Monthly Archives: July 2021
Countdown to a championship…or a choke
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.
Live from Phoenix, it’s Saturday Night (Basketball)!
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.
Return to the Gateway City
NOTE: I am now posting this Sunday, two days after most of the action below occurred.
Is there a new rule which says I will encounter trouble driving to St. Louis?
Today, it wasn’t my car—thank God. The air conditioner is still humming one month after the compressor replacement on the other side of Missouri.
The problem occurred in Callaway County near the tiny hamlet of Williamsburg, 58 kilometers (35 miles) east of Columbia and 140 km (90 miles) west of the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium.
Traffic began to slow down shortly past the US 54 exit. Ten miles later, Interstate 70 eastbound became a parking lot.
It got to the point where I turned off my car for three minutes. Nothing moved.
I called the Missouri Highway Patrol (each state has a quick dial to its highway patrol; Missouri is star 55 and Kansas is star 47. The nice lady on the other end of the line told me a semi was on fire. I just sighed “oh boy” and hung up. No need to vent my frustrations on anyone.
The cab was no more. It was black rubble. I wonder how the driver got out without suffering serious burns.
I was about to turn east on Interstate 64 at Wentzville, but traffic was backed up onto I-70. I decided I wasn’t going to sit in any more traffic jams if I could help it, even if it meant wasting a little gas.
The good news—traffic moved steadily east on I-70 through O’Fallon and St. Peters.
The bad news—I didn’t realize Missouri Highway 370, which is a six-laned, controlled access route, veered north and not south toward I-64.
I figured what the heck, I’m here until very early Wednesday morning, why not take a tour of some unseen land in the St. Louis metro.
It rained HARD on 370 from I-70 across the Missouri River to I-270, where I wanted to get to in the first place in order to find my hotel. At one point I was down to 60 km/h (37 MPH), but some figured it was still okay to go 60 MPH (97 km/h) even with water ponding.
The rain has abated, so it looks like the Cardinals and Giants will get to play at Busch tonight.
Herb Vincent, my mentor at LSU who now works in the Southeastern Conference office in Birmingham, attempts to see the Cardinals every summer. I’m going to inquire about us getting together in 2022.
Larry, my trivia pal, is a huge Cardinals fan stuck in Kansas City. So is Lisa.
I went to the old Busch Stadium in 1992 to see the Cardinals play the Braves. The first game found my dad, brother and I stuck in the bleachers in dead center field, more than 150 meters (440 feet) from the plate. It was like watching ants. We had tickets for the second game behind home plate, but almost at the top of the stadium. Back then, I could not handle heights as well as I can now, so I was too afraid to watch and just walked around the concourse while my brother braved those bad seats. We all agreed we wouldn’t miss Busch when it was torn down in late 2005.
Busch Stadium was one of the three worst MLB stadiums I’ve been to. The others were the Astrodome and the first Rangers stadium in Arlington. At least the Astrodome was air conditioned. I won’t go into just how awful the original Arlington Stadium was—at least now.
The best MLB stadium? Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, with Houston’s Minute Maid Park a close second. Kauffman in Kansas City is far better than the ones I went to in St. Louis, Arlington and Houston, but well behind the current one in Houston and Pittsburgh.
Speaking of awful, this hotel is AWFUL. Cannot stream through the television. I have been able to do that at EVERY OTHER HOTEL I have stayed at in the past year except one—the Courtyard which is connected to this Residence Inn. Not saying it is life or death, but it would be nice to have that option in 2021. Worse, Amazon Prime is not offered as a streaming option through the hotel; only Netflix, which I find terrible, and HBO, which I am not paying an arm and a leg for.
UPDATE 1: I have figured out the TV situation. I have to unplug the main HDMI cable from the back of the TV and plug in the cable for my device. Not as easy as I would like, but it gets the job done.
UPDATE 2: As usual, St. Louis is giving me self-inflicted indigestion. White Castle, Imo’s Pizza, sushi (I’m partial to tuna and salmon) and a few other things do that. But I love them too much not to eat it, considering I cannot get it in Kansas City, much less anywhere in western and central Kansas…although Whataburger will be in KC by November (thank you, Jesus, I mean Patrick Mahomes II).
UPDATE 3: The Bucks are one win away from their first NBA championship in 50 years. More on that in the next post.
UPDATE 4: The Giants and Cardinals have split so far this weekend: San Francisco 7-2 Friday and St. Louis 3-1 Saturday. The Brewers have won their first two in Cincinnati against the wretched Reds. I have hated the Reds ever since I started watching MLB over 35 years ago for (a) Marge Schott, the racist anti-Semitic C**T who owned them at the time and (b) glorifying degenerate gambler and child rapist Peter Edward Rose. Very sad, because I have grown to admire Johnny Bench from watching highlights.
