The NFL recently repealed the Tuck Rule, which was a strange and often-misunderstood rule concerning the throwing motion, intent, and loss of the ball by the quarterback (this is a terrible explanation – just read the linked article). The phrase “Tuck Rule” has special resonance for Pats and Raiders fans due to the infamous Tuck Rule Game. I remember watching the play and being heartbroken when it happened, only to have a complete turnaround when the ref made the ultimate call – and by complete turnaround I mean it was like being in an elevator crash and then being rocketed into space. Long-suffering Raiders fans were upset and raised an uproar when this happened (if Twitter had existed back then it would definitely have crashed). We even longer-suffering Patriot fans were ecstatic, of course. Lost in all of the controversy, though, were three facts:
-The Tuck Rule was interpreted correctly.
-The Competition Committee of the NFL had a chance to change the rule after the season and didn’t.
-The Raiders had plenty of chances to win the game and had only themselves to blame. Bill Simmons made these same points in this old column (about halfway down).
Pats fans of a certain vintage will get the Sugar Bear Hamilton reference. He was called for a phantom roughing-the-passer call in the 1976 playoffs, and the call resulted in a Raiders win. The Tuck Rule is gone, likely forever, but we will always have the memories.
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March 23rd, 2013 by Fr. Greg
Lent has begun in the Orthodox world (as late as is possible with regards to our western brethren – this is one of those years where the two celebrations of Easter are very far apart) and we ushered it in appropriately at Sts. Anargyroi. The ecclesiastical day begins at sundown the day before (only the fasting day keeps to the everyday calendar) and so we kicked off the Lenten season with vespers on Sunday night followed by the traditional forgiveness greeting – at the end of vespers we formed a receiving line and embraced each other and asked for forgiveness. Monday morning we kicked off Kathara Deutera – Clean Monday – in fine fashion with a brisk walk along the rail trail behind the church.
In Greece Clean Monday is a big day with joyous outdoor activities featuring the flying of kites. Of course, it is much warmer this time of year in Greece so we have a bit of a problem in transferring customs. Also, there was no way we could pull of a kite-flying activity. However, since Lent began so late this year, I thought perhaps we could do some sort of outdoor activity, and the rail trail (an old railroad track that has become a paved bicycle/running/walking path all the way to Stowe) seemed a natural fit for what would likely not be brutal weather. Ominously, Prez pointed out that it was to be 15 degrees in the morning, but it was more like 25 degrees (still hideously cold, of course) but the sun was out, there was no wind, and those warriors who came out for the walk had a great time and warmed up rather quickly. It was unanimously agreed that we will do the walk again next year, weather-permitting of course. It was great to get the blood moving and spend some time in good fellowship as we embarked on our Lenten journey. The picture below is courtesy of Ted van Lingen, who was also among the walkers. Bedankt, Ted!
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March 19th, 2013 by Fr. Greg
One of the ways in which we are trying to teach our children about art is by buying old calendars – usually in January bookstores and mall kiosks have calendars that didn’t get sold at Christmas for sale at a huge discount. I usually find our house calendar in the same way – last year it was an awesome Mucha collection while this year we have a new Beatles photo to look forward to each month. Disappointingly, despite the Mucha find, not many art calendars seem to be available. I don’t think this is because they all sold out – I imagine they just are not big sellers. In kiosks and stores dedicated exclusively to calendars I found very few featuring artists, while there are seemingly hundreds with dogs, horses and other themes. One art calendar I did find was this Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post collection. This week we are going over Bottom Of The Sixth from April 23, 1949 (see below).
You can read an analysis of the painting here. The painting shows umpires deciding whether or not to delay or call a baseball game due to rain. There is a hint of sun above the third ump’s head, so there is a chance the game could continue. What I find interesting is that the title (and the scoreboard reflects this) has the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, meaning that if the game is called then Pittsburgh would win, since a game is official after five innings. Yet Rockwell has the Brooklyn manager pointing to the sky with glee, implying that a rainout would benefit the Dodgers. The Pirates skipper, whose team would win in a rainout, looks upset. Did Rockwell make a mistake in having the game in the sixth inning? Or is Brooklyn’s manager pointing to the sun coming out? I favor the former idea, since the rain dominates and the manager looks gleeful.
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March 6th, 2013 by Fr. Greg
The other day I visited old friend Bill K. at Olympic Wine & Spirits on Grafton St. in Worcester. This place used to be called Renaissance Wine & Spirits before Bill and his family bought it. I went there once some years ago to buy a bottle of wine and was startled to hear someone say “I can’t believe there is a (expletive deleted) priest in a liquor store”. Good grief. So, it was nice to go there and see a friendly face. In talking with Bill I remembered a story from The Sporting News or SI back in the day. The International Olympic Committee was going after a diner in New York that used the name Olympic and the logo of the five interlocked rings. The IOC was going after this place – no doubt Greek-owned – for using the logo and theoretically profiting off of it. This was likely in the pre-internet era, and I can’t find any reference to it. Bill has a good grasp of the law on this one – you can use the rings as long as they are not in the same order and position as the famous Olympics version. Check out the website that I linked to above – the rings emerge as bubbles from a martini glass that stands in for the y in the word Olympic. Great job Bill!
