Late summer musings
Rounding the bases -- long the occasional custom here -- while wondering if the Patriots sloppy exhibition kick-off against the eternally pathetic Jaguars officially ends talk of "perfection" this season. Not that the team itself would be guilty of such wooly thinking -- and certainly not the coach -- but all the savants have been raving about the prospect of a wire to wire blitz with Patriots Nation being utterly giddy over the notion. Alas, already it's been tainted and it's only early August.
"Nonsense" you say, pre-season games don't mean diddly. And indeed that's true. Tom Brady watched from a picnic table. But in the most outrageous rip-off in sports' history, rapacious NFL owners require season-ticket holders to purchase pre-season games demanding full-season prices for glorified work-outs and defending such "games" as meaningful. I'm willing to take them at their word.
So we can stop ruminating about "utter perfection" and re-focus on "near perfection, maybe". Isn't it nice to have this ridiculous issue resolved before the first cut.
While on the subject of voracious sports moguls a last word on Jeffrey Loria's departure from the baseball scene is in order. As the game's zaniest, least respected, and most bumbling owner -- one who'll forever be remembered for celebrating his only triumph by immediately tearing apart his franchise -- Mr. Loria nonetheless manages to sell the crummy Miami Marlins that cost him $158 Million 15 years ago for $1.25 Billion; scoring a profit just shy of 800 percent. Only in America!
An internet enterprise alleged to be knowledgeable has gone to considerable effort to grade and rank the 50 greatest African-American athletes in American sports history (in all sports). The learned group reputedly loaded with academics and called "the Undefeated" professes to have used all sorts of advanced analytics, logarithms, cyber magic and related hocus-pocus to arrive at their intensely considered conclusions.
Among their results, they rank Bill Russell the 36th greatest black athlete of all-time, behind Herschel Walker, George Foreman, Florence Griffith Joyner and 32 others. They rank Jimmy Brown 30th greatest and Joe Louis 23rd. Two young women, who were teenage Olympians were ranked eighth and ninth, ahead of Jesse Owens. Tiger Woods is unranked; didn't even make the cut.
Ah, the indignity of it! But that's probably all you need to know about this survey.
And then there are the Heavyweights. Not so sadly -- even if they were noble and brave lads -- we can at last proclaim the Klitschko era in boxing history finally over. Ex-champ Wladimir has spurned a re-match with new champ Anthony Joshua. At 41, he retires and returns home to partner with brother Vitali, also an ex-champ and now Mayor of Kiev, in the rather more turbulent and substantive battle of Ukrainian politics in which their chief foe is no less than Vladimir Putin.
However courageous they may be and admirable their politics, the 10 year dominance of the lumbering Brothers Klitschko was one long snooze that dang near put what little's left of boxing to sleep for good. You can talk about Welters and Middleweights until the cows come home but its Heavyweights that dictate the state of this game. Over the last decade, few knew let alone cared who bore the crown, which of course is now ludicrously divided into a half dozen bits and pieces.
Boxing is moribund, likely beyond revival. But for what it's worth Anthony Joshua, the young Brit now possessing the title's largest chunk, is a colorful brawler with personality and panache who may even be willing to fight in the US. Meanwhile, maybe one of the Klitschko lads can coax Mr. Putin -- long known to like cavorting around fields of play bare chested -- into the ring. That might give this tired old game a goose.
Pro's need not apply
Looks like the NHL owners weren't kidding when they ruled last winter that their contracted players would be banned from participating in the forthcoming Olympics. They've now vigorously re-enforced that edict, declaring it includes all players, no matter what country they hail from or what their personal contracts may say.
This latest hammer is likely being brought down on the league's Russian stars who -- doubtless goaded by President Putin -- are determined to play at any cost. Nor would it be surprising if the best of them, like Washington's Alex Ovechkin, retired rather than accept the ban. That would land the entire mess in court.
It's not a minor issue. NHL players, still the most owner hog-tied of all the professional athletes, are seething. The next hockey contract battle is still a couple years away but this Olympics hassle may already guarantee those talks will be unpleasant. It's another notch in the gun belt for Czar Gary Bettman.
Lastly, if this year's Hall of Fame Ceremonies seemed flat there were good reasons. It was likely the most tainted HoF class ever with all five inductees "blemished", to put it mildly. The issue being those infernal performance-enhancing drugs. Where it relates to players, the debate has been endless. Much less focus has been on those who were in charge. That's wrong.
John Schuerholz was maybe the wisest, most controlling and omniscient of front-office gurus in a career spanning the PED era. Try telling me he didn't know? Then there's Commissioner Bud Selig, who willfully turned a blind eye on the issue, gleefully milking its benefits until he found himself trapped. Whereupon, old Bud blamed the players.
Let me put it this way, old Sport. If Schuerholz and Selig belong in Cooperstown, so do Bonds and Clemens.
- 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.