There are rare times in the sports calendar when a friendly, neighborhood columnist might be hard-pressed to come up with a compelling topic.
October is not one of those dry spells. Between the baseball playoffs, college and pro football, the meat of high school’s fall season and NBA and NHL’s too-early starts, the major issue is choosing one idea to chew on.
Or two. Or three. Let’s narrow it down the best we can and see what trouble we can get ourselves into this second Monday of Sportstober:
— I’ve led the Fire John Farrell campaign since before many bought a ticket for the bandwagon. Those convictions stand after the manner in which the Red Sox backed into the American League East title and then played gopher ball bingo with the Astros in Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series.
As with personnel turnover in any sport, however, be it within the front office or on the field, I believe the organization needs to have a specific upgrade in mind. Otherwise, it’s pointless.
Boston clearly had no such aim when it dumped Terry Francona in the aftermath of Poultrygate, then dug through the rat droppings in baseball’s great recycling bin to unearth Bobby Valentine. That unmitigated disaster was why ownership refinanced the farm to pluck Farrell in the first place.
It isn’t bad enough that Tito has resurrected the Indians. Torey Lovullo’s quick success in Arizona has only further rubbed in the painful truth that the Sox let the wrong guy get away again.
Lovullo earned the right to have that interim tag removed when he filled in for an ailing Farrell and led the Sox from deep in the cellar to … well, almost out of the cellar. Boston kept its incumbent manager because taking away a job due to cancer would have been the ultimate public relations disaster, even if it were truly due to non-performance. Unfortunately sports is a cruel world. It was the right baseball move and nobody had the guts to make it.
— Ten days off were the best thing that could have happened to the New England Patriots.
For all the pink-hat panic, hand-wringing and hurling of objects at the TV, The House Belichick and Brady Built is 3-2 in a pitiful division. Regardless of Nick Folk’s failures (didn’t we see that movie a few times when he was with the Jets?) or other intervening circumstances, the Pats won a road game against a playoff contender on three days’ rest.
It is the classic spot where New England has won time after time after beautiful time when everyone from national pundits to its fickle fan base predicted the impending breakup of the band.
Yes, there are holes to be filled. Either the offensive line needs to solve its protection problems, pronto, or 40-year-old Tom Brady won’t be capable of standing in the pocket when he’s 41. Brady has to find a safety valve to fill the void of Julian Edelman, who filled the void of Wes Welker before him. Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan aren’t it. And I must see much more before I’ll ever conclude that Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore, exciting players as they may have been elsewhere, are not horrible fits.
But if you think they’re a lost cause in a league where even the elite teams perennially have fatal flaws and are one or two key losses away from instant mediocrity, you haven’t been paying attention for the past 17 years.
— Love my new home and the insanely good quality of athletics that are played at my city’s high school. Of course I would be lying, though, if I said I didn’t follow schoolboy football in my old neck of the woods as fervently as ever.
So excited to see Edward Little, Leavitt and Lisbon at a combined 18-0 with two weeks remaining in the regular season. It means people in the tri-county region are seeing great football, and it ensures that my old friends and colleagues in the Sun Journal newsroom have exciting stories to tell.
I’m especially happy for coach Dave Sterling and everybody associated with the Red Eddies. EL – like longtime rivals Lewiston and Oxford Hills – had the fish-out-of-water or deer-in-the-headlights look for the first few seasons after realignment returned them to a league loaded with Greater Portland teams.
Instead of crying about the change, the Eddies went to work twice as hard, took their lumps and stayed true to the belief that iron sharpens iron. No doubt the schedule will get tougher as EL prepares to take everyone’s best shot in the inevitable playoff rematches, but it’s terrific to know that Walton Field is a Friday night destination once again.
Also pleased that Mike Hathaway, his 22 assistant coaches and the Hornets have returned to a rightful place of tormenting teams their own size, and that Chris Kates is keeping the Greyhounds at the lofty heights we’d all come to expect in Dick Mynahan’s three decades of impeccable leadership.
Me? Well, I get to watch a team that has scored a touchdown on 23 of its past 28 possessions, flaunts an offensive lineman who has a scholarship offer from almost every school in the SEC, and just won its conference championship for the 10th time in 11 years.
High school football is an American institution, one that thrives all across the fruited plain despite fear-mongering attempts to promote its demise. Amen.
Kalle Oakes was a 27-year veteran of the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic, His email is [email protected]