Zachary Klein

zachThis was going to be a column that reviewed the Red Sox’s tumultuous season. But Boston’s—no, New England’s sports scene—is obsessed with something much more important than the Sox.

Deflategate. We’ve got a brand-spanking new word for letting air out of footballs during a game, aka, cheating by the New England Patriots before the first half of pro football’s AFC Championship. Given the constant drumbeat on sports talk radio, in daily newspaper articles, the evening news, Twitter, et al, it’s impossible to lead with any other story—even for your intrepid, gonzo columnist. Since last January this lunacy has become the Keeping up with the Kardashians of the sports world. And just like with the Kardashians, who really gives a shit?

I guess Tom Brady does. He has 1,882,352 reasons. (The amount of money he’ll lose if the four-game suspension sticks.) Robert Kraft, the team’s owner, not so much. Since he already agreed to the NFL’s discipline, I gotta wonder whether he’s conflicted about Brady’s federal case to overturn the Commish’s (who also served as arbiter for the initial appeal) ruling. Although fined $1,000,000 and docked two draft picks–a first-rounder in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017–if Brady’s punishment holds, Kraft actually saves $882K. Ahh, but Tommy is a fine lad.

As for the merits of the punishment and the court case, Brady’s complete denial about knowing or caring about ball pressure just doesn’t pass the sniff test—especially given his testimony about the amount of time he actually spends getting game day footballs to “feel right.” But worse than a sniff test fail is the absurdity of the National Football League’s desire to ram it to the Pats over what amounts to an equipment violation. I’ve read the transcripts that have been made public and the NFL’s punishment processes are fucked up and horrifically unfair. (Truth is, when I worked as a trial and jury consultant I loved poring through transcripts. Yeah, I know. “Seriously deranged” would be my own diagnosis.) I don’t know who will win the case and I don’t care. All I know is how deflated I feel every time the subject comes up.

And while local sports talk radio hosts often cite their own deflategate fatigue, they lie. With 24/7 to fill, this sure helps.

Of course, once summer began, they could have used all that extra time to trash Hanley Ramirez even more. He was one of the “big name” players signed by former Red Sox General Manager, Ben Cherington, to a long-term contract before the season (4 yrs. @ $88M & a 2019 vesting option). I’ve been disappointed in Ramirez’s play this season too, but the degree of hate vomited by these commentators is frankly disgusting. They constantly call him a dog, a cancer, and they haven’t let up all season long.

The “anything for ratings” game encourages these jock-sniffer’s spewings and the cement-headed callers aren’t much better. I don’t know what it’s like in other cities, but in Boston, the two stations that carry local sports talk personalities have exactly one person of color as a regular host. Sadly when a town has a racial history like mine, you gotta wonder why they all rag on Ramirez and never our venerated quarterback. That Tommy surely is a fine lad.

Perhaps I’m making more out of this than I should, so do me a favor? Let me know whether your city’s sports talk hosts are as White as mine. And as targeted in their hate-mongering.

So How ’bout them Sawwks?

Well, it’s been one hell of a season. Hitters who made a career hitting haven’t hit. Pitchers haven’t been able to get anyone out and, about five times this season, fielders haven’t known the number of outs, including one player who generously threw the ball to the fans when there were only two away in the inning. Team management has been abysmal from the owners to the ex-general manager right down to the field skipper and pitching coach. Actually, what pitching coach? There’s been absolutely no sign that anyone knew anything about pitching. Plus, the team has done little to stabilize its young talent—a fine fix for the future. To top it off, the Red Sox manager, John Farrell, was diagnosed with Stage I Lymphoma during a routine hernia operation.

This entire season eventually reminded me of The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.,J. Henry Waugh, Prop., a 1968 novel by Robert Coover, whose protagonist, Henry Waugh, runs an intricate one-person fantasy season as a way to distract from his crummy life. Problem with Henry’s game is that it runs off the rails when his favorite player is killed by a bean-ball in accordance with the governing rules that Henry created.

Call me crazy, but the self-destructive decision making that produced one Red Sox Championship (i.e. lightening in a bottle) surrounded by three last place finishes sure looks like a train wreck to me.

