Mark Starr

Stories by Mark Starr

  • Starr Gazing: A Few of My Favorite Basketball Things

    After experiencing the dreary exhibition of American basketball in Athens this summer, I realized that I desperately needed a sabbatical from the NBA.I was raised on the great Boston Celtics dynasty of the Bill Russell era, and NBA basketball had long been part of my lifeblood. But like many a middle-aged grump, I had soured on the game for all those fundamental reasons I and so many of my colleagues have expressed ad nauseum.The Olympic flop was just a breaking point. You may have heard my profession's famous creed: "No cheering in the press box." Well there's no booing either. So in Athens I found myself struggling to keep silent, containing the rants--"move without the ball," "play some defense," "get out on the shooter," "could you just pass the ball"--that had become habitual back home when I watched the NBA.So I decided a little abstinence was in order. Admittedly my new TV regimen was abetted by the sensational distractions provided here in Boston by first the Red Sox and...
  • STEROID MOMENTS: BASH THY BROTHER

    The most surprising thing about the revelations in Jose Canseco's new book "Juiced" is how unsurprising they really are. In the wake of leaks of federal grand-jury testimony from superstars Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds, baseball fans have finally woken up to the epidemic of steroids in the sport.What the book does deliver is titillation. Canseco not only celebrates his own rampant steroid use, but he names names, superstars with whom he claims to have shared a steroid moment or two. The most notable is Mark McGwire, the record-setting slugger and Canseco's former "Bash Brother" with Oakland. Canseco writes that "steroids made Mark much bigger and much stronger... they made him feel more confident and more comfortable with his own body."McGwire and the other players named in the book have all denied using steroids, let alone having needlepoint sessions with Jose. And the response of Major League Baseball can be summed up: consider the source. Canseco has always hungered for the...
  • NOW, A SEASON ON ICE

    The National Hockey League has long been regarded as this country's "fourth" major professional sports league. But in recent years, with its dwindling fan base and minuscule TV ratings, the NHL has been flirting with minor-league status. Now its very survival appears to be at stake.Last week, after one final effort by the league and its players union failed to forge a new contract agreement, the NHL announced it was canceling the remnants of its 2004-05 season, thus becoming the first North American professional league ever to scrub an entire season. "This is a sad, regrettable day which all of us wish could have been avoided," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.In the end, that sentiment was about the only thing on which there was real accord. The players union had never really bought the league's fundamental negotiating premise--that NHL teams had lost more than $225 million last year and almost $2 billion during the past decade. And indeed it was hard to fathom as the league...
  • FAST CHAT: SIGNATURE 'SPACEMAN'

    The Boston Red Sox start spring training this week, and former Sox hurler Bill (Spaceman) Lee says he can still throw. But Lee, 58, will be confined to pitching his new book, "Have Glove, Will Travel." He talked to NEWSWEEK's Mark Starr.In reading your memoirs, it's hard to say you missed baseball's drug era, but--I was so juiced up--with Butazone and all those blood-thinning agents and painkillers--that while I could pitch in the American League, I couldn't have run the Kentucky Derby.Still, the game wasn't tainted by steroids.I don't look at that as tainted. After all, Ponce de Leon came ashore here looking for the Fountain of Youth.Don't you at least sympathize with the pitchers?I said in 1978 that the designated hitter would be the death of pitching. In our day your best athletes were your pitchers. Now your good athletes won't become pitchers 'cause people like to swing the bat.Were you excited about the Sox winning the series?Ballplayers aren't like fans. Our loyalties hang...
  • OLYMPICS: PARIS, BEWARE: 'WE HAVE MOMENTUM'

    New York City, once a long shot in the race to host the 2012 Olympics, is now a serious contender. Two factors: the sophistication of the city's presentation to European sports leaders in Dubrovnik in December, and a charm offensive by NYC2012's top brass. Bid-committee boss Daniel Doctoroff has rounded the globe, courting--with considerable success, insiders say--International Olympic Committee delegates. "I sense we have momentum," he says. In July, the IOC will choose among New York, Paris, London, Madrid and Moscow.Next week, with the visit of the IOC evaluation commission, New York moves from the "tell me" to the critical "show me" stage. It needs to boost the low "technical" assessment its original plan received. NYC2012 hopes revisions in the athletes' village (fewer high-rises), transportation scheme (buses, not boats or trains, for athletes) and competition venues (more clusters) have addressed IOC concerns. It hoped to already have full approval for the $1.7 billion...
  • Starr Gazing: Canseco the Clown

