Picked-up pieces while sending a birthday card to Mick Jagger, who turns 78 on Monday . . .
▪ Hockey was good to Mike Milbury, and Mike Milbury was good for hockey. He played for Walpole High, Colgate, and 12 seasons with the Bruins before becoming head coach of the Black and Gold, taking them to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season behind the bench. He later coached and ran the New York Islanders, then enjoyed a long career of hockey broadcast analysis, where his candor and wit made him a must-listen every year, especially at playoff time.
And then it all went away with nine words uttered last August in the NHL playoff bubble in Toronto, when Milbury was on the air with fellow analyst Brian Boucher.
Boucher was discussing life in the bubble during an Islanders-Capitals broadcast, concluding that the no-fan, no-family bubble was a perfect place for teammate bonding and good competition, when Milbury added, “Not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”
That was it. That’s the totality of his transgression that got him fired after 46 years in and around the NHL, 14 with NBC.
The league immediately condemned Milbury’s comment as “insensitive and insulting.” Milbury left the bubble the next day after issuing a statement that read (in part), “In light of the attention caused by my recent remark, I have decided to step away from my role at NBC Sports for the remainder of the playoffs.”
Within a few weeks, he was informed by NBC that he would not be returning to the broadcasts, even though he had another year on his contract.
The last paycheck from NBC has cleared.
“Now it’s time to say something,” Milbury said Thursday on a phone call from the Cape. “I don’t want to end 46 years of a career like this.
“I want to explain the comment from that day. As a player and coach in the league, I’ve been on a lot of road trips and around a lot of guys that are young, fit, well-compensated, have celebrity status, and when they go on the road they play hard and they party hard. And a lot of their attention is on women, and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way.
“Now I get it, everybody else has other ways to party, but that’s my experience and I stand by it. It’s biology, for [goodness] sake. So sometimes their lust for companionship was a distraction. So I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the comment, but apparently it was to other people. And I got dismissed from my job.
“Excuse me, but I’m not going to be canceled. I refuse to be canceled. The only thing that’s going to cancel me is the grim reaper, and I can see him in the distance, but not yet.
“While I’ve been on this sabbatical, I’ve thought many things. Long walks. There are many social inequities in the United States, and I am glad they are being addressed. Great things. I think we can all agree with that. But it’s become a tsunami of social change and tsunamis are indiscriminate. They’ll wipe out the good and the bad and anything in its way, and I don’t think that’s right. It makes heroes out of people that aren’t heroes, and villains out of people that aren’t villains, and maybe worst of all, a social tsunami is too quick to point a finger and too quick to declare guilt by legacy, and I’m not going to accept that. Just because bad things happened in the past doesn’t mean I’ve got to be guilty for things that happen today. I don’t buy that.
“What if I had said there aren’t any dogs here to distract the players? Or any wives? Or children? Do I have to describe the whole pantheon of the human race in order for it to be politically correct? . . . I didn’t feel like I was offending anybody. Has your wife ever been a distraction in your life? I hope you give me the right [expletive] answer.”
Milbury said he approached NHL commissioner Gary Bettman a few weeks ago.
“I wanted to know if everybody really felt this horribly about it, and he told me he couldn’t remember exactly what I had said,” said Milbury.
I reached out to Bettman’s office and league spokesman John Dellapina said, “The commissioner received Mike’s call right before Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. When he was reminded of the specific language, Commissioner Bettman stood by our statement at the time.”
▪ Fox employee David Ortiz promotes a betting app on Fox MLB telecasts. As noted by Jon Rimmer of SB Nation, in 2005, Ortiz’s close friend Felix Leopoldo Marquez Galice, a.k.a. “Monga,” was betting on Sox games in a Boston barbershop that was found to be a front for a gambling parlor. According to former Boston police detective Eddie Dominguez, a resident security agent for the Red Sox from 1999–2008, Monga was barred from the Sox clubhouse and eventually deported for immigration violations, then continued to work for Ortiz in the Dominican Republic.
What does Dominguez think of MLB and Fox using Ortiz as a pitch man for gambling?
