Counting down until the football season kicks off again

So, now the countdown begins.

The day the Super Bowl is played, I begin the countdown to the opening of the next professional football season because when it comes to sports, that’s all I have to look forward to.

I have come to despise baseball because it is not (he said, old fogeylike) the game I remember.

I loath free agency, although I understand that the players deserve to be treated decently, not treated as they were in the days of the baseball robber barons.

But baseball free agency, unlike football, has led to guaranteed multi-million dollar contracts. I don’t mind the money, I mind the guarantee of the money whether you play or not.

Why is that bum Alex Rodriguez in line for so many millions (after the 2014 season, for which he’s suspended) if the Yankees decide to cut him? Because his contract is guaranteed.

But if the Patriots cut Rob Gronkowski, only the guaranteed portion of his promised money is guaranteed. In other words, if a player signs a five-year deal for $100 million, i.e., $20 million a year, but only $30 million is guaranteed, that’s all he gets if he gets cut.


Yeah, right. To the rest of us, that’s a significant amount of money. Hey, sign me for $100 million, guarantee half a million, cut me before I play a down and I’ll go home happy and half a million dollars richer for doing nothing.

Kind of like baseball, in a way, unless you’re suspended.

What I miss most about baseball, the old way, is the trades, like the day Bill Veeck, of the Indians, and Frank Lane, of the Tigers, had nothing better to do and wanted to get people talking, which is how Veeck described it in his autobiography (“Veeck, as in Wreck”) and swapped Rocky Colavito, the home-run hitting Indian, for Harvey Kuenn, the singles-hitting Tiger shortstop.

Oh, it got people talking, especially in Cleveland where they were NOT happy.

Here’s why:

In 1959, his final year (until he returned in 1965) with the Indians, Colavito hit 42 home runs and drove in 111 runs. In those days, before steroids, those were exceptional numbers. His batting average was only .257, but for a slugger in those days, (who wasn’t Willie or Mickey) it wasn’t horrible.

In 1959, the year before the trade, Harvey Kuenn had only nine home runs, drove in 71 runs, not bad for a shortstop, BUT led the league in batting with a .353 average.

So, Cleveland traded power for on-base percentage (Kuenn also drew 48 walks.).

But what happened in 1960?


For Cleveland, Kuenn hit .308 which is good, but it’s not .353, and drew 55 walks. He hit nine homers again and drove in only 54 runs. Oh, and at the end of the season, Veeck traded him to San Francisco for pitcher Johnny Antonelli and outfielder Willie Kirkland.

For the Tigers in 1960, Colavito hit 35 homers and drove in only 87 runs and his batting average dipped, too, to .249.

So both players fell off but Indians fans were unhappy anyway because Rocky was their guy and he HIT HOME RUNS, for crying out loud. In 1960, you know who hit the most homers for Cleveland? The shortstop, Woody Held, with 21. Oh, great, thought Indians fans.

See, that was fun. I didn’t care all that much about either the Indians or the Tigers (I had been a Giants fan and sort of still was, despite the fact that they had left New York, those bums, as the Dodgers had fled Brooklyn, those bum bums) but I loved reading about that trade and others in the Daily News or the Daily Mirror, New York’s two morning, and feuding, tabloids. I don’t remember exactly, but I’ll bet Dick Young, the best baseball columnist in history, had a lot to say about that.

What kind of trades are made today? OK, that big one in 2012 when Boston sent three overpaid stiffs to the Dodgers for a lot of guys who sort of helped and weren’t overpaid.

But those things don’t happen much anymore because it’s all about where a player can get the most money.

PLAYER: I hate Minnesota.

AGENT: They’ll give you $3 million more a year.

PLAYER: Minnesota, here I come.

And pro basketball? Nah. It’s just run-and-gun, and it’s pretty much the same in the college game now. And I hate the one-and-done nonsense where colleges essentially rent a player for a year until he jumps to the pros.

No, for me it’s pro football and a bit of college, especially the SEC where you gotta love the rivalries and some really great games. Although, face it, Kentucky will never beat ‘Bama or LSU or Auburn or even Florida and probably not even Tennessee.

So, when Monday dawned this week, I started counting down to Thursday, Sept. 4, when the NFL season begins anew and I can start thinking about important things:

Will the Broncos get back to the Super Bowl?

Will the Patriots find some decent receivers and will Gronkowski play a full season? Is Brady done or is it just problems with his receivers?

And the Jets? Ah, the Jets. What a great soap opera.

And I’m still wishing-hoping-plotting, whatever, for MANNING BOWL, when Peyton and Eli meet in the Super Bowl. Gotta happen. Gotta.

Should have happened this year in stupidly named MetLife Stadium. What a kick that would have been.

Oh, in case you care:

If you’re reading this on Thursday, Feb. 6, there are 210 days until kickoff. Start counting down.