Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Proportional response

Faithful reader(s) of the Blob know its position on baseball's unwritten rules, because it's written about them on more than one occasion.

Basically, they're unwritten for a reason. Because they're stooo-pid.

Which brings us to that little dust-up between the Nats' Bryce Harper and Giants reliever Hunter Strickland, and the ensuing punishment meted out by Major League Baseball.

What happened, if you haven't seen it, is Strickland threw a baseball at considerable velocity at Harper, hitting him in the body. Harper, God love him, took exception. He rushed the mound, flinging his batting helmet aside like a hockey player dropping the gloves. Punches were exchanged, and Harper tagged Strickland in the schnozz with what looked to be a decent straight right.

Then of course the benches emptied, because that's they do in baseball. I know, it's weird. But baseball's a weird game sometimes. See: unwritten rules.

The unwritten rules dictate that if a guy has the effrontery to take you deep, and then isn't properly deferential about it, the pitcher has every right to retaliate by doing what Strickland did. It is, again, stooo-pid. Not to mention potentially lethal.

I don't know if this is why MLB tagged Strickland with a six-game suspension and Harper with just a four-game sitdown. But I applaud it, because finally baseball handed down a proportional punishment in one of these situations -- even though you wonder if Strickland would have been suspended at all had Harper not charged the mound.

(By the way, didn't you love Giants' catcher Buster Posey's response? He basically whizzed all over the unwritten rules by simply choosing to spectate. It was as if he were telling Strickland "Hey, you threw at the guy, you deal with it." Because why should Posey risk injury because his pitcher wants to be stooo-pid?)

My guess is Strickland wouldn't have been suspended at all, because, again, baseball is weird that way. It'll watch a pitcher throw a 98-mph fastball at a guy's head and give him a nominal suspension. But if a batter retaliated by returning fire with his bat? He'd be Charles Manson.

You don't just throw your bat at a guy in baseball. Somebody could get seriously hurt, after all.

Here's the great part about what happened the other day: The fact that it was Harper. See, he's been exceptionally vocal about the need for baseball to break with its unwritten rules. If he hits a home run, Harper says, damn straight he's going to dance around the bases and celebrate. If you don't like it, throw a better pitch next time -- and if you do, and you strike him out, Harper will be the first one to applaud you.

I like that attitude.

Now if we can just get everyone else in the game to like it, too.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A worthy winner

Some day not long from now, the sculptor will go to work on the Borg-Warner Trophy. A new likeness will be added to it. It will be unlike any likeness added to it before in 101 years.

That's because, to start with, Takuma Sato is one hell of a race car driver. Better than you knew, probably, because he never had the ride before to make you notice just how good he is.

Now he's an Indianapolis 500 winner. He's also Japanese, which is why his likeness will be unlike any other that's ever gone on the Borg-Warner.

No Japanese has ever won the 500, until now. No Asian ever has. Most people think that's an historic deal but not necessarily a big deal, because most people realize the Indianapolis 500 has always been an international event -- drivers from 10 nations outside the U.S. have won it over the years -- and because the world we live in today is a global village.

Notice I said "most people."

A few others, however, are still trying to get their arms around the fact that a Japanese won the 500. On Memorial Day weekend. As if this were still 1945 and not 2017. As if the world as it was then still existed -- even if though it hasn't for decades and never will again.

And so here was a columnist from the Denver Post, tweeting he had a problem with a Japanese driver winning the 500, then trying to defend his racist impulse by saying it was because his father was a World War II veteran. And here were various other people saying they had an issue with Sato displaying the Japanese flag on his post-race ride-around.

Of the first, the Blob would say the columnist doesn't get to use his father's service as an excuse to feel uneasy about the Japanese. Only his father has earned that right, even if it's inexplicable to most of us. Sadly, this what war does, particularly one as brutal as the Pacific war. It leaves scars you can't see and that no amount of time can heal. And it turns otherwise fair-minded men against one another forever, unless they are extraordinarily lucky.

And as for Sato displaying the Japanese flag on his ride-around?

Well, why wouldn't he? He's a proud citizen of Japan, and he'd just done something no other of his countrymen had ever done. Maybe the current fever that infects our body politic has made us blind to it, but patriotism is not a wholly owned American subsidiary. Other peoples in other countries get to be patriotic, too.

And to be thrilled to win the most celebrated event in their chosen profession.

That's the great irony of this, you see. If a few in America looked at Sato and saw him winning the 500 through some jingoist's prism, they missed the essential point: That the Japanese man understood the significance of the American event he'd won as well as anyone ever has.

It started with him screaming into the radio as the checkers fell, and continued in Victory Lane, where he was so delirious with joy that when he tried to dump the bottle of milk over his head, he missed and dumped most of it squarely in his face. It was a stark contrast from last year, when the American who won, Alexander Rossi, seemed almost at a loss for how he was supposed to react.

But then, Rossi grew up chasing a Formula One career in Europe, where the Indianapolis 500 was mostly a distant echo. Sato, on the other hand, had been trying to win the 500 for eight years and understood what a pinnacle it represented.  The Japanese guy, in other words, got it more than the American guy did.

"It's such a privilege to win here," Sato said Sunday. "So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had a drama in the past, it doesn't really matter. You're winning today. It's just superb."

No matter where you're from.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The changelessness of Indy

INDIANAPOLIS -- And greetings, Blobophile(s), from Race Day, where light is just starting to bleed into the sky off to the east, and there is hot coffee at my elbow, and, yes, I am at the track already, six hours before Gentlemen And Lady, Start Your Engines.

It's an Indy thing. Or at least a Me thing, Indy version. You wouldn't understand.

Anyway ... on to other matters.

Which is to say, I forgive Lewis Hamilton.

I forgive the British Formula One driver for what he told a London newspaper the other day. I forgive him for suggesting the regulars who race at Indy are steerage-class pikers, because one of F1's own, Fernando Alonso, went over there and -- right out of the box -- qualified in the middle of Row 2 for the 500.

"'Fernando, in his first qualifying, came fifth," Hamilton all but sneered to the Daily Mail. "Does that say something about [the level] of IndyCar? Great drivers, if they can't succeed in Formula One, look for titles in other races, but to see him come fifth against drivers who do this all year round is... interesting."

Ah, Lewis. You're too young. Because you know something?

It's not interesting at all. Or even anything new.

Roll back the calendar 54 years, and pretty much the same thing happened. The F1 presence then was Jimmy Clark, bringing with him a (for the time) revolutionary rear-engine Lotus-Ford. Like Alonso, he qualified fifth, too. And went on to finish second behind Parnelli Jones.

