Saturday’s List of 13: My favorite non-sports movies……

These are 13 of my favorite non-sports movies. Make your own list. 

Remember, these are my favorite movies, not the movies that are necessarily the best. Of the 50 movies USA Today listed as the best ever, I’ve seen two of them. Seriously. 

13) Runaway Jury— I’m a big fan of the John Grisham books; this was my favorite of the ones that were turned into movies. Gene Hackman plays a jury consultant whose client is a gun manufacturer; John Cusack is on the jury to manipulate the verdict.  

T12) Moon Over Parador— Richard Dreyfuss is an actor who is hired to stand in for the dictator of a Latin American country who suddenly dies. Jonathan Winters is a weird CIA agent whose wife is Polly Holliday, who played Flo in the old TV series Alice. 

T12) Dave— Made five years after Moon Over Parador, this is basically the same movie, just set in Washington, DC. 

Guy who looks just the President runs a temp service in Washington; when the real president has a stroke while screwing around with his mistress, the guy (Kevin Kline) is hired as the stand-in president. Sigourney Weaver is the First Lady. 

11) The Verdict— Paul Newman is a struggling lawyer who is handed a winning case, but winning it is easier said than done. His friend is played by Jack Warden, one of my all-time favorites.

10) The Gambler— Remake of a James Caan movie from the mid-70’s. College professor (Mark Wahlberg) seems to have an excellent life, but he has a huge gambling problem which drags him down. John Goodman plays one of the people he owes money to; he is very good in this.

9) The Bodyguard— Whitney Houston is a famous singer with a contract on her head; Kevin Costner is the ex-Secret Service hired to protect her.

8) A Few Good Men— The last scene, with Jack Nicholson on the witness stand, is tremendous. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, JT Walsh as supporting actors is pretty strong. 

7) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin plays a traveling preacher whose bus breaks down, stranding his crew in a drought-stricken Kansas town. Miracles ensue. Liam Neeson, Debra Winger, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meat Loaf all have supporting roles. 

6) Molly’s Game— Young woman runs high stakes poker games for celebrities/rich guys, but when members of the Russian mob enter the game, things get complicated. This is a true story, and as we’re learning nowadays, real life is often stranger than fiction. 

5) Lost In Translation— Bill Murray plays a washed-up actor who is in Tokyo getting paid $2M to do a whiskey commercial. He meets Scarlett Johansson in the hotel bar and they become friends. 

4) Begin Again— Down-and-out music executive stumbles into a Manhattan bar and discovers a young singer who can resurrect his career. 

3) Good Will Hunting— Janitor at MIT can do complicated math problems better than the professors can, but he also has a criminal record, and has to get counseling for that. Robin Williams is great as the counselor. 

2) Last Vegas— Four old friends get together in Las Vegas for the bachelor party of the one bachelor in group (Michael Douglas) who is marrying a woman 40 years younger than him. It is Douglas, Robert Deniro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline. 

1) Rounders— Law student decides he’d rather play high stakes poker. The scenes with Matt Damon and his law professor (Martin Landau) are excellent. Same guys who wrote this write the great Showtime series Billions now. 

Saturday’s Den: Notes on Las Vegas hotels where I’ve stayed……..

Places where I’ve stayed the most:
— Westgate— Best sportsbook in Las Vegas, by far; on NFL Sundays they open the theater to watch all the games, with food/betting right there. Sid’s Cafe is solid dining option and they have fancier eating options also. Rooms are pretty good but not great, but this is a good place. 

International Bar in front of the casino is very good, and the snack bar has superior cherry danish.

— SouthPoint— Rooms are bigger, pretty nice. Outstanding 24-hour cafe. Also a very good sportsbook, with a hot dog stand right near it during the day and a good bar, snack bar nearby. There is a radio studio in middle of casino, where Brent Musburger has a daily radio show. Bowling alley, movie theater upstairs; away from the Strip, but a very good place. 

— Elara— Behind Planet Hollywood, Elara used to be my go-to place until Hilton bought it and doubled the room prices. Attached to Miracle Mile shops, so in summer can do just about anything you like as far as eating/shopping and never go outside. Excellent place, but out of my price range now, and their rates don’t go down Christmas week. 

Places I like to stay Christmas week, when room rates are lower:
— Vdara— No casino, but a short walk from the Aria. Great rooms, good bar by the front door, decent Market Cafe with pretty good light food (open till midnight). You can walk to Bellagio without going outside. 

— Aria— Really good sportsbook, and I changed my mind about the pizza place right near there, it is solid pizza. There is a Starbucks upstairs near the buffet. Problem is, Aria is way too nice for me. You play video poker at the bar, has to be at least $1.25 a hand, which can be expensive if you go on an extended cold streak. Just like Vdara, great rooms; their gift shop is much better, with a wider assortment of junk food available.

