Monday, May 3, 2021

FN International Editor: John Henry And The "Soccer Super League"

by Mark Lawrence, International Editor

Sydney, Australia—I've never given much thought to the game of soccer.  I've never given so much as a rat's narrow behind about it, to be honest.  But this latest brouhaha over in the Old Dart is relevant to any one who's ever handed their hard-earned to the ticket takers down on that street outside Fenway Park - I forget what they're calling it these days.          

The British soccer fan has been quite a bit het up lately.  Why?  Well, partly because of the pallid presence of John Henry, owner of a little outfit called the Fenway Sports Group.  FSG owns the Liverpool Football Club and - for those who don't know - Liverpool has a fan base whose passion rivals that of Red Sox Nation - and probably even exceeds it. The Club uses a song from the musical Carousel as its motto and its anthem - You'll Never Walk Alone - and they belt it out louder and stronger than poor old Sweet Caroline every chance they get.               

John and his pals somehow got the bright idea that they could futz with English Football - soccer, to you and me - and no one would much care.  They made the fatal assumption that soccer fans would docilely accept a European Super League comprised of the highest-priced teams and happily kick over even more dough at the turnstiles for the privilege.  The idea was simple: the best clubs would form their own competition within the game's existing structure.  But it goes a little deeper than that and the concern down here and elsewhere is that John and his fellow MLB owners might try and pull the same gag with Baseball.  As Nick O'Malley (Masslive.com) neatly puts it, imagine if the Yankees, the Dodgers, our own beloved Red Sox and 'other big-money teams joined a separate league with the top Korean and Japanese teams to start their own playoffs and World Series that they’d play for, in addition to normal Major League Baseball. Smaller market teams would get a chance to play, but the big-money teams would always have a seat in the playoffs.'               

Sounds pretty sleazy, doesn't it? I mean, wouldn't that make the Fall Classic essentially a bit of a joke? If a bonehead like your Downunder Correspondent can see it, surely the stock-ticker minds of Henry et al had to have seen it too?  Well, no, actually.  It looks like they didn't.  

One of the Super League cabal members, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, said they came up with the plan because young people are 'no longer interested in football' due to 'a lot of poor-quality games'.  

I found some interesting research from a fan-intel outfit called Ear to the Ground.  They're based over in the UK and while they're not exactly Polity Research, the data they gathered shows that Florentino doesn't have a firm handle on what those Real Madrid fans are feeling.  According to the Ear guys, almost 90% of soccer fans think Perez - and his super-rich pals - are simply full of it.  As one of the Ear guys put it: “It’s about knowing what your audiences care about, and the role you play for them,” (This is Owen Laverty, director of fan intelligence) “We know there are smart people working across all of these clubs, but it feels like these decisions about a breakaway league were made in boardrooms by individuals who were disconnected from the real world and potentially misunderstood the values of the people that this mattered to the most - the fans…"  Ear to the Ground is very likely making some serious scratch from simply identifying what's important to sports fans and acting accordingly.  And if John Henry hasn't already taken steps to go and do likewise, well - he might not be as smart as he thinks he is.  Owning a globally recognized sports franchise - like the Boston Red Sox - is not just having some awesome money-making machine, it's a deadly serious responsibility.  John Henry and the other super-rich MLB owners have a duty to the Game and an obligation to the Fans.  And you wanna know something? Up until this Super League debacle, I felt reasonably comfortable with Henry's stewardship of our club.              

Now, I'm not so sure. How about you?

Friday, April 30, 2021

Will Middlebrooks And Jenny Dell To Co-Host Jimmy Fund Bingo

Former Red Sox third-baseman (and 2013 World Series Champion) Will Middlebrooks will co-host the upcoming Jimmy Fund Bingo Night on Friday, May 7, 2021. He'll be joined by his wife (and former NESN reporter) Jenny Dell for the game—which will be played on the Jimmy Fund Facebook Page

To participate in Jimmy Fund Bingo Night, a $10 or more donation is suggested to receive one Bingo card. Family packages and the option to sponsor a patient to play Bingo are also available. Confirmation details will be emailed to all participants prior to the start of Friday’s game. Winners of each round will receive fun prizes, including exclusive Jimmy Fund items. Bingo cards are available for purchase until 4 p.m. EST on May 7th. All participants who register before 5pm on May 5th will be entered to win a pizza party from Papa Gino’s to enjoy while playing during Friday’s Bingo livestream. Visit Jimmy Fund Bingo for more information. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: 'A Fastball For Freedom'

Review by Ernie Paicopolos:

Rarely does a sequel match or surpass the original. You can pretty much count the times on one hand: Godfather 2 (following the Godfather); Margaret Atwood's 'The Year Of The Flood' (following 'Oryx And Crake'); Jeopardy's Alex Trebek (following Art Fleming). By the way, I'm deliberately leaving out Buccaneer Tom Brady (following the Patriot version) because of where I live.

