Around the fields, diamonds, and elsewhere

Here's some stray flotsam and jetsam to be stitched into an amusing pastiche beginning with the hockey, which is the hottest sporting story in town for the first time in a long time.

Patrice swept

As the clock ticked on the final minutes of Boston's giddy sweep of Philadelphia, you began to look for it to happen. Because you just knew there was no way the Flyers were going to abide getting rubbed out in four straight without exacting their usual mean and petty price. It was only a question of who would be the victim. That it turned out to be Patrice Bergeron, arguably the Bruin least deserving of their pathetic vengeance, made it all the nastier.

Claude Giroux's needless wipeout of Bergeron in the last gasps of the Cup's quarterfinals was a quintessential Flyer moment. This team has been a pack of guttersnipes specializing in cheap shots usually delivered from the blind side for two generations. It's in their DNA. Giroux should have been penalized, for the hit was high and there was obvious "intent to injure"; not that it would have affected the game's outcome.

The fact that the officials made no call again underscores the sheer impossibility of adequately policing the head-hunting stuff on the ice. The game is too quick. The margins are too thin. Which is why traditionalists would like the quaint and highly effective old policy of allowing the players to police themselves restored. Giroux should have been made to pay for his low blow. In the old days, that would have happened. That's why, in the old days, there were fewer such incidents and head injuries were much rarer.

If Bergeron is lost or his effectiveness lessened and all of that proves to be a decisive factor in the rest of the run for the Cup -- and there's a good chance of that because Bergeron's particular skills make him the Bruins most valuable forward in these playoffs -- we can assume the Flyers will be mighty pleased with themselves. It's in their DNA.

NFL derailed

Given the ongoing train wreck that the NFL has made of its so long haughty self, the recent annual draft -- usually among the more fascinating festivals on the sporting calendar -- seemed an abject farce. Maybe they had no choice but to hold the thing. But it sure seemed silly.

Presiding over it all with forced humor and the awkward charm of a carnival barker was the Commissioner, who has stripped himself of his office's majesty with a clumsy performance in presiding over the game's bitter labor dispute. Whatever the outcome of this fiasco, it's hard to conceive of Roger Goodell surviving in the office. All commissioners are expected to be in bed with the owners. But Goodell has pushed that notion well beyond tolerable limits. On the eve of the draft he issued an apocalyptic analysis of how bad things will be in the NFL if the players win; essentially predicting total ruin. It was absurdly one-sided.

Against that weird backdrop the drafting of new cannon fodder for a warlike game that's in total shambles as if it were business as usual had the look of an inglorious exercise in pure delusion. How the mighty have fallen.

Dodger dodging

On the subject of "pure delusion" we have an update on Dodger owner Frank McCourt. They are not saying it because they don't want to give this loose cannon any more fodder for his inevitable lawsuit against major league baseball. But Czar Bud Selig obviously seized control of the team because he's convinced McCourt will take the heavy dough that comes with his new television contract and run.

Some $300 million of the $3 billion dollar, 20-year TV deal can be tapped here and now. McCourt insists he'll use it to run the team and meet such obligations as the monthly payroll which is due in but days. Selig, clearly, doesn't believe him. Meanwhile, the ever vigilant ex-wife, Jamie McCourt, walks the sidelines while her bevy of divorce lawyers lick their collective chops. If McCourt defaults on the payroll, Selig can finalize his seizure of the Dodgers, then order McCourt to sell the team immediately, if not sooner.

You may feel he needs to do this for "the good of baseball" and believe -- as Selig obviously does -- that McCourt is a menace who must be chased away at all costs, ASAP. But if McCourt can successfully argue that he fails to meet his obligations only because Selig denies him access to legitimate revenues -- the TV money -- he just may have a heckuva case in the eyes of the law. And it doesn't seem that hard a case to make, at least in the opinion of this arm-chair barrister. This thing is no slam dunk for Selig. Nor do the likes of McCourt go down easily.

To think we might have had such a wonderful circus playing out right here in our own backyard had McCourt won the raffle to buy the Red Sox from the Yawkey Estate which could have happened given that he was a major bidder. In Boston, where everything is de facto doubled in intensity and complexity it would have been a Marx Brothers production. Can you just begin to imagine the raw indignity of "the Nation"? Ah, the rancor, the anguish, the melodrama! Such a pity we had to miss all that.

Oh, Oh, Ohio

No doubt you too are shocked at the revelations of so much chicanery giddily transpiring under the umbrella of the Ohio State football program. In addition to the long train of recruiting abuses that Coach Jim Tressel has been nailed with there is now a parcel of small but embarrassing violations by players being alleged, which investigators maintain the once high, mighty, and intensely righteous Tressel did nothing to stop. The piling on continues merrily.

In the latest allegations at least 50 players are said to have received nice new automobiles from hotshot local dealers for prices ranging from ridiculously low to absolutely nothing. In another scam, dozens of players are said to have been allowed to merchandize their autographs for all sorts of favors with one of the goofier ones being free body tattoos at a Columbus tattoo parlor. Hey, we couldn't make this stuff up.

The good news is that the strains of "Goodbye Columbus" are to be heard wafting over the campus of good old OSU as Coach Tressel packs his bags. His lofty airs over the years leave him with few in the business who are now defending him and fewer still who are sympathetic. The bad news is that many of his old buddies who spurn him are probably guilty of worse.


It's an interesting idea the Celtics have floated -- with the zealous support of the city -- to immortalize Bill Russell further by rendering a statue of him for prominent display.

But it would be rather more appropriate if they followed the lead of the Red Sox and their bronzed presentation of "the Teammates" -- Messrs. Williams, DiMaggio, Doerr, and Pesky.

In the establishing of the Celtics' greatness and the founding of their considerable legend, Mr. Russell had three equal partners and they would be Walter Brown, Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy. They were true equals, indispensably aligned. Honoring all four is a much better idea.

Turkey's turkeys

Lastly, may we pay tribute to the soccer fans of Turkey who bow to no loopy zealots anywhere in the world in demonstrating the true depths of their passion and allegiance.

The Turkish Soccer Federation was forced to cancel a major match between arch-rivals Besilctas and Burrapor when riots broke out in the city of Burra. At least 25 police were injured and while no players were harmed the Besilctas team was trapped in its hotel for hours and eventually had to be escorted out of town by the army.

All of which makes the emotions of the Red Sox-Yankees relationship seem tediously wimpy.

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