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July 14, 2010

There won't be a new Boss the same as the old Boss

The Boss 

Yesterday ended an era of baseball that is about all I have ever known.  Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, passed away at age 80.  The Boss was one of a kind.

I grew up a Yankee fan.  The first year I remember was 1972.  The Yankees were mediocre, with a .500 record.  They had a few good players, but were far behind the better teams, including the Red Sox.  In 1973, George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS for $10M.  Baseball will never be the same again.

Steinbrenner was a fantastic businessman, finding ways to generate revenue and spending more and more money on the team.  It took a few years to win a World Series, but there was a revolving door of managers (20 managers in 23 years including Billy Martin 5 times.  This instability matched Steinbrenner's bluster and bravado.

Steinbrenner made baseball into a big business as other teams tried to keep up with the Yankees.  He wasn't a great baseball man, but he had huge passion for baseball.  He loved the game and he loved to win.  And, after his second suspension as an owner, he stayed more in the background and let his baseball team won things.  That has led to a fantastic Yankee era which continues today.

Steinbrenner made baseball interesting and kept the Yankees in the headlines.  Red Sox fans should appreciate Steinbrenner as he epitomized what they hated about the Yankees.  He was the Evil Empire.  Without Steinbrenner, the modern anti-Yankee sentiment wouldn't have run as deep.  And, the Yankee success challenged the Red Sox to step up their game, too.

Most importantly, Steinbrenner's philanthropy has been highlighted with his passing.  That should be a key part of his legacy.  On Boston sports talk radio today, one of the hosts said that for every charitable event, even the Red Sox own Jimmy Fund in Boston, Steinbrenner showed up with the biggest check.  Inside his bluster and bravado was a huge, compassionate heart. 

He will be missed.


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January 07, 2010

Celtics have heart

Yesterday was just one of those games during an NBA season.  The Celtics won on the road, although they had no right to win the game vs. the Miami Heat.  Check out the stats:

The Heat took 31 more shots than the Celtics because they Celtics had 24 turnovers (vs. only 11 for the Heat) and gave up a whopping 17 offensive rebounds (vs. only 5 for themselves).  The Celtics did shoot better, and got to the free throw line more often.

Nevertheless, the Cetics were not playing well and were down by 11 with about 7 1/2 minutes to play when they turned around their offensive and defensive execution.  It was capped off by an amazing out of bounds play (below) with 0.6 seconds left that tied the score and forced overtime.

After watching games like this, you have to think that Rajon Rondo deserves to be an All-Star.  He played 50 minutes in that game, coming back from a thigh injury.  He led the C's balanced attack with 25 points, barely missing any shots.

Credit the whole team, including coach Doc Rivers, for this play that tied the score at the end of regulation.  Perfect execution, particularly the pass from Pierce, the pick by Glen Davis to free Rondo a bit, and, of course, the layup to actually put it in by Rondo.

The Celtics have tons of talent when they are all healthy.  But, even more, they have heart, unselfishness, and determination.  Looks like another championship run!

 


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December 31, 2009

Pats Bets are Off

I've had fun this year doing my online bets on the weekly Patriots games.  The bet was simple:  the loser vs. the point spread had to display the winning team's cap (or later, logo) in their online profile for the following week.  After pumping some money into our local economy with a few purchases at Lids, I decided to back off and focus strictly on online humiliation rather than forcing the loser to keep buying caps.

I'm not doing the bet this week.  The Patriots are playing the Houston Texans, a potential playoff team.  In theory, it should be a good game.  But, I think that the Patriots will hold back a lot of their starters to rest them and avoid injury.  The game will be more like a pre-season game for the Pats.  I always thought that betting on games that don't matter was a waste of time.  The Texans do need to win the game.  The current line has the Texans favored by 8 points.  This is reflective of the Patriots likely stance, in my opinion.  So, no bet this week.  And, no bets during the playoffs as the loser will have their season over in any event.

Here's the recap of my bets:

Wins (vs. spread): Falcons, Ravens, Titans, Buccaneers, Colts, Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars

Losses: Bills, Jets, Broncos, Dolphins, Saints, Panthers (but no one took my bet)

Push (tie vs. the spread): Buffalo

So, the point spreads are, on average, correct.  I won 8 times in 15 bets.

I do think that the Patriots have shown that they can play well.  If they play like they did against the Jaguars, they can beat anyone.  But, they have also had some disappointing efforts, such as against an excellent Saints team.  Let's hope they stay hot and do some damage in the playoffs.  Go Pats!


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November 02, 2009

If - You can lead by example

So many leaders can tell you the right thing to do, but the best leaders lead by example.  And, that example trickles down throughout an organization.  When employees see the boss 'doing the right thing' when it comes to tough choices, they'll do the same.  Conversely, when they see the boss cutting corners and treating people poorly, it sets off a lot of dysfunction.

When I was in fifth grade, we had to memorize a poem.  It's probably the only poem I every memorized.  Amazingly, I still remember much of it today.  The poem was If by Rudyard Kipling.  It starts like this:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

I re-read the poem today, and, other than the sexist ending (you'll be a Man my son!), it has a lot of application to today's entrepreneurs.  Maybe that's why it stuck with me.

I thought of this today when I heard this interview with Tom Brady, QB of the New England Patriots.  This is Brady's weekly interview on WEEI in Boston.  But, since the Patriots didn't play yesterday, they asked Tom about his off-field life and, particularly, how he deals with all the harrassment he gets from fans and papparazzi.

I came away from the interview very impressed with Tom Brady's level-headed approach to dealing with having such a public life.  And, I'm sure that his leadership style has influenced many other Patriot players.  He's the kind of guy you'd build a team around, on and off the field.  He fits the mold that Rudyard Kipling had in mind.

By the way, here's a line from the poem particularly suited to entrepreneurs:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;


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October 29, 2009

Pats update

deschmidt.jpg The Patriots are on their bye week after two huge wins vs. Tennessee and Tampa Bay.  Cheers to my friend Dave who lost the online bet and posted this great photo on his Twitter account as payment.

The Patriots have played well against some weaker teams these past two weeks.  Big challenges coming up over the next five weeks -- 2 games vs. the Dolphins, at the Colts, vs. the Jets, and at the Saints.  They'll need to keep improving over the bye week to be up to the task.

I think that their defense is the surprising part of the team.  They've played very well.  The offense has done OK, but needs to be more efficient against the better defenses. 

They seem to be in good position to win the division, but I think it will be challenging to get a first round bye in the playoffs.  Denver and Indianapolis have two game leads vs. the Pats on that front, and Denver already beat the Pats head-to-head.  The Pats will have to beat Indy to have a chance for a first-round bye.  Otherwise, they'll be on the road for much of the playoffs.

I'm going to the game in Indianapolis in November.  Should be a great time, and, coincidentally, I'm also going to the Celtics-Pacers game the night before.  My team jerseys will get a good workout on the road!

Go Pats!


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October 13, 2009

Yankees Update

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My friend and fellow Yankee fan, Angelo, was on me for not mentioning the Yankees on my blog in a while.  And, he's right.  The Yankees had a great regular season after a slow start.  And, they were incredibly clutch in sweeping the Twins.  I guess all these years living in Red Sox country have made me gun shy.  But, with the Red Sox out of it (in a hurry!), I'll crow about the Yankees for a bit.

The key to the Yankees is their starting pitching.  The more they can stick with three starters (Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte), the better chance they have.  They've moved Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen, where he is very effective.  Their fourth starter would be Chad Gaudin, not exactly imposing.  I've heard that they are thinking of pitching Sabathia in Game 4 on three days rest.  With a day off before a possible Game 5, they could go back to Burnett, Pettitte, and then Sabathia again for the possible games 5, 6, and 7.  I like this strategy.

Of course, the Yankees bullpen has been excellent and is the best among the remaining teams, with Mariano Rivera as the one guy you'd always want on the mound at the end of the game, even as he approaches his 40th birthday.

The Yankees offense, other than A-Rod, Jeter, and Posada, was relatively quiet vs. the Twins.  But, their offense is too deep to stay quiet.  And, they don't need everyone to be hot in order to win.  Jeter is the key.  He's getting on base all the time and making heads-up plays in the field (as usual).

The Angels are the one team that gives the Yankees the most trouble.  But, this year the Yankees split 10 games vs. the Angels and won 2 out of the last three in Anaheim.  And, as the Red Sox learned, past results mean nothing.

Go Yanks!


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Up and Down Season for the Pats so far

As you might know, I've been doing a week-by-week bet on the Patriots.  Each week, I've found a fan of the Patriots' opponent who was willing to bet with me on the game versus the point spread.  The loser has to change their Facebook profile photo to one showing the winning team's cap.  Ideally, it should be an actual photo of the loser wearing the cap.  Here are the results so far:

vs. Buffalo Bills - Patriots win the game at the end but lose versus the point spread.  My friend Bob takes small consolation in the 'win' and lets me just display a cap photo due to my business travel that week.

vs. New York Jets - Patriots lose the game as favorites, sealing my doom.  Bruce gloats and gloats.

vs. Atlanta Falcons - Patriots play well and win.  My friend Anil displays a Patriots hat for a week.

vs. Baltimore Ravens - Patriots play their best game to date.  Another win.  My new Facebook friend Kelly is a good sport.

vs. Denver Broncos - Patriots play poorly in second half and lose in overtime.  I slink into Lids to take my picture with a Broncos cap, although the way this year is going, maybe I should invest in the company instead.

Overall, the Patriots offense has been the disappointment.  The defense, when they aren't on the field too much, has played well enough.  The offense has missed many opportunities.  That certainly hurt against the Broncos.  And, they were anemic vs. the Jets.  Luckily, after all of their opponents so far have been undefeated, their next two oppontents are currently winless.  A good blowout or two would be great for the Patriots.

Thanks to my new Facebook friend Ned for taking the bet on behalf of the disappointing Titans this week.  Go Pats!


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September 21, 2009

The Pats are 1-1, but I am 0-2

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I've been making weekly bets on the Patrios games, vs. the point spread.  So far, I've lost them both.  The Pats just barely beat Buffalo as big favorites (11 points).  And, they lost to the Jets while being favored by 3 1/2 points.  As the loser, I've been updating my Facebook and Twitter profile photos with pictures featuring the winning team's caps.  I was traveling immediately after the Buffalo game, so I only had a photo of the cap.  Today I actually bought a Jets cap (not easy to find in Boston) and took this photo.  No one said I had to smile!

I've got a bet on with another friend for the Falcons game this Sunday.  I am still in search of a Baltimore Ravens fan for a bet on the October 4th game.  Let me know if you want to take up this bet with me.  I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess.

I've been disappointed with how the Patriots have played so far, but there is room for some optimism.  I think that their offense has underperformed more than their defense, and it's easier to imagine the offense playing a lot better.  So, they should improve, although they games may turn into shootouts.

The next two games, vs. Atlanta and Baltimore, are at home.  These games will define their season.  These are two good teams, both undefeated so far.  If the Patriots play well and win, they can consider themselves a good team, too.  If not, it will be puzzling mediocrity.


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September 11, 2009

Grow up, Seymour

I always liked Richard Seymour as a New England Patriot.  Even when he held out for a new contract, I thought he did it the 'right' way -- not complaining to the media and doing as much as possible to avoid distracting the team.  He's an excellent player.  I was shocked when he was traded to the Raiders.  Although I think it was a great trade for the long-term, it certainly hurts the Patriots a bit for this season.  I hope they can use the freed up salary space to sign other players, like Vince Wilfork.

But, I don't understand why Seymour doesn't report to Oakland.  If he doesn't want to play for them (or move his family), he has one option -- retire.  As Rodney Harrison pointed out yesterday, that's the downside of making so much money as an NFL player.  You lose the freedom of controlling where you can play.  But, as Harrison said, you do that in exchange for a lifetime of financial stability.  As someone who was unceremoniously dumped by the Chargers before the Patriots picked him up, he knows what he's talking about.  And, it's a reasonable opinion.

So, Richard, you don't have a lot of options.  You can try to get Oakland to agree to not put the franchise tag on you at the end of the season so you can get out of there.  But, if they do, you'll make something like the $17M guaranteed to Julius Peppers this past year.  Not exactly slavery.  Since Oakland traded a very valuable draft pick for you, they may want to keep that option open.  Oakland, however, can put you on 5 days notice (if they haven't aleady).  Once that is over, you lose the entire season.  No money, no playing time toward your NFL pension.  And, you have to play in Oakland in 2010 anyway for the 2009 salary.  If you get close to that brink, you'll certainly burn a lot of bridges with Oakland's players and fans, making this year even worse for you.

So, show up and play for your $3.6M.  Maybe you could show Oakland a bit of that Patriots class that you had here for so many years.  That might make your time there a bit better.

Or, you can retire.  You've made a bunch of money, so you don't have to play football.  That's your choice.  Just be a grown-up and face up to the facts.


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September 03, 2009

Putting Your Hat Where Your Mouth Is

Football season is about to start.  And, hope springs eternal for most fans.  Things look good for my New England Patriots, although questions remain about their defense.

