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.