Monday’s List of 13: Some of my favorite non-sports movies…….

13) The Hangover— Four friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, but chaos ensues; there were two sequels made; Hangover 3 is actually pretty good, too. Wouldn’t recommend the first of the sequels. The scene where Alan makes $80,000 playing blackjack is pretty cool, Mike Tyson makes a cameo

12) The Verdict— Paul Newman stars as a lawyer who sees a chance to salvage his career and self-respect by taking a medical malpractice case to trial rather than settling. Jack Warden is his friend who gets him the case; James Mason is the opposing lawyer.

James Mason, Jack Warden also appeared together in Heaven Can Wait, when Warren Beatty played a QB for the Rams who wins the Super Bowl.

11) Prince of Tides— Nick Nolte is a high school football coach from South Carolina who comes to New York City to see about his sister, an author who is having mental problems. He talks to his sister’s psychiatrist about their family history and falls in love with her (Barbra Streisand) in the process.

10) Lost In Translation— Bill Murray plays a movie star on the back nine of his career who meets a lonely young woman (Scarlett Johansson) while filming a commercial in Tokyo- they form an unlikely bond.

9) Bulworth— A suicidal politician (Warren Beatty) puts a contract out on himself, but tries to cancel the contract when he falls for a woman (Halle Berry), the person who was hired to kill him. This movie is 22 years old, but lot of the themes still resonate today.

8) The Bodyguard— Whitney Houston plays a famous signer who is getting death threats; Kevin Costner plays a former Secret Service agent who is hired to protect her.

7) The Gambler— Remake of an old James Caan movie; Mark Wahlberg plays a Literature professor/gambler whose debt causes him to borrow money from both his mother (Jessica Lange) and a loan shark (John Goodman).

6) Begin Again— A disgraced music business executive (Mark Ruffalo) discovers a young singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley), new to Manhattan; will this discovery save his career, ruin his marriage, or both? James Corden is great in this, as the singer’s friend from back home.

5) Good Will Hunting— Matt Damon plays a janitor at MIT who has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist (Robin Williams) to find direction in his life. Ben Affleck is Damon’s best friend; Minnie Driver plays a Harvard student who falls for him.

4) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin is excellent, playing a fake faith healer whose entourage gets stuck in a depressed Kansas town during a drought; Meat Loaf, Philip Seymour Hoffman are part of his crew. Debra Winger is his assistant; Liam Neeson is the town’s sheriff.

3) Last Vegas— A more sedate version of The Hangover; four (much older) friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party— Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Kline, with the 70-ish Douglas set to marry a 30-ish woman.

2) A Star is Born— 4th time this movie has been made; this one greatly resembles the 1954 version, with Judy Garland/James Mason. The 1976 version, with Kris Kristofferson, Barbra Streisand, is little bit different in several ways.

Bradley Cooper plays a musician who helps a young singer become famous, as age, alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Andrew Dice Clay plays the young singer’s father; he adds a lot to the movie— Sam Elliott plays the older musician’s brother.

1) Rounders— A young, reformed gambler has to go back to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks, while balancing a relationship with his girlfriend and commitments to law school. John Malkovich plays Teddy KGB, a Russian club owner; John Turturro plays Joey Knish, a card player who tries to give the young gambler solid advice. 

Saturday’s Den: Brackets for a hypothetical 1-on-1 tournament with NBA players

13) People at the Action Network came up with a great source of discussion Thursday; a hypothetical, 64-player 1-on-1 tournament. Tremendous stuff to argue about and good way to spend time filling out brackets. It is worth a look.

12) #1 seeds: Kawhi Leonard, Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden.

#16 seeds: Jonathan Isaac, Kelly Oubre, Aaron Gordon, Blake Griffin.

Harden-Griffin first round game would be entertaining.

11) #2 seeds: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid

#15 seeds: Eric Gordon, Domantas Sabonis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Eric Bledsoe

Durant is coming off of an achilles injury; those can be tough to recover from.

10) #3 seeds: Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakim, Ben Simmons, Paul George

#14 seeds: Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Vucevic

Simmons can’t shoot; passing doesn’t matter- Gallinari would be a live 14-seed.

