Monday, February 01, 2016

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 1/30/16

I had the pleasure of interviewing former NFL Pro-Bowl quarterback Jim Everett this past week; he was asked to comment about the main difference between college football and the pro game. His answer? "The CHEERLEADERS."..........TRIVIA QUESTION: The 2002-'03 Denver Nuggets--who finished with a pathetic record of 17-65 under coach Jeff Bzdelik--were led in scoring by a player who played a mind-boggling NINETEEN seasons in the NBA. Can you name this former power forward? Answer to follow..........If N.Y. Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is worth $25 million per year, then yours truly is dating Jennifer Lopez by the time this column is published..........As of press time, the Prairie View A & M basketball team had a record of 1-19 overall and was tied for last in the SWAC with Alabama State. *Question: Do you think the sports fans who follow that respected university are already looking forward to the 2016 FOOTBALL season?..........The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance (CSWA) has announced that five individuals will receive prestigious Gold Keys at the 75th annual Gold Key Dinner--to be held April 24th at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. The recipients: Former Hartford Whalers owner/founder Howard Baldwin, 1960 U.S. Olympic Hockey gold medalist Bob McVey, former welterweight boxing champion Marlon Starling, Trinity squash coach Paul Assaiante, and longtime Greenwich High School boys swimming coach Terry Lowe. Since 1940, the CSWA has recognized individuals from the state who've excelled at the amateur, high school, collegiate, and professional levels. Tickets to this special event can be obtained by contacting CSWA President Matt Conyers at (860)874-4166 or by emailing VP Tim Jensen at SEVEN New England Patriots back out of this year's Pro Bowl. The irrelevance of this game is BEYOND laughable at this juncture, folks. *Question: If they want a game devoid of contact with superstars absent in abundance, why don't they just get six volunteers from each conference to congregate on Waikiki Beach and play a VOLLEYBALL game instead?..........I'm not gonna say that the clock has totally run out in regard to the great Roger Federer winning another major championship. But put it this way: The amount of grains of sand in the hourglass has now dwindled down to SINGLE DIGITS..........*Question: How much longer until the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists "Johnny Manziel" as a synonym for "disaster"?..........I'm sorry, folks, but if a guy like James Lofton is in the NFL Hall of Fame, then how could a guy like Isaac Bruce NOT be?..........Did you know that the 1994-'95 Washington Bullets had EIGHT players on the team who averaged in double-figures (ppg) but finished with a horrific record of 21-61 under coach Jim Lynam? Perhaps a lack of defense figured into the team's misfortune that season as the Bullets allowed more than 106 points-per-game--which was third worst in the league behind Golden State and Phoenix..........Freelance sportswriter Willie Backer: "If I had a dollar for every woman that turned me down, they probably WOULDN'T be turning me down!"..........ITEM: UCONN athletic director Warde Manuel gets a raise/ boost in salary of $250,000 (yes, you read that correctly) to do the same job at his alma mater--the University of Michigan. Question: Do you think the guy is losing any sleep in regard to relocation expenses?..........*O.K.--here goes: Former Tulane track team member Taylor Crosby marries NFL WR Kenny Stills, divorces, marries NHL winger Rick Nash--divorces again--then walks down the aisle with former MLB player Dmitri Young. Fans of Woodstock/classic rock in general would surely delight in her full married name of Taylor Crosby Stills Nash Young..........Further evidence of the pathetic state of the newspaper biz and sports journalism in general: Try to locate a non-Top-25 college basketball score in any weekday edition of the Hartford Courant. It AIN'T happenin', folks..........Answer to trivia question: JUWAN HOWARD--who averaged 18.4 ppg that season; his career lasted from 1994-2013 (with EIGHT different teams)..........Finally, I was saddened greatly when learning of the passing of former Red Sox pitcher Frank Sullivan last week in Hawaii; he was 85. A two-time All-Star who led the Red Sox in ERA from 1954-1957, I was fortunate enough to interview Frank on "Monday Night Sports Talk" a few years ago. A great storyteller (who even wrote poetry on occasion), he was as "down-to earth" as any guest I've ever spoken to. And he was SO thankful to my co-host Tony DeAngelo and yours truly for remembering his career and making him feel comfortable during our chat. We remained in touch and became friends since that interview with Frank often providing me with various memories of his career that were both humorous and enlightening. Sadly, I was never able to visit Frank in Hawaii as he had wished--something I'll always regret. But I received a wonderful, comforting email from his widow, Marilyn, following his passing. She relayed to me that Frank was always cautious of the press--but truly respected and enjoyed my work. Yeah, that kind of compliment--from this day forward--will go far in dealing with any regret on my part. Mr. Sullivan's ashes were scattered near the sight of his favorite fishing spot in Kauai this past weekend; Marilyn said it was a time of many laughs mixed with tears. Condolences go out to the entire Sullivan family following the loss of a man whose indomitable spirit will never be forgotten. I'll miss you, Frank, and perhaps a personal visit to that fishing hole WILL happen someday for one regretful columnist; tears and laughs will surely be flowing once again. Rest in peace, "Sully."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 1/16/16

