Friday, September 30, 2011

THE INCREDIBLY TORTURED SOUL OF BILL BUCKNER

As I was watching the ESPN documentary "Catching Hell",
the riveting story of how Steve Bartman single-handedly, according
to some, changed the course of the 2003 NLCS, I quickly asked
myself, "Is this about Bartman or Bill Buckner?" More than 20
minutes of the program was dedicated to the tragic tale of Buckner
and his blunder in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Even though
the story wasn't about him, it was about Buckner, which reminded
me just how pathetic the media can sometimes be, and how they
were in their despicable treatment of Buckner after his error against
the New York Mets. The error ended the game, but in Boston sports
lore, Buckner cost the Red Sox a championship, one that fans
and members of the media in that town and throughout the region,
thought was rightfully theirs.


Buckner became a scapegoat, punch line, and punching bag for
all the miserable souls in New England who had watched their
team suffer year after year without a championship. He became
a symbol of the team's epic failures and a living, breathing, and
walking reminder of how the franchise always choked or
was seemingly cursed in their efforts to win the World Series
trophy, which in New England, is akin to the capturing the
Holy Grail.


It's unfortunate and sad that Buckner had to be cast unfairly as
a scapegoat, especially after what he had to endure in his
personal life. When he was 13-years old, Buckner's father
committed  suicide. When a father, mother, sister, or brother
takes their own life, it can rip apart a family, and open a gaping
wound that can never be stitched up, no matter how much time
passes. Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all
wounds. The unanswered questions and psychological impact
of it all can destroy a person for life. I'm sure Buckner found
himself asking himself why? Did I have anything to do with it?
Why did he leave all of us? Questions that remain unanswered
to this day.


This could have destroyed Buckner, but it fueled him. He
committed himself to being the best baseball player that he
could possibly be, and he became a pretty darn good one.
Buckner spent 22 years in the major leagues, won a batting
title, had a .289 lifetime average and accrued 2,715 hits.
That's more than Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, and all but
59 players in the history of the game. But after his error
in the '86 World Series, nothing Buckner  accomplished
really mattered. The image of his blunder was burned into the
consciousness of fans and media throughout New England.


After Buckner threw out the first pitch to start the 2008 season,
which was a highly-emotional event, the former Red Sox
first baseman held a press conference. Teary-eyed and on
the verge of becoming unglued, Buckner said that he had
to forgive the media, not the fans, in order to really move
on in his life. And he did, which in many ways, is really
sad. A man makes an error playing a kids game and he
has to live with the pain and shame that the media in
New England thrust upon him. They wrote about him,
mocked, and degraded him as if he weren't a human being.
They buried a career that was just 285 hits from being
enshrined in the Hall of Fame. No town creates a scapegoat
better than Boston and they had one of epic proportions.
And it is sad how they treated Buckner, really sad.


Everybody in New England kind of  lightened up on
Buckner after the Red Sox won two World Series titles
in seven years, but after suffering the biggest collapse
in baseball history, fans in the region are back to being
the same miserable souls they were until they won
it all in 2004. The Red Sox have a new scapegoat in
Terry Francona and that big bus is back in motion, running
over a lot of people who had a hand in the team's
monumental meltdown. Even Buckner's name is being
tossed around again. He appeared in "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
in early September when the Sox had a nine-game lead.
They started to collapse the day after Buckner made the
catch his life, saving a baby from an unhappy ending.
Unfortunately, Buckner couldn't rescue the Sox from
hemorrhaging to their own death.


Imagine what is going through Steve Bartman's mind
as he continues his stay in hiding, almost disappearing
into thin air in this world of cellphone cameras, Internet,
and paparazzi. The fans and media in Chicago are
even more pathetic than the ones in Boston. They still
blame a fan, someone who wasn't even playing, for
the Cubs misfortune.


Think about it. The Cubs were leading 3-0 and were five outs
away from going to the World Series. And they blame a fan.
Not a player, but a fan. A loyal Cubs fan who just wanted to
catch a foul ball. It didn't matter that Alex Gonzalez booted a
routine double-play ball that would have gotten the Cubs out
of the inning. Everybody in Chicago, fans and media alike put
the Billy Goat horns on Bartman, just as the ones in Boston
did to Buckner. How sad. How very sad is that? Bartman, like
Buckner had his life changed forever and he has to live
with taunts, criticism, and pain that few of us can imagine
living with.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

WALTER PAYTON: SWEETNESS CAN'T BE SOURED

Sweetness. Rarely has a nickname suited an athlete more perfectly
than the one given to Walter Payton during his college days at
Jackson State. Payton was a kind, gentle, and humble man, who
morphed into one of the most electrifying and fascinating players
the game has ever seen. He could vault over lineman and land
untouched into the end zone.


Payton would sometimes bury his helmet between the numbers of
250lb linebackers and turn them into road kill on the way to a
65-yard  touchdown run, which he sometimes accentuated with
the straight-legged kick of the leader of the drumline as he
waltzed into the end zone.

Payton kept on running until he earned a place into Pro Football's
Hall of Fame. He was, is, and always will be the face of the
Chicago Bears. But Walter Payton died too soon, the victim of
cancer, an opponent he couldn't outrun, run over, over give one
of his patented stiff-arms to. Bears legendary coach Mike Ditka
called him one of the greatest people he had ever met. The
NFL named its Man of the Year award after Sweetness, an
honor that is coveted by every player in the league.


