Sunday, April 29, 2007

There's No Such Thing as a Bad Kid, Only Bad Football Players

Talk about situational ethics. One lousy little blown lead in an AFC Championship Game, and all of a sudden the Patriots have gone from the pro football frat house for "character guys" to the Boy's Town of Norfolk county.

Just kiddin', Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. There's nothing to disapprove when a team acquires a Pro Bowl caliber talent for a fourth round draft choice, which is what the Pats did when they got Randy Moss from the Raiders. If Moss screws up, he can be disposed of without leaving a ripple on the still waters Belichick likes to see in his locker room. If he doesn't, Moss will thrive, and so will the Pats' offense.

All egomaniacal problem child wide receivers are not created equal. Moss isn't Terrell Owens. He's not as good as Owens, but at the same time, his baggage isn't as dangerous as the high explosives Owens carries from franchise to franchise.

Owens can't get along with quarterbacks-even if they're really good ones. That's Code Blue for any team. Moss' biggest professional sin, admittedly a big one, is a short attention span. He tends to lose interest in his work if he's not getting the ball, or if his team is losing, or if he's supposed to block.

That's bad. But it's all on Moss. It isn't a debatable issue as were Owens' contentions that Jeff Garcia or Donovan McNabb weren't good enough to the QBs for the 49ers and Eagles. Moss isn't a cancer on a team. At worst, he becomes a high-priced irrelevance, a team's appendix.

As a Patriot, Moss won't lose much whether he plays or not. No wideout has grounds for bitching Tom Brady doesn't throw him the ball-sooner or later Brady throws it everyone on his team. And I'd be very surprised if the Patriot playbook for 2007 will call for Moss crackbacks as an integral part of its running game. Belichick knows what he's getting here.

More importantly, Belichick knows how much he's paying for Moss. It's inconceivable the Pats made this deal without having at least a ballpark figure agreement on renegotiating Moss' current top-of-the-w0rld-Ma contract. Just a hunch, but I'd bet any new deal will be heavily incentive laden for average yards per catch and touchdowns scored, that is, on the things Moss does very well when he plays hard.

Like every wide receiver except Marvin Harrison, Moss dotes on attention. He'll get it now. Adalius Thomas is a far more valuable player, but Moss will be the biggest NFl training camp story this summer-assuming Belichick doesn't strangle him in mini-camp.

As for the Pats' coach, we can only admire his daring. Way to bet the farm, Bill! As of this trade, the ground rules for New England's 2007 season are set in stone. Either the Pats end up as Super Bowl champions, or they become the most ignominious failures in the NFL.

Greetings! Now Report to Ft. Goodell

One thing about the NFL draft. It can be viewed during commercials breaks of other sports events without missing a thing.

For example, the tragic fate of Brady Quinn was emphasized so often for so long by the crack (ed) ESPN crew escape was impossible. You'd have thought the Notre Dame quarterback was Susan Lucci at the Daytime Emmys. Quinn suffered through the indignity of being selected 22nd in the draft instead of third, by the very same team that was SUPPOSED to have taken him third.

This cost Quinn some money. If one is not either a Quinn family or his agent Tom Condon, there is no earthly reason to care. For fans and the media, there's no earthly reason to care WHERE any player in the draft is picked. The only relevant issue is which teams pick which players.

It's not like Quinn won't have the opportunity to make the money back and then some. Let's an NFL quarterback who we'll call Tom Brady. As a sixth round draft choice, Brady signed for approximately 4 percent of what Quinn will get from Cleveland. If six years from now Quinn is making more than half of what Brady makes today, the Quinn family, Condon, and everyone in Cleveland is going to be very happy.

One more thing about the absurdity of who gets picked where in the first round. Yesterday I watched draft-oriented commercials featuring Reggie Bush and Vince Young, basically offering a "take that, you doubters!" speech for some purpose I forgot. Bush was the second pick in the 2006 draft and Young was the third. Nobody disrespected them but the Houston Texans. Gimme a break, fellas. You got yours. Why didn't the commercials use Brady or Marques Colston? That might have a lick of sense.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why They Call it Dope

Kirk Radomski, former clubhouse go-fer for the New York Mets, has pled guilty to supplying major league players with steroids, human growth hormone, and amphetimines. It's a big scandal, I suppose, but it's not the most amazing fact of the day about drug use in baseball.

