Recent Comments by Howard_T

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

This is the nuclear physics version of "Kill the Umpire (and anything else that gets in the way)".

posted by Howard_T at 06:30 PM on August 30

New Yorker: The Twilight of Baseball

That and the fact baseball is no longer America's Pastime...

So let me tell you all about "the good, old days". (Stop yawning! Pay attention, there will be a quiz.) My real interest in sports began around 1947-1948, when I was 6 or 7 years old. In the fall there was football. Not professional football, but college and high school. Pick a high school team in eastern Massachusetts in the late 1940s, and you will find its stadium packed with students, families, and much of the local citizenry with little or no connection to the team other than living in the town. Come winter and there was ice hockey. The Bruins were the team to follow in New England, there were fans in Chicago, Detroit, and New York, but in the US that was all. Granted these might have been the glory days for the AHL and the old IHL, but still the appeal of hockey was limited. Our household was a baseball place, and the Boston Braves was our team, but then, my eldest sister dragged me to every Winthrop High School game of baseball or football.

Don't forget in the late 1940s the mass media was limited to radio and print newspapers. The national radio networks covered sports, but such coverage was limited to baseball, the major college football teams, and a note here and there about pro football, hockey, and what might be considered minor sports like track and field. Boxing was still a big deal and received a lot of press and air time. When you read your newspaper or listened to your local radio station, you read or heard about local sports, and coverage of professional sports was limited to the local teams. The rest of the world appeared in the agate type. Television was broadcasting, but TV was still a novelty, and most of us watched only on the black-and-white screen on display in the window of the local TV and radio store. ESPN? What's that?

Once the football season was winding down, the media was dominated by baseball. The "hot stove league" was covered deeply and widely, and this in an era when there was no such thing as a free agent other than those who were just becoming of age. Spring and summer were dominated by baseball. The major leagues, all 16 teams, had the media all to themselves, but the professional minor leagues and the local amateur teams received their share of coverage. If you were a sports fan, you were a baseball fan, you understood the game, you knew the players, the players tended to stay in the same city for an entire career, and the local team was "yours".

So what is the "National Pastime", if it no longer is baseball? Really, there is no single thing. Baseball has lost popularity because of the competition from the other sports. The game tends to be slow, without the more constant action of basketball and ice hockey or the violence of football. It is a more cerebral game, the nuances are not easy to understand, and those who are casual fans just do not look at the game in the same way as someone who has played or been closely involved at a fairly high level. Now that the magic of TV, satellites, mobile devices, and what have you has enabled us to be in touch with whatever team in whatever part of the world we wish to follow, we have that wonderful thing called "choice". We have a menu that rich and varied. No longer are we limited to one or two things, with the occasional rarity thrown in as an appetizer.

If Mike Trout walked into my neighborhood bar, I probably would not recognize him. I would recognize David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and several members of the Red Sox. Then again, if anyone except Tim Duncan, LeBron James, or several members of the Boston Celtics were to walk in, I wouldn't recognize them either. The point is, if you are a sports fan, you will favor one or two sports at the expense of the others. Within those sports you will have one or two teams that you follow closely. You will also follow the superstars, and if they do not get the closeup views of their faces in the media regularly, you won't recognize them either. Who and what you follow is your own choice, and the choices are now so broad that picking out more than a few is difficult.

So enjoy the era, sports fans. Follow whomever you wish, root for whatever sport and team you wish. America's National Pastime is now whatever you want it to be. Ain't it great?

posted by Howard_T at 12:07 PM on August 30

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 10

10 minutes to get this in. I've been threatening to do it all week, but somehow things have kept me from the keyboard at the critical times. Anyway, here goes.

Ottawa at Montreal: Alouettes can't find their way to a win, but Redblacks have the wrong color scheme for Montreal on Labor Day weekend. Look for Montreal to win a squeaker. Montreal by 3.

Winnipeg at Saskatchewan: Ned Kelly, one of the roughest riders ever seen in Australia takes on the blue-coated bombers. Ned will win another round against the blue coats. Saskatchewan by 9.

Toronto at Hamilton: Argos go for a short trip along the lake and run into a bunch of kitties. Ticats have been declawed this season, and Argos are finding their stroke. Toronto by 6.

Edmonton at Calgary: The pretty good Eskimos take on the very good Stampeders. Look for the quadrupeds who run amok to keep the visitors frozen. Calgary by 16.

posted by Howard_T at 07:30 PM on August 29

Annual Patriots trade key piece right before season move

Aside from the "What is up with Belichick and Rutgers?" questions, I have 2 more.

1. What does getting a young tight end, supposedly a good one, but whose abilities were questioned a bit by his coach last week, mean with respect to the health of Gronkowski and Hoomanawanui? Spreading the entrails reveals an ominous sign.

2. Just who the heck is going to play LG?

posted by Howard_T at 05:29 PM on August 26

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

This is old news, but LeGarrette Blount, Le'Veon Bell, and a female friend were involved in a drug-related incident. No charges have been filed, but the police expect to file possession charges against all three, as well as DUI charges against Bell. I post this only because I am curious about something. After last season, quite a few Patriots fans were surprised that Blount was not signed by New England. He had been a valuable contributor to the offense, and his contract would not have been outrageously expensive. What my evil mind wonders is whether or not the Patriots knew something about Blount and avoided signing him just because of the possibility of this sort of problem. New England has become somewhat hypersensitive about these things since the Aaron Hernandez situation.

I realize this will give the NE bashers something to talk about, but I still wanted to put the thought out there.

posted by Howard_T at 09:30 PM on August 22

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 9

I promise there will be no bad puns this week. I think I exhausted my supply anyway. Looks like my picks were just about as bad as my puns. Perhaps we'll do better this time.

Montreal at Winnipeg: Last time they met at the Larks' nest, the Bombers prevailed by a single point. This time the Larks have to travel to the Blue Bombers' hangar. The Bombers have not been flying too high of late, but the Alouettes seem to be stuck on the ground entirely. Winnipeg by 8.