Two years later, he led 190 laps and won easily. A year after that, Graham Hill won, Clark finished second and Jackie Stewart finished sixth.

Did that say something about the level of IndyCar?

I don't know. Were A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, the Unsers et al steerage-class pikers, too?

No serious person would seriously suggest that. What they might suggest, then and now, is that if you're as accomplished as most F1 drivers are, and have the kind of juice they have, a couple of things are going to be true.

One, to begin with, you're not just another rookie.

Two, you're not coming to Indy in some back-marker cheesebox, but (in Clark's case) a state-of-the-art ride, or (in Alonso's case) a ride with one of the premier teams in IndyCar, Andretti Autosport.

That gives you a huge advantage over the average rookie. It also doesn't hurt that you're being tutored by people like 2003 500 winner Gil de Ferran and, no doubt, the great Mario Andretti himself. And, of course, you're a former F1 champion yourself, not just a guy who came here from Indy Lights.

So, "interesting," Lewis Hamilton?

Nah. Just history doing what it does in this place: Repeating itself.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The cost

The Blob will put aside the usual sporty business today, because it's Memorial Day weekend and time to do something else. It's time to take you on a little trip.

Nine or so hours east of Indiana, you see, there's a peaceful hilltop in Pennsylvania, where echoes that stretch back 144 years reverberate forever. It is one of my favorite places on earth, especially when the sun is just up and the ground is dew-wet, and the laden tour buses haven't begun growling up the long, snaking ribbon of blacktop at the base of the hill.

There are no moms and dads huffing and puffing up the path to the summit, at this hour. There are no kids hopping among the boulders strewn about as if by a giant's hand. Little Round Top is quiet.

And so I sit there and I sip my coffee and I look out over the wide valley below, and I remember what happened there on July 2, 1863. I remember how this howling gray host came swarming out of the woods and fields to my left in the late afternoon, clambering over the Flintstone rocks of Devil's Den, mad to get at the place where I sit. I remember how they died down there, how their bodies were strewn among those rocks and in those fields and along a weedy trickle named Plum Run.

And I remember, too, the men who died to stop them.

Off to my left and down the hill a ways is where a Harvard man named Strong Vincent died. Just to my right was where an Irish New Yorker named Patrick O'Rorke took a fatal bullet; there's a statue there now with his face on it in bas relief, the patina worn off its nose where generations of tourists have rubbed it for good luck. Just up the hill, where two mute cannon sit today, a couple of officers named Charles Hazlett and Stephen Weed died, taken out by a Confederate sniper down there in Devil's Den.

I feel all of them around me, in these quiet moments before Gettysburg National Military Park stirs to life. And if we're doing it right this weekend, we all feel them, them and the thousands upon thousands more who have died and now lie in the earth behind neat rows of white crosses from Arlington National Cemetery to Belleau Wood.

As anyone who ever survived the awfulness of war will tell you, it's those men behind the crosses who are the real heroes in this piece. They went off to war and they didn't come back. And today I can sit on this peaceful hilltop and sense their presence because of it.

There's not much more to add to that. But here's a clip from the HBO series "The Pacific." I've posted it before, but it seems an especially good reminder  now of who we are and what we have, and how it all has been made possible.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dressed for success

So the Cubs are stirring at last, if you haven't been paying attention. They just ripped through a successful homestand, and now -- hey, look! -- they're in first place in the NL Central, after starting the season mucking about in second or third class.

In other words: They're still gonna win the division. Wanna know why?

Because of stuff like this.

An "Anchorman" themed roadie. How's that for keepin' the boys loose?

A loose team is a happy team. A happy team is a winning team. And a winning team, especially this team, is gonna eventually make everyone else in the National League do this.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The curse of the superteam

Or, you know, not.

Listening to a bit of the Mikes on the commute this morning, and here was Doofus Mike (aka, Greenberg) lamenting the dominance of the Golden State Warriors, saying he hates what Kevin Durant did by using his leverage to sign with them because it hurts the competitive balance of the NBA, and blah-blah-blah, yada-yada-yada.

What do I think?

I think he really must have hated what the New York Yankees did to Major League Baseball in the 1950s and early '60s.

Because, honestly, if you're going to hate the Warriors for being so much better than everyone else (and hogging all the superstars), how can you not feel the same way about those Yankees?

In the 16 years between 1949 and 1964, after all, they dominated baseball the way no other team in any other American sport (with the possible exception of the 1950s Montreal Canadiens and 1960s Celtics) has before or since. They won 14 American League pennants in that span. They won nine World Series. They won 96 or more games 14 times.

And yet they went down in history not as the ruin of baseball, but as one of the great dynasties of all time.

They achieved this not because of any particular genius, but because ownership and management had leverage and used it. They used the reserve clause system, which made indentured servants of players, to full advantage, cherry-picking stars or potential stars at will. For many years, they basically used the cash-strapped Kansas City Athletics as a de facto farm team.

And yet no one, or almost no one, wrung their hands and moaned that they were destroying baseball. They were just being good capitalists. Using their status as The Yankees to gain what some might see as an unfair advantage? Hey, that was the American way.

But a player doing that, the way Durant did?

Oh, heavens. Get thee to thy fainting bed.

And yet what Durant did, or what LeBron James did in Miami, is no different than what the Yankees did in the '50s. They had leverage and they used it. They were good capitalists. But somehow, suddenly, that was a bad thing.

The chess pieces, after all, aren't supposed to move themselves. That's just not how it's supposed to work.

But free agency turned over the chess board, so now superteams are bad. And never mind that this runs counter to the long-held notion that superteams are actually good, that they give your sport a public face and a juicy target for everyone else. No one, after all, remembers the kinda good teams. They remember the '50s Yankees.

Or the Warriors. Or the LeBron Heat or LeBron Cavs. Or, for that matter, the Larry Bird/Kevin McHale Celtics -- who, as they rose to dominance, added superstar point guard Dennis Johnson, even though they'd already won a title without him.

Gee. Sounds familiar.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gentlemen, start your fashion faux pas

I have seen some things, in 40 years hanging around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.

I have a seen a woman playing football in the Original And Only Real Snakepit on one of the gray days -- rain coming down like God left the tap on, the woman wearing mud from head-to-toe like some sort of Earth Mother Walter Payton.

I have seen a drunk sleeping one off in the noon sun in the back of a pickup truck, covered from head-to-toe in a  mound of his buddies' empties.

