Today is the 45th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. It overshadows two other important musical events which took place well before The King fell asleep and never woke up at Graceland.
Elvis almost died at 15 months, thanks to a massive tornado on 5 April 1936 which flattened much of Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley’s birthplace. At least 216 people died and more than 700 were injured in what remains the deadliest tornado in Mississippi history. One day later, another tornado killed over 200 in Gainesville, Georgia. Surprisingly, Kansas has never had a tornado kill in triple digits; the highest was in Udall in 1955 which took 83 lives. The Greensburg tornado in 2007 killed 12. Twelve deaths are 12 too many, but how only 12 died in a storm which flattened 90 percent of the town is a minor miracle.
This isn’t a weather post. Back to what made 16 August so important in the musical world.
First, Madonna Louise Ciccone was born 16 August 1958 in Bay City, Michigan. In 1983, she hit the music scene as Madonna and hasn’t looked back.
Other than her music, Madonna was great on the big screen in A League of Their Own, portraying Rockford Peaches center fielder Mae Morabito, the quintessential party girl (at least, as much of a party girl as 1943 would allow). Certainly 180 degrees on the party spectrum from Peaches superstar catcher Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and grinder first baseman Helen Haley (Anne Elizabeth Ramsay).
Fittingly, the superstar singer contributed a No. 1 single, “This Used to Be My Playground”, to the soundtrack.
Madonna contributes the funniest line of the movie when Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) stumbles into the clubhouse after another night of heavy drinking and immediately needs to use the facility. That line is something I haven’t been able to forget 30 years later. Much like “no shirt, no shoes, no dice!” from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which I watched twice this past weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its release.
Ironic I should mention those two movies in the same paragraph. Between those movies, Madonna and Sean Penn were married for four years.
Four years following Madonna’s birth, and 11 days following the death of one of Madonna’s idols, Marilyn Monroe, The Quarrymen, a band in Liverpool, England, replaced drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr.
Starr joined a lineup which featured John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. The Quarrymen soon renamed themselves The Beatles, and the rest is history.
I enjoy listening to Elvis, Madonna and The Beatles. I loved Madonna from the first time I heard her as a seven-year old in late 1983 and early 1984, but I wasn’t as sold on Elvis or The Beatles. Both grew on me.
I’ll give you my lists of top songs from each artist. You might be surprised.
First, my top 10 from Elvis:
1. Burning Love
2. Jailhouse Rock
3. Kentucky Rain
4. Little Sister
5. Return To Sender
6. Don’t Be Cruel
7. Viva Las Vegas
8. Suspicious Minds
9. All Shook Up
10. Hound Dog
Next, my top 15 from The Beatles:
1. Drive My Car
2. Day Tripper
3. Come Together
5. A Hard Day’s Night
6. Twist and Shout
7. Hey Jude
8. I Saw Her Standing There
9. She Loves You
10. Magical Mystery Tour
11. I Want To Hold Your Hand
12. Get Back
13. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
14. Can’t Buy Me Love
15. Got To Get You Into My Life
BONUS: top 10 by solo Beatles
1. My Sweet Lord (George)
2. Jet (Paul)
3. Whatever Gets You Through the Night (John w/Elton John)
4. It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo)
5. Silly Love Songs (Paul)
6. Got My Mind Set On You (George)
7. No. 9 Dream (John)
8. Let ‘Em In (Paul)
9. Live and Let Die (Paul)
10. Ebony and Ivory (Paul w/Michael Jackson)
Finally, my Madonna top 20:
1. Who’s That Girl
2. La Isla Bonita
3. Material Girl
4. Live To Tell
6. Causing a Commotion
7. Deeper and Deeper
8. Dress You Up
9. Express Yourself
10. Into The Groove
12. Keep It Together
13. Lucky Star
14. I’ll Remember
16. Like A Prayer
17. Crazy For You
19. Take A Bow
20. Open Your Heart
There’s someone I know who loves a lesser-known Madonna hit, “Bad Girl”.
That’s all for now. Rest in Peace, Elvis. Happy birthday, Madonna.
I profusely apologize for not posting for almost four months. To summarize:
- Arkansas was wonderful, even though LSU lost all three games that weekend. I was reminded how great northwest Arkansas was and still is. The Razorbacks still have the best stadium in college baseball, and it has only been improved since my previous visit in 2003.
- The air conditioner in my car died AGAIN in May. It forced me to spend two nights in a Kansas City hotel in a terrible location with loud noise and outrageous prices (I had to use 51,000 Marriott points so I didn’t have to pay those outrageous prices–thank you NASCAR). I went to Des Moines and back to Kansas City after that was done. That was great. Then it all went to hell.
- June was one of the worst months of my life, at least the first 24 days. I won’t go into detail.
- July was hotter than fuck. I didn’t leave the 30-mile radius between Russell and Hays. I didn’t want to given the fucking terrible heat. Right now, Duluth is looking better and better. North Dakota will be too hot in 10 years. At least Duluth has the moderating influence of Lake Superior. I’ll trade minus-40 and six-foot snow drifts for Kansas heat. I lived in a sauna for 29 years and have lived in a blast furnace for 17. I have had enough.
- August has been hotter than fuck, save for a brief reprieve Monday (the 8th). It looks like it will continue to be hotter than fuck until after Labor Day. I hope no high school football players die in this heat. If any do, then coaches had better own up to causing those deaths. Many high school coaches have big dicks and bigger assholes, and they aren’t afraid to show it.
9 August 1963 now turns out to be a dark day in American history for two reasons: the death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, son of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Onassis) and the birth of Whitney Houston.
Patrick Kennedy died only 39 hours after his premature birth. His lungs were grossly underdeveloped and caused death from hyaline membrane disease, now known as infant respiratory distress.
It was Jacqueline’s THIRD failed pregnancy. She miscarried in 1955 and gave birth to a stillborn girl in 1956. Somehow, she had two successful pregnancies which produced Caroline in 1957 and John Jr. in 1960. JFK Jr. was born 16 days after his father was declared victor over Richard Nixon in the presidential election, a victory which was possibly tainted by electoral fraud committed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, which tilted the Illinois vote towards the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts.
There is one reason and one reason alone why Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis had THREE failed pregnancies.
She smoked like a fucking chimney. THREE packs a day. THREE.
Anyone who tries to rationalize otherwise is stupid and nothing more than an apologist for the tobacco industry and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, who KILLED three children with the most vile habit one can acquire.
I despise tobacco and all of its iterations. At least people who chew tobacco are only harming themselves, not counting the disgusting spittle they produce.
Smoking tobacco harms EVERYONE around them. It is especially harmful for an unborn baby.
Nicotine addiction is worse than heroin. At least you’re only killing yourself with heroin.
I should know. I will never, EVER forgive my mother for continuing to smoke while she was pregnant with me in 1976.
Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis Kennedy and all those who pregnant women smoked before Surgeon General Luther Terry released his report in January 1964 had a weak excuse, but an excuse nonetheless. It doesn’t absolve them. It only makes it very sad nobody thought to link disgusting tobacco to severe health risks before 1964.
However, JFK’s wife should have known better after her miscarriage, her stillbirth and the difficult pregnancies which produced the two children who lived. She should have done everything she could have to quit for Patrick’s sake. But because she refused and had to have her three packs a day, Patrick was alive for only 39 horrifying hours.
Rosemary Bernadette Liuzza Steinle has NO FUCKING EXCUSE. The report was issued TWELVE YEARS before she got pregnant. She was in her second semester of college when it was released, and nearly seven years before she married my father, who smoked heavily for 30 years before somehow quitting cold turkey in September 1985. Not only was my mother smoking like a clueless bitch, she was breathing in my dumbass father’s second-hand smoke.
I will never, ever forgive my parents for that. It is why I have autism. I will believe that until I die.
I’m amazed Caroline Kennedy has never had serious health issues because of her mother’s nicotine habit. We won’t know about JFK Jr., because he was too stupid to realize he should not have been flying the night of 16 July 1999.
Whitney Houston has been dead for ten years. Yet twice a year, hundreds of millions of Americans worship her performance of The Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV in January 1991.
I do not. I do not think it was a good rendition. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
Whitney Houston was an overrated crack whore who stayed with fellow crack whore and abusive asshole Bobby Brown. She had ONE good song, her first big hit, “How Will I Know”. Every other Houston song makes my ears bleed, especially “I Will Always Love You”.
Let me repeat: I DON’T CARE FOR EVERY WHITNEY HOUSTON SONG EXCEPT ONE. I HATE HER RENDITION OF THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AT SUPER BOWL XXV.
The best rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl was Herb Alpert’s prior to Super Bowl XXII in 1988. Why? It was only played on the trumpet and not sung. Tommy Loy did a great trumpet rendition of the anthem at Super Bowl V in 1971. It’s on YouTube if you want to see.
The best rendition with words? Neil Diamond, Super Bowl XXI. Short and sweet. Sixty-one seconds. I’m a little biased because I love Neil, and I am so happy I got to see it live as a 10-year old.
I will never watch Super Bowl XXV. I don’t want to see that national anthem performance again as long as I live. Also, I am tired of experts proclaiming it the greatest Super Bowl ever. It was overrated. The Bills turned out to be raging frauds. The Giants were the better team, and the better team won. The Bills played a shit schedule, thanks to getting two games apiece vs. the Patriots, Jets and Colts. The Giants had two games against the Redskins and Eagles, plus two vs. the 49ers. Buffalo lost. They should have lost.
There is a little good news. The three crybabies of LIV golf–Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and some other jerkwad–were denied in their quest to play in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, which start Thursday.
Gooch, Swafford and the third jerkwad took the Saudi money. They can’t double dip. Why don’t you tour Graceland while you’re in Memphis boys?
That’s it. I feel my blood pressure rising. I can’t take it anymore. The sooner I stop thinking about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and Whitney Houston, the better.
ROGERS, Ark. — Let the record show at 14:35 on 13 April 2022, David Steinle is eating in the dining room of a fast-food establishment.
That was impossible throughout most of 2020 and 2021, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in part due to a lack of employees who decided they’d rather draw unemployment rather than go back to work.
During the pandemic, customers were banned from all interior areas of many restaurants. You could not go in to pick up an order, complain about your order being wrong, or use the restroom. You had to use the drive-thru, or if you were technologically advanced enough, the app to pick up curbside.
The app was wonderful if you craved McDonald’s. Never a problem.
Chick-Fil-A? Great. Sonic? Excellent. Wendy’s? A few bugs at first, but it got its act together.
If you wanted Arby’s, you were out of luck. Arby’s did not roll out online ordering until late last year, and only a fraction of their locations have it now.
I did not miss not being able to eat inside a fast food joint. Since moving to Kansas, I hardly ever did it when I was alone prior to the pandemic, unless I was going to plug in somewhere to get work done.
In Kansas City, most of my restaurant time has been spent in Buffalo Wild Wings and Minsky’s Pizza, which are conducive to eating at a table and working if I so choose.
On the road, I hardly eat at fast food places anymore. Why eat at McDonald’s when it’s in Russell? I may go to Chick-Fil-A occasionally, but I can get that in Salina on the way to and from Russell, and if I’m craving it that bad, it’s only a 75-minute drive.
Today is different. Today is special.
For the first time since July 2008, I have ventured to beautiful northwest Arkansas.
When you think of northwest Arkansas, three things usually come to mind: (a) the Ozarks; (b) Walmart, whose world headquarters are in Bentonville; and (c) the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, home of the Razorbacks.
I ventured to Fayetteville three times during my association with the LSU baseball team. The Razorbacks have a beautiful stadium, one which has been named the best in college baseball by numerous publciations on numerous occasions. When it opened in April 1996, it became the blueprint for almost every other collegiate stadium, including the new Alex Box Stadium at LSU, which came online in 2009.
Baum-Walker Stadium is one km (0.6 miles) south of the main campus. Since Arkansas was smart enough to build from scratch instead of retrofitting its stadium into an existing space, it would build something bigger and better. It did, and the stadium has been upgraded significantly since my last visit in 2003.
When I departed Russell Monday morning, I was determined my first food stop in Arkansas would be Whataburger.
Yes, I ate at Whataburger in Independence last December.
However, the three Whataburger locations in the Kansas City area have significant flaws.
First, the menu is very limited. Several items found in locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana are not available in Kansas and Missouri.
Second, online ordering does not work in the KC metro. The last thing I want to do is sit in a drive-thru line for a long time, or wait in a long line in the restaurant. I waited 50 minutes for my food in December.
Third, I refuse to support Patrick Mahomes II. He is the main proprietor of the KC locations. I have had it with Chiefs fans and media who cover the team treating him as our Lord and Savior.
I reached the boiling point the Tuesday before the AFC championship game as I was driving in Des Moines.
Former Chiefs center Tim Grunhard compared Mahomes to Michael Jordan.
Okay, Tim. Whatever you say.
I don’t like Jordan. However, to compare a quarterback who just completed his fourth season as an NFL starter to one of the most iconic athletes in the history of sport is ludicrous.
Then The Kansas City Star showed its true colors by running dozens of photos of Mahomes’ wedding last month.
For a team which has won one Super Bowl over the last 52 seasons, Chiefs fans have become quite entitled and spoiled. I guess the 2-14 seasons of 2008 and 2012 don’t exist anymore, and anything before Andy Reid’s hiring in 2013 was part of an alternate universe.
I ventured south on Interstate 49 today from Kansas City to northwest Arkansas. the sun broke through the clouds near Joplin, and it turned into a nice day. Not too hot, not too cold.
My first thought was go to the hotel in Fayetteville, then order from Whataburger there, since there is one just down the road.
When I crossed the state line, I decided I couldn’t wait for Whataburger.
