Borg & McEnroe, Not Exactly Chums

DATELINE: Clash of the KooKoo Birds

great acting

Telling great sports rivalries has become a movie goldmine for Bobby and Billie as well as Bird and Magic. The latest sports film is called Borg Vs. McEnroe.

However, the two most unlikeable figures among elites are the pairing of John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg in 1980. If you don’t remember how it turned out, this movie’s suspense will be enhanced.

Essentially this is the story of two crazed competitors. Yes, we guessed that to compete at a high level you must be touched in the head. Indeed, these two may seem dissimilar, but both were “not quite right in the head,” according to the movie.

The Swede was often called Ice Borg or CyBorg, to indicate he was a robotic and inhuman creature. On the other hand, American John McEnroe comes across as Norman Bates in a McEn-psycho mode.

There really was no relationship between them outside the tennis court. They were not enemies, friends, or even friendly antagonists. They barely acknowledged the other in person.

Instead of showing us, the movie prologue states that the 1980 match changed both men. We never see that. Epilogue cards tell us they became best friends and even served as best man at the other’s wedding. We don’t see any of that.

As for the performances, they are uniformly brilliant. Shia Labeouf is perfect as McEnroe, and Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnasson is equal to the ice borg. They are riveting in the roles, and that makes the film well worth your time and investment.

 

 

Trump’s Great White Hope

DATELINE: Rocky & Jack Johnson

pardon us

We are always delighted to see movie history made, whether it’s an archeological dig looking for the lost set of Cecil B. DeMille’s silent Ten Commandments or joining Kenneth Anger looking for Hollywood dirt.

So, this week we had the spectacle of President Donald Trump giving a pardon to long-dead, champion black boxer Jack Johnson, a turn-of-the-century victim of racism. He was convicted of committing the Mann Act, taking a white woman across state lines for sexual purposes. It was the moral equivalent of taking a knee at an NFL football game.

No, Trump did not offer Colin Kaepernick a pardon. Wait a hundred years for that.

Sylvester Stallone has made it a personal cause to have Johnson exonerated with a presidential pardon. Barack Obama never did the trick, but Donald Trump was Johnny on the Spot, ready to offer a pardon when he heard Obama dropped the ball.

So, hungry for anything to keep the news off his soon to be pardoned family members Don, Jr., Ivanka, and Kushner, the often-labeled racist president invited Stallone to the White House for the big pardon.

Ken Burns who directed a 2004 documentary on Jack Johnson also was a no-show.

No one told Stallone or dumb-bell Trump that a pardon infers guilt. And those who accept pardons usually accept their guilty role. Oh, well, let’s not quibble.

We also thought it interesting that Trump is the Great White Hope to pardon black athletes when he wants to throw them out of the country for exercising free speech.

No, the man who made a career out of playing Jack Johnson, James Earl Jones, did not show up at the pardoning ceremony.

The star of the Great White Hope on Broadway and movies, was conspicuous by his absence.

Red Sox Owner Tom Werner & Bill Cosby

DATELINE:  #MeToo!

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Once again, the Boston sports media has fallen down on the job.

Over the past year or so, there have been ample opportunities to ask owner Tom Werner, the media expert of the Red Sox and co-owner of the largest share with John Henry, about his dubious association with Bill Cosby.

You might better remember Werner as the man who decided to fire Voice of the Red Sox for years, Don Orsillo, for no reason except trust in his own good judgment and disregard of fans.

Now it’s come back to us in the age of #MeTooism, that Tom Werner was one of the first great enablers of actor and sexual predator Bill Cosby as a Hollywood TV producer.

Werner was the producer of the Cosby series from 1984 to 1992, making both men rich and giving Werner the opportunity to buy the Red Sox in subsequent years.

Tom Werner is not to become confused with Werner von Braun, the space scientist. They are heavens apart.

No member the media has asked Tom about how he enabled Cosby. No member of the media has asked him for his opinion on all of the charges against his former star and pal of the series.

Unlike the previous owner named Tom (that’s Tom Yawkey, folks), Tom Werner had no problems with hiring black people and using them to profit. Tom Werner has been instrumental behind the name change of Yawkey Way in Boston near Fenway Park, with its racist connotations, to turn back the clock to the original name, Jersey Street.