For that, you have to read deeper into newspaper accounts of Radomski's fall. That's where one gets to the fact that many of his big league clients paid for their supplies by writing PERSONAL checks. You know, the kind with one's signature on them.

That's going to make subsequent claims said players thought they were taking a legal diet supplement very difficult to maintain, even for lawyers used to defending Bush administration clients.

Fellas, I know you're in the big leagues, and therefore superior beings to your fellow humans, but take this small piece of advice from a veteran of the 1960s. Illegal drugs are many things, but most of all, they're a cash-only business.

Ye Olden Days of American Sports-NFL Edition

Not so very long ago, up until the late 1980s, in fact, the first day of the NFL draft was the most loathed and feared entry on the calendar for American newspaper sports section editors working at the office, or anybody at the office in other departments for that matter. The phones melted with the frantic calls wondering who the Patriots (or Eagles, Bears, etc.) had chosen with their first pick. The calls naturally began hours before the draft started, and continued well past when Pete Rozelle had gone to bed.

Progress. You can't fight it. First came ESPN, and they begat Mel Kiper, and he begat the Internet, and it begat many sites covering the draft, and they begat the little crawls that'll run under every TV broadcast of an actual sports event today which'll spread the news of how the Redskins screwed up this time to all the world. Wherever Osama bid Laden is, he'll learn who the Titans picked in real time.

I haven't been in a newspaper sports department for a few years, but I wouldn't be surprised if the calls they get today are from people wanting to know how to get away from it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blood Tells, Paint Doesn't

Like any good urban legend, the idea Curt Schilling put fake blood on his sock during Game Six of the 2004 ALCS was the product of spontaneous generation in dozens of places. I ought to know, I was in one of them. And it happened while the game was in progress.

A group of baseball writers covering the NLCS were having dinner and watching the game in a St. Louis bar and grill. Not two minutes after Fox showed the close up of Schilling's sock, someone, not me, I just don't recall who, joked Curt had painted on the blood himself. Please note the verb in the last sentence.

Everyone at the table laughed. The remark was pure traditional baseball humor, designed to express both admiration for Schilling's performance and the mix of amusement, bemusement, and exasperation most folks around baseball get from exposure to Schilling's melodramatic personality. It was a true sharing of the game's cultural ethos.

Ballplayers have been busting on each other in exactly that fashion for well over a century, or maybe you didn't read "Alibi Ike" by Ring Lardner. The writer Roy Blount reviewed the movie "Bang the Drum Slowly" by noting that in a real baseball clubhouse, teammates would come up to the dying Robert De Niro character and ask if they could have his shoes when he croaked.

Baseball humor is cruel, deadpan, and designed to hide any expression of human concern, let alone affection, for its target. But they ARE an expression of affection. Only players who're liked are humor targets. Nobody jokes about Barry Bonds. It's the saddest thing about the guy.

It's astounding that a veteran announcer like Gary Thorne didn't recognize a baseball joke when Doug Mirabelli laid it on him. It's depressing but unsurprising that the omnivorous 24/7 world of Red Sox coverage turned Thorne's goof into an alleged news story. There are times when it seems like the purpose of everyone in baseball, from Bud Selig to the media to the clubhouse boys, is to squeeze every last bit of goofy fun out of the game and replace it with another drop-in commercial.

Jokes about Schilling's sock are in the same vein as the reaction of his Arizona Diamondback teammates after Schilling wrote a patriotic essay for Sports Illustrated after 9/11. Curt got on the team bus and they serenaded him with "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy." No offense was intended to anyone. It was just a friendly reminder that taking oneself seriously (Schilling takes EVERYTHING seriously) is a horsehide sin.

Schilling can be way over the top sometimes. But he's not far gone enough to fake bleeding to milk more adulation out of the finest moment of his career. And even if he was, Curt would do it right. If he'd faked bleeding on the mound that night, the paint would have gushed out of his ankle all the way to box seats, splattering Billy Crystal.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Tell Your Statistics to Shut Up, Bronx Edition.

The New York Yankees scored 17 runs in their three game series with the Red Sox last weekend and lost all three games. That's tough to do.

The Yankees had five separate leads in those three games and blew each and every one of 'em. That's impossible to do, or was previously thought so anyhow.