Now, 12 years after his death, Jeff Pearlman is showing off
Payton's ugly blemishes. In his book, "Sweetness: The enigmatic
life of Walter Payton", set to go on sale October 5th,
Pearlman paints the picture of an icon who abused painkillers
after his career, talked about suicide, and had an uncomfortable
marriage. Pearlman, a talented and detail-obsessed writer, has
become an expert in painting people in a bad light. He was the
scribe that John Rocker brought along for that fateful ride on
the 7 train in New York City and decided to spew all those
ugly comments that offended every ethnic  group and homosexuals
throughout  the world. Rocker was  a bad guy, but he never
recovered  from Pearlman's portrayal of him in that issue of
"Sports Illustrated."


Pearlman's revelations shouldn't really shock anybody. After
seeing Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Magic Johnson,  and even
Mickey Mantle exposed over the years, nobody is really surprised
by anything anymore. Superstar athletes are human like the rest
of us, sometimes filled with demons and hardships just like
the average Joe.

Payton abused painkillers? Add him to the thousands of current
and former NFL players who've had that same problem.
Remember Brett Favre? He almost died from them. Walter
Payton played 13 years in the NFL and never missed a
game. He had 10 seasons in which he carried the ball more
than 300 times. And he did it while playing on one of
the worst surfaces in the NFL. The turf at Soldiers Field
was akin to playing on concrete.

His offensive line during his early years in Chicago was akin to a
sieve and Payton paid  for it. Sweetness was not a big man. He
had massive thighs, a  ballerina's waist, and the biceps of a young
Arnold Schwarzenegger, but was listed at 5'10, which was probably
his height in his make-shift platform shoes which he used when
running up  hills during his grueling and legendary off-season
workouts. His  body took an incredible amount of abuse during
his NFL career and the pain he suffered didn't go away when he
hung up his cleats. Payton needed something to cope, and
painkillers, apparently were the answer. Not really surprising, is it?

Pearlman writes that Payton talked of suicide. As tragic
as it may seem, a great deal of people in our society do
the same thing. Some athletes, as we've seen recently,
(Mike Flanagan, Hideki Irabu, Dave Duerson, Wade
Belak, and Rick Rypien) actually went through with it.

An uncomfortable marriage? There isn't enough space
to fit all the people in that category. Walter Payton was
human with personal problems that millions of people
in society face everyday. Pearlman can try to bring
him down as much as he likes because that's what writers
do to sell books and make the New York Times
best-seller lists, which means more money in their pockets.
Herschel Walker has a book and admits he had as
many personalities as Sybil. Sugar Ray Leonard has
a book where he says he was sexually abused. What?
We never heard of anything like that before. Exactly,
Books wouldn't sell if they covered the same things as
as everyone else. They have to be controversial and explosive.
We've seen it many times before, we'll see it many times
again.


When I was 13 years old. our family moved to Lake
Forest, Ill. which is where the Chicago Bears have trained
for many, many years. Their football fields were just about in
our backyard, literally. My dad used to take me to see
Walter Payton practice. Payton was almost a god-like
figure, much like Ted Williams was to Red Sox fans.
The first NFL game I went to in person, Payton ran for a
then-record  275 yards. He did it with a 101-degree temperature
and a  serious case of the flu. I admired him, while many in Chicago
deified him. My grandmother, who came over from Ireland
and settled  in the south side of Chicago, was a racist. She didn't
like black people. But oh, did she love Walter Payton. She
worshipped him. People didn't see black and white when it
came to Payton, he was a legend and hero to many.


12 years after his death, people in Chicago and around
the country still worship Sweetness. He was loved by
all his teammates, respected throughout the league, and
admired by nearly everyone whom he touched. Many
people in the Windy City consider what Pearlman is
doing, blasphemous. However, his "findings" shouldn't
tarnish his legacy. Never. Payton was a great man, with
his own faults and demons. He's forever "Sweetness", a
person and player the NFL will never see again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I SHOWERED WITH EVAN LONGORIA AND LIKED IT

Evan Longoria's walk-off home run put the exclamation on
what was, arguably, the greatest night of baseball in regular
season history. Four games and two walk-offs decide
the final two playoff berths. It was simply unbelievable. The
heart pounding, jaw-clenching theatrics brought back memories
of one of the funniest moments I've ever had covering the game.


On September 27, 2008, almost three years to the day of
Longoria's home run monumental home run against the Yankees,
the Tampa Bay Rays celebrated their first-ever division title
and a trip to the playoffs. This downtrodden franchise that
had experienced nothing but failure and a name change, busted
loose in a way that few teams ever have when it comes to
champagne celebrations. There was the obligatory music
blaring at decibel levels that would bring down a building
and the goggles to protect the eyes of the players as they
poured the bubbly and beer all over each other like the kids
in the "Bad News Bears."


But when you've been the doormat of baseball for so long, playing
in a city where people still don't know a major league
franchise resides there, well, let's say there are no boundaries
when it comes to partying.  This clubhouse was like "Animal
House". The only thing missing was Dean Wermer's wife
making out with the players. It was off the hook wild.

