Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) If you bet the San Francisco 49ers over/under win total for this season, your mood turned when Jimmy Garoppolo became the Niners’ starting QB.

When the 49ers were 0-9, under 4.5 wins looked golden; now they’re 5-10 and under is a loser, over is a surprising winner, which is a good example of how season-long prop bets can be dicey, since Garoppolo was in Foxboro for the first half of this season.

12) If you have Showtime on your TV and are looking for some good binge-watching, Season 2 of Billions will run all day Sunday, starting at 7am. Season 1 ran all day Christmas Eve; got to see some episodes of this terrific program before and after football, which was fun.

11) In their last five games, Arizona Cardinals have held their opponents to 10-58 on third down, which is really good defense. Redbirds are only 7-8, but they’re still playing hard.

10) Speaking of the Cardinals, reports are out that Bruce Arians won’t be back as coach next year. Arians is 48-30-1 in Arizona, but is 65 and has had some health issues recently. Redbirds have an older roster (11 players are older than Sean McVay)- they’re going to miss Arians.

9) I mentioned Artis Gilmore briefly last week; the former Jacksonville center played 17 years in the NBA/ABA— he played 80+ games in 13 times, including his first eight years in ABA, where teams didn’t own their own airplanes, and teams sometimes played three nights in a row.

Gilmore averaged 18.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg in his career; he played 41+ mpg in his first four years, 37.4+ mpg in seven of his first eight years, 34.1+ mpg in his first 11 years. In other words, he wasn’t soft like some of today’s stars, who whine about every little inconvenience while making eight figure salaries.

8) If you didn’t see DeAndre Hopkins’ TD catch against the Steelers Monday night, go find it on ESPN.com on YouTube— just a great catch.

7) Surprising fact: This is first time since 2010 the Steelers have a first round bye in the playoffs.

6) US Presidents are not allowed to accept gifts from foreign governments that are worth more than $390; am wondering how they came up with that amount as a limit, but thats the rule.

5) I was wondering about this so I looked it up; in NFL games this season where turnovers were even, the favorite is 27-28-2 vs spread this season. Was hoping for a more dramatic %age that would tell me something, but we don’t always get what we want.

4) Miami Dolphins have only three rushing TD’s this year; only team in last 20 years with fewer than that? The 2005 Arizona Cardinals had only two rushing TD’s all season.

3) Paxton Lynch will start at QB for the Broncos this week………I’m really not sure why, other than they want to take one more look at Lynch before the offseason. Denver has to make a move for a franchise quarterback this winter— it is hard to believe that their 2018 starter is currently on their roster, but I said the same thing about them at this time last year.

2) New England Patriots signed LB James Harrison for the rest of the season, after the Steelers surprisingly cut him last week. The 39-year old Harrison lost his starting job this season- he played a total of 40 snaps the whole season.

1) Isaiah Thomas is going to be ready to play pretty soon, which is going to change some things for the Cavaliers; Thomas was the #3 scorer in the NBA last year for Boston; he played 33.8 mpg LY, so that is 33 minutes a game that current Cavaliers are going to sit.

Cleveland is 24-10, so the guys who’ve been playing now are doing well; going to take selfless guys to accept a “demotion” with Thomas returning, and it will take a few games for everyone to get used to playing together, with some guys taking a lot fewer shots, and even Thomas having the ball a lot less than he is used to having it.

Tuesday’s List of 13: No one asked me, but……

13) NFL didn’t flex a game into primetime this week; they’ll have seven 1:00 games, and then all nine games with playoff implications will be at 4:25. Should be a fun day of football.

12) This will be first time since 1995 the NFL went consecutive weeks without a Sunday night game, but this Week 17 thing makes sense. Makes it little tougher for handicappers, though.

11) Todd Gurley is the first NFL player since Herschel Walker in 1986 to log 100 yards rushing and 150 yards receiving in the same game.

10) Unsolicited opinion: Minnesota Vikings need to sign Case Keenum as their QB going forward- if they choose Sam Bradford over Keenum, they’re ignoring the evidence in front of their faces. As for Teddy Bridgewater, I guess a lot depends on how his knee is.

As a Ram fan, I’ve seen a lot of both Bradford, Keenum; Keenum is a gym rat, a guy teammates rally behind, a leader. Bradford gets hurt a lot; he’s not bad, but look at his career record.

9) Jerry Jones’ grandson is a 5-10, 180-pound QB who just won two HS state titles in Texas; he has scholarship offers from Texas Tech, Arkansas, but those schools might be recruiting Jerry’s wallet as much as the kid. College sports can be like that.

What are the odds that five years from now, when Jerry is 80, Cowboys draft the grandson?

8) UCLA QB Josh Rosen is sitting out the Cactus Bowl with concussion-related issues; will be interesting to see if Rosen/Darnold enter the draft or go back to school for another year. And if Rosen/Darnold both balk at Cleveland and go back to college, do the Browns take Josh Allen?

7) If you care about such things, baseball’s 2018 winter meetings are at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas next December 9-13. Good place to have them.

6) Halftime score from Saturday: Oklahoma 68, Northwestern 38. Sooners scored 68 points in a half against a Big 14 team- think they were 14-20 on the arc in that half.

5) New Mexico State beat Miami 63-54 Saturday, their first win over a top 10 team since 1990. Back then, the Aggies and Cal-Santa Barbara were always chasing UNLV in the Big West- they had some really good teams.

4) Movie scenes that could never be made today: In the 1982 movie The Verdict, Paul Newman plays a down-on-his-luck lawyer who stumbles onto a big wrongful death case that he should win, but then he finds out his girlfriend is actually a double agent for the plaintiffs.

Newman finds this out just before he is supposed to meet the girlfriend in a bar; he walks in, sees her and decks her with one punch. Don’t think that scene would get by the censors these days.

3) Pet peeve; Norm Stewart, Gene Keady and Mike Montgomery are in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, and Jerry Tarkanian isn’t; on which planet does that make sense?

Tarkanian is in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield; this college HOF is in Kansas City– they need to change how their inductees are chosen.

2) Funny how in NFL games played in the snow or really cold weather, there are a lot fewer penalties called. Refs want to get the hell out of there.

1) Congrats to Fresno State’s football team, which went 10-4 this year after going 1-11 LY. Jeff Tedford did a great job in his first year in Fresno- he was Aaron Rodgers’ coach at Cal and also was a head coach in the CDL— the man knows his stuff.

Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Rams 27, Titans 23— On opponents’ opening drives this season, Rams forced 8 turnovers on 15 drives, which is an amazing stat. Todd Gurley was a beast in this game; 118 rushing yards, 158 receiving yards, two touchdowns. Rams clinch their first divisional title since 2003.

Tennessee lost its 3rd game in row, is in danger of missing the playoffs for 10th year in a row. Seven of Titans’ last nine games were decided by five or less points. If Tennessee loses next week, they could still make it playoffs if Bills/Chargers also lose.

Bengals 26, Lions 17— This loss KO’s Detroit from playoff contention and likely ends the tenure of Jim Caldwell as head coach. Matthew Stafford makes $27M a year; he is now 59-65 as an NFL starter, 0-3 in playoff games. Lions last won a playoff game in 1991.