Anyway, author Gary Morgenstein has managed to pull off this rare feat. His new novel, "A Fastball For Freedom" is Book Two in the "Dark Depths" series of novels that began with the amazing, "A Mound Over Hell". Protector-of-all-things-baseball (and pretty good pitcher) Puppy Nedick is back—but the year 2098 is not a fun place for lovers of baseball (or freedom, for that matter). Puppy (and his ex-wife) are on the run from 'The Family'—the religious dictatorship that now runs America. He's been branded a traitor for trying to keep baseball alive.

What makes Morgenstein's books so compelling is the character portrayals—they're complex, but they're also identifiable as they weave their way through the treacherous, dystopian times in which they live. And I'm not just saying this because there's a new character in the mix named 'Ernie The Wizard' (well, maybe a little bit). And, as with the first novel, Morgenstein is not afraid to take on political correctness—and strike it out with a backdoor slider on the inside corner. How refreshing is that in our timid times? 

The bottom line is that if you love speculative fiction and you love baseball, this is a must-read. Can Puppy fight a new oppressive regime, save the planet from global conflict—and save baseball? You'll just have to read it. You can order the novel HERE.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Red Sox Notch Seventh Straight Win, Come Back On Twinkies, 4-2

Text to Henry Kanter on April 5th
After dropping their first three games of the season, your Boston Red Sox have gone on a tear—winning their next seven games. Today, they overcame a 2-0 deficit in snowy Minneapolis to gain their fifth come-from-behind win of the season, 4-2. The Boston heroes were: Bobby Dalbec (2 RBI doubles); Hunter Renfroe (solo HR); Rafael Devers (solo HR) and a gutsy Martin Perez

After the opening series losses, I texted my Fenway seat partner, Henry Kanter, that the Sox would "only" need to rattle off 13 straight victories to go 10 games over .500 (see image). Little did I know that my prediction would need just 6 more consecutive wins to come true! This actually could become an interesting Red Sox season. Who knew?

Thursday, April 8, 2021

POLL: Do You Like The New (Yellow & Blue) Marathon-Themed Uniforms?

Do you like the new Red Sox Marathon-themed, yellow and blue uniforms?
 
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Reports Of Red Sox Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

(Getty Images)
After dropping the initial three games of the 2021 season to the lowly Orioles, The Nation descended into panic mode (including—to some degree—your humble scribe). What was particularly concerning was that the so-called "strength" of the team (a prodigious offense) was missing in action against The Birds. On top of that, the AL Champion Rays were coming to town for the next three contests. Well, what do you know? The offense emerged (scoring 26 runs in the Rays series) and the pitching remained pretty decent. Now, your 2021 Carmine Hose are a .500 ball-club—having swept the denizens of the Trop. 

It just goes to show you that one of baseball's oldest chestnuts—'it's a marathon, not s sprint"—is as true today as it ever was. Speaking of which, the team announced a new Patriot's Day uni that honors the tradition of the Boston Marathon. It's unusual (to say the least) with yellow and blue colors. But, we like it. We'll be running a poll soon to see what our readers think.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

LeBron James Buys Part Ownership Of The Red Sox (YAWN!)

He was already a part owner of John Henry's foreign soccer team. Now, LeBron James is also a part-owner of your Boston Red Sox. It's hard to get giddy over this news—you know, yet another non-Boston billionaire running our storied baseball franchise. A Laker—a damn Laker owns our team now? Red Auerbach is spinning. Why can't we get local ownership like Bob Kraft? Oh, yeah, I forgot, the Commissioner wired the deal for Henry way back when over a local bidder. So, give another yawn, as another miserable ball-club takes the field for 2021. Maybe LeBron needs a tax write-off.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Exclusive Excerpts From New Novel—"A Fastball For Freedom"!

We here at FenwayNation are privileged to have access to excerpts from the soon-to-be-released new novel by Gary Morgenstein, "A Fastball For Freedom".—Book Two in the "Dark Depths" series of novels that began with the spectacular, "A Mound Over Hell". You can pre-order the novel HERE.

We will soon have a full review of the new novel, but here's a sneak peek at a few exclusive snippets dealing with Boston and Fenway Park:

Zelda walked quickly along Boylston Street toward the hammering humming. A BT tank was parked to the side as if unsure about being there; fans passed by quietly, bumping into her with muttered apolo- gies. More scarecrows hung on both sides of the street mutely proclaiming “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Fastball” and, at the corner of Yawkey Way, “All baseball fans are created equal.” 

The scarecrows were nothing compared to the light. 