Coover’s world is fiction but the Red Sox are real life (ha!). So in real life, then came Dombrowski.

Recently hired as President of Baseball Operations, Dave D. has a reasonable track record in his stewardships of the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, and Detroit Tigers. The prior Red Sox regime was loath to trade prospects, whatever the Red Sox record, but not so Dombrowski, if his history is predictive. The real question will be whether he can clearly identify the team’s needs and find players to solve those needs. Sit tight Red Sox Nation. Gonna be an interesting off-season.

But why am I writing about baseball? Deflategate is blaring from my radio speaker.

“It’s not even a lesson. It’s just what it is.” Damon holds the baseball up between them. “It is hard and white and alive in the sun.” ~ Robert Coover, The Universal Baseball Association


are falling from my head…


Zachary Klein

zachWe’re approaching summer’s dog days and I’m feeling pretty mellow, so deciding what to write this week has been difficult. It’s always easier for me if I have a mad on and Germany’s attitude toward Greece jumps to mind. Or how ‘bout them sorry Sox? But mellow is rare, so I might as well see where it takes me.

We recently had a great time at Fenway Park. It was a beautiful night and, as I looked around the field, I realized how impressive a renovation had been done by Janet Marie Smith, the architect of Baltimore’s Camden Yards. Despite adding a significant number of seats and signage to the oldest field in baseball (1912), Ms. Smith somehow made the relic a much more welcoming place while keeping its traditional feel and atmosphere. (Not the ticket prices, though, which are the highest on average in Major League Baseball.) It was a fun night even with the Sox loss–to be expected this season.

And speaking of renovations, despite my writing partner, Susan’s send up of HOUSE HUNTERS in last week’s column, Sue (my wife) and I are gearing up for our own major league kitchen rebuild, replete with wall removals, open floor plan (NOT!), and granite vomitori—whoa—make that countertops. Reconstruction begins sometime in August and I’m fervently hoping that it takes a little less time and is much more successful than our Country’s. Not gonna bet on it though.

Ahh, betting. The Casino War still rages on in Boston. Although voted FOR by almost 60% and supported by rejecting another referendum which tried to overturn the first, a number of politicians are still trying judicial end runs–Including our mayor.

I understand the issues people have with gambling and have some mixed feelings myself. But voters, tired of seeing millions and millions of dollars flow to Connecticut’s casinos, spoke loudly and clearly TWICE. My biggest regret is that Boston won’t allow a den of inequity on one of the harbor islands. And not because The Donald is a bidding developer because he isn’t.catTrumpNo surprise, really. The “Athens of the East” clings to its puritanical ancestry despite our current liberal reputation. Clings to many anomalies. Just ask anyone of Color or eyeball the vast sea of White faces while catching a game at Fenway.

Not sure why, but somehow all that White makes me think of Greece. (I tried not to. Really.) Excuse me, but what two-faced crazy is running around in Germany’s head?

“London School of Economics and Political Science Professor of Economic History Albrecht Ritschl conducted research into how Germany was able to pay off its debts after the two World Wars. In particular, his re-interpretation of the scale of financial payments to, and debt forgiveness for Germany after World War II shed new light on the approach that modern-day Germany should take towards debt-ridden countries such as Greece. Ritschl looked in detail at the financial assistance that was paid to Germany after the war under the Marshall Plan, in which the US gave $17 billion – around $160 billion in today’s values – in economic support to help rebuild European economies. He showed that while the transfers were tiny, the cancellation of debts was worth as much as four times the country’s entire economic output in 1950 and laid the foundation for Germany’s fast post-war recovery.”

It seems pretty obvious the terms of Greece’s “bailout” will crush the poor and working people of that country—but fuck ‘em. Let’s make sure the greed-heads get the interest owed. Every goddam Euro.

And now you got me started. What’s with the response to the Iranian deal? This is a no-brainer but once again the human no-brainers are running their mouths. If Reagan’s administration had pulled this off, all the pols would be kissing his ass. Hell, Nixon cut a deal with China when Mao was still alive! Since it’s Obama’s administration though, both Democrats and Republicans are talking stupid. Batshit racists, whether they know it or not.

