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"There Are Times When Both Teams Should Have Won" + Thoughts on Baseball Voting and College Basketball + TCM Tips (updated for some boxing classics on Feb 8)

The Kansas City Chiefs' gripping overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday night Jan 23 kept me from getting too involved with TCM's showing of Joseph Mankiewicz's Oscar-winning "A Letter To Three Wives" (1949).  I had seen it before and will see it again.

More on Douglas and TCM upcoming films in a moment.


I felt bad for Buffalo and the ardent fans of western New York State.  They were only 13 seconds from hosting an AFC championship game this coming Sunday against the surprising Cincinnati Bengals and their growing-before-our-very-eyes young quarterback Joe Burrow.  


Whatta duel Buffalo's young QB Josh Allen engaged in against Kansas City's equally youthful QB Patrick Mahomes. Time to forget about the forty-something QBs Tom Brady and the insufferable anti-vaxxer Aaron Rodgers. Time to give props to these youngsters still in their mid-twenties.  


And let's give a shoutout to the good parenting they received. Patrick Mahomes' father, Pat, pitched for the Mets in 1999 and 2000.  Hard not to believe that Patrick's poise and remarkable calm under pressure had its roots when he was only five years old and he shagged fly balls at Shea Stadium before the 2000 Subway World Series.


A quick Wikipedia perusal led me to a nice tidbit from Josh Allen's mother.  "You bloom closest to where you plant," she said in explaining why her son never switched high schools in their small home town 40 miles outside Fresno, Calif.  


Neither did Josh go to a fancy QB camp. He played all sports in high school that left him further off the radar of the modish top football recruiters.


After a year of junior college, only Eastern Michigan and Wyoming were interested in Allen, and he chose the latter.  Interestingly, EMU beat Allen's Wyoming team twice.  


In an interesting side note, now that the transfer portal is brimming with activity, EMU has lost its top two QBs and their ace kicker who helped them beat Illinois and Purdue in 2021. It is the Wild West in college recruiting now on so many levels. 


As for the big games this Sunday to decide the Super Bowl contestants on Feb 13, it is a rare if not unprecedented rematch with teams who met on the last day of the regular season.  


After all his years toiling for the woebegone Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford might be a sentimental favorite leading the LA Rams.  I would guess that his Texas high school battery mate Clayton Kershaw will be rooting for him.  Love the story that Stafford not only caught Kershaw in baseball but Kershaw centered the ball for his classmate in football.


Stafford must cut down the needless turnovers because the San Francisco 49ers will be ready to capitalize.  As the home team the Rams are slight avorites.


In the other matchup, I would think the Chiefs and the magical Mahomes should end Cincinnati's surprise run.  But even in close football, youneverknow, youneverknow.  Just hope the refs don't needlessly decide the outcome.


Turning to baseball - and I'll believe spring training starts on time on Valentine's Day when

plaayers and owners truly work out their differences  - I thought David Ortiz's election into the Hall of Fame was a foregone conclusion when he became the powerful voice of Boston Proud after the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.  


That Ortiz wrapped up the year with a third World Series triumph cemented his enshrinement in the hearts and minds of the 77% of the 400-plus writers who voted him in.


That Ortiz's life in the Dominican Republic has not been exemplary was not a concern to the American voters. He was almost shot to death a couple of years ago in some kind of drug dealing incident.  Only the finest medical treatment here in the States saved hs life.


I don't share the indignation that some sportswriters are spewing that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were not elected after ten years on the ballot.  Now only a veterans committee can elevate them.


Turning to the exciting college basketball season and my two favorite teams, Columbia's women's basketball team improved to 5-0 in the Ivy League and 14-3 overall with a stirring come-from-behind win on Jan 26 over a longtime nemesis Penn.  


There will be a rematch on the road against Penn on Sat Feb 5 at 6p preceded on Fri Feb 4 at Princeton at 5p against the other undefeated team in the league.  Both games will be on ESPN+ as will the 2p Sat Jan 29 game at Dartmouth.


As for the Wisconsin men's basketball Badgers, they lost at home to Michigan State last Friday.  The absence of junior forward Tyler Wahl really hurt, but there are signs that his injured ankle is healing.  


There's a big matchup at Illinois, last year's champion, on Tu Feb 2 at 9p EST, TV on the Big  Ten Network. Their star center Kofi Cockburn has been out for a few games but they

are still formidable.  