9) #4 seeds: Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler

#13 seeds: D’Angelo Russell, Buddy Hield, Carmelo Anthony, Jaren Jackson

8) Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, Russell Westbrook are all 5-seeds, not sure how Curry would defend a much bigger player, but that guy would have to go outside to guard him, too.

7) When they had a 1-on-1 tournament in the early 70’s, JoJo White won one of them; he was a good NBA player, but I doubt he was one of the favorites. Good shooter, though.

Bob Lanier beat Connie Hawkins 50-46 in a legendary game (games were up tp 20, but you had to win by either 3 or 4 points).

6) Harden, Curry and Jimmy Butler are all in the same region; Curry-butler would’ve been a really interesting second round game.

5) Nikola Jokic as an 11-seed is interesting, because he could back a smaller player in, but he can also make 3’s. Could he defend a smaller sharpshooter?

4) One factor if this was really going to happen; how far apart would each round be? Guys coming off injuries, or older players might struggle if there were two games on same day, or if they had to play 2,3 days in a row. One of those intangibles we’ll never know.

3) Think about it; even if you’re a #16-seed here, it means you’re on of the 64 best basketball players in the world, which would be pretty cool.

2) My Final Four: Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Danilo Gallinari, James Harden.

1) Anyway, there is a printable bracket at If you’re interested, print one out and give it some thought. 

Thursday’s Den: My Mt Rushmore for a variety of things……

My Mt Rushmore of certain areas; we all have our own opinions, thats what makes life interesting. Make your own lists, see what you come up with. 

13) Quarterbacks, in Super Bowl era:
John Elway, Roger Staubach, Joe Montana, Tom Brady

12) Major league starting pitchers (since 1960):
Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux

11) NBA players:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Lebron James

10) Places to eat in Las Vegas:
— Battista’s (in strip mall across from Bally’s sports book)
— In ’n Out Burger (multiple locations)
— Bonnanno’s pizzeria (by MGM Grand sportsbook)
— Claim Jumper (in Golden Nugget)

9) Places to watch a college basketball game:
UNLV, ACC tournament, Cal-Santa Barbara, Pac-12 tournament

8) NFL QB’s, now:
Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson

7) Sportsbooks:
Westgate, MGM, SouthPoint, Rivers in Schenectady (only one I can get to without an airplane)

6) Television characters:
— Oscar Madison, Odd Couple
— Jonathan Higgins, Magnum PI
— Ray Donovan
— Henry Blake, M*A*S*H

5) Major league managers:
Bruce Bochy, Dick Williams, Sparky Anderson, Terry Francona

4) My favorite sodas:
— Dr Brown’s cream soda
— Cherry Coke
— Orange Crush
— Dr Pepper

3) Best major league ballparks I’ve been to:
Houston, Pittsburgh, The Trop (Tampa Bay), Fenway Park

2) College football venues:
LSU home game, USC home game, Florida-Georgia game, Texas-Oklahoma game

1) Batman villains:
Riddler, Joker, Catwoman (Julie Newmar), Penguin

Tuesday’s List of 13: Some of my favorite games, ever……

If you know me, you’ll roll your eyes at some of these; make your own list, see what you come up with. These are some of my favorite games, listed in chronological order:

13) May 10, 1970: Bruins 4, St Louis 3 OT— Bobby Orr scores an overtime goal and the Bruins win their first Stanley Cup in 40 years; it was first time one of my favorite teams won a title, so that was fun.

It was also Mother’s Day, and my family was waiting to go out to dinner (Veeder’s restaurant in Colonie) but the overtime pushed things back some, then watching the Bruins carrying the Cup around took some more time. The family cut this 10-year old some serious slack that day.

12) May 1972: JT Garry 1, Greenhouse 0 (7)— I’m playing first base in this Little League game; not many Little League are scoreless after six innings. We had one really good pitcher, but he left after six innings and the reliever threw a ball about ten feet over my head at first base with the bases loaded and two outs. No bueno.

To this day, I don’t know what Greenhouse was; they were nice enough to sponsor a team, but no idea what business they were in.

