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Red Sox/Orioles, Chris Sale, Field of Dreams, suicides, Patriots fans, Tony Esposito

Monday 8/16/21

A weekend series sweep for the Red Sox against a bad Baltimore Orioles team. A hapless squad in those birds. On Twitter, you'll see two reactions. I guess you could say it has surprised me to see how many adults think like sugar-crazed children when it comes to their sports teams. They rave, they have, seemingly, no powers of cognition. It's like they're drunk or high, just going off. These people fall in love with these athletes, think they are super beings who can do no wrong and do not age, do not get passed by by the game they play. The Red Sox claimed Travis Shaw yesterday, who was on the team several years ago and is hitting something like .197. Obviously done as a player. He can be a chemistry guy, a defensive replacement, maybe run into a pitch or two, pinch hit if need be. Immediately, though, these fans start talking about him as if it's a half dozen years ago and he's the same, these players are forever the same, frozen in time.

It's these people who are delirious over a three-game sweep of a sorry Baltimore team. Then you have the people on the other side of the spectrum. They exude hate, but it's the attitude of hate rather than hate itself. They post about how Baltimore is trying to lose, the games mean nothing, etc. No one ever takes the nuanced, intelligent view. It never happens with sports. Or anything else, really.

You can play a bad team and help yourself to get right again. Remove the bad habits from your game. Build a little confidence. Some rhythm. The last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl, they had two games at the end of the season against terrible opponents in the Bills and the Jets. Commentators said those games were meaningless. I anticipated them with a keen eye--they were just what the Patriots needed, I thought, because they'd handle them in the right way. Again, work out the bad habits, execute with focus and an eye to detail. Teams get better in practice by doing the right thing, repeatedly. Life is the same way at the level of the individual and the level of the community. That's how I looked at the weekend's Orioles series for the Red Sox. Does it mean anything that they swept them handily? Probably not. But you give yourself something to build on. Then, if you have what it takes, you build.

Starting Chris Sale against the Orioles rather than against one of the teams the Sox are competing with for a playoff spot was met with minor controversy. I think this move made sense. He's been out for a long time. Don't start again in the highest leverage situation. I think little of Sale, as has been evident in these pages. He is the most overrated pitcher--by far--of this era. When it's all said and done, he's going to finish his career with 140 wins and no Cy Youngs. He strikes people out. Big deal. Strikeouts don't matter--outs matter. The kind of the out is irrelevant, except that more strikeouts means you don't go as deep into games the way baseball works right now. They are not cost efficient outs. When a starter was allowed to regularly throw 120 pitches, this was less of an issue. Sale was garbage in the 2018 playoffs, is a garbage postseason performer, and a selfish pitcher--he wanted to get in that last game in the 2018 World Series as a kind of glory-boy photo-op when it became obvious they were going to win. His goal was to live on in the highlight reels. But he was a detriment to that team that postseason. As for his start on Tuesday--he was mediocre. Yes, it's one game, but there's the 3.60 ERA, and you still get constant, chest-pounding Tweets from the manager of the Red Sox' social media account about the glory of Sale. That Orioles team is awful. Sale was okay. Was he any better than the other Sox pitchers in the series?

I thought the so-called Field of Dreams game was ridiculous. Cloying, embarrassing. A terrible, treacly movie, and a terrible, treacly book. Kinsella wrote as if sugar came out of his pen.

Yesterday there was a woman running suicides on the stairs. Briefly. She didn't last long--was out of there in five minutes. I mentioned suicides recently on here, and it brought to mind a conversation I'd had with someone perhaps a year back about how that term was probably wrong now, cause for outcry, all of that, and sure enough, I saw suicides referenced somewhere on Twitter, and several dozen people with nothing in their lives busted out the torches and pitchforks.

My friend had suggested that maybe now you had to call them killers, but that was probably wrong, too. I saw one of the white knights say they should be called lines. But what of people with drug issues? What can you call anything? They are suicides. Ironically, I think people have less of an issue with the term killers. People love murder. They are into it. Look at all of the series and films about Ted Bundy. Look at the love of the "true crime" docu-series. I find that shit so off-putting. That's what you're going to invest ten hours in watching? Yeah, that's healthy. You should definitely get off on being entertained by that. No worries as to the state of your psyche there. The Sopranos. It's murder porn. People love murder. My beliefs for why this is is first as a kind of wish fulfillment. People are filled with hate and they want control. Murder is control brought to one of its most evil ends. It's like their ultimate fantasy being enacted by someone else for them to witness without getting in trouble. Secondly, I think most people, on a real level, hate their lives and want to be put out of their misery. So they like watching that happen to other people.

