We’re not many Sundays away from wall-to-wall football, glory be. In the meantime, let’s play a little Monday morning quarterback, survey the defense, and read and react to a handful of pressing subjects:

• We are obsessed with labels such as “best ever” and “greatest of all-time” in this era of immediate gratification, but clearly Michael Phelps fits alone under any such umbrella.

Rather than compare apples to oranges (or swimmers to sluggers or shooters), I prefer to think in terms of relative excellence. Is there any other sports endeavor in which the gap between best and second-best is wider than Phelps and other practitioners of his craft? Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky in their primes spring to mind.

Any of the other people on a mythical Mount Win-More have someone else who occupies space within their rarefied air. Brady/Manning/Montana/Unitas. Woods/Nicklaus. Ruth/Aaron.

I hope you spent some time enjoying the swimming competition at the past four Olympics, because it was a one-of-a-kind show.

On a related note, America may not have its crap together in areas too numerous to count, but we certainly have swimming and women’s gymnastics figured out. Holy domination, Batman.


• The pink-hatters who want the Red Sox to sign closer-without-a-country Jonathan Papelbon are the same ones who wanted the Patriots to ink the overly concussed Wes Welker when 31 other teams didn’t want him a year ago.

They probably also would love for the Celtics to take a flier on Paul Pierce or Ray Allen if the opportunity arose. Three or four years from now they’ll want to reacquire a broken-down Jacoby Ellsbury.

Living in the past is what Boston sports fans do best. Well, other than posting the scores of exhibition football games on social media as if they mean anything.

• High school sports start tomorrow in Maine with extended or two-a-day practices for almost every fall activity.

By comparison, I now live and cover sports in a state where football exhibition games were played this past Friday night, and regular-season contests commence next Friday. Every sport enjoys a longer schedule.

It makes me wonder why Maine tries to squeeze everything into such a tight window. With leaves on the ground any minute now, and a fair-to-middling chance of snow blanketing the landscape at least once before Halloween, why not take advantage of the good weather?


The answer, I think, is that Maine errs on the side of protecting the kids. That’s fine, but I also think it’s a short walk to overprotection from there. I’d argue that the perils of obesity and overstimulation with electronics are worse than any perceived danger from an extended season.

In any case, have fun, stay hydrated, be well and enjoy the experience.

• Belated congratulations to Ben True on becoming the first American (and first native Maine-uh, to boot) to win the TD Beach to Beacon 10-kilometer road race.

Cynical sportswriter types would be quick to slap an asterisk next to True’s triumph, since it came in a year when many of the elite distance runners were in Rio, resting up for the Olympic track and field competition. That would be brutally unfair to True, who has been knocking on the door of this victory for years, even when the best-of-the-best converged upon Cape Betty.

This is yet another reminder that of all the sports contested in geographically challenged Maine, running is the one with the most level playing field compared to the rest of the planet. From Joan Benoit to True to Riley Masters, the tradition is unparalleled. It makes sense. You can train for it year-round, and you don’t need any special equipment or teammates except the voice in your head, pushing you to greatness every day.

• I remain shocked and saddened by the sudden death of one of my longtime partners-in-crime, Kevin Mills.


It’s a loss for local sports, but more importantly a painful blow to the world in general, because Kevin was more introspective and well-rounded than the average sports guy. He saw the beauty in the world around him. I rarely saw him without a smile on a face, and often it took the form of a smirk as he prepared to unleash a smart-alecky comeback on one of his countless friends.

Kevin also was a voice for people who didn’t have one before he arrived in this profession. If you look at his award-winning stories over the years, they are a testament to that diversity and the depth and breadth of his own character.

I’m a person of faith, but there are things I fail to understand, and Millsy being taken from the world in such an untimely manner is near the top of my list right now. Rest easy, man.

Kalle Oakes was a Sun Journal sportswriter for 27 years. He now covers high school and college sports in Kentucky. You may reach him by email at kaloakes1972@yahoo.com.

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