During the celebration, I crossed paths with Longoria
and asked him for an interview. He was already a little
buzzed because the team actually finished their game against
Detroit, went to dinner, then came back after learning the
Yankees had lost to the Red Sox in a rain-delayed game,
giving the Rays the division title. Longoria obliged. What
happened next was pretty funny.

 

Grant Balfour, then a reliever for the Rays, gave me a shower that
I've never quite forgotten. The beer he doused me with was so cold,
it could have been kept on ice since the birth of their franchise
in the  '90's. I was cryogenically frozen. Ted Williams corpse
in the tube in that Arizona laboratory never reached the temperatures I 
experienced that night. My cameraman did a phenomenal job of
zooming out while the near-frozen liquid was pouring down
on my scalp and neck. I wanted to scream and say,
"WTF!?",  but didn't. I was proud of the way I kept my composure
during the interview,  especially since my scalp was screaming
in pain and what little brain I have, was not exactly comfortably
numb.

As Longoria was rounding the bases on Wednesday night, my thoughts
turned to that day back in late September of 2008 and I wondered
which reporter might get a shower and a brain freeze like I did that
crazy night in Detroit.

BLAME GAME: IT'S HIS FAULT, HE DID IT, DON'T LOOK AT ME.

I first learned about the blame game as a little kid watching
the frightening movie, "Jaws".  Remember that scene where the
coast guard, with high-powered rifles ready, comes upon two kids
dressed up as dorsal fins, intent on scaring the hell out people
swimming in the water? Staring up at the barrel of a shotgun
and quivering as he was about to meet his maker, one of the
kids points at his buddy and says, "He made me do it."


And it was then, that I learned about pointing the finger at
someone else to deflect any blame for yourself. Years later,
I found out about "scapegoats" and "throwing people under
the bus", a popular phrase used to describe a person who kills
others in order to save themselves. It happens everyday in
the workplace and society doesn't it? There are people in
your office who would "throw their mothers under the bus"
if it meant getting ahead. That's how cutthroat things have
become.


Now, as we've come to the final day of the season, where
the Red Sox could either put the exclamation point on one
of the biggest collapses in baseball history or rinse away
all the negativity with a win over Baltimore and a loss by
the Rays, big fingers have been pointed and that giant
yellow bus has been racking up the miles. How could the
Red Sox blow a nine-game lead in early September? Why
did it even come to this? Who should take the blame?
Who should take the fall?



The hacks on sports radio, geeks on the Internet, and
columnists who have the ability to erase and delete have
delivered their hard-hitting opinions on who is to blame
for the Red Sox monumental collapse. Is it manager
Terry Francona or GM Theo Epstein? After all, somebody
has to "take the fall" for what could be an epic disaster, right?
They say Francona has made questionable moves and
Theo didn't make any trades to fortify the starting pitching,
not to mention the disastrous signing of Carl Crawford.

The baseball "insiders" have chimed in with their reports
that the relationship between Francona and Epstein has
become "strained", with each not wanting to be held
accountable for this debacle. There has already been
talk of Francona being Grady Little-d, painted as the
scapegoat and replaced by Bobby Valentine. Its funny
how fast and hard you can fall, especially after winning
two world series titles in seven years, in a town that hadn't
captured one in the 86 years before that.


In most cities, Epstein would have a big target on his back,
but in Boston, Boy Wonder is untouchable. He grew up a
David Ortiz tape-measure shot from Fenway Park and is
considered a hero for bringing a World Series to Boston, even
though he inherited a powerfully-built team that was constructed
by Dan Duquette. Esptein is also a favorite of John Henry,
and it seems that no matter how reckless Epstein was
with Henry's money, there is no way that he's going to
get really dinged with what could be considered a fiasco
if the Red Sox don't make the playoffs.

The pressure is clearly on Francona in the final game
of the season. He will be made the scapegoat for what
will be an epic collapse. Francona was considered a
genius on September 4th with the Red Sox all but assured
of a ticket to baseball's post-season party. Then his
starters couldn't make it past the third inning, Kevin
Youkilis couldn't play, and John Lackey started acting
like a petulant child who didn't get his way. Did Francona,
who has won as many titles as Tony LaRussa, the chosen
one, in about half as many years, all of a sudden become
incompetent as a manager? No. His pitching staff became
incompetent and he still had to pencil Carl Crawford's
name into the line-up every night.


Francona has done a great job in his career with the
Red Sox. Two World Series titles in seven years should
enough to keep his job safe. But this is Boston, a city that knows
all too well about epic collapses and demands that
someone pay for it. Bill Buckner found that out. So
did John McNamara and Don Zimmer. If the Red
Sox choke on the chalupa tonight or tomorrow, I sure
hope Francona doesn't  fall into the same category with
the other fall guys. He  doesn't deserve to be thrown under
the bus or have the finger pointed at him. But that's not how
things work in our society or Boston, does it?