I pulled off I-49, and the Whataburger app pointed me to one in Rogers. There is also a Walmart nearby, so I figured I could eat and shop before heading south.
I can tell you the last time I was inside a Whataburger: 16 April 2008, when my dad and I stopped in Shreveport driving from Baton Rouge to Oklahoma.
Wait, now I remember the last time I ate inside a fast food joint: October at the Russell Subway with Peggy.
However, I cannot remember the last time I did it alone.
Thank you for reading this pointless post. At least it shows I’m not six feet under.
It took 10 minutes for me to scrape the icebergs off my car this morning in Kansas City. I arrived from Russell barely in time; it began sleeting at Junction City, and by time I hit Lawrence, the bridge over the Kansas River on the Tunrpike was slushy. A state trooper was on the left shoulder, and two vehicles were involved in an accident on the right.
It got worse after the toll plaza near Bonner Springs. There is a series of curves between the plaza and Kansas Highway 7, and if you take it too fast in bad weather, it will lead to trouble.
Indeed, numerous cars had slid off the Turnpike, and a couple hit the barrier median (the Turnpike has a concrete barrier for its entire length from the Oklahoma state line to KCK; engineers in the mid-1950s saved money by not including the standard 11-meter (~25 foot) grassy median). I was smart enough to slow down.
By time I checked into my hotel at 16:00, the sleet was coming down harder. An hour later, the snow began, and by morning, my white Buick mostly disappeared.
If it would have been -10 C (12 F) when the snow started, it would have been light and fluffy. Instead, with the temperature at -2 to -3 (27-30), it made the snow ice-crusted.
I have always carried a scraper/brush combination when driving in the winter. Today proved why. Combined with starting the engine and cranking up the defoggers to 32 (90), it made the removal easier.
I had an appointment today in KC, one I put off two weeks ago. That’s the only reason I was here. Believe me, if I didn’t have to be here, I would be in my basement in Russell.
Forty years ago this evening, CBS made sports history with a half-hour special announcing the pairings for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, colloquially known as March Madness.
CBS acquired the rights to the NCAA tournament in the summer of 1981 following a 13-season run on NBC.
NCAA head Walter Byers and his closest lieutenants may have had reservations about moving to Black Rock, since the network also had the NBA, but soon Byers and everyone else at NCAA headquarters in Overland Park would be over the moon.
CBS promised the NCAA much more coverage of the early rounds. NBC provided spotty coverage of the rounds prior to the Elite Eight (reginonal finals), and it wasn’t until the late 1970s it showed those four games live to all of the nation. At first, all four regional finals were played on the same day at the same time; then it was two Saturday and two Sunday, regionally televised.
CBS televised its first college basketball game the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1981, then made its big splash the evening of Sunday, 7 March 1982.
At 6:00 ET/5:00 CT, Brent Musburger sat at his familiar desk at CBS Sports Control in New York with Billy Packer, NBC’s top analyst from 1975-81, discussing what would happen in a few minutes when they linked up with Gary Bender at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Kansas City (yes, THAT Hyatt Regency, the one where 114 were killed eight months earlier when a walkway collapsed on participants in a dance contest).
Joining Bender, who called the 1981 NBA championship series (Celtics-Rockets) for CBS and was tapped as the top play-by-play man for the NCAA was Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt, chairman of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.
Bender and Gavitt gave a thorough explanation of the principles of constructing the bracket. Gavitt explained the committee always did its best to keep teams in their “natural” geographic regions, but inevitably some teams had to be shifted, such as Georgetown, led by freshman Patrick Ewing, to the West as the No. 1 seed.
The first pairing announced by Bender was Ohio State vs. James Madison at Charlotte in the East regional, with the winner to face top seed and top-ranked North Carolina. (for the record, the Dukes defeated the Buckeyes
FYI, the bracket was 48 teams in 1982. The top four seeds in each regional had byes to the second round. In 1985, byes were eliminated with the expansion to 64.
Another innovation by CBS was live satellite hookups at various schools to gauge their reaction to the brackets.
Pat O’Brien was stationed with Fresno State, where he was joined by the team and hundreds of fans outside Selland Arena. Jim Kelly was in Lexington, where he interviewed Kentucky athletic director and former Wildcat superstar Cliff Hagan. Verne Lundquist, who announced a UNLV-South Carolina game earlier that day in Columbia, got raw emotion from Running Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian after his team was snubbed.
In later years, the chairman of the selection committee answered questions from CBS anchors and analysts, as well as coaches. There have been more than a few heated exchanges.
ESPN began the women’s selection show in the mid-1990s, and it has gained popularity as the women’s game has grown. It will likely draw the highest ratings this year in Louisiana, thanks to Kim Mulkey.
The selection show whetted the appetite of college basketball fans for what CBS would do when the games started four days later.
Black Rock came through big time.
Beginning in 1982, CBS televised a first-round game at 11:30 ET/10:30 CT/8:30 PT on Thursday AND Friday, plus three second-round games each day. CBS showed four live games (two Thursday and two Friday) in the Sweet Sixteen, then made sure every regional final had an uninterrupted three-hour window.
ESPN continued to show first round games through 1990. CBS took over the entire tournament beginning in 1991, and in 2011, coverage expanded to TBS, TNT and TruTV to ensure every game from the First Four to the championship was televised from start to finish in every household in the United States (and many in Canada) who wanted to watch.
YouTube has video of the 1982 selection show. That’s all you need to put in the search box.
One tradition which did not come for a few years was “One Shining Moment”. In 1982, following North Carolina’s 63-62 nail-biter over Georgetown in the Superdome to give Dean Smith his first national championship, CBS showed a montage of highlights, set to Sister Sledge’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us (Jackie’s Theme)”. Nowhere near as popular as “We Are Family” or “He’s the Greatest Dancer” for Sister Sledge, but I’m betting that song gets some play in Raleigh-Durham this time of year to the chagrin of Duke fans (hopefully not too much; besides, the Blue Devils have won five titles since OSM began in 1987).
In 1983, Christopher Cross’ “All Right” was selected for the highlights after North Carolina State’s stunning win over Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Cougars (aka Phi Slamma Jamma). I hope Pam Valvano, her children and grandchildren listen to that song and remember Jimmy V. running up and down the court at Albuquerque looking for someone to hug. It was sad Jimmy V. couldn’t be at Cameron Indoor last Saturday for Coach K’s last home game.
Jennifer Hudson, YOU SUCK. Just look up “One Shining Moment 2010” and you will see why.
Coincidentally, CBS’ coverage of the NBA dramatically improved during the 1981-82 season.
The previous season, four of the six games in the championship series were tape-delayed and not televised until 11:35 ET/10:35 CT. Only if you lived in Boston or Houston could you see the games live; even the West Coast markets, where the games in Boston started before prime time, did not show them live.
In 1982, CBS showed all six games of the Lakers-76ers series live. Some earlier round games were still tape-delayed, but there were more live playoff games. Plus, Dick Stockton took over from Bender as play-by-play man, and he showed his mettle as one of the best, and my personal favorite.