And Badgers can't overlook a game at Nebraska on Jan 27 at 5p. Then come two home battles - first against Minnesota on Su Jan 30 at 1p and another vs. Penn State on 

Sa Feb 5 at 6p.  Then a visit to Michigan State for a rematch on Tu Feb 8 at 7p.


No game in the brutally competitive Big Ten is a gimme and the Badgers are not deep. Johnny Davis, the emergent Player of the Year candidate, has to stay healthy himself.


FINALLY here are some TCM tips for the end of the month and into February: 

"Letter to Three Wives," noted earlier, was Paul Douglas's first big role. 1949 was a big year for the former radio announcer and baseball broadcaster who had a worthy run in Hollywood until his death by heart attack in September 1959.  


On Tu Feb 8 at 1245p, Douglas stars as a grumpy baseball manager in the original "Angels in the Outfield" (1951), much of it filmed at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. The always-excellent


Janet Leigh plays a manners newspaper reporter who tries to smooth his rough edges. 

BTW Douglas was Ray Milland's catcher in Valentine Davies' marvelous baseball fable, "It  Happens Every Spring" (1949).  A year before, Davies created a classic Christmas fantasy, "Miracle on 34th Street," some of which actually was filmed at Macy's. With Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus, Maureen O'Hara, and young Natalie Wood.


Also on Feb 8 at 6p the 1951 "Show Boat" with Ava Gardner/Joe E Brown as Capn Andy

followed by 8p Leon Gast's doc. "When We Were Kings" (1996) about Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire with a lot of great music


945p John Huston's "Fat City" with Jeff Bridges as a mediocre fighter and genuine welterweight Curtis Cokes (1972)


1130p "Raging Bull" (1980) - Scorsese directs DeNiro as Jake LaMotta - followed by:


115A Robert Rossen's grueling "The Set Up" (1949) with the magnificent Robert Ryan


F Feb 11 at 1p "Three Little Words" (1950) about the musical comedy team of Harry Ruby (Red Skelton) and Bert Kalmar (Fred Astaire).  Skelton doesn't do justice to Ruby and his genuine love of baseball.


But several ballplayers appear including George Metkovich as onetime pitcher-turned-

comic Al Schacht. Ruby himself makes a cameo as a player as do former Yankee Jerry

Priddy and Pacific Coast League legend Frank Kelleher.


On the serious film front on TCM, I'm curious to see the original "Dillinger" (1945)

Fri Jan 27  at 1015a - Mozart's birthday no less - with an all-star cast of gangsters including Lawrence Tierney in the title role and such classic gangsters as Eduardo Ciannelli, Elisha Cook Jr., and Marc Lawrence.


Sa Jan 29 245p Burt Lancaster, who did all his own stunts, in "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962)


Tu Feb 1 Henry Fonda night including 8p John Ford's "Young Mr. Lincoln" (1939) 


10p William Wyler's "Jezebel" (1938) with Bette Davis


F Feb 4 at 6a worth at least taping "The Breaking Point" (1950) John Garfield's last Warner Brothers film and produced by his own company. With Phyllis Thaxter as the solid wife, Patricia Neal as the noirest of women, and the unjustly forgotten Juano Hernandez as Garfield's boat assistant.


Sa Feb 5 2p Fritz Lang's "Rancho Notorious" (1952) with Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, and Mel Ferrer



Su Feb 6 12M, 10A "The Turning Point" (1952) - Noir Alley presents William Holden fighting

corruption with or without the help of Edmond O'Brien and Alexis Smith.  Don't get confused. This is the "Turning Point" not the "Breaking Point".


12N "Rhapsody" (1954) Elizabeth Taylor must choose between a violinist or a pianist.

Another one of TCM's odd juxtapositions but the classical music is very good in this film.


That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it, and stay positive test negative.







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"Learning To Keep The Bank Open At Night" & Other Thoughts for the Early New Year (updated)

The great Boston Celtic guard Sam Jones passed away on December 30 in Wilmington NC at the age of 88.  The Basketball Hall of Famer was part of the Celtic dynasty that won eight NBA titles in a row (1959-1966) - Yankee and Montreal Canadien fans, eat your heart out.


Sam's use of the backboard on his angled jump shots was something to behold even if you grew up a Knicks fan.  


