Sunday, December 25, 2011

And I Forgot to Get Them Anything!

If there's one thing that can be said about the Patriots 27-24 win over the Dolphins yesterday, it's that anything can be said about it.

New England's schizoid triumph was the most considerate of Christmas gifts to anyone holding an opinion about the team. Their hopes, fears, sneers or outright bafflement were all confirmed at one point or another in the contest.

If you think the Pats are headed for Super Bowl, there was plenty of evidence to support your belief, as long as you didn't start watching until about 2:45 p.m. If you think the Pats have been using Tom Brady's arm to skate on a film of ice atop Victoria Falls, and will plunge to their doom in their first playoff game, there was plenty for you to cite in any argument next week. You just had to leave for Grandma's house at halftime with no radio in your car.

If you watched the whole game, you can give up with a clear conscience and say "beats me." In the post-game press conference, this appeared to Bill Belichick's take. Always drained after a game, the coach looked stumped as well as emotionally spent. Hard to blame him.

Oh, well, I'm sure the Bills game will answer all our questions. At least, I'm sure many people will tell us it does.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Lesson Plan Is to Ignore Them

My former colleague Tony Massarotti had a column in this morning's wood pulp Globe arguing that the Patriots' game with the Dolphins today would offer valuable information about how good the Pats REALLY are heading to the playoffs. At this time of year, it's especially sad to see an auld acquaintance fall victim to the simplest, hoariest fallacies in the observation of sports -- that games all have some inner significance beyond the final score, and that today's result, properly interpreted, offers a canny glimpse of the future.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a game is just that. This afternoon's tilt at Gillette Stadium sure seems to fit that bill. As near as I can make out, its indicator of the future is that after it's over, the Pats will either be 12-3 or 11-4. Either way, that's a pretty Merry Christmas in the standings. Either way, the Pats' playoff outlook will remain the same -- reasonably bright, if it weren't how their last two trips turned out.

Sports commentators are particularly susceptible to the "hidden meaning" theory of games because, after all, they have to say SOMETHING about the damn contest when it's over, and in Tony's case, he has hours of time he's required to do so. I'm embarrassed/frightened to remember how many columns I cranked out for the Herald peering into the third-level post-constructionist significance of an event whose meaning was all on the surface, as in "Sox won last night."

The easiest way to debunk the Hidden Meaning Menace is to apply it to some other team but the one you root for or cover. Let's take the Packers' loss to the Chiefs last Sunday. Is there anyone on earth who honestly thinks that game had any lesson for us besides the obvious one that it's very difficult to go undefeated in the National Football League? Anybody want to venture the opinion that Romeo Crennel has showed the world how to stop Aaron Rodgers? Yeah, I'm sure some member of the NFL Network's Insane Studio Posse did so, but that doesn't count. I'm talking actual people here.

What made Tony's "my day to work today" piece particularly odd was the calendar. It was as if he'd put a jack o'lantern outside his house. To quote an old coach, the NFL future is now. There are two games left in the year. The Pats and 31 other teams are no longer works in progress. They are for better or worse what they are, to quote another coach. The only games that have "meaning" in the sportswriter sense of the word on the card today are the ones that effect who makes the playoffs. You want "meaning" watch the Jets and Giants today, or the Eagles and Cowboys, or even the Bills and Broncos.

Want to have a good time watching the home team. Watch the Pats. If they win be happy, if they lose, cuss briefly and go about your business. Give yourself a treat and treat three hours of competition for what it is, just another mundane, glorious ball game.

Hey, you deserve it. It's Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 23, 2011

DNP -- Coach's Decision

A glance at the calendar informs me I have a few billion chores (many of them pleasant, like drinking Scotch and playing golf) and family obligations between now and January 2, 2012. This means the schedule of posting maintained here will be even more selective, the NICE word for lackadaisical.

If the spirit moves me tomorrow after the Pats game, or Christmas after the Celtics game, or during my week in the heart of Tebow Kingdom in Florida, there may be commentary. Or I may decide to rest my starting brain cells for the playoffs. I'm day to day.

I've got a Christmas. We'll take a look at it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Turnovers Don't Stop the March of Time

Perhaps the best way to consider the Patriots' win over the Broncos yesterday is to think of it as a living football history lesson, a three-hour, three-dimensional seminar on the evolution of offense.