I’m not a big college basketball fans, but those who are deserve the best coverage. CBS and its partners have given it to them for 39 seasons.
I’m in the Omaha Marriott composing this War and Peace post. I must be bored. It feels like winter in Nebraska outside. Praise Jesus.
Last night’s scheduled Holiday Bowl between North Carolina State and UCLA was postponed less than five hours before the scheduled kickoff of 1800 PST. The Bruins felt they could not compete due to a large number of COVID-19 cases within the program. The Wolfpack and coach Dave Doeren were not pleased; they felt UCLA coach Chip Kelly manipulated the situation by waiting until the last minute to say they had COVID problems. NC State tried find an opponent, but just before noon CST, the game was officially cancelled. Last year’s Holiday Bowl, which has been a staple of the bowl season since 1978, was cancelled by COVID.
I’m calling this John Wooden’s payback, with the I.O.U. dated 23 March 1974.
It was that Saturday evening when NC State did the unthinkable, defeating UCLA in the Final Four at Greensboro. The Wolfpack’s 80-77 double overtime win ended the Bruins’ dream of an eighth consecutive national championship, as well as Bill Walton’s quest to match Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) by winning three titles under Wooden’s tutelage.
It ended UCLA’s phenomenal 38-game NCAA tournament winning streak. Prior to that, the Bruins had not lost when it counted most since falling in the 1963 regional semifinals (Sweet 16) to Arizona State, which at the time was in the Western Athletic Conference (the Sun Devils joined the Pacifc-8 with Arizona to make it the Pac-10 in 1978).
Too many people under age 40 think NC State basketball’s only shining moment was when Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack to their stunning 1983 championship over Houston.
A man named Norm Sloan built a team which churned out one of the most impressive two-year runs in college basketball annals.
The iconic Wizard of Westwood, who passed away in 2010 at 99, led UCLA to seven consecutive NCAA men’s basketball championships from 1967 through 1973, and had the Bruins poised to make it eight at the 1974 Final Four, despite THREE (3!) regular season losses: one to Notre Dame which ended UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak, then a pair of inexplicable stinkers in Corvallis (Oregon State, coached by Kansas native Ralph Miller) and Eugene (Oregon, where Bill Bowerman was still coaching the Ducks’ track and field team while helping Phil Knight with some two-year old startup company called Nike).
To make it eight in a row, which would have matched the Boston Celtics from 1959-66 for the most consecutive championships in a team sport at the collegiate or professional level, and 10th for Wooden since 1964, the Bruins would have to fly across the fruited plane to Greensboro.
As in Greensboro, North Carolina.
There, a hometown favorite and Atlantic Coast Conference power was lying in wait, along with Kansas and Marquette. The Jayhawks of Ted Owens and Warriors (don’t give me the p.c. crap; Marquette was the Warriors until the 1990s) of Al McGuire faced off in the “undercard” to the main event.
It was not North Carolina. Topeka native and former Kansas Jayhawk Dean Smith was already a Tar Heel legend, but that elusive championship was still a few years off. Meanwhile, 11-year old Michael Jeffrey Jordan of Wilmington had yet to hit puberty.
It was not Duke. Yes, UCLA defeated the Blue Devils in the 1964 championship game to give Wooden his first title, but the Blue Devils were relegated to the middle of the pack of the ACC, save for a 1978 championship game loss to Kentucky, for most of the years between then and the 1980 hiring of you know who.
Virginia? Ralph Sampson was in seventh grade.
Wake Forest? Tim Duncan wasn’t born.
Georgia Tech? In exile after leaving the SEC in 1965, with rescue by the ACC still five years away.
Clemson? Basketball was filler between football and spring football
South Carolina? Left the ACC three years prior. Its lifeline from the SEC was still 17 years away.
Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville? In 1974, suggesting any of these schools would someday be in the ACC was a one-way ticket to the looney bin.
The ACC is unusual in that the only champion is the team which wins the conference tournament. There is no official “regular season champion” in ACC men’s basketball. Every school which finishes first or tied for first after the regular season hangs a banner in their arena, but don’t expect the conference office in Greensboro to provide a trophy for it.
It’s win the tournament or no ACC trophy.
Since 1980, the first year the NCAA allowed an unlimited number of qualifiers per conference to the men’s tournament, the ACC tournament final has almost always matched two teams which would be going to the Big Dance, win or lose. Those epic Duke-North Carolina finals were fun to watch, but in the grand scheme, would mean zilch once CBS’ Selection Sunday show began at 1800 EST.
In 1974, this wasn’t the case.
Each conference was allowed ONE team into the tournament. One. Uno. Solitary.
When Wooden had his dynasty humming in Westwood, the other seven members of the Pacific-8 knew their odds of making the NCAA tournament were about as good as those given Leicester City before it won the Premier League championship in 2015-16.
In the SEC, Kentucky was, and still is, the undisputed king. Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt had some very good teams in that era, but all knew the Wildcats would be representing the conference barring a major slip. Pete Maravich scored 3,667 points in three seasons at LSU to set the NCAA record–which still stands–but the Bayou Bengals never sniffed the Big Dance because they needed binoculars to find the Wildcats in the standings.
The Big Eight boiled down to Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri, with the Jayhawks prevailing more often than not, as they did in 1974.
The Big Ten centered on the Hoosier State, with Indiana and Purdue taking their turns at the top. Fred Taylor still had Ohio State rolling, and Michigan played for the 1965 championship.
The NCAA kept several spots reserved for worthy independents, mostly in the northeast. Providence and Pitt took this road into the 1974 tournament (see below), as did Notre Dame, which lost to Marquette (also independent) in the Mideast regional semifinals.
In the Pac-8, SEC, Big Eight, Big Ten and most every other conference, the regular season champion went to the NCAA tournament. The second place team could hope for an NIT berth. Everyone else? Better luck next season.
The ACC dared to be different.
In 1961, the conference declared the tournament champion would be recognized as the sole champion of the conference and its representative to the NCAA tournament.
In 1974, it meant March 9 was Armageddon.
No. 2 North Carolina State vs. No. 3 Maryland in the tournament final at Greensboro.
The winner would be dancing.
The loser would be weeping.
In 1973, the Wolfpack of coach Norm Sloan went 27-0 and deposed the Tar Heels atop the ACC, but the NCAA slapped NC State with probation and a tournament ban for recruiting violations.
(The NCAA had a much more serious infractions case on its hands at the time in my native state, one which landed Southwestern Louisiana, now Louisiana-Lafayette, a two-year death penalty and nearly got the school booted from the NCAA, period.)
The silver lining for Sloan? All of his studs would be back the next season.
