Archive for the 'Sports' Category

Boston Rules and Resistance is Futile

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mvp2.pngYesterday the Dowbrigade and his son and cameraman Gabriel joined half a million other Boston sports fans to celebrate the latest World Championship by a local sports team. Yawn. Then we stopped for Brazilian Bar-B-Q on the way home. Ho hum.

How jaded we have become, here in the Hub! Somehow life seems empty if one of the local teams isn’t playing for a cup, or trophy, or title. What we have here is a unique and unprecedented confluence of statistical, psychic and socio-cultural factors, bringing championships to Boston by the bandwagon.

We have already taken credit for the Major Mojo behind this run of competitive success. However, it occurs to us that most people may not be aware of how deep and widespread this reign of triumph currently is.

For example, how many readers are aware that the Walpole, MA Little League team was declared the default 2007 Little League World Series winner, due to the retroactive age-related disqualifications of players from the Macon, Georgia and Osaka, Japan teams which finished ahead of them?

And how about the news that the Boston team at the National Conference of Mayors won the annual City Government Softball Tournament final 17-6 after cleanup hitter Tom Tom Menino pointed to the left field wall, mumbled something unintelligible and smashed the crap out of an 0-2 knuckleball from Michael Bloomberg.

While the “Big Three” of Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox grab all the headlines, true sports fans are aware that there are other champions in town. The New England Revolution have been to the MLS finals three years in a row, earning the unfortunate sobrioquet “Buffalo Bills of the MLS”.

But further down the food chain of professional sports, who knew that the Boston Tea Bags recently finished first in the Gay Para Olympics. Or that the Boston Bonsais of the Professional Flower Arranging League last year won the Bouquet Bowl?It is a shame only the Bay Windows weekly rag reported that the Boston Stylistics captured the American Stylists 2008 Coiff-Off held recently in Las Vegas. They Blow!

Among female competitors, local teams at the top of their respective sports include the Boston Ballbreakers of the Womens Amateur Rugby Association and the New England Nannies who recently triumphed in the World Child Care Olympics in Manchester, England.

And who could forget the Boston Blueballs, who traveled to Fugloysund, Norway for the Competitive Ice-Swimming Team Championship and won! Go Blueballs!

But Boston’s good fortune has not been limited to nominal grown-ups. Our many excellent college teams have also been bringing home titles at a rate that has the laurel leaves falling faster than foliage in the fall. Why, just during the past academic year, MIT took home both the US Collegiate Chess Championship and the NCAA Robot Rhythmic Gymnastics Cup. In between Harvard won the Super-Ego Bowl.

Speaking of bowls, BC triumphed in the 2008 GE College Bowl as well as the Champs Sports Bowl, and Northeastern staggered home with the 2008 Beer Pong title. Brandeis took the team title at the Maccabee Games and a Bentley won the Paris-Dakar Road Rally. In a major upset, BU won the Division 3 Football Championship, even though they haven’t had a football team for ten years.

Flipping through the cable lineup we also note that New Englanders have been on a competitive reality show tear, having recently won America’s Top Model, Celebrity Chef Cookoff, American Idle (a slacker spin-off), Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother, I Survived a Japanese Game Show, America Gladiator, The Great Race, Fear Factor, Top Design, America’s Got Talent, The Biggest Loser and The Apprentice.

The popularity of Boston has been noted and rewarded by a plethora of national publications and professional associations which have recently named our fair city, among other things, America’s Voted Most Livable City, Best Sports Bars, Top Singles Scene, Best Managed City, Most Scenic Urban Area, Best Educated City, Best Junk Food, Most Interesting Eccentrics, America’s Friendliest Citizens and, in an incredible coup, Best Weather in the Continental United States.

In addition to a continuing cavalcade of championships, we can look forward to an accelerating parade of world-class events. Boston has been recently selected to host the 2010 Miss Universe Pageant, the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2020 World Cup. In 2012 both the Democrats and the Republicans plan to have their nominating conventions here.

So enjoy it while it lasts, boys and girls, but be ready to relocate for a while. When the party ends, there’ll be the devil to pay. Balancing the karmic books can be a bitch.

Watch the video we shot yesterday

Ode to an Unsung Hero

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Boston sports fans have reason to be nervous – the incredible run of luck experienced by area sports teams is coming to an end.Now it can be revealed – the Dowbrigade has been personally responsible for the incredible run of championship seasons during the past 5 years, and we are getting tired. For the past 60 months we have been collecting charms and amulets from around the world, consulting with witch doctors, consorting with dark powers from beyond the veil, performing rare and almost forgotten rites and burning exotic herbs in abundance.

And you thought it was just fantastic coincidence that the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics have all put in historic season after season and brought home more combined championships than any other city in such a short period? Or that it was somehow our superior sporting spirit, or some unknown urban virtue? Maybe the collective brilliance of our coaches, managers and athletes can be attributed to intellectual osmosis from the high I.Q. zip codes along the Charles? Or something in the water?

