A main course heavy on sports but with tasty sides of other stuff to complement our Coffee this morning:
For all intents and purposes, the most overused phrase in sports was born 59 years ago yesterday. On February 25, 1964, a brash, cocky 22-year-old braggart from Louisville by the name of Cassius Clay indeed ‘shocked the world.’ As an 8-1 underdog he won the world heavyweight boxing championship, stopping a seemingly unstoppable Vegas thug/bully by the name of Sonny Liston in six rounds in Miami Beach. Truly not only the sports world, but the entire world was ‘shocked.’ Sixteen years later the world was ‘shocked’ again when the U.S. hockey team beat Russia in the Olympics. Since then on almost any given weekend players and coaches will try to convince you they ‘shocked the world’ with a mundane win. Western Illinois beating Ball State in October really doesn’t qualify. I vividly remember Clay’s win. I was 11, in my bedroom listening to the broadcast on radio; the fight wasn’t televised. I was enamored with Clay (née Ali) and his act wondering like everyone else how long it would take for Liston to shut him up. Nobody thought Clay could win (43 of 46 writers covering the fight picked Liston) but he sure got our attention. ABC radio did the broadcast with Les Keiter doing blow-by-blow and an upstart named Howard Cosell on the color. The thing that always confused me, reflecting back, was in my mind I remembered listening covertly so my parents wouldn’t know I was up late. Yesterday, I googled the date and realized why. February 25, 1964 was a Tuesday night. A school night. Can you imagine a world heavyweight championship fight these days on a Tuesday? Now, that would shock the world.
President Teddy Roosevelt had it half right. In 1907 he signed an immigration act which excluded “idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded and insane persons” from being admitted to the United States. What he forgot was a way to get rid of those already here.
According to oddsmakers, the city of Boston’s department of sanitation will be busy in June sweeping up ticker tape. The NBA Celtics and the NHL Bruins are favorites to win their respective league championships.
Not so happy is the city of Philadelphia who had tons of confetti go to waste when the Chiefs and Astros upset the Eagles’ and Phillies’ plans for a parade.
And speaking of Boston, if you have Netflix please make a note to watch the Bill Russell documentary called Bill Russell Legend. It’s outstanding. You don’t have to be an NBA fan to appreciate what Russell meant not only to the game but more importantly to mankind. You’ll be spoiled by old footage, on and off the court, and a man so committed to his beliefs he never wavered. His relationship with his main rival Wilt Chamberlin was complicated, but his influence on anyone he touched uncompromising. And Russell is the all-time winner in professional sports with 14 rings: 11 with the Celtics, two NCAA championships at San Francisco and an Olympic basketball gold as U.S. team captain in 1956. Watch it if you can, you won’t be disappointed.
Maybe it’s just me but pneumococcal pneumonia sounds like something I want to avoid at all costs.
For all you wisenheimers who inquired about the ‘older’ man who collapsed with a heart attack while shagging fly balls at Pirates spring training last Tuesday, no that wasn’t me.
Las Vegas is red hot as a destination but getting very full of itself. Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg said earlier this week “It’s hard to express how strong Vegas is right now.” And the prevailing philosophy of the industry seems to be ‘Let’s get as much as we can for as long as this lasts.’ Airline pricing is literally sky high because of the demand. Hotel capacity, entertainment venues and dining at levels never seen before. I have mixed emotions. I think it’s unconscionable what this town is doing to visitors; yet the hotel tax keeps us from paying state income tax. The Bellagio has gone to a new level and I’m sure other properties are doing the same. Getting a reservation inside its PRIME Steakhouse is just about impossible unless you are a roller. However, its outside patio dining area seats 80 and you can get a table. A lovely view overlooking the Bellagio fountains where this week the nighttime temps only dropped into the low 40’s. A nice wind can blow that fountain spray right onto your shrimp cocktail. And for all this pleasure, they only require a $175 minimum. Per person that is, not per table. Shameful.
Two personal favorites recently left us. Raquel Welch at 82 and baseball player-announcer Tim McCarver at 81. Way too young. Loved Raquel as the Joanie Weston roller derby character in Kansas City Bomber. And I didn’t realize she interviewed for the part of Ginger on Gilligan’s Island that ultimately went to Tina Louise. McCarver was a durable catcher who played 21 years in the bigs, mainly for St. Louis and Philadelphia. He had a respectable lifetime batting average of .271. After retiring from the game he used that knowledge from two decades behind the plate and became a great broadcaster as the lead analyst on Fox’s baseball coverage. McCarver was at his best during the 2001 World Series with the Yankees and Arizona tied three games each and 2-2 in Game 7, bottom of the ninth with Arizona’s Luis Gonzalez at bat, one out and Mariano Rivera on the mound. Yankees manager Joe Torre decided to play the infield in and not at double play depth. McCarver was wary, warning his national audience that “left handed hitters often fight off Riviera’s cutter and hit bloopers to the shallow part of the outfield.” Two pitches later that’s exactly what Gonzalez did, choking up and paddling a soft line drive to shallow center field ‘Bill Mazeroski-ing’ the D’Backs to the world championship.