Sorry about that. I said no rants….

especially since this has been a fine week. Belated birthday dinner with a good friend, a rooftop dinner with other good friends, and a visit to the Boston’s Greenway’s amazing new installation by Janet Echelman, an aerial shape and color shifting translucent public art sculpture.Aerial






tumblr_nopdc9G41s1s5qhggo8_500(For more information about Ms. Echelman’s wonderful piece, including a time-lapse video of the installation check out You won’t be sorry.)

Thank you Big Dig for stitching my city back together and creating space near the ocean for beauty.

It never ceases to amaze me how little public art is offered in our cities compared to say, Mexico or France. But hey, that’s a topic for another week.

Told you I was feeling mellow.


The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. ~ John Milton


It’s right before the quarter-finals of the World Cup and I’m shaking my head while staring at the remaining teams. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to be a sports fan. People I know generally root for their hometown teams past or present—sometimes both. Those are almost always long-term relationships that usually last a lifetime whether the team does well or, in the case of the hapless and hopeless, Chicago Cubs’ fans—need I say more?

World Cup soccer isn’t as simple. I’m a sports fan and where I do appreciate the beauty of play, I gotta root for someone. That’s the fun. When I’ve got no personal loyalty I usually find out who the underdog is and take its back. I just can’t imagine being neutral watching sports. I’ve never watched any game as a dispassionate observer.

This isn’t my first head shake since the tournament began. We’re talking country against country here, which trumps my underdog fallback policy. Most Americans who follow the Cup simply root for the US unless they had a different country of origin. Even then I’d guess most root for both. And while I love a whole lot of stuff about this country, it’s too difficult to tease out my nation’s team from the horror our government (both Republican and Democrat) has inflicted upon the Iraqis, Afghans, and every country against which it has waged outright and covert war since World War Two.

Yeah, I’m the same guy who has argued it’s okay to separate a person’s achievements from his or her personal life. Never had a problem enjoying Picasso paintings despite his misogyny. Or laughing out loud during Woody Allen films despite his controversial marriage. So why not do the same thing here?

Because I just couldn’t. I know the team had no hand in our ugly. But I still couldn’t stop cringing every time I heard the chant, “USA! USA! USA!

Since I was watching a lot of Cup games and gotta root, I began my quest to find a country in each match to support. And, while I have no doubt that Mexico’s corrupt government has committed egregious acts of injustice and violence, I’d just spent a terrific couple of weeks there (see my last two posts). Hypocritical perhaps, but that experience allowed me to inexplicably push their crimes out of my mind and cheer. I had a team. For a little while, anyway. Unfortunately they didn’t get out of the Round of 16, but I did and wasn’t done with the Cup.

So, as I write this, I’m left with the following teams to root for: Brazil, that spent billions to host the tournament while just out of sight from tourists there are people who live in shacks without running water and about 15% of the country’s deaths are due to transportation accidents, violence, or suicide.

Gonna pass on Brazil.

And so it goes. No full face public burkas in France despite a Social Democratic government. Germany, well, I have historical problems there. Argentina, whose government slaughtered 15,000 to 30,000 political dissidents including trade unionists, students, and journalists in its “Dirty War” (Guerra Sucia).

I don’t think so.

That leaves me Columbia, Netherlands, Belgium, and Costa Rica.

I could probably find historical or contemporary fault with each of these countries but I have a personal connection with one. My older son Matthew spent a high-school summer with a Costa Rican family learning Spanish. Plus, Costa Rica has no military. So, for the time being (at least until they play the Netherlands, the clear cut favorite) I have an underdog team to root for.

Ain’t I the lucky one?

Truth is, I’ve learned something important writing this. There was a guy, a regular customer in my father’s tavern, who had a jones for betting on horses. His method?  Spread The Racing Form on the bar in front of him, take a needle, close his eyes, and dot the day’s races with pinpricks. He’d note the horses he’d hit, go to the telephone booth and call his bookie. I could do the same with the world map and find that every country I touched would leave me feeling sick. Some more than others, but very few without some quease. Even the ones I’ve never heard of.

