Red Sox

Living with the lockouts

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Living with the lockouts

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Thursday afternoon in (where else?) Nantasket Beach, the NFLs head honchos huddled up to resolve a lockout that most of us have ignored since April.

Thursday night in (where else?) Newark, the NBA took the stage for one last show, before sleeking off into their own self-imposed slice of hell.

Its pro sports in 2011 . . . can you feel it?!

Yeah, it feels like burning.

Of course, the situations arent identical. In the NFL, the moneys there the two sides just cant agree on how to ration it. Meanwhile, the NBAs a total mess. Owners are actually losing money and have no problem opening their books if youd like some proof. The NBA has fundamental issues that can only be resolved by serious compromise, legitimate overhaul and Ron Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace. Sadly, only one of those is an immediate possibility.

Obviously, things can change. Bridges can be mended. Seasons can be saved. Hey, take a look at NFL! Theyre not completely out of the woods, but (unless the lawyers creep in and ruin it all) it sure feels like theyre getting close. There was a time when we wondered if it would ever come. Now, the ends in sight.

But much like Nantasket isnt Newark, the NFL isnt the NBA. Basketballs in trouble, and we have to consider the strong possibility that next season wont start on time. That Thursday night marked the last moment of real Celtics excitement until . . . who the hell knows?

But heres what we do know:

Beginning on July 1, the NBA will cease to exist. We cant talk about next year because we wont know when it starts, how many games theyll play or who will even be on the team. Instead, all we can do is press pause, sit back and watch the league give itself mouth to mouth.

Like the NFL now, the NBA will be the broken window on the landscape of sports. Well know its there, that its being worked on, and that eventually it will be fixed, but in the meantime, what are we going to do? The Celtics have six players under contract, and one of thems Avery Bradley. How can you get excited over a team that doesnt exist?

Well ask those questions, and eventually . . . well lose a little interest.

It happened with the NFL, and it will happen here. At some point you just grow immune to the drama, or you become so affected that you force yourself to tune it out. But either way, that makes it harder to care.

For instance, imagine you slip a patch of ice and break your arm. It kills, and as you're sitting in the emergency room the doctor comes and starts explaining to you, in detail, what happened. You find it interesting, because, hey, you want to know what's wrong. This is something you care about. Only this guy won't stop talking. After about an hour of explaining what's wrong, he goes into extreme detail on how he plans to go about fixing it. On and on. Very thorough. All very pertinent information. But you're in pain. You want out of your misery.

At some point, he needs to just shut up and fix it.

We feel that now about football, and no doubt we will about basketball.

But in both cases, I guarantee well have short memories.

As much as Ive hated the NFL over these past few months, Ill get over it five minutes into the first preseason game. And if theres no preseason, then I wont even need five minutes. Youre ready to play? Welcome back!

The NBA might have a little more trouble in the PR department if the season starts late, but theres no question that the first time LeBron and Wade take the court next season, whether thats in October or February, people will watch. When the playoffs start the NBA will reemerge.

Or maybe it wont be that easy, but it also wont be that hard.

When the time comes, each league will win us back.

It's like the same part of our brain that lets us eventually detach from the drama of the negotiations is the same one that helps us forget that the negotiations ever happened.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.

A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.

Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.

Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets: 

Last year, Cora spoke out against the league office's rule requiring minorities always be interviewed.

Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:

“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.

“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”

Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it? 

Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different. 

But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems. 

There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage. 

Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real. 

Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.

The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.

A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.

Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.

"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.

“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."

Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.