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February 11th, 2013 by Fr. Greg
A high school in Mississippi has given up the tradition of an invocation before its football games – check out an opinion piece on the issue here and the website of the group who is behind eliminating the prayer here. My interest in this incident is not really a religious one – being originally from New England I did not grow up with the tradition of prayer before games and it is not something I really care about one way or the other (although plenty of other civic gatherings have invocations, even in the Northeast). Rather, I am interested in the mind-your-own-business angle, which has a regional component. Prayer before games is a longstanding tradition in many parts of the South. If a community wants to do it and one or two people don’t like it or are offended, should the practice be stopped? The organization that drove the move to end the practice in this case is the Freedom From Religion Foundation (see the link above), which bill itself as “protecting the Constitutional principle of separation of state and church (note the reversal of the usual order of a phrase that appears nowhere in the Constitution). If you check out their website, though, you will see the group is not just for separation but is actively anti-church. They are also based in Wisconsin but have a national reach. Why not let the people of Mississippi do what they want? Why is a group from Wisconsin involved? This is not a matter of protecting someone from harm, which would be a totally different thing and quite understandable reason for outsiders to get involved. Annie Lauire Gaylor, the FFRF co-president quoted in the article, says that people shouldn’t have to pray to enjoy the football game. Who is making anyone pray? It is words over a loudspeaker. She later utters the chilling phrase “illegal prayer”. It has been a while since I have blogged, but reading those two words fired me up. What have we become?
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August 21st, 2012 by Fr. Greg
Recently, while looking up something about Vida Blue and then finding all kinds of other baseball-related stuff I wanted to look up, I learned that the American League team record for most stolen bases in a season belongs to the 1976 Oakland Athletics. This surprised me because the A’s were on the decline in 1976 from the team that had dominated baseball in the first part of the decade, and would go on to lose close to 100 games in 1977. They did finish 2 games out in the loss column to the Kansas City Royals, who were beginning their run, but the A’s were already feeling the effects of owner Charlie Finley’s attempt to avoid the inevitable onset of free agency that would come with the end of the reserve clause. Reggie, Blue Moon Odom, Ken Holtzman and others were gone, while players nearing the end of their career like Nate Colbert and even Willie McCovey were acquired.
The A’s locked up the A.L. west from 1971-1975, winning every division title and three straight pennants and world series in the middle of that run. In ’72 they beat the Tigers, the last gasp of the 1968 World Series team, to win the pennant and then defeated the fledgling Big Red Machine. The next year they beat the Orioles team which they had lost to in 1971 and were taken to 7 games by a Mets team that finished 82-79. In 1974 they again beat the O’s and had an easy time with a Dodgers team that would lose a few more World Series by the end of the decade. 1975 saw things come to an end when the Red Sox swept them in the ALCS. They were competitive in 1976, but that was the end of enjoyable baseball in Oakland until the Billy Ball era.
So, the 1976 team…while they didn’t win the division, they did swipe an astonishing 341 bases, an A.L. record which still stands. Billy North had 75, Bert Campaneris stole 54, Don Baylor, acquired for Reggie, was right behind Campy with 52, Claudell Washington had 37, Phil Garner stole 35, Larry Lintz had 31, and Matt Alexander and Sal Bando both had 20 steals. They may no longer have been “The Swinging A’s”, but they were definitely The Running A’s. More here.
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June 18th, 2012 by Fr. Greg
One of the coolest moments of the Pats’ victory over the Ravens to move on to the Super Bowl came when the “Law Firm”, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (greatest name ever, and a fabulous nickname) scored and pulled at the patch on his jersey commemorating Myra Kraft, who passed away this summer after a struggle with cancer. Her spirit and memory clearly inspire this team, and it is refreshing and sobering to see how much she means to the whole organization. (I had no idea, incidentally, that she was born in Worcester – I will need to do more research on her time here). There is much talk from people in the organization and elsewhere about how she is guiding the team to their destiny. This, to me, is understandable but a bit cringe-worthy; I have spent the past two months listening to sports talk radio people rake Tim Tebow over the coals for similar things his fans, though not Tebow himself, were saying. These same voices have been silent on the Pats/Myra Kraft stuff though.
In any case…Myra Kraft was an extraordinary woman and I can’t help but think of my mother who passed away around the same time after a struggle with health problems. Clearly Myra was an “away mother” for many players. My own mother, for her part, was a bit of a sports sage, in the way that is peculiar to old school Boston fans. Some memories:
-She was an unreconstructed Red Sox fan who never could really get comfortable with the fact that they won the World Series. I mentioned this in my eulogy. Last summer, when they were winning like crazy before the epic collapse, I would go to the hospital and tell her they won, and she would say “they are doing TOO well” meaning it was bound to fall apart – a true veteran Sox fan.
-She was so into the games that when Vinatieri trotted out to kick the field goal in the first Pats Super Bowl win she ran and hid in another room – she could not bear to watch it out of nervousness!
-My mother – Carol – was a huge, huge Bruins fan. She could probably dress for a week in nothing but Bruins clothing – she had that much stuff. She even had special Boston Bruins bowling balls for her weekly bowling with the church seniors.
-She was a devout Orthodox Christian but would talk about how she “hated” Roger Clemens, or Ulf Samuelsson, or some other such sports figure. I asked her about this once and she said “it is sports hate, not regular hate. It is different”. As a sports fan I totally understand what she meant – she didn’t wish bad upon these people in real life but only in the arena of sports.
I miss her so much.
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January 25th, 2012 by Fr. Greg