Friday, October 28, 2022

Insight: Peripheral yet instrumental

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Throughout the course of my life, there have been individuals who have been behind the scenes but nevertheless turned out to be key to my personal and professional development and whom I am today.

These are people that I wouldn’t say I was particularly close to, yet I learned something from them that I’ve been able to apply to the way I approach life and especially my work as a journalist.

Here are three individuals who played some role in making me the person I turned out to be.

While in eighth grade at Carlton Webster Junior High School in Henrietta, New York in the fall of 1966, I signed up to use my extra period as a school library aide. The school librarian was Mary Helen Sneck, a tiny grey-haired woman in her 60s who said she knew the Dewey Decimal System better than she knew the alphabet.

Miss Sneck could tell you the precise location of a book in the school library, who the book’s author was, and the Dewey Decimal code for the book just by telling her the title. I was one of about a dozen library aides that school year and she was so pleased with my volunteer work three days a week that I was invited back to serve in the same position for my ninth-grade year in school.

She was stern, but fun to work for, and if she liked something you were doing, you would get invited into her office behind the checkout desk where she kept a tin filled with Dentyne chewing gum or Mary Jane wrapped peanut butter and molasses candy.

Each year at the end of school she would close the library at lunchtime and have an indoor picnic featuring ham salad sandwiches she would make herself for the library volunteers, potato chips and some small cups of cherry ice cream.

Then one by one, she would call your name and hand you a certificate and thank you for your service to the library. The other day I found one of those certificates in a box in my basement and thought about Miss Sneck for probably the first time in half a century.

More than anything else, I learned organization from her. She taught me to keep all the Dewey Decimal cards for the books in numeric order, making it easier to place books on carts to take back for placement on the library shelves. I’m still using those organizational skills today, except now on a much larger scale trying to keep tabs on dozens of newspaper articles for each issue.

I never told Miss Sneck thanks for helping me, but I think she knew.

Serving in the Air Force, my immediate supervisor, Technical Sergeant Bill Crosland, helped me adjust to being the lowest ranking airman at our detachment site. He often steered me to make more prudent decisions about various issues, instead of jumping to conclusions and making snap judgements about people or situations.

His cautious approach to solving problems was the result of many years spent in military service and he was perhaps the most rational person I have ever known as an adult. He always thought things through before speaking and took his time doling out discipline to subordinates or dealing with officers leading our squadron.

Years later when I am faced with a difficult work problem, I find myself thinking about what Bill Crosland would have done if he were sitting in my chair.

Then there’s Coach Andy Sykela, the chair of the Physical Education Department when I attended Rush-Henrietta High School. During gym class my sophomore year, I mentioned to Coach Sykela that my goal was to obtain my athletic varsity letter from the school but didn’t feel I was good enough to play for any of the school’s sports teams.

He told me that I could earn points toward earning my letter by serving as a manager for school sports teams. Eventually I became a manager for the school’s varsity basketball team and kept the official scorebook for each game at the scorer’s table.

It was challenging work keeping track of all the fouls, baskets, and free throws, and turned out to be excellent preparation for my career as a sportswriter. (To this day, I still believe the best job I’ve ever had was covering high school basketball games for a newspaper I worked for in Florida.)

At the end of my junior year of high school, I proudly walked on stage to receive my high school varsity letter from guest speaker “Sleepy” Jim Crowley, one of the legendary “Four Horsemen of Notre Dame,” and none other than Coach Andy Sykela.

I never got to know each of these instrumental individuals I’ve mentioned very well, yet they each saw something in me that prompted them to help guide me when I was young.

Mary Helen Sneck, Bill Crosland and Andy Sykela may have been peripheral people in my life, but their influence over me continues to this day. I’m certainly grateful for what they did for me, but the highest appreciation I can offer to them now is not praise, but to live by their example. <


Andy Young: Is the World Series this week?

By Andy Young

I vividly remember the day I discovered, to my horror, that my father was mentally deficient.

