Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Dan Shaughnessy: Is the Devil at Work in Boston Sports?
For round one of my analysis, I figured I'd start with the man whom some believe is the most controversial of all the Boston sports media members, Dan Shaughnessy. He wrote an article in Sunday's Globe that I just read.
Props to Dan for including one of the Rolling Stones' best songs, "Sympathy for the Devil." He was able to tailor the lyrics of the song to be an explanation for all the success the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics have had over the years: they sold their souls to the devil.
The first few paragraphs do a great job of pulling the reader in, but towards the end, there gets to be a bit of overkill. He mentions too many different times of glory in Boston sports lore, whether they were ending moments of championship games, key trades, or other important times that luck could be involved. Only a few need to be noticed. He also mentioned a few Bruins players, which he did not explain at all in the column. Although it is a good idea to give them a shout out, I think he should have cut them out if he wasn't going to describe their situations.
His link between the Devil and Babe Ruth is clever, and it fits well with the explanation of the "Curse of the Bambino," which Mr. Shaughnessy coined in the 1980s, after his book titled with the phrase.
I find it interesting that Shaughnessy brought Red Auerbach into the picture and compared him to Bill Belicheck, saying he was just as bad in his cheating. I don't agree with that. However, if any of the things he said about Red are true, then he is right to a certain extent.
Shaughnessy really sretches his argument to make it support the Patriots' previous championships by mentioning "poison," when what the Patriots success could easily be explained by what they did. That is the biggest weakness of the article.
Overall, the Devil dealing is a solid idea with a lot of potential. The triumphs of the piece came in the Stones lyrics and the Ruth/Devil comparison. However, the column could have been better if Shaughnessy had not taken the idea too far. B-
Callahan Cranky for some Controversy?
Another day, another Red Sox column. I can't wait for the games to start. It seems like Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald and Dennis & Callahan on WEEI can't either. He's begging for something new to happen in camp, and nothing newsworthy really is at this point. He suggests that the team bring Pedro Martinez back to complain, although he didn't always do that. He explains that Manny, Schilling, and the rest of the usual suspects aren't making noise, which he sees as a bad thing. It's hard to tell if Gerry is serious, or if he just wanted to write a story about not having a story. It seems to be the former, if only because that's the kind of person he is. I have met him myself, thanks to my internship at WEEI, and comparing the language from his speech, which is certainly genuine, to this article, it appears that he means what he says. However, I don't agree with that sentiment.
The fact that nothing out of the ordinary is happening at Red Sox camp may be boring for beat writers and other journalists, but it's a great sign for the team's wellbeing. That's what Callahan eventually hints at in the end of his story, but doesn't explain much. The fact that there is no complaining means that the team has no visible problems. There could potentially be ones behind the scenes, but Terry Francona has done an outstanding job at keeping those out of the limelight in his time as Red Sox manager.
With no problems in camp, it will be a lot easier for the team to focus on preparing for the season, avoid injuries (so Curt Schilling is hopefully the only one to suffer), and (eight months down the road) defending its World Series crown. Sorry to play the Devil's Advocate here Gerry, but I'm glad there's nothing extreme going on in Fort Myers. B
Here's a throwback to this point in 2008, when MLB predictions were being made. I decided to look at Nick Cafardo's visions and see where I differed from him. In the end, we were about 50-50 on what we disagreed on.
Nick Cafardo is one of the better sports writers in
-Blue Jays winning the AL East
Here’s why: DEFENDING WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX.
The Blue Jays have to play 38 games against the Red Sox and Yankees this year, which doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for them. However, B.J. Ryan will be out for a while, so the bullpen and starters will be taxed that little extra bit. With the Red Sox lineup full of clutch hitters (David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are only the tip of the iceberg), the majority of the lineup will be tough outs late in games, as will the Yankees’, which is constantly at the top of the league in offense. The Blue Jays have a great starting rotation, especially if A.J. Burnett stays healthy, and their bullpen is good as well. However, their offense is a big question. Will Frank Thomas be able to put up the same numbers again, and will Vernon Wells have a year like 2006 or 2007? The Blue Jays could very well be the wild card team in the
Tigers winning the AL Central
Here’s why: CLEVELAND, WHO WAS ONE WIN AWAY FROM THE WORLD SERIES LAST YEAR.
