There are very few one-named legends: Prince, Madonna, Banksy, Snoopy, Secretariat, Cleopatra, Jesus (debatable… as you can go with “H. Christ” or “Of Nazareth”). And then there’s Pele, who passed yesterday at the age of 82.
More than just the greatest ever in his sport (that status may be more debatable following the last month), the Brazilian soccer god was a global ambassador. Not unlike, say, Wayne Gretzky, he introduced his sport to the masses on all six populated continents.
Pele was only 17 years old when he led Brazil to the World Cup title in 1958. The youngest player ever to compete in the World Cup, Pele scored a hat trick in the semi final versus France (Brazil trailed 2-1 when his scoring binge began), the put in two goals versus host Sweden in the final. He’d go on to be a part of Brazilian World Cup championship squads in 1962 and 1970.
In the Seventies Pele played a principal role in soccer becoming a U.S. phenomenon as he became the centerpiece of a true global All-Star squad, the New York Cosmos of the NASL. The Cosmos featured fading stars who happened to be the top players their respective nations had ever produced, legends such as himself, Giorgia Chinaglia (Italy) and Franz Beckenbauer (Germany). We were lucky enough to attend two Cosmos games in person along with 77,000 of our closest immigrant or first-generation American friends. We did not appreciate what we were seeing (but then, you can apply that sentiment to most everything, no?).
It was a good long life for a sports figure who belongs up there with Muhammad Ali, Gretzky, and Michael Jordan. Hoping they have bicycle kicks in heaven.
The Extra Topping Was Karma
We did not follow the latest social media contretemps, teen climate activist Greta Thurnberg vs retired MMA fighter/misogynist Andrew Tate, closely, but it became very interesting yesterday. That’s when Romanian police used the video Tate had posted to roast Thurnberg against him by noting that the pizzeria inscribed on a pizza box in his video, Jerry’s Pizza, is a local merchant.
That fact gave Romanian police incentive to hunt Tate down as someone residing in their country and arrest him on multiple sex-trafficking charges. Tate’s listed disciplines are kick-boxing and, believe it or not, chess (his pops was a grandmaster), but it appears Thurnberg’s is jujitsu: using your opponent’s aggression against him.
Three In :03
We’d like to think Buddy Hield informed his Indiana Pacer teammates before the opening tip, “Watch me, I’m gonna make NBA history.” And he did. The fastest three-pointer ever made in terms of how quickly after the game began. We were sorta hoping the Knicks’ Emmanuel Quickley (who scored 36 points himself in a losing effort last night) would establish this mark.
How many Power 5 conferences have a school with a “Wildcat” mascot?
Two iconic films that both had famous actors named Gene (one still living) in their casts. Name the Genes and the films (both Genes were in both films).
In general, what is the purpose of hash marks on a football field?
How many Summer Olympics have been held in the Americas?
Three of the early U.S. presidents died on the Fourth of July. Name them.
Which came first: Boston Marathon, World Series, or Indianapolis 500?
I cannot take credit for this joke. Props to my old Brophy buddy Eric.
Rector, Baker, Caretaker
Occasionally I wonder how my kind-hearted, gentle, friendly Dillon Hall rector, Fr. Joseph Carey, is doing. “Cares,” as we called him, was also my boss senior year, as I was lucky enough to be an RA in Dillon (I didn’t realize then it would be the best job I’d ever have).
Anyway, Cares, 82, now lives in an apartment in Ryan Hall on campus, as this Notre Dame Magazine article shows. A ’62 alum of Notre Dame, Cares has discovered baking in his retirement and uses it as a way to welcome students and create friendships and a sense of home, and community. I’m probably missing out on a plethora of confectionary puns here (“it’s refreshing to catch a priest with his hands in a literal cookie jar”), but I’m not up to it.
For you sports fans, Cares was the rector at Dillon when Pat Walsh, creator of the “Catholics vs. Convicts” t-shirt, resided there. On the day Pat hauled in more than $35,000 in T-shirt sales from the Oct. 15, 1988 game, he stashed the money with Cares (who put it in his safe) so that he could head out to party without worrying about it. That’s what was always cool about Cares; he has never forgotten how it feels to be a student.
Future Star: Quinshon Judkins
Truth: we’ve watched less than 10 minutes of bowl action this month and we’re not afraid to say that the glut of bowls, plus the playoff, has turned us off to most of them. Particularly any before, say, December 30th. ESPN and Twitter is just an echo chamber of “All the bowls are awesome” and if you let them influence you, you may begin to question your common sense and good judgment. Just because normally sensible Matt Barrie says it’s so doesn’t mean it is. What else is he going to say? He makes good money via Mickey Mouse.
Anyway, the 10 minutes we saw was the Texas Bowl, where Texas Tech beat Ole Miss. What stuck in our noodle was the play of Mississippi frosh RB Quinshon Judkins and the graphic that only one SEC freshman running back has only rushed for more yards in a season: Herschel Walker.