With the maturity of a typical 7-year-old (even though I was in the sixth grade at the time), I had already begun suspecting that my Dad wasn’t quite right. Outwardly he seemed normal enough: he was a healthy American male with a fulltime job, a wife, and three children, but every so often he’d do or say something that indicated, at least to me, that he might not be all there.

Although he was far less passionate about athletic pursuits in general and baseball in particular than I was, my dad always made time to throw a baseball with me after dinner, even after he had completed a full day of work. Our father-son conversations during those sessions often consisted of me telling him all about the latest doings of some famous player like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, or Henry Aaron, though on other occasions he’d have to, while desperately trying to catch his son’s wild heaves, simultaneously feign interest in an elementary schooler’s harangue explaining why Choo Choo Coleman was a better catcher than Jesse Gonder or Hawk Taylor.

But occasionally my dad would not so subtly suggest that my baseball fixation was getting out of hand, particularly given the perpetual underachiever status I’d firmly established at school. Every so often he’d express his concern about my having a one-track mind, and in a tone of voice suggesting that wasn’t a good thing. Then one night, probably after darkness had fallen and I’d just uncorked yet another wild pitch off his shin, his utter feeblemindedness fully revealed itself. “What are you going to do,” he asked, “when you don’t care about baseball anymore?”

Had I understood anything about genetics at the time, I’d have been despondent. Knowing that 50 percent of my DNA had originated from this deeply flawed man would have sent me directly to the nearest French Foreign Legion recruiting office. How stupid could an allegedly grown man actually be? Me lose interest in baseball? Inconceivable! It would have been the equivalent of Bugs Bunny giving up carrots, Popeye swearing off spinach, or the pope converting to Scientology.

Which brings me to the World Series, which I’ve heard is going on this week. I don’t know this for sure since I haven’t watched a professional baseball game this season. In fact, prior to last year’s chance trip to watch the Red Sox battle the Kansas City Royals when a friend and I were passing through Missouri’s most populous city, it had been close to two decades since I’d witnessed a big-league baseball game in person, and at least that long since I watched one on television.

I still love recalling what baseball was like when I was growing up, but ultimately my foolish dad was right. Like many people I outgrew my youthful obsession, albeit about four decades after he undoubtedly would have preferred. My waning interest in what was once America’s true national pastime isn’t terribly mysterious; the current lords of Major League Baseball understandably don’t dedicate much of their marketing budget to reaching out to a demographic consisting of people born before JFK was president.

My father’s been gone for nearly a half-century now, and I’ve long since adjusted to his permanent absence. But every so often I find myself yearning for just one more father-son conversation. And were I somehow able to make that happen, I wouldn’t start off with something about Willie Mays.

I’d tell him how thankful I was for having inherited half of my DNA from him. <

Friday, October 21, 2022

Insight: A collection of random, useless but interesting facts

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Through the years, my knowledge of obscure and totally meaningless facts and information has served me well. Whether it be matching up from my living room sofa against that day’s Jeopardy contestants or competing against family members in a board game, my accumulation of trivial facts has always been a valuable resource for me.

Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox hit
.326 to lead the American League in batting
average in 1967. COURTESY PHOTO 
And why I retain such information is also a mystery. Even given a grocery list, at times I can forget what I went to the store to purchase, yet somehow I can remember the fact that Carl Yastrzemski of the Bostin Red Sox won the American League batting championship in 1967 with an average of .326. And by the way, he also led the league that year in Runs Batted In with 121 and was tied for first in homeruns with Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew with 44.

Acquiring some sports facts is like second nature to me, having spent a large part of my career covering sporting events for newspapers.

Off the top of my head, I can tell you that Passaic High School in New Jersey holds the record for consecutive high school boys’ basketball victories with 159, a mark set in the 1910s and 1920s over seven seasons. But what’s not commonly known about that achievement is that after losing to Hackensack High School in 1925 to snap its winning streak, Passaic then went on to win 41 more games in a row, capping a stretch that saw the team go 200-1.

