Monday, October 30, 2006
ARNOLD "RED" AUERBACH DEAD AT AGE 89
I was going to start off by writing something about the race to become governor here in Massachusetts, but this is more important to me.
"Red" Auerbach was the greatest coach in the history of American sports. That's an opinion and everybody has his or her own. However, I'll back up my opinion with fact.
9 World Championships, 8 of them consecutive.
That's enough right there, from a statistical standpoint, but I'll embellish with some humanity.
Auerbach was a one-man civil rights movement. Under his leadership and guidance, The Boston Celtics became the first NBA team to draft an African-American player. He was the first coach in any major American sport to have his starting team be completely non-white. When he retired as coach, he named his own successor. That was Bill Russell, the first black man to ever coach a professional sports team in America.
Here's what made Auerbach a legendary figure, though. He didn't do any of those things because he felt sorry for black people, out of some sort of white liberal guilt. He did them because they were the right things to do, at those moments, for the success of the Boston Celtics basketball team. In my book, that makes him far greater than someone trying to address a past inequity or whose main purpose is to fill a quota. Auerbach looked for the right man to do the job he needed done and it didn't matter to him if that man turned out to be white, black, or orange with purple stripes. Auerbach lived the words of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. He judged men by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
In later years, as Auerbach brought his total of World Championship banners won by his beloved Celtics up to 16 in his capacity as General Manager and then Team President, some idiots who knew nothing of history accused Red of being a racist. They did so on the grounds that the Celtics fielded teams with a higher percentage of white players than any other organization in the NBA. Fools, every one of them. Auerbach hired whomever he thought was best to do the job, as always. Proof of his decisions not being racially motivated is borne out by the championships those teams won, just as his teams with a higher percentage of black players won championships years earlier.
Further proof? Bill Russell, at times a very outspoken critic of race relations in Boston and a man not easily forgiving of racism in any form, loved Auerbach. When a number was raised to the rafters in honor of Auerbach, Russell was there front and center. He wouldn't have made that appearance for anyone even remotely bigoted.
If you could put the ball through the hoop - or stop someone else from doing so - that's what mattered to Red Auerbach. Oh, and intelligence, also.
The one thing that many people overlook in the success of The Boston Celtics franchise is that the players were inordinately smart. Red Auerbach drafted, signed and traded for people who could think. The Celtics did not have big dumb brutes with magnificent bodies and pea-sized brains. Even if you didnÂt know the guy that they took as their number one pick in the draft - as was often the case, since they always drafted so low due to winning championships - the one thing that could always be counted upon, as a fan, was that the guy would be intelligent and would not embarrass the city.
Here's the ultimate testament to Auerbach's ability to recognize intelligence and to nurture talent as a coach, general manager, mentor and friend. A higher percentage of ex-Celtics have gone on to be successful NBA coaches, in their own right, than from any other team in the league. The list includes stellar winning coaches such as Bill Sharman, Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Don Nelson and Tommy Heinsohn. There were many others, including Dave Cowens, Satch Sanders, Chris Ford, M. L. Carr and Bob Cousy. Then there are the successful executives, such as Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. And college coaches, too, like John Thompson and Frank Ramsey. No dummies in the entire lot and all beholden to Red in some way or another for their successes.
Personally, I take courage in the fact that the man smoked huge cigars and ate Chinese food almost every day of his adult life and he still lived to be close to 90.
Rest In Peace, Red.
In other news...
SULDOG ENDORSES MIHOS
In a stunning blow to the hopes of the Christy Mihos campaign for Governor of Massachusetts, Jim "Suldog" Sullivan has given him his official endorsement.
Sullivan is well known for his involvement in hopelessly quixotic campaigns, including his own lost cause in 1992. Due to Sullivan's endorsement, Mihos is expected to announce his withdrawal from the race at any moment.
The only way Deval Patrick won't be Governor of Massachusetts, come January, is if he keels over dead before the inauguration. Having said that, let me tell you why.
