Valentines for Valentine

5 Dec

Despite many good reasons for reducing my attention to sports to a minimum, apparently the damage has already been done and I (for the unforeseeable future) will continue to follow baseball in all its many shapes and forms—the majors, college and highs school, Caribbean and, of course, my son Pudge’s(Cuba) career. Though to the tell the truth, I find watching my son play ball to be the most satisfying entertainment.

Cuba "Pudge" Birnbaum Copy right 2011 Robert Birnbaum


Now one of the telling symptoms of the sports disease is (besides the obvious one of attending football games in December, bare chested and painted in team colors) is reading about sports—both the contests and the attendant gossip. In Boston , which undeservedly purports to have a superior coterie of sports commentators (I am at a loss to think of any who qualifies after the redoubtable George Kimball and the pre TV pundit Bob Ryan) I have found a bland collection — ranging from nasty to suck up sports media. For example, if as it is now claimed, the Red Sox were a rudderless dinghy moving into playoff crunch time, why did we only learn of this state of affairs after Tito Franco was unceremoniously (and nastily) trashed at the end of the regular season? The beat guys are were either sucking up the brewskis and chicken wings in the press room, or as I think is more the case afraid of alienating the Lords of Red Sox Nation(the only writer in Boston who dared to poke fun at John Henry and the construction of his $40 million Brookline San Simeon was the Globe’s Alex Beam)

Anyway , the recent hiring of Bobby Valentine as the next ex manager of the Los Sox Rojos found me searching for creditable commentary on Bobby V and his enthronement. Which I found by Philadelphia’s Bill Conlin:

MY FUNNY Valentine” is one of the great standards of our rich popular-music culture. The timeless Rodgers and Hart classic has been performed by every major artist, vocally by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Eckstine – even actress Michelle Pfeiffer crooned it in “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” But its real staying power and endless musical possibilities have been interpreted by just about every jazz great from boppers Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan to smooth-jazz star Chris Botti . . .

“My Funny Valentine” ceased to be funny to the rest of the American League East yesterday when the Boston Red Sox segued from the final dysfunctional season of unfocused manager Terry Francona to the brilliant baseball mind and firm hand of Bobby Valentine…

Pudge Birnbaum Copyright 2011 Robert Birnbaum


In fact,I was so enchanted by Conlin’s prose style and non sports references that I went in search of other of his scribblings.
His column mocking claims by various people about what they would have done in the (alleged) Sandusky shower episode also included a riotous censure of Penn State apparatchiks that did not disappoint:

…Could the Trustees’ handling and timing of the firings have been botched more badly? I’m surprised they didn’t pull up to the Paterno home in a stretch limo with opaqued windows and hand him a blindfold and cigarette. But these guys didn’t even have the guts to whack him in person. Instead, they sent a messenger to deliver a note with a phone number on it for Paterno to call, then two Trustees informing, “You are relieved of your duties.” Maybe they feared a college football Libya, with Paterno, surrounded by loyalists, refusing to surrender the football palace

Conlin(to his credit) makes mention of the infamous Kitty Genovese case( in which allegedly 38 bystanders viewed Ms Genovese being stabbed to death and did nothing.)although the facts of that incident have been distorted in the various retellings.

So, if like me you still read about sports (about as silly as reading about dance, unless its Arlene Croce), Bill Conlin is worth a gander and more

Pudge Copyright 2011 Robert Birnbaum

Currently reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (Everyman Library)

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