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Hello, I must be going

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  December 19, 2010 12:03 PM

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This Blog returns for one of its two remaining workdays here in 2010.

1) This Blog spent four years in college arguing with Jesuits, both in class and in Jim Hegarty's fine place (recently deceased) on West Wells Street in Milwaukee. It also spent many of its pre-college holidays arguing with its Jesuit uncle, and with his colleagues. Thus, because of its lifelong association with The Society, it is fully capable of arguing with gusto either side of the question of how many Sharon Angles can dance on the head of a pin. (And the obvious corollary question of what difference there is, if any, between the head of a pin and a pinhead.) Anyway, the other day, it was listening to an earnest discussion of the proof by which the New England Patriots are not the best team in the NFL now, today, during Christmas week of 2010. I suspect the discussion will intensify over the next few days.

(A brief lexicographical note before we continue. "Objectivity" -- which has its own problems as a standard of journalistic commentary, as we have seen -- is not a synonym for "critical" any more than it is a synonym for "complimentary." Being hypercritical is no more "objective" than being sycophantic is. And being hypercritical simply for the sake of being hypercritical, for whatever reason, doesn't make you any more "objective" than is the average fanboi suck-up. It makes you a fake. We continue.)

This is what the Patriots have done so far this season. They share the best record in the NFL. By a fluke of the schedule, they have played and defeated almost all of their putative competition for the title of best-team-in-the-league, and they have done so at home and away, in sunshine and at night, in good weather and in bad, and (recently) always by fairly ludicrous margins. In this stretch, they have won when healthy, and they have won when injured, like last night. They have won while playing well, and they have won while playing poorly, like last night.

If, from all that, one cannot conclude that New England is the best team in the NFL at the moment, then there simply is no empirical criterion by which one could make that claim for any team ever as long as the season is still ongoing. We hear always from hidebound baseball types that analyzing that game through the new statistical methodologies - "sabermetrics," to use a not entirely accurate shorthand -- shortchanges the "eyeball" method of judging teams by how they play on the field. If you are of this position, you simply cannot now argue that there is a case against the Patriots based on what you perceive to be a superior roster in, say, San Diego.  By any purely objective standard, this is the best team in the league. That this may or may not say something about the league  is beside the point. Either you play the game on the field, or you don't.

2) This Blog hopes that Dan Connolly realizes that he is now an NFL Films immortal, forever and ever and ever. Children as yet unborn are going to thrill to his kickoff returns in those distant days when they all have multimedia devices implanted in their cerebellums. But, can This Blog get an amen on the notion that we should take at least some time to stop treating Connolly's run like some sort of amusing freak-show, like an elephant that can play the harmonica, and point out that there was as much athleticism to that run as there was in the punt return that beat the Giants? Athleticism is not merely speed and height. This is why we have "Field" as well as "Track" in the category that in the Olympics is called "Athletics."

3) Is This Blog the only one that noticed the obvious block-from-the-back by Sammy Morris at the end of that return? This being the NFL, and this having been a play that brought unrestrained joy and laughter to everyone who saw it, it's amazing that the officials didn't take advantage of what Morris did to screw the whole thing up.

4) The worst thing about the Patriots performance last night had nothing to do with the patchwork defense, or the fact that the Packers defensed their wideouts awfully well, but everything to do with some altogether brainless penalties at the worst possible time. If you're wondering why Bill Belichick looked like Tiny Tim at the podium last night, that's it.

5) This Blog believes that the best thing that could have happened to the NHL Players Association is that it hired Donald Fehr to negotiate for it in the upcoming tong war with league management. Throughout history, the union representation of NHL players has been nothing short of criminal. (In fact, for a long while, it actually was criminal.) These guys have needed a pitbull for about 40 years and now they have one. And, before this meme really gets rolling, it was not the responsibility of Fehr to pitch away the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of his membership to people he clearly had no reason to trust in order to mollify one of this country's periodic drug frenzies. (And, heaven knows, there's even less reason to pin it on poor old Marvin Miller. You might as well blame James Madison for the WikiLeaks controversy.) I hope Fehr cleans their clock.


6) If there is a more inexcusable owner in all of sports than David Glass, the loathsome former Wal-Mart CEO who runs the Kansas City Royals, then Ted Stepien has come back from the freaking dead somewhere and we should all be worried. In Bad Sports, the invaluable Dave Zirin gives this miserable gombeen his own chapter. He richly deserves it. This is a guy who made his pile dealing with Chinese sweatshops for goods he could sell in stores staffed exclusively by elderly and impoverished Americans whom he got rich squeezing. Leopards, spots, etc.

As Zirin points out, Glass was one of the loudest voices in favor of forcing the strategy that ended up costing baseball the 1994 World Series. He also was enthusiastic about committing consumer fraud by fielding a team of replacement players. In what seems like nothing more than personal pique aimed at the settlement forced on the game by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a settlement that left the player's union intact and his craw all stuck up by that fact, Glass responded by demolishing a promising Royals squad. He has spent the years since pocketing revenue-sharing money and whining about how put-upon he is.

This week, you may have noticed, Glass shuffled the only real asset the Royals had, the brilliant Zach Greinke, out of town for a box of rocks, and he did so by sending Greinke to those perennial large-market spendthrifts, the Milwaukee Brewers. No, the Royals can't be the Yankees or the Red Sox. But there's no financial reason they can't be the Twins, or the Angels, or even. occasionally, the Brewers. The reason they're not is because Glass doesn't want them to be. If nothing else, this ought to kill the zombie lie about the essential causal relationship between financial imbalance and competitive imbalance, but it likely won't.

(Oh, and Dave talked about his book here this week. A perfect stocking stuffer for the sports-radio host on your list!)

7) This Blog is old enough to have watched Providence College basketball on Channel 12 out of Providence -- with Chris Clark on the miracle of radio-TV simulcast! -- so it remembers how good former Boston mayor Ray Flynn really was. It's surprised that this announcement got through as quietly as it did, and shocked that it's taken the school so long.

And, as a holiday lagniappe, here's a bit of a Christmas classic that, sadly, nobody runs anymore.

magoo scrooge.jpg


Ah, Magoo. You've done it again.
 


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