Tuesday’s Den: An enthusiastic endorsement of ESPN’s The Last Dance

13) ESPN struck television gold Sunday night, showing an entertainment-starved country the first two episodes of “The Last Dance”, a 10-part documentary about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. Originally slated to air June 3rd, it was pushed up because of the pandemic. Two episodes will run on each of the next four Sunday nights.

It isn’t often a program with high expectations meets those expectations, but this program was two hours of great research, artfully presented. If you like the NBA or college basketball at all, you’ll enjoy this look back at a part of our sports history.

12) Bulls had won five of previous seven NBA titles; they allowed NBA cameras access to their inner circle for what Phil Jackson knew would be his last season as the Bulls’ coach.

Back in 1997, the head of NBA Entertainment was Adam Silver, now the Commissioner, so this was his brainchild. Tall, bald guys with glasses tend to be smart 🙂

11) Phil Jackson averaged 6.7 ppg in 17.6 mpg in 12 NBA seasons. 10 with the Knicks, two with the Nets. He missed the Knicks’ 1970 title season after back surgery; he scored 8.1 ppg for the ’73 Knicks, who also won a championship.

10) Jackson coached here in Albany in five years, coaching the Patroons in the old CBA; from there he went to the Bulls, was an assistant for three years, then took over for the 1989-90 season.

Jackson was an NBA head coach for 20 years, winning 11 titles. Best NBA coach ever.

9) From November 1995 to June 1997, the Bulls were favored in 185 consecutive games, thats now great they were; but GM Jerry Krause knew the team’s great run was nearing an end, and he toyed with the idea of trading Scottie Pippen before the 1997-98 season, to try and head off the franchise’s inevitable decline. That idea was rejected by owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

8) Krause takes a pretty good beating on this show, since his professional relationship with the coaches, players deteriorated over time. Plus he is deceased, so he couldn’t be interviewed for the show, to present his side of the story.

But much like Art Howe’s portrayal in Moneyball, no team wins six titles without a really good GM; Krause made this trade, one that made the Bulls truly great:

June 22, 1987: Scottie Pippen was traded by the Seattle SuperSonics with a 1989 1st round draft pick to the Chicago Bulls, for Olden Polynice, a 1988 2nd round pick and a 1989 1st round pick.

7) Pippen missed 38 games in 1997-98 after having surgery; Chicago was 51-14 that year when he was in the lineup, 26-12 when he wasn’t.

6) Former Bulls’ center Bill Wennington is quoted a lot in the first two episodes; looks like he has a slot machine in his living room, which is pretty cool.

5) Steve Kerr won three rings playing for the Bulls; he’s won eight rings overall, three coaching the Warriors, two more playing for San Antonio. He is the only person ever to win 3+ titles, as both a player and a head coach.

4) Jordan played for three head coaches in this first three NBA seasons; Jackson was his 4th head coach in six years. One of the other coaches was Stan Albeck, who had been a coach for the Spurs, Nets, Cavaliers, and was also once Wilt Chamberlain’s assistant coach with the old San Diego Conquistadors in the ABA, in 1973-74. Albeck could write a hell of a book.

3) In one of Jordan’s North Carolina clips they showed, a Duke player named Chip Engelland appears very briefly. Engelland has gone on to become one of the best-ever shooting coaches in NBA history (Kawhi Leonard ring a bell?)

Engelland had been a ballboy for John Wooden’s UCLA teams; he scored 1,000+ points at Duke, then he played overseas for nine years. He’s been a Spurs assistant since 2005.

2) They showed when Phil Jackson won his first NBA title with the Bulls in ‘91, beating the Lakers in LA, one of the first people to shake his hand on the court was Jack Nicholson.

1) So what I’m saying here is that if you like basketball, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this look back into NBA history. I know I did. 

Monday’s Den: Colleges that produced the best NFL quarterbacks:

1) Stanford:
— John Elway, Andrew Luck, John Brodie, Jim Plunkett— Lot of depth here.

2)  Alabama:
— Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler— Four Super Bowl titles there.

3) Purdue:
— Drew Brees, Bob Griese, Len Dawson, Jim Everett

4) Notre Dame:
— Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Daryle Lamonica, Steve Beuerlein

5) California:
— Aaron Rodgers, Steve Bartkowski, Jared Goff, Craig Morton

6) Miami:
— Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde— Lot of wins, but no Super Bowl titles

7) Louisville:
— Johnny Unitas, Lamar Jackson, Teddy Bridgewater

8) Oregon:
— Dan Fouts, Chris Miller, Joey Harrington, Marcus Mariota

9) Michigan:
— Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Jim Harbaugh

10) Washington:
— Warren Moon, Mark Brunell, Chris Chandler

11) BYU:
— Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Marc Wilson, Gifford Neilsen

12) UCLA:
— Troy Aikman, Tommy Maddox, Steve Bono, Billy Kilmer

13) USC:
— Carson Palmer, Bill Nelsen, Rodney Peete, plus about seven other guys who are either young starters (Sam Darnold), marginal starters or mostly backups.