Toronto at Edmonton: Argonauts have shown some signs of life lately, but their schedule has been a busy one. Eskimos meanwhile have been mushing right along. Toronto could give Edmonton a battle, but between 3 games in 11 days and the travel to Edmonton, the Argos might just be a bit worn down. Edmonton by 14.

Calgary at Ottawa: Redblacks nearly pulled one out against Eskimos last week, but lost a close one. Calgary had an easy time with Ottawa at home in week 7, and there is no reason the rampaging quadrupeds should slow down on the road. Calgary by 11.

Saskatchewan at BC: Lions have roared their way to 3 in a row since losing to Winnpeg, although 2 of the wins were tight. Rough Riders have put together 4 in a row since losing to these self-same Lions. This one could be a dandy. Logic dictates Saskatchewan, but BC is due for a strong showing. BC by 4.

posted by Howard_T at 11:14 PM on August 21

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 8

Made it to VA without incident and spent today trying to find wife's ancestors. The Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg has a wealth of resources for genealogy, as well as staff members who are really helpful. Too bad they don't have anything on how to pick the CFL. We ended the day in a graveyard at the Bethel United Methodist Church in Stumptown, found wife's great great grandmother's grave there, and also found that the Fry family was among the most fertile in the area. Hope my CFL picks don't end up in a graveyard. So here we go.

Edmonton at Ottawa: 2 Eskimos were in a kayak for a day of fishing. They grew cold and lit a fire with the expected result. The kayak sank, proving once again you can't have your kayak and heat it too. Redblacks hope Eskimos sink the kayak, but they are likely to end up on the bottom. Edmonton by 12.

Calgary at Hamilton: A cat was charged with littering on the highway. The reason? She had kittens too close to the road. Stampeders will charge the TiCats with something worse than littering. Although Hamilton has shown some improvement, Calgary still has too much horsepower. Calgary by 9.

Montreal at Saskatchewan: Larks are supposed to fly. Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana. Alouettes are having a really rough year, while the Rough Riders are having pretty smooth sailing. None of this makes sense, but picking Saskatchewan in this one certainly does. Saskatchewan by 22.

BC at Toronto: Argonauts shot down the Blue Bombers on Tuesday, just like I predicted. (Wait, I said Winnipeg would beat Toronto? That must have been an impostor, I've been hacked.) BC has had sort of an up and down year. If you were to jump off a bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine. Trying to pick this game is driving me a bit insane. I somehow see Toronto suffering little or no ill effect from the short interval between games. Toronto by 5.

A person sent ten puns to his friends, hoping that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

posted by Howard_T at 11:52 PM on August 13

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 8

Going on vacation tomorrow. Driving from NH to northern VA (my wife will be searching ancestors' graves while I try to chase campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley), so I might not be able to get the pick in for Winnipeg at Toronto.

Here's the pick for tomorrow, and I'll get the rest in later.

Winnipeg at Toronto: Blue Bombers try to attack the big city by the lake. Will the Argonauts be able to sail before they are blown up? Winnipeg is winning in a stronger conference, and I don't expect a reversal of form just yet. Winnipeg by 6.

Stay tuned for further updates.

posted by Howard_T at 10:32 PM on August 11

Tony Stewart Kills Driver in Dirt-Track Race

Unless Tony Stewart decides to come completely clean and admit it was a purposeful act, the truth will remain unknown. Such an admission by Stewart is about as likely as my 2001 pickup truck winning a Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Regardless, whether or not Stewart bears any responsibility other than being a part of a tragic accident, his career in NASCAR will likely be threatened. His hot temper and impulsiveness will have to be completely cooled. The first time someone shunts him into the wall and he decides to try to duke it out in the pits will result in some pretty heavy suspension time and some pretty good dollars out of his wallet. It would not surprise me greatly if some other drivers put a target on Stewart's car, hoping not so much to wreck him but to anger him to the point that he attempts retaliation. From what I have seen of NASCAR, this sort of behavior is not outside the norm.

Fan reaction to Stewart will be a large part of where his career goes. Those who are his true fans will remain so, and excuse the incident as just a tragic accident that Tony didn't want to have happen. Those who dislike Stewart will be in full cry for his head on a stick. Those who are not passionate in one way or another will be the determinant. If the majority of them falls into the "he should have done better" camp, Stewart could be in for a hard ride. If it's the other way, then life will go on for Stewart, but he will still be carrying this every time he rolls onto a track.

posted by Howard_T at 04:40 PM on August 11

Red Sox owner Tom Werner has become a dark horse candidate to be baseball's next commissioner

Tom Werner could well become a disaster as Commissioner of Baseball. His work with Boston is an example of why this might be. Werner's ideas of making the Red Sox a prime sports attraction have little to do with making the team better. Rather, his ideas are all about "game presentation", the myth of Fenway Park's historical value, and selling the idea of coming to Fenway as an "in thing" to the pink hat group. After the 2011 late-season collapse and the Bobby Valentine debacle of 2012, the World Series win of 2013 was aberrant. 2013 was supposed to be a year during which the young talent developed in the minors while a few established stars (Pedroia, Ortiz, Ellsbury, Lester) gave the team enough cachet to keep the turnstiles moving. Somehow, the rest of the roster had career years, the AL East was weak, and the accident happened.

During the off-season, the decision was made to try to go "on the cheap" for 2014. Rather than keep Ellsbury, albeit at a high price, they let him go, Lester was offered an insult for a contract, the ensuing negotiations were a sham, and Lester was traded. They got a good piece for him in Cespedes, but how long will he be kept? Nelson Cruz was available at a good price, but Grady Sizemore was on the bargain rack. The results are obvious. Young players like Bradley and Bogaerts are playing regularly, but show signs of having needed more time to develop. This is true of the young pitching as well, as the results for de la Rosa and others show flashes of real talent along with much inconsistency.