Those studs included 7-foot-4 Tommy Burleson, who played on the 1972 Olympic team which was royally screwed in the gold medal game by the Soviets and corrupt officiating; Monte Towe, one of the slickest playmakers to grace an ACC court despite standing all of 5-foot-7; Tim Stoddard, who enjoyed a solid career as an MLB reliever, notably with the 1984 Cubs division championship club; and David Thompson, who was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan and would have to be on any all-time ACC team, even in 2022.
Maryland—which now likes to forget it spent 61 years in the ACC–took NC State’s place in the 1973 NCAA tournament. The Terrapins were led by the flamboyant and personable Charles “Lefty” Driesell, who built a strong program at James Madison before landing at College Park in 1969.
Driesell’s 1973-74 team featured John Lucas, Len Elmore and Tom McMillen. All would play in the NBA, and McMillen and Elmore went on to great success outside of basketball, McMillen as a U.S. Representative from Maryland and Elmore as an attorney. Elmore was also a respected television analyst for many years.
The Wolfpack had an early opportunity to prove themselves in December 1973 against UCLA in a showcase game at The Arena in St. Louis, home to the Blues and the same place where Bill Walton scored 44 points by going 21 of 22 from the field in the Bruins’ 87-66 victory over Memphis State (the “State” was dropped in 1994) in the 1973 championship game, the first to be televised in prime time.
Walton’s last appearance in St. Louis–the Gateway City hasn’t had an NBA team since the Hawks left for St. Louis in 1968, and it’s highly unlikely the NBA will return to Missouri anytime soon–was just as fruitful, with the Bruins winning 84-66.
It was UCLA’s second victory over an ACC power in less than two weeks. The Bruins scraped past the Terps 65-64 at Pauley Pavilion two weeks before taking out the Wolfpack.
NC State responded by reeling off 22 consecutive victories to end the regular season 24-1 overall, 12-0 in the ACC for the second straight year.
The Wolfpack edged the Terrapins 80-74 at Raleigh on Super Bowl Sunday (a better show than the Dolphins’ rout of the Vikings in Houston), then completed the season sweep 86-80 at venerable Cole Field House 17 days later.
Maryland also lost to North Carolina in Chapel Hill and ended the regular season 21-4 overall, 9-3 in the ACC.
With only seven teams in the ACC from 1972-79, the team with the best regular season record earned a bye to the tournament semifinals, a huge advantage in the era of one bid per league.
NC State didn’t waste its advantage, crushing the Cavaliers from Charlottesville 87-66. Maryland was no less impressive in Greensboro, blistering the Blue Devils 85-66 and the Tar Heels 105-85.
No. 2 NC State vs. No. 3 Maryland. Winner to the NCAA tournament. Loser doesn’t.
Forty minutes wasn’t enough to decide the issue. Forty-five were enough–barely.
Wolfpack 103, Terrapins 100.
It has been called by many who witnessed it, either in Greensboro or on television, as the greatest college basketball game they witnessed.
I wasn’t born for another 33 months. I’ve seen bits and pieces on ESPN Classic and YouTube.
I won’t name a greatest game, but in terms of what was at stake, it has to be among the top non-championship games in the history of the sport.
This was the game which prompted the NCAA to begin allowing more than one team per conference into the tournament, although it was capped at two from 1975-79.
Playing in their cozy home, Reynolds Coliseum, NC State steamrolled Providence and Pitt in the East regional to punch a return to Greensboro for the Final Four.
UCLA needed triple overtime to take out Dayton, led by one of the most underrated coaches in the history of the sport, Don Donoher. The Bruins then scorched San Francisco, which had just as much a death grip on the West Coast Conference from Bill Russell’s time until the early 1980s (the Dons in the 1980s is a story for another post) as Gonzaga has today.
Kansas, which lost to UCLA in the 1971 Final Four at the Astrodome, came up short again. The Warriors cruised 64-51, and the Jayhawks would not be heard from again on the national stage until 1986.
UCLA held an 11-point lead in the second half. The Bruins blew it.
The Bruins then led by seven in the second overtime. They blew that, too.
And this was long before the shot clock and 3-point shot in college basketball.
Combine this with Valvano’s magic act nine years later, and NC State has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it knows how to pull a surprise on the biggest stage.
Just how big was UCLA-NC State? So big the Los Angeles Times‘ front page the next morning featured a photo of Bill Walton losing his balance while battling David Thompson for a rebound.
Jim Murray, the famed Times sports columnist, compared the UCLA loss to the end of the British Empire, the Titanic sinking, Napoleon’s surrender at Waterloo and Caesar’s stabbing by Brutus in the Roman Curia.
NC State’s conquest of UCLA featured a scenario which would be repeated six years later in Lake Placid following the Miracle on Ice.
The Wolfpack had Marquette.
The U.S. hockey team had Finland.
Herb Brooks’ skaters almost blew it, trailing 2-1 after two periods before three third-period goals rescued gold.
Sloan’s cagers were never threatened. Al McGuire didn’t stick around until the end. He was ejected in the second half.
Final: NC State 76, Marquette 64.
UCLA and Marquette both earned redemption.
Even without Walton, the Bruins returned to the Final Four in 1975, defeating Louisville in the semifinals before ousting Kentucky 92-85 in Wooden’s grand finale. Joe B. Hall and the Wildcats had to wait three years for their first title since 1958.
Wooden’s 10 championships in 12 years have rightfully earned him a permanent place on the Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches. Adolph Rupp would be on my mountain, and so would
McGuire also went out on top. His Warriors returned to the Final Four in 1977, and Marquette toppled Dean Smith’s Tar Heels 67-59. Smith’s first title, and UNC’s first since 1957, was still five years away, as was that Michael Jordan fellow.
Sloan stayed at NC State until 1980, when he surprisingly returned to Florida, his alma mater, in an attempt to save the Gators from basketball irrelevance, as well as sell season tickets to the Gators’ new arena, now known as the O’Connell Center, which would open in the fall of 1981.
The Gators didn’t reach the Final Four until 1994, five years after Sloan’s departure, but all of his successors–Lon Krueger, Billy Donovan and Mike White–are quick to point out the groundwork Sloan laid in the 1980s for the Gators’ rise to powerhouse status.
The move to Gainesville opened the door for NC State–reeling from the shocking death of former football coach Bo Rein in a January 1980 plane crash–to hire a young, energetic coach from Iona in New Rochelle, New York.
I won’t expound on Jim Valvano’s story any longer, at least this time.
Meanwhile, just down the road in Durham, Duke president Terry Sanford, a former Governor of North Carolina and future United States Senator, rolled the dice on the 33-year old coach at West Point after Bill Foster left for South Carolina.
Needless to say, Sanford hit seven on the come out roll.
Valvano and Coach K are forever linked because of the timing of their hires, and sports is better for it.
Maryland beat the dog out of Virginia Tech in today’s Pinstripe Bowl. Yippee.
How the F**K Is Maryland in the Big Ten? Or Rutgers? I’d still like to know what was going through Jim Delaney’s brain. Somewhere, Bill Reed and Wayne Duke, Delaney’s predecessors as Big Ten Commissioner, must be spinning in their graves.