Judkins finished the season with 1,568 yards rushing; Walker, 1,616.
Good company (at least as far as college rushers go), indeed.
Judkins is from Pike Road, Alabama, a suburb of Montgomery. How did Nick miss on him?
This play/maneuver by Golden State guard Jordan Poole got lost in the hysteria of Luka Doncic’s 60-21-10 game two nights ago. Also, ESPN isn’t much on showing below-the-rim mastery. But it needs to be seen to be believed. Twelve year-old me would’ve been on the court the following day working on this until I had it down… which would’ve been tough since there was no Twitter or YouTube allowing me to watch it repeatedly.
1-6 At least six U.S. presidents have had the same last name as a president who preceded them. Give the last names.
7. True-False: every retired NBA player with a 60-point game is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
8. Who was the lead singer of Mudcrutch?
9. The element with the lowest atomic number is ________________.
10. What MLB park has the furthest fence from home plate (two possible answers) (team, city or park name acceptable).
It’s not just that Mavs unicorn Luka Doncic just put together the most prolific triple-double in NBA history, it’s also the play he made at game’s end to send Dallas’ game versus the New York Knicks into overtime.
Top three Lukas, ranked:
3. The one who lives on the second floor
2. The one who sleeps with the fishes
1. The one who plays for the Mavs
Take note that, like Michael Jordan, Doncic was the third player chosen in his year’s draft (2018). Taken before him were Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, each of whom had Arizona ties. If you listen closely, you can still hear me wailing, “Noooooooooooooooooo!” at the Suns’ pick.
We’re not really up on why Southwest Airlines has had to cancel thousands of flights this week beyond the weather conditions, we only know that American travelers handle such disappointments with aplomb and good humor. So we’re sure airports have been sanctums (sancta) of peace on Earth and good will toward men this holiday travel season.
You think maybe Southwest flight attendants aren’t showing off that trademark cheeky humor this week?
The $1 Quiz*
*No Googling or on-line searching, please
Current leader board
Dan Henry…….. 1
Name a state capital that begins and ends with a vowel—but not the same vowel.
2. From most ancient origin to most recent, put in order the four major U.S. pro sports leagues.
3. What university inspired the helmet design that Michigan uses?
4-7. Name a land-locked country on at least four different continents
8. Looking at the events of Pulp Fiction chronologically, as opposed to how it actually plays, what is the last line a character speaks?
Two of the more incredible and under-covered sports stories of the past few months: 1) the utter dominance of the Boston Bruins (in yesterday’s MH) and 2) the fabulous first half of the Premier League season turned in by Arsenal. Nick Hornby’s favorite squad (it is this London-based club, after all, that was the inspiration for Fever Pitch) are 13-1-1 through 15 matches.
The top four clubs in Premier League qualify for the following season’s Champions League, and Arsenal has not even finished in the top four since the 2015-16 season. The last time they won the Premier League was in 2003-04, when they did so without losing a single match… that squad was rightly nicknamed “The Invincibles.”
The Gunners are doing it, as most successful sides do, via teamwork. They don’t have a single player in the top 10 in scoring but have two in the top three in assists. Also, they’ve allowed just 12 goals in 15 matches. Only Newcastle United (11 goals against) has allowed fewer and the Magpies may be an even better story: they’re currently in 2nd place. Newcastle F.C. has been relegated twice in the past 15 seasons and last finished as high as 2nd in 1997.
Arsenal hosts Newcastle, their first meeting of the season, a week from today.
From the Gunners’ Wikipedia page: “Arsenal was the first club from the South of England to join the Football League in 1893, and they reached the First Division in 1904. Relegated only once, in 1913, they continue the longest streak in the top division, and have won the second-most top-flight matches in English football history.“
Great story here with Buffalo Bills’ wideout Stefon Diggs.
After that post, Diggs tweeted the following:
Should Will Tom Brady Retire?
J.J. Watt announced his retirement today. Watt, a defensive end every bit as revered as a person as a player, is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and can have a long and successful career in front of the camera in the years ahead. J.J. Watt who, like Tom Brady, played part of his college career in Michigan and also in the Big Ten (Central Michigan, then Wisconsin), is 33.
Tom Brady is 45 and I don’t need to introduce you to him. But the question is, do you believe he will retire? On the one hand, it’s no longer as if he feels the pressure from his wife to step aside. Let’s look at the stats for ’22, which are every bit as contradictory as the Bucs being in first place this late in the season with a losing record.
Brady is 4th in the NFL in passing yardage with 4,178. Only Pat Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, all in their 20s and all Pro Bowl-level QBs, are having more prolific seasons through the air. Brady is No. 1 in completions, but that’s actually a damning stat because if you look below the surface it means that he has a low yards-per-completion figure. In fact, his 6.2 yards per completion rate ranks 30th in the league: only Kenny Pickett and Kyler Murray, both of whose teams are having miserable seasons, are worse.