A couple of Miller Lite commercial stars from the 70s are also in the news. Baseball’s Bob Uecker just celebrated his 88th birthday while Conrad Dobler, who in 1977 Sports Illustrated magazine called the “dirtiest player in the NFL” passed away on February 13 at 72. Dobler was a guard for St. Louis, Buffalo and New Orleans over ten years. He was proud of his reputation telling SI: “I’ll do anything I can get away with to protect my quarterback,” employing illegal tactics like holding, eye-gouging, leg-whipping and biting. He made George “The Animal” Steele seem like a choir boy.
The Nevada legislature meets every other year for up to 120 days. So you’d think the issues they have to debate stack up and take priority in governing the lives of state residents. Not necessarily. In the session presently underway, a bill will be introduced that prohibits state restaurants from serving water unless diners ask for it. Yes, there is a severe water shortage in Nevada, but perhaps this issue can be agreed upon among restaurateurs and maybe save a day or two in the 120 for some other small stuff like funding public education, recruiting more physicians to the state or banning hand guns in schools.
Golf tournaments are better when Tiger plays.
I bet Kansas City to win the Super Bowl, but I came away impressed how the Eagles lost with class. From head coach Nick Sirianni, “We’ll use this (loss) to motivate us,” he said. “We’ll use this pain; we’ll use this failure so we can make it a strength.” Quarterback Jalen Hurts said, “You either win or you learn.” All high road, no excuses.
Not so classy, but true to form, were the Eagles fans on hand in Phoenix for the game. They loudly booed rival Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott for doing something as downright sinister as winning the NFL ‘Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.’ Prescott expected the hoots and responded with a big smile.
My wife knows her football from being a staunch Alabama fan over the 20 years and six national titles won during the time we lived in Birmingham. And even though Andi now has regressed to having to watch the Raiders every week, she can still have an NFL ‘franchise tag’ or ‘salary cap’ conversation with the best of them. However, her emotions for one time ‘Bama quarterback Hurts to win the Super Bowl became a little too much when she accused Kansas City coach Andy Reid of “bad sportsmanship.” Reid had the audacity on the Chiefs final drive to let the game clock wind down to eight seconds before kicking the winning field goal thus denying Hurts one final chance with the ball. She could have given a damn that I had a winner with KC.
In this modern day college sports era of ‘Name-Image-Likeness’ that allows schools to openly pay their players on the table and no longer under it, leave it to the University of Miami to get sanctioned by the NCAA because a booster took a couple of potential lady basketball transfers (twin sisters) out to dinner. Really NCAA, is that all you got? You think basketball players from Fresno State are going to be influenced by a waterfront dinner? Heck, they were on their way to the U, beach sandals in tow, way before the menu even arrived. There was no foul. If the NCAA was going to sanction Miami basketball they got the wrong team. The men should be slapped for impersonating defenders after coughing up a 25 point second half lead Saturday afternoon and losing to struggling Florida State at the buzzer.
I must have taken a long nap. When did the NBA change the advance the ball into the front court rule from 10 seconds to eight?
Some guys have all the luck. The night before Valentine’s Day, Andi had about a dozen tennis girls over to the house for something called a Galentine’s Day party. Who knew there was such a thing? Unceremoniously I got booted for the evening. So I went across the street to the local movie theater inside the Red Rock casino. I only go to the movies a couple times a year, so I had no viewing agenda. I figured whatever the next movie to begin was where I was headed. Ten minutes away was something called Knock At The Cabin. Where else on a Monday night for ten senior bucks could you see a story about a gay male couple who adopted a female Chinese orphan and were vacationing at a cabin in the woods of Pennsylvania? Then four strangers, everyday kind of folks but a bit wacko, knock on the cabin door and eventually force their way in. Please stop reading now if for some unexplained reason this is on your list to see. And if it is, that 1907 legislation Teddy Roosevelt signed was meant for you. The message the strangers brought to the family of three was that one of them had to be sacrificed or there was going to be an apocalypse, which actually already started. They only way to stop it was by sacrificing one of the two gay guys or the young girl. Only they had to choose which one it would be. There’s no mention if this was based upon a true story or not. I actually stayed to the end. The alternative of going back to the Galentine’s Day party in my living room was even more scary.
And finally, if there’s any doubt the end of the world is soon approaching, consider this and I’m not making it up. Last week we brought in Chinese food from our local takey-outey. On the back of the fortune inside the cookie, instead of the traditional lucky numbers, was an ad from a British on-line betting site, bookmaker.eu, with a QR code that offered a free $10 bet. Unfortunately, you can’t use it for your next order of moo goo gai pan.
Enjoy the rest of the Alex Murdaugh trial. George Santos is.