But, we digress.

What did Tom Werner know and when did he know it about Bill Cosby? No one seems to have asked him the question. So, we will.

Tom, did you have any idea about all the women that Bill Cosby was accosting?

Cosby was the Harvey Weinstein of the Dark Ages in Hollywood. Werner was apparently the man behind the curtain in those dark ages. For years he helped Cosby become a success.

If there are any Red Sox fans who belong to #MeToo’s movement, they should be asking about Werner too.

 

 

Yawkey Way: One-Way Street in Boston

DATELINE:  The Way in Boston

Which way?

When you say the word “racism,” in Boston, you better smile, pardner.

Yes, the birds of a feather are in a snit over the name change on Jersey Street. It was once called Yawkey Way in honor of the Hall of Fame owner of the Boston Red Sox. He died in 1976, and the city of Boston, found it in its heart to name the little bypass in front of Fenway Park after its Southern gentleman, Tom, who tried to buy a World Series in the 1930s by hiring the best players. He failed.

The Colonel, as it were, in baseball, a game for white gentlemen, as it was once called.

Yes, right in Boston, you had an owner who was never truly part of Boston. He never showed up until after the season started and then sat in his high-above-field box like Nero.

He was instrumental in keeping the Red Sox lily white until Pumpsie Green showed up to sit on the bench for a few seasons. He was used as a pinch-runner most of the time. The Sox were the last team in the majors to sign a black man to play.

Race, if it was in the forefront of that Georgian peach, Yawkey’s mind, was never to advance civil rights of black people. He made Ty Cobb look progressive.

The Yawkey Way is not to be confused with the Patriot Way, under an owner who is the epitome of billionaires in Boston.

Uncle Tom Yawkey kept it white for as long as he could.

We have a memory of attending a Red Sox game in the early 1960s when the only black face we saw in the stands was Bill Russell of the champion Celtics. The Red Sox were never world champs under Yawkey.

When the game ended with another hideous Sox loss, I was behind Russell who was tall, silent, and dignified. Why was he there? Perhaps to see the second black Sox player,  pitcher Earl Wilson. That is lost to memory, but Russell was the tallest man leaving the box seats. No one spoke to him, and we walked out of the park—and he went in one direction and I, the other way on then Jersey Street.

Wilson was later traded several weeks after complaining about racism to the Boston media.

We saw Russell at several games over that year, while Yawkey sat high above, looking down. In those days, celebrities did not join Colonel Yawkey in his perch, certainly not a black man.

We think now Russell showed up to make a point: he loved baseball and hated racism. He was the only black face in the crowd.

Imagine: 30,000 seats filled with white fans, and one black man.

And now there is a hulla-baseballoo because Boston wants to dump Yawkey Way in a place where black players were jeered just last season by racial taunts. The present owners want to change the name of Yawkey Way back Jersey Street.

It’s still Yawkey Way, no matter what you call it.

 

The Haunting of Patriot Place

DATELINE: Your Worst Nightmare

haunted

The ghost of Malcolm Butler now walks the halls of Patriot Place. Forget the Overlook Hotel and its shining denizens. Foxboro will be a worthy subject for Stephen King.

Like unfriendly spirits, this Patriot specter may hang around for decades, frightening children and bringing back the horrors of Super Bowl LII.

Bad karma often is behind the haunting appearances of ghosts.  We recall in Boston that the ghost of Babe Ruth put a curse on the Red Sox for 80 years. We now wonder if the ghost of Malcolm Butler might do the same for the Patriots.

If you wonder why the Patriots never win another Super Bowl in the 21st century, you will be wise to remember that the Butler did it.

Like some benighted head of the Inquisition, Bill Belichick made his decisions to burn the defense at the stake during the Super Bowl. Heretics be damned, and leading the charge was the ingrate (in Swami Belichick’s eyes), the man who tried to jump ship before the season began: Malcolm Butler.

It was an unforgivable sin—and now Malcolm Butler has paid for it with his reputation. Oh, someone will give him a big payday—and perhaps he will fade into oblivion in some other football venue.