Fuggedabouddit. It is we, the Dowbrigade, working tirelessly 24/7, scouring the globe for tchoktches, medicine pouches, religious icons, fertility figures, lucky charms and power crystals. Our dedicated research staff is constantly unearthing sacred texts, arcane tomes and occult resources for good curses, jinxes and hexes to fire on our unlucky opponents.

We have spent months and most of our disposable income acquiring powders and potions, snake skins and beeswax, holy water, hallowed earth and sacred fire, ceremonial knives and rare incense. Not to mention the dozens of farm animals offering themselves up for ritual sacrifice. And the schlepping – you try to get a 2,000 pound ceremonial stone altar into a 3rd floor walk-up.

But no sacrifice was too great for our teams. It all started in 2002, when, recently returned from a vacation retreat with an Amazonian shaman who must remain nameless, we set up a small shrine in a corner of ourliving room and adapted a few simple rituals the Shaman had taught us into weekly enactments right before each Patriots game. Every week we tried to introduce something new to the ritual – a rabbits foot, a native American katchina doll, a pinch of hogwart. When the Pats up and won their first championship, we were hooked. We knew we had to keep going.

We knew that we were personally responsible for bring the trophy home to Boston, and that with great responsibility comes great power.

By 2004 we had become much more adept at the rites and spells, and had widened our horizons in the search for more powerful talismen and charms. We obtained a shipment of Rudraksh nuts, found only in remote regions of the Himalayas, and collected four-leaf clovers from outside of each of the stadiums on the Patriot’s schedule. When our efforts were rewarded with another championship we resolved to redouble them yet again.

The Patriots third championship in 2005 was largely the result of the actions of a series of demons and evil spirits we summoned from the Nevernever via a magic lantern obtained from a Vedantic mystic whose son was trying to get into Brandeis (he did). Summoning these spirits each week, and siccing them on the opponent de jour, was exhausting work, and we swore we would never do it again after a storm spirit went out of control after the Superbowl and absolutely destroyed a seaside trailer camp outside Jacksonville (they called it a “freak storm”). But you can’t argue with the results.

Later in 2004, we transferred our attention to baseball, which turned out to be a whole new level of challenge. For one thing, overcoming an 87-year-old curse is no day at the beach. We needed major mojo, which arrived in the form of a shroud from a 1,800 year old Mexican mummy, unearthed beneath an ullamaliztl (an Aztec ball game) court in the ancient capital of Tenochitlan. Legend has it he died scoring the final goal in a sudden-death regional final, saving his entire region from literal sudden death at the hands of division rivals.

In addition, the length of the season proved problematic. In order to provide a non-stop psychic assault on the Red Sox’s opponents we arranged visas and passage for a hardy band of near-naked tribesmen from New Zealand, a Maori Shaman and his five acolytes, who were adepts at the performance of the Ka Mate Haka, a sort of singing celebration of Life over Death which packs a hell of a whammy.

Performing the Haka before each of the 162 ballgames of the regular season and the 20 post-season encounters proved a real trial, and before the season was half over Norma Yvonne was really pissed at the presence of 6 Maori tribesmen in our guest room, constantly chanting “Kikiki kakaka kauana! Kei waniwania taku tara”, but it was all worthwhile when we burst the curse and won the series.

Nevertheless, our marriage took a hit for the cause, which is why, this season, we went with a trio of mystic Russian monks who have taken vows of silence, rather than inviting the Maori back.

We thought about helping out the Bruins, but Jeremy Jacobs has so much negative karma that counteracting it would require human sacrifice, and even the Dowbrigade draws the line somewhere.

This constant marshaling of occult forces in favor of the New England sports teams has taken a toll, financially, physically and psychically on the whole Dowbrigade franchise.

The stress is starting to show. At the climax of a six day fast this past February, in the throes of a drug-induced trance-dance, we had a mini-breakdown and lost our focus during the waning minutes of the Superbowl. The disastrous results are now a matter of public record.

Hell, if we want to take credit for all those championships, we ought to take the heat for the one we blew.

Now, we find ourselves in the heat of the NBA finals. In an effort to assure victory we’ve been consorting with the Faeries, and their penchant for truly evil mischief and trickery has our home in a shambles. But I guess we can put up with it for another couple of weeks, if it means bringing home the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in 21 years. No sacrifice is too great for long suffering sports fans.

But, honest to God folks, we don’t know how much longer we can keep it up.

So enjoy it while it lasts, Boston Sports fans, and be prepared for some long lean years when we finally end our efforts. Even the strongest Mojo wears off, and magic offers only a temporary dispensation of the law of averages.

Hallelujah!

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Wednesday night’s summary execution of the Sonics by the Celtics, 111-82, was more of a mercy killing than a duel, and  looked at times like a gaggle of Junior High JVs against a team of McDonald’s All-Americans. Pleased as punch with the new-look Celtics, we can’t help reflecting on the unique dynamic of roundball among professional team sports.