Brady is 23rd in QBR and his 21/9 TD/INT ratio is nothing special. The Bucs are 15th in yards per game and 15th in points per game. A middling offense that has turned it on in the fourth quarter just enough this season—against bad teams, it should be noted—to remain in the playoff chase. Tampa Bay’s best win all year was in Week 1, when they shut down the Cowboys, 19-3.
Still, there’s a very short list of QBs currently playing whom you’d rather have taking snaps if you’re trailing by a touchdown or less in the fourth quarter. TB12 is certainly still among the top-third in that category.
Our prediction: Tom Brady will sign up for another year. Why not? He feels good and he still plays above the league median. And if he retires after this season? His farewell game could very well be a playoff game in the Bay Area, not far at all from the home in which he was raised.
The $5 Quiz
During my instructor days at a college in the American southwest, I’d begin each class with a “Five Dollar Quiz.” The concept is simple: I’d give the students a handout with questions, some pertaining to sports, some not. The first person to hand in the quiz with all the questions answered correctly won $5. There would be a time limit. More often than not, no one would win the $5.
Why did I do it? A few reasons: 1) Routine. Students like a certain amount of routine, 2) To calm everyone down and garner their attention at the start of class, 3) Because smart students like intellectual competition just as much as jocks like athletic competition, 4) Because we all might learn something, 5) Because I always stressed that being a journalist was one of the few occupations where there was literally nothing you could learn that could not potentially be of some use to you, so soak up all the knowledge you can.
(One student, mid-semester, decided to change his major out of journalism and thus dropped my course. He wrote me a nice note saying that his family was going to miss doing the $5 Quiz around the dinner table.)
Most of my $5 Quizzes now exist behind that school’s log in (I have been blocked) but I did save a few to my personal documents file. So I thought I’d make it a game for you. First person to answer the questions correctly (in the comments) will win $1 and we’ll keep a running tab of who’s in the lead. You game? Here goes:
1-5: Name five countries whose names are four-letter words.
6-7: Name two former New York Yankees whose names are associated with medicine.
8. What is an eagle in golf?
9. Which of these college football conferences is numerically accurate: Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12?
10. What country claims Winston Churchill as its own?
Phoenix may have had the most glorious weather in the nation yesterday (high 60s, bright, sunny skies) and one of my former students texted me from Iowa to say it had been 36-below earlier in the week. Can you even imagine? The point is, we have plenty to be thankful here in the Sonoran.
But as we listened or watched the fourth quarter of last night’s Cardinals and Suns games (the former ending just before midnight on the East coast, the latter after 1 a.m.), we know both Phoenix franchises would blow their fourth-quarter leads and lose. Both teams lost in overtime, only prolonging the torture.
The Cards gave up a 10-point lead to Tom Brady and the Bucs in Glendale, inexplicably running a toss pitch on 3rd-and-1 from Tampa’s 45 that was fumbled by rookie Keontay Ingram. This with a three-point lead after the 2-minute warning and with running back/battering ram James Conner having picked up chunks of yardage on runs between the tackle. The toss was not to him.
The Cards have now lost 12 of 13 home games beginning with October ’21”s Thursday night loss to Green Bay when they were 7-0 on the season. Their lone home win since then has been against New Orleans. The 4-11 Cards have now lost five in a row and are 1-7 in December the past two seasons. They’ll end this season at San Francisco. That could be both a huge blowout loss and Kliff Kingsbury’s final game as head coach. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady secured his 250th career win, his 45th career come-from-behind win. Did anyone not think this would happen?
The Suns, meanwhile, wasted an 8-point lead with 6 minutes remaining in Denver. Not as bad as the 10-point lead they squandered with 5 minutes left versus the Wizards last Tuesday, but bad. They’ve now lost nine of their past 13, easily their worst stretch since before the bubble summer of ’20. After playing a solid game in the Mile High City, all but four minutes of it minus Devin Booker (reinjured groin), Phoenix fell apart in the final five minutes with a slew of careless turnovers, an ill-advised shot or two, and yes, a criminally bad replay review on a textbook charge violation.
Thanks for listening as we work out our issues.
A Modest Proposal
There are two types of moviegoers: those who love and prattle on and on about In Bruges (2007) and those who have never seen it. So when the we learned that the principals involved with that delightful little film (Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell and writer/director Martin McDonagh) had reunited, we were anxious to see the film before we could even remember how to say it: The Banshees of Inisherin.
We went alone—there were two other humans, also solo, in the theater—and were once again grateful to see such a wonderful film. Someone said, and we agree, that In Bruges is a comedy with dramatic elements while this film is a drama with comic elements. Fair enough. Or maybe it’s the exact reverse. You get the point.
