Category Archives: NBA

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.

The NBA’s Memorex Moment

Forty years ago tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers were in Philadelphia, looking to defeat the 76ers in the sixth game of the NBA World Championship Series and bring the Walter Brown Trophy back to southern California.

If the Lakers wanted to avoid a seventh game at ingelwood less than 48 hours later, they would have to do so without the 1979-80 Most Valuable Player.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won his record sixth MVP as the Lakers went 60-22, one game behind the Celtics for the NBA’s best record, suffered a high ankle sprain on his left ankle during the third quarter of the Lakers’ 108-103 victory two nights prior.

Abdul-Jabbar played the fourth quarter on the injured ankle and scored 14 points in the stanza, giving him 40 for the night. The 76ers’ woefully weak center combination of Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones helped Kareem’s cause. When Philadelphia finally upgraded its center situation three years later, the results were much different. I’ll get to that later.

On the advice of Lakers team doctor Robert Kerlan and trainer Jack Curran, coach Paul Westhead and the rest of the Lakers, including 20-year old rookie Earvin Johnson, made the cross-country flight to Philadelphia without the 33-year old legend, who was seeking his second NBA championship, but first since winning it all with Milwaukee in 1971.

Philadelphia was quite fortunate to be in a game six to be honest. They nearly blew a 23-point lead at Ingelwood in game two, and it took a late flurry in game four, highlighted by spectacular baseline up-and-under by Julius Erving, to pull out a three-point win. The Lakers won easily in games one and three, then won a tight game five.

Most national pundits believed Philadelphia would exploit Los Angeles’ hole in the midlde and sent the series back to California. The simplest option would be to move Jim Chones, the former Cavaliers All-Star, to center and insert Mark Landsberger at power forward.

However, Landsberger had been overpowered by Dawkins and Jones when giving Abdul-Jabbar a rest earlier in the series, and he forever became a highlight film staple after Dr. J drove around him in the fourth game.

Westhead and assistant coach Pat Riley made a bold move.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson wold start at center, allowing defensive ace and long-range shooting specialist Michael Cooper into the backcourt with Norm Nixon.

Magic was only 14 months removed from leading Michigan State to a 75-64 victory over Indiana State and its superstar, Larry Bird, in the NCAA championship game at Salt Lake City, the highest rated college basketball game ever, a distinction it still holds 41 years later.

Though not old enough to consume alcohol in most jurisdictions, Magic played well beyond his years the evening of 16 May 1980.

Johnson turned in the greatest individual performance in an NBA championship game, before or after, with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers routed the 76ers 123-107 in front of 17,000 shocked patrons at The Spectrum. The game was tied 60-60 at halftime, but after Los Angeles scored the first 14 points of the third quarter, Kareem could celebrate at home, and mayor Tom Bradley could announce the exact date and time for the first victory parade in the City of Angels in eight years.

Too bad most of the United States could not watch Magic’s scintillating performance in real time.

CBS, which televised the NBA from 1973 through 1990, inexplicably chose to air game six of the 1980 championship series on tape delay.

The NBA’s television ratings were in the toilet, and CBS did not want to preempt prime time programming for a basketball game which might draw a third to a quarter of the ratings of one of its primetime powerhouses.

When games were played in the Pacific Time Zone, CBS aired them live at 23:30 Eastern/22:30 Central after the late news. The Mountain Time Zone was delayed by an hour, but the Pacific zone was delayed by three hours unless the local affiliate preempted the prime time schedule and showed the game live.

Los Angeles obviously aired the games live. So did Portland and Seattle, where enthusiasm for the NBA was unbridled. The Trail Blazers were Oregon’s first major professional sports team, and remained that way until the Timbers joined Major League Soccer. The Super Sonics were THE thing in Seattle, even with the Seahawks and Mariners both starting play in the late 1970s.

The other market in the west to air all games live? Las Vegas, for obvious reasons.

Games two and five started at 20:30 Pacific. Yes, they were live in Philadelphia, but how many people stayed up until 01:45 the next morning to watch them to conclusion?

Meanwhile, weeknight games in the other three time zones were tape delayed to air at 23:30 Eastern and Pacific/22:30 Central and Mountain. CBS pulled the stunt during game two of the 1979 championship series from Washington, but it DID air game five live nationwide.

In the 1980 championship series, games three and four in Philadelphia were played Mother’s Day weekend, Saturday at 15:30 Eastern and Sunday at 13:00 Eastern. CBS would not be as fortunate for game six.

On the surface, CBS’ choice was logical. Do not preempt two of your highest rated shows, The Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas, the latter ranking number one for all television shows in 1979-80.

There was one flaw in CBS’ logic the evening of 16 May 1980.

Dukes and Dallas were already airing reruns.

J.R. Ewing was shot on 21 March 1980, seven weeks before Earvin Johnson became truly Magic.

All three networks ended their 1979-80 seasons in late March or early April, fearing the Screen Actors Guild would go on strike in the spring or early summer. That came to pass in June, and it delayed the opening of the 1980-81 season until November (America didn’t find out Kristin Shepard shot J.R. until 21 November, two months later than CBS had hoped), December, or even January (NBC did not air the first episode of Hill Street Blues until 15 January, 10 days before it broadcast Super Bowl XV).