3 Lists for Sunday: Favorite TV shows for Bartender Chris and his wife Ashley…….

Bartender Chris and Ashley’s (his wife) favorite TV shows:

Armadillo: 24 is the only show on both of these lists; I’ve never seen 11 of the 13 shows on Ashley’s list. Thats what makes life interesting; different people like different stuff.

13) Chris: The Golden Girls

Ashley: Life

12) Chris:  Frasier

Ashley: Desperate Housewives

11) Chris: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Ashley: This Is Us

10) Chris:  The Simpsons

Ashley: Orange is the New Black

9) Chris: The Sopranos

Ashley: Lost

8) Chris: Sons of Anarchy

Ashley: Parenthood

7) Chris: Cheers

Ashley: Breaking Bad

6) Chris: Quantum Leap

Ashley: The Office

5) Chris: Alf

Ashley: 24

4) Chris: Seinfeld

Ashley: Dexter

3) Chris: 24

Ashley: Grey’s Anatomy

2) Chris: Magnum PI

Ashley: Weeds

1) Chris: Miami Vice

Ashley: Shameless

Two Lists for Saturday; Watching Game 2 of the ’72 World Series

— Struck TV gold late Friday night; a replay of Game 2 of the 1972 World Series, A’s-Reds; I hadn’t seen this game since I was 12 years old. Watching it in the same room, too.

— Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek, Al Michaels in the booth; when I post my list of best-ever or favorite TV announcers, this is why Michaels will be #1— he almost has to be the only person who was there the first time the Oakland A’s won the World Series, and first time the Rams won the Super Bowl.

— Back then, World Series games started at 1:oo; Gowdy is giving NFL scores during the game. Dolphins’ QB Bob Griese just chipped a bone in his ankle. No problem, Miami would go on to win the Super Bowl that year, going undefeated, with Earl Morrall at QB.

— Dick Williams was the A’s manager; his first year as a minor league manager was in Toronto in 1965. Who did he take over for? Reds’ skipper Sparky Anderson.

— Catfish Hunter is pitching for the A’s; my all-time favorite baseball player. Why, you say?

When I was five, I got a box of baseball cards; back then, rookie cards had four prospects on a card, all from the same team. I noticed Catfish because:
a) His name was spelled Jim Hunter on the front, Tim Hunter on the back.
b) Three guys had their minor league records on the back; Catfish Hunter never pitched in the minor leagues, so that stood out to me.

When I showed my dad the card and declared Catfish to be my favorite player, I got that look, like “Did we bring the right kid home from the hospital?” Not the last time I saw that look.

— Reggie Jackson didn’t play in this World Series; he tore his hamstring sliding into home in Game 5 of the ALCS. George Hendrick took his place.

— Before this World Series, A’s owner Charlie Finley got them to agree to a rule where the manager could visit the mound more than twice in a game, without removing the pitcher. Williams went to the mound 55 times in seven games, and I’m not exaggerating. Last time that rule existed.

— Some umpires wore the outside chest protector, with jackets and ties. This guy hides behind the catcher way more than current umpires do.

— Weird watching baseball with no graphics. They only put the score up at the end of every half-inning.

— Dave Duncan was the A’s starting catcher during the year, but Gene Tenace’s hot bat made him the starter during the Series. Duncan would start Game 7 and throw Joe Morgan out stealing at a key juncture; he would later become one of the game’s great pitching coaches, working for Tony Larussa.

— I met Pete Rose a few years ago in Las Vegas; resisted the temptation to ask him about this World Series, since he made the last out of Game 7. He was pretty cool to talk to, but then again it cost me $98 to get a baseball signed, so he was just doing his job.

— Matty Alou was the only A’s player that year who had previously experience in a World Series; he played for the ’62 Giants. 12 Reds had played in a Series- they lost to Baltimore in 1970.

— This game was played on Astroturf, which made for a different game; at one time, half the fields in the major leagues had Astrotruf fields. FieldTurf has taken over now, but think there are only four stadiums that use it; Toronto, Arizona, Texas and Tampa Bay.

— Bullpens were on the field down each foul line at Riverfront Stadium; Oakland Coliseum is one of the few stadiums that still has their bullpens on the field.