Anyway, it’s now also airing on HBO Max and when/if you see it, you’ll probably be blown away by actor Barry Keoghan, who plays Dominic and should run away with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Following Robert Downey, Jr.’s, advice (“Never go full retard”), Keoghan’s Dominic is charmingly dim-witted and without filter, but then in key moments astounds you, and his acquaintances on this magical Irish island, with refreshing moments of insight, depth and candor. Even courage.
Hope you see the movie. And treat yourself to an Oscar-worthy performance by a young actor on the rise.
You do your once-monthly check on the National Hockey League and you learn a couple things: 1) the NHL schedules zero games on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (a practice Messrs. Silver and Goodell should follow… it would have meant at least two fewer losses for Phoenix fans) and 2) the Boston Bruins, who happen to be 27-4-2, are yet to lose this season at home (18-0).
Now, being the most out-of-luck wagerers we know (we took the Raiders in the Immaculate Conception game, our very first bet, against our dad… and also took Western Kentucky minus-2 in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl, when the Hilltoppers were outscored 34-0 in the fourth quarter—and won, 49-48), we are flirting with the idea of taking Boston in their next home game, which is New Year’s Eve versus middling Buffalo. If anyone can break the Bruins’ home win streak, it’s us.
One Way To Mitigate College Football’s Rapid Descent Into Chaos
When you think about it, college football players have gone from being the most unfairly restricted of all professional athletes to the most liberated, in the short span of less than, what, five years? Yes, for decades coaches and schools held all the power. Players were not unpaid (scholarships have value), but they were very poorly paid in relation to the revenue schools made and the salaries head coaches earned.
Too, if a player did not like his situation, he’d have to sit out a full year once he transferred to another school. It was often reported that players were not allowed to transfer to some schools (say, in conference), but that was always false. They could always transfer, they just would not be on scholarship for that absentee year.
Anyway, here’s where we are in 2022. A player can be paid, albeit not directly by the school, and there’s absolutely no “salary cap,” per player or team. Also, a player may transfer and play elsewhere immediately, and he can transfer after every season. The only limit is that the transfer portal begins and ends on August 1 so that wherever you are on August 2, that’s the school you must represent until the next August 1 rolls around. Quarterbacks and erstwhile USC teammates J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis are heading to their fourth and third schools, respectively. Jaxson Dart, the QB who replaced them, is on his second. None are at USC.
We’re all for players maximizing their bag, but there’s also the small matter of protecting the product. And yes, college football is a product. There’s also the issue of fostering an environment that combines the impulsiveness and ego of young men and the opportunism and ethically challenged ways of greedy older men. Being able to transfer each season and having a practically unregulated compensation system… well, even NFL free agents and players do not enjoy that freedom. And for a reason: it creates massive instability and encourages bad actors.
Our simple solution: a hard-line on the one-year sit-out rule for EVERY undergraduate transfer. We don’t care if your grandma is sick or if you think you overheard someone calling you the N-word. Deal with it. You may transfer, but you sit out one year. No exceptions. It’s not the perfect solution, but it’s the best of the imperfect solutions.
It’s Christmas Eve—the day, not the Avenue Q character— and we think we’re probably not alone in thinking that Christmas Eve > Christmas Day. So, as tis the night before Christmas, here are five non-sugar plum visions that bring back merry memories.
Bing And Bowie
December of 1977. We remember seeing this as it aired. Think they closed the special with this number. It was a time before not only the internet but also cable and MTV: David Bowie largely existed for most of us on album covers or a highly rare TV appearance. To see him look so, well, normal. And it should be said: How handsome. He always could have been a fashion model.
Anyway, not long ago Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly recreated this moment, so we felt the original deserved its due. And whoever conjured this inspired cross-generational pairing between the voice of White Christmas and the Thin White Duke, only weeks before Bing Crosby’s death, deserves all the hallelujahs… ba rum pum pum pum.
Naughty By (Mother) Nature
Speaking of inspired, what Christmas special-addled kid from the 1970s (raises both hands) was prepared for not one but dueling burlesque numbers in a holiday show (was this the first shot fired in the War On Christmas?). The year was 1974 and into the established murderer’s row of Christmas specials (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, even Frosty The Snowman) someone birthed a new special that was a little cynical and a lot irreverent, but designed it to be aimed at kids: The Year Without A Santa Claus.
The top dog at the North Pole has decided to quiet-quit Christmas as he feels people no longer care about the big day. So Mrs. Claus dispatches two elves to Southtown, U.S.A. to do some market research. In the middle of all this Mother Nature, personified, intervenes, and it turns out she has two sons: Heat Miser and Snow Miser. The former is hot-tempered and tyrannical, the latter is more, well, chill. But they each are inclined to cabaret singing and have minions. Of course.
Within a few days every kid in Mrs. Papa’s 3rd-grade class knew the choruses to both songs.