The next year (1973) the Colonie All-Stars made it all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport- my one year there was fun.

11) October 22, 1972— My greatest day as a sports fan:
— A’s 3, Reds 2— Pete Rose flies out to LF; A’s win their first World Series.
— Rams 15, Bengals 12— David Ray kicks a 54-yard FG on the last play.
— I should’ve bought a lottery ticket that day; hell, I was only 12.

Thing that seems weird now; the A’s game, Game 7 of the World Series, started at 1:00, and was over before the Rams started at 4:00. World Series is all night games now.

10) October 1973, 1974— A’s win the World Series both years, making it three in a row; as a 14-year old. I’m guessing I may have been slightly annoying. Depends who you ask. 🙂

9) March 1974— NC State 80, UCLA 77 (2 OT)— UCLA had won seven national titles in a row; NC State was my favorite team, led by the great David Thompson- they also had a 5-5 point guard (Monte Towe) and a 7-3 center (Tom Burleson, who was my favorite player). 

UCLA whacked the Wolfpack in a December game, then took a 7-point lead in the second OT here, but NC State rallied back and pulled the upset, then beat Marquette in the national title game two nights later.

One of NC State’s other starters was Tim Stoddard; he wound up as a major league pitcher for 13 years, for five teams, mostly the Orioles. In 1979, Stoddard pitched in the World Series.

8) November 1974: USC 55, Notre Dame 24— I grew up in an Irish Catholic household where everyone rooted for Notre Dame…….except me. I was a USC fan; Trojans coach John McKay looked like my dad, but my dad rooted for Notre Dame, or whoever he had on his football ticket.

Notre Dame runs out to a 24-0 lead; things looked bleak, but Anthony Davis winds up scoring six TD’s and the Trojans score 49 second half points. By this time, I was probably lucky my family didn’t throw me out on the front lawn for the winter.

7) February 22, 1976— Colonie 73, Shenendehowa 68 OT— As luck would have it, these teams wound up tied for first place in the Suburban Council, and played the last game of the season in their gym. Winner-take-all. I was the student manager for Colonie, a junior in HS.

We had three buses of kids/fans go to the game, but when we get there, the gym is already filled with Shenendehowa grade school kids— they pulled a fast one on us. My dad and all the Colonie parents got locked out of the game, but our principal, Bruce Crowder, told them that if they didn’t let one busload of our kids in the gym, the game wouldn’t be played. The photogrspher for the Albany newspaper wasn’t even allowed in the building that night.

So the busload of our kids rings the court, standing right next to the game; it kind of helped us. They were up 7 with 0:58 left, but we rallied to tie the game— Bruce Olson hit a long jumper to the game, and we won in overtime. Quite a night.

6) March 1981: Albany 88, Potsdam 86 OT— I was lucky enough to put myself thru college as the student manager of the basketball team at Albany; Potsdam was our biggest rival, but we beat them on their court to win the conference title. It was Division III basketball, but there were at least four players in that game who could’ve/should’ve played D-I ball.

We won the conference title, but they won the national championship, beating us in OT in the Sweet 16 round, also on their court.

5) March 1990: UNLV 103, Duke 73— Loved the Runnin’ Rebels, used to stay up late and watch Big West games all the time— they killed Duke in this game, giving coach Jerry Tarkanian a national title.

Watched the game in a roomful of people; I was the only person there rooting for UNLV. There were some comments made that I won’t repeat here. It was a fun couple of hours.

4) March 1998, 2001— I was lucky enough to be an assistant basketball coach at Schenectady HS; we won two state championships, three years apart; the whole experience was every educational and also a whole lot of fun. Weird thing is, we beat the same team (Hempstead HS) both times we won the state title.

3) January 23, 2000— Rams 11, Buccaneers 6— I’m in St Louis for the NFC title game, sitting in the last row in the end zone. Kurt Warner hits Ricky Proehl for the game-winning TD late in the game and the Rams were off to their second Super Bowl. Pretty excellent day.

Met Ron Jaworski in the hotel bar after the game; good guy. He was happy the Rams won, having played for Dick Vermeil with the Eagles. We talked about the movie Heaven Can Wait, which used some of Jaworski’s old clips from the Rams (Warren Beatty’s character wore #16).