It was as if the illumination were coming from underground, bathing the construction site like an up- side down volcano. Workers in red B baseball caps scurried up and down immense steel ladders, while others dug with shovels and picks into the frozen ground. Buckets of concrete flew by on wheelbarrows pushed by singing fans in Red Sox warm-up jackets; from somewhere, a medley of Mooshie’s songs played. Makeshift stands stood patiently amid stacks of paint cans. Zelda thought it was a viewing area, but she was the only one just watching. Everyone came to work at the only place in America, along with the site of the new Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the 10 p.m. curfew was lifted. 

“What’s going on?” Zelda asked an old woman in a floppy t-shirt. 

The woman sighed disapprovingly at such an idiotic question, gesturing at the huge, hand-lettered red sign atop a flag pole jammed defiantly into the ground: “Welcome to the New Fenway Park.” 

“Hopefully we can re-open next summer if everyone pitches in,” she said accusingly, heading off with a paint brush. 

A BT tank squatted at the north end of the construction site, bored soldiers sprawled on the front of the vehicle occasionally exchanging good-natured suggestions with passing workers about how best to build a ballpark. 

All around the site, the lights of Boston went out for the ten o’clock curfew, setting off a loud cheer of pride. For a moment, BT ’copter blades lost their stealth and glittered. Zelda hushed Diego, stirring noisily to tell the whole world he had gas, and edged toward a trench of concrete being poured into the ground. 

“What’s this?” Zelda asked a heavy-set man in a Yaz sweatshirt. 

“It’ll be the home plate side.” He pointed to some rickety chairs off to the right. “There’s a seat over there for you and the baby.” 

“Thanks, but if everyone else is helping, we can, too.”

Friday, July 31, 2020

Sox Show Signs Of Life With Two Straight Wins In Baghdad On Hudson

(AP Photo)
After dropping four if its first five 2020 games (due mostly to crappy pitching), the Red Sox rebounded with two impressive wins against the New York Metropolitans—in large part due to decent starting pitching. The other key factor in the wins was one Christian Vazquez, who has continued his torrid offensive display of 2019 into the new season. The Boston backstop homered three times in Flushing—and is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the best all-around catchers in all of baseball. Last night's 4-2 win saw new starter Martin Perez go an impressive 5.2 innings to get his first Boston win—giving up just two runs on two hits. He moved to greater use of his change-up in Thursday's win. Alex Verdugo and Michael Chavis (two hits apiece) also contributed to the Boston offense—but it was Vazquez who lead the way. The Red Sox now head to the Bronx for a three-game set against The Evil Ones.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Red Sox Go Bird-Hunting On Opening Day, Pummel Baltimore, 13-2

(Getty Images)
As Eck so eloquently put it last night, "You have to take care of business" with egregiously crappy teams like the Baltimore Orioles. And the Red Sox did just that on Opening Day—destroying the avian visitors from the Chesapeake Bay, 13-2. This one got late early, as Yogi Berra might say. The Carmine Hose put up four runs in the third inning—highlighted by four doubles. Then, one inning later, they scored six more times. Despite 17 total hits, not one left the old yard. New Red Sox second-baseman Jose Peraza collected four hits in his Boston debut. Another newcomer, Kevin Pillar, made a stellar defensive play and notched three hits and three RBIs. J.D. Martinez also had three RBIs. Nathan Eovaldi was superb through six innings of work—giving up just one run on five hits and notching 100 MPH on the gun several times. All in all, a satisfying night at the empty ballpark.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

UPDATED POLL: Favorite Red Sox Positional Player (New Choices Added)

Which ONE of the following Red Sox positional players is your favorite?
 
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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

FenwayNation POLL: Favorite Red Sox Positional Player?

Of the following non-pitcher positional Red Sox players, who is your favorite?
 
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Monday, July 6, 2020

FenwayNation POLL: 7 In 10 Think Red Sox Will Be AT Or UNDER .500

Early voting in our latest FenwayNation POLL shows that fully seven in ten readers think the 2020 Red Sox will finish with either a .500 record or worse. As the chart shows, the plurality (48%) think Boston will get about 30 wins (.500) in the truncated, 60-game 2020 season. Another 22% believe that The Carmine Hose will underperform that break-even mark—getting fewer than 30 wins. Thus, a combined total of 70% think the team will be .500 or less. Having said that, a fairly substantial three readers out of ten (30%) think the team will reach the 40-win plateau—which translates to a "devilish" .666 winning percentage. Nobody in the poll believes the Sox will do better than the 40-win range. You can still vote in the poll HERE.

FenwayNation POLL: Realistically, How Will The Red Sox Do In 2020?

Being as objective as you can be, where will the 2020 Red Sox end up?
 
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