It's been quite a week in this country. An emotional roller coaster, too. Despite an insurrection at the U-S Capitol just two weeks prior, there was a peaceful transfer of power on Wednesday as Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States. Baseball legend and human rights icon Henry Aaron died on Friday, and Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton and talk show host Larry King also passed away this week. Sports fans can celebrate the Super Bowl, which we now know will feature the Kansas City Chiefs at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and, just hours ago, the House of Representatives delivered an Article of Impeachment to the Senate against Donald Trump. That's a lot of stuff happening in less than seven days.
The most important of the above happened on Wednesday. The oath of office to Joseph Robinette Biden, Junior was actually early, at 11:48am Eastern Time, ahead of the noon hour prescribed in the Constitution. Outgoing President Donald Trump had already touched down in Florida, becoming the first president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to skip his successor's swearing in. Although Trump has not been brave enough to admit defeat, at least he didn't chain himself to the Oval Office desk or bar the door to the White House residence. Biden even said that Trump had upheld one tradition, and left a letter in a desk drawer. Biden refused to reveal precisely what the letter said, but did say it was “gracious”.
Administration of the oath by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to Biden took only 34 seconds, and while pro-Trump rioters tried to prevent it earlier this month, it was the short oath of office taken just a minutes earlier that was even more historic. Even a middle-aged white dude like me got a little choked up when Kamala Harris said, “So help me God” and became Vice President, breaking gender, ethnic, and racial barriers.
Then, in terms of racial barriers, baseball lost one of its legends. Henry Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's all-time career home run record in 1974, died Friday at the age of 86. His historic 715th home run against the Dodgers came with a price, including hate mail and bigotry leading up to the occasion. When Aaron broke the record, he was relieved, not joyous. If you are not a baseball fan and not familiar with what exactly Aaron went through, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully spontaneously summed it up this way, after calling the shot. He said. “What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.”
Also passing away this past week were baseball Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton and talk show and news and entertainment icon Larry King. Sutton is tenth on the all-time shutout list with 58. To try to put that in perspective, there were only 45 complete games in all of the major leagues in 2019—the last full season, and most of those were not shutouts. Sutton was 75. King, probably most well known for his interview show on CNN, was doing the same thing on radio for decades, and essentially wrote the book on radio talk shows and how to do interviews. King was 87.
In the fun and games department, the NFL has determined its Super Bowl contestants. Kansas City beat Buffalo 38-24 Sunday to win the AFC championship in a game that was really more of a blowout than the score would indicate. The Bills were good, but the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes were far better. The drama of the day Sunday was in the NFC, where Tampa Bay upset Green Bay 31-26 at Lambeau Field, earning quarterback Tom Brady his tenth trip to the Super Bowl (the other nine were with New England). In what turned out to be a regrettable decision to say the least, Packers coach Matt LaFleur decided to kick a field goal with his team down by 8 with just over two minutes to go instead of leaving it up to the offense and Rodgers, who is likely to be the league's Most Valuable Player. The kick was good, but Green Bay never got the ball back.
And, as we head back to the U-S Capitol and the political arena, the House of Representatives formally delivered an Article of Impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate today, with the trial set to start on February 9. President Biden won't say so publicly, but doesn't it seem to you like he doesn't want an impeachment trial? He says it's up to Congress, but he also needs lawmakers to work on things like the pandemic and economic relief. Trump becomes the first President to be impeached twice, but it's also the first impeachment where the 'high crimes and misdemeanors' (Trump is charged with inciting an insurrection) happened while the President was in office, but the trial starts with him out of office. No precedents here. Constitutional scholars have a lot to do on this one.
There are other notes to share related to the events of this week. I've come up with quite a few, so in no particular order, here they are...
She stole the show!: The inauguration was about Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, but a young woman upstaged them both and became an instant hit. Mis-introduced by Inauguration Committee Chair Roy Blount as “our nation's first national Poet Laureate”, you expected someone like the late Maya Angelou to take the stage. Instead, it was a girl who looked like she was 12. Amanda Gorman is actually 22, and the nation's first Youth Poet Laureate. A “skinny black girl”, as she referred to herself, in a bright yellow overcoat went on to give a brilliant five-minute oratory written, or at least edited, after the Capitol riots of two weeks ago (you really need to check it out if you missed it). She's gotten a lot of media attention since, with every angle covered. It turns out her grandmother lives in Sacramento, so the local stations here had interviews with Grandma as well.