The forward pass was legalized in 1906. For the next 50 years, teams still ran the ball far more often than they threw it, even at the highest skill level of the NFL. NFL teams with reputations for throwing the ball in those eras had some extraordinary athlete either throwing or catching the ball -- Sammy Baugh, Don Hutson, like that. Even so, their teams still ran more often than they threw.

Running was easier. It was simpler to teach, learn, and most of all, was less risky than passing. Remember that saying only three things can happen on a pass and two of them are bad? Ridiculous, right? Well, smart people in football believed it, and they weren't utterly wrong to do so. Most passers weren't very good. It was only by the mid-'50s that there were enough quality quarterbacks to supply a majority of NFL teams with decent passing, and there were only 12 NFL franchises.

Bit by bit, coaches noticed that passing the ball scored points more quickly than running it, and passing gradually become something close to an equal partner on offense. But even in the 1960s and '70s, what people think of as the start of pro football's modern era, coaches and players had an emotional preference for running the ball. The pre-merger NFL sneered at the old AFL's commitment to passing offense as an unmanly admission that its players weren't tough enough to run and try to stop the run the way Walter Camp intended. Check out the statistics from Super Bowls I-XI. The team that ran best won, one reason the Super Bowl developed its early reputation as the season's dullest game.

Then came the great holding deregulation of 1978, because blockers weren't able to stop defensive players on runs OR passes. And along came a chap named Bill Walsh, who divined that the changes had made passing easier than running, not simpler to teach and learn, but easier to succeed with, and actually less risky than running. Walsh's 49ers became the first team to win two NFL championships without a Hall of Fame running back, but not the last.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Football offense has totally reversed its priorities. EVERYBODY passes to score and runs to run time off the clock once they have scored. Teams that don't are anomalies, contrarian investors in scoreboard futures. They usually have an extraordinary athlete at running back, and a subpar passer at quarterback and/or their head coach has testosterone where his frontal lobes should be.

The Broncos are the ultimate contrarians. Their offense is built around Tim Tebow, a single wing tailback born into the wrong era of the pigskin continuum. Denver's offense is so outlandish, its success became a national sensation. Face it. Tim Tebow could be the same charismatic Christian role model he is right now. If he was winning games for Denver with a 90-plus passer rating, America's reaction would be "How nice for him. What channel are the Packers on today?"

As we saw yesterday, being anachronistic does not make the Broncos' offense unproductive. The damage it did to the New England defense in the first quarter was awesome to behold.

But all things being equal in pure talent, that is, if the other team has a passer as good as Tom Brady, running, no matter who good you are at it, IS riskier than passing. It is a form of trying to score points that is too influenced by outside variables, more damaged by turnovers, fatally damaged by playing from behind against a more conventional squad. When the money's on the table, the big plays in a game are passes. That won't be changed until the NFL changes its rules back to what they were decades ago, which of course will never happen.

Tebow can play quarterback in the NFL. Given health, he'll likely be a starter for quite some time. But he'll always be an anomaly, not a trend-setter. He's a curiosity now, and that's what he'll be five years from now.

Conventional wisdom gets that way because it's right at least 50.00001 percent of the time. Contrarian investors die by the bromide "the market can stay wrong longer than you can stay solvent."

Smart fish learn to swim downstream. The shortest distance between two points on the gridiron is the easiest path you can find.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

If You Don't Toot That Horn, Nobody Else Will Do It for You

Not that I'm a braggart by nature, or more accurately, not that I have many opportunities, but I must refer all readers to the preceding two posts of this blog and the NFL scoreboard of games played 12/18/11.
Don't fret. Specious reasoning and bad guesses will resume at their normal programming times.

Hunch Bettors Die Broker and Faster Than Most -- So What?

The best evidence I have ever found for ignoring all sports forecasting is my own record at it. Not because that's record's uniquely horrible, it isn't. But season after season, sport after sport, decade after decade, I always seem to wind up with about a .500 record. I strongly suspect all other forecasters (at least the ones who makes their predictions public) do the same. In other words, it's an exercise in flipping coins, so why bother?

Of course I still make forecasts. They're an accepted, no, mandatory part of the American sports dialogue. I do try to avoid them unless I can use them to illustrate some larger point about the sport in question, I see an overlay that defies arithmetic and common sense, or, most dangerously, I just get a feeling, a hunch so strong it overwhelms me.

