Opinion: Biden, Belichick and fastballs

By MIKE MOFFETT

Published: 08-31-2023 6:00 AM

State representative Mike Moffett of Loudon is a former sports management professor. He chairs the House Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs.

In our sports vernacular the expression “losing your fastball” is a euphemism for no longer being able to perform to previous standards. After fireball-throwing Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton lost his fastball in the 1960s he threw knuckleballs to extend his career.

Everyone “loses their fastball” eventually, as time takes that inevitable toll on one’s cognitive and physical skills. Even Tom Brady eventually retired from football.

When brain surgeons lose their fastballs, they need to retire, lest someone gets accidentally lobotomized. Would that politicians had the good grace to do likewise. Even the great Winston Churchill sadly held on as British prime minister into his eighties when he was well past his political prime, to the general detriment of his country, circa 1955.

The late Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown retired in 1965 at the top of his career, after nine great seasons, as opposed to Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays, who was a sad shadow of his former self when he retired in 1973 after 23 big league campaigns. He held on too long.

Our 46th U.S. President, Joe Biden, clearly lost his fastball long ago, as we all watch his daily decline, muttering, stuttering, shuffling, and falling down as his mendacious incompetence embarrasses and endangers our country. Some say he never had a fastball to begin with, that he made it to the top as a junk pitcher with spitballs, screwballs, curve balls, and sliders, along with lucky timing and the proper patrons. (Thanks for foisting Joe Biden on us, President Barack Obama. Not.)

All of which brings us to revered New England Patriots head football coach Bill Belichick. It was only four years ago that he won a record sixth Super Bowl as Pats head coach. He was seen as a genius by many, the “greatest coach of all time.” Since then, of course, he lost Brady (his fastball?) and the team’s struggled. The Pats didn’t even make the playoffs last season. His staffing choices, personnel decisions, and play calling come under increasing scrutiny and criticism. The Pats seem to be on a treadmill to oblivion.

Is Belichick pulling a Willie Mays?

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Belichick and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll are in their seventies. No other NFL coach is older than 64. L.A. Ram coach Sean McVay is only 37 and won a Super Bowl at age 34, demonstrating that one doesn’t have to be old to be successful.

Belichick trails the all-time winningest NFL coach, Don Shula, by 30 victories. Might Shula’s 328 career wins be a personal goal for the Pats coach? That would take at least three more years.

Sometimes a fresh face is needed. In 1988 the struggling Red Sox replaced manager John McNamara with Joe Morgan at the All-Star break. The BoSox won their next 12 games.

Another lousy Pats season will only increase the calls for Belichick to retire. If the team can have a successful season, then that might be even more reason for Bill to step down and retire to Nantucket on a positive note.

Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack managed that team from 1901 until 1950. During his last season, the 88-year-old Mack saw his team go 52-102 and finish in last place in the American League. One might wonder why the A’s owner kept Mack in the dugout for so long. Well, Connie was the owner!

Pats owner Bob Kraft, himself 82 years of age, will no doubt have a candid conversation with Belichick if the Pats flounder. Many team owners somehow retain their fastballs. And fans have fastballs too. Time will tell.

As for Joe Biden, he apparently thinks he’s who our country needs as president for another four years. Most disagree. Ditto, re: 77-year-old Donald Trump. America needs a 2024 version of Joe Morgan. A younger, fresher face.

And voters never lose their fastballs.

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