Thank you for reading if you’ve gotten this far.
Technology made a fool out of me yesterday.
The story begins two weeks before Christmas (11 December), when I purchased a new case for my iPhone directly from Apple at its store in Leawood. I had been using an OtterBox case, since it was the only one which came with a belt clip, but the belt clip kept coming off. I counted at least 491 times between my old iPhone Xs and the 13 Pro Max I acquired on 29 September.
With the new case (Marigold silicon), I purchased a small leather wallet which would hold a few cards and attached to the back of the phone. I didn’t know until I put the wallet on the phone it could be traced by the phone whenever you took it on and off. I found out when I returned to my hotel; I took the wallet off and the phone notified me the wallet had been removed at 8320 North Stoddard, the location of the Springhill Suites in Platte County where I was staying.
Yesterday, I began an eight-day journey away from Russell, beginning in Omaha. At first, I was going to go the long way through Kansas City and St. Joseph, but when I woke up, I decided to go the proper way from Salina to York via US 81. Good call.
I made a stop at a Walgreens to pick up a bunch of Ghirardelli chocolate for someone I’m going to meet in Omaha later this week. Everything seemed normal until I pulled up to the Hallmark store across 132nd Street.
The wallet was not on the back of my phone, and the phone told me the wallet had been last located at Walgreens. I frantically went back to Walgreens, but neither cashier said they had seen a wallet.
Oh God. Here I go again with losing things. I was panicked. Not only was my ATM card and American Express in that wallet, but so was my driver’s license. I could easily replace the financial products. The license? Not so much, considering I was out of state and it was the last week of December, when offices are either closed or barely staffed.
I searched through a trash bag and turned over everything on my front seat. I searched the bag I got from Walgreens. Nothing.
Fortunately, I discovered it on the floor behind the armrest. Holy crap.
Apple’s wallet technology is great. I am going to keep using it. Sometimes, it is too smart for its own good, and way too smart for its users. I’m going to try to find a belt clip for this case. It would be nice to have my right front pocket freed again, but if I have to keep carrying it in my pocket, it’s leaps and bounds better than any third-party. And I will never patronize OtterBox again.
I woke up at 0400. I didn’t go to bed that late (2245) and I was up at 0500 Monday. Again, more energy on the road than at home.
I’m staying at the Marriott in west Omaha near Interstate 680. The rooms have been renovated since I last stayed here in June 2012, and I was upgraded to a two-room suite. The only problem is the faucet barely runs. I get trying to conserve water, but it’s going a bit too far. The shower does not have a door nor a special floor, but the wood dries quickly and the water doesn’t get far past the curtain.
I’m on the first floor, which suits me just fine this time, even though I’m partial to higher floors. I’m going to be in a rush to get to a 0900 appointment Thursday, then on to Des Moines after that. Kind of wish I could stay here longer, but there’s something about Iowa now, including Joe’s Crab Shack in West Des Moines.
The closest Joe’s Crab Shack is in the Denver area, but (a) I didn’t realize it when I was there in October; (b) there’s one thing I crave in Denver, and it comes from a bull, not the sea; and (c) driving to Colorado is dicey in winter, since I don’t own chains for my tires (Colorado requires chains in snow, whereas states in the Plains make it optional or forbid it). Des Moines does fine, considering it’s not in Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Wichita. The only thing which would be better would be an oyster bar like Louisiana, but the occasional crab legs do nicely.
Last night it was calamari from Cheesecake Factory, which is the closest restaurant to the Marriott. I watched the Saints lay an egg against the Dolphins, to be expected staring a quarterback (Ian Book) who probably has no business starting an NFL game.
It’s overcast this morning, befitting the feeling of football fans from Scottsbluff to Omaha. The Cornhuskers went 3-9 in 2021, their worst record since 1961, the year before Bob Devaney arrived and built Nebraska into a perennial power.
Saturday happens to be the 50th anniversary of Nebraska’s 38-6 demolition of Alabama in the Orange Bowl which clinched the Cornhuskers’ second consecutive Associated Press national championship. Nebraska went 13-0 in 1971, with its other signature win coming on Thanksgiving when it beat Oklahoma 35-31 in Norman in what is considered by some to be the greatest college football game ever played. I don’t know if I’d rank it first, but I’d have to put it in the top three with Texas-Arkansas in 1969 and Notre Dame-Michigan State in 1966. (As for games I actually witnessed, either on TV or in person, I can only think of
The 1971 Huskers were generally considered Nebraska’s greatest team until those with very short-term memory began putting the 1995 Huskers ahead.
I have one word for those who think 1995 was better than 1971: BULLSHIT. (pardon my French)
Nebraska beat the teams which finished 2-3-4 in the final AP poll: Oklahoma, Colorado and Alabama. It dominated the Buffaloes in Lincoln and mauled the Crimson Tide as mentioned previously. The Huskers could not hold two 11-point leads vs. Oklahoma, but the Sooners were at home and weren’t half bad. Heck, even Iowa State went 7-4 and played LSU in the Sun Bowl.
The 1995 Huskers had no real competition. Yes, the Big Eight had four teams finish in the final AP top ten, but the three other than Nebraska–Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State–would not have stacked up to the Sooners, Buffaloes and Tide of 1971.
Nebraska mauled Michigan State 50-10 in East Lansing in the second game of 1995, but the Spartans were trying to find their way under their new coach. Nobody could have predicted Nick Saban would have seven national championships and Nebraska none between 1998 and 2020. 0
As for the rest of the Big Eight in 1995, Oklahoma was listing through its first and last season under Howard Schnellenberger. Oklahoma State was digging out of the devastation of severe probation under a new coach. Missouri hadn’t had a winning season since 1983 and was still bitching about the fifth down vs. Colorado from five years prior. Iowa State was a hot mess, which it had been since Earle Bruce left the Cyclones in early 1979 to replace Woody Hayes.
It’s 3 Celsius (37 F) outside. Balmy for late December in Nebraska. Global warming sucks.
So much for avoiding Outback Steakhouse. I got takeout last night, but no steak. Lobster tails and grilled shrimp. Unfortunately, the shrimp was not on a bed of garlic toast like I’m accustomed to, and the mixed veggies was only broccoli. Can’t be perfect.
Today, I made the 30 km (18 mile) trip northwest from my hotel to Boulder. There is a bar just off US 36, the highway connecting the western Denver suburbs to Boulder, whichwa also serves Rocky Mountain Oysters.
Great call. Oysters were excellent. I’m getting a second order to go. I am also going to hang around Boulder, going to Safeway just down the street and then to the University of Colorado campus to see Folsom Field and Coors Events Center.
