Picked-up pieces while waiting for another good NFL player to quit his bad team, threaten to retire, then magically show up in Foxborough, born again as a Patriot . . .
■ I am OK with almost any change in sports as long as the Lions continue to be on TV every Thanksgiving.
■ Joe Morgan’s letter to Hall of Fame voters (keep the steroid cheaters out!) is late and too simple. Nothing about this issue gets more clear as time passes.
■ Admit it, Patriot fans. Deep down you wish Bob Kraft had been the one to take on Roger Goodell instead of Jerry Jones. You loved feisty Bob showing up for the Super Bowl in Arizona, demanding apologies, and commissioning “The Wells Report In Context.”
■ Red Sox fans didn’t like it in 2008 when Manny Ramirez quit on the Red Sox, got himself traded to Los Angeles, then showed up as Rambo, hitting .396 with 53 RBIs in 53 games for the Dodgers. The Martellus Bennett maneuver is great for New England, but makes the NFL look like a fledgling league with no regulation.
■ There are not six playoff-caliber teams in the AFC.
■ Brad Stevens’s dad was a three-sport star at Hoover High in Canton, Ohio, and earned a football scholarship to Indiana, where he was part of the program’s Rose Bowl team on Jan. 1, 1968. Alas, the Hoosiers were beaten, 14-3, by O.J. Simpson’s USC Trojans. Mark Stevens and his teammates celebrated the 50th anniversary of their Rose Bowl season last weekend.
■ Did you think it was a dark day in the US when our lads failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup? You should have seen the newspapers in Italy last week when the national soccer team suffered the same plight.
Italy has won four World Cups and last failed to make the tournament in 1958. The revolting development was greeted with headlines of “National Shame” and “Apocalypse.’’ The editor of Corriere dello Sport wrote, “The failure would create a new description for national humiliation.’’ One Italian pundit (Danielo Shaughnecci, perhaps?) described it as “a national shame without precedent.’’
■ Here’s hoping Luis Tiant gets the necessary votes (at least 12 of 16) when the Hall of Fame’s Modern Baseball Era committee convenes at the Winter Meetings Dec. 10. Tiant was a great pitcher for bad teams (he won 21 with a 1.60 ERA for the 1968 Indians) before he rescued the Red Sox in the 1970s. He was the ultimate big-game pitcher, every bit as good as Catfish Hunter, Don Drysdale, and Bert Blyleven, who are all enshrined.
■ We love the warm and fuzzy Houston Astros story, but I’m sure John Henry and other big-market owners haven’t forgotten how the ’Stros tanked and raked in millions from those who were paying luxury-tax money while Houston fielded a Triple A team in 2013 ($22 million payroll).
Sports Illustrated’s Jack Dickey reminds us that Houston’s reward for trying to lose was a raft of draft picks and buckets of money from the wealthy teams. “What great respect should we have for a club that so recently possessed no respect for us?’’ asks Dickey.
■ Bill Belichick drafted Tom Brady in 2000. Best coach-player combo ever? Not quite. The Red Auerbach-Bill Russell pairing has to be the most successful in sports history, with nine championships in 10 seasons.
Russell played for no coaches other than Auerbach and himself (Russell was Boston’s player-coach for three seasons after Red retired). A raft of Celtics won multiple championships while playing only for Red (Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, Sam Jones etc.).
Here’s a partial list of other great players who spent an entire career under one coach:
Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich
Spurs, 19 seasons, five NBA titles
Terry Bradshaw-Chuck Noll
Steelers, 14 seasons, four Super Bowls
Joe Greene-Chuck Noll
Steelers, 13 seasons, four Super Bowls
Bob Lilly-Tom Landry
Cowboys, 14 seasons, one Super Bowl
Roger Staubach-Tom Landry
Cowboys, 11 seasons, two Super Bowls
Otto Graham-Paul Brown
Browns, 10 seasons, seven titles
Sandy Koufax-Walter Alston
Dodgers, 12 seasons, four World Series
Don Drysdale-Walter Alston
Dodgers, 14 seasons, three World Series
■ QUIZ: What was the unusual common denominator regarding the Patriots’ four touchdowns in Super Bowl LI? (answer below)
■ I wish Johnny Most were still around to take a crack at pronouncing “Giannis Antetokounmpo.” Across America, the Greek Freak is touted as the Next Great One in the NBA. When LeBron James is done being the best player in the game, the torch will be passed to Milwaukee’s unstoppable force.
