Sunday, July 4, 2021

Was Marv Albert the greatest announcer ever? YES!

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Watching the end of the Bucks-Hawks game last night made me a little sad. Not because I'm a Hawks fan, but because I've been admiring the work of Marv Albert for nearly 5 decades, and that was his last event as an announcer.

NBAE via Getty Images
When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, I was a huge Knicks fan, and I used to keep score of Knicks games as I listened to Marv's radio calls. (OK, I was a nerd; whatever!)

I'd check the box score in the paper the next day, and it was amazing how accurate not only the point totals were but also the rebounds and assists. Because Marv made it possible for me to "see" the game while listening to his radio call.

And even as he was accurate, he did add little flourishes that made games more enjoyable. Walt Frazier wasn't just fouled, he was "run into." Earl Monroe didn't just make a layup, "He drives and hits." Phil Jackson didn't just defend an inbounds pass, he used his long arms for "the windmill effect." And of course, there was Marv's trademark, "YES!" (And, as an occasional bonus, "YES ... AND IT COUNTS! He was fouled on the play!")

Marv Albert was no homer. When opposing players made great plays, he'd say so. And when the Knicks sucked, he'd say so. To this day, I have trouble listening to over-the-top homer announcers.

His dedication to objectivity and accuracy made him a natural to make the jump from local to national announcing.

Being a sportswriter, the Knicks fan got "beaten out" of me pretty early into my career. Indeed, as an AP guy, I -- like Marv -- strongly valued objectivity and accuracy. I didn't root for the teams I covered (nor did I root against them).

But even after I stopped being a Knicks fan, I never stopped being a Marv Albert fan. He was the best chronicler of live basketball games I've ever heard ... and I've heard a bazillion of them during the 55 years that Marv plied his trade.

Oh, and he was a gifted hockey announcer, too, and darn good at football and boxing.

So yes, last night was bittersweet. I'm glad I got to hear Marv one last time. But I'm sad it was the last time.
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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Stone Cold Lock - My 2021 NCAA Bracket

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Well, here's my 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket.

If you win big money betting on this, I get 50%.

If you lose big money betting on this, I never heard of you.

If you just use this for comic relief ... you're very smart.

(Click on the image if you actually want to see it.)

Some upsets in there because, well, ya gotta. Rutgers in the Sweet 16. San Diego State and Oregon in the Elite 8. And UConn in my Final Four.

What the heck, right?

In the end, I have the Fighting Illini cutting down the nets for the first time ever thanks to an exciting win over the Zags.

One thing I didn't pick were any 12s to upset any 5s. Everybody loves picking 12s, and three 12s did win in the last pre-COVID tourney. But in the previous four tournaments, 12s went 3-13 -- including 0-fers in 2015 and 2018. I'm feelin' another 0-fer coming. (So now watch the 12s go 4-0.) 

Anyhoo ...

Good luck, everybody, and may your March be as Mad as yiou want it to be.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Honest, Abe -- You've been great to drive for a decade now!

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Starting with the 1973 Plymouth Valiant my parents gave me during my senior year of college, I have owned 32 cars.

That's right ... thirty-two!

Many I owned for less than a year, as I had a problem or an addiction or ... I don't know what to call my inability to be satisfied with whatever car I had for longer than a couple of years (or, in some cases, a couple of months). 

What I do know is that if I had kept my cars for several years each instead of hopping willy-nilly from one to another, we'd probably be living on a private island by now.

Sometimes, we were victimized by bad luck. Our 1986 Mazda 626 was stolen about six weeks after we bought it. A few years later we bought a beautiful, blue 1990 Mazda 626 ... but a tree fell on it only 9 days after we got it home. 

No wonder Mazda no longer makes the 626 - it was cursed!!!

We had a few other mishaps, a couple of real lemons, and a car whose interior smelled faintly like smoke (not sure why we bought the dang thing in the first place, but we didn't keep it very long). 

Oh, and our poor 2007 Toyota Prius got totaled in an accident in a mall parking lot just a few months after we moved to Charlotte.

Back in 1992, I drove a 1981 Honda Civic that was held together by rust. Even though the kids and I lovingly called it "The Chariot," Robbie wouldn't let the kids ride in it. Bought that one for $350 and sold it 4 months later for $375!

So why am I in Reminiscence Mode about my 32 cars?

Because today is Abe's 10th birthday!

"Abe" is my 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. He's still a beauty, no?


We gave him his name because his first license plate started with the letters ABE. He has been an outstanding car for us ... and we have had him longer - by far - than any other car.