— Mandalay Bay— Great room, with good layout for desk and an odd-shaped couch to relax on. Hot tub in the bathroom never hurts. Pretty good snack bar right near the sportsbook, but the book could use bigger TV screens. 

— Luxor— Room I stayed in was so spacious you could’ve played floor hockey in kitchen area; there was an excellent 24-hour deli in the casino, and the bar area was……how can I say this, full of friendly people. Sportsbook was small but good enough. 

Places I’ve only stayed once or twice…….
— Planet Hollywood— Smallish rooms, good sportsbook, excellent coffee shops (Planet Dailies); the Dueces Wild game at the machines right near Planet Dailies can be generous. Easy access to Miracle Mile shops, which are good to walk around.

— Golden Nugget— My only downtown visit; room was kind of average, but rest of hotel was top-flight, with 24-hour coffee shop that is excellent. Pool is tremendous, sports book is small but must be great in summer to watch baseball. 

Downtown Las Vegas has to be seen to be believed; lot of unique sights, just stay on the beaten path after dark. Enjoyed my ten days here. 

— Bally’s— If you go in spring or fall, Bally’s has a great pool area, trust me on this. I didn’t like the layout of their sportsbook that much, but lot of food areas close by, and it is across the street from Battista’s, one of my favorite restaurants. Didn’t spend much time in the casino while I was there, since the sportsbook is off by itself. 

— Mirage— I am almost 60 years old, but was on the young side of guests there— think it was my 4th day there before I was in an elevator without someone else using a cane or a walker.

I am told the pool there is excellent, but didn’t see it myself; I can attest to fact that The Mirage has great food options— Carnegie Deli (HUGE sandwiches, Dr Brown’s soda), a really good hamburger place and a California Pizza Kitchen. Sportsbook is also pretty good. 

— MGM— Sportsbook area is small but good; very big hotel. My walk from the elevator to my room was pretty long. Food options are solid; my room was smallish, and about 25% of the TV channels were Asian channels. Very close to the adidas outlet store, which cost me more $$$ than video poker. Nice place, just not my thing that much. Not sure the West Wing bar is there anymore, but I liked the West Wing bar. 

— SLS— The old Sahara has the smallest rooms ever; there was a mirror on the ceiling in my room, and mirrors on shower door and bathroom door, to make room look bigger. Last thing I want to see while I’m laying in bed is…….me. 

Room did have a good seating area at foot of the bed; I enjoyed my stay there, but there is only a counter to place sports bets, no real sportsbook. Hamburger place was pretty good, but I’m still waiting to win one hand of video poker— got completely crushed there, to point where I’m not sure those machines ever pay out. 

— Sun Coast— Quietest casino ever; located up in Summerlin, pretty close to where Snoop Dawg lived in the reality show he was in a few years ago. Most of time there were more security guys than customers in Sun Coast. Was told they had an incident just before my stay, which is why the security was enhanced. 

I remember there was group of Toronto Maple Leaf fans there gloating about a playoff win over the Bruins, only Toronto blew the lead late in game and those people wound up drowning their sorrows while I played video poker. 

This place looks just like South Point, just no 24-hour coffee shop; there is a good bar near the sportsbook, and the movie theater serves Orville Redenbacher popcorn, which is important if you’re watching games in the sportsbook. 

— Excalibur— Been long time since I stayed there, am assuming it is lot different now than way back then. If you like watching guys dressed up in medieval outfits juggling or playing a bugle, this is your place. Great spot on the Strip, close to MGM, Luxor and T-Mobile Arena. 

— Rio— Stayed there one night in July 2010, but their Internet wouldn’t support posting my website stuff so I left, which is how I wound up staying at the Elara. This was during the World Series of Poker, which was great fun to walk thru for 20-30 minutes, until I realized that I didn’t come 2,300 miles to watch other people play cards. 

— Stratosphere— Never stayed there, but have to recommend the Italian restaurant downstairs in the casino, Fellini’s; really good place. Old school Italian restaurant. 

Saturday’s List of 13: Random lists of 3

13) Best 3 NBA players of all-time:
1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2) Michael Jordan 3) Lebron James. 