Watching Wisconsin beat Iowa last week, Big Ten Network color commentator Stephen Bardo turned a phrase I had never heard when he praised a Badger's similar shot as "learning to keep the bank open late at night."  


A tip of the cap to Bardo, the former U of Illinois star who has the best qualities of a commentator - enthusiasm and clarity.


So far in this early Big Ten season, Wisconsin is surprising all the pundits who picked the Badgers for 10th in the conference race.  In the Alice in Wonderland world we are living in, the Big Ten has fourteen teams. Teaching basic arithmetic to a youngster these days must be quite a challenge.


There is nothing, I repeat nothing, like when one of your sports teams surprises the "experts" and gives hope for a real competitive season.  Wisconsin didn't need me on Monday January 3rd when they spanked Purdue, ranked #3 in the country, on the road.  


I went instead to hear at the Met Opera (in a fully-masked 2/3 filled house) Massenet's lovely little opera "La Cenerentola".   Based on the Cinderella legend created in the 16th century, the music was written in 1899 but paid homage in many sections to 18th century Baroque music.  


On Thursday night Jan 6th, I was back home to watch on the tube the Badgers control Iowa to move to 3-1 in the conference.  All five starters scored in double figures, led by the breakout sophomore Johnny Davis from Lacrosse WI.  


A wiry guard-forward listed at 6' 4", Davis is the son of Mark Davis, a 13-year former pro who played one year in the NBA.   Johnny's twin brother Jordan is a substitute guard for the Badgers who are now 13-2 and 4-1 in the Big Ten after beating Maryland on the road, 70-69.  


The Badgers blew a 21-point lead but rallied to beat the Terps.  Junior forward Tyler Wahl had a career night with 21 points and his usual defensive tenacity.  Up this Thursday Jan 13 is a rematch with Ohio State who handily beat Wisconsin in Columbus two weeks ago.


The Big Ten schedule is quite a grinder, but fun to watch. Especially when the "experts" dismiss you as also-rans.


Back here in the big city, virus concerns forced cancellation of Columbia women's matchups with Princeton and Penn. They will be re-scheduled soon. 


The Columbia men blew a big halftime lead at Princeton on Friday night but held on to the

lead on Saturday against a Penn team that doesn't seem to be as potent as usual.  Nonetheless, a win is a win and we'll see if my first alma mater can string a few victories

together for rest of season. 


As expected, there is nothing new on the baseball lockout front.  No negotiations are

scheduled and probably won't be until the end of the month. 


The Super Bowl is Feb 13 and spring training camps are supposed to be open the next day.  


Cutting down on the minor leagues, flirting with shortening spring training, and a

general disdain for baseball's traditions is not my idea of how to grow the game - a favorite shibboleth of both MLB and the MLB players association.  


In a sports industry that is part of a very competitive marketplace, pro baseball could find

itself before long as just a niche enterprise.      


Nobody is listening to me so let's turn to the solace of some old movies.  For early risers or night owls or VCR recorders, Mon Jan 17 at 6AM EDT, TCM shows "The World, The Flesh, and The Devil" (1959). 


Harry Belafonte stars as a miner in Pennsylvania working underground when a nuclear bomb wipes out most of the world. Harold J. Marzorati's photography of an empty Manhattan as Belafonte drives into it and starts walking around is particularly stunning.


Belafonte finds a survivor in Inger Stevens who is certainly someone to live for.   Another survivor comes along, Mel Ferrer, and the inevitable triangle develops.  


Ranald MacDougall (1915-1973) wrote the screen play and directed this arresting

film.  He earlier was a screenwriter on "Mildred Pierce" (1945) and "The Breaking Point" (1951), John Garfield's last film for Warner Brothers that came out just as he was being Red-baited.


1959 was quite a year for Belafonte and his production company HarBel.  His "Odds Against Tomorrow," sometimes called the last Noir film of the classic period, came out that year.


Back here in the East, the Jan-Febs have started with a vengeance.  No huge snow

storms yet in NYC but cold weather pretty common. 


Connecting to increasing sunlight is one of my ways of dealing with frigid temps. Dreams of spring training - the best time of the year in halcyon days - may have to be put on back burner.   


Once again the main advice is Take It Easy but Take It, and especially nowadays:

Stay positive, test negative.    



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