Five (or more) things we learned last weekend (and beyond): Oct. 26-31

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A spectator has a message for Hurricane Sandy before Sunday’s Eagles-Falcons game in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Some 30,000 feet above the Midwest somewhere, heading toward a Pacific Ocean sunset:

1. Hurricane Sandy was some piece of work. We had the displeasure of making its acquaintance, the so-called “storm of the century” that added three extra days of non-sight-seeing in New Jersey and Pennsylvania over the weekend. A big windbag with a nasty personality, coming and going as it pleases like many of those who already reside in the Northeast part of the country, it left some pretty graphic made-for-TV devastation, granted, if you had a TV powered up to see it. We were only inconvenienced by a lot of fallen trees, electrical surges transforming into outages, and a lot of scary noises in the night. No harm, no foul moods. Just lots of hunkering down and feeling bad for those much closer to the coast. What could have made it an even bigger sports mess is if the New York Yankees won the AL championship and were assigned to host the middle three games of the World Series. Game 5 would still be on hold – assuming the San Francisco Giants hadn’t swept them away as easily as they did the Detroit Tigers (a result we weren’t able to ascertain until early Monday morning because of blackouts). It would be kind of a flashback to the 1988 Earthquake Series between Oakland and San Francisco – meaning the Giants could have been involved in the last two World Series interrupted by a natural disaster, not counting the Bud Selig Frankenstorm that canceled the entire 1994 Fall Classic.  Sitting here on a wifi-equipped flight back to L.A., crammed in a middle seat because that’s all that was available, with a carry-on bag full almost all of dirty laundry because of underwear rationing the last few days, there’s some guilt involved in just being to just pack up and leave the mess behind. The sports fans of this region will need their fix of Eagles and Sixers, Jets and Giants, Knicks and Nets, Celtics and Patriots, ASAP, if only as a diversion from the mess they’re in for the next weeks and months. No stunner that the Nets just canceled their Brooklyn home opneer. No way is it safe, on many levels, to expect people to be able to make it over there. Actually had time to take a cab ride into downtown Philly this AM, seeing the homes for the Sixers, Eagles and Phillies in one piece. Independence Hall was closed due to a lot of tree damage, but that’s to be expected. This one’s going to take awhile to dig out from.

2.. What did the Giants teach L.A. about winning a World Series for the second time in three seasons? Don’t worry if your top hitter gets busted for juicing and misses the last month-plus of the regular season, if your former Cy Young Award winner is relegated to the bullpen and your crazy closer blows out his arm in April. GM Brian Saben didn’t just out and pluck the highest-priced stars position-by-position to fill the roster and hope for the best. It found pieces that fit, starting pitchers who could pitch, a fearless bullpen and better-than-adequate fielders. For the Dodgers to avoid being the New York Yankees West, it might want to adopt that blueprint as well instead of thinking that just because it can shell out the dough, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a yellow-bricked road.

3.  Maybe it’s none of our business, but we tend to believe USC’s unfinished business will go unfinished another season. The sluggish 39-36 loss at Arizona on Saturday shouldn’t be all that surprising – half the ESPN “GameDay” guys predicted it, even if they couldn’t forsee too many penalties, too many turnovers, probably too many passes (Matt Barkley eclipsing the school record with 459 yards, with a Pac-12 record 345 to Marquis Lee), and the inability to hold onto a 28-13 lead. At this pace, USC could come close to setting an NCAA record as the most penalized team per game average. We do have a more serious concern — the health of Arizona quarterback Matt Scott. First, it was USC’s Dion Bailey’s helmet-to-helmet contact with Scott in the fourth quarter (drawing a personal foul) that didn’t look very nice. Then came T.J. McDonald landing a knee to Scott’s head with about seven minutes left in the game.  Scott walked around looking woozy, then threw up, right there on TV. Look like a concussion to you? Coach Rich Rodriguez allowed him to stay in. After throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns, the last a 9-yard scoring pass with 5:36 to play to David Richards that gave the Wildcats a 39-28 lead, Rodriguez decided it was OK then to pull him out. Scott threw up again on the bench and got the concussion test from trainers. “It looked like from my vantage point that whatever he had for breakfast is no longer in him,” Rodriguez said afterward, apparently making light of it. “It’s all at about the 20-yard line. But that was a phenomenal throw. It probably won the game for us.” A real gutty performance, eh Rich? What’s the latest on Scott, anyway? Able to play this Saturday against UCLA? Don’t rush back, kid.

4. The New York Marathon scheduled for Sunday morning (6 a.m., ESPN) might consider switching to become a triathlon, starting with a swim through the sewage just to get to the starting line. One of the biggest concerns by race organizers may not be getting the streets cleared in time for the race, but the inability to cut down on cheating. Wednesday’s New York Post ran a story, “Running A Scam,” that explained how more runners are getting caught doing things like cutting miles off the route by taking shortcuts – at Mile 16, for example, some won’t turn right up First Avenue, go through the Bronx and come back down Fifth Avenue, but instead head straight across the 59th Street bridge and rejoin the pack just after Mile 25, shaving off more than nine miles. A local running coach said one reason is that added pressures on those in the field of 27,500 from social media or running for a charity fundraiser force them to finish at all costs rather than just quit early. Remember that next time you see Lance Armstrong in the field trying to do a seemingly good thing.

5. If you’re stuck for hours on end at the Philadelphia International Airport in U.S. Airways Terminal C zip code, Chickie’s & Pete’s Crab House and Sports Bar, which touts itself as being named ESPN’s Best Sports Bar in North American, converts into one of the best triages ever conceived. It starts with every cheesesteak on the menu housed in the amaroso bread fresh from Liscio’s Bakery.

6. Another restless night of sleep resulted in the ability to watch some of the Lakers-Mavs opener late last night/very early this morning. There’s a cure for insomnia. The end result isn’t all that stunning having watched an offensive display that at times — maybe I was seeing things — had Kobe Bryant bringing the ball up, and Steve Nash spotting up in the corner watching things not unfold. Mark Cuban is ready for an episode of “Shark Tank” when tries to sell him on the idea of making a trade to get him back in Dallas for his final few seasons.

7. Warning to Sixers’ fans: Andrew Bynum’s upside may not be used as a floatation device. His current backup: Kwame Brown. 

8. The Philadelphia Daily News has five writers making predictions on the NBA’s season. One category: ”Date of Kobe/Howard first bicker.” Earliest prediction: Dec. 21. Latest: “Nothing series” says John Smallwood, who also predicts Bynum will play in 72 games this season.

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