With reruns already airing, it would have hurt nothing to air the game from Philadelphia live at 21:00, but CBS figured old episodes were better than new basketball.

Again, if you were living in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas, you were in luck.

The other place to air the game live? Atlanta, where the CBS affiliate refused to show NBA games not involving the Hawks. However, an independent station figured the sports fans of north Georgia needed something other to watch than the pitiful Braves on WTBS, so it aired game six live.

Therefore, large markets like New York, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, Washington, Baltimore, Phoenix and Miami were all out of luck. San Francisco and Phoenix, of course, could have aired the game live and only would have had to adjust the regular Friday night programming back at most 30 minutes for game overrun.

It was well past bedtime for myself and my brother. Then again, I doubt there were very many NBA fans in New Orleans in the spring of 1980, since the 1979-80 season was the first for the Jazz in Utah after five seasons in the Crescent City. Utah probably should have let the new team in New Orleans reacquire the Jazz nickname when they moved in 2002, but that’s too confusing to go into right now.

There were a lot of negative articles written about CBS tape delaying the deciding game of the NBA championship series, but it didn’t change anything, at least in the short term.

The 1981 championship series featured the Celtics for the first time since 1976, and the Rockets for the first time ever. Houston won the Western Conference at 40-42, defeating the 40-42 Kansas City Kings in the conference finals.

With a team from the Eastern Time Zone taking on a team from the Central Time Zone, it meant tape delay at least twice, and possibly four times if the series reached a game six.

The first two games in Boston tipped at 19:35 Eastern, meaning a four hour for those not in Boston or Houston. Games three and four from Houston were live on Mother’s Day weekend. Game three was the last Saturday game in an NBA championship series, and game four started at 12:05 Central so CBS could televise golf afterwards.

Game five tipped at 21:00 Eastern and aired at the standard 23:35 Eastern/22:35 Central.

The sixth and deciding game started at 21:05 Central, the latest start to an NBA championship game in the Central Time Zone. Boston won in six, the first of their three championships with Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.

Philadelphia and Los Angeles met again for the NBA championship with one major difference: all games were televised live on CBS.

The NBA agreed to start its regular season later beginning in 1981-82, allowing the championship series to be played after the network prime time seasons ended in mid-May. There were four weeknight games, including the clinching game six on 8 June, where the Lakers prevailed and left the 76ers as the NBA’s bridesmaids for the third time in six seasons.

The 76ers finally realized they needed a big change at center in order to stymie Kareem. Billy Cunningham made the biggest change he could by acquiring Moses Malone from the Rockets, and on 31 May 1983, Philadelphia had its first NBA championship in 16 years, sweeping Los Angeles.

The NFL and Major League Baseball would never dare to air any playoff game, let alone a championship contest, on tape delay. The NHL has aired just about every Stanley Cup Finals game live in Canada since the 1950s, but in America, its coverage has been far worse. Many cities had no NHL on television from 1976-79, and from 1989-92, most couldn’t see any NHL games because of an asinine deal with SportsChannel America, which thankfully no longer exists.

The German Bundesliga returned today, albeit without fans. But it’s LIVE SPORTS. NASCAR races tomorrow at Darlington.

Let’s hope there’s light at the end of the tunnel, although the alarmists hope we’re sitting at home twiddling our thumbs without anything to watch until 2021 or later.

One day, two tales in the Big Apple

Fifty years ago yesterday, two notable events occurred in New York City within hours of each other. (Yes, it’s still 8 May for a few more minutes in Kansas, but it’s 9 May in NYC, so yesterday is appropriate).

One, the Hard Had Riot, was one of many regrettable episodes in the more than 400 years of the city once known as New Amsterdam (“Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam”, a famous line from the famous They Might Be Giants song, “Istanbul not Constantinople). Occurring four days after Sandy Scheuer, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause lost their lives at Kent State, 200 construction workers mobilized by the New York State AFL-CIO attacked more than 1,000 students protesting the war and mourning the Kent State four.

Apologies to Ms. Scheuer’s family and friends for misspelling her name with an extra “R” in previous posts.

It began at 07:30 with a memorial for Scheuer, Schroeder, Miller and Krause at Federal Hall. Four hours later, construction workers broke past a pathetic police line and started beating the protesters, especially those men with long hair, with their hard hats, steel-toed shoes, and anything else they could find.

Four policemen and 70 others were injured. Fortunately, nobody was killed.

This was not the case in January 1976 when union members murdered a non-union worker at a chemical plant in Lake Charles in the midst of Louisiana’s push to become the last southern state to pass right-to-work legislation.

Six months later, after right-to-work cleared both chambers of the Louisiana legislature, the leader of the right-to-work campaign, Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie, was murdered in Baton Rouge by a sniper acting on orders of Shreveport police commissioner George D’Artois, who attempted to use city funds to pay for his election campaign. Leslie flatly refused D’Artois’ bribe, and paid for it with his life. Rat bastard D’Artois dropped dead in June 1977 before he could be brought to justice. It would have been lovely to see the S.O.B. rot in Angola.

Back to 8 May 1970 in the Big Apple.

