is this a joke?”
--The Denver Broncos traded with the New Orleans Saints to make Sean Payton their next head coach. The Saints will receive the Broncos’ 2023 first-round pick (No. 29 overall) and 2024 second-round pick for Payton and the Saints’ 2024 third-round selection.
The Broncos are expected to make Payton one of the highest-paid head coaches in the league.
Because Payton had signed an extension with the Saints in 2019 that was set to run through the 2024 season, the Saints and the Broncos had to negotiate compensation for Denver to sign him as its head coach.
“This was the opportunity I was looking for,” Payton told NOLA.com on Tuesday. “It’s a great fanbase and great tradition… It’s a good football city that we had in New Orleans.”
Payton was 152-89 in his 15 seasons as Saints head coach
--The Houston Texans hired San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMecco Ryans to be the fourth head coach in the last four years, the team announced Tuesday.
Ryans, a former linebacker who played 10 seasons in the NFL, was selected by the Texans in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft and went on to play six seasons in Houston.
Ryans, 38, is Black and becomes the first person of color hired as a head coach or coordinator during this cycle.
--New AP Top 25 (records thru Sun.)
1. Purdue (62) 21-1
2. Tennessee 18-3
3. Houston 20-2
4. Alabama 18-3
5. Arizona 19-3
6. Virginia 16-3
7. Kansas State 18-3
8. Kansas 17-4
9. UCLA 17-4
10. Texas 17-4
11. Baylor 16-5
12. Gonzaga 18-4
13. Iowa State 15-5
14. Marquette 17-5
15. TCU 16-5
16. Xavier 17-5
17. Providence 17-5
18. Saint Mary’s 19-4
19. Florida Atlantic 21-1
20. Clemson 18-4
21. Indiana 15-6
22. San Diego State 17-4
23. Miami 16-5
24. UConn 16-6
25. Auburn 16-5
--So Monday, Texas Tech staged the biggest comeback in school history, down 23 points in the second half, 59-36, to 13 Iowa State and won the game in overtime, 80-77, a huge loss for the Cyclones in terms of seeding down the road, I’m thinking, ISU now 15-6, 6-3, while the Red Raiders picked up their first conference win, 12-10, 1-8.
Also in the Big 12, 10 Texas (18-4, 7-2) stayed on top with a 76-71 win over 11 Baylor (16-6, 5-4).
--Tuesday, 4 Alabama (19-3, 9-0) took out their frustrations following a weekend blowout loss to Oklahoma by annihilating Vanderbilt, 101-44, the largest margin of victory for Bama over an SEC opponent.
8 Kansas (18-4, 6-3) beat 7 Kansas State (18-4, 6-3) in Lawrence.
Boston College (11-12, 5-7) had a big upset win over 20 Clemson (18-5, 10-2), 62-54, in Chestnut Hill.
And my Wake Forest Demon Deacons (14-9, 6-6) suffered their fourth loss in a row, third straight by 2 points, 75-73 to Duke (16-6, 7-4) at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Yes, very, very frustrating.
The Deacs were only 9 of 31 from three, but 16 of 17 from the free throw line, however, the one miss, by Tyree Appleby (27 points) could have pulled us to 70-67 at a critical point down the stretch. Appleby sank a shot from nearly half court at the buzzer to make the score a little closer than it really was.
--LeBron James and the Lakers were in New York Monday and Tuesday. Monday, playing without LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Nets easily defeated L.A. 121-104.
But last night, LeBron and A.D. were back, and LeBron had a triple-double (28-10-11) as the Lakers (24-28) beat the Knicks (27-25) 129-123 in overtime.
--One of the most popular players of all time has died. Bobby Hull, age 84.
Nicknamed the “Golden Jet,” Hull’s game was built on speed, high-velocity shots and showmanship. His longtime team, the Chicago Black Hawks (now Blackhawks), announced the death on Twitter but gave no information.
“Hull was the Canadian Superman,” author Gare Joyce wrote of the Ontario-born athlete in “The Devil and Bobby Hull,” a 2011 book chronicling Hull’s life before and after allegations of spousal abuse and racism tainted his public persona.
Hull was one of the NHL’s biggest stars during the Original Six era, when the league only had teams in Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto and New York.
His up-ice rushes brought crowds to their feet, as he scored 50 goals five times with the Black Hawks, one of the first real proponents of the slap shot. He was such a big figure, he made the cover of Sports Illustrated five times, unprecedented for a hockey player at that time.
Hull passed his skills on to one of his sons, fellow Hall of Famer Brett Hull, who scored more goals than his dad, while Bobby’s brother Dennis was a good player in his own right, scoring 298 goals for Chicago, 1964-77.
Bobby scored 604 in 15 years with the Black Hawks, 610 overall in the NHL, currently good for 18th all time, and then went off to the WHA, where in seven seasons with Winnipeg, Hull scored 303 goals.
