A holiday weekend worth of independent thinking for your post-Fourth consumption:

• If one more person asks whether the Boston Red Sox should be “buyers or sellers” before Major League Baseball’s trading deadline, I’m going to buy one of those swimming pool floats that looks like an oversized pipe cleaner and sell it across the back of their head.

Yes, it has been a brutal, at times unwatchable first half of the season. Correct, only eight teams have a winning percentage worse than the Red Sox’s uninspiring .448 clip heading into Sunday’s season finale against Baltimore. And absolutely, we all remember the 2012 selling spree that waved the white flag but set the table for a 2013 to remember.

We live in a time when you can dismantle, reassemble and dismantle again, all in the space of 23 months, and nobody even blinks. But it’s also an era when nobody’s out of it. The Sox are eight games behind in the American League East and nine back in the wild card standings. By either means of comparison, it’s closer than the 10½-game disparity that prevailed on August 15, 2004.

You remember what happened after that, right? If the merry band of idiots didn’t demonstrate the fine line between selling (buh-bye, Nomar) and buying (how do you spell Mientkiewicz?), nobody and nothing ever will.

Obviously the reigning champions have underachieved since April. Clearly there are cavernous holes in the lineup. Relying on walk-off hits from the likes of Jonathan Herrera isn’t the recipe for a repeat. Are you really scared of any team that’s currently lined up ahead of the Sox, though? Pitching is still plentiful, if erratic, and the division is suddenly one of the weakest in baseball.

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I don’t want to mortgage one iota of the talent that is so plentiful in the minor-league system right now. So the right answer to the buy-or-sell question is neither. Let’s hang on to what we’ve got and try to make a run.

• Oxford Plains Speedway’s decision to move its race program from non-traditional Fridays back to ingrained Saturdays beginning in August was brutally overdue. Crowds at the historic short track have been abysmal the past two summers, even by the decreased standards of the economically strapped past decade.

Putting the weekly program on Friday evening was done partially out of convenience for a new management team and partially with the idea of carving out a unique niche in a region where three other tracks within a two-hour radius compete on summer Saturdays.

The problem is that we Mainers don’t embrace unique. We are set in our ways. Our comfort zone is keeping things the way they’ve always been, and with the exception of 3½ seasons in a 65-year history, OPS has opened the gates on Saturday nights.

Stability, or a lack of it, is what has alienated the vast majority of spectators and drivers who used to frequent the track. Both current owner Tom Mayberry and previous boss Bill Ryan have made dramatic changes to the division structure at the speedway since 2006.

In each case, the changes were the right thing economically and logically for the man in charge. The intended consequence, however, was leaving a gaggle of cars obsolete and making other drivers question the wisdom of building a vehicle that might be obsolete in a year or two.

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While there is no such thing as a dramatic mid-season schedule change that doesn’t reek of desperation, I believe the return to Saturdays was the right move, and perhaps the only one that Mayberry could make. Now everything needs to stay put. Race dates. Rulebooks. Track officials. Ride this out on the shoulders of the status quo.

OPS was hemorrhaging money and goodwill before Mayberry bought the place. Making sure all his constituents know what they’re getting and when they’re getting it is the only way to win them back, one at a time.

• If you’re one of those people who spends most of his time muttering that professional sports aren’t what they used to be, I can safely bet that you don’t watch men’s professional tennis.

Sunday’s Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer was a thing of beauty. That Djokovic came along at the end of the same generation as Federer and Rafael Nadal — arguably two of the top five players ever to swing a racket — and already is up to seven Grand Slam titles and counting says it all.

The only thing better in athletics than greatness is two or three entities being simultaneously transcendent. I think of the 1980s Celtics and Lakers, or San Francisco, Dallas and Washington combining for 10 Super Bowl titles in 15 years.

Tennis doesn’t get much attention, but if you’re ignoring it right now, you’re missing a collective level of play that may never be seen again.

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• The 95th Maine Amateur golf tournament begins Tuesday at the Woodlands Club in Falmouth.

Ninety-five. Let that sink in for a minute. Think of all the sporting events that have come and gone over the years. Add up the number of Oxford 250s, Lobster Bowls and Beach to Beacon road races that have been contested and they still fall shy of that benchmark by close to two dozen.

It’s also a unique event in its ability to attract a diverse field of competitors. Yes, the field will be teeming with teenage talent, all grooming itself for some type of future career in the sport. But there are also teachers, salesmen, accountants and retirees in the field, many of whom took full advantage of a stress-filled, one-day opportunity to qualify for the showcase.

Thunder clouds permitting, it should be a fun 54 holes. Can’t wait.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.


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