Maybe that USA chant isn’t as bad as I first thought.

“This may not be the best of all possible worlds, but to say that it is the worst is mere petulant nonsense.” Thomas Henry Huxley


RScapNo, I’m not talking politics this week. (Is that a collective sigh of relief, I hear?) I’m talking October baseball. And how my marriage deals with it when we both have teams playing against each other.

For me the notion of a “home team” is not as clear cut as Sue’s. I grew up as a Brooklyn Dodger fan until they deserted us for the Golden State and then, with some loving prodding from my Aunt Jeanette, rooted for my old nemesis, the Yankees.DT2

Once off to school at the University of Wisconsin, other than rooting for a few different ballplayers (Bob Gibson jumps to mind), I exchanged sports for sit-ins, protests, and occasional classes.

Politics and social service were too hard to resist.

I eventually quit school before they tossed me out and enrolled in a national program called Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA). Instead of sending me to California as they’d promised, I was assigned to a storefront YWCA in Chicago. The Y was located in Uptown, one neighborhood away from Wrigley Field. While I was never able to wrap my head around the Cubs, I was drawn back into baseball and rode the train again and again to the Southside for my newly adopted White Sox.

After several years, a marriage, and a son, it was time to move on. My wife Peggy was amenable to the idea and Matthew was too young to vote. I got lucky and was hired by a social service workers collective called Project Place. More importantly, at least for this post, I became a Red Sox fan. It wasn’t hard. This is a diehard sports town, and I like to have things to believe in. It was also a team with a curse, which, given my family history and my increasingly likely divorce, I could believe in as well. It might have been these reasons or the fact that I moved to an apartment a couple blocks away from Fenway, but I started to love the Sox. It also didn’t hurt that in those days you could actually get a ticket on game day and they didn’t cost you a house.

A lot of my friends are askance when I tell them I actually root for three teams. I personally see this as a virtue; I’m someone who holds on to old friends. But I’m basically a serial monogamist. I think it’s love the one you’re with; the Red Sox are my current Number One. And having lived in Boston since the very early 70s, if I were to move again, I’m pretty sure the Sox would remain my number one.

Sue’s allegiance to her team is much more straightforward. She’s always been a Detroit Tigers’ fan and always will be. Probably has something to do with living in one place for all of your childhood and staying in state (University of Michigan) during her college years. And, as Detroit’s fortunes have, well, declined is the nicest word you could use for it, she has become even more rabid. “The city needs some good fortune,” she says. But she too has been in Boston for a real long time and has slowly warmed to the Red Sox.

Unless they play Detroit. Which is about to happen this coming Saturday night as the two teams begin their struggle for the American League Pennant.

So far Sue and I haven’t talked about the upcoming best of seven. In part because she doesn’t know her players as well as she did back in 1968. (Sue can still name that year’s entire starting line-up and pitching staff.) But this season that lack of knowledge won’t make a damn bit of difference when the teams take the field. I’m gonna hear her chant and watch her dance around the living room cheering, “Go Tigers, go Tigers,” for as long as the series lasts.

Me, well, I’m a little more hard core. I’ve followed this team’s configuration since last winter when they reworked their roster much to the derision of most baseball pundits. “Victorino for three years at 13 million? He has nothing left.”  “Jonny Gomes? Ben Cherington (the  General Manager) must be crazy.” Given his age, there was even disbelief that the Sox re-upped David Ortiz (Big Papi) for two more years. And who the hell is Mike Carp? Jeez, the Red Sox even had to make a trade for a manager to replace the nut-job who held the position last year. Truth is, most prognosticators had the Sox finishing last in their division just as they had last season when they imploded with a set of different players.

Well, the prognosticators were wrong. We finished first in our division and slashed our way through the opening round of this year’s play-offs—despite losing both our closers during the season and resurrecting a 38-year-old to fill the gap. Go figger.

Historically, sabermetricians, statistic junkies who have created new paradigms for understanding the game and a player’s worth, usually don’t rate a team’s “chemistry” very high on their list of variables. Well, I learned something this season. “Chemistry” does make a difference. These guys enjoy playing with each other and it shows. This is a team of dirt-dogs who play hard and count on each other to play hard until the last out of every game.