In 1961, Hull and teammate Stan Mikita helped end the Canadiens’ record run of five consecutive Stanley Cups, and then defeated Gordie Howe’s Red Wings to give Chicago its first championship in 23 years. The team wouldn’t win another title until 2010.
“Back then I thought I’d have a bunch of these,” Hull told Joyce of his only Stanley Cup victory, at age 22.
Hull had a series of pay disputes with the Black Hawks, and eventually found his way to the fledgling World Hockey Association, with Winnipeg signing him for $1.75 million over 10 years, plus a $1 million signing bonus. Others, like Gordie Howe, fled to the WHA.
Hull was known for spending hours after games signing autographs, but his personal life was a mess, with two of his three wives accusing him of physical abuse. Some of his children were not exactly complementary of his parenting skills, saying he was an absentee father who drank to excess.
In 1998 he allegedly ranted to a Russian newspaper about Adolf Hitler having some “good ideas.” Asked in the same interview if he was racist, Hull reportedly said: “I don’t give a damn. I’m not running for any political office.”
Hull later insisted the Moscow Times reporter misquoted him (this particular paper being one of my own favorites over the years, highly reputable).
The stories would get worse.
Nevertheless, the Blackhawks (having changed their name in 1986) made Hull a team ambassador and installed life-size bronze statues of him and Mikita outside United Center, where the team plays.
--I did get up early enough Monday morning to catch Rory McIlroy’s dramatic win over none other than Patrick Reed to win the Dubai Desert Classic, Rory sinking a birdie putt from 15 feet at No. 18 for a 4-under 68 that left him a stroke ahead of Reed, who shot 65.
It was the third time Rory won the event and the first time in his career he started off a year with a win, this after he had a rather spectacular 2022, winning three times in the 2021-22 tour season, including the Tour Championship, and then last fall’s CJ Cup in South Carolina in the 2022-23 campaign.
Rory, alluding to his little incident with Reed on Wednesday, said, “I’m going to enjoy this. This is probably sweeter than it should be or needs to be… A really good foundation for the year.”
--One-time PGA Tour winner Sebastian Munoz is joining LIV Golf. Bye-bye.
--We note the passing of Cindy Williams, who played Shirley opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the popular sitcom “Laverne & Shirley.” Williams, 75, died after a brief illness, her children said in a statement.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement said. “Knowing and loving her has been our job and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”
Williams also starred in director George Lucas’ 1973 film “American Graffiti” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” from 1974.
But she was forever known for “Laverne & Shirley,” the “Happy Days” spinoff that ran on ABC from 1976 to 1983 that in its prime was among the most popular shows on TV.
Williams played the straitlaced Shirley to Marshall’s more libertine Laverne on the show about a pair of roommates that worked at a Milwaukee bottling factory in the 1950s and 60s.
Marshall, whose brother, Garry Marshall, co-created the series, died in 2018.
“Laverne & Shirley” was known almost as much for its opening theme as the show itself. Williams’ and Marshall’s chant of “schlemiel, schlimazel” as they skipped together became a cultural phenomenon.
I have to admit, I never watched “Happy Days” or “Laverne & Shirley,” being instead an avid watcher of the following in the 1970s:
All in the Family, Sanford & Son, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, Welcome Back, Kotter, the Partridge Family, The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, The Odd Couple, The Brady Bunch….
And…Room 222 and The White Shadow, which were more dramas.
--Singer-actor Marc Anthony, 54, married model Nadia Ferreira, 23, in Miami last Saturday night.
Retired soccer star David Beckham and wife Victoria Beckham were in attendance, Beckham serving as Anthony’s co-best man with Carlos Slim, Mexico’s richest man.
Anthony was previously married to former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, Jennifer Lopez, and supermodel Shannon De Lima.
Ferreira was Miss Paraguay in 2021.
And that’s your ‘World I Don’t Live In’ moment.
--A man died from a suspected venomous snakebite in Queensland, Australia, apparently from an eastern brown snake. Of all the species that fall under the ‘brown snake’ category, this is the only venomous one. I’ve long written of brown snakes on Guam that can inflict vicious bites, though not necessarily of the deadly variety.
And that’s your ‘Brown Snake Update.’
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted late Sunday p.m.]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
ACC Hoops Quiz: The ACC conference had its first season 1953-54. 1) Name the only two who were league MVPs (as selected by ACC media) three seasons in a row. 2) Who was the last to be selected two in a row? 3) Name the only two from a school in the state of South Carolina to ever be selected? Answers below.
--What a screwed up first half in Philadelphia in game one of the conference championships. All of us were watching as DeVonta Smith of the Eagles made a spectacular 29-yard one-hand grab to set up Miles Sanders’ opening 6-yard touchdown run, but thinking, ‘Did he really complete the catch?’