Nine hours after the construction workers attacked innocent protesters who had the nerve to exercise their First Amendment rights, the Knickerbockers met the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden for the championship of the National Basketball Association.

Hours after the Kent State shootings, the Knicks won Game 5 107-100 at MSG to take a 3-2 series lead despite losing the NBA’s 1969-70 Most Valuable Player, Louisiana native and Grambling alum Willis Reed, to a serious leg injury in the first quarter. Los Angeles led 51-35 at halftime, but committed 19 turnovers in the final 24 minutes, leading Lakers fans to believe their franchise was cursed, if they didn’t already.

Two nights later, with Reed back in New York, the Lakers destroyed the short-handed Knicks at The Forum 135-113 behind 45 points and 27 rebounds from Wilt Chamberlain.

The teams flew commercial from LAX to JFK the next morning, leaving them approximately 30 hours to rest for the winner-take-all game.

Charter flights were not the norm in the NBA or NHL until the late 1980s, which means the likes of Chamberlain, Reed, Jerry West, Bill Bradley, Walt (Clyde) Frazier, John Havlicek, Bill Russell, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson flew charters very rarely, and Kareem didn’t fly them for the majority of his career. Same for Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Rod Gilbert, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Jean Beliveau, although Les Habitants (the Canadiens) may have been flying charter before the American teams.

The Lakers were planning a glorious return to LAX Saturday morning, then a parade similar to the ones enjoyed by the Dodgers following World Series wins in 1959, ’63, and ’65.

The Knicks wanted to be honored with New York’s third ticker tape parade for a championship sports team in 17 months, following the Jets in Super Bowl III and the Mets after the ’69 World Series. In between the Jets and Mets, Neill Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were honored with their own parade for Apollo 11.

Sadly for most of the 19,500 who passed through MSG’s turnstiles that Friday evening, the Knicks’ chances appeared dim without Reed.

Then, the NBA’s version of Moses parting the Red Sea occurred.

ABC announcers Chris Schenkel and Jack Twyman lamented the Knicks’ fate without their MVP, but as they went on, Twyman excitedly noticed Reed coming out from the tunnel.

Reed took the court with Bradley, Frazier, Dave DeBuesschere and Dick Barnett for the opening tip.

Eighteen seconds later, Reed, who could barely walk, took a jump shot from 20 feet.

Swish.

A minute later, Reed scored again to make it 5-2.

Willis Reed did not score another point.

He didn’t need to.

His defense against Chamberlain spooked The Big Dipper, who was limited to 21 points, although he led all players with 24 rebounds.

Frazier picked up the offensive slack with 36 points and 19 assists, and New York rolled to a 113-99 victory in a game which wasn’t that close.

The Knicks were NBA champions for the first time. New York had its third championship team in 17 months. Prior to that, the Big Apple went six-plus years without a title after the Yankees won the 1962 World Series. The Giants were in the midst of 29 seasons without a title, with Super Bowl XXI a little less than 17 years off. The Rangers’ Stanley Cup drought stood at 30 years in 1970 and would last 24 more. The Islanders and Devils (Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies) didn’t exist, and the Nets were an afterthought until they signed Julius Erving.

The Knicks won the title again three years later by defeating the Lakers in five games, one year after Los Angeles got the monkey off of its back by ousting New York in five.

Since 1973, the Knicks have been to the championship series twice, losing to the Rockets in 1994 and the Spurs in 1999. The Lakers have had slightly more success, winning five championships in the 1980s and five more in the 21st century.

Today’s Knicks are an outright disgrace to Red Holzman’s championship teams. Thankfully, the surviving members of the 1969-70 Knicks didn’t have to put up with having to watch the 2019-20 Knicks at a 50th anniversary reunion; it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Owner James Dolan is a douchebag who continues to anger fans with his outright stupidity and callousness. Isaiah Thomas is a sexual harasser who should be in prison, but Dolan loves him, so he still has a high-paying job with the Knicks.

That’s more NBA than I care to discuss, so I’m signing off.

World Champions of NOTHING

Kansas City is celebrating the “World Champion” Chiefs today with a parade and rally.

For the record, the Chiefs are not “World Champions” of anything, even if every vehicle in the parade is displaying the words “World Champions”.

The Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, which gives them the right to forever be called “Super Bowl LIV champions” and “2019 National Football League champions”, the same way the franchise can refer to itself as “Super Bowl IV champions” and “1969 Professional Football champions” (1969 was the last year before the AFL-NFL merger).

The Chiefs may refer to themselves as “NFL champions” without a qualifying year until they are eliminated from the 2020 playoffs (or fail to qualify). If Kansas City wins Super Bowl LV next February in Tampa, the Chiefs may continue to use NFL champions without the year.

The Patriots lost the right to call themselves NFL champions without a qualifying year when they lost to the Titans in the wild card round. New England can refer to itself as NFL champions of 2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016 and 2018, but must use the qualifying years. And it cannot call itself a “world champion”, period.

No NFL (or AFL) champion has the right to call itself a “world champion”.

The NFL has never had a franchise in a country other than the United States of America. Save for a few exhibitions in the early 1960s, no NFL team has played a team from the only other major league on earth which sponsors gridiron football, the Canadian Football League.

