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

January 20, 2024 Observations, Sports 6 Comments

Puckin’ around on a Sunday morning (but more on that later):

As an Alabama football guy I was as surprised as anyone when Nick Saban decided enough was enough. I believe he was sincere when he said he didn’t feel he could make a four-year commitment to his incoming players and decided now was the time. You also have to believe the new college football rules on player income and the transfer portal has taken its toll. He has meant so much to not only Bama football, posting a 201-29 record and six national championships, but more importantly to the university during his 17 years in Tuscaloosa. I said this many times while living in Birmingham, but Saban was worth every dime of his annual salary which approached $12 million this past season. The recognition the football program brought to the state and the University of Alabama far exceeded his paycheck. Alabama became a competitive place to gain admission for a student and the residuals resulted in more money in the pockets of professors, instructors, administrators, university employees and endowment. Well done to St. Nick.

Saban and his successor in Tuscaloosa, Kalen DeBoer late of the University of Washington, unfortunately have one thing in common. Their last game at each of their schools resulted in a distasteful congratulatory handshake with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

And one last Saban note: during his Alabama coaching stead he had 123 former players become NFL players. Combined they earned $2.26 billion. He was the ultimate career counselor.

Today’s keno lounge…or is it a homeless shelter? Either way, the space has become virtually extinct.

One by one, a former staple of the Las Vegas casino industry fades away. Keno lounges are disappearing for more lucrative  slot machine square footage. Ah, the old keno lounges. Sparsely populated, they were actual homeless shelters before we knew about such things. Unsavory types, looking for a cigarette or spare dollar, would populate the twenty or twenty-five seats while the slow, lottery-type game rolled by, one by one. And what a game it was to play, normally while seated in a hotel coffee shop, waiting impatiently for a server to pay attention to you. How easy it seemed— all you had to do was select 20 numbers out of 80 that popped out of the hopper each game. Yet, nobody ever won. All you got was that lousy black Crayola pencil to mark each slip. Truth is the casino held a 32% advantage, tops in the business. In Las Vegas last year there were 16 keno lounges still licensed, down 69% from five years ago. However, the only live keno lounge still left on the Strip is at the Horseshoe, formerly Bally’s. Faster casino games along with declining interest combined with an aging population has brought the end near. Sadly, yesterday’s keno player is today’s hospice patient.

I don’t know all the details of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s illness and failure to reveal to his higher ups but if what I read is true, I do know in private business, at least my private business, it’s insubordination and cause for dismissal.

One thing nobody will ever accuse Donald Trump of is being compassionate. You probably saw this Trump classic from Iowa two days before last week’s caucus but just in case: In a plea to his supporters to get out and vote he told them, “You can’t sit home. If you’re sick as a dog, you say ‘Darling, I gotta make it.’ Even if you vote and then pass away, it’s worth it.”

The final Honeymooner has left us. Joyce Randolph, Mrs. Norton, died last weekend at 99. A Broadway actress, she was first spotted by Jackie Gleason in 1951 when she appeared in a Clorets chewing gum commercial. The Honeymooners premiered in 1955 with Ms. Randolph as Trixie, Alice Kramden’s BFF. When asked why she didn’t get more lines in each show, Ms. Randolph said, “You don’t even talk to Jackie, let alone ask for anything.” After filming the 39 episode run of The Honeymooners, Ms. Randolph found it hard to get other work as she became too identifiable as Trixie.

Money can’t buy love nor championships. The two most valuable franchises in American sports, the Cowboys and the Yankees, collectively have not won it all in 15 years. The Yankees last in 2009; for Dallas, it’s been almost 30 years since their 1995 Super Bowl win.

I cringe every time I hear it, but I have to figure that as part of the curriculum to graduate college in sports broadcasting you must lead every interview by asking an athlete, “What does this moment mean to you?”

And it gets worse. Back in the day, working press credentials used to be something of value, which was earned by years of competitive journalism and respect. Now credentials are as common as peanut shells strewn on stadium concrete.  Consider the reporter, using that term loosely, in Tampa this week who asked Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles if he had any concerns about playing this weekend in frigid Detroit. Bowles kept his composure answering with almost a straight face, “You do know we play indoors in a dome, right?”

University of Miami tight end Cam McCormick announced on Thursday he will be returning for his ninth season of college football, something no one else has ever done. The now 25-year-old entered the University of Oregon in 2016 and was redshirted for a torn ACL suffered his senior year of high school. He did play in 2017 then broke his ankle in the 2018 season opener and missed 2019 and 2020 from complications following surgery. He tore his Achilles in 2021 but he played six games for Oregon in 2022, where he finally earned a degree in advertising. He transferred to Miami and actually started 11 games last year while taking additional undergrad courses for the heck of it. Seemingly in no rush to begin his advertising career he decided return to play one more year at Miami — his ninth collegiate season. And I thought it took my son Jason forever to get out of school.

My football season win totals ended okay. I predicted at least one would go down to the final weekend of the NFL season and that happened, but turned out fine with Green Bay beating Chicago to get a Bears’ ‘under’ cover. Between the NFL and college I won five of my seven bets. Not bad. So far the NBA has been good with season ‘over’ plays on Oklahoma City and Houston and ‘under’ on Toronto. The NHL is a bit more slippery. I have Toronto and Vegas over. Toronto is unbeatable for the first two periods and then tanks. Vegas has 25% of its lineup on injured reserve and watching from a suite. If I can get one of the two, I’d gladly take it.