    However, if that's too cryptic or polite for you, let me translate: Canseco is a giant slime ball who would say anything to milk his baseball career for one more giant paycheck. How low would he go? Well, he's the kind of guy who doesn't kiss and still tells. In his new book (which will go nameless out of respect for the written word), he insists he never slept with his pal Madonna because "I just wasn't that into her ... not really my type"--a backhanded insult he passes off as honesty.Nobody disputes that Jose has a major credibility problem. This is a man, after all, who believes that racism and conspiracy put an end to his baseball career when absolutely everybody else knows he squandered his own prodigious talents with lackluster training and a dissolute lifestyle. None of this would concern us if Canseco hadn't stepped up to the plate and become the first ballplayer to name names--outing those with whom he claims to have shared a steroids moment or two. And they are big names...
  • Starr Gazing: Boston, Philly Fans Agree: Pats Win

    Sorry, Philly fans, not even close. You don't have to be an MIT whiz kid to recognize the vast difference between the year 1960, the last time the Eagles won an NFL championship, and the prehistoric 1918 of Red Sox glory. The latter date is 15 years before the NFL was even born, a yesteryear of Woodrow Wilson and--if you can imagine this--an abiding faith in Washington that we could fight a war to make the world safe for democracy. If that isn't enough to distinguish it from modernity, suffice to say that I, a man still a midrange putt short of his dotage, watched the 1960 Eagles victory--and in living color if not HD.Moreover, three straight Eagles shortfalls in the NFC Championship Game, two of them not even close contests, simply doesn't measure up on the scale of sports pathos. It doesn't come close to matching the Red Sox's historic ability to race to the very brink of success before transforming it, in some unimaginable fashion, into cursed failure. If there exists an NFL...
  • Starr Gazing: Boston's Latest Legend

    Actually, I haven't a clue what he told him. He might have noted the frigid weather, told him to tuck in his shirttail or perhaps inquired about Jamie Foxx's prospects for the Academy Award. Belichick's and the team's collective reticence assures that we will never know the exact verbal exchange. All we do know is that a few seconds later the Pats proceeded to stuff Bettis, forcing him to cough up the ball. On the very next play, Tom Brady threw a 60-yard touchdown bomb and New England was headed to the Super Bowl.The word "genius" has been tossed around the NFL far too often in describing the game of X's and O's that is modern pro football. Nevertheless, there is a sense around the league--and increasingly among its astute fans--that Belichick is simply operating on a different level than his rivals. Success has, of course, always been the principal determinant of such lofty sentiments. And Belichick certainly has that going for him. If his Pats capture their third Lombardi trophy...
  • Starr Gazing: The Belichick Solution

    But I remain a creature of the '60s, and JFK's siren call to public service and sacrifice still resonates in my soul. So I am prepared, with this transparently brilliant suggestion, to surrender a shot at perhaps the greatest thing known to man, or at least a certain kind of feckless American man of which I am a prime example: the NFL dynasty!Mr. President, I urge you to pluck from our midst here in Boston the greatest Patriot of them all, Bill Belichick, and to appoint him head of our troubled Los Angeles CTU, that Counter-Terrorism Unit portrayed on Fox's hit show "24." I believe that our other great patriot, Jack Bauer, is far more of a team player than he now appears. He's just never had a decent game plan to follow, forcing him into desperate improvisation with decidedly mixed results (drug addiction, torture, murder, suicide mission). Rodney Harrison, the veteran New England Patriots safety, said Belichick's scheme against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts was the most...
  • Starr Gazing: Manning Rules

    Manning not only warranted his second straight MVP award but, at just 28 years of age and after only seven years in the league, would deserve entry into the Hall of Fame even if he retired after this season. He is as fine a pure passer as I've ever witnessed in a distinguished career as a couch potato, one that spans every quarterback this side of Otto Graham.That being said, Manning's record-shattering year--not only the 49 touchdown passes, but the stratospheric quarterback rating--deserves an asterisk almost as prominent as the one that should punctuate Barry Bonds's name in the baseball annals. When the NFL competition committee--with Colts team president Bill Polian a prominent member--chose to neuter defensive backs by changing the rules on pass defense, or at least the enforcement of those rules, the numbers of NFL quarterbacks across the board soared. It's hardly a coincidence that Manning was only one of about 10 NFL starting QBs--including Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb...
  • Starr Gazing: Bring Back the Traditional College-Bowl Format