Two of the other major North American sports leagues use “World Champions” when they should not.

The NBA has referred to the winner of its playoff tournament as “World Champions”. At least the league no longer refers to the final round of the playoffs as the “World Championship Series” as it did through 1985.

Major League Baseball has sponsored the World Series since 1903, with two exceptions (1904 and 1994). Every World Series winner I know has referred to itself as a “World Champion”, even though MLB has never had teams in countries other than the USA and Canada. North American champions is also inappropriate since no World Series winner has played a champion from Mexico, Cuba or another country.

The Associated Press expressly forbids its publications from using “World Champions” to refer to teams. It is SUPER BOWL champions, WORLD SERIES champions and NBA champions.

Baseball and basketball can easily determine a world champion the way FIFA does with the Champions League.

The National Hockey League has it right. Gary Bettman and his predecessor, John Ziegler, never refers to the winner of the Stanley Cup Finals as the “World Champions” of hockey. That team is the STANLEY CUP champion or the NHL champion.

Here’s something to keep in mind about the NHL. A team can win the Stanley Cup X number of times. However, a team cannot win Y Stanley Cups. There is only one Stanley Cup, and unlike the Vince Lombardi, Larry O’Brien and Commissioner’s trophies, a new one is not made each year.

Therefore, the Blues are attempting to win the Stanley Cup for the second time, not their second Stanley Cup. Got it?

Back to football.

There are two world champions of football. They are the French Men’s National Team and the United States Women’s National Team. France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the USA won the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Every Super Bowl ring is a FRAUD, since every one says “World Champions”.

Super Bowl, Kobe, impeachment…blah blah blah

Thank God the Super Bowl kicks off in 23 hours and 30 minutes, give or take. Enough talk about Patrick Mahomes. Enough talk about the Chiefs looking for their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years. Enough asking Len Dawson about Patrick Mahomes. If you live in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and parts of Iowa, Arkansas and Oklahoma, you may not realize the 49ers are in the Super Bowl as well.

The Chiefs have been the sole focus of every media outlet in Kansas and western Missouri. If you thought coverage of the Royals during their 2014 and 2015 World Series appearances was excessive, it pales in comparison to the adulation the Chiefs have received. It’s quite the opposite from the other end of Missouri, where the Rams were always a distant third to the Cardinals and Blues during their 21 seasons in St. Louis.

The 49ers are still getting less air time in San Francisco than Nancy Pelosi. People in the Bay Area have witnessed six championships since 2010, three by the Giants and three by the Warriors. Add in the success the Sharks have enjoyed despite the lack of a Stanley Cup, and the 49ers have been an afterthought most of the time since Steve Young’s retirement 20 years ago. There was the trip to Super Bowl XLVII and the crushing loss to the Seahawks in the NFC championship game the next season, but until this year, the 49ers went through their longest downturn since suffering through seven losing seasons out of eight from 1973-80.

If Kansas City wins tomorrow, people in this part of the United States will be hearing about it non-stop until the Chiefs go to training camp in July. Kansas basketball and the Royals will register, but it won’t eclipse the Chiefs.

Andy Reid might retire if the Chiefs win. I would not doubt it. It would allow Kansas City to promote Eric Bienemy and not have to worry about other teams attempting to poach him next January.

If San Francisco wins, we’ll hear about it for a few days, but it will fade. The sports fans of the Bay Area need something good this year, because the Warriors have been reduced to a D-League (sorry, G-LEAGUE) team without Steph Curry, the Sharks are stinking it up, and the Raiders have officially traded Oakland for Las Vegas.

The hype for Super Bowl LIV has been muted. That would normally be a good thing, but not this time.

It’s because almost every sports show, even some on NFL Network, have to mention Kobe.

Yes, Kobe perished last Sunday with his 13-year old daughter, six other passengers, and the foolish pilot who had no business flying a helicopter in thick fog. Sad. Very sad.

However, it happens all the time, and 99.5% of the time, the names of the people on board aren’t mentioned, and it gets all of 20 seconds on the evening news, if that.

I read on the Internet there is a petition circulating to change the NBA logo silhouette to that of Kobe, instead of Jerry West, whose silhouette has been the logo for almost 50 years.

Come on.

Do those who want to make the change realize who brought Kobe to the Lakers? JERRY WEST. Does anyone know of another NBA figure who was as great an executive as he was a player? Hello…hello…

Magic Johnson and James Worthy were both drafted #1 overall by the Lakers, thanks to shrewd trades by West to acquire the picks which helped land them.He took a chance on an unproven assistant named Pat Riley in late 1981 after firing Paul Westhead. He made the trade for Kobe and signed Shaq during the summer of 1996, and three years later convinced Phil Jackson to coach his latest collection of talent.

All 12 Lakers championships in Los Angeles were influenced by Jerry West. Now why should he be taken off the logo in favor of Kobe? Give me a good reason.

Twenty-four second shot clock violations and eight-second backcourt violations have become cool since Kobe’s death, since 24 and 8 were his jersey numbers with the Lakers. To me, that’s making a mockery of the game. Honor him, yes, but don’t do it by disrupting the normal flow of a game.

