Happy New Year everyone. No, not the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah which begins on Friday night. While important it takes a back seat to the big one that impacts every household in this country for the next five months — the new NFL season. It starts in earnest today, this morning out West, and for the first time since January 1970 New York Jets fans are stocking the fridge with bottles of Dom. This is the year, our year, when Aaron Rodgers will ascend even higher than Joe Namath did for the few of us remaining who remember his playing days. And certainly Rodgers will make us all forget the false hope and stale champagne that was Brett Favre’s brief and unproductive stay behind center. Ken O’Brien, Boomer Esiason, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez and a host of other pretenders, too. The Jets will visit Las Vegas twice this year: on November 12 to play the Raiders and back again on February 11 to beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.
I went to a funeral service last week and the rabbi, talking about the deceased’s interment arrangements said, “Originally the family couldn’t get the burial scheduled for three weeks but there was an unexpected opening and burial will now be tomorrow.” Huh, somebody cancel?
Did you say something? I’m not sure we really need to know this but in her forthcoming book— Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself, Hugh Hefner’s widow Crystal reveals Hef took so much Viagra that he was deaf in one ear. According to Crystal, who by now must be 19 (okay 37), “(He) always said he’d rather be deaf and still able to have sex.” Hefner died in 2017 at 91 just as Crystal was turning 30. It was a perfect marriage— he couldn’t hear a word she said.
Al Pacino, 83 and his girlfriend of 18 months Noor Alfallah, 29, have split three months after the birth of their son. No word yet on Al’s hearing.
Happy birthdays this week to Pat Priest, 87, Lily and Herman Munster’s homely niece Marilyn. Funny man Bob Newhart just celebrated his 94th. Laugh-In’s Jo Anne Worley is 85 and my first baseball hero, Bill Mazeroski, turned 87 on Tuesday.
Nevada’s heat in July broke thermostats, but for players the state’s casinos were chilly. Combined, the 439 licensed casinos won $1.4 billion with $835 million of it coming from the 60 gaming parlors on the Strip.
I miss AAA’s TripTix. Google and Waze can’t replace the excitement of that orange or green marker running up the page and then flipping it over to the next segment to see how far the closest Howard Johnson was.
Win-Win #1- Andi went to see Beyoncé. I didn’t.
Win-Win #2- Son Scott’s bachelor party in Denver last weekend was four nights of Phish concerts. I only got invited to one.
Phish is really a pretty incredible story. They are a four man jam band originally out of Vermont celebrating their 40th year together and have as loyal a following as they’re is this side of Dave Matthews Band and Widespread Panic. Last weekend was Scott’s 175, 176, 177 and 178th Phish concerts. Lunacy. It was my third. The band is a jam band because that’s what they do. It’s a four hour jam with the music never stopping. They go from one song to the next and never play the same song twice over the four nights. No conversation from the stage; I’m told their music does the talking. We were in a MSL soccer stadium outside of Denver with over 20,000 packed in. Two notes into each song everyone, except me, knew what it was. Songs never end. The first one took 21 minutes. Nobody cared. Perhaps because the air was so thick and so sweet with smoke that if you didn’t have emphysema when you walked in, you had a mild case by the time you left. But boy did it feel good. There were 16 of us in Scott’s group, everyone a multi-Phish veteran and all quality guys. We took a party bus and as someone astutely said, a party bus without me on it is just an ordinary bus. It was the first of my three Phish shows that I actually stayed to the end. The band went on at eight, took a 30 minute break an hour later and then came back and jammed the rest of the way. The second set ended at about 11:15; they came back for an encore, then an encore to the encore, then an encore to the two previous, and if that wasn’t enough, an encore to the three previous, one more to the four previous and finally a sixth. Phish phanatics said it was the longest encore in their four decades. Lucky me. It seemed like it would never end. The encores were a total of 41 minutes or longer than it takes to get an online degree from the University of Phoenix. It was way past my bedtime when mercifully it ended. I went back to the hotel, changed clothes and headed to the gym for my morning workout.
