Sunday Morning Coffee — December 24, 2023 — Sunday Morning Scramble

December 23, 2023 Observations, Sports 13 Comments

Good morning! Let’s ease out of 2023 with one last Scramble featuring leftovers from Santa’s bag. This weekend Andi and I will spend a couple of days in LA with Cayla, Scott and Jason, come home Christmas Day and then turn around and head to Phoenix on Tuesday for a bowl game. Then New Year’s Day it’s off to Pasadena, wearing crimson for Alabama against Michigan in the Rose Bowl. This is also a perfect time to thank y’all for your support of Sunday Morning Coffee. Your loyalty, readership and comments are appreciated more than I can express. For me it continues to be a creative outlet a few times a month that I thoroughly enjoy. If you are on Facebook, you can find us by ‘liking’ the Sunday Morning Coffee page. If you refer us to others that you think might enjoy that too would be wonderful. Also, if you plan to travel in the new year SMC is sponsored by Medjet, the premier medical travel assistance repatriation program in the world. Before you go, take a look at the various offerings at Medjet.com. So, for the final time this year, let’s Scramble:

Thanks to everyone who commented on last Sunday’s SMC about USA Today. Some great memories were stirred and what an impact that newspaper had on so many.

Our seat view for UFC included looking across the ring at the red tie and orange hair.

I went to UFC last Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena as a guest of my nephew Robby, an Instagram influencer under the tag of @brilliantlydumb and/or @bobdoessports. Great ringside seats. It got raucous in the arena when Donald Trump made an entrance. He spoke at a New Hampshire rally that morning and then flew to Vegas to support fighter Cody Covington in the main event against defending welterweight champion Leon Edwards, a Brit who hasn’t lost a fight since 2015. Trump’s appearance put the crowd of 20,000 in a frenzy. The demographic of the audience easily had Trump carrying the arena by at least 85%. Covington, out of Miami, entered the ring in red, white and blue sporting a MAGA hat. Bombastic and pompous, he wanted Trump, his hero, ringside so the former president could step into the ring and put the championship belt on him after he beat Edwards, whom he maliciously taunted in the days leading up to the fight. Five rounds later Edwards won a unanimous decision in a bit of a sleeper. No doubt, while exiting, Trump told anyone listening that he really was there to back Edwards.

The attack and killing of three faculty members at UNLV two weeks ago was horrific, but the one bright spot to a very dark day was the response of the UNLV police force who were on the scene at the Business and Hotel Management building in just over a minute from first alarm. They killed the perpetrator before any other lives could be taken.

Click. I owned a BlackBerry. Click. I loved my BlackBerry. I resisted an iPhone as long as I possibly could until word of BlackBerry’s death became official. Click. There’s a great three part BlackBerry story on AMC taking us back to the old business travel days at airports and in meetings when all we heard was incessant keyboard clicking over and over. Click.

Happy 98th birthday to one of my favorites, Dick Van Dyke. He’s one of the few who makes you smile just by looking at him.

I asked Jason to go tell Shaq to sit down because he was blocking my view at the NBA In-Season Tournament. For some reason, Jason wouldn’t do it.

I’m not a big NBA guy but my son Jason is. So when he suggested coming into town for the new In-Season Tournament a couple of weeks ago, also at T-Mobile Arena, it was a lazy Thursday and less than 10 miles down the road so sure, why not? I’m glad I did. The Lakers, Milwaukee, Indiana and New Orleans were in the two semi-final games, and I really got an appreciation for the players’ athleticism that I can’t get from my limited television exposure. I can tell you that the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Pacers’ Tyrese Halliburton are really good. But LeBron stole the show. He only played 23 minutes against New Orleans scoring 30 points in a 44 point Lakers romp. The guy is the oldest player in the league at 38, turns 39 next Saturday, but played with an enthusiasm and intensity nobody else on the court could match. It was fun to watch the legend whose best days may not be totally behind him just yet. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer is the only player in NBA history to be both the youngest (19 in 2003) and oldest player in the league. Riding on his back the Lakers won the inaugural In-Season Tournament. If Jason invites me, I’ll go back again next year.

The only thing worse than sitting through the Raiders-Vikings game at Allegiant Stadium a few weeks ago, won by the Vikings 3-0, was wagering over 40 points being scored in the game. The next weekend the Chargers came into town and the total on the sportsbook board was 34.5. Me, being as betting savvy as I am, couldn’t see a way these two teams could even get to 20 combined points scored, so 34.5 seemed a steal on the under. The Raiders won 63-21.

