Odds and ends of things to conjure with

Here are points to be pondered while awaiting the arrival of Sir Galahad on his high horse, fresh from the tanning salons of Spain’s Costa del Sol:

Gods Give Brady the Browns

And suddenly the need of Tom Brady’s miraculous interventions becomes acute. Suddenly, you hear no more idle chatter about the possibilities of a “quarterback controversy.” The gridiron gods conspire to juice the melodrama.  Nice of them to arrange for the pathetic Browns to arrive on schedule, just when such a cookie is most welcome.

Of Baseball’s Achievers

Time, too, for the dispensing of baseball’s annual individual achievement awards and here are four guidelines one would like to see kept in mind:

1. Rookie of the Year Awards should go to newcomers who actually play a full season not just a couple of months of what amounts to garbage time. That’s denying Yankee phenom Gary Sanchez none of his due, only suggesting the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer deserves the prize more. 

2. No MVPs for Designated Hitters.  And that’s taking nothing away from David Ortiz’s spectacular farewell. But the DH role, while important, is still limited. No non-pitcher perched on the bench half the time can be adjudged “most valuable.” Moreover, DH’s have their own bauble.

3. Same roughly goes for relief pitchers. Which is why those who pitch only relief should be declared ineligible for the Cy Young Award, no matter how brilliantly they perform.   

4. On Managers of the Year, the criteria supposedly concern the astute handling of assets – who gets the most out of the least – not just mere winning. It could be argued the Brewers’ Craig Counsel did that better than the Cubs’ Joe Maddon. Or that Joe Girardi was craftier than John Farrell.

Give it some thought, voters.

Of Ill-Advised Spectacles

If MLB were to arrange for a lavish international baseball tourney to be held in January between New Year’s Day and Super Sunday, would it not seem ludicrous? And, when it failed, would that not seem inevitable?

That’s roughly the ill-advised dilemma the NHL fashioned for itself with its World Cup Hockey festival, lately completed with a result seemingly fore-ordained amidst much indifference. Coming off the summer while tracking the end of the baseball season and the beginning of the football season, sports patrons weren’t ready for a high-end ice-hockey opus. The result was a star-studded production that fell flat for such few as even noticed.

It’s too bad. The intentions were good and the ending fairly spectacular. But the whole thing was, we repeat, ill-advised.

Another Games Thumbs Down

Buried in the fine print of another over-the-top month in American sport was yet another fierce denunciation of the Olympics. In emphatically withdrawing Rome from consideration as host of the 2024 games, Mayor Virginia Raggi essentially declared that given her eternal city’s colossal problems and overwhelming needs, the very idea of the thing is ridiculous. The lady was nothing less than scornful. It’s not so much a social conscience that’s suddenly gripping civic leaders as mere common sense.

Other old European crown capitals – notably Paris and Budapest – remain vaguely in the running, but not at the price the ever grasping IOC seeks. Meanwhile, there are still no takers for the 2022 Winter GHames.  They may yet end up in Kazakhstan.

All of which tends to affirm the notion long held in this space that the party is over for the IOC.  The Geneva poohbahs may not have yet awakened to this stark new reality. But they will.

Of Smith and Carol and ’68

Those with long memories must be touched by the honors finally coming to Tommy Smith and John Carlos. It was 48 years ago that they were banished from sports and humiliated by the aforementioned poohbahs for protesting racial injustice at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. A pair of brilliant sprinters, Smith and Carlos provoked huge outrage simply by raising clenched fists and bowing their heads silently while the anthem played at their medal-winning ceremony. As protests go, it was modest and clearly sincere. But they got little support back home, and less sympathy.

Nor did the mainstream jock media rush to their defense as it has to Colin Kaepernick and followers in this season of renewed awareness of social issues as  demonstrated by celebrity jocks.

Who knows where that will lead, but it’s safe to say none of them, especially not Kaepernick, will pay the heavy price Smith and Carlos paid, nor have they ever run the risk. Moreover, if you think bad times and social injustice were off the charts this year, you weren’t around in 1968.  

All of this President Obama implicitly acknowledged as he singled out Smith and Carlos for special praise in White House ceremonies honoring the entire 1968 US Olympic team. Too bad it took 48 years. Nonetheless, “Bravo!” says I.

Of Phony Celebrations

Lastly, now that there are four rounds of MLB playoffs, nothing looks more phony, contrived, and juvenile than teams engaging in wild, champagne-spraying, locker-room celebrations just for having made it into the post-season. Save it, boys, for when you finally win something – like a trip to the final round or to the World Series. Act like you’re no stranger to winning. It’s much cooler!