Yes, he's said all of the right things as a Democratic candidate in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. Yes, he's run a smart campaign. Yes, he's an intelligent person and he knows how to maximize his opportunities. Those things have made the race a lock, but those aren't the things that have won this race.
The simple facts are these: Kerry Healey is both a woman and a Republican. The voters of this oh-so-liberal state might elect a woman as governor. They most certainly have elected Republicans. However, they are not ready to elect a woman who also happens to be a Republican. It's that simple.
You may be saying, "But, Deval Patrick is black. What about that?" Simple. If Deval Patrick were also a Republican, he would lose to a Democratic Kerry Healey. As for the other candidates, Mihos, being an independent candidate and a white male, finishes third. Grace Ross, being a lesbian and a member of a "fringe" party, trails all of the others. If Mihos were the Democratic candidate, he would beat the Republican Healey. If Mihos were the Republican candidate, he would probably beat the Democrat, either Healey or Patrick, though it would be mighty close and a loss wouldn't be a shocker. Ross, in all scenarios, has one or two liabilities too many to win, even as a Democrat.
Massachusetts has a reputation across the country of being California East; liberal as the day is long and permissive in politics and policies. This is a gigantic misconception. What Massachusetts IS is genetically Democratic, with a cowardly legislature and a bold judiciary.
Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, though, right? No. The judiciary of Massachusetts legalized gay marriage. In most polls, it seems the citizenry would remove that right if given an option to vote upon it. And the legislature has consistently sidestepped the issue.
The Massachusetts electorate, by and large, is liberal, but not because they've thought about it much. They have been raised to be good Democrats and to adore the majority opinion, even if they choose not to wear the label "Democrat". They choose to think that they are rebellious, but the fact of the matter is that they know which side their bread is buttered on, even if only on an instinctual level. Democrats control the legislature and the unions and just about anything else of value within the state and are thus in a position to hand out the goodies. To vote for anything other than a Democrat shows an amazing amount of courage as well as a stunning lack of self-interest for those such as teachers, state workers, union members, police, and others beholden to the current system.
This is not to say that every Democratic vote is uninformed or ignorant. It's just that the Democratic Party has such a stranglehold on the hearts and minds of many of these people that the label usually matters more, in gaining votes, than the objective reality. That's why, in my opinion, if you switched the party labels of the candidates but left their positions on the issues intact, the outcome would change. Just as some people will never in their entire lives venture from voting for one of the two older and established parties, there are those who will never vote for any but ONE of those parties. And, in this state, those who will vote only for Democrats far outnumber those who will vote only for Republicans or Libertarians or Greens or Independents. In order for one of these others to win an election, there must be something radically wrong with the Democrat's campaign - or the Democrat must be of a sex or race which many Massachusetts voters will not consider voting for, despite their supposed liberality.
Well, my sociological opinions are just that - opinions. Your mileage may vary. However, whatever your beliefs or mine, Patrick wins handily. Bet your house, your firstborn, your life savings, or (if you are so equipped, you can find someone to take the bet and you get good odds) your dick. You won't lose. I'm voting for Mihos because his views most closely match my own. He has no chance whatsoever. Still the best political ad I've ever seen, though.
And now, on the lighter side...
TOMORROW IS HALLOWEEN; I BOUGHT CANDY
As usual, I bought things that I like to eat. This is because, for whatever reasons, we never get near as many trick-or-treaters as we'd like. I always prepare for hundreds. We usually get 20 or 25, tops.
It's a shame. MY WIFE and I love to give out candy to kids in costume. We make sure to put on the porch light and we throw up a few cut-out decorations to show the kids that we're open for business. However, there just aren't that many kids on our street and those from other streets willing to venture beyond their familiar territory are few.
So, if you're in the area and you want a Kit Kat or a York Peppermint Patty or perhaps a roll of Necco Wafers or a handful of mini Tootsie Rolls, stop by. We have plenty and you'll probably save me from a few cavities or even adult onset diabetes if you take a few of them off of our hands. If you tell me you're voting for Mihos, I'll give you a double helping.
Soon, with more better stuff.