Chargers 14, Jets 7— Chargers won five of their last six games; they play Oakland next week in what should be a weird game, given how popular the Raiders remain in the LA area. Bolts need a win and also Titans to lose and then either Buffalo or the Ravens to lose to make the playoffs. Under is 9-1 in Chargers’ last ten games.

Jets are 11-42 on 3rd down in last three games; they’re 2-8 in their last ten games. Not sure why Christian Hackenberg hasn’t played yet; its similar to the Davis Webb/Giants quandary.

Bears 20, Browns 3— Cleveland is 1-30 the last two years, 3-12 vs spread this year. Browns are -15 in turnovers their last six games. Does this mean Sam Darnold stays at USC? Sounds like he doesn’t want to live near Lake Erie.

Panthers 22, Buccaneers 19— Carolina hadn’t scored an offensive TD all day until they drove 59 yards for the game-winning score with 0:35 left— they’re in the playoffs now, but they can win the division if they win next week and the Saints lose at Tampa Bay. Carolina is +10 in turnovers in its last six games.

Bucs’ GM and coach were talking big on Hard Knocks this past summer; but now they’re 4-11 and you wonder if Jon Gruden wants to coach the Bucs again, will they hire him?

Saints 23, Falcons 13— New Orleans is in the playoffs after starting season 0-2; Atlanta can still make playoffs by beating Carolina next week- they won 34-31 in Seattle Nov 20, the game that gives them the tie-breaker over the Seahawks.

This was first time in five years these two divisional rivals split their season series; New Orleans has won seven home games in a row- if they win next week, they’ll get another home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Weird thing about handicapping football; 10 of last 13 Atlanta games stayed under the total. Last year, 12 of 16 Falcon games went over the total. Each season is a separate entity.

Redskins 27, Broncos 11— Denver has to make a move for a franchise QB this winter; they were 1-7 on road this year, 0-4 as road underdogs, with six road losses by 10+ points- they’re -16 in turnovers. Thats a nice way of saying they’re terrible.

Washington is 3-2 in its last five games, can finish .500 if they beat the Giants next week. Going to be lot of QB-related issues this winter; will Redskins keep Cousins? Will Giants get rid of Eli Manning? Who will the Giants hire to be coach and GM? Will Washington keep Jay Gruden?

Chiefs 29, Dolphins 13— Do yourself a favor and find the video of Andy Reid’s post-game press conference; he did it in full Santa Claus garb. It is tremendous.

Chiefs win the AFC West, are 32-15 the last three years- they’re in playoffs for 4th time in last five years, but they also have questions— will they trade Alex Smith to the Browns?

As for Miami, they paid Jay Cutler $10M to come in and go 6-9- they lost six of last eight games, went 2-6 on the road. Dolphins can ruin Buffalo’s season by beating the Bills next week.

Patriots 37, Bills 16— NFL should go to FOX TV’s Mike Pereira, ask him how much he wants to take over the league’s instant replay system and put him in charge of it- that would fix a lot of the indecisiveness that seems to plague the current system.

As for Bills’ coach Sean McDermott and other AFC East coaches, their job security is tied to how long Tom Brady decides to play, because as soon as #12 walks, the AFC East becomes a free-for-all. But if the Titans, Bills and Chargers all win next week, then Buffalo misses the playoffs in a tie-breaker with the Chargers, who beat them 54-24 when Nathan Peterman threw five INTs in a half in his first NFL start. Decisions like that are bad for a coach’s job security.

Home teams are 8-1-1 vs spread in AFC East divisional games this season.

49ers 44, Jaguars 33— This was the first game in NFL history with a final score of 44-33; there are media members who already want Jimmy Garoppolo fitted for his gold Hall of Fame jacket. Garoppolo is 6-0 as an NFL starter and the 49ers will be a trendy pick to make the playoffs next year, but at this point, they’re passing tired horses.

Jacksonville clinched the AFC South when the Titans lost; Andrew Catalon on FOX was killing Blake Bortles in the third quarter of this game. Guy QB’s a 10-5 team and is getting crushed on TV. Four of last five Jacksonville games went over the total.

Cardinals 23, Giants 0— Arizona got its first shutout in 25 years, night after the Vikings got their first shutout in 24 years. If I was a Giants fan, I’d want to at least see Davis Webb play, to see if he has any ability, or any potential to at least bring back draft picks in a trade. Quarterbacks are valuable, I’m told.

Cardinals head to Seattle next week with a chance to finish .500; they’re an older team with an older coach— will Arians be back? Will Carson Palmer be back?

Seahawks 21, Cowboys 12— Dallas outgained Seattle 283-136, and lost by nine points. Brutal day for the Cowboys, which didn’t score a TD, then watched kicker Bailey miss two easy FG’s to get margin within a TD in 4th quarter. Last nine times Dallas had the ball, they turned ball over three times, kicked four FG’s, missed two other FG’s. Touchdowns win games.

Seattle needs the Falcons to lose at home to Carolina next week, and then to beat Arizona to make the playoffs. Seahawks have gained a TOTAL of 285 yards the last two weeks- their OL is terrible, but Russell Wilson’s big heart is keeping them alive.

If the playoffs started Christmas morning (they don’t), they would look like this:
AFC: Patriots-Steelers-Jaguars-Chiefs. Wild Cards: Ravens/Titans
NFC: Eagles-Vikings-Saints-Rams. Wild Cards: Panthers/Falcons

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Whats the point of having the Packers play home games at night on December 23? Do they want someone to freeze to death in the stands?

The answer is that if they stumble across a snow game, they’ll get huge TV ratings, because snow games, it has been proven, get better ratings on TV than games in ordinary weather.

12) Wake Forest has three coaches on its staff who scored 1,240+ points in their playing days in college; Danny Manning (Kansas), Randolph Childress (Wake) and Steve Woodberry (Kansas).

11) Major league ballplayers who play 8+ years in the majors get a lifetime pass to games (with a guest). Not a bad perk.

10) Good to see former Ohio State/NBA center Greg Oden finding his way as a student assistant coach with the Buckeyes. Oden earned over $24M in his NBA days, but played only 105 games, scoring 14.9 ppg in a injury-shortened career. He turns 30 next month- time flies.

9) UCLA 83, Kentucky 75— Hopefully these teams will continue to play every year; their games are always fun to watch. Bruins are 9-3; they don’t have great depth because of the shoplifting mess in China, but they play hard- this is a sold win for them.

8) Florida Gulf Coast has a 6-10 junior named Michael Gilmore, who is a great-nephew of Artis Gilmore, who played in the ’71 Final Four for Jacksonville and then played 17 years in the ABA, NBA and scored 24,941 points.

Gilmore played in the ABA for the Kentucky Colonels, one of the great forgotten teams of all time. Coached by Hubie Brown (yes, the guy on ESPN) the Colonels won the ’75 ABA title- they had Maurice Lucas, Louie Dampier, Caldwell Jones- they had Johnnie Neumann and Travis Grant on the same team- two of the worst gunners in basketball history!!!

