Sunday Morning Coffee — January 7, 2024 — Sunday Morning Scramble

January 6, 2024 Uncategorized 5 Comments

It’s the stadium that technology has bypassed. But it’s iconic. It’s the one the ADA forgot about. It’s almost as fan friendly as Bill Belichick taking a victory lap around the Meadowlands. Nonetheless it’s recognized as an American National Historic Landmark. It’s the Rose Bowl and it’s unlike any other New Year’s Day football game. It’s been played on the same site for the past 104 years or since Warren Harding was in his Rose Garden in DC. Legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson dubbed the annual the ‘granddaddy of them all’ and he was spot on. Last Monday I was privileged to be one of the 96,000-plus scrunched into a seat for Alabama and Michigan in this year’s Rose Bowl, one of the college football championship semi-final games. It was a special day being joined by my sons, my daughter-in-law, my nephew, a lady who I hope becomes my future niece and my machatunim — my daughter-in-law’s dad. We were smack on the 50-yard line with a view as picturesque as television brings into our living rooms every New Year’s Day. It’s still the only traditional bowl game among the Orange, Cotton and Sugar that’s played on the same site as it was back in the day and in a stadium without a roof, or at least a partial one. It’s also the only bowl game played without a title sponsor in the game’s main billing. It’s not the Goodyear Cotton Bowl or the Capital One Orange Bowl or the Allstate Sugar Bowl. It’s just the Rose Bowl. You sit in awe as the sun sets behind Pasadena’s San Gabriel Mountains. For those lucky enough to grab a parking spot on the grounds, you’re on a municipal golf-course-turned parking slab. If you drive into a sand trap, you’re normally out in one. Don’t be surprised to find a Titleist1 or Callaway3 lodged under your tire. It’s part of the ambience. Inside the stadium cell phone technology is so poor there’s no signal when almost 100,000 phones are trying to send pictures or get the game’s updated online odds. It eats cell phone batteries like feeding time in Ann Arbor. Oops, I mean the zoo. A couple of small, outdated video screens are difficult to see with any clarity or resolution, never mind coaches’ or officials’ challenges. The seats are so tight it gives new appreciation to comfort riding New York’s E Train uptown at rush hour. Aisles between the rows are almost non-existent. It’s the Rose Bowl, it’s supposed to be that way. Even though it was a long day for an old guy flying out of Vegas at 7 am and returning at 11 pm, those three and a half hours between kick-off and the final whistle validated that weary decision. Exhausted, when I finally got home I hit a wall even harder than ‘Bama quarterback Jalen Milroe did running into the Michigan defensive line on the last play of the game. The atmosphere, primitive weaved into romantic, almost lets you forget that Alabama lost. Almost.

Clockwise top l-r: The boys take sides at the UNLV-Kansas game. With my UNLV shirt and KU hat, I try to walk the middle; we join together in pulling for Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Bottom: the Bama band and the glorious Pasadena setting and game action.

That was my second game of bowl week; the first one six days earlier on December 26 in Phoenix. And as much nostalgia and charm there was at the Rose Bowl, there was virtually none of that at the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. But no matter, it was a great experience for me, Jason and Scott as the boys’ alma maters, Kansas for Jason and UNLV for Scott played each other in Chase Field the baseball stadium home of the Diamondbacks. And with apologies to the Sun Bowl contested in El Paso for the past 62 years, Andi dubbed this game our Son Bowl and it was a memorable experience for the three of us. The UNLV pre-game party, a third of the cost of Alabama’s at the Rose Bowl, was ten times better. The stadium, with all the conveniences the Rose Bowl doesn’t have, turned out to be a good host venue. For those of us who remember baseball fields turned into gridirons, now artificial turf has replaced the infield cutout and pitching mounds that used to be a classic visual of the outdoor game. We sat in the Club with wide seats and even wider rows and no 15-minute restroom queues like you-know-where. The game played to form: Kansas was an opening 13 point favorite and won 49-36. Jason was smiling, Scott not-so-much. But happiest was Dad who bet ‘over’ the game’s 67.5 total point number. After the game Jason got the extra hotel room bed, Scott the couch. For the three of us the memory of the Son Bowl will resonate for a long time.

