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Final OT

Bob Ryan

Why it’s a good time of year to be a sports fan

It’s a good time of year for a sports fan. Baseball is coming to a climax. Football is beginning. Basketball and hockey aren’t far off. We’ve even got the best golfers on the planet hanging out with us.

Let’s examine a few odds and ends, OK?

Aaron Hernandez

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I have long believed that in the matter of Truth vs. Fiction it is wise to take Truth, plus the points, every time. Exhibit A is the case of Aaron Hernandez.

The revelations in the Rolling Stone article, if true, are very damning for the Patriots. It’s not just what they knew about the tight end’s scary life away from Gillette Stadium, but why they didn’t know more. Here was a valuable employee requiring 24/7 surveillance, period. I think we can now understand what Matt Light means when he was quoted as saying he wasn’t on board with what Hernandez “stood for.” I’m guessing a lot of his teammates felt the same way. I keep wondering if the players are even remotely creeped out by the thought they interacted for a year with a man who may wind up being implicated in three murders. This is a long way from showering next to someone serving a suspension for elevated testosterone.

And yet Bob Kraft lavished a $40 million contract on this wayward individual? If it was with the knowledge that Hernandez was a major social deviant, shame on him. If it was in ignorance, shame on him. Either way, I think he needs a do-over news conference to retract the “I was duped” line.

As for the coach, more and more he is starting to embody Lord Acton’s famous pronouncement that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Bill Belichick badly needs a post-Spygate Super Bowl victory. Diehard see-no-evil Patriots fans are the only ones who don’t understand why.

Red Sox

Yes, it will be a disappointment if they don’t make the playoffs. That’s a line I never thought I’d be writing in April.

But even if they don’t make it, they will have accomplished a necessary goal, and that is to restore credibility. They had to prove that what happened in September 2011 and all of 2012 was an aberration, that they were not a woeful, dysfunctional organization, but one that had gotten off the track a bit and that had been hit with key injuries (e.g. Jacoby Ellsbury, Big Papi) and that had made an almost disastrously bad judgment in selecting a manager, a move, I must admit, I thought had a very good chance of working out.

I speak now as a 20-year season ticket-holder. I would have been satisfied with 81-81. I didn’t have great playoff hopes, even with the addition of the second wild card. Toronto was a Mortal Lock, remember? Tampa Bay had that pitching. I couldn’t see the Rays winning fewer than 88 or 90. I thought the Orioles would have a market correction, if only because that one-run/extra-inning thing was not sustainable, but I thought they were solid. You couldn’t predict this nightmare of an injury-riddled season for those guys in the Bronx. And that’s just the AL East. No way I was thinking playoffs.

OK, so if they do make it, and assuming we’re talking about more than just that insane Coin Flip game, there is only one relevant question and that is, “Do they have enough pitchers who can win playoff games?”

And my absolute, definitive answer is, well, kinda, sorta, maybe. Wait a minute. Take a stand, Bob.

Yes, they do. It’s not Detroit, and it’s not Tampa Bay, but it seems to be all right, even without Clay Buchholz. The second-half Lester, the (hope to God) healthy Peavy, and the season-long Lackey are all capable of giving you the six, seven innings of quality work that can win a playoff game against anybody, and I wouldn’t hesitate to hand the ball to Doubront, either. And in the playoffs, three are all you need. Teams have won with two (check out the ’87 and ’91 Twins). Three good starters can get the job done.

Now they have to get there.

Johnny Manziel

That wasn’t a slap-on-the-wrist punishment. That was a teeny-weeny pinch of the cheek.

Could the NCAA have done more to look foolish than invoking a one-half-game suspension on Manziel for a game against Rice? If it really wanted to hit him where it hurts, it could have made him go to a class.

The NCAA couldn’t find the money. I understand. That was always going to be an issue. That being the case, too bad. Say it didn’t have sufficient proof that he was paid to sign whatever, and tell him not to do whatever it is it couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt he did, and move on. It’s a safe bet he will postpone any such activity until after the new season, and then we can play the same game all over again.

A half-game? The NCAA needs new lawyers if this is the best advice it can buy.

And raise your hand if you thought there was the remotest chance Johnny Football wouldn’t be taking snaps against Alabama two weeks hence. I have a few financial opportunities you and I could discuss.

Tiger Woods

It’s clear by now there are two people named Tiger Woods.

There is the regular-season Tiger Woods and there is the playoff Tiger Woods. Once upon a time they were one and the same, but since the 2009 PGA that has not been the case.

The separation took place months before the infamous Thanksgiving backing out of the driveway. The separation began when the man who never blew a 54-hole lead (well, almost never) blew a big one in the 2009 PGA, losing to Y.E. Yang. It was a major that got away, and he is still looking for No. 15, more than five years after winning No. 14.

Tiger can still kick some serious butt in the non-majors (i.e. the golf regular season). He has won five times this year. I would call that the equivalent of an NBA team winning 68 games. But when the playoffs roll around (i.e. the majors) he has become an entirely different Tiger Woods. That Tiger Woods is a toothless feline, apparently incapable of breaking 70 on the weekend. He always has an explanation, but the simple fact is the playoff Tiger is not the same guy as the regular-season Tiger. He is a 68-win regular-season team who gets knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

I’ve read and heard various explanations for all this, and that includes the premise that he now only wins on familiar courses, but to me it is very simple. Technical, schmechnical, it’s all in his head. It’s not simply about the need to keep the ball in the fairway or make the requisite putts. The clock is ticking on his pursuit of Nicklaus and the magic No. 18, and he knows it. Five precious years have passed and he is still stuck at 14, when we all thought he’d probably have it done by now.

Regular-season Tiger will pass Sam Snead. Playoff Tiger has very little chance of passing Jack. For Playoff Tiger to win even one more major he must find a way to transfer Regular-season Tiger’s game to the right four days on the golf calendar.

Maybe Regular-season Tiger and Playoff Tiger should, oh, you know, do lunch or take a meeting.

NFL concussion settlement

It ain’t over till it’s over. And it ain’t over. Two-hand touch may eventually be the only solution.

Bob Ryan's column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.
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