If Jim Bouton wants to return to baseball at age 68, he should Brian Cashman at the Stadium. I have a hunch all is forgiven for "Ball Four."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

You Know a Hitter's Hot When....

He goes 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, and the good old Fox baseball studio talks about how the other side's pitcher did a fine job holding you in check.

That's exactly what happened to Alex Rodriguez yesterday. Josh Beckett kept A-Rod in the ballpark, ergo, Beckett won their individual duel. The hell of it is, I'm not sure if I don't agree.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Philadelphia Phillies 2007 Season: A Retrospective

Baseball is an unfair game in many ways. One of its cruelest injustices is the following paradox.

A fast start in April is no guarantee of eventual success. A BAD start in April, however, is invariably fatal.

George Webster 1945-2007

Either George Webster or Lawrence Taylor was the best defensive college football player I ever saw. I go back and forth on the issue. Webster, not Bubba Smith, was the MVP of the Michigan State defense on the 1965-1966 Spartans that went 19-1-1 and made Notre Dame play for a tie.

Webster was a first round pick in the combined AFL-NFL draft of 1967, selected by the Houston Oilers. When the league merged with the NFL for keeps in 1969, Webster was named to the All-time AFL team after three seasons of play.

Then the injuries began. Webster played six more effective but hardly earth-shattering seasons, and retired. Then the complications from the injuries began. Webster's last brush with fame came when he pursued a disability claim against the NFL to the Supreme Court in 1989. In keeping with its mission to keep America safe for white men with money, the Court ruled for the league.

Webster died yesterday. Both his legs had already been amputated. He had minimal use of and feeling in his hands. He'd been pretty much crippled the last 25 years of his life, which ended well before his time.

Few things sports fans or commentators say or write anger me, because the statements are made in the grip of deep emotion. They're not supposed to be rational.

They shouldn't be cruel, either. When fans or media heap scorn on football players who hold out, demand trades, or try to manipulate the draft to their own advantage, I do get angry. That
s llke those talk show war cheerleaders who wouldn't dream of enlisting. For players, pro ball is three-card monte. The trick is walking away while the con artist is still letting you win. Anything players do to further their interests is morally justified by the risks they run. No exceptions.

The 2007 draft is next weekend. The laws of probability state one of the first round picks will take up George Webster's slot in a 2047 obituary section.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Observation on Cable News

Paula Zahn of CNN is a oomplete bleeping idiot. Really. She makes her colleague and partner in dumb Wolf Blitzer seem like Edward R. Murrow.

Too Much Information for Arkansas Football Fans

University of Arkansas head football coach Houston Nutt today published an open letter to his school's fans in which he denied having an affair with a local television news anchor.

Whoa, big fella! Don't tell me girls sap your recruiting class, too!

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

If a citizen of the United States can't see very well, or can't read traffic signs, or has a bad habit of driving while intoxicated, our society makes his or her driving an automobile a criminal offense.

As we've learned for the bajillionth time in the horror of the Virginia Tech mass murder, if a person, not even a citizen, in the United States displays every freakin' indicator of being a potential murderer known to psychology, he or she is free to purchase all the firearms their twisted heart desires.

Then we wonder why mass murder happens in America.

The Wisdom of Stern.

NBA referee Joey Crawford was suspended indefinitely by the league for his conduct after assessing a totally bous technical foul and ejecting Tim Duncan of the Spurs from a game. Crawford is reported to have challenged Duncan to a fight, which certainly calls his judgment into question.

So far, so good. Officials need to be accountable just like every one else in sports. They're athletes, too-good ones. Now comes the part of Commissioner David Stern's law and order policies I don't get.

Duncan was fined $25.000 for the ejection which Crawford's suspension makes clear was an injustice. My refs. May they be always in right. But right or wrong, my refs.

Way to split that baby, I mean, basketball in half, Mr. Commissioner.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Drew Bledsoe and History

Let's dispose of the easiest analogy first. Drew Bledsoe was Wally Pipp. He was a perfectly capable player who through no fault of his own was replaced by someone who turned out to be an historic great. Remember this, gang: If Brady had been better than Drew BEFORE the Jets' game, Belichick would've had no hesitation about replacing him.