I've started to arrange a series of bets relating to the Patriots games this season.  For each game, I will make a bet with one person, using the point spread, for the Patriots.  The loser will have to wear the winning team's hat in their online profile (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) for one week.  I'll post the results (and the pictures) each week.

I've got someone to take this bet for Week #1 vs. the Buffalo Bills and Week #2 vs. the New York Jets.  I am on the lookout for a Falcons fan and a Ravens fan for Weeks #3 and #4.  If you are interested in taking on a bet for those weeks, let me know.

Go Pats!


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August 22, 2009

Back off, Jim

Even as a Yankee fan, I always liked Jim Rice.  He was a fearsome hitter for the Red Sox in the 70s and 80s, when I followed baseball with a youthful fervor.  I think he played the game the right way and was happy that he finally made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

Yesterday, while at the Little League World Series, Jim complained about the bad example that many of today's major leaguers set for kids.  He cited Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.  I can accept the criticism he puts on both this ex-Red Sox and current Yankee.  However, he threw Derek Jeter into the same category.  Now, back off, Jim.

Derek Jeter is the ultimate gamer.  Rice complained that today's major leaguers only play for the money and don't care about winning as a team.  You can say that about a lot of players, but not Jeter.  Even the most die-hard Yankee-hating Red Sox fans have told me that they respect Jeter as a fantastic competitor.  He's never had a hint of off-field issue, and he gives generously to children through his Turn 2 Foundation.  Maybe Rice is jealous of today's high-paid players.  There is no doubt that Jeter is highly paid.  But, I don't think the Yankees have regretted one dollar of it.

Jeter even diplomatically brushed off being included in Rice's criticism.  He's a class act, and Rice should apologize.

In case you forgot, Jeter gives his all to win.  Check out this video from 2004 (photo below).  That's not the effort of an overpaid spoiled brat.  And, no Yankee fan was surprised that Jeter was setting a sterling example.


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April 03, 2009

Sports Update

Right now is one of those turning points in the sports year.  NBA Basketball is heading toward the playoffs.  College basketball is at the Final Four.  Baseball is about to start.  And, the offseason in the NFL is heating up with trades, free agent signings, player releases, and the upcoming college draft.  I could write about sports every day, but I try to limit myself.  Sports is like a soap opera without the romance.  There's always something going on, but if you don't watch carefully, it seems like the plot moves at a snail's pace.

Here are some updates on the sports I follow most closely:

  • Celtics -- the Celtics are limping into the playoffs with lots of injuries, most notably Kevin Garnett.  They are expected to get most people back as they head into the playoffs, but they won't have a chance to get everyone playing together until then.  That's pretty risky.  I'd love to think that they can pull it together, and they should beat their first round opponent no matter what.  But, they'll probably face Orlando in the second round.  That will be tough if they are short staffed.  I was at the game vs. the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday (Celtics win in 2 OT).  Although it was an exciting win, it raised a lot of concerns for me.  From my seats, we can see and hear the players and coaches.  I've never seen the Celtics players arguing with each other so much.  Nor have I seen the coaches so upset with defensive lapses.  They weren't on the same page.  On the positive side, it's great that they got a win against a team that always plays them tough when they were clearly not in synch.  On the other hand, you'd expect them to be more in synch this late in the season, even with the injuries and new players.  They can't afford to be battling themselves when they are in the playoffs.
  • Baseball -- I love the baseball season.  Baseball is like the background music of spring and summer.  The frequency of the games and the pace of each game lend themselves to following along while you are doing something else.  So, I listen to baseball while working around the house, driving somewhere, or even hanging around the pool.  I get excited about the start of baseball season just like I can't wait for Spring to arrive.  Once again this year, the Red Sox and my Yankees appear to be the class of the major leagues.  They have the deepest pitching staffs, the key to victory.  The Red Sox are not as interesting without Manny Ramirez, but they will be more stable.  The Yankees have turned over a good portion of their roster and loaded up on the top free agents this offseason.  I think that injuries will be a big factor this year.  If one team or the other has a key injury, they'll be at a big handicap.  At full strength, the teams are pretty evenly matched.  Both teams start on Monday.  The Yankees don't open their new stadium until April 16th.  Go Yankees!
  • The NFL -- I'm very excited about the Patriots this year.  They've made some good free agent signings to beef up their secondary and to add depth on offense.  They've got a lot of draft picks that should yield some nice players.  And, with Brady coming back, there is a lot of anticipation.  It's too early to think about football too much, but my only real concern about the Patriots is that they still have a relatively old team by NFL standards.  The draft picks may help with that if they can select a bunch of guys who make the roster.

One last thought is about the use of Twitter by athletes.  Shaquille O'Neal was one of the first to really use Twitter to communicate with fans.  I noticed that Paul Pierce has used Twitter to give tickets away to adoring fans.  The funniest was the April Fool's joke from college basketballer Hasheem Thabeet who tweeted that he had failed a drug test!  Gutsy!  Imagine some UConn booster desperately calling his bookie trying to get his bet cancelled.  Luckily for the Huskies, Thabeet was kidding and will play in the Final Four.  Nevertheless, I'm picking North Carolina.


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March 01, 2009

Tainted with the tag

The big news in Boston sports yesterday was the Patriots trading Matt Cassell to the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Matt Cassell story last year was a great one.  He hadn't started a game since high school.  Brady gets hurt in the first game of the season.  Cassell comes in, plays very well, and leads the team to 11 wins.  They just missed the playoffs, but a weakened defense and not Cassell's play was the primary reason.

Cassell's contract was expiring.  If the Patriots just let him go, they'd receive a compensatory pick at the end of the third round of the draft.  So, they franchised Matt Cassell, guaranteeing him  $14.65M in salary for next season.  If the Patriots madea mistake, it was in not signing Cassell to a contract extension coming into 2008.  But, he played poorly in the preseason and almost got cut.  No one foresaw that he'd play as well as he did when givn the chance.

When the Patriots traded Cassell and veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for their high second round pick (#34 overall), many fans howled.  How could the Patriots get so little for Cassell and Vrabel?  But, I think of the trade as Vrabel and that end of the third round compensatory pick for the #34 pick in the draft.  That's not bad.  #34 is where the best value is.  High talent, but not a big contract.  The Patriots have four picks in prime range: their late first round pick (#23), the Chiefs pick (#34), as well as a 2nd round pick from the Chargers and their own second round pick.  This should help them shore up their defense.

There was no way the Patriots were going to keep Cassell.  He had a chance for a multi-year contract with a lot of guaranteed money, which the Patriots couldn't afford to do for a backup.  So, they franchised him to maintain control.  This, however, lowered Cassell's trade value.  But, in the Patriots' mind, he wasn't anything other than that end of the third round pick, which is all they would have gotten had he departed without the franchise tag.

Money drives everything in the NFL.  Matt Cassell with a $14.65M contract isn't as valuable as just 'Matt Cassell'.  Maybe the Chiefs will sign him to a multi-year deal.  But, with the 'uncapped' season coming up in 2010, Cassell is guaranteed to make 110% of $14.65M in 2010.  It's going to take a big contract to tie him up for longer than that.

Good for Matt.  It's nice to see a great guy like him get the big bucks and a chance to lead a team going into the future.  Let's just hope that Brady is healthy for 2009.


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January 27, 2009

Celtics are back in high gear

I wrote back on January 7th about the slump that the Celtics were in at that time.  I commented that we'd find out if Doc Rivers is really a good coach.  Would he be able to turn them around?

Well, they lost their next game, but they haven't lost since.  I've noticed a significant sense of urgency and really strong defense.  They'be been getting off to great starts and putting teams away quickly.  Also, I think that they'll benefit from the fact that they have a more spread out schedule for the second half of the season.  And, despite their losing seven out of nine slump, they are just slightly behind the Cavaliers and Lakers for the best record in the NBA.  And, the Lakers come to Boston on February 5th.

If you agreed with me that the slump was a test for Doc Rivers, you'd have to say that he passed with flying colors.

I think that the Celtics performance is heavily dependent on Rajon Rondo.  When he plays well, the ball moves a lot, and they get a lot of great shots.  And, their defense is very tough with Rondo ballhawking all the time.  Let's hope he stays consistent through the rest of the season.


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January 07, 2009

Let's see if Doc can really coach

Wow, the Celtics, with their 3 Hall of Famers and essentially the same team that stormed to the championship last year, are in an actual slump.  With tonight's loss to Houston, the Celtics have lost 6 out of their last 8 games.  And, they've lost to teams that are in the bottom of the league (Golden State, NY Knicks, Charlotte), and, tonight, a home game.  Any one or two of these losses wouldn't be much cause for concern.  Even last year's team lost three in a row at one point.

But, the lack of offense is getting to be too significant.  Tonight, they only scored 85 points and only 11 in the fourth quarter.  In most of their losses, they've had trouble getting into the 90s.  And, now this has happened too many times over the past 8 games.

Teams are more fired up to play the Celtics, and the team is facing fierce defense.  So, it's up to Doc Rivers to come up with ways of beating this.  The talent is there, as was proven last year.  So, they may need to mix up the rotation a bit or change some of the approach.  This is one of those moments where coaches earn their pay.

Before last season, many fans thought that Doc Rivers wasn't a very good coach.  Of course, he didn't have enough talent to work with.  Last year, Doc looked like a genius since the team had one of the most consistent seasons that any team ever had and won a championship.  I've generally been favorable about Doc, but now I want to see him step up.  Get the players to commit to doing something new to break this string.  The offense has to improve.  There's too much talent on the team to have so much trouble scoring for so long..

And, he has to hurry.  They play the very strong Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday in Cleveland.


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December 22, 2008

Bill Belichick - Personality?

For those of you who think that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has no personality, check out this video from NFL.com.  It is behind the scenes footage of the Patriots preparation before their game a little more than a week ago against Oakland.  You can see Belichick joking a bit with the players and talking with Matt Cassell after the death of his father that week.  He shows a lot more than you see in a typical interview where he's pretty stoic.

Update - the URL for this video changed from my original posting.


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December 08, 2008

Sports Update

My brief take on what's happening with the Patriots and Celtics:

  • The Patriots gutted out a win vs. the Seattle Seahawks yesterday.  The Patriots have had a lot of injuries (so have the Seahawks), but the Patriots remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.  It was a little frustrating watching Seattle move up and down the field during the beginning of that game, but it was very impressive that the Patriots slowed them down for the most part in the second half with only 4 of the defensive starters they had at the start of the season still available (Seymour, Mayo, Vrabel, and Hobbs).  If the Patriots are going to make the playoffs, it probably has to be as a division winner and not as a wild card.  The best would be if the Patriots win their last three games to finish 11-5 and the Jets and Dolphins final game against each other ends in a tie!  This would give the Patriots the division.  Short of that, the Pats need each of them to lose once since the Patriots would probably lose the tiebreakers against both of them if the teams end up with the same record.
  • The Celtics look great.  I think that they're better than last season.  So far, they have matched the fast start from last year.  And, this year, Ray Allen is much more a part of the offense.  It's great to see Ray drive in for those medium range jumpers.  And, I think that Rondo and Perkins have continued to improve.  The Celtics, Cavaliers, and Lakers seem to be far and away the best teams so far this season (and the Celtics have already beaten the Cavs once).  If you like to watch exciting basketball, give yourself and holiday present and watch the Celtics vs. the Lakers at 5 PM on Christmas Day.  I'm sure that the Lakers will have something to prove, and the Celtics should be up to the challenge.

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October 31, 2008

Sports recap

Although I am a huge sports fan, I haven't written much about sports lately.  Politics and the economic meltdown have dominated my thinking.  So, here's my recap on the sports I pay attention to:

Baseball -- When my Yankees were out of it, I paid much less attention.  The Yankees were the fourth best team in the American League this year, after the Rays, Red Sox, and Angels.  Unfortunately, that left them third in their division and out of the playoffs.  Given all their injuries, I thought that the Yankees fared pretty well.  But, I continue to want them to turn over their roster and focus on younger players.  They have a lot of young talent, particularly pitching.  They also have a lot of big salaries coming off of their books.  I expect them to be big players in the free agent market, which is fine as long as they are signing players in their prime and not those on the way down.  I was rooting for the Rays in the World Series as I thought they were a great story.  But, I wasn't watching.

Football -- To me, the Patriots got much more interesting when Tom Brady went down.  With his and other injuries (Laurence Maroney, Rodney Harrison, all the running backs), the fact that they are contending for a playoff spot is remarkable.  I do expect them to have some ups and downs throughout the rest of the season, but every game is a challenge.  Compared to past years where you expected them to win just about every game, this year is harder to predict.  They've played incredibly well (Denver) and horribly (Miami).  Interestingly, other AFC powers like Indianapolis and San Diego (who whipped the Patriots) are also struggling.  This week's game at Indianapolis will be interesting.  The Colts really can't afford to lose another game as they are only playing for the Wild Card at this point (unless the Titans collapse).  The Patriots defense and running game needs to keep the game close as the Pats aren't good at playing catch up.  Overall, I think that the Patriots will make the playoffs but won't advance too far.  Given the injuries, that would be a very good outcome.

