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All Betts Are Off and So Are the Red Sox

You would think that they would have learned by now. About a century ago, the Red Sox traded Tris Speaker–one of the greatest hitters to ever live–to cut salaries after winning a World Series. Four years later, they sold Babe Ruth for a pile of Yankees cash. This time around, it’s Mookie Betts packing his bags, who despite having played for only six seasons, is already the tenth most valuable Sox player of all time, at least according to WAR. Betts is exactly the type of player a team dreams of developing. He should have been in Boston for his entire career, his number 50 retired, a beloved icon like Williams and Ortiz.

He would have been, too, if not for some cheapskates.

Fans and owners have always had a complicated relationship. It’s the owner’s team—they own it after all—but every sports franchise also belongs to its fans. The generations of support earn some kind of sweat equity, and in that way, an owner is really more of a patron. An owner is supporting something that’s not just for them, and in return, fans have no choice but to trust that their benefactor is a benevolent one.

For the owners, there’s a certain responsibility that comes with that agreement. They don’t need to put a winning team on the field every year. And they don’t need to lose money consistently, either; running a baseball team isn’t a charity. But when someone like Betts comes along—someone who plays with joy and respect, a generational talent and role model—there’s a tacit feeling that the best thing an owner can do is pay them their money, make sure they’re happy so that the fans can be happy too and otherwise, get the hell out of the way.

That’s why the Betts trade is so infuriating for Red Sox fans, or any type of baseball fan really, because no matter what kind of haul they received in return, it could never match what they had in Betts (the trade to the Dodgers is on hold due to medical reviews, but is expected to be completed in the coming days). With Betts came that hometown pride of having seen a superstar grow up with your favorite team, the knowledge that he’s yours.

It’s bigger than just winning baseball games. It’s easy for us on the sidelines to say that no matter what a player like Betts costs, an owner should just hand over a blank check. We’re not the ones spending the money. But we’d be willing to bet that most Sox fans would have been willing to part with a good chunk of the roster to keep Mookie, and the years and years of being able to call him theirs. The best baseball moments aren’t championships, but summer afternoons spent with old friends, watching a player who’s been a constant presence in your life. We start to see ourselves in players like Betts, and you can’t put a price tag on that.

-Joe Levin

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Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Andy Reid’s Sweet Relief

We’ll admit, winning a championship can be pretty darn sweet, too. Just ask Andy Reid. After a lifetime of coming up short, he finally got his Super Bowl ring last weekend. Watching him embrace family, friends, and players, it was hard not to be happy for Big Red. Our favorite Reid story of the weekend came from NBC’s Peter King, who sat down with the coach in private Sunday night after all the celebrations had started to quiet down. Reid started to ramble on and on, clearly trying to process what he had just achieved. At one point, a Chiefs staffer butted in, interrupting Reid’s trance. The team busses had waited long enough. It was time for the coach to leave.

“We can take an Uber,” said Reid. “Don’t worry. We’re good.”

And he continued to reminisce about all the times he thought he wouldn’t reach the top of the NFL mountain, the firings, the last second defeats, the tragic death of his son. The champagne spraying and Lombardi Trophy partying is fun and all, but we think there’s something so special about quiet moments like this, when the realization of a dream still feels like, well, a dream.

Nick Tre. Smith / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For Daniel Maldini, It’s a Family Affair

Last Sunday, Daniel Maldini made his Serie A debut for AC Milan when he came off the bench in stoppage time. On the surface, it was an inconsequential substitution, but by taking the field, Maldini joined a proud family tradition, becoming the third generation—following his father and grandfather—to play for AC Milan.

Maldini has big shoes to fill. His father is one of Milan’s greatest players ever, notching more appearances for the club than any other player in history over the span of his 24-year career. His grandfather also suited up for the club for a dozen years, and both players have their number retired. Maybe young Daniel Maldini is next. It’s certainly in his genes.

Daniel and AC Milan’s next match is this Sunday against rival Inter Milan in the Derby di Millano at 2:45 PM EST.

Scripture

Here are the best reads from this week that capture all the different aspects—tribes, relics, myths—that show why sports aren’t just like a religion. They are religion.

Kingdom Comeback: The Chiefs’ Seven-Year Journey to a Super Bowl Title

By Greg Bishop and Jenny Vrentas • Sports Illustrated

6,000 words delivered on deadline and full of anecdotes you won’t find anywhere else, this is the definitive story of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl triumph.

Uphill Skiing at 75: ‘There’s No One Left in My Category’

By Shauna Farnell • New York Times

Years after her days of running Boston Marathons were over, Sharon Crawford took up a new sport, and her competition is much, much younger than she is.

The Girl in the Huddle

By Natalie Weiner • SB Nation

Elinor Penna wanted to be a sportswriter in the 1970s, but nobody would give her a job. So she started her own newsletter, and a few years later, her work was syndicated in over 40 papers, in addition to contributing to CBS’s NFL coverage. This is the story of a true trailblazer—although she’d prefer it if you didn’t call her that.

Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

Holy Wars

When you think of rivalries in sports, there are a few games that immediately come to mind: Red Sox-Yankees, Auburn-Alabama, Real Madrid-Barcelona. Duke-North Carolina is that type of game. You know about the decades of college basketball dominance, about the greats who have played in this game from Michael Jordan to Zion Williamson, and the Cameron Crazies. But here’s something you might not be aware of: If you add up the total scores of every game since 1949, UNC would be ahead by a score of 13,581 to 13,559. That means that after 60 years of basketball, there’s only a 22-point difference between the two schools just eight miles apart. The average score differential in each of those 180 games? A measly 0.1.

Although No. 7 Duke is surging and Carolina’s season has been derailed by injuries, this is a game that never disappoints. Tip-off is 6 PM EST on Saturday and you can watch it on ESPN.

Old Testament

The Power and the Gory (1991)

By Paul Solotaroff • The Village Voice

Meet Steve Michalik, bodybuilder and former Mr. America, and a troubled man right out of a Shakespearean tragedy. Michalik has a problem. He’s trained his body to be the Eighth Wonder of the World, all muscle, no fat, perfectly proportionate. He’s sacrificed everything for it. And now, all he wants is to be flexing at his next competition—and drop dead. He’s done with this world, but what if his body won’t let him leave? A remarkable dive into a complicated mind that you won’t soon forget.

Last Words

“Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat.”

–Dean Smith

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