On Hiatus

I’m putting this website on hold for the time being so I can concentrate on my fiction writing. We’ll see if, and when, it returns. Follow my fiction writing here.

Not five, not six, not seven…

Hey, LeBron, how about zero?

Jeremy Jacobs: Please just go away

The villain has become Alex (Hannibal Lecter) Burrows and for good reason. He scored two goals and added an assist in a game that he had no business participating in. Based on all logic, he should have been suspended for game two. However, the mental coin-flippers running NHL discipline — and is there any other way to describe them? — saw things otherwise.

It’s hard not to be bitter about Burrows and the NHL league office.

But an even more long-standing villain has resurfaced, poking his ugly head out from beneath the rock he’d crawled under years ago.

I speak, of course, of Jeremy Jacobs, the disgraceful owner of the Boston Bruins, whose slumlord approach to one of hockey’s crown jewels all but destroyed the franchise. During the Bobby Orr years, hockey ruled Boston. Friends of mine once bought tickets to an afternoon Celtics game and afterward hid in the ventilation ducts so they could sneak out and attend the Bruins game that night. (They got caught when one of them suffered an asthma attack, but that’s not the point.) It was that hard to get Bruins tickets.

But over the years, JJ the Slumlord all but destroyed this proud franchise with his concern only for his larcenously overpriced and hideously tasting concessions.

And now he has the gall to reappear and we’re subjected to headlines about how proud he is of his team and how he’s basking in the glow of the Bruins’ conference championship.

Jeremy Jacobs, please crawl back under the rock you just slithered out of. Bruins fans who’ve lived and died with this team (while you got fat on their loyalty) don’t want to hear you. You are worse than fingernails on the chalkboard. You are the Ulf Samuelson and Alex Burrows of owners.

You are despised and you ear

Do us a favor. Please, go away.

Posts will be few and far between

For now, I’m concentrating on my fiction writing so posts will be few and far between. There are only so many hours in the day. I’ll pop in here once in a while, but mostly you’ll need to check me out at my fiction website and the publishing website I’m associated with.

Harmon Killebrew

It was sad to read that the end is near for Harmon Killebrew. He was a big part of one of my oldest memories, the 1967 Red Sox and Carl Yastrzemski.

The Sox and the Minnesota Twins went at it head-to-head for the American League pennant in the final two games of the regular season. The Sox had to win both games or they were finished. There was no wild card; there were no divisional champions. One team from each league emerged from the regular season.

And the Cardiac Kids did it.

At the same time, Yaz battled Killebrew for the home run title. Both finished with 44, but a tie was good enough to preserve Yaz’s Triple Crown season: 44 home runs, 121 RBIs, and a .326 batting average. Numbers that I did double-check but remembered correctly after all these years. No one has won the Triple Crown since.

It was a miracle season for the Sox (albeit ending with a loss in the World Series) and a miracle season for Yaz.

Killebrew was the guy we rooted against.

We all stopped rooting against him long ago, though, and we certainly were rooting for him in his fight with cancer. It’s sad to hear that he’s had to concede that fight.

It’s a great time to be a Boston sports fan

I mean, could it be any better than this? As late April sports times go this is pretty close to the pinnacle.

The Celtics just swept the New York Knicks. The Bruins have roared back with three straight scintillating wins over Montreal. And the Red Sox have won eight out of nine.

Oh, and if that isn’t enough, Patriots draftniks can revel in their team having two picks in each of the first three rounds starting on Thursday.

Big wins over classic rivals. Spectacular games like the double-overtime instant classic against the Canadiens on Thursday. And the promise of a very fun Red Sox season unfolding.

Nope, it doesn’t get much better than this. If you can’t be happy now, you just can’t be happy.

Why boo Carl Crawford?

There’s a segment of Red Sox Nation that I despise.  Let’s call it Bandwagon Nation, a collection of self-obsessed fans for whom it’s all about them, not the team. When things go wrong, these fans cross their arms and stomp their feet like petulant five-year-olds.

How dare the Red Sox ruin my experience as a fan!

I’d argue that it was predominantly Bandwagon Nation that booed Carl Crawford after his strikeout in the ninth inning on Friday night.  It certainly wasn’t any fan with a brain.

Does anyone think that Crawford isn’t trying as hard as he can? That, in fact, his struggles are almost certainly because he’s trying too hard?  That he didn’t prepare himself in the offseason by getting into great shape?

So based on that, what productive purpose is served by booing the new guy in this situation?  None.  It’s counter-productive.  If you care about the Red Sox, you let your shoulders slump in such circumstances and keep your mouth shut.

Take one for the team, if you will.

Now Daisuke Matsuzaka is another story.  He’s earned the ire of Sox fans over the past couple years. And I hate to be paranoid, but I almost began to wonder if Matsuzaka was playing the role of petulant five-year-old in his last start when he tossed meatball after meatball down the middle of the plate. As if to say, “Don’t like my nibbling?  Well, here.  Like this better?”

You wanna boo? I’ve got no problem with you booing Mr. Meatball. 

But not Carl Crawford.  He’s never shown up in a spring training out of shape.  He’s always given his all.  He’s moved around in the batting order trying to do what’s best for the team.  And if the self-obsessed can’t see that, that’s sad.

Bandwagon Nation, grow up.

The irony of Brian Gionta

The loss by the Bruins on Thursday night prompted many fans to groan and say, “Here we go again.”

In fact, the groans began as soon as the NHL announced the opening round match-up with the Montreal Canadiens.  There’s just too much history there.

I’ll admit to throwing something at the TV twice in my life.  (Hey, it was plastic and it didn’t break anything.  I may be passionate but I’m not insane. However, the point still remains.) 

The second time was when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs. (Since this blog is about Boston, I don’t need to bother with the sportswriting formalities of the team and dates involved. You know it; you can’t forget it.)

The first time I threw something came in 1979 when the Bruins had the Canadiens beat and in their own building. The bad guys had owned us in the playoffs since what felt like the early Pleistocene Era, including the most outrageous upset of all when Ken Dryden came out of the Ivy League — the Ivy League! – to beat the offensive juggernaut to beat all juggernauts. 

But this would be the year, I thought in 1979 as that seventh game moved later and later into the third period with a one-goal lead. We’d finally put that curse to rest. 

Until the too many men on the ice penalty and Guy Lableepingfleur.  Yeah, that was the first time.

Too much history.  Way too much history.

So the Bruins’ loss on Thursday night ‘s hurt and especially because it came at the hands of  Les Habs.  But you know, the extra ballbuster — the ironic ballbuster — is that it came at the hands of Brian Gionta, one of my all-time favorite college hockey players.

Since I cover college Hockey East for USCHO.com, I don’t root if two teams from that conference are playing.  (Although I always hope Hockey East teams beat those from any other conference.)

That said, I loved to watch Gionta play.  I enjoy small, quick, highly skilled players more than the lumberjacks.  (Hey, my son Ryan was small, quick, and highly skilled, but that preference existed even before he was born.)  Gionta wasn’t quite Paul Kariya, the pinnacle of small, quick, and absurdly skilled players, but if Gionta wasn’t second place he was pretty close.  He also had the most infectious enthusiasm. 

I can recall interviewing him early in his freshman year when Boston College was coming off a roughly .500 season and as I speculated about how far the Eagles could go, he answered with a grin and a sparkle in the eye, “Further than that.”  The charismatic freshman was saying they could win the national championship.  They came within a soft goal in overtime of achieving exactly that.

So I’m pleased anytime Brian Gionta scores two goals in the playoffs. 

Well, almost anytime.  I could have done without it on Thursday night.

No offense, Brian.  But I’d just as soon you get shut out in game two.

I still believe

Yup, the Red Sox have looked ugly during their 0-5 start.  Yup, only two teams in baseball history have started with that record and made the playoffs.

I don’t care.  I still believe.  This team is not going to continue to hit .190.  It won’t have an ERA over eight.  This team is too good.

Now the Sox could dig themselves too big of a hole if they lose again today and then get blown up by the Yankees.  But we’re not there yet. Not even close.

Which teams have gotten out to a hot start? Within the division, Baltimore and Toronto are 4-1.  Elsewhere, Texas is 6-0 and Kansas City is 4-2.  No other team is better than 3-2.

Are you concerned about Baltimore or Kansas City?  If so, take something for that hangover.  Are you worried about Toronto?  The Blue Jays could be pretty good, but I don’t see them finishing ahead of the Sox.

So of the teams you really need to keep an eye on for playoff positioning, only Texas has grabbed a substantial lead.  And no other team from the Rangers’ division is over .500.

The Sox have begun abysmally and have a three-game deficit compared to the teams are most likely to contend for the playoffs.

Three games.  Big deal. 

Get the leg off that bridge railing.  Or make a wager with me.

I still think the Red Sox are going to make the playoffs.  I fully expect that in a few months we’ll all look back at the current hysteria and laugh about it.

If injuries hit, then I’ll be worried.  If the pitching staff continues to stink, then I’ll be worried.

But the season is young and I still believe.

What the Patriots need to do in the draft

I’ll get to the point right away.  With their two first-round picks, the Patriots should look to get a defensive lineman and a linebacker.  If, of course, the right fits for the Pats’ system and the right values are there.

Front seven guys on defense.  Not a wide receiver.

A couple weeks back Peter King was espousing the Patriots trading up in the draft to get a wide receiver.  I don’t think it will happen and doubt that it should.

Why won’t it happen?  Well, anything canhappen, but Bill Belichick approached wide receivers before Randy Moss as replaceable commodities.  Witness the departure of wide receivers as free agents because Belichick (and Scott Pioli at the time) didn’t value the position enough to pay top dollar.   They wanted to put their money elsewhere.

In 2006, the year before Moss, the Belichick/Pioli tandem got a bit out of control with the philosophy, extending the idea that their system and Tom Brady could turn even the Jabbar Gaffneys of the world into Deion Branch clones.  That didn’t work; enter Randy Moss.

Although the philosophy has been tweaked since 2006, I still expect that the Patriots will not spend a number one draft pick on a wide receiver.

Why?

Because the single most rare commodity in the NFL is an impact defensive linemen. Look at Belichick’s first round choices at that position: Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Ty Warren.  Those three rocks were the key to recent New England defenses.  I believe the next generation of Seymours will be Belichick’s preference with that first pick, obtained from Oakland in the Seymour deal.

Linebacker would be my preference with the second pick (New England’s own pick in the first round). That position has been the toughest one to fill in the draft based on the Pats’ system and specific physical needs. 

With the first pick in the second round (obtained from Carolina in yet another terrific trade of draft choices), the Pats can then look at the offense and wide receiver in particular. Or maybe a offensive lineman since the war in the trenches hasn’t gone their way in some key recent contests.

I’m writing this before the Super Bowl.  For all I know, that game could turn out 54-45.  But if you look at those two teams, you don’t just see two great quarterbacks and some imposing speed wide receivers.  You also see two great defenses.

Until the Patriots ran into a brick wall in the playoffs, they had a juggernaut offense.  Their defense started out abysmally and then turned it on down the stretch.

From a talent perspective, this team needs to think front seven defense first and then give Brady more offensive weapons.