12) Favorite Las Vegas hotels:
T1) Aria/Vdara 3) Mandalay Bay 4) SouthPoint

11) Favorite Las Vegas sports books:
1) Westgate 2) Aria 3) Golden Nugget

10) Favorite Batman villains:
1) Riddler (Frank Gorshin) 2) Egghead (Vincent Price) 3) Mad Hatter (David Wayne)

9) College football bucket list:
Games at: 1) LSU 2) USC 3) Rose Bowl

8) College basketball bucket list:
1) NC State 2) Iowa State 3) Colorado State

7) Favorite non-sports movies:
1) Rounders 2) The Bodyguard 3) Begin Again

6) Favorite QB’s (non-Rams) to watch:
1) Dan Fouts 2) Aaron Rodgers 3) John Elway

5) Best Oakland A’s managers:
1) Dick Williams 2) Bob Melvin 3) Tony LaRussa

4) Best LA/St Louis Rams head coaches:
1) Dick Vermeil 2) Sean McVay T3) George Allen/Chuck Knox

3) My favorite comedians:
1) Steve Martin 2) Bill Murray 3) David Letterman

2) Favorite dinners:
1) Pizza 2) Spaghetti and meatballs 3) Scrambled eggs and bacon

1) Favorite TV characters:
1) Oscar Madison (Odd Couple) 2) Jonathan Higgins (Magnum PI) 3) Henry Blaker (M*A*S*H*)

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

1) March— Conference tournament basketball, March Madness, spring training games on TV every day, plus winter is winding down. March is a good time of year. 

2) November— Lot of football going on, plus college basketball starts

T3) June/July/August— Summer months are all good in upstate New York; hot weather, the horses are up in Saratoga in late July/August, baseball on the tube every night.

6) December— I spend 10 days in Las Vegas every December, wrapped around Christmas, so that ramps up this month’s ranking a lot. Walking on the Strip and seeing all the Christmas decorations is a little unique. 

College basketball games, the NFL stretch run, bowl games- good stuff.

7) September— When I was a kid, this was the worst month of the year, going back to school and all, but as an adult, football season starts, the pennant races in baseball, plus the weather is mostly still summer-ish. 

8) October— Slowest month for this website, which usually means a trip to the desert, never a bad thing. Football Sundays at the Westgate Theater are really good. 

9) May— Really the same month as April, except one more day and the weather is usually a little bit warmer. 

10) April— Baseball season starts, which is very good and winter is replaced by mostly rain, but the NBA/NHL playoffs start

11) January— 31 days of cruddy weather offsets the NFL playoffs and conference play in college basketball. There are no bad months of the year, but January is a damn cold month. 

12) February— Only 28 days (usually) but the same cruddy weather, plus only one football game, though the new AAF could start making February a little better. 

Wednesday’s List of 13: In praise of these A’s……..

13) Last three years, Oakland A’s finished last in AL West, winning 68-69-75 games. 

A’s have the lowest payroll in the major leagues, but they made the playoffs this season, going 97-65, something no one thought possible back in the spring.  Great managing job by Bob Melvin; this is 4th time in last seven years Oakland is in the playoffs, but first time since 2014. 

How they’ve gotten to this point is really pretty amazing. 

12) Oakland has used 53 players this season, 33 of them pitchers. 

Their two best starting pitchers right now are Mike Fiers and Edwin Jackson; Fiers’ first game with the A’s was August 8, Jackson’s first game was June 25. Jackson is pitching for his 13th major league team. 

11) Kendall Graveman was Oakland’s Opening Day starter; he lasted until May 11 before he blew his arm out. 

Sean Manaea pitched a no-hitter against Boston, but he got hurt August 24 and is done until 2020. A’s went 16-11 in Manaea’s starts this year- they acquired him in the Ben Zobrist trade when Kansas City made their World Series run in 2015. 

Gossett, Triggs, Montas, Blackburn started a combined 31 games; A’s went 17-14 in those games. 

10) February 12, 2016, the A’s traded two minor leaguers to Milwaukee for Khris Davis, who has gone on to hit 133 homers, knock in 335 runs. Pretty good trade. 

One of the minor leaguers, Jacob Nottingham, has appeared in nine major league games. Davis is mostly a DH, so he wouldn’t have done Milwaukee much good, but a damn good trade. 

9) On March 12, 2018, Oakland signed C Jonathan Lucroy, giving their pitchers/defenses an anchor, the team a leader. Lucroy hasn’t hit much, but this will be his third straight year in the playoffs (Texas 2016, Colorado 2017). His acquisition was huge for the A’s. 

8) Ramon Laureano is a 24-year old OF who hit .227 in the AA Texas League LY; when you hit .227 in the hitter-friendly Texas League, it is usually time to start looking for a new career, but since making his Oakland debut August 3, Laureano has an on-base% of .364, is a terrific CF with a great arm- he doubled a runner off first base in Anaheim with a throw that went 107 yards in the air!!!! 

A’s got him from Houston in a trade for a pitcher who went 5-8 in A ball this year. 

7) When they make Moneyball 2, the story of Stephen Piscotty’s family will be front/center. St Louis was going to trade Piscotty last winter, but his mother had Alzheimer’s and he wanted to be close to her in her final months, so Piscotty asked to be traded to the A’s or Giants. 