The guesses based on instinct sometimes end as badly as you'd expect. The 2011 Rams were not a team to watch this season unless you paid to do it. But instinct does occasionally hit one into the upper deck. I called Super Bowl XXXII Broncos 31-Packers 24, and you can look that up in the Herald files for the paper the morning of the game.

As doubtless readers have guessed, instinct is gnawing at my good sense this morning. It has all week, a week that in self-defense I've spent time thinking about the non-Tebow part of the NFL schedule.

I love the Eagles to beat the Jets today. Love it. If there was ever a team with the sort of twisted self-esteem needed for a useless salary drive, it's Philly. If there was ever a team with a penchant for falling into open manholes while walking down Easy Street, it's the Jets. Those are about the most ephemeral grounds for picking an NFL winner I can imagine. They consume my psyche nonetheless.

It's probably a good thing bookies open early Sunday morning are kind of hard to find here in Lexington.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cheer Up, Bill! This'll Probably Be Your Only Shot at Being the Sentimental Favorite

About a month ago, my thoughts on Tim Tebow were that he was going to alter about three hours of my life for the better. Back in April when the NFL schedule came out, I saw that the Pats were at Denver on December 18 and confidently expected it'd be one of the dullest games of the year. By November, I believed Tebow's ascension to the Broncos' quarterback position would make the game one of the more interesting ones on my home TV schedule, and I was duly grateful.

The game still promises to be an entertaining one, but the price I'm paying for it is far, far, far too high. Compared to being forced to endure the endless Tebow blah that now composes 110 percent of U.S. sports journalism, two on aisle 10th row orchestra for "Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway" would be a bargain.

It's hard to tell which set of Tebow bloviators are the worst, his fans or his critics. Skip Bayless has done everything but speculate as to how Tebow's upcoming win in the Iowa caucuses will impact the Broncos in the playoffs. On the other hand, the stat-minded football blogs who're all trying to become the pigskin Bill James are tying themselves into numerical knots attempting to prove that Tebow's undeniably subpar passing statistics are more important than the even more undeniable fact that before he became the starter the Broncos stunk, and now they're pretty good.

Add to this the irrelevant facts Tebow is both a demonstrative person and a devoutly religious one, and we have a perfect storm of what passes for news in the 21st century -- a barrage of thunderclaptraps, cloudbursts of bullshit, all accompanied by gales of superheated air which strip the branches off one's soul. Through no fault of his own (I blame Urban Meyer, who had four years to teach the kid to throw and didn't), an increasing number of fans now resent Tebow for his stirring comeback victories, because they turn up the volume on the noise that's driving them to distraction.

Hype is not the hypee's fault. Doesn't matter. Tebow may be blameless for the baggage he's forcing fans to carry, but nevertheless, many fans outside New England will be doing something Sunday they never imagined possible -- rooting like hell for Bill Belichick. Surely the only power capable of defeating football Virtue Made Man is the sport's embodiment of evil.

Ordinarily, I'd say that sentiment was a stone lock bet for Sunday. And if it was just Belichick vs. Tebow, it would be. One of the less remarked elements of Belichick's makeup is the part which sees football as a fan. I'm sure there's a part of him that reacted to Tebow's initial success just as I did, to wit "Well, something new under the sun. This'll be more fun than getting a game plan ready for Kyle Orton."

I also believe Belichick, like all successful coaches, is acutely aware of his public image and uses it to his advantage whenever he can. As any wrestling heel knows, villainy is both a good steady gig and more fun than playing the babyface. Stomping on America's Newest Sports Craze might give the Patriots the champion's essential arrogance they have notably lacked in an otherwise successful season.

I listened carefully to Belichick during his "Patriots All Access" segment last night, and two things were clear. One, he appreciates Tebow's talents. Two, he knows what those talents are, and therefore, we can infer he has a handle on how to neutralize them.

Showing a clip of a Tebow scramble, Belichick said, "See, there's a running back." Precisely. The mystery of Tebow the player vanishes once you stop thinking of him as a running quarterback and start seeing him as a running back who passes, or more accurately, as a single wing tailback running a 1940s offense.

