TWIXT THE SPIRIT AND LETTER

As an athlete Alberto Salazar was willing to delve more deeply into the dark raging corridors within than any athlete I ever encountered.  That do-or-die spirit is what elevated Al to iconic status as a runner, but it also brought him to the edge of the abyss. Twice he ran himself to the precipice of a serious medical crisis, once at the Falmouth Road Race 1978 (hyperthermia), again at the 1982 Boston Marathon (hypothermia).

Now, with the release of a 269-page interim USADA report on the Nike Oregon Project and its coach by Russian hackers, we find Coach Salazar’s intense drive to succeed once again putting him on the edge between fair and foul, not only in the court of sport, but in the court of public opinion.   Continue reading

BRADY AND PATRIOTS TRANSCENDANT

 

 

patriots-globe-cover-super-bowl-2017

 

 

 

 

 

The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy – author of The Curse of the Bambino, no less, a book about the Boston Red Sox – suggested in his Super Bowl lead today that the New England Patriots’ improbable, cataclysmic, can-you-effing-believe-it! 25 point comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 may be the greatest moment in Boston sports history.

So much emotional weight was freighted onto this Deflategate Revenge Tour finale in Houston, along with the possibility of Pat’s quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichich winning their unprecedented fifth Super Bowl title, that the game rose above any of the previous 50 Super Bowls, which on its own has become the national sporting event of the year. But the best moment in Boston sports history? Let’s consider the rivals in the three other major professional sports and our own minor one of running. Continue reading

2016 INTO 2017

OK, we closed the books on the 2016 campaign, which was a bit of a momentous year both in the sport and around the wider world.  Now we move on into 2017, which is an odd year, but at the same time it remains all pink and fresh and unsullied. That won’t last for long, of course, but at present we are all once again full of potential and optimism.  As always there will be lots of ups and more than a few downs over the next 12 months, but as a grizzled curmudgeon there were a few lingering thoughts that rattled around year’s closing.  So here we go with a few random considerations.

#1.

nyc-crowd-first-avenue

Come on 2017! You can do it!

I know they mean well, but don’t you sometimes wish bad things on the good people standing on the sidelines while they blithely cheer on passing runners?  Yeah, they can be a godsend, but late in the race when things have gone sour, and you just want to be invisible and get the darn thing finished, that one-cheer-fits-all lack of effort, I mean, depending on your state of affairs, can’t they sometimes just make the long journey that much more arduous?

First of all, the only reason races like the six Abbott World Marathon Majors have crowds the size they do is because their courses run past peoples’ houses.  It’s not like folks drove to the game; they just walked outside.  And with races starting so early to avoid upsetting even more of the driving public, you run through entire neighborhoods where half the people are standing out there in their pajamas, scratching their private parts, drinking coffee while mumbling encouragement with half-chewed cheese Danish hanging from their yap.

And if you have already gone about 20 miles, you’ve burned through your glycogen stores, lost all contact with endorphins, have sore feet, achy legs, bad breath, and the formation of a chip on your shoulder the size of Rhode Island.  So when some normal in PJs yells out, “you only have six more miles left”, thinking they’re being part of your effort, what they don’t realize is if there was a gun handy, and you could reach it, you’d shoot yourself in the head (and maybe them as you fell).

Don’t be telling me I’ve got six more miles to go! That’s like Moses telling the Israelites, “Suck it up! You’ve only got the Sinai left to cross to get home from Egypt.”  Not helpful. Continue reading

THE NEW AGE OF GUILT

Norman RockwellAre we surprised Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Dr. Ben Carson are leading in the U.S. presidential polls? Are we shocked Pope Francis seems bent on radically reforming every Catholic prohibition heretofore considered canonical?  Are we indignant that women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe has been linked (though unnamed) to assertions of PED use by a British parliamentary committee during a hearing into doping allegations in athletics?

I wish I were, but I am sorry, I am not. I guess I have been around too long.

From Paula Radcliffe to Tom Brady, Hillary Clinton to the Catholic Church, what we are witnessing is the new assumption of guilt by a public grown too cynical for Norman Rockwell’s vanilla version of life. Nothing is above reproach. Facts may not lie, but like quarks are never directly observed or found in isolation, either. Instead they exist within the larger narrative that forms a constantly moving target that applies only to the moment, never universally over time.

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” don’t you know. Continue reading

DEFLATED IN COURT?

DeflateGateThough the Symmonds Matter has managed to leak into the public sphere, let there be no doubt as to which sport’s legal case the population is riveted.  Deflate-Gate hit federal court today in Manhattan where the long unraveling of each side’s case began before Judge Richard M. Berman.

The judge had requested that the NFL and NFL Player’s Association meet prior to today’s hearing to discuss or even come to a settlement.  That didn’t happen. So Judge Berman conducted an open court hearing followed by a closed-door session in an attempt to get the two sides closer to doing for themselves what he will eventually do for them if they can’t work it out for themselves. Continue reading

LEVELING ON FIELD DAY

Sticky Pitcher

Sticky Pitcher

As Tom Brady waits to appeal a four-game suspension for his part in the NFL’s Deflate-Gate scandal, and Milwaukee Brewer’s pitcher Will Smith gets tossed for having a foreign substance on his forearm, I’m reminded of a gentler time when a young boy dreams big, then goes out does what needs to be done.

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As the school year neared completion, Henry lived for Field Day, that sporting carnival where prize ribbons were up for grabs, and the atmosphere filled the air around the school grounds with the smells of burgers and hot dogs sizzling on over-sized grilles.

Mary Janes

Mary Jane

Notwithstanding “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another,” (Shakespeare) grade school is often where identities are formed.  If you were considered X in grade school: smart–dumb, fast–slow, fat–skinny, good lookin’ or otherwise, the designation tended to stick.

In grade school Henry was considered skinny, smart and quick, traits he used against school bullies.

“Forget about him,” they’d huff, “he’s too hard to catch.”

Thank God. Continue reading

WHEN SHOULD AN ATHLETE SAY NO?

A HOBBLED RG3

A HOBBLED RG3

Interesting that the discussion coming out of yesterday’s NFC Wildcard game between the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks (24-14, Seattle) revolves around ‘Skins rookie QB Robert Griffin III’s decision to start, and then stay in the game after it became apparent to anyone with working optic nerves that he wasn’t the same RG3 who so captivated the NFL and the nation’s capital this season with his combination of lightning foot speed and accurate throwing arm.

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner out of Baylor University didn’t even need to get hit to illustrate – quite painfully in the first quarter – that his injured right knee was not only not healed, but instead fully compromised, thereby robbing him of the very skill-set that made him such a potent threat.  Well, it was apparent to everyone, it seems, except Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.

“Robert said to me, ‘Coach, there’s a difference between injuries and being hurt. I can guarantee I’m hurting right now, give me a chance to win this football game, because I guarantee I’m not injured.’,” Shanahan told Yahoo Sports. “That was enough for me.”

Regardless of where you come down on the “He shouldn’t have been playing or kept playing” continuum, what is also quite apparent is the vast difference in mentality between a team sport like football, where there is something beyond the self to play for – as muddled as that sometimes gets – and the sport of athletics which has reduced itself to the individual athlete representing nothing but him or herself. Continue reading