Basketball -- The Celtics look primed for another great year.  Barring injuries, they should be even better than last year.  Their Big 3 have a year of playing together under their belt.  I expect Ray Allen to be a bigger contributor on offense as he was in the second half of the playoffs last year.  Their young players (Rondo, Perkins, Powe, Davis, Pruitt) should all be improved.  If Tony Allen keeps playing the way he did in 2007 before he got hurt, he'll make up for the loss of James Posey.  When the starters played in the preseason, they looked excellent.  They had a slow start against Cleveland in their opening game, probably due to the emotion of their championship ring ceremony.  They showed how well they can play by holding Cleveland to 35 points in the second half.  As long as they remain committed to defense, they'll be fine.  It's hard to predict a champion this early in the season, but they have to be one of the favorites.

Go Pats!  And, Go Celtics!


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September 09, 2008

Patriots Challenge

Even if you aren't a sports fan, you probably heard that Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback and last year's NFL MVP, injured his knee early in their game this past Sunday.  His injury was severe enough that Brady will miss the entire season.  This greatly changes the season for the Patriots, moving from the Super Bowl favorite to being just another team fighting to make the playoffs.

You probably know that I am a huge Patriots fan and a huge fan of Tom Brady.  I'm greatly disappointed that he's out for the season.  Although I think that the Patriots will still be a good team, every game will be a challenge and they certainly won't win as many games as was previously expected.

But, that's what makes this season now strangely more interesting.  I would have been surprised if the Patriots lost more than 2 games if Brady had played the whole season (and no other significant player was injured).  Now, every game is a potential loss (or win).  And, the games are likely to be much closer, even if they do win.  Other players will have to step forward, and the coaching and game planning will be more important than ever.

We've been spoiled in Boston.  It will be interesting to see how fans of more typical teams feel for this year.  But, I sure hope Brady comes back full speed next year!

PS -- The Steelers are thrilled about Brady's injury as it helps their playoff chances.  Check out this fan's T-shirt homage to the Chiefs player whose hit on Brady caused the injury (although it was a clean play).  I found this on the Projo Pats Blog.


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August 29, 2008

No more predictions

I am out of the prediction business when it comes to sports.  Good thing I don't gamble...

In 2007, I waved the white flag on the Yankee season too early.  They made a big comeback, almost won the division, and made the playoffs for the 13th straight season.  This year, shortly after the All-Star break, I predicted that the Yankees would pass the Red Sox for the wild card.  Wrong again.  The Yankees have had too many injuries.  But, the fault lies with their star players who haven't come through in clutch situations.  I'm talking about you, A-Rod...

So, the white flag of surrender goes up again.  Maybe it will get them to make a miracle turnaround.  But, instead, my focus goes to the Patriots and hoping that they aren't as bad as they have looked in preseason...


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August 04, 2008

Baseball Home Stretch

As a Yankee fan in Red Sox country, I tend to be more quiet than usual in discussing baseball.  But, this season is entering the home stretch, and it will be interesting.

In recent years, the Yankees and Red Sox seemed to be the strongest teams in the American League heading into the playoffs.  This year, that isn't the case.  These two teams aren't even leading their division.  The Tampa Bay Rays are hanging in there.  They lost something like seven in a row before the All-Star break, falling behind the Red Sox.  But, they have been the best of the three since the break and have re-established a lead of a few games.

Both the Red Sox and Yankees were active before the trading deadline.  The Yankees made a series of movies, trying to recover from their significant injury woes.  Three of their five starting pitchers from the beginning of the season (Wang, Hughes, Kennedy) remain out, and two of their All-Star position players (Posada, Matsui) are out for the year.  Other players have missed significant time.  Every team has injuries, but the Yankees have been hit the hardest of the teams still contending.  I think that Brian Cashman did a great job shoring up their roster without giving up anything significant in the near term and very little in terms of long-term prospects.  He doesn't get enough credit as a GM because the Yankees spend so much.  Look for that to change after this season when many overpriced contracts finally expire.

The Red Sox had to dump Manny Ramirez.  This was sad, as I enjoyed watching him play.  But, I don't think they had a choice.  Manny is capable of causing a lot of distraction, and hopefully their clubhouse will be more stable without him.  Even though Jason Bay has gotten off to a good start in Manny's place, no one thinks that he can replace Manny's presence in their lineup (if Manny is trying).

Consistency has been a problem for all three of the leading AL East teams.  Surprisingly, both the Red Sox and Yankees go through dry spells on offense.  With their lineups, scoring runs should rarely be a problem.  The Yankees pitching has come through pretty well, considering their injuries.  Their bullpen has been particularly strong.

I think that the Red Sox pitching hasn't been as strong as people thought at the start of the year.  Obviously, Schilling is out for the year.  Beckett hasn't been as good as last year.  Matsuzaka has been great, but still walks too many people..  Lester has been impressive, but the bullpen, other than Papelbon, has been very inconsistent.

The Rays have played well, but everyone still expects them to cave under the pressure.  We'll see.  In any event, having a three-way race makes the AL East more exciting than it ihas been in years.

In the AL overall, the Angels are the class of the league.  They are the most consistent team, and hare pretty well balanced.  Maybe this is their year.  On the NL side, I am rooting for the Cubs.  It would be horrible for them to go more than 100 years without winning the World Series.

Baseball is a great sport to follow because you can do so casually.  The game goes well on the radio, in the background of your summer.  The games are every day, so you don't feel like you have to watch them all (unless you are my 15 year-old son).

My prediction:  Rays win the AL East (Yankees are the Wild Card).  But, the Angels win the AL.  However, the Cubs win the World Series, which should tide their fans over until 2108.


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July 28, 2008

Classless sports moment

I was at Fenway Park last night for the Red Sox-Yankees game.  Before the game, they had a moment of silence to remember Russ Gibson, a not-so-significant player in Red Sox history.  Mr. Gibson had died earlier that day.  Halfway through the moment of silence, some idiot yells "Yankees Suck".  In the quiet of the stadium, everyone could hear him.  Although some people around me derided him for being classless, many more people laughed out loud.

To make matters worse, and through no fault of his own, the PA announcer ended the moment of silence by saying "Thank You" as the laughter died down. 

Much worse than what you say can be when you say it.


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June 23, 2008

George Carlin

George Carlin just passed away.  He had a big impact on me.  I first heard George Carlin was I was very young.  He was the first person who showed me you could question authority and didn't have to follow the rules.

This is one of my favorite George Carlin sketches, comparing baseball to football.  His use of tone of voice and facial expressions to make his point is awesome.

I'm sure George is safe at home now.

 


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June 18, 2008

Celtics Garden Party

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I was lucky enough to be in the Garden last night for the Celtics big win in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  They won their 17th championship, and it wasn't even as close as the 131-92 score.  The photo above captures some of the excitement on the bench as the game wound down.  Luckily for me, I had a great view -- you can see me in the photo between Sam Cassell and Paul Pierce, with the baseball cap on.

The environment in the Garden was phenomenal.  The fans were cheering non-stop.  I was exhausted by the end.  I was also thrilled that they could win it in Boston, even though that meant that it was extended to six games.  Having such a blowout in Boston let the party start early in the fourth quarter when it was clear that the Lakers didn't have a run in them.  That made it the most fun for the players -- they were having a blast.

And, the best part is that the Celtics could easily have pretty much the same team next year (they need to make sure that they keep James Posey).  They could definitely be better as the young players improve and the whole team has more experience playing together.  Get ready for banner number #18!


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June 12, 2008

They're Better

After one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history, there is no question that the Celtics are better than the Lakers.  It might take 5, 6, or probably not 7 games, but the Celtics have shown that they can win at home, or on the road.  And, I don't think that they've really been playing their best.  But, tonight even that was more than enough to come back against the Lakers.

Credit to Doc Rivers for putting in his small lineup to force the Lakers to spread their defense.  Maybe even some of his doubters will agree that he's done a good job after this one.


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June 09, 2008

Takin' Care of Business

The Celtics beat the Lakers last night to go ahead in their Finals series 2-0.  The photo above is about the nadir for the Lakers in the game -- Leon Powe (one of my favorite Celtics) went the length of the court uncontested to dunk over the Lakers as they all watched.  Leon works hard every play, and the Celtics outworked the Lakers for most of the game.

I was actually glad that the Lakers cut the Celtics 24-point fourth quarter lead to 2-points by the end.  I think that having the Lakers make that come back and fall short hurts them more psychologically than a pure blowout.  Everyone knows that the Lakers were going to get hot at some point.  The key is that the Celtics withstood the 3-point shooting barrage and pulled it out in the end.

Now they go to LA for games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary).  The 2-3-2 format, decried by Bob Ryan of the Globe today, is a great equalizer in the Finals.  It really minimizes the benefit of home court advantage and makes it critical that the home team win both of the first two games, as the Celtics did.  I'm hopeful that the Celtics can win at least one of the three, which would put them in a good position coming back to Boston for Game 6.

I don't think that Doc Rivers gets enough credit for how he is coaching the Celtics.  He keeps making adjustments to counter what the Lakers are doing and to take advantage of what is working for the Celtics.  In last night's game, Leon Powe provided the spark.  Doc kept his rotation pretty short -- Sam Cassell hurt his wrist and only played 6 minutes.  With Kendrick Perkins's ankle still sore, he only played 14 minutes.  I wouldn't be surprised if Doc goes to Eddie House or Glen "Big Baby" Davis at some point in LA.  He has a deep bench (which didn't get enough credit from the national media), and Doc takes good advantage of it.


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June 06, 2008

Acceptance

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Oh yes, the sad memories remain from Super Bowl XLII.  The Patriots lost, dashing their up-to-then perfect season.  I was there, which made the feelings worse.

I have been forcing myself to deal with this.  I now accept the result and can think about the experience.  I am pulling my Super Bowl XLII T-shirts out of the closet and can wear them without too much pain.  I don't think of them as bad luck or representing a bad time.  We've been so spoiled in Patriot Nation that a lot of people think that Super Bowl XLII should be forgotten.

It certainly wasn't as good as the Super Bowls that they won, but it was a great year.  You can't win them all.  And, the team had to work so hard and perform so well just to get there, let alone to get there with an undefeated record.  Adding to the irony was the catch phrase for Super Bowl XLII -- Who Wants It More?

So, as a loyal Pats fan who is following this week's minicamp in preparation for next season, I can smile about last year.  It was a good season, and almost great.  It hurt at the time, but I have finally accepted it for what it was.  A chance for a lot of excitement and enjoyment, until the last 2 minutes...


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June 05, 2008

This one's better - Go Celts!

Sorry, VCMike, but this is the all-time Celtics playoff steal highlight.

"There's a steal by Bird..."

 


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May 27, 2008

Survivors, but not killers

The Celtics did a great job hanging around in their loss to the Pistons last night, but they have yet to show any sort of killer instinct in these playoffs.  I admire their ability to hang in there, even when they weren't shooting well.  They were in that game up until late in the fourth quarter, despite never leading.

When their backs have been up against the wall (Games 5 and 7 vs. Atlanta, Games 5 and 7 vs. Cleveland, Game 3 vs. Detroit), they have come up with great efforts and solid wins.  But, when they have a team down, they haven't been able to deliver the knockout punch (Games 3 and 6 vs. Atlanta, Games 3 and 6 vs. Cleveland, Game 4 vs. Detroit).  In each of these cases, the Celtics had won the previous game and had a chance to end, or virtually end, the series.  In each case, they let their opponent get up off of the mat.

Now, Detroit is a very tough team and would never go down easy.  Maybe this series was destined to go seven games from the start.  And, it's very hard to imagine the Celtics winning both Games 3 and 4 in Detroit.  But, just about every champion has shown the ability to put at least one or two of their opponents out quickly.  It's possible that the Celtics could win the championship with 4 seven game series wins.  But, that's certainly the hard way.


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May 21, 2008

Another good start for the Celtics

I've been traveling and have been beset with computer and connectivity troubles.  So, I haven't had a chance to post anything for a few days.  But, I did watch the Celtics game last night and thought it was one of the best games they have played this playoff season.  Of course, they have generally played well at home.  Detroit is their toughest opponent yet.  They have played together so long and have been through a lot.  This Celtic team is just building that level of experience, which is critical.  Teams like Detroit and San Antonio are always the toughest because the core has been together for years.  That's one asset that this Celtic team can't pull together quickly.  However, they have overcome some tough series and two Game 7s so far this year.

As I wrote previously, I am glad that Doc Rivers has stopped playing Sam Cassell.  Eddie House has done well as a backup guard, and Pierce brings the ball up often when House is in the game.  Nevertheless, if Rondo doesn't play well, the Celtics rarely win.  He had another good game last night vs. Detroit.  He doesn't need to score a lot, but he needs to total 20 points+assists+rebounds in a game to really do well.  Overall, the Celtics ball movement was excellent.  If they can commit to that every game, they will win it all.  And, their defense has continued to be excellent.

I think that Chauncey Billups is still hurting from his hamstring injury.  That's something that Rondo can exploit as well.

