A few things I care about …
▪ Maybe there was just a need for some suspense, because there isn’t any left about who is going to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence is going to the Jaguars; he and his wife recently promised a sizable charitable donation to the Jacksonville community after local fans raised money as a wedding gift for the couple.
So instead, people went nuts over comments Lawrence made in a recent interview.
File this under “much ado about nothing,” but still, I’m shaking my head over the reaction to what Lawrence told Sports Illustrated in an overhyped conversation about how much he loves football and whether he loves it enough to succeed in the NFL. Why do we ask for honesty from the people we interview if only to crush them when we don’t like the answer?
When the former Clemson star was quoted as saying, “It’s not like I need [football] for my life to be OK. I want to do it because I want to be the best I can be,” I felt the need to applaud. Lawrence’s perspective was not simply refreshing and mature — it was honest.
He added, “It’s hard to explain that because I want people to know that I’m passionate about what I do and it’s really important to me, but … I don’t have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyone’s out to get me and I’m trying to prove everybody wrong. I just don’t have that. I can’t manufacture that. I don’t want to.”
Then the armchair analysis soared even higher over the top.
Whether or not Lawrence lives up to his No. 1 status is the ultimate NFL crap shoot. League history is strewn with booms and busts at the game’s most important position. But so, too, is the game littered with too many crushed souls and broken bodies who didn’t know what to do with themselves after sports didn’t work out the way they envisioned.
Lawrence is heading into the battle with a commendable outlook, one that reflects football as something that he does rather than defines who he is.
Maybe that’s why he seemed less annoyed with the conversation than I was. In a series of tweets Sunday that concluded with “Thanks for coming to my TedTalk” and an applause emoji, Lawrence explained the “misreading” of his sentiments.
“I am internally motivated — I love football as much or more than anyone,” he wrote, adding, “That being said, I am secure in who I am, and what I believe. I don’t need football to make me feel worthy as a person.”
▪ The biggest sports story in the world has been happening across the pond, where the proposed European Super League created havoc in global soccer. Amid backlash so vociferous, it forced the six English teams involved to abandon the idea within a day of its announcement. Right in the middle of the storm sits Fenway Sports Group (and Globe owner John Henry), which is the owner of Liverpool FC, one of the dozen teams that wanted to break away from UEFA’s Champions League and create their own, much more lucrative endeavor.
The Super League would not simply have given the teams control of immeasurable revenue streams in broadcasting and marketing, but would immediately have put them in the playoff-style format that, in Champions League, was based on performance each season. Never mind earning it — free pass to the playoffs!
What was particularly fascinating was the reaction not from those fans on the outside looking in, but from those on the inside looking out. They hated it. If Boston sports fans take their fandom extremely personally, with their identities so intimately linked with the home teams’, they should understand this better than anyone.
Fans in places like Liverpool pride themselves on the working-class ethic of their team’s founding, and they are not alone. Arsenal, another breakaway team that changed quickly its mind, was founded in 1888 when a group of workers at the Woolwich arsenal got together to play, never having designs on a professional league.
The blatant money grab threatened to erase those ideals.
“It feels like betrayal, antithetical to the spirit of soccer, which is freedom,” is how my son Kevin, a lifelong Arsenal supporter, described it. “All you need is a ball and a piece of grass. That’s all that soccer was ever supposed to be. Fans feel hurt and sad and betrayed.”
Fans made their voices heard, but they won’t soon forget the damage that was done. Should Henry attempt to attend a Liverpool game any time soon, I’m sure they’ll let him know how they feel.
▪ It was hard not to think of that Lawrence perspective when another No. 1 pick announced his retirement this week. Alex Smith, the former 49er, Chief, and Washington QB, hung up his cleats at age 36, saying the game had given him enough.
That he does so after making it all the way back from the gruesome in-game injury that nearly cost him a leg is a credit to his toughness; that he does so at peace with all of his accomplishments is a credit to his outlook.
▪ A favorite stat of the week came from the NHL, which posted after Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand combined on yet another shorthanded goal, their 29th in regular-season play. That trails only Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (41 times) and Don Luce and Craig Ramsey (31) for most by a pair of teammates in NHL history.
▪ And the top trivia prize went to New York Post sportswriter Peter Botte, who asked as San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau passed Gordie Howe for most games played in NHL history, “Without Googling, who holds those records in MLB, the NFL, and the NBA?” (Answer below.)
▪ Sam Darnold wasn’t a No. 1 overall pick, but the No. 3 selection from only three years ago is already on his second NFL team. At the ripe old age of 23, Darnold was traded to the Panthers by the Jets, who will try again to find their franchise quarterback with this year’s second overall pick.
The Patriots won’t have Darnold to kick around anymore in the AFC East, but given the Jets’ history of futility, I pity the next guy.
▪ A leftover nod of shame from the Masters that has nothing to do with Augusta National but with the son of Masters legend and honorary starter Gary Player. Wayne Player tried to turn the ceremonial first tee into a marketing event, holding a branded golf ball he is invested in, while Augusta honored Lee Elder, the first Black man to compete at the Masters. Player’s son Marc seemed to confirm on Twitter that Wayne has been banned from Augusta as a result, and Gary, speaking to WFAN’s Ann Liguori, admitted, “It was wrong.”
▪ Belated congrats to Tara VanDerveer and Stanford women’s basketball, nomads-turned-NCAA champions whose run to the national championship was impressive for its long road away from home. VanDerveer, who was born in Melrose, also led the Cardinal to titles in 1990 and 1992, and to see her win again is pretty cool.
▪ Trivia answer: Pete Rose (3,562 games), Morten Andersen (382), and the Chief, Robert Parish (1,611).