Opinion

Spring cleaning the notebook

byClark Booth
5/18/2007

Drew Bledsoe

Some bits and pieces have piled up in the notebook again. So we have for you this week a jumble of outtakes; the sort of pastiche the late, great Bud Gillooly of the old Record American used to call, disa and data. Hang on!

G When Drew Bledsoe retired recently it was with a simple, written statement just one sentence long. Nothing more was sought nor did it stir a ripple. It was sad.

Once billed as another Luckman or Namath, the lanky westerner quietly slides away more like another Norm Snead or John Huart, a symbol of failed promise. When he arrived, he seemed to have stepped right out of Central Casting. He departs old before his time and broken down and widely deemed to have been mainly a failure.

Hereabouts, hell be remembered most fondly for having gotten injured in the nick of time. Thats exceedingly harsh. He was a tough and amiable kid who never complained. Yet he got no sympathy. The games can be hard and unforgiving. Somehow, 14 years of gritty service ought to count in the end for more.

Josh Beckett

G Josh Becketts stunning start this season muddles the point for the moment. But the betting here is that when all is said and done the Red Sox will regret having traded Hanley Ramirez for him. Beckett could well be a horse. But Ramirez, last years Rookie of the Year in the NL, may be the new A-Rod.

Its the Frank Robinson axiom that applies. Milt Pappas was no slouch either. He would go on to win some 200 games. But Robinson for Pappas was a fleecing by the Orioles that the Reds never lived down. The Robinson axiom mandates that you should never deal a great, everyday, player for an every fifth day pitcher, no matter how great.

Randy Moss

G When Randy Moss declares, The Moss of old is back! is he referring to the dandy Randy who pretended to moon the Packers fans in Green Bay, or the gay blade who was charged with felony assault for trying to intimidate a female police officer with his motor vehicle in Minneapolis, or any of the other variations on the same theme that has strutted and preened over the last dozen years?

No doubt the talent is still there. And it may also be true -- as many now argue -- that no team is more adept at handling complex cases than the Patriots. But when you take a look at that rap sheet you have to wonder how a serious team could bring itself to trust him.

Parry OBrien

G Parry OBrien died the other day and a couple of generations of sports fans never noticed. But if you go back far enough you remember when OBrien was an American Adonis and a paragon of the Olympic movement. He apparently aged well and was still vying for medals when struck with a fatal heart attack in the middle of a senior citizens freestyle swimming competition. OBrien may have been 75 years of age but he was forever young.

Don Nelson

G They annually elect a dozen folks a year to the basketball hall of fame up in Springfield. But Don Nelson hasnt yet been deemed worthy. Thats impossible to fathom.

Extraordinarily crafty and deadly in the clutch as a player, Nellie has been even more fascinating in his interminable after-life as coach, manager, hoops scholar, and all-round guru. A fabulous character and definitive sports-lifer, Nellie may have been Boss Auerbachs shrewdest apostle. None was smarter.

Youre kidding

G Do you want to start feeling old, mate? Well, consider this. One year from now, Bobby Orr will be 60 years old.

Baseball asides

G Might the Yankees have been a better team the last three years (and counting) if theyd done what they should have done and moved Derek Jeter to third base and let Alex Rodriguez play where he belonged...at shortstop?

G On the other hand, dont you too sense it would take well more than the resurrection of the 1986 model of Roger Clemens to bail out the Yankees this year?

G When does the National Pastime become International property? Stunning are the statistics, lately revealed, that show that 29.1 percent of all major league players are foreign-born while 46.2 of all the players in the minors come from other lands.

The real class and model on the Patriots

G In only the latest example of his classy works while a player here, the Patriots Troy Brown has been serving as this years spokesman for the annual fundraising campaign for the parochial school system of the Archdiocese of Boston. Believe me when I tell you, friends, that such serious charitable endeavors are not fashionable with the athletic smart-set. Brown has been the real deal both on and off the field from the moment he set foot in this town.

The Heights York

G And while on the subject of class acts, there is Jerry York, coach of the hockey team at Boston College, who annually brings the most glory to that school that so yearns for sporting stature while demanding and receiving the least attention. In the process of once again coming within a whisker of another national championship, Coach York continued to maintain a gold standard for discipline and deportment on his team.

One terrific example: at various points in the season, he sat down three starters for the sort of infractions that would be considered ludicrous in other programs at the Heights or any other campus where they take the games too seriously. Two players were disciplined for missing classes; one for failing to wear a tie.

This is wonderful! The man should be the NCAAs national coach of the year. For all sports!

Another tour

G Lets see. Floyd Landis has failed another urine test. The French press is flushed with headlines about synthetic testosterone. And Lance Armstrong is threatening to sue everyone in sight. Must be time for another Tour de France.

Off the ice

G He received a pro forma vote of confidence from his boss, the GM, and the owner appears to have gone along. But there are persistent whispers that suggest Bruins Coach Dave Lewis is not safe yet. Among folks in the organization, theres significant disapproval of his performance this past season with many believing hes simply not equal to the job. Assuming the owner is listening, might he be getting antsy about this? If so, what might he do? Stay tuned.

Maddens Raiders victim

G Lastly, a word too brief on Darryl Stingley who died a couple of weeks ago after a hard life savagely blighted by an entirely needless and senseless act of violence. Darryl was a charter member of the Patriots edition I covered intensely and knew best; the wonderful wagon Chuck Fairbanks put together that probably should have won a couple of championships. But it was an ill-starred bunch with Stingleys tragedy being only the foremost example. They lost their soul that summer night in 77.

Black Jack Tatum got all the blame. And its true enough that he was a ruthless, sociopath on the playing field. It was Tatum who smashed Stingleys spinal column with a perfectly pointless, late-hit delivered blatantly with malice aforethought in the irrelevant stages of a meaningless pre-season exhibition. Truly a creep on the field, Tatum deserved blame.

But the real villain -- in my book -- was the Raiders coach, John Madden. Yes, indeed! The one and same jolly old oaf who has been entertaining us with his avuncular charm all these years on Monday Night Football. Madden has been trying to atone for a quarter of a century but some will never forget that when he coached the Raiders he had the nastiest and dirtiest team in the game. Tatum was only one of the more colorful characters. The roster was flushed with thugs, nor would Madden have wanted it any other way.

The foremost victim of the madness Madden gleefully presided over was Darryl Stingley, a very nice fellow. Some of us wont forget that.