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No roadblock in drive for new Fenway

By Will McDonough, Globe Staff, 02/26/00

The news on the proposed new Fenway Park is good, despite the moaning and groaning in the media about the potential impact of problems with the Big Dig.

In fact, the Red Sox are more upbeat than ever after a series of meetings with the top politicians in the state and city this week. The Sox were told to stay the course, to keep their people working with their political counterparts in the weekly meetings that have been ongoing for months. The Sox told the pols that their financial plan will be finished and presented to the state Legislature in time to be voted on before the current session ends July 31. At best, the Sox do not see a shovel going into the ground until 2002, and the new park not opening until 2004, perhaps 2005.

Marty McSorley reportedly has told Bruins president Harry Sinden in a private conversation that he did not intentionally hit Donald Brashear in the head. McSorley said that he wanted to fight Brashear again before the game was over, but missed the mark when he swung his stick and caught Brashear in the head, knocking him cold and giving him a concussion.

Foreplay in a hockey fight develops two ways, hockey types tell me. First, the guy who is looking to fight whacks his adversary on the numbers on his upper sleeve. There is no padding in this area between the top of the elbow pad and the bottom of the shoulder pad, which is why the numbers are targeted. The aggressor stuns his opponent with the blow, then seizes the early advantage by attacking when his opponent is numbed from the force of the hit. The second way to gain the upper hand in a joust is to deliver a "chop" - a quick stunner to the back of the head or shoulder with the heel of the stick, to get the jump start in the fight.

McSorley had fought Brashear several times in recent years and got his butt kicked on every occasion.

The reason McSorley did not go to the hearing with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is that the Players' Association told him not to. The union also told him not to say anything until it finds out if the Vancouver Police are going to file criminal charges against him.

The reason the Patriots can't reduce Drew Bledsoe's humongous salary cap number for the 2000 season - $8.6 million - is the team is looking to restructure for immediate relief and Bledsoe's advisors want a new contract. Drew has two years to go on his present deal, and the team thinks it is early to redo it completely. Over the past five years, the Patriots have paid more bonus money in new contracts than any other team in the league, and when the time comes for a new Bledsoe contract, you can bet that his agents will be looking for the biggest bonus ever in the league . . . Red Sox CEO John Harrington has told general manager Dan Duquette to work out a contract extension with manager Jimy Williams, and it is expected to be done before the start of the season. The team will treat Williams right. He'll be paid more than $1 million per season, and no matter when he finishes as manager, he will have two years left on his contract . . . Have black players found their niche in the National Hockey League? The most recent survey (in 1998) showed that just nine of the 500-plus players in the league were black. And out of that number, three are considered among the NHL's top "enforcers." An informal poll of one GM, one veteran hockey scribe, one veteran NHL public-relations man, and a league game official put Peter Worrell of Florida, Brashear of Vancouver, and Georges Laraque of Edmonton in the top five of "hit men," giving the 6-foot-6 inch, 235-pound Worrell the nod as the toughest guy in the league.

Three games they should do away with: the All-Star games in football, hockey, and basketball.

Once again, the NFL Pro Bowl players demonstrated they were in Hawaii more for a good time than to play the game. Several players on the AFC squad simply refused to tackle anyone, which is why the NFC team ran up 41 points. Can you imagine a team that had been together for four days, with limited practice, running up 41 points against some of the best defensive football players in the world, if those players were really trying? No way. The Pro Bowl is the game Vince McMahon should choreograph. Players don't want to practice or play. They want to go to Hawaii to party, and many of them fake injuries to get out of playing or practicing once they hit the island or in the early stages of the game.

In the NBA and NHL All-Star games, no one plays defense. Consider this statistic: According to the Elias Sports Bureau in New York (the official statistican for the NBA), there's an average of 22.2 assists (both teams) in an NBA game this year. In the NBA All-Star Game this year, which some raved about as the showcase for the league's power players, there were 72 assists. Know why? No one plays defense. One player brings it up the court, then throws it under the basket, where the offensive player is allowed to put it in with almost no resistance.

Likewise, in the NHL All-Star Game, the only time a penalty is called is when the referee wants to make sure his family sees him on television. In this year's game in Toronto, there was one penalty in the third period. No attempts to block a shot or throw a body check.

Baseball is the only sport whose All-Star Game has a sense of legitimacy, because it is an individual game and the players don't want to look bad. Still, the home run-hitting contest has become bigger than the game itself, just like the slam dunk contest in the NBA drew better TV ratings this year than the All-Star Game did the next day.

Old friend John Calipari is on track to be announced as the new head coach of Memphis University in the immedidate future. Even though some University of Massachusetts alumni-types were interested in bringing him back to Amherst, where his wife loved living, Coach Cal has decided to go to the land of Elvis, and will end up with one of the best college basketball coaching contracts in the country.

The wonderful thing for Calipari is that the New Jersey Nets, who are still paying him on his old contract, will still have to pay him in full, because when he negotiated his deal, he had all off-set clauses removed.

Meanwhile, Bruiser Flint, his successor at UMass, could be in trouble and is working hard to avoid disaster. UMass basketball has taken a dive financially since he replaced Calipari as head coach and is in the midst of another disappointing season, which he might not survive unless he finishes with a flourish. However, Bruiser reportedly has a top recruiting class lined up this fall, including a player ranked in the top 50 nationally, plus two top junior college transfers. If they arrive and are as good as advertised, that might bail him out.

When your humble servant had a story several weeks back with Bruins owner Jerry Jacobs questioning the coaching of Pat Burns and, in particular, the play of the penalty-killing units, the hockey types around here started copping a plea, built around Tim Taylor. If Jacobs had paid the money to keep Tim Taylor from signing with the Rangers as a free agent, none of this would have happened, they said. What all of the excuse-makers failed to point out was that Taylor played only 49 games last season, missing 32. He also finished a minus-10, and scored just four goals. Never let the facts interfere with the story . . . David D'Alessandro says one of the major reasons John Hancock reentered the Olympic business is because it was needed. "They are having a tough time raising money in Australia [site of the 2000 Summer Games] and Utah [site of the 2002 Winter Games]. They need money. They needed help. Right now, the shortfall in Australia is $300 million. And there still is a sizable shortfall in Utah. We came to the conclusion that if we dropped out completely, and some others did the same, then eventually the ones who would be hurt the most would be the athletes of the future. When the Games suffer, eventually it has to be passed down to the athletes, and for many potential great athletes of the future, the money wouldn't be there for some of them to get a chance to compete."

Chris Rooney could be close to a record. The 24-year-old South Boston native became the youngest man ever to be signed to an NHL officiating contract, and hopes to be the youngest ever to work a game in the league if he is called up before the end of the season. Rooney is working 70 games in the American Hockey League this year, and might get his first NHL exposure before the season is over.

Rooney is a great story. He refereed his first game at age 12, when he read about an officiating clinic sponsored by USA Hockey at UMass-Boston, and scraped up enough money to attend. He took the courses, became accredited, and worked a Mite hockey game before he was a teenager. Since then he has worked his way up the ranks through minor hockey to the edge of the big time.

The 10 biggest lies in sports:

1) It's not about the money.

2) We just couldn't fit him under the salary cap.

3) I want to play for a winner.

4) All I'm playing for is a (championship) ring.

5) I'm retiring to spend more time with my family.

6) My client (player) tested positive, but it was second-hand smoke.

7) If your son comes to our college, he will get an education and a diploma.

8) I'll know when it's time to retire; no one will have to tell me.

9) I'm not interested in stats, only winning.

10) I'm going to stay in the background. I didn't buy this team to be in the spotlight.

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