However, in Foxboro, his curse will be laid upon Tom Brady worse than broken mirrors and contempt for sports superstition.

The howls in the night and the bumps and bangs you hear are the restless spirits of players done dirt by Bill Belichick.

Though he may go into retirement, he will leave a haunted Patriot Place for Josh McDaniels, forcing him to call in ghostbusters and hold séances for the betterment of the Kraft legacy.

Move over, Shirley Jackson, Gillette Stadium is the new house on Haunted Hill.

Parcells & Belichick: Odd Couple

DATELINE: Two Bills & Lots of Sense

two bills

ESPN’s latest documentary is a look at the remarkable relationship of two NFL coaches who figure prominently in the conversation of greats.

Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick cannot merely be compared as winning NFL coaches. They actually have linked together and bonded in a variety of ways over 40 years.

To put them together at a table in the football Giants locker room and let them watch and listen to clips may actually be a device to give viewers fireworks, contradictions, and hostility. Nothing could be further from the actual event.

You may be surprised what a loud extrovert and a introspective quiet man have in common. They were never friends, but were always respectful colleagues—even at times when tense competition separated them.

What they do have in common is an irascible controlling attitude. It may boil down to the kind of relationship you’d expect between an elder brother and his over-achieving younger sibling. They were rivals, but under the skin shared too much to be anything but blood kin.

Parcells always regretted not being more diplomatic and less inclined to fly off the handle. On the other hand, Belichick admired the way his mentor could deal with the media and see the big picture.

It winds up being a mutual admiration society now that the days of fiery fights across the field have come to an end. They have played golf together and enjoyed dinner to reconcile their former differences after the Jets flare-up when Belichick declined to be drafted into a bad coaching situation, as the heir apparent to Parcells. A Greek chorus of football greats and witnesses to their flare-ups and cool-downs adds to the history lesson.

Owner Robert Kraft slips between them, owing to fancy editing by the director, and notes the complex troubles of managing difficult coaches. It’s business, not friendship. It’s living with a colleague for years and never socially.

The Two Bills is a fascinating portrait of hard-driven men doing what they love with people they grow to love.

 

 

 

 

 

New England Pats: Over & Out

 DATELINE: Time Beats Brady

 

 Patty Jett

It seemed to be the night the magic died.

Brady had gone to the well once too often.

Cue Roy Orbison: “It’s over.”

An ominous augur began the night when Malcolm Butler, one-time super hero of the big game, stood and cried on the sidelines during the national anthem. He was benched for the Super Bowl. His career with the Patriots was over.

There will be grandiose post-mortem analyses galore. The fact remained that the Patriots could not stop Philadelphia Eagles from shredding their defense up and down the field.

The underdog flew high as a mighty eagle.

Tom Brady was sacked in his prime time, with two minutes to go, and lost the ball. You might think he had the game in the bag. But, bags are heavier when you’re forty years old.

At least one questionable call, perhaps two, gave the Eagles touchdowns that might have been reversed during the season. Roger Goodell’s goons were reversing nothing this time.

And, so it ends with a whimper, with no duck boats, and with a cloudy meeting of Belichick, Brady, and Kraft on the horizon. Joint statements may be forthcoming, or perhaps nothing will be public.

Life may begin at forty, but it ends with losing the Super Bowl.

We will have to read the media reality shows.

As far as books on the Patriots season are concerned, few will want to re-live the Super Bow loser, though its political year was one of the most intriguing. Brady’s folly was Brady’s Foles.

Monkeys & Weasels in the NFL

DATELINE: Crying Over Spoiled Milk

brady mirror

Resting players in anticipation of playing big games in the future is a bit like counting your chickens before they’re hatched. The Pittsburgh Steelers plan to rest their most important players, which sounds like a bunch of chickens uncounted.

The Patriots plan to play their most important players, which sounds like a roundabout way of driving off a short pier.

Granted, the Steelers are playing the worst team in the NFL, which could have a bearing on driving off the infamous bridge. The Cleveland Browns are looking for a perfect season, one without any victories. But the Steelers plan is to make Cleveland work for it.

We admire any team that expects to achieve victory in the face of overwhelming defeat or playing with two left feet.

