The seasons never end
And 44 years ago the chaotic Yankees era was in full swing
Good morning, all. I hope your week is off to a great start.
Our sports seasons never end. It used to be, baseball was over by the second week of October and college and pro football didn’t start until mid-September and were over by early January. Basketball and hockey lasted from late October to early May. Like an Aaron Judge home run, those days are long gone.
What particularly amazes me is when a season finally ends, it never ends. (Sorry, Yogi.) There have already been mock 2023 drafts for the NFL and NBA. The pundits throw bouquets at the NFL for never ending its season, what with the combine, free agency, spring camps and other events stuffed into the “off season.” By mid-July, it’s back to camps, exhibition, exuse me, preseason games, and then the season. And did I mention the USFL? With all this football, however, from where I sit, the NFL has nothing on the NBA.
Think about it. The NBA finals ended in mid-June and it has been all-NBA ever since. There was the draft, free agency signing period, the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, the “3” league, featuring three-on-three basketball, etc. If you are a hoops junkie, your fix can be filled everyday, what with the coverage these basketball events get on ESPN, CBS and NBA-TV. Then there are the countless NBA newsletters, many which use the platform on which this newsletter is published, Substack.
You have college football and basketball, with social media accounts, spilling out content everyday. The masters of this communication turn a 12-game college football season or 30-game college basketball season into year ‘round news even if there is no news to report.
It used to be baseball was the king of the “Hot Stove League,” driving talk of the game, once the season ended and the snow flakes started to fall. Baseball now places a distant third, when it comes to generating content in the world of seasons that never end.
I suppose the consumers of these sports, of which I am one, can choose to take a break from the never-ending season, but be assured the never-ending season will never attempt to break from the consumer. All sports TV networks, 24-hour sports talk radio, websites, social media platforms, etc., need content. There are tickets to be sold, programming slots to be filled and ads to be peddled. For a brief month or two, a sport’s games may end, but the season never does.
Never forget the chaos
The New York Yankees extraordiary record (64-28) and 13-game lead over second place Tampa Bay is evidence of the smooth-running season it has been so far, despite an occasional blip on the radar screen. I bring this up only because there are some Yankees fans who wish for the chaotic days of the George Steinbrenner-owned Yankees; who wish that his son, Hal, who runs the club now, would not be so reasonable. Well consider this.
Forty-four years ago today, Yankees fans awoke to the news Reggie Jackson had been suspended five games for defying manager Billy Martin’s sign to bunt in the ninth inning in of a game that the Yankees lost to Kansas City in extra innings. Falling quickly out of the AL East race, the defending World Champions embarked on a road trip to Minnesota, Chicago and Kansas City, 14 games behind the first place Red Sox. But the Yanks went on a five-game win streak, pulling to within 10 of Boston, as Jackson returned. Martin, feeling Jackson was not contrite enough, launched his famous, verbal, airport salvo about Jackson and Steinbrenner to two reporters: “One is a born liar the other a convicted one.” Billy was a goner.
As Sunday turned into Monday in Kansas City, Martin either had to resign the only job he ever wanted or be fired. He chose resignation. By week’s end, he would be rehired as Yankees manager.
If your head isn’t spinning after that, then you don’t remember that chaotic segment of Yankees history. They may have won titles, as they eventually did in 1978, but the whirlwind regime of George Steinbrenner is one conveniently swept under the rug by the segment, longing for its return.
Whalers and Dodgers
This weekend at Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the Hartford Yard Goats held their annual Whalers’ Alumni Weekend. Each season, the AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies invites former Whalers to the ballpark to honor them and recall those halycon days of the NHL franchise. Chuck Kaiton, the “Voice of the Whalers,” returns from North Carolina, where he moved with the franchise in 1997, to help organize the event. This year, Kaiton and 13 Whalers signed autographs and threw out the first pitch before a Yard Goats game. Per usual, the event was a smashing success.
When Kaiton joined the “Voice of the Yard Goats” Jeff Dooley and me in the broadcast booth Saturday night, we marveled how the intense interest in the Whalers continues in the region, even though the franchise moved 25 years ago. When I asked Kaiton if the Whalers were the NHL’s Brooklyn Dodgers, he called that a fair comparison.
All-Star to football
MLB holds its annual All-Star game tonight. As much as the game receives big time hype, it doesn’t compare to All-Star games of yore, when the American and National Leagues played the game for keeps. Yes, each league will play to win, but “back in the day,” it was not out of the ordinary for the game’s starting pitcher to hurl three innings or longer. Some starters would play the entire game.
Multi-million dollar player contracts have ended that approach. Heck, in some cases, the big contracts have led certain players to withdraw from the game “because of injury” and take the three-day break. If it wasn’t for FOX Sports and the revenue MLB receives from the network, the All-Star game might go the way of the complete game by a starting pitcher. It’s impact was already diminished by interleague play. It is why baseball has dressed it up in recent years with the Future’s Game on Saturday and Home Run Derby and televised batting practice the day before the game. MLB even added the amateur draft this season.
It is all about the hype and money, money, money. The original concept behind the All-Star game’s creation disappeared in the last century. That said, if you watch or listen to the game - and I may take a peak - enjoy, as the plethora of college and pro football stories, already numerous, are about to increase ten-fold, a reminder that despite the current heat wave, the cool days of autumn are not far off.
That is it for this week’s letter. As always, thank you for subscribing and have a safe and healthy week.