Garnett and Pierce are carrying the team.  I like the fact that Doc keeps trying to get Ray Allen going.  Ray is really struggling and missed quite a few wide open shots last night.  But, he'll hit them, and he is also starting to drive to the hoop in order to get some points on the board.

I think that the Celtics showed great energy after a tough series vs. Cleveland.  If they win Game 2 in Boston tomorrow, I'll feel OK.  If they can also win either Game 3 or 4 in Detroit, series over.


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May 16, 2008

Manny Being Manny

Although I am a Yankee fan, I am also a long time Red Sox observer.  A couple of days ago, there was a great 'Manny being Manny' moment.  Check out this video of Manny Ramirez making a nice catch in left field.  As he goes up against the wall after making the catch, he slaps hands with a Red Sox fan in the stands (the game was played in Baltimore), and then throws out the runner before he can return to first base for a double-play.  You gotta love a ballplayer who enjoys playing the game, and Manny defnitely does.


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It's Not Where You Play, It's How You Play

Tonight, the Celtics will try to close out their series vs. Cleveland.  The second round of the NBA playoffs have been a home team's dream.  Of the 21 games played so far, the home team is 20-1.  Of course, the Celtics struggled on the road in Round 1, too.  All of this has been disappointing to Celtics fans as they team was the best road team in the NBA this year, with a 31-10 record, four games better than the next best team.

It's more mentally challenging to play well on the road.  The crowd is against you, and perhaps the referees are influenced by the home crowd, too.  If you've been to a Celtics game in the playoffs this year, you know how positive the crowd can be.  Every team benefits from this type of home atmosphere in the playoffs.

But, the key to playing well on the road is to rise above these challenges.  That's why I worry about the Celtics playoff chances.  The teams that have been together the longest, like Detroit and San Antonio, are the toughest.  They have been through adversity and overcome it.  This Celtics team hasn't done that yet, at least not at this level of intensity.  Basketball is a real team sport.  When the Celtics play well, they are an unselfish team.  Even if they fall behind in a road game, they need to stick with the tough defense and team play that got them here.

That's why I have soured on Sam Cassell.  Like most fans, I was excited when the Celtics signed him during the season.  He has the experience you would want in the playoffs.  At 38, he can still play well as a back-up.  He'd be a great mentor for Rajon Rondo.  But, when Cassell comes into the game, the offense grinds to a halt.  Too often, Sam dribbles, dribbles, dribbles, then shoots.  When he is making shots, I can look past it.  But, he has been cold in the playoffs.  And, he can't run the offense as well as Rondo.  Finally, in Game 5, Doc Rivers seemed to give up on Cassell, who only played 5 minutes.  I'd rather have Eddie House in the lineup.  Eddie isn't a real point guard, but the Celtics can run the offense through Paul Pierce when Rondo is out and let Eddie spot up for some open jumpers.

By the way, only Kevin Garnett has played consistently well for the Celtics in every game this series.  I hope that the Celtics continue to play physical and drive the ball to the hoop tonight.  The Celtics have the depth to play this way, even if a few players rack up some fouls.  Cleveland can't win this type of game, and the inside play should slow down Cleveland's ability to run their fast break where they are the most dangerous.

The Celtics don't get a rest.  Even if they win tonight, they start the next series on Sunday vs. Detroit.  Meanwhile, the Hornets and Spurs, who played last night and are now tied at 3-3, get three days off before they play Game 7 on Monday.  I thnk that the NBA should try as much as possible to have every series play on every other day.  The players seem to prefer this regular schedule, and it maintains the excitement.  Teams can get a longer break if they win their series early.  Otherwise, the every-other-day pace should continue.


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May 04, 2008

That's a Hard Foul

I went to the Celtics-Hawks game today to see the Celtics finish up what they should have done a few days ago -- close out the Hawks and move on to face the Cavaliers.

ESPN caught one of the big moments in the game, and I was in the background (on the left, the guy further back in the Celtics green jersey).  It was great to see this photo because they didn't show a replay of this foul at the game, and obviously we didn't have a clear view of how flagrant the foul really was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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May 02, 2008

I couldn't have said it better

While I have had a busy week, the Celtics have been making a lot of people nervous.  They lost Game 4 to the Atlanta Hawks, dropping the series to a 2-2 tie.  Then, back in Boston, they had another strong game to take a 3-2 lead.  Let's hope they can finish them off tonight down in Atlanta.  The Celtics didn't have trouble winning on the road this season, but they haven't done it yet this series.

As an old-time Boston resident, I have always enjoyed reading Bob Ryan's column in the Globe.  He also has a blog with some nice added content.  I wish I had time to write some of the things he did this past week, but I couldn't have done it as well anyway.

First, after the Celtics lost to the Hawks to drop the series into a tie:  Don't Panic

Second, after the Celtics regained the series lead: Told Ya So

Now, if they lose tonight to force a Game 7 (which I'll attend), I'll be back out on the ledge.  It shouldn't get this far.  After not being disappointed in the Celtics all season, evern after any of their 16 rare losses, I wsa pretty disappointed when they lost a 10 point lead late in Game 4.  Let's hope that this is the wake up call that they need to keep them focused for the rest of the playoffs.


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April 22, 2008

Jon Stewart Gets In on the Act

I received a lot of online and offline comments to my post last week about the Yankees avoiding the curse of the buried David Ortiz jersey.  For those of you who don't troll through all my comments (how could you not?), I am including a link I posted in a comment to that post.  Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart jumped into the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry to say that Manny Ramirez would take out the Pope with a spike-high slide if His Holiness was wearing a Yankee mitre.


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April 19, 2008

P.S. Rajon Rondo

I had to add a postscript to my last post.  Rajon Rondo, the Celtics point guard, has probably been the reason the Celtics have been great, and not just good this year.  He is young, but fast, tough, and athletic.  He's a candidate for Most Improved Player in the NBA this year.  He is definitely the key to how far the Celtics go in the playoffs.

Enjoy this video of his top 10 plays.  Make sure you watch all the way to number 1, which shows how tough Rondo is.  No one intimidates him, including the Pistons.

 


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Showtime!

The Celtics playoff run begins tomorrow vs. the Hawks.  Although there always seem to be doubters about the Celtics ability to win it all, they were, by far, the most consistent and strongest defensive team in the NBA throughout the year.  They have a veteran team and a deep bench.  Down the stretch, their reserves played a lot, giving the starters some rest, and they continued to win.

They won't have an easy path to a championship.  One of the only teams they struggled against was the Wizards, a potential 2nd round opponent.  If they get past them, they will probably face Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals.  And, in a potential run to THE Finals, they would have to face whomever comes out of the West, which is so competitive that almost anyone can win. 

The most anticipated Finals matchup would be Celtics-Lakers.  Not since the Showtime Lakers of the 80s vs. the Celtics Original Big Three of Bird, Parish, and McHale has this rivalry had some juice.  I think it would be great for the NBA if this came through.  And, if the Celtics managed to win, it would be so satisfying for their New Big Three of Garnett, Allen, and Pierce.

I've loved watching Paul Pierce this year.  He is getting the recognition that he has probably deserved for the past few years when he toiled for such a bad team.  Now, his defense and all around game is noted throughout the league.  And, although knocked for being immature earlier in his career, he was part of the unselfish team chemistry that has keyed the Celtics success this year. 

Enjoy this video of Paul Pierce's Top Ten plays from this season.

 


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April 13, 2008

Curse Averted

According to ESPN, the Yankees have unearthed the buried David Ortiz jersey that was supposed to curse the new Yankee Stadium that will open next year.  The construction worker, a Red Sox fan, was too excited about his potential curse and couldn't keep his mouth shut.  He should have waited a few years and then said something, making it harder to find.  Maybe this uncursing of the curse will curse the Red Sox?

I know that my Red Sox-loving friends will squawk, but I do think that the Red Sox fans lack some class.  This may sound like sour grapes from a Yankee fan, but despite the intense rivalry, you never hear 'Red Sox Suck' at Yankee Stadium.  If you tried to sell or wear or shirt that said that at Yankee Stadium, you would be kicked out.  Outside Fenway, vendors sell shirts that have really vulgur anti-Yankee sayings that are clearly not family friendly.  How do I explain 'Posada Sucks and Jeter Swallows' to my 10 year-old kid?

Yesterday, when the Yankees took a lead vs. the Red Sox, the cries of "Yankees Suck" immediately went out in Fenway.  The Red Sox ended up winning a close game, but the Red Sox fans need to show more class.  When they were the loveable losers for 86 years, I could understand the frustration.  But, now they are the recent winners and have outperformed the Yankees this century.  Perhaps they should adopt the class that Yankee fans have shown for some time.

Now, I know that Yankee fans can be obnoxious.  They love their team and think that they are great.  They root against the Red Sox and reveled in the 86-year curse.  They will boo their heads off.  But, that's a lot different than yelling "Yankees Suck" at the ballpark (not something I want my kids to mimic).  Or, yelling "Yankees Suck" at football and basketball games vs. NY teams (which I have heard). 

I was proud of Joe Torrre and the Yankees at the Red Sox home opener in 2005.  They all stayed in the dugout to watch the Red Sox get their rings, which came after the huge Yankees collapse of 2004.  They even clapped for the Red Sox.  I'd like to think that the Red Sox players would have done the same if the situation was reversed.  I really doubt that the Red Sox fans would have been able to handle it.

Get over the frustration.  Your curse is over.  Act like classy winners.


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March 23, 2008

Play Ball!

There are a few times when my love of entrepreneurship overlaps with my love of sports.  Here are a couple of those stories.

I first met the founder of Dugout Central when it was called BaseLine Report.  The idea was to creat a baseball-specific community oriented around highly detailed content that would appeal to the rapid, stats-oriented fan.  The founder was working with former Yankee Mike Pagliarulo.  As a Yankee fan, I was intrigued.  However, I had big concerns about how big you could build such a specialized community.  And, it wasn't clear how you could make money from such a community.  i suggested to the founder that he try to bootstrap the company before he raised VC funding.  They had some deals to syndicate some of the scouting content that Pags was generating.  I thought they could use this revenue to get the site started.

Although the founder didn't really want to hear this, that's what they ended up doing.  In fact, by coincidence, they hired another friend of mine to design their site in exchange for equity.  Luckily, my friend had outside consulting income which gave him the flexibility to design the Dugout Central site in his spare time.  And, as a baseball nut, he was motivated to work on this.

Now, they seem to be building some traffic, have an interesting site, and are in business.  I am still not sure of the revenue model, but, like many web sites, starting off on a shoe string is the way to go.

Although I don't have the same type of connection to this one, I've also met the founders of Fancaster.  This is an interesting marriage of YouTube and play-by-play.  Users generate live play-by-play accounts of games that they are watching.  Other people can listen in while they watch the same game.  I think that there are some potential legal issues here, but I also see the potential for some budding broadcasters to make a name for themselves.  I wish them well.

As baseball season is about to begin, hope springs eternal.  My Yankees have made some moves to get younger, but probably not enough for my taste.  I don't expect them to win this year, but I hope they are building a good young foundation for the future.


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March 19, 2008

I can't go to sleep, they need me

One of my favorite lines in the movie Fever Pitch is when the the Jimmy Fallon character declines the chance to go to Paris with the Drew Barrymore character because the Red Sox "need him" to attend the games at Fenway.  That's a great insight into the overly committed sports fan.

And, I have reached that point on this year's Boston Celtics.  I've gone to about half of their home games.  And, I watch most of their road games on TV.  Last night, I was up late watching them break the Houston Rockets 22 game winning streak.  The night before, I watched them come back from an early 22-point deficit to beat the Spurs, also on the road.  I'm sleeping less, but I am sure that they "need" me to watch while they are on the road.

The Celtics got off to a great start, but the experts expected them to come back down to Earth when they had to go on the road and play all the West Coast powers.  But, they have a great record against the West, including on the road.  And, after they play in Dallas and New Orleans in their next two games, they will have finished the most difficult part of their road schedule.  Their home schedule includes upcoming games against Phoenix and New Orleans.  After that, their April schedule looks relatively easy.  If anything, they run the risk of not being tested enough immediatley before the playoffs.

They have been the most consistent team in the NBA this season, and they play the best defense.  They now have a deep bench, including the recent additions of PJ Brown and Sam Cassell.  They have the rest of the season to integrate these new pieces, keep everyone sharp, make sure that recent minor injuries are healed, and tune up for the playoffs.  I love their style of play -- tight defense, lots of player movement, and unselfish passing.  But, when they need the superstar to just make a shot, they still have Pierce, Garnett, and Allen.

I wrote last month about Doc Rivers being Coach of the Year.  I still think he deserves it.  Sure, they have a lot of talent.  But, Doc made sure that these players blended together perfectly, with no complaints about roles or playing time.  It's particularly a tribute to Ray Allen who had to sacrifice more than the other big players in order to fit in.

Paul Pierce won't win the MVP, but he is probably the Celtics MVP.  Kevin Garnett has been fantastic.  His intensity and defensive commitment set the tone for the Celtics from the start.  But, Pierce has come through with the big defensive plays, the big rebounds, assists, and scoring.  He is all over the box score with his defensive contribution starting to be recognized throughout the league.  Pierce was immature earlier in his career, but it's great to see him get a chance be on a winner after toiling with under-talented and inexperienced teams for the past couple of years.