Second on the longevity list was the 1986 Ford Taurus Wagon we bought new in '86 and kept for 6 years and 8 months. Third and fourth were the two Hyundai sedans we bought since moving to North Carolina. Robbie currently drives a 2016 Sonata Hybrid - a car we've had for a little over 4 years.

Abe's plate was replaced several years ago, first by one reading 16CHAMPS after the middle school where I used to coach won our first conference title (in 2016 - get it?), and then 2XCHAMPS after we repeated in 2017. I continue to wait for another of my teams to give me a reason to get a new plate!

No matter what the plate says now, Abe is still Abe, and he is still going strong. His "Pacific Blue Pearl" paint looks pretty darn good for a 10-year-old car. He has just under 85,000 miles - not many for a 2011.

Oh, Abe has had his share of bumps and bruises. During a 2013 visit to Chicago, he was minding his own business in a parking lot when some jerk smashed in his back window.


February is a big month for 10th birthdays and anniversaries. Back on Feb. 2, our loyal pup Simmie turned 10. And Feb. 11 was the 10th anniversary of us buying our one and only N.C. home.

Given the way I went through cars, though, I thought Abe's 10th birthday was especially notable.

Although I have started thinking about what kind of vehicle I might want to drive next, I plan to continue my relationship with good ol' Abe for a while longer.

I'll never be one of those guys who gets to brag about putting his 500,000th mile on his trusty 35-year-old pickup - that's simply not how I'm wired - but it's nice to know that I finally have kicked my car-buying addiction!

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

Super Memories ... and this year's Super prediction

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If you're a sports fan like me, you smile as you think about your favorite teams over the years.

If you were a Patriots fan the last 2 decades, or a Bulls fan in the 1990s, or a Yankees fan in the 1940s and '50s, you get to do a lot of smiling as you stroll down Memory Lane.

Most of us don't have that many happy highlights. Think of Cleveland fans, or Detroit fans, or Philly fans, or Buffalo fans. There's a good memory here and there ... and also a lot of torturous ones.

For me ... the Dolphins were the first pro team in any sport that I took a liking to, and I still can recite the entire lineup and uniform numbers of the 1972 undefeated champions and their (actually superior) 1973 successors. To this day, Larry Csonka is my all-time favorite athlete, and I'll be wearing my official replica No. 39 Dolphins jersey for today's Super Bowl LV. Although that was a lifetime ago, the memories obviously remain special -- almost like a first crush.



Then came the late-1970s Yankees of Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin and Thurman Munson and George Steinbrenner -- champions who also were a bunch of characters, many of whom hated each other. 

After that, I have cheered on some great teams but, ultimately, teams that didn't get it done at the end. The 1984 Dolphins, with a young Dan Marino setting record after record, were a thrill ... until they got crushed in the Super Bowl by the Joe Montana 49ers. 

The 2003 Marquette Golden (Warrior) Eagles, led by the incomparable Dwyane Wade and the clutch Travis Diener, went to the Final Four ... but they were annihilated by eventual champion Kansas.


And then there were the 2015 Panthers.

Doggone it, that was a fun year to live in Charlotte. The city was buzzing every week as Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly & Co. dominated the league. With Cam's dabbin' fun personality, they were a bigger-than-life bunch who could really play football. 

Alas, they suffered an upset loss to the Broncos and their 106-year-old QB, Peyton Manning, in Super Bowl 50.

It's hard to believe it's been 5 years since that joyous season and that sad finish. Since then, the Panthers have changed owners, fired the GM (actually, fired 2 GMs), and replaced the coach and his entire staff. Only 4 players who were on that team are still on the roster. 

All of which brings me to today's Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Bucs.

A lot about this game reminds me of SB50. 

Like the Panthers, the Chiefs cruised through the regular season behind a dynamic quarterback (Patrick Mahomes). Like the Broncos, the Bucs are their conference's surprising survivor and are led by the league's oldest quarterback (Tom Brady).

Like the Panthers, the Chiefs have an incredible offense and a pretty darn good defense. Like the Broncos, the Bucs have some superb defensive playmakers who can make life difficult for even great quarterbacks.

I am sick and tired of Tom Brady winning. And I truly love watching Patrick Mahomes play. And yet I can't shake the feeling that Mahomes -- playing on a tender foot and behind an injured offensive line -- will spend much of the game running for his life, just as Newton did in SB50. And I can't shake the feeling that Old Man Brady will be smiling at the end, just as Old Man Manning was.

Prediction (and I actually hope I'm wrong):

Bucs 27, Chiefs 24

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