Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Rick Pitino is a very successful college basketball coach who is being excoriated in various circles these last few days. Pitino claimed that an inamorata had attempted to extort moneys from him. Recently allegations have surfaced about the nature of the relationship and Pitino's alleged requests of his paramour.

A fellow in the locker room the other day asked me what I thought about this.

Here is what I think.

This is none of my business or anybody else's. Nobody but Pitino and his accuser know the nuances of the situation and anyone on the sideline who decides to adjudicate the matter might, I would suggest, have--or should have--better things to do.

Why this is news relates to (a) folks' insatiable desire to discuss prurient activities and (b) the fact that some people's favorite pastime is offering an opinion because it is easier to spew critically about someone else than be introspective. Newscasters are in the business of creating news that is appealing to readers and listeners, otherwise they are out of business. The notion that the news is what is newsworthy is as spurious as thinking that any business enterprise exists to satisfy inherent altruistic leanings.

If you want to be part of the solution, the next time someone asks for your opinion about someone's alleged carnal transgressions, change the subject to something more intrinsically newsworthy.

hot heat

On Sunday I went to Patriots training camp to watch a practice. It was 90 degrees, I discovered later, as I sat in the bleachers--hardly alone, some 1000 people were present--and watched the drills.

About an hour into the practice a lineman had to be carted off the field because he had cramped up. Shortly thereafter another lineman was taken from the field. At one point in a drill a player jumped offside and was compelled, apparently by rule, to run a lap around the field. There are turtles who run faster than this player. I can still see him, number 62, moving as if in slow motion. Even the fellow lugging "cold water. cold water, here" seemed to be oppressed.

Today I read in the Globe that the Patriots will practice twice and the high today is to be 97 degrees with what can only be described as thick humidity. It would be swell to be a professional athlete, methinks, but not a Patriot today.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

beer here

Last night I went to Fenway Park and saw the Red Sox pummel the Tigers 8-2. In many ways a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Fenway Park has become an expensive place to watch a game. I understand the new Yankee Stadium is now extraordinarily pricey and may have surpassed Fenway in that regard. In recent years, the cost of a "blue" grandstand ticket at Fenway was 40 dollars. This charge for the opportunity to sit in a seat built for a 1912 sized person, too narrow for many 2009 sized waists and with insufficient legroom for 2009 sized adults. Still the place is packed with people paying 40 dollars and up.

Used to this cost, I was surprised to find that my seats were only 28 dollars a piece. Then I realized why. The seats were in one of two non alcoholic sections in the park. That is, one could not drink beer and sit in our seats. This was not a problem for me, but apparently is a factor that renders these sections less desirable. In essence, one pays a 12 dollar surcharge to be able to buy 8 dollar beers at the Park.

In the Madness of March I refer to the remarkable beer consumption in Las Vegas during the course of the first four days of the tournament. I enjoy a beverage now and again myself, but the amount of beer guzzled in Las Vegas was--in both meanings of the word--staggering.

Of course the problem with beer--and with betting--occurs when one can not stop. One of my earliest recollections of going to a baseball game as a very young boy, was watching and hearing the vendors walk through the stands shouting, "Beer here. Beer here." At Fenway and at many sporting events beer is here, there, and everywhere. For all sporting events, betting opportunities are similarly omnipresent. You know that you are having a good time with sport when you can, if you'd like to, abstain.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

then you're crazy

There were many sport fans who looked forward to Sunday night August 9th because after six months of deprivation an NFL football game was broadcast. For true zealots this meaningless exhibition game provided an instant fix and, moreover, signalled the beginning of a stream of games that would help pass the time between August and February. Such fans count the months between the superbowl and preseason football like an inmate counting the days before a release from jail.

I watched only parts of the game because, at the same time on Sunday, the Boston Red Sox were on the air playing and losing to the Yankees. I thought that, perhaps, the Sox might even score a run during their game a feat that they could not manage to accomplish in fifteen innings on Friday and nine on Saturday. The Sox did muster a score in the 8th inning on Sunday, but managed to lose regardless.

I switched channels during the Red Sox disappointment to catch snippets of the football game. At one point I saw that the Titans were ahead of the Bills by a score of 21-9. The next morning I saw that the final was 21-18, a peculiar result given the 21-9 earlier score. I figured either that the Bills must have kicked three field goals to get to 18, or kicked one field goal, scored a touchdown but missed the two point conversion--this combination would also yield 18 points.

Neither was the case and what actually occurred is central to a point made in the Madness of March.

Last night just before I succumbed to slumber, I flipped the remote to the NFL channel. There a replay of the exhibition game was being broadcast. When I tuned in, there were only 40 seconds or so left on the clock and the score was 21-16. The Titans had the ball. I was almost positive that I had heard the final to be 21-18, so with 40 seconds left to go the only way the score could get to 21-18 would be if the Titans somehow were to give up two points to a safety. But the Titans were at midfield.

With only a few seconds left, the Titans faced a fourth down. The score remained 21-16. The Titans got into punt formation and I understood before it happened what would occur.

The game was a meaningless exhibition game, but even so the Titans wanted to simulate a real situation. With the score 21-16 and only a few seconds left, there was only one way the Titans could lose. If they punted and the Bills ran it back for a touchdown, or blocked the punt and ran it back for a touchdown, the Bills would win.

So what the Titans did, intelligently, was have their punter take the hike and run the "wrong way" into the end zone. This play would give up two points, but exhaust the clock. Therefore the Titans would win. The two points given up to the safety were meaningless.

They were not meaningless everywhere. Last night I heard broadcaster Al Michaels call the play and say something to the effect of "Well there might be some people who consider that safety significant, but if you do then you're crazy."

Even before he said this, I wondered if the safety would affect bettors who had wagered on the game. It had. The spread was 3 points. That safety resulted in a tie and a push.

Michaels was suggesting--and not incorrectly--that anyone who bets on an exhibition game is crazy. He is not incorrect for two reasons. The first is that exhibition games are so unpredictable. You never know what players are going to play and for how long. Second, maybe there is something a little off kilter about your hobbies if you feel you must place a bet on an exhibition game.

In watching games for several years now with an eye toward how bettors are affected, it almost never seems to me as if the coaches are concerned with the spread. It was a good football move to take the safety. Coach Jeff Fisher would have pleased those who bet on his team to punt the ball away, but I don't think who bet on what was a concern to him.