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Opinion
'Disa and data'

By Clark Booth
Posted: 3/7/2014

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Herewith we clear the notebook of idle, stray, and perhaps fairly pointless "disa and data" with apologies to the late, great, John ''Bud'' Gillooly of that long gone but still dearly missed tabloid, The Record. It was good old Bud who coined the term and perfected the shtick.

That would, of course, have been back when Boston's sports columnists, laboring for a lusty half dozen furiously combative daily papers, were the most feared in the dodge. There are a few of us left, none much feared.

Anyway...!

The estimable NFL moguls are reportedly laboring in top secrecy worthy of the Manhattan Project in their search for the answer to how football's extra point might be fixed; you know, those chip shots the kicker boots from a couple of yards out after a TD that are successful about 99.99 percent of the time making them totally silly and a bit of a bore and we can't have that in America's ultimate game of games.

Easiest choice would be to just dump the kick, which many advocate. But there's reluctance to part with a concept ingrained more than a century, so lots of alternatives -- some bizarre -- are pondered.

Ridiculous! The answer is simple. Just back the kick up the field. Make it a much tougher try (albeit still worth only a point) from say about the 40 yard-line where kicks are hardly "automatic." It would make the play more dramatic, greatly adding to its value, while significantly influencing game strategy en route, and give teams trailing by seven late in the game much more to worry about.

You'd think solving all such issues would be required duty and a veritable day at the beach for the NFL commissioner; certainly at the salary he commands. We've lately learned -- thanks to the revelations of NFL tax records -- that Roger Goodell dragged down $44.2 million for his "work" last year. Granted the tab was swollen by certain deferred bonuses; his normal haul being ''only'' about $30 million per. Not bad for a professional glad-hander whose primary responsibilities are public relations and promotions.

All the major sporting czars are grossly overpaid. Even the NHL's lordly CEO, Gary Bettman, whose main contribution to his game has been the perfection of work-stoppage, gets about $15 million a year. But Goodell far and away takes the cake. Last year he grabbed roughly twice what the runner-up, baseball's Bud Selig, copped.

You wonder how in the name of common sense any of them can -- with a straight face -- rant about the runaway costs of producing sports entertainment let alone gnash their teeth over the salary demands of the players, which is their main function. Sort of gives new meaning to the term, "hypocrisy," eh!

Regarding those wispy Winter Olympics, fast receding into dim memory amidst the after-glow being rendered in nearby Ukraine with Vladimir Putin again doing the orchestration. Sort of gives new meaning to the term "culture-shock," eh.

Evolving in the discussion is the possibility baseball could be played at the winter games and hockey could be played at the summer games. It's an idea that at first seems crazy, but may well make great sense. For it's the only way the professional leagues of both games could provide the talent that's the world's best. Quite for certain is the fact the NHL can no longer go on folding-up at the height of its season at considerable sacrifice to accommodate Olympic hockey. Any such further demand is totally unreasonable.

Tiresome is the quadrennial bickering about the judging of figure skating. Nobody knows who these blokes are, how they vote, why they vote, what they look for, or how honest they may be; least of all the skaters. The entire process is governed by a veritable Omerta. It's ludicrous and begs to be corrected. Fat chance!

If Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom can be banned from playing in the gold medal Olympic finale on a drug charge, how can he be playing for the Capitals against the Bruins six days later? What sense does that make?

Anybody who thinks the larger Olympic ice surface results in a better game than what we get on the smaller NHL rinks is confusing ice hockey with figure skating. There's a difference.

If you use the old way of calculating medal counts -- ascribing five points to a gold, three to silver, and one to bronze -- then the USA finished fourth at Sochi (behind Canada and Norway as well as Russia) not second as American apologists keep insisting. Personally, I don't think medal counts are worth a pitcher of warm spit as the saying goes. But it's no less a fact.

According to NY Times' headline writers, in six days the US men's hockey team plummeted from the "biggest miracle since Lake Placid" (the stunning defeat of Russia) to the ''biggest embarrassment in 94 years'' (the dismal flop versus Finland). Must be some sort of record, although one suspects the truth lay somewhere between those extremes.

Some short takes on this and that:

Do you too sense the Celtics are going nowhere until they rid themselves of the illusion Rajon Rondo is the key to their future?

In what's been far and away his best season, New York outfielder Brett Gardner hit .273 with 8 homers, 52 RBI, and 25 stolen bases which if solid is hardly lights-out. For that, the Yanks have awarded him a four year, $52 million pact which all the experts proclaim 'a bargain' for the Yanks. It tells you a ton about the state of the game.

On the other hand, there's the case of the Patriots' solid, smart, much respected D-back Steve Gregory. He had an admirable season for which the Patriots now reward him with his release in order to save three million dollars against their salary cap. It once again verifies NFL contracts aren't worth the paper they're written on, either.

Then there's the D-back they intend to keep. Alfonzo Dennard may only have to serve 35 days in a Nebraska jail thanks to the amazing lenience apparently extended football players convicted of assaulting police officers in that once rather 'red' state. But in the wake of the Hernandez abomination, Dennard remains another sad comment on the personnel policies of the Belichick regime.

Count me as another in the lengthening ranks of those who doubt the wisdom of Derek Jeter announcing his retirement so early, thus inviting eight months of epic "farewells." The unflappable Jeter can handle much more than most mortals and remain "cool," but setting himself up for this ordeal over which he can exert little control is just not his style. Deserving as he is, you rather hope it doesn't somehow backfire.

Lastly, here's a sampling of Bud Gillooly's wit and wisdom as rendered on that September day in 1960 that Ted Williams, his arch foe, retired. Bud liked to call Williams "Our Hemingway" (because) "Oh, the stories he has written for us." Which inspired the indebted Bud to offer these parting barbs the day the Great One headed off into his flaming sunset.

"Dear Boss. This is it. Get another boy and give him a new ribbon and let him take over the keyboard. This is my official resignation. Williams has retired. He won't be back. Neither will I. My old job as a lifeguard for an uptown car-wash is still open. I can return at the same salary. The loss of Williams to a Boston sports columnist is like a bad case of athlete's fingers to a Van Cliburn. You just can't pound the keys any more. The song has ended."

Such classic irreverence! No sentimental mush burdening that prose. A glorious character, Bud has been gone almost a half century now and I still miss him. Almost as much as I miss Williams!