No, he didn’t, as we learned, but the Eagles and quarterback Jalen Hurts got to the line quickly before San Francisco could challenge (we’ll hear more about that after the game).
And then on San Fran’s first possession, quarterback Brock Purdy suffered a strip-sack fumble and injured his right elbow in the process, Purdy out, fourth-string QB Josh Johnson in.
Johnson, 36, first appeared in the NFL in 2009 and has a whopping 13 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions since then, playing for seven teams, obviously sparingly.
But Jets fans got a brief glimpse of him in 2021 and he’s an athlete, at least.
However, when you are fourth-string (Purdy only playing because of injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo earlier in the season) you don’t get a lot of reps, and while Johnson started out looking reasonably comfortable, the Niners tying the game at 7-7, he fumbled a snap late in the half, Philly took it in, 21-7, and you’re thinking ‘no way San Fran comes back.’
[Jill Biden was seen in the box with Roger Goodell, and I’m thinking, that’s a smart girl…she knows Joe is on his last legs, and who knows where the Biden assets are going, and the perky 71-year-old is just doing the smart thing…covering her bases…knowing Goodell is making $tens of millions a year; and has been for ages.]
On to the second half…. Wow, did you see that trailer for “Oppenheimer”? That looks great. [Hitting theaters 7/21, if I remember right.]
Speaking of trailers, that trailer for Rihanna and the Super Bowl halftime show reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor in “Dr. Faustus”…just sayin’.
As for the game…ugh…it deteriorated quickly after the intermission, Josh Johnson suffering a concussion, Purdy back, he couldn’t throw, and it ended up 31-7.
As in, really, Philly moves on. No further analysis needed, except if you’re a football fan, you wish Purdy hadn’t gotten hurt to make it a better game.
By the way, I don’t like Philadelphia, having worked there a few times, though it’s obviously a New York-Philly thing.
But it does have an underrated dining scene, I hasten to add, as Mark R. and I would attest to.
In the nightcap, would Patrick Mahomes’ high-ankle sprain be an issue against Joe Burrow and the Bengals, or superstar tight end Travis Kelce’s back?
Well, after an exchange of field goals had it Kansas City 6-3, Mahomes and Kelce hooked up on a 4th and 1 for a 14-yard touchdown pass, 13-3, but the Bengals got three near the end of the first half, Kansas City up 13-6.
The Bengals drove it 62 yards for a Burrow to Tee Higgins touchdown after stopping the Chiefs to start the second half, 13-13.
But Mahomes took the Chiefs 77 yards down the field, culminating in a 19-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, K.C. up 20-13, which is where it stood end of three.
Cincinnati, on a 4th and six, went for it and Burrow hooked up for 35 with Jamar Chase to the Kansas City six, the Bengals scoring two plays later to tie it up at 20-20.
And that’s where it stood, the two teams exchanging possessions, and with 2:30 to play and Cincinnati at their own 6-yard line, Burrow connected on a 3rd and 16 for 23, but three plays later, K.C.’s Chris Jones sacked Burrow on 3rd and 8, the Bengals punted, and Skyy Moore had a clutch 29-yard return to the K.C. 47, 0:41 left.
So on 3rd and 4, Mahomes ran it for five, the Bengals got called for a personal foul on the play, and suddenly there was Harrison Butker booting it in from 45 for the win.
Burrow finally loses to the Chiefs, K.C. moves on to the Super Bowl, Mahomes has two weeks to get healthy.
The two best teams in football this season square off, as it should be.
More in my Add-on.
--Carolina hired Frank Reich – the franchise’s first-ever starting quarterback back in 1995 – as its next head coach.
Reich, 61, went 40-33-1 in four-plus years with the Colts but was fired midway through the 2022 season after a 3-5-1 start. He took Indy to the playoffs twice.
Prior to his time with the Colts, Reich was the offensive coordinator for both the Chargers and Eagles, helping lead Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl title in his last game on the staff.
But the Panthers chose Reich (which if I was a Panthers fan, I’d have no problem with) over Steve Wilks, the former interim coach who was a solid 6-6 after Matt Rhule was fired following a 1-4 start. Wilks is Black and, frankly, I was a little surprised at how quickly the decision was made given the Rooney Rule and all.
Wilks, though, handled owner David Tepper’s move with class, saying he was “disappointed but not defeated.”
“The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God so did I,” he tweeted. “Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through.”
Wilks being passed over caused a stir around the NFL with Brian Flores’ attorney saying there was a “legitimate race problem in the NFL” with regard to coaching diversity.
“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into Playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the Head Coach position by David Tepper,” Wigdor Law said in a series of posts on Twitter.
Wilks had joined Flores’ class-action suit after his dismissal by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 after just one season at the helm. Wilks claimed he was “unfairly and discriminatorily fired” by the organization.