Bob Hope and the AP All-America Football Team
How can we even begin to pretend that the world is a better place than it used to be if this annual presentation of college football royalty no longer takes place? Personally, I blame Ralph Russo. 🙂
We can’t say for sure what year this tradition began (1967?), but Bob Hope, who spent many a Christmas season either entertaining U.S. troops in distant bases or filming his Christmas special or both, did it all the way until 1995. When he was 92.
You can easily get lost on YouTube for an hour going through different decades (and noticing how ‘roided up everyone was in the late 1980s, early ’90s) and marveling at a young Steve Young being presented immediately before Bo Jackson, or at the hairdos of the 1970s (no wonder I thought college kids were so old when I was young… they looked 35). We chose this year, 1974, because at the 2:16 mark the entire squad breaks into a carol that seemed to inspire all future ESPN holiday programming.
How many moms owe the upgrade in their Christmas present haul to this 2020 short from SNL? “I got a robe.” Our favorite moment: “And he got a robe.” Some commenter noted that the only way this could be more realistic is if the Mom (Kristen Wiig) was not in the Christmas morning photo because she was taking it.
As long as we’re here, let’s pay tribute to Beck Bennett for being the clueless husband in both that Christmas short and this one (from 2021, we think?).
Oh Waitress, We’d Like To Order This Carol
Can you name another rock or New Wave band whose most popular song is a Christmas ditty? In 1981 The Waitresses released “Christmas Wrapping” into the New Wave ionosphere and it instantly became an annual staple of alternative FM stations’ Christmas playlists… still to this day, probably. It was so long ago that half of America didn’t even catch the pun in the title since lead singer Patty Donahue was indeed rapping, not singing. The attitude, the lyrics… Cameron Crowe tried to find the authentic early ’80s teen angst vibe in Fast Times, and he came awfully close, but The Waitresses nailed it. That’s how come the song resonates. The late Donahue’s “deadpan, jaded” vocals feels like every teenager’s inner monologue, at least from that era.
By the way, the saxaphone bridge at 1:48 still slays (sleighs?) us. Listen to it. You were turning up the volume knob if you were driving.
The Waitresses hailed from Akron, Ohio, the same hometown as Chrissie Hynde, lead singer for The Pretenders. The latter band had a far more prolific career but the former the more popular Christmas tune (“2,000 Miles” makes you want to join the ranks of former Pretenders band members, if you know what we mean, and you do).
The FTX kingpin is arrested, extradited from the Bahamas to the U.S., indicted and then released on bail of $250 million and confined to shacking up with mom and dad. Mom, where’s the meatloaf?!?!?!?
This is a situation-comedy reality show waiting to be filmed. “My son the genius can afford $250 million in bail but he won’t even chip in for pizza delivery? Oy vey!”
Truly, it’s a Silicon Valley plot even Mike Judge never envisioned. Imagine SBF being confined to Ehrlich’s Pied Piper incubator. Hilarity ensues.
Meanwhile, two of SBF’s closest colleagues at FTX/Alameda, on-again off-again honey boo Caroline Ellison (CEO of Alameda in late 20s), and FTX co-founder Gary Wang, 32, have both pleaded guilty to fraud charges and are cooperating with authorities.
SBF about to find out that being rich in prison don’t count for much.
Peyton’s Place? Norman
After pulling an obnoxious ball cap pump-fake (his parents should be embarrassed that they laughed; he’s only a teen) that indicated he’d be switching his commitment from Notre Dame to Oregon, 4-star safety Peyton Bowen opted to take a knee. Or rather, not to sign.
Today Bowen’s double-reverse ended with his NLI signature going to Oklahoma. Norman is a 150-mile straight shot north of his hometown of Denton, Texas. Maybe Bowen simply decided to trust his gut.
What we do know is that Peyton Bowen, a safety, is the most heralded (or notorious) recruit in Brett Venables’ class. And that in Austin, No. 1 overall recruit Arch Manning may step in as the starting QB immediately. Hence, next October the Red River Rivalry could well bring us the first Peyton-Manning encounter.
Word play. Yes. Magical. Love it.
Elon, Meet Carl Fisher
A few years ago I was doing some background research for a feature on Montauk I hoped to write (never came to fruition) and that’s the first time I learned of Carl Fisher. In the Roaring Twenties Fisher, already a man worth nine figures, had built the swankiest hotel (the Montauk Manor… it still stands) that the quaint town at the tip of Long Island had or has ever seen.
To learn about Fisher and to study the path of Elon Musk is to remember Rule No. 2 I always provided to my class (“It’s all been done”). Fisher grew up in Indiana a bicycle enthusiast. Soon he got into cars just as this newest mode of transportation was coming into fashion. To dumb it down, Fisher and a friend basically developed the patent for the first headlights, sold the company, and were paid tens of millions of dollars.