The principles of defeating that offense are not secrets. They're in particularly dusty books in Belichick's football library. The principles of defeating the option offense the Broncos use with Tebow are not secrets, either. They're just ideas that've been forgotten because their past success made that offense obsolete at levels of football. And of course, the principles of containing a running quarterback are taught to every NFL defense in practice for many games each season.

Boiling down decades of football theory, those principles all rest on the same idea: Do your damn job. No matter what you see in front of you, follow your assignment and nothing else, even, no, especially if it appears to be running you right out of the play. Follow that rule, and the option gains maybe two yards a play. In theory, the Tebow-led Denver Broncos would never score.

In practice, defensive football players are cursed/blessed with a psychopathic level of aggression in action that makes not pursuing the ball cause serious stress. It's like turning into a skid or prudent portfolio management -- the superego knows the damn rules, but the id won't hear of them.

For six weeks in succession, other NFL defenses have come close to making theory reality against the Broncos -- until the fourth quarter, when human nature kicks in, whereupon Tebow and his mates lay another of those comebacks on them.

The Patriots are known for nothing if not discipline. In the usual order of things, I'd say the 7 1/2 points they're giving is an underlay Christmas present. Belichick has enough respect for Tebow to create a game plan designed to humiliate him rather than just win the game.

Unfortunately for Evil Genius Belichick, just like in the movies, his plans rest on the abilities of his helmeted henchmen. New England's defensive henchpeople have just finished making Don Orlovsky and Rex Grossman look like Dan Marino. Their role has become a bizarre mirror image of Tebow's role with Denver. Turn in a couple of big plays, then step aside and let the offense/defense win the game.

I never really expect the Patriots to lose. I have every confidence that Chief Henchman Tom Brady will generate the 30 or so points to which the Pats have become accustomed.

But I don't believe the 2011 Pats have the wherewithal to humiliate people. The Tebow bubble won't pop this week. I look for an even more irritating development, Tebow's nobility in a heroic loss where his passing stats resemble those of conventionally successful quarterbacks. This will force his admirers and detractors to completely trade the arguments they've been using the last two months, abandoning any pretense of intellectual honesty.

THERE'S your Lock of the Year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dr. Naismith, Please Call Drs. Smith, Marx and Keynes

National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern cost his bosses, the guys who own NBA teams, a lot of money Thursday night. In fairness to Stern, it must be pointed out they wanted him to do it.

Stern's voiding of the three-team trade that was going to send Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin and a host of others back to the Hornets in return for Paul was one of those rare managerial actions that was wrongheaded to the point of idiocy from whatever perspective one chooses to look. The perspective that will bat cleanup some months from now is the one that could cost Stern the job to which he is megalomaniacally attached.

We'll dispense with the easiest perspective first, the lie Stern told yesterday and which he is advised not to repeat during the discovery process that seems sure to follow in this affair. Stern said he voided the deal in his role as steward of the NBA's trusteeship of the Hornets while it tries to sell the franchise because he thought they could a better trade for Paul.

Stern might not be lying. If so, he really must think Rajon Rondo is the berries, the next Isiah Thomas at least. But at a conservative estimate, everyone else who watches enough NBA ball to have an opinion believes the Hornets made out in historically fine fashion in that most difficult of activities, trading a superstar with one year left on his contract.

This statement also makes it very difficult for the Hornets to pursue trading Paul somewhere else. Why should other teams do business with a front office whose words are meaningless? What if their trade makes Dan Gilbert remember how mad he is at LeBron James, too?

And of course, if Paul is traded to, oh, I dunno, the Indiana Pacers, for LESS value than the Hornets got from the Lakers and Rockets, then general manager Dave Demps can look forward to the delightful experience of being asked to defend it; to the media and fans for sure, under oath perhaps.

Now for the real reason Stern blocked the trade. The NBA owners went through the lockout so that star players couldn't go to star franchises. One week after ending what cost many of them real money, they found out they hadn't accomplished that goal. So they're angry. Stern doesn't want them to be angry. So he acted.

Stern is also demented. The love of power has corrupted him beyond repair. He likes pushing around young extremely strong men who could, if it came to it, crush his skull with the shock waves in the air created by flexing their biceps.

Most of all, Stern and the owners have been self-destructive. Spite often works like that. In their effort to punish the Lakers for being successful, smart, and located in Los Angeles, they have damaged the value of the Hornets franchise they all own. Worse, they have damaged the value of their OWN franchises.