I don't blame Werner for all of this, but John Henry does not have enough of a baseball background to be making these decisions all by himself. I doubt that Ben Cherington, Sox' General Manager, has the autonomy to make all these moves by himself, so it would appear that Werner has had a big part.

If Werner becomes commissioner, I can see every team having to have an annoying mascot that is given a feature role during games, each team will be required to have some sort of song used as an anthem at some point during the game, gimmicks will become the order of the day, and good, old-fashioned baseball will be secondary.

I think I'm in one of my "Get off the lawn, you damned kids" moods. It feels good to rant sometimes.

posted by Howard_T at 04:16 PM on August 11

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 7

Had a great week building a deck and ramp for a guy with Parkinson's Disease. 8 teenagers and 3 adults, nobody with a lot of carpentry experience, and we got it done in a week. We also put new skirting on his mobile home in the bargain. That being done, it's time to get back to the business at hand.

Saskatchewan at Winnipeg: Both teams are on 2-game win streaks, but Blue Bombers have the better record. On a per game basis, there is little to choose between the 2. I'll go with the home team to defend its airport. Winnipeg by 4.

Edmonton at Montreal: Eskimos are off to hunt the lark, and it looks like the Alouettes will be easy prey. The East is not having a good year, and Montreal is suffering. Edmonton by 14.

Hamilton at BC: The fur is flying and the howling gets louder as this cat fight gets underway. Here again, despite the difference in records, the points for and against of these teams is not greatly different. Lions are the larger cat, so that is the edge. BC by 12.

Ottawa at Calgary: The Redblacks are in for a long Saturday night trying to slow the Stampeders. Here is a case where the disparity in records clearly shows that there is no balance betwen the teams. The Redblacks will be the Black and Blues once the Stampeders have run over them. Calgary by 22.

posted by Howard_T at 11:03 PM on August 06

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Nice digs, Hugh. I spent the years 1973-'78 and 1980-'83 working at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, just a few miles down Ni Go Sen (Route 2) from Hiroshima. I was a big Carp fan then, and I still have a Carp baseball cap somewhere. A group of us from MCAS Iwakuni used to go to the games quite often. It was a good evening of baseball and beer drinking. Those were good days. The Carp won the Japan Series while I was there (I was at game 7), and one of our group was busted for DUI by a dummy police car. That last one is a long story, but it really did happen after a Carp game.

I just took another look at the photo. The new stadium looks really nice. The Carp were still in Hiroshima Shimin Kyujo (Hiroshima People's Ballfield) when I was there. It was just down the street from the famous Atomic Bomb Dome building.

posted by Howard_T at 10:02 PM on August 02

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 5

Dr. John, next week is the annual week of service for our church youth group. We'll be taking them to Kittery, ME, for a week of painting, repairing, building, or whatever else is needed in the community. I will be off the laptop for the week, so with your kind indulgence, I would like to put in my picks for week 6 right now.

Winnipeg at Hamilton: Blue Bombers drop their loads into the litter box. Winnipeg by 11.

Toronto at Montreal: No dominant team has yet emerged from the East. Perhaps this game will be the springboard for one to start a move. Toronto by 4.

BC at Calgary: Lions are hitting their stride, but Stampeders have been strong all season. The uncontrollable running quadrupeds should prevail here. Calgary by 16.

Saskatchewan at Ottawa: 'Riders, despite their futility, are still more than a match for the RedBlacks. Home field does not help Ottawa. Saskatchewan by 8.

posted by Howard_T at 12:08 AM on July 25

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 5

Looked at this on Tuesday, said, "OK, I'll take care of it tomorrow." Looked again on Wednesday. I was sort of busy, weather was hot and humid, and I figured I could do it Thursday. So Thursday I have to serve as a Lay Eucharistic Minister at a funeral, then I have to shop for some stuff for supper, then the lawn isn't going to cut itself, and then I find out we have company for supper, so I have to cook a little more. I'm finally sitting down at the computer and turn the TV on, look at the guide, and discover that it's Thursday and there's a game today. How did that happen? Oh well, scratch that one. I'll just have to get the other 3 right.

Calgary at Edmonton: Way too late to call anything except the over/under will be more than 40.

Winnipeg at BC: Blue Bombers were flying high, but ran into some Eskimo anti-aircraft fire. This week they have to travel to face some Lions who have been sharpening their claws of late. One of my 3 cats is sitting and staring at me. I think he wants me to pick the Lions. OK, BC by 9.

Ottawa at Hamilton: The color confused from the Capitol broke their maiden last week against the crew from Toronto. They have a much tougher task this week, going on the road to play the cats of a striped variety. I'm still being stared at, so I have to go with the felines again. Hamilton by 15.

Toronto at Saskatchewan: The Argos have had their troubles this year, but then so have the Roughriders. So far, both have beaten Hamilton, but Toronto took down Roughriders in their first meeting. This time, the game is in Saskatchewan, and I believe it will make all the difference. 'Riders by 13.

posted by Howard_T at 11:52 PM on July 24

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

What are they Espys?

The Espys, or more properly, the ESpys, pronounced E Spies, are members of a super-secret group of intelligence gatherers who specialize in the electronics industry. The acronym of course means "Electronic Spy". The group is quite benign, gathering its data from news sources, research papers, professional journals, and interviews with those in the electronics industry. No cloak and dagger stuff here. The work of the ESpys has been critical in developing countermeasures against the electronic capability of nations that are hostile to world peace. As part of the effort to keep this group out of public exposure, ESPN has cooperated by naming a phony awards ceremony after the group, thereby giving good cover to the name.

In other words, if you don't have a good answer, make something up.

posted by Howard_T at 09:07 PM on July 17

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 4

There is something wrong here. First of all, I'm getting my picks in 2 days before the kickoff. Second of all, I'm shown as tied with the eminent Dr. John for first place. This is strange, since Dr. John lives in Canada where they play these games, and my only connection to Canada is my Nova Scotian father. Well, he did teach me the words to "Oh Canada" and "The Maple Leaf Forever", so that's something. Now on with the business at hand. That is, it is time to disabuse myself of any notion that I really know what I am doing with these picks.