If you’ve read Lincoln Highway, you know how instrumental Fisher was in developing that cross-contintental road, as well as the Dixie Highway. How he’s basically responsible for the Indy 500 being the Brickyard (he was its president from 1909-1923, the race’s first years) as well as for the causeways that link Miami Beach to the mainland. He was worth more than $250 million at his peak in the mid-twenties.
Fisher even owned an island, Fisher’s Island (Hello, Mr. Epstein), that is still an ultra-exclusive playground for the wealthy off the coast of Connecticut (Robert Morse as Bert Cooper namedrops it in a Season 1 episode of MadMen).
Then it all crashed in on him. Bad real-estate investments, the stock market crash, etc. His wife left him, his family disowned him. Fisher spent his final years living in a modest cottage in Miami, spending his days sitting on a park bench, virtually anonymous. Good times never last. Good people do. Elon seems to have plenty of work to do on the latter.
*The judges will also accept “Getting His Phil” or “Bucks For Ducks”
It’s been a sweet 24 hours for Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight. Yesterday Nike announced its quarterly earnings after the bell, beating both top- and bottom-line estimates (we don’t know what that means, but it sure sounds impressive). Today shares of the stock soared 12% (coincidentally, about $12/share). Knight owns 40 million shares of NKE stock, which if you carry the one and divide by, I dunno, it’s around a $500 million payday. In one day.
And so what, you say? Well, the University of Oregon football program is an unofficial subsidiary of Nike (Knight ran X-country there forever ago), and today is national signing day, and with NIL now you can basically buy the team you want. We’re not sure this is why 5-star safety Peyton Bowen, out of Denton, Texas, flipped his commitment from Notre Dame to Oregon this morning, but we’d not rule it out.
The Irish did land another 5-star named Bowen, linebacker Drayk Bowen out of Indy. Oregon finishes with the 8th-best recruiting class, according to 24/7 Sports, Notre Dame with the 9th. The Irish were as high as 3rd a week ago but lost both Bowen and another 5-star, Keon Keeley, the latter of whom chose Alabama.
Quick story about Knight: He met his wife, Penny, when she was taking an accounting class he taught at a juco in Portland. His company, not yet called Nike, was a one-room office with two employees so he taught to earn a few extra bucks. In walked this student whom he referred to as a “Julie Christie lookalike” (which was saying A LOT in the late Sixties) who happened to be the best student in class. Phil offered her a job. The rest is history.
What Next For The Irish (Stanford? Etc.) ?
This tweet says it all…
Hence, I’m curious to see how my alma mater will react and/or respond to the NIL tsunami that really has yet to crash on the shores of college football yet. Worth noting that between 1870 and 1900, the first 30 years of college football, three schools accounted for every national championship: Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Now, sure, not as many schools played football, but now it’s 2022 and none of those Ivy League bastions figure into the national championship. Yet the institutions have not diminished a whit: in fact, they are all ranked in the Top 5 academically in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings.
During the era of the two World Wars and in the period between, Army became a national powerhouse, winning a few natties and accounting for three Heisman Trophy winners. The Cadets still play FBS football, but it’s been decades since they’ve been relevant in terms of the national title.
So whither the Irish, or Stanford (Nos. 19 and 4, respectively, academically)? Do they want to remain part of the Football Industrial Complex as it enters its nuclear age? For now, the Irish still have the prestige to compete while Stanford has a YUUUUUUUUGE endowment and a sublime campus and climate. But we’ll have to see how NIL affects student-athlete dynamics and whether seven-figure quarterbacks will even be required to take classes (take a bow, Cardale Jones! You’ve won).
Spoke Just Like A Baroness
One of our all-time favorite films, The Sound Of Music, aired on ABC Sunday night. We sat through all of the commercials because it’s a sheer classic and it reminded us that Julie Andrews ruined us: ever since first seeing this film we’ve had a penchant for guitar-playing nuns who make their own clothes.
Anyway, as we watched, for the first time we gave a little thought about what ever happens to The Baroness (played by Eleanor Parker). We know she’s a wealthy widow, based in Vienna, and when Captain Von Trapp gently dumps her (what is Austria doing with Naval officers, by the way? It’s a land-locked country), she tells him with a smile that she’ll just have to return to Vienna and find a man who needs her…or needs her money (Don’t sell yourself, short, sister: you’re a dish!).
Anyway, that’s where she makes her head-held-high exit (even if she did scheme to vanish Maria). But what comes next? The Nazis, of course, and is anyone or their wealth safe in an occupied country?
And here’s where we’d like to get Netflix or Apple TV on the phone and pitch The Baroness as a series. What becomes of her? Does she save her skin (and money) by marrying or even becoming a mistress of an SS officer? Or does she work with the resistance (a more interesting sub-plot) while still wearing elbow-length while gloves? So many possibilities. Tell us you’re not intrigued.
