Keeping Score: Minnesota’s ‘Twilight Zone’

Friday, January 26, 2018

Good morning!

Several media outlets including Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and USA Today reported this week that former Patriot quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stands to pocket more money from next week’s Super Bowl than Tom Brady. 

Garoppolo was on the Patriots’ week one roster and wasn’t traded to the 49ers until midseason, and according to the NFL Bargaining Agreement that qualifies him for a piece of the pie. Moreover, he won’t be subject to Minnesota’s state income tax, which is 9.85 percent, third-highest in the country behind California (13.3 percent) and Oregon (9.9 percent).

It’s reminiscent of the Twilight Zone episode when a couple won a million dollars, gave it all away and owed money when the tax man came knocking. That scenario plays out frequently with pro athletes who are unaware of state and federal tax laws, be it for a Super Bowl or signing autographs at card shows.

Ed McCaffrey knows the drill. He was an all-pro wide receiver for the Broncos and Giants and played in three Super Bowls. “I’ve seen some crazy, toxic things unravel where players no longer speak to family or friends over going to a Super Bowl,” he said this week on his Sirius-XM Radio.

“Two big misconceptions are that players can get as many tickets as they want, and they get ’em for free. They’ll get calls from people they haven’t heard from since grade school. Some peoples’ feelings are going to get hurt. Is Uncle Jed not going? You lose friends over not going to a Super Bowl.”

McCaffrey said some players could jeopardize earning any money at all next week. “Loser gets $56,000 and half that’s taxed. You give out a few thousand-dollar tickets, pay the family’s hotel and airfare, and you’re playing the Super Bowl for free.”

The year’s first big horse race is today at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. Billed as the world’s richest horse race, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup at a mile-and-an-eighth. General admission is $75, probably to attract an upscale crowd.

The full field of 12 is a merging of million dollar earners with overrated nags that were entered for a slice of the $16 million purse. The winner gets $7 million, second nets $1.5 million, third place is $1 million and the remaining nine steeds all get $250,000.

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Gun Runner will break from the 10 post as the 4-5 morning line favorite with Florent Geroux in the irons.

Never discount a horse ridden by Iran Ortiz, who will be aboard Sharp Azteca. Ortiz won 317 races in 2017 and finished in the money with 56 percent of his mounts.

Bob Baffert’s two entries, Collected and West Coast, are both listed at 8-1. The horse for the course is Gunnerva (15-1) winner of last year’s Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.

The mystery horse is Toast of New York, a 7-year-old with four wins and over $2 million in earnings despite just nine career starts. Unraced for two years, he returns to the track after being a dud as a stud.

Post time is 5:40 p.m. NBC Sports will have coverage starting at 4:30 p.m., and the race will be simulcast at Hinsdale (N.H.) OTB.

The voice of the Eagles’ 75-year-old Merrill Reese, gave it the Cadillac call on Sunday when Nick Foles dropped back to pass early against Minnesota: “Foles fakes, pumps, steps up — he’s going deep! He is going deep! He is going deep to Torrey Smith who has it! ... Drops it!”

Reese tried to explain away the blown call like a motorist explains away a speeding ticket, but had plenty of make-goods when Foles threw three TD passes, including a 41-yarder to Smith.

UMass basketball coach Matt McCall’s whimsical banter about hanging banners in the Mullins Center took a hit this week when 6-foot-11, 310-pound center Rashaan Holloway was ruled academically ineligible.

McCall talks a good game but may not have known what he got himself into in Amherst. He was an emergency replacement for Pat Kelsey who came, saw, and ran.

Coaching UMass basketball isn’t for everyone — or anyone. “When I came to UMass, no one wanted the job,” John Calipari said on ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentary about him called OneAndNotDone. “Everyone turned it down. When I got there, I’m like, ‘What did I do?’”

What Calipari had going for him was he could fly under the radar. He could get a Tony Barbee by bringing his brother Chris along on a football scholarship (he never played a down) and Lou Roe from New Jersey when other schools wouldn’t touch him academically. Most important, Calipari kept Roe out of the dean’s office.

The Minutemen (10-11) are tied for 10th in the A-10 (now the A-14) and play last-place Fordham today in New York. They appear poised to go in the tank similar to last season when they lost 11 of their last 14 games, but what else is new?

Every year the Vegas casinos offer odds for who will score the first touchdown in the Super Bowl. Patriot running back Rex Burkhead scored five first-strike touchdowns in the regular season, but limped off against Pittsburgh and had just one carry for five yards against Jacksonville.

Because of his inactivity, Burkhead is listed at 14-1 on oddsshark.com. Dion Lewis, who had four first-strike TDs for the Pats, is 10-1. Brandin Cooks and Danny Ammendola are 10-1, and Tom Brady is 25-1. 

Three Eagles players scored their team’s first touchdown twice this season: tight end Zach Ertz (10-1) wideout Alshon Jeffrey (12-1), and running back LeGarrette Blount (14-1).

You can wager that neither team will score a touchdown — bet $10 and win $7,500.

SQUIBBERS: Former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway signed a minor league deal with the Pirates this week. The 30-year-old Lavarnway played four seasons in Boston (2011-14) and batted .201 with five home runs in 97 games. …  UMass hoops hosts URI on Tuesday. The Rams are undefeated in the A-10 and on the cusp of the Top 25. They’ve beaten the Minutemen four straight and five of their last six. The Rams are their daddy, as Pedro would say. … The 2018 Best Countries Report ranks Switzerland as the best in the world, but as they taught us in school the only good thing to come out of Switzerland was cuckoo clocks. … The regional Golden Gloves championships are Sunday in Exhibition Hall at the Mass. Mutual Center. The doors open at noon and prices range from $15 for general admission up to $40 for ringside. … Jim Thome on being a Hall of Famer: “It’s about sweat equity.” … Louisville fired Peter Sirmon as its defensive coordinator this week. BC’s AJ Dillon had his coming out party versus the Cardinals on Oct. 14. The freshman from Lawrence Academy  in Groton rushed for 272 yards and four touchdowns during the Eagles’ 45-42 win as a 22-point underdog in Louisville. … The Red Sox equipment van rolls out of town the day after the Super Bowl, but Opening Day’s a long way away. You don’t have to be a .424 hitter to feel like Rogers Hornsby: “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at sports@recorder.com.