I have seen another drunk, at the end of a long day, lying under the front of his car as if he started to change the oil and then fell asleep.

I have seen A.J. Foyt cuss at a radio reporter who looked as if he were 12. Seen Roberto Guerrero, the polesitter, emerge from his garage at 11:14 on race morning, having crashed on the parade lap. Seen Emerson Fittipaldi drink orange juice instead of milk in Victory Lane, an etiquette faux pas of no small proportion.

And speaking of faux pas ...

Here's something I've never seen. And hope never to again.

Maybe you've heard about the new/perhaps not new fashion craze, the RompHim, which essentially is a onesie for men who've decided a man card is something they no longer require. Now comes this, a onesie designed especially for Race Day.

I can't imagine who would wear it. OK, so I can, this being Race Day at Indianapolis. I mean, I've seen people wear, un-ironically, Dr. Jack Miller the Racing Dentist T-shirts. So maybe someone shows up in an Indy 500 RompHim on Sunday.

It'll be 7 o'clock in the morning. He'll be sitting in front of his camper in the Coke lot along 25th Street, working on his fourth Bud Light of the day. Three or four of his buddies will be there, too, also wearing Indy RompHims, also working on their fourth Bud Lights of the day.

People stuck in traffic will wave. The lads will wave back. Young women will whistle and shout "Show us your checkered flag!"

Hours later, in Victory Lane, Helio Castroneves (or Scott Dixon or Will Power or Fernando Alonso or Ryan Hunter-Reay) will take a slug of milk, unzip his driving suit and reveal that, underneath, he's wearing ... an Indy RompHim.

OK, so no.

Please, God. No. 

Dance to the music

Bad news this day for fans of corporate football as bland as a boardroom table: The NFL has decided to loosen its tie.

A little. Kinda.

After years of fruitlessly trying to legislate every morsel of fun out of their game, Roger Goodell 'n' them have decided to (a little, kinda) party on, dudes. New rules have down from the great gray edifice that is the league office, rules that seem to indicate the owners (a little, kinda) understand that football is, hey, what do you know, a game, and not just a slick vehicle for lining their pockets.

And so the celebration rules are being eased. You can choreograph now. You can use the football as a prop. Heck, you and your buddies can celebrate together, if you like.

"OK, you can have fun now," Goodell and Co. seem to be saying.

And even if that sounds a bit like Judge Smails' out-of-touch wife trying to sound hip at the boat christening ("All right, children .. you can shake your booties on the dock"), at least they're making a semblance of an effort. Oh, twerking is still banned, and the throat slash, and the bow-and-arrow because it looks too weapon-y. But it will be interesting to see how the younger players in particular try to turn this particular inch into a mile.

JERRY JONES: Good, lord! What the heck are those guys doing!

A JERRY JONES MINION:  I believe they're pretending to fly in formation, sir.

JONES: Well, tell them to stop! It disrespects the troops!

(A bit later)

JONES: Now what are they doing?

MINION: I think they're rolling the football like dice, sir.

JONES: Good lord! Gambling? You know we don't allow gambling in our league! What will America think?

MINION: I don't know, sir. But ... well, we are playing the Las Vegas Raiders today.

And so on.       

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Your conspiracy theory for today, Part Deux

In which we examine whether LeBron James mysteriously not showing up for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals was A) a convoluted response to being snubbed in the MVP voting by showing what the Cavaliers look like when he doesn't show up; B)  a desperate attempt by the NBA to inject at least a little drama in its snoozefest playoffs by inducing LeBron and the Cavs to lay down for a night; or C) just one of those things that happens sometimes.

Much as it pains the Blob to have to do so, it votes "C."

I love me some conspiracy theories, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and you have to suck it up and admit as much. And so the Blob suspects Game 3 was just the Cavaliers deciding they could crank it down to idle and still whip the helpless Celtics -- and then finding out too late they couldn't.

LeBron trying to make a point about who's the real MVP?

Yeah, maybe, but it pretty hard to conceive someone as competitive as he is deliberately tanking a game to make some sort of nebulous point. Besides, the Cavs were still up 21 with 19 minutes to play. Seems like an odd way to go about tanking.

The same point applies to "B." First of all, it's impossible to imagine Adam Silver doing something as irresponsible and potentially ruinous to his league as handing LeBron and the Cavs a little under-the-table cash to throw a conference finals game. Yeah, the dreary parade of non-competitiveness in the playoffs so far isn't the sort of thing you build an ad campaign around (The NBA! It's fan-tastic for, you know, a quarter or two!), but it beats the calamity that would ensue if America discovered the whole deal was rigged.

Just look at NASCAR, which has been accused more than once of rigging races to fit a certain storyline, and has paid the price for it. Mind you, there's not an iota of evidence NASCAR has ever actually done that, but perception is frequently stronger than reality and far more difficult to alter once it gets some legs. And so there's this whole screwy notion out there that it's become a faster, louder version of pro wrestling -- and more than a few diehards have started turning it off because of that.

So, no, you can throw "B" out the window here, too.

Which leaves us with "C." Boring, I know.

Not as boring as these playoffs, mind you. But pretty boring.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The myth, revisited

And so, once again, momentum stands revealed as the phantom it is. It is the Easter Bunny. It is Santa Claus. It is the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Remember all that jawboning about how LeBron James, the best basketball player in the solar system and several  adjoining solar systems, was on a mission? Remember Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, a 44-point embarrassment LeBron and the Cavaliers laid on the Celtics, in Boston?

Surely they were going to win Game 4 by 45, right? Especially facing a Celtics team with no Isaiah Thomas, in Cleveland?

Uhhh ... no.

In Thomas' absence, Avery Bradley hit the big shot, the Celtics rallied from 21 points down with 19 minutes to play, and the Celtics swiped Game 4 (in Cleveland!) 111-108. Imagine the shock for all those bloodthirsty Clevelanders who came to see a ritual sacrifice, and got instead a pie in the face.

But ... but ... I thought the Celtics were dead! Why is the corpse moving?

That sort of thing.

In any case, LeBron's mission was scrubbed, at least for this night. Likely he and the Cavs figured the Celtics were dead, too, especially without Thomas. Likely what happened in Games 1 and 2, when LeBron looked like Dad playing in the driveway with his 6-year-old, lulled them into thinking all they had to do was show up and the Celtics would run screaming.

Alas, that doesn't happen very often in the NBA, and especially at the conference finals level. The Celtics did not earn the top seed in the East by lying down in the road. And after getting ball-peened by 44, I imagine head coach Brad Stevens rather emphatically reminded them of that.

