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Starting from where we left off...

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In the age of modern sport with its daily torrent of mindless give and take a couple of weeks on the beach can leave you fairly buried even if too much of what comes and goes is ragtime. Some artful catching-up is hence obliged.

The NHL's labor talks

In the opening salvo, we discover we may have the "Mother" of the all-time destructive sporting collective bargaining collisions on our hands. Borrowing from the playbook of the Robber Barons -- hitherto believed to have been retired in the Gay Nineties -- the owners are essentially declaring war on their own players. They vow to roll back wages roughly 22 percent while stripping their labor force of perks and rights they've enjoyed since the Original Six held them in total bondage a half century ago. To the players, the opening salvo was a bloody insult.

Many observers choose to regard the tactic as amusing, presumably on the assumption that the owners couldn't possibly be that dumb and are merely posturing. Methinks they underestimate the danger of these fools.

Serious degrees of incompetence and delusion characterize the ranks of the NHL's oafish moguls, at least half of whom have no business being in the game. As but one measure of their collective wit and wisdom, owning a hockey team in Phoenix makes as much sense as establishing a surfing school on Golden Pond. The Sunbelt owners, who now constitute a tyrannical minority, won't mind driving this alleged "negotiating" process right over the cliff.

If the owners are not posturing there's no way there will be a deal by the mid-September deadline; not with that worthy old Bolshevik, Don Fehr, calling the shots for the players. Nor is it likely that Commissioner Bettman -- who is totally in the tank with the owners -- would allow the season to start without a new contract although he could do that if the talks were proceeding. To those few who care, be advised that it's not too early to worry about whether there will be an NHL season, "next season."

London Olympics beckon

Featuring surface-to-air missile emplacements on top of apartment buildings abutting the stadium grounds to ward off would-be terrorists. Do you begin to wonder if the Games have outlived their reasonable necessity?

But it's nice to see the US Olympic Committee in familiar form. Allowing their team's garb to be produced in China is merely dumb. It's the pretensions of the thing that are truly amazing. The uniforms they've grandly authorized for the US delegation verify once again that the USOC doesn't have a clue. Is it further possible that having high-fashion designer Ralph Lauren produce the costumes is vaguely out of step with the essential premises of this athletic festival?

Why do they need to be decked out like Swiss Air attendants, or an honor guard from the Kingdom of Zenda, or a chorus line from a Rudolph Friml operetta? Can't you just see the assembled USOC poohbahs exclaiming in delight, "Ah now that's the look we want our boys and girls to have!" Perhaps, it's the berets.

Pitiful Penn State

Tragedy becomes laced with needless farce when the likes of Bill James, resident Red Sox guru, opts to blame the media for the classical failings of Joe Paterno. The Freeh Report slams the book shut. It's clear that dear old JoPa was no latter day Lear sadly wronged by twisted fates but someone or something much deeper and darker. Whoever wanders into the minefield of apologia on this dreadful matter is a dang fool.

Meanwhile, the NCAA in all its legendary pomposity prepares to get involved. Heaven help us! The marching band and chowder society from Kansas -- willing choreographers of all that's wrong with collegiate sport -- is said to be pondering further penalties for Penn State. How very gallant.

The dilemma is staggering. Should the University in Happy Valley be sanctioned for its monumental institutional failings? Few would object. But consider that those who would pay the heaviest price for any such sanctions are the kids now attending the university who had nothing to do with the crimes committed.

It would take Solomon himself to make the requisite very precise distinctions. Of this much, I can assure you. Solomon does not work for the NCAA.

Red Sox Notes

Which you can take to the bank for whatever they are worth.

The high priced and under achieving Adrian Gonzalez blundered when he opted out of the last ill-fated Red Sox meeting with the Yankees claiming an alleged but ill-defined "illness." No doubt his reasons were valid and his discomfort genuine and in Southern California, where he formerly performed, it would have passed unnoticed. But this is Boston and they were playing the Yankees in arguably the season's most important game, as are they all. Moreover, his illness promptly proved rather less than "terminal." Freddie Lynn, a better player who contributed more, got run out of town for much less.

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