Players had been vocally in favor of Wilks’ candidacy to become the Panthers’ permanent head coach during the season. That support appeared to continue even after Reich was announced.
The Panthers started three quarterbacks last season – Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker – and it’s very possible none of them will be back (Mayfield already with the Rams…though his story is ‘developing’…), so maybe Derek Carr, mused the editor?
--The Jets hired Nathaniel Hackett to be their next offensive coordinator, leading to heavy speculation that because of his close relationship with Aaron Rodgers, Rodgers could be coming to New York in a trade.
But Rodgers hasn’t said whether he wants to stay in Green Bay.
Hackett is coming off a disastrous 15-game stint as the Broncos head coach, getting fired after a 51-14 loss to the Rams on Christmas that dropped Denver’s record to 4-11.
Hackett and Jets head coach Robert Salah worked together in Jacksonville in 2015-16 when Salah coached linebackers and Hackett was the quarterbacks coach. Hackett became the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville under Doug Marrone from 2016-18, helping the Jaguars go to the AFC Championship Game with Blake Bortles at QB.
Hackett then went on to be the OC with the Packers from 2019-21 under Matt LaFleur, who is one of Salah’s best friends. Hackett was not the play-caller in Green Bay but worked closely with Rodgers, who was NFL MVP back-to-back, 2020-21.
I have no problem with the move, even if the Jets don’t get Rodgers. How you did as a head coach has little to do with how you’ll do as an assistant, and some Jets fans are being entirely unrealistic in who would want the OC job when the quarterback situation is in such a state of flux, let alone Salah could be gone after next season if the Jets don’t make the playoffs.
--The Rams hired former Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to replace Liam Coen, who left the Rams staff after one season to return as offensive coordinator and play-caller at Kentucky.
LaFleur is the brother of Packers coach Matt LaFleur, the Rams’ offensive coordinator in head coach Sean McVay’s first season in 2017.
McVay is the play-caller and de facto offensive coordinator, so the title “offensive coordinator” role on his staff traditionally has been heavy on administration, overseeing meetings and game-planning.
As in don’t get all upset, Rams fans, though the Jets sure sucked offensively under LaFleur this past season, 29th in scoring, which is the bottom line, not all the fancy metrics so popular these days.
--It’s true…Rob Gronkowski is really going to attempt a field goal at the Super Bowl. As in all those ads you are seeing for Gronk and FanDuel will result in him attempting to kick a 25-yard field goal live between the third and fourth quarters as part of a FanDuel promotion that will give customers $10 million in free bets.
Gronk told USA TODAY Sports that he has been logging training sessions with former teammate Adam Vinatieri, taking about 50 to 60 attempts per practice.
During his first training session, Gronk estimated he made 10% of the kicks. The second session saw an improvement to 50%, and he’s now up to a 75% rate. But he wants to do better.
“Because I got to make this kick” he said. “It’s for America. It’s $10 million in free bets for America.”
--Dan Wolken of USA Today had an extensive piece on John Calipari, as Kentucky hosted Kansas on Saturday at Rupp Arena in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge contest.
Kansas’ Bill Self won his second national title last year, cementing his greatness, but Calipari lost to St. Peter’s, “still stuck on just one national title in a career that could easily have four or five, (losing) the argument – at least for now, and perhaps forever – about who will be considered the greatest coach of their generation.”
And while Self had lost three in a row heading into Saturday’s contest, there is little dissatisfaction among the fan base “or even a hint of rumor that he is closing in on the end of his tenure.”
But for Calipari, on the NCAA tournament bubble after starting the year ranked No. 4, there are reports that Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart’s relationship with Coach Cal has disintegrated to nothing.
And as Wolken writes: “For anyone who was fortunate enough to be in the Superdome on April 2, 2012, watching Calipari celebrate with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after beating Self and Kansas, it would have been almost inconceivable that he’d be stuck on one national title a decade-plus later.”
And now Calipari is trying to end a seven-year Final Four drought. Not what he was hired to do.
Well, he didn’t help his NCAA tournament bid claim any with a 77-68 loss to Kansas (17-4), Kentucky falling to 14-7.
--So speaking of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, we had a slew of little upsets….
2 Alabama (18-3) was mauled by Oklahoma (12-9) in Norman, 93-69.
West Virginia (13-8) beat 15 Auburn (16-5) 80-77.
Mississippi State (13-8) defeated 11 TCU (16-5) in overtime, 81-74.
Missouri (16-5) picked up a biggie for its tourney resume, 78-61 over 12 Iowa State (15-5).
In all four of the above, the home team won.
But in another SEC/Big 12 affair, form held…4 Tennessee (18-3) over 10 Texas (17-4) 82-71 behind Olivier Nkamhoua’s 27. The dude from Finland has had a very strange season, some monster games, but more often than not he’s a non-factor.
--Elsewhere, Saturday, 13 Xavier (17-5, 9-2) fell to Creighton in Omaha, 84-67. The Bluejays (Johnny Mac’s closet team this year), are fascinating. 13-8, 7-3 Big East, with a terrific starting five, including one of the transfers of the year, Baylor Scheierman, who was NBA material after three years at South Dakota State, but they have little depth, and went through a shocking six-game losing streak, after being ranked tenth following a 6-0 start.
And 18 Charleston had their bubble burst, 85-81 by visiting Hofstra (15-8), the Cougars falling to 21-2. [Psst…I had to look up Charleston’s nickname.]
--Today, No. 1 Purdue (21-1, 10-1) had little problem with Michigan State (14-7, 6-4), 77-61, as Zach Edey had a career-high 38 points, together with 13 rebounds, and reality is setting in for the rest of the college basketball universe. As in how do you beat this 7-foot-4 giant, who has taken a massive leap from his sophomore year, when he played just 19 minutes a game?
Also in the Big Ten Sunday, Rutgers (14-7, 6-4) fell at Iowa (13-8, 5-5) 93-82…not a good loss for the Scarlet Knights in terms of NCAA seeding, when they are not quite guaranteed to even make the field, despite handing Purdue its lone loss.
--Back to Thursday, 8 UCLA (17-4, 8-2) lost to USC (15-6, 7-3) in the Battle for Los Angeles, 77-64.
--When I posted my Add-on last Wed. a.m., I failed to note that Georgetown had snapped its 29-game Big East losing streak, Tuesday, in beating DePaul 81-76, in front of a whopping 3,724 fans at the Capital One Arena. At 6-15, 1-9 in conference, the calls for Patrick Ewing’s head grow louder.
As the local scribes write, for decades, this was a national program, a national brand and a national power.
And today, Georgetown fell to 1-10 in the Big East, 75-73 to St. John’s (14-8, 4-7) on an AJ Storr three-pointer with 0:04 left.
--Which brings me to Wake Forest. After being blown out at Rutgers, Wake was six of seven in the ACC to get to 6-2 overall in the conference.
But we’ve lost three straight, sliding to 14-8, 6-5, and bye-bye NCAAs. I’d be happy if we finished 11-9 in the conference and made a run in the NIT.
The fact is we just aren’t that good…but we have a good coach, Steve Forbes. He’s not the issue, it’s just a lack of talent.
Last season Forbes picked up ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams, first-round 2022 NBA draft pick Jake LaRavia, and valuable big men Dallas Walton and Khadim Sy in the transfer portal, and we went 25-10.
This season, Forbes’ transfer class has not been as successful (save for star point guard Tyree Appleby), including one player who took a medical redshirt, and it shows. We have five players 6’10” or taller and none of them can rebound, except on occasion, transfer Andrew Carr. We have two seven-footers who have a vertical jump of 2 inches, or so it seems. We are, frankly, the worst rebounding team I’ve ever seen, save for guard Cameron Hildreth.
So for good reason we are where we are. But all five big men should return (unless they go to the portal, which in all five cases would be a very foolish move), and while we’ll lose Appleby and valuable backup guard Daivien Williamson, we should be better next season.
The problem is after Saturday’s dispiriting 79-77 loss at home to N.C. State (who I really can’t stand…the players are a bunch of assholes), with Wolfpack Fat boy D.J. Burns burning our big men for 31 points, 23 with ease in the second half, I could also have been writing a different tune if we had pulled this one out and Wednesday’s 81-79 heartbreaker at Pitt, where the Panthers knocked down a program-record 18 threes. Wake missed four critical free throws down the stretch of that one, including three by Hildreth, and we should be 16-6, 8-3, and NCAA tournament bound!
Ah, the life of a fan. But I’ll have no sleepless nights over Wake hoops, like I continue to have over Wake’s 2022 football season…the ultimate “What could have been…” campaign.
--Basketball legend Billy Packer died Thursday at the age of 82. He worked 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS from 1975-2008.
On Friday, during third round coverage on CBS of the Farmers Insurance Open, Jim Nantz called his friend and colleague “one of the most important figures in CBS Sports’ proud history.”
For 18 years, Nantz worked the NCAA Tournament, culminating in the Final Four, alongside Packer.
Earlier in the day, Nantz said Packer was a “genius” and “will go down in history as one of the greatest analysts in the history of sports television,” alongside the likes of John Madden.
Packer’s son Mark, a host on the ACC Network, said his father ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.
“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird* and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”
*Packer did that 1979 historic Michigan State-Indiana State final with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire, the most-watched game in basketball history, with a 21.1 Nielsen rating and an estimated 35.1 million viewers.
Packer joined CBS in 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament, and remained the network’s main analyst until 2008. It really was TV’s golden era for college basketball.
Billy Packer was also a helluva player, the point guard for the 1961-62 Wake Forest Demon Deacons that would become the only Wake team to reach the Final Four.
His relationship with the school, however, was strained, and you may be surprised to hear that us Wake students, then alums, didn’t like him because it was clear Packer had a chip on his shoulder when it came to the Deacs, Billy believing he was passed over for the Wake coaching job at one point. In fact, when he was on campus, we booed him!
But as noted in the Winston-Salem Journal, Packer was also a fiercely loyal friend, and largely responsible for the recruitment of Charlie Davis to Winston-Salem, Davis going on to become an All-American and the first Black player to win the ACC Player of the Year Award in 1971.
Packer and Davis remained great friends after Davis’ playing career ended and when Davis was passed over for a job at Wake, Packer was pissed and pulled himself out of the Wake Forest Hall of Fame.
That’s who he was…he liked to say he was a man of principle, he was outspoken, controversial (once calling Allen Iverson “that little monkey” during a Georgetown game), and indeed he was the ACC’s voice for decades.
--I have to go back to last Wednesday to note Damian Lillard’s 60-point effort as Portland beat the Jazz 134-124. It was his fourth career 60-point game, and a rather spectacular shooting performance, 21 of 29 from the field, 9 of 15 on threes, 9 of 10 from the free throw line…plus he had eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
--Thursday, in a terrific game, my Knicks beat the Celtics in Beantown, 120-117 in overtime, Julius Randle with 37, a huge win for New York.
But then Saturday, the Knicks (27-24) fell to the Nets (30-19) at the Barclays Center, 122-115, as Kyrie Irving scored 21 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter – including a pair of dagger 3s – his former coach, Mike Krzyzewski, in the stands, the two embracing after, along with the other Dukies, Seth Curry and RJ Barrett.
The thing is, this is supposed to be a rivalry, but the Nets have won nine straight between the two. And the Nets are still without Kevin Durant (along with Ben Simmons in this one).
Dating back to his time with the Cavs, Irving has won 16 of his last 18 matchups against the Knicks.
--For good reason, LeBron James and the Lakers should be pissed. For a second time in a week, the officials made an egregious late-game decision, failing to call an obvious foul on James as the Lakers lost to Boston 125-121 in overtime Saturday.
“We got cheated,” forward Anthony Davis said.
Coach Darvin Ham said: “As much as you try not to put it on the officiating, it’s becoming increasingly difficult. There’s a bunch of stuff we could have done better in this game, but for the most part, we competed our behinds off… And it’s unfortunate that the game ends off a play like that.
James was fouled at the end of regulation and it wasn’t called. After the game, the Lakers were quickly informed by NBA officiating staff that a foul should’ve been called on the play. Later, crew chief Eric Lewis confirmed the officials should’ve whistled a foul.
This comes after James was robbed in a two-overtime loss to Dallas, as well as a similar situation against Sacramento in mid-January.
Meanwhile, LeBron is 116 points from matching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA record 38,387.
Back to Boston, the win was huge, coming after the loss to the Knicks, as the Celtics remain on top of the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia 32-16…2.5 back…winners of seven straight, including a biggie Sat. night, 126-119 over Denver (34-16), Joel Embiid with a monster effort, 47 points, 18 rebounds, as he outplayed 2-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic (24 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists).
--For the record, the NBA starters in the All-Star Game.
LeBron, Zion Williamson, Jokic, Luka Doncic, Steph Curry
Giannis, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell
[The fan vote was 50%, media 25%, and players 25%.]
Belarusian fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka, 24, defeated Elena Rybakina, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to win the women’s title on Saturday, her first Grand Slam triumph, in her first singles final. Rybankina, who won Wimbledon in 2022, has played in two of the last three major championships. The 23-year-old was born in Russia but has played for Kazakhstan since mid-2018.
And then early this morning New York time, 4 Novak Djokovic picked up a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title, routing 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5) to win his 10th Australian Open.
Djokovic is thus tied with Rafael Nadal for the most majors in the men’s game, bolstering his quest to be regarded as the greatest ever. And his comeback is complete after last year’s shitshow, when Australian officials deported him from the country over his refusal to comply with coronavirus vaccine mandates – a stance that also barred him from contesting last year’s U.S. Open.
At 35, with a strict diet, yoga, training and recovery regimen, Djokovic shows no signs of slowing down.
Next up, the French Open in late May, where he will square off, perhaps, against Nadal, the master of clay with 14 of his 22 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros.
Nadal, 36, was last seen limping off Rod Laver Arena with a hip injury he suffered in a second-round loss.