And Game 5?

Killer LeBron, fully awake again, will likely show up again. And everyone again will be talking about how he's on a mission.

Or not.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

That moment

I wasn't at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday when this happened. But I have been there enough to guess what the reaction was when Sebastien Bourdais' car went to pieces against the Turn 2 wall in a hailstorm of flame and shredding metal.

It was probably not what casual observers of auto racing, or its detractors, think it was.

Despite the mythology, no one lives for these sorts of moments. No one comes to or covers a motorsports event to see crashes, and especially these sorts of crashes. And so I imagine a gasp or two rose up in the media center when Bourdais hit the wall head-on at 231 mph. I imagine more than one person muttered, "This looks bad." And I imagine a few others, under their breath, perhaps, whispered "Oh, Jesus."

And then began thinking about how much their workday was going to change if it indeed was as bad as it looked.

Thankfully, it wasn't, though it was bad enough. Bourdais came out of the deal with a broken right hip and a smashed pelvis, but he'll live. Whether he races again, and how soon, is a question for the gods.

What isn't in question is what a crash like Bourdais' summons for those of us who've been doing this awhile. I've been covering the Indianapolis 500 for 40 years, and drivers have died on that watch. It's nothing you ever want to see. It's nothing you ever want to have to write about. You hate what you do for a living for awhile when you're compelled to do it, and for awhile you feel like a ghoul.

So, no, no one wants to see drivers crash hard. What we do instead is watch the replays, and thank God it's 2017 and not, say, 1957. Because if once again this ancient place's notorious caprice  was on full display --  one microsecond Bourdais was the fastest guy in the joint, and the next he, well, wasn't -- what was also on display was the everything that has made the sport as safe as it's possible to be.

The car itself, designed to fly apart in a way that dissipates the energy of a hard hit. The SAFER barrier, which has been around since the late '90s and which unquestionably is why more than one driver is still walking around breathing air.

I'd have written about that, maybe, had I been there. And I know exactly what I'd have been thinking as I did.

Beats the hell out of the alternative.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cut to the chase

Or to put it another way, can't we just go ahead and start the NBA Finals tomorrow, so we're not still watching basketball in the shadow of the Fourth of July?

I mean, we all know it's going to be the Cavaliers and the Warriors again. I know it. You know it. President William Henry Harrison knows it, and he's been dead for 170-some years.

So do we really need to slog through two more games each of the Warriors beating the goo out of the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs, and the Cavs beating both the goo and the delicious creamy filling out of the poor defenseless Celtics? Can't we just dispense with the formalities?

Which, you know, don't look all that formal to me.

I don't know what that was last night in Boston, but it sure wasn't an Eastern Conference finals game. Looked more like the Cavs vs. the Warren G. Harding Elementary School Bobcats. The Celtics are hopelessly overmatched in this series, and last night they played like they knew they were hopelessly overmatched. The result was a 44-point defenestration that had you wondering what sort of things might have been overheard in the Garden ...

"Now, LeBron, you let your little brother score once in awhile!" (LeBron's mom, calling out the backdoor)

"I don't wanna guard him. You guard him." (Unidentified Celtic)

"Well, I sure don't wanna guard him. You guard him." (Second unidentified Celtic)

"No way!" (First unidentified Celtic)

"Yes way!" (Second unidentified Celtic)

"Hey, no fair! Moooom!" (Many unidentified Celtics)

And so on.

And on. And on.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Getting down to head cases

A few brief observations now upon the news that Tom Brady's wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, told "Today" her husband suffered a concussion last year, even though it was never reported to the league by the Patriots:

1. I must have missed the part where Gisele became Dr. Gisele Bundchen.

(Although, given that Brady's been a quarterback in the NFL for close to 20 years, he's surely had several concussions. Don't see how it's possible he hasn't.)

2. You're saying the Patriots might have been up to some shenanigans with their injury reports? Shocker.

3. You're saying Brady might have been less than forthcoming about the state of his noggin, giving rise to the perception the Patriots might have been up to some shenanigans with their injury reports? Double shocker.

And last but not least ...

4. Brady says he wants to play until he's 45. Gisele letting slip he had a concussion last year (or not) sounds like code for "Not so fast, buster."

That is all.

Argument time

LeBron James handled the Celtics last night like you used to handle your little brother in the driveway, doing what he wanted when he wanted on the way to a ridiculously easy 117-104 win in Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

So this seems like as good a time as any to rev up the debate again.

Which is: Who are the best five players in NBA history?

Right now I'm inclined to say LeBron is at least 1A to Michael Jordan's 1, for a number of reasons. He's down 6-3 in titles, but he's won his against tougher competition (the current Warriors; the Tim Duncan/Manu Ginobilli/Tony Parker Spurs). He's a better rebounder. And he might be the best passer the game has seen since Larry Bird, a skill which frequently gets downplayed.

And the other three?

3. Wilt.

4. Kareem.

5. Bird (with either Magic or Oscar 5A).

OK, your turn. Go.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The hangover is real

And now another episode of the Blob Answers The Great Questions Of The Universe, a largely failed experiment unless you're one of those people who, like Glorious Leader, believes everything you read as long as it says what you want it to say.

Today's question: What's wrong with the Cubs?

Other than, you know, their destiny will always be to raise your hopes and then dash them, World Series champions or not.

When last we looked, after all, they weren't behaving very champion-y. They were 19-19, 2 1/2 games behind the hated Cardinals and two games behind the Brewers, for pity's sake.  Guys who weren't supposed to struggle at the plate -- Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist -- are struggling. Schwarber in particular looks completely lost in the leadoff hole. The defense is uncharacteristically un-defensive, and Jake Arrieta's stash of  magic beans is apparently exhausted; he's gone from virtually unhittable to just another guy in the rotation.

So what's wrong with the Cubs?

Simple. They're hung over.

They're still feeling the effects of the social whirl that engulfed them after winning the World Series. It tends to be a bit intense and distracting no matter who you are, but if you haven't won the World Series in 108 years, that gets magnified by a factor of 50 or so. The business of baseball takes a backseat to the business of celebrity, and it takes awhile to reverse that seating arrangement.

That's what's going on now, in the Blob's humble opinion. It won't last forever. The Cubs are too good for that to happen. They'll find their mojo eventually. Heck, they might even still win the division.

But beyond that?

Smart money, and history, says they won't repeat. Look what happened to the Red Sox after they broke their own 86-year drought in 2004. It took them three years to win another Series.