Edmonton at Winnipeg: Two teams at 3-0 meet in an early season attempt to establish the pecking order. Wait a minute, the only team that has anything to do with pecking is the Alouettes, and Winnipeg took care of that last week. Eskimos look like they would gladly exchange a peck on the cheek with Bombers, but might experience a slap in the face instead. Winnipeg by 3.

Toronto at Ottawa: Here is one at the opposite end of the structure. Argonauts are 1-2, while the Redblacks are winless in their 2 attempts. While Toronto would seem to enjoy the advantage of having done this a time or two, Ottawa is playing before their home crowd for the first time in the regular season. Home cooking will mean a lot here. Ottawa by 4.

Hamilton at Calgary: Stampeders have been doing just that to their opponents so far, while the striped kitties are hurting. The running quadruped herd should have little difficulty with the cats. Calgary by 16.

Montreal at BC: The birds stumbled out of the gate in week 1, but that was against Calgary, and says more about Calgary than it does about Montreal. Alouettes did manage to outfly the big cats at home, but now they have had to make the long trek to the left coast. The 2500 or so miles is a long way to expect a lark to fly without wearing down its wings. Meanwhile, the cats would lie to feast on birds before their home fans. BC by 12.

posted by Howard_T at 09:21 PM on July 15

Germany Wins World Cup

It is quite obvious that FIFA needs to do something about concussions before there is a fatality or a court action for damages instituted by players. There have been a couple of suggestions in the comments so far, and I will add my own take on them.

Allow a temporary substitution while an independent physician conducts a concussion protocol. This makes clear sense, but could it be used to get a late game rest for a tiring star player? This is not likely, but a layer of video review could be added to the evaluation just to make sure there really was contact that could have produced injury.

Allow a "free" substitution (not counted in the allowed 3), but not allow the injured player to come back in. Again, this could be abused, but if it's one of your better players that is supposedly injured, you would not be likely to try this.

No substitution, temporary or otherwise, for the injured player, but temporarily sit a player on the opposite team for as long as it takes to make the medical evaluation. Once the inured player either returns or is substituted for, both sides return to full manpower. The player who sits for the non-injured team must be of equivalent position to the injured player, e.g. striker for striker, midfielder for midfielder, and so on. This could be awkward, but would not give either side a great advantage. What to do if a keeper is injured would be another story.

Better minds than mine can come up with ways to do this, and ways to "bullet-proof" them against abuse. There is any number of problems in FIFA, but this one needs to be looked at right away.

posted by Howard_T at 05:19 PM on July 14

Blackhawks Sign Toews, Kane Through 2023

Dynamic duos, all.

to be a "cup contender," a team has to roll four balanced lines, or at the very least, three

Being old enough to have watched them play, I can say that the Bruins teams of Orr and Esposito not only had 2 superstars, but also had 3 solid lines, solid defense, and above average goaltending. I don't believe any element of a team can be given short shrift and still have a chance at a Stanley Cup. If you are to pour a significant percentage of your salary cap figure into two players, your front office had best include some top notch talent evaluators. As your second level performers approach free agency, they may demand a higher salary. One of the facts of life in the NHL is that a forward's stat line is usually a bit inflated by playing with the top level centers and wings. Thus, a player who has had a great year approaching the end of his contract could cost you more than you can afford. The solution is to have a supply of young talent coming in from the draft and in development in the minors. If you can do this, your salary structure will remain within the cap, you will have room to add a couple of mid-level free agents to fill holes, and your next generation of stars is coming along.

Trying to win quickly through free agents is a losing proposition. There are many examples of players who put up gaudy numbers while playing alongside a superstar, but then are no better than pedestrian when put into a different situation. Granted there are some who do not play well for a particular team, but will blossom when put into a system that better suits their game. Tyler Seguin is an example of this. If you look at the 4 teams tahoemoj has identified, each of them has a solid development program in place that will be able to turn out serviceable NHL players and the occasional superstar.

posted by Howard_T at 02:58 PM on July 13

LeBron James Returning to Cleveland

Dammit, I wish people would quit calling him LBJ. There isn't but one of those, for better and for worse.

There was another LBJ, actually in Viet Nam for a while -- the Long Binh Jail.

posted by Howard_T at 07:16 PM on July 11

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 3

Here we go again. Better late than never. I have 1 minute to kickoff of Winnipeg at Montreal, so I have to be quick.

Here goes:

Winnipeg at Montreal: The little larks turned out to be tough old birds vs the Lions. This time they get to try the Blue Bombers. The Bombers show up with an empty bomb bay and fall to the suddenly nasty Alouettes. Montreal by 16.

Ottawa REDBLACKS at Edmonton Eskimos: The Eskimos are hanging out at their own ice floe, and the color confused from Ottawa are trying to find their way. Look for the Eskimos to turn the REDBLACKS into seal blubber. Edmonton by 12.

Calgary at Toronto: The Argonauts have shown some talent so far, but the Stampeders look to be too strong. The stampede will rumble through the big city, and the Argonauts better head for the lake. Calgary by 13.