7) Think about it; Kentucky owner John Y Brown shuttered the Colonels as part of the ABA-NBA merger, with a promise that he could later buy the Celtics, which he did. Had he not done that, then Maurice Lucas doesn’t go to Portland and the Trailblazers don’t win the ’77 NBA title.

6) Wyoming 37, Central Michigan 14— Wyoming QB Josh Allen will be much-discussed when the NFL Draft comes around in April; he has a strong arm, can run, but hasn’t played against the same competition as Sam Darnold/Josh Rosen.

I like Allen, but he damn sure better learn how to slide, because NFL defenders will put him on the IR pretty quickly otherwise. He likes to run and challenge defenders— can’t do that much in the NFL.

5) Poor Alabama A&M; they’re 0-13 with 11 road games- they lost 89-49 to Georgetown, the last of a ridiculous pre-conference schedule that pays a lot of the program’s bills. Bulldogs played at Michigan, Georgetown, Alabama, Minnesota, DePaul. Losing isn’t fun.

4) St Bonaventure 60, Syracuse 57 OT— Solid win for the Bonnies, who are located in middle of nowhere. If you’re not from NY or Pennsylvania, I defy you to find their campus on a map- they have to recruit like hell and they play in a very tough league. Mark Schmidt is a very good coach.

3) USC 89, Middle Tennessee 84— Semi-final in the Diamond Head tourney in Hawaii, this was an excellent game.

2) South Florida 38, Texas Tech 34— Bulls scored a TD with 0:16 left to win this game. After a few cruddy bowls during the week, the bowl games Saturday were actually competitive games.

Army 42, San Diego State 35— Cadets scored TD with 0:18 left to win game. Rashaad Penny ran 14 times for 221 yards, but Aztecs couldn’t stop Army’s offense.

1) One of the odd things about college basketball is that after you play a team, especially these non-conference games, you root like hell for your opponents to do well down the road, since it enhances your resume if they do.

Saturday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind…….

13) One of the odd things about college basketball is that November is a much better month for games than December. I mean, we have two mid-major teams here where I live, Albany and Siena- they both played Memphis AND Louisville this season.

College basketball gets real next week, when conference games start in earnest and everyone get back to playing their own kind. Can’t wait.

12) Worst offenders for scheduling cupcakes this year in pre-conference games:
#350 Georgetown— Played Richmond, Syracuse and a lot of sub-300 teams
#344 Mississippi State— Played Cincinnati, Dayton and nine other stiffs.
#340 NC State— Played Penn State and in Atlantis tournament; have new coach.
#336 Virginia Tech— Hokies are 10-2; NC schedule #336 could hurt on Selection Sunday

11) Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon “……is pissed every time the Yankees make a move”, referring to Giancarlo Stanton’s acquisition.

Only a jackass like Wilpon would be angry that a great player was traded OUT of his division; he should be angrier that the Phillies signed Carlos Santana, since the Philllies, you know, actually compete with the Mets, and seem to be trying to win, unlike Wilpon’s Mets.

10) Mets brought former GM Omar Minaya back as “special assistant to the GM”, joining former manager Terry Collins in that title. What exactly will these two be doing, other than stealing money? Roving minor league instructors? Scouting? Running the Mets’ Twitter account?

Maybe one of these “special assistants” should tell Fred Wilpon that he owns a baseball team that is located eight miles from the Bronx, where they spend a lot of money to try and win. it would be nice if the Mets spent some money, too.

9) How about the Jaguar commercial on TV where the guy gives his wife a Jaguar for Christmas and instead of thanking the guy, she complains because he put a few hundred miles on the car before she got it? Oy. He gave you a freakin’ Jaguar……say thanks!!!!!

8) NHL teams that play road games on consecutive nights this season are 34-44 on the second night this season; 17-26 if they won the first night, 17-18 if they lost the first night.

7) This is from sportsbusinessdaily.com, talking about what college football players get as “swag” for playing in bowl games:

“……..the reward provided more than any other by the bowl committees to the game’s participants will be a chance to shop in a gift suite. The suite is a portable store set up on campus or at a venue in the game’s host city, where players browse through a variety of items, then have up to $550 worth of those goodies shipped to the address of their choice.”

Take the Potato Bowl in Idaho; in addition to the $550 from the gift suite, players on Wyoming, Central Michigan will all get Oakley sunglasses, an Under Armour backpack and a beanie.

6) Texas A&M’s basketball team was without three starters for its win over Buffalo Thursday; leading scorer DJ Hogg is suspended for at least three games, meaning he’ll miss the Aggies’ first two SEC games, against Alabama/Florida.

5) NFL teams that have gone 3/out the most times this season: Colts (65), Browns/Giants (58), Seattle-Denver-Jets (57).

Fewest 3/outs this year: Patriots/Steelers (27), Falcons (31), Saints (32), Chargers (35).

4) Most 3/outs forced this year: Broncos-Cardinals-Jaguars (62), Eagles (59), Ravens (56).

Fewest 3/outs forced: Packers (32), Raiders/Patriots (33), Falcons-Bears-Bucs (34).

3) UCLA extended the suspensions for basketball players Jalen Hill and Cody Riley for this whole season, after they got busted for shoplifting in China along with another player, who has since left the school. Riley had been expected to start for the Bruins, who are 8-3 heading into their game with Kentucky today.

The two kids can practice starting Dec 26, which is a big help to them and also helps the team have better practices. I’m pretty sure this decision was made at the highest level of the school, lot of political ramifications involved.

2) Underrated accomplishment of the year: UAB went 8-5 in football this year, played in the Bahamas Bowl. No big deal, you say?

UAB didn’t field a football team the last two years; the school dropped football to save money, but after an outcry from alumni/public, it was brought back this season. So an expansion team goes 8-5 and gets a bowl invite. Thats very impressive to me.

1) Mentioned briefly yesterday about Dick Enberg passing away; he was at the forefront of the tremendous growth in interest in college basketball— he broadcast the Indiana St-Michigan St game in 1979, the Bird-Magic national championship game.

Working with Billy Packer/Al McGuire, Enberg was the point guard of a great 3-man announce team that taught me so much about college basketball. ESPN then came along and my winters have been filled with basketball ever since.

Mr Enberg called 28 Wimbledons, ten Super Bowls, nine no-hitters and eight Final Fours; he will surely be missed.

Friday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here…….

13) Why did the Giants trade for Evan Longoria? Their third basemen combined to hit .216 LY, with only nine homers, 51 RBI. Not good.

12) How was Tennessee’s basketball team picked to finish 13th in the SEC? Vols are 8-2, with their only two losses to Villanova/North Carolina- they’re good.

11) 82-year old Len Dawson, who led the Kansas City Chiefs as their QB in Super Bowls I and IV, is retiring from his job on Chiefs’ radio after this season.

I like to collect unique pictures off the Internet on my phone; one of the ones I have is of Dawson at halftime of Super Bowl I, sitting on a folding chair in the Chiefs’ locker room, taking a drag off a cigarette with an open bottle of Fresca at his feet. Somehow that wouldn’t fly today.

