Here’s a short list of points clearing the decks of what remains of 2016. Parting with this year won’t quite be sweet sorrow. There have been better ones:
• If 2017 is to be a significant upgrade, it will necessarily begin with the Patriots, odds-on favorites to run the playoff table, according to the pigskin cognoscenti. But when all the experts agree, one begins to wonder. The point being I don’t think they’re as good as everyone seems to think and strongly sense Bill Belichick well knows it. Yes, they prevailed in treacherous Denver, although the Broncos more precisely beat themselves. Sure they’re 12-2, wicked difficult in this brutal business. Yet somehow they’re uninspiring. Why is that?
Might it be a lingering doubt from having been life or death against the abominable Jets? Even their cheerleaders, abounding in the local media, might admit their schedule has been soft and they’ve oft been lucky. Like in the opener against over-rated Arizona, or that near disaster against the Dolphins, or that limp business politely allowing the Steelers to beat themselves. That happens often, the “Hoody Effect,” no doubt. But not in the playoffs.
Is this nit-picking? Probably! Soon enough, the real season arrives, meaning that all of what’s so far happened is mere Happy Hour. And then we will know.
• It was lightly noted, too lightly in my view, but the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the $1 billion settlement for compensating players adjudged to have sustained degrees of degenerative brain disease from their NFL combat is avowedly historic. Here we have the alleged national game admitting that playing it can destroy a man and the nation’s highest court ruling that that amazing premise is indisputable. Wow!
Actually, what SCOTUS did was approve the settlement worked out by NFL players and owners at a lower court level years ago that had been stalled by complaints that the sum is woefully inadequate. And if you do the math, those who so protest have a huge case. It’s estimated some 6,000 players will prove eligible for rewards, plus there will be heavy numbers filing in years ahead, plus awards in the millions to the most grievously injured. Clearly, it won’t take long to devour that billion bucks. Then what?
Still, the precedent is stunning, with its impact on football, indeed all of sport, just beginning to evolve. Most importantly, after years of suffering compounded by frustrating deceits and delays, some compensation, however meager in the end, at last comes to those who paid so grave a price to play a bloody game.
• Even by the pathetic standards of high-level college sport, such abuses as Baylor University’s mighty women’s basketball team smearing tiny Winthrop College, 142-32, is beyond the merely outrageous. Piling on over-matched foes is the dirtiest trick of the most power-mad college coaches.
Kim Mulkey, skipper of the highly rated Lady Bears, insists she was exercising “restraint,” blissfully ignoring the irrefutable fact that her team was exerting a full-court press and firing three-pointers while striving to “protect” a 100 point-lead in the final period. Nuts like Mulkey simply don’t know the difference. But she’s got plenty of company.
Then there are those college folks so desperate for gridiron glory they’ll humiliate themselves for a mere whiff. Case in point: Boston College, now making itself the object of ridicule by accepting a Bowl game after a lousy 6-6 season in which they lost their four most important games by a combined score of 202-24.
A distinguished college like BC should think twice before sending its student athletes to Detroit for a pointless exhibition nobody will watch the day after Christmas. Desperate to save his job, the Coach, not surprisingly, declares the alleged honor “a great accomplishment,” proving only that while he works for a Jesuit school he lacks a Jesuit education.
• If you were paying attention to the NHL’s pre-season World Cup Tourney (few were), you know Patrice Bergeron was the winning Canadian team’s finest, most consistent player. But in the regular season for the Bruins he’s been ordinary, merely average, with his offensive game essentially non-existent. Sidelined twice by nagging injury, there’s the fear he could be under-par all season.
Bear in mind, the World Cup was an exhibition aimed at promoting Gary Bettman’s international ambitions. The blemishing of a fine player’s season is an outrageous price for a team to have to pay for the commissioner’s bragging rights.
• Maybe he’ll be heroic in 2017, but Pablo Sandoval’s efforts for the Red Sox thus far have been bush league, bordering on disgraceful. Manager Farrell and GM Dombrowski insult the team’s followers’ intelligence when they praise Sandoval lavishly for purportedly working himself back into shape. As if that weren’t his obligation in return for the $42 million he has already collected here for contributing next to nothing. We weren’t born yesterday, gentlemen.
• Have you too wondered why the Red Sox need 43 vice presidents? Stand by! With off-season promotions, those ranks may have grown. Somewhere Dick O’Connell is having a helluva laugh for himself.
Farewell 2016! It’s been only okay to know ya.