That loud thud you heard last Monday night after Washington beat Texas in the other college football semi-final game was the crash of the secondary ticket market for tomorrow night’s Michigan-Washington national championship game. A Michigan-Texas match-up in Houston would have been the most expensive resale ticket in college football history. While we are at it, Michigan may win the game but an also unbeaten Washington plus five points is too good to pass up.

If you received a Starbucks gift card for the holidays, you should make a point of using it. In 2022 an astonishing $212 million in cards were never redeemed.

What ever happened to Bartles & Jaymes?

Seventy-two years ago today the comic strip Peanuts appeared in the Sunday funnies for the first time.

Everyone knows what a QR code is, but do you know what QR means?

Is it just me or does a clean car drive better?

Actor and singer David Soul died Friday in London at age 80. He had a long string of film and television credits on his IMDb the most prominent being Starsky & Hutch from 1975-79.  Soul played Hutch opposite Paul Michael Glaser. Musically his Don’t Give Up on Us hit number one on the charts in 1977.  Only the most ardent All in the Family buff will remember Szabo Daborda, the role played by Soul in 1971.  He was an artist who asked Gloria to pose nude.  Archie was none too pleased.

QR= Quick Response.

The Knicks on a Saturday night, 55 years ago this week for $4.

This week’s ticket stub from yore dates back to January 4, 1969, a short 55 years ago. The Knicks played Detroit in Madison Square Garden with tip-off at the ungodly hour of 8:30 pm. A seat in the 2nd Promenade set this 17-year-old back $4, but I had to be there. Three weeks earlier the Knicks sent my favorite player, Howard Komives, along with erratic center Walt Bellamy to the Pistons for the versatile Dave DeBusschere. This was Komives’ and Bellamy’s first trip back to the City and the crowd treated them warmly. However, the Knicks didn’t, winning 111-103. Bellamy played all 48 minutes scoring 28 points for Detroit while Komives chipped in with 11. DeBusschere had 16 for the hosts. The trade ultimately paid dividends for the Knicks, allowing Willis Reed to play full-time in the middle propelling the Knicks to the NBA championship a year later.

Happy 88th birthday to Sandy Koufax. The years have been very kind to the Dodgers’ pitching great who played in both Brooklyn and LA for a dozen seasons from 1955 to 1966. He had a career record of 165-87 with an ERA of 2.76 and won three Cy Young Awards as the game’s best pitcher. A seven time all-star, he helped pitch the Dodgers to four World Championships. Chronic arthritis in his pitching elbow took its toll and Koufax retired after the 1966 season at the age of 30. Six years later he was and remains the youngest player ever selected to the Hall of Fame. Today the left-hander, always uncomfortable in the public eye, looks like he can still be a Coppertone poster boy.

Koufax and his right-handed pitching compadre Don Drysdale were two of the best in the game. However, both felt they weren’t being treated fairly by the Dodgers and prior to the 1966 season, they went on strike and held out for more money. In 1965 Koufax was paid $85,000 and Drysdale $80,000. They beat Minnesota that year in the World Series. There was bad blood between the duo and Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi. It was the first time a playing pair ever tag-teamed a front office. They refused to report to training camp instead insisting on a combined $1 million over three years or $167,000 each. The stalemate lasted for 32 days until Koufax agreed to $130,000 and Drysdale $105,000. Koufax became the highest paid in baseball, which he deserved. Neither had any idea of the road they were also paving for their brethren in the future. As good as Koufax and DD were, and deserved the money, the real benefactor today are guys like Lucas Giolito who last week signed a two-year, $38.5 million deal to pitch for the Red Sox. He was rewarded despite coming off an 8-15 season with the White Sox and a 4.88 ERA, moving his career record to 61-62. His Hall of Fame bust is not being polished.

Shecky back in the early days.

Shecky Greene died on December 31 at the age of 97. Back in the late 60s and through the 70s, Shecky was among my stable of favorite comedians, along with Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Rodney, David Brenner and Robert Klein. I must have seen Shecky at least a half dozen times at either Long Island’s Westbury Music Fair or at South Florida’s Deauville Hotel and Sunrise Music Theater, but never in Vegas where he played mainly at the Tropicana and Riviera. He had residencies in both places at one time or another before we knew there was such a thing as residencies. Unlike today’s one-liners, Shecky was a magnificent story teller sometimes weaving characters into a story that would last for five, ten minutes or longer. Living in Vegas, he hadn’t performed since 2011 when walking and related balance issues became a lifestyle factor. However, he could still hold court in a diner or coffee shop with friends gathered around him for hours. At the top of his game he was getting $10,000 a week at the Riviera. Back in 1956, Greene opened for Elvis Presley at the Frontier. That lasted one night. Vegas wasn’t ready for Elvis, so Shecky became the headliner; Elvis the opener. As we laughed at his shtick, behind the curtain Shecky suffered for years from depression, bipolar disorder, stage freight, gambling, alcohol and drug abuse but for the hour he was onstage his audience had no idea. Pete Barbutti, an old Vegas lounge comedian and another personal favorite whom I remember from the Sahara Hotel said of Greene: “He’s probably the most gifted, naturally talented comedian ever born.” No argument from this keyboard.

