About an Olympics push, ‘March Madness,’ and other notions

We have a fistful of footnotes on the passing sporting parade to offer while wondering if ex-governor and designated special envoy Deval Patrick’s $7,500 a day Boston 2024 commission comes with an unlimited expense account.

After which would someone kindly explain what precisely does a “global ambassador” for a would-be Olympiad actually do?

Understand this much: It’s only just the beginning. It’s stuff like this that makes budgeting an Olympic campaign ludicrous folly and makes all the usual promises of restraint a massive deceit. For further documentation of the point you may consult the cities of Montreal, Atlanta, Sochi, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro, et al.

But for the real knee-slapper, wait until the International Olympic Committee weighs in with its demands for special favors  and perquisites, although that normally doesn’t happen until after the IOC makes its final choice, leaving the  designated sucker with no choice. Shakespeare said it best; “This way madness lies!”

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Speaking of which, the aptly named “March Madness” is again upon us, which means it’s time for my annual diatribe scorning this mindless nonsense. However tedious it may seem, one remains undeterred.

The grand marshall for this year’s edition has to be Jim Boeheim, whose long and czarist rule over Syracuse University’s basketball program is now revealed to have been abetted by a willful violation of every major ethical constraint in the collegiate handbook. Surprise.
According to the NCAA, hardly a paragon of judicial virtue in these matters, the eternally cranky Boeheim –among the winningest coaches in the entire soiled and sullied history of American college basketball – is guilty of dispensing “improper benefits,” waging “academic misconduct,” and permitting “drug policy failures.”

Publically and predictably Boeheim, no shrinking violet, has been contemptuous of the censure, seemingly regarding it as no more meaningful than a petty fine for an overdue library book while his many apologists vehemently argue that he’s being smeared for doing what all the other great coaches routinely do. Which, of course, is precisely our point.

Privately, he must be laughing his boots off. For punishment, the NCAA has benched Boeheim for the first nine games of next season when his team will be facing patsies as it warms up for yet another runaway season. He should have been benched immediately and indefinitely. That alone would convey the proper disgrace. How does he survive such scandal, you wonder? Because, the estimable Christine Brennan, columnist with USA Today, tartly observes, “Syracuse loves basketball more than life itself.” It’s all so infinitely dumb.

What the Boeheims of sport are doing is cheating. It’s that simple. What’s good for A-Rod ought to be good enough for them, although I would argue for more severe punishment, given that they are alleged to be educators and not just dumb baseball players who lead only themselves astray.

The NCAA is a joke as are all the Boeheims of college sport. “March Madness” remains a celebration of everything that’s dead wrong in college sport. In the usual cruel irony, this bloated tourney is destined to again be won by the school that has best mastered the cynical system of assembling for a year a team of high-priced mercenaries in return for their guaranteed passage to the NBA. Everyone involved in this corrupt process shares in the shame, and that includes the NBA.

But none of this will matter to the University of Kentucky, no stranger to these shenanigans, having made the requisite compromise about 70 years ago. Nor will it matter even as much to Kentucky’s ringmaster, John Calipari, the crown prince of the Court Jesters.  Amazingly, Calipari’s ex-employer, the University of Massachusetts, is about to honor him for having orchestrated its own bitter humiliation. Make of that what you will.

And when all is said and done, Calipari and his merry band  will all get invited to the White House and hobnob with the president, himself a great patron of the process, his Ivy League education notwithstanding.

What a great country!
•••
In his long run with the Red Sox Jim Rice has said little. But he has never made better sense than with his crisp denunciation of modern training techniques that many logically and reasonably conclude are mainly to blame for baseball’s spiraling injury problem annually, and lengthily, sidelining battalions of high-priced talent with muscle, tendon, and joint issues relatively rare in past generations when players had much lighter training regimens.

To the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, Rice noted: “I never knew what an oblique injury was.  I never lifted weights so I didn’t get tight [muscles]. I think we all had more flexibility back when I played. Some of the injuries you see now are just mind-boggling.”

As you well recall, Rice was a superbly conditioned player never a soupcon out of the best possible shape, thus well qualified to comment. He’s not the first old-timer to speak out on this issue, which is fast approaching crisis level. They’re onto something. They should be listened to, and carefully.

•••
On the other hand, one begs to differ with the learned observers who argue that Pablo Sandoval’s ridiculous waistline is a non-issue. No man worthy of being regarded an athlete, let alone one commanding compensation of roughly $100 million, ought to be dispensed from criticism when he reports for duty looking like a pig. The gentleman needs to grow up and would be well advised to do so promptly lest he be subjected to genuine scorn when he lapses into his first slump, with much of it coming from the same chaps who now maintain his weight problem doesn’t matter. This is Boston, after all.

How the late George Scott would have loved to have been accorded the willing suspension of disbelief that Sandoval now casually gets, at least from some. George was hounded relentlessly and in one memorable instance was outright persecuted for his excess poundage even though the eminently likeable Boomer was far more contrite than Brother Sandoval so far seems. It was, of course, a different era.

•••
Regarding the Bruins, are they playing rope-a-dope like the old Toronto Maple Leafs under Punch Imlach were once fond of doing? The cagey Imlach’s loaded Leafs often sputtered much of the regular season before soaring come March. They were gifted at “saving it for the prom,” by which modus operandi they won a mere four Cups in the ‘60’s.
 
A year ago, the Bruins were deeply stung when they played full steam all year in the manic pursuit of the relatively pointless President’s Cup only to come up thoroughly spent, out of gas, and soon eliminated in the post-season pursuit of the Stanley Cup. They’ll have no such excuse should something comparable happen this season.

Whether by accident or design, hook or crook, this season’s more “measured” (for the want of a better word) approach has been striking. The contrast between their strong surges (as of late) and weak tailspins (as in much of February and all of December) has been baffling. We get to see which Bruins team is the real Bruins team soon enough. Should be fascinating.

•••
According to their own tax statement recently released, the NCAA had revenue of nearly a billion dollars in fiscal 2014 with a surplus (i.e., profit) of more than $80 million. Seems odd that a purportedly non-profit regulatory agency existing only to help colleges and universities police their athletics should be piling up such numbers. But then the NCAA answers only unto itself.

•••
According to the Red Sox Media Guide, a presumably impeccable source, the Red Sox have 28 vice presidents.  One recalls fondly a time when Tom Yawkey promoted Dick O’Connell and Bill Crowley to vice presidencies, giving the team then a grand total of three.

A careful reading of the guide and a scanning of all 28 biographies indicates there is a vice president for every labor, exercise, function, diversion, and endeavor the ballclub might remotely engage in, although it is not clear which one of them is in charge of Pablo Sandoval’s diet.  
 
 
 
 
           

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