Basketball is perhaps the team sport in which a single individual can have the most impact. In no other team sport can the replacement of a handful of players transform a team from pathetic to proficient overnight.  At the same time, in no other sport is the sacrifice of individual achievement more essential to the success of the team.

Obviously, part of the reason that replacing a couple of starters can have a bigger effect in basketball than in baseball,  football or soccer is that those 2 players represents 40% of a starting lineup in B-ball. However, we see it as even more crucial due to the higher degree of personal interaction between players during the play of the game.

Unlike the wind-swept acreage of a football stadium or a soccer pitch, in the pressure cooker of a basketball court all five players are constantly aware of the location of each of their teammates and opponents, and are in constant voice communication, calling out plays, warnings, razzings, encouragement, heads-ups, timing cues and defensive schemes and switches. Unencumbered by helmets or face masks they are able to keep up a constant interplay of verbal messages to accompany the improvisational physical ballet being created on the court.

We are certainly not the first to note the similarities between a sweetly syncopated starting five and a quality jazz quintet; both work from set progressions and then improvise off of them. Hoops is the skat of sports, the bebop of ball games. Changing a couple of the players can completely alter the style and effect of the music produced.

In the case of the Celtics, three of this year’s starting five, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo, were here last year, playing basically the same roles. The missing starters, Al Jefferson and Delonte West, have been replaced by Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. On paper, at least, the Celts have only gained 5 points a game from the switch (Allen 18 + Garnett 18 vs. Jefferson 21 + West 10), and as a counterbalance Paul Pierce is averaging 5 points less per game this year than last! Yet last year they won 29% of their games, and this year, 81%.

This turnaround can’t help but give hope to hapless franchises like Memphis (23%), Minnesota (22%) and Miami (17%). Hang in there, guys – you’re just a trade or two from the Finals!

At the same time, and for the some of the same reasons, the chemistry and integrated intensity of the five players on the court (as well as the bench) can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse faster in B-ball than in any other sport. By sacrificing individual stats and achievements to mutual goals even a total NBA toad like last year’s Celtics can be transformed into a prince in short order.

The numbers are hard to argue with; see Paul Pierce, above. Or how about the Big Ticket himself; last year Garnett averaged three more points and three more rebounds for a Minnesota team that finished 18 games below .500. Ray Allen is currently dropping in 8 points less than his prodigious production on a woebegone Seattle team a year ago.

Each of these superstars has given up a spot standing atop the scorer’s list for a communal seat at the top of the team standings and a guaranteed ticket for a ride deep into the NBA playoffs. And you can tell, from their comments, demeanor and production, that they are as happy as clams with the trade off. To borrow a baseball idiom, they are paying more attention to the name on the front of the uniform than the name on the back, and it’s paying off.

At long last, after twenty years of off-tune tweeting and sour squawking, beautiful music is pouring out of the Garden once again. Hallelujah!

Scapegoats Save Professional Sports

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At first glance, finding a common thread running between Major League Baseball’s tying Roger Clemens to the stake as part of its witch hunt against steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, and the National Football League’s public dressing down and fining of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots may seem like a stretch. Yet in both cases the powers that be in an insular, money-making monopoly have settled on an unpopular scapegoat in desperate, tawdry attempts to shut down more comprehensive investigations into widespread cheating which could ultimately drop the cash cows of these two top sports to the killing floors of American sports as quickly as a shot of anthrax.

Let’s take Videogate first. Although there is a long tradition in American sports, professional and amatuer, to eke out every conceivable advantage by bending, avoiding, reinterpreting, evading, and finding holes in the regulations, there is also general agreement that some set of enforceable rules is necessary, as we say in the sports game, “to level the playing field” and prevent the competition from descending into abject anarchism.

The fact that teams were videotaping opponent’s sideline signals came as a surprise to no one – it has been a common practice for decades. Plus, in today’s always on, video-virte lifestyle virtually every aspect of the lives of the rich and famous is fair game for electronic enshrinement. Between cameras in pockets, cameras in phones, security cameras in lobbies, on corners, behind one-way glass, in parks and public plazas and sports stadiums, cameras suspended in the air and cameras on satellites, there is film available of  ANYTHING, if you know where to look and can get access.

So when teams said they were burning the midnight oil reviewing film in preparation for the next game, it is safe to assume they weren’t just looking at recordings of the network broadcasts of the opponent’s past performances.

Prior to the 2006 season, NFL Commissioner Goodell decided he wanted to establish order in the videotaping wilderness, and so he issued a set of rules.  Unfortunately, no one paid them any attention, and so the Commish felt he needed to make an example. The alternative would have been launching a large-scale investigation, hiring hundreds of investigators, hauling in the owners, general managers and video departments of all 30 NFL Franchises, thousands of hours of sworn testimony and an unrelenting poisionous public spotlight for the months and years it would all take to unravel.

