It won’t be long before there are no nails left for the newspaper coffin. It’s just about shut tight. The Times they are a changing. That’s the Times as in New York and Los Angeles. In stunning news this past week the two major newspapers in our two largest cities announced the virtual elimination of their sports sections. The New York Times will eliminate all 35 sports staffers and reassign them to other areas of the newspaper. Their sports coverage will now be reprints from writers on the staff of the online subscription based Athletic which the NY Times owns. It’s akin to eating leftovers from yesterday’s buffet. The Los Angeles Times, even more drastic, will no longer print box scores, standings or game summaries in their sports section conceding to a 3 pm print deadline. That’s more leftovers throughout the entire newspaper. Those box scores, standings and stats, things we poured over as kids, and glanced at as adults, have now gone the way of the underhand free throw. Now the LA Times sports section will be in a daily magazine format with only feature stories. It’s one more nail. For the diehards, or the casual lookers who want to see how many games the Dodgers are in front, or the Angels are out of first place, or how many hits Ohtani had, you still have the online edition of the Times — cold and barren of the newspaper smell and crackle. A once major industry, the daily press, a keystone of the history of this country is no longer dying a slow death. The Daily Planet would headline the demise faster than a speeding bullet.
A year ago 650,000 Americans over the age 80 were in the workplace. That’s about 18% more than were working a decade ago. In 2012, the president of the United States was 51 years old. Today the seat belongs to an 80 year old, mimicking the statistic.
ESPN recently had a staff purge terminating among others Jeff Van Gundy, Max Kellerman, Keyshawn Johnson, Jalen Rose and Suzy Kolber. However, somehow, the really hard to stomach, acerbic and distasteful Stephen A. Smith continues to cash a check. Unwatchable.
No doubt the cell phone industry has killed idle magazine page flipping. Last week, sitting in a medical waiting room, there were 14 patients; 11 were engrossed staring at their phones. Not a Field & Stream or Highlights for Children were in sight.
First class postage just went to 66 cents. That’s only an increase of 2200% in my lifetime. It cost three cents in 1952 for Mom and Dad to drop my birth announcement in the corner mailbox.
Don’t unwrap the gifts until Monday, please. A Saturday nuptials in Australia, what the groom called “the perfect wedding,” ended in divorce proceedings two days later because, according to the groom, his wife was too tired from the ‘perfect’ event to consummate the marriage.
I tried to watch some of the MLB All-Star game on Tuesday night but didn’t get very far. I understand it’s now a night of entertainment that has gone way beyond what used to captivate us as kids. I also understand with the sport being all about big money, players are no longer locked to cities and teams; whoever writes the check gets the player. All loyalties to anything but greenbacks are gone. We can look back to the early and mid-1960s, before the reserve clause was overturned resulting in free agency and still remember how important the All-Star game was to our generation. It was the only all-star event of the four major sports that mattered. There was no inter-league baseball during the season; the only time the two leagues met for real was in the World Series. A National League fan had bragging rights all the way to the World Series over the American League if that’s the way the All-Star game turned out. And vice versa. I was a Pirates fan living in New York, kinda like Trump hosting a fundraiser in Wilmington, Delaware. Alone on an island. Oh, how important it was for me not only for the National League to win the midsummer classic, countering the Yankees fans’ braggadocio, it was even better if Clemente or Stargell or Mazeroski got a hit off Whitey Ford or Mel Stottlemyre. I truly wanted to believe the players cared as much as I did. I thought they were playing for the name on the front of the uniform and not the back as they are today. In later years, from 2003 through 2016 the league that won the All-Star game had home field advantage in the World Series. Now it belongs to the best record of the two teams from the regular season. Tuesday night’s game was fun, the players had a blast, but it didn’t really matter to them, or me, who won. And to back that up, this year’s game was the lowest rated telecast among all previous All-Star games. It would have surprised me if it were any other way.