Golfers have become Kobe worshippers this weekend. Justin Thomas and Tony Finau wore Kobe jerseys during the Phoenix Open. Phil Mickelson, a legend in Phoenix thanks to winning an NCAA championship at Arizona State, smartly skipped out on the Phoenix Open and is playing in Saudi Arabia. Tiger is not playing golf this weekend, choosing to attend the Super Bowl; after all, it’s in his backyard (he lives in Florida, which doesn’t have a state income tax, while his native California has astronomical taxes, especially for rich athletes).

The third and only other thing in the news right now is the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump. No comment.

Crash kills Kobe, then crashes Wikipedia

Wikipedia has been loading ridiculously slowly over the last half hour.

Now I know why.

NBA great Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers to five NBA championships and finished his career third on the league’s all-time scoring list in 20 seasons with the franchise, perished with four others in a helicopter crash at approximately 1000 Pacific (1200 Central) in western Los Angeles County.

When a famous person passes away, tens of thousands of Wikipedia users attempt to outdo one another by updating the deceased’s bio. The administrators should lock everyone out and be the only ones to edit Kobe’s bio, because there will certainly be vandalism.

I don’t remember Wikipedia going down like this when former President George H.W. Bush died in late 2018. Gerald Ford’s death in December 2006 was too late at night to make much of an impact, and Wikipedia was in its infancy when Ronald Reagan died in June 2004.

Bryant was pushed to fourth on the NBA career scoring list last night when LeBron passed him during the Lakers’ loss in Philadelphia, Kobe’s hometown. Kobe’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played with Julius Erving for the 76ers on the 1977 team which lost to Bill Walton’s Trail Blazers in the NBA World Championship Series (as it was officially known prior to 1986).

I haven’t watched the NBA much since the late 1980s, and I didn’t drop everything to watch Kobe, no matter the situation. I was about to in 2001 when the Bucks were within one win of the NBA Finals, but Allen Iverson and the 76ers won the Eastern Conference, and I went about my businesss without watching the Lakers win in five.

Kobe has two numbers (8 and 24) hanging from the rafters at Staples Center, but I don’t know if he would be in the starting lineup of the five greatest Lakers. Magic, Kareem, Jerry West, George Mikan and Elgin Baylor would be the starting five, with Kobe, Chamberlain, Shaq and James Worthy on the bench.

The Lakers’ next home game is Tuesday…against the Clippers. The media coverage may be the greatest for any regular season game since Kareem broke Chamberlain’s career scoring record in 1984.

It hasn’t been a good start to 2020 for the NBA. Longtime Commissioner David Stern passed away on New Year’s Day, and the most transcendent player of the past 25 years is gone at 41.

The NFL Pro Bowl is going on right now in Orlando. Any player who does not get asked for his thoughts about Kobe should pinch himself to make sure he’s alive. And the over/under for questions about Kobe for 49ers and Chiefs players and coaches tomorrow night for the Super Bowl’s “Opening Night” is 140.

Houston, you have yet another problem

Houston called itself “Clutch City” after the Rockets won back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 (vs. the Knicks, led by Patrick Ewing) and 1995 (vs. the Magic, sweeping an Orlando team led by Shaq).

After the last three months, a more appropriate moniker for Houston is “Choke City”.

It began with the Astros. After winning a franchise record 107 games in the regular season, Houston nearly choked in the American League Division Series vs. the Rays, needing a victory in the winner-take-all Game 5 to advance to the American League Championship Series.

The Astros ousted the Yankees in six to move into the World Series for the second time in three years, where Houston would face the Washington Nationals, who were making their first World Series appearance.

Many experts expected the Astros to win the first two games at Minute Maid Park, then go to the nation’s capital and win two of three there.

Instead, Houston lost the first two games at home. The Astros rallied to win the next three in the District of Columbia to gain the series lead, only to choke it away by losing the sixth and seventh games in Texas. It became the first best-of-seven series in any of the three major sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) which use that format where the road team won every game.

Today, the Texans joined the Astros in Houston sports infamy.

Bill O’Brien’s team built a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter of an AFC divisional playoff in Kansas City.

By halftime, the Chiefs led 28-24, as Patrick Mahomes joined Doug Williams as the only quarterbacks to throw four touchdown passes in one quarter of a playoff game. Williams did it in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII, when the Redskins turned a 10-0 deficit vs. the Broncos into a 35-10 halftime bulge. Washington won 42-10, and Williams was the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Kansas City won 51-31 and earned the right to host Tennessee in next Sunday’s AFC championship game.

Green Bay held on to defeat Seattle 28-23 in the NFC, sending the Packers to Santa Clara to face the 49ers for the other spot in Super Bowl LIV in Miami (Gardens) Feb. 2.


A team from Houston has not played in the AFC championship game since 1979, when the Oilers lost to the Steelers for the second consecutive year. Bum Phillips’ team was hurt by the officials making a bad call on a pass to Mike Renfro which was ruled incomplete but was in fact a touchdown, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

Even worse, Houston fans have to watch their former team play in its third AFC championship since relocating to the Volunteer State. The Titans defeated the Jaguars in 1999 before losing to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, but lost to the Raiders in 2002.