BC at Saskatchewan: Lions were unexpectedly clawed last week by a bunch of tiny birds. They will be angry. The trouble is they will come up against a group of Roughriders who might just ride all over them. Poor kitties will need some extra kibbles to get over this one. Saskatchewan by 4.

posted by Howard_T at 07:12 PM on July 11

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Today is the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth's debut with the Boston Red Sox. No, people, I was not there!

posted by Howard_T at 04:40 PM on July 11

Liverpool Sells Luiz Suarez to Barcelona

Don't cry for Liverpool. They still have some good pieces on the field (Sturridge, Sterling, et al), and 75 Million pounds will go a long way to replacing him. I don't expect decline unless management just pockets the money, and in that case a lynch mob would be in order.

posted by Howard_T at 04:39 PM on July 11

LeBron James Returning to Cleveland

I never was a fan of LeBron the man, but could not help but admire his skill as LeBron the basketball player. My son and I talked about this at lunch over a couple of good microbrews and burgers at The Flying Goose in Newport, NH. Our consensus was that Cleveland would accept him back, but only if he were to make some sort of statement acknowledging that he left for his own personal gain, but that he now realized his error. His statement was exactly what he needed to say. I take it as a sign of increasing maturity that might be a bit late in coming but is nonetheless genuine. He still has my admiration as a player, but he is gaining some of my respect as a person.

posted by Howard_T at 04:32 PM on July 11

Argentina Faces The Netherlands for Spot in World Cup Final

I would like to be a fly on the wall at the World Cup viewing party of the King and Queen of Holland. Seems that the Queen was born and raised in Argentina. She says she'll be rooting for Holland, but I'll bet she has her fingers crossed behind her back.

posted by Howard_T at 04:07 PM on July 09

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Bill Speros, writer of the Obnoxious Boston Fan blog, posted in today's Boston Globe, shows that the club has had a nearly exact .500 record over its last 500 games. That span includes the late-season collapse in 2011, the disaster of 2012, last year's unexpected World Series win, and this year's rather putrid start.

By the way, yerfatma, old movies on Turner Classic Movies have become my refuge from Red Sox (so-called) baseball.

posted by Howard_T at 04:21 PM on July 08

CFL Pick 'Em, Week 2

The match fixing people must have been involved. How else could have so many of us fallen into such mediocrity? OK, so nobody from the Cameroons football team has sneaked into the CFL, so I'll give it another go. Please understand I am in the wilds of northern NH, I have not looked at any results, so I am being honest about tonight's game. Besides that, there is a pretty good thunderstorm raging right now, so if I were to lie, I will be struck. Of course, you all believe me.

Ottawa at Winnipeg: The Redblacks meet the Blue Bombers. This means that one should keep his coloring between the lines. It also means that someone named Red will be black and blue. I'm going to guess that Red will be in a black mood while the Blue Bombers prevail. Winnipeg by 8.

OK, now that is done, ande I can peek at the CFL web site to see how it goes. Shows you how smart I am, Ottawa is up by 14. Oh well, at least no lightning strikes.

BC at Montreal: Big kitties go to see little larks. Little larks want to fly all over big kitties, but it looks like big kitties will cause larks' peckers to fall in the dirt. BC by 12.

Hamilton at Edmonton: Eskimos are back in their own habitat, so that is a plus. Now the problem is that they will have to hunt Tigercats instead of things like seals and whales. This will be a problem for Eskimos, and they may get clawed. Hamilton by 14.

Saskatchewan at Toronto: The Roughriders head for the big city to face the Argonauts. Argos had some tough sailing last week, but this week will be a different story. The Roughriders will indeed have a rough ride and will fall to the Argos. Toronto by 4.

posted by Howard_T at 09:26 PM on July 03

Mexico Faces The Netherlands in Round of 16

My Trini-Bajan (Born in Barbados, lived in Trinidad) cousin now lives in Holland. She's been on Facebook all day posting pictures of her husband drinking toasts to the victory and rooting for the Orange. Now that Portugal is out (my ancestry on my mother's side), I'm down to the US and The Netherlands for a rooting interest. I did have a bit of a soft spot for Mexico, though.

posted by Howard_T at 09:44 PM on June 29

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

Me and the internet just haven't been getting along well with each other of late. Went to TD Garden Thursday night for the Celtics' Draft Party with the hope I could comment as the draft went along. Alas, TD Garden's wireless sucks, couldn't get my wife's tablet to work, so no luck. Today I'm up in the mountains (Lincoln, NH), and the wireless here in the place where we're staying is just a little bit slower than dial-up. Mostly the wireless routers don't have a very strong signal where we are, so it's touch and go.

The good news is that wife and I have just returned from the New England Brewfest, an annual event where craft brewers from New England and elsewhere come to pass out samples. It's amazing how much drinking can be packed into a 5 ounce glass and 4 hours. There were some really good things here.

Back to the NBA draft, Philadelphia taking Embiid at #3 was greeted with some sighs of disappointment in Boston. There had been hope that Ainge might trade up or that Embiid could have fallen to #6. Alas, it was not to be. When Marcus Smart was announced as the Celtics' pick, there was a bit of WTF? followed by bye bye Rondo commentary. Looking at it after a day or 2, it does not seem to be that strange a pick. To start with, Avery Bradley likely will not be tendered for his restricted free agent status. Smart will swing between the point and 2 guard positions, and if he shows that he can handle the point, Rondo is gone at the trading deadline or before. Smart's size alone makes him better than either Rondo or Bradley as a defender. His shooting is questionable, but so was Rondo's when he came into the league. Bradley is a better shooter, but is not able to get his own shot, and while he is a good defender, his size limits what he can do against a shooting guard who runs more than 6"4" or so. The nickname Mahcus "Wicked" Smaht has already been applied to him.

Being able to get Young at #17 is a real plus. This kid will be a scorer in the NBA. It might take a year or 2, but he is big enough to post up most 2 guards and quick enough to handle a lot of small forwards. The kid is about 6'8", so he could be a real problem for people to handle.

