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Diamond echoes fade, and the sporting beat rolls on

There is sporting life after Baseball, although the annual re-affirmation of that essential truth generally obliges acute withdrawal pangs. Less so this year after a hardball season that can vaguely be characterized as “flat,” no matter how much Bud Selig would have us believe we are floating through some sort of Golden Age. Anyway, here are some bases to be rounded upon one’s re-entry:

If boxing isn’t dead, it ought to be.
Even the occasional great fight serves only to verify that sad conclusion, a case in point being Manny Pacquiao’s horrific Super Welterweight Championship brawl with Antonio Margarito.
Understand that Pacquiao, the avenging angel of the Philippines who has held eight titles, is a truly great fighter and a superb champ and no doubt the equal of the fabled likes of Robinson, Ketchel, Leonard, and Greb and there are no better pugilists than the middle-division guys. While hardly in Manny’s class, Margarito is a gallant pug with a lion’s heart. Or at least, he “was,” because their vicious, almost ghastly, match probably finished Margarito as a fighter, such was the awful beating he was obliged to take.

When it was over, Pacquaio and his first-class trainer, Dedham’s Freddie Roach, expressed anger that the ridiculously one-sided whipping was allowed to go the distance. Margarito was badly beaten by the eighth round only to have the referee decline to end it, leading to five more grisly rounds of needless cruelty. To his credit, Pacquaio actually eased up, clearly attempting to avoid delivering his opponent’s utter destruction. But that’s not easily done. With his legendary guts, the gritty Mexican stood and took it, which is what worthy pugs are all about, alas.

In the end, the damage the loser absorbed was horrifying. He looked like he’d been crucified. Among his assorted wounds was a smashed orbital bone. In effect, he suffered a fractured face. And the ref just let it happen. As tough a dude as walks the earth, Margarito remains hospitalized. To his credit, Pacquaio, though the victor, was disgusted, as was Roach. How often do you see that? The thing about this brutal game is its people. They are great. They always have been. It’s the business itself that stinks. Always has.

It was the fight of the year. But the loser, once again, is Boxing. It’s time for those of us who once loved this madness to admit that the party is over!

The college football mess ongoing.
It’s also been a brutal year for the alleged football amateurs with their duplicities and hypocrisies being unveiled in a ceaseless drumbeat. Having one of your flagship franchises brought to its knees by scandal while the recipient of your loftiest laurel is being exposed as a common cheat ought to be enough embarrassment for one season. But the big-time college football of the BCS Boys knows no shame. And they call this – with a straight face – “education.”

Still, even by their historically shallow standards the developing scenario centering on Cam Newton of august Auburn University is notably painful. Newton, easily this season’s most talented collegiate mercenary, is a lock for the Heisman. And Auburn University, Newton’s lusting enabler frothing in the expectation of gridiron eminence, is the heavy favorite to go all the way and win the national championship. Whereupon both are certain to be stripped of their honors soon after they are achieved.

Because even the NCAA in all of its absurdity will not be able to ignore the gathering evidence that the recruiting violations linked with Newton make the fallen Reggie Bush look like an Eagle scout whereas in the end, Auburn, like USC, will be forced to forfeit whatever it wins. The situation has become ludicrous.
In a study of the governing issue, which is naturally all about the money, the New York Times concluded that in the end it’s still worth it to Auburn even if the current mess results in the total fiasco itemized above. Tracing all the financial streams, the Times reasons that with the profits Auburn is realizing with increased revenues derived from everything from television fees to souvenirs they can lightly dismiss any hits they may take from being censured, should it come to that, and more than willing to do so. For places like Auburn, amateur football is big business, and when all is said and done, they never lose.

The Heisman electorate could save the day by spurning Newton. But it’s a disparate, uncontrollable mob composed mainly of second-rate sportswriters, glorified cheerleaders, and other such yahoos. They care nothing for ethics, do not make careful distinctions, and always vote for Mr. Touchdown. It’s a mess.

Three cheers for Williams.
You want college football at its best the way it was originally intended? Take a hike to the Berkshires some year and catch Williams College. They’ve lately again finished unbeaten, stomping on their soul-mates from Amherst in the grand finale. You could argue that Williams has the finest collegiate athletic program in the nation. That is if you wish to be rational about it.

The Patriots – enigmaticand (maybe) anointed.
After the Browns game you might have bet the ranch that the Patriots would be toast in Pittsburgh with its mythical supremacy when cavorting on the banks of the Ohio. After all, had it not been for a late siege of cockiness on the part of the Ravens and a near-mindless display of fundamental follies by the Chargers, the Patriots would be just another .500, middle-of-the-pack, eminently average team veering into the second half of the season with a patched-up offense and an untested defense and much to worry about.

But they aren’t. Rather, they churn into the stretch tied for the best record in all of the kingdom of the NFL with the Falcons and the Jets, neither of whom exactly have history on their side, let alone the ability to inspire fear in the little prince of the sidelines, Boss Belichick.
Is it over? Not quite. But you sense the Boss is in one of his patented grooves. Calls are going his way. Kids you never heard of, some scraped off the waiver wire, excel. Teams he plays tend to beat themselves. It’s so much easier that way.

The key play in the Steelers game – probably the most important of the year for the Boss – was the seemingly innocuous first-period hit that kayoed Pittsburgh’s key man, the receiver Hines Ward. It was a helmet-to- helmet job and as you know the NFL gendarmes are down on that stuff. But while sly it wasn’t vicious. All that mattered to the sons of the Boss was that Ward, one of the best, was gone for the evening. On their next two trips to the red zone the Steelers came away with three points. With Ward in the lineup they surely get 14. In the age of parity the margin of difference is infinitesimal.

Quo Vadis, Bruins?
Here we go again! For sure, the early signs were good. But as Thanksgiving beckons one begins sensing what Yogi used to call déjà vu all over again.

You want to believe in this year’s Bruins’ edition. But realism intrudes. Their kids – Sequin, Caron, Marchand, Boychuck & Company – are likeable, although quite young. The vets – like Chara, Bergeron, Recchi, and Sean ‘the Quiet Man’ Thornton – are worthy, if thin in the ranks. You wish to subscribe to humble Claude Julien, the coach, although you well know he pounded the bush leagues most all his professional life for a reason. The still relatively new front-office remains unproven.

In the end, it’s mainly about luck and injuries and where all of that is concerned the Bruins remain hockey’s unluckiest team, a distinction they’ve held the last two generations. Welcome to the fraternity of the concussed, David Krejci. Hopefully you won’t be wandering about in a fog with Marc Savard much longer. Or require two years to rebound as did Patrice Bergeron. Or never be quite the same again like Andrew Alberts.

Are the Bruins the only team to have this problem? In our victim’s state of mind where the favorite local hockey team is concerned, it sometimes seems so.

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