2) January 30, 2000— Rams 23, Titans 16— The best Super Bowl ever played (ha!!); Warner-to-Bruce for a TD just after the 2:00 warning, then Mike Jones tackles a Titans’ WR on the 1-yard line as the game ends. To this day, watching replays of that makes me nervous; I still think they’re going to score the next time they show it.

1) March 2006: Northwestern State 64, Iowa 63— Demons are a 7-point underdog; during the week, I go on John Graney’s (very good) radio show here in Albany and predict an outright upset for the 14-seed.

Iowa runs out to a double digit lead, but the Demons storm back and pull off the unlikely upset win. That summer, I’m in Orlando watching AAU games and Mike McConathy, the Demons’ coach, sits next to me. I thanked him for making me look good; he had a very good team, and is a good guy. He still coaches the Demons. 

Friday’s List of 13: Great players who played their whole career for one team……

13) Ted Williams— Played 19 years in major leagues, despite missing 1943-45 because he was flying airplanes in World War II. He led the league in walks eight times.

His career on-base %age was .482; he hit .314 in his last season, when he was 41.

Williams later managed Senators/Rangers for 3+ years, but only played for Boston.

12) Dan Marino— Threw 122 TD passes in a 3-year span from 1984-86, with Dolphins going 34-14 in those years; remember, teams didn’t throw the ball as much back then as they do now.

Miami lost the Super Bowl in Marino’s 2nd year (1984) and never got back; he wound up with an 8-10 career playoff mark. In the 20 years since Marino retired, Dolphins are 1-3 in playoff games, with their last playoff win in 2000.

11) Bill Russell— Won 11 NBA titles in a 13-year NBA career; 1967 was only time in his career that the Celtics didn’t make NBA Finals.

Russell was player/coach his last three years in Boston; he later coached the Seattle Sonics and Sacramento Kings, making playoffs twice in five years.

10) Tony Gwynn— Played basketball and was later the baseball coach at San Diego State; Gwynn had a career BA of .338, with an OB% of .388.

He won eight batting titles, knocked in 119 runs in 1997, but had more than 72 RBI in only one other season, when he had 90 RBI in ’95.

9) Jack Youngblood— Was a great defensive end for the Rams; he broke his leg during the 1979 playoffs, but played in the Super Bowl despite that, telling the trainer to “Tape it up!!!”

He got inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001; I was lucky enough to be there to see both Youngblood and Ram teammate Jackie Slater get inducted.

In the airport on the way home, I turned a corner and collided with Jack Youngblood; he is a good guy— we talked about the Rams and Arena Football (he worked for the Orlando Predators at that time). I found my mini-helmet in my bag and had him autograph it. Pretty good day.

8) Magic Johnson— Won national title at Michigan State in ’79, then won NBA title as a rookie with the Lakers. Played 12 years for LA before HIV sidelined him— he returned five years later for a 32-game cameo appearance.

Johnson won five NBA titles as a player.

7) Mario Lemieux— Scored 690 goals in 17 years with the Penguins, leading NHL in scoring six times. Pittsburgh won two Stanley Cups while Lemieux played for them- lot of people think he saved hockey in Pittsburgh.

6) Johnny Bench— Played 17 years with the Reds; he is one of all-time best catchers. Early in his career, Bench had couple of 40+ home run seasons— he wound up with 389 homers.

5) Lawrence Taylor— Played 13 years in NFL, was a legendary pass rusher who disrupted offenses- Giants won two Super Bowls while he was there.

Taylor is also a pretty good actor, with 15 acting credits, appearing in Any Given Sunday, Shaft, The Waterboy and The Sopranos.

4) Larry Bird— Bird led Indiana State to the Final Four in ’79; Sycamores are 1-3 in NCAA Tournament games in the 40 years since he left. Celtics won three NBA titles while Bird was there, losing couple of other years in the Finals.

3) Mike Schmidt— Led league in homers eight times, had career OB% of .380, played 18 years in Philadelphia, a town where it ain’t always easy to play for the the home team, especially if the home team ain’t winning. Phillies made playoffs six times in eight years from 1976-83, winning the World Series in 1980.