The Indians needed a three game losing streak to avoid a World Series berth last year. They were up three games to one on the eventual champions, and they had two games remaining from their best two pitchers, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Granted both of those pitchers collapsed in the playoffs, it doesn’t mean it will happen again. They have that experience on their record now, and more importantly, Eric Wedge will know better than to use them that much in the regular season. Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner, perhaps the two best hitters in the Indians lineup BOTH had off years, and there are many reasons to believe at least one of them will bounce back very strong. (I personally think they both will.) The Tigers have one of the best lineups in recent memory, but remember that Gary Sheffield and Jose Guillen are a year older, and that goes without mentioning Pudge Rodriguez, who also happens to be a catcher, where there is more deterioration year to year than any other position. Magglio Ordonez won’t necessarily duplicate his MVP-caliber year, either. His batting average last yer was a huge outlier in his career stats. We haven’t even gotten to the pitching yet and there are already plenty of questions. For starters (literally), the Tigers could be in trouble in the back end of their rotation. Will Kenny Rogers put up another good season given his age? Will Jeremy Bonderman ever live up to his potential? There’s no more Andrew Miller to look forward to in the next couple years because of the Miguel Cabrera trade, and does the salary dump from that move, Dontrelle Willis really impress anybody, when he’s now in an infinitely better hitters’ league? How about the bullpen, where Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, their two best relievers, are out indefinitely? Todd Jones’ lucky years have to come to an end eventually. His underlying stats are begging for a year of correction. Yes, the Tigers will threaten the Indians for the AL Central title, but they will not get it. They don’t have the depth to be the best of the central five. They can certainly make the wild card and make some noise in the playoffs, especially if Zumaya comes back strong and the pitching holds up all year, but those are some pretty big ifs.
Dodgers winning the NL West
Here’s why: the two teams in the 2007 NLCS, who are both in their division, and have better teams. The Dodgers have a manager that used to be among the game’s finest, but he has gone considerably downhill since his overuse of his bullpen in the 2004 ALCS. He is also known for playing veterans over high-potential rookies, even when the veterans aren’t that good. He may have been improving with that over the last couple years, but he hasn’t shown that is a permanent change. The Dodgers’ hitting is abysmal, and it’s highly unlikely that ALL of the Dodgers young talent will pan out in order to get the offense going. It’s going to be tough for Andruw Jones to have a big comeback year hitting in that ballpark, and his fielding is considerably worse than it used to be. That could be a problem in the spacious Chavez Ravine. Right now, the Dodgers don’t have a legitimate third baseman for this year. As much as it pains me to say it, Nomar Garciaparra (my favorite player), who is currently injured anyway, is not good enough to provide a spark in this Dodgers lineup anymore.
Another mistake in the NL West standings: the Padres in front of the
Cafardo says about the
So there you have it. I think similarly to Mr. Cafardo in the rest of his predictions, although I have a different World Series winner (not
Cambridge native and Herald columnist Steve Buckley took a brief look at an age-old question in Boston: exactly which team is tops all-time? I don’t think a 700-word column is an answer to that, and he didn’t aim to explain it all. However, the connection between the Boston sports teams is a topic that isn’t discussed as much as it should be.
Boston is one of the biggest sports markets in the country. It has had three different dynasties (the early Red Sox, the Celtics for the 50s-80s, and the Patriots of the current day), none of them coming at the same time. But what about this year? The Patriots made it to the Superbowl, and very well could make it back next year. The Red Sox won it all in 2007, and are the favorites to win in 2008. The Celtics are having what could end up the biggest one-season turnaround in NBA history. If they are all to win championships, we just may find out who is the real favorite in Beantown. For now, we’ll have to sit back and enjoy the games (and listen to my breakdown of Buckley’s writing).
Although Mr. Buckley doesn’t get directly into the lead, it’s close enough to the beginning that the reader gets it. Why am I even bringing up the lead? This is a sports article, not a bombing in Baghdad!
Anyway, Buckley makes a coherent connection that one may not necessarily notice otherwise. He did say the Sox and Celtics games were similar, even though one ended favorably for Boston fans (the Celtics rout of the Heat), while the other was quite the opposite (the Sox getting one-hit). Looking beyond the single games, it makes a lot more sense.
