Best Time To Be In Beantown
By Phil Jackman
Sports Illustrated recently did one of those "Best of …" stories that interest everyone and draw praise, complaint and every other human emotion, plus (better yet) tons of letters. This one detailed top fan experiences in sports and missing (on purpose, I suspect) were the Kentucky Derby and the Army-Navy game.
Fans of the big race on the "first Saturday in May" have always raved about the hats and everything else -- including, of course, the claim that the Derby is "the most exciting two minutes in all of sports," and it got me thinking about a particular favored "event."
It all starts at about mid-morning, when a couple baseball teams take batting practice in less-than-favorable conditions, because it's mid-April in Boston and it's Patriots Day, which means everybody's off from school and work and it's usually about 35 degrees and windy when the ballgame starts at 11 a.m.
Fenway Park is selling out coffee and hot chocolate, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone munching on a hot dog before noon. At noon, everyone leaves their seats, unless the Red Sox have the bases loaded, and heads for the televisions next to the refreshment stands to watch the beginning of the Boston Marathon, starting in the hamlet of Hopkinton located 26 miles west.
With nothing to do until going out to nearby Kenmore Square to watch a bunch of East African runners troop by, having knocked off 25 five-minute miles, folks watch baseball and memorize names of the Kenyan runners favored in the race.
Many years ago, when the old Boston Braves used to play a morning-afternoon doubleheader, my brother and I went out to check on the race after the first game and never came back. That's when my father got the idea he was raising a couple kids who adored all sports. No questions asked.
Wait. The marathon and baseball are only half the day. The confluence of seasons always meant the NBA and NHL were staging their playoffs, and either the Celtics or Bruins were hosting someone over at the Boston Garden, where Paul Revere is rumored to have started his ride out to Lexington and Concord yelling, "The British are coming."
Years ago, upon gaining employment in a sports department, I used to write a baseball story during the marathon, a marathon story during a basketball or hockey game and do the other game off television. Then came the drive home to Baltimore. Some said I must have been falling asleep at the wheel. No way, after all that action.
So, to fans of "the most exciting two minutes in all of sports" out in Louisville, I say give a try for a 12-hour sojourn in Back Bay sometime. The locals will be easier to understand (but not much).
Not only should NBA players not be paid for playing on the U.S. Olympic team, they shouldn't even be considered for inclusion. And if perchance they continue to be included, they should pay to be on the team.
What on earth is Bill Polian doing working for ESPN? It's painfully apparent about half the teams in the NFL could use the expertise of the longtime general manager to their advantage. Meanwhile, it was great to see every club, without exception, get absolutely everything they wanted in the draft (for the 20th straight year).
More than 650 million people around the globe tuned in to watch a monumental soccer showdown between Manchester United and Manchester City the other day with England's Premier League title on the line. Unfortunately, the game was a dull stinker. City won, 1-0.
From the nice-work-if-you-can-get-it department: Larry Brown, at age 71, is going to coach SMU, his 14th head-coaching job. He was making $25 million not to coach the Charlotte Bobcats. I think the team name is glutton for punishment.
NFL players must have an awesome workload during the offseason. Only 25 percent of them turned in ballots for the popular "100 Best Players" feature that runs on NFL Network annually. A total of 39 players named last season didn't make it this time around. Obviously, fame is fleeting.
Now that the NFL Pro Bowl game is in grave danger of being officially ignored, it might be a good idea to get rid of All-Star games in baseball, basketball and hockey, too.
Gee, what a surprise! Ex-Loyola Blakefield standout Steele Stanwick, for the past four years the star of Virginia's lacrosse team, has been named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year -- again.
When the Red Sox got off to a horrible start last month, new manager Bobby Valentine caught hell from his players, some media and lots of fans for saying what he thought about things. What folks in Beantown have obviously forgotten is how successful a gent with the same demeanor, the late, great Hall of Famer Dick Williams, did the same thing. A Williams line in the Bartlett book of quotations is his famous, "Talking to George Scott is like talking to cement."
Here's a "fact" that skipped my notice for 66 years or so: During Game 6 of the 1946 World Series, when Enos Slaughter scored from first base on Harry Walker's long single to left-center field, giving the Cards victory against the Red Sox, the third-base coach for St. Louis was Mike Gonzalez, who didn't speak good English. As Slaughter approached third, Gonzalez reportedly was yelling, "No, no, no." What Enos was hearing was, "Go, go, go."
The New York Knicks celebrated an anniversary the other day -- it was 11 years since they won an NBA playoff game. Remember when it was Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe in the backcourt, Willis Reed under the basket and Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley dropping jump shots from the wings? A couple days later, the Knicks set the NBA record for consecutive playoff games lost by racking up No. 13.
Posted May 4, 2012