Hard as this is to believe, there ARE rich people interested in purchasing the New Orleans Hornets. The NBA has been dawdling because Stern, like fellow commish Bud Selig, is more interested in having the team owned by a compliant crony than in basic business principles. One has to believe those parties are recalculating their bids right now -- downwards. A basketball team whose best player is now likely to be out the door next season with no compensation, a team headed for 60 loss seasons as far as the eye can see, well, that team's not as attractive a proposition.

NBA teams, like all pro sports franchises, are an asset that exists in what's called a thin market. Transactions are rare. Many far larger companies in regular businesses get bought and sold each month than sports teams are in a year. The sale of any franchise helps set the market. That is, no matter how much the Boston Celtics are worth in theory, if the New Orleans Hornets get sold at a marked-down price, the Celtics' market value suffers. Maybe not dramatically, but suffer it will.

It's pleasant to contemplate how Dan Gilbert and his fellow spiteful rich fools have screwed themselves. It's almost sad to realize that they did so in the pursuit of a chimera. The so-called small market (the Clippers exist in an LA of an alternate universe) franchises will never achieve their goal of competitive balance, i.e., wins and money without working. Basketball won't let them.

I said for years, back during the last lockout in '98 in fact, that the owners were caught in a trap. The more restrictions they placed on player salaries, the more the players would decide what teams they wanted to play for on non-monetary grounds, such as sunshine, tax avoidance, and most of all, being on good teams. The Decision of LeBron was an economic inevitability. If it hadn't been him, it'd would've been some other superstar playing his own GM.

There is NO economic system short of slavery that'll allow for competitive balance in pro basketball. Look at history. The league has ALWAYS had one, two or at most three dominant teams, with all others having precisely no hope of ever winning a title. When the NBA had the reserve clause in the '50s and '60s, and players had no rights, the competitive imbalance was worst of all, as a glance at the ceiling of the Garden makes plain.

Basketball has five players a side, least of all team sports. Ergo, the importance of the best individual players is far greater than in any other sport. There's no system that'll prevent the team with Wilt, Russell, Kareem, Bird or Michael from beating your brains out.

And since those bygone days, superstars have always found ways to choose who they played for. Wilt was a master of making his employers wish he was elsewhere. Rick Barry averaged a lawsuit a franchise in his prime. The financial hurdles the owners want to place in front of free agents will be cleared easier than Edwin Moses used to do it.

No power on earth short of a gun is going to make players stay Cleveland Cavaliers longer than their rookie contracts make them. Or Sacramento Kings, or, well, you get the idea. Better the owners should've pursued the Lost Dutchman gold mine than competitive balance. More chance of a payoff. Or they could buy an NHL team. Always plenty of those on the market. Ask the Phoenix Coyotes what competitive balance does for them.

I've saved the best/most apocalyptic possibility for last. The NBA is now a partnership where some partners, the successful ones, now know they can't trust their other partners. That's not a situation that often ends well, but it does often end.

If I owned the Celtics, the Lakers, Knicks, or one of about seven other NBA teams, I'd be discreetly sounding out my fellow big-market partners on the following thesis: Do we really NEED these guys? Our teams drive the finances of the league. Why not just be our own league, and eliminate the free-riding panhandlers we find so irritating at meetings?

This almost surely won't happen. Sports team owners, by and large, are nowhere near as ruthless and creative in the sports business as they were/are in the businesses where they got rich to buy teams in the first place. But the distrust and resentment between partners Stern has created IS real, and it will have unforeseen consequences. Not totally unforeseen, mind you. We know they'll be bad ones.

In a way, I applaud Stern's move. It's a case study in the decline and fall of American capitalism. The NBA's capitalists would rather feed their ids with rage and spite than make money. Explains a lot about the front page of every morning's "Wall Street Journal."

Monday, December 05, 2011

Home Confinement for the Holidays, Part 1

Was decking the halls yesterday afternoon when I had a Christmas fever vision.

Somewhere in New York City, there must be a warehouse where Rockefeller Center stores the decorations for its Christmas tree. Sometime around November 10, an employee of Rockefeller Center must be assigned to go out to the warehouse and spend eight hours a day until roughly Thanksgiving to make sure the decorations are still in working order.