Peggy no longer MIA…but too many are
I no longer have an appendage dangling from my right arm.
My PICC line was removed Tuesday at the Russell hospital following my final intravenous antibiotic dose. I am still on oral antibiotics, but my life is a little easier now.
One of the biggest things I can do now without the line is shower easier. I had to wear a plastic sleeve on my arm to keep the line from getting wet. I was also wearing one on my right leg, although I didn’t discover until three weeks ago there was a cover for the foot only. I had the full leg one from when I was in a cast before the COVID pandemic in early 2020, and I just didn’t think to look for one that covered only the foot.
I probably could get away without the foot protector, but I’m playing it safe. Same with still wearing the earplugs to shower, although I worried the few times I forgot them. A friend of my dad’s had tubes placed in his ears, and when he didn’t wear earplugs, he got an infection. Nothing like that so far.
Unfortunately, the last person to see the PICC line other than my parents or the hospital workers was Peggy.
It was very fortunate. Seriously.
We saw each other for the first time in over 16 months this past Monday. It’s the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other since I moved to Kansas in September 2005. We usually would go three or four months from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next, but COVID threw a monkey wrench into everything.
I couldn’t attend Caitlyn’s matches at Ottawa this past season because it was strictly limited to family and students. I have not seen her since the Saturday before Thanksgiving 2019.
Peggy is healing after surgery on her right foot a couple of weeks after my operation. She came into Old Chicago in Hays on the same kind of knee scooter I used to get around the hospitals in Russell and Hays until recently.
I forgot how good Old Chicago was. It was my first visit since before the pandemic. It was so good I went back the next night and played trivia, since it’s the only location remotely close to me which has Buzztime. (Peggy asked that I not play so we could converse. I agreed.)
I’m now current with Peggy, Robb, Larry, the ladies at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek (Tina, Nikki and Ashley), Molly at Minksy’s (Lindsay got fired, which I was very sad to hear), and Morgan at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa. Seeing Morgan, who has been through things I wouldn’t wish on anyone, did my heart a lot of good. I worry about her sometimes. I haven’t seen Dana since before the surgery, but at least more recently than a lot of others.
Yes, I went to BWW Zona for the first time in almost two years last Saturday to meet up with Robb. Approximately 97 percent turnover, but that’s to be expected in the restaurant business in good times, but with COVID, it’s been more rampant.
Caitlyn is a big hole in my heart. Sadly, there are more.
I was hoping to see Bill in 2020 at another baseball series, but most of the season was wiped out. I couldn’t travel this year due to the surgery. Hopefully, our Bucks will finally get back to the NBA championship series, if not tonight, then Monday.
It has now been more than three years since my trip to Baton Rouge, where I saw Brenda, Dorinda, Bryan Lazare (whose larger-than-life father, Buddy, passed away last month in New Orleans at 94), Glenn Guilbeau, Kent Lowe, Jacques Doucet, Michael Bonnette, John Burke, Lyn Rollins, Ronnie Rantz and many others.
Dan Borne has treated me like COVID the last two years. That hurts. A lot.
Some of the old Kansas City faces are fading. I’ve gotten back in touch with Lisa, but still have not seen her since her wedding in St. Louis four years ago. I keep wondering where Liz is. Dawn has shut me out (and Robb too).
I have not seen Herb Vincent since the 2005 SEC baseball tournament, which was three months before Katrina. I have not heard from Wendy Wall since late 2003, and it hurts. At least I’m in touch with him and a few others from Baton Rouge, like Laurie Cannon (Moll) and Rebecca McCann (Campbell).
I haven’t been back to New Orleans since Katrina. I’m glad to have kept in touch with some of the people I went to middle school with. Jason Malasovich and his family was the last from the Big Easy I had contact with, three years ago.
I departed before dawn this morning for Kansas City. I got my car nice and spiffed up; the interior needed it badly. I stocked up on the whipped soap from Whole Foods I like, I returned an ill-advised purchase of a Chromebook, then got a personal issue taken care of. I’m driving back tonight. For some reason, I don’t have trouble falling asleep at night as I do in the morning.
The (DIS)-United States of America turns 245 tomorrow. I’m not proud to call myself an American. Not by a longshot. I am proud to say, however, I voted for NOBODY for president last year. If you don’t like it, tough.
Remember, tomorrow is INDEPENDENCE DAY in the United States. It’s the Fourth of July everywhere, including Kiribati, Niger, Uzbekistan, Cyprus, Guyana, Liechtenstein, Bhutan, Comoros, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.