Barely an hour after the game ended at ARrowhead, a Houston Chronicle columnist wrote it was time for Texans coach Bill O’Brien to leave, reminding readers of past Houston sports failures. One of them was the famous 1983 NCAA men’s basketball title game, when Jim Valvano’s underdog North Carolina State Wolfpack shocked the mighty Houston Cougars, nicknamed “Phi Slamma Jamma” , when Lorenzo Charles caught Dereck Whittenburg’s airball and slammed it through the net with no time remaining. That Houston team featured two of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, Clyde Drexler and (H)Akeem Olajuwon.

It wasn’t the first time a team from Kansas City stuck it to a team from Houston.

In 1993, the Oilers hosted the Chiefs in an AFC divisional game. Houston entered on an 11-game winning streak, but Kansas City, led by Joe Montana, prevailed 28-20. Following that loss, the Oilers’ fan support plummeted to subterranean depths, and after the 1996 season, they were on their way to Tennessee.

In 2015, the Astros were up 2-1 on the Royals in an American League Division Series and led Game 4 through seven innings. Kansas City rallied to win that game, won Game 5 in Kansas City, and eventually won the World Series. Houston’s 2017 World Series championship took the sting out of the 2015 setback, but the one in 2019 will be hard to forget, no matter if the Astros win another championship or not.

Despite superstars like Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Chris Paul and James Harden playing for the Rockets in recent years, Houston has not played for an NBA championship since 1995. The window is wide open with the Warriors in free fall, but the Rockets will be severely tested by the two Los Angeles teams in the West, and hopefully Milwaukee if they make it to the Finals.

Approximately 26 hours from now, LSU will either have completed its greatest football season ever, or one of its most disappointing. Hopefully it’s the former. However, I would feel much better about this if the opponent were wearing scarlet and gray instead of orange. Something tells me Dabo is the younger, hipper version of LSU’s former coach–the one in Tuscaloosa, not the one in Lawrence–and has a dynasty going in the the South Carolina uplands.

Dusting off the soapbox

The NFL has been naming players to an all-time team in conjunction with its 100th season.

First, this should have been saved until 2020, when it would be the 100th ANNIVERSARY of the NFL. I get sick and tired of seeing athletic teams, college and professional, celebrating seasons instead of years. Every October 13, I celebrate my birthday, and it is how many years I have LIVED, not the year of my life I’m entering. It was my 43rd birthday the most recent October 13, because I had LIVED 43 years to that point. I am now in my 44th year; I will celebrate my 44th birthday this year.

The Chiefs are an egregious violator of the rule. This season, the Chiefs claim this is their 60th season, which is stupid in and of itself, since the franchise played its first three seasons in Dallas before moving to Kansas City. The Chiefs should not celebrate a 60th ANNIVERSARY until 2023, 60 years after their first season in Kansas City.

The Saints have violated the rule time and time again. New Orleans wore a patch for its 25th SEASON in 1991, instead of waiting until 1992 to celebrate its 25th ANNIVERSARY. Same in 1996 (30 seasons) and 2016 (50 seasons). YEESH.

I can happily say the football Cardinals wore a 100th anniversary patch in 1998, not a 100 seasons patch in 1997. The baseball Cardinals got it right as well, wearing a 100 years patch in 1992. The Brewers will wear a 50th anniversary patch this season to celebrate 50 years in Wisconsin (the Brewers began life as the Seattle Pilots for the 1969 season, then went bankrupt and were awarded by a federal court to Bud Selig, who moved them to Milwaukee ONE WEEK before the 1970 season began).

Enough semantics. I’m sure you’re fast asleep by now.

Many selections to the NFL’s all-time team have angered me.

First, what the HELL is Rob Gronkowski doing on the team as one of the five tight ends, yet Ozzie Newsome is nowhere to be found?

I was very unhappy Newsome chose to accompany Art Modell’s Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and staying with the Ravens after the Browns were re-established. It would have only been right had Newsome come back to the city which made him a household name to professional football fans.

On the other hand, Newsome was without peer during his 13 seasons (1978-90) in Cleveland. The man was simply sensational. He was a big reason the Browns won the AFC Central over the Steelers and Oilers in 1980 and a bigger reason Brian Sipe won that season’s Most Valuable Player award.

Gronkowski was stellar in New England, but come on. A lot of it is recency bias AND Belichick being on the selection panel.

I have no problem with the other tight ends on the list: John Mackey, Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow and Tony Gonzalez. But to omit Newsome? Please.

The rest of the offensive line had me scratching my head a little.

Where was Jerry Kramer? For those who don’t know, he was one of the men who made the Green Bay sweep the most feared play in the NFL during Vince Lombardi’s coaching tenure with the Packers. The sight of #64 and teammates Fuzzy Thurston (#63) and later Gale Gillingham (#68) scared the bejesus out of many a linebacker and safety in the 1960s. Was it a coincidence Paul Hornung scored 176 points in 12 games in 1960? Not with that offensive line. Same with Jimmy Taylor winning the 1962 rushing championship, the only season Jim Brown did not win it during his nine-season NFL career.