If, however, we are searching for an historical equivalent to Bledsoe smong NFL quarterbacks, then the best comparision is Roman Gabriel. First pick of a draft, could throw a ball through Mt. Rushmore and was almost as fast as the monument, solid career but couldn't quite win the big one, and shockingly fast back nine of said career. (Yeah, I know that's a sentence fragment. I'm the editor here).

One more thing about Drew: He was totally not lucky. Imagine being the quarterback of a team in the Super Bowl whose brilliant coach is so stubborn the game plan is built around kicking to Desmond Howard-hottest return man in NFl history. Imagine being the starting QB for a coach who had the intellectual courage to first give you a megacontract, then bench you for someone who he thought was better. Believe me, that last sentence is the real longshot misfortune of Bledsoe's career.

Bledsoe was and is a good guy. But he was unlucky. The memorable day in November 2001 when Belichick announced Brady would be his QB although Drew was healthy, the coach could've saved a lot of time and trouble had he quoted Napoleon.

Asked how he picked HIS field generals, the emperor of France said, "I choose the lucky ones."

Where Everybody Knows Your Game

It's impossible for yours truly, and I suspect many other folks, to witness another Boston Marathon without recalling the late, lamented Eliot Lounge, one of the truly great sports saloons of history. Many of the most celebrated road racers of the 20th century did things there they'd pay a lot of money to have forgotten.

The Eliot was a real sports bar. That term has been criminally misappropriated by hustlers who've made it a synonym for "bar with many television sets." It's true meaning isn't "bar for people who watch sports." It's "bar for people IN sports."

Example: Mary Ann's in Cleveland Circle is a sports bar. It's where generations of Boston College jocks have gone to pound a few and reflect on the vagaries of college athletics. Same goes for the Dugout on Comm. Ave. It's where BU hockey players drink. Daisy Buchanan's on Newbury St. is where visiting major league ballplayers go to see if they can get laid of an evening. And so on.

The most specialized sports bar I ever encountered is also sadly defunct. The original Runyon's in Manhattan of 50th St. just to the east of 2nd. Ave. It was a sportswriters' bar. Not only that, it was a baseball writer's bar. Taking the subset further, Runyon's was a bar for baseball writers who covered the American League. During the 1986 World Series, when as you as you might expect most New York gin mills were very crowded, no one ever saw a reporter from Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, or other National League ports of call inside the place.

Strike that. The MOST specialized sports bar I ever knew had a clientele of one. The bar at the old Newbury Steak House on Mass. Ave. is where Billy Martin drank after a ballgame. Since the bar was directly under the offices of the Phoenix, we graced its premises from time to time-mainly when we owed the Eliot money.

Know how in Western movies the saloon goes dead when the bad guy walks in? Same deal. There could be people lined up three deep around the Newbury. Within seconds of Billy's arrival, it'd be deserted. Nobody wanted to be the next marshmallow salesman.

True sports bars are part of the joy of sports. Whoever wins the Boston Marathon today, they're missing part of its real reward-the ovation they'd receive inside the Eliot.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Little Red Book: Chairman Mao Meets Harvey Penick

This week's event on the European golf tour is the China Open in Shanghai. Oh, to be magically transported to the event's merchandise tent. A cap or shirt with the host club's logo in Mandarin would be the talk of the driving range this summer.

The Golf Channel announcers broadcasting the tourney took pains to say it was held on a very tough course. This I believe. China, like the USA, does not enter new fields of endeavor without a psychotic need to be number one.

What I can't help wondering is what happens to the course when the tourney's over. Who plays? How do they get tee times? Judging from the sparse galleries, golf is still more novelty act than sport in China. Still, in a nation of over a billion people, it wouldn't take a large percentage of folks taking up the game to fill all the courses in our country, let alone theirs.

So, tough course plus lots of foursomes where the average player took up the game 90 minutes ago equals two-day rounds, twelve hours for the front nine, twelve hours for the back. That is, of course, if any citizens of the People's Republic are allowed on it at all.

My first thought was that China's premier course, like most American ones, is reserved for the nation's elite. But I've come to believe that anyone wandering into the Shanghai CC grounds next week might encounter something very different, hundreds and hundreds of Chinese elementary schoolchildren, diligently practicing their new game/contribution to the people from dawn to darkness.

By the 2019 Masters, we'll see if I'm right.

Is He On a Strict Thought Count?