2) Barry Sanders— Ran ball for 15,269 years in ten years with Detroit, which hasn’t won a playoff game since he retired- they were only 1-5 in playoff games while he was playing. Sanders led NFL in rushing four times, scored 109 career TD’s.

1) Tim Duncan— Played 19 years for San Antonio, winning five NBA titles; not only did Duncan play for only one team in his career, he played for only one coach- Gregg Popovich. Duncan is now one of Popovich’s assistants with the Spurs. 

Tuesday’s List of 13: Athletes who became actors…….

13) Marc Blucas— Played basketball at Wake Forest with Tim Duncan, was one of the stars of Necessary Roughness, a series that ran on USA Network for a couple years. He’s been in a lot of things since then; guest spots on CSI, Killer Women and The Fix.

12) Carl Weathers— Most famous for playing Apollo Creed in the Rocky series, Weathers played CB for the Oakland Raiders for a couple years, in the CFL for another three years.

11) Alex Karras— Was a great defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions; he also had 39 acting credits, most notably Against All Odds, Blazing Saddles and the TV series Webster.

10) Terry Crews— Played for the Rams, Chargers, and Redskins, from 1991-95; he’s been in a lot of stuff: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Arrested Development, Draft Day. He looks like a body builder to this day, even at age 51.

9) Chuck Connors— The Rifleman from 60’s TV also played a little bit in both the NBA (Celtics) and major leagues (Dodgers, Cubs). A Hollywood casting agent saw him hit a homer in a winter league baseball game, and when Connors backpedaled around the bases, the agent knew he found an entertainer.

8) Ed Marinaro— Was a RB for the Vikings for six years, then became an actor, appearing in Hill Street Blues, Sisters, Champs. He has 60 acting credits. 

7) Merlin Olsen— Followed up a terrific football career with the Rams (the football field at Utah State is named after him) by becoming an actor, appearing in Little House on the Prairie, Father Murphy, and also had a great gig doing commercials for FTP Florists.

6) Bob Uecker— Mediocre major league catcher (hit exactly .200 for his career) becomes one of the funniest people ever. Was the dad in Mister Belvedere; he should’ve won an Oscar for his portrayal of Indians’ radio announcer Harry Doyle in Major League.

When the Brewers cane to LA, Johnny Carson would have Uecker on The Tonight Show, just because he was so damn funny. Thats the ultimate compliment.

5) Fred Dryer— Another former Rams’ lineman who became an actor, starring in Hunter and also 46 other movies/TV shows, including NCIS, Cheers, Cannonball Run 2, Lou Grant and Laverne & Shirley. Dryer played 11 years in the NFL, was a very good defensive end.

4) Mark Harmon— Former UCLA QB whose dad was Tom Harmon, a great player at Michigan; Mark Harmon is best known now for NCIS, but he’s also been in Summer School, West Wing, Chicago Hope, Charlie Grace and Reasonable Doubts. An excellent acting career.

3) Burt Reynolds— Very famous actor was a running back at Florida State, where the QB at the time was Lee Corso, who has become famous for his ESPN GameDay career.

2) Dwayne Johnson— Pro wrestler-turned-actor was Warren Sapp’s backup on the defensive line at Miami, FL; The Rock makes a lot of movies and must be making a freakin’ fortune.

1) Jim Brown— Arguably the greatest athlete ever (football/lacrosse), Brown has 52 acting credits; he was in He Got Game, Any Given Sunday, Draft Day, The Dirty Dozen, TJ Hooker, The A-Team.

Brown played nine years in the NFL, led league in rushing eight times. 

Monday’s Den: My favorite Batman villains (TV version)

When you’re a 6-year old whose name is Biff, and a TV show begins with a graphic that says “Whap!!! Pow!!! Biff!!!” you become a fan, a big fan.

My 13 favorite Batman (TV) villains
13) Chandell (Liberace)— The gifted piano player was both Chandell (the piano player) and his twin brother Harry who it turns out, was the real villain.