Buckley goes on to explain exactly what the best part is (how the Celtics actually matter as April approaches). Props to him for even including the Bruins, since they are in the thick of things in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Buckley ties in people from around the area with his mentions of various schools, which is always good, and he even got Paul Pierce to speak about the Red Sox, relating the two teams even more and giving the article a heightened sense of legitimacy. Steve even tosses in a Jim Mora reference (with the quote about playoffs) for good measure.
Although the beginning and the middle of the article are great, the conclusion is very lacking. The kicker is mediocre at best. It may mention the similarities between last year’s Celtics team and the Miami Heat this year, which ties in with the Celtics being important again in something other than the draft lottery, but it could do a much better job. It doesn’t tie back in with the Red Sox, which was one of the main points of the article early on. The Celtics may be the technical focus of the story, getting the headline and subtitle, but the Red Sox were frequently mentioned in the story, including in the lead, and they are ignored in the last few paragraphs. It could be a judgment call as to how that is, but in my experience, it could be better and still have the focus on the Celtics squad if need be. B+
The Bruins. The Bruins WHAT?
This is an article I've been meaning to write for a couple days, but now it has some serious implications. It could be even more relevant if the B's pull a victory out tonight in Montreal. Thanks to the article I read in yesterday's Globe by Dan Shaughnessy, I was inspired to get off my butt and write this.
The Bruins are Back
There are plenty of positives for Boston sports fan right now, whether you are a fan of baseball, basketball, or the Boston Marathon. One thing that Bostonians don’t usually expect to watch late into April is hockey, and that has come to be a pleasant surprise with the play of the Boston College Eagles and Boston Bruins. Patriots Day is one of the best days on Beantown’s sports calendar, year in and year out, and this year it could be more important than any in recent memory.
The Boston Bruins put themselves back on the map by forcing a seventh game in their first round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, giving fans an alternative to the local teams on the diamond or parquet. The last few games at the Garden have been unbelievably packed, and the energy levels are second only to what they were in the old Garden. However, if the young, strong, hungry team keeps playing the way they are for the rest of the playoffs and beyond, they may see some solid fan support for years to come.
I was at Game 4 myself, and even in the loss, it was hard to describe the intensity of the crowd. I can only imagine what it was like in Game 6, when the Bruins came back from three different deficits to win, tying the series and sending it back over the border for game 7 tonight.
Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, the Bruins are a team to watch again. They may not have a Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, Phil Esposito, or Bobby Orr, but they do have an exciting core of players who are determined to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Boston. Whether it’s this year, next, or a few years from now, it seems a distinct possibility, especially with the rumors of them trying to land Marian Hossa in the off-season.
If the Bruins win Game 7, they’ll be the talk of the town for the night. If they don’t, at least they’ve shown their fans that there is another great team product to see at the Garden, and this one is in Black and Gold, not Green.
According to Analysts, Green's Future Looking Blue
Here's an article I wrote when I noticed the lack of any respect the Celtics were getting from ESPN.com. I don't know what the ESPN TV or Radio people are thinking, or any of the national media. I won't speak for them, but I will make a case to show the Celtics have a decent shot at winning it all.
According to Analysts, Green's Future Looking Blue
After a dramatic, come-from-behind win to clinch a berth in the NBA Finals, there was only one thing Paul Pierce could do: let the little kid in him out. It just took a little extra coaxing. An emotional quarter led to an even more so post-game celebration, which started long before the Silver Ball was handed to the Celtics ownership.
Immediately following the final buzzer, Pierce offered a handshake to his coach, Doc Rivers. As captain of this Celtics team, he has seen everything. Just one year ago, the Celtics were the second best team in the NBA Lottery, not at least the second best team in the NBA (possibly better if they play the way they have in the clutch recently).
A handshake was not nearly enough to represent the giddiness in Pierce, kid Rondo the point guard, Sam Cassell, or anyone else that says “ubuntu” at the end of a team huddle. Only one reaction was fitting for this occasion, and it was what Rivers offered to the Truth- a hug- a long, sweaty, enthusiastic hug. It was one of the moments that show how powerful a victory can be. Kevin Garnett, the most fierce competitor in the league, let out tears of joy on the court.