So, if you see me with bags under my eyes, check the Celtics schedule.  They probably had a late night game the night before, and I was watching because I know they "need" me.


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March 03, 2008

Glad I bought one of these

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I bought one of these jerseys at the Super Bowl.  Although the shock of the loss hasn't really gone away, it would be much tougher if the Patriots didn't have Randy Moss next year.  Glad he signed today.


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February 19, 2008

Roger's Gambit

Although the story has hardly gone away, I have held back on commenting on Roger Clemens's testimony in front of Congress about alleged steroid use.  Although I think that it is a gigantic waste of our tax dollars for Congress to spend any time on this, it has been great theater.

As a long time baseball fan, I really want Roger Clemens to be innocent.  Whether Clemens was a Red Sox, Blue Jay, Yankee, Astro, or Yankee again, I have always admired his abilities and competitiveness.  He's put up great numbers over a long career.

However, I have a hard time believing that Roger is innocent.  Although Brian MacNamee is hardly the world's most credible witness, he has told the truth about the other players' performance enhancing drug use.  Why would he only lie about Clemens?  Although I think that keeping old syringes and bloody gauze is disgusting, and probably could be easily discredited in a court case, this case is playing out in the court of public opinion.  In that court, Clemens is losing.

Why is Clemens stridently maintaining his innocence?  He must be very confident that more physical evidence won't come out.  So far, no one has been able to show how Clemens obtained steroids or HGH (even MacNamee said he didn't know where it came from).  And, if there is a confirmed source of HGH, Roger has admitted that his wife took that.  Absent that source, Clemens has plausible deniability.  But, I don't think that he has saved his reputation.

Look at Andy Pettitte.  He admitted HGH use and comes out of this looking like the good guy.  I think that right after the Mitchell Report came out, Clemens had a chance to admit very limited use of performance enhancing drugs without jeopardizing his chance for the Hall of Fame.  That time has now past.  If he admits it now, he lied to Congress.  I think that Roger is hoping that the big lie will hold up.

If somehow Roger really is innocent, I feel very badly for him.  There is no way to prove a negative, and he has pretty much lost the battle for public support.  The only way he can prove that he is innocent is to get MacNamee and Pettitte to admit that they were wrong and/or lying.  I don't know why either one of them would do that.

Too bad, Roger.  In light of the environment in baseball at the time, I don't really begrudge you for using performance enhancing drugs a few times (although I think that all sports need to work hard to eliminate these from use).  But, you missed your chance for forgiveness by telling the big lie and hoping this would go away.


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February 15, 2008

Doc Rivers for Coach of the Year

Maybe I'm biased, but I think you can make a strong case for Celtics head coach Doc Rivers as NBA Coach of the Year.  Doc won the award in 2000 while coaching the Orlando Magic.  At that time, the Magic were expected to be a last-place team.  Doc coached them to a near playoff berth.

This year is different.  There were a lot of people saying 'Fire Doc' as the Celtics languished last year.  Their team was too thin in talent and too young to be successful in the NBA.  Perhaps fans should have been calling for the firing of Executive Director of Basketball Operations and General Manager, Danny Ainge.  And, many of those fans probably were.

But, Ainge pulled off two big trades, leaving the Celtics with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, in addition to their only previous star, Paul Pierce.  More importantly, Ainge signed free agents James Posey and Eddie House and drafted Glen "Big Baby" Davis.  He also had previously drafted Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo and my favorite, Leon Powe.  All of these players have made big contributions to this team so far this year.

But, a lot of credit has to go to Doc Rivers for getting this team to mesh right from the start.  Certainly, the veteran players, including Garnett, set the tone for the rest of the team to follow.  But, Doc needs to get the players to buy-in to his approach.  Since the Celtics have excelled at defense, you know that they have a selfless attitude.  Defense takes consistent effort and doesn't lead to many SportsCenter highlights.

More recently, the Celtics have been beset with injuries.  Keving Garnett has been out for nine games.  The Celtics have gone 7-2 in this stretch, winning the last 5, including a defeat of last year's champion, the San Antonio Spurs.  Perkins has also missed the last few games.  Both Davis and Brian Scalabrine had to leave their last game due to injury.  Luckily, the Celtics made it to the All-Star break on a winning note and have a few days to rest and heal.  We'll see who is ready to come back after this weekend.  At that time, the Celtics start what will be their toughest West Coast road trip so far, including stops at Denver, Phoenix, and Portland.

Doc has managed through all this, with the Celtics maintaining the best record in the league.  In fact, they are on pace to match the best Celtics record ever, 68-14 in 1972-73.  They have been very consistent, with only one really "off" game, when they lost at home to Charlotte on January 9 by 12 points.  Not bad after 50 games.

I'm lucky enough to sit behind the Celtics bench at a lot of home games.  I can see and hear Doc up close as he talks to the other coaches and the players.  He continues to teach his young players through their mistakes and has the complete respect of his veterans.  Although it is no surprise that the Celtics have a good team this year, no one expected them to be this good, and this deep, this fast.

If I had a vote, I'd vote for Doc Rivers as NBA Coach of the Year.


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February 05, 2008

Who Wants It More? The Giants did

OK, the numbness is starting to subside.  I was in shock at the end of Super Bowl XLII.

I was lucky enough to go to Phoenix and had so many great experiences before attending the game.  One thing that bugged me was the slogan for the Super Bowl -- Who Wants It More?  I thought that was too cliche.  Of course, both teams wanted to win.  Even though the Patriots didn't perform well, I don't think that the giving anything less than maximum effort.

But, the Giants did 'want it more'.  They made all the big plays.  The Patriots had chances to do so, but never did.  Even though the Patriots didn't perform at their usual high level, they didn't make a lot of big mistakes, either.  But, those couple of plays that had to happen all went the Giants way.  Did the Giants 'want it more'?  I don't know, but they certainly did more than enough to win.

I'm going through the stages of grief.  I zoomed through Denial and Anger.  I don't think I ever did any Bargaining.  I was stuck in Depression for a while -- I skipped the posh post-game team party so I could eat dinner at a restaurant called Rock Bottom.  I think that some time yesterday I moved to Acceptance.

I know that it's just a game.  But, it would have been so much better if the Patriots had held on one more time.


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February 02, 2008

Pats send off

The Patriots checked out of our hotel to go to their super secret pre-game hotel before tomorrow's Super Bowl.  I got a few pictures of some of the players.  Here's a sampling.

Rodney Harrison

Rodney Harrison

 Donte Stallworth

Dante Stallworth

Ben Watson

Ben Watson

Troy Brown

Troy Brown


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February 01, 2008

Funny Phoenix Signs

Not really sports related, but I saw some funny signs in downtown Scottsdale, AZ today.


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Phoenix is a great place for the Super Bowl

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I arrived in Phoenix yesterday on a Patriots Super Bowl package trip.  This is a great place for the Super Bowl.  The city is big and spread out, with plenty of ammenities.  There is a big golf tournament going on, the FBR Phoenix Open, at the same time, and Phoenix can easily accomodate both.  The people are nice, and the weather is cool (for Phoenix) and pleasant.  Feels warm compared to Boston!

Staying at a nice hotel, the Westin Kierland.  Also, went to a party with a few of my friends last night.  Here's a picture of me with my friend, Tom Burkardt.  Oh yeah, my other friend is Patriots owner, Bob Kraft.


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January 30, 2008

By the Time I Get to Phoenix...

I'm heading off to Phoenix tomorrow for Super Bowl XLII.  It should be an awesome trip, and hopefully I'll come home happy.  I'll post a bit from there, and will try to get some good pictures, too.
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January 21, 2008

Patriots Dynasty

Pats champs

A lot has been written about how great this year's Patriots are.  With their win yesterday, they are now 18-0 and can become the only team to complete a perfect season at 19-0.  The 1972 Dolphins are certainly great, and this Patriot team's success doesn't take anything away from the '72 Dolphins.  They played in different eras, and can't really be compared. 

But, I took a look at relatively recent Super Bowl history.  Looking back through Super Bowl XXIV in January 2000, here's the number of times that teams have been in the Super Bowl:

Patriots:  4

Rams: 2

Giants: 2

Titans, Ravens, Buccaneers, Raiders, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks, Steelers, Colts, Bears: 1 each

The Rams were a strong team for a few years, but they have faded away.  The Giants of 2000 season doesn't have a lot in common with this year's Giants.  The Patriots have the same coach, quarterback, and a significant core that has been there all the way through.  Only the Colts have been as consistent as the Patriots through this whole era, and the Eagles have been almost as consistent.  Every other team has been up and down, which is a testament to how tough it is to maintain a competitive team in the salary cap era.

It's great for the NFL.  13 different teams have filled one of these 18 Super Bowl slots.  Every team has a chance to get there.  In that environment, to have the Patriots go to the Super Bowl 4 times in 7 years clearly makes them the best team of the salary cap era.

This is a darn good Patriots team.  Is it better than the '72 Dolphins or the '85 Bears?  I don't know.  Those teams could hold their talent together in a way that isn't possible nowadays.  What has been most impressive of the Patriots through this whole run is how they find ways to win almost all of the close games.  When you see how the Colts, Cowboys, and Packers lost this year in the playoffs, you have to appreciate how the Patriots have done what no other team has done -- beat close competitors, over and over again.

I'll be in Arizona, hoping to witness some football history.  Go Pats!


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January 14, 2008

Peyton Manning's Commercials Have Gone Too Far

DSRL

If you haven't seen it yet, here is your chance to win an opportunity to have a lick race against Peyton and Eli Manning.  Yuchh!

Web-based marketing is the trend, and getting celebrities to participate is also big.  This campaign isn't so innovative, but the fact that the Mannings are being shown licking the stuffing out of Oreos is pretty bizarre.  I like the pseudo-realistic video interviews, but I think that they should have more self-esteem than this.  We may be too prim and proper, but we taught our kids better manners than this!


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January 07, 2008

Roger Clemens - Undecided

I watched Roger Clemens last night on 60 Minutes, denying his use of performance enhancing drugs.  I really want to believe that Roger is clean.  He's the greatest pitcher of our time, and is an inspiration to all of us over 40 athletic wannabes.

Unfortunately, we've become so jaded by athletes' denials in this area.  Too many times an athlete who denied taking performance enhancing drugs has admitted it later.  If Roger is guilty, he'd be denying this just as vigorously as he could, until he had no choice.  After all, he isn't likely to get into legal trouble, and his career is probably over.  He's fighting about his legacy, not his freedom.

But, if Roger is innocent, I feel bad for him.  In court, there is a presumption of innocence.  In the court of public opinion, there is a presumption of guilt.  He can complain about this, but he can't change it.  So, he needs to build up the perception that he is innocent.  He's started doing some of these things:

  • He has filed a suit against his accuser, Brian McNamee.  More likely to be a move that an innocent person would take than the action of a guilty person.  According to the suit, McNamee says he was pressured to implicate Clemens by some of the BALCO prosecutors.  The proof of this part of the suit should be interesting.  Clemens should reveal this information right away.
  • He's going to testify in Congress.  That raises the stakes.  If he lies there, it's a federal offense.  McNamee will testify, too.  Unless someone changes their story, one of these guys is going to be in legal trouble.  And, McNamee seems to be boxed in.  If he lied to the Mitchell Commission, he also faces felony charges.
  • He should continue to demand that someone come up with evidence showing where he got the performance enhancing drugs.  According to McNamee, Clemens supplied these, but they had to come from somewhere.  If there is a paper trail, it shouldn't be that hard to find.  If someone wants to investigate this, Clemens should assist them.
  • I think that he should take a lie detector test.  It's not proof, and it's not reliable.  But, it would give him another thing to pound home when he talks about his innocence.
  • He should continue to talk to the media.  If he has nothing to hide, he should remain accessible.  It's a pain, but his reputation should be worth fighting for.

Taking a low profile and waiting for this to blow over is what a guilty person would do.  If Clemens can build up some momentum that takes credibility away from the Mitchell Report, he has a chance of reversing public opinion.  Right now, I am on the fence.


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December 31, 2007

What a great week of sports

One thing I have done in the past week or so is watch all the games of my favorite teams, the Patriots and Celtics.

The Patriots completed their perfect 16-0 regular season.  Although the team would rather go 15-1 and win the Super Bowl than go 16-0 and fall short of the championship, the perfect regular season record speaks to their consistency during the season.  The Pats had a tough schedule, playing 3 of the other AFC playoff teams (as well as Cleveland, who just missed), plus 3 of the NFC playoff teams.  Their division was weak, but the schedule overall provided plenty of challenge.  And, they beat the Colts, Cowboys, and Giants on the road.  I think that the pressure of going 16-0 provided some playoff-like pressure on the team.  The core veterans on the team have been through this before, so I think it just shows that this team is ready to go all the way.  Honestly, anything less would be disappointing.

I really respect how the Giants played hard in this game against the Patriots.  They had nothing to gain, other than being the ones who stopped the Patriots.  They risked injury for their players, and will have to go through their first playoff game less healthy and less rested than they could have.  But, I think that the competitive juices took over, and no one wanted the Patriots to get off easily.  This is in contrast to the Colts-Titans game yesterday.  The Titans needed to win to get into the playoffs.  Otherwise, the Browns would get the last AFC slot.  The Colts didn't play their regulars much and looked pretty bad without them.  This made it easy for the Titans, who won a close game. 

I feel bad for the Browns.  They turned around a season that started off horribly.  How many teams dump their starting quarterback after week 1 (not benched -- traded!)?  Romeo Crennel did a good job making them respectable.  They'll have to keep improving, but I hope they get into the playoffs next year.

Although I am thrilled for the Pats, I had even more fun staying up late and watching the Celtics go 4-0 on their West Coast road trip.  The last game was vs. the Lakers last night.  I think that it was the best game that the Celtics have played all year.  They were on the road against a good team, playing without Rajon Rondo, and at the end of 4 games in 5 nights after Christmas.  Tony Allen started in place of Rondo, and had a game that reminded me of how he played before he got hurt last year.  Kudos to Doc Rivers for starting Allen rather than guys who have been ahead of him the rotation like Eddie House or James Posey.  Tony Allen seems to get down on himself quickly by the body language I see.  Hopefully, this game gives him some confidence.  He helped the Celtics get up early on the Lakers with a big first quarter.

The Celtics strong defense has been their key.  They can clearly score points with their 3 superstars.  But, the defense is something that can be there every night and is contagious to the rest of the team.  When you see KG go all out to block a shot with less than two minutes left and the Celtics up by 20, you know that the other players have to work hard to mathc his effort.

The NFL playoffs should be great, as will be the rest of the Celtics season.  Not only are the teams doing well, but they are great to watch.


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December 23, 2007

Do you believe Roger?

Roger Clemens has posted his own video denying he ever used steroids or human growth hormone.  He will also be interviewed by Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes after Christmas.

I'd love to believe Roger, but I have become conditioned to believe that most athletes lie about these things.  I do think that the best thing Roger can do is face all the questions, and no guilty person has ever enjoyed being interviewed by Mike Wallace.  I think that Roger is one of the best pitchers of all-time, and, with or without performance enhancing drugs, is a well-known workout maniac.  Roger is probably at the end of the line, but his career baseball numbers are staggering.

If Roger is lying about this, his reputation is even more ruined than it is by the allegations.  If he's guilty, should he admit it and ask for forgiveness?  Or, should he deny it until he has no other option?  Of course, if he's innocent, he can deny and deny, and people will always suspect that he's guilty after all.  How can he prove that he never used performance enhancing drugs?  Maybe he can get his accusers to admit that they lied, but then they would be subject to prison time themselves.

My 14-year old son was really disappointed when Clemens was named in the Mitchell Report.  He's grown up in an era of sports disillusionment, compared to my childhood where ignorance of my hero's foibles was fine with me.

I'll watch Roger's interview on 60 Minutes.  Maybe Roger can regain his hero status, but it will be tough.


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December 08, 2007

Social Networking Meets Sports Talk Radio

Heard about this on Only A Game today.

The social network, My Football Club, based in England, raised over 1.375M English Pounds from its 53K plus members.  It used this money to purchase a controlling interest in the Ebbsfleet United FC soccer team!  According to the My Football Club web site, members (35 British Pounds each, only one membership per person) can weigh in on all team decisions, including team selection, player transfers, and the running of the club.

I remember back when the Celtics went public during their heyday.  That was more of a financial maneuver to raise capital.  There wasn't any real control that the shareowners got.  Many shareowners bought one share to give as a souvenir gift to a friend or family member.  This case is differnt.  The members buy into a trust that is the real majority owner of the team.  There is a private web forum where members debate what to do with the team, including who plays and possible trades. 

We'll see if the wisdom of the crowds produces better management than the more typical structure.  Imagine some of the yahoos on WEEI actually go to do some of the crazy moves they suggest!


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December 05, 2007

Bulletin Board Material

Think this will be up on the bulletin board in Foxboro?

Safety Anthony Smith not only thinks the Steelers have a chance to beat the undefeated New England Patriots Sunday, he guarantees it.

"We're going to win,'' Smith said today after practice. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win.''

Saw this first on Reiss' Pieces,  Still amazed that players are dumb enough to run off at the mouth and motivate their opponents.


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December 04, 2007

If you stayed up late last night like I did...

...you saw a very exciting football game between the Patriots and the Ravens.  The Patriots won, but they needed a lot of help from the Ravens (timeout call, penalties).  Peter King of Sports Illustrated breaks down the controversial calls today.

I think the Patriots are very good.  I'm not sure that they are one of the all-time great teams, but they have the potential to be considered in this group if they play well for the rest of the season.  Their defense looks vulnerable, and their offense hasn't been clicking for the past two weeks.  They have a tough game this Sunday against Pittsburgh, and then a couple of easier games against the Jets and Dolphins.  All of these are at home.  They have played very strongly at home, except for a tight game against the Eagles.  If they can get back to playing as well as they did earlier this season, they should be able to run the table and really be up there with the 1972 Dolphins and 1985 Bears.


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November 26, 2007

Sports Thoughts - Pats and Celts

Oh, it's a good time to be a Boston sports fan.  I follow the Patriots and Celtics closely and go to a lot of their games.  Some thoughts on recent happenings:

Patriots: The Patriots won a close game yesterday against the Eagles.  This preserves the Patriots unbeaten season at 11-0, but I am sure that a lot of fans are disappointed.  The Patriots had won their previous games by an average of 25 points per game (including a 4-point win over the Colts).  So, a 3-point win feels like a letdown.  And, the pointspreads on the Patriots games have gotten ridiculous.  How can the Eagles be 24-point underdogs?  That's like saying that the Eagles are average compared to the teams the Pats have beaten this year.  We saw last night that the Eagles are still a good team.  I did expect the Pats to win more easily, but 20+ pointspreads are ridiculous in the pros.

By the way, don't think that a couple of close games hurt the Patriots legacy vs. some of the other teams considered the greatest of all time.  The 1985 Chicago Bears actually LOST one game, to the Dolphins 38-24.  They also had 6 and 7 point wins (and a lot of blowouts).  They only allowed 11.5 points per game and won their first two playoff games by shutouts (and crushed the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX).

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team to go undefeated through a full NFL season (so far!).  They had wins of 2 points, 1 point, and 4 points (and 52 points vs. the Patriots!).  To be fair, they played most of their season with their back-up quarterback (Earl Morrall) instead of Hall of Famer Bob Greise.  They were very run-oriented, with two 1,000 yard backs, Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick.

They Pats are almost as dominating as the 1985 Bears.  If they go undefeated, they certainly join this pantheon of greatest teams ever.  Even if they lose one game, they may belong there.

By the way, if the Patriots only go 3-2 in their last five games, they will still clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Celtics: They Celtics are off to a great start.  They have also won two close games, including Saturday night's last second come-from-behind victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.  I'm impressed with how quickly the Celtics have jelled given how many new players they have.  And, they have a decent bench with some NBA veterans like James Posey, Eddie House, and Scott Pollard.  The Celtics have an interesting stretch of games coming up against the Cavaliers (twice), the Miami Heat (who almost beat the Celtics earlier this season), and the Knicks (always a circus). 

I love how the Celtics are playing, with lots of passing leading to easy baskets.  If you check out the stats, you'll see that the Celtics lead the league in assist differential (the number of assists the Celtics have per game vs. the number of assists that their opponents have).  The Celtics average 24.41 assists per game, and their opponents only have 17.  The Celtics are third in the league in assists and first in giving up the fewest.  This is indicative of getting a lot of easy baskets and not allowing the same by the opponents.  Sounds like a good recipe for success to me.  And, fun to watch.


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November 19, 2007

What a Weekend!

Pretty busy weekend for me:

  • Went to the Celtics-Heat game on Friday.  The Celtics have been flat lately (and finally lost yesterday to the Orlando Magic).  But, they pulled this game out at the end.  On the way to the Garden, my son said "the Celtics games are getting boring because they win by so much.  I'd love to see a close game."  He got what we wanted!  Glad to see Paul Pierce as the go-to guy at the end.  He's done that for so many years now for the Celtics.
  • On Saturday, I brought my daughter to Splash at MIT.  This is a great program run by MIT students that is aimed at teaching something fun to kids age 11-17.  They have some serious academic enrichment courses, but most of them are just fun.  My daughter learned how to bake pies, how to draw shiny objects (and deal with reflecting light), card tricks, and the history of dark chocolate.  She had a great time, and got some exposure to what it is like walking around a college campus.  Our son has participated in years past, too.  This program is inexpensive and open to the public.  If you live in the Boston area and have kids in middle school or high school, I suggest you check it out next November.
  • Sunday night I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Garden in Boston.  What a fantastic show!  I hadn't seen Springsteen in a while.  I am amazed at the amount of energy he expends in a 2 hour 15 minute show that does not stop.  Bruce and his band go from one song to the next with nary a breath.  Lots of energy in the Garden, too, with the audience singing along to every word.  He puts on a great show.
  • While at the concert, I was getting text message updates to the Celtics (who lost their first game) and the Patriots (who killed the Bills).

Needless to say, I am pretty tired today.  I normally catch up on my sleep on the weekends, but not this time.  Early to bed for me tonight.,..


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November 08, 2007

Celtics - Wow!

I went to the Celtics-Nuggets game last night.  The Celtics won by 26, and the game wasn't really that close.  Check out the video at the link above (no way to embed, unfortunately).  You'll see some great passing and an unselfish team.  The Celtics were up by 41 in the 3rd quarter (91-50), and stopped playing hard from then on.  The Celtics scrubs looked pretty sloppy, but the 9-man rotation is very solid.

What I liked the most was that the big players, although they haven't been together long, are really playing well together on offsense and defense.  I always knew that Kevin Garnett was great, but it's hard for me to imagine that some other player today is better than KG.  He is tall, athletic, fast, a great rebounder, great defender, a scorer, a passer, and very high-energy.  He was talking constructively to his teammates throughout the game.  He didn't forgive himself for messing up a play before he came out of the game, even though he had great numbers and the win was in hand.

My last few years of being a Celtic season ticket holder are paying off.  This is going to be a very, very good team.  I love the chemistry I saw on the court.  Let's hope they all stay healthy.


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November 06, 2007

Just real crowd noise

By the way, since I was in the RCA Dome for the Colts-Pats game, I thought I should say that I didn't notice anything unusual about the crowd noise.  It seemed to be just all-natural crowd screaming every time the Pats had the ball.  I never noticed the crowd noise being out of synch with the crowd behavior.  In fact, I found that the music and the announcements at the RCA Dome were at a much lower volume than at Gillette.  And, they failed to show replays of any play except non-controversial positive plays for the Colts.  So, I plan to watch the replay of the game, condensed version, on the NFL Network tomorrow night at 8 PM.
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November 05, 2007

Back from Indy

I had a great time in Indianapolis, highlighted by attending the Patriots 24-20 victory over the Colts.  The RCA Dome is very, very loud.  I could barely talk to my friend sitting next to me in the second to last row of the stadium.  I can't imagine how Brady and his teammates could communicate.

The fans in Indianapolis are very, very friendly.  And, they are proud of their hospitality.  I am sorry to say that some of the folks I talked so said that they hadn't been treated the same way when they visited Boston.  It's OK to boo the opponents, but please be nice to their fans!

I liked Indy.  I hadn't been there before, but thougt it was a nice city.  The RCA Dome is right in the center of downtown.  There is no tailgating scene, but there is plenty of activity pre-and post-game.  Lots of fun.


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October 31, 2007

The Pats and Running Up The Score

In the wake of the Patriots 8-0 start and their 52-7 whomping of the Redskins, there has been a lot written about the Patriots running up the score on their opponents.  Luckily, most NFL coaches don't think that this is an issue.  And, neither do I.

NFL players aren't in the business if making sure that the other teams avoid hurt feelings.  It's football.  If you don't like what the other team is doing, stop them.  Most people wouldn't think it was an issue at all if a defense goes for a shutout, even a 52-0 shutout.  So, why shouldn't an offense try to keep the ball and help the defense get a shutout?  Also, there are always players whose names aren't Brady or Moss who are trying to show the coaches what they can do or trying to earn a better contract in the future.  It's not fair to them to ask them to 'go easy.'

The Patriots have a chip on their collective shoulder this year.  They were stupidly caught videotaping when they shouldn't have.  This led some people to call them cheaters, rather than just being arrogant.  All that has done is motivate them to prove to everyone that they can win just fine without any videotapes.  And, they are instilling some fear in their opponents. 

I say they should pile it on as long as they can.  If someone can beat them, then they should beat them by as much as possible.  That's professional sports.  For a couple of games, the Patriots let up on their opponents, particularly against the Dolphins.  The Patriots defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, said that he wanted the team to learn to 'step on the throat' of the opponent when they have them down.  After giving up a big lead to the Colts in last year's AFC Championship game, you'd think that the Patriots would be mindful of extending leads.

This year, they definitely get it.  Good news for the gamblers who take the Patriots, giving up the points.


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October 16, 2007

Quick Hits - Sports

I've been horribly neglectful of The Fein Line for the past week.  I've been busy with both work and some personal activities.  In an effort to catch up on some things, I'll do some Quick Hits posts with short thoughts.

There has been quite a bit of activity in the sports world in the past week.  Here are some observations.

  1. My Yankees fell apart in the postseason.  I think they need to clean house and do a restart.  But, I don't think that they will.  I think that they'll try to hang on to their recent past as much as possible.  This will delay the inevitable.
  2. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are down against the Indians.  This is probalby the first real test of the Red Sox season, even more than when the Yankees closed to within one game.  This time they are actually behind.  It's particularly interesting that Francona is sticking with Wakefield rather than going to Becket on 3 days rest.  I think that the strategy is that for the Red Sox to win the World Series, they will need Wakefield to win a game or two.  But, the risk of falling behind 3 games to 1 is pretty significant.  If I were Francona, I wouldn't take that chance.
  3. The Patriots look awesome.  They beat the Cowboys soundly after falling behind briefly in the third quarter.  The most interesting thing to me is that 1) they actually didn't look too sharp in the first half and 2) they were throwing deep right away (although Brady and Moss didn't connect).  But, even without the long bombs working, they took an early 14-0 lead.  Their defense is good, but not dominant.  But, with their offense, their defense has a lot of margin for error.  I'm excited to go to the game in Indianapolis vs. the Colts on November 4.  There is a decent chance that the Patriots will be 8-0 and the Colts 7-0 for that one.  The hype for that game will dwarf what we saw this past week.
  4. The baseball postseason has come down to 'who's hot' the past few years.  Right now, the Rockies are supernova hot, having won 21 of 22.  Although they don't seem to be as talented as the Indians or Red Sox, no one has figured out how to beat them over the past month.  It's hard to believe that after more than six months of baseball that the Rockies could emerge as the World Series champs because they were white hot for a month.  Doesn't seem right, but I have no idea what you could do about it.
  5. The New Big Three (need some other nickname) -- Garnett, Allen, Pierce -- play their first game at the Garden tomorrow night.  It's just preseason, but I expect that there will be some excitement there.
  6. Boston College football has been good, and BC is 7-0.  But, although I am cheering for them, I can't believe that they are really the 3rd best team in the country.  Weird football season as the top teams keep losing.  College football desperately needs a playoff.

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October 09, 2007

Thud

That thud is the sound of the Yankees recent era of great baseball coming to an end.  Joe Torre has been the manager for 12 years and has been the most consistent winner in that time.  Sure, the Yankees spent (and wasted) tons of money.  But, it's been shown that winning in baseball is about more than just assembling the most high-priced talent.  The key to success is pitching depth, with one or two strong starters at the top of the rotation.  And, the talent you put on the field has to deliver at the right time.

The Yankees last won the World Series in 2000, winning for the fourth time in five years at that time.  After that, they have fallen short:

2001 -- Lost to Diamondbacks in World Series, in one of the greatest World Series ever

2002 -- Lost to eventual Champion Anaheim in ALDS

2003 -- Lost to Marlins in World Series after emotional win over Red Sox in ALCS

2004 -- Crushing defeat to eventual Champion Red Sox in ALCS

2005 -- Lost to Angels in ALDS in 5 games

2006 -- Lost to eventual AL Champion Detroit in ALDS

2007 -- Lost to Cleveland in ALDS

Even though the Yankees are the only repeat playoff team from 2006 and had to dig themselves out of a big hole to get there, they have underachieved vs. fan expectations since 2000.  Any of these outcomes are not surprising.  It's very tough to win every year.  But, the body of work from 2001-2007 shows that this era in Yankee history needs to come to an end.  Sometimes you have to step back in order to move ahead, and I think that's what the Yankees have to do.

I actually think that they should keep manager Joe Torre.  I think that Joe is a great manager and has shown that he can motivate a team and manage to win.  It's hard to point to a lot of bad decisions he made in the years listed above.  The Yankee players just didn't get it done often enough.  But, I don't know if the Yankees can do this.  The Boss (George Steinbrenner) may feel that a new start is needed as the Yankees go younger.

The Yankees have a lot of young talent, some of which was showcased this year (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, for example).  They have some veterans under contract that they should keep (Derek Jeter).  But, they have a lot of players who are at the end of their contract or can opt out of their contract (Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte).  They have to figure out what to do with guys like Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreau, Jason Giambi.  I think that this group is overpaid, although some of them have had decent stats.

Having learned from my start-up days, I think that the Yankees should sweep as cleanly as they can.  Players who are clearly productive (Posada, Rivera, Rodriguez, Pettitte) should be pursued.  But, Brian Cashman shouldn't overpay for any of them.  The Yankees have a favorable contract for Rodriguez, with Texas subsidizing his huge salary.  If A-Rod opts out of that contract, the Yankees should let him go.  As a fan, I'd support an exciting young team with some pitching depth, even if they fall short for a year or two.  I think that over the past few years the Yankees have stuck too long with sentimental favorites and haven't had enough pitching depth.

The Yankees era of success was built around a core of young home grown players (Jeter, Posada, Bernie Williams, Pettitte, Rivera).  These players started appearing in 1994 and 1995 (where the Yankees were the first Wild Card team and lost in 5 games to Seattle in the ALDS after being up 2-0 -- shades of 2004!). 

It's time to rebuild that core for the next era.  They are already off to a good start.


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September 29, 2007

We're Spolied

As Pats fans, we're pretty spoiled by how well Belichick and company manage the team through shrewd drafting, targeted free-agent signing, and salary cap management.

Compare that with this opinion piece on the Pat's next opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Bengals are at least close to being a good team, but, with better drafting, could easily be better.  I think that as Pats fans we take for granted how well the Patriots do in the draft and how they end up keeping most of the players that they have drafted.  Even though they have a good team and have drafted relatively low, they have made very few mistakes.

Got this link from the Reiss' Pieces blog of the Boston Globe.


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September 27, 2007

No Surrender This Time

I figured that the Yankees had no chance to make the playoffs when they were 14 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and 8 1/2 games and tied for 8th for the Wild Card on May 29.  Too much of a deficit to make up against a very good team (Boston) and too many teams (Wild Card).

Yesterday, the Yankees clinched a playoff spot.  They won't catch Boston (3 back with 4 to play).  But, they made the Red Sox very nervous.  And, they showed they can beat them head-to-head, winning 5 out of the last six in the last month.

The Yankees bullpen is thin, but the stretched out playoff schedule will help them.  They can hit off of anyone.  They play hard and don't give up.  And, you only have to win 3 out of 5 or 4 out of 7 to win a playoff series.  They've been playing playoff baseball for four months as their season teetered on the brink.

Going into the playoffs as a Wild Card has worked for the past three champs.  Maybe that's what the Yankees need to win another World Series.  If they do, it will be Joe Torre's best managing job.  He dealt with lots of injuries, rookie pitchers, and a team that could have given up.


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September 21, 2007

More on the end of the baseball season

After writing last night on the Sox and Yankees records throughout the season, Bob Ryan of the Globe had a column with some of the same information in the Globe this morning.  The online version doesn't include the table from the paper that shows the records before and after May 29.  Bob Ryan ranks the AL playoff teams this way:

1. Cleveland

2. New York

3. Los Angeles/Anaheim

4. Boston

I think that what really matters is head-to-head records.  Usually, Los Angeles/Anaheim plays the Yankees very tough, regardless of overall records.  The match-ups dictate this.  So, here are the head-to-head records:

New York vs. Boston -- Yankees won season series, 10-8 (3-6 before May 29, 7-2 after)

New York vs. LA/Anaheim -- LA/Anaheim won, 6-3, with most of the games AFTER May 29

New York vs. Cleveland -- Yankees swept Cleveland, 6-0, including 3 wins in April!

Boston vs. LA/Anaheim -- Sox won the season series, 6-4

Boston vs. Cleveland -- Sox won the season series, 5-2, including back-to-back 1-0 games (win and loss) in July

For completeness, LA/Anaheim vs. Cleveland -- Series split, 5-5

So, based on this, it's hard to say that Cleveland is the best if there was a round-robin.  The match-ups won't be determined until the AL East is decided and the best record is decided (all pretty close right now).  But, I think that the match-ups favor the Red Sox more than Bob Ryan gives them credit for.  The Red Sox beat LA/Anaheim and Cleveland.  And, any Red Sox-Yankees series has got to be a toss-up, despite the Yankees winning 7 of the last 9.

If the Yankees have to play LA/Anaheim, they are in for a struggle.  If they have to play Cleveland, they should have the upper hand.  LA/Anaheim can only play Cleveland in the ALCS as the Yankees and Red Sox can't play each other in the first round since they are in the same division.

If the Yankees win the East, I want LA/Anaheim to have a better record than Cleveland, forcing them to play the Wild Card Red Sox.  If the Red Sox win the East, I want Cleveland to have the better record so that the Yankees get to play them.


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September 20, 2007

Baseball is a strange game

OK, I already admitted that I was very wrong.

On May 29th, I posted my now infamous 'Surrender' entry.  At that time, the Yankees were 14 1/2 games behind the Red Sox:

 W        L        Pct.         GB

Boston          36        15       .706         -

New York       21        29       .420        14.5

At that point, Baltimore and Toronto were ahead of the Yankees.  The Yankees were tied for last in the division with Tampa Bay.

By August 6, I was already amazed with the Yankees come back.  They had tied Detroit for the wild card lead and clearly had a great chance to make the playoffs.  But, the division still looked too far off.

 W        L        Pct.         GB

Boston          68        44       .607         -

New York       62        50       .554        6

Note that in this stretch of almost 10 weeks, the Red Sox played just 3 games over .500.  The Yankees were 20 games over .500, almost matching the red hot start that the Red Sox had at the start of the season.

Now, the Yankees have a 5 1/2 game wild card lead over Detroit and have narrowed the division race to just one game in the loss column.

 W        L        Pct.         GB

Boston          90        63       .588         -

New York       88        64       .579        1.5

The Red Sox again just played 3 games over .500 and the Yankees were 12 games over.  So, since the nadir of the season, from my point of view, the Red Sox have been 54-48 .529 and the Yankees have been 67-35 .657.  Teams have been this hot for a whole season, but it's hard to imagine that a team has had a bigger turnaround after such a bad start.  And, making up so much ground against such a good team is even tougher.

I think that the Yankees have played well, but it's really puzzling to me why the Red Sox have just won 54 out of their last 102 games.  With their line-up and their pitching, they should be doing better.  This has been somewhat hidden by their fast start, but I don't hear enough Red Sox fans asking this question.  The Yankees vastly underperformed for the first 50 games of the season.  But, the Red Sox have underperformed for more than 100 games.

As we saw last year with the Cardinals, you just have to be hot during the playoffs to win the World Series.  And, the Red Sox still have a small lead in the division.  So, it's not over.  But, the Red Sox need to find that early season magic if they want to have a good postseason.

By the way, according to my son's research, if the Red Sox and Yankees finish tied at the end of the regular season, the Yankees will win the division (assuming that the Red Sox are in position to win the wild card) due to the Yankees winning the season series vs. the Red Sox.  Good thing the Yankees won 5 out of the last 6 games between the two teams.


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September 13, 2007

Good thing the Celtics didn't get the #1 pick

I'm very excited about the Celtics season as their new 'Big 3' and some of the supporting cast they have assembled make them real contenders.

Meanwhile, today it was reported that #1 pick Greg Oden may miss the whole season with a significant knee injury.  Oden is young, so he'll probably be back.  But, a microfracture problem is significant.

I am sure that Portland hopes that they don't end up with another Sam Bowie, whom they picked over Michael Jordan in 1984.


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September 11, 2007

Geez, are the Patriots cheaters, too?

According to ESPN, the NFL Commissioner has determined that the Patriots did indeed violate league rules about videotaping opposing coaches signals.  The idea is that they could figure out the signalling methods and take advantage of knowing what defense was being called.  The league had sent out a stern warning about this before the season.

The Patriots will have their chance to plead their case, but if this is all true, they should be ashamed.  It is an insult to their great players if they have stooped this low.  Although I am a huge Pats fan, they would deserve harsh punishment, including losing multiple draft picks, if this is indeed true.

Too much cheating in sports nowadays.  I was giving the Patriots the benefit of the doubt on this issue, but it seems like they let me down.


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September 01, 2007

Is Rodney a cheater?

rodney

I was really surprised about Rodney Harrison's admission that he used HGH to help his recovery from knee injuries.  For this violation of the NFL's banned substance policy, he is suspended for the first four games of the football season.  This is a blow to the Patriots as Rodny Harrison is a physical leader of their defense.

I always admired Rodney Harrison.  His 'us against the world' attitude, with no excuses, has been a mantra for the Patriots.  He has excelled for them since the San Diego Chargers let him go 4 years ago as being washed up.  He has come back from some serious, career-threatening injuries.  His commentary to the media is always candid.