They’re real easy for me to like.

So tomorrow night (I’m writing this on Friday) the games begin and by the time you read this you’ll know the outcomes of the first two. And I’ll have “go tigers, go tigers,” ringing in my ear.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Rogers Hornsby


This is the time of year where every major sports league has something exciting either taking place or about to. A kaleidoscope of starting times, match-ups, rival networks, and television stations bursting into sports bloom.

For me, it just doesn’t get any better.

We’re hours away from discovering who will be this year’s men’s and women’s college basketball champions. It’s exciting even though I have no dog in the games. Actually, I might be the dog myself, salivating at the excitement of a final contest. Like my cousin Hank says, we’d watch any final of any championship including sports we know nothing about. Badminton, anyone?

Football’s free agency has slowed to a crawl, but when it was hot there was a great deal of player movement, something that fans love. Trades in any sport often remind me of slavery—only these slaves usually end up with millions in their pockets after the musical chair game is finished. The team owners always end up with more, but hey, that’s capitalism for you.

And here come the N.B.A. playoffs where I do have a dog. A real underdog. The Boston Celtics are limping (literally our two stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on ankle injuries) into the final regular season games hoping to cling to the seventh spot so they don’t see the Miami Heat in the first round. Although the Celts have been amazingly resilient throughout the course of this injury-plagued season, losing eight out of your last eleven games with nine to go doesn’t bode well for playoff momentum. (But the games won’t be decided before there are the jump balls so the Celts still have a chance for another banner. Just don’t bet the rent. I sure ain’t.

I’m not much of a hockey fan until their playoffs, which, in this strike-shortened season, is almost upon us. I follow the Bruins enough to know a couple of trades brought the eventual Hall of Famer who is on the downside of his career, Jaomir Jager, to the team. Since I really don’t know too much about the sport I’ll have to watch some games just to see what he looks like. Of course, those games will be in the Championship Series.

Now, the absolute best! Baseball season has begun. Yeah, April is the cruelest month and playing ball with knit facemasks leaves a lot to be desired. But opening day (this year ESPN jumped the gun and turned it into opening night) is always the harbinger of spring and the hope that comes with it.

I know, I know, the Red Sox aren’t supposed to be very good this season. After a huge salary dump to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of last year, the Sox bought themselves a few second tier dirt-dog players in the hope of a better clubhouse attitude and a bridge to potential star minor league players. Not exactly a catbird seat situation. But virtually all 162 games have yet to be played so forgive me for not quitting on my team. I like our starting pitching despite potentially losing one to an injury during the first game he pitched (John Lackey). Love our bullpen big time, and one of our budding stars, (would be two except the Sox spent 9.5 million for a one year shortstop so Jose Iglesias will be sent down as soon as nine and a half is ready to play), Jackie Bradley Jr., a twenty year old outfielder, has started every game and held his own—especially in the field. I don’t know if they’ll keep him in the majors all season or send him down for more seasoning, but he sure looks like the real deal.

I’m certain that in every major league city, fans are doing what I do—thinking, hoping to find rationales for why their team will be in the race. You know what? That’s what spring is for—no matter the temperature. The thought makes me smile.

But it’s not just the rooting that grabs my chops when baseball season begins. It is, as I’ve written in other posts, the game itself. Which is why, when people rightfully complain about ticket prices, ballpark signage, refreshment costs, parking, and steroids, I frankly don’t give a shit. Truth is, I’ve been priced out of Fenway for a decade. Which is why for a buck twenty I buy, which allows me to watch every team outside my home area for the entire season.

What I care about is how the catcher calls the game, how the pitcher is spotting the ball, the small adjustments the defense makes batter to batter. The game as a whole and the games within the game. I just love it.

So that’s it from this spring’s sports desk. I understand that what I’ve written isn’t for everyone—hell, Sue’s out there in the yard looking for a hint of green and searching for buds. But if Detroit plays in the World Series (her home town), she’ll be watching.

Heywood Broun: “The tragedy of life is not that man loses but that he almost wins.”