When John Havlicek handed the Eastern Conference Championship Trophy over to his former team, chants of “Beat LA!” rang through the room. Los Angeles native and former diehard Lakers fan Paul Pierce started it, and it caught on quickly. Although most fans in New England see Pierce’s statement as an obvious solution, not nearly as many people west of the Mass Pike or south of Connecticut feel the same way. The Lakers are heavy favorites early in gambling and predictions of the experts as well.
ESPN.com’s NBA analysts have a variety of backgrounds. Some are former players, others fomer coaches, and some are avid fans and students of the game. They have often vehemently disagreed, but their choice for this year’s NBA Champion is unanimous. When all is said and done, they all believe the Los Angeles Lakers will come out on top.
Considering the way the Lakers have dismantled their opponents, this should come as no surprise. Kobe Bryant continued his regular season dominance this year through L.A.’s last game on Thursday. Twice in one series and against the defending world champs nonetheless, he brought his team back from a double digit deficit to win a game. Since Pau Gasol joined the team just before the trade deadline, Phil Jackson & Co. have set expectations for greatness, and have seen equal results.
The gripe many New England fans may have with any pro-Laker or anti-Celtic sentiment isn’t necessarily unwarranted or biased. Although anyone who watched the Celtics in the days of Bird, Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish may have an inherent hate for Purple and Gold, those games happened two decades ago. There are plenty of fans who have grown up only knowing the C’s as losers. I happen to be one of them.
The most legitimate case one can make for any Boston resentment for the national or west coast media is this: almost no one is giving the Celtics a chance, especially not ESPN.com. Every single prediction there has a Lakers logo next to it, and only one analyst, ESPN Magazine writer Chris Broussard, has the Finals going to seven games. Although the Lakers may have an infinitely better coach, a player who can single-handedly take over games, and the defending champs as just another notch on their belt, there are some strong arguments to be made for the franchise who has more championships, 16, than any other organization in Basketball (even the Lakers) to be NBA champs.
The Celtics went into the Eastern Conference Finals as the favorite, but not by a very large margin. The Detroit Pistons had been to that round of the playoffs each of the five years before this season. They had been to the finals multiple times, and won a championship over a stacked Lakers team (including eventual Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton). They had the second best record in the league, so this year’s squad was no different from the other dominant ones.
Boston had not won a road game in the playoffs despite having the best regular season record in that category, and they had no big comeback victories in the playoffs to that point. Despite advancing past the first two rounds of the post-season, there were plenty of questions regarding the team’s play. It seemed that more questions reared their ugly heads as the playoffs went on.
The C’s answered many questions with their play at certain points in the series. They won not one but two games on the road. The Palace at Auburn Hills is one of the hardest places for opposing players to play, whether it is because of the Barber who used to sit behind the visitors’ bench and heckle the players, Mason, the emphatic MC and Public Address Announcer, or simply the passion and pressure of the packed arena. Their first win came after their first home loss of the playoffs, showing the resiliency any championship-caliber team needs to have to earn that name. The Celts never looked back after a fast start and won Game 3 by 14 points. Their second and even more impressive road victory came in Game 6, when they came back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to clinch the series on Piston’s parquet.
The Boston Celtics won Game 6 and the Eastern Conference Championship much like any other team: their preparation, strong defense, and willingness to work together got them the W. The one thing they have on East Champs, however, is their passion for the game. Pierce, Garnett, and Ray Allen have all shown that at times throughout their long careers in basketball, but those times came much more frequently this season. Three men mired in team-wide futility most of their time now have a solid supporting cast. Every member of that team has a common purpose: to play for the good of the team. It’s what their chant is all about. That mindset, which is fueled by their passion, is exactly what will give them a shot against the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
With the way they’ve played this year, the Celts are no true underdog. Although the teams have changed drastically since the heyday of their rivalry, history is still on Boston’s side. They are 8-2 against Los Angeles all-time in Finals series victories. The Lakers may appear to have the better team on paper, but there is a reason the NBA Finals are played out. We’ll have to wait and see what tricks Red Auerbach has up his sleeve this time.