First off, I hope everyone is having a safe, healthy, and happy holiday.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
This final 2020 effort is somewhat of a potpourri of opinions.
Something like the leftovers many folks are enjoying for post-Christmas meals during this festive time.
Usually, there are columns devoted to the things writers hope to see in the New Year. They normally deal with teams and players viewed through a crystal ball of predictions or wishes.
I am not going there this year.
All I wish, is what you all wish.
A much better year in every way shape and form.
No need to go into detail.
We start with one of the most frequently used terms for the bad football teams finishing their seasons.
It is also one of the most ridiculous and false statements made.
How often have you heard about a team “tanking to lose a game?”
It usually refers to a team at the bottom of the pile that wants to lose a game so they receive a better draft pick. It’s about getting the number one choice. The pick of the litter. The future superstar who will turn the franchise around.
Well, if a coach wants to bench his regulars and send a message that his team won’t compete, he can do just that.
What does that say about the coach? Or the club’s ownership that is making the call to hope to lose a game.
Sometimes it’s better to let the chips fall where they may.
But I can say this, after watching all sports for over 60 years.
There is not one player on any team that goes out and intentionally gives less than a full effort. Not one player who is thinking draft choice over winning a game.
I’ll let you in on a secret. Players do not care about draft picks.
If a player gives less on the field it will be on tape that every team in the league will see. It is the player who will suffer. May not get another job.
When athletes start to play sports as kids, they want to play well and be on the winning team. That never changes up through the ranks.
So, when commentators talk of team’s “tanking” or trying not to win, it shows a total ignorance of sports, and probably indicates they never payed themselves.
Last weekend, when Jacksonville was blown out by Chicago, unknowing “experts” likely nodded their heads in figuring the Jaguars were delighted in losing and thus, securing the top pick in the draft.
It’s almost certain to be Trevor Lawrence, the super-talented Clemson quarterback. The Jags desperately need a quarterback. Lawrence can be that franchise QB they’ve been waiting for.
But don’t tell that to head coach Doug Marrone, who likely will be ousted when the season ends. Or backup a quarterback Mike Glennon who once played for the Bears, and is a true professional.
Those two, and all the Jaguars who suited up, wanted to beat the Bears badly.
If you don’t believe this, you are either cynical, or don’t believe reality.
Ask any NFL player. He’ll set you straight.
You may not know who Len Kasper is.
He’s a broadcaster who has been known locally as the TV voice of the
Chicago Cubs for 15 seasons.
Kasper is a low-key, conversational, non-star, who is one of the best in his profession.
Chicago sports fans, who are among the most knowledgeable in the country, have relied on his easy-going, savvy commentary for a long while.
Kasper doesn’t over-talk. He only speaks when there is something worthwhile to say. When he opens his mouth, it counts.
Len Kasper has made a career change.
Yes, he still will broadcast baseball, but the 49-year old, is switching from the north-side Cubs to the south-side White Sox.
And he’s moving from television to radio.
Who would ever make the change from the glamorous and higher-paying medium of TV, to radio?
Len Kasper would, and has done it.
I understand. And many people will as well.
You see, Kasper realizes that baseball is best presented on radio.
Those who have grown up with a million graphics flashed on the screen, and boxes indicating the strike zone, and all the gimmicks that television has used to clutter up the game, have missed out on the simplicity that made baseball our national pastime, which it is no longer.
There is no turning back to the advances in technology which appeal to whatever youngsters are watching baseball today.
But for those who grew up with the sound of their favorite local broadcasters creating pictures in the minds of the listeners, with their descriptive choice of words, there was nothing better.
This is where you might say your writer is living in the past and not the present, and you might be right in some respects.
But that’s what you get when you read this column.
I’m not living in the past, but when some aspects of the sporting life were special back in the day, you’ll read it here.
So, no surprise at what Len Kasper has decided to do.
A quick thought on the college football playoffs.
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish are the new boys on the block.
I know this has been an unusual year in sports, especially in college football, where the playing field has been anything but level.
Maybe they should consider expanding the number of teams in the playoffs. I don’t know if that would help.
But it always seems to be Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and somebody, dueling for the national championship.
Perhaps they are the best every year.
Whatever, I’m getting bored with this scenario.
Just one man’s opinion.
Lastly, I have to admit I’m getting weary of paying tribute to yet another member of the great Boston Celtics dynasty who has passed from the scene.
There have been too many who have left us in a short period of time.
John Havlicek died on April 25th, Tom Heinsohn on November 9th, now KC Jones passed Christmas Day.
KC was a great player with the. Celtics in the 1950’s and 60’s.
He won 11 championships (eight as a player, one as an assistant coach and two as a head coach).
He is one of three NBA layers with an 8-0 record in the NBA Finals.
Justin Fields, Lawrence, Najee Harris
And the Hall of Famer is the only African-American coach other than Bill Russell to have won multiple NBA titles.
Jones and Russell captured back-to-back NCAA championships at the University of San Francisco. He played in the backcourt while Russell was the dominant center.
I knew Jones well, during my coverage of the NBA during the 1980’s, when he coached Boston to the crown in 1984 and 1986.
To me, he was a classy, decent, gentleman, who was a better person than a coach.
But let me quote two ex-Celtics who defined the man better than I could ever.
Bob Cousy, his teammate on so many of those title teams said, “I just didn’t see how a man who shot as poorly as KC could stay in the NBA.
I really didn’t think his other skills would be enough to keep him around.
But I was wrong. The man turned out to be amazing on defense and eventually learned to score enough so that rival teams couldn’t afford not to guard him”.
Larry Bird, who played for Jones, summed him up this way.
“KC Jones was the nicest human being I ever met in my life. He was a gracious man, not just to his players, but to all.”
On that note, Happy New Year.