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Getting Ready For A March of 31 Days: On Baseball-Basketball-TCM Tips (updated)

I can't resist the old joke.  "Why are people tired on April First?"  Answer - Because they have just been through a March of 31 days.  


OK, it's pretty bad but please give me some leeway. 

There will be no Columbia baseball for the second year in a row as the Ivy League has called off all spring sports - my Wisconsin Badgers basketball team is collapsing into the nether regions of the tough Big Ten - and although "President Biden" remains a lovely two-word phrase, the problems of governing this divided country remain imposing.


I try to find half-filled glasses.  

**The growing number of available vaccinations against Covid are a positive.  Now if people wear masks and keep practicing social distancing, there will be light at end of the tunnel. 


**The Orioles' Trey Mancini got a hit in his first Grapefruit League at-bat on Sunday after missing a season recovering from Grade 3 colon cancer.  Rooting for him will be the easiest job of the season.


The Orioles seem committed to his playing first base which is a good move. The highest paid, least productive Oriole, Chris Davis, might DH now and then, or just ride the pine as he collects two more years on his enormous contract. 


Let's hope the full MLB season is played.  The Triple-A season was supposed to start on April 6 and the Double-A season on May 4. Now because of covid concerns, Triple-A baseball won't start until early May.


One of the quirks of the new Double A schedule is that there will be a lot of six-game series with a Monday off.  It reminds of the 192-game schedule of the old Pacific Coast League before the Giants and Dodgers' relocation to SF and LA in 1958 prompted its restructuring.


On the basketball scene, there have been no Columbia losses to gripe about because there was no season.  We alums can and do BIRG - bask in reflective glory - about the play of our star point guard Mike Smith's great season as a graduate transfer at the University of Michigan. 


The Wolverines now stand as the number two team in the country after throttling contending Iowa last week.  They have lost only one game all season in the very tough Big Ten. 


Freshman seven-foot center Hunter Dickinson from DeMatha HS in Hyattsville MD (outside DC) has been a revelation and seems to be improving each game.


"March Madness" will be held in only one city this year, Indianapolis, and #1 Gonzaga and Michigan right now look like teams to beat.  Gonzaga has never won the title so it says here that the ghosts of past failures will be a significant hurdle for them to overcome. 


On the pro scene, the New York Knicks under new coach Tom Thibodeau are at .500 which is a huge improvement over recent seasons.  Thibodeau has finally got them playing defense and I enjoy his intensity.  


He reminds me in some ways of Rodney Dangerfield. I can almost envision him grumbling behind his mask, "We get no respect!" 


The Brooklyn Nets under rookie coach Steve Nash certainly have the firepower to contend for a NBA title.  I'm not crazy about the way James Harden manipulated his way to become part of the Big Three of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but he certainly has played well in his new home.

Unlike the other two, so far he has been very durable.  


Meanwhile, as always, TCM movies keep me believing that a culture that produced such thoughtful and vivid movies last century can figure out a way to get us through the pandemic and reach some kind of social understanding.


For the baseball fan in March, the TCM films are for the early riser or you can tape them.   


Sa March 6 at 630A "Big Leaguer" - 1953, first film directed by Robert Aldrich. Shot at NY Giants minor league camp with Edward G. Robinson as manager trying to save job, Vera-Ellen as niece, Jeff Richards and Richard Jaeckel as competing players and cameo appearances by Giants farm director and Hall of Fame pitcher Carl Hubbell and Al Campanis as a Dodger farmhand manager. 


Sa Mar 13 630A  "The Stratton Story" - 1949, based on true story with Jimmy Stewart playing pitcher Monty Stratton trying to make a comeback from a hunting injury. With June Allyson and Jimmy Dykes playing himself. 


Tu Mar 16 630A  "The Winning Team" - 1952 with Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander and Doris Day as his wife (Mondays in March are Doris Day days and nights ) 


I should have mentioned it last month, but I hope some of you caught John Garfield Tuesdays in February.   I had never seen "Humoresque" and Garfield, playing a gifted violinist, is at the peak of his fame and talent (1946). Clifford Odets' hard-hitting script is gripping. 


Maybe Garfield's chemistry with femme fatale Joan Crawford wasn't great, but Oscar Levant was never better as his sidekick whose actual piano playing is heard on the sound track which is filled with top shelf classical music.  


Another TCM highlight last month was the restoration of "Native Son," starring author Richard Wright as protagonist Bigger Thomas.  It was shown on Eddie Muller's Noir Alley Feb 21/22.  


Wright in his 40s was too old to play a character 20 years younger, and he was not an actor, but he gave a credible performance.  The film was shot in Buenos Aires in the late 1940s but the American version shown in the early 1950s had 50 minutes cut out.  


Blessedly, a full 108-minute print was discovered in Buenos Aires not long ago. Kudos to the movie archivists who lovingly brought it back to life. And to the very informative discussion before and after the film by Muller and TCM's talented silent movie host Jacqueline Stewart.     


So here is Eddie Muller's Noir Alley schedule for March, Sat at midnight, repeated Su at 10A.