On the other hand, then-Red Sox mastermind Theo Epstein no doubt remembers that. And filed it away for future reference.

So, you see? There's still hope.

Sorry. Poor choice of words.

When a plan comes together

Something must be wrong with me. I'm starting to think LaVar Ball has magical powers.

I'm starting to think Lonzo Ball's ridiculous dad might actually (No! Don't say it!) know what he's talking about. I'm starting to think there will be a market for Lonzo's $500 shoe, that the kid will be the second coming of Jason Kidd (because, yes, some people are saying that), that LaVar isn't just some delusional loose-wingnut dreamer when he says if you say something often enough ands emphatically enough, it will come true.

Didja see what happened in the NBA draft lottery last night?

The Celtics, who got the Nets' lottery spot in a 2013 trade deal, drew the No. 1 pick.

The Lakers drew the No. 2 pick.

The Lakers are the team LaVar Ball has been saying all along will be the team Lonzo winds up playing for. They're also a team that had to draw a top-three pingpong ball or they'd lose their pick to the 76ers. And if they lost their pick to the Sixers, they'd either have to make some kind of deal or likely lose out on Lonzo.

And so of course they drew the No. 2 pick. And of course the Celtics are reportedly interested in either picking guard Markelle Fultz of Washington with the top pick or trading it, neither of which would affect the Lakers' taking Lonzo.

Which would mean another piece of LaVar Ball's crazy master plan would fall neatly into place.

Eerie, I tell you. Eerie.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Zero perspective

So Yankee Stadium poured its love down on the Captain last night, and Derek Jeter's No. 2 officially went off to the posterity it so richly deserves. That means every single-digit number has now been retired by the Yankees, except for one.

Which raises this interesting question.

I mean, really. Why not zero?

It's not like we've never seen it before, after all. Heck, pro football Hall of Fame lineman Jim Otto wore double zero back in his salad days with the Oakland Raiders. So did Kenny Burrough, the old Oilers wide receiver. So, for a season each, did baseball players Jack Clark and Bobby Bonds.

And zero itself?

One of the greatest Pittsburgh Pirates of all time, Al Oliver, wear the Big Nothing. And the NBA is stuffed with zeroes, so to speak.

The soon-to-be MVP of the league, Russell Westbrook, wears it. So do Kevin Love of the Cavs and Damian Lillard of the Blazers, following in the footsteps of Orlando Wooldridge, Gilbert Arenas, Olden Polynice and Mike Bibby, among others.

Shoot. There's so many zeroes out there, it's almost mainstream. And yet still cool in a minimalist sort of way.

So how about it, Yankees? Who wants to be a zero?

So to speak.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hey, Mom, it's me. Again.

Timeout now for a Mother's Day note or two from the Blob, which expects sports can take care of itself for one day just as moms expect we can take care of ourselves for one day.

(A risky assumption, but, hey, Mom. Go big or go home).

Anyway ... I wrote this last Mother's Day. Except for the rain, and a different, less lunatic fringe-y governor, everything still holds true as true. Miss you, Mom.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Curses, and whatnot

Glad tidings today for all those who are either heartily sick of the New England Patriots, or who think they are the all-time champs in Got Away With It, or who think Bill Belichick is a humorless son-of-a-bleep who'd run over his own grandmother to win a game, then back up and run over her again:

Did you see who's on the cover of Madden 2017?

Yes, boys and girls, it's Tom Brady, GOAT (maybe) and generally sleazy dude, husband of that supermodel and the guy who drives the getaway car in all those scenarios in which the Patriots either do or don't pull another fast one.

This means he's now squarely in the gunsights of the fabled Madden Curse, which may or may not exist. Certainly it can be documented that the NFL player who winds up on the cover of this NFL video game has been struck with woeful misfortune many more times than once. It's struck the Patriots before -- last year, in fact, when year tight end Rob Gronkowski was the Madden cover boy and then wound up with a season-ending injury.

Of course, the Patriots did go on to win the Super Bowl without him, overcoming an historic 25-point deficit to beat the Falcons. So there's that.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy the angst of Patriots fans -- who, being the paranoid loonies they are, surely think Roger Goodell is behind two Patriots in a row winding up on the cover of Madden.

"Always trying to bring us down!" they must be saying.

Or maybe it's that guy in the Oval Office saying that. I forget.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Your conspiracy theory for today

Because, you know, conspiracy kooks and various other wackadoodles kinda run the country now.

And so the Blob will saddle right up with the zeitgeist, and offer one of its own. No, it doesn't have anything to do with Hillary's e-mails or shadowy plots by evil purveyors of Fake News to bring down our Glorious Leader. This being generally a sports Blob, it is of a sportsy nature.

To wit: Was the fix in for Game 6 of the Spurs-Rockets series last night?

This being the NBA, an enterprise run by at least marginally competent people, I would say no. But it's not completely crazy to think something smelled mildly fishy. I mean, if that wasn't a blatant laydown by the Rockets, it sure could pass for one in a photo array.

Losing by 39 at home in an elimination game? Seriously? To a Spurs team that was playing without Kawhi Leonard, its one transcendent talent, and that had already been beaten in this series by 21 and 27 with Leonard?

And then there was this: What are we to make of the complete disappearance of James Harden -- your NBA MVP any other year except this one, when Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the entire season?

Harden took 11 shots in this one. He made two. He scored 10 points.

This from a man who'd scored 33, 28, 43 and 20 in four previous games of the series.

This from a man who'd taken no fewer than 13 shots in any previous game -- Game 1 of the series, when the Rockets won big and didn't need him to take any more shots than that.

Last night they did. And he was a no-show.

At home.

In an elimination game.

One might be inclined to say "Hmmm." And also, "Interesting."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

How it's supposed to work

I work at a university now, here in the second act of my professional life. And every morning, when I get out of my car and walk across our tranquil, oak-shaded campus, I never fail to wonder how I won whatever crazy lottery rules the cosmos.

First I got to be a sportswriter for parts of five decades, covering Super Bowls and Final Fours and a million high school football and basketball games that got at the essence of things more than the big stuff ever could. Now I get to work at Manchester University in northeast Indiana, a small liberal arts school where the passion for learning, and its application toward making the world a better place, is not just a rote homily. It's a mission.

"The world needs more Manchester graduates," our president, Dave McFadden, is fond of saying. And he ain't just whistlin' Dixie.

He'll likely say it again on May 20, when the class of 2017 turns its tassels. Among them will be a lot of young people I've talked to in my job as a marketing writer, and a lot I haven't. And to the usual suspects who rant (as they have since time immemorial) that These Kids Today are self-absorbed "snowflakes" who've had everything handed to them and are soft as Charmin, I can only say this: I haven't met any of those yet.

