Keeping Score: Checking one off the bucket list

Friday, September 15, 2017

Good morning!

Last Saturday, my 6-year-old grandson Chase and I watched the University of Massachusetts play Old Dominion at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst.

This was his first college gridiron experience and during the drive he chattily described what he knew about football. “People get tackled, and I like people throwing the ball and catching and running… and I know they pour Gatorade on the coach if they win!”

We parked on the south loop and he leapt from the car holding his Wilson mini-replica football. “I can smell hot dogs already!” he shouted.

We tossed the ball back-and-forth into the stadium and stood behind the UMass bench for the warmups. I pointed to Logan Laurent’s majestic punts and quarterback Andrew Ford’s spirals, and motioned to the FieldTurf shimmering in the late summer sun. Chase put both hands on the railing and lifted himself over for a better look. “It’s fake,” he said.

We sat in the last row looking down on the south end zone. The UMass students were on the other side of the field, and a group of ODU fans sat across from us. 

The attendance was 10,000, giving Chase ample room to eat clam chowder, ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy.

Shortly after the kickoff, Bernardston’s Dave Lorenz joined us. He had been tailgating with an Army buddy from Fort Devens and when the PA announcer asked veterans to stand and be recognized, he hesitated.

“Stand up!” I urged.

Finally he did stand up, and he got the recognition he deserved, together with all the other veterans.

Afterward, he tapped me on the elbow and pointed to a young fan in a UMass jersey holding aloft a white placard with black lettering that said, “WHIPPLE OUT.”

It was living proof that there’s at least one kid at UMass with Division 1 attitude, but Mark Whipple’s not going anywhere. He has not done well, but his firing would cost too much money and disrupt too many lives for what little uptick it would create. Knute Rockne couldn’t get this program to win, not until it joins a conference and stops scheduling losses for money, like the $1.9 million it will get to be beaten at Auburn in two years.

The Minutemen were losing 10-0 and we left at halftime to play on the practice fields. Chase has a gymnast’s build and he’s full of energy. He ran to a blocking sled laying next to a maple tree and starting pushing. It didn’t budge and he backed off. “How do they do it?” he marveled.

We stood on opposite sides of a goalpost and kicked the football over the crossbar to each other. The wind was blowing from the north and we could hear the UMass marching band playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”

When the game resumed I asked, “Do you want to go back in?”

“No, let’s go to Rafters so I can play ‘Claws,’” he said, referring to the arcade game.

“Nope. I’m broke.”

The game had cost me under $75, including gas, parking, tickets and food. We walked to the car and Chase asked, “Next time, can we watch the Patriots?”

“Sure,” I answered, “after I win the lottery.”

The Don Maynard 5-Miler is at 9:30 a.m. today. Early risers who want a scenic workout can register near the starting line on Nash’s Mill Road. Registration is $25 for scholarships honoring the memory of a popular Greenfield resident whose life was cut short by violent crime.

Whoever hung the “Racism is as American as Baseball” banner over the Green Monster on Wednesday night couldn’t have chosen a better venue than America’s whitest ballpark.

On Felger & Mazz, CSN’s Jim Murray rhetorically asked, “What’s this accomplish, other than those that pulled it off get to feel really righteous?

“You want my message?” he added. “Stop bothering people, because your message isn’t going to change the world.”

The perps snuck the furled banner in a bag past security and into the costliest part of the park. Might John Henry have stealthily been stirring the pot in his campaign to change the road sign at Yawkey Way?

What he’s actually done is hurt the Yawkey Foundation’s charitable efforts. Its chairman (and former Red Sox CEO) John Harrington has defended his former boss in a letter to friends and contributors: “Proponents of the name change have led a campaign marked by factually inaccurate statements about the lives and beliefs of Tom and Jean Yawkey,” wrote Harrington. “We will never change the regrettable fact that the Red Sox were the last (MLB) team to field an African-American player, but unfounded speculation on why that happened has been malicious and baseless.”

Whatever his faults, Yawkey earmarked millions to save lives, and that has perpetuated his image as a good and decent man.

NFL columnist Ira Kaufman, on Irma being a killjoy inside his Tampa home: “Eli Manning went back to pass and the next thing I knew I had a blank screen like it was the last scene of the Sopranos.”

Ed Randall teased Rico Petrocelli about Applegate on their Saturday morning show on Sirius-XM. “When the Red Sox owners re-assembled the 1967 team to honor your greatness, did all of you get Apple Watches?” 

“I don’t know what an Apple Watch is,” laughed Rico, who added, “We had some coaches pretty good at it. I loved it. I had some success with it.”

UMass hockey tickets are on sale. General admission is $12 and $10 for faculty, seniors and children 13 and under. New players include Cale Maker and Mario Ferraro, the fourth and 49th overall picks in this year’s draft. 

The home opener is Oct. 14 against American International College.

UMass was a 14½-point underdog against Temple Friday night and I suspect they covered. The Owls lost coach Matt Rhule to Baylor after last season and had nine players leave for the NFL — three were drafted (linebacker Haason Reddick, offensive lineman Dion Dawkins and cornerback Nate Hairston) and six signed free agent contracts.

SQUIBBERS: At this writing the White Sox had won five of six and Yoan Moncada was 12-for-28 with two home runs and a triple. The 22-year-old Cuban infielder was the prime piece in the Chris Sale trade. … The Giants beat the Dodgers between rain delays on Monday. The game ended Tuesday morning at 5:11 a.m. Eastern time. … The Dodgers are the only MLB team to have won and lost 15 of 16 games in the same season. As Mel Allen would say, “How ‘bout that?” … Sergio Dipp’s sideline performance on Monday Night Football was cringe-worthy, but the 2003 Joe Namath-Suzy Kolber interview is still the TV-guy-in-the-truck’s worst nightmare. … Vladimir Ducasse is the backup right guard in Buffalo. A second round pick out of UMass, Ducasse has played eight seasons for five teams. Offensive linemen are like southpaw relievers, not high profile but there to get the out. A case in point: Lefty Craig Breslow has eight saves in 573 appearances for 12 teams in 12 seasons. … Coach Chuck Pagano said, “Credit the 49ers” after his Colts were crushed by the Rams. Go figure. … Jacoby Ellsbury broke the major league record for reaching base on catcher’s interference this week, passing the previous mark of 29 held by Pete Rose. … If Supreme Court justice Sonya Sotomayor can sit in the Judge’s Chambers at Yankee Stadium, maybe Donald Trump will sit in the Dog Pound at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium. … The Bengals’ 20-0 loss to the Ravens on Sunday was only the fourth shutout in 271 regular season NFL games since last season. … Too bad this year’s not next year, when the Red Sox and Yankees play the final three game of the season at Fenway Park. … Eagles Nation in Statesboro is calling for Tyson Summers’ head after Georgia Southern’s 22-12 loss to UNH last week. An article in the student newspaper broke down the second-year coach’s severance pay: “$900,000 paid in 36 equal monthly installments immediately following the date of termination.” The team that UMass beat to win the 1998 Division I-AA national championship plays UMass in Amherst on Oct. 21.  … Tickets to this week’s Yankees-Rays series at Citi Field cost $25 and were general admission anywhere, including first row behind the dugout. … A $100 bet on Cleveland to beat the Red Sox at the start of their 22-game streak returned $247. If a Las Vegas bettor had let those winnings ride, his winnings would be up to $1,872,606. … And if if’s and buts were candied nuts, we’d all have a helluva Christmas.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.