    With its rout of Oklahoma, USC not only settled what figured to be a contentious debate over the nation's No. 1 ranking, but made it clear that, were they playing again this NFL wild-card weekend, they'd be giving points to all four NFC playoff teams.It's hard not to be happy for a coach, Pete Carroll, who was dismissed by my hometown New England Patriots for, essentially, being too nice a guy. (That's another mistake, his successor, Bill Belichick, has not made.) Still, I kind of lost the thread of the Orange Bowl contest somewhere in the post-Ashlee Simpson hours, though I'm pretty sure Mickey Mouse eventually rushed for more than 100 yards against the Sooners' nothing-but-gaps defense.I've never been an advocate of a college playoff system. I don't like the idea of extending the season any closer to NFL length and keeping those "student athletes" out of the classroom any longer than they already are. Make it a four-team playoff and there will, inevitably, be a fifth team that...
  • Starr Gazing: The Year in Sports

    My editors at NEWSWEEK prefer their writers to be forward thinking. So even with this year-end ritual of looking back at the past year in sports, I did some looking ahead as well. And I can assure you, saving you decades of anxiety, that when I sit down to write the top stories of the 21st century, this year's topper will remain No. 1. That's because I can't even imagine a more extraordinary sports fairy tale than the 2004 Boston Red Sox.I considered making the BoSox numbers one through 10 for 2004--Red Sox Nation, Boston win rare Super Bowl-Series double, Epic Yankee Choke, Who's Your Papi, A-Rod Wears Goat Horns, etc.--but chose to spare you that. Let that notion serve as a reminder, though, that these lists are personal, about as definitive as the Bowl Championship Series rankings. (OK, maybe a little more definitive.)It was an extraordinary year in sports, both for good and bad. Lance Armstrong topped my 2003 list when he won his fifth straight Tour de France and dropped to...
  • ADVANTAGE: BIG TALENT

    When Donald Young was just 10 years old and a ball boy at a seniors tennis tourney, he had a chance to hit a few rallies with John McEnroe. Afterward, impressed by the kid's stunning array of shots, the tennis legend said, "He has hands like another lefty I know very well." Over the past five years, Young has evoked comparisons not only to McEnroe but to most every American star of recent vintage. "I played with Pete Sampras when he was the same age and it's comparable," says Eliot Teltscher, director of tennis operations for the U.S. Tennis Association. "Within three years he should start to do some real damage."The American tennis establishment can't wait. With the sport's appeal on the wane here, it needs the boost that a new, homegrown star can deliver. Moreover, the hope is that Young, an African-American, might attract a new audience, as the Williams sisters did for the women's game. At 14, Young officially turned pro. The unusual decision provoked much criticism in tennis...
  • Q&A: PAUL HAMM

    Paul Hamm won the gold medal twice in the same year--first in Athens with the greatest comeback in gymnastics history, then, two months later, over Korean protests at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He looks back with Mark Starr.How do you feel as your crazy year ends? ...
  • Starr Gazing: An All Too Kobe Christmas

    On Christmas afternoon, ABC will air a special episode of its hit series "Lost." Only this one will star the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, two teams desperately trying to find their way off an island of their own making. It is the teams' first rematch since they crashed into each other so ignominiously--in the now infamous "basketbrawl"--last month in Detroit, delivering a body blow to a league struggling with its image and reputation.And that's only the tease. Right afterward comes the main event: the Miami Heat versus the L.A. Lakers. That's the NBA's version of Oprah: sure it's a basketball game, but it's about relationships, too. If you can't show "It's a Wonderful Life" all day long, what could evoke more Christmas spirit than Shaq versus Kobe, a modern parable about two rich and famous men who hate each other and can't stop talking about it. All you really need to make this NBA Christmas complete would be Latrell Sprewell in a Santa suit spewing the C word at women...
  • TACKLING THE PROS: PLAY HARDBALL

    You don't have to hit Major League Baseball or its Players Association over the head with a bat for them to take baseball's drug problems seriously. No, it requires somebody on steroids to bash them over the head a couple of times really hard before they'll think about doing something. Maybe.Those blows have now been struck. First came the San Francisco Chronicle's account of federal-grand-jury testimony by two of baseball's biggest superstars. Jason Giambi confessed to using an expansive regimen of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and Barry Bonds may have used steroids, too--though, he insisted, he didn't know what he was taking. Then Sen. John McCain threatened to legislate drug testing if baseball didn't quickly improve its act. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig responded by welcoming a federal initiative, and last week even the players union showed signs of buckling, saying it might agree to tougher testing before next season.Weak leadership coupled with the union's obstructionism...
  • Starr Gazing: Baseball's Unsentimental Season