— Curt Gowdy just referenced that the A’s were an underdog in Game 2; never heard stuff like that back then. Wonder if he took some grief about saying that.

— George Hendrick is wearing his cap under his batting helmet; some guys did that, with no ear flaps on the helmets back then.

— Bottom of the 9th, A’s up 2-0; Catfish is still on the mound, no mention of pitch counts, or load management or any of the modern buzzwords.

Gowdy mentions that Catfish threw five no-hitters in high school, before getting hurt in a hunting accident, which is why he never pitched in the minors.

Tony Perez lines a single to left, then Joe Rudi makes one of the greatest catches in World Series history, to rob Denis Menke of a double. Rudi was an excellent player, a quiet guy who was very dependable.

Catfish has just given up two shots in a row when Cesar Geronimo is robbed of a hit by 1B Mike Hegan, a defensive replacement- another line drive, but Williams leaves Catfish in— the game sure has changed a lot. Hal McRae’s ground-ball single makes it 2-1, A’s. Williams brings Rollie Fingers to get the last out; can you imagine a pitcher today getting 26 outs in a playoff game?

Julian Javier is the pinch-hitter; his son Stan would later play for the A’s for parts of seven seasons, including playing for the ’89 World Champs. Dave Concepcion pinch-runs for McRae, Vida Blue warms up in the bullpen, and Javier fouls out to first base.

12-year old me was very happy that day, and even happier a week later, when Rollie Fingers got Rose out for the last out of Game 7. Was fun seeing this game again, for sure. 

Thursday’s List of 13: Movie Mt Rushmores…….

These are my favorite movies in each category:
13) Al Pacino movies:
— Any Given Sunday
— Heat
— Danny Collins
— Oceans 13

12) Tom Cruise movies
— A Few Good Men
— Risky Business
— Cocktail
— Jack Reacher

11) Baseball movies:
— Moneyball
— For Love of the Game
— Bull Durham
— Major League

10) Denzel Washington movies:
— He Got Game
— Pelican Brief
— Remember the Titans
— Out of Time

9) Gene Hackman movies:
— Hoosiers
— Runway Jury
— The Replacements
— Class Action

8) Basketball movies:
— Blue Chips
— One on One
— Fast Break
— Hoosiers
(He Got Game gets an honorable mention here)

7) Steve Martin movies:
— Leap of Faith
— Shopgirl
— Roxanne
— Grand Canyon

6) Gambling-related movies:
— Rounders
— Let It Ride
— The Gambler
— Lucky You

5) Gina Gershon movies:
— Bound
— PS I Love You
— Showgirls
— Pretty In Pink

4) Bill Murray movies:
— Lost In Translation
— Caddyshack
— Meatballs
— St Vincent

3) Marisa Tomei movies:
— My Cousin Vinny
— The Rewrite
— The Big Short
— Lincoln Lawyer

2) Robert DeNiro movies:
— Last Vegas
— Heat
— Jackie Brown
— Midnight Run

1) Kevin Costner movies:
— For Love of the Game
— The Bodyguard
— Bull Durham
— Draft Day

Wednesday’s List of 13: Favorite fictional coaches in movies……

Favorite coaches in TV/movies
This only includes fictional characters, which eliminates:
— Billy Bob Thornton in Friday Night Lights
— Philip Seymour Hoffman in Moneyball
— Any coach who appeared in a documentary

I also left Norman Dale (Hoosiers) off the list, since he had to be constantly reminded that Jimmy Chitwood could score at will. Even his drunk assistant coach drew up plays for Jimmy.

13) Moreland Smith (One on One)— GD Spradlin plays a college basketball coach who recruits a small-school basketball phenom who struggles to adjust to big-time college ball. Coach Smith tries to run the kid off the team; it ends better for the kid than the coach.

12) Morris Buttermaker (Bad News Bears)— Walter Matthau plays a Little League coach who brings a cooler of beer into the dugout every game; his team is saved by him recruiting a young lady to pitch, and a motorcycle punk who winds up being the best player in the league.

11) Gordon Bombay (The Mighty Ducks)— Emilio Estevez plays a Minnesota lawyer who gets a DUI, is sentenced to community service coaching a youth hockey team that isn’t very good. The Ducks wind up beating the team he played for as a kid, coached by Coach Reilly (Lane Smith, the same actor who lost to Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny)

10) Mick Goldmill (Rocky)— Burgess Meredith played the Penguin in the Batman TV series, but is better known as Rocky Balboa’s boxing trainer. “You’re gonna eat lightnin’; you’re gonna crap thunder!!!”

