Krause: Reflections on Red Sox, Patriots, and Olympic issues

Idle chatter while getting up to speed after a two-week vacation:I’m not sure how I feel about instant replay in baseball. Word is it’ll be limited to disputes on whether balls have left the park, but in this “give ’em an inch and they grab for a mile” society, I wish I could believe that.Games take much too long as it is. And besides, there’s another word for a blown call: error. And when you come right down it, is it any more or less maddening for an umpire to blow a call than it is for the shortstop to boot the ball? Can we have a do-over for Bill Buckner’s error in the ’86 World Series? Or Bob Stanley’s wild pitch?I wish we could stop comparing Michael Phelps to other Olympic athletes and simply let him be Michael Phelps.I know we have this pathological need to compare and contrast, but sometimes it’s just impossible. How can you compare Phelps to Jesse Owens or Jim Thorpe in a “greatest Olympian of them all” contest? You can’t. Each Olympiad is unique. There are different circumstances, different calibers of competition, different venues?Was Phelps’ accomplishment this year better than Owens winning four gold medals in the Olympiad that was supposed to crown the Master Race? Better than Carl Lewis over two Olympics?Why do we have to compare them? Can’t we just appreciate what they did and leave it at that?And besides, would we be asking this question at all had Jason Lezak not chased down his French counterpart in the 400 free relay?Two weeks of watching the Olympics have left me with some nagging questions. First, what constitutes a sport as opposed to a competitive event? Maybe someone can help me here.When the entire world thinks that gymnast Nastia Liukin outperformed China’s He Kexin in the uneven parallel bars, yet Kexin gets the gold by virtue of judges’ subjectivity combined with a Byzantine tie-breaking formula, then we’re not talking sports here.If someone wants to dispute me, feel free.Other questions (or, rather, observations): When the International Olympic Committee sanctions synchronized platform diving, yet drops both baseball and softball from the roster, you’ll have to convince me this isn’t anti-Americanism at its worst.My final question/complaint/observation deals with NBC’s priorities. We were subjected to endless (and I DO mean endless) prime-time coverage of gymnastics, yet the network managed to show about 12 seconds of the Olympic decathlon (you had to go to Oxygen if you wanted to watch all of it).Something’s wrong there.On to other things?Pardon me while I express a little concern about the Patriots. It’s one thing to treat the preseason like an extended scrimmage. I’m fine with that. But I’d like for one of the three alleged backup quarterbacks to be able to, you know, play the position?If Tom Brady has to miss any significant time, they might not even beat out the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East.And speaking of Brady, this whole foot thing has to be a ruse. Otherwise, the Patriots would have chased Chad Pennington like a hungry wolf once the New York Jets released him.The Red Sox look more beat-up than the US boxing squad after two weeks in Beijing. But they’re hanging in there. To me, their biggest problem all year has been the bullpen, and lately, with rare exceptions, this crew has started to straighten itself out.With both Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett on the shelf, they’ve actually put together a nice little stretch of baseball heading into September and seem poised to at least win a wild-card berth.I’m still not sure whether they have enough to go all the way (somehow, I think the Karmic Retribution Society is about to pay the Chicago Cubs back for a century of misery). But you have to give them credit for sticking around.How many other teams could survive the loss of David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Beckett, and Wakefield for significant stretches (not to mention an invisible Jason Varitek for half the season) and still be in contention heading into September?Steve Kraus

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