Larry Allen, who played on Dallas’ most recent Super Bowl team in 1995, is a poor choice. Allen is worthy of his bust in Canton. However, I cannot imagine voting for him over Kramer.

John Hannah? Great choice. Gene Upshaw? Ditto. Bruce Matthews? He was a Pro Bowl selection at every spot along the offensive line, although I may have had him at tackle and not guard. But Allen over Kramer sticks out like a sore thumb.

Two of the offensive tackles, Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden, demonstrate recency bias. They are Hall of Fame worthy, sure. But all-time worthy? Not buying it. However, I have less problem with either of those two than Gronk over Newsome.

At center, Jim Ringo should be there and not Dwight Stephenson. Stephenson was a Hall of Famer with the Dolphins in the 1980s, but he didn’t win any championships. Ringo did.

The NFL’s all-time team has some of my least favorite athletes: Gronk, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, and the double murderer who used to play for the Bills. YEESH.

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern passed away yesterday after suffering a brain hemorrhage two weeks ago.

It’s sad to see anyone pass away, but I hated Stern as NBA Commissioner. HATED HIM. Let me count some of the ways:

–He screwed Kansas City by openly helping the Kings’ ownership move to Sacramento in 1985, even though the Kings were flagrantly invading the Warriors’ territory in northern California and were moving into a converted warehouse for three seasons before the taxpayers of California were fleeced to build a new arena.

–I believe Stern fixed the first NBA draft lottery in 1985 in order for the Knicks to draft Patrick Ewing. He made sure the envelope containing the Knicks’ logo was bent so could easily find it.

—Stern flagrantly favored the big markets in most cases. If it were up to him, New York would have five teams, Los Angeles four, Chicago three and places like Milwaukee, San Antonio and Utah would not have a team.

–He made sure the Pelicans (then the Hornets) couldn’t leave New Orleans, one of the smallest markets in pro sports. The team had terrible attendance prior to Hurricane Katrina, and when the Hornets played in Oklahoma City temporarily for two seasons, the attendance far surpassed that in the Big Easy.

–Stern also worshipped small-market Sacramento. He prevented the Kings from moving to Seattle despite the team losing money, and he forced the taxpayers of California to foot the bill for yet another arena. I wouldn’t be surprised if California Governor Gavin Newsom would order a bronze statue of Stern be placed outside the Kings’ arena. David Stern is THE reason the NBA is still in the crap hole known as Sacramento.

Goodbye David Stern. You’re a big reason I can’t stand the NBA 99% of the time.

I realized this morning how bad 2020 is going to be. The presidential election is November 3.

Trump is a slimy SOB who has done thousands of unethical things in the White House, but he’s just like every other man who has occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. EVERY president has a few (hundred) skeletons in his closet, except William Henry Harrison, who didn’t serve long enough to accumulate skeletons.

That said, the Democrats are using impeachment as a vehicle to vent their frustration over losing the 2016 election. Look in the mirror, Democrats. You nominated the only person on earth short of Lucifer himself Donald Trump could beat in an election, and maybe even Lucifer would have been more successful than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This is going to occur every time the party not in power is angry. I’m certain the Democrats will launch a new impeachment inquiry if Trump is re-elected, or the Republicans will do so to the Democratic president if they win control of the House. It will never end.

And you thought partisanship was nasty during the presidencies of LBJ and Nixon. Those two are probably screaming from the grave.

I’m in Kansas City for the first time in over two months. My dad is undergoing a heart procedure at KU Medical Center in KCK tomorrow. I agreed to drive my parents, and they in turn are paying for most of my expenses. Can’t beat that.

The Chiefs are off this weekend, so it will be quiet. That’s good. I wouldn’t want to be here for the playoff game January 12. Probably going to be ear-splitting in every sports bar in the area.

A middle of June mashup

I felt guilty yesterday, and it lightened my wallet a slight bit.

Two ladies who teach at a middle school in Liberty met for drinks. I felt like I was eavesdropping on their conversation. I buried my face in my hands a couple of times.

I thought it was happening again. I had it going through my mind I was “hovering” and making women uncomfortable in a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Very few people have told me outright I’m hovering and making them uncomfortable, but Lord knows how often I’ve thought it.

One of the teachers got there a little after two. She was waiting for her colleague, and ended up waiting more than an hour. She was on her phone quite a bit. We made a little small talk, but once her colleague arrived, I felt uneasy sitting there, despite being engrossed in trivia.

The lovely ladies, Joanne and Heather, told me everything was okay and I wasn’t eavesdropping. Crista has told me more than a few (thousand) times I read too much into situations. I’m sure I’ll tell Crista all about it when I see her on 27 June.

Joanne was the one who arrived early. She asked me if she could help me with anything. Fortunately, she didn’t have to.

I told Tina to put their drinks on my bill. She kept the secret until Heather was ready to pay. Heather was going to pay for a couple of Joanne’s drinks due to being late, but then Tina said their bill had been taken care of.

I shouldn’t be so surprised. There was Kelsey, the young lady in the Army from New Hampshire who stopped in at Zona Rosa on her way to St. Louis in December. I would give anything to hear from her. But I know she’s got much more important things to worry about.