March 6/7 - "Killer's Kiss"  an early film directed by Stanley Kubrick - 1995

March 13/14 "The Night Brings Terror" - 1955

March 20/21  "The Third Man" 1949 a classic Cold War film with Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and one hour in Orson Welles and haunting zither music. Can't wait to hear Muller's take on it

March 27/28 "Pepe Le Moko" a French Noir classic from 1937


Special mention should be made of two showings of "The Mask of Dimitrios" 1944 

Sat Mar 6 12N and Wed Mar 24 8p with post-"Casablanca" Peter Lorre & Sidney Greenstreet

W Mar 24 has three Lorre-Greenstreet films back-to-back.

945P "The Verdict" - 1946

1130P Three Strangers" with Geraldine Fitzgerald


Fri Mar 12 6p "East of Eden" 1955 - I saw it last month for first time and glad it is coming up ahead.  James Dean's debut and NYC-born Jo Van Fleet's Oscar.  Set before and during World War I in John Steinbeck's California.  He wasn't pleased with the selections chosen from his book of the same name, but director Elia Kazan created a memorable film.


Tu Mar 30 8:15A  Kazan's equally memorable "Splendor in the Grass" 1961 with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood and Pat Hingle and screenplay by William Inge  


Before I close, I want to remember my neighbor Susan Feingold who lived for 60 years in my building on West 104th Street near Riverside Park. She left us in late September 2020 at the age of 95. 


Alex Vadukul contributed a moving obituary in the Feb 26 NY Times.  A Holocaust survivor, Susan became a prominent advocate for childhood education. Her work influenced the Head Start program and she was honored by President Obama.


Always remember:  "There is no wealth but life" - John Ruskin   

As well as Woody Guthrie's immortal:  "Take it easy but take it!"

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Currymania Comes To Brooklyn - Coping with the No-Baseball Blues, Installment 4

On Sunday afternoon December 6, Davidson College alumni came out 148 strong to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to support favorite son Stephen Curry and the unbeaten Golden State Warriors. I joined the group as the guest of a special friend who breathes Davidson Wildcat red and black.

Curry did not disappoint, scoring 28 points, a tick below his season average. His 16-point binge in the third quarter broke open a close game and the Brooklyn Nets became the Warriors’ 22nd straight victim, losing 114-98. Curry shirts were sprinkled among a capacity crowd that were pulling for him more than the Nets.

The Warriors are, of course, not a one-man show. Former Michigan State Spartan Draymond Green is the fuel that makes the show run. He rebounds, he leads the fast break, passes beautifully (as do all the Warriors), and has an improved three-point shot. Not bad for someone listed at “only” 6’ 7”.

It is an unprecedented streak that could be jeopardized against the improved Indiana Pacers as early as Tues night Dec 8. [I was too pessimistic about the Warriors juggernaut.
They scored 79 points in the first half at Indiana, and never were seriously threatened in their 23rd straight win.]

Ultimately the Warriors will lose. The law of averages, whatever that exactly is, dictates the likelihood. Curry even jokes that they will lose before the NFL’s unbeaten Carolina Panthers from his hometown of Charlotte.

Yet the defending NBA champions and the reigning MVP in Curry don’t really want the streak to end - when the playoffs near it will be good for the pressure of the streak to be over. N.B. The Warriors don’t play the perennially contending Spurs until March 19 in San Antonio.

My Sunday excursion to Brooklyn was my first visit to the Barclays Center. It is an impressive edifice, looming like a neon spaceship directly outside the Flatbush/Atlantic Ave subway and Long Island Rail Road stops.

It is the location where Walter O’Malley dreamed of building a new baseball stadium for the Dodgers in the 1950s but the NYC government was in no financial position to offer him the land. (A complicated tale to be explored at another time but please don't think that NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses was the main culprit in the Dodgers' flight.)

The arena inside is pretty awe-inspiring with good sightlines to the court from almost all of the seats. But as someone very cautious about steps, I wouldn’t want to climb to the nosebleed sections. I also wish that there were some variety in seat colors – I found the black and/or gray colors too ominous.

My bigger complaint focuses on the incessant replays shown on the plethora of TV screens scattered all around the Center. They were shown so often – always Nets highlights and nothing else - that the actual game on the floor was missed at many junctures.

My ticket was in the Honda hospitality center at one of the end zones of the arena. At times I needed to watch TV because sight lines to the court were often blocked. I realize there are not many Nets highlights this year - after the Sunday loss they are a disappointing 5-15. But there are fans of the opposition who like to see the actual live action of the game.

Basketball is no substitute for baseball, of course, but a phenomenon like Stephen Curry and the Warriors doesn’t come around often. I was glad to partake in a little of it.

I am also happy to report that my Wisconsin Badgers, after being humiliated at Oklahoma, won impressively at Syracuse and at home against Temple. Am hoping that Bo Ryan’s patient coaching will lead to another compelling season. They stand at 6-3 right now.

And Kyle Smith’s Columbia Lions finally won a close game on Sunday December 6 over the pesky Delaware Blue Hens. The final score of 82-69 did not indicate how close a contest it was.

After losing twice in overtime and once by one point and once by two points, the Columbia faithful were getting very nervous, at least this alum was. But solid defense emerged in the second half aided by a breakout game by freshman forward Lukas Meisner. 5-5 is not what a preseason Ivy League favorite expected, but the team seems talented and deep enough to make a run towards contention once the Ivy League season begins in mid-January.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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