Monday, September 26, 2011

DOS EQUIS GUY VS JOHN LACKEY: TALE OF THE TAPE

John Lackey earns $18 million dollars a year but acts like a homeless guy who goes to
the soup kitchen only to find there is no soup. He makes his living pitching for the Red
Sox in one of the world's best cities, but wears a grimace on his face like the man who
just got tabbed to be the target for target practice in Baghdad. He has a job that many
would kill for, but exudes the joy of a customer service rep at the DMV. John Lackey is
quite simply, the most miserable man in the world.


I know the Red Sox pitcher is going through a tough time. His ERA (6.41) is slightly higher
than his I.Q. and everyone is out to get him. His defense cadillac's behind him, the media is
sending him personal text messages, and his wife, while battling cancer, just doesn't have the
energy to coddle or massage his ego anymore. Yes, it's gotta stink to be John Lackey. He's
certainly not the Dos Equis guy, who is quite simply, the most interesting man on earth.

Lackey and the Dos Equis guy. Here's the tale of the tape:


The Dos Equis Guy has one friend on Facebook, himself.  John Lackey has one friend in life,
the agent who suckered Theo Esptein into giving him more than $80 million.

The Dos Equis Guy is known as "the shit" and loves chicken. John Lackey loves chicken
and his stuff around the league is known as crap.

The Dos Equis Guy would never use an excuse even if he  had one. There isn't one excuse
John Lackey hasn't used.

When the Dos Equis Guy goes to sleep, sheep count him. When John Lackey goes to sleep,
his wife and teammates hope he never wakes up.

When the Dos Equis Guy picks up a sea shell, he hears the Boston Pops. When John Lackey
picks up free headphones, he hears Boston yelling, "You suck!"

The organ donation card of the Dos Equis Guy also lists his beard. The organ donation card
of John Lackey doesn't mention anything about a heart.

The mother of the Dos Equis Guy has a tattoo that says, "Son". The mother of John Lackey
has a tattoo that says, "He's not mine."

The Dos Equis Guy lives vicariously through himself. John Lackey lives in the past to
remind himself what it feels like to retire the side in order.

Wild animals go on safaris to see the Dos Equis Guy. 198 hitters have  fights at the bat rack
to face John Lackey.


The Dos Equis Guy would not be ashamed to show his feminine side if he HAD one.
John Lackey would be ashamed to show his good side if he HAD one.

The Dos Equis Guy is famous for saying, "Stay thirsty, my friends." John Lackey is
infamous for throwing up his arms and screaming, "God dammit, (Insert name of Red Sox
 teammate here), Will you please catch the effin ball!"


Advantage: The Dos Equis Guy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

DIANA NYAD: A TRUE INSPIRATION TO THOSE WHO SAY, "I CAN'T".

With the premiere of "Moneyball," the Red Sox riveting collapse,
and another NFL weekend, it was easy to miss the incredible mission
that Diana Nyad started at 6pm on Friday in Cuba. The 62-year
endurance swimmer jumped into the water to begin her goal of
swimming 102 miles to Florida. 102 miles through shark-infested,
man-o-war stinging jellyfish, and whatever lies the beneath the
surface of the waters of the Florida Straits. Nyad is doing all this
without a cage to protect her. It's a true open-water swim.


Think about this for a second. A 62-year old woman swimming
for more than 40 hours through elements that are best described
as vicious. Swimming through the Florida Straits when it's pitch
black out, knowing there are a lot of creatures below the surface
that can end your mission, not to mention your life, is downright
scary. No sleep, no security, no hot showers....this is borderline nuts.


During Nyad's swim, she suffered stings from man-o-war
jellyfish that have supersized her face, arms, and neck. Nyad stopped
once because of it, boarding a boat to get medical treatment. This
altered the swim from a record non-stop one, to a staged one. But
really, does that matter at all when you're trying to swim 102 miles?
Hardly. Nyad has seen a curious oceanic white tipped shark cross
her path. A school of 10 whales appeared in front of her. And she's
already come face-to-face with jellyfish.

Talk about courage and mental toughness. This is the true test of
it. Nyad tries passing time by singing songs, but with the average
one lasting just over three minutes, that doesn't help very much.
The will to keep on going is off the charts. The drive to keep on
swimming when toxins from jellyfish stings are tearing up your
body is beyond words.


I was borderline obsessed with Nyad's swim. I got up at 4:30 this
morning to check her progress. 40 hours, 21 minutes, 30..31..32,
100,453...100,454...100,455 strokes. It was pitch black when I
checked my computer, I can't imagine what Nyad was thinking
or the pain she was enduring.

An alert came across the screen of my computer a few minutes
ago, Nyad's quest to swim through the Florida Straits was over.
Doctors warned that more stings from jellyfish could cause death.
It was over. More than 40 hours, 50 miles,  and 100,000 strokes
and Nyad was done.

Critics will say that Nyad failed again. She had tried the same
swim when she was 28-years old and did not finish. Nyad attempted
the journey once again in August. Once again, she stopped, this
time because of an 11-hour asthma attack. Today, Nyad stopped
because the stings were just too painful and too dangerous.