Instead, I've met a lot of committed young people who are far more engaged than I ever was in college, and who share a curiosity about the world and how they can make difference in it.  In other words, I've met a lot of kids like Nigel Hayes.

You might have heard the name. He's a Division I basketball player at the University of Wisconsin, but that description sells him short. He's also a student. And as flawed as the model is for D-I athletes -- as much as we like to sneer at the term "student-athlete," because too often not even the people who call them that regard them as such -- sometimes it fits exactly right. Sometimes, in spite of itself, the system actually works.

Kids go to school. They play sports (and, yes, are exploited like crazy by the corporate entity that is big-time college athletics). And they get themselves educated.

They go to class. They learn to question, to think critically, to develop an abiding curiosity about the world and their place in it. And, after four years, they leave as fully developed grownups who've discovered their own true selves.

Read this. And tell me that's not what's happened to Nigel Hayes.

"My challenge to the class of 2017 is this," he writes at the end. "Never accept it when someone says, 'Just shut up and play.' Or whatever the equivalent is in your field.

"Don't accept it when they say, 'Stay in your lane.'

"Let’s use all possible lanes. Let’s create new lanes. Each of us is more than just the job we do for a few hours a day.
"Whether we play basketball or not."

I don't know about you. But it sounds to me like that kid's learned a few things.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Your "Huh?" moment for today

And now, on the day after former Miami Dolphin linebacker Nick Buoniconti's sad tale of memory loss, falls and mental deterioration -- the residue, at least partially one would think, of 14 years of stick-'em hits in the NFL ...


Yes, that's right, America. From the folks who have made countless forays into dopiness over the years, it's a concussion protocol entirely consistent with that. Which is to say, it's a concussion protocol that makes you think the people who came up with it should be under a concussion protocol.

Put aside the fact that you're messing with the health of the most transcendent star in your game. Even if this weren't Sidney Crosby ... and even if he didn't have a history of concussions ... and even if he hadn't gone headfirst into the boards and then struggled to get up a mere seven days after sustaining a concussion ... how do you have a protocol like this? How do you empower your concussion cops to take a guy off the ice if he hits his head on the ice or another player's shoulder or a fist, but not if he goes headfirst into the boards?

And not softly, either. Check out the play in question.

Does it make any sense that Crosby didn't have to miss a shift after that?

Does it shock you that it's the NHL not making any sense here?

It does?

Wow. You must have missed the Glow Puck, then.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The right call*

*Even if a lot of people don't think so.

By which the Blob means, good luck, James Blackmon Jr., and never mind what anyone else thinks. The draftniks might not understand why you're hiring an agent and leaving college buckets behind, a lot of media folk might not understand it, but the Blob does. Although probably not for the reason you want to hear.

And what is that the reason?

Because another year at IU won't get you much closer to the NBA than you are now.

That it's unlikely Blackmon will get drafted this year is pretty obvious, given that he wasn't invited to the NBA combine. If that didn't happen, getting drafted probably isn't going to happen. But you know what?

That's OK.

It's OK, because if Blackmon doesn't land with an NBA team as a free agent, there are tons of opportunities to make money playing overseas out there. And a whole lot of players who never got drafted took that path to the Association.

So let's say Blackmon does the same thing and  jumps the pond. He makes some coin. He gets used to the pro game and the pro life. And maybe, in a year or so, he catches someone's eye and winds up doing what Mavericks' point guard Yogi Ferrell did: Find himself a home after going undrafted.

That doesn't happen very often, mind you. But it could. And if Blackmon turns pro now, he's a year to the good in that process.

It's clear he wants to play for money. Why not start now?

Because, listen, there's nothing to keep him in Bloomington anymore. He's got his degree. His coach, Tom Crean, is gone. And he's in a place where his skill set is established and isn't likely to improve all that much by spending one more season in college -- a season in which Blackmon, who's already been injured, could wind up getting injured again.

Why risk that? Why not just get started on the rest of his life now?

I'll wait right here for your answer.   

Monday, May 8, 2017

Graduation tale

It is graduation season across the land, which means once again thousands of young people wrestle with the Eternal Question ("Which way do I turn the tassel again?") and glitter shortages pop up everywhere as grads decorate their mortarboards in a manner WE weren't allowed to back in the day.

It's also one of those rare times when the lines of demarcation in life are so sharply defined you can almost see them. There is childhood, and there is adulthood, and when you walk onto that stage and take that diploma you've worked so hard for, you finally and irrevocably pass from one to the other. If your season of learning will never really end, your season of formal education has. As has, presumably, your season of maturing.

This season is as important as all the others in the college experience, because a good half of that experience is about learning how to be a grownup. And maybe nowhere was that more clearly on display than at The Ohio State University over the weekend, where a young man named Cardale Jones walked across the stage and took in hand his degree in African-American and African studies.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Cardale Jones is the guy who quarterbacked Ohio State to the national title in 2014 after starting the season third on the depth chart. He's also the guy who, five years ago, famously tweeted that they were all here to play football, not to play school. School, he declared, was "pointless."

Cardale Jones was a freshman then. And not yet a grownup.

Five years later, he mocked his younger self in glitter on his mortarboard on the day of his graduation. College, you see, did exactly what it's supposed to: It took him from childhood to adulthood.

And in a season of celebration,  that is indeed something worth celebrating.    

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A few brief thoughts on the Derby

In which the Blob very briefly asks two questions of the people who dropped a little coin on the Kentucky Derby, which pretty much includes everyone in America who never bets on, or even pays attention to, any other horse race at any time anywhere:

1. Show of hands. Who bet Always Dreaming to win?

(OK, so a bunch of you).

2. Who correctly nailed the trifecta of Always Dreaming, Lookin' at Lee and Battle of Midway?

(Answers: Lookin' at WHAT? ... Who the hell is the Battle of Midway and where did he come from? ... Are you kidding me? Seriously, are you KIDDING ME?!)

That is all.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Everything you should know about the Derby*

*Or not.

Or not, because this is the part where the Blob empties the notebook about the Kentucky Derby. The notebook consists of one page. It's blank except for a crude drawing of a horse (with an arrow and the helpful description "Horse!"), a cruder drawing of the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs (with an arrow and "Look! Two of 'em!") and an even cruder drawing of a Kentucky Colonel passed out under a tree (with an arrow and "Look! Mint julep coma!").

