Opinion

Catching up

byClark Booth
7/18/2008

Heres a little of this and a bit of that as we endeavor to catch up after a two-week sabbatical on the beach.

Wimbledon

And if you caught only one sporting event in the entire precious interlude lets hope it was that magnificent mens finish to this years timeless tennis festival at Wimbledon. It was not just the stunning performances of Brothers Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer but their elegant stage presence and sportsmanship that made it a match for the ages.

When tennis is played at such a level with such intensity and for such stakes, there is no greater exposition of sport, nor better expression of its genuine meaning. At such moments, I would argue no game is more difficult to play or demands more stamina, fierce commitment, and sheer grace under pressure. This years climax was a glorious example, to the point where it became almost criminal that there had to be a loser. But then who could have handled that awkward role with more lan than the Swiss gentleman, Roger Federer. Nor did the loss diminish his claim to being, arguably, the greatest player in the history of this very old game.

In the international sporting boom of the last decade, tennis has lagged. But this one match, commanding fabulous ratings to go with its rave notices, might have turned all that around. It gives hope that the glory days of the 70s when the game was exploding and every final seemed titanic might be reprised? And yes, an assist goes to the Williams sisters, whose sibling showdown in the Ladys finale could only have been topped by the epic that the men produced.

It was jolly grand fare, made the more so by the magic of Wimbledon, still unique among all the sporting venues.

Yankee follies

Meanwhile, at the other end of the sporting spectrum, we have the ongoing A-Rod follies in New York that increasingly bring the potential for disgrace to the once vaunted Yankee pinstripes. They have cleverly managed to make their oddly flawed third baseman the face of the franchise, their flagship as it were. Theyve backed that up with an investment of more than $300 million, which guarantees theyll have Rodriguez with his bizarre make-up and perverse need for starring roles in the raciest tabloids wrapped around the franchises neck like an anvil for a full generation.

The mans immense talents are becoming overwhelmed by his witless fondness for gutter-level off the field pranks. It begins to cast him as a bit of a sick puppy, yet he seems oblivious. Corny and even hypocritical though its seemed to some, the Yankees value stately behavior and sincerely preach class. Laugh all you wish, Boston, but they take their precious image seriously.

In that complex context -- highly regarded by the volatile Steinbrenner clan -- A-Rod is a gathering disaster, no matter his numbers on the field. More to the point, its doubtful the Steinbrenners enjoy being made to look like fools, which their nave embrace of the man and all his colossal baggage begins to suggest. And dont bring the Yankees illustrious playboys of their brilliant past -- including the fabled likes of Ruth, DiMaggio, and Mantle -- into the discussion. Their times were different, and so were they.

On the local ice

How is it that the other NHL teams have plenty of room under their salary cap but the Bruins never have any? How come the Red Wings -- the Stanley Cup Champs brimming with high salaries on the leagues best roster -- can afford to sign brutish forward Marian Hossa, the seasons premier free agent, for almost eight million bucks? How can the Rangers sign three hefty priced free agents every year and still entertain the outrageous contract demands of Jaromir Jagr? How can all the contenders already loaded with pricey stars make such moves every summer while the Bruins can only afford to sign a journeyman winger named Michael Ryder?

Maybe it has something to do with the mysteries of the salary cap. Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the Bruins dont know how to manage the salary cap. Maybe it further verifies that the Bruins have never adjusted to the new way of doing things in the National Hockey League, which may mean they remain doomed to mediocrity.

As for Ryder, his signing was widely dismissed as highly questionable and too costly. He had a couple of decent seasons in Montreal but ended up in Habs Coach Guy Carbonneaus doghouse. He was a healthy scratch in seven playoff games while scoring only 14 goals this past season. For this the Bruins pledged all their available cap space amounting to $12 million over the next three seasons.

Its been said Claude Julien wanted him and after his fine work in his first season as Bruins coach Julien should get what he wants, within reason and Ryder is faintly within reason. But its not encouraging.

And furthermore...

Do you think Baseball Czar Bud Selig has any problem moaning about runaway salaries for the players of his game when he is grabbing $14 million annually, which is roughly 10 times what his predecessor was paid? Just wondering.

Heres one more reason why the Yankees will not snare another trip to the playoffs with another garrison finish; 33 of their last 52 games are on the road. Does seem a bit nasty of the schedule-makers, though, to send them packing the last week of the season when the gates close at old Yankee Stadium, dont you think?

Their protestations not withstanding would you be surprised if Barry Bonds ends up with the Mets? Just one more injury might make it happen.

Only eight newspapers in all of North America sent a reporter to cover the Stanley Cup Finals, and three of them were from Canada. How the mighty have fallen!

Word from Gainesville, Florida, self-proclaimed hub of the sporting universe, reveals that Austin Rivers, son of Celtic Coach Doc Rivers, has orally committed to become a Gator. He does so at the end of his sophomore year while still only 15 years old. Guess he wont have to worry about his SATs. Its unclear whether the University of Florida will still honor the admission if he fails to graduate high school. Probably depends on his PPGs.

Which reminds me of one of the best sports stories Ive heard lately; one that got no attention. Back in the 80s, Joe Dumars bailed out of college while a sophomore and joined the Pistons. Like thousands of other kids he promised his parents hed finish what he started some day. Sure! This May -- 23 years later -- he received a degree in business management from McNeese State. Not that he needed it. After a fabulous playing career ending at the Hall of Fame, Dumars has become Detroits very able general manager. Hes been a huge success on and off the floor without that degree. But he had, you see, promised! We need more such basketball stories.

In case you didnt notice, Jumbo Joe Thornton had another crummy post-season.

I know Josh Beckett is a premium pitcher and hes excelled here and you love him. But dont you think if the Red Sox had it to do all over again they would hang on to Hanley Ramirez, now widely proclaimed the best player in the National League?

After voting Jason Varitek and his .218 batting average -- while mired in a 15 for 118 slump -- onto the All Star team, major league players forever forfeited their right to gripe about the way the fans vote, as they have been doing for 75 years. Not that Manny Ramirez deserved to be on the team. But Mike Lowell sure did.

On the other hand, look at it this way. Maybe A-Rod and Madonna simply deserve each other.