However, Nyad did not fail. She is a true inspiration to all those
who say, "I can't". She is a hero to all those who say, "I'm too
old, too weak, and not talented enough." She is someone to be
looked up to her for her iron will and determination. She should
be admired for her persistence, courage, and dedication. Nyad
may have stopped, but she did not fail.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"MONEYBALL HITS ONE OUT OF THE PARK

"Moneyball" is brilliant. It's not easy to turn a movie about baseball
and the implementation of something called sabermeterics into
a blockbuster hit, but Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour-Hoffman,
and a cast of actors who deliver spot-on performances, deliver like
Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning of a pressure-packed, can't-
look-til-it's-over game.


This film is easily one of the best of the year and instantly deserves
its place among the best baseball movies ever made. If you're
a casual baseball fan, you may become addicted to it as you are
Facebook after seeing "Moneyball". If you're a baseball junkie
who gets a rise out of on-base percentages, WHIP's, and OPS's,
then you will  probably see this movie twice in a week. It's
that good.



What makes the movie all the more impressive is the detail
in which the producers go through to make the baseball
scenes incredibly realistic, which is hard to do. Remember
"Bang the Drum Slowly"? Those actors couldn't make their
high school baseball team.  "Field of Dreams" was phenomenal
but they had Shoeless Joe Jackson,  one the greatest pure
hitters in the history of the game, if not one of its most polarizing
figures, hitting right-handed when he was actually a lefty.


The actors playing David Justice, Scott Hatteberg, and
Chad Bradford, were so similar to the players with their
appearance and mannerisms, it was scary. Even the guys
playing Mike Sweeney and "Everyday" Eddie Guardardo
were so good, I wondered if the former major leaguers
had come back for cameos.

Only the most astute baseball fans notice how Tim Hudson
wears hit hat so low that you can barely see his eyes. That
was spot-on in the movie. David Justice and that little flick
with the leg kick? Carbon copy in the movie. Seymour-Hoffman's
impersonation of Art Howe was scary good. Howe might
be a little upset with the big boiler (gut) Seymour-Hoffman
had because the former A's manager was thin and good shape, but
that was the only thing that was a little off.


Pitt, who admittedly, doesn't like baseball very much, puts
on a performance that is worthy of an Oscar in his portrayal
of Billy Beane, the A's general manager who tries to reinvent
the game by using stats to find and use undervalued players
whom nobody else wants.

"Moneyball" has some LOL lines throughout the film. Baseball
and the characters in it, usually provide enough great material
for a sit-com, but "Moneyball" took it to the next level. During
a meeting with his old and crusty scouting staff,  Beane (Pitt)
was trying to find player to replace Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon,
and Jason Isringhausen. Scouts were throwing out names of
players who might and might not be candidates. In describing
one player, the scout said, "His girlfriend is only a 6, so that
means he doesn't have any confidence."



The A's and their $41 million dollar payroll, or about $7 million
dollars less than what the Yankees are paying A-Rod and Derek
Jeter, come close to "reinventing" the game and getting to
the World Series. "Moneyball" did change the way a lot of
general managers scout and put together their teams. The Rangers,
Rays, Red Sox, Indians, and Padres, are all proponents of
"Moneyball". Billy Beane's theory has had a definite impact
on the game. Pitt's performance and the filmmakers expertise
puts "Moneyball" in a class all its own.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

PANIC GRIPS RED SOX NATON: HIDE SHARP OBJECTS AND HAZEL MAE CARDBOARD CUT-OUTS.

If ESPN the Magazine had waited a week, they could've had
a scintillating cover story on the panic gripping Red Sox nation,
instead of glorifying the city's recent dominance of the sports
landscape. It's more compelling, kind of like the 51-year actor
who married that 17-year old girl, recently.

The Red Sox are choking on the chalupa. Emotions throughout
the region are volatile,  mirroring those of Manny Ramirez, who
apparently came off his female fertility drug last week before
doing a Wil Cordero on his wife. Rico in Revere is teetering on
the Tobin Bridge with his Carl Crawford jersey on. Owner John
Henry has written the last 2-million, bi-monthly check for the
season for Theo's free-agent bust, but he's downing Pepto Bismol
like Joey Cheatwood eats up hot dogs on the fourth of July.
Imagine how he's going to feel when his 31-year old trophy wife
leaves him after the season for one of the Gronkowski brothers.


Yes, it feels like 1978 and 1986 all over again in Boston. The
Red Sox are playing like Chaz Bono dances, with not much
style, rhythm, or purpose. If they blow this lead and fail to
make the playoffs, they'll be miserable again and start blaming
Bill Buckner for everything again. Isn't it so ironic that the
Red Sox collapse coincided with Buckner's riveting performance
on "Curb Your Enthusiasm?" Dan Shaugnessy might turn out
another book on a Red Sox curse. If the Old Town team coughs
this lead up, it could be the "Curse of  the baby-saving Bill Buckner."
Buckner's performance was great, but now Red Sox fans have
returned to screaming "Buckner Sucks" in their sleep.


 Read the comments from disgruntled Red Sox fans on Facebook
and your problems suddenly don't seem all that big.

Jon Walleye: "The Red Sox are like a watching a train wreck.
                      You don't want to watch, but you have to just take
                      a peek to see the damage."

Keith Preston: "The Red Sox couldn't beat the PawSawx or
                        Boston College in their annual spring training opener
                        playing like this."

