LONGSHOTS: A few questions for the sports gods
by Dave Long
We are in what I call the dead zone. The winter college seasons are done and while baseball is here, besides opening day I donít get hot and bothered about baseball until itís hot and Iím bothered by the heat. The regular season is closing in a rather (to be kind) ho-hum winter big-league sports season, where neither the Bruins or and Celtics are going to the playoffs. And the high school spring season hasnít started yet.
So what the heck is there to write about? There is the annual Monarchs-in-the-playoffs story, but weíll do that next week as they get under way. So, all thatís left with the annual lull is to send a few burning questions the way of the sports gods since they now have a little extra time to ponder them.
1. Why donít they play the Super Bowl on a Saturday night? They play Saturday-night games all through the playoffs, so why not? Since there are two weeks between the NFC and AFC championship games itís not a hardship on the players (not that the league cares about that). It would make it better for the people who go to the game, because they could leave on Sunday and be back at work on Monday. The TV audience would be immensely grateful because theyíd have all day Sunday to recover instead of going to work sleepy-eyed on Monday. Itís the same for kids who should be in bed when the fourth quarter now arrives. Itíd even be good for sponsors as you could buy the products advertised in the game on Sunday. So tell me why playing on Saturday doesnít make more sense.
2. Why is fighting good in hockey and bad in basketball, where a sucker punch gets you a 15-game suspension in the NBA? There is no better example of Paul Simonís ďone manís ceiling is another manís floor.Ē We know David Stern abhors fighting and will not tolerate it in the NBA. Just ask Carmelo Anthony. That feeling was ratcheted up several notches by that fight in Detroit a couple of years back when the Pacers were duking it out with the paying customers. Hockey fans, on the other hand, love fighting and donít want it put on ice. And those who run the game are like Colonel Jessup when it came to the practice of giving a code red in A Few Good Men. They speak the company line about not wanting it in hockey, but I suspect they think itís an important ingredient to winning. Plus they know the fans love it. If you donít agree just listen to the buzz of the crowd when a fight breaks out at a Monarchs game. They say itís OK, even though the two involved would be on their way to the pokey if it happened 100 yards to the west out on Elm Street.
3. What was the best boys high school basketball team in state history? Hopefully you fellows can come to a consensus because I asked about 10 different people who can go way back on local basketball and got 10 different answers. Stan Spirou says it was the Portsmouth in the í60s with Thorpe Webber. Another said Bishop Bradley from earlier that decade that won 59 in a row. Frankie Harlan says Concord in the late í50s, and another said that wasnít even the best Concord team. For him it was Matt Bonner and company, who won three straight, with three guys who went on to Division I. Central when it won 46 straight and two titles with Tyler Roche and Joe Fremeau? Trinity with Danny Duval, Peter (life of) Reilly and Andy Paul, that won two in the í70s? Iím not sure, so I could use a little help on this one.
4. If Babe Ruth were playing today, would any team have the guts to let him be a starting pitcher and a DH when he didnít pitch? If he hadnít been switched to the outfield heíd have been a 300-game winner. Donít think so? He already had 89 wins by the time he became a full-time outfielder at 24. An even more amazing statement about how good a pitcher he was came a full 10 years after heíd stopped pitching, when he threw a complete game victory for the Yanks in 1930. And then did it again in 1933 when he was 38! Moving to the outfield made sense because the public loved the homers and by playing every day he sold more tickets. But with different rules today, doesnít it make sense to let him pitch every fifth day and DH as many of the rest as possible? That way youíd get 300 wins AND 714 home runs.
5. Why does baseball start so early? Early starts mean more tickets to sell even if temperatures in the low 40s, like there were for the F-Catsí delayed opener on Saturday, are bad for fans and players. Once upon a time baseball started in mid-April. It wasnít perfect, but it beat starting on April Foolís Day. For me, Iíll see you in May.
6. If you could have one do-over of a play that injured a sports great, which would you take back? Iím guessing the most recent one of Barbaro going down in the Preakness gets heavy consideration. Lou Gehrig? It wasnít an injury per se, as it was an ultimately fatal illness, but it did end his great career. Bobby Orr? What might have happened if he hadnít gotten the first knee injury? Did compensating for it lead to the others? What about the weird hip injury that ended both careers of Bo Jackson? Although if youíre taking back one football injury would it be Bo, or the even more electrifying Gale Sayers? Then again you might want to save someone pain like when Lawrence Taylor shattered Joe Theismannís leg on Monday Night Football. Of course if thatís the case, then as much as weíd love to see an injury-free Orr or Sayers play longer than they were able, Iím hoping you take back the one that so completely changed the life of Darryl Stingley in a flash on that horrible night in Oakland all those years ago.
Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).