Sunday Morning Coffee — April 21, 2024 — Sunday Morning Scramble

It’s hard to imagine an athlete in recent times that has had as much of an impact on a sport as Iowa’s Caitlin Clark has on women’s basketball. The women’s NCAA championship game a few weeks ago with Clark and the Hawkeyes playing against South Carolina drew 19 million watchers, while the men’s final a night later ‘only’ attracted 15 million. That never happened before and probably never will again. The WNBA draft this past Monday night had 2.4 million in front of their televisions to watch the foregone conclusion that Clark would go number one to the Indiana Fever. Tickets to see the Fever, both home and away in the WNBA season that starts next month, have left the market quicker than potential Trump jurors fleeing a Manhattan courthouse. Yet Clark who has created this frenzy really won’t be monetarily rewarded with what she deserves from her new team. The WNBA, which is financially supported by the NBA, has a collective bargaining agreement in place that according to the Wall Street Journal mandates the base compensation for the first four players selected in the draft at $76,535. You read that right. There is no digit missing. So Caitlin will pocket 76K. Last season’s number one selection in the NBA, Victor Wembanyama gets paid a little bit more by the San Antonio Spurs. His salary last season was $12.1 million or 159 times more than CC. Clark’s money will be made through her endorsements with the likes of Nike, State Farm, Gatorade and Hy-Vee. She also will make additional cash by being a league ambassador. Bottom line is she’ll never need to shop at a Dollar Tree. And no matter how many games the Indiana Fever win this year, overall they are the big winner.

So, you know the old story about the sports gambler, a self-proclaimed basketball genius, who lost five basketball bets in a row, then 10 and five more on top of that? Finally a friend tells him give up basketball and bet on hockey. Our gambler looks at him in amazement and says, “Hockey, what do I know about hockey?” Well that somewhat describes my winter season wagering experience. I love betting season over/under win totals because every game ultimately has significance on the sum. I know nothing about the NBA. So I went to sources—my son Jason, who follows the league religiously, and one of the wise guy professional gamblers at the gym. Jason liked Oklahoma City over 44.5 wins for the season. They finished with 57. Gym-guy gave me Houston over 31.5; they banked 41. He also liked Toronto under 39.5; they only won 25. It was easy. A hardwood hat trick. I had all three locked up with a month remaining in the season that ended Sunday. But hockey is really my sport. I played the defending Cup champion Golden Knights to go over 102.5 points. They won their first nine games, and I was on my way to the cashier. Then injuries and the dreaded Stanley Cup malaise took over and Vegas missed the number by five. The bet I really liked was the Maple Leafs over 104.5 points. They always underperform but are loaded with talent, so I knew this was their year. I lost it by three points. Basketball, what do I know about basketball?

Undeterred by my hockey prognostication but still winning because of heavier hoops action, I move right into the spring with three baseball plays. Baseball, with 162 games, is really the best action for the season long wagers. The gym-guy gave me his strongest plays, both under: Boston less than 79.5 wins along with Colorado under 60.5. I played one on my own: the Yankees over 93.5. Boston will struggle with their bullpen and shaky defense if they ever stop playing just the Pirates, Angels and A’s; Colorado is just bad, while the Yankees, if injuries stay minimal, have a roster that should be better than 12 games over .500. So far, so early, things look okay.

80,000 packed the Sphere over four shows  for Phish. A few of them actually remember it.

My generation knows this feeling all too well. Almost overnight we have gone from the youngest in the room to the oldest. It was never more apparent than on Thursday night when Andi and I went to the Sphere as our son Scott’s guest to see the jam band Phish. I’ve documented before Scott will travel the globe to see Phish. This time he literally did as he flew into Vegas on Wednesday from his new home in London for two of the four night Phish set at the Sphere. It was only his 182nd Phish concert. For me it was my fourth — most recent was Scott’s September bachelor party in Denver. I’m not sure I need to go again. Andi on the other hand, deprived, was at only her second. The four nights totally sold out, 20,000 a show, and the get-in price on the secondary market was over a grand.  It’s probably not a coincidence they played here on 4/20 weekend. The line to get into the Sphere Thursday snaked around barricades taking longer than Brewer and Shipley’s recording career lasted; Phish fans were literally one toke over the line. As we impatiently waited in the forty-five minute queue with thousands of others, one thing became very obvious—I was the oldest by a mile. And once we got in and seated, there was no change in the demographic. A young, eclectic gathering, everyone had a great time dancing at their seat, knowing every song the Vermont band played since their inception in 1983. Some actually knew when one song ended and the next one began. One song bleeds right into the next. I guess that’s what a jam band does. Some aPhishcionados said the Sphere’s constant, eye-catching graphics drew attention away from the music. To me, that’s a good thing. The concert started at eight and ended at 12:30. Or so Scott told us, because we weren’t around to find out. I asked Andi early in the show if I was the oldest one in the building? Not missing a beat, she said, “It’s not even close.” She always says just the right thing to make me feel better.

Some people have all the luck. As the pandemic was winding down, a new, rather upscale Italian restaurant opened about two miles from us. It received good press, so we went and gave it a try. Ehh at best. Forgot about it for a couple of years until people started telling me recently how good it really was. So with a guest in town a few weeks ago we went back. Still ehh, so much so that we crossed it off our list. Last weekend at a fundraiser I won one of the raffle prizes. Dinner for four at you guessed where.

Amazing how some peoples minds work. The latest scheme revolves around Amazon returns. Buy a pair of expensive Nike sneakers, tell Amazon they don’t fit, and you’re returning them. Keep the shoes and instead return a pair of $3.99 flip flops. Coach wallets have Wal-Mart knockoffs in the return envelopes. French press coffee gets returned with Christmas ornaments and toy planes. Merchants open packages to find packs of chewing gum, empty soda bottles and who knows what else? And so on. The merchant, most times a third-party Amazon reseller, gets so frustrated trying to get a credit back from the company more times than not, they eat the loss. Almost 14% of Amazon returns are fraudulent resulting in a $101 million dollar loss for retailers.

Well, this is long overdue. Three times since the beginning of 2023 the United States Postal Service has increased the price of a postage stamp. I’m certain very few could answer the Final Jeopardy! question of sixty-eight cents. That is the price of a stamp enacted this past January. The USPS wants to now take it to 73 cents effective July 14.

Not sure how this happened, but I’ll have #5 for lunch, please.

How about the local Vegas restaurant that has the Le Roy Burger on its menu. Now Andi is whining because she wants one too.

If this doesn’t scream inflation what does? It cost the U.S. Treasury 11.54 cents to produce a nickel.

The NHL playoffs got underway Saturday, far and away the best and most exciting playoffs in any of our four major sports. Dallas and Carolina are the Stanley Cup co-favorites but I bet against each of them in the first round. I wagered a bit of quid on the underdogs: Islanders to beat Carolina; Vegas to beat Dallas and my big bet is Nashville over Vancouver. The only favorite I took was Boston over Toronto mainly because I’m still miffed at the Leafs for letting me down. The New York Rangers, the best team in the league during the regular season, are 8-1 to win the Cup. It’s a play I couldn’t resist.

On the one year anniversary of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich being illegally imprisoned in Russia, I was startled to read there are more than 520 journalists detained in prisons worldwide.

Can you believe it has been 25 years since the Columbine High School massacre? April 20, 1999.

In 1970 Knicks first-round playoff tickets cost $6, a sharp 20% increase over the regular season.

The NBA also has their playoffs getting into full swing. This morning’s ticket stub from the good-old-days takes us all the way back to the 1969-70 season and the Knicks’ first round playoff series against the old Baltimore Bullets. It was a good year to be a New York sports fan; however, not so dandy if you were from Baltimore. The Mets beat the Orioles in the World Series in October; the Jets beat the Colts in the January Super Bowl, and the Knicks eliminated the Bullets in the spring. Too bad for the Rangers that Baltimore didn’t have an NHL team. I was a high school senior and took the 40 minute train ride to Madison Square Garden for Knicks playoff games 1 & 7. The Knicks won the opener in double overtime 120-117 behind Willis Reed’s 30 points and 21 rebounds. The series see-sawed to game 7 back in the Garden on April 6, 1970. The Knicks had a 15-point halftime lead when the Bullets started chipping away and cut the deficit to four beginning the fourth quarter. Then Dave DeBusschere and Dick Barnett took over, combined with the raucous crowd of 19,500, for a 127-114 Knicks series win. The good guys next eliminated Milwaukee in five before taking on the Lakers for the crown. The championship series went seven games and when the Knicks’ injured Reed hobbled onto the court for the opening tip that was about all she wrote for the Lakers. The Knicks, riding their captain’s momentum, claimed the NBA championship with a 113-99 win. My first-round tickets were priced rather steep for a 17-year-old kid — six bucks each, a dramatic one dollar increase from the regular season price. Back then if you didn’t have a ticket and wanted to get into the Garden you brought a $20 bill to 32nd Street and Eighth Avenue and looked for Rodney standing out front with his ‘fro and a roll of cash in one hand and a stack of tickets in the other. Twenty got you in up top. The more you paid the better the seat. Yesterday in the Knicks’ home opener the same seat as my 1970 first round tickets which set me back $6 cost $654.

My fellow New York Jets fans watched with horror and then awe as the Israeli Air Force intercepted 200 Iranian missiles and drones in the surprise attack on Israel last weekend. We haven’t seen that many INT’s since Mark Sanchez was our quarterback.

Finally, for those celebrating Passover beginning Monday evening wishing you a peaceful, safe and unleavened week.

 

 

 

 

12 Comments

  • Natalie Gomez says:

    Brilliant read as always 💕

  • Ken Rich says:

    Simply amazing. I am trying to predict what your feature topic will be the next blog. Stay safe.

  • Scott B says:

    Scheme (used incorrectly), quid and miffed all used this week? Who is the one living in London now?

  • Nancy Wortley says:

    Loved your take on Caitlin Clark! I was lucky enough to go to three of her games this year including her last at Carver. I know as a die hard Hawkeye fan we hated to give her up but man I can’t wait to see how she impacts the WNBA!

  • Edward Aber says:

    Pray for Peace during the Passover Holiday.

  • Roy Abrams says:

    I had season tickets to the NY Rangers from 1964 (junior at Syracuse University) to 2001 when I moved to LV. I had first row, yellow seats. In 1994, the year they won the Stanley Cup, my tickets were $70 each for the Stanley Cup final. Went 7 games. I still have the tickets in lucite.

    Happy Passover to all who celebrate it.

  • Randy Becker says:

    Flew in from Seattle and saw Phish on Fri. I turn 68 in a few months. Stay forever young, Roy.

  • Kahn Marc J says:

    Best to you and Andi this Pesach season. Another great post!

  • Raffi Yoga says:

    I need to try this Le Roy Burger…its probably far from cheap.

  • Dennis H Stein says:

    Happy Passover!

  • Carla Reich says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention OJ! Happy Passover! We missyall in the ‘ham. 😘

  • George Howard says:

    Once again, nobody from New York ever finds great Italian food outside the Tri-state area. When my oldest son was 4 years old we went to see my parents, who were retired in Arizona. Everything was great until a pizza, ordered by my mother, arrived. My son had been waiting for it since we arrived there. He took one look at it, started crying and said “This is not a pizza!” I was trying to soften the blow for my mother, but he was right. It didn’t look right and it didn’t taste right.

    About the Yankees, I read a scary article the other day that said that Aaron Judge’s big toe may never again be the same as it was before his kerfuffle with the right field wall at Dodger Stadium last year. His numbers have been less than mediocre since that incident, and he missed 42 games last year. Right now he’s batting under .200 for the first 20 games. I feel for him. He’s a great guy and a great player.

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