But I can’t help but note that Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, created quite a stir when he was filmed posing for pictures with supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Melbourne, including a man who was holding a Russian flag carrying Putin’s face, and wearing a T-shirt printed with the pro-war Z symbol.
Russian and Belarusian flags and symbols had been banned at Melbourne Park since a Russian flag was displayed during an opening day match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova.
There was also a show of support for Putin after Djokovic’s quarter-final win over Russian Andrey Rublev. A group of fans wearing Serb colors displayed a Russian flag bearing Putin’s image.
Serbia, Djokovic’s country, is a longtime ally of Russia. Novak has a large group of supporters from Serbia that follow him everywhere.
Because of the controversy, Srdjan was not in the crowd for the final.
--As we entered the final round of Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, held on a Saturday because of Sunday’s football games, we had the following leaderboard….
Sam Ryder -12
Jon Rahm -10
Tony Finau -8
Sungjae Im -7
Collin Morikawa -7
Max Homa -7
Sahith Theegala -7
A super leaderboard, save for Ryder, who was attempting to win his first tour title. Rahm and Finau had opened with 73s and were in danger of missing the cut before getting it together; Rahm seeking his third straight PGA Tour title.
But in the end, Max Homa, with a 66, won his sixth PGA Tour event, fourth in his home-state of California, by two strokes over Keegan Bradley, three over Morikawa. Ryder finished T4.
This is a great win for the tour and golf. No one is more excited about the new structure of the tour than Homa, who gets it. He’s a social media hound, wants to build his brand, has a terrific personality, great sense of humor, and aside from wanting to win some majors, he wants a big share of that PIP money.
In Friday’s third round, he became the first player to allow himself to be mic’d up for a hole and it was terrific. He wants to do more of that and hopes others will follow him.
So after Saturday’s finish, in his press conference, Homa expounded on his wife’s frightening experience last year while giving birth to their first child, Cam; on the joys and dirty duties of being a new dad; on the inspiration of his late idol, Kobe Bryant (Homa from Los Angeles); on his love for the Dodgers and annoyances with Padres fans; and on his mic’d up experience.
As Golf Digest’s Tod Leonard put it: “There is a reason why at the end of a long day, thousands of fans surrounding the 18th green were chanting ‘Ho-ma! Ho-ma! Ho-ma! He is probably the most relatable golfer out there, and the love is only going to get stronger for one of the greatest talkers in sports.”
On changing diapers: “So I will be changing diapers, I will enjoy every second of it as I always do. It’s going to feel even better than normal. If he screams at me, I will just be smiling ear to ear. Yeah, these tournaments are hard, man, but it puts you in the best mood ever when you come out on top. He can poop away, and I’ll just be here for him.”
On the influence of Kobe Bryant’s life and death on him.
“I actually thought about it, [of] him a little bit throughout the day. This is the golf tournament where we found out [in 2020] he had passed away tragically, so this place has a weird…I have a weird feeling towards it. I love it and it has like a weird sadness to it.
“What I learned from Kobe Bryant’s teachings and watching him work at his craft back in the day is he puts in all these hours behind the scenes so that when he’s on camera doing his thing, he can just let it happen. So, I try to take that with me and I try to embrace the craziness and the pressure and all of that because that’s what I saw him do and I was enamored by that.”
--Meanwhile, in the desert, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic that is a big event on the DP (European) World Tour, it’s been a tension convention, with some LIV Golf players in the event.
The tournament is going to have a Monday finish due to rain but will definitely be worth a look Monday morning in the States as the bad blood between the likes of Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed has surfaced, Rory refusing to acknowledge Reed (for all manner of reasons).
One LIV player, Richard Bland, was tied for the lead after 36 holes, but after today’s third, Rory is on top, Reed four back.
An arbitration hearing that will decide the future ability of LIV players to compete on what was once the European Tour looms, Feb. 6, and for now, neither side wants to discuss the scenario that has made Ryder Cup stalwarts like Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson unwelcome on the tour they represented for so long with distinction.
--The Mets and our Uncle Stevie did a good job the other day in signing N.L. batting champ Jeff McNeil to a four-year, $50 million contract extension, with a fifth-year club option.
This is the perfect contract, very Braves-like. McNeil turns 31 in April, he’s gritty, a fan favorite, a .300 hitter…and at a fair price for both McNeil and the Mets. He would have been a free agent after 2024.
So we’ll see what the team does with Pete Alonso, who is in the same position, free agent after 2024, and who signed a $14.5 million deal for 2023 to avoid arbitration.
--Jeff Kent is upset. The 2000 N.L. MVP spoke out against last week’s Hall of Fame vote after he failed to get in on his tenth and final year on the writers’ ballot.
“The voting over the years has been too much of a head-scratching embarrassment,” Kent told the San Francisco Chronicle, after he received 46.5%, far short of the required 75%.