Trivia: Two Batman villains also had roles in Magnum PI; Howard Duff (Cabala) played Magnum’s grandfather. Barbara Rush (Nora Clavicle) played Magnum’s Aunt Phoebe, a playwright who had Alzheimer’s, and was also in another earlier episode.

12) Bookworm (Roddy McDowell)— Appeared in two episodes; Bookworm’s crimes were inspired by literary works, well, because he likes books.

McDowell also appeared in the Batman animated series in the early 90’s.

11) Colonel Gumm (Roger C Carmel)— He loved the color pink and was obsessed with stamps; Colonel Gumm appeared in the two-episode crossover with The Green Hornet, with Bruce Lee as Kato and Van Williams as the Green Hornet.

Trivia: There were three different Mr Freeze’s; Eli Wallach, Otto Preminger, George Sanders.

10) Siren (Joan Collins)— Played a sidekick to The Riddler’s devious plan to take over Gotham City’s boxing industry, but she also wanted to uncover Batman’s true identity.

9) The Archer (Art Carney)— Ed Norton from The Honeymooners was also a Batman villain!!!

Archer’s character was based (loosely) on Robin Hood; his henchmen were Maid Marilyn, Big John, and Crier Tuck.

8) King Tut (Victor Buono)— Appeared in eight episodes; Buono supposedly loved playing the character because it allowed him the chance to overact, one of the aspects of the character that made King Tut so beloved by fans.

7) Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (Carolyn Jones)— Better known for playing Morticia Addams on The Addams Family, Ms Jones was in five episodes of Batman, joining Addams Family cast members John Astin, Ted Cassidy in making Batman appearances.

6) Egghead (Vincent Price)— When I was a kid, would often substitute (eggs-ellent) for excellent when talking to my family. For a little kid, that was eggs-citing. Vincent Price was awesome in this role, an egg-centric guy with a very strangely-shaped head.

5) Mad Hatter (David Wayne)— This villain was obsessed with getting his hands on Batman’s cowl, which of course didn’t happen.

Wayne also appeared in four movies with Marilyn Monroe.

4) Penguin (Burgess Meredith)—Is more famous for playing Rocky Balboa’s trainer Mickey, but Meredith appeared in 20 Batman episodes, most of any villain.

3) Catwoman (Julie Newmar)— Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt also played Catwoman, but Julie Newman was the best of the three; she was 5-11, a prima ballerina for the Los Angeles Opera who graduated high school when she was 15.

in 2004, her next-door neighbor Jim Belushi sued her for $4M alleging harassment and defamation of character, as a result of a dispute over leaf-blowing.

2) Joker (Cesar Romero)— Appeared in 19 episodes, 2nd-most of any villain. Romero refused to shave his mustache and you can see it under his white face paint.

Romero had a long, excellent career; he appeared in the first Oceans Eleven (1960).

1) Riddler (Frank Gorshin)— No one wore the green body suit with the big ???’s on it better than Gorshin, who had a long career as a TV guest star, appearing in CSI, Wonder Woman and the original Hawaii Five-O, among many other shows.

John Astin played The Riddler for two episodes, but of course he was way more famous as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family

Sunday’s Den: Coaches I’ve enjoyed in movies/TV shows…..

This isn’t a ranking, just list of coaches I’ve enjoyed in TV/movies………

14) Ed Lauter, Youngblood— Lauter is a junior league hockey coach with a beautiful daughter (Cynthia Gibb) who of course falls for Rob Lowe, because, hey, its the movies. Lauter also was a prison guard in the original The Longest Yard.

Lauter’s character has a great line in Youngblood: “I didn’t come halfway to the (bleep)ing Arctic Circle to lose to these goons!!!”

13) Ken Howard, The White Shadow— One of my all-time favorite TV shows, Ken Howard did a great job of portraying Coach Reeves, a former NBA player who becomes a high school coach in Los Angeles. He patterned Coach Reeves after his HS coach; Carver High’s uniforms are even the same colors of the school he went to, Manhasset HS on Long Island.