Better to find a scapegoat and make an example. So, who to select to take one for the good of the game? Who would the national viewing public most like to see pilloried for conduct unbecoming? Who would provide the most satisfying cathartic closure when forced to take their medicine without the possibility of protest? Who could better afford the financial and competitive hit which needed to be extracted to give the rabid fans their taste of blood?

Why, the New England Patriots and Machiavellian Bill, of course.  Bellichick could have been an Emperor of the Ming Dynasty or a Borgia Pope in a past life, and given his ability to scheme and leave no stone unturned we are certain his video library, which was turned over to the Commissioner and supposedly destroyed, contained sideline signals, on-field signals, walk-throughs, open practices, closed practices, meetings, workouts, lip-reading and possibly private social functions.

The message to the other teams was clear. Destroy your own video caches NOW, so that I don’t have to go through this 29 more times over the next two years and drag the whole league through the mud again and again.

Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the unexpected corollary was to give the Patriots the motivation and focus to blast through their schedule like a laser through a smoky room.

Meanwhile, over at the other National Pastime, the choice was even more stark, and the situation more desperate.  Here the Commissioner is trying to keep the top on a scandal involving deadly, illegal drugs, affecting a third to a half of all players, and going back 20 years.

The situation is complicated because many of the drugs involved were not at first illegal, or were originally legitimately prescribed, creating a miasma of questions concerning what was taken, by whom, at what time and for what reasons. The only way to definitively establish who was guilty of what would be to embark on in-depth investigations of each of the 2149 current active players, as well as rosters going back say, 20 years ago.

Even given the well-documented affinity of members of Congress to jock-sniffing and photo ops, as well as wasting time and taxpayer money, we can’t see them sitting through that many hearings, especially after they stop televising every one. Perhaps they could start a separate cable channel for 24/7 replays of the Performance Enhancement Hearings.  However they handled it, it would be a disaster for baseball, fixing in the public mind for decades the sordid truth that professional baseball players are, by and large, cowardly, drug-addicted ego-freaks willing to cheat and lie in order to remain in their privileged bubbles and avoid working for a living.

Therefore, enter the scapegoats. We can see Commissioner Selig shuffling his Topps baseball cards, looking for a couple of likely losers – or rather, winners who needed to be taken down a notch. How about a pair of big mouthed, big headed egomaniacs, with reputations as pricks and few real friends in the game, who act as though they were untouchable and somehow better than mere mortals? And to avoid any possible charges of racism, lets pick one one black card and one white card.

Congratulation, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  You have just been selected to take a bullet for the good of baseball. Your careers should have ended years ago anyway, so Selig is really just culling the herd by putting these bulls out to pasture. Since they are both financially set for multiple lifetimes, the only real hit is their almost certain exclusion from the Hall in Cooperstown. As a sports fan in general, we hope we are agreeing with a multitude when we say it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving twosome.

Will it be enough to satisfy the blood-lust of a vengeful public enraged to learn that the fix has been in in professional baseball for twenty years? Will they be satisfied with public humiliation for two icons, and let the hundreds or thousands of equally guilty miscreants slide, their transgressions swept under the rug so the nation can move on to another season of competition and entertainment?

Considering the alternative could very well be the discredit and ruination of two pillars of the American Brand, NFL and MLB, we suspect the viewing public will scarf down the scraps of red meat thrown their way, settle back comfortably in their Barca-loungers, and dream of ever-bigger hi-def screens.

To Praise the Patriots, Not to Bury Them

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The pain is receding, the wound is scabbing over, and soon even the temptation to pick at the scab will fade into the warm mist of seasons past and fondly remembered. Yes, fondly, for the Dowbrigade firmly believes that one day we will all be able to look back on the 2007 New England Patriots with the kind of wistful melancholy usually reserved for unrequited love or short, idyllic affairs that ended far too soon.

What just a week ago loomed as a nightmarish wreck in the rear view mirror of our fandom, fated to foul the waters of the betting pools of our sporting life for years to come, has begun to metamorphose into a heartfelt historical anecdote to be trotted out and hashed over in future February bar arguments and pre-Superbowl pontification by nameless network talking heads.

After all, we tell ourselves, we got four full months of bragging rights and feeling good about football out of the deal, at the cost of one horrible, soul-shredding night and two weeks of serious sports convalescence. And not just feeling good – riding a rocket of amped up energy into previously unexplored regions of the sports stratosphere. Don’t forget how fantastic it felt, back in September, October, November and December. Not a bad bargain, on the whole.

Following sports with a more than academic interest is a Faustian pact. With the turning of the calendar pages the inner panorama of the sports fan is a revolving door of intense emotions: hope springs eternal, only to be repeatedly dashed on the hard rocks of reality, adversity begets anxiety and doubt, redemption arrives on strong arms and transcendent effort, triumph and gloating accompany the run up to victory, only to be snatched from our salivating maws by one cruel twist of fate, followed by disaster, mourning, and desolate emotional landscapes.