Many are saying that unless something big happens over the summer months, this season will be a repeat of last year's futility. It may be so, but last year produced some fun, if losing, basketball. It will be an interesting time to watch the team try to build around the 2 new guys plus the youngsters like Olynyk and a finally healthy Sullinger.

posted by Howard_T at 07:31 PM on June 28

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Going to Celtics draft uparty tonight. Will try to comment as things go. Using wife's tablet. Please excuse typos.

posted by Howard_T at 06:29 PM on June 26

Luis Suarez Bites Opponent at World Cup

Has anyone checked Suarez's previous victims to see if they have any problems with daylight? Also, have any of them placed an order for a casket and a supply of potting soil from Transylvania?

posted by Howard_T at 11:09 PM on June 25

The 10th Annual chicobangs Memorial SpoFi CFL Pick 'Em

Missed out last year because I was off somewhere doing something more productive than picking football winners. Not so this time around. Look out, SpoFites, The great Howard_T is back and ready to turn amazing prescience into the routine.

Toronto at Winnipeg: By the end of this one it will be "Knock, knock. Who's there? Argo. Argo who? Argonna whup yo butt." Toronto by 11.

Montreal at Calgary: Little birdies play with horsies. Little birdies left with nothing to do except look behind horsie and try to find something to eat that horsie has dropped on the ground behind it. Not much there for little birdie. Calgary by 8.

Edmonton at BC: Everybody knows that Lions live in Africa (or zoos). Everybody knows that Eskimos do not live in either Africa or zoos. When Eskimos get out of their usual habitat and enter lion country, the result is not pretty. BC by 13.

Hamilton at Saskatchewan: More cats to think about. These are of the striped variety, and they can be big and mean. Too bad they have to run into a group of roughriders. Look out, kitty, your pretty striped pelt might wind up as a rug. Saskatchewan by 5.

posted by Howard_T at 11:04 PM on June 25

A search for the original New England Patriots' fan

Will the real Larry Kepnes please stand up.

If you remember where that line came from, you are probably as old as I am and watched way too much TV.

Well maybe not that old. I just looked it up, and the show "To Tell the Truth" started in 1956, and had been aired off and on into 2001. Versions of the show also aired in 8 countries other than the US.

posted by Howard_T at 10:46 PM on June 25

Luis Suarez Bites Opponent at World Cup

Suarez ought to be gone for the duration.

Nothing I have seen yet proves to me that Suarez is guilty of anything except pushing his head into the Italian defender. Bob Lee and company have jumped all over Suarez's past reputation and convicted him right here on ESPN. Gee, if they say so, can FIFA be far behind? Give us some proof, other than the word of an Italian player who threw a pretty mean elbow on the same play, and I might agree. Until then I consider Lee and company the equivalent of the "Yellow Journalists" of previous eras.

Oh, by the way, if there are bite marks on the Italian, check them against Suarez's dental records. It would not surprise me if there might have been a nip or two taken in the locker room in order to prove the case.

posted by Howard_T at 02:45 PM on June 24

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

Just heard that justice has prevailed at last and Pat Burns has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It's quite a class this year, including Dallas Stars center Mike Modano, Colorado Avalanche center Peter Forsberg, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Blake, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek and former referee Bill McCreary. Burns deserved election a long time ago, but there was someone, somewhere who was dead set against his inclusion.

posted by Howard_T at 06:22 PM on June 23

Baylor Center and NBA prospect Isaiah Austin has been diagnosed with a career-ending genetic disorder.

It's really a shame that a promising career should be cut short by something like this. Still, I heard it said that his coming out for the draft this year just might have saved his life. Had he stayed in college, he would not have had the physical examination that hinted at the problem the subsequent genetic tests that confirmed Marfan Syndrome.

I've read that Abraham Lincoln was once suspected of having had Marfan. The idea was based upon Lincoln's unusual height and the physical changes observed in comparing photographs of Lincoln as he aged. This speculation has since been dismissed.

posted by Howard_T at 04:51 PM on June 23

Alex Torres First Pitcher to Wear Protective Cap

Like the idea. Who cares what it looks like if it works. How will this protect against a line drive to the face a la Herb Score, Bryce Florie, and others?

posted by Howard_T at 08:29 PM on June 22

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

The reporter (Rich Cimini) heard it from Jets assistant Mike Pettine, who heard it from former Jets assistant Mike Smith, who heard it from Tom Brady.

Smith supposedly heard it from someone at Wes Welker's wedding. The story is that during a Patriots - Jets game, Brady told a couple of Jets linebackers that NE had a copy of their playbook. Sounds like the estimable Mr. B was putting some ideas into the heads of the Jets' defense. Brady talk trash? Oh really, not the saintly Tom.

posted by Howard_T at 10:42 PM on June 19

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

The reign of Spain is ended, it's quite plain. (Sorry, had to so that before someone beat me to it.)

I've heard several pieces of analysis trying to explain how Spain managed to lose so badly in its matches. They're old, people have figured out how to play against them. too many of their players were involved in UEFA Champions League finals or semifinals, and on, and on the talking heads drone. Interesting that the last 3 or 4 World Cup winners have failed to advance out of group play in the following tournament. When things like this happen, and a team like Spain plays so badly it almost appears they are trying to do so, I wonder if there is a dark shadow looming in the background. With FIFA involved, nothing seems too outrageous.

posted by Howard_T at 06:56 PM on June 18

Keeper Guillermo Ochoa Saves Mexico's Tocino

In ice hockey terms, a hot goal tender just stole a point. That was an amazing performance.

On another note, listening to the play-by-play announcer and his analyst, both of whom were, I believe, of Hispanic descent, added a lot to the game for me. You could tell that both announcers had a rooting interest in the game, but they never sounded like "homers". It's always more fun when the people telling the story truly care how it ends.

posted by Howard_T at 09:06 PM on June 17

The San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat 4-1 to win the NBA championship.

