As we attempt now and again, it’s time for a “Nobody Asked Me, But …” sort of column with a deferential nod as well as apologies to the late, great Jimmy Cannon, the legendary New York sporting scribe and stylist who not only devised but also perfected the trick, no doubt while hanging out with Joe D at Toots Shor’s. Those were the days. Anyway, here goes:
• If you’re handicapping the odds against the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, only three months away and buried with burdens, where do you begin? At last check the Games were severely threatened by political upheaval, a constitutional crisis, killer mosquitoes, massive cost over-runs, acute budget shortfall, incompetence, mistrust, intense popular anger, dirty water, collapsing bike-paths, inadequate transportation systems, and the rising death rate in the ranks of construction crews. Scariest of all, international authorities say Brazil’s security system is a misnomer because there is none. Hello!
The Olympic movement, increasingly daffy in the eyes of many, loves to embrace third-world sites led by fools willing to plunge their nation into hock in exchange for a fortnight of fun and glory. In Brazil this summer, they are flirting with disaster.
• On a less ominous note, there’s the relative nonsense of Deflategate ad nauseam. Might it be that Tom Brady, willingly or otherwise, has become captive of the NFL Players Association? The issue is no long critical for Brady; it’s now really a matter of a little ego and a lot of fairly childish lust for revenge. He’s smart enough to recognize the entire sporting world increasingly finds the commissioner ridiculous, so he’s won more than he can possibly lose, plus four games off at his age could well be a blessing. It’s the NFLPA that has the desperate need to break the commissioner’s iron-grip on disciplinary prerogatives that they’ve foolishly bargained away. They’ll never get a better chance.
• If you’ve been watching the Stanley Cup playoffs –raging with varying degrees of brilliance elsewhere – you know it’s downright merciful the Bruins got politely excused from the festival again this spring. They would have been steam-rolled, mere cannon fodder, and it wouldn’t have been pretty.
In retrospect, it’s amusing that some thought they might have a chance against Tampa, currently rolling into the semis with a strong shot at the Cup despite severe injury losses. Of the teams in this year’s sweepstakes, the Bruins would have stood a chance only against the Wings, dispatched in a week by the aforementioned Lightning. Tune in for a playoff tilt, any of them, and you’ll fast agree that your team has miles to go before again being a contender.
• And here’s tabbing St. Louis and Tampa to meet in the finals, with the sentimental nod for the Cup going to the Blues, who, of course, have never won the thing in a half century’s striving. The closest they’ve come? To that unforgettable Mothers Day in 1970 when their cheeky presumptions were rudely dashed by an airborne Bobby Orr fluttering through the Blues crease as the winning goal slid past Glenn Hall, bringing an avalanche of pure joy crashing down upon the old Garden floor. I can hear it still.
• Is there an ex-athlete in any dodge doing television analysis better than Mike Millbury, the battered old Bruins defenseman and Colgate grad? He is quick, smart, independent, articulate, and candid – brutally so, when needs require. And when he’s paired with Keith Jones, the equally bold Flyer spear-carrier, they form the best ex-jock duo doing broadcasting on any game. Together they sneer at small talk, know how to cut to the quick, and make sense. Who can ask for anything more?
• The Yankees may not only be a lousy team that lacks much gate-appeal but one that’s snake-bit as well. How else to characterize the three haymakers they absorbed while reeling through their worst start in precisely 50 years. In a 36-hour span, A-Rod, C.C. Sabathia and your old pal, Jacoby Ellsbury, all went down with the sort of nagging wounds that can hobble a player long after his stint on the DL. Rubbing salt in such wounds was the fact that C.C had just pitched his best game in about three years and Ellsbury seemingly was awakening from his latest swoon. Sometimes it’s clear when the baseball gods have written off a team.
• It is a wonderful story. The rowdy cast-offs of Leicester giving their tired old working-class burgh its first championship since Victoria sat on the throne by winning the illustrious British Premier League Soccer crown in defiance of 5,000 to 1 odds. It got great ink here in the states, more than any soccer story since the World Cup. But it’s likely to have stirred only profound indifference in the ranks of America’s “true” sports fans. Methinks we’re missing out on something rather nice.
• Lastly, a fond farewell to a prince of a fellow. Eddie Kleven was at various times a highly principled and immensely respected agent for entertainers, ballplayers, and media luminaries. No man in the field was more highly regarded for his fairness, honor, and class. Above all, Ed was a friend; a friend to the countless, it seemed. As the Bard would have it, let choirs of angels bear him to his rest. For that is much deserved!