And then, somehow, hesitant buds of hope start to spring once more from the fertile soil lying under the slashed and burned fields of last season’s disasters. How else to explain to spring in our step last Saturday when the equipment van left Fenway Park for its annual migration to Ft. Meyers? How else to explain the strong stalks of Celtic Pride that have sprouted in our inner garden after nigh on 20 years of lying fallow in pathetic ineptitude and impotence? Last year the Celtics were the laughingstock of the league, losing an ignominious 19 games in a row. Today they stand atop the world of professional basketball, despite losing their four tallest players to injury. Who even suspected?

These things are truly miracles, the kind of everyday, supernatural, paranormal miracles that keep us plugging through the snowstorms, family crises, bad days at work, nagging physical ailments, political inanities and general ambiental hopelessness that permeate our daily lives. These minor miracles are the reasons that sports form such an essential lifeline to another level of reality for so many Americans. For all the problems that afflict our sports, and they are too numerous and serious to deal with in this column, we shudder to imagine how America would get along without them.

So we come to praise the Patriots, not to bury them. Remember them fondly, fellow fans, for you won’t see their match for a long time to come. You will see something else, however, equally miraculous, or even more tragic. Guaranteed.

Devil Worshippers Lose Pro Team

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http://www.tarotreadingsecrets.com/content_images/the-devil.jpgWhen your bad reputation is exceeded only by an uninterrupted record of failure and ineptitude, sometimes the only thing to do is to change your name. Not only does this often throw creditors off the track, but can offer a psychic fresh start, a karmic reset, a new beginning. Such is desperation of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, decade-long doormats of the American League, that they have resorted to exorcising the Devil from their name.

That’s right, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are now officially just the Tampa Bay Rays! But the story behind the story is not their dismal path to baseball’s worst record (Tampa Bay has never had a .500 season in their 10-year existence); rather it is the word team officials have decided to eliminate – the “Devil” in the details! After extensive research we can definitively report that this is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is part of a concerted campaign to wipe out Merry Old Mephistopheles from our common culture, our sporting life, and our very language.

This campaign includes the depuration of morally offensive sports nicknames like “L’il Devils” “Redskins” “Braves” and “Turks” as well as sexual entendres like “The Stallions” “The Trojans” “The Beavers” and “The Cooz“. It is also part and parcel of the War on Halloween, which has lately been condemned from pulpits across America as a Godless Bonanza for candy companies and dental clinics, personally sponsored by Lucifer himself.

The latest front of this fundamentalist campaign against the Prince of Darkness and his linguistic minions attempts to purify the English Language itself. While dropping the Devil from the Rays left them with an euphonious Tampa Bay Rays, many of the other devils in our language will not be so easy to exorcise.

For example, what are we going to do with “Devil’s Food Cake”? We can’t just drop the D-word and say “Food Cake”. Is “Demon’s Food Cake” sufficiently non-ecclesiastic?

If we want to maintain alliteration and a negative message, we might transform Daredevil into “Daredoofus“. Of course, alliteration can be overrated, and if the idea is that this devil is an evil fellow, perhaps “Deviled Eggs” could become something like “Ogre Eggs”.

It may no longer be acceptable to have a “devil-may-care” attitude; instead we might refer to a “douchebag-may-care” attitude. We could replace Satan with a more modern figure of ultimate evil in proverbs like “Idle hands are the diddler’s playground.”

Getting Lucifer out of the Language is a noble idea, but like so many other things, the Doo-Doo is in the Details. There comes a point where we need to back off and give the Dark Dork his due. If we start messing with the English language to cater to passing political passions, there’ll be the terrorist to pay.

Cold Turkey for Hot Sports

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As we settle into the Command and Control Chair at Dowbrigade World Headquarters for our nightly session of essay correction, exercise writing, Nazi hunting, television grazing, naval gazing, Wiki writing, bitcasting, vacation planning and arcane research, we run our increasingly astounded eyes over the EyeTV channel guide.

What, no Game of the Century? No nailbiting playoff game on? No Big Three unveiling, World Championship or Division Finals? No trip to the finals, unbeaten season, record-setting streak on the line? What are we supposed to watch?

The headline sporting events on the tube tonight seem to be a college football contests between two polar regions of Michigan (Central Michigan vs Western Michigan, ESPN) and perennial powerhouses Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Nary a title on the line. A veritable sporting wasteland. We refuse to watch poker as a competitive sport on TV.

This is indeed a quandry. We have become so jaded, so addicted to a multi-feed, mashed up stream of consciousness, that we are unable to concentrate on one thing at a time. And it appears that late at night, while working on the on-line minutiae and the odds and ends of our electronic life, one of the feeds needs to be history-making, championship level sports.

When one has been dining on a steady diet of World Champions and Games of the Century, a zesty 1988 tussle between McGirt and Taylor (ESPNC) just can’t scratch the itch. This is what it must have felt like to be a Roman patrician when they ran out of Christians.