Read Curt Schilling's blog for the first time last night. Like just about everything else Schilling does, it was entertaining, highly interesting, and shaded with a pleasant touch of absurdity.

Schilling's entrance into cyberspace has drawn some ridicule from paid journalists. This is unwise. If the Red Sox pitcher answered no questions and kept all his thoughts for his own work, as Albert Belle used to do, he'd deserve a ripping. That is, of course, hardly the case. Perhaps I'm a little old school for my former trade, but I was taught that the more information made available to the general public, the better off we all were.

Naturally, Schilling's audience is curious if he'll ever go whole hog and post in between innings of a start. Probably not, if only because his teammates would be fighting for position to peer at his laptop over Curt's shoulders. But it brings up the following historical point. IF any ballplayer does so, it won't be the most dramatic idea ever proposed for interactive baseball media.

In Bill Veeck's autobiography "Veeck As In Wreck," one of the books every sports fan should own, Veeck revealed that while owner of the St. Louis Browns, he made a proposition to ex-player turned broadcaster Buddy Blattner. Blatter would sign a one-day contract, then call the game while playing in it-including his at-bats.

Unfortunately for baseball history, Blattner wanted too much dough for the stunt. There's a lot more money in the game now. Maybe some owner could make the same pitch to, who else?, Joe Morgan.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Self Promotion is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Just thought this was the proper time to point out that although posts have been less frequent on this blog, there's an upside. It's also the only blog this side of Krgzyzistan which hasn't offered ANY observations on or mentions of Don Imus.

Remember our motto. When you don't want it, you can miss it here first.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Athlete of the Whatever Time Frame You Choose

For rest assured what were professional reasons, I was reading the latest issue of "International Gymnast" magazine the other day. Amidst considerable amounts of piffle, there was one of the most astounding sports stories I ever read. Perhaps I should strike the word "sports" from my last sentence, too.

I did not read the magazine on-line, so no links. Besides, relating Shoha Qadir's life story is fun.

Qadir is an Iraqi Kurd born in 1975. When he was 13, the Iraqi air force bombed his village, and Qadir was wounded. He wound up with both legs amputed below the knee.

After the routine harrowing adventures, Qadir wound up living in London, without his legs, but still in possession of his love of athletics. He didn't become a broadcaster or blogger. Qadir took up wheelchair marathoning. He got pretty good at it, too.

Wheelchair marathoning wasn't enough of a challenge for Qadir, so one time he did the 26 mile race on crutches. At the Berlin Marathon last year, Qadir walked the last 100 yards on his hands.

By now, marathoning is only a hobby for Qadir. His current sports pursuit is gymnastics. His event is the rings. Qadir can't perform the swinging routines that are the core of that discipline, but on the other hand, no other gymnast on earth can do his rings specialty-push ups-either.

As road racing coach and man-about-town Bill Squires would say, Qadir is a true studly. If you've read this far, your arm muscles should be clenching with pain. Stories like his are one of my favorite parts of sports. Athletics is one area where human beings acknowledge no limits to their potential. Imagination and determination can and do conquer all. It'd be nice if we felt the same way about more important parts of society, but hey, one's way better than none.

I was tired this evening, and I'm still grill grieving for my dog. Didn't much feel like blogging, to tell the truth.

Funny thing though. Once you've learned about Shoha Qadir, excuses get much, much harder to make.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Blackjack, 1994-2007

Blackjack was preternaturally timid. By way of compensation, nature gave him a forbidding appearance and ferocious bark. Though big and handsome, he was emotionally needy even by canine standards, stubborn, and didn't take direction well. He was a literal watchdog whose favorite actitivity was standing in front of the house, all senses on alert for threats to homeland secuity - cyclists, the UPS track, and especially other dogs.

As you've surely guessed by now, Blackjack was the Gee family dog. He was caring, gentle, full of delightful absurdity. He was my beloved friend. He died suddenly yesterday at 12 1/2. At 8 a.m. he threw up. By noon, an infinitely kind veterinarian at the Mass Vet Referral hospital in Woburn was explaining Blackjack's time had come. At 1:30, I had to say goodbye for the last time.

All four Gees are in the midst of the deepest grief and devastation imaginable. It has taken 15 minutes to write these two paragraphs. Every other sentence, I keep expecting the nose bump inside my elbow that was the signal Blackjack felt it was time for attention to be paid to him, not some dumb machine, and I find it necessary to pause. I do not know how long this pain will be the dominant fact of our family's life. I suspect it will be awhile.