I made another reservation at the Buckhorn Exchange tonight, but I’m guessing I will either cancel or only order takeout. I’m not in the mood for another $127 meal ($97 plus a hefty tip; I make sure the ladies are taken care of, and Andrea deserved extra for suggesting the elk/bison combination), as tempting as it sounds. Worse is the traffic from Westminster to downtown; I couldn’t go last night because (a) I had a prior engagement from 1700 to 1900, and (b) the Avalanche played the Blackhawks at Ball Arena (formerly Pepsi Center) in their NHL opener last night. No way I wanted to fight Interstate 25, which is a parking lot much of the time between rush hour and the four sports teams playing at facilities on the highway.
Back to Russell tomorrow. Will be so weird going east to get home, plus the time change will get me.
I’m convinced it’s easier to go from Central to Eastern or Mountain to Central, then come back home than the other way around. I went from Central to Eastern in April 2017 on my trip to Kentucky. I was grateful to get that hour back on the long drive from Lexington to Kansas City. If I leave the hotel at 1200, I figure I’m back at 1830 in Russell.
One week ago, I was in another state for the first time.
Okay, it was not my first time in Iowa, but it was the first time I stopped in Iowa. Prior to last Tuesday, when I drove north on I-35 from northeast Kansas City to West Des Moines, the only times I had been in the Hawkeye State was on I-29 between Kansas City and Omaha.
One time going from Omaha to KC, I bypassed Iowa completely, driving south on US 75, then taking US 136 over the Missouri River at the Nebraska-Missouri state line.
I got to experience a quirky Iowa law during my five days there.
In 1979, Iowa adopted a law which requires consumers to place a nickel deposit on bottled and canned beverages. The deposit can be recovered by returning the containers to a recycling center. They’re not hard to find in Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf), but in rural areas, many counties don’t have places to recycle.
I’m old enough to remember a small food store near my residence in New Orleans which placed deposits on glass bottles, but when plastic replaced glass, there was no need for it.
Iowa is one of a few states with a “bottle bill”, and the only one between the Continental Divide and Mississippi River. I wonder if many Council Bluffs residents buy drinks in Nebraska, or those in the Quad Cities go into Illinois, to avoid the deposit.
It would be akin to Wyandotte and Johnson County residents in Kansas going into Missouri (or Metro East in Illinois going to St. Louis) to buy cancer sticks, because Missouri refuses to tax cancer sticks at a reasonable rate (17 cents? That was unreasonably low in 1971, much less 2021).
I was lucky to receive a great rate for the lovely Sheraton in West Des Moines. I had a two-room suite at a lower price than it usually is for a standard room, and it was only seven steps from the elevator to the door.
It is one of the few hotels I’ve lodged where the rooms all overlook an atrium. There are two glass elevators on the east side of the hotel, and that creates a lot of problems when there is a large number of guests, as it was when I was trying to check out Sunday morning.
Check out was hell. Luggage carts were being hoarded by elderly guests, and elevators were jammed. I have always hated riding elevators with strangers, but I have hated it exponentially more since COVID. I had to be a jerk during one ride down, shutting the door on three different floors (from the seventh) to avoid others. Lucky for me, the final ride down was alone, and I was on my way back.
There was one jerk from Kossmuth County who parked his Equinox so far right his passenger side tires were one meter over the yellow line. JERK.
I didn’t see the Iowa State Capitol. I didn’t venture to Ames to see Iowa State. I didn’t drive to Clear Lake to see the location of the plane carsh that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson. I didn’t venture east on I-80 to see the world’s largest truck stop, somewhere between Iowa City and the Quad Citites.
No, my long outing was to Omaha of all places to buy ten cases of Pibb Zero (formerly Diet Mr. Pibb). The addition of Interstate 880 allows motorists to bypass Council Bluffs and downtown Omaha, something I was grateful for.
I was also grateful for Kum & Go and their rib patty sandwiches, which are superior to QuikTrip.
I may be back in Iowa sooner rather than later.
The patty melt at the Boulder bar was awesome. Now I have my Mountain Oysters for tonight. I still crave the kinds you find in the ocean. I need to get back to Louisiana. Soon.
Call me lazy, disinterested, whatever you will. I deserve those epithets for going almost three months without writing something, anything.
The last time I posted was 20 July, the night the Bucks won their first NBA championship in 50 years.
Today, Milwaukee is in mourning. The Brewers were ousted from the National League Division Series in four games by the Braves, the team which occupied that city from 1953-65.
Milwaukee’s offense was putrid, which negated possibly the best pitching staff in the franchise’s 53 seasons (counting the first as the Seattle Pilots).
That was the reverse of 1982, when “Harvey’s Wallbangers” terrorized American League pitching, winning the pennant and blowing the last two games of the World Series to the Cardinals.
My first trip to Colorado was going great…then it wasn’t.
I returned to my room this afternoon and discovered the order of Rocky Mountain Oysters I got to go from the Buckhorn Exchange, the oldest and most famous restaurant in Denver and possible all of Colorado, were gone.
Housekeeping at the Marriott Westminster threw them away.
First, I had no idea housekeeping was coming into the room. I have stayed in at least 15 different Marriott properties in Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and other locales, and only once or twice did housekeeping come in, and that was only after I had been at the hotel for three days.
Second, housekeeping is not supposed to touch anything in the room except dirty towels on the bathroom floor.
I made sure the front desk realized it. I would settle for two orders of oysters (not the kind I inhaled in Louisiana). I thought about asking for having at least one night of my stay comped, but I am not that greedy.
The good news was I did get to eat oysters last night at the Buckhorn, as well as elk and bison. I love beef, but I told Andrea, the lovely waitress who took care of me, that I can eat beef anywhere, and it was time to try something different. Great move.
I do well grilling steaks on my George Foreman grill in Russell, just as long as I take them off the grill after three minutes. I can’t remember the last time I ate a restaurant steak. Outback used to be my go-to- in Kansas City and Wichita, and before that, Baton Rouge, but not now. Ruth’s Chris is in Denver, but I’m more than halfway to Boulder, and both locations are a good drive.
Gas is EXPENSIVE in Denver.
When I bought gas this morning, the price listed on the marquee in front of the station was $3.40.
Unfortunately, that was for 85 octane, which is okay in higher elevations, but in almost all of Kansas (except Goodland and a few places which border Colorado), it’s no go.
The 87 octane cost $3.75 a gallon, making it the most expensive fill-up since 2008, when gas was north of $4 a gallon.
Sorry for burying the lead, but I turned 45 at 08:16 MDT (09:16 CDT). I figured I’ve had too many birthdays in Kansas City and it was time for something different.
I was born in the same hospital in the same year as Reese Witherspoon and Peyton Manning. I feel like apologizing to them, not to mention Archie and Olivia Manning, for tarnishing the hospital’s good name.
Last week, I spent time in another state for the first time. More on that later. I promise it won’t be three months.
In approximately 10 hours, give or take, the Milwaukee Bucks will either be (a) National Basketball Association champions for the first time in 50 years, or (b) getting ready to fly to Phoenix for a seventh game vs. the Suns on their home court.
The Bucks haven’t been in this position since Mother’s Day 1974.
That was the date of the seventh game of the 1974 championship series, with the Bucks hosting the Celtics at the MECCA, the franchise’s first home.