10) Wyoming QB Josh Allen will play for the Cowboys in the Potato Bowl Friday; he hurt his throwing shoulder against Air Force, sat out the Cowboys’ last two games, so if he wants to make a statement to NFL scouts for next April’s draft, he needs to show he is healthy in this game.

9) Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 38 points off the bench Wednesday; he is only the 3rd rookie since 1983 to do that, joining Walt Williams (1993) and Rodrique Beaubois (2010) on that list.

Rodrique played only four years in the NBA, for Dallas (182 games). Williams played 12 years in the NBA for six different teams, scoring 8,200+ points.

8) John Schnatter, the guy on all those Papa John’s pizza commercials, is out as the company’s CEO— Papa John’s is the best pizza I’ve ever had, but six of the seven places in the Albany area closed a few years ago, and the one that stayed open doesn’t deliver to my suburb.

7) Want to win a bar bet? Oprah Winfrey and Anthony Mason are the two most famous alumni of………Tennessee State.

6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t led a game at halftime since Week 4 against the Giants, back on October 1st. They were tied 3-3 against the Jets in Week 10.

5) Before he was a big time college basketball coach, South Carolina’s Frank Martin was a busboy, a bouncer, a short-order cook and a math teacher. Bouncer is easy to see; high school math teacher seems like a bit of a reach. Coach Martin walked by me at an AAU tournament in Florida few years ago— the man has immense shoulders, just a large, tough-looking guy.

4) Temple 28, Florida International 3— Why is a bowl game that is sponsored by a company that makes lawn mowers played in a domed stadium with FieldTurf?

FIU’s senior QB Alex McGough was hurt on first series of this game; the kid is from the Tampa area- this was his last college game- he stayed in for two plays after his shoulder injury, but you could tell he was in agony. Just felt really bad for the kid.

3) Knicks 102, Celtics 93— Kristaps Porzingis was 0-11 from floor but the Knicks won. Go figure.

2) Thing I learned listening to Bill Walton last night on the UConn-Arizona game; The earth rotates around the sun at an angle of 23.5 degrees, which is why we have different seasons.

You thought it was going to be something about basketball?

1) Mike Sando of ESPN did some research; Jaguars had 19 Week 1 starters still in the lineup in Week 15, most in the NFL- they’ve stayed pretty healthy. Arizona had only 10 starters still in the lineup, least in the league- they played several games with their #3 QB.

Thursday’s List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) Sad day for baseball fans in Tampa Bay/St Pete; Rays traded 3B Evan Longoria to the Giants Wednesday, for Denard Span, Christian Arroyo and two minor leaguers.

Longoria is one of the two best players in Rays’ history (Carl Crawford being the other); he helped lead the underdog Rays to the 2008 World Series.

Wouldn’t be stunned if the Rays wound up moving to Montreal and becoming the Expos.

12) Tampa Bay’s final 2017 payroll was $81,346,870; only three MLB teams had a payroll lower than that. Of the other four AL East teams, the next lowest payroll was $165,179,831.

11) Also in the AL East, Orioles’ closer Zach Britton ruptured his achilles tendon and will miss the next 6-8 months, and possibly the whole 2018 season.

10) Los Angeles Rams average 4.73 points/red zone drive, which ranks 18th in NFL in ppp, but the thing is, Rams have been in the red zone 64 times this year, six more times than anyone else in the NFL. Patriots are second, with 58 red zone drives. Bears are last, with only 28. (Red zone drives are when you get inside the other team’s 20-yard line)

9) Why are Rams’ punter Johnny Hekker and PR Pharoh Cooper in the Pro Bowl? Because field position is important, and these two guys have helped the Rams win field position most every week.

This season, Rams have started 85 drives 75+ yards from goal line; their opponents have started 123 drives on their own 25 or worse. Thats a difference of almost three drives per game.

8) One more piece of Rams’ news and it isn’t good news; kicker Greg Zuerlein has a herniated disc in his back, is done for the season. Zuerlein had a great year, is the NFC’s Pro Bowl kicker, but he is having back surgery today. Rams signed Sam Ficken, who kicked in college at Penn State.

7) If ESPN insists on showing so many of Duke’s pre-conference games, could they at least play good teams? As I’m typing this, they’re beating banged-up Evansville 53-18. Play a true road game now and then; it won’t kill you. Might even help you play better in March.

6) A legislative election in Virginia wound up being a tie, and that election could’ve swung which party holds the majority in the state. If you’re unhappy with how the government is doing, register and vote every November. You never know how much of a difference you might make.

5) Former Cowboys’ RB Darren McFadden sued his former agent for screwing up a Bitcoin deal that cost McFadden $3M, amongst other shenanigans that cost the RB another $12M.

Someone came out this week and said that if McFadden’s $3M Bitcoin investment had gone thru back in 2008, it would be worth $237M now. Whoops.

4) Louisiana Tech 51, SMU 10— SMU’s play-caller in this game is a grad assistant; you NEVER see that in big time college football, but Sonny Dykes just got hired by the Mustangs and he isn’t 100% up to speed on the team’s playbook yet. Two nights in a row, though, terrible bowl games.

Louisiana Tech alum Terry Bradshaw was an honorary captain for this game, which was played at a soccer stadium in Frisco, TX that seats around 20,000 people.

3) Wofford 79, North Carolina 75— Terriers were a 24.5-point underdog, but held Tar Heels to 36.4% from floor, and survived being outscored 28-16 on foul line. .

2) When the Miami Marlins were crying poor so they could get their new domed stadium 10 years ago, they actually made $35.6M profit in 2007, 2nd-most in the major leagues that season. Going to be a lot of bitter people in south Florida next summer, with that beautiful stadium hosting the worst team in the major leagues, because new owners are dumping all the good players to save $$$

1) DirecTV calls me the other day and tries to get me to buy even more premium channels; the problem is, the person on the phone? I can’t understand what she is saying- she talks really fast and well.…I just couldn’t understand her.

I’ve hit my ceiling on how much I’m spending for TV anyway, but you’d think they’d put people on the phone who you can understand when they speak.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) OK, I’m asking for your input here— e-mail me at ffib13@gmail.com

Who, in your opinion, is the greatest Los Angeles Laker ever?

Kareem, Magic, Wilt, Kobe, Jerry West, Shaq, Happy Hairston, Nick Young?

Let me know what you think.

12) Why are the Baltimore Ravens rolling right now? In their last five games, Ravens have been playing on a shorter field, winning field position by 17-13-14-5-17 yards. Thats a combination of defense/special teams. John Harbaugh was a special teams coach before he was a head coach.

11) Arizona Cardinals didn’t score a touchdown in their last two games, are switching to Drew Stanton at QB this week for their home game against the Giants.

10) Last June, Golden State Warriors sent $3.5M to the Chicago Bulls for the 38th pick in the draft and then took Jordan Bell from Oregon.

Bell is playing 12.3 mpg for the powerhouse Warriors; he couldn’t have helped the 9-20 Bulls?

9) Stephen Curry’s father Dell played 16 years in the NBA for five teams, scored 12,670 points; he made 40.2% of 3-pointers in his career. Why did he go to Davidson? Why didn’t Dell’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, offer him a scholarship?