    Pedro Martinez, with his prodigious talent and charismatic style, became far more popular in Boston than another future Hall of Famer, Roger Clemens, ever was. But Pedro's departure for New York and the Mets, after seven standout seasons, is causing surprisingly little consternation here in Red Sox Nation, far less than when Rocket Roger was shown the door eight years ago.With Boston fans still basking in the afterglow of the championship season, even the most contentious of them are now inclined to cut the Red Sox front office some slack. And having already said goodbye this past summer to another icon, Nomar Garciaparra, with fortuitous results, they are no longer quite as wedded to the past. They are also baseball savvy, attuned to this "Moneyball" era in which overpaying and overextending a 33-year-old pitcher with a fading fastball and history of shoulder problems is a cardinal sin. It remains, however, a trademark Mets mistake, exactly the kind that has plunged the team into...
  • HIGH AND INSIDE

    When Jason Giambi showed up at the New York Yankees' spring-training camp in Tampa this year, he looked as if he were auditioning for a Hollywood sequel: "Honey, I Shrunk Myself." His neck seemed to have dropped several sizes, his shoulders had new slope, and his torso could no longer be described as hulking. Only months earlier Giambi had been named as a client of BALCO, a Bay Area lab accused of supplying illegal performance-enhancing drugs to elite athletes. So Giambi's physical transformation inevitably led to speculation that the slugging first baseman had stopped using steroids. Giambi publicly denied ever taking such drugs.Last week the Yankee's denials were exposed as lies: in federal grand-jury testimony taken in 2003 and leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, Giambi not only confessed that he had used steroids over several seasons, but that he had injected himself with both synthetic testosterone and human growth hormone. Giambi was one of a succession of prominent...
  • Starr Gazing: Musical Chairs for Football Coaches

    It was just three seasons ago that Notre Dame Nation embraced--hell, they were ready to canonize--Tyrone Willingham as the right man to preside over its "Return to Glory," as the football team's 2002 motto proclaimed.Indeed there was little doubt that sainthood was imminent after Willingham launched his Notre Dame career with an eight-game winning streak. And while his team stumbled late in the season, Willingham still became the first coach in that university's illustrious history to win 10 games in his rookie year, landing the team a decent payday in the Gator Bowl.So it represented a remarkable--and inglorious--reassessment when Notre Dame decided this week that St. Tyrone was actually the wrong man in the wrong place. It chose, in a move unprecedented in the school's history, to pull the plug on the Willingham era just three years into a five-year contract, before the coach even had a full recruiting cycle under his belt.Willingham's dismissal was just one of many messy chapters...
  • Starr Gazing: NBA Brawl Shouldn't Surprise Anyone

    My wife can attest to the fact--without a smile on her face--that I seldom miss a beat in the sporting world, let alone a giant crescendo that is being described as one of the watershed events in sporting history.But I spent last weekend in a flu stupor, unable to handle anything more challenging than a football game on mute. I emerged from my semi-comatose state to discover--in a country fighting the bloodiest battles of an already bloody war--that everyone was talking about violence in the NBA: Ron Artest, the brawl in Detroit, the commissioner's stern punishment, and how our world had somehow been changed by all of it.I really wish it had changed--that this ugly episode did, in fact, represent some quantum leap of bad behavior. But having come to the news late, without being beat over the head by relentless replays, it struck me as business only a little worse than usual. Because I remember two all-time NBA greats, Larry Bird and Julius Erving, brawling on the parquet at Boston...
  • Starr Gazing: Kid Quarterbacks Rule Today's NFL

    As a fan of the New England Patriots, I've had to make one major adjustment in my tastes. Pulling for young Tom Brady doesn't come all that naturally to me. I've never been a huge fan of the dimple-chinned, golden-boy, world-is-my-oyster quarterback.By my nature (petty and jealous), I'm more of a Y.A. Tittle man. Or at least Tittle as revealed in that iconic 1964 photo--the grizzled warrior bowed, bloody and very bald. The NFL used to prefer its quarterbacks a wee bit grizzled, too. Once upon a time a veteran quarterback was regarded as the one indispensable player for any team with championship, or simply winning, aspirations. A coach would gladly hand off to a rookie running back or even plop a youngster down in the heart of the defense. But no coach in his right mind entrusted football's most critical position to a raw kid. Winning a championship required all the gray matter of a graybeard.I'm not sure when the NFL began to go Sesame Street on us. But this season strikes me as a...
  • REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