Well, there's no story so commonplace as the death of a family pet. No one's in the newspaper business 10 minutes without learning readers ADORE stories about other people's dogs. Heartfelt obituaries are especially popular.

Besides sorrow, what Blackjack's death has left me is a renewal of the mystery I feel at the human-pet relationship. What propels our species, which stands viciously atop the planetary food chain, capable of cruelty to itself like no other, to voluntarily give our love to members of other species? Why are dogs, of all creatures under the sun, known as "man's best friend?"

One guess here. Dogs are interested in people. They pay attention. A person can make a dog happy with pretty minimal effort. That feels good, especially considering the effort it takes to make other people and ourselves happy. On the next to last day of his life, Blackjack felt my return home was as big a deal as he did the first days we had him as a puppy. Emotional support can be tough to find, but not from dogs it isn't.

People love all kinds of animals, of course. There are few mammals that we haven't tried to make into pets. There was a series of movies about a kid who had a whale for a pet. I'm an ex-tabloid hack, not a philosopher. I couldn't begin to tell you why that is. I only know it says something good about humans-another commodity too often in short supply.

One thing I learned yesterday from Josh and Hope. My children are 22 and 18, and their friends were full of compassion and shared sorrow. They're all at the age when childhood pets die, one of the lesser publicized but important rites of passage to adulthood. No one gets a life without insupportable loss attached. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

I've been through two of those now. The dog I had as child died when I was 19. The dog I got for my kids, no, to be my family's companion and my own, died yesterday. Will Alice and I go on the third-most common type of pet-the one empty-nesters get for the joys of caring for another living thing? Dunno yet. That idea's years away. Now all we can do is try and burn every memory of Blackjack into our brains so vividly nothing can fade them.

Today is Easter. Whether one is a Christian or not, the Easter story is a powerful human tale with deep significance for us all. Today, a sizable segment of humanity celebrates the idea humanity is a species worth saving, despite much evidence to the contrary.

When I see a person with a beloved family pet, I see the same celebration. I see evidence there's hope for us after all. In these parts, the hope's clouded by pain, pain that oddly highlights the happiness Blackjack brought us for over a dozen years.

Farewell my best friend. You did what every dog is supposed to do. You were there for humans to care for. You brought the joys of caring to their hearts. Loss hurts like nothing else. Joy beats it every time, though. Joy can never be forgotten. That's all the eternity we know of here on earth.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Your Ad Here

It gives me no pleasure to kick the snot out of the Boston Globe. I have many dear friends who work there. It is still, on balance, one of the top-shelf American newspapers. But sometimes, you just have to say the obvious.

Today's (4/6/2007) Globe business section had a story on its front page about Jordan's Furniture's Red Sox promotion. If you live around here, you know about it. If you buy certain furniture from Jordan's and the Sox win the World Series this year, the furniture's on the house, or on Jordan's insurance company, to be more accurate.

You know about this promotion because as usual, Jordan's hasn't been shy about letting New England know. Anyone who owns a radio or television who lives east of the Connecticut River has heard every excruciating detail of this proposition for over a month thanks to Jordan's incessant advertising. It's no secret. Jordan's has also carefully mentioned the promotion's April 16 end date in every ad.

And now, opening day of Easter weekend, first week of the Red Sox season, the Globe decises Jordan's stunt is NEWS? The Globe's corporate parent is a part owner of the Sox. Jordan's is one of the biggest advertisers in New England. Today's Sesame Street is brought to you by the phrase "conflict of interest."

No reason to pussyfoot here. Every Globe employee who signed off on this story except the poor reporter following orders, especially including Editor Martin Baron, is a common prostitute.

I didn't say whore because I understand some people get upset about vulgar language on the Internet.

Campaign Fund-Raising: The Last Refuge of a Slacker

As this is being written, the distinguished panel of journalsim observers on WGBH's "Greater Boston" is examining media reporting of campaign finance stories in the time honored "Threat or Menace?" mode. All of them are persons I know and admire. For my money, Joe Sciacca was the best writer at the Herald when I worked there.

The panel whiffed on the issue all the same. The answer to the question "Why do political reporters obsess about campaign finance reports" is both easy and too embarrassing for journalists to admit in public. The reason so many of these stories are written or broadcast is that they allow political reporters to get paid for doing little or no work.