Celebrating America: If you watched the hour-and-a-half long special hosted by Tom Hanks on CNN instead of the broadcast networks, you had an advantage. First, CNN carried the broadcast live while the networks tape-delayed it on the West Coast. Also, you got bonus coverage. CNN carried it commercial-free, so when the networks broke away, you missed out on segments narrated by Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington, and performances by Yo-Yo Ma, the Black Pumas, Yolanda Adams, and others.
Instead of impeachment...: No one seems to have thought of this, but if it is as many Republicans and others claim, illegal (or at least improper) to impeach Donald Trump since he is no longer in office, wouldn't the opposite then be the course of action to be taken? How about arresting the man and throwing him in jail. If he's no longer in office, can't he be prosecuted as a regular citizen?
Now that's a star-studded lineup!: Trivia time. What do baseball Hall-of-Famers Henry Aaron, Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, and Frank Robinson have in common? In memory of Aaron, MLB Network aired the 1971 All-Star game Saturday, where all six of those players homered. In all, 19 of those who played in that game would go into the Hall of Fame as players (Aaron, Luis Aparicio, Bench, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Clemente, Jackson, Al Kaline, Killebrew, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Ron Santo, Wilver Stargell, and Carl Yastrzemski, plus pitchers Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, and Jim Palmer), and National League third baseman Joe Torre would later be enshrined as a manager. All-time hits leader Pete Rose, who is banned from the Hall for betting on baseball, was a late-inning replacement in the outfield and did not get an at-bat, and Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver were on the NL roster but did not pitch. The managers of that game were no slouch either—Hall-of-Famers Sparky Anderson and Earl Weaver. The American League beat the National League 6-4 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Vida Blue got the win and Dock Ellis took the loss. Jenkins was the only HOF pitcher to give up a home run (to Killebrew). Incidentally, the 2021 Hall of Fame class will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday) at noon PT on MLBN.
Feeling blue: With last week's passing of Don Sutton and the death earlier this month of Tommy Lasorda, I can only count one Dodger Hall-of-Famer who is still alive. The Dodgers have retired ten uniform numbers, and of those ten, the only player still living is Sandy Koufax, who is 85. Other Hall of Famers like Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez were Dodgers, but went in the Hall as members of other teams, while the Dodgers were just a blip on the lengthy careers of others like Rickey Henderson and Greg Maddux.
Dodger connection: Aaron, Sutton, and King all have Dodger connections of course. Aaron didn't play for the Dodgers, but he hit his historic 715th home run against them (off Al Downing). Sutton pitched 24 seasons in the majors—his first 16 with the Dodgers. He is the Dodger all-time leader in shutouts, and tenth in the majors in history. 233 out of his 257 wins came in a Dodger uniform. King, of course, was a huge Dodger fan. He walked in front of my mom and I at a game once, and while I thought it was rather cool, I was also wishing it had been fellow celebrity Dodger fan Alyssa Milano instead.
You wanna bet against Brady?: Tom Brady is on his way to his tenth Super Bowl, and is seeking his seventh title, but his Tampa Bay Buccaneers are underdogs, again. They were not favored against Drew Brees and New Orleans or Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, but won both games. Kansas City is a three-and-a-half point favorite in the early betting line, even though the February 7 game is at the Bucs' home stadium.
You don't want a beverage?: For the first time in eons, you will not see a Super Bowl ad from Budweiser, and Coca-Cola has decided to skip the mega-event as well. At over five-million dollars a spot, the companies have separately decided that it's too rich for their blood. The pandemic has affected the bottom line, and Coke thinks because there won't be as many Super Bowl parties, there won't be as many viewers. Bud has said they will spend the money saved by not buying the ads on Covid-related donations. Pepsi, by the way, will not be running in-game ads, either, but is the title sponsor of the halftime show, featuring The Weekend.
Hard not to 'like': I am recently back on Twitter after a five-year absence (please follow me @geoffflynn2021), but mostly as a follower. This tweet from @katetscott (re-tweeted by San Francisco Chronicle sports reporter Susan Slusser) caught my attention...”worst decision this season. 1) Cash pulls Snell; 2) LaFleur kicks FG”
More legends: Tomorrow (Tuesday) marks a year since the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others. Wednesday is the fourth anniversary of the death of my uncle Marty.