RIP Jim Bouton

Jim Bouton passed away at the age of 80 this week.  His career in MLB was ordinary; he won 62 games and he lost 63 games; his career ERA was 3.57; after an 8-year gap in playing, he tried a comeback that lasted part of the 1978 season.  What distinguished Jim Bouton in “baseball legend” was the book he wrote, Ball Four.  If you have not read Ball Four and you are a baseball fan, you should do so.

The book stems from a written and audio diary that Bouton kept during his season with the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969.  [Aside: The team would move to Milwaukee and become the Brewers in 1970; the Pilots were a sorry bunch.]  In those days, there was little if any interest shown by baseball writers to describe/expose the behaviors of baseball players in any venue other than on the field.  Ball Four changed that.

Rest in peace, Jim Bouton.

As the Green Bay Packers prepare to open training camp in about 2 weeks, the competition to be the guy who stands by and watches Aaron Rodgers play QB for the packers comes down to DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle – – an undrafted free agent out of E. Kentucky and UConn – – and Manny Wilkins – – and undrafted free agent out of Arizona State.  Only a malevolent Act of God is going to put any of them under center for the Packers in 2019.  However, that did not stop DeShone Kizer – who was the backup QB last year – from telling that he thinks he will be a starter for the Packers and will be the MVP of the Super Bowl in that role one of these days:

“I have all the confidence in the world that when I’m playing my best ball there’s no one who can stop me.  For me to compare myself to another backup quarterback who’s in or a tryout guy who comes in would be dumb of me in the sense that I would be limiting myself because I don’t see myself as a career backup in this league. I don’t see myself as Aaron Rodgers’ backup for the final era of his career. I see myself as a future Super Bowl MVP. That’s the goal that I want to head toward. That’s the level I want to play at. Therefore, if I’m competing and focused in on the backup competition, then once again, I’m limiting myself.”

It seems to me that there are two ways to react to that statement:

  1. DeShone Kizer is a young man with a specific goal in mind for his athletic career and he is keeping his attention and focus on that long-term goal and not on details or on short-term obstacles that may be in his way.  Good for him…
  2. DeShone Kizer is suffering from what Alan Greenspan once labeled “irrational exuberance”.  As a starter in the NFL, Kizer’s teams are 0-15; his career completion percentage is 53.1%; he has thrown 11 TDs and 24 INTs in his career.

I admire Kizer’s obvious determination to be the best and to achieve the pinnacle of the QB profession.  There would be little reason for a team to carry a backup QB whose career objective was to stay on in that job for the next 10 years and never get his jersey dirty.  At the same time, I have to say that his prior performance makes it hard to imagine him as a Super Bowl MVP.  Here is an analogy:

  • I could give an interview to one of these days and tell the world that I see myself as a Pulitzer Prize winner for sports writing.  [Aside:  Is there even such a category?]  Moreover, because I see myself achieving such a stature, I don’t worry about what others think of my current and previous rants here.
  • There is nothing wrong with having goals and aspirations – – unless one prevents oneself from recognizing that “it ain’t likely to happen” which would then turn those goals and aspirations into self-delusion.
  • For the record, I doubt that any mental health expert would conclude that I have a bagful of self-delusions about my writings.

The NBA free agency period generated lots of “blockbuster news” and that has to be good news for the NBA execs.  However, I think the NBA execs – and the NBPA leaders – need to think about the processes that are generating this news.

Clearly, the biggest story was the Kawhi Leonard signing with the Clippers combined with the trade that brought Paul George to the Clippers too.  Those two have yet to put on a Clippers jersey and participate in a single practice session but the focus on sports radio yesterday was that both could become free agents together in 3 years and move as a tandem to some other team then.  [Aside:  Maybe that’s the year I’ll win my Pulitzer Prize too?]  The folks who run the business of professional basketball – and that includes the NBPA – need to wonder if some aspects of NBA free agency are getting out of hand.

The NBA thrives because of TV money and the TV money flows because people watch NBA basketball games – not because of news in the free agency period.  What seems to be happening now is that people have started to focus on player movement and super-team creation more than they pay attention to much of the NBA regular season games.  That is a trend that the NBA execs and the NBPA leaders should want to nip in the bud.  Anything and everything that distracts from or diminishes attention to real NBA games is a threat to economic growth for the league.

Finally, apropos of nothing, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Batman:  A comic book crime fighter whose on-screen persona went from campy and irreverent in the 1960s to brooding and damn near suicidal in the twenty-first century.  Of course, this may or may not say anything about where we are headed as a species.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “RIP Jim Bouton”

  1. Finally, apropos of nothing, here is a comment which would be appropriate in The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: After the above comment “maybe that’s the year I’ll win the Pulitzer Prize,” if one listened closely above the gravesite of Joseph Pulitzer, one could hear the rather loud sound of a swiftly spinning corpse.

    1. Gary:

      One might not need to listen very closely; that corpse would be spinning at warp speed… 🙂

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