In the nick of time we remember that the tape Marty gave us Saturday of the match between Manchester City and Chelsea is outside in our tennis bag in the back of the White Whale. Now lets see if we can dig out a VHS tape player somewhere, from the Department of Outdated Technology….

Comic of the Day

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Arlo and Janis Oct 20, 2007
Of course, we read the comics page because every so often we see ourself there, so plain and exposed and idiotic that we can’t help but laugh out loud.

The lovely and providentially patient Norma Yvonne well knows by now that when we climb upon our high hobbyhorse and begin declaiming and bemoaning the state of sports in America, and the tawdry way that it demeans everything decent and healthy about physical competition, uses, misuses and discards the lives of millions of young Americans, and keeps racial minorities at the bottom by luring their youths away from the classroom with fey dreams of glory and gelt, it must mean that one of our teams, the Sox, Celtics, Revs, or Pats has been eliminated from their respective professional leagues.

The sad truth is that becoming a sports fan is akin to signing away your soul to the Prince of Darkness (the original, not Dick Cheney). In the dark night of the sporting soul, what wouldn’t the true fan trade away for that one magic, championship consummated winning streak?

We may be cognizant of the crass commercialism, flagrant drug abuse, blatant hypocracy and rampant racism rife throughout professional sports, but when one of our teams takes the field, they are chivalrous knights in shining armor, defending the honor of team, town and nation.

What else but this deal with the devil can explain Barry Bonds fiendish popularity in San Francisco? The rest of the league unanimously recognizes him as the craven cheater and low-life he is, but in the City by the Bay you could bottle his farts and sell them as air freshener. They tell us that in the rest of the league Manny Ramirez is seen as stuck-up, idiotic flake, but here, hell, with 11 RBIs in 7 post season games this year he could probably get appointed President of UMass if he wanted the job. Meanwhile, J.D. Drew, who couldn’t hit the floor if he fell off a step ladder, should be tarred and feathered and run out of Beantown on a rail.

We could go on and on about how the local pro teams are business boondoggles owned by cynical capitalists and the athletes are pampered head cases, drug addicts and self-centered prima donnas, but that hometown hero J.D. Drew just hit a home run in the first inning of game six, and the crowd at Fenway is going nuts.  Gotta go……

Deval Wimps Out on Gaming

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TonyGovernor Deval Patrick expressed reservations yesterday about licensing a casino in any Massachusetts city, clouding the prospects for hotly debated proposals to build resort-style gambling complexes in Boston and New Bedford.


“I have some misgivings about a casino in any city, because I think the whole point is to create a resort destination,” Patrick said during an hourlong appearance on WBUR-FM, a local public radio affiliate. “And I don’t think there is a city in Massachusetts that has enough space for that kind of facility, with the entertainment and the meeting venues and maybe a golf course, the restaurants, a hotel – the whole resort complex.”

The statement appeared to be a shift for the governor, who opened the door to an urban casino when he announced last week that he wanted to license casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston.

from the Boston Globe

Suddenly our bold, free-thinking Guv is having second thoughts about letting Atlantic City into the East Boston waterfront. Could it be a case of NIMBY? Too close for comfort? Keeping the rhuemy rummies, hacks, touts and two-bit pony players camped out on the fringes of the city has worked for decades, but modern gambling is a far cry from the daily double and a coffee-stained Racing Form, and won’t be so easy to overlook.

Wake up, Guv, it’s the wave of the future. Quit the wimpy whining and grab the bull by the horns! Multiple casinos in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and metropolitan Boston is a good start, but let’s not forget the Cape, the Blue Hills and the New York State border!

We can see long rows of slot machines at Logan, welcoming vacationers and entertaining business travelers caught waiting for overbooked flights or lost luggage. Whole families could enjoy the facilities if you would just sponsor a very reasonable law allowing children into the casinos, as long as they didn’t actually bet, and were accompanied by their families.

Then we could allow a limited number of slot machines, 4 or 5 say, into convenience stores and gas station Quiki-Marts, so that people who feel that gaming itch at odd hours or on the road can get relief right away. After all, lottery tickets are already on sale at all those spots! Why should they have a monopoly?

Hotels and bars would also be natural spots for a few slot machines, or maybe a roulette wheel or two. Keno and March Madness have already proven the inevitability of betting in bars and in hotels, and especially in hotel bars. Lonely traveling salesmen, rich foreign tourists and honest working folk would all be lining up to try their luck.

Actually, we feel that the present plan, to build a few mega-resort casinos with indoor waterfalls and golf courses is a bit discriminatory, to say the least. Not everybody is a Donald Trump or an O.J. Simpson who can just saunter into one of those places and do as they please. Some of us like our vices with a bit less luxury and closer to home.

Why not allow storefront mini-casinos in lots of the nooks and crannies of our bustling metropolis? Especially in economically distressed areas, where empty storefronts are endemic, a few thriving new businesses like mini-casinos could invigorate the economy, revitalize the street life, and encourage ancillary businesses like pawn shops and massage parlors.