9) Murray Chadwick (Youngblood)— Ed Lauter plays a junior hockey coach whose daughter likes the star player, but the coach questions if he is tough enough. Lauter also has one of my all-time favorite  coaching lines: “I didn’t come halfway to the (bleep)ing Arctic Circle to lose to these goons!!!”

8) Billy Sunday (He Got Game)— John Turturro (Joey Knish in Rounders) plays the coach at Big State, a team trying to recruit Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen). Coach Sunday is only in one scene, but he steals it, trying to convince the star recruit to play for his team.

This is an underrated movie that foretold (20 years before) the problems Louisville’s program would have. Rick Fox plays the Big State player who is the recruit’s mentor for the weekend.

7) Frank Perry (For Love of the Game)— JK Simmons is a Detroit Tigers fan in real life, so this role probably came naturally for him. New York’s manager in this movie is played by Augie Garrido, one of the best-ever college coaches (Cal State-Fullerton, Texas)

6) Hayden Fox (Coach)— Craig T Nelson plays the coach at fictional Minnesota State in one of the two TV series on this list. Nelson is a divorced father whose girlfriend may not be all that crazy about football. Lot of the laughs in this show came from his assistant coach Luther Van Dam, played by Jerry Van Dyke.

5) Lou Brown (Major League)— James Gammon had one of the best-ever voices; he was also Don Johnson’s dad in Nash Bridges. Lou Brown wasn’t a fan of analytics, bringing in Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) in to pitch to Haywood, even after Haywood had homered twice off of him earlier in the movie.

4) Ken Reeves (White Shadow)— Ken Howard was really great as a washed-up NBA player who becomes a high school coach in inner-city Los Angeles, caring as much about his players off the court as he did on it. The uniforms Carver High wears in this show are the same as Howard’s high school team on Long Island wore (in real life).

3) Tony d’Amato (Any Given Sunday)— Al Pacino plays a veteran pro football coach whose owner (Cameron Diaz) doubts him as her team struggles to remain a contender. Pacino gives two great speeches in this game, one to QB Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) and the other before the playoff game in Dallas, the “Game of Inches” speech.

Jim Brown was really good in this as one of coach d’Amato’s assistants, and Lawrence Taylor was one of the Miami Sharks.

2) Pete Bell (Blue Chips)— Nick Nolte hung around Indiana’s program for a while to prep for this role, so lot of the antics we see are stuff Bobby Knight did in real life. Marques Johnson plays one of Western U’s assistants. The scene in the empty gym where coach Bell rebounds for his AD (Bob Cousy) while he shoots foul shots is one of my favorite movie scenes ever.

1) David Greene (Fast Break)— Gabe Kaplan plays the manager of a New York City deli who is also a huge basketball fan; he is offered the coaching job at a small Nevada college, and recruits an odd assortment of players, one of whom is played by NBA great Bernard King. On of his other players is a young lady, playing in disguise.

This movie came out when I was in college; Kaplan was tremendous. For any of us who would’ve loved to have coached for a living, this may have been unrealistic, but it was also inspirational. 

Monday’s Den: Western Conference teams for our 3-on-3 tournament

Western Conference:
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic, Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitski

Denver Nuggets: Alex English, Dan Issel, David Thompson

Golden State Warriors: Wilt Chamberlain, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson

Houston Rockets: James Harden, Calvin Murphy, Hakeem Olajuwon

Buffalo Braves/Los Angeles Clippers: Jamal Crawford, Danilo Gallinari, Bob McAdoo

Los Angeles Lakers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson

Memphis Grizzlies: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph

Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins

New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, David West

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant, Jeff George, Russell Westbrook

Phoenix Suns: Connie Hawkins, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire

Portland Trailblazers: Clyde Drexler, Damien Lillard, Bill Walton

Cincinnati Royals/Sacramento Kings: Mitch Richmond, Oscar Robertson, Chris Webber

San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, George Gervin, Manu Ginobili

Utah Jazz: Adrian Dantley, Karl Malone, John Stockton

Seattle SuperSonics: Freddie Brown, Spencer Haywood, Gary Payton

Sunday’s Den: A hypothetical, 32-team, 3-on-3 tournament

Here is a hypothetical, 32-team 3-on-3 tournament with guys from all 30 NBA teams, plus players from the old Seattle SuperSonics and a team of guys from the ABA.