For the faded Browns and grounded Jets, the chance to win will be a hollow moral victory in a final regular season game. They would confound their opponents who are NFL nemeses, over and out.

The concept has been around for many years, called being Spoilers.

A loss by the Patriots might even cruel Fate’s fickle finger when two replays overturned two recent games into Patriot victories.

Injuries, possible to Gronk and Brady in the last game, would be even more extreme examples of fickle fate screwing the Patriots out of the Super Bowl. Playing their franchise stars may be risky business, but may also be the only business worth doing.

The Steelers don’t take that chance. The Patriots must take that chance.

All analysis may be wasted if the games are fixed, and fate shall play no hand in victory, no matter what you hope.

We will be watching overturned replays like a man on the flying trapeze, expecting the greatest of ease not to be a daring stunt.  Or we may be watching the monkey chasing the proverbial weasel. Indeed, that may be the best metaphor to describe the Steelers chasing the Patriots.

The Big Sneeze is upon us.

 

 

 

Catastrophe Averted in Pittsburgh by Pats

DATELINE:  New England Confounds Critics

brady mirror

Tom Brady proved he still has it.

Alas, the rest of the team does not, but Lady Luck proved to be fickle.

The Patriots started to look like losers early on.

You can start with bungled tackles, a missed point after, and an inability to stop Big Ben, as long as you finish with Fate kissing your Super Bowl rings.

It rained cats and dogs and the deluge seemed to leave Bill Belichick without an ark to his name. The Patriots looked like passengers on the Andrea Doria about to hit another ship of destiny off the coast of Cape Cod.

If you hate the Patriots, you saw come-uppance coming ‘round the bend. If you believe in superstitions, you saw how a broken mirror in the off-season has led to catastrophe. Then, it was the Steelers who lost Antonio Brown and seemed cursed by the man who owns the copyright to the Fountain of Youth.

If you hate the Patriots, you shouted, “Curses, foiled again!” as the boys of Deflategate and Spygate gave the Steelers the ultimate gate.

Earlier in the week Tom Brady posted a poem about the lonely tree in the Michigan forest that wanted to be more than kindling.

Tom broke the bough of the poetic holiday tree the week before Xmas.

We almost feel like Marley’s Ghost showed up at Tom’s bedside. He has seen the light of success. You might think of Jacob Marley at Christmas as some bad luck omen of the past come home to roost. He actually saves Tom Brady’s bacon.

Yes, the Patriots did the unthinkable and unbelievable by pulling their bacon out of the fire just in time to win another big one.

Destiny’s child may now be unstoppable and repetitive when the Super Bowl draws near Groundhog Day.

 

Jaylen Brown’s 3-D Vision

DATELINE: Celtics Find Clark Kent in Green Lantern

clark kent

Don the Goggles!  He doesn’t need a cape. And you can no longer spit in his eye.

Jaylen Brown may have had an eye infection from his contact lenses this week. However, his solution is not just sterilized: it’s made of plexiglass.

Yes, Jaylen has found his personality. He will henceforth wear goggles. This gives him an edge as an all-star and Celtics legend.

The man who wouldn’t be photographed in glasses will now appear in wrap-around goggles. Brown insists he can see better than ever. In fact, the goggles give him “3-D vision,” in his own words.

Heavens, and we thought all of us had 3-D vision, born with at least one superhuman quality.

This new asset of Jaylen may not be confused with X-ray vision or infra-red vision, or other superhero attributes.

Whatever, Jaylen played like Superman in his new regalia. If Kyrie can wear a clear mask, then Jaylen does one better than superstars of yore in basketball.

Yes, Brown has channeled his inner Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

In his new personae as The Celtics Green Lantern, it would seem that Brown may look more like Sponge Bob than Kareem. He may have more ability to see than Madame Acardi facing Blithe Spirit.

Whether the goggles give him a true extra set of eyes remains to be seen.

Move over, Clark Kent. The intellectual Brown now appears to be smarter than Smart and flashier than Beyonce.

