Stray thoughts, wise cracks, and otherwise amiable musings while striving to get through the transition from baseball to football by way of hockey with a passing nod at basketball, with all four clanging hammer and tong simultaneously, however briefly. The seasons clash, resoundingly:
While many find this anvil chorus of sports over-kill somehow pleasing, there are some remembering the way it used to be who find it increasingly unsettling. The seasons are just too dang long. Every bloody one of them! No way should baseball be played in November, even for a single day; nor football in February, even if just a week. Pass a Constitutional amendment if need be, but stop it!
How goofy has it gotten? Consider the Bruins schedule over the heart of this season, grinding through the depths of winter.
For a 19-day stretch in January, they play 11 games, 7 of them on the road. In February, from the 2d to the 28th, they have 14 games, 8 away in a 27-day run featuring jaunts to such merry dead-winter spas as Dallas, Minneapolis, and Winnipeg. Overall from 2 Feb to 9 April, when the regular season ends, they must play 33 games in 67 days.
Professional hockey is much too grueling to be played every other night with the familiar and necessary ferocity. When you factor the travel ordeal necessarily endured at the toughest time of the year to travel, the entire proposition borders on the mindless and cruel. No wonder teams crap out at the end, and/or get decimated by injuries. And then we glibly scorn them for running out of gas.
Of course it has everything to do with there being too many teams with profit-driven owners demanding even lengthier schedules to increase revenues to underwrite skyrocketing payrolls. With another round of expansion impending (possibly two more teams), the NHL is said to be considering a regular season schedule of up to 90 games.
Hey, the choice is simple. Either make the kids play even more games in fewer days, or extend the playoffs into July. No other way. So, you see, no end to the madness beckons.
As yet another glittering example of how things have changed in the wild world of sports, we have Tiger Woods’s ex-caddie denigrating his erstwhile meal ticket in one of those titillating tell-all books that are quite the rage. Used to be that the bond between caddie and pro golfer was sacred, with the bag-toter willing to go to the scaffold rather than reveal even what his man had for breakfast. As a reporter, you could cover this game for 100 years and never get anything more profound from a caddie than a shy smile, or cryptic frown. But nothing’s sacred anymore, especially in sports.
So we have Steve Williams authoring a “Tiger Dearest”
tell-all and contending en route that Woods treated him like “a slave.” The main reason Williams offers is that Tiger (he claims) had the bad habit (among many) of tossing his clubs at him (sometimes “flippantly”), making the task of having to pick them up and lug them about all the more difficult. According to pre-publication reports, that’s essentially his argument, however thin.
Tiger’s now-legendary bad manners on and off the golf course make him an easy guy to further humiliate. So Williams’s salty revelations will be devoured by many. It has been a long time since the once god-like golfer has covered himself with anything resembling glory. His wounds being mainly self-inflicted, he has no one to blame but himself. Still as cuts go, this may the unkindest.
Business Insider, a learned journal specializing in such questions, has been quick to do the math and estimates Williams’s earnings laboring for Woods totaled about $8.8 million. Others, claiming Woods tends to be generous, suggest Williams’s earnings may have been closer to $20 million. And, of course, all that goes with the pleasure of getting to see the world first-class, all expenses paid, while working not always a 40-hour week, only in fair weather, on glorious and endless patches of green. Nor are the clubs all that heavy for a sturdy lad in his prime.
Furthermore, Williams earned additional millions carrying bags for Greg Norman before he hooked-up with his alleged slavemaster and Adam Scott after the famed romance with Woods soured. Most would agree that nobody in the game need apologize to Steve, and that includes Tiger. Nor is the use in this discussion of the term “slave,” invoked ironically by a white man in the denouncing of a black man, remotely reasonable.
Some things are ridiculous and ought be decried as such. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Woods has been a cad. But what does that make his ex-caddie?
One has little use for the occasional surveys ranking the 25 or 50 or 100 best that ever did this, that, or anything. Such aimless enterprise is especially popular in sports where all conversation eventually devolves into avid debate on who’s best or worst or whatever. But it’s harmless, and sometimes fun.
The Globe has dipped into this business of late, purporting to rank in order the 50 greatest of the NBA’s all-time greats, the premise being that such ratings, last officially attempted by the league itself amidst controversy 20 years ago, oblige upgrading. It’s clear the Globies gave it much thought. But such endeavors beg to be quibbled about, so I will.
First and foremost, any basketball ranking that doesn’t place Bill Russell at the peak automatically disqualifies itself, one insists, and Michael Jordan me no Michael Jordans. Second, Bob Cousy should place higher than 21st, and not behind John Stockton although thankfully Cooz did finish a few notches ahead of Isiah Thomas. Third, if I were drafting a team I’d pluck Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, and John Havlicek, among others, ahead of modern hotshot and statistical monster Kobe Bryant, a player I suspect Red Auerbach would not have liked. Fourth, I’d take Tommy Heinsohn over Dennis Rodman for the same reason. Fifth, that his career was too short is no excuse for excluding Pistol Pete Maravich any more than any hockey ranking could justifiably exclude Bobby Orr, whose magnificent career ran the same length. Lastly, the Globe needs to be informed Paul Arizin, the old Warriors gunner, was a 6’4” forward, not a guard.
So much for this aimless, if amiable, nonsense.
Ever since the Duke of Wellington loftily proclaimed the Battle of Waterloo to have been won on the playing fields of Eton, academicians have cherished odd opportunities to connect big sport and the classroom, thereby giving the games we play academic relevance. And why not? Professors are fans, too.
With apologies to the Duke, it can become a weak pretense. At some of America’s favorite football factories, the study of sport can even become a major, which, of course, proves to be worthless once the football players who gleefully take it fail to survive in the NFL. Not sure Duke would approve of that.
The philosopher Jacques Barzun once notably declared, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” By this, he was not implying that you’re lost if you don’t grasp the mysteries of the infield-fly rule, rather he was merely affirming that as an element of the culture, sport has always had huge meaning, thus demanding serious scholarly scrutiny.
So it is that the University of New Hampshire is obliging this semester by offering a full-credit, degree-worthy class on “Deflategate,” that faintly absurd off-season melodrama starring your favorite football team that most of us would rather forget. It sounded at first a bit of a joke, unworthy of a distinguished school. But reportedly the course has merit, branching thankfully well beyond the trivialities of how much air someone leaked from a bloody football, with or without malice.
As stars of this study, those eminent football divines, brothers Brady and Belichick, will no doubt consider themselves worthy of their roles. One senses no limit to Mr. Brady’s aspirations. As for the Coach, methinks in his heart of hearts he can easily see himself as the gridiron equivalent of the Duke of Wellington.