September 26th, 2016
I have to start with the Dodgers. The Boys in Blue clinched the NL West yesterday on a walk-off home run from Charlie Culbertson. That’s a fantastic way to not only clinch their fourth straight division title, but more importantly, a terrific way to send Vin Scully off into retirement. Scully called his final Dodger game at home prior to calling it quits. I’ve been as critical as anyone of the Dodgers this entire season, but even with the Giants struggles, it’s nice to see them getting big contributions from some of their younger players in order to win games. That’s been the story all season long for LA, and I decided this was one time I wasn’t going to piss and moan about the Dodgers front office. I only wish Scully had decided to call some of the Dodger playoff games on radio, but it’s understandable why he would want to say goodbye now to bring some official closure to his career. Sometimes you don’t really know how good things are until they are gone. We’ve been spoiled with Scully, Chick Hearn, and Bob Miller, as hall of fame voices for our Southern California teams over the years. The end of the road is here for Scully, as well as Miller, but it’s been an honor to listen to them and yesterday was another reminder of that. As for the Dodgers, they might even be able to catch the Nationals for home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs before the season is over. Hopefully LA’s injury prone pitchers who are auditioning for playoff roles will be able to help make that happen in the next week.
Jumping over to the NFL, the Rams actually scored a touchdown! No really, they did. The offense was halfway respectable, and they found a way to win a game by scoring 37 points against Tampa Bay. I still have no idea how a group of receivers and a quarterback that are so pedestrian managed to do it, but it happened. LA is now 2-1 on the season, which seemed impossible after the first game against San Francisco. It had to be impossible for the Rams, USC, and UCLA to lose in the final minute in the same weekend. We got close, but the Rams made sure that did not become a reality with yesterday’s win. This is a team that is clearly going to rely on their defense to win games, while they just need to scrape together just enough offense. I don’t expect that it will be easy to score another 37 points again anytime soon, but hopefully the offense can establish some type of consistency after yesterday. Todd Gurley was great yesterday, but can’t do it all by himself, and he sure can’t do it without any receivers making plays.
Elsewhere around the NFL, the Chargers always find new ways to lose football games, and yesterday was no different against the Colts. the Patriots might as well have one of their fans play quarterback, and they could still win football games. Brian Hoyer is like herpes. Just when you think he’s done and forget about him, he shows up again. That’s what happened when the Bears got beat by the Cowboys last night. How many interceptions does Ryan Fitzpatrick need to throw before the Jets play Geno Smith again? Apparently more than six. The Dolphins-Browns game should have been broadcasted on Comedy Central. Carson Palmer played that game against the Bills like it was a playoff game. Of course that meant Arizona lost to Buffalo. The more players the Vikings lose, the more games they seem to win. Their defense is that good. Odell Beckham Jr. looked like he was going to kill Eli Manning after yesterday’s loss to the Redskins. Who does Trevor Siemian think he is anyway? Joe Montana? The Broncos are dominating on both sides of the ball. The Packers may have beaten the Lions, but what happened to Aaron Rodgers? He finally looked good yesterday, but wasn’t this guy supposed to be the best player in the NFL not long ago? So much for all you people that actually believed the 49ers were a decent team. They got smoked by Seattle. The Steelers took some beating against the Eagles. How are the Ravens 3-0? Oh that’s right, it’s because they haven’t played anybody. The same can be said for the 2-1 Raiders, who took advantage of the Titans yesterday.
On to college football, where apparently changing the starting quarterback at USC was not the problem. The Trojans got beat by at Utah on Friday, after blowing a 14 point lead, and losing late in the final seconds. You hear that sound? It’s the sound of USC alums closing their checkbooks. Replacing Max Browne with Sam Darnold was a total desperation move, and was the equivalent of trying to stop a flood with a couple of paper towels. The first four games of this season have been the same story every week: poor discipline, outplayed at the line of scrimmage, questionable defensive coverage, and very inconsistent play calling. There were moments where things looked better on Friday, but ultimately, USC reverted back to who they are: a mediocre team. SC may have talent, but Utah is a much better and more cohesive team. The Trojans will be lucky to be a .500 team with their brutal remaining schedule, but replacing Clay Helton at this would probably wouldn’t serve much purpose. Even though he’s in way over his head, I can’t think of an available head coach that can fix this mess (unless you think Les Miles is that guy after getting fired yesterday). The Trojans need a big name, but at the moment, that big name doesn’t exist. You can bet that Lynn Swann is looking at his options though.