As long as we are talking loyal followings, while I wasn’t a Parrothead, I did enjoy just about everything the late Jimmy Buffett recorded. Mr. Buffett was also a longtime member of Medjet (Medjet.com), SMC’s sponsor.
Concocted by minds greater than mine: at the US Tennis Open, which ends today, there is a clock for the first serve, 25 seconds, but no timer for the second. Logic is once the first serve is attempted the point has begun, fault or not, and no need for a timer on the second serve. Which is a little bit like baseball saying once the first pitch to a batter is thrown, the at-bat has started so no need for a pitch clock until the next guy steps into the box. Silly.
Really Toronto that’s the best you can do? The New York Knicks are suing the NBA Raptors alleging their former assistant video coordinator sent ‘valuable and proprietary’ team resources to the Raptors including scouting reports, play frequency reports and a link to licensed software. He then took a similar position with the Raptors. The Knicks have been to the playoffs twice in the last 11 years. Toronto, if you are going to poach, at least find a playbook that might make a difference.
I’m not sure if this is impatience or stupidly. Undoubtedly both. A few weeks ago at the University of North Carolina a chemistry professor was killed by a shooter. The incident happened at 1 pm. The campus was locked down. The suspect was apprehended at 2:30 pm. The lockdown was lifted at 4:15 pm after police determined there was no longer any threat. In the press conference that followed the media wanted to know why it took so long to lift the lockdown.
Throwback NBA fans will enjoy “Goliath” on Showtime. It’s a three-part Wilt Chamberlain documentary illustrating the impact on the game the big man had that still resonates today. Some great old footage, too.
And Wilt is featured in my personal ticket stub archive this morning. It was Saturday, February 26, 1966, at the old Madison Square Garden. I was 13. Strangely I still vividly remember being there but basketball-reference.com helped fill in some of the details. The NBA, very much a niche sport then, on occasion played doubleheaders in key cities. This night featured Wilt’s Philadelphia 76ers against the Baltimore Bullets in the opener at 6 pm and the Knicks and Celtics in the main event at 8:30. A chance to see Chamberlain and Bill Russell for the same one-time ticket price of $3.00 with seats on the floor behind the basket. The promotion worked as 18,500 fans creaked the old building on 50th Street and 8th Avenue. Philadelphia won the opener 114-98. Chamberlain was the only one to play the entire 48 minutes ‘only’ scoring 16 points but grabbing 23 rebounds. Billy Cunningham led Philly with 23 points while Baltimore’s Kevin Loughery was the game’s high scorer with 25. In the nightcap Boston beat the Knicks 100-95. Sam Jones poured in 36 while Russell took down 27 rebounds to offset Walt Bellamy’s 31 points for the Knicks. All for $1.50 a game.
Getting out the broom for a clean sweep: my season over/under baseball bets. Kansas City was an easy winner two weeks ago at under 69.5 wins. I need Texas to win four more with 22 games remaining to get over 80.5 and my jumbo play, Pittsburgh over 67.5, needs two more victories with 20 games left for the hat trick.
And right back to the sportsbook for football plays. Give me Dallas over 10 wins; Houston under 6.5; and I’ll stay home with the Raiders over 6.5. Their defense is good; if Jimmy Garoppolo can stay healthy, a big if, he has weapons with Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and kicker Daniel Carlson. My big play is Chicago under 7.5 wins hoping Chicago’s offensive line is too young to give Justin Fields the protection he needs to win eight games.
Bad news for the 7,500 or so participants in this season’s Survivor Football Challenge hosted by Circa casino. A winner take all jackpot of $8 million awaits the last ticket standing. My gym rat partner Travis Scribner and I plan to win. Entry fee is $1K. All you have to do is select one outright winner each week of the NFL season but can never use the same team twice. The point spread is not in play. Today we jump into the fray hitching-up to Magic Johnson’s first game as an NFL team owner and play Washington over Arizona. Sounds pretty easy.
If you have Apple TV watch The Banker with Samuel L. Jackson. And the newly released seven-part thriller Hijack. You won’t be disappointed with either.
Finally, wishing everyone celebrating the holiday next weekend a Shana Tova. May your year be filled with health, happiness, everything that is sweet, and sportsbook winners.