8) ESPN President John Skipper resigned Monday, citing a substance addiction problem. Guy in that job had to be making a freakin’ fortune; I hope he exorcises whatever demons he has.

ESPN fired a lot of people recently; couple of them weren’t very happy on Twitter Monday night, unhappy that they got fired by a guy who apparently was often drunk/stoned on the job.

7) Packers put Aaron Rodgers on IR, so he is done for the last two games. Probably a smart move, to avoid risking Rodgers getting re-injured in meaningless games the next two weeks.

6) NHL’s Islanders are moving from Brooklyn back to Long Island, to a new arena that will be built around Belmont Park. Barclays Center doesn’t have great sight lines for hockey, so this is a good move for Islander fans.

5) There won’t be any baseball moves announced next week; MLB offices are closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so while stuff may actually happen, it won’t get officially announced.

4) So far this season. Chicago, Minnesota, Las Vegas are your NHL attendance leaders.

3) If your fantasy football team is still alive in the playoffs and you need a WR to replace an injured guy, try Kendall Wright of the Bears.

In his last two games, Wright was targeted 24 times, caught 17 balls for 188 yards.

2) Kudos to Chick-fil-A, the fast food giant that is never open on Sundays.

When the Atlanta airport got shut down by a power outage Sunday, people from Chick-fil-A went in to the airport and GAVE OUT FREE FOOD to people stranded in the airport.

Good for them.

1) Can you imagine the personal injury lawyers busting their butts to get to Tacoma Monday in wake of the horrible train accident there? Hundreds of injured people just waiting for a lawyer to hand them his card, so they can sue Amtrak and everyone else within sight.

As Lloyd of Lubbock said on the The Odd Couple, “Shake my hand. You’re insured.”

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) In the great TV show Billions, hedge fund trader Bobby Axelrod, who is really rich, likes to say, “Whats the point of having (bleep) you money if you never say (bleep) you?”

Boosters at the U of Oregon must have bleep-you money, since they just gave Jim Leavitt $1.7M a year to stay at Oregon, to be the Ducks’ defensive coordinator. $1.7M a year for a guy who isn’t the head coach!!!! Why?

Apparently the boosters were more than a little annoyed that former coach Willie Taggart took a job interview at Florida State while using a Oregon’s booster’s private plane on a recruiting trip, so they overpaid Leavitt to keep him from joining Taggart at FSU. Spite can be expensive.

12) Atlanta’s airport is the biggest one in the country and it was shut down Sunday after a fire in an electrical box. 1,200 flights were canceled Sunday. Imagine the chaos? Monday morning the airport was jammed with travelers who were still stuck there, and the electronic boarding pass system wasn’t working, multiplying the backlog of customers.

11) Baseball agent Scott Boras still has 13 unsigned free agents for next season; when does this guy sleep?

10) Phillies gave 1B Carlos Santana $60M for three years, which moves Rhys Hoskins to LF, but also creates a logjam at the other two OF positions. Nick Williams figures to play in center, but will Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr play right? Or will they make another trade?

9) Some people are comparing Oklahoma freshman Trae Young to Steph Curry, which is really unfair. Curry was mostly under the radar until he led Davidson to the Elite 8 as a sophomore, and his dad played in the NBA.

Young is a terrific player, but let him be a kid and progress at his own rate.

8) Illinois State 101, Ole Miss 97 OT— Last spring, ISU coach Dan Muller posted a sarcastic note on Twitter, essentially daring Power 5 teams to schedule his Redbirds. Ole Miss took him up on it, and I wonder now if Andy Kennedy regrets it.

Ole Miss lost four of its last five games, with three of the losses in OT. Rebels just got some new facilities couple years ago; the boosters who paid for those facilities probably ain’t real happy with the losing.

7) Herm Edwards is the new football coach at Arizona State; ASU fired Todd Graham, the last head coach but kept both coordinators, but since Edwards got hired, both coordinators already quit. One took a head coaching job at UL-Lafayette; the other one left for health reasons.

6) Billy Joel has had 46 concerts in Madison Square Garden, the most of any performer.

5) NFL coaches must get sick of talking to the media; I mean, how many times can you say the same thing? It is part of why they make a ton of money; they’re the voice of the franchise, talking to all their fans, but for a coach on a losing team whose job may be on thin ice, it can’t be a lot of fun.

Bill Belichick is so boring in his pressers- he just fulfills his obligations and moves on, but players need to look at that and imitate it— keep them from getting fined by the league.

4) Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter once worked as a fork lift operator, before he began his coaching career. Painter also appeared in the 1994 movie Blue Chips; lot of college basketball players back then were in the movie, playing ball in the game scenes.

3) Why did the Lakers retire two numbers for Kobe Bryant?, So they can keep selling two of his t-shirts in their gift shop? I know he wore both 8 and 24; pick one of them and retire it.

2) Fort Wayne 92, Indiana 72— Mastodons made 17-30 3-pointers, beat Indiana for second year in a row; their coach Jon Coffman makes $135,000 a year. Indiana coach Archie Miller makes $2M a year.

1) Falcons 24, Buccaneers 21— Atlanta is 9-5 and controls its own destiny in NFC South; they play Saints, Panthers to finish season.

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Patriots 27, Steelers 24— NFL needs to fix its catch rule; it lacks common sense, but lets be real- Steelers could’ve kicked a FG on the next play and gone to OT. They gambled on the last play and it blew up on them the same way it blew up on Seattle in their Super Bowl loss to NE.

Steelers converted 10-16 on 3rd down, outgained Patriots 413-360; they had 63 penalty yards, New England had 4 penalty yards. Four. This was the 3rd time in their last five games that New England had either one or two accepted penalties. Go figure.

Patriots are now 13-2 vs spread coming off their last fifteen losses.

Rams 42, Seahawks 7— Rams scored five TDs in this game, none on scoring drives longer than 47 yards; LA won field position by 24 yards, ran ball for 244 yards and totally dominated Seahawks’ offensive line. This was the Rams’ biggest game since 2003, and they came up huge.

Rams haven’t clinched anything yet, but they look to be headed to the #3 seed in NFC. As for the Seahawks, Pete Carroll has to get them ready to play in Dallas Sunday- they’ll need help to make the playoffs, but they ain’t dead yet. Carroll has a lot of coaching to do this week.

Jaguars 45, Texans 7— Jacksonville is in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, outgaining Houston 464-186 in this game. Jaguars won seven of last eight games, are right now the #3 seed in AFC- they visit Chargers, Titans in last two games.

As for Houston, games like this get coaches fired, but O’Brien/Watson were a potent combo when the rookie QB was healthy. Will be interesting to see if Texans bring O’Brien back in 2018, seeing how they’re 1-7 in their last eight games.

Cowboys 20, Raiders 17— In what was basically an elimination game between storied franchises,  Dallas survived, thanks to winning a 4th down measurement by a millimeter, and then when Oakland QB Carr fumbled trying to stretch the ball over the goal line in the last minute- the ball went into the end zone for a touchback.

Favorites are 13-0 SU this week (Chiefs/Rams closed as pick ‘em), 10-2-1 vs spread.