A one day record for the largest event ever viewed over the internet in the United States happened a week ago Saturday, January 13 when 23 million viewers streamed the Kansas City-Miami NFL playoff game on Peacock, a platform of NBC-Universal. If you weren’t already a Peacock subscriber, it cost you $5.99 to watch the game and keep the service for a month. People were outraged about the lack of free access. I might be in the minority here but it’s just business. NBC-Universal paid the NFL $110 million in rights’ fees for the exclusive broadcast. Between advertising revenue and subscriptions they hoped to earn a profit by charging customers, which like the NFL, is the American way. There is no reason to believe, year after year, this will not become a trend for high profile games and perhaps ultimately the norm. For we Jets fans, who never play a game of importance, it’s money that will never leave our bank accounts.

I really don’t know what to make out of this but it’s good to be a single male over 65 in this country. Pew Research discovered that 49% of women over 65 are single while only 21% of men in the same age group are unattached. This survey didn’t mention it, but after years of watching the action at my late parents’ senior community in South Florida, gentlemen if you really want the pick of the litter, still being able to drive at night is a huge turn-on.

I was surprised to hear last Tuesday that former Arkansas governor Ada Hutchinson ended his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. To tell you the truth, I had no idea he was even still in the race. Now begins the mad scramble for all three of his donors.

Half a century between Ranger games, one from the roof of Madison Square Garden, the other in Vegas a couple of rows behind the team bench resulting in a long-awaited souvenir.

Finally, this morning’s ticket stub of yesteryear goes back fifty-four years ago this week to January 24, 1970, when the New York Rangers hosted the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden. In those days $2.50 could get a seat in the balcony, what devotees called the ‘blue’ seats where the core fans sat. That location was gently marketed as the Mezzanine on the ticket but truth be told the location was so high visitors to the nearby Empire State Building were looking up at you. The Rangers beat Boston 8-1 that night behind two goals from captain Bob Nevin and Jean Ratelle. Goaltender Ed Giacomin made only 20 saves on a virtual night off. Fast forward a half century plus to this past Thursday night, a chilly one, in Las Vegas. The Rangers were in town, which for me is always a treat.  Turns out it wasn’t much of a contest with the Golden Knights cruising to a 5-1 victory. The Rangers skated like some of the 1970 team were still playing. But that wasn’t the story. I have been going to hockey games since 1961 and in those sixty-three years have never caught a game puck until three nights ago. Andi and I were guests of Gideon Berkowitz and the Las Vegas Sands Corp, seated three rows behind the Rangers’ bench. I have no idea how much the tickets were because it’s not published on the stub but I’m betting it was probably more than the 1930 Empire State Building construction budget. The seats were too low to see most of the action unless play came down to our end. Late in the second period the Rangers tried to clear the puck on the far end of the ice, it was deflected by a Golden Knight and at elevated speed it angled over the Knights’ bench, over the Rangers’ bench, right at me. This wasn’t one of those easy to snag floaters; this was a hard rubber projectile. I’d like to say my immediate reaction was to jump in front of Andi and protect her with my cat-like reflexes, but I never saw the puck coming. If I had, I probably would have scrambled behind her using my wife as a human shield. Instead, all I heard from the folks sitting around us was a collective “Watch out!” I ducked and the flying disc hit the cup holder on the left side of my seat where my phone was lodged. It knocked the phone and puck to the ground. I claimed the souvenir unharmed. Literally, the puck stopped here. The Rangers on the bench turned around to look. Ushers wanted to make sure everyone was okay. A kid came over and asked if he could have the puck. Me, being as congenial and benevolent as I am barked, “Buzz off squirt, after six decades this one is for me.” Admit it, you would have done the same thing.

 

 

 

6 Comments

  • Mat says:

    Hahaha! “Buzz off squirt….” That’s great…hadn’t heard that one in 50’years too! Another fabulous scramble! Thanks for continuing the fun! Hope to see you in a couple of weeks!

  • Ken Rich says:

    An amazing collection of stories and assessments with your usual courage to voice your opinion. Something for all. Keep them coming.

  • George Howard says:

    I definitely would have done the same thing!! One other thought—I can’t stop laughing every time I think about that senior comment. Driving at night a huge turn-on! Whoda thunk it!

  • Linda says:

    One of my favorite blogs! You definitely know how to catch a reader’s attention. I’m sure you put a lot of thought into your writing. Good job

  • Lewis Matusow says:

    So, after more than six decades you finally are pucked! Congrats to you (and Andi for not being a human shield; this would not have been unexpected, lol) on fulfilling another pucket list item.

  • Roy Abrams says:

    I would have said…and the horse you rode in on.

    I’ve been going to hockey/NY Rangers/VGK since 1949. I sat in the balcony with my dad. Old MSG on 49th and 8th. $.50 a ticket.

    Almost 75 years of going to games. Never caught a puck.

    Great blog as usual.

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