In the wake of integrity’s apparent death, there comes the light and darkness, the alpha and the omega and two stories of immeasurably important comparison. Firstly, amateurism does not extol greatness, as money will always be a draw for sustainability. Even great projects, like the well known Livestrong, only produce results based on remuneration.
To clarify, professional sports is not dead toward love of the game, as the NFL Draft loves to illuminate, but I had a "Sports Night" moment at a very young level, that of my niece. I remember the several minutes of watching the show, a show that I desired to imbibe visually, alas I did not.
But what stuck with me was Josh Charles arguing for a highlight of a batter digging in the box. The inner focus of a hitter can be seen on their countenance if you look for it, and this was a moment I was able to witness recently in observing one of my nieces play softball.
As to not end the story in a negative fashion, here comes the contrast first. A friend of mine reminded me of the San Diego Chargers stickum incident of 2012, which netted a fine of $20,000, one the Chargers appealed. So how can a substance that has been illegal since 1981 constitute a meager fine and very little coverage in the ethos of media? Quite simply, they didn’t break rules.
The Chargers used towels for grip, and when they were prompted to turn them over, the staff member, apparently, was not spiffy in his handing off to the officials, hence the fine. Further perusal thereafter led to a review from the Competition Committee, which proclaimed that any “adhesive substances” used on game day were not permitted.
Furthermore, Gorilla Gold stated their product was utilized, not stickum. That it was prevalent does not excuse illegal actions, same as with the Patriots, but the main difference is the illegality. Rule changes were implemented or reinterpreted, or so I am deducing, from the Chargers long-used towel. New England attempted to circumvent the rules, and even if it was not egregious, it was a broken rule nevertheless.
And for giggles, San Diego did have that fine overturned, and while the Competition Committee fallout says the towel cannot be used any longer, the situation still differs from New England, albeit they share an apparent roguish behavior to not comply with authorities. Moreover, the grippers were provided to the officials once the staffer became aware, per the Bolts.
So as the team from Massachusetts had backdoor resolution talks with the NFL regarding the deflation scandal (Watergate was a hotel, so the “Deflategate” moniker makes no sense.), this before Owner Robert Kraft rightly said he would take the penalties, although understandably begrudgingly, I return to innocence -- partly. Reminders of what we were in sport, but do so amongst commercialized trips and games. Even softball goes where the dirt fields used to be to now canvas lovely, manicured grass or turf.
Furthermore, precocious is sort of like genius in its overuse not to mention its definition, but my 9-year-old niece fits this. Her vocabulary rivals that of a teenager, and many years prior even spelling words was moot, while trying to spell the inverse confuses the speller as much as the recipient of the intended word. In other words, she has an attention to detail.
I am well versed with her focus in person, yet it is nothing like while playing softball. She is right-handed, so from the right side of the plate (from the perspective of the mound), I saw her front-on. She stands level-footed, even-keeled with her weight distribution, head faced to the hurler. The bat waggles front to back, almost baton-like. She is stunningly relaxed, confident and prepared. There are no distractions to her, only her settled demeanor, yet sans an overzealous Dustin Pedroia-esque intensity.
But it is not all in the look, because the execution is just as astounding. She digs in, slightly on her back right foot, her left foot comes slightly up to time her hack and a level swing cuts through with a slight uppercut, a la Ken Griffey, Jr. In this encounter, it split the shortstop and third basewoman, so a slight pull into the gap. But it launched high and would have been a hit in a major league ballpark, even if it were a single. It went well back to the wall, with a velocity that would impress Stephen Strasburg. It wound up being a triple.
It is at these moments I am reminded of Jennie Finch and her effort to get a woman’s softball league together, one that failed in the same manner as many of the women’s soccer leagues. Title IX’s intentions were to ensure women’s sports were an option, but has undermined a number of male sports as a result, so it is in need of a tweaking, but it is at the forefront here. I would hate to see such talent lost at the behest of nowhere to harness it.
It is almost like a reverse prison, something patently familiar to the Patriots.
Richard A. Rampello is the author of the column Musings of Maestro R.