Eagles 34, Giants 29— Eli Manning passed for 434 yards, but Philly won for 11th time in last 12 games, with two short TD drives of 20-18 yards. Eagles clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs; they were outgained 504-331 here, but they won field position by 11 yards and Nick Foles won his first start this season- he is 21-16 as an NFL starter. Philly is now 9-2 in its last 11 games vs the Giants in the Garden State.

49ers 25, Titans 23— Niners won four of last five games after an 0-9 start; Garoppolo is first QB since Ben Roethlisberger to win his first five NFL starts. Titans-Bills-Ravens are in 3-way tie for the two AFC Wild Card slots- the last two weeks are going to be fun.

Titans close with Rams/Jaguars at home; Ravens close with Colts/Bengals, Buffalo plays New England and Miami. Six of last eight Tennessee games were decided by 5 or less points.

Next summer, 49ers will be a fashionable Cinderella pick in the NFC- the media loves John Lynch, the 49ers’ new GM. And now SF has its quarterback of the future.

Panthers 31, Packers 24— Broken collarbones take 12 weeks to heal, whether its Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone or your collarbone or mine. He came back in eight weeks, was 26-45/290, with 3 TD’s, 3 INTs. You throw three INTs, you usually lose.

Carolina has won six of its last seven games; they close with the Bucs/Falcons. With Green Bay pretty much out of it now, do they play Rodgers the last two games, or let his collarbone heal fully and let Brett Hundley play the last two games?

Speaking of the Panthers, 81-year old owner Jerry Richardson will sell the team after news got out that he has paid off a few Panthers’ employees after they were harassed by Richardson, who has had a heart transplant and is the only NFL owner who also played in the league.

Steph Curry tweeted that he is interested in buying into the Panthers.

Vikings 34, Bengals 7— Minnesota clinches the NFC North by clubbing a disinterested Bengals team that will have a new coach next season. Cincy was outscored 67-14 in their last two games.

It is easy to criticize Marvin Lewis because he never won a playoff game (0-7) in Cincinnati, but he is also 123-119-3 as coach of the Bengals. Cincinnati’s three coaches before Lewis combined to go 52-124 from 1992-2002.

Wonder what odds you could’ve gotten in August for Case Keenum as NFL’s MVP?

Bills 24, Dolphins 16— Tennessee’s loss to the 49ers is a big boost to Buffalo’s playoff chances; Bllls were +3 in turnovers here, allowed only one TD in Miami’s three red zone drives and now they are 8-6. Miami came to western New York on a short work week and now they’ve been outscored 144-54 in their last four road games.

Home teams are 7-1-1 vs spread in AFC East divisional games this season.

Buffalo might want to practice clock management; they led 24-6 in 4th quarter, but Miami had the ball with 0;35 left near midfield, down 24-16, in what would’ve been an epic choke by Buffalo, which was snapping the ball with 0:10-0:20 left on play clock with 7-8 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Need to milk that play clock for every second you can when you’re protecting a 4th quarter lead.

Saints 31, Jets 19— Saints/Carolina are tied atop NFC South, but Saints swept Carolina. so they control own destiny. New Orleans has rematch with the Falcons this week; they’ve won their last six home games. Jets lost seven of last nine games. Saints had 7 plays of 20+ yards; they have 41 in their last six games.

Redskins 20, Cardinals 15— Hard to win when you don’t score a touchdown; Arizona is only team this week not to score an offensive TD- they had ball in the red zone six times, kicked five FG’. Cardinals ran 80 plays to Washington’s 47, but only gained 286 yards, completing only 16-41 passes. Washington was out-rushed 497-192 in its last three games.

Ravens 27, Browns 10— Baltimore won four of last five games; they’re in 3-way tie for two AFC Wild Cards, but right now, they’re odd team odd. Good news is that they close with couple of lame duck coaches, playing Colts/Bengals to finish season out.

Baltimore had a 17-yard edge in field position, as Browns are now 1-29 the last two years- they are 3-11 vs spread this year. From sounds of things, USC’s coaches should be happy Cleveland is so terrible; USC QB Sam Darnold doesn’t want to play there, may stay in school another year.

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Chiefs 30, Chargers 13— Kansas City now leads the AFC West by a game-plus, seeing how they swept the season series with the Chargers.

Marcus Peters had a big INT that set up a KC score, two weeks after he threw a penalty flag into the stands in New Jersey, which resulted in him getting suspended for last week’s game.

12) Syracuse 86, Georgetown 79 OT— Hoyas led by 13, let it get away late; at least this game gets their schedule up to 350th (out of 351) in the country.

Syracuse has almost no depth; three guys played 44+ minutes, but they shot 10-23 on arc, while Georgetown was 2-17.

11) Rutgers 71, Seton Hall 65— Big win for the Scarlet Knights over their Garden State rivals. Seton Hall led by 10 at the half. Rutgers outscored Pirates 22-6 on foul line in their home gym, which overcame their 34% shooting from the floor.

10) Underdogs won/covered four of the five bowl games Saturday, as bowl season got underway. Troy State was the only favorite that won.

9) Basketball upsets of the day:
— Stephen F Austin 83, LSU 82
— NC-Greensboro 81, NC State 76
— Rutgers 71, Seton Hall 65
— New Mexico State 74, Illinois 69
— Oklahoma 91, Wichita State 83
— Illinois State 101, Ole Miss 97 OT

8) Cincinnati 77, UCLA 63— Bearcats avenged a loss to UCLA in last year’s NCAA tournament.

7) Northwestern 62, DePaul 60— Blue Demons went 9-24 on foul line and lost by a hoop. Oy. Northwestern was only 3-5 on foul line, but made 11-28 on the arc.

Oklahoma State 71, Florida State 70— Seminoles were only 16-24 on foul line.

6) Oklahoma 91, Wichita State 83— Oklahoma’s star freshman Trae Young has an irrational fear of birds; he doesn’t like to eat his lunch outside, because of his fear of our feathered friends.

Guys like Trae Young are why handicapping college hoop before Christmas is a lot more difficult now. Used to be, if you saw freshman guards starting, you automatically went against them, but Young will be in the NBA next year- he is way better than most players, so you want to be on his side, not against him. Thats what December is now, evaluating players for conference play.

5) Atlanta Braves traded Matt Kemp to the Dodgers, for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culbertson.

Braves immediately DFA’d Gonzalez; lot of this trade involves bookkeeping/salary relief. Atlanta opens up an outfield spot for prize prospect Ronald Acuna.

There are rumors the Dodgers want to move Kemp; he would be a solid DH on a good AL team.

4) Xavier 68, East Tennessee State 66— Musketeers are erratic; they were down 20 in 2nd half.

3) Oregon 68, Fresno State 61— Ducks were down 10 at the half, rallied for the win.

When you look at these coaching searches and teams don’t get their 1st, 2nd or 3rd choices, keep in mind that Dana Altman was Oregon’s 6th or 7th choice when they hired him in 2010. Turned out pretty well for everyone.

2) Clemson 71, Florida 69— Tigers were down 12 in second half, rallied to give Brad Brownell his 300th coaching win, and also give Florida their 4th loss in their last five games.