    I am a denizen of Red Sox nation, a lifer who can recall every crushing moment of my fandom. My stomach ties up in knots at the thought of the '86 World Series against the New York Mets--one out away, with the champagne bottle already in hand. Unrelenting disappointment has long been the reward of supporters of the Boston Red Sox, a team with an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from victory in almost unfathomable fashion. Those failures tend to get reduced to a succession of one-liners--Pesky held the ball; Bucky hit the homer; Buckner let the ball go through his legs; Grady left Pedro in too long--that don't do justice to the complexity of those events nor the psychic ravages they inflicted on Red Sox Nation. But last week on a night in St. Louis of genuine lunacy, the Red Sox eclipsed history in a fashion that can be neatly summed up in one improbable word: sweep!Nor does that word do justice to Boston's tortured path to this championship. It was always destined to go through our...
  • Starr Gazing: The View From Boston

    Just 72 hours ago, Boston was awash in red, the epicenter of the baseball universe. Today the city is adjusting to an abrupt color change--Yankee blue on everybody's election map. The state's unquestionable support for the Democratic candidate has made us totally irrelevant to the drama of this historic Election Day showdown.The campaign hardly mattered all that much while we were consumed by the events of our spiritual homeland, Red Sox Nation. But with the World Series celebration officially over and even the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots' record-winning streak finally laid to rest, we looked up to find ourselves consigned to the sidelines at a critical juncture in the future of that other nation to which we owe allegiance.It is a strange place for Boston and Massachusetts to be. Politics has always been serious sport here, an integral part of our heritage and our lifeblood. From day one in America's history right into the new millennium--from the Adams men to the...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Q&A: Lauren BacallLauren Bacall has done it all. Movies, Broadway, best-selling books, teaching Bogie how to whistle. Now costarring with Nicole Kidman in "Birth," the legend talked to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin."Birth" is about reincarnation. Do you believe in it?I would like to believe in it, but I'm afraid I don't quite.You come across on screen as one who doesn't suffer fools gladly. Are you like that in real life?I'm not sure I would describe myself in any particular way. I have no patience with people who lie, with pretension, with real meanness.You're 80. You look fabulous. You seeing anyone?Well, I'm talking to you and I'm looking out the window and I'm waiting for my dog to come back from her walk. She's the one I see the most of and I'm very happy with that.No male companions?Do you know of any?It's hard. Guys your age can date 50-year-olds.I'm not interested in guys my age anyway. I don't think there are any men left. I don't know what is with a lot of men. They're just...
  • Starr Gazing: 'Finally, on the Other Side'

    Eighteen years ago, with the Boston Red Sox but one out away from winning the World Series against the New York Mets, I was poised, bottle of champagne in hand, to race to Fenway Park and join the celebration. My wife couldn't fathom why l would voluntarily embrace that madness. I told her, "I just want to be with my people."Last night I was never tempted to go out (except briefly to glimpse at the eclipse and to make sure the world hadn't ended). It was not just the middle-aged curmudgeon in me. It was more a sense that those celebrants are no longer my people, just kids joining a bandwagon that most of them don't really understand, ready to party for any reason (of which the end of an 86-year-old championship drought happens to be a good one). Instead I stayed home, hugged my family, toasted the occasion with a special 30-year-old Laphroaig and went to bed, if not exactly to sleep.This morning I got up early and went to the cemetery. I had always joked to my wife that I wanted...
  • The World's Game

    NBA Commissioner David Stern admits his league hit a "plateau" in the post-Michael Jordan years. Many fans have a less generous assessment, lamenting a game in which ego and showmanship supplanted fundamental skills and team play. But last season witnessed some promising developments. The next "next Michael" arrived in LeBron James, who showed that he might actually have the talent to match the hype. Then in the NBA finals, a no-name Detroit Pistons squad revived the concept of "team" basketball by thoroughly whipping the bickering superstars from Los Angeles. League luck didn't hold in Athens where the Olympic "Dream Team" lost for the first time ever (as well as the second and the third) before settling for bronze. With the 2004-05 season opening Tuesday, Stern shot around with NEWSWEEK national sports correspondent Mark Starr. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Was the Olympic disappointment embarrassing for the NBA?David Stern: It wasn't embarrassing. If anything, it causes a little bit of soul...
  • Perfecto

