Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with something to fill this space. I usually have to sort through a bunch of half-formed ideas and try to build a coherent argument from one of them. Occasionally, those ideas never end up in a column and don’t get to see the light of day.
There was a sports columnist in the 1950s named Jimmy Cannon. When Cannon didn’t have anything particular to fill his column with, he did a running segment called “Nobody Asked Me But …” filled with opinions on a range of topics. Today, Sports Illustrated’s NFL columnist Peter King always ends his “Monday Morning Quarterback” columns with the segment “Ten Things I Think I Think …”
So as a way to finally let all of my half-formed ideas out into the world, here is the debut of my version, “My Opinion Doesn’t Matter, But …”
1. My opinion doesn’t matter, but … loyalty shouldn’t be expected from athletes.
Fans want athletes to display loyalty to their teams and their cities, yet their teams and their cities fail to give that same loyalty back. Former Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals in May, just days after his sister was in a car accident resulting in her death. The day after his sister’s funeral, Thomas scored 53 points against the Washington Wizards to tie the series at three games each. Thomas put on an incredible and inspirational display of heart.
Three months after Thomas gave everything he could to the city of Boston and the Celtics organization, he was traded to Cleveland. He was traded — for a player the Celtics believe is better, younger and less prone to injury. As soon as Boston thought it could find a better option at point guard, the team dropped Thomas. However, Boston might not be able to get rid of Thomas so easily. Thomas failed to pass his physical due to a hip injury he suffered during the season, which gives Cleveland the right to veto the trade.
If you want to demand loyalty from athletes, you should demand it from the teams, too.
2. My opinion doesn’t matter, but … Chris Sale’s troubles against Cleveland hurt his Cy Young hopes.
Sale’s struggles are also problematic for the Red Sox’s playoff hopes.
Sale has been the presumptive American League Cy Young winner almost all season. He led the league in almost every statistical category until Aug. 24, when the Indians scored seven runs in three innings off of Sale. This put Indians ace Corey Kluber in the lead for ERA and — despite Sale striking batters out at an alarming rate — Kluber follows right behind him, even though he missed a month of the season with a back injury.
If the season ended today, the Indians and Red Sox would face off in the American League Division Series. It’s a good sign for the Indians when Kluber and Sale would be the probable pitching matchup in game one because, historically, the Indians have been successful off Sale. This season Sale has a 14.63 ERA in two games against the Indians and a 2.32 ERA against the rest of the league.
3. My opinion doesn’t matter, but … the NFL has an image problem.
The list of issues the NFL has handled poorly in the last few years has continued to grow: domestic violence, concussions, Michael Sam, Colin Kaepernick and drug policy.
It’s amazing to me that someone like Ezekiel Elliott, who was accused of domestic abuse by his ex-girlfriend, can have a job in the NFL. Meanwhile, Sam, the 2013 Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year and the first openly gay player to be drafted, and Kaepernick, who once led a team to the Super Bowl and stood up for what he sees as racial injustice, are both unemployed. When considering the conservative leanings of many NFL owners — owners of the Redskins, Rams, Patriots, Jaguars and Texans all donated to the Trump campaign — it starts to make sense. There are 53 players on an NFL roster and 32 teams in the league, which means there are 1,696 roster spots. Sam and Kaepernick are definitely good enough to land one of those spots but haven’t because of the political ramifications.
The NFL consistently makes decisions that are bad for the physical well-being of their biggest assets: the players. After getting caught in a cover-up over the negative effects of concussions, the NFL had to shell out millions of dollars after ex-players sued the league for hiding the effects of head trauma and the suicides of multiple players due to the effects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a brain disease caused by consistent blows to the head, the type of hits NFL players receive all the time.
The league continues to hand out highly addictive, opioid painkillers in locker rooms like candy but will indefinitely suspend a player like Josh Gordon for trying to deal with the pain caused by a violent sport such as football with marijuana.
4. My opinion doesn’t matter, but … that Mayweather vs. McGregor fight was straight-up fun.
The hype for the fight was insane, with the two fighters spending three years teasing the world about the possibility of a fight and then three months of a crazy, circus promotional tour. Insane hype is expected of a Mayweather fight. What isn’t to be expected is the fight to live up to the hype, which it did.
Mayweather is the best defensive boxer of all time. However, his defensive style means his fights are usually boring, and his fight against Manny Pacquiao was a huge let down. But not this fight — it had taunting from both sides. McGregor hit Mayweather more in the first few rounds than some boxers hit him in 12 rounds, and it was a chance to see a passing of the torch for the fighting world.
Even with Mayweather’s record moving to 50-0 and McGregor losing his first professional boxing match, McGregor came out a winner. He’s now the most famous UFC fighter, $100 million richer and held his own in a sport in which many experts said he would fail. McGregor’s purse for the fight, not including any money he will earn from his share of the promotion, was $30 million. While that’s less than Mayweather’s $100 million purse, it’s three times the $9 million he has earned in an entire career in the UFC. In the words of Steve Harvey, in a dark Las Vegas hallway, “Tell Conor McGregor he’s a man.”
So, my opinion doesn’t matter but there it is … @ me if you disagree.