Two things happened yesterday that need to be mentioned in the same item: 1) I was subjected to a co-worker announcing that “Die Hard is a Christmas movie” as if he had conjured this epiphany himself and 2) The Apartment aired on TCM.
The 1960 Best Picture Oscar winner (deservedly so) is averse to pigeon-holing: Is it a comedy? An asexual romance? A New York City (never a scene outside of Manhattan) picture? A workplace drama? A morality play? Well, it’s all of the above, but it’s also a Christmas movie, as most of the high drama occurs on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the week leading up to New Year’s Eve.
TCM, smart programmers that they are, followed this with Metropolitan (the best Woody Allen film Woody Allen never made), an all-time favorite of our judges, which also takes place (almost) entirely in Manhattan over the holidays.
Ford Vs. Ferrari Tesla
As we type this, shares of Ford (F) are $11.58 while shares of Tesla (TSLA) are just above $145. But that’s comparing apples (as opposed to Apple, AAPL) to chainsaws, as Chuck Klosterman would say. Look at their Price to Earnings ratios (i.e., the Price divided by Earnings-per-share, which is another way of saying the multiple of what it’s selling for as opposed to what it’s literally worth). Ford’s P/E is just over 5 while Tesla’s is over 44. That means Tesla shares are inflated 44x their real value, Ford’s only 5x. Ford, whose EV truck is supposed to be the next big seller in the EV market, seems like the better play.
Meanwhile, what was Elon Musk doing at the World Cup final with Jared Kushner and a bunch of extras from Syriana? Man, wouldn’t you like to have heard that conversation. And was Jared also being read the riot act? It says something that even the world’s second-wealthiest man has to take a ton of sh*t when he’s losing other people’s money… which is what Elon is doing.
Tesla shares were worth $402 at the start of the year. They’re now hovering around $145. What changed? Elon’s obsession with Twitter. Was he simply a figurehead here, doing the dirty work of the Koch brothers and other Far Right dark money holders who wanted to use the platform to advance Far Right extremist views? Or was this solely Elon’s vanity project that has exploded in his face? Elon’s ill-advised Twitter poll (“Should I step down as CEO?”) resulted in a 57% vote saying that he should. You have to think the sultans in Doha and Dubai are tired of losing money with Tesla stock. Maybe they reminded him that Jeffrey Epstein “committed suicide.”
Was Weekend In Doha Elon’s wake-up call?
Bridges To The Past
Last night the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers 130-104 in a contest that did NOT feature LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Devin Booker or Cam Johnson (that’s four All-Stars, at least three Hall of Famers–we’re not yet sold on AD– and four starters). Both squads were missing at least five players, some of whom had legit injuries and some who were taking a breather (the Lakers were on the second night of a back-to-back while the Suns play three games, albeit all at home, in four nights).
Then there’s Suns starter Mikal Bridges, who started and played in his 340th consecutive game last night. It’s more than double the NBA’s next-longest consecutive games streak and the silky 6’6″ swingman out of Villanova is still yet to miss an NBA game since entering the league in 2018.
It’s one thing that Bridges has avoided injury. It’s another that in this era of load management—Booker, the Suns’ top player, was clad in a Chicago Blackhawks sweater two nights after scoring 58 versus new Orleans, and he’ll probably play tonight—Bridges never gets, or perhaps yearns for, a night off.
As the streak extends, you will hear more about this. But know that Bridges is more than just an Ironman with a chill game and demeanor. He’s an outstanding defensive player with estimable offensive skills, when he chooses to show them off. He’s a legit 20 ppg scorer if he wants to be.
One reason players such as Bridges are so rare these days (in fact, he’s so rare that there’s no one else even close to him)? The watering down of the playoffs in all professional sports (I’ll include college football here) outside of European soccer, which sort of is allowed to get away with not having playoffs in its various nation’s leagues by staging an inter-European Champions League that lasts most of the season and runs concurrently.
Check out the chart below (I made it myself!) (numbers in parens = total teams in league)
LEAGUE PLAYOFF TEAMS IN 1992 IN 2022/23
NHL 16 (24) 16 (32)
MLB 4 (26) 12 (30)
NFL 12 (28) 14 (32)
NBA 16 (27) 20 (30)
FBS 0 (107) 12* (131)
By contrast, the Premier League in England has two fewer teams (20 to 22) than it did 30 years ago, still does not have a playoff, and remains immensely popular.
We contend that all sports would improve, in terms of quality, with fewer playoff berths, thus compelling teams to take the regular season more seriously (Are you listening, Bill Hancock?). But of course they won’t because more games means more concession sales, parking revenue and, most importantly, TV programming. So, we fans get a watered-down product but the owners/network heads already know that you’ll accept it. That we’ll accept it. Hell, we eat McDonald’s hamburgers. We’ll devour anything if its packaged and marketed correctly.