Presidential candidates MUST file quarterly fund-raising reports. It's the law. They are bulky volumes which give even an uncreative reporter a good week's worth of pieces without lifting a finger. It's public record, baby. You can download it off the Internet. No phone calls, no spin, no stonewalling, no work.

As was proven by the presidencies of John Connally and Phil Gramm, fundraising has only a tendential relationship to the identity of the winner of a presidential election, or a winner of any election. All a candidate needs is enough money to compete. All the 2008 candidates have that at the present time-even Dennis Kucinich. Further reporting of fund-raising only reveals the reporter's unwillingness to mingle with the scary American electorate.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Baseball Failed to Kill the Radio Star

Imagine my surprise this afternoon and Monday afternoon when while driving home, I found the Red Sox game on 850 WEEI on my radio dial, not 680 WRKO. I know they're owned the same scumball conglomerate but still, passing on Opening Day is not a shrewd promotional move for the station shift.

We can only assume WRKO doesn't want to lose any advertising revenue from "The Howie Carr Show." Now, I worked with Howie for 20 years and I like him (Personally, I mean. The show blows), but I cannot imagine he draws higher ratings than the Red Sox, especially on Opening Day when people are working and theremore more of them are listening to the radio. Entercom is paying a stack of bundles higher than the Hancock to broadcast the Sox. It's amazing they'd start the season by confusing listeners where to tune in.

Besides, there's an obvious solution to their dilemma. When the Red Sox play games on weekday afternoons, move Howie to 'EEI, and tell Ordway, Shepherd, and the gang of screaming interrupters to go hit the golf course. Not only is Howie funnier than they are, he knows more about sports, too.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Eddie Robinson 1919-2007

Imagine how satisfying it must have been to be Eddie Robinson on the first day of Grambling football practice before, oh, 1970. An amazing array of football talent is there before you, stronger, faster, and meaner than any school's players within 500 miles. Now, imagine the first meeting with your team. You note the above facts, then point out how Southern white males are afraid to fight you one on one. Then you say, "let's hit those dummies."

I imagine there were few slackers during Robinson's drills. The list of College and Pro Football Hall of Fame members who played for him at Grambling confirms my belief. Robinson never left the school, a tribute to his belief system. Maybe Robinson got the fundamental contradiction of his career - he exploited segregation to help end it.

Who was the first Grambling star to blow bast the racial barrier? Willie Wood? Tank Younger? Buck Buchanan? All coached by Robinson on the verge of racial integration at large Southern state institutions. All Hall of Famers.

To me, the most praiseworthy part of Robinson's career is how he stayed at Grambling despite its increasing sociological irrelevance. He didn't mind being demoted to Division I-AA, as long as Grambling's record went along with him. He was willing to be obsolete in the name of progress - as long as there was progress.

Tough to find a better obituary.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Pastoral Ode in 3/4 Time

The traditional sign is the sighting of the first robin. For the religious, it's Easter or Passover. Up north, it's ice-out. There are those who wait for May Day, and those who become ecstatic when they see the earliest snow-shrouded crocus shaft of the year.

Yes, the change of seasons is an intensely personal matter. For me, nature's annual rebirth began promptly at 4:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, April 2. That's when Dustin Pedroia singled sharply to left, and for reasons known only to himself, thought he'd hit a double. He was out by several yards and several seconds.

Nothing says spring like the first Red Sox runner of the season gunned down on the basepaths. Some New England traditions are immutable.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It Happens Every Spring

Preseason predictions are always useless, and they're more useless in baseball than any other sport. The game's too random for consensually accepted research, let alone forecasting. Nevertheless, preseason predictions are a sports' pundit's duty. Fans are the only ones who recall them come October, and then only when said pundit was not just off base, but not in the stadium parking lot.

There are 1 billion preseason predictions last spring, and none of them forecast the Tigers as American League champions. Of the googoplex words analysizing the possible outcome of the World Series, two of them were NOT "pitchers' fielding," which in fact was the decisive factor. Anyone who predicts a winner in the NL and AL Central is just g

Still we pundit on, knowing our grim fate. The know-it-all virus has a death grip on our bloodstreams. Therefore, here are a few predictions about the 2007 season in which I have some confidence. That's because they have little to do with winning or losing.

