July 2, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: Declaring independence of how others play the game
by Dave Long

I was watching The Patriot with Mel Gibson on TV Sunday night and my mind drifted to wondering what it must have been like at the time of the Revolutionary War. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s a fictional story inspired by the real-life Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, who kept General Cornwallis and the British at bay in South Carolina during the Revolution.

With the Fourth of July on tap this week it’s a good time to think about those days, though for many, I’m afraid, it’s become nothing more than a three-day weekend for ball games and barbecues and not for reflection on what those people had to give up to fight. I wonder, for instance, how harmonious the lead-up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence was. Did a “We’re all in this together” spirit prevail? Or was it just the majority ruled in the Sharks-and-Jets bickering way of today, where each side hears the racket coming from the others but doesn’t listen to what’s being said? In that world, Paul Revere’s effort to tell all the British were coming would have been second-guessed by the opposition as being slower than David Ortiz going from first to third.

Of course the real story often depends on who it comes from today. In our history books the original GW and the rest of the boys are heroes. But to Cornwallis the founding fathers were traitors and the Swamp Fox was a terrorist. And if they were around then, god only knows what Rush and the Fox News Channel would have been calling people who wanted to make change in the colonies by breaking away from Britain. I suspect the nicest would have been “liberals and far left loons.” 

It’s one of the things sports has in common with politics — there is a lot of yakking about every thing you do. But it’s distinctly different as well, where in sports there are my-way-or-the-highway bosses, like Bill Parcells, who rule like a king — you don’t like it? see you later, pal — which can work great for a football team. Of course, after the owners acted like omnipotent rulers for the first 60 years of baseball it led to the Players Association being formed in the 1960s, with one of its founding fathers being  Republican Kentucky Senator and then righty fireballer Jim Bunning. That eventually also led to a revolt by the minions via several strikes and 40 years of acrimony.

I don’t mind dissent. It would be pretty boring if everyone agreed and it’s an important part of our democratic system. But how it’s done is another story, in that it’s often used as a tactic to make the other side look bad, while being masked as political convictions. That passes for democratic dissent today, which I don’t think is good. Nor is selectively taking individual mistakes to paint misleading impressions of a job someone is doing.  

Take Theo Epstein for instance. If you look just at his mistakes you can make him look pretty bad if you don’t bother to find out the entire story. Like the 2004 title was actually a combination job where Dan Duquette doesn’t get the credit he deserves for putting key pieces like Manny, Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek and Pedro on that team. And while he correctly let Pedro and Derek Lowe walk after that season, out-of-shape David Wells was Pedro’s replacement and he gave big money to a perennial .500 pitcher in Matt Clement. He also released current AL home run leader Carlos Pena at the end of 2006, who’s hit 100 homers since, including 46 in 2007. That seems like a whopper to me. 

Then in the winter of 2007 he spent over $200 million on three players. Not quite what the heavily criticized Yankees did this off season, but similar. Julio Lugo is a flat-out bust. JD Drew isn’t a bust, but with him on pace for his third straight 130ish game and 68 RBI season, Theo spent twice as much on him as he should. And then there is Dice-K. This year’s struggle aside, you can make a solid case his $10 million salary is the going rate for a guy who’s won 34 games in two seasons. But when you throw in the $50 million posting fee paid to get his rights, he becomes a $100 million pitcher — which he certainly is not.

The point isn’t to hammer Theo for his mistakes. It’s that everyone makes them and the ones who bring them up most often in a political democracy these days are opponents looking to obscure what really counts — the bottom line. Which for Theo is he did what no one had done the 86 previous in Boston by winning twice in five years. And with a bulging farm system, he has them in position to win this year and in the foreseeable future. That’s darn good and something to think about when someone is ranting and raving about one mistake and not the total picture. 

That’s the problem with a democracy: it isn’t easy. Even when you’re trying to do the right thing it seems there is always someone on the other side. As Abe Lincoln once said, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Take the reaction to the Manchester School Board’s decision to introduce pay-to-play for extracurricular activities. It was done to keep sports like hockey, wrestling and skiing from being dropped — which is a good thing for more than the kids and parents involved. That made some happy and outraged some others, like the woman who asked on the Union Leader blog, “What’s going to be next, $25 for math class?” Of course, someone else suggested it was a good tax because the one paying out is the person using the service. Both have a point — but what tends to often get lost in the passion of the moment is that the (volunteer) board was trying to do something good. And even if you don’t agree with it, it wouldn’t hurt to appreciate how much all put into their non-paying job.

So that’s what I’m going to think of when I wonder about the greatness of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the others from the early days. I’ll listen to those on the other side, if they do the same. I’ll appreciate how much people put in at home and in the wars abroad to make the democracy work. And I’ll fight the impulse to finger-point, to honor all that has been done to lay the ground for the great country we live in.

In other words I’m going to try and not take it all for granted — like most of us do.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics

6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 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
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
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
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
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