Last December, he got traded to Oakland and has hit 27 homers with 88 RBI, many of them in key spots. Quite a story. 

6) Last July, the A’s were awful and Washington needed bullpen help to make the playoffs, so Oakland dealt Doolittle/Madson to Washington for Blake Treinen and two minor leaguers (one of whom is Jesus Luzardo, a big prospect).

Treinen has turned into one of the best closers this season, with 38 saves. Luzardo is expected to be a star down the road. 

5) 41-year old Fernando Rodney (acquired August 9) and Jeurys Familia (July 21) pitch the 7th and 8th innings if the A’s are winning. When your starting pitchers are mostly all hurt and have a hard time finishing six innings, you load up on relievers and hope the starting pitcher gets 15 outs. Lou Trivino pitched the 6th inning most of the season, when needed. 

4) Oakland’s infielders are very good; a pair of Matts, Chapman/Olson are young corner infielders who appear headed for stardom. Chapman and Nolan Arenado and the two best defensive 3B in the major leagues right now. 

Marcus Semien/Jed Lowrie give the A’s solid defense up the middle and timely hitting- Lowrie knocked in 99 runs. It is so unusual for a playoff team to have starting pitching being the weakest part of the team. 

3) On June 5, the A’s lost 6-4 to the Angels, dropping them to 34-36; since then, Oakland is 63-29, the best record in MLB during that time. An astounding turnaround. 

2) Bob Melvin managed the Mariners for two years, Arizona for five; this is his 8th year with Oakland, his hometown team. Can’t imagine why he got fired from the other places; he is calm, smart and guys play their butts off for him, otherwise a 34-36 team wouldn’t go on a 62-27 run. Excellent manager. 

1) This is the 50th anniversary of the A’s first season in Oakland, after they moved west from Kansas City. It has been a great season for these guys; hopefully it’ll last another month or so

Tuesday’s List of 13: Talking baseball TV announcers……

Meant to do this during the All-Star break, but got sidetracked, so today we bring you my comments/thoughts on major league baseball announcers. 

I watch baseball on TV for at least 5-6 hours a day every day for six months, so I’m qualified to comment on stuff like this. This is for TV only; don’t hear much radio these days. 

I’m not going to do straight rankings, but here are my comments on baseball TV guys.  

1) Best duo: Mets, when Gary Cohen/Ron Darling are on. They talk about the game, they’re smart and they’re fairly honest where the home team is concerned. If you sit and listen to a Mets’ game, you’ll be smarter about baseball when the game is over. 

When Keith Hernandez is on with Cohen, it isn’t nearly as good; Hernandez is so self-centered it hampers the broadcast, especially with the Mets out of the pennant race. He’ll talk about his cat or his house in Sag Harbor or complain about the traffic. Not good. 

When Hernandez/Darling are both on with Cohen, it is still an excellent broadcast. 

2) Brewers’ duo of Brian Anderson/Bill Schroeder are really good, but Anderson takes a lot of time off; he is usually gone for a month during the NBA playoffs, but his replacement Matt Lepay is also good, mainly because Schroeder is an excellent analyst and a friendly guy. 

3) Colorado has Drew Goodman/Jeff Huson most of the time, and they are very good; Goodman is a New York guy who is a lot like Gary Cohen- little bit more of a homer (they talk about Nolan Arenado like he is a combo of Brooks Robinson/Mike Schmidt). 

When Huson is off, Ryan Spilborghs is in the booth; he is a bit of a character, a funny ex-player who takes great care to give you the players’ perspective of how baseball works.

4) When Red Sox had Don Orsillo/Jerry Remy on TV, they had broadcasting gold, but Orsillo got the boot for whatever reason, and now humorless Dave O’Brien is the play/play guy, which renders Remy useless, since he is at his best when he is laughing. 

Dennis Eckersley is good in his occasional appearances; last week, O’Brien asked him about his old teammates and Eck responded: “….I had a teammate once who stole my wife!!!” 

TV doesn’t get any better than that……lol

5) Orsillo has moved on to San Diego, where he works with Mark Grant, who is a funny guy. They are good to listen to, but the Padres stink every year and sometimes you can tell that Orsillo’s heart is still in Boston. Mark Sweeney is the sub analyst who will be very, very good on the national stage someday. 

6) Joe Davis is the Dodgers’ TV announcer, replacing the legendary Vin Scully, the greatest baseball announcer of all-time; tough job, huge shoes to fill, but Davis is really good, and he is low-key which works well in Los Angeles. 

Davis is only 30 years old; he does football/basketball for FOX and is really good.

7) Bob Carpenter is a really good play/play guy for the Washington Nationals; the analyst is FP Santangelo, who is the equivalent of giving an 8-year the microphone and letting him work a game. He is upbeat and seems like a good guy, but they could do better. Every time a team gets its first hit of the game, “….there goes the no-hitter.” Even in the first inning. 

8) Cincinnati Reds’ announcers (usually Thom Brennaman/Chris Walsh) are brutally honest; they’ll thrash the home team, if they think it is deserved. It often is. 

9) Duane Kuiper is probably the best play/play guy who is a former player; he really is super on Giants’ games. His analyst is Mike Krukow, who is a homer, and not in a good way. Jon Miller/Dave Flemming do the Giants’ radio— thats a lot of broadcasting talent for one team. 

10) Miami Marlins used to have a great TV team; Rich Waltz/Tommy Hutton- they were really good, but the Marlins let both of them go. Who knows why, but it hurts their broadcasts. 

11) Victor Rojas/Mark Gubicza are very good on Angels’ games; Rojas is the son of Cookie Rojas, the old second baseman. Gubicza is always upbeat and gives credit to both teams. 

12) As for the Bronx Bombers, I think David Cone could be a great analyst; he is funny and smart, but the whole condescending nature of the Bronx franchise makes me want to puke. 

I’ll say this for them; friend of mine’s son was a runner in their TV/radio booth a few years ago and all of those people were nice to him, including John Sterling/Suzyn Waldman, the radio announcers, so they get points for that. 

Michael Kay was a sportswriter who became a solid play-by-play guy. When Paul O’Neill is an analyst, you can hear him turning pages of the other team’s media guide as he talks—he seems to do zero prep work on the other team.   

13) As for national announcers, Matt Vasgersian/Alex Rodriguez are very good on the Sunday night games; Jessica Mendoza is neither good nor bad— she is in on a pass, and she seems smart enough to know it.

I have a friend who worked as a professional announcer and tried to make a living at it; he worked really hard, but never made it. To see someone get passed ahead to the highest-profile job on TV simply because she is a woman is ridiculous, but that is the world we live in today. 

Wednesday’s List of 13; Some of my favorite movie scenes……

13) Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessup on the witness stand in A Few Good Men– “You WANT me on that wall; you NEED me on that wall!!!” Great acting. 

12) In Prince of Tides, when Nick Nolte’s character takes Barbra Streisand’s husband’s Stradivarius violin and dangles it over the edge of the balcony, until he apologizes to his wife for being rude. Then he tosses the million-dollar violin in the air but catches it, then walks out of the dinner party. 

11) In Any Given Sunday, when QB Willie Beamen visits the coach’s house for dinner and a “talk” and coach Tony D’Amato lectures him— “You’re the goddamn quarterback!!!” 

I think this scene is better than the “Game of Inches” speech that Pacino gives near the end of the movie, before the last game. 

10) Rocky II wasn’t a good movie, but the last fight scene, where Rocky Balboa wins the heavyweight title for the first time, is a great fight scene, probably the best scene in all the Rocky movies. 

9) In the movie Heat, there is a scene with Al Pacino (the cop) and Robert Deniro (bank robber) where they actually talk in a diner about how someday, their situation will come to a head and either the arrest will be made, or harm will come to the cop. Deniro and Pacino; a great scene. 

8) Susan Sarandon and James Spader were in a 1990 movie called White Palace; I only saw this movie for the first time in the last year or so. 

There is a scene where a lot of people were at Thanksgiving dinner and they’re talking about politics; the patriarch of the family is Steven Hill (the original DA on Law and Order). 

When a younger person says something Hill’s character sees as uninformed, he snaps at her, “Would it kill you to pick up a newspaper?” Good stuff. 

7) In the true story Invincible, when 30-year old bartender Vince Papale breaks the news to his best friend that he made the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster, despite never having played college football. 

6) In Friday Night Lights, when the coach (Billy Bob Thornton) delivers a halftime speech when his team is getting smoked. He talks about “being perfect” and how giving your all is the most important thing of all. 

Of all the sports movies I’ve seen, I think Thornton’s character in this movie is the best portrayal of a coach that I’ve seen. 

5) In the original Bad News Bears, when the coach is talking to his worst player, ordering him into the championship game- the kid is too nervous to go out and play. 

“Listen, Lupus, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.”

4) In Roxanne, Steve Martin’s character has a very long nose, like Cyrano de Bergerac; guy in a bar insults his long nose, the whole bar shuts down, and Martin mocks the insult. 

“I suppose you could do better?” and Martin proceeds to give 20 jokes (actually 26) that were all funnier than the guy’s insult. 

3) In Rounders, the scene where Mike (Matt Damon) finds his law professor (Martin Landau) in a restaurant and the professor tells him how his parents disowned him because he chose to study the law instead of becoming a rabbi.