The series didn’t lack for star power. Milwaukee had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge, plus original Buck John McGlocklin. Boston featured Dave Cowens, JoJo White, future Bucks coach Don Nelson and the ageless John Havlicek.
At this time, the Bucks were in the Western Conference, where they remained until the Mavericks came into the NBA in the 1980-81 season.
Boston won 68 games during the 1972-73 season, one shy of the record set by the Lakers two years prior, but choked in the Eastern Conference finals, losing in five to the Knicks, who went on to defeat the Lakers for their second title in four seasons.
Milwaukee won 66 games in 1970-71, its third season. The Bucks had little trouble in the playoffs, ousting the Warriors and Lakers in five apiece, then sweeping the Baltimore Bullets to set the record for shortest time from first game to championship.
Through the first six games in 1974, Milwaukee and Boston alternated wins, with the Celtics claiming the odd-numbered games and the Bucks the evens.
In the sixth game, Milwaukee kept its season alive when Kareem arched a 12-foot sky hook from the right baseline over reserve Boston center Hank Finkel, forced into action in the second overtime when Hall of Famer Dave Cowens fouled out. The Bucks prevailed 102-101.
Little did anyone know the Bucks would not win another game in the NBA championship series for 47 years and two months.
In what myself and Bill Franques call the Mother’s Day Meltdown, the Celtics won the deciding game 102-87.
Boston won titles in 1976, ‘81, ‘84, ‘86 and 2008 to go along with the 11 it won in 13 seasons from 1957-69.
Milwaukee took a nosedive the two seasons following, thanks to Oscar’s retirement and the trade of Kareem to the Lakers. The Bucks moved to the Eastern Conference with Dallas’ entrance and were a consistent playoff team, but were thwarted by the 76ers and Celtics, eliminated by one or the other every year from 1981 through ‘87.
By the mid-1990s, the Bucks were as wretched as the Clippers, Nuggets and other perennial losers. There was one brief moment of glory, a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001, but for 25 years, basketball in Milwaukee was a distant third to the Packers and Brewers, and sometimes behind the Wisconsin Badgers as well.
Things got so bad for Milwaukee that new NBA commissioner Adam Silver gave the Bucks an ultimatum: build a new arena or lose your team. The good people of Wisconsin got the message, the Fiserv Forum was built, and now the Bucks are one win away from the title.
Speaking of the Brewers, I’m reminded of them as the Bucks prepare for what could be their championship moment.
In the 1982 World Series, Milwaukee held a 3-2 advantage over St. Louis after taking two of three at County Stadium. The Brewers, powered by Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, had proven they could win at Busch Stadium, as evidenced by their 10-0 rout in the first game.
October 19, 1982 was supposed to be the night Harvey’s Wallbangers were coronated as Milwaukee’s first baseball champion since the 1957 Braves.
Instead, the Cardinals crushed the Brewers 13-1, then won the next night 6-3.
Milwaukee did not return to the postseason until 2008, ten years after it moved from the American League to the National. The Brewers reached the NLCS in 2011 and ‘18, but have yet to get back to the final round. If the Brewers can find some offense to go along with their pitching, 2021 might be the year.
The Bucks need to take care of business tonight. No goofing off. No taking the chance on a game seven on an enemy court. Get it done.
The good news is the Suns’ history in this situation is not promising.
In its two previous appearances in the final round, Phoenix lost game six and the series, to the Celtics in 1976 and the Bulls in ‘93. The 1976 series featured the famous triple-overtime game five, voted by many experts as the greatest in NBA history.
Both of those games were in Arizona, so you have to hope the chances are even better of it happening in Wisconsin.
I guess I’ll be tuning in to the NBA tonight. If the Bucks lose, I definitely will NOT watch game seven. It would be too gut-wrenching.
Game five of the NBA Finals was played last night in Phoenix. Milwaukee won 123-119. More on that in the next post.
Oddly, it was the first NBA championship series game contested on a Saturday since game three in 1981, when the finals were known as the world championship series. Hard to believe 40 years passed between Saturday games, considering MLB and the NHL consistently hold games in their championship series on Saturdays.
In 1979-80 and 1980-81, the NBA started its season three weeks earlier than usual and ended on the last Sunday of March. Since only 12 teams made the playoffs in those seasons, and the first round was a best-of-three, the playoffs were shorter.
In 1980, only one series in the conference semifinals and finals went longer than five games, Seattle’s seven-game triumph over Milwaukee in the western semifinals. Both conference finals lasted five, with the Lakers blowing away the reigning champion SuperSonics and the 76ers steamrolling the Celtics in the first of three consecutive eastern finals between the ancient rivals.
This allowed the NBA to schedule the first two games of the finals in Inglewood for Sunday, May 4 and Wednesday, May 7, very reasonable. The first game was televised live coast-to-coast, but the second, which started at 8:30 Pacific (11:30 Eastern) was tape-delayed in the Mountain and Pacific time zones in order to not pre-empt CBS’ primetime schedule.
Following two days off, the series moved to Philadelphia. CBS gave the NBA an ultimatum with two bad choices: (a) play the third and fourth games Saturday and Sunday of Mother’s Day weekend, and we’ll televise both live, or (b) play Saturday/Sunday and Monday/Tuesday, and the weekday game will be tape-delayed everywhere except Philly, LA and any western market (i.e. NBA cities in those time zones) that will televise it live.
CBS chose a, so for the first time in 12 years, a game in the NBA’s final round was played on a Saturday.
The decisive sixth game, the one where Magic Johnson went off for 42 points while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sat injured back in LA, was only televised live in Philly, LA, Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, and oddly enough, Atlanta, where an independent station picked it up after the CBS affiliate, WAGA, refused to show it, even on tape-delay.
The same situation happened in 1981, with a more compressed schedule.
Since Boston needed the full seven games to oust Philadelphia in what has been considered by many the greatest playoff series in NBA history, the Rockets had to cool their jets in Houston. This pushed the first game back to Tuesday, May 5, with the second game only 48 hours after that.
For the third and fourth games at Houston, the NBA was faced with the same ultimatum from CBS, and again picked the back-to-back on Mother’s Day weekend for two live games, the only live games outside of Boston and Houston The other four were on tape-delay. The series took a mere ten days to complete, with the Celtics prevailing in six.
It could have been worse. In 1967, the 76ers and Warriors played a Sunday afternoon game in Philly, then flew across the country for a game the next night in San Francisco.
NBA commissioner Larry O’Brien, legal counsel David Stern and NBA owners were fed up after the 1981 debacle. They sat down with CBS and figured out how to get all NBA championship games back on live television, moving the season back to its traditional late October start date, meaning the final series would begin after the primetime shows had wrapped their seasons.
By 1987, CBS was televising conference finals games in primetime, and they became a staple of late May/early June programming on CBS, NBC and ABC until all weeknight NBA playoff games except the finals moved to ESPN and TNT in the mid-2000s.