OBSERVATIONS: Mets will owe tax man $86.7 million

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, thinking the Cincinnati Bengals are thanking the Cleveland Browns for the early Christmas present, a win over Baltimore. But they should really thank the Ravens for a fumble, a pass interception, a missed field goal a blocked field goal.

—A TAXING PROBLEM: This is all one needs to know to figure out why MLB is as unbalanced as the U.S. government budget.

The New York Mets will have a payroll near $336 million in 2023. That is $103 million over the luxury tax threshold, meaning that on top of paying $336 million to its players, the Mets will pay a luxury tax of $86.7 million to MLB.

That tax the Mets must pay is higher than the payrolls of 12 MLB teams, including our bewitched, bothered and bewildered Reds and their projected $73 million payroll.

And the Chicago Cubs entered the spending spree, $177 million over seven years for Atlanta free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson. Yes, the Cubs are serious again about winning.

—ZAG-NUTS: After Dayton, Wright State and Ohio State, Gonzaga is my favorite basketball team.

How can you not admire a so-called mid-major team that will play any team, any time, anywhere? Coach Mark Few would play Eskimo State on a frozen pond.

The No. 15 Zags knocked off No. 4 Alabama in Birmingham, 100-90 Saturday. Alabama had beaten three ranked teams, including two number ones.

What Gonzaga All-American Drew Timme can’t do on a basketball floor hasn’t been invented yet. He scored 29 and hooked 10 rebounds against Alabama. The last time he missed an assignment was in fifth-grade math class.

—PRIME JUNIOR: The dazzling jewelry doesn’t doesn’t fall far from the neck. . .from Daddy Prime to Prime Jr.

That would be Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders, son of coach Deion ‘Prime Time’ Sanders.

Sanders coached his final game at Jackson State Saturday before moving onto Colorado. And he lost, 41-34, in overtime to North Carolina Central in the HBCU national championship game, the Cricket Celebration Bowl.

It was played in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Ohio State and Georgia will play in the CFP semifinals. If that game is as well-played and as exciting as the HBCU game, it will be memorable.

Jackson State was down 34-27 in regulation with seven seconds left and faced fourth-and-10 at the NCC 19. Sanders threw a touchdown pass to Travis Hunter, who caught the ball with 0:00 on the clock. Then Jackson State lost in overtime when a receiver dropped a pass in the end zone.

—MORE DAD-SON: Frank Gore rushed for 16,000 yards (More than nine miles) during his 16-year NFL career, third most all-time.

But he never did what his son, Frank Gore Jr., did in the Lending Tree Bowl during Southern Mississippi’s 38-24 win over Rice.

Junior rushed for 329 yards, most ever in any NCAA bowl game. He carried 21 times, ran for touchdowns of 65 and 55 yards and even threw an 18-yard touchdown pass as dad watched from the stands.

Daddy’s best day was 212 yards for the San Francisco 49ers against Seattle.

Said Junior, whose dad came on the field after the game, “. . .I let him know that I’m the best in the family.” (Nothing like son rubbing dad’s nose in it.)

—MAC ATTACK: While needing something to do to keep me away from the Esther Price cashew bark, I decided to look up the University of Dayton’s all-time record against Mid-American Conference teams.

Why? Why not? Nadine hid the candy from me.

And I was amazed. There are eight MAC teams that have never beaten UD and the Flyers are 35-0 against them: Kent State 7-0, Ohio U. 7-0, Akron 6-0, Central Michigan 4-0, Ball State 3-0, Eastern Michigan 3-0, Western Michigan 3-0, Northern Illinois 2-0.

The Flyers used to play Miami twice a season and are 64-42 against the Redskins (They haven’t played since Miami became the RedHawks). They are 22-9 against Toledo and 9-2 against Bowling Green.

—SMITHEREENS: When UD beat Wyoming Saturday night in Chicago, the game was played in the United Center. It sits on the site where Chicago Stadium once stood.

I was there the night Donald Smith scored 52 points against Loyola of Chicago, still the UD single game record. And if they had the three-point line then he would have scored 65.

Did you know that Smith played one season in the NBA and never missed a foul shot? True. He came off the bench for the 1974-75 Philadelphia 76ers, appeared in 53 games and was 21 for 21 from the free throw line.

If he had ever missed a free throw, they probably would have stopped the game and sent him to an optometrist.

—BOWL ME OVER: The first of about four dozen Irrelevant Bowls unfolded early Friday afternoon. It wasn’t irrelevant, though, to Miami (O.) and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

First of all, it was a nifty vacation in The Bahamas and the two teams played as if it was the CFP championship game even though there were about 250 people in the rickety wooden stands on an 85-degree day.

UAB won, 24-20, and the game ended on a Miami pass completion to the UAB 2-yard-line.

Both teams had to win their last regular season games to get the necessary six wins to be bowl eligible. Both were 6-and-6. In Miami’s final game, it trailed Ball State 17-6 in the third quarter, but won, 18-17, on a last-second touchdown pass. And the RedHawks almost did it again. . .almost.

Trent Dilfer, one of the 306 Cleveland Browns quarterbacks since 1999, observed from the sidelines because he takes over as UAB’s head coach next season. He won a Super Bowl, but of course it wasn’t with the Browns. It was in 2000 with the Baltimore Ravens, who used to be the Cleveland Browns.

—TUNE TIME: Songs I listen to when I’m down and feel melancholy and need a good cry:

American Trilogy, Elvis Presley. You Were Always on My Mind, Willie Nelson. I Won’t Do that, Meat Loaf. Lady in Red, Chris de Burgh. He Stopped Lovin’ Her Today, George Jones. Holy Mother, Eric Clapton and Luciano Pavarotti. My Way, Elvis Presley. It’s Only Make Believe, Conway Twitty. I Am, I Said, Neil Diamond. Crying, Roy Orbison. Hello, Lionel Ritchie.

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