One more thing: no self-respecting league should ever have an odd number of playoff berths or regular-season games. It’s just un-American.
What an outrageously delicious weekend in sports. Not unlike a Seinfeld episode that had more than one memorable plot line (“Wait!?!? ‘Soup Nazi’ and ‘Schmoopie’ were in the same show?”), this weekend had events that, in years to come, we’ll be shocked to learn all happened within the same 48 hours. Let’s to it, shall we?
• World Cup Final
Argentina 3, France 3, with Argentina winning on PKs. As much as we dislike penalty kicks to resolve any match, much less a World Cup final (our suggestion: each team must pull one player every 3 minutes until there’s a winning goal), this match had everything:
The defending World Cup champs (France)
The greatest player of this generation (many would say, “of any”), Lionel Messi, who had not won a World Cup, the lone blank spot on his CV
France’s Kylian Mbappe, set to be the world’s top player for the next 10 years who had already won a World Cup in 2018
The fact that Messi and Mbappe are teammates for Paris-St. Germain
Argentina goes up 2-0 by halftime, as a late pre-game roster switch, Di Maria, proves the difference for the Argentines.
France rebounds with 2 goals in a span of 93 seconds in the match’s 80th, 81st minutes.
A goal by Messi (he’d finish with two) in extra time, followed by a goal from Mbappe (he’d finishe with 3) in the 118th minute.
No team had ever scored three goals in a World Cup final before and lost
Messi secures his legacy and returns to play in the country (France) of whom he’d just robbed a repeat World Cup title.
Sure, the Indianapolis Colts have had a miserable season, but they have beaten the Kansas City Chiefs and suddenly they were up 33-0 at Minnesota, the first-place team in the NFC North (10-3). Then, in the third quarter, the implosion began. Long story short, the Vikings came ALL THE WAY BACK to win 39-36 in overtime. It’s the largest deficit overcome for a win in the history of the NFL, more than 100 years.
Meanwhile, the Colt quarterback on Saturday was Matt Ryan, who was under center for the Atlanta Falcons when they choked away the largest lead in Super Bowl history, 28-3, to the New England Patriots. 28-3 and 33-0 will be the defining numbers of Matt Ryan’s career, fair or no.
Tuck Rule Payback in Las Vegas
It’s been nearly 21 years since that January night in Foxboro when the Patriots defeated the Raiders in an AFC playoff game via a ruling that most (all?) of us fans had NEVER before seen invoked (or heard of). What ever became of that Tom Brady fellow, anyway?
Yesterday in the Raiders’ new home, Las Vegas, a bit of karmic payback, as the Pats suffer their dumbest loss of the Bill Belichick era. That had to be a looooooooong flight home for Pat wideout Jakobi Meyers, who with the score tied 24-all on the game’s last play flipped a switch and decided he was part of the Stanford Band play for Cal.
“Just trying to do too much, trying to be a hero, I guess,” Meyers said. “I thought I saw Mac [Jones] open. I didn’t see Chandler Jones at the time. I thought [Mac] was open and tried to get it to him, and let him try to make a play with it. But the score was tied, so I should have went down.”
Somethings to consider: If Chandler Jones was aggressively pursuing the play as he should have been, this interception never occurs; the cherry on top was steamrolling Mac Jones; this was a Jones-on-Jones crime.
Booker’s 58; Noka’s 40-27-10; KD’s 26
•An incredible trio of solo performances by three creditable first-team All-Stars over the weekend. On Saturday night, Devin Booker exploded for 58 points to help the Phoenix Suns overcome a 24-point third quarter deficit in a 118-114 win against the New Orleans Pelicans. Book shot 60% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, but only 66.6% from the line. If he shoots better from the line, it’s a 60-point game. At one point in the second half Booker went full-blown Bill Mlkvy, scoring 25 of the Suns’ points in a row. This was his third-highest scoring effort in his career, his first in a win. Also, the Suns lost twice to the Pelicans, who have the best record in the West, last weekend.
• Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets went off for 40 points, 27 boards and 10 assists in Denver’s win against the worst team in the NBA, Charlotte. It’s the most prolific triple-double the NBA has seen since Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s.
• Kevin Durant scored 26 points in the third quarter of the Nets’ 124-121 win at Detroit. KD finished with 43. Klay Thompson’s 37 points in one quarter remains the record.
And finally, in Mobile, Ala., Frank Gore Jr. (son of retired NFL star) rushed for an NCAA-bowl record 329 yards in Southern Miss’ 38-24 defeat of Rice in the LendingTree Bowl. Gore cooked Riceon just 21 carries. He had scoring runs of 64 and 55 yards plus a 59-yarder that set up a third score. Gore also completed two passes, one an 18-yard TD throw. Make room, Red Grange. So where will the 5’8″ Gore, currently a sophomore, transfer to play next season?