    Has anyone ever had as good a week as we Boston sports fans just did? Okay, maybe God during the opening week of the world. But frankly that sixth day wasn't so hot and even He might have benefited from a little relief help before trying that Adam's rib stunt.By comparison, from Sunday to Sunday (using, of course, The Beatles' eight-day-week model), Boston hit the perfecto. The Red Sox went 6 and 0, first winning four straight to make history against the New York Yankees, then jumping off to a 2-0 World Series lead against the St. Louis Cardinals. The New England Patriots brushed aside two putative championship contenders, the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets, to extend their record NFL winning streak to 21. Boston College won the nation's Catholic Bowl, scoring a last-minute touchdown, in the very shadow of "Touchdown Jesus," to nip Notre Dame 24-23. And the karma in Boston was so exceptional that even the lowly New England Revolution opened the Major League Soccer playoffs with...
  • SPORTS: CALLING THE SHOTS

    Year in, year out, The New Yorker's Roger Angell delivers the most lyrical perspective on baseball's postseason. Unfortunately, it arrives around the same time as your Thanksgiving turkey. If you prefer instant analysis, there are folks blogging baseball faster than the snail's pace at which the games are played. The most democratic site is baseballblogs.org, with offerings on all major-league teams. (No surprise, Red Sox and Cubs fans lead the blather.) With some 48,000 entries, it's the quantity, not the quality, that attracts. At billy-ball.com, you encounter a delightfully quirky sense of the game's history. On the eve of the latest Red Sox-Yankees mayhem, it harked back to 1952, when two famously temperamental players, Jimmy Piersall and Billy Martin, duked it out under the Fenway Park stands. Red Sox Nation will delight in the musings at bambinoscurse.com. On the who's your daddy? T shirts mocking Pedro Martinez: "I guess 26 world championships and all that Yankees legacy isn...
  • Starr Gazing: The Curse Is Dead

    New York Yankees fans have but one weapon left in their arsenal of abuse for Boston Red Sox supporters. So, of course, last night as their last resort, they used it. As they trudged out of Yankee Stadium--disappointed, disbelieving and even discombobulated by the stunning turn of events and the final thrashing--the guys in blue hats kept turning back and screaming at the Red Sox celebrants: "Until you win the series, it's still 1918."If the baseball gods offer up one more act of mercy next week, that taunt--the relentless reminder of the last time the Red Sox won the World Series--will have been heard for the final time in New York. Which leaves me with a rather devilish notion. The BoSox actually open the 2005 season back in the Bronx. How about we retire that juvenile "Yankees suck" refrain, especially since the events of the past four days speak for themselves. Instead, every Red Sox fan shows up for Opening Day with a sign that reads: 2000.Admittedly four years isn't easily...
  • Starr Gazing: On a Limp and a Prayer

    Those who know the Red Sox curse, but don't live it in the gut and in the heart, tend to reduce it to a succession of one-liners: Pesky held the ball; Bucky Dent hit the homer; Bill Buckner let the ball go through his legs; Grady Little left Pedro in the game.But those of us who truly live it, not just in the post-season when baseball reaches this fever pitch, but every day of our life, know that those moments are far more complex and nuanced than that shorthand would suggest. Take as an example the Buckner tragedy against the Mets in 1986. Before Billy Buck, at the end of a superb season and near the end of a fine career, could become a goat for the ages, Roger Clemens first had to ask out of the game with a blister, reliever Calvin Schiraldi had to implode, reliable reliever Bob Stanley had to uncork a wild pitch and, finally, manager John McNamara had to have made the uncharacteristic decision to leave Buckner in the game. All post-season long, the manager had replaced Buckner,...
  • Starr Gazing: The Curse of the Rivalry

    I don't know any Boston Red Sox diehards who weren't rooting almost as fervently for the Minnesota Twins against the New York Yankees as they were for their own team against the Anaheim Angels.Yet each confessed to a nagging suspicion that if our cursed championship drought is ever to end--86 years and counting--it might require the fire and brimstone, the cataclysm that a Red Sox-Yankees series brings to town. So within minutes of David Ortiz's game- and series-winning home run that swept Boston into the American League Championship series, the cheers that rocked ancient Fenway Park had transmogrified into a chant. Though the New York-Minnesota series would not be settled for another 24 hours, the Fenway faithful bellowed their choice and challenge for the baseball world to hear: "We want Yankees. We want Yankees."In their delirium, these fans seemed completely oblivious to that old admonition: be careful what you wish for. For me, older, perhaps wiser and certainly more scarred by...