Hippo Manchester
October 20, 2005

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Longshots: Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe

By Dave Long

I got a renewed appreciation for the great Lou Gehrig this past weekend. The Iron Horse is one of my all-time favorites, in part because he once played in a phenomenal 2,130 consecutive games. Even as I first began reading about him sometime during the Kennedy administration, that streak made a big impression on me. It told me he understood that his job was to show up to work every day and play, no matter what. That’s always stuck with me as the element I respect most in a player. It’s why I appreciate the Patriots, as they battle through an avalanche of injuries, and why Cal Ripken was the most special guy of his era. (Even though I have no idea what number his remarkable streak finally stopped at.)

My appreciation for those folks was renewed while spending a big weekend laid-up at home after spraining my knee, while sleeping, on Wednesday night. Yes, I said sleeping. It caused me to miss Matt Bonner at the V on Friday, watching UNH annihilate Rhode Island in the rain on Saturday and the Monarchs home opener later in the day. And believe it or not, I felt guilty for not playing hurt by going to those games with my knee the size of King Kong’s head. The glass-half-full side is, I saw the fabulous Notre Dame-Southern Cal game start to finish, as well as the Ms and Cs on TV. Plus, I had an endless series of random thoughts, some of which are below.

Not sure where it rests on John Tucker’s list, but that ND-USC classic is the most exciting regular season game in my experience since Flutie went deep to Gerard Phelan. But, while Miami was the defending national champ, it was not a monumental game outside of the Heisman vote, since the Canes already had four losses. Thus, since SC had the big winning streak on the line, it’s my best regular season game since number-one Nebraska knocked off number-two Oklahoma 35-31 on Thanksgiving 1971.

The way they kept counter punching brought to mind what so many miss about greatness. Talent is overrated in the equation. I’m not saying it’s not important but heart and resolve are what set truly great teams like Southern Cal and the Patriots apart from the pack.

The latest local example? On the brink, Central, depleted by the graduation of some major stars, showed a champion’s heart by slogging through the rain to knock off Nashua North and keep their playoff hopes alive on Friday.

That’s why, in the sports sense, I hate stat guru Bill James. His theories are over-valued because you can’t judge heart, brains and instinct with numbers. The numbers get into pop culture and become “conventional wisdom” among those with a mentality to follow and automatically just buy it. And then robotic, no-imagination managers rely on them as be-all and end-all conventional baseball wisdom, as they’ve done with the LaRussa Pitching Manual to manage in the final three innings.

On the other side is my new favorite manager Ozzie Guillen. Last week he thumbed his nose at conventional wisdom in favor of actual common sense to let in-command-of-the-game pitchers finish what they started. And most amazing is, neither of those guys had his arm fall off after throwing a complete game.

And speaking of that, do you think, after watching the White Sox and Astros in the playoffs, it’s fully kicked in yet on Yawkey Way that, to paraphrase James Carville, “it’s all about the pitching stupid?”

And, one more thing — if talent is so important, how come LaRussa’s won just one World Series in 20 years when he’s had the best talent five or six times, including 2005?

How does Ricky Santos (for president) go a near-perfect 12 for 13 during the Johnstown floods in Durham on Saturday? His quarterback rating was 149.2, whatever that means. And one more last thing, does anyone else know he has his own “player card” on ESPN.com?

With a war going on, do you think sports reporters should refrain from using any form of the word “hero” in describing players? The latest was NBC’s Tom Hammond calling Brady Quinn “heroic in defeat for Notre Dame” and Kevin Gray tabbing Bonner a “hometown hero” in a Union Leader story. Great kid, wonderful story, nice to see and, yes, a lyrical alliteration — but they’re not heroes and all of us who write should desist from saying they are. (Unless, of course, you’re describing what Nomar did. Then feel free.)

And, finally, did the Monarchs broadcast coming out of the V on Saturday look a bit on the dark side? I’m not sure if it’s the lighting in the building or WMUR’s broadcast but it was something. The only other thing it could be is my TV. It’s the same one I saw Flutie make the heave to Phelan in Miami,which means it’s probably older than Naoko Funayama, who was sideline reporting during the game.

Maybe it’s time to get a new one. As soon as I’m off the DL.