Jason Wolfski: "The Sox are in a pennant race and Deer-in-the
                         Headlights Carl Crawford asks out with a stiff
                         neck. Crawford is a stiff. Rondo plays with an
                         elbow bent behind his head and Carl's in the
                         trainer's room getting a heating pad on is
                         $20-million dollar a year prima dona neck."


It's great stuff. And Yankee fans everywhere are loving it. The
fans in Boston have gone from singing Sweet Caroline in the
the late innings, to drinking Sweet Tea with a drop of Hemlock.
Theo's "Dream Team Bullpen", the one he constructed with
the likes of Big Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler imploded a long-time
ago. There's a reason Chicago and Tampa Bay didn't want those
guys. They were toast.


Oh, yeah. The Red Sox are still 2.5 games up in the Wild Card
chase with less than a week to go. They control their own destiny.
But sports fans in Boston are  not happy unless they are a little
miserable. That period of dominance that ESPN was talking about,
you know the one where Boston claimed more championships
in the last decade, than Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, and
Phoenix combined to win in the last 50 years. That's given way
to sheer panic. It sure makes for a better story, doesn't it?

Monday, September 19, 2011

TOP 5 ATHLETE-REPORTER CONFRONTATIONS

5. FLOYD MAYWEATHER VS LARRY MERCHANT
    This one was pretty tame, but anytime you get an 80-year
    old man wishing he was younger so he could kick the
    ass of a world-class boxer, you got to love it.




4. RYAN LEAF VS SAN DIEGO REPORTER
    Leaf, regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL History,
    couldn't do anything right, including interacting with the media.
    After the former QB of the San Diego Chargers didn't like a
    question during a post-practice interview, he bowed up and
    screamed down the throat of a reporter. Don't talk to Ryan Leaf,
    alright.




3. TIM McCARVER VS DEION SANDERS. Prime Time
    never liked criticism or Tim McCarver, so when the baseball analyst
    criticized Sanders for being selfish by trying to play two sports
    during the playoffs, it became the perfect storm, and a rather cold
    one.
 

2. JIM MORA VS. RON SWOBODA. I dug deep into the
    archives for this one. The football coach who gave us the legedary
    lines, "Playoffs??? You're talking about playoffs?", got it into
    former NY Met right-fielder Ron Swoboda, who was best known
    for his spectacular catch in the 1969. But his confrontation with
    Mora, then with the Saints is a classic. This is X-rated.



1a HAL McRAE VS KANSAS CITY MEDIA. McRae was a far better
    hitter than he was as a manager. While managing the Royals, Hot-head
    Hal had about all he could take from that "vicious" Kansas City media,
    who were not safe from f-bombs or flying objects during this tirade.


1. "CHRIS" EVERETT VS JIM ROME. This confrontation
      catapulted Jim Rome off of ESPN2 and into the mainstream
      media. Former Rams QB Jim Everett didn't take too kindly to
      Rome referring to him as "Chris" Everett.

     
  

Friday, September 16, 2011

BILL BELICHICK UNDER THE HOODIE: THE BEST REALITY SHOW ON TV

With mindless shows like "Jersey Shore", "Housewives of Anywhere,"
and nails-on-a-chalkboard programs like "Nancy Grace" clogging up
the airwaves, it's hard to find anything of substance anymore that's
worth watching. "Shark Week" hooked me for awhile as it was
both educational and fascinating. But other than that, and few
episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", the programming on television,
quite frankly, sucks.


However, when I saw that NFL Network was profiling Patriots
coach Bill Belichick, my curiosity was  piqued. My first reaction was,
"no effin way!"I had the privilege of being the Patriots beat reporter
for NESN in 2005-2006 and I never thought Belichick would let
anybody inside his world to see how he operates. I attended every
one of his press conferences for two years and he'd never say or
do anything but mumble, grumble, or give us his signature line of,
"it is what it is."


Belichick despises the media and has been perceived as arrogant,
bland, and lacking "people skills". When the Patriots lost the Super
Bowl to the  Giants to shatter their perfect season, the image of him
heading to the locker room before the game was over and not shaking
hands with Tom Coughlin rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and
painted him as a sore loser, which he is. He just hates to lose.


However, he is a coaching genius. A pure unadulterated coaching
genius and that was certainly on display during, "Bill Belichick:
A Football Life." Hoodie's life has been all football. He's been in
the NFL for more than 30 years and can break it down better than
anyone alive. That's not hyperbole, but fact. But I was shocked
to see the emotional side of Belichick come out in part one of the
documentary. He was actually crying when reminiscing about his
career with the Giants as he was going to be in the the stadium
for the last time.

I know this stunned a lot of people in New England because
Belichick has always guarded his emotions like Colonel
Sanders used to protect his secret recipe. We always thought that
in Belichick's world to show emotion, meant exposing a weakness.
In 2006, Belichick coached the day after his father died and he
didn't show the same type of emotion that he did when talking about
his days with the Giants. (See video here)


Belichick has always appeared to be unapproachable and distant
with many Patriot fans, who consider him a coaching god, but
also "Mr. Freeze" when it comes to warmth. But I think that
perception has changed somewhat after seeing the first episode.
Belichick did seem more human and even more likable. Fans
in New England had to love the Hoodie telling Baltimore receiver
Derrick Mason to "F--k off", and "to look at the scoreboard."
Belichick talking trash to an opponent?!! Nobody had ever heard
or seen him do anything like that before. Rex Ryan has never
done that, Bill Cowher never did it. That was classic stuff
which earned him huge points with fans in New England.