Immediately following that game, the Chargers fired their head coach and general manager. However, the guy really in the no-win spot was Jay Rodgers who had the worst of all worlds being the run game coordinator and defensive line coach. He too was told not to return.

And speaking of the Raiders, Vegas is the top and most expensive NFL ticket resale market in the league. The worst? You can probably make a great case for Carolina. Last Sunday, in a driving rain, tickets for the Panthers-Falcons game posted on secondary markets the morning of, were available for .46 cents. Umbrellas were not included.

We went to Sphere last Sunday afternoon. Andi has been there twice for U2 and me once. On the four days a week that U2 doesn’t play, the building multiple times a day features a Darren Aronofsky film called Postcard from Earth. I don’t want to be a spoiler but let’s just say it’s fantastic. The special effects in the building are second to none. The screen moves toward you. The seats vibrate when they are supposed to. You feel the wind; you feel the cold. You are on safari without the 16 hour flight. There wasn’t a pause in the action during the entire 50-minute film. Like everything else in Vegas it wasn’t cheap: $89 for a 1 pm show that can increase up to $100 more in the evening, but honestly it was worth it. If you are out here with some free time, or live here, by all means go. And if you are choosing your seat location and can snag something in the first ten rows of the 300 section grab it. Not that there’s a bad seat in the joint anyway. After U2 leaves in March, jam band Phish will be in for four nights in April. Tickets for that are long gone.

The newest casino on the Vegas strip opened about a half mile from Sphere located on the north end between Wynn and Sahara. The Fountainbleu, under construction since 2007 with a myriad of ownership and financing groups, finally swung open their doors on December 13. The cost was just under $4 billion with 3,600 rooms. The building and decor are modeled after its namesake on Collins Avenue on Miami Beach.

The other new casino to open in the market, the first week of December, was the Durango, west of the Strip just south of Summerlin. It’s owned by the Stations Casino group who also have the very popular Red Rock Resort in Summerlin. Both are primarily ‘locals’ spots but get a very nice mix of conventioneers and those looking to explore all the outdoor activities in this part of town. However, Durango takes it one step too far in this old guy’s view. On each of the gaming tables are ATM devices, allowing the player the all-too-easy option of getting cash right at the table instead of having to walk away, regroup and find a conventional ATM machine elsewhere if they decide they really want to keep gambling. Call me old fashioned but I find this not only unconscionable but also socially irresponsible.

My college football over/under season bets finished with two wins out of three on the ‘alma mater’ plays. Kansas (Jason) and UNLV (Scott) both easily went over their totals while Miami (mine), because they didn’t take a knee and run out the clock against Georgia Tech like every football novice knew they should do, instead fumbled and lost the game. I missed the over by that one bonehead mistake. And speaking of Kansas and UNLV, they meet on Tuesday night in something called the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix’s Chase Field baseball stadium. As a kid I dreamt about one day going to the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Rose Bowls but I’m pretty certain I never fantasized about the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. However, the boys want to go so I’ll sit between them and referee. Go Rebels. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

In the NFL my season wagers, with three games to go, are on the fence needing either a win or loss to cover. I’m already out with Houston. I had them under 6.5 wins and they easily blew through that. My other three are just one game away, but it won’t be easy. I need the Bears to lose once more to get under 7.5 wins. They have Arizona and Atlanta at home before finishing the season in Green Bay. I need the Cowboys to win one more amongst their final three with Miami on the road, Detroit at home and Washington away. And I somehow have to find one more Raiders win — they go to Kansas City and Indy before finishing the season here against Denver. I have every reason to believe two of them, maybe all three, will go down to the last weekend of the season.

Not many of these remain. No idea the significance of reinforcing the broadcast was in ‘Color Television’ but ABC thought it was important enough to put on press credentials.