Giannis is a 6-foot-11-inch Greek immigrant of Nigerian descent with an 88-inch wingspan. He has Kevin Garnett’s game with a jumper and some handle. He plays some point guard for the Bucks. He is 22. If he doesn’t get hurt, he is Basketball Future.
■ If you saw or plan to see “Battle of the Sexes,’’ know that the tennis scenes were shot at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, which was torn down after the film was shot. Bob Cousy’s final Celtic moment unfolded on the court of the Arena when Cooz dribbled out the clock and fired the ball toward the ceiling as the Celtics won the championship against the Lakers in 1963.
■ Holy Cross will play Boston College in a varsity football game next season, the first meeting in 32 years. This is the worst idea since folks tried to bring the 2024 Olympics to Boston.
■ GQ took a shot at naming the world’s 50 greatest living athletes. Russell and Brady made the cut, but no Bobby Orr and no Larry Bird.
■ I confess that until somebody mentioned it this week, I was unaware that Wayne Gretzky would be the NHL’s all-time scoring leader even if he had never scored a goal. The Great One had 2,857 points. If you subtract his 894 goals, he still ranks ahead of current No. 2 Jaromir Jagr.
■ Since Joe DiMaggio hit .381 in 1939, the top batting average for any righthanded hitter is Nomar Garciaparra’s .372 in 2000.
■ Do yourself a favor and pick up “Present at the Creation: My life in the NFL and the Rise of America’s Game,’’ by Upton Bell with Ron Borges. It’s the story of the NFL through the clear eyes of a wise and funny man who lived through just about all of it.
Bell was general manager of the Billy Sullivan Patriots in his early years and gets credit for renaming the team the “New England” Patriots when they moved from Boston to Foxborough. They initially were to be called the “Bay State” Patriots, but Uppie quickly realized that would lead to a lot of headlines about the “BS Patriots.” “Columnists were having a field day with the name,’’ recalled Bell. Hilarious. If you love the NFL or just the Patriots, this book is for you.
■ Yankees general manager Brian Cashman officially declared that Jacoby Ellsbury is now a $21 million fourth outfielder. Ellsbury has three years remaining on his seven-year, $153 million pact. Clearly, the Red Sox made the correct read on this one.
■ Collision of football gods: When Bill Belichick was a senior tight end at Wesleyan, his Cardinals lost to the Coast Guard Academy, 24-7, in October of 1974. The coach of the Coast Guard Academy was Otto Graham.
■ Somerville native and former Cathedral and Don Bosco coach Kevin Mackey brought the late Manute Bol to America from Sudan in the mid 1980s. Bol’s birth date was listed as Oct. 16, 1962, but Mackey this week told Zagsblog, “I gave him his birthday because they didn’t know how old he was.’’ Bol’s son, 7-foot-2-inch Bol Bol, signed a letter of intent with Oregon this week.
■ The Watertown girls won their ninth straight field hockey state championship last weekend. And they did it without any boys on the roster. Sorry, I still have a problem with teenage boys playing girls’ high school field hockey. I know the rules and understand that there’s no equivalent sport for the boys to play, but there’s a physicality in that sport at that level that makes it unfair.
■ Congrats to longtime Newton North volleyball coach Rich Barton for another state championship. Barton has won two state titles in his tenure at North, and both times he had a Simmons girl from the Hunnewell Hill neighborhood in Newton: Tess Simmons in 2014 and Chelsea Simmons this year.
■ It’s better for us if Aaron Boone is named Yankee manager. It just is.
■ Tuesday night at the Garden, the Sports Museum will honor Chris Berman, Dave Cowens, Willie McGinest, Rick Middleton, Martina Navratilova, and Jason Varitek at the 16th annual Tradition.
■ Quiz answer: None of the four touchdowns was followed by a conversion kick. Stephen Gostkowski missed his PAT after the first touchdown. The next two touchdowns were followed by successful 2-point conversions, and the last TD was in overtime, making it the game’s final play.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org