1) If you had Arizona State and TCU to be two of the last four unbeaten teams in the country, pat yourself on the back. You’re a hell of a lot smarter than I am.

Saturday’s Den: Random stuff with weekend here…….

13) When I was 7 years old, back in the mid-60’s, my parents went to a Christmas party at this restaurant so I went too. I’m sitting at the bar with a bunch of grown men and the Rams-Colts game was on TV— it was the last week of the NFL season.

Colts were 11-0-2, Rams were 10-1-2; for some reason, they were in the same division, and had tied in their first meeting. Johnny Unitas was the Colts’ QB, a legendary figure— all the men at the bar were rooting for the Colts. 7-year old me was rooting for the Rams, drinking a Coke with a cherry in it (the bartender was a friend of my parents).

First play of the game: Roman Gabriel to Jack Snow, 80-yard TD. I can’t remember, but there is almost no chance I wasn’t really annoying. Hell, I was 7 and I loved the team with the cool horns on their helmets. The adults at the bar tolerated me.

Rams won 34-10, won the division, and the Colts missed the playoffs, despite being unbeaten going into the last weekend of the season. I’m guessing thats when the whole Wild Card idea began to be look like a good idea.

12) Pitcher Zach Greinke makes so much money; he eats up 27% of Arizona’s payroll, which is why the Diamondbacks are rumored to be trading him. Greinke is owed $138M over the next four seasons; Arizona’s whole payroll was $93M last year.

Arizona’s 2nd-highest paid player is OF Yasmany Tomas, who is owed $46M over the next three years. Tomas hit only .241 last year— his season ended on June 2, with a groin injury.

11) Phillies gave 1B Carlos Santana $60M for three years.
— SS/3B Zack Cozart signed with the Angels

10) Jets have so much faith in backup QB Bryce Petty that they “ran up the white flag” in the last 10:00 of the Denver game, figuring they had no chance to win anyway. Strange thing to admit, but if they have that little faith in Petty, how are 2-3 practices during the week going to help him all that much?

9) ESPN2 had a high school basketball game on Thursday night, with a team from Memphis playing a team from St Louis. Memphis East is coached by former NBA star Penny Hardaway, whose team is ranked #1 in the country.

Former NBA players Brandon Roy, Mike Bibby are also coaching high school ball, putting their post-playing years to good use.

Hardaway’s team was playing Webster Grove HS from St Louis, whose most famous alum is the great baseball announcer, the late Harry Caray.

8) Denver Broncos led 14-13 late in 3rd quarter Thursday, then scored a TD to make it 20-13- they go for two, make it and now they led 22-13, by two scores. This is brilliant strategy; even if the try for 2 points fails, you still have a full 7-point lead. Well worth the risk; I’ve never seen an NFL team try this before— saw the Minnesota Gophers try it in college.

7) Rhode Island gets guard EC Matthews back from injury this weekend; Matthews is one of their best players, so this really helps the Rams.

6) Oklahoma State (7-0), Manhattan (6-0) are only college hoop teams with 5+ lined games who have yet to go over the total this season.

5) Actor/former pro wrestler Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week.

4) When the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, apparently they wanted to move to Louisville first, but Rick Pitino/former AD Tom Jurich blocked the move.

Think about U of Memphis; what college hoop team wants to share a city with an NBA team?

3) According to SI.com, Colts’ QB Jacoby Brissett saved around $100,000 in agents’ fees by negotiating his own contract. Rookie contracts are pretty much scripted, wth the NFL setting a value for every pick in the draft.

2) Why are there medical treatments available in Europe that aren’t available here? Andrew Luck is in Europe getting treatment for his injured shoulder; others have done the same thing- Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez. Why is that?

1) Closer Fernando Rodney signed up wth the Minnesota Twins for 2018. Rodney wears his hat crooked in honor of his late father, who was a fisherman who wore his hat crooked to protect his face from the sun when he was fishing. The elder Rodney passed away six days before Fernando made his major league debut.

Friday’s Den: Ranking the months of the year…….

12) January— Keep in mind that I live in upstate New York, where the weather sucks from Thanksgiving to St Patrick’s Day. January is a long, cold month; conference games in college basketball are the thing that makes it tolerable; that and the NFL playoffs.

11) February— Same as January, only three days shorter; there is something about watching golf on TV that makes you feel warmer. Super Bowl is in February and college hoop and baseball is starting in Florida and Arizona.

10) December— Today, the sun sets at 4:22; next week, the days start getting longer, but this is a long, cold, dark month. Most of the good pre-conference college basketball games are November games— Saturdays are the best basketball days in December. Christmas, bowl games and the NFL help December’s rating, but not a lot.

9) November— Steep drop-off after October; it snows sometime in November- I don’t like snow. This is a better college basketball month than December, since Thanksgiving Week is one of the best sports weeks of the year. When I was working for New York State, I had three days off in November— days off were a good thing. Now I have every day off.

8) May— 20 or so years ago, I coached Little League, which seems like a shaky decision now. Practice every weekday, couple of games a week. Kids were fine; the parents? Not so much. Nowadays, social media would make Little League easier. Could just have a Twitter page and post if practices/games were rained out. Back then? Every rainout was 12 phone calls.

7) June— I got married in June; despite that, it gets a middle-of-pack ranking because of the great weather and six hours of baseball every day.

When I was a kid, June was the best month, with school ending for the year. Little did I know back that the teachers were probably more anxious for the school year to end than we were.

6) July— If you really like the NBA, I would strongly recommend you go to Las Vegas one year and go to the NBA Summer League at UNLV. For $28 or $30 for a full day, you can watch 3-4 games, and rub elbows with NBA owners, coaches, players— lot of them are there.

Later in July, AAU basketball invades Las Vegas, with lot of tournaments— almost all the college coaches show up at events at either Cashman Center or Bishop Gorman HS or the convention center.

5) August— Here in the Albany area, August is the best social month of the year, with the horse racing in Saratoga and concerts at Saratoga Performing Arts Center and nice weather every day. Baseball’s pennant races are going on and the college football magazines are out.

4) April— Baseball season starts, the Final Four takes place and I almost always spend ten days in Las Vegas every April. Watching the Final Four in Vegas is something you should do; great fun.

Couple years ago, was sitting next to a guy who had lot of money on Villanova/under in the national title game. When Paige hits the jumper for North Carolina, the guy slumps; his under bet is a loser, but when Villanova wins at the buzzer, he was damn glad to get out of there with a split. Didn’t ask how much, but seemed like he had a lot of money riding on it.

3) October— Baseball playoffs, football is in full swing, college basketball magazines come out and I almost always spend some time in the desert.

Few years ago, I’m sitting in the theater at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas, watching the NFL; they have the best set-up, all the games up on a screen, with the audio up on one main game. There are betting windows in the back, food off to the left.

I’m talking to this guy who is wearing a Cardinals’ jersey; all of a sudden it dawns on me that this guy is betting thousands of dollars on the games. Serious money and he doesn’t seem like he is stressed out at all. Good guy, but I would’ve been having a nervous breakdown.