2) Oakland A’s 20-game winning streak in Moneyball; at least they showed Miguel Tejada’s walk-off homer in the 18th straight win- they gave him almost no credit in the book/movie for how good the A’s were that year— he was the best shortstop in the game that year. 

1) Bob Cousy shooting free throws in an empty gym with Nick Nolte in Blue Chips. Cousy was 65 at the time, made 10 in a row while wearing a shirt and tie- they filmed the scene in one take. He made the last foul shot left-handed. 

Wednesday’s List of 13: My favorite sports-related movies

1) Moneyball— Beginning isn’t very good, the end sucks, but I’m an A’s fan and this movie is about how the 2003 A’s put together a team that won 20 games in a row, made the playoffs. 

If the next ten weeks go really well, could Moneyball 2 be in the works? 

Only really bad thing about this movie is they made skipper Art Howe look like a bad manager, and he was anything but— you don’t win 20 games in a row by accident. 

2) Blue Chips— Nick Nolte is a college basketball coach who used to win a lot; in order to start winning again, he has to decide whether to break the recruiting rules or not. 

Bob Cousy is the AD; Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway are two of the recruits. Lot of cameos from basketball people; Jerry Tarkanian, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale. 

3) Invincible— True story about Vince Papale, a 30-year old bartender who tries out for the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles and makes the squad as a special teams player. 

4) Fast Break— Gabe Kaplan manages a New York City deli until he applies for a job as a college basketball coach in Nevada. Bernard King, Michael Warren are two of his players; another one is a girl disguised as a guy. 

5) Any Given Sunday— Al Pacino is a pro football coach whose team is struggling; Cameron Diaz is the owner, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx are two of the QB’s. 

Miami Sharks play against four teams in the movie, all coached by NFL Hall of Famers. 

6) For Love of the Game— Kevin Costner is a star pitcher for the Tigers who is at the end of his career; he has flashbacks throughout his last game. 

Detroit’s manager in this movie is JK Simmons, who is a Tigers fan in real life; New York’s manager is the late Augie Garrido, one of the all-time great college baseball coaches. 

7) Friday Night Lights— Billy Bob Thornton is a high school football coach in west Texas, where they take high school football very seriously. 

8) One on One— Robby Benson is a hotshot high school basketball player who gets recruited by a big-time college team, then finds himself in over his head.

9) Bull Durham— Costner is a minor league catcher who is brought in to mentor a hot-shot pitching prospect. Robert Wuhl is the pitching coach, Susan Sarandon mentors the prospect off the field. 

10) Draft Day— Costner does lot of sports movies; he is GM of the Cleveland Browns in this one, Denis Leary is the Browns’ coach. 

The year this movie came out, NFL pushed back the draft so the movie could be promoted more, but Radio City Music Hall wasn’t available for the later date, which is why they started moving the draft around the country. Sometimes great ideas happen by accident. 

11) Major League— Bob Uecker should’ve won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Indians’ radio announcer Harry Doyle.  

12) He Got Game— Underrated film about college basketball recruiting; if you saw this movie, you weren’t surprised by the problems Louisville had the last couple years. 

13) Rocky— The original was a true classic; a journeyman boxer gets a chance to fight for the heavyweight title, and makes the most of it. 40 years later, tourists who come to Philadelphia still pose for pictures near the Rocky statue. 

Tuesday’s List of 13: Some of my favorite (non-sports) movies:

1) Rounders— Movie about a law student/poker player; this movie is credited with helping the poker boom in the late 90’s. 

2) Dave— Kevin Kline is hired to “stand-in” for the President because he looks just like him, but then the President has a stroke, and Kline has a new job. 

3) The Bodyguard— Kevin Costner is a former Secret Service agent hired to protect a famous singer, who has a contract out on her. 

4) Last Vegas— Four senior citizens who are lifelong friends head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party; their 70-year old friend is marrying a 30-year old. Morgan Freeman wins $87K playing blackjack, because, doesn’t everyone win in Vegas? 

5) Begin Again— Down and out music producer discovers a talented young singer; together they produce an album, using New York City as the background. 

6) Good Will Hunting— Robin Williams is a counselor who tries to help a young delinquent (who is also a Math genius) find his way. 

7) The Verdict— Paul Newman is a down-on-his-luck lawyer who has a chance to win a big case and rehabilitate his career. 

There is a scene in this movie that would never fly today; Newman’s character has a girlfriend in the movie- turns out she is a double-agent, working for the opposing lawyer to gain intel on the big case. 

When Newman finds out, he meets the girlfriend in the lounge of a bar and decks her with one punch. Ouch. 

8) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin runs amok as a traveling preacher; Debra Winger is his partner, Liam Neeson is the local sheriff trying to shut his act down. Meat Loaf is part of the music group that travels with the preacher. 

