November 20, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: News of the week has people talking
by Dave Long

Here are some thoughts on news stories that got my attention this week.

News Item: To Show Sensitivity to the Fans, Red Sox Won’t Raise Ticket Prices

The Red Sox announced they’re freezing their ticket prices for 2009 at 2008 levels, because, and I quote Larry Lucchino here, “at a time when our fans may be feeling some kind of economic adversity, we should show some sensitivity.” Pardon me for sounding like a grumpy old fan, but Larry, cut the PR spin, would you, please? This ownership group has done a great job since taking over and is a model for what you want in an owner. But this was trying to get something extra out of a sober business decision and not something for loyal fans amid the economic downturn. Not that I’m saying they should, as no one is twisting anyone’s arm to go, but if they wanted to help fans they’d have lowered prices, not kept them the same. Here’s why they really did it. Their best chance for a better bottom line in ’09 lies in keeping it static. If prices go up amid the carnage of the Wall Street mess, it most likely would’ve accelerated the season ticket cancellations and/or downgrades to partial packages they are sure to face. And that would mean, even though prices were higher, less gross revenue from ticket sales and it might put the sellout streak in jeopardy as well.  

There were many blog entries following a story about it in the Boston Globe; here’s one from a Bob Lit: “On the surface it gives the team some nice PR, but please don’t assume we are all that stupid. The Red Sox can charge what ever they want for tickets. That is their right. But if you believe that their multimillionaire owners are concerned about whether the fans can afford tickets then you must also believe that picking Sarah Palin was a stroke of genius by John McCain.”

The moral is that sometimes saying what you did is better than trying to get credit for more than it actually is, because the only way to blow the well-earned trust the brass has with The Nation is with transparent PR ploys like this that were so common during the last regime.

News Item: Lightning Strikes Melrose Just 16 Games into Comeback

Apparently somebody in the Tampa Bay front office made a pretty large boo-boo last summer in hiring ESPN analyst Barry Melrose as head coach after he was away from the bench for more than a decade. It’s not unprecedented, as Dick Vermeil was gone for longer than that and won a Super Bowl with the Rams in 1999. But you’ve got to mess up pretty badly to get fired 16 games into a three-year deal. That or they exercised a ridiculously itchy trigger finger after a slow start. But given that they tied the Monarchs’ parent in L.A. for least points in the NHL last year, that would be hard to justify. Since I haven’t followed the NHL since Mark Messier magically led the Rangers to the Cup in 1994 after being turned off by the Bruins’ spending just enough to make the playoffs for years to keep the suckers coming back, I’m not really qualified to say which it is. But I can put it in perspective. During his 20-year reign of terror before Joe Torre came aboard, when George Steinbrenner hired and fired managers as often as deli workers change plastic gloves, only twice did he do it 16 games into a season or less. So either Melrose was really a disaster or whoever hired him should be getting a vacation too.

New Item: Tampa Bay Gambles Tocchet Can Turn Things Around

But that’s really not the biggest story in this. It’s naming Rick (tick) Tocchet to replace Merlrose. I am all ears to hear from anyone who can explain to me how in the name of Andy Bathgate NHL Commissioner Gary (you want to make a) Bettman could allow anyone who has pleaded guilty to running an illegal BOOKMAKING operation anywhere near an NHL bench. Are you kidding me? I have nothing against regular folks betting on games legally or even legalizing it all together. But, even though there was no tampering with the outcome, knowing that the outcome is on the up and up is the most important aspect of any relationship a sports league has with its fans. So it’s incredible they let Tocchet back in hockey in any job, let alone as a head coach. If he’s willing to break the law to run such a ring, that’s one step away from using inside info to set lines, or maybe even fix games if needed. It’s like letting Richard Nixon come back to be president after the Watergate cover-up. Wasn’t Shoeless Joe Jackson available? Some say Tocchet paid his debt and deserves a chance to earn a living. I say he knew what the rules were from the beginning and if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. I mean even though he hit .324 and played errorless ball in the 1919 Black Sox World Series, Buck Weaver got life from Commissioner Landis because he knew it was happening and didn’t tell anyone. So, sorry, some crimes deserve a life sentence and being involved in illegal gambling as coach or player is one of those crimes.

News Item: Deciding Games in Sudden- Death Overtime

The Jets won by the rules fair and square. And the Patriots are the ones who couldn’t stop them on the opening drive of OT. But seeing a great game decided when one team doesn’t even get to touch the ball in overtime because it lost the COIN flip reflects a really bad rule. The NFL should amend the overtime rule to let both teams touch the ball once in OT before it ends.

News Item: Pats on Outside Looking in on AFC Playoff Picture

With 10 wins and no losses Tennessee looks like they’re in already. The Jets and Steelers lead the East and North Divisions at 7-3, while 6-4 Denver somehow leads out West despite having scored 23 fewer points then they’d allowed. In the wild card race, the Colts, Ravens, Dolphins and Patriots are all 6-4 and Buffalo could be too if they beat Cleveland after I filed this story. If it ended today, Indy and Baltimore are in on tie-breakers, with Indy’s being their head-to-head win over the Pats, which they let slip right through their fingers. All of which makes Sunday’s match-up with Miami HUGE. A loss drops them a game back of the Dolphins, which, with the tie-breaker it also gives them, essentially means they’re two games back of the rampaging fish who’ve won four in a row.

So the bottom line is they have to win in Miami on Sunday or else.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations

11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
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02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
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01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat