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PAGE 16 BOSTON POST-GAZE'I-rE, JULY 1,2016 HOOPS and HOCKEY by Richard Preiss in the HUB The Lifespan From the time John L. Sul- livan held the Heavyweight Championship until the reign of Joe Frazier, there were 24 men who claimed that very presti- gious honor. All have passed on to the great ring in the sky. With the recent passing of Muhammad Ali, I got to think- ing about, how many of the greats of the past are still among us and learned that the chain of successors from John L. to Smokin' Joe have all left us. I started wondering just how long these men had lived. It turns out the average age upon death was 66 years old. That probably isn't much off what a list of men who lived over those years would be in general, as the average life expectancy in 1900 for males was 46 years and is now 76 years. As I looked a bit further into this subject, I did find some- thing that was a bit surprising. Of the seven title holders from Sullivan to Jack Johnson, only Joe Louis and of Heavyweight Champs Jess Willard Louis, and Frazier were taken in their 60s, Baer and Charles in their 50s. I have not included Sonny Liston because both the date of his birth and death are unknown. Now, why would that group who held the title from 1915 until 1933 live so much longer than the rest? I am not sure. It Max Schmel/ng all. Jack Dempsey also stayed in great condition, as he would continue to engage in exhibition matches as well as work as a referee. Gene Tunney taught fitness and boxing to our sol- diers. Jack Sharkey was an active outdoorsman, and Max Schmeling stayed very active as an executive for Coca Cola in Germany. I think that for most of their remaining years this group stayed quite fit. Seeing photos of them as they aged, they all appeared fit. For the last group, from Camera to Frazier, lifestyles may have been a bit different. Primo battled alcoholism, which surely contributed to his early death. Max Baer was known, even while champion, for his living the wild life, so there is really no surprise there. Joe Louis had battled mental illness and a drug problem. Ezzard Charles was a tragic victim of Lou Gehrig's Disease. Floyd Patterson and Johansson both suffered from dementia brought on by boxing, and I would also argue that Ali was a victim of the punches he took over his ca- reer. Frazier died of liver cancer. So, again, why was one con- tiguous group able to defy the odds and live so long, while the others didn't? Not one cham- pion before or after that group lived to be as old as any one of them. Again, the average age for the Willard through Sharkey group was 89. Take them out and average the rest andthe age is 65. This is a question for the statisticians and medical com- munity. It is interesting. When I was a kid, there were a lot of heavyweight champi- ons still alive, and not because there were multiple title holders like today. I walked the planet two lived into their 70s. Three died in their 50s and two in their 60s. Jack Johnson died at 68 in a car accident, but the others died of natural causes. The average age of these men was close to 65. Now comes something inter- esting. The champions from Jess Willard through Jack Sharkey all lived to be in their 80s and 90s; an unbroken string that has been unmatched since with the exception of Jersey Joe Walcott who was the only other champ to live to be 80. Of this group, the youngest to pass on was Gene Tunney, who departed this life at the age of 81. Willard and Dempsey lived to be 86 and 87 respectively, while Jack Sharkey passed at 91 and Max Schmeling was the oldest of all the champs living to be a healthy and active 99 years old. The average age for this group is almost 89. Now, moving on to the re- maining title holders, the men from Primo Camera to Joe Fra- zier, we find that the average age returns to just about 65 years. In this group, only Wal- cott lived beyond his 70s, pass- ing on at the age of 80. Rocky Marciano died in plane crash at the age of 45, but all the others died of natural causes. Ingemar Johansson was the second old- est at 76. Camera, Braddock, - i Dempsey can be as atoned that the first group, Sullivan to Johnson, did not die: unUs.flally young for the The.secpnd group, Willard to Shakkeyi~i:~ak4~:SUrpassed what would have been expected, and the third group, Camera to Fra- zier, appear to have gone sooner than expected. Could it have to do with lifestyle? I know that Willard, Dempsey, Tunney, Schmeling, and Sharkey were all pretty clean livers. Dempsey would smoke the occasional cigar. I don't believe the rest smoked at and Schmeling with all of the champions from Willard to Frazier. Before a big televised fight at Madison Square Garden, many of these greats would be introduced. It was a thrill to see Dempsey, Tunney, Louis, Marciano and others climb through the ropes once again and stand in a box- ing ring together. Now they are all gone. While there have been some great title holders since, this group from Sullivan to Frazier is very special. When I think Heavyweight Champion of the World, their names are what come to my mind. QUEEN'S GAMBIT DECLINED -- It would turn out to be an interesting evening as we pro- ceeded from our downtown of- rice location towards the Garden for that annual event known as NBA Draft Night, an occasion that results in some college players, as well as others who