Here’s another one you may not be aware of. While bowling backwards at AMF Van Wyck Lanes at Richmond Hill, New York in April 2007, Ashrita Furman established the record for the highest backwards bowling score with a 199.

To retain a brain filled with trivial facts, one must have a curious nature. Perhaps that’s how I know that Joseph Gayetty of New York is credited with inventing toilet paper. “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper” was first sold in America in 1857 and came in packages of flat sheets. The medication was that it contained aloe and each sheet was inscribed with Gayetty’s last name. That product was sold in pharmacies right up until the 1920s. In case you’re wondering, the Scott Paper Company of Philadelphia came up with the idea of putting toilet paper on rolls about 1880 and started mass-producing and selling perforated paper under its own brand name in 1896.

Or how about that author Theordore Geisel, commonly known as Dr. Seuss, wrote his classic book “Green Eggs and Ham” on a bet with his editor, who suggested that Geisel could not complete a book in 50 words or less. “Green Eggs and Ham” clocks in at exactly 50 words.

From my high school biology days decades ago, I can tell you that a spider has eight legs, the spiny anteater and the duck-billed platypus are the only mammals on Earth who lay eggs and that the pregnancy of an elephant lasts 22 months. How I remember those details, I simply can’t begin to imagine.

One of my favorite college classes was Astronomy 101. Along with more than 300 other students in that class, we learned that five planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn can be viewed without the use of a telescope at night if you know where to look in the sky. From viewing a Sean Connery space movie called “Outland,” I learned that the names of the four largest moons of Jupiter are Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Io.

For movie buffs, I can rattle off that the first film directed by a woman to earn more than $100 million at the box office was 1988’s “Big” starring Tom Hanks. Penny Marshall, who played Laverne on the popular 1970s television show “Laverne and Shirley”, was the director of “Big.”

And speaking of Tom Hanks, in 1995 Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying NASA Astronaut Jim Lovell in the film “Apollo 13.” Prior to casting the movie, actor Jon Travolta sought the role from director Ron Howard to play the part of Lovell. Also, the famous line from that movie was never spoken in real life. During the actual Apollo 13 mission, Lovell never said “Houston we have a problem.”

Growing up a baseball fan though, much of my trivial knowledge has been derived from thousands of hours of watching that sport on television. I’ve always thought that Joel Youngblood’s feat of getting a hit for two different teams on the same day in 1982 is very odd. Youngblood collected a hit for the New York Mets against the Chicago Cubs during an afternoon game, then he was traded after the game to the Montreal Expos, took the train to Philadelphia, and got a hit that evening for his new team in a game against the Phillies.

Trivial knowledge can be both a blessing and a curse. My wife usually cringes and rolls her eyes when I tell her that the actor Terry O’Quinn, who played John Locke on television’s “Lost”, also was in the 1980 western movie “Heaven’s Gate” with Christopher Walken and Kris Kristofferson.

Someday maybe I can put it all to good use on “Jeopardy.”<

Andy Young: The Making of a Soccer Coach

By Andy Young

Several decades ago, the athletic director at my alma mater was so desperate for assistant coaches for the high school’s fall sports teams that he recruited me to be one of them.

I was probably viewed as a viable candidate because I had previously coached boys’ freshman basketball there without abusing any referees, inappropriately interacting with students, or offending any hyper-competitive parents. I also had extensive baseball coaching experience. However, most importantly I was between jobs at the time, meaning I was available immediately.

I loved (and excelled at) basketball, but my qualifications for coaching either soccer or football were virtually nil. However, that didn’t appear to bother either sport’s head coach, each of whom seemed unusually eager to have me join his staff.

The football mentor made his pitch first, and even though I confessed I hadn’t played the game since a knee to my helmetless head had rendered me unconscious in a backyard game several years earlier, his ardor for me was palpable. “You’ll be great!” he said, assuring me he’d teach me everything necessary to coach the wide receivers and defensive backs.