12) Gene Hackman, Hoosiers— He wins the state title and gets the girl (Barbara Hershey) in the end, but for the love of God, why didn’t he know enough to give Jimmy Chitwood the ball at the end of games? Even the alcoholic assistant coach (Dennis Hopper) knew enough to get Jimmy the ball!!!

11) Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday— Most people remember the “Life is a Game of Inches” speech before the last game, but what he said to Jamie Foxx at the dinner in his house earlier in the movie “You’re a goddamn QUARTERBACK!!!!” was the better speech. This movie was made in 1999, but the divide between old-school thinking and modern analytics is in play, even back then.

10) Emilio Estevez, The Mighty Ducks— Mostly a goofy movie, but the underlying theme of a former star player coaching against the guy who coached him was interesting. Having players play catch at practice with raw eggs instead of hockey pucks was a neat coaching technique, to show the players how they needed to have soft hands.

9) GD Spradlin, One on One— This is an underrated movie and also fairly old now, but Robby Benson was a hot-shot high school basketball star who was mostly in over his head when he went to play college ball at a bigtime school.

This movie was filmed at Colorado State, which still plays in the same arena. Coach Smith was played by GD Spradlin, who also played Tom Landry in North Dallas Forty; if he such a great coach, why did he recruit Henry Steele (Benson), a flashy, small guard who couldn’t guard anyone? 

8) Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own— Hanks was a great player who is now a crude drunk who wasn’t healthy enough to be in the service during the war, so he coaches a girls’ baseball team with Madonna and Geena Davis on it. A guy could do worse. When Hanks was a kid (in real life), he was a vendor at the Oakland Coliseum; this was a pretty good movie, but my friend Dennis kills me every time I say that.

7) Wilford Brimley, The Natural— Pop Fisher is manager of the New York Knights; all he does is complain about bad his team is, but when Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) shows up to play for the Knights, he won’t give him a chance to play, until Hobbs puts on a prodigious display in batting practice. This movie was filmed in Buffalo, in the stadium where the Bills played before Rich Stadium was built.

6) Jon Voight, Varsity Blues— Whoever made this movie had a high school coach they really hated; lot of unrealistic behavior by Voight’s character, the legendary football coach Bud Kilmer. He berates players, doesn’t give his best running back the ball near the goal line (the kid cites racist motives for that) and just seems like a miserable human. Eventually the players quit on him, but not before going to a strip club for an all-nighter on the night before a game, like that would ever happen. Maybe after the game, not before. 

5) JK Simmons, For the Love of the Game— Simmons is manager of the Detroit Tigers whose best pitcher is fading star Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner). Simmons is a Tiger fan in real life– he played the part well. Simmons is a great actor who plays a music teacher in the disturbing movie Whiplash— he pushes his students unmercifully, trying to get them to reach their potential.

4) Nick Nolte, Blue Chips— Nolte spent lot of time around Bob Knight’s Indiana teams prepping for this role, so you see lot of Knight’s antics, and the climactic game for Western U is against the Hoosiers (in scenes filmed in a high school gym in Indiana). Nolte gets the role down well; he coaches against Rick Pitino, Knight and George Raveling in games, recruits against Jerry Tarkanian and Jim Boeheim.

3) James Gammon, Major League— Mr Gammon passed away nine years ago; he had such a great voice that one of the truck companies still uses his voice for their commercials. He plays Lou Brown, manager of the Cleveland Indians, who leads a rag-tag bunch of players to the AL pennant. He later wound up as Don Johnson’s father in the TV series Nash Bridges.

2) Gabe Kaplan, Fast Break— I love this movie. Kaplan is the manager of a New York City deli who takes a chance and becomes the coach at obscure college in Nevada; Cadwallader University. Bernard King was one of his players, another player turned out to be a girl. He $60 for every win off the bat, and doesn’t get a big contract until he beats Nevada State– he has to beat the Nevada State coach in pool just to get them on their schedule.

This movie should be on TV somewhere every now and then.

1) Billy Bob Thornton, Friday Night Lights— I think this is the best representation of a coach I’ve ever seen on TV or in the movies. The movie is from a book that is based on a true story about Permian HS in west Texas, where high school football is a religion. Thornton has the coach thing down pat; his speeches before a game and at halftime are realistic and not over-the-top. Tremendous acting job.

