Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 3/28/15

The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance (CSWA) has announced that former Connecticut College runner Michael LeDuc and Tufts pitcher Allyson Fournier have been selected as the Bill Lee/Hank O'Donnell Athletes of the Year. LeDuc, a graduate of Canton High School, won the NCAA Division III steeplechase championship in 2014. Fournier--who attended East Catholic in Manchester--led Tufts to its second consecutive NCAA Division III softball championship in 2014. This pair of deserving individuals will be honored at the upcoming 74th annual Gold Key Dinner--to be held April 26th at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. In addition to this year's Gold Key winners (Craig Janney, Tracy Lis, John Pagliaro, and John Kuczo), various other individuals involved in sports will be honored at this very prestigious event. Tickets can be obtained by contacting CSWA President Matt Conyers (mconyers@courant.com) or Vice-President Tim Jensen (tim@enfieldsource.com)..........TRIVIA QUESTION: The 1996-'97 Detroit Pistons--who finished 54-28 under coach Doug Collins--had four players on the squad who scored more than 1,000 points apiece. How many of these players can you name? Answer to follow..........My "Monday Night Sports Talk" co-host Tony DeAngelo emailed me the other day during the Yankees preseason game vs. Houston. His note: "The Yankees are now trying A-ROD out at first base. He ain't exactly a member of the June Taylor Dancers!"..........Quote by West Virginia's Daxter Miles, Jr.--the day before facing #1-ranked/undefeated Kentucky last week in the NCAA tournament: "Tomorrow, they're gonna be 36-1." Final score? Kentucky 78, West Virginia 39. A word of advice for Daxter: You DON'T provide bulletin board material for the top-ranked team in the country. Just goes to reinforce my belief that the term "student-athlete"--at the big-time college level--is a MAJOR oxymoron..........More about West Virginia (and I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this--which is usually the case in regard to NCAA "shenanigans"): Team member Jonathan Holton--who just ended his junior season following his team's NCAA run--was arrested three times in THREE days back in 2012 while a member of Rhode Island's team. These were serious charges, too--involving robbery, probation violation/being a fugitive, etc. Subsequently thrown off the team, he somehow ends up at WVU playing under Bob Huggins. My question is THIS: How did this thug end up at another school and NOT in jail? I guess this warrants attention to another oxymoronic term: 'American justice.' For some reason, I don't believe Francis Scott Key had individuals like Holton in mind when he mentioned "the land of the free" while writing the Star Spangled Banner..........One more while we're on the topic of the NCAA's "integrity." NY Post columnist Phil Mushnick was recently asked by a reader why there was a policeman standing in front of the TV review monitors at a recent tournament game. Mushnick's reply: "That wasn't a policeman--that's the NCAA's new MASCOT".........A strange thing happened to me on more than one occasion this past winter. Every time I went out to shovel snow around 7:30 PM, I'd experience an AWFUL odor coming from the south. Then I finally figured it out: It happened EVERY time the New York Knickerbockers took the court at Madison Square Garden..........I used to think that Mariano Rivera was the "poster person" for aging gracefully. That all changed the other day when I saw a recent picture of 54-year-old actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the Golden Globe Awards. Sorry, "Mo"--Julia wins hands down...........O.K.--here goes, folks: Jefferson Community College basketball player Alyssa Crosby marries NFL wide receiver Kenny Stills, divorces, marries recently-retired NBA player Steve Nash--divorces again--then walks down the aisle with NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. Those out there who are into political activism and wonderful harmonies would delight in her full married name of Alyssa Crosby Stills Nash Young..........Answer to trivia question: GRANT HILL (1,710), LINDSEY HUNTER (1,166), JOE DUMARS (1,158), and OTIS THORPE (1,036)..........Suffice it to say that the football world lost one of its greatest players ever as the legendary Chuck Bednarik passed away recently at the age of 89. From blue-collar beginnings in Pennsylvania, Bednarik was a two-way player in the NFL (linebacker and center) and one of the most ferocious tacklers in the game's history. The first player drafted in 1949 (out of Penn), Chuck was a member of the Eagles' championship teams of 1949 and 1960 and was a TEN-TIME All-Pro selection. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967--his first year of eligibility. Former Giants RB/NFL Alumni chairman Randy Minniear, who met Bednarik on a few occasions, recently told me about how tough he was as a player--and added that Chuck had the biggest pair of hands that he ever saw. The aforementioned Tony DeAngelo on Bednarik's legacy: "As a kid growing up in the NYC area, I knew of him as the man who hit Frank Gifford so hard that he knocked him out of football for over a year. But what I also remember is that he was an "old-school," simple man--true to his beliefs and values--and he held on to them throughout his life." Yes, Chuck Bednarik's # 60 jersey will forever remain retired by the Eagles in honor of his unmatched achievements on the gridiron. May "Concrete Charlie" rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 3/14/15