My favorite story telling comedian of this era is Sebastian Maniscalco. He is not only funny but punctuates everything with his Italian-American wit, content and accent. He can also act with past roles in Green Book, The Irishman and Somewhere in Queens. Thus I was excited when I saw the Chicago native starred in and is the executive producer of a new show on Max called Bookie, which premiered two weeks ago. A guy I think is really funny with content I can easily identify with was a sure winner. Or so I thought. After laboring through the nine episodes let’s just say watching Lucas Giolito pitch would be more riveting.

And finally for those who like to wager a sawbuck or two at the sportsbook, the first real bad beat of the year happened Wednesday night if, like me, you took the College of Biblical Studies (CBS) plus 140 points in a women’s basketball game against Grambling State. That’s a lot of points despite CBS playing their first season of intercollegiate sports with only eight ladies on the team, all freshmen. Never mind the Ambassadors lost their previous six by a combined margin of 557-235. It’s still 140 points. So, even when Grambling raced out to a 34-0 lead we weren’t worried, after all we had 140 points. Down 82-10 at the half, that’s only 72 and we were still sitting pretty. Things only got worse for the school of 418 students located in Houston, coached by Patricia Luckey who wasn’t so on this night. Grambling’s 159-18 win, by 141 points, was the largest victory margin ever in Division 1 basketball for men or women. It’s a long year already for CBS. Looks like it might be for me, too.


  • Steven Vance says:

    In November 1980 I was visiting a pal in Boothbay Harbor Maine. Each night we would head to the Thistle Inn for drinks. When the locals discovered I played the fiddle, they insisted on me bringing it and I did not pay for a drink the rest of the trip. One night, who walks in with his new bride, but David Soul. He was on his honeymoon and was trying to keep it as low-key as possible. I did not interact with him but some of the regulars felt the need to chat and attempt to buy him and his new wife a drink. He was gracious but clearly wanted to be left alone. It was my first taste of seeing how famous people find it tough to go anywhere and be anonymous.

  • Carole Bernardi says:

    . . . I have many pieces of memorabilia in my home office, but one of the most treasured pieces is my autographed baseball by Sandy Koufax. As a young girl who had a helluva pitching arm (and had no choice but to take up a sport on a block full of boys), his poster hung over my bed. A Jewish girls’ crush who asked for a “Sandy Koufax Pitchback” at Chanukah. Happy Birthday to the King of Dodger pitching (okay, I’ll give Drysdale the credit he deserved).

  • Lewis Matusow says:

    Yep, the Rose Bowl is a classic venue and I was there when Miami beat Nebraska for the National Championship. But really, what an uncomfortable place to watch a game. When I had to go to the bathroom, I asked a stadium worker and he pointed to the tunnel leaving the stadium and going to the little bathrooms outside the stadium. “You’re kidding, right?” I asked incredulously. “I’ve never heard of anything like this in my life!” The urgency of the moment delayed further questioning, lol.

    But it was worth it, seeing the U win a national title and seeing my daughter march in the Rise Bowl parade!

    Great stuff as always, RB. You’re the best (hey Millie, can this kid write or what),

  • Roy Abrams says:

    Kudos on your scramble today.

    The Knick ticket was, I believe, in the green seats.

    And, as a distant cousin of my mother…when I lived in Westwood in 1966-1967, he always left tickets for me and my friend to any game I wanted.

    When you spell Koufax it is spelled Kooooooooofax.

    Great job this weekend with the Rabbi’s installation. Andi too.

  • Ken Rich says:

    Roy, As always I look forward to your blog with great anticipation. You have an incredible voice as a writer. Your research and attention to detail distinguish you from others. Thanks fir sharing your talent.

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