Eastern Conference/ABA (will post West teams tomorrow)
Atlanta/St Louis Hawks: Pete Maravich, Bob Pettit, Dominique Wilkins

Boston Celtics: Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Robert Parish

Brooklyn/NY/NJ Nets: Rick Barry, Derrick Coleman, Jason Kidd

Charlotte Hornets: Larry Johnson, Glen Rice, Kemba Walker

Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Reggie Theus

Cleveland Cavaliers: Brad Daugherty, Lebron James, Mark Price

Detroit Pistons: Grant Hill, Bob Lanier, Isiah Thomas

Indiana Pacers: George McGinnis, Reggie Miller, Victor Oladipo

Miami Heat: Tim Hardaway Sr, Alonzo Mourning, Dwayne Wade

Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief

New York Knicks: Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Bernard King

Orlando Magic: Nick Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal

Philadelphia 76ers: Charles Barkley, Julius Erving, Hal Greer

Toronto Raptors: Vince Carter, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valančiūnas

Washington Bullets/Wizards: Bradley Beal, Elvin Hayes, Earl Monroe

ABA: Mack Calvin, Billy Cunningham, Artis Gilmore

Friday’s Den: Mike picks his top 13 sports moments…….

My friend Mike is WAY smarter than me; here are his 13 top sports moments, in chronological order:
1936— Jesse Owens winning four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics.

1947— Jackie Robinson’s first major league baseball game.

Robinson’s brother Mack Robinson finished 2nd to Jesse Owens in the 200-meter race in the ’36 Olympics; both of them broke the existing Olympic record.

1956— Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Two years before that perfect game, Larsen went 3-21, 4.37 pitching for the Orioles. He is probably one of the few people to play for both the St Louis Browns and Houston Astros. 

1958— Colts 23, Giants 17 (OT): NFL title game that vaulted the NFL into a national sport.
— Frank Gifford scored a TD, Pat Summerall kicked a FG for the Giants.
— Colts blew a 14-3 halftime lead; they outgained the Giants, 452-266
— Raymond Berry caught 12 passes for 178 yards; 27 years later, he coached the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

1971— The first fight between Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier; it was the first time that two undefeated boxers fought each other for the heavyweight title.

Frazier won a unanimous decision, but lost the next two meetings.

1973— Secretariat wins the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths, taking the Triple Crown. 31 lengths is roughly 248 feet, according to Wikipedia.

1980— USA 4, Soviet Union 3— Semi-final game of the Olympic Games.

One of the great upsets in sports history; Russia had beaten the Americans 10-2 in an exhibition game in New York City a week or two before this.

1984— Boston College 47, Miami 45— Flutie-to-Phelan 48-yard TD pass on the last play of the game provides one of the greatest endings in college football history.
— Flutie passed for 472 yards, Bernie Kosar threw for 447.
— Coaches: BC: Jack Bicknell, Miami: Jimmy Johnson
— TV announcers: Brent Musberger, Ara Parseghian, Pat Haden

1986— Jack Nicklaus wins his sixth Masters title at age 46, 23 years after his first title.

1988— Steffi Graf’s tennis calendar:
— won Australian Open
— won French Open
— won Wimbledon
— won US Open
— won an Olympic gold medal

1992— Duke 104, Kentucky 103 (OT)— East Regional final is Philadelphia is remembered for Christian Laettner’s game-winning shot after a 70-foot inbounds pass from Grant Hill.
— Duke shot 65% from the floor, 72% inside the arc.
— Kentucky shot 12-22 on the arc, 58% inside it.
— Duke was 28-34 on foul line, Kentucky was 17-23.

— Laettner scored 31 points; Jamal Mashburn scored 28.
— Bobby Hurley scored 22 points, had 10 assists.
— Grant Hill played 37:00 off bench, scoring 10 points.

1993— Bulls 87, Jazz 86— Chicago wins its third NBA title in a row, and its sixth in eight years.
— Michael Jordan scored 45 points, going 12-15 on line.
— Bulls were +16 with Scottie Pippen on floor, -15 with him off it.
— Steve Kerr played 24:00 for the Bulls, had 3 assists, but didn’t take a shot.

1999— USA Woman’s soccer team beats China to win the World Cup. 

Tuesday’s Den: 13 of the biggest comebacks in NFL history

13) 9-23-79— Oilers 30, Bengals 27 (OT)— 0-3 Cincinnati led 24-0 at home in 2nd quarter, behind two rushing TD’s by Pete Johnson, but needed a 55-yard FG by Chris Bahr to send game to OT, after Oilers outscored them 17-0 in 3rd quarter. Earl Campbell ran ball for 158 yards for the Oilers, who wound up losing AFC title game at Pittsburgh that year.

12) 9-23-79— Broncos 37, Seahawks 34— September 23 was a big day for comebacks that year. Seattle led 34-10 early in 3rd quarter, behind a Jim Zorn-led offense, but Denver stormed back and scored game’s last 27 points, with Craig Morton throwing three TD passes. Broncos wound up losing Wild Card game 13-7 to the afore-mentioned Oilers in the Astrodome.