Saturday’s Den: Stuff you remember that reminds you we’re all getting old(er)

13) You remember having to get up to change the channels on the TV.

Until 1973, when I was 13, we had three TV channels, plus PBS which nobody watched except for Sesame Street and Mister Rogers (I preferred Green Acres and Mister Ed).

In 1973, we got cable TV, which came with a brown plastic box that was attached to the TV with a wire; you could sit there and change the channels. It was excellent. Still had to get up to adjust the volume, but it was excellent.

12) If you don’t know, Mister Ed was a talking horse who only talked to Wilbur Post, who owned the house, with the horse in a barn behind the house. Wilbur was an architect who never seemed to work; Ed got him into a lot of trouble. The show still appears on obscure cable channels now and then; check it out.

11) They used to have day games in the World Series; the first night World Series game was in 1971. Game 7 of the ’72 Series started at 1:00; it was over by 4:00 (the A’s won!!!) and at 4:00 the late NFL game came on. Obviously these days, World Series games are all at night.

10) When I was in college, the drinking age was 18; I used to sit in the Across the Street Pub with some of my college friends and argue about sports while they played Pac-Man endlessly. My friend Mike was fond of yelling at me, “Thats the dumbest thing I ever heard!!!” He said that a lot, usually very late at night.

9) There was a time when NHL players didn’t wear helmets’ nd those who did wear helmets were thought to be less manly than the others.

Boston Bruins had a terrific winger named Rick Middleton who had concussion issues so he had to start wearing a helmet. It was unusual then; now it is obviously a rule.

Goalies didn’t always wear masks either, which is staggering to think about. Was Andy Brown the last goalie who didn’t wear a mask?

8) Until 1958 there were no major league baseball teams west of St Louis; then the Dodgers/Giants moved to California. What a sucker the owner of the Giants was; he got Candlestick Park, a windy, cold, cruddy stadium, while the Dodgers got Chavez Ravine. Oy.

7) Before the Giants/Dodgers moved, there were three major league teams (out of 16) in New York City. Then from 1958-61, there was only one team in the Big Apple., before the Mets came into being in ’62.

6) Random baseball trivia from Ryan Spaeder: Hall of Famer Greg Maddux made his major league debut as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 17th inning, on September 3, 1986;  he would stay in the game to pitch the top of the 18th.

Maddux became the first player to both pinch-run and pitch in his big league debut since Dan McGinn did so for the Reds on September 3, 1968.

5) Before 1985, there was no shot clock in college basketball, which made it a much different game. If you had the lead in the second half, you could just hold the damn ball and wait for a good shot. North Carolina had a “four corners” offense that featured PG Phil Ford and was very effective at the end of the games.

In 1979, Duke led North Carolina 7-0 at halftime. Of a basketball game. UNC held the ball for 11 straight minutes when they trailed 2-0. ESPN was about to become a real thing and games like this were unwatchable, so the shot clock eventually became a real thing.

4) For a long time, college basketball teams only made the NCAA Tournament if they won their league; in 1974, Maryland was #3 in the country, but they lost the ACC title game 103-100 in OT to NC State (#2 in country), so the Terps went to the NIT and crushed everyone they played.

NC State ended UCLA’s string of seven straight national titles, beating the Bruins in double OT in the national semifinals.

3) Again though, UCLA won seven straight national titles in an era where they had to win their league just to get into the tournament. Nowadays, Duke hasn’t won the ACC regular season title by itself since 2006.

2) There was a time when you went out, you made sure you had an extra dime (or later, a quarter) in your pocket, in case you had to make an emergency phone call. Phone booths were very popular and bailed a lot of people out in emergencies. Cellphones made them obsolete.
1) As I’m typing this, the 6-OT UConn-Syracuse game from the 2009 Big East tournament is on ESPNU; one of the refs was John Cahill, who is from Albany and was always very nice to me in our dealings when I was a student manager for the Albany Great Danes. Good to see him on TV again. Classic game, with Sean McDonough/Bill Raftery/Jay Bilas on the call, before Bilas became one of the more annoying people in America.