While my football knowledge was limited, it was vast compared to what I knew about soccer. The only game I’d ever seen was one my father had taken me to before I was old enough to object. It was boring, bitterly cold, and as I could best recall every player on both teams (the Bridgeport Portuguese and the Bridgeport Puerto Ricans) was under 5-feet-6 and didn’t speak English.

The soccer coach, a notoriously straight shooter and former goalkeeper for the Bridgeport Italians, wasn’t deterred by my obvious inexperience. “Number one, you know enough for JV,” he said. “Number two, whatever you don’t know, I’ll teach you. Number three, you’ll be done October 15th.” Then he added, “By the way: football season goes until Thanksgiving. But hey, if you’d rather freeze every afternoon for the next six weeks after the JV soccer season’s over, go right ahead.”

What he didn’t say, presumably because he was confident, I already knew it, was the soccer team was likely to contend for the league title and state championship, while the undermanned footballers would probably lose more games that September than his soccer squad would in the next two or three seasons combined. He closed the sale by declaring, “Oh, and I don’t have anyone else, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The rest is history. The JV soccer team won close to 90 percent of their games over my six seasons as their coach, while the varsity took home a pair of state titles during that same period. Even better, I began actually playing the game, both outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter, and to my delight found being the biggest and fastest person on the field was nearly enough to compensate for an utter lack of basic foot skills.

Even better, after just a few years on the job people in the community, basing their judgment entirely on the JV team’s stellar record every fall, began assuming I was a brilliant mentor for their boys.

There was one downside, however. One late autumn evening at a local grocery store I overheard two parents in the next aisle who, apparently unaware of my presence, were critiquing my coaching performance during the just-completed season.

“He really did a great job with the kids!” the first one exulted. “Yeah,” responded his friend. “But he should stick to what he knows. Sure, the guy can coach soccer, but it’s obvious he doesn’t know the first thing about baseball or basketball!” <

Friday, October 14, 2022

Andy Young: Signs of the time

By Andy Young

I may not be the second coming of Charles Darwin, but I’m observant enough to know what time of year it is with just a brief glance out the nearest window. Anyone can tell that it’s winter when there’s snow on the ground, spring when trees are budding, and summer when fully developed leaves are producing abundant shade.

But I can go one better. My inherent ability to recognize nature’s subtle hints allows me to not only divine that it’s currently mid-October, but also that those buses full of leaf-peepers are here to look at Northern New England’s fall foliage during autumn of an even-numbered year.

All of Mother Nature’s bright reds, deep purples, blazing oranges, and many other unique hues appear annually in these parts. But every other year, specifically the even-numbered ones, Maine is overrun with a far less attractive form of autumn color.

Shortly after beginning my daily commute to work, my car and I encounter an octagonal red sign that commands us to come to a full stop. These days while I’m pausing, I can’t help noticing the proliferation of campaign signs at the corner. There are nearly 20 of them, each urging anyone reading them to vote a certain way in next month’s elections.

I understand that name recognition is important for someone aspiring to become an elected official. But I’m not sure littering one’s district (or in the case of candidates for governor or senator, the entire state) with mini billboards is going to sway any undecided voters into casting their ballot for the person whose name appears on them.

The four grassy corners of the intersection at the end of my street are currently home to a wide variety of political signs. Two green ones with white printing on them encourage me and anyone else viewing them to re-elect the person who currently serves as our state representative. But several feet away are three similarly sized placards sporting red and black printing on a white background, urging one and all to vote for his opponent.

On the same small patch of grass there’s also a red, white, and blue board with the name of a person running for the state senate on it, along with three separate but identical purple and white signs with a different person’s name on them, apparently designed to convince me that she is a better candidate than the woman named on the tri-colored advertisement located just a few feet away. There are also signs boosting Maine’s current governor, who’d like another four years in the Blaine House, and a former governor, who’d like to return there.

