Regrets? I’ve had a few. And not too few to mention.
There was that prediction last winter that there was “zero chance” the Patriots could lose to the Texans (Texans 28, Patriots 22). It was the same with Super Bowl LII in frosty Minneapolis in 2018 when I told you that there was no bloody way Nick Foles and Doug bleepin’ Pederson could dethrone Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (Eagles 41, Patriots 33).
Wrong and wrong. When you write approximately 5,000 sports columns over 32 years, you are going to make some wrong calls. I can, for example, affirm that on the front page of the Oct. 17, 2004, Boston Globe (hours after the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, 19-8, in Game 3 of the ALCS), I stated, "So there. For the 86th consecutive autumn, the Red Sox are not going to win the World Series.''
Fact. Not opinion. And it was categorically wrong. Untrue. Fake news, some would say.
When the Red Sox won the World Series 10 days later, our newspaper did not print a correction. I’m surprised former Globe editor Marty Baron — a stickler for accuracy — let that one go.
The correction would have been a dandy. Something along the lines of, "Because of reckless emotion and no faith, it was incorrectly reported in the Oct. 17 Globe that the Red Sox were not going to win this year’s World Series. The Red Sox won the World Series in St. Louis on Oct. 27. The Globe regrets the error.''
Being wrong about game predictions is not a big deal, except, I suppose, to those betting large sums of money. As a columnist, it’s far worse to read old opinions that were flat-out wrong, inappropriate, or simply aged poorly.
I stumbled into this theme while flipping through sports sections of recent months, trolling for ideas. Suddenly, I was gobsmacked by a spring training column filed from Fort Myers March 9. It’s one I would like back.
Three days before MLB shut down spring training, I offered a missive from Fenway South in which I focused on locker room access instead of the surging pandemic that was about to change all of our lives. All major sports had closed dressing rooms to the media as of March 9, and I had journalistic concerns about a new normal that would forever change reporters’ ability to tell you what the players are really like.
"Let’s not create a clear path to eliminate locker room access in perpetuity,'' I whined. "Fans hungry for information about their teams would do well to understand what is lost when you take sports reporters out of the locker room.''
Ouch. It seemed important at the time. Now it sounds ridiculous. Ten weeks after writing those words, I cringe reading them.
Often when speaking to groups of young people, I will be asked by a student, "Are there any columns you wish you could do over again?''
Plenty. One was July 28, 1993, the day after Celtic Reggie Lewis died while shooting baskets at Brandeis, a few months after collapsing during a playoff game. Learning of Lewis’s sudden death, I went to the keyboard angry at the Celtics. I believed the team had allowed Lewis to continue playing even though their own medical team knew better.
"Did the head-in-the-sand Celtics try too hard to stay out of bounds?'' I wrote. "The Celtics, shamelessly free of liability, gleefully embraced a positive diagnosis that flew in the face of a club-assembled Dream Team of cardiologists . . . A life was risked for no reason.''
It was too harsh, too soon, and too emotional.
Then there was that time in the mid 1990s when I interviewed Hall of Famer Wade Boggs during the O.J. Simpson media circus. Boggs had been publicly pilloried when faced with a palimony suit filed by Margo Adams. Unfortunately, my clunky column about an athlete-in-a-fishbowl made it seem to some that I was comparing his marital transgression to murder charges filed against Simpson. Boggs did not appreciate my effort. And he was right.
Back in the 1980s, I was too harsh on Oil Can Boyd, who clearly had cocaine issues. Should have showed the Can some compassion.
In a new-century comparison of former Sox aces Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, I submitted that Pedro — marginally superior to the Rocket over their Red Sox careers — also had better command of the English language than Clemens. Cheap shot.
And there’s no need for name-calling. Steve Crawford was a Sox reliever of dubious merit, but it was harsh to state that "he’s as useful as a sack of doorknobs.'' It was wrong to call Jose Offerman a piece of junk. Artis Gilmore, lumbering on the parquet at the end of his esteemed NBA career, could have been characterized as something other than "Rigor-Artis.'' It was probably unnecessary to point out that Tom Werner waved to Ray Charles when the soul legend performed at Fenway.
So yes, there are some I would take back.
Let’s look at this beauty filed breathlessly from the 2014 World Series, when the Giants were overtaking the Royals.
"SAN FRANCISCO — The Red Sox can’t sign Pablo Sandoval fast enough. Truly. John, Tom, and Larry need to bring the Kung Fu Panda to Fenway Park. I promise never to rip Sandoval for being out of shape or going on the disabled list.''
Sorry. I saved the worst for last.