Steve Killian, a former colleague from AARP back in my Medjet days, suggested with my newly rediscovered collection of old ticket stubs I include one in every Sunday Morning Scramble with a back story. The picture shows the ticket from the 1972 AFC championship game between Miami and Pittsburgh. I was a junior at the U and the ticket was my Dolphins’ season seat location in the Orange Bowl. That was the Dolphins’ perfect 17-0 season. Miami ended the regular season at 14-0, and in the first round of the playoffs beat Cleveland 20-14 at home to advance to the championship game against the Steelers. Seeing the stub was pretty strange because I have no recall at all of being at the game. I did my college internship in the PR department of the Dolphins that year so for every home game I was either in my seat or more likely working the press box making sure the writers had up to the minute stats and cups full of Jack & Coke. But for that game against Pittsburgh, that the Dolphins came back and won 21-17 advancing to the Super Bowl, I have no memory pouring drinks or waving my Dolphins white hanky. I have the ticket stub but not the recollection. And thanks to my trusted lifeline Google, I now know why. Despite Miami finishing the regular season at 14-0 and Pittsburgh only 11-3, the Steelers hosted the championship game based upon a formula the NFL used of rotation, with each division champion in each conference hosting the game every third year. In 1972 it was the AFC Central’s turn to host. Three years later the league went to playoff seeding as we know it today. It turns out the Dolphins printed the ticket in case the Central division winner lost in the first round. And it cost a pretty hefty for the times $12.00. Save for Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception to beat Oakland in the waning seconds, the Raiders would have been in Miami the next week. Instead, the Dolphins went to Pittsburgh, won, and then headed to the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, where they completed perfection by beating Washington 14-7. I got a $12.00 refund for the unused ticket and half a century later a paragraph to use in SMC.
Remember when Leicester City miraculously won the English Premier League soccer championship in 2016? The British tabloids called it a “once in a lifetime football miracle.” It was the Mets winning in 1969; the Miracle on Ice in 1980 or the Bad News Bears winning any game. Well, the Leicester lads are bums once again. The 20-team Premier League plays with the ultimate death penalty: the three teams that finish on the bottom of the standings, or table as the Brits call it, are tossed out of the league. The top three teams in a second tier league earn their way in and the door keeps revolving like that season after season. Headed for the scrap heap with Leicester are Southampton and Leeds United. For Leicester City, the demotion happened on the last day of the season missing the coveted 17th place by one win. Imagine the drama this concept would have in American sports. Last year we would have said goodbye to the Oakland A’s, Chicago Bears, Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Pistons.
Happy birthday to former Tonight Show bandmaster Doc Severinsen. Host Johnny Carson died in 2005 at 79 and his sidekick Ed McMahon at 86 in 2009. However Doc keeps tooting along celebrating his 96th.
Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic won the singles title at Wimbledon on Saturday becoming the first unseeded woman to ever win the championship of championships. Tennis, both on the men’s and women’s sides, is so top heavy a feat like that is pretty incredible. Back in the day of Billie Jean, Martina, Chrissie, Stephie and the gang there were 16 seeds in a tournament. Almost never did anyone but the top four have a legitimate chance of winning. When the seeds were doubled to 32 in 2001, it became almost impossible for a non-seeded player to make the climb to the winner’s circle. Entering this year’s Wimbledon, Vondrousova was ranked 42nd in the world and an 80-1 outsider to win. She beat the sixth seed for the crown. Good for her. On the men’s side, top heavy as well but with a little more depth, only two non-seeded players ever won the All England Club trophy: Boris Becker in 1985 and Goren Ivanisevic in 2001. Ivanisevic is back in today’s men’s final. He’s Novak Djokovic’s coach and mentor.
When Yankees pitcher Domingo German threw a perfect game on June 28 it was good news for Pinstripe fans worldwide but a blow for my son Scott. It was perfection for only the fourth in the long and glorious history of the Yankees matching Don Larsen in 1956, David Wells in 1998 and David Cone in 1999. Scott is a hotelier in LA and when Wells stayed at his property a few years ago, as a thank you, Wells gave Scott a baseball autographed by Larsen, Cone and himself, a true keeper for not only a Yankees fan but any baseball aficionado. Now the ball doesn’t have nearly the same meaning, nor value, it had the day before German tossed his gem. I’m sensing an invitation for German to have lunch at the L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills on the Yankees next trip west. Scott will bring the Sharpie.
Jonathan India is a big reason why the Cincinnati Reds are perhaps the surprise of the baseball season so far. India was a first round selection by the Reds in 2018 after an All-American college career at Florida. The second baseman reached the big leagues in 2021 and was selected National League Rookie of the Year. He slumped a little bit last season in an injury riddled year, but has rebounded and at the all-star break was hitting .250 with 13 home runs, 49 RBI and a reliable glove helping put the Reds one game back in the NL Central. However, if the New York Mets are playing at the same time as Cincinnati, India’s dad, John, can’t be bothered watching the Reds or his kid. John, in Coral Springs, Florida, is such a diehard Mets fan, the television stays on for their games. He watches his son’s at-bats on DVR afterwards.
Finally, Aaron Rodgers now knows how every Jets fan has felt for the past 53 years. NFL training camps haven’t opened yet but that didn’t stop the Jets from already incurring their first loss of the season. Despite their strenuous objection, the Jets and their shiny new quarterback, were chosen by the league to be the featured team this summer on HBO’s behind the scenes weekly popular anthology show Hard Knocks. Rodgers said it was “forced down our throats.” The same way stale football has been forced down every Jets fan’s throat since the Super Bowl of 1970.