11) 12-4-77— Vikings 28, 49ers 27— Niners led 24-0 in 3rd quarter, running 2nd half kickoff back for a TD, but Tommy Kramer came off bench for Minnesota and was 9-13/188 with three TD passes, leading Vikings to the comeback win. 49ers threw ball for only 57 yards in this game, with Jim Plunkett under center.

10) 12-15-74— Dolphins 34, Patriots 27— Another loss for Jim Plunkett, who led New England to a 21-0 first quarter lead, but Earl Morrall (15-23/288, two TD passes) rallied Miami back for its 11th win of the year- they lost to the Raiders 28-26 in their first playoff game. Melvin Baker caught four balls for 121 yards, two TD’s for the Dolphins.

9) 10-23-60— Broncos 31, Patriots 24— Boston, playing on road for 3rd week in row, stormed out to a 24-0 lead, with Butch Songin throwing three TD passes, but Frank Tripucka rallied the Broncos back, throwing four TD passes, two to Al Carmichael. Denver outscored the Patriots 17-0 in the 4th quarter, and improved to 4-2- it was their last win of the season (4-9-1).

8) 10-25-59— Eagles 28, Cardinals 24— Philly improved from 2-9-1 to 7-5 in ‘59; they trailed 24-0 in 3rd quarter of this game after Night Train Lane had a pick-6 off Norm Van Brocklin, but the Eagles scored the last 28 points of the game, with the Dutchman throwing two TD passes, and Billy Ray Barnes running for two more. Philly won the NFL title the next season.

7) 10-20-57— Lions 31, Colts 27— Week 1 of NFL season in ’57 was September 29; times have changed. Colts led this game 27-3 early in 3rd quarter after a Lenny Moore TD, but Bobby Layne threw two TD passes in relief of Tobin Rote and Detroit won, despite completing only 12 of 34 passes for the game. Both teams were 3-1 after this game; Lions won the NFL title that year- they haven’t won one since.

6) 10-5-14— Browns 29, Titans 28— Tennessee led 28-3 in 2nd quarter after Charlie Whitehurst threw a 75-yard TD pass, but Cleveland blanked the Titans in 2nd half, and Brian Hoyer rallied the Browns to the win, which evened their record at 2-2. Taylor Gabriel caught four passes for 95 yards for Cleveland.

5) 12-6-92— Rams 31, Buccaneers 28— Rams had lost four of previous five games, trailed 27-3 at halftime of this one, but Jim Everett threw for 342 yards and three 2nd half TD’s. Both teams turned ball over three times in a primetime game that drew only 38.387 fans in Tampa. Vinny Testaverde threw two TD’s for the Bucs, who also scored a special teams TD.

4) 2-5-17— Patriots 31, Falcons 28— Atlanta led 28-3 early in 3rd quarter, but frittered away lead and lost a chance to win their first Super Bowl. Brady was 43-62/466 passing, completing 14 of them to RB James White, who scored three TD’s, two of them on ground. Patriots had 37 first downs, outgunned Atlanta by 202 yards (546-344).

3) 9-21-97— Bills 37, Colts 35— Indy led 26-0 in 2nd quarter, behind a Jim Harbaugh TD pass and four FG’s, but Todd Collins (23-38/275) railed Buffalo back for the win. Antowain Smith carried the ball 12 times for 129 yards, three TD’s. Marshall Faulk ran ball 16 times for 77 yards for Indy, two years before he won a Super Bowl with the Rams.

2) 12-7-80– 49ers 38, Saints 35 (OT)— New Orleans was 0-13 coming into this game, but they led 35-7 at halftime behind Archie Manning, who was 24-38/377, with three TD passes. 49ers rallied back for the win behind Joe Montana; they would win their first Super Bowl the next year. Saints avoided a winless season when they beat the Jets the next week.

1) 1-3-93— Bills 41, Oilers 38 (OT)— Houston led 35-3 early in 3rd quarter of this playoff game, after Bubba McDowell’s pick-6, but backup QB Frank Reich threw four TD passes, three of them to Andre Reed, as Buffalo stunned the Oilers, won two more playoff games and wound up winning the AFC title. Reed caught eight passes for 136 yards in this game. 

Sunday’s Den; Chris the Bartender’s 13 favorite movies…….

Today we yield the floor to my friend Chris the Bartender, who has a wider knowledge of movies than I do (which means, he hasn’t seen Moneyball 100+ times). 

13) The Princess Bride (1987)— This movie had it all; story, cast, music. RIP Andre the Giant.

12) Up in the Air (2009)— We all know the feeling of getting old and unwanted/unneeded.

