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Several things to chew on while waiting for that annual siege of national lunacy called “March Madness” to pass like some unpleasant weather system. Seems like something of an honor to have this region effectively snubbed by the silly business. It’s something we ought to be proud of, I’d say, while not expecting many to agree.
Watch for the Red Sox to heavily bemoan their junket to Japan should they encounter early season problems. When the Yankees had a less arduous Japan gig a couple of years ago it messed them up for six weeks forcing them to struggle the rest of the season just to make the playoffs. When they whined about it, Red Sox Nation snickered. Now they get to be on the receiving end of the snickers.
Boston’s marketing mission has been gravely compounded by other dumb arrangements made by Major League baseball. The Red Sox effectively start the season with an 18-day road trip spread over three countries and a half dozen time zones. That’s ridiculous. They are sure to pay a price.
Congratulations should be extended to Pitcher Beckett for his strategic timing in coming up with an aching back (already much improved) to get off the hook. If I’m a cynic it’s because I’ve been watching ballplayers concoct such artful dodges too long. You can get away with it when you’re the ace. Tears for the poor pets should be minimal. Remember they’re getting $40,000 apiece as a bonus for simply going along for the ride. What a great country.
The winter gladiators
A year ago we were bemoaning the abominable state of our winter games. Now we have the Celtics approaching the NBA playoffs as odds-on favorites to go all the way while the Bruins, with conspicuous valor, hang doggedly to a post-season berth.
Add to that the likelihood that Kevin Garnett, who has transformed the Celtics in a single season, as only the likes of Bill Russell and Larry Bird have been able to do, will be the NBA’s MVP. Is there a better choice?
Even more improbably, Zdeno Chara stands a strong chance of winning the Norris Trophy citing the NHL’s best defenseman. If his first season in Boston was disappointing, the massive Czech has more than redeemed himself. On his health, worn down by a grueling load of ice time, rest the Bruins’ chances. It will be close.
May I ask, what’s wrong with the request to the government by Congressman Charles Weiner to dispense with the further investigation of Roger Clemens in the ongoing steroid fiasco? Weiner, a New York Democrat who has fancied being mayor of Gotham, was widely derided by media wiseguys as a grandstanding pol. As if defending Clemens were actually a popular thing for a politician to do.
But his logic is solid, in my book. He argues that Clemens has already suffered more than enough and I agree. You have to be a hard-hearted character to really believe that having his reputation ruined, his legacy destroyed, the whole world believe him to be a cheat and a liar, plus the probable loss of a Hall of Fame berth, along with tens of millions of bucks of earning power is not enough of a price to pay for committing indiscretions that we all know hundreds of other athletes have committed without paying any price.
But Weiner makes an even better point when he questions the ferocity of the Justice Department’s avowed goal of bagging Clemens for deceiving Congress. “Have they nothing better to do?” he effectively asks. Justice has put its two toughest and most tenacious hound-dogs on the Clemens case. “Have they no bigger fish to fry?” Weiner effectively wonders. How does Roger Clemens qualify as Public Enemy Number One?
Clemens has been ruined. He’ll end up as the “Lord Jim” of Baseball, a pathetic outcast. Enough already. If all of that doesn’t satisfy your loathing for the man, you need to get a life. Of all the politicians who have sought to fatten up at the expense of baseball in this steroids fiasco, Congressman Weiner has made the most sense.
The czar’s hypocrisy
You would think it would be awkward for Baseball Czar Bud Selig to sit in judgment of the monstrous salaries awarded players given his own obscene wages, but he manages it gracefully. Selig, the quintessential small market owner at heart, privately seethes at the ludicrous spending of his fellow lodge brothers (and sometimes, not so “privately”). He’s been known to vent at owners who go overboard and he finds ways to punish those who do. Hello there, Clan Steinbrenner.
But he bats not an eyelash at drawing an annual salary of precisely $14,515,071, and fast rising. Under Good old Bud’s watch, the commissioner’s annual earnings have multiplied about seven-fold. Now that, is truly ludicrous. Doubtless he would argue that he still makes less than Chan Ho Pak, who averages about seven wins a season although only when he feels able to pitch. Bud should be reminded that two abominations don’t make a right.
Elsewhere on the hypocrisy beat
American sports lovers do enjoy looking down on those lowbrow European and South American soccer fans who simply don’t know how to behave at a contest. But researchers at the University of Colorado offer evidence that American College football fans may be just as bad, or even -- given the context -- worse. Their findings, passed on in this month’s Atlantic Monthly, are based on a five-year study of crime data from police stations in 26 college/university towns.
They reveal that hostile behavior routinely rises after home football games and goes through the roof after upsets, with wins being even more hazardous than losses. They claim disorderly conduct arrests increase by a stunning 93 percent after upset victories. Leading crimes of choice are assault, vandalism and DUI. And they emphasize the problem is “entirely driven” by incredible quantities of booze. Buckle down, Winooski!
The political business of sports
And here is another borrowed item that might have eluded your attention. It’s from the not exactly mainstream but highly authoritative “Sports Business Journal” and it concerns the presidential campaign donations of high-powered sports luminaries.
Leading the Boston sporting moguls who have donated to the Clinton campaign, you may be surprised to hear, is Charlie Jacobs, rising power in the Bruins galaxy having been installed by Daddy Dearest. Young Charles is close to the maximum personal donation of $2,300. Larry Lucchino, Prime Minister of the Red Sox, is into the senator’s cause for a grand.
The Jacobs Family is also high on Barack Obama. Daddy Jeremy has contributed $2,000. Wyc Grousbeck, a Celtics owner, and Tom Werner of the Red Sox triumvirate edge him out $2,300. Grousbeck hedged his bets. He also ponied up $2,300 for the ill-fated Mitt Romney cause, as did his fellow Mormon, GM Danny Ainge.
The Kraft’s would appear to be solidly Republican. Both Owner Bob and his aide de camp, son Jonathan, poured $2,300 down the Romney memory hole. Bob Kraft balanced his bets, contributing a like amount to Senator John McCain. The biggest losers -- you will be pleased to hear -- are the Yankees. George Steinbrenner, who is an old hand at this stuff, came up with $4,600 while Randy Levine and Brian Cashman parted with $2,300 each. All of it was wasted on long-gone Rudy Giuliani, a longtime family friend and the most spectacular presidential bust of the political season.
It seemed something of a surprise to find nothing coming from Curt Schilling, who is reputedly considering a mission to save us politically once he is done sacrificing himself for the good of the national pastime. But then no active athletes were on the list. What does it prove? Nothing! Although I remain a bit surprised that the Jacobs boys are Democrats.