Silly season

Maybe it is only what we should expect as we slog through the dog days of August, so named by the Romans because their hounds invariably got louder, more combative, and generally obnoxious during the steamiest month of the year.

Or maybe it's just that civility has been steadily ebbing away from the entire culture for at least a century. So why should the Kingdom of Sports be an exception?

Hey, it's for the sociologists to figure out the why's and wherefore's of such things. What remains clear is that nastiness lately abounds in the games we play, both on and off the fields. As temperatures rise to 105 in the shade in the ballparks and football camps of the midlands, tempers have little trouble keeping apace. Anger is the coin of the realm. The scene is rich with acrimony.

Take the brawl the Cardinals and Reds staged the other night. Now there's nothing new about ballplayers swarming around the field pushing and shoving one another while venting a cuss or two after one of the kiddies gets a close shave with a fast ball. But as Bill Lee, vagabond lefty and erstwhile Red Sox philosopher, famously observed, most bench-clearing baseball rumbles are about as violent as a pillow fight staged by giddy sophomores at an upscale prep school.

But not this one. It raged up and down the field. Everyone attached to both teams including trainers, ball boys, and travelling secretaries appeared to be involved. It was mayhem inspired by malice with all of it provoked by extraordinarily vicious comments by the Reds' peppery infielder Brandon Philips, gleefully printed in the local newspaper. These two teams profess to hate one another. A resumption of hostilities is widely anticipated when next they meet in September.

If endeavoring to punch out your opponent has always been approved conduct wasting your own teammate in the middle of a game was decidedly frowned upon the first century and a half baseball was played. Billy Martin, of course, once memorably tangled with Reggie Jackson, but that was Yankee ragtime and didn't count. You may further recall Manny Ramirez trying to waste Kevin Youkilis while endeavoring to get himself exiled two years ago but we naturally assumed that was just another of Manny's pet idiosyncrasies. Turns out Manny may have simply been ahead of the times because dugout fisticuffs are suddenly all the rage.

In a corker in Seattle, Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu duked it out with Chone Figgins, a high-priced free agent acquisition who has totally bombed. It mattered not how much Figgins might have deserved a thrashing. The fracas cost Wakamatsu his job, giving new meaning to the time-honored thesis that it's much easier to fire the manager. Similar mid-game dugout tantrums have embarrassed the White Sox, Marlins and Mets.

The scariest though was the Vesuvian dugout eruption of moody Cubs' hurler Carlos Zambrano who apparently can put the fear of God in the bravest of baseball men when he becomes unglued. While he hasn't quite come out and said so, Zambrano's epic meltdown was apparently the last straw for Lou Piniella, a legendarily unflappable baseball man who, like many before him, discovered Wrigley Field was his Waterloo. Lou, who in his time blithely endured three raucous runs with the Yankees when George Steinbrenner was at his utter zaniest, is calling it quits at the end of the season.

It's not only been baseball that has been stalked this long, hot summer by the sort of nasty stuff that ought not be allowed to enliven daily sports pages. The incredibly vulgar give and take of the Rick Pitino trial on rape charges might have humiliated college basketball had not that sordid enterprise long ago slipped beyond the reach of mere shame. Then, Lorenzen Wright, retired NBA basketball player, got himself murdered after being last seen -- according to his wife -- lumbering around with a brief case full of drugs. We long ago recognized the age of the Frank Merriwells and Chip Hiltons had passed, but may we still ask, ''Is there no end to this stuff?''

It's been relatively quiet so far, but these are no less nervous times at the NFL training camps. The Commissioner, seemingly determined to clean up his league, is poised to drop the hammer given the merest excuse. Those currently on probation include Steelers' glamour QB Ben Roethlisberger who hasn't completely beaten his second sexual misconduct rap. One more night on the town and Eagles' glamour QB Michael Vick will be back in the dog-house and should that happen the Commissioner will throw away the key. Then there are those loveable Cincinnati Bengals who may have more parolees on their roster than draft picks. Hey, it's a hard game.

The Feds are going after biker Lance Armstrong because they are convinced he won all those wonderful races on dope. The NCAA is going after USC's 2004 national championship because they have concluded Reggie Bush is a cheat. All of Argentina is going after fallen idol, Diego Maradona, because that's what sportsmen do in Argentina. And FIFA is thinking of divorcing itself from the World Cup. That'll be the day!

Dumbest caper has been the collected antics of Rex Ryan, loudmouth coach of the New York Jets. In his relentless campaign to talk his team to the heights, Ryan allowed his huge ego to run amuck on an HBO pre-season show that gleefully featured him spewing profanity laden tirades that shocked even his own mother, who scolded him publicly. Do you think Bill Belichick is aching to take this clown to the cleaners? Tune in the second week of the regular season.

But my pick for the silly season's very goofiest sporting feud is the heated confrontation of Corey Pavin, Ryder Cup Captain, and Jim Gray, self-professed investigative sports reporter-extraordinaire who currently works for the Golf Channel. Gray quoted Pavin as saying Tiger Woods was a lock for the 10-man, U.S Ryder team. Pavin denies he said it, noting the squad won't be picked until next month.

On the surface it's no big deal. People quibble about who said what all the time in sports. But Gray made a terrible mistake. He angrily encountered Pavin and accused him of lying and then said in front of witnesses, ''You're going down.'' For a reporter to threaten to use our precious media powers to ruin a jock purely out of revenge only lowers us to the level of the very worst of ''them''. In this particular contretemps, I choose to believe Pavin, whom I don't know, over Gray, because alas I do.

Which brings us to the grand prize; Booth's now annual "Dog Day of the Year Award".

It goes to Francisco Rodriguez, accomplished reliever of the deeply dysfunctional New York Mets, who punched out his common-law wife's 58 year-old father outside what is lovingly called "the family lounge" at the Mets nice new ball yard, Citi Field, after yet another painful Mets' loss.

Explanations of what precisely inspired this nightmare remain sketchy but the fact that K-Rod did a whale of a number on the grandfather of his two kids is beyond dispute. After smacking him a few times, according to witnesses, the 28-year-old pitcher rammed the old boy's head against a wall. Hey, you need to understand that the games are stressful. Cooling off ain't easy. K-Rod has sort of apologized although some regard his effort as limp.

Still, he'll probably be forgiven. Sympathy extends to the Mets who are having a frightful year. Their other premier and very high-priced pitcher -- the once estimable and much coveted Johan Santana -- has lately been nailed with a rape charge stemming from a messy incident on a Florida golf course last Fall and while the Law appears indifferent civil law suits of major-league proportions are brewing, nonetheless.

Ah, the adversity of it all. There is just no end to it.

It was Grantland Rice who once noted: "It matters not who won or lost but how you played the game."

What a silly fellow.

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Nation
Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Nation
Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Local
Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

World
Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

World
Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

Nation
'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Local
Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Local
Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

Local
CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Local
Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Nation
Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Nation
Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...