9) Let It Ride— Richard Dreyfuss is a degenerate gambler who has one big day at the racetrack. 

10) This Is Where I Leave You— After their father dies, four grown siblings return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week. 

11) Lincoln Lawyer— Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln Continental. 

12) Prince of Tides— Nick Nolte is a high school football coach from South Carolina who travels to New York and falls for his sister’s therapist (Barbra Streisand). 

13) One More Time— Christopher Walken is a past-his-prime lounge singer trying for one last comeback.

May 17, 1979: Phillies 23, Cubs 22….a recap

On May 17, 1979, Phillies beat the Cubs 23-22 in 10 innings, in one of the strangest games ever:

13) Phillies were 24-10 at the time; Chicago was 16-16. Cubs had 26 hits in the game, Phils had 24. 

12) The game was 7-6 Phillies, after the first inning. Somewhere, someone bet the under in this game. 

11) Phillies starting pitcher Randy Lerch homered in the top of the first inning, never finished the bottom of the first. Both starting pitchers got only one out before being removed. 

10) Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt hit 3rd/4th in Phillies’ order; they combined to score seven runs and knock in eight. Light-hitting Larry Bowa was 5 for 8 in the game. 

9) Bob Boone was 3-4 with five RBI’s; his son Aaron is now the manager in the Bronx. Boone and Schmidt were both walked intentionally twice. 

8) Reliever Tug McGraw faced 10 batters; seven of them scored. McGraw is the father of the great singer Tim McGraw. 

7) 22 of the first 53 Cubs who came to bat scored, but Rawly Eastwick slammed the door shut in the last two innings, retiring all six Cubs he faced. 

6) Donnie Moore faced 14 batters and seven of them scored, but he did hit a triple, one of his two career three-baggers. 

5) Phillies led this game 21-9 in the 5th inning but Cubs tied the game off of Ron Reed in the 8th inning; Reed pitched 19 years in the major leagues and also played 119 games for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons from 1965-67. 

4) Dave Kingman hit three homers for the Cubs; Bill Buckner knocked in seven runs, seven years before his infamous error in the ’86 World Series. 

3) Phillies went home the next day and got swept in a 3-game series by the Expos. Chicago lost its next four games after this one. 

2) 1979 turned out to be the only year in a six-year stretch where the Phillies missed the playoffs; they finished 84-78, the Cubs 80-82. 

Phillies fired manager Danny Ozark late in 1979, hired Dallas Green and won the ’80 World Series. 

1) Naysayers like to criticize baseball now but attendance that day was 14,952; when was last time the Cubs drew less than 15,000 for a home game? 

Thursday’s List of 13: 13 of my favorite sports movies…….

I do this list once a year or so; feel free to make your own list.

13) Major League— Still maintain that Bob Uecker should’ve won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Harry Doyle, the Indians’ radio announcer. To this day, when a pitcher throws a really terrible pitch to the backstop, chances are the TV guy will say “….juuuust a biiiit outside…” like Harry Doyle did when Wild Thing Vaughn was on the mound.

12) He Got Game— The only Spike Lee movie I’ve ever seen; its a good one, with Denzel Washington getting released from prison by warden Ned Beatty, on one condition— that he can get his son (Ray Allen) to play basketball at the warden’s alma mater, Big State.

Anyone who was surprised by Louisville’s problems last year didn’t see this movie.

11) Rocky— If only they hadn’t made all those awful sequels. Rocky is a classic; a fighter down on his luck gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot to fight for the heavyweight title back when boxing was a big thing. If you’re at a game in Philly now and they cue up the Rocky music, people still get fired up— its pretty cool.

10) Hoosiers— I’ve had this argument with a friend of mine for years, that Norman Dale was a horrible coach saved only by Jimmy Chitwood not missing a shot in the whole damn movie. Hickory High finished the first game he coached with four guys on the court; even his assistant coach, who wound up in alcohol rehab, knew enough to always give Jimmy the ball when it mattered. They did nail the scene at the end when Hickory wins the state title.

9) Any Given Sunday— Lawrence Taylor and Jim Brown as actors? Yes!!! Al Pacino coaches his Miami Sharks against four teams, all coached by NFL Hall of Famers.

8) Moneyball— The good guys lose in the end, but not before they win 20 games in a row and surprisingly make the playoffs. I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many times I’ve seen this movie, but if you guess, chances are your guess is too low.

7) Bull Durham— Pitching coach Robert Wuhl delivered this inspirational piece of advice on a visit to the mound:

“……candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she’s registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let’s get two!”

6) Friday Night Lights— Of all the sports movies, Billy Bob Thornton does the best job of portraying a coach, in this case a west Texas high school football coach who gets his best player KO’d for the season by leaving him in a blowout too long. The townspeople aren’t pleased.