11) Lethal Weapon 2 (1984)— I normally don’t like many sequels, but I have many reasons for liking this movie, the biggest one being it was the one/only movie I saw with my grandfather before he passed.

10) Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)— Steve Martin at the car rental desk steals the whole movie. John Candy lends a comic hand in this one.

9) City Slickers (1991)— Another movie with a fantastic cast (Billy Crystal, Jack Palance, Helen Slater, Jeffrey Tambor) and an excellent story- on the verge of turning 40, an unhappy Manhattan yuppie is roped into joining his two friends on a cattle drive in the southwest.

8) Beverly Hills Cop (1984)— Eddie Murphy at his best, teaming with Judge Reinhold- Murphy plays a  freewheeling Detroit cop pursuing a murder investigation, but finds himself dealing with the very different culture of Beverly Hills.
(Armadillo’s note: Detroit Lions are 0-7 in playoff games since Murphy wore a Lions jacket in Beverly Hills Cop 3)

7) Back to the Future (1985)— “Now, Biff……”
(Armadillo’s note: My name is Biff; this movie gave Biff’s a bad name)

6) Stealing Home (1988)— Underrated Mark Harmon/Jodie Foster movie; Harmon plays a washed-up baseball player who is called back home to handle the ashes of his childhood sweetheart/first love who had committed suicide. As he searches for what to do with them, he remembers the past and the relationship they had.

5) Midnight Run (1988)— Great cast; Robert DeNiro, Charles Grodin made a great team.

4) Die Hard (1988)— You could feel the intensity from the very beginning.

3) Caddyshack (1980)— Two words; Ted Knight.

(Armadillo’s note: Bill Murray’s son Luke is an assistant basketball coach at Louisville; he’s said that he has never seen Caddyshack)

2) Rocky (1976)— I can watch this movie every time it is on.

1) The Godfather (1972)— Possibly the greatest movie ever made, and possibly the greatest movie that was adapted from a book. 

Saturday’s Den: Some of my favorite NCAA Tournament games……

13) 1989: Georgetown 50, Princeton 49— Back then, Dick Vitale worked in the ESPN studio with Bob Ley during the tournament; this was a 1-16 game with Georgetown favored by 22 points. Vitale says on TV that if Princeton wins the game, he’ll stand on his head on camera, right on the table that they’re sitting at.

Alonzo Mourning scored 21 for Georgetown, blocked seven shots; no other Hoya scored more than 8 points- they were only 1-10 on arc. Other than Mourning, Hoyas were 11-31 from floor.

Three Princeton guys played whole 40:00; they were out-rebounded 32-13- they had the ball at the end with a chance to win game, but it wasn’t to be. Great drama, though.

12) 2008: Kansas 75, Memphis 68 OT— John Calipari’s Tigers led this national title game by 9 with about 2:10 to play, but they struggled on foul line (12-19) and couldn’t pull it off, despite having Derrick Rose on their side.

Calipari left Memphis after the next season; since then, the Tigers are 2-4 in NCAA Tournament games- they haven’t made the NCAA’s since 2014, kind of like the same way UMass disappeared after Calipari left there.

11) 2010, 2011: Butler played for the national championship in consecutive years, coming out of the Horizon League. Since then, Butler moved up to the A-14, and then the Big East, but making the national title game out of the Horizon League in consecutive years is an amazing feat, and is why Brad Stevens coaches the Celtics now.

Butler was a 5-seed and an 8-seed those years; their 2011 run in the NCAA’s was something, with a 60-58 first round win, 71-70 second round win, and an OT win over Billy Donovan and Florida in the regional final, a matchup of future NBA coaches.

10) 2019: Murray State 83, Marquette 64— I had the over in this game; Marquette is a hotshot Big East team that is always on national TV. Murray State plays in the OVC; they get on national TV during Champ Week, but despite that, Marquette was only a 3-point favorite.

Murray leads 39-35 at the half, then pulls away in the second half; I’m all set to hit the over, because Marquette has to press to try and get back in the game, but no, Wojciechowski takes the press off and sits in a zone, conceding the loss so that his squad doesn’t have an OVC team hang 100 on them. Wojo is a horrifically overrated head coach, and LMU just hired his top assistant as their new head coach. Good luck there.

9) 1986: Cleveland State 83, Indiana 79— This was first time a Bobby Knight team lost in the first round of the NCAA’s; Cleveland State was very athletic- they had a point guard named Mouse McFadden, a 6-5 wing named Clinton Ransey who scored 27 points in this game.