Greg Popovich has done a masterful job in creating the San Antonio Spurs. Defensively sound and offensively diverse and unselfish is the short answer for who they are. All this betrays my firm grasp of the obvious. The interesting thing is how Popovich came to this philosophy of building a basketball. Here the answer is that he took a long look at one very successful team of 60 years ago (Has it been that long? Crap I'm getting old.) and while he did not try to duplicate it, he used much of what the Boston Celtics of Red Auerbach's day did. Quite like this year's finals, the Celtics championship teams seldom had the best player on the floor. What they did was to make the "best player" work for his points and play some defense in order to wear him down. At the same time, great effort went into defending the other players to make sure none of them beat you while you were attending to stopping the star. The old Celtics offense featured the fast break, and when that was not available, used ball movement and the movement of players without the ball to gain easy shots. San Antonio is somewhat different, in that the 3-point shot is now a staple of NBA play, and the fast break is not run as often now, but the core of the offense is still motion, motion, and more motion.

posted by Howard_T at 12:00 AM on June 17

MLB Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn has died at age 54.

The Gwynn/Williams relationship brings to mind an argument over hitting styles and the argument over who might be the greatest hitter. Williams succeeded because of his incredible eyesight and depth perception. Add to this his natural power via his strength and long, lanky build. Gwynn had amazing bat control. He was almost a throwback to the old days of hitters who specialized in spraying the ball, "hitting 'em where they ain't" a la Willie Keeler. Gwynn was far more than a spray hitter. He was not noted for power, but he certainly could put some dents into outfield walls.

54 is way too early, but the Heaven All Stars needed a solid bat. RIP Tony Gwynn.

posted by Howard_T at 11:46 PM on June 16

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Boston was once described as "a state of mind," by Mark Twain.

I cannot find the quote, but I have heard one that goes something like this: "I have just appeared before a Boston audience - 2000 critics." I believe the origin of this is sometime in the 19th century, and if anyone can tell me the source, please do so.

There are a couple of other quotes about "our fair city" that might apply.

"I guess God made Boston on a wet Sunday." (Raymond Chandler, crime fiction writer - The Big Sleep among other works)

"When I go abroad I always sail from Boston because it is such a pleasant place to get away from." (Oliver Herford, author and illustrator)

The point of all of the above is that excessive criticism and negativity has been a Boston, and indeed a New England, characteristic for many years. Perhaps it is the old Calvinist theology of predestination with a good dose of Roman and Anglican Catholic damnation thrown in. Whatever the reason, things can never get better, only worse. Like an old friend of mine used to say, "Things are always darkest just before they turn completely black" and "In front of every silver lining there's a dark cloud." I don't like to think that this sort of pessimism has become a national characteristic, but I'm afraid that the mass media and our beloved internet have spread the infection.

posted by Howard_T at 03:37 PM on June 10

California Chrome Makes Triple Crown Bid

Too bad that California Chrome's co-owner, Steve Coburn, had to let his emotions get the better of him in his post-race comments. I believe the remarks, generally on the premise that only those horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness should be allowed in the Belmont, were not malicious but were the result of disappointment. The analogy has been drawn of players being rested late in the regular season, or of injured players coming back, and returning for the post-season. It's not quite accurate, since horse racing is not exactly a team sport. Changing the rules to require some sort of qualification to run in the Preakness or the Belmont will actually artificially deprive some owners of a chance to run and win a high-priced stakes race.

posted by Howard_T at 12:51 PM on June 08

Don Zimmer was truly a baseball man

And so "The Designated Gerbil" passes. Don Zimmer always said that Bill Lee was the only man whom he would not let into his home. This being the case, I would advise Bill Lee to invest in some nomex underwear, because Zimmer is in baseball heaven, and if Zimmer is true to his word, Bill Lee won't get in.

posted by Howard_T at 10:33 PM on June 05

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

It takes a strong man to do this. Jim Rice of the Boston Red Sox once did this, and I have heard that Willie Horton of Detroit also did the same.

posted by Howard_T at 04:39 PM on June 02

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Even crazier shit. Gomes gets plunked by a changeup to start the 10th for Boston. Pierzinski gets a changeup in the zone and drives it toward the triangle in right center. It splits the fielders, although Meyers got a glove on it. The outfielders collide, the ball rolls to the wall, and Gomes scores from first to end it. In the words of the old philosopher, "Beisbol she is a funny game".

posted by Howard_T at 11:33 PM on May 30

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

I'll be rooting for Portugal as well as the USA in the upcoming World Cup. It's mostly because my ancestry on my mother's side was 100% Portuguese (Her maiden name was Lily Isabel D'Azavedo Lobo) until my great grandfather married an English girl. Now I have even more reason. Here is the Musica Oficial da Selecao Nacional. Kind of a catchy tune. Makes you want to go kick a ball around.

posted by Howard_T at 10:13 PM on May 29

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Enjoy the Spurs while you have them.

Chad Finn linked to the clip in his Touching All the Bases blog in the Boston Globe. He also linked to one done some time ago about the Bird/McHale/Walton Celtics. The inspiration for coach Greg Popovich might go back to earlier Celtics teams. In his office hangs a picture of John Havlicheck.

I've been a Celtics fan, and thus a fan of professional basketball, since about 1952. I'm not so fond of the game as I once was, and I blame it on a decision that the league made under Commissioner Donald Stern. Perhaps it was a marketing necessity, but when the NBA began to emphasize the players rather than the teams, the quality of play began to deteriorate. Consider who gets all of the attention on the highlight reels. True enough, those are great individual players, but more often than not the superstar can be slowed just a bit, and his team cannot pick up the slack. Again, looking back to the Celtics teams that dominated the league from the late 1950s into the 1970s, the best player on the floor usually was not wearing green.

posted by Howard_T at 11:17 PM on May 22

Gay Athlete Michael Sam Drafted by St. Louis

I have trouble believing he fell as far as he did.