Why, with the bursting of the real estate bubble, there must be hundreds of prefect properties, warehouses down on the waterfront, empty stores in suburban malls, bankrupt boutiques in the trendier sections.

Bowling alleys, retirement communities and fitness centers are other possible sites for gaming centers. Some spots might not merit a permanent presence, and so mobile mini-casinos, housed in two or three brightly painted semi-trucks, capable of being unloaded and set up as a complete gaming complex in an hour could be moved from place to place. This would allow the state to set up shop in Lowell on Cinco de Mayo, for example, or outside housing projects the days the benefit checks arrive.

It’s this kind of bold thinking that we need if we want to hit the jackpot with this whole gambling thing. The opportunities are so immense an immediate that even we are unable to imagine all the marvelous things that will come to pass once the door has been opened to gambling. In fact, we’d be willing to bet on it.

Man U Signs 9-year-old – No Joke

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jungsokerMANCHESTER, England: Manchester United, by most measures the #1 sports team in the world, has announced the signing of Rhain Davis, a 9-year-old soccer prodigy from Australia (see photo). Rhain was brought to the attention of the world soccer powerhouse by his grandfather, who sent the British team a video of the young star.

Manchester United is consistently ranked the most popular club team in the world, and according to Forbes Magazine is the highest valued franchise in all of sports, at $1.453 billion, edging out the Washington Redskins, worth $1.423 billion.

Man U, as it is know to fans and foes alike, maintains an extensive youth development program, where Rhain will presumably hone his skills while waiting for a crack at the big club. A copy of the video has been viewed on YouTube over 800,000 times.

The English side is teaching its American counterparts a thing to two about robbing the cradle. Most pundits on this side of the pond thought MLS team DC United was stretching the envelope when they drafted #1 and signed 14-year old Freddy Adu to a multimillion dollar contract three years ago.

Then came news earlier this summer that USC had gotten a verbal commitment from 8th-grade basketball player Ryan Boatwright, who hadn’t even decided where to go to HIGH SCHOOL yet, to play for USC. USC, apearantly, has adopted an “SAT-optional” admissions policy.

The Rhein Davis case lowers the bar yet again. In a world of professional sports, where the difference between a multi-million dollar career and a career cleaning carpets consists of a torn tendon, a random traffic stop or an inability to hit an 87-mile-an-hour curveball, and where even seasoned professionals represent a risk of losing their ability to perform consistently at a world-class level at any time, how can supposedly sound businesspeople justify investing money and ruining the childhood of a 9-year-old kid?

What’s next? It’s hard to discern any actual talent in kids younger than 9, although we saw Meredith Vieira interview a 5-year-old tennis player live on the Today show the other morning. The logical next step is to start awarding contracts, or at least options, on the basic of genetic inheritance alone. In some sports, blood lines run strong.

In baseball, for example, you have the Alomars, Sandy, Roberto and Sandy Jr., Felipe and Moises Alou and Tony Armas, Sr. and Jr. There is Buddy Bell and his two sons, David and Mike, as well as his brother Gus Bell and his son Buddy. Yogi and Dale Berra. And of course Bobby Bonds and the man of the hour, his son Barry. And who could forget Ray Boone and his son Bob Boone and his grandsons Aaron Boone and Bret Boone. One gets the idea, and we are still in the “B”s.

Would it be so far fetched for baseball blue bloods to sell futures options on their progeny? It might be a way to defray the costs of child rearing. Of course, the mega super-stars, whose kids would have the greatest probability of achieving athletic success, would not be likely to need the extra income. On the other hand, super-talented athletes whose careers were cut short by injury would be a natural market, sort of like champion thoroughbreds who pull a muscle are put out to stud, preserving their genetic and financial equity.

From there, as biotech and goddless globalization advance, how far could it be to Designer DNA, Boutique Genetics, 2 genes from column B, 4 from column C, resulting in prospective parents being able to order up a 7-foot lefty with world-class coordination and competitive drive.

Of course, if cloning became a legal and acceptable alternative, there would be no need to hunt for the magical mix of talent and temperament that makes a champion. We could market exact genetic duplicates of any cooperating pro athlete still alive at the time the technique was developed, assuming that cells from any heathly adult could be used as DNA starter kits.

Envision a day when the starting five on the NBA Champions consists of three Michael Jordans and two Shaquille O’Neals, with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy on the bench.

It wouldn’t be quite as easy as ordering a lemon-yellow Lamborghini. Hoping for a professional athlete like a Shaquille would be an expensive and risky proposition. 18 years of care and feeding, and no guarantee you wouldn’t end up with a 7 foot 3 inch interior decorator, or a thrash metal rocker.

But the message is clear, even from here. When sports becomes absolutely subservient to business, anything that sells tickets, garners publicity and wins titles will eventually be tried.

