Thoughts on the world of pro sports

It’s a hectic time of the year, with Town Meeting Day coinciding with many winter athletic teams in playoffs, and then our Spring Sports Report blending with 20-degree nights, 80-degree days and heated debates on religious expression up in my news beat.
That makes it a perfect time for some random, scattershot reflections on the sports world. To whit:
•  News item: Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine this past weekend said of third baseman Kevin Youkilis, “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
Well, until that remark I had a mostly positive impression of Valentine. I didn’t mind if he spoke his mind a bit, and the fact that the team worked demonstrably harder during spring training this year after its September 2011 collapse seemed a good idea.
But even if Valentine was correct about Youk (logic suggests he wasn’t: Youk is so famously intense he rubs some teammates the wrong way, he was nursing a groin injury, and it’s tough to look upbeat when you’re six for your first 30 at bats), the manager should have just shut up in public and talked behind closed doors.
Sox fans can hope this was a one-time blip, but it may not be realistic to expect that a 61-year-old guy like Valentine is suddenly going to change his ways. We can only hope more issues are not on the way.
At least Valentine could have pulled Bard after 100-plus pitches in the seventh inning and the bases loaded in a 0-0 game on Monday …
•  News item: Yankees fans booed New York Jets back-up quarterback Tim Tebow at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, even though he was wearing a Yankees cap.
Hmmm, no matter how one feels about the devout Tebow, I’m just guessing New Yorkers don’t like old-time evangelical religion as much as they do in the Bible Belt. This sure doesn’t look like Kansas, Tebow.
•  News item: The Boston Celtics are 31-16 since Ray Allen first hurt his ankle on Jan. 23, 36-25 overall.
Why? No. 1 reason is guard Avery Bradley started playing more. When he starts, the Celtics are surrendering four fewer points per game. And Bradley is growing increasingly confident and effective on offense — five for eight from the three-point line while totaling 40 points in the team’s wins on Saturday and Sunday nights. Bradley has been a revelation, and bringing Allen off the bench as a shooter suddenly looks like a good strategy.
•  News item: The NFL imposed severe penalties on the New Orleans Saints (suspensions and fines to coaches and executives and forfeiture of draft picks) for offering payments to defensive players who injured opposing offensive players, despite prior league warnings not to employ such a “bounty” system.
OK, there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth on this issue. Some say the NFL is hypocritical because the league previously tried to shove an expanded 18-game schedule down the players’ throat, a change that would certainly increase injury risk to players.
Others point to the many lawsuits the NFL is facing from former players and their families because of debilitating ailments due to concussions suffered while the athletes were playing in the league; critics of the harsh punishment handed to the Saints make the point that the NFL is just covering its hindquarters.
The most ignorant simply say it’s football, the players know the risks, what’s the point?
I would say that football will always be dangerous, but any step that can be taken for whatever reason to make the game safer for its participants should be taken. The NFL did the right thing, and must do more to prevent hits to the head, and must do it now. As must officials of the sport at every level. Enough is enough.

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