The days-gone-by ticket stub  takes us back 51 years ago tomorrow to December 25, 1972. Back in that era, professional sports generally took a break on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In fact the NFL played a playoff game on Christmas Day in 1971. It was a classic between Miami and Kansas City, but the public reaction to playing on Christmas was so negative they didn’t attempt it again until 1989 when it stuck. So instead the networks used a  random throw-away game of some sort like the North-South College All-Star Shrine game from Miami’s Orange Bowl. It was played at night after presents were opened and dinner was digested. Prior to ESPN and national and regional sports networks it was a big deal to the kids that played in that game as their national exposure was extremely limited by today’s standards. I was the publicity director for the North team for the few days of practice leading up to the kick-off. On game night I switched hats to ABC television as a spotter for the broadcast. Right after the game I ran down to the locker room for post-game quotes to provide to the working press for their twenty or twenty-five readers who actually cared. I really don’t remember much else about the week other than Duffy Daugherty of Michigan State was the head coach of the North team and the quarterback was Gary Danielson of Purdue. I had to pick Daugherty up at the Miami airport in my red Mustang  and bring him straight to practice. Led by Daugherty, Danielson and my reporting, the North marched to a 17-10 victory. The co-MVPs of the game were both running backs — Rufus Ferguson of Wisconsin and Chuck Foreman, a friend and intramural softball teammate of mine, from The U. A few months later Foreman was selected eleventh in the first round of the NFL draft by Minnesota; Ferguson was drafted in the 16th round by Atlanta but never made the big show while Danielson wasn’t drafted at all but spent a dozen years in the league quarterbacking Detroit and Cleveland. Today he is the lead analyst for CBS’s SEC college games. That night a crowd of 18,013 jammed into the 80,000 seat Orange Bowl, a main reason why the game was played one more year and then discontinued.

If experience truly counts in sports, try convincing NHL veteran Phil Kessel. Kessel, 36, presently holds the NHL record of 1064 consecutive games played, not missing one since the 2009-10 season. He has scored over 400 goals. All that aside, Vegas chose not to renew his contract at the end of last season, so Kessel took his Stanley Cup ring and became a free agent. Almost three months into this season, the 17-year veteran is still a free agent with no team showing interest. Apparently durability and experience are no match for youth.

Only old guys that were baseball fanatics as kids will remember Ken McKenzie, an original Mets pitcher in 1962. He’s particularly memorable as one of the very few from that wonderful era who played with glasses. McKenzie passed away last week at 89. He was a graduate of Yale who spurned a business degree to pursue a baseball career. A great story, which over time has many iterations, is what he allegedly asked Mets manager Casey Stengel during the Mets dismal inaugural season when they lost 120 games: “Do you realize I am the lowest paid Yale graduate of the class of 1956?” Casey never missed a beat and fired back, “Yes, but you have the highest earned run average of anyone in the class.” Interestingly, McKenzie was not only the smartest Mets pitcher in ‘62, but also the only pitcher on that miserable staff with a season winning record of 5-4 despite his 4.95 ERA.

That’s it for the year. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and may 2024 bring us peace and joy. And of course, Roll Tide!

13 Comments

  • Ken Rich says:

    Promises to be a couple of amazing bowl games. Enjoy. And do your favorite teams a favor, don’t bet on them to win. Will miss you until you return.

  • Roy you stay so busy!! You actually make me want to go to the Sphere or check out a sporting event, which normally makes me want to cringe. As always you inspire me to do consider things I might pass on without a nudge. Holidays Happy and Happy New Year and I will see you in 2024.

  • DOUGLAS PARR says:

    Happy Holidays Roy and Andi! Wishing you the best!

  • Steven Vance says:

    I second the recommendation for “Postcard From Earth” at the Sphere. Unlike anything else, that I’m aware of, anywhere in the world.

  • Carole Bernardi says:

    Andi, I hope you’re pulling out that crimson red top and heading to Pasadena!!! No excuses!

  • Jim Nettles says:

    Love you Roy, but GO BLUE!!!!

  • Dennis Stein says:

    Enjoy the bowl games.
    Go Rebels!!

  • Roy Abrams says:

    🇮🇱🏒🥅🏈🏀⚽️⚾️⛳️🏄…play all of them.

    Andi and Roy: Eat your fruits and vegetables and have a happy new year 🍎🍐🍇🥝🥕🥦

  • Tian Kuhn says:

    So are you sitting in the UNLV or KU section on 26th?!? We will be sitting in the KU section!

  • David M. says:

    Welll done, as always. Wishing you, Andi and family a safe and fulfilling holiday. Enjoy the Rock Chalk Jayhawks in Phoenix.

  • Herb Shainker says:

    The three remaining NFL bets will go down to the wire. But…….resorting to divine intervention (lunch with the rabbi). Aren’t you getting a little desperate,
    Roy???

  • Roy Berger says:

    All I can get especially after throwing away another weekend today. I asked her for help for you on the Pistons and all she did was laugh? I didn’t take that as a good sign.

  • Jodi Berkowitz says:

    A great way to end the year! Great scramble!

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