The Yankees and Red Sox will finish 1-2 or 2-1 in the American League East. Neither will be 2007 world champions. As compensation, they'll both be on ESPN and Fox more than the eventual Series winner will.

If and when Barry Bonds gets to about 745 career home runs, wise citizens will cope by avoiding the sports pages, radio, TV, the Internet, and all human contact until further notice.

There will be a great many 11-10 or higher games, and the Cleveland Indians will be involved in more than their share.

On an ESPN Sunday night telecast, the Yanks and Red Sox will play the first non- rain delayed, 9 inning, 5 hour game.

Ken Griffey Jr. will get injured. I know, that's like predicting sunrise. But this year, Griffery's going to suffer a NEW injury to a formerly healthy part of his body. I think the inner ear is all that's left in that category.

The time between the first Red Sox loss of the season and when WEEI hosts begin their discussion of trade deadline possibilities will be less than 10 seconds.

One of the traditional downtrodden "small market clubs" will be surprisingly good until at least mid-June. Best bet: Devil Rays.

One of the expensive pitchers being counted on to succeed in spite of age, injury, or a documented history of mediocrity will be lost for the season by Mother's Day. Best bets: Carl Pavano, Jared Wright, Adam Eaton.

Tom Glavine will win more games than fellow old-timers Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling.

The team which will lose the most regulars, lineup and pitchers combined to injury will be the Angels.

Unless it's the Cubs.

The Phillies should win the NL East, but won't.

Julian Tavarez, starting pitcher, is a story that won't end well.

Absolutely irreplacable stars who're overdue for serious lost time injuries: Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz, Barry Zito, Ichiro Suzuki.

Number of times the thesis of "Moneyball" will be misrepresented in the media: What number comes after googleplex?

Oh, what the hell. American League champion: Cleveland Indians.
National League champion: Atlanta Braves.
Series winner: Braves.

Save those three for October, gang. Don't worry, I can take it.

A Part-Time Savior is Not Much Help

Should he leave Ohio State, Greg Oden almost surely will be the first player selected in the NBA draft. He almost surely become a very pro basketball player, too. The team that selects him, however, should not expect Oden to create a miracle turnaround in its fortunes. He's just not going to get play enough for that.

In every game I've watched Oden play, he starts, then goes about five minutes before leaving the court with foul trouble. Yesterday against Georgetown, Oden got two fouls in the first two minutes. Granted, the three refs in that game were egomaniacal jerks who thought people came to the Georgia Dome to watch them. Other more passive officials have whistled Oden with regularity, too.

If one of the biggest stars in the college game is as foul-prone as that, his rookie year in pro ball will be a nightmare. In the minds of the majority of NBA refs, rookies got no civil rights. They're driving with probationary licences. In the two-car collisions that are NBA fouls, the new kid is the party at fault.

Oden makes silly fouls on backcourt men who'll never make the pros. He'll have more than his share of difficulty coping with likes of Steve Nash, AI, Kobe, and Paul Pierce when they head for the hoop. And while Oden will be better than many (but not all) of the centers he'll face in the NBA, every team has someone out there as big as he is, an experience he's seldom encountered in college.

In short, were I Oden's basketball as opposed to financial advisor, I'd tell him to stay in school and learn all he can about how to be a dominant pivot man. One of the most important skills of that trade is learning how to stay on the court instead of the bench.

Does this mean I thnk the Celtics should draft Kevin Durant instead of Oden should both freshman stars come out and Boston win the first spot in the draft lottery (lot of ifs there)? By no means. Oden's potential is obvious. So is Durant's, but picking him would only make sense if accompanied by a trade of Pierce, since the two essentially fill the same role, top scorer. Otherwise, the chance to grab a player who can become a quality center is too rare not to used.

Check the dictionary. "Quality" and "dominant" have very different definitions. To date I've seen more Marcus Camby than Shaquille O'Neal in Oden's game, and that's no knock. Camby's become a solid pro who does for the Nuggets than most think on those occasions he's not hurt.

Fans are optimists by trade. For going on two decades, optimism is about all Celtics' fans have had going for them. Without malice and as gently as possible, I must remind them of the following truth. "The best available player in the draft" and "the guy who's going to turn our miserable franchise around" are phrases which also have very different definitions.