Off on the beach a couple weeks, stuff keeps happening on the relentless merry-go-round of contemporary sport. The games never sleep. No sense trying to catch up, let alone the need. But here are a couple of highlights; or lowlights, as the case may be.
It's over; come and gone already, which will shock the countless who hadn't even realized it was a Cup year. Once high among the crown jewels on the sporting calendar on the odd years it graced us, the erstwhile fabulous yachting festival is now a ridiculously kept secret and one wonders if anyone -- in the Western Hemisphere, at least -- cares anymore. One recalls the old salts down in Newport back in the 1980s warning this would happen once "We" lost the Cup. They were absolutely right.
For the record, it was staged off idyllic Bermuda, far from the irascible waters off Newport. It climaxed in balmy June spurning the caprices and tempests of early fall. The winner was New Zealand's Emirates Team aboard "Kiwi", thrashing America's "Oracle" 8-1 in the final humiliating round. Adding further insult, most of the American crew-men were Australians. As for the boats, they were weird catamarans looking more like spaceships; the wonderfully elegant 16-meter beauties that rolled over the oceans full sail having been officially consigned to the dustbin of history, alongside Noah's Ark.
One wonders why we bother anymore. But I'm here to tell you it's a loss well worth lamenting. Had the pleasure of covering seven of them; back when an America's Cup summer was long, thrilling and glorious. They race again in 2020. Off Auckland!
Support for legislation that would legalize sports-betting quietly took a giant leap forward when Basketball Czar Adam Silver vigorously endorsed the proposal -- virtually demanding it be adopted -- and then had his motion warmly seconded by relatively new Baseball Czar Ron Manfred, who -- it's becoming clear -- loves to tinker with everything. This is crazy!
These are the two sports that have been historically most tarnished by gambling abuses and the creeps who orchestrate them. Why would they be so eager to cast wide-open this of all doors? Of all the games basketball, once pushed to the edge of extinction by gamblers and fixers, and baseball, having infamously featured the most bitter scandal in sports history, should know better.
Silver, Manfred, and other naïve proponents argue legalizing the business would regulate it. Nonsense! It would only multiply the action and thereby the stakes while swelling the ranks of the suckers. How much success has law enforcement had in bringing about 'regulation'? Nothing short of converting the mob to monastic life would begin to make a dent. And that ain't happening on Adam Silver's watch.
At the risk of seeming a venerable bore and hopeless Luddite, may I suggest to you that the notion of presenting the home run derby that now precedes with so much fanfare baseball's thoroughly pointless all-star game as a genuine athletic competition is idiotic.
The NHL Off-season is about over. Such machinations as may be feasible let alone productive have either happened by now or aren't going to happen. And what have the Bruins done?
Nothing! All their arch competitors have shuffled their decks if only to exhibit signs of life. But not the Bruins, other than to boast of their drafting and how promising are their prospects. But such talk is cheap, especially in hockey wherein so many of the hopefuls are just kids.
What you'd like to see from the Bruins are signs of a strategy, a game-plan. But there's none evident nor a hint of one evolving. Mark Methot, a defenseman they allegedly coveted, got traded for peanuts and Marcus Johansson, a high-impact winger, for even less. Did they make bids, even edge into the discussions? No sign of it. The great fear here is that the Bruins have done nothing this off-season because they have no idea what to do.
Almost 40, he picks where and when he plays carefully, deploying his remaining brilliance wisely. He's the most remarkably focused and disciplined athlete of his era; maybe any era. No one ever played tennis better, nor done so with greater grace, style or manners more impeccable. And now he's won Wimbledon, the ultimate event and a near incomparably grueling challenge, for an eighth time. Take a moment and salute the Swiss Knight.
The tributes accorded Gene on his passing at 86 have been terrific entirely because they're so richly deserved. A nicer man never played any game in this town and he simultaneously played two of them -- baseball and basketball -- with degrees of brilliance and never once stopped smiling or making others smile. The best of his humor was delightfully self-effacing; this being a superb example.
According to Gene he was at the end of the road in sports and knew it when one day he found himself sitting in a pew in a little chapel in the Carolinas weeping uncontrollably.
Thus aroused, the resident parson approached him and said, "I'm so sorry, Son. Did you lose your mother?"
"Not my Mother, Reverend," Gene replied. "I lost my fastball."
Do I believe it happened? Why, of course Old Sport. Gene said so and Gene Conley was sui generis.
- Clark Booth is a renowned Boston sports writer and broadcast journalist. He spent much of his long career at Boston’s WCVB-TV Chanel 5 as a correspondent specializing in sports, religion, politics and international affairs.