None of the signage I’ve seen touting political candidates has the word “Democrat” or “Republican” on it. Given current attitudes amongst the voting public, it might be that publicly proclaiming one’s party affiliation would cost a candidate more votes than it would gain them.

I consider this proliferation of political posters a scourge, but others may hold a different opinion regarding the current clutter. All those unsightly but attention-grabbing cardboard notices represent a potential fiscal bonanza for the people who print them every couple of years. Those folks look forward to even-numbered autumns with the same sort of ardor that turkey farmers have for Thanksgiving.

Given the current polarized political atmosphere, I wonder if a Republican sign-producer would take an order to print signs for Democrats, or if a liberal printer would produce campaign literature for conservative candidates.

I bet they would. Because whatever dissimilarities Americans with conflicting political persuasions may have with one another, they also have one important thing in common.

They’re all capitalists. <

Insight: Strange and unusual Halloween sightings

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Just like for everyone else, Halloween can be a spooky time for journalists as we investigate and explore strange occurrences related to the supernatural.

A copy of an Oct. 29, 1988 newspaper article about a
'Hanging Tree' in New Mexico where a ghost has been
reported over the years is contained in a box of old clippings
in Ed Pierce's basement. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
I’m somewhat skeptical about the subject and throughout my career working for newspapers, I’ve been asked to tell the stories of individuals who say that they have encountered ghosts or experienced things that can’t easily be explained. From the time I watched the original black and white version of the film “Thirteen Ghosts” on television growing up in the 1960s, the topic has interested me, yet I’ll admit I have no belief in ghosts or visitors from the other side.

Back in the early 1980s, airmen at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where I was stationed, kept telling me about seeing strange lights and being subjected to unusual experiences inside an aircraft hangar there. Being close to Halloween, as editor of the base newspaper I thought it would be an interesting article to report about it for that week’s edition. I spent an evening in the hangar interviewing several people who worked in the structure and was told a wild story.

It seems that the hangar had been used as a training site for German airmen and pilots learning to fly older American fighter aircraft. One of the German mechanics had died from a fall inside the hangar and according to the story, his spirit would return at night searching for tools and his flight suit. Three base security guards told me that while on routine patrol of the flightline during the night, they could see lights coming from inside the darkened hangar, which had been abandoned when the German Air Force began training on a newer aircraft from a hangar up the road on the base.

I also spoke with a civilian painting crew that had been contracted to repaint some offices in the hangar so it could then be used by an American aircraft company testing a new jet there the following year. They said that because of other work obligations, the crew could only work inside the hangar at night and just like the security guards, they also experienced some odd things while working there.

The painters said once without any reason, the overhead lights inside the hangar suddenly went off, leaving them in the dark. They claimed to have heard footsteps walking around inside the hangar and one man said he turned a corner and saw the apparition of an individual walking in the other direction holding a flashlight.

Along with a base photographer and base security, we toured the hangar after dark but unlike our interview subjects, we did not experience anything out of the ordinary. The article appeared on the front page of that week’s base newspaper and each time I ran into the major who directed base security thereafter in the course of my duties, he called me “Ghost Hunter.”

In October 1988, I was reporting on small town south of Albuquerque, New Mexico when I met several people who claimed to have had encounters with ghosts near an old cottonwood tree. According to legend, the tree had been used as a “hanging tree” for convicted criminals in the 19th century and on occasion, people had said they could see bodies hanging from the tree in the middle of the night.

An older resident of the area told me that sometime in the 1890s, a drifter by the name of Homer Salas had been lynched on the tree on Halloween night by a mob which accused him of horse theft. Through the years since, town residents said a ghost would appear in the wee hours of the morning kicking and tugging while hanging from a rope on a tree branch. One man told me that he had been kicked in the face by the boot of the ghost while walking home late one Halloween from an evening spent at a local bar.

