The Hall of Fame is not church

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The Hall of Fame is not church

With the Hall of Fame candidates released today by the Baseball Writers Association of America, Canada, Japan, Various Hispanic Nations and All The Ships At Sea, the moralists are back in full flight and plumage.

Oh, hurray.

The debate that always seems to happen on this subject is thus resumed, with no resolution or even advancement in thought on either side expected. In other words, let the apoplectic shouting resume.

In fact, let me add to it by pointing out something to those voters who prefer to make their annual petulant stand on performance enhancing drug use and Hall of Fame something they may have forgotten in their annual blood pressure spike.

YOU DON'T WORK FOR BASEBALL! YOU ARE NOT GUARDIANS OF THE GAME! IT IS NEITHER YOUR JOB, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY OR EVEN YOUR RIGHT TO KEEP THE GAME PURE OF MISCREANTS WHEN IT SHOWS EVERY DAY THAT IT DOESNT WANT TO BE!

And might I add:

YOU SILLY SELF-DELUDED BASTARDS!

I just needed to get that last one off my chest. Sorry.

All the other arguments about whether Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et. al., deserve inclusion have been exhausted, to no effect. People long ago stopped listening anyway, which is why shouting is the only way to even get any aerobic exercise on this topic any more.

So let us deal with the new round of explanations and rationalizations in the only way that seems to make even a ripple by shouting. And in no particular order:

THE HALL OF FAME IS NOT CHURCH. IT IS THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL, FOR GOOD AND ILL. IF IT ISN'T, THEN WHY ARE THE MEN WHO DEFENDED THE COLOR LINE IN THE HALL? WHY IS TY COBB IN THE HALL? WHY IS KENESAW MOUNTAIN LANDIS IN THE HALL? THERY ARE PART OF THE HISTORY, TOO. REMEMBER?

Next:

GIVEN THAT THE OWNERS HAD BEEN WARNED ABOUT THE DANGERS OF STEROIDS IN PARTICULAR BACK IN 1988 AND DID NOTHING ABOUT IT FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, WASN'T PED USE THE INDUSTRY STANDARD FOR MORE THAN A DECADE? YES, IT WAS. THEIR RULES, NOT YOURS.

And then:

WHEN DID JOURNALISTS START DEFENDING THE ERADICATION OF PEOPLE AND FACTS TO ACHIEVE A DESIRED END FOR THE BENEFIT OF PEOPLE THEY ALLEGEDLY OBJECTIVELY COVER? IF YOU CAN ANSWER THAT WITH A WORD OTHER THAN NEVER, YOU SHOULD PROBABLY QUIT YOUR JOB.

Not to mention:

HOW IS IT DEFENSIBLE NOT TO VOTE FOR JEFF BAGWELL BASED ON A SUSPICION, AS YET NEITHER PROVEN NOR EVEN EVIDENCED, THAT HE MIGHT HAVE DONE SOMETHING AT SOME POINT TO EXPLAIN HIS ACHIEVEMENTS? YOURE COMFORTABLE WITH THAT LEVEL OF INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY?

And might I add:

SINCE WHEN IS CRAIG BIGGIO'S CASE FOR INCLUSION ENHANCED BY THE NOTION THAT HE HAS NEVER BEEN SUSPECTED OF PED USE? IF I SAID OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD THAT I THINK HE USED BRAZILIAN WOMBAT EXTRACT FOR SIX WEEKS TO HELP HIM TRANSITION TO THE RIGORS OF SECOND BASE IN 1992, CAN I KEEP HIM OFF MY BALLOT? DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE TO YOU AT ALL?

By the way, I'm voting for Craig Biggio, so don't try to misconstrue that last one.

WHEN WERE YOU HIRED TO DEFEND THE MYTHICAL PURITY OF THE GAME? WHO PAID YOU TO DO THIS? YOUR WHY DO YOU HAVE A STAKE IN DISTORTING HISTORY, OR DEFENDING NUMBERS? WHY IS REALITY NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

And might I add a corollary:

ISN'T IT BETTER FOR YOUR CASE TO VOTE IN PLAYERS YOU KNOW OR THINK USED PERFORMANCE ENHANCERS SO THAT BASEBALL CAN LIVE WITH THE SHAME THAT COMES FROM LOOKING THE OTHER WAY ON WHAT WERE ACTUALLY FELONIES? I MEAN, IF YOU HAVE A STAKE IN CLEANING UP THE GAME, WHICH YOU SHOULDN'T, ISN'T REMINDING THE INDUSTRY OF ITS OCCASIONAL SYSTEMATIC FAILURES PART OF THAT JOB?

And finally, because my voice is giving out:

VOTE FOR WHOMEVER THE HELL YOU WANT. LET A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM, AS THAT GRAND OLD BALL FAN MAO ZEDONG ONCE SAID. JUST DON'T TELL US YOU DID IT BECAUSE THE GAME DESERVES TO BE REPRESENTED BY THE FINEST CALIBER PEOPLE. BASEBALL IS ALL CLASSES OF PEOPLE, MISCREANTS, NOBLEMEN AND ALL POINTS IN BETWEEN, AND THAT'S WHAT IT DESERVES. YOU CAN'T CHANGE THAT, AND CASTING A VOTE WITH THAT IN MIND DISTORTS WHAT YOU SEE AND WRITE ABOUT.

And if you think baseball should reward only clean players and punish PED users, please remember this:

MELKY CABRERA JUST GOT A RAISE FROM HIS 2012 CONTRACT. IF BASEBALL IS FINE WITH THAT, WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR STANDARD FOR THEIR HALL SUPERCEDES THEIR OBVIOUS POSITION ON THE MATTER?

Okay. I'm going to melt down some cough drops and shoot them directly into my larynx now. I did the best I could. Plus, I called a lot of people I know and like silly, self-deluded bastards in print. That, to me, is a very good days work.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

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AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.
 

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.