Cleveland State’s coach was Kevin Mackey, a former Boston high school coach and a Boston College assistant; when the Vikings beat Indiana, the school built a new gym, and Mackey was a fairly cocky celebrity.

But Mackey had off-court demons which got him fired a few years later; he bounced around the minor leagues of pro hoop for several years, and is now an NBA scout.

8) 2003: Syracuse 95, Texas 84— I was lucky enough to be an assistant coach at Schenectady HS for eight years; our best player during those years was James Thomas, who wound up playing for five NBA teams, and played 25:00 for Texas in this game. It is excellent to see someone you know playing in the Final Four. James wound up as the #2 rebounder in Texas history.

When we won the NY State title in 2001, we beat Columbia HS in the sectionals; their center was 7-1 Craig Forth, who played 21:00 for Syracuse in this game. More importantly, Syracuse had Carmelo Anthony, and they won the national title.

7) 1983: NC State 69, Pepperdine 67, 2OT— Back then, Pepperdine dominated the WCC like Gonzaga does now; we had an office pool for the NCAA’s, and I had Pepperdine winning two games, and getting to the Sweet 16. Jim Harrick was their coach; he was very good.

Pepperdine was only 19-32 on the foul line; their best player, Dane Suttle, missed the front end of two 1-and-1’s down the stretch, and NC State started their Cinderella run to their unlikely national championship, the one that made Jim Valvano a national figure.

6) 2017 national semi-finals:
North Carolina 77, Oregon 76
Gonzaga 77, South Carolina 73

Both favorites won, but neither covered- since 1987, this is the only time that happened in the Final Four. Two good ballgames.

I was at the MGM Grand, watching the games with a friend who wagered a lot of money on both games— he won both. Damn good day for him.

5) 1999: Arkansas 94, Siena 80— This was one of those moments where two people are thinking exactly alike at the same moment. Arkansas-Siena was played in Denver, so high altitude with a couple of teams who both liked to play fast. Siena’s coach was Paul Hewitt, the best coach they ever had- this was a 4-13 game, with Arkansas favored by 8.

When the pairings came out, I’m jotting the matchups down on my notepad, sitting in a friend’s living room, but when they said “Arkansas-Siena, in Denver” we looked each other quickly and both blurted out, “Over!!!”

This was the first time I watched the NCAA Tournament in Las Vegas; I’m a nickel/dime bettor, but I bet more on the over of this game than any basketball bet I ever made, and it cashed. 🙂

4) 1990: Loyola Marymount 111, New Mexico State 92— Hank Gathers was LMU’s star, but he passed away on the court during the WCC tournament, which the Lions won- they pushed back their first round tournament game to midnight Friday night, the last of the first round games.

Back then, I wrote a small blurb every day for the Albany Times Union, a much smaller version of what we do here. On this day, I was emphatic that LMU was going to win, that this matchup (in Long Beach) against a team that would run with them (NM State) was perfectly suitable to LMU advancing. Wish I was in Las Vegas for this game.

Game was tied at the half; Bo Kimble, LMU’s other star, had four fouls, so I was a little queasy since LMU was obviously already missing their best player, but Kimble scored 45 points and LMU won going away, dedicating the game to their fallen friend.

3) 2006: NW Louisiana 64, Iowa 63— I’ve written about this before; Hawkeyes were a 7-point favorite, kind of low for a 3-14 game; I went on John Graney’s radio show here in Albany and predicted the Demons would win straight up, which they did, rallying back from a double digit deficit to pull the upset. 

That summer, four months later, I’m sitting in a gym in Orlando watching AAU games, when Demons’ coach Mike McConathy sits next to me; good guy. I thanked him profusely for making me look good with the Iowa win, and he tells me a story.

Turns out that one of McConathy’s former players was going to grad school at Iowa that year, and went to every Hawkeye home game. He gave the Demons a very thorough scouting report, so maybe they had a little edge going in.

2) 1990: UNLV 103, Duke 73— I had fun during this game, watching the Runnin’ Rebels win the national title; won’t say much more about this game than I did a few days ago, but was sitting in room full of people rooting for Duke- they weren’t happy. I was.

1) 1974: NC State 80, UCLA 77, 2OT:
— UCLA’s string of seven straight national title ends.

— Bruins led by 7 in the second OT, with no shot clock, but stumbled down the stretch.
— Only 7 guys played for each side; four guys played all 50:00.
— UCLA’s two subs played 5:00, 9:00

— Bill Walton scored 29 points, had 18 rebounds. 
— David Thompson scored 28 points, had 10 rebounds.
— 7-foot-3 Tom Burleson scored 20 points, had 12 rebounds. 

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 www.actionnetwork.com 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 www.actionnetwork.com 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