I used to think that watching NBA star George "The IceMan" Gervin driving to the hoop was the ultimate thing of beauty. That all changed the other day when I saw a picture of actress/model Olivia Wilde at the Golden Globe Awards--wearing a gorgeous and provocative ruby-colored gown. Goodness gracious--and I'm sure that even George HIMSELF would agree that some things are just NOT up for debate..........TRIVIA QUESTION: The 1991-'92 New York Rangers--who finished 50-25-5 under coach Roger Neilson--had FIVE players on the team who scored 30 or more goals apiece. How many of these individuals can you name? Answer to follow..........Congratulations go out to Westhill High (CT) senior running back Aaron Pettiford--who was recently awarded the UCAN Inspire Award by Generation UCAN and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. The award is given to a CT high school football player who demonstrates an unwavering desire to find success in the face of a great challenge. Aaron has battled a rare kidney disorder--focal glomerulosclerosis--which damages blood vessels in the kidneys; he remains on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. His football coach--Frank Marcucio: "Aaron has been an inspiration to his teammates and classmates at Westhill and his story has certainly caught the attention of people across Connecticut. He is a great kid who has dealt with and overcome numerous personal adversities/obstacles in order to compete at a high level." Ironically, Aaron is the second Westhill player to receive the award in the past three years; former football captain Evan Skoparantzos was the 2014 recipient. Congratulations, Aaron--and keep fighting. Your accomplishments/heroic actions simply leave me with just ONE question at this juncture: How can you possibly NOT succeed in WHATEVER you undertake from this day forward?..........*Question: Is the reason why Browns QB Johnny Manziel hasn't had his own reality show simply due to the fact that his day-to-day life IS a reality show?..........This past weekend, NBC's Al Michaels brought attention to the statue of Pat Tillman that stands outside of University of Phoenix Stadium during the Packers/Cardinals playoff game. Color man Cris Collinsworth: "It's too bad that the statue isn't in the HALL OF FAME." Amen, Chris..........Sad to hear about the passing of MLB Hall of Famer Monte Irvin at the age of 96. Unfortunately, he only played eight big league seasons between 1948 and 1956 (starting at the age of 30) due to MLB's exclusion of black players, but he surely made his mark: a .293 lifetime batting average along with helping the N.Y. Giants to a world championship in 1954. I never had the opportunity to speak with Monte, but my "Monday Night Sports Talk" co-host Tony DeAngelo did. DeAngelo on Irvin: "He was an excellent ballplayer and an extremely nice gentleman who never cared if he was the 'main attraction'. He served as a valued aide to the Commissioner of Baseball for a number of years and also was more than happy to have Willie Mays grab the limelight for the Giants when they played together. And he did everything well and without complaint. It's sad to lose him, but he led SUCH a storied life." Well put, Tony, and may you rest in peace, Mr. Irvin..........ITEM: Chris Davis will return to the Orioles with a contract in hand worth approximately $160 million over seven years. This is a .255 lifetime hitter, folks, who strikes out 200 times per year. Insane money, for sure (even manager Buck Showalter commented, "How much is ENOUGH?"). My first thought? There will be NO need for Mr. Davis to play Powerball once it grows to another insane amount down the road.........Lazzari's "Lopsided Score of the Week": In a CT girls high school basketball game played last week, Morgan ANNIHILATED Hyde 77-17; the winning squad held a (ready for this?) 39-0 LEAD at the end of the first quarter (NOT a misprint). Man--I don't know if I've seen a bigger mismatch since the days when Madonna was dating Dennis Rodman..........*O.K.--here goes: Former Coe College volleyball player Rachel Schaefer marries Georgia Tech catcher Arden Pabst, divorces, marries NASCAR driver Kyle Busch--divorces again--then walks down the aisle with Air Force track star Patrick Corona. Fans of various "sudsy" beverages would surely delight in her full married name of Rachel Schaefer Pabst Busch Corona..........He may be ranked 235th in the world, but professional golfer Colt Knost STILL has the coolest name on the PGA Tour..........Answer to trivia question: MIKE GARTNER (40), MARK MESSIER (35), TONY AMONTE (35), SERGEI NEMCHINOV (30), and DARREN TURCOTTE (30)..........Finally, many things in life change, i.e. the weather, our hair color, economic trends, etc. However, some things simply remain CONSTANTS. My dear friend, Robert "Raven" Kraft, recently celebrated his 41st consecutive year (yes, you read that correctly) of completing his 8-mile running route on the sands of Miami Beach--WITHOUT missing a day. NOT ONE DAY, folks. To put this into perspective, that is close to 15,000 consecutive days covering a span of over 120,000 MILES. What started out as a New Year's resolution back in 1975 has now snowballed into "Raven" achieving 'cult hero' status down in Miami; many runners come from around the globe just to say that they were privileged to run with the "Raven" and play a small part in this continuing, remarkable achievement. The word 'devotion' ALWAYS comes to mind when I think of "Raven", and I smile DAILY at around 4PM--knowing the man is once again out on the sand with some fellow runners and adding to a remarkable legacy. What else can I say but "Keep it going", Mr. Kraft; I'm there in spirit every day, brother.