Las Vegas is the big leagues when it comes to that stuff; I forget that sometimes.

2) March— Best month of year for college basketball, spring training baseball on TV every day, the weather is getting better. Still snows sometimes, but March is usually excellent.

1) September— When I was a kid, there was September/January were by far the worst months of the year. Nothing worse than the first day of school every year, but now, September is still really a summer month, and football starts during the baseball pennant races.

I went to private grade school, but then to public high school, where 9th grade was in a building by itself. I was painfully shy, and had never ridden a school bus before; my 8th grade class had 24 kids, my 9th grade class had 730 kids. Will never forget how terrified I was those first few days of 9th grade changing classes and having a locker for the first time.

Everything turned out fine, but boy I hated September back then; it never would’ve made it above #11 on my ranking back then.

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) How would you like to be a season ticket salesman for the Miami Marlins? They’ve traded Stanton, Gordon and now Marcell Ozuna, who heads to St Louis. Maybe the ushers in Miami’s ballpark will get fired too, since there won’t be many fans to lead to their seats next year.

12) I mentioned last month how the Marlins fired TV announcer Rich Waltz, who had been in Miami for 13 years. Now it doesn’t matter to me anymore; I have Stanton/Ozuna in my fantasy league, so now I have zero reason to watch the Marlins anyway.

11) I’m watching the 76ers-Wolves game on ESPN Tuesday night; good game, it is 94-94 in the 4th quarter and then I realize, Ben Simmons hasn’t scored a point in this game. 33 minutes, 0-4 from the floor, no foul shots. How can this be?

76ers won in OT; Simmons wound up with 7 points, 8 assists, 7 turnovers. He is an unusual player, almost seems to dislike shooting, but he is a great passer.

10) Twitter can be fun; I posted something about “How can Simmons play 33:00 and not score?” during the 4th quarter. I get one reply, from a 76ers’ fan in Texas:

“Good (bleep)ing question.”

9) Arizona State media relations director Doug Tammaro made a promise to his daughter this summer, that if ASU beat Kansas in basketball the year, he’d give her $500 to spend at a mall. Unknown to him, she taped the promise on her phone.

Sun Devils won 95-85 in Lawrence Sunday and Tammaro’s daughter posted the video of her dad’s promise on Twitter. He says he will happily pay up.

8) Sounds like no matter who Manny Machado plays for next season, he will be a shortstop and not a third baseman.

7) Couple years ago, I rent a car in Las Vegas in July; it is freakin’ hot in the desert in July. So I go to the hotel’s parking garage to pick up the car, and I realize it is a push-button ignition— had never seen one of those.

So I’m sitting in the car and I push the button and nothing happens. I’m looking around- no idea what to do. No owner’s manual, nothing. Push the button again, nothing happens. It is too damn hot to walk back into the hotel and ask them, but it is getting really hot in the car too and I’m sweating and getting aggravated.

Finally I realized that if I pushed the button while stepping on (kicking) the brake pedal, the freakin’ car will start. Not one of my finer moments.

6) With bowl season starting Saturday, keep in mind that since 2013, the MAC is 5-18 in bowl games. No bueno.

5) I’m looking forward to when kids can jump from high school to the NBA again; think it will be healthier for everyone; the NBA, college ball and the G-League.

4) Twins signed Michael Pineda to a 2-year, $10M contract, but Pineda had Tommy John surgery in July and figures to miss most of the 2018 season.

3) Lookalikes: Cincinnati Reds’ manager Bryan Price and Phil Mickelson.

2) Daytime TV gets a huge positive jolt this week, with baseball’s winter meetings on MLB Network. Actual interesting stuff.

1) It is so difficult to win a championship; you have to dance thru a minefield of potential disasters, avoiding injuries in addition to playing well enough to win.

Think about the Eagles; they lose their starting QB for the year, moments after they got the benefit of a terrible taunting penalty against Trumaine Johnson. Had that penalty not been called, Eagles try a 50-yard FG on next play and Wentz is on the sidelines, healthy.

Wentz didn’t get hurt when he was hit, by the way. Apparently the injury happened earlier on that play when he planted his foot and cut. Kind of like Teddy Bridgewater’s injury.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings……

13) In 2004, there were 31 unbeaten college basketball teams on December 10; 12 of them were at least 10-0. This year, there were only seven unbeaten teams on December 10, five of whom were 10-0 or better.

College basketball season starts earlier now than it did in ’04, but still, there don’t seem to be any great teams this year.

12) Aaron Rodgers was medically cleared to play in the Packers’ game in Carolina this week. Rodgers broke his collarbone in a game against the Vikings October 15- he has 13 screws in his collarbone. It hasn’t been announced if he’ll play, but you figure if they cleared him, he will.

11) Philadelphia Eagles were 6-1 to win the Super Bowl before last Sunday’s game; had Carson Wentz not gotten hurt, they would’ve been 4-1 after the game. Instead, they’re going to wind up around 14-1 to win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles playing QB.

10) ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla tweeted Tuesday that the Lithuanian coach the Ball brothers will soon be playing for:

1) Doesn’t speak any English
2) Sells meat to his players out of the trunk of his car after practice.

This should go really well.

9) Rams LT Andrew Whitworth celebrated his birthday Tuesday by giving bicycles to 550 elementary students in the Watts section of Los Angeles. Thats a lot of bikes to give away.

8) Wyoming QB Josh Allen is probably the #3 QB prospect in next April’s NFL Draft, but he hurt his shoulder against Air Force and missed Wyoming’s last two games. Allen says his shoulder is now 90% healed and he expects to play in Wyoming’s bowl game. Playing well in that game will quiet lot of questions about his health heading into the draft.

7) OF Marcell Ozuna can be a free agent in two years; his agent is Scott Boras, so you know the Miami Marlins are trading him, too. Christian Yelich is owed $43M over the next four years, so he is affordable and Miami might keep him.

6) Texas Longhorns loses their top scorer Andrew Jones for a while with a broken wrist; he is averaging 15.3 ppg. Longhorns’ first Big X game is December 29 at home vs Kansas.

5) SMU hired former Cal coach Sonny Dykes to replace Chad Morris, who is the new football coach at Arkansas. Dykes went 22-15 as coach at Louisiana Tech, 19-30 at Cal.

4) Patriots signed WR Kenny Britt to a 2-year contract, which will be interesting; Rams, Browns were both starved for talent when they had Britt, but they both let him walk, and New England gobbles him up. Want to see Belichick’s reaction the first time Britt gets a taunting penalty after one of his teammates scores a touchdown.

3) Set-up guy Bryan Shaw gets $9M for three years from Colorado; Shaw appeared in 79 games for Cleveland last year, the most games pitched in the big leagues. Colorado must’ve outbid the other teams by a lot; why else would a pitcher sign to pitch in the Mile High City?

2) Knicks 113, Lakers 109 OT— Kristaps Porzingis had 37 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocked shots and 5 made 3-pointers as Knicks beat LA in overtime.

1) Angels just signed P/DH Shohei Ohtani; now there are reports the Ohtani has a sprained UCL in his elbow, and got one of those platelet-rich injections in his arm to help fix the injury. Oy.