Only the AL East will give fans their money’s worth this month

Cracking wise with idle musings on a leisurely Labor Day while waiting for the drive to the baseball wire to become feverish. The gun sounds for the last lap, but we may be in for a disappointment. At last check we had precisely one valid race, although there remains the chance the Giants could awaken in the NL West and the Indians could fizzle in the AL Central. Hardly to be hoped for.

Which leaves us only one clear-cut donnybrook not likely to be resolved until the last gasps of the final weekend. The AL East regains its claim to an inherent parochial nastiness. If only the Yankees can hang around until the end of the month. The winner of this tong war should emerge with a significant edge in the post-season squabble. We trust we have your attention, David Price.

That it passed with little attention, particularly in New England, hardly surprises.  But the end of August marked the 10th anniversary of Roger Goodell’s ascendance to the NFL throne room, where he continues to preside with an iron fist to the utter delight of his 32 bosses (including the one in Foxborough) who continue to favor him with annually tendered honorifics ranging from $42 to $48 million (depending on how many bonuses come due). The Brady fiasco earning him your eternal loathing endeared him forever to his owner-pals. You can swallow hard on that one, Patriots Nation.

And while on the subject of insults to our collective intelligence, the notion that devoted flake Bill Lee aspires to be governor of Vermont and inscrutable Curt Schilling  ponders a run for the US Senate borders on civic blasphemy. Talk of the inmates yearning to run the asylum! Even in the Age of Trump, this is beyond the pale.  

Now in his ‘70s yet still specializing in childish mischief, “Spaceman” long ago forfeited the right to be taken seriously on any subject more than 10 yards removed from the pitcher’s mound, whereas Schilling never was. Which recalls the advice wisely proffered by the incomparable Roger Angell, who averred some years ago, “Ballplayers are what they do. Period!” Nothing less, nothing more!

While recognizing Vladimir Putin is a wily rascal who would gladly cheat to gain a competitive advantage in any game – be it world domination or tiddlywinks – one agrees with him that banning the entire Russian Paralympic team from the world handicap games in Brazil for alleged PED infractions is a tad mind-boggling. I mean, juiced or otherwise, these people are in wheelchairs. Is there no other way to police sport?

Another Olympic footnote: While there was much ado to the point of exhaustion over glamor medalists in gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, basketball, every women’s sport under the sun, Usain Bolt, even the madcap misadventures of Ryan Lochte, there was hardly a passing glance let alone laudatory notices for  arguably the finest achievement and noblest athlete of the entire fortnight: That would be the fabled decathlon laurels won again by Ashton Eaton, only the third American to win it twice; first since the legendary Rev. Bob Mathias charmed the nation in 1948 and 1952. The event that most firmly binds the modern and ancient games, the decathlon consists of the 10 most arduous field events, all performed within a two-day span. How does what Bolt did begin to exceed that? Well it doesn’t. It never has and this wisdom dates back about 2,500 years.  

For most of the last century, the decathlon champion has been automatically proclaimed “the world’s greatest athlete” and firmly honored accordingly. For reasons odd and unexplained, that distinction has lately withered to the point where it seemed this year to be relatively insignificant. Was there not more coverage for ping-pong? It seemed so. This makes no sense. Just because NBC has little time to afford and no hosannas left for the illustrious decathlon doesn’t make it less than it has always been.

 The first of September marked the 110th anniversary of a moment that should resound in all dugouts of 21st century baseball. On that day in 1906, Colby Jack Coombs of the A’s out-dueled Joe Harris of the Red Sox with both pitchers going all the way – 24 innings – and Coombs whiffing 18 en route.

Alas, no one saved pitch-counts, but the point is neither promptly required Tommy John surgery; or more precisely, would have needed that remedy had it then been available. Amazing, although what it may say about the evolution of the species eludes me!

According to the Sports Business Journal, the total athletic department revenue for the University of Texas this past academic year was $121, 382,436.  The total for the University of Alabama was $97,023,963. So, when did the business of American education become business?

Unrelated perhaps, yet something of a flip side of the same coin: When the Yankees fail to even make the playoffs this season – perilously near a certainty as of the writing – they’ll have lavished $1.13 billion on player payroll the last five seasons for two playoff appearances and no victories.
Hey, it’s contemporary sport we’re talking about, and it’s always all about the money.