In other words, the Blob knows next to nothing about the Kentucky Derby, except that it's one of its favorite events. As I've said numerous times, I love everything about the Derby except the mint juleps, the worst mixed drink ever foisted upon civilized man. I just don't know anything about it.

And so, without further ado (and without the talking horse I once inadvisably employed in a couple forgettable Derby columns), here is the 2017 edition of the Blob's Kentucky Derby Intel From Someone Who Has No Intel:

1. That Fast and Accurate sure is a fine piece of horseflesh.

Actually this is not true.

Actually, Fast and Accurate apparently should have been named Alpo On The Hoof, because he's a complete mutt. He's gray, for one thing. Gray horses are frequently mutts. He's also so little regarded even his handlers/owners reportedly think has no shot.

One of his owners, by the way, is former competitive skier/juvenile delinquent Bode Miller. I don't know why that's worth mentioning. I just thought it was kinda interesting.

2. Speaking of juvenile delinquents ... Hey, look! It's Classic Empire!

Who is the favorite, and not gray, and has all the requisite horse parts (four legs, mane, tail, whatever a fetlock is). He's also apparently flakier than a breakfast croissant.

If he decides he wants to run, he'll win going away. If he decides, as he sometimes does, that, Yeah, I ain't feelin' it today, he'll just sort of lope around and screw up a bunch of people's exactas.

He's also starting from the 14th gate, a post position that hasn't produced a Derby winner since Carry Back in 1961. And so you can imagine how the conversation might go as they're loading them into the gate:

CLASSIC EMPIRE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Nobody told me I was starting from the 14 hole.

JOCKEY: Forget that, big boy. Let's do this.

CLASSIC EMPIRE:  Seriously? Come on. No one's won from there since '61. The Twin Spires were just spirelings then. The Kentucky Colonels were still corporals. Nah, no soap.

JOCKEY: Please ...

CLASSIC EMPIRE: Nope. Uh-uh. Now go get me a mint julep.

3. Hey, look! It's a one-eyed horse!

Really. His name is Patch and he starts from the 20 hole, so far away from the rail he might as well be in Indiana. He's a 30-1 shot. I'd drop several large on him if I were you.

4. Speaking of dropping several large ... here's Sonneteer!

Who's a 50-1 shot. And who's 0-for-10 lifetime. The last horse to win his first race in the Derby was Broker's Tip back in 1933.

But go ahead. Get thee to the betting window. This could be his day.

5. You can't go wrong with a horse named Battle of Midway.

Actually, you probably can. Battle of Midway was 30-1 as of today. He never raced as a 2-year-old. The last horse to win the Derby who didn't race as a 2-year-old was Apollo in 1882.

It was a different time then. No one had ever heard of Candy Crush, and you couldn't get decent sushi anywhere.

But, again, go ahead. Drop a roll of fifties. Admiral Halsey will thank you.

So there you have it. You are as fully up to speed as the Blob can make you, provided the speed is 15 mph. Heck, I'll even throw in a long-shot pick you might consider if you're considering long-shot picks.

Write this down: Gunnevera.

He's not gray. He's got all the requisite horse parts, just like Classic Empire. He's also got a trainer, Antonio Sano, who was kidnapped twice in his native Venezuela a few years back before wisely deciding to leave the country.

How cool would it be for Sano to wind up in the winner's circle tomorrow? It would almost be as cool as American Pharoah winning again.

Which, you know, can't happen. But still.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Yes. The Red Sox mean it.

The other shoe is aloft out there somewhere, because this is the kind of country we are now. Someone is going to read about what the Boston Red Sox did last night -- ban a cementhead fan for life for hurling a racial slur at another fan at Fenway Park -- and invoke the sanctity of free speech in defense of the cementhead.

He has a right to say any vile thing he wants, the reasoning will go. Because, 'Merica.

And boom goes the other shoe.

Of course, the shoe does have a point. Yes, Cementhead Fan has the right to say what he wants. It is the inalienable right of every American to spout any ignorant, hurtful, bald-faced lie he wishes. Our Glorious Leader upholds that right practically every day.

But you know what?

The Red Sox have an equal right to tell him to get lost if he does.

This is because, while there are laws that rightly prohibit discrimination against groups of  individuals, no law exists that forces anyone, even a baseball team, to do business with a specific individual. And so the Red Sox reserve the absolute right not to sell you a ticket if you decide to behave in a manner they deem inappropriate or potentially disruptive.

This doesn't mean you still can't be a racist cementhead. It just means the rest of us aren't forced to be around you if you are.

Which is to say: We'll make you a pariah. Because that's how it works in civilized countries.

In America, unfortunately, not so much these days. Taking their cue from Glorious Leader's wink-and-a-nudge embrace of nativist bigotry (or at the very least, his obvious comfort level with it), the usual suspects have been emboldened to spew their age-old nonsense. They even cloak it in some half-assed nobility, claiming that, like their hero, they're striking a blow against the tyranny of "political correctness."

This is the same sort of inside-out logic that fuels the argument that the Red Sox (or whoever) are Attacking Freedom Of Speech when they refuse to put up with Cementhead Fan. Intolerance for intolerance, it seems, somehow is intolerant itself.

Good luck making sense of that.

In the meantime, good on the Red Sox, and the vast majority of their fans, for rising as one to say screw that to all of the above. The night after Cementhead Fan had his say, throwing peanuts at Oriole Adam Jones and spewing the N-word at him, the rest of Boston had its say, giving Jones a standing ovation when he came to the plate for the first time. The Red Sox declared such behavior would not be tolerated -- and then backed it up by throwing out the dope who decided to speak his mind, such as it is, to a white fan who was at the game with his biracial son.

The fan said "oh, hell, no," and turned him in. The Red Sox told him to leave and never come back. And you know what?

Suddenly you were proud to be an American again.           

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why some people cannot have nice things

And by "people," we mean "the Chicago Cubs."

Who, yes, won the World Series for the first time in 108 summers last October. Which is probably as good an excuse as any for what happened the other night.

What happened was, the Cubs broke the World Series trophy.

OK, so not the Cubs, exactly. And not even Cubs president Theo Epstein, in whose custody the trophy was. And it wasn't actually broken broken.

A few of the flags on it got bent when fans were passing it around at a charity concert in Boston hosted by Epstein. It's fixable. And, yet.

And yet, the thing got damaged in the Cubs' possession. Which kind of figured, since, again, they hadn't had their hands on it since 1908, when it didn't even exist. And these are the Cubs, after all. Until last summer, they did have this reputation for dropping stuff.