As the draft wore on into the late rounds, Sam became a more frequent topic of discussion between the analysts on the NFL Network. I think the most telling thing was Sam's numbers at the combine compared to other players of similar size and projected position in the NFL. Sam's numbers were significantly poorer in such things as vertical leap, bench presses, and the like. He may very well become a useful NFL defensive end/outside linebacker, but the numbers seemed to push many teams away from him. I believe several of the teams that passed on him did so because of his athletic potential and not his lifestyle.

posted by Howard_T at 10:11 PM on May 11

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

If Subban has any sense of humor at all, he will show up on the Montreal bench Monday night toting a Super-Soaker. That would defuse any bad feeling, highlight the immaturity of Thornton's actions, and not harm a soul. In Thornton's defense, something like a squirt with a water bottle is much to be preferred over perhaps a "low bridge" check or something else that could cause injury.

posted by Howard_T at 10:04 PM on May 11

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

#frozenyogurt is all over Twitter after Matt Fraser's game winner in OT last night. He admitted his lunch in Providence just before his call up was a double chicken burrito with guacamole (no cheese) and frozen yogurt for dessert. Chipotles is now the new training table.

After Boston hit the crossbar 3 times in last night's game, a rumor was going around that had Montreal won in OT, the 3 stars would have been #3 - whoever scored the game winner; #2 - Carey Price; #1 - The Crossbar.

posted by Howard_T at 08:04 PM on May 09

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Is there anything with his "baseball stance" that would make him a bad cricketer?

When I worked in Egypt some years ago, our slow pitch softball team had a young fellow from Turks and Caicos who had never played baseball or softball, but was a pretty good cricketer. His fielding skills were excellent, but watching him at bat trying to make contact while executing some of his cricket footwork could be comical. Still, when he did make contact, he hit some screamers. One of the things that worked against him was that he would frequently make contact while out of the batter's box. He worked on a more conventional batting stance and ultimately became pretty good on the field.

posted by Howard_T at 02:49 PM on May 07

Kansas State denies player the right to transfer away

Leticia darling, what has gotten into you? Don't you understand that just because we fired the old overseer and his helpers you can't leave? Any slave should know you don't have any say in the matter. Now be a good girl and go back to work. Remember, if you try to run away, you'll be punished.

posted by Howard_T at 02:36 PM on May 07

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

I see they couldn't work out what language they spoke in Belgium

Neither can the Belgians, but it seems to work out for them anyway.

posted by Howard_T at 01:55 PM on May 03

Brain Trauma Extends to the Soccer Field

I would think the long term effects in soccer would be similar to those in football and hockey. A blow to the head is the same, no matter what the sport. One of the girls in the youth group at church took an elbow to the head during a varsity soccer game. She was down for about 4 weeks - darkened room, then inactivity, then limited activity - before resuming normal day-to-day stuff. This was her first concussion, and since soccer season is over and she is not likely to be playing at the college level, we hope it will be her last. Point is that serious head injuries are more common than many think, and athletes who have more than one or two should consider a different career.

posted by Howard_T at 01:50 PM on May 03

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Darren Erman hired by Boston Celtics as director of NBA scouting after messy end with Golden State Warriors

NBA scouting eh? I'm sure a recording device and skill at using it is a valuable asset in a scouting job.

posted by Howard_T at 11:33 PM on April 29

NBA Bans Donald Sterling for Life

As long as your opinions, no matter how reprehensible, are kept to yourself, there's nothing anyone can do. It doesn't matter what sort of boss you are. You may be cheap or generous, demand perfection or allow something short of ideal as long as it's best effort. As long as you treat everyone of whatever ethnic, religious, sexual, or racial persuasion equally, it may not be pleasant, but it is within the bounds of proper conduct. Now comes Donald Sterling who allows his opinions to become public knowledge, thereby angering those whom he employs, their colleagues in the NBA, the NBA management, and his fellow owners. Most importantly he has managed to piss off nearly every man, woman, and child in the US who had hoped that attitudes such as Sterling's were disappearing.

The NBA has done about the best it could, but I fear we have not heard the last from Mr. Sterling. The league can fine him and ban him, but can it force the sale of the team? I really don't know that it can happen, no matter the desirability of such an outcome. If Sterling does not sell, what will happen to Coach Rivers and those players who are under contract past the end of this season? Would it not be possible to file a complaint with whatever government agency handles these things claiming that Sterling's comments have turned the Clippers into a "hostile work place"? The employees could then demand relief such as a forced sale (not likely for a hostile work place complaint) or release from their contracts (entirely possible). When I was still working, our annual ethics training usually included a unit on workplace harassment. Things far more innocuous than Sterling's tirade resulted in findings of the hostile workplace and discipline of the guilty parties.

There are a couple of things I find a bit odd. This is not the first time that private conversations have been deliberately recorded, became public, and caused a great deal of harm to someone. There was this guy named Richard Nixon who managed to have some interesting recordings come back to haunt him, 18-minute gap or not. You would think that someone who is supposedly as astute as Sterling might have thought about this before encouraging recording. The second thing is the ironic coincidence between the names of the two main characters, Donald Sterling and Adam Silver. Is not Sterling a quality grade of Silver?

posted by Howard_T at 11:28 PM on April 29

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

RIP, Jack Ramsay, you taught a lot of NBA players the game of basketball. More importantly, you also taught a few million fans a lot about the game.

posted by Howard_T at 03:34 PM on April 28

Video: Ryan Braun Hits Jean Segura with Bat in Dugout

I can't believe the Brewers field managers and coaches were allowing this. As an umpire I've spent much breath screaming at youth baseball players, including some up to high school age, for carelessly swinging or tossing the bat. I used to give them one warning, threatening ejection if repeated. A word to their coach was included. If you have to swing the bat, there's a really good place called the on deck circle. Braun's a proven idiot anyway.

posted by Howard_T at 01:02 PM on April 27

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

Bruins-Canadiens rivalry to continue

For the 35th time in the post-season, I believe. This is one of those rivalries where form is sometimes immaterial. Hockey is an emotional game to start with, and when these 2 get together, players sometimes lose control of themselves. The key is to hold oneself together, play your game within your team's structure, and see how it all turns out. Montreal has a speed edge, Boston has size, and is not as slow as some think. I suggest that anyone who has a history of cardiac problems watch another series.

posted by Howard_T at 11:14 PM on April 26