A few days ago, I came across a picture of actor Sean Penn and actress Charlize Theron walking arm-in-arm outside a theater in L.A.--with Penn possessing a very melancholy look on his face. Message to Mr. Penn: If you're looking sad with a beauty like Charlize at your side, then there is absolutely NOTHING IN THIS WORLD that will make you smile. And when a guy like Bill Belichick smiles more than YOU do, then there's a problem, Sean. Just a reminder, Mr. Penn: It's CHARLIZE THERON, for cryin' out loud..........TRIVIA QUESTION: Name the former guard who is the Dallas Mavericks all-time leader in total assists AND steals. Answer to follow..........In this past weekend's New York Post, my buddy/fellow columnist Phil Mushnick brought up the academic negligence problem at UMASS when John Calipari was coaching there approximately 20 years ago--and how guys like Marcus Camby weren't cutting it in the classroom. When questioned about it at the time, Calipari told ESPN's Roy Firestone that Camby had turned it around and improved academically, in fact, making the "Athletic Department's Dean's List." Mushnick's reaction: "Athletic Department Dean's List? What's that for--perfect attendance at PRACTICE?"..........Did you know that NHL Hall of Famer Mike Bossy played ten years in the league and scored less than 50 goals in a season just ONCE? That happened to be during his final year in the league ('86-'87) when he STILL managed to score 38 goals (in 63 games) while battling injuries. His highest goal-scoring season? The 1978-'79 campaign when he tallied 69 goals for an Al Arbour-led Islanders squad that finished first in the NHL's Patrick Division..........The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance (CSWA) has announced that the husband and wife pair of Bob and Cookie Bromage will receive the Bo Kolinsky Special Recognition Award at the upcoming Gold Key Dinner--to be held at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington on April 26th. This coming August, the Bromages will have combined to coach high school athletics here in CT for an astounding 100 years (yes, you read that correctly, my friends). Bob coached baseball at Enfield High for 39 years before moving on to East Granby. Cookie started as the cheerleading coach at Enfield in 1966 and ultimately formed the field hockey team there. In August, she will begin her 49th season as field hockey coach at the northern CT school. The award--in its second year--is named after the longtime high school sports editor of the Hartford Courant (and past CSWA member) who passed away in 2003. Tickets to this prestigious event can be obtained by contacting CSWA President Matt Conyers (mconyers@courant.com) or VP Tim Jensen (tim@enfieldsource.com)..........*Rhyme time: LPGA golfer Mo Martin marries former NFL linebacker Leon Joe, divorces, marries Army wide receiver Edgar Poe--divorces again--then walks down the aisle with former San Diego Chargers LB Woodrow Lowe. She is then roaming the links with the catchy, full name of Mo Joe Poe Lowe..........*Attention NY Yankees fans: The chances of CC Sabathia, A-ROID, and Mark Texeira going the full 2015 season INJURY-FREE are about the same as yours truly dating actress Sandra Bullock within the next week or so..........Congratulations go out to legendary baseball coach Bill Holowaty--who was recently selected for induction to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. Holowaty compiled a mind-boggling record of 1,404-525-7 (and won four national titles) while coaching at Eastern CT State University over a 45-year span. He retired in 2013 as the winningest coach in the history of New England athletics at ANY level. Bill is one of eight honorees (including former major leaguers Lance Berkman and Frank Viola) who will be inducted as part of college baseball's annual celebration to be held June 28-29 in Lubbock, TX. Having had the opportunity to interview/speak with Coach Holowaty on numerous occasions, I ALWAYS had the feeling that I was in the company of greatness; yes, he possesses THAT type of presence. Whenever I think of Bill Holowaty, the expression "old school" immediately comes to mind. And guess what? His approach WORKED--for a VERY long time. Congrats, Coach--a well-deserved honor..........Answer to trivia question: DEREK HARPER (5,111 assists/1,551 steals)..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former NBA player Jerome Kersey--who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 52. A forward who played his college ball at Division II Longwood University, Kersey enjoyed a 17-year career with the Blazers, Warriors, Lakers, Sonics, Spurs, and Bucks. But he will be best remembered for his consistent years in Portland--helping the team reach the NBA Finals in both 1990 and 1992. For his entire career, Kersey averaged 10.3 ppg/5.5 rpg. But he also combined his immense athletic talent with a pleasant demeanor and an infectious smile--rendering him a fan favorite. Portland owner Paul Allen remarked in a statement that Kersey was "one of the most beloved players to ever wear a Trail Blazers uniform." Yes, the NBA and its fans were privileged to watch a 'class act' like Kersey play for a very long time. May you rest in peace, sir.