This is what reality television should be. Riveting, entertaining,
and featuring the lives of people like Belichick that we've never
seen before. I'm sick of Snooki, Kate Plus 8, and all the Kardashians.
That stuff is pure garbage. Give me more of Belichick in the Hoodie
and I'll return to watching television. This is appointment viewing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GETTING ALL LUBED UP, THE TOM BRADY WAY.

Unlike the ego-driven and attention addicted local anchors
and reporters who use Facebook to create their own "Public Figure"
pages, Tom Brady is a figure whom most of the public is interested in.
They care about what the Patriots QB says, thinks, and even wears
when he's not on the football field. The reigning NFL MVP has been
deified in New England for his athletic talent and admired by millions
of woman across the country because of his matinee-idol good looks.


Despite being under the most powerful of microscopes, where every
move he makes is publicized and scrutinized, Brady, like Derek Jeter,
has managed to stay away from controversy. He's been good at saying
the right thing and being politically correct. Oh, sure, he took some
heat for leaving a pregnant girlfriend for a supermodel, but a good
majority of people gave him a pass because he is, well, Tom Brady.

On Wednesday, Brady, who is a smart, well-spoken, and thoughtful
person, made a few comments that sparked a little fire around the country.
He urged Patriots fans to start drinking early at Sunday's game
and "get all lubed up."  Of course, Brady was joking around.
Fans in Boston love their booze as much as football and Brady
was just playing up to them. But we live and work in a society where
the critics are just waiting to pounce (See Tedy Bruschi on Ochocinco)
and pounce on perfection (Brady).  See a lot of my columns. People
always take shots at those who are on top, don't they? Brady's comments
became magnified because of the recent alcohol-induced slugfests
that occurred in the stands in San Francisco and Baltimore. The
NFL is very sensitive about alcohol  over-consumption. To hear
the best player in the game promote the use of it, certainly must've
made Roger Goodell and a  lot of other executives around the league
cringe.


But they won't say peep to Brady or levy any kind of fine. That's
because the NFL gets paid millions by the beer makers to be
a league sponsor. Every Sunday, they jam Budweiser, Bud Light
and Coors down our throats with all those commercials. I can't
wait to see the new editions of those Coors commercials where
the NFL coaches are talking to the party guys in the booth who are
tapping kegs of beer.


Oh, sure at the end of them they say, "Please drink responsibly".
But but they're also saying, "However, please buy often and buy
a lot." The beer companies aren't spending all that money on
marketing and making commercials for people to buy beer one
can at a time. It's all hypocrisy. So don't make a big deal
about Brady's comments. If you do, also make sure to pick
up a life while you're at it.

A lot of people would love to be Tom Brady. He's tall, good-looking,
rich, powerful, a future Hall of Famer, and has a supermodel on his
arm. But it's not always easy being Brady. A month ago, a blog in
Boston published photos of Brady's naked son and made some
cross-the-line comments about him. But I guess, that all comes with
the territory, when you're a rock-star, Super Bowl thrice-winning QB.
Here's an example of one of the things Brady has to deal with because
he's Tom Brady.


But really, Brady's comments couldn't have been that bad. After all,
Tedy Bruschi didn't rant and go off about them and urge the Patriots QB
to shut up and get back his head back into the playbook. This too shall pass.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

WHY TEDY BRUSCHI HATES CHAD OCHOCINCO

Ever since the Patriots traded for Chad Ochocinco in late July, Tedy
Bruschi had been waiting to pounce on him. Bruschi wanted to light
him up like he did to many receivers who came into his territory during
his days as a linebacker.

You see, two years after walking away from the game, Bruschi is still
a card-carrying member of the Patriots and still lives the "Patriots Way",
even though he's now an analyst for ESPN. During his career in Foxborough,
Bruschi drank Bill Belichick's Kool-Aid.


He bought into all of Hoodie's Rules which meant putting the team
first, be seen not heard; live, breathe, and eat football, and don't, under
any circumstances, bring attention to yourself. And Bruschi made sure
every rookie or an acquired veteran like Corey Dillon, learned and lived
by the laws set by Belichick.

Chad Ochocino and Bruschi are about as different as Chastity and
Chaz Bono. Ochocino is a "Look at Me" player who always brought
attention to himself in Cincinnati. "Look at me dance in the end zone",
"Look at me dance with the stars", and "Look at me leap in the Dog
Pound in Cleveland". Everything was about Ochocinco and that is
the type of player that Bruschi and his former teammates hated when
they ruled the NFL, winning three Super Bowl championships. They
always knew which players were doing what and always used it to
fuel their fire.


Remember how Terrell Owens and the Philadelphia Eagles used
to celebrate with that bird flying gesture? When the Patriots beat them
in the Super Bowl, they openly mocked them after several big plays.
Remember how Shawn Merriman of the Chargers used to celebrate
his sacks with his "Lights Out" dance? After the Patriots beat them
in the playoffs a few years ago, they rubbed it in their faces at mid-field
with that same "Lights Out" dance, mocking Merriman and the Chargers.