Will the bespectacled Brown take the permanent role of superhero with the brown eyes under glass?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump, Moore Chased by Frankenstein Monster

 

Gronk & His $$$$

DATELINE:  Man & Myth

re-stolen jersey

Gronk Down for Count

Notable New England Patriot cheapskate Gronk will lose at least $280,000 if he is suspended for the next game. As you might guess, this is anathema to a man who never touches his salary and lives off his endorsement money.

Far worse, he is due for bonus money based on the number of catches and touchdowns. Losing a game means big bucks down the drain.  And yet, this may be the silver lining of a man who has now created a reputation for playing dirty.

Why suddenly did Gronk decide to pile drive a Buffalo Bill in front of his family and friends? They were all present to see the hometown boy and Bills fan of his youth.

Perhaps he thought it was in the tradition of being thrown onto tables during tailgate parties (a big, brainless tradition in Buffalo where friends throw a drunken nitwit onto a burning table to watch his back break).

So, as you might expect, Fiesta Gronk is making an appeal not to be suspended for pile-driving the man who intercepted the pass meant for Gronk. He put the Buffalo Bill 1 foot into the ground. The poor schmuck, number 27, now has a concussion. When King Kong steps on you, you are usually dead. He should count his blessings.

Whether Ebenezer Gronk will recover his money or will have to do more Dunkin’ Donuts commercials ad nauseum, only commissioner Godell and his Fair Play for Cuba Committee knows for sure.

Instead this gives ground got unpaid vacation, and it gives him time to prepare for the bigger game into weeks with the Steelers. We are sure smarter heads will tell Gronk to take the suspension.

Dare we say this to Gronk? It’s only money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mile High Has Enough Air for Patriots

 

DATELINE:  Like Peaches & Herb, Brady & Bennett Sing

Peaches & Herb

What used to give the Patriots the bends is now like air from a deflated football.

Denver used to send chills down the spine of their quarterback; now Tom Brady seems as home in the stadium as Peyton Manning where noise in the clouds hinders most.

With a convincing victory, it’s on to Mexico City where the air is half a mile thinner at 7000 feet. Thank you, Roger Goodell, for such a schedule. You deserve $50million per year and a private jet for life.

Now see if Jerry Jones has any intention of giving you anything more than the air out of a Tom Brady football.

The Pats seemed like their old selves in both defense and offense.

In terms of offense, despite the curse of the broken mirror, the more things change, the more it seems like last season. Why, bless our pointed heads, fans, but there on the field was Martellus Bennett, the original black unicorn.

Though facing surgery in Frost Bite Falls with the Packers and embroiled in legal issues, he was able to catch several Brady passes for great yardage, giving Gronk all he wanted for Christmas.

Von Miller, vaunted Denver defender, might exchange Instagram challenges with Tom Brady, as they did this week, but when push comes to shove, millennial photos on social media are not enough to sack Brady.

In terms of the dangerous seat next to Brady on the bench, vacant often this season since the disappearance of Julian Edelman, like the kidnapping of a Getty grandson, it found a new occupant.

Fearless of curses, and familiar as an old shoe, Brian Hoyer thought nothing of sitting next to Brady while the Denver offense sputtered on the field with their former great Manning replacement having returned to no avail and little consequence.

When it comes to homecoming reunions, no one does it better than the Patriots and Marty Bennett.

On to the deflated atmosphere of earthquaking Mexico City.

 

 

 

A Conspiracy of Dunces in the NFL

 DATELINE:  NFL Collusion

3some

Word is now seeping out, as it does like swamp gas, that certain owners of the NFL have received subpoenas for their records of email and phone logs that pertain to conspiracy to defraud a player of his rights.

It seems the lawyers of Colin Kaepernick are charging them with collusion to keep the kneeling QB out of the league. The NFLPA, the union of the players, is trying to stay far away from this radioactive leak.

Why do we think the name of Donald Trump will be invoked sooner than later?  He demanded that players like Kaepernick be “fired” for daring to express their political opinion. By that standard, Trump should have been impeached months ago.

The blowhard President can’t keep his mouth shut about anything remotely not of his jurisprudence, whether it comes to football players protesting police brutality—or keeping mum about a soldier who was charged with desertion or a terrorist who killed innocent people on a bike path.

The nitwit President Pinocchio fails to realize that his words jeopardize justice.  And soon, Kaepernick’s attorney will make mincemeat of the NFL Kollege of Kollusion.