That's 10 zillion strings of lights to test. From 9 to 5 every working day for two weeks or more, the street music of some neighborhood in Queens or the Bronx must echo to two cries of existential despair every 30 seconds. "God damn it, who tangled these things up? followed immediately by a plain "God damn it!!!"

Rockefeller Center is a big operation. They must have another employee whose job it is to drive to the hardware store for new ones.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

It's a Christmas Miracle for Season Ticket Holders -- Thanks to Peyton Manning's Neck

They're already out of the house and are either tailgating or stuck in traffic, but I just want to extend my very best wishes to the crowd at Gillette Stadium today. For the first time this season, they will watch pro football in the proper time frame -- after a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Enjoy watching a game both start and finish (barely) before nightfall. Enjoy the relative comfort of December sunlight/ Enjoy getting home before midnight. Enjoy not spending tomorrow in a zombie state during your department's biggest meetings of the year. Enjoy all the benefits of a return to yesteryear, when the NFL had the quaint notion that the paying customer came first, not those layabouts like me by our flatscreens. Sure it's just an accident, namely Manning's accident, you're getting this break, but dare to daydream!

I'd also tell you to enjoy the game, but I don't want to drift into pure fantasy.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Always Stick on 17, or Stuck on Exit 17 as the Case May Be

Once upon a time, back in the misty era of Pete Rozelle, the news that an NFL owner was involved with a casino, however tangentially, would've been the only story in the league. Tense meetings would've been held at the league office. Editorials and sports columnists would've looked most askance at the proposal. Back then, Bob Kraft would've walked around town surrounded in a cloud of moral disapproval from the great and good of the sports world.

Now, scarcely an eyebrow is raised at the idea Kraft would let Steve Wynn build a casino across from Gillette Stadium and the rest of the Patriotsland theme park on Route One. Oh, the Globe's upset, but that doesn't count. Gambling, like most fun stuff, causes the higher-ups of the Globe acute distress. It's more proof our community just isn't worthy of them.

There'll be no moral disapproval here of the idea of a casino next to a football stadium. They're both public entertainments. I don't go to casinos, because I find competing against arithmetic to be dull as well as unprofitable, but that's just me. There are the usual bleats from Foxboro residents that they don't want the ambiance of their quaint New England village sullied by more traffic, which can be put down in the category "our opening bid, Steve." Really, where does Foxboro FIND these clucks? How can a homeowner say with a straight face that they didn't bargain for all the congestion and other issues posed by the Patriots? They didn't see the stadium when first looking at the town? The Pats have been there for 41 years. THEY'RE among the town's oldest residents.

But I do wonder if excellent businessman Bob Kraft has really thought this one through. The core of Patriotsland is, after all, the Patriots. Many a promising conglomerate business empire has suffered from letting its pursuit of new opportunities interfere with the profitable operations of the engine pulling the whole train.

When I saw the headline in the Globe yesterday about the Kraft-Wynn deal, an image immediately popped into my head. It was my memory of driving over 128 here in Lexington at about 5:45 p.m. the night of the Monday night game against the Chiefs. All you could see on the southbound side were headlights and taillights, all part of the traffic snarl created by the addition of football fans to the regular rush hour horror. Lexington, I should point out, is approximately 30 miles by highway away from Gillette.

So I fear that the most lasting impact of a casino in Foxboro might be that Pats' fans will have to start leaving for home games on Friday mornings.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

I've Grown Accustomed to His Face -- Took Less Than Six Minutes

At 5:40 this evening, the Red Sox were introducing their new manager Bobby Valentine and I was watching TV. There was a lot of overlap between these activities.

From Channels 2 to 78 on my cable box, no fewer than eight of 'em had Valentine live. Three local news broadcasts, two local cable sports networks, one local cable news network, and two of ESPN's networks. I was afraid to go any higher, but I'm sure Valentine was on one of the food networks, too. Didn't he invent some sandwich?

The Red Sox hiring a manager is news. Not that much news, however. I covered managerial hiring and firing press conferences in my day, and in neither did much information emerge. They are boilerplate rituals, pure photo ops. Eight live remotes was eight too many. A simple head shot of a grinning (does that ever stop?) Valentine at six o'clock would've done nicely, thank you.

Makes me frightened for the coverage local news might give actually newsy and surprising sports news. If Danny Ainge DOES land Chris Paul, I'd take it as a personal favor if he did it the week between Christmas and New Year's. I'll be out of town.