Then there’s the Bruins, who had their own sob story at the Rose Bowl this weekend. This game was going perfectly. UCLA was beating the Cardinal at their own game, and for 3.5 quarters they weren’t pushed around. Then during the final few minutes, Stanford wore them down. The Bruins also committed the dumbest penalty at the worst time, when Marcus Rios brushed Christian McCaffrey on a punt return in which he called for a fair catch. Isn’t this how most of the UCLA meltdowns start? The rest was all about Stanford making big plays in the final minute. It’s pretty hard to win when you have absolutely no running game, and your receivers drop every big pass. Jim Mora also has to deal with his own players bitching at each other on Twitter on top of all that. This would have been the biggest win in the last 8 years for UCLA, but it ended up being just a reminder of how the Bruins can’t get it done against elite teams. Also, if you had UCLA +3 or +3.5 you cried after this last play…….
Speaking of the Bruins, I thought that Kevin Love hated his time at UCLA? Love matched Russell Westbrook’s recent large donation to the school, and the strength and condition center in their new state of the art athletic facility will be named after him. K-Love was was honored at halftime of the Stanford game. Maybe it’s really that he just hated Ben Howland, and not UCLA itself?
How about the embarrassment right now that is Notre Dame football? We live in a world where Duke football can actually go on the road and beat the Irish. That’s as humiliating as it gets. This looks exactly like two years ago, when the Irish lost a couple of big games early, and then played the rest of the season like they didn’t give a crap. I realize that Notre Dame’s defensive backfield isn’t that great, but I’m pretty sure Duke’s wide receivers shouldn’t be killing them like they did. This team struggles to just line up, pay attention to detail, and not make careless mistakes Even more irritating was Brian Kelly blaming his players rather than holding his coaches accountable. You can bet that it was AD Jack Swarbick, who made Kelly fire defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder yesterday. Pretty soon it might be Kelly looking for another job. Elsewhere around college football, Tennessee beat Florida for the first time since the stone age. Wisconsin is killing it on a brutal schedule: they beat LSU and Michigan State, and now they have Michigan and Ohio State coming up. It was a shame that LSU touchdown in the final seconds against Auburn was called back because it would have been a great finish. It might have actually allowed Les Miles to keep his job too.
The Angels haven’t had a whole lot to get excited about for a while, but they did a nice job of taking a sledgehammer to the Houston Astros playoff hopes. More importantly though, the Angels got great news last week when Garrett Richards successfully threw 20 pitches off a mound in a bullpen session. Richards next step will be to face some live hitters in a simulated game, but he says that he has no doubt that he will be able to avoid surgery and pitch for the Halos next season. His recovery sounds rather miraculous, and makes me wonder if Oral Roberts is on the Angels training staff.
Kevin Garnett is retiring. His career is quite remarkable, with one MVP, one championship, 9 all-star appearances, and sleeping with Carmelo Anthony’s wife. But in all seriousness, KG is one of the five best power forwards to ever play in the NBA, and he did an amazing job of transforming the defense and the culture of the Celtics in 2008. Even though Doc Rivers knows it’s not going to happen, I’m sure he will lob a call to KG and ask him if he’s interested in signing with the Clippers (even if it means parting ways with one of his guaranteed contracts). Doc is that obsessed with his former players, players who have played really well against him, and anybody related to him. The NBA is losing an entire era of basketball in Kobe, Duncan, and KG, all in the same offseason. That’s going to be arguably the greatest hall of fame class ever when they are inducted.
The LA Olympic bid for the 2024 games got a boost last week from the news that Rome might actually drop their bid, citing that it might be fiscally irresponsible to host the games. Some sources are actually saying that since NBC paid so much to broadcast the Olympics, they are guaranteed one Olympics in the United States during the next 3-4 games. This might give LA the inside track, especially since Hungary will lose support for refusing refugees. Paris is still going to contend, despite all the recent terrorist attacks that were there. I still think that if LA wins the bid, it’s got the infrastructure to host one of the best games in a while.
The finals for The World Cup of Hockey are set. It’s Canada vs Team Europe. In other words, Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin will be taking on Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar. I still find this whole “Team Europe” and “Team North America” concept ridiculous, but at least we get to see some competitive hockey in the preseason. I’m also offended by the effort put forth by the United States team, which was 0-3, and got sent home faster than the Anaheim Ducks every spring. At least Jonathan Quick played well for the Americans, however, that team could not score goals, and their idea of putting more grit and toughness on the roster backfired. The good news is that there are some very good American hockey players that should be on the team in the next 2-3 years, which improve Team USA quite a bit.
Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump. What kind of man joins forces with a rival that completely embarrassed him. I feel like Kevin Durant might know the answer.
What do you do if you need a new phone these days? The Galaxy Note 7 blows up, and the IPhone 7 has no head phone jack. That sounds just as bad as choosing between Clinton and Trump.
RIP Arnold Palmer. You were truly a legend, and one of the greatest golfers we’ve ever seen. He also helped change sports into a business. The sports marketing industry began when Mark McMormick signed Arnie to IMG. I’m going to be drinking Arnold Palmers all week.