To his credit, Harrison has taken the same approach in this case.  He is admitting guilt publicly, offering apolgies, with no excuses.  He made a mistake in taking HGH, supposedly to help his recovery from injury.  I am sure that many Patriots fans are sympathetic and will cut him a break.

But, these are the same people who are so much against Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield's supposed use of steroids in baseball.  Those players are branded as cheaters, and I think that they are.  In the case of baseball, Giambi was the only one who said the right thing, acknowledging that he used steroids but also pointing out that the whole baseball establishment silently condoned the use of steroids to help the game recover fan support after the mid-90s strike.  The home run chase of 1998 was exciting, even if it was steroid-fueled.

So, if those baseball players are cheaters, isn't Harrison?  He violated the rules and is being punished.  So, by definition, he cheated.  As much as I like Harrison, I have to admit that he is a cheater. 

When a player I like cheats, it makes me more sympathetic to the players I don't like, such as Bonds, who also cheated.  We are all complicit in the blind acceptance of steroid and illegal substance use in sports.  The drive to compete and win, to recover from injury, to make the big money (which we fund through our support of the teams) makes it hard to resist using these substances.  We can all be high and mighty about not cheating, but I doubt many of us would pass up the chance to switch places with Rodney Harrison and probably make the same choice he did.

Sports leagues need to strictly enforce these rules, and perhaps the cheating will stop.  Harrison's penalty is strict, and repeat offenders should be banned.  If he is stupid enough to do this again after being caught once, he gets what he deserves.

I don't like writing this about one of my favorite players, but I think that it's more important that sports get cleaner than they are now.


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August 27, 2007

Heading to the Big Ballpark in the Bronx

My son and I are heading to NYC for the Red Sox/Yankees series on Tuesday through Thursday this week.  When I bought the tickets originally, I had hopes that the Yankees would have continued to narrow the gap with the Red Sox and that the series would be critical for both teams.

But, the Yankees have flattened out lately while the Red Sox have been red hot.  The Red Sox laid a historical whupping on the Chicago White Sox over the weekend.  I'm not surprised that the Red Sox have picked it up.  They have a very good team with strong pitching.

While the Yankees were woefully underachieving for the first two months of the season, they have been very, very hot for the past couple of months.  They were bound to hit a cold spell.  Their pitching isn't as strong as Boston's, but their offense is unbelievable.  Unfortunately, when they don't score 6 or 7 runs, they don't win very often.

The Yankees have one more game with Detroit tonight.  Since Mussina is pitching, I'll be watching with my hands over my eyes.  He's been horrible.  There are rumors of him being sent to AAA!  Not sure if they can do that contractually, unless he agrees.  After that, the Yankees and Red Sox play three in the Bronx.  Like every game, this is a huge series for the Yankees.  They are still very much in the wild card race.  But, I don't think that they can catch Boston, barring a Red Sox collapse (which doesn't seem to be in the cards).

This isn't critical for the Red Sox.  Even if they are swept, they have a multi-game lead over the Yankees.  And, there are great pitching match-ups in the series (Pettite vs. Matsuzaka, Clemens vs. Beckett, Wang vs. Schilling).  The games and series is likely to be close.  And, all the pressure is on the Yankees.

Although the tension won't be as high as it would be if the teams were closer, it's always fun to be in the Bronx for a Red Sox-Yankees series.  Finally, we can wear our Yankees caps with fearlessly!


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August 14, 2007

Holy Cow!

Phil Rizzuto died today at 89.

As a kid, I listened to Phil Rizzuto do the Yankee broadcasts.  He was one of the most unique announcers I ever heard.  He told stories, had lots of funny nicknames, and kept you entertained throughout the game.  He also always said "Holy Cow!" on a great play and called his fellow announcers "huckleberry", among other things.

He also did the play by play for Meatloaf's Paradise By The Dashboard Light, one of the great long rock songs ever.

Here's a tribute to Scooter.


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August 08, 2007

Hank has class

Yesterday, Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's all-time baseball home run record, hitting his 756th.  Barry is a controversial figure -- he is accused of using steriods, including the detailed account in Game of Shadows.  Barry is also a man with an acerbic personality.  This makes it so much more difficult for people to even try to like him.

Hank Aaron, the previous home run record holder, is a man of great class.  He has tried not to comment on Barry's pursuit of the record in order to avoid commenting on Barry's alleged steroid use.  After the record was broken, a video was played of Hank congratulating Barry.

I think that Bonds used steroids, but he was far from the only one.  But, the reaction to him is so much stronger.  Is it because of race?  I don't think so -- Gary Sheffield also is accused of using steroids, is African-American, is even somewhat controversial.  But, he is a nice guy, a good teammate, and speaks to the press.  So, there is very little ire directed to him.

Barry's pursuit of the record certainly puts a much bigger spotlight on him.  But, if he played nice with his teammates and the press, he would probably be given a much lighter treatment.  Athletes love the big paychecks, but they also need to realize that they are in the entertainment business, and the press is part of it.  The smart athletes learn how to get along with the press, and they have a much more positive image portrayed to the public.

Almost no one in baseball likes Bonds and can defend his attitude.  So, he deserves what he gets.  There is no question that Bonds is an amazing talent.  He probably cheated, along with many, many others.  There is no way to carve out the statistics from the steroid era, so Bonds deserves the record in addition to the fans' scorn.


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August 06, 2007

Taking down the white flag

Yankees Flag

Back in May, I raised the white flag and surrendered as a Yankee fan.  I have to take it back now.

With a win this afternoon, the Yankees are currently tied with Detroit for the wild card lead, one-half game ahead of Seattle.  I don't think that the Yankees can catch the Red Sox for the Eastern Division, where they trail by 6.5 games.  But, they obviously have a good shot at the playoffs.

Their bullpen, beyond Rivera, is shaky.  But, their offense is unbelievable.  Not many teams can slug their way through the playoffs successfully, but this team may be able to.

Back on the bandwagon!


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July 31, 2007

A Great Fall

Normally, you would think that a 14-year old kid would not want summer to end.  And, I am sure that my kids are really enjoying their summer.  But, today my son pointed out that he really is looking forward to the fall.

Even though he'll be starting high school this fall and will, undoubtedly, have more home work than ever before, my son is really looking forward to the Patriots season and now, the Celtics, too.  He also holds out hope that the Yankees will make the playoffs and atone for their early-season woes with a World Series win.

No matter what the Yankees do, I am sure we'll have a good time at the Patriots and Celtics games this fall.  Maybe my son will work on his homework while we drive to and from the games...


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July 30, 2007

Celtics to get Garnett?

It's widely reported that the Celtics are getting close to trading, finally, for Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  The Celtics have to clear out their roster to get this deal done (reportedly, trading Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, and 2 draft picks -- wow!).

The Celtics will then have three All-Star caliber players -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.  Their other two starters are likely to be Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins.  They'll also have Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Tony Allen, among others.  They quickly become much more of a veteran team.  They'll have a decent chance of making it to the NBA Finals from the still-weak East.

They'll also probably be over the salary cap.  And, they'll only do this deal if they get Garnett to commit to a few more years on his contract, meaning that they'll be in salary cap purgatory for a while.  So, they'll have to win with these stars and a bunch of role players and/or young players.

I love this deal.  I don't like seeing Jefferson go.  But, only because some day he may become as good as Kevin Garnett.  I don't see him ever being better than Garnett, and never as good as Garnett defensively.  Al is significantly younger, but Garnett isn't yet that old.  So, this trio should keep the Celtics competitive for 5 years or so.  That's a heck of a lot better than more years waiting for the kids to mature.

Update: I was wrong when I mentioned Delonte West as still being on the Celtics when I wrote this originally.  Delonte was traded to Seattle as part of the Allen Ray deal.  I updated the text above.  Beyond their Top Trio (can't say Big Three as a long-time Celtics fan), the Celtics are pretty thin.


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July 25, 2007

What's going on in sports?

It's been a long time since I realized that the world of sports isn't full of squeaky-clean heroes.  Sometime when I was a kid, I realized that athletes had all the failings of 'normal' people.  Maybe it was the Fritz Peterson/Mike Kekich family swapping incident in 1972?

But, just in the past week or so, three major scandals have been the latest to burst onto the scene:

Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons quarterback, is in trouble for organizing dog-fighting on his property with grisly stoires of dogs fighting to the death.

Tim Donaghy, NBA referee, is in trouble with the FBI for betting on basketball games, including those where he was the referee!

More cyclists have dropped out of the Tour de France due to blood doping charges.

These stories make the sports pages look more like the police blotter.  Did all this stuff happen before, and we just didn't find out about it?  Or, has all the money involved in sports driven people to compromise their values?

I hope that all the commissioners of these sports come down hard on these folks of they are proven guilty.  It looks like that's happening as Vick is banned from practicing with the Falcons and Donaghy has retired.  But, everyone else needs to know that they will be dealt with strongly if they are caught doing something else like this.

Bring the focus back to the field.  Luckily, the Yankees look like they are going to make me regret my early surrender as they are definitely in the wild card race and still have a shot at the division race.  And, the Patriots start camp this Friday.  I love the Patriots because they don't tolerate any troublemakers these days.  Sports is more fun when you just worry about the results on the field.


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July 20, 2007

Free Patriots Preview from ESPN

ESPN Insider, normally a paid service, has a nice free preview of the Patriots training camp which starts next week.  No real news here, but a good summary of everything the Pats have done this offseason.  They look to be in pretty good shape.
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July 19, 2007

Hey, Venus

I'm not a big tennis fan, nor am I a good tennis player.  But, last night we took in the Boston Lobsters in World Team Tennis.  We went because they played the Philadelphia Freedoms who had Venus Williams playing.  World Team Tennis is small-time pro sports, but they get top players to play a few matches each season.  This was one of the matches that Venus was playing.

Venus Williams

Well, she dominated the field.  And, it was effortless.  You could really appreciate how good she was as she was relaxed calm, and easily dispatched her opponents in all three mini-sets (first to 5 wins).  The rest of the players on both teams were at one level, and Venus was one or two levels above. 

I couldn't really figure out why Venus and other top pros bother to play World Team Tennis.  It can't be the money as this was not a money-making event (small crowd in a small venue, limited TV exposure).  Maybe it's the love of the game, but I am more jaded to believe that.  Venus says in the Globe that she likes being part of a team.  Hmmm.  I bet that she and the other top players view this as practice, and they get paid to do it...


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July 17, 2007

Asante should show up

Yesterday the deadline passed for the Patriots to sign Asante Samuel to a long-term contract.  For those of you unfamiliar with the vagaries of the football salary structure, the Patriots have the exclusive rights to Samuel this season as they placed the 'franchise tag' on him.  This means that Samuel will make $7.79M for this season, which seems to be the highest salary (and salary cap hit) on the Patriots.  Of course, Samuel wanted a long-term contract with an upfront guaranteed bonus.  He and the Patriots couldn't agree on this, with the speculation being that they are something like $10M apart on guaranteed money.

The way that the NFL system works is tilted toward the Patriots in this case.  If Asante doesn't sign the one year tender for $7.79M, he has to sit out the season, earning nothing and losing a valuable year toward his NFL pension.  He can sign the tender and not show up.  In this case, he won't earn money until he shows up, and will also lose the pension credit.  In this case, he would probably show up by the 10th week which would cost him $5M in salary and preserve his pension credit.  This is what Asante threatened during the negotiatons with the Patriots on a long-term extension.

What I think he should do is to sign the tender and show up for training camp in exchange for a promise from the Patriots that they not use the franchise tag next year.  By some accounts, this is what the Patriots did for Adam Vinatieri before he left for the Colts.  Although they don't have to, they would probably make this agreement here, too.

The Patriots invested too much in this offseason to let this issue keep Asante out of 10 games.  Asante is determined to hit free agency to get his big payday.  It's clear that he and the Patriots don't agree on how much guaranteed money he can get.  If they agree to play this year, Asante will make some good money this year and will get a chance to test the market next year as a true free agent.  The Patriots get one more year out of him at a full price which they can fit under the salary cap.  And, they get one year to figure out how to replace him as they seem unlikely to sign him, particuarly after this situation.

I hope that the Patriots get this behind them before training camp starts so that it does not continue as a distraction.


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June 29, 2007

Celtics get older, and hopefully better

I like the Celtics deal for Ray Allen.  I don't think I could handle another season with all young players and Paul Pierce.  I'd rather trade that youth for some veteran talent.  Ray Allen may not be a perfect fit, but it gives us hope.  You can't win without veterans in the NBA.

Now maybe the Celtics can find a way to trade for Andrei Kirilenko without giving up Al Jefferson.  Peter May of the Globe thinks that this is a good fit, too.  His article was written before the draft, but the idea still makes sense to me.  Pierce, Ray Allen, Kirilenko, and Jefferson would be a formidable foursome, with Rondo as point guard and a bunch of young guys coming off the bench (whoever is left after a potentila Kirilenko trade).  Not bad.

By the way, I love the fact that the Celtics have Al (presumably Alan) Jefferson, Tony Allen, Ray Allen, and Allan Ray.  They