Tuesday, September 01, 2015

If You Thought It Was About Hot Air Before...

Judge Richard Berman has promised that before the week is out, maybe even before the week is out, that he will issue his decision in the matter of Brady and NFLPA v. NFL, Deflategate to you and me.

I suppose that for most folks, like, say, Bill Belichick, waiting for Berman to rule will generate much suspenseful stress. Not me. I figure I'm ahead of the game whatever happens.

If Berman rules in favor of Brady and overturns the four game suspension Commissioner Roger Goodell gave the Pats' quarterback, I'll be satisfied and amused. Justice will have been done more or less. That's an absurd and cruel sentence for a "crime" worthy of perhaps a 15-yard penalty. The players' union will have been strengthened and the Rich Kids AC of 32 NFL owners will be discomfited and divided, which is also justice. Best of all, Goodell, as pompous as he is incompetent, will once more be a figure of the national ridicule he deserves. All that adds up to a big win for yours truly.

But if Berman rules against Brady, I'll just be amused. Very amused. The rending of garments and wails of anguish in these parts from fans and media member seeking their favor, who cannot believe that their hero would be part of something underhanded, and who have interpreted news indicating otherwise with deeper and loopier conspiracy theories will be hilarious. Just think of what Channel Four's broadcast of Thursday's exhibition game will be like if Berman has ruled Brady must sit. Key and Peele couldn't think of anything to match it.

When I was a sportswriter, fans would occasionally tell me that as a neutral not allowed to root for any particular team, I was missing much of the pleasure in sports. Most of the time, there was considerable truth in that observation.

Not always, though. Deflategate looks to finish just as it started. We neutrals will have all the fun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Judge Rules: I Should've Gone to Med School

In the 1980s TV show "L.A. Law," one of its protagonists, an attorney played by Susan Dey, has a hearing in front of a judge in which two well-to-do ranchers are arguing over possession of a large jar of bull semen. The testimony and questioning of witnesses is played absolutely straight for a lengthy scene until the judge stands up and says angrily, "Counsel, I want to see both of you in my chambers immediately!"

Cut to Dey, opposing counsel and the judge entering his office, where they all collapse in hysterical laughter.

I certainly hope US District Court Judge Richard Berman holds a similar conference during his Deflategate hearing today. It's what the case deserves.

A Note to Loyal Readers, Particularly Cape Cod Scott

Dear Folks: Nothing bad has happened to me. I have not been blogging as regularly (ha!) for the last few months because I have been writing pieces for the Website Boston.com for which I receive modest but suitable compensation. So those pieces have been the focus of my attention, and I've let the blog slide. I shouldn't have, and will try to return to more active posting.

But it's summer and I am one of life's grasshoppers, not its ants, so more active will probably be a relative term as well.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Lafayette, Where's Mine?

Former international soccer official Chuck Blazer is the stool pigeon-in-chief of the highly entertaining, sorry, I meant disgraceful, FIFA scandal. Among Blazer's confessions is that he (and presumably other FIFA bigwigs, accepted bribes in connection with the selection of host countries for the 2010 and 1998 World Cup tournaments.

The 2010 Cup was held in South Africa, the first one ever held in Africa, so the bribes make some sense. But 1998? The host country that year was France.

FIFA's top brass attend the World Cup, any Cup, en masse, staying in five-star hotels, eating in the finest restaurants, and never using their wallets. They are comped for every luxury their minds can imagine, and when it comes to grift, they're an imaginative bunch.

So these guys had to be bribed to spend a month on the arm in France, a country which has catered to the champagne wishes and caviar dreams of the international wealthy since the Renaissance. That's corruption on the grand scale. That's a reminder to us all. Never steal small.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hub Man Dead in New York Nuclear Holocaust, or Why Boston Will Never Get an Olympic Games

The arrests and indictments yesterday of senior officials of FIFA, the governing body of soccer, was the biggest news story in the world, even in the United States. Well, OK, in most of the United States. Just not here.

The FIFA bust was the lead front page story in today's New York Times. It was the same in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. By contrast, the arrests of leaders of the planet's most popular sport was 1. the lowest below the fold story in the Globe sports section and 2. Buried in the back pages of the Herald sports section. In our fair city, the biggest news of the day was either a dispute among lobstermen in the Bay of Fundy (Globe) or Boston Public Library misplacing book (Herald). The biggest sports story was of course a stone mediocre Red Sox team losing a game in May.

Boston is a much more cosmopolitan place than it was when I moved here in 1974. But the worldliness is just a veneer over centuries of perversely proud provincialism. If it happens west of Route 495 or east of the Harbor, we don't care about it, or at least our media don't. The working assumption of the Globe and Herald was that deep down Boston doesn't WANT to be a world-class city, because that would force us to interact with the world.

Wake us up when the FBI perp walks Roger Goodell. I admit that'd be good news, not just for Boston, but for all America.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Frank Olivo 1949-2015

Rocky isn't the real symbol of Philadelphia sports. Frank Olivo was and always will be.

Olivo was an otherwise typical teenaged fan who was cajoled out of the Franklin Field stands and into serving as Santa Claus in the halftime show of the Eagles last home game of the 1968 season. The regular Santa, no fool he, had failed to show up.