December 27, 2015 still pops into the mind from time to time. It was the infamous Sunday when two strangers began kissing and groping one another while sitting next to me. Luckily Robb and Dawn showed up to provide me company.

Speaking of Zona Rosa, their Buzztime system has been down since Mother’s Day. No sense in going there. Also, most of the employees I knew are gone. Tori, Trey and Morgan are there amongst the veterans, but Liz, Lisa and all the rest are gone.

The atmosphere at Shoal Creek is better. The decor is nice, the lightning isn’t too harsh, and it isn’t as loud as Zona gets. Between all the kids and the hip-hop often blaring from the jukebox, it gets unbearable.

Between Joanne and Heather, Larry, Jeff Lagrande and trivia, yesterday was pretty darn good. I didn’t leave until 2030. I have to leave Kansas City tomorrow before 0730 to make sure I’m back in Russell by 1200. I might have dawdled around town Sunday and then driven home late, but my mother is cooking eggplant parmigana.

##########################################################################

The Raptors won the NBA championship. YUCK. There was a jerk wearing a Kawhi Spurs jersey in Buffalo Wild Wings Thursday, cheering every good thing the Raptors did and every bad thing the Warriors did.

First, I cannot stand Kawhi. Period. I’m not a fan of Gregg Popovich, but Kawhi was totally at fault for the stuff he pulled in San Antonio. Popovich had every right to treat Leonard the way he did, because Kawhi did it to himself. Kawhi wanted out of San Antonio so he could find a coach he could manipulate. Nick Nurse proved to be Kawhi’s stool pigeon.

Second, Drake’s antics have made me hate the Raptors. He has no business anywhere near the benches. If it were up to me, I would ban courtside seats. Yes, they bring in boatloads of money for NBA teams, but is it worth the trouble?

Third, men should never, ever wear sleeveless shirts without an undershirt in public, UNLESS they are working out. And if men are to wear sleveeless shirt while working out, they should have to shave their armpit hair, which is disgusting to begin with.

I’m getting my armpit hair laser removed, along with my chest and back. Body hair grosses me out to no end.

My father has almost no body hair. I wish I were like him, not my grandfather, who has more hair than an ape. Apparently, my sister-in-law loves body hair, because my brother is a gorilla. The only good news in my genes is my hair is light-colored, whereas my brother’s is darker, coarser and harder to remove.

##########################################################################

The 25th reunion of my graduating class at Brother Martin High was last Saturday in New Orleans. I didn’t go, of course, but I did donate $70, the cost of attendance, which I did not do previously.

I am friends with very few high school classmates on social media. On the other hand, I’m not wishing them any ill will, which wasn’t the case for a long time. I held a lot of resentment even after moving to Kansas, which was 12 years after my senior year of high school began. Time has a way of healing wounds. Maybe these have started to heal.

##########################################################################

Geez. A man has walked into Buffalo Wild Wings wearing a cowboy hat. WEARING the cowboy hat.

This is not a rodeo, sir. You should remove that hat.

I am just aggravated by men who cannot remove their hats in a restaurant. I wore hats indoors when I was younger; I stopped after visiting the Louisiana state capitol in 1992 and being politely asked by an usher in the House seating gallery to remove it. I like showing off my short hair anyway.

I made a horrible mistake many years ago of going outside without a hat in Kansas. My head was fried within two hours. I haven’t made that mistake since.

Baseball hats are a nuisance. They do not block anyone’s view. But cowoboy hats? Another story.

The public address announcer at Hill City’s gym wears a giant cowboy hat. Anyone sitting directly behind him who is not more than three rows up will have his or her view blocked.

I don’t see why people in Texas want to spend tens of thousands on a Stetson cowboy hat. Make a down payment on a car.

I used to own a ton of hats. Most of them were flooded by Katrina. The only hats I own now are a few MLB throwbacks and the ones I used to wear when I covered outdoor sporting events.

The last hat I purchased was a White Sox throwback, the one they wore from 1976-81 with the floppy-collared jerseys and navy blue or white pants. I discovered those uniforms watching Johnny Bench’s instructional show, The Baseball Bunch, in the mid-1980s.

Most people hate them, especially Chris Sale, who cut a replica up in 2016 when he was scheduled to pitch wearing them on a Turn Back The Clock night, one incident which prompted his departure from Chicago. I love them. I bought the hat as a protest of Sale’s hacking. I despise the White Sox’ uniforms, which they have worn since 1991. Black is ugly, especially for a team which hardly ever wore black before then. It also is a reminder of the White Sox’ disgusting past, namely the Black Sox.

Right now, I’m the only man not wearing a hat at the bar. One black cap, one Royals batting practice cap, the annoying cowboy hat, and a Diamondbacks batting practice hat. I swear there needs to be a hat rack in every restaurant.

##########################################################################

Gary Woodland, a Topeka native who played at Washburn and KU, is leading the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by two strokes. He and Justin Rose make up today’s last pairing, teeing off at 1645 CT (1445 PT). Woodland has never won a major, while Rose won the U.S. Open in 2013 at Lower Merion near Philadelphia.

It looks like Brooks Koepka’s bid to win his third consecutive U.S. Open has ended. That doesn’t make it any less compelling.