Monday, December 03, 2007

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 12-8-07

Congratulations go out to all the Connecticut high school football championship squads, especially Tom Brockett's Ansonia team--which annihilated New London 35-0 to capture the Class S title. Ansonia now possesses SIXTEEN state championships since the playoffs began in 1976--almost TWICE as many as the next most successful program (Hand--which has nine). Ansonia's recipe for success over the years? Combine blue-collar kids (who buy into a system) with a strong tradition, high expectations and excellent coaching and you have squads that rarely lose year in and year out. Of course, having the state's newly-named Gatorade Player of the Year on your team--RB Alex Thomas--doesn't hurt when it comes to continuing a phenomenal legacy. Excellent job, guys..........TRIVIA QUESTION: What two former players share the NHL record for most assists in a season by a rookie? Answer to follow..........Lazzari's "Lopsided Score of the Week": In a men's college basketball game last week, North Carolina Wesleyan defeated Roanoke Bible College 128-39 (you read that correctly, folks); during this 89-point blowout, NC Wesleyan's BENCH scored 60 points. I swear, the ugliness of this mismatch reminded me of Phil Spector's awful hairdos during his recent murder trial..........Of all the sporting events I watch on a year-to-year basis, NONE are produced more wonderfully than NBC's coverage of the Ironman World Championship from Hawaii; hence, it's not surprising that the show has received over 40 Emmy nominations over the past 15 years or so. Sure, the production always focuses closely on the elite male/female competitors and how they deal with the brutal elements in Kona. But the show's strength lies in the compelling, human interest stories so familiar to the broadcast, i.e. Brian Boyle--who died EIGHT times on the operating table after a car accident in 2004; he ultimately returned to college swimming and conquered the Kona course. The 2007 show also featured a double amputee and a blind grandfather pushing themselves to the limit in courageous attempts to become "Ironmen." This is "must-see" viewing every year, folks; past DVD's of the show are available at The "Unwatchable NBA" Update: A "no-brainer" this week as the Knicks' pathetic 104-59 loss to Boston last week was as bad as any disgraceful performance ever mentioned in this column. The Knicks shot 30% from the field and 20% from three-point range; Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry were a combined 3-for-21 between them. Rumor has it that watching tapes of this game will soon be used as a punishment tool for incoming convicts at Riker's Island..........Answer to trivia question: PETER STASTNY of the Quebec Nordiques (1980-'81) and JOE JUNEAU of the Boston Bruins (1992-'93)--who both tallied 70 assists in their rookie campaigns..........This week in sports history, December 10, 1977: 17-year old Steve Cauthen becomes the first jockey to reach the $6 million mark in purses earned in one year--riding Little Happiness to victory in a sprint race held at Aqueduct. The 96-pound farm boy from Kentucky rode the three-year-old filly to his astounding 475th victory of the year--drawing handshakes from fellow jockeys and eliciting huge applause from the fans in attendance..........Happy birthday wishes go out to former big league pitcher Steve Renko--who blows out 63 candles on December 10th. A Kansas native, Renko pitched in the majors for 15 seasons between 1969 and 1983--winning 134 games while pitching for seven different clubs. Renko's best season came with the Expos in 1973 when he went 15-11 while pitching to a sparkling ERA of 2.81. Best wishes, Steve..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of Hall of Fame jockey Bill Hartack--who died recently of heart disease in Freer, Texas; he was 74. A hard-nosed competitor, Hartack and fellow jockey Eddie Arcaro remain the only riders to win the Kentucky Derby five times; Hartack first captured the "Run for the Roses" in 1957 aboard Iron Leige and later won the race four times during the 1960's while riding Venetian Way ('60), Decidedly ('62), Northern Dancer ('64) and Majestic Prince ('69). In addition, he won the Preakness three times and claimed the Belmont Stakes in 1960 aboard Celtic Ash. All told, Bill Hartack claimed 4,272 victories in his remarkable career; he had been working as a steward the past few years in Louisiana. May Mr. Hartack rest in peace.


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