Fly balls. All-but-sewed-up pennants. Huge leads in the standings in August (Hello, Amazin' Mets!).

So, yeah, maybe this was predictable. Although somewhere Steve Bartman no doubt heaved a sigh of relief.

This one they couldn't blame on him.

Thrown for a loop

Well, at least the fans redeemed themselves.

Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale, not so much.

For the second time this week an arm wearing Boston colors threw at Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles, and here we go again with another episode of Things The Blob Does Not Understand. In this case, all those unwritten baseball rules.

The Blob thinks they're a load of extremely fragrant horse manure.

The Blob thinks if they were actually rules, they'd be written down somewhere, but since they're not no one should be obliged to follow them. In this particular case, it's the unwritten rule that pitchers should be duty-bound to retaliate  for the bad acts of an opponent.

This is not just singularly stupid. It's potentially tragic.

Yes, Machado slid into Dustin Pedroia at second base a few days ago, and Pedroia came up injured. Boston reliever Matt Barnes then retaliated by throwing a fastball behind Machado's head. Then Sale threw a 98-mph heater at his knees last night.

This prompted a fusillade of f-bombs from Machado afterward, as well it should have. He wondered why a pitcher can throw projectiles at a man's head and get a relatively light sentence for it -- Barnes got only a four-game sitdown, even though Pedroia himself was appalled by what he did -- while he, Machado, would no doubt get sentenced to baseball life if he went after a pitcher with his bat.

Not a bad observation. I've often wondered why, when a pitcher throws behind a batter's head, the batter never retaliates by throwing his bat at him. I've concluded this is because one is completely outside the bounds of baseball etiquette, and the other isn't. The question for me is why.

 Because, listen, if throwing your bat is heinous, so is throwing 98-mph gas at a guy's head. The potential for tragedy seems equal. Ask the descendants of Ray Chapman, killed by a Carl Mays beanball back in 1920. Ask the descendants of Tony Conigliaro, whose career was ended by a Jack Hamilton beanball.

 Yet you can throw a baseball at a guy's head and get what amounts to a slap on the wrist, because the unwritten rules regard it as simply part of the game. Throwing a bat, on the other hand, might actually land you in jail for assault.

Sorry. But I'm with Machado. I don't see the difference.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ready for departure

I don't believe Larry Bird.

I don't believe what he stood up there and said yesterday, which is that his abrupt leave-taking has nothing whatever to do with the current state of the Indiana Pacers. I don't believe that for a second.

I don't believe it because no one was ever better at seeing the floor than Larry Bird, and lord knows he has to see the floor now. The team he built when he came back to be president of the Pacers five years ago is unraveling -- and if that's largely because of market forces beyond his control, he's also not entirely blameless.

He was the one who dumped Frank Vogel because he believed the Pacers needed a new voice, then hired assistant Nate McMillan, who wasn't a new voice at all. He was the one who tried to push his star, Paul George, into a new role on the floor with which he was not comfortable. And he was the one who insisted the Pacers change the way they played.

He wanted more up-tempo small ball. And he wasn't wrong to try to remake the Pacers into that sort of team, because that was the direction in which the league was going. But the pieces he got to make it happen simply weren't working.

Now the Pacers face the unenviable task of trying to hang onto George, their one marketable superstar. They're probably not going to succeed at that. And when George goes, the Pacers -- already barely a playoff team -- will be a franchise trying to rebuild with a small-market payroll.

I don't think Larry Bird wanted any part of that. And that's why I think he's gone.

Just another day at the ballpark

Well, not really.

Not if you were Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, the club's 2016 Roberto Clemente Award nominee and an apparently exemplary human being who cherishes the game, plays it hard and tries not to do the sorts of thing that bring discredit to it.

Unlike, you know, certain cementheads in Boston.

They were apparently out in force in Fenway Park last night, and Adam Jones, of all people, was the target. This is not because the cementheads had anything against Roberto Clemente Award nominees, precisely. It was because Adam Jones is black.

And so one fan, subsequently ejected, threw a bag of peanuts at him in the dugout. And several others, Jones said, hurled more stinging missiles in the form of the ever-popular N-word.

"It's unfortunate," Jones said later. "The best thing about myself is that I continue to move on and still play the game hard. Let people be who they are. Let them show their true colors.''

Which have, unfortunately, always been somewhat less than vibrant. You never want to paint with a broad brush, but that this happened in Boston is not particularly surprising. Fairly or unfairly, the city earned its rep long ago as one of America's most racist cities; the spectacle of Southie rioting when the city's schools were de-segregated in the 1970s is an image that still holds power 40 years later. Like all such images, it's damnably hard to erase.

This is not to say that the cementheads who hurled their racial slurs at Jones were representative of what Boston is today, or even of most Red Sox fans. They almost certainly are not. But they just as certainly did nothing last night to erase the city's image, legitimate or not.

Nor did they do anything to discredit the notion that, in the Age of Trump, a certain bottom-feeding segment of America feels far more emboldened to indulge in these sorts of displays than it used to. Or that it should in a country with an ounce of common decency.

In the meantime, it's left to the Adam Joneses of the world to uphold that decency.

"Very unfortunate," he said last night, "It's unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being. I'm trying to make a living for myself and for my family."

Just so.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Today in fleecing news

By now we're all aware that major league sports moguls are the world's biggest freeloaders, sponging off the taxpayers so they can have shiny new facilities in which to put their shiny toys (i.e., franchises) while selling the public carloads of hooey about how sports franchises Create Jobs and Benefit The Local Economy.

(They don't, actually. Study after study after study has proved this. Yet people still believe it, on account of we live in a country that believes moguls no matter how outrageously they lie. I mean, look at the whoppers the mogul in the White House gets away with.)

In any case ... I'm wondering how the good people of Minneapolis think the shiny new facility they paid for a year ago is Benefiting The Local Economy.

Umbrella sales, perhaps?

The citizenry got sheared for almost half the cost of the Vikings' new $1 billion digs, while the Vikings owners who stand to rake in most of the dough from it paid just over half. You can do this when you engage in blackmail, which is essentially what these guys do. Build us a new stadium, or you lose your team. And our boy in the commissioner's office, Roger Goodell, will back our play. Look what he helped us do to St. Louis and Oakland. You wanna be next?

That bill of goods gets even worse when the facility you got strong-armed into paying for starts falling apart almost immediately. Seriously, panels falling? Leaks? Millions of dollars in repairs already?

Two guesses whose pockets that comes out of.

First one doesn't count.