Among the dozens of truly lousy Eagles seasons in the franchise's history, 1968 stands out. The team lost its first 10 games, then won two, managing to blow their chance to get the first pick in the 1969 draft, their chance to get O.J. Simpson. The crowd for a meaningless loss to the Vikings was well beyond sullen into mutinous.

And so Santa Olivo got booed when he appeared on the field. Booed loud and long. The booing then escalated into the throwing of snowballs. And a national sports legend was born, a legend in which Olivo's home town has always taken perverse and ferocious pride. Who could host a tougher sports crowd? We booed Santa! We threw things at St. Nick!!!!

As an Eagles fan himself, Olivo understood. "They weren't booing me," he said at the time and thereafter, "they were booing everything." He embraced his iconic status as a scapegoat. "I've had my 15 minutes of fame for 40 years," he told an ESPN film crew.

Those 15 minutes should go on as long as they play ball of any sort in the City of Brotherly Love. Every time Ryan Howard strikes out on a breaking ball four feet outside the zone, the first time Sam Bradford leaves the field with an injury and when DeMarco Murray fumbles at the goal line, there will be the noise that is the music of Philadelphia sports, the noise that greeted Frank Olivo that long past December day. He will remain the symbol of the boo as delivered by its undeniable world champions.

Farewell Frank. May there be no boos where you are today. Unless of course, Philly was always your idea of heaven.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Price Nostalgia? Comcast Corp. Will Soon Know

This coming Saturday will be the ultimate throwback promotion in sports. The biggest events on the calendar will be a horse race and a prizefight, meaning that a fan can experience a whole day in which he or she is living in 1935.
 
First up, the Kentucky Derby, the only horse race in America that still attracts non-racing fans in large numbers both in person and on TV. This is partially because the Derby is a truly thrilling event, and mostly because it takes on the first Saturday in May, From the swells in the clubhouse to the spring break extension for Midwest colleges in the infield to the folks at home making their own mint juleps and running betting pools, it's an excuse to have the first good outdoor party of the year, the same way the Super Bowl serves as a party to forget February has just started.

For TV viewers who don't bet, the Derby is free. Watching a horse race on which one has not bet, however, is kind of missing the point. It's like watching the movie on an airplane flight but not paying for the headphones.

For the nightcap, I term I use in all its senses, there's the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight scheduled for 11 p.m. Eastern, meaning probably 11:45 Eastern. This encounter deserves the title Fight of the Century, if only because it's taken most of the 21st century to get these two into the same ring. It has been relentlessly promoted by corporate entities ranging from ESPN (understandable) to Air Asia (huh?). These two boxers are also about the only ones sports fans who aren't fight fans (those under 85) have ever heard of.

The fight is expected to gross as much as $250 million. It damn well ought to, seeing as high-definition pay per view will be $99.55, thank you very much. This means the alliance of HBO and Showtime producing the program can hit that number with an audience about the same size as that of "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS.

In keeping with the day's nostalgia theme, Pacquiao-Mayweather will honor one of boxing's oldest traditions -- it's a ripoff. In 2009, it might've been a great fight worth your $100, the classic matchup of Pacquiao the aggressive slugger and Mayweather the gifted boxer. Alas, Manny hit the far side of the hill about the same time Mitt Romney's campaign began to get going. Mayweather can still duck punches, and Pacquiao can't throw them as well. Since the prime attraction of the bout is the desire of normal folks to see horrible person Mayweather get his block knocked off  (a desire Mayweather exploits with great skill), there are going to be a lot of disappointed and poorer fans at the fight's end.

Gosh, that sounds familiar. In 1935, it happened every Saturday night in every American town big enough to have an auditorium. We've come a long way since then. Progress means that the athletes in our most popular sport wear helmets, so we can pretend their brains aren't getting scrambled.

We have not made so much progress that Floyd Mayweather isn't a very, very rich man. Throwback Night promotions always sell.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Political Show Business Trial

The White House Correspondents' Dinner was last Saturday night. As is the quaint/dismal custom, Barack Obama fulfilled one of the duties of the office of President not thought of by James Madison and performed a comedy monologue. By most nonpartisan accounts it was a reasonably good effort for an amateur.

Comedy is hard. Some Presidents are going to be better at it than others. I don't think it's fair the Leader of the Free World is expected to entertain a group he or she would rather see placed under mass arrest in a popular art form for which they are ill-suited. It ought to be their choice.

If the President is a really good dancer, he could do "Once in Love With Amy" a la Ray Bolger. If she was an amateur magician as a kid, it could be card tricks. An opera excerpt? Ventriloquism? Sure, why not? I personally would like to see the Chief of State try a little improv, just to hear the audience suggestions.

An informed public being the bedrock of democracy, I demand that the interlocutors of the upcoming 12,671,136 presidential debates ask each and every candidate just how they plan to entertain the tuxedoed masses at the 2017 WHCD. We're bound to learn more about them than from boilerplate blah on trade policy.

I make it even money as to whether Rand Paul or Ted Cruz is the first to promise lion taming.