If Cam Newton does end up as the starter to being the Patriots' season--which I think is crazy--he'll only be the starter for so long, either on account of his play, or because he'll get hurt. Mac Jones better be able to play, because if he can't, this team will go nowhere. I can't see Newton reacting well--that is, remaining a stable teammate--if he loses his job. I think he's delusional about his abilities and his "place" in the league. He's weak. You can always tell when someone is weak. He needs things to be going a certain way, needs to be talked about a certain way. Otherwise, he'll pout, he'll make his cryptic, passive aggressive comments on social media, which he's already started to do this season, posting about loyalty the other day.

Dennis Eckersley is the best in-game analyst a Boston sports team has ever had.

I find college football much more interesting, on the regular season level, than the NFL. The playoffs in the NFL are better. But I like the idea of a college campus in autumn, and the big game on a Saturday. I've always liked it. I like it in William Sloane's To Walk the Night, and that was college football in the 1930s. The falling leaves, the flask of whiskey, the burnt smell in the air, the alumni coming back, the kids who are at school out on their own for the first time funneling down to the game. I just dig that. I dig that spirit. I like the top twenty-five and your team finally cracking it at #24. I find that I dig it a bit more at present probably because I've spent so much time right outside of the football stadium at BC running the Higgins stairs. I'm sure an alum has never used a campus in quite the same way as I have, since the Monument closed, though I have not been there much of late, with what I've been doing at Government Center.

I've heard multiple Boston sports media people--who are dregs, just like almost all sports media people are dregs--speak with surprise that the Patriots' preseason camp has been lightly attended. How can you not understand this? There are many reasons. The Patriots were awful last year. Cam Newton is the quarterback. People didn't have vacations or day trips to the amusement park last year. They're making up for a lost summer. The Patriots have no stars, unless you want to count the coach, and no one would go to preseason camp to watch a coach. Tom Brady is gone. The Brady factor is why most people were there anyway. And the biggest reason, which no one will speak of: There are no Patriots fans. Not really.

There aren't many people into the team, the franchise. The football squad of this region. People don't have interests. They are not into anything. They like the surface of whatever is the going concern, which is determined by nothing more than what everyone else is into at the time, on the surface level. There's not passion, conviction, real interest. It's almost like being into something in the news cycle. So, for a lot of years, the supporters of the Patriots are, I'd say, eighty percent of people just going. "Whee!!!! Hooray for Tommy!!! We're number one!!!!" Take away "Tommy," take away the winning and the presumed winning--it was just as given that they'd win for so long--and people won't care.

There will be diehards. But how many people do you think root for the Patriots who could tell you who a Hall of Famer like John Hannah was? Best lineman in NFL history, and ninety percent of Patriots people will have no clue who he is. If you're a fan of a team, you know that team, that history, the players. People aren't like that. People don't know shit, and they don't truly care about shit. They don't care about anything in life. Not really. This is no different. Take away Brady, take away the news cycle type of buzz, and people just go to whatever else that they also don't really care about. I'll go one step further--the only people who have any interest, or lingering interest, truly, in anything, are almost always people sixty and over.

Tony Esposito died the other day. He's one of my favorite all-time goalies, and you could make an argument that he was the best goaltender of the 1970s. Most people will say Dryden, but then again, look at the squad Dryden played behind--and the defensive corps he had in front of him. Esposito was better than Dryden in the 1972 Summit Series. He played an exciting, acrobatic style, but was also a pioneer of the butterfly. His rookie year is surely the best a goalie has ever had, and it may be the best that anyone has ever had in that sport. I would like to acquire a graded version of his rookie card someday--it is on my list. Here he is in action against the Boston Bruins in 1974. Its' the complete game, with Fred Cusick on the call. Bobby Orr sends Tony's brother Phil in on on a breakaway seconds into the contest.


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