“Baseball is losing a couple generations of great players that were the best in their era because a couple non-voting stat folks keep comparing those players to players already voted in from generations past and are influencing the votes,” Kent added. “It’s unfair to the best players in their own era and those already voted in, in my opinion.”
Kent can get into the Hall through the Veterans Committee (Contemporary Game Era Committee) ballot for 2026. He should.
Kent holds the all-time record for most home runs by a second baseman with 351 (out of 377), with eight seasons of 20+ home runs and 100 RBIs, finishing his career with 1,518 RBIs.
Since breaking Lindsey Vonn’s World Cup win record of 82 last Tuesday, Shiffrin continues on.
Win No. 84 came Wednesday in another giant slalom at Kronplatz, Italy.
Then win No. 85 came in Saturday’s slalom at Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic.
So today, Sunday, she had another slalom in her attempt to tie Ingemar Stenmark’s record 86 wins. When I woke up, I saw she had a commanding lead after the first run, but was only 14th on her second run to finish second behind German Lena Durr. For Durr, 31, just her second WC victory, the other back in 2013! I’d call that perseverance.
So now we head to the world championships, Feb. 6-19, these races not counting toward World Cup wins, so Shiffrin won’t have another WC event until March. There are a bunch of speed races beforehand, but she doesn’t know if she’ll run in them yet. March 4-5 in Are, Sweden, you have a giant slalom and slalom.
Really too bad Shiffrin didn’t close the deal today, though she did already wrap up the season-long slalom title with her second-place finish. She is thus the first woman to win seven season titles in slalom, surpassing the great Swiss standout Vreni Schneider, who won it six times in the 1980s and ‘90s.
The women’s record for most titles in any discipline is held by Vonn, who won eight crystal globes as the best downhill skier of the season.
--No Premier League this weekend, as we had FA Cup play, and defending Cup champ Liverpool lost to Brighton in a fourth-round match, 2-1, the second loss in two weeks to the Seagulls, who also beat them 3-0 in PL play.
--Yikes…did you see that story out of Mexico that a 19-foot-long great white shark decapitated a diver earlier in the month as he harvested shellfish off the coast?
Manuel Lopez, 53, was gathering ax tripe – a type of mollusk – off the west coast of Mexico, Tracking Sharks reported. He was said to have been diving to the ocean floor without an oxygen tank to nab the critters, which typically reside at depths of 36 to 59 feet.
The expedition was cut short when the shark bit his head clean off, according to Tracking Sharks.
“He was diving when the animal attacked him, impressively ripping off his head and biting both shoulders,” eyewitness Jose Bernal told the outlet.
I don’t know if I’d have used the word “impressively”, at least for public consumption. I mean you would say that to a friend at a bar in Summit, N.J., on hearing the story, not here.
Bernal said most divers had been warned about sharks in the area and had not gone in in several days, but Lopez reportedly needed the money.
Personally, I’ll buy my ax tripe at Shop Rite.
--Archeologists in Egypt discovered a 4,300-year-old mummy – possibly the oldest one ever found in the country – during an extraordinary dig near Cairo, officials announced Thursday.
The mummy called “Hekashepes” was located at the bottom of a 49-foot shaft near the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, where the team was working to uncover a cemetery of fifth and sixth-dynasty tombs that dated back to the 25th century B.C., according to the director of the team.
Hekashepes’ large rectangular limestone sarcophagus was still sealed with the mortar ancient Egyptians had covered the tomb with over 40 centuries ago.
At this point…it is necessary to pause for all of you to get an adult beverage before we ponder this………
I mean, they know who this guy is! And he is well preserved, as these things go. Amazing….
Top 3 songs for the week 1/31/76: #1 “Love Rollercoaster” (Ohio Players…yow…) #2 “I Write The Songs” (Barry Manilow) #3 “Love To Love You Baby” (Donna Summer…
uhh…uhh…) …and…#4 “You Sexy Thing” (Hot Chocolate…this one blows…) #5 “I Love Music” (O’Jays) #6 “Convoy” (C.W. McCall) #7 “Sing A Song” (Earth, Wind & Fire) #8 “Times Of Your Life” (Paul Anka…he made a ton off this one…Kodak commercial and all…and, frankly, it’s a terrific song, albeit depressing as you get older…)* #9 “Walk Away From Love” (David Ruffin…great tune…) #10 “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon…B+ week…)
ACC Hoops Quiz Answers: 1) The only two to be selected three seasons in a row are David Thompson (N.C. State, 1972-75) and Ralph Sampson (Virginia, 1980-83). 2) The last to be selected two in a row was Duke’s J.J. Reddick, 2004-06. 3) The only two to be named from a school in South Carolina are Clemson’s Horace Grant (1986-87) and South Carolina’s John Roche (1968-70…two seasons).
South Carolina was in the ACC from 1953-71.
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.