Empty apologies only add to confusing sports madness



Two earworms have crept in, one entered L, the other through R. They’re The Temptations singing “Ball of Confusion.”

You see, we sports fans have been immersed in confusion, the kind now so badly afflicting the rest of the country, since long before the Mets, in exchange for $110 million, figured they could have Yoenis Cespedes for a wild boar in a poke.

Thus, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo “apologizes” to those deeply offended women “I may have offended,” sports figures have been using that “if” defense for years. It’s a way of saying, “I’ll make it seem as if you’ve got the problem.”

There have been some doozies — including enlightened social activist and democracy-deactivist, the Communist China profiteer LeBron James, who, after criticism for quoting a rapper pal’s anti-Jewish lyrics said, “Apologies for sure, if I offended anyone.”

Guess it didn’t dawn on him that his offending words ignited the criticism, no matter how brief and quickly dismissed by media and the NBA as no big deal.

This week we also learned that in the 1950s Dr. Seuss was our friendly family racist.

Seuss, as Theodor Seuss Geisel , began as a political newspaper cartoonist who drew pre-World War II warnings to America of German’s steam-rolling Nazi “master race.” How confusing.

As for NBA and literary superstars, as a junior high school kid I had to suffer the ugly Jewish stereotype of Shylock in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.” But I endured, no worse for the contextual history lesson.

Thus trying to figure out this Lady Gaga dognapping and shooting has been confusing. Seems she offered a $500,000 reward for the safe return of her three dogs. Her dog walker who was shot by the perps? I guess he’ll be put to sleep.

So thank goodness we still have our standard weekly sports puzzles to mull.

Sunday, during a Purdue-Indiana women’s volleyball match, 6-foot-2 Brooke Westbeld was serving for IU when Big Ten Network analyst Liz Tortorello-Nelson said Westbeld “was an All-American at Dayton.”

Huh? But that was that. Now back to the game.

So what was she doing at IU, other than playing volleyball? Was she another loopholed “graduate transfer,” her eligibility squeezed dry by enrollment in a grad school? IU’s media guide didn’t explain, either.

On CBS’ Villanova-Butler earlier, play-by-play man Andrew Catalon reported that Butler guard Jair Bolden is playing for his third college, after George Washington then South Carolina.

He’s now a one-year-eligible graduate student-athlete, meaning basketball and/or academics must be extremely important to him and Butler, though I don’t think having started 20 of 21 games and averaging 33 minutes I’m going to guess that he’s there — and was recruited — to play one season of basketball.

Unless Butler is proud to have him in one of its grad schools. If so, in which master’s degree program is he enrolled?

Confusing, but we never hear the rest of such stories. Or is it all a con, thus not all that confusing? With the NCAA Tournament coming to TV, many more such incomplete, confusing stories are coming.

More confusion: Why is TV always afraid to upset the NCAA, to which it pays billions of dollars?

And we’re still trying to figure out how Rob Manfred, standing before a large gathering of mourners, could eulogize Hank Aaron as a modest, humble gentleman worth our full and lasting admiration and emulation then return to his business of selling MLB to kids by encouraging them to on-field acts of rank immodesty and unnecessary agitation of opponents by bat-flipping and home plate-posing.

Wonder if Manfred would’ve flashed a thumbs up toward that wiseguy kid who trashed Cam Newton to his face as a “loser” when Newton tried to conduct a kids’ session on playing quarterback.

Kinda reminds me of the time the late David Stern, interviewed on NBC by Bob Costas, scoffed at the notion that taunting leads to fights. The next year the NBA added anti-taunting rules to cut down on fights. Or was that again the con with which we spell confusion?

Wahl was a decades-long friendly foe

Larry Wahl and I screamed and hollered at each other for 35 years, up and down the East Coast — first as he was the thankless, often abused publicity director of George Steinbrenner’s Yankees then as the head of publicity for ABC Sports, then as the top sports media man for the University of Miami and finally the same for the Orange Bowl game.

But I was small potatoes compared with the mayhem and misery, toward which he was forced. Though just a kid, it was Wahl who Steinbrenner immediately dispatched to Ohio to comfort Thurman Munson’s widow after he was killed in that 1979 plane crash. In 1992 Wahl’s family home was wrecked in Hurricane Andrew,

Still, our feuding could be heard from down the hall — two floors above — as his ABC colleague, Art Berke, now a Rutgers professor, played it by ear, calmly rising to close the office doors before security was summoned.

But like Alice and Ralph, we’d never end an episode angry. A joke ended every battle. When I suggested that we argue only to reach that joke, he agreed. We were friends for life.

Wahl, a month short of 68, died Wednesday in Florida after a long argument with cancer.

Doc gets virtual surprise

Doc Emrick thought he was going to be on an NBC sponsor’s event via Zoom. So he dressed nicely, not that he normally wouldn’t. Instead, it was a video retirement surprise party — for him — arranged by longtime TV info man and colleague Ben Bouma.

Rob Manfred won the day with a lifetime season’s pass to all MLB games, a thrill for hockey’s all-time greatest Pirates fan. Emrick grew up in Indiana listening to Bob Prince’s calls on Pittsburgh’s far-reaching KDKA.

Guests also included Gary Bettman, Bob Costas, Kenny Albert, Steve Levy, Chico Resch, Mike Tirico, Bill Clement, Lou Lamoriello, Mike Milbury, Joe Micheletti and John Davidson.

Emrick may have retired 50 years into the business in October, but his party goes on!

Lookalikes: Submitted by many: QB Carson Wentz and the Harry formerly known as Prince.

Carson Wentz and Prince Harry

Treating the management of “load management:” As the NBA’s All-Star Game’s appeal wears thin — like slam-dunk contests — the thing to remember is that it’s no longer played for fans but for TV money, in this case TNT’s.

Remember, in a cut-to-the-chase “solution” for unexcused absenteeism and dubious injuries, the NBA is now threatening sanctions of teams that don’t play their star players during nationally televised games.

That’s a tacit admission that teams can no longer, as a matter of players’ professionalism, ensure the earnest participation of those paid the most tens of millions of dollars.


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