He said he thought he heard something in the tree and when he walked closer, he encountered the ghost of Homer Salas up close and personal. He reached into his pocket and showed me a photo that his family had taken of him the next morning with a large red bruise on his cheek.

The article I wrote about the tree appeared in the newspaper on the Saturday before Halloween and after its publication, several other people informed me that they had also experienced unusual events near the tree. One of those people was the town’s assistant librarian, who said her car broke down on the road by the tree and while she waited for her husband to arrive to jumpstart her car, she could hear moaning and sobbing coming from the tree. Another was a man who called me and said his grandfather’s brother had been a part of the lynch mob and he always had avoided that area because he believed that the ghost would exact revenge upon him or his family.

After listening to all these stories, it was difficult to determine if they were credible or figments of these people’s imagination. All these years later, the jury’s still out on that question. <

Friday, October 7, 2022

Insight: Are old wives’ tales facts or myths?

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

My wife recently brought home a copy of the 2023 Farmers’ Almanac from the store and in looking it over, I noticed a section called “Will it Snow,” a collection of old sayings, adages, and folklore suggesting how wintery it might be this year based upon suppositions.

With items such as “A green Christmas means a white Easter” and “As high as the weeds grow, so will the bank of snow,” it makes me wonder if I’ve been approaching life wrong. If all it takes to make bold weather predictions are old wives’ tales and superstition, I should be farther along in my quest to become the go-to source for correct weather prognostication.

Growing up, my mother would occasionally sprinkle in a few old wives’ tales sayings into her conversations with her children and some involved the weather.
Once she told me “Woolly Bears Change Their Stripes.” When I asked her what that meant, she told me that was an expression her Aunt Martha had picked up when she was living in Canada.
It seems that the pattern of stripes on a woolly bear caterpillar was rumored to predict the severity of the oncoming winter. According to my mother, if the caterpillar’s black stripes are wide, that indicates that this year’s winter will be long and tough. If the middle brown stripe caterpillar segments appear to be broad, we can come to look for a much milder winter than normal.
She also told me that “If you hear thunder in winter, we’ll have heavy snow in 10 days.” Where that one comes from, I have no idea, but years ago I had to report on a winter blizzard in New Mexico where residents could hear thunder and see lightning as the snow fell.
Once on a visit to a relative’s farm in Perinton, New York in the 1960s, my mother took me aside and told me that she always believed that how thick a corn husk appears is directly related to how cold the coming winter months will be. As an adult, I find that one to be rather far-fetched. In school, I learned that corn grows based upon how much it rains or doesn’t rain during the summer, and I don’t place much stock in that one at all.
For some reason, my mother also would mention that “Every foggy day during August amounts to a day of snowfall this coming winter.” Again, I find this old wives’ tale to be unbelievable. Fog is a low-lying cloud that is influenced by nearby water, wind conditions and the topography of the land. What fog in August has to do with weather patterns in February simply escapes me and although some superstitions have some grain of truth in them, I’m hard-pressed to find anything credible with this one.

Several of my mother’s old expressions also involved the moon and winter. She once said, “Clear moon, frost soon” and “Ring around the moon means snow soon.”
Those sayings do indeed have some basis in fact, as frost typically occurs when the temperature of the air contacts solid ground that is below the freezing point. When the skies are clear and without cloud cover overhead, the ground cools faster than normal because there are no clouds to retain surface heat resulting in frost. Therefore, without cloud cover, the moon would appear to be clear, and it could mean a frost is near.
The same principle applies to seeing rings around the moon. A ring, or lunar halo, are cirrus clouds so high in the atmosphere that they obstruct our vision of the moon appearing to be a ring around that celestial object. Cirrus clouds​ are the first sign of an approaching storm front and these clouds usually thicken to form ​cirrostratus clouds and then nimbostratus clouds, commonly called snow clouds. Again, there’s some fact to this old wives’ tale.
I used to love snow days when we were off from school, and I can remember a conversation when I was in third or fourth grade with my mother after dinner when I was wondering if it was going to snow that night. She told me “If snow stays on the ground for three days, it’s waiting on another one.” 