As a logical extension of the parallel and intertwined encroachment of gambling into every facet of modern life, the public will be able to buy shares in the future careers of these budding superstars. Welcome to the brave new world of prenatal to postmortem sports betting, a cradle to grave fantasy league reality show. Why be content to bet on tonight’s game, when you can buy actions in some kid who hasn’t even been born yet?

Instant Classic at Wimbledon

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nadalfed(Wimbledon, England – Exclusive to BostonNow) Tennis fans and history buffs will long remmber what transpored in the Tennis Temple of Wimbledon this afternoon. For a pure expression of a sport at the highest peak of its possible performance, and an example of the indomitable competitive spirit, it would be hard to outdo the show put on by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal today on Centre Court of the All England Club.

As tennis is the quintessential confrontation of athelete on athelete, one-on-one, each armed with his weapon and his wiles, it is natural that in the land of the tennis legends the honor roll is read in pairs: Conners and McEnroe, Everet and Navratilova, Sampras and Aggasi, and now Federer and Nadal. They are bound together forever, to the benefit of both, each with his or her arch-nemesis on the other side of the net.

Today Federer won in five sets of magnificent tennis, making him only the second man (after Borg) in 100 years to win five in a row. The level of play was such as lesser players (everyone else in the world) can only dream of. Last year Federer won at Wimbleton. Earlier this summer Nadal won on clay at the French Open Final in Paris. With any luck we can look forward to years more of this struggle; Federer is just 26, Nadal 22.

Like all great sports rivalries, this one features a contrast in styles. If one accepts the theory of multiple intelligences, there are at least three types of intelligence involved in tennis at this level, and these guys are geniuses in all three. In the arena of physical genius, Nadal has the edge. The Spaniard is an animal, in the most magnificent sense of the word, leaping to attack every single ball unfortunate enough to venture into his lair. In the arena of intellectual genius, Federer reigns supreme. It is a marvel to watch his steel-edged Swiss mind analyze his opponents’ game during the first few games of a match, and then eviscerate and dissect them like a specimen on an examining table.

In the arena of emotional or spiritual genius they are evenly matched, each a mountain of indomitable energy, resolve and pure fighting spirit. Which is why, when they meet, it is a rare and exquisite treat. Any fan of sport in any of its forms should treasure these chances to witness two human beings performing at the highest level of their art and skill seen by man, up to this point.

The next chapter in this epochal struggle will probably be next month, in Queens. See you there.

Tavarez a Diamond in the Rough

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julient.jpgIn today’s stuffy world of pampered millionaire athletes and padded resumes, Red Sox starting pitcher Julian Tavarez is definitely a breath of fresh air. With a record that defines “journeyman” (8 teams in 14 years and a career ERA of 4.38), Tavarez was the butt of jokes and the target of boos last year as the Sox took their customary swan dive and sank silently in August and September.

The only time we noted Julian Tavarez in the Dowbrigade News before this season was one time last year, when we referred to him and Randy Johnson as “the two ugliest men in baseball.”

But this year, in a story that reeks of redemption and resuscitation, Tavatrez has become the stuff of legend. In a sport which has traditionally attracted immigrants and minorities, his story stands out like a fairy tale. It has a Lincolnesque log cabin quality, but without the chalkmarks on the shovel. Tavarez grew up in a dirt-floored shack in Santiago, Domincan Republic, shining shoes and selling newspapers.

He claims, not exactly with pride, but certainly not with shame, that he has never spent a single day in school. His entry in Wikipedia supports this, but the ever-politically correct Red Sox have on their official site that he attended public school in the Dominican Republic.

Guess they can’t handle having a popular player who is as unschooled as the wild boy raised by the wolves. What kind of role model would that be for the kids of America? “I’m not going to school today! Julian Tavarez never went to school.”

No, kids, growing up, he was too busy supporting his family and staying alive on the streets to go to school. That, and play baseball whenever he could take time off from surviving. Even young, Julian knew that baseball was his ticket out.

Of course, he had plan B. If baseball didn’t work out, he was planning a career in adult films. He had all the prerequisites.

You gotta love this guy. He got suspended for the first ten games of his Red Sox career for a fight in spring training.

This year, he has become Manny Ramirez’s binky. In the dugout, Manny will impulsively grab the 6’2″ Tavarez like a rag doll, and rub his kinky hair for luck, or as some sort of Dominican nuggie.

Tavarez, ever humble, doesn’t protest. He just wants to help out the team, in whatever way he can. Pain is nothing to him. Here he is after taking a no-decision on Saturday, as quoted in the Globe.

“Anything to help this team win. People look at you as a clown, dumb and stupid. People, fans, players, teammates look at you as a clown, as stupid, as a dummy who always does something to make people laugh. They don’t admit the truth and say, ‘You know what, that guy who is stupid and a dummy, he’s going to make something happen to win. Pain is nothing to him. He’ll do something to find a way to win.’ And that’s me. Dumb like a fox.”