“I have questions,” says Dominguez, author of “Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America’s National Pastime.” “I have no idea how Rob Manfred, Alex Rodriguez, and David Ortiz have become such close friends. David and Alex are Fox announcers. I just don’t understand it. Baseball has always looked at gambling as something that cannot happen. Remember Pete Rose? So I don’t see how they give anybody that has anything like this in their history that kind of a role.”
▪ Quiz: Name three MLB players eligible for Cooperstown that won back-to-back MVPs, but are not in the Hall of Fame. Active players are not yet eligible (Answer below).
▪ Certifying his legend as a world-class jerk and a phony, Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders this past week stormed out of Southwestern Athletic Conference media day after a reporter twice addressed him as “Deion” instead of “coach.”
▪ Applause for Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton for going directly from the NBA Finals (a terrific watch, by the way) to the Tokyo Olympics without pausing to take a breath.
▪ Jon Lester’s career winning percentages and ERAs with the Red Sox and Cubs are identical. In nine seasons with Boston, Lester went 110-63, a .636 winning percentage. In six seasons with the Cubs he was 77-44, .636. His ERA with both franchises was 3.64.
▪ Stunning to hear Christian Vázquez, in the wake of losing two of three to the Yankees, remark that the Red Sox needed to demonstrate more cockiness: “We need to act more like we’re in first place. That’s the key for us. We need to be more cocky.” Yikes. If there’s one thing these Sox have in abundance, it’s attitude. They peacock like they’re the ’27 Yankees.
▪ Best part of the NBA Finals being over is not having to see Jae Crowder flopping and complaining to the refs every trip down the floor.
▪ Ninety-two-year-old Bob Cousy is still getting rave reviews for his role in 1994′s “Blue Chips,” which starred Nick Nolte and had cameos by Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Pitino, and Bobby Knight.
“The revelation here is the Boston Celtic great Bob Cousy, who transforms into a morally ambivalent athletic director,” wrote the New York Times on Monday. “It’s a startlingly assured performance from a Hall of Famer from the early years of the NBA.” Directed by two-time Academy Award winner William Friedkin, “Blue Chips” can be streamed on Hulu and Paramount+.
▪ Pierre McGuire took a lot of grief, but I will miss his contributions to NBC’s hockey broadcasts.
▪ Naomi Osaka is on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and also has her own Barbie doll, which is a sellout success.
▪ Jackie Robinson’s widow, the regal Rachel Robinson, turned 99 on Monday.
▪ Sorry, but Maria Taylor leaving ESPN is not a seismic move on par with LeBron James going to the Miami Heat. How many of you knew who she was a month ago?
▪ The Globe’s John Powers is too humble to write about himself, but he is far more interesting than much of the Olympics he is covering. Powers is in Tokyo for his 22nd Olympics — 11 Summer, 11 Winter. It would be 23 straight if not for President Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Games because of the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan. Clearly the active leader in Games covered, Powers is believed to be in the top five of all who have ever covered the Games.
▪ Good luck at Villanova to Taunton softball pitcher Kelsey White, who had a Pedro-like four seasons in the Hockomock League. White won two Division 1 state championships, finished 52-5 in her career, and allowed two earned runs as the Tigers went 20-0 in her senior season.
▪ Sticking with the high school theme, best wishes to longtime Newton North volleyball coach Rich Barton, who hung it up last weekend after multiple decades (and state championships) coaching the boys and girls at North.
▪ Congratulations to Dr. Robyn Riseberg and Boston Community Pediatrics, which received the Red Sox Foundation’s $10,000 IMPACT Award before Thursday night’s Sox-Yankees game at Fenway.
▪ Prayers and thoughts to the family of WBZ video editor crew chief Jim Murphy, who lost a great husband and dad when Murphy died suddenly this past week. A product of Haverhill and UMass, Murphy worked for ‘BZ for almost two decades and was the anchor of the station’s wall-to-wall Patriots coverage. Loved by all, he will be greatly missed.
▪ Quiz answer: Roger Maris, Dale Murphy, Barry Bonds.