The American public, or at least those with minimal understanding of the US Constitution, will want lynch-mob justice—at the behest of their caped crusader in the White House.

Make no mistake:  Robert Kraft of the Patriots, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Bob McNair of the Texans are ripe Trump followers. Their subpoenaed documents will provide better laughs than you might find at a Grand Jury on Russian subterfuge.

That likely means they are ripe for the picking by a shrewd lawyer with the Bill of Rights on his side.

We may soon know what the conversations among billionaire owners of the plantation and their president encompassed. We know it will not raise the level of discourse, nor prove that bright minds are the richest fat cats in the country.

So, we have NFL owners against black players—and a president touting white privilege. When did we lose America? The answer is forthcoming.

 

 

 

 

Patriots Go to Hurricane Ravaged Tampa

DATELINE: Ill Winds in Tampa

off off-season

Thursday night in Tampa, the Patriots will lick their wounds and try to make former thug Jameswhatsis Winston pay for his past sins as a serial woman abuser. We doubt the defense is up to the job as morality police.

In the meantime, the Pats may want to visit one of the local hoosegows. It seems Jonas Gray, their one-game phenom of 2014, spent some time there recently for failing to pay for his child support.

Gray, the standup comic who failed to make Bill Belichick laugh, had one great game—and was benched for arrogance before Belichick, in his infinite wisdom, cast him adrift.

Gray became invisible and fell into disrepute faster than you can spell Kolin Kaepernick korrectly.

In the meantime, the Pats took off from Rhode Island for the land where a hurricane named Irma (or was it Harvey?) tested Trump’s ability to help white people survive a disaster.

We learned through special snooping that Tom Brady had a reserved seat in the front row of the new private Patriot jet. It’s the row with the most legroom. Yes, the seats on JetKraft are numbered with the player number. #12 is actually #1.

We did our crack work, but not on crack, to learn that the man sitting next to Tom was fellow captain and sweetheart of a moral goodness, Matthew Slater. Matthew has not played much this season, owing to injury, but he is keeping Julian Edelman’s seat warm.

Owners and coaches are in what would be considered first-class, where Kraft also has a bedroom where he can sleep well after berating his friend,  President and Lord of the Flies, Donald Trump.

In the meantime, the Pats have escaped Dodge City in Foxboro where their team is under siege. It now seems the NFLPA has called the new fake sod at Gillette “borderline actionable.” Talk about fake news.

We wonder if new turf will await the Pats during the Thanksgiving game when they conduct their world tour of disaster areas: Mexico City, earthquake central, is their next hot spot on the road.

Fences: Trite Metaphor Aside

DATELINE:  Denzel Directs

denzel & viola

Viola Davis & Denzel Washington: Superb Performances

Denzel Washington’s double duty in the movie version of August Wilson’s play Fences pays overtime.

Playing against heroic type, he comes across in the early scenes as an affable trash collector named Troy Maxson, living in Pittsburgh in the 1950s. His demeanor seemingly hides a disappointed life, as his great talent as a baseball player was over before desegregation of the major baseball leagues.

As a result, he is deeply bitter that his life did not conjoin with the times. Though he seems to take the losses in life well, with easy banter with his wife, brilliant Viola Davis, we begin to see there is far more below the surface.

His family bristles under his demand for respect, compensating for what he feels is missing as his due from society.

He has spent time in prison and has sons by different women, though his younger son with Rose (Viola Davis) also wants to play football in college, which he irrationally refuses to allow.

His friend Bono (Stephen Henderson) witnesses the behavior helpless, until he too gives up on the missing humanity in his friend.

Under Washington’s direction, the film seems bigger, but he does it with a narrow play-like focus to reveal what a heel, misunderstood, Troy truly is.

When, ultimately. he betrays his long-suffering wife, Viola Davis is able to provide a powerhouse performance.

Perhaps he is a victim of harsh social conditions, especially racism in baseball, but what he demands of his family may be cause for true alienation, though they bear with him.

Thoughtful, well-acted films are usually from the 1950s when socially-conscious dramas were common. This film is set back then and matches the quality of old-fashioned movie-making.