have played overseas, being selected in a fulfillment of their dreams. The NBA Draft differs from that of the NHL in that the front office executives and coaches for the various hoop franchises remain in their respective cities, conducting their business with draft headquarters (the Barclay Center in Brooklyn) by computer and phone. This enables the Celtics, for example, to have a Draft Night party at the Garden, to which season ticket holders and cor- porate partners are invited. The definition as to just who fits into these categories can be rather expansive (those who have partial season ticket plans are eligible, for example] and thus there is normally a good repre- sentation of the Celtic Faithful on hand for the proceedings. The night's public festivities took place on the arena floor of the Garden with adjacent space in the lower rows of seats also open to all. The Celtics powers that be had transformed the team's locker room into a Boston Draft Night Central. Media rep- resentatives operated out of the traditional press room, located just down the hall. When one entered the Garden that night, one could have mis- taken it for a January evening. The same ushers and security staffwere there, the same media relations officers were there and the press room was the one used during all games. One small difference -- a coat rack was empty. On a midwinter night it would have been full. And yet, it really was an eve- ning of beginnings. You see, June is January throughout the NBA. Just as the calendar year turns over in January, so too does June mark the NBA's initial steps into a new season. The regular season is an af- terthought, the playoffs have concluded and a champion has been determined. It is time, once more, for the annual cycle of events to begin anew. Draft Night is also interesting in that it provides the genesis for trade rumors -- which grow exponentially as the big date nears and then seem to burst into a grand finale on the night itself. There were so many ru- mors that it seemed as if any- thing could gain traction in the blogosphere. We facetiously indicated to another writer that someone should just start a rumor to see how many people would run with the bait. It was like a hungry school of fish that would bite on anything. But like the colorful streams of the July 4th grand finale, which rarely reach the ground, few of the rumors actually wind up being fulfilled -- their sprays of words so profuse just moments before now extinguished in the reality of the selection made. The Celtics, of course, have eight picks in this year's draft, but the focus was clearly on their first, the No. 3 overall. Once can recall that a memo- rable selection at No. 3 some 36 years earlier in 1980 had been rmne other than Kevin McHale, who went on to become a valu- able member of the so-called original Big Three for the next dozen years. So, what would Celtics GM Danny Ainge do? Make an actual selection or package the No. 3 pick with some of the other seven and land a quality veteran? Whipped into a high level of expectation by media commen- tators in the days before the draft, it was obvious that the fans wanted the option that led to a trade for a veteran star. But when all was said and done, that is not what took place. Ainge made his selec- tions, swapped a couple of picks for choices in later years and basically stood pat. Six players were wearing Celtics caps at the end of the evening. When team co-owner Wyc Grousbeck stepped forward to address the crowd after Ainge chose California's Jaylen Brown at No. 3, the boos rained down. After all, this was the man who had once promised fireworks in a previous summer. They never materialized. For those fans gathered in the Garden, it was Deflategate without the ball. Yes, Brown may help right away and oth- ers perhaps in the future, but the fans wanted a veteran who would offer immediate results --- the on-court equivalent of an instant seat upgrade, if you will. That was not to be, so many left rather deflated, depressed and down in the dumps. They had wanted instant gratification father than considering a more thought out, reasoned choice. Later, with the media, Grous- beck indicated that none of the other teams had really offered quality in return for the No. 3 pick, saying, "This was not the day to make a deal." Brown, the PAC-12 Rookie of the Year last season, likes go- ing to class ('Absolutely~ was his reply when asked) and was a captain of his middle school chess team. There is an opening series of moves in that classic board game called Queen's Gambit De- dined. In brief, one's opponent offers an inferior piece (a pawn) as a sacrifice, hoping that one will take it and thus gradually lose control of the center of the board. It offers instant gratifica- tion (capturing a piece) in the hope that one will not consider a more thought out, reasoned move. On Draft Night Ainge held fast, not making a trade for what he considered inferior players. He still has his own roster of iplayers, along with the six new picks. As we enter July, NBA free, agency begins and the search for eligible veterans can begin anew. In addition, trades are also possible. A step not taken early in the process may enable something more meaningful to be accomplished over the sum- mer -- all because on Draft Night Ainge held fast and chose not to deal, but wait for another day. Queen's Gambit Declined.