When I asked what that meant, she said the snow from a storm we had on a Friday morning in early December was still on the ground the following Monday evening, so yes, she expected another storm that night. Whether it arrived or not, I don’t recall, or if it did, whether it was enough to force school to be canceled. I do have my doubts about this one too, but if it’s cold enough to keep snow on the ground, it’s probably cold enough to snow again too.
Not sure where my mother acquired many of these old wives’ tales and superstitions, but it was interesting to sometimes hear them in her conversations. Relating them years later must mean that in some way, I’m now the keeper of such odd weather prognosticating expressions.
Here’s one of my own that I hope catches on: “Ice cream tastes great no matter the season.” <

Andy Young: Prosperity is right around the corner. Thanks, Red Sox!

By Andy Young

The fickle nature of consumers, disagreements over public policy, unexpected natural disasters, supply chain inconsistencies, and the ongoing greed of corporate management, elected officials and laborers alike make the job of accurately predicting America’s immediate or long-term economic future all but impossible.

There are, however, certain signs that can help prognosticators detect a coming financial upturn. Happily, for New Englanders, a leading indicator suggests that economic prosperity is right around the corner. In fact, the next few months in general and October in particular are shaping up to be exceptionally productive for business, labor, and consumers in America’s northeastern-most region.

Who’s responsible for this? Well, there’s plenty of credit to go around, but the primary contributor to our region’s impending good fiscal fortunes is Boston’s professional baseball club.

Twelve of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams will take part in postseason play, which starts this week. The Red Sox aren’t one of them, but where the local economy is concerned that’s good news. Really good news.

Last fall Boston won the American League’s wild card playoff game, 6-2, over their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, in a 3-hour, 13-minute contest. That catapulted them into a best-of-five division series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that finished eight games ahead of Boston during the regular season.

But after a three-hour, six-minute 5-0 shutout loss in Game 1, the Sox stormed back to defeat the Rays in three straight contests, games which lasted, in order, 3 hours and 56 minutes, 5 hours and 14 minutes, and 3 hours and 25 minutes. Alas, Boston’s Cinderella season ended in the American League Championship series when they were eliminated by the Houston Astros in six games that lasted, in order, 4:07, 4:08, 3:16, 4:04, 3:32, and 3:28.

The team’s falling short of the World Series was no doubt disappointing to Red Sox Nation and its legions of fervent zealots, all of whom are, for whatever reason(s) utterly devoted to the well-paid, constantly-changing mercenaries who wear their team’s uniform each year. But those people aren’t only ardent Red Sox supporters; they’re also the welders, doctors, nurses, electricians, bartenders, merchants, laborers, teachers, police officers, stockbrokers, farmers, shipbuilders, web managers, and others who comprise the area’s consumers and producers of goods and services. In short, they’re the people who make the economy go.

Last fall, Red Sox fans who watched every televised minute of their team’s playoff run spent a total of 41 hours and 29 minutes in front of electronic screens. Tack on the pre- and post-game shows, plus endless hours of commentary from TV talking heads and talk radio blowhards, and it’s no wonder so many New England businesses slumped last October.

Sleep-deprived employees called in sick in droves, and the bleary-eyed workers who bothered to show up after all those late nights were, not surprisingly, of limited use. Those who saw playoff games at Fenway Park in person paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege, and nearly all of that money left the local economy, pocketed by already wealthy players and management, most of whom live (and spend) elsewhere in the off-season.

But all that money will stay in New England this fall. Not only that, but Boston’s failure to qualify for this year’s postseason guarantees employers a motivated, well-rested labor force capable of higher levels of productivity than it was a year ago.

And there’s more good news: given the results of this season’s first four New England Patriot football games, northern New England’s economic good times are likely to continue for the foreseeable future! <