5) Blue Chips— Nick Nolte did his research for this by hanging out with Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers for a year, so the thrown chairs and punted balls make more sense. Jerry Tarkanian’s cameo and Bob Cousy’s portrayal of the school’s AD are the underrated parts of this movie.

4) Invincible— True story about Vince Papale, who was a 30-year old bartender that tried out for and wound up playing special teams for the Eagles for three years in the 70’s. Mark Wahlberg plays Papale; Greg Kinnear plays Dick Vermeil.

3) Fast Break— Gabe Kaplan’s character quits his job in a New York City deli to become the basketball coach at a small Nevada college. The team he puts together is interesting- Bernard King and Michael Warren are two of the players.

2) One on One— Robby Benson plays a flashy small school point guard who gets recruited by a big time college program, but once he gets on campus, the coach thinks he made a mistake and tries to run him off the team.

1— For Love of the Game— Kevin Costner pitches for the Tigers, but is at the end of his career. JK Simmons is his manager; John C O’Reilly his catcher, Kelly Preston his girlfriend. Vin Scully is in effect the narrator of the movie.

Saturday’s List of 13: Random thoughts, mostly about Las Vegas

13) My favorite dinner place in Las Vegas is Battitsta’s, a hole-in-the-wall place behind the Cromwell and next to Bally’s. Very good Italian place; old school, with checked tablecloths and an older guy who walks around playing the accordion.

Runner up place to eat is the Mirage, where they have the Carnegie Deli, with the biggest sandwiches ever. I order extra bread and make two sandwiches out of it.

Another good restaurant is in the Stratosphere, but I can’t remember the name of it; it is an Italian place downstairs and it is really good- lighting is dark and reminds you of scenes in different movies.

12) If you like basketball, Las Vegas is a fun place to live; UNLV hoops are lot of fun to go to; they’re having a resurgent year this season- little disappointed the public hasn’t caught on to them that much yet, but part of that is how well the new hockey team is doing.

11) In July, NBA Summer League is at UNLV for a good part of the month; for $30, you can sit in an air conditioned arena all day long and watch guys try to make the NBA.

Later in July, the best high school players in the western US play in tournaments all over Las Vegas. All the college coaches you see on TV all winter are there at one time or another— lot of good basketball.

10) Then in March, the WCC, WAC, Mountain West and Pac-12 all have their conference tournaments in Las Vegas. Lot of good action to choose from.

9) There is a Pinball Museum on Flamingo Road; you can go in and play these old-time pinball machines for a quarter. its a quirky fun way to spend a couple of hours.

8) There is a never a shortage of shows, concerts to go to in Las Vegas; plus the Golden Knights have 41 home games a year now. Jewel is playing at the Wynn in late March; Donnie and Marie play in Vegas all the time. Carrot Top has his comedy act there all the time. Lot of stuff going on.

7) Best sportsbook in Las Vegas is definitely the Westgate, where I stayed the last 11 days; huge place, good bar, three food options, just by the sports book and tremendous TV screens to watch almost anything you want. On NFL Sundays, the Westgate opens their theater to show NFL games.

6) The Neon Museum downtown has a lot of old neon signs from old casinos that don’t exist anymore; its an oddly cool piece of history, especially at dusk, when they light some of the signs.

5) They play AAA baseball at Cashman Field downtown in the spring/summer; this will be the last year for the Mets’ AAA team in Las Vegas. They’re also building a new ballpark out in the northwest section of town, up in Summerlin. No word on whose AAA team will move in, with the Mets’ team moving to Syracuse in 2019.

4) One thing about the Las Vegas airport; people arriving at the airport most always look happier than people flying out of Las Vegas.

3) Had a 3.5-hour layover in Baltimore’s airport Friday night, which would’ve been lot more palatable if they had decent WiFi there. They do have Chick-fil-A though and Chick-fil-A is tremendous.

2) St Bonaventure 77, Rhode Island 74— Rams’ 16-game winning streak is over. Bonnies have won eight games in a row.

1) I’m back in my palatial suburban estate after 11 days in the desert; Las Vegas is great fun to visit- there was a magic convention at my hotel while I was there (no, things didn’t keep disappearing) and I went to a UNLV game (NHL tickets are too expensive since the Knights are doing so well). A full 11 days of fun, plus I missed a snowstorm. Worth it!!!!

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.

Monday’s List of 13: Coaches in movies I’ve enjoyed watching

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

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 drunk 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, to me. 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 curious coaching technique.

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.

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 seven 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; he doesn’t get a big contract ($60 for every win) until he beats Nevada State– he has to beat the Nevada State coach in pool just to get them on their schedule. Cadwallader University– Bernard King was one of his players, another player turned out to be a girl. This movie should be on TV somewhere (NBA Network?) 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.