So when Ochochinco decided to get a fix for his addiction to Twitter
on Tuesday and send a message to his more than two million followers
that he was in "awe" of Tom Brady's 517-yard performance against Miami,
Bruschi was there to clothesline  him. He couldn't wait to rip into Ochocinco
after #85 tweeted that Brady's performance was like "a video game."

"Drop the awe factor, OK, Ocho, Chad, drop the awe factor. You're
not a fan, all right?" Bruschi stated. "You're not someone who's on another
team or watching TV. You're not an analyst. You're a part of it. They
want you  to be a part of it," Bruschi said. "So get with the program
because  obviously you're not getting it and you're tweeting because you're
saying, 'It's amazing to see'? It's amazing to see because you don't
understand it! You still don't understand it and it's amazing to you
because you can't."


And Bruschi said it with passion, meaning, and it was personal. It was
as if Bruschi was still a captain under Belichick and back to wearing
number 54 for the Patriots. Bruschi also told Ochocinco, among other
things, to stop tweeting, close his mouth, get to the stadium, open his
eyes and watch the film. Those are all the same things Bruschi used to
tell rookies when he was one of the captains of the Patriots. Willie
McGinnest used to do the same thing. It was the Patriots Way.

Now, as an analyst, Bruschi has just done the same thing he's always
hated in players like Ochocinco and T.O: he brought attention to himself.
Things change when you become an analyst. The bosses want you to
be colorful and controversial without crossing the line. It moves the
needles and generates better ratings. Herm Edwards can't get through
a segment  without screaming or shouting something, lest he forget
that he never won anything and really his only claim to fame as a coach
was that whole charade, "YOU..PLAY..TO...WIN..THE..GAME!"
thing, which the Patriots used to mock, as well.


In this day and age of social media fixations, no one should really get
mad at Ochocinco for simply complimenting Brady on a blockbuster
performance. Belichick knew Ocho's history with the Tweeting and if
he had a problem with it, he would've banned him from doing it. Bruschi's
problem is that he still thinks he's a Patriot who has to uphold the rules
of the locker room he once ruled. But no matter how good you were
or how much you were loved in the NFL, the game goes on without
you and there are not many players in his old locker room who care
what Bruschi thinks or says anymore.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: SWING AND THE BIG WHIFF!

During the steroid era, when every punch and judy hitter suddenly
morphed into Harmon Killlebrew and started hitting 40 bombs a
year, Major League Baseball put their head in the sands and said,
"What? We see nothing," as they were simultaneously lining their
pockets with record revenues generated from increased attendance,
ratings, and television contracts.

But when the Washington Nationals wanted to honor the 22 Navy
SEAL's who died in action, many from the elite Team Six, by wearing
specially made caps, MLB said, "Not so fast. Doing so would violate
our "Unanimity" code.


When Roseanne Barr desecrated the national anthem years ago in
San Diego with a despicable performance that was punctuated with
a spit and a grab of her crotch,  MLB did nothing, saying
it was "a team issue" and the Padres can handle it.

Yet, when the New York Mets wanted to honor the first responders
from 9/11 on the 10th anniversary of arguably, the most significant day
in our country's history, MLB didn't think it was a "team issue" and
prevented the Mets from wearing the hats. Joe Torre, now a member
of the Commissioner's Office, and suddenly a lieutenant of the fashion
police, used the whole "Unanimity" thing again.


Talk about little things affecting little minds. Two days out of what seems
like a 1,000 during the season, a couple of teams want to honor the
heroes and fallen heroes of our country and MLB wants to make a stink
about it. Nobody ever seems to have a problem when the San Diego
Padres break out their camouflaged jerseys every year to honor the
military, but when the Mets and Nationals want to do something to
pay tribute to the SEAL's and first responders, the Commissioner's
Office feels like they are going to smash  the sanctimonious dress code?
Give me a break.

Conversely, the NFL, which has always gotten it, despite almost shooting
themselves in the foot with a lockout that came too close to truly affecting
the season, allowed accessories to honor the victims of 9/11.
Lance Briggs, through the company that endorses him, Reebook, had
special red, white, and blue shoes and gloves produced for the event.


Several other players also got them in time to wear during their games.
And at the same time the Mets were playing on national team without
the hats they wanted to wear, the New York Jets were wearing their
hats to pay tribute to the first responders. Tom Coughlin and several
members of his coaching staff also wore those same type of hats during
their games. The NFL had no problem with the gesture.


MLB doesn't understand the emotional side of things. It's not tainting
the game if people want to honor real heroes by wearing a different
hat. The Commissioner's Office turned its head away for 10 years during
the steroid era, they could have done it for 10 seconds in the cases
of the Nationals and the Mets. And apparently, they missed the boat
on our countries feelings about dress codes.We hate them and ignore
them. That's just the way it is. Look around at children in schools,
employees and work, and NBA players when they come into arenas.
It's a freedom and expression thing.

The Mets and Nationals wanted express their gratitude for the people who
fought and died protecting our freedom. Just one small gesture for people
who performed several big acts. This too shall pass, but it's just another
black eye for a league, who has so many of them