I have three things on my mind, starting with:
1. The Major League Baseball season.
The MLB can be an interminable grind for players and fans alike, and it only gets more frustrating when the majority of division races feel like runaways by the middle of August.
With this in mind, I give thanks for the American League East.
Don’t look now, but with roughly 40-45 games remaining in the 2016 regular season, the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays all have exactly 52 losses. By virtue of two more wins, the Jays are in first place in the division, but all three clubs are officially within one game of one another. In the all-important loss column, it’s effectively a dead heat.
Remember when baseball used to have real, bona fide playoff races like this? The creation of the wildcard helped destroy that, but the presence of a second wildcard has now helped restore some of the drama. Boston, Toronto and Baltimore may all end up in the postseason in the end, but two of them will have to square off in the one-game play-in — and none of them wants to be part of that.
The advantage in winning the division is enormous.
Here’s something else baseball got right: September is almost always reserved for intra-divisional play, which means the Red Sox, Orioles and Jays will play head-to-head in September. Baseball often lacks any real head-to-head drama, but the 2016 AL East this year seems destined for it.
2. The U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team.
Does it make me a traitor if I root for the mens’s Team USA to lose today against Argentina?
Look, I admit I’m generally not a fan of the Olympics. And the men’s basketball team has absolutely nothing to gain. The Americans were prohibitive favorites entering the tournament, as always, and they still are. But there is nonetheless something very unsettling about an American team that has beaten Australia, Serbia and France by 16 points… combined.
So what happens from here? Maybe nothing. Maybe now that Team USA has reached the quarterfinals, the Americans will wake up, play for real and blow Argentina out of the bacteria-infested water in Rio. That would and should surprise no one. But given the disparity in basketball talent (still) between America and the rest of the world — and that is true no matter who we send — it already feels like Team USA has failed miserably.
So I’m rooting for the story now. I’m hoping the seeming apathy and/or arrogance of Team USA works against us because, quite simply, we all need a dose of humility sometimes. There should never be a substitute for work ethic.
3. The NFL Players Association.
Say what you want about Roger Goodell and the abuse of power, but the current approach by the NFL Players Association with regard to the Al Jazeera America report is nothing if not curious.
Last year, remember, Al Jazeera America issued a long report on a steroids dealer named Charlie Sly who implicated, among others, Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews, James Harrison and Julius Peppers. Manning cooperated with the NFL and has been cleared. But Harrison, Matthews and Peppers have resisted even meeting with the NFL at the suggestion of the NFLPA, who has now lost twice in federal court – once with Tom Brady, once with Adrian Peterson – in attempting to undermine Goodell’s power.
If Harrison, Matthews and Peppers do not at least talk to the NFL in the next 10 days or so, they will be suspended, according to the league.
Could the NFLPA possibly be this stupid? Nobody ever said Goodell was fair. But as has now been proven — again, in federal court — Goodell has the right to discipline players basically as he sees fit thanks to infamous Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement. Why? Because the NFLPA bargained away that power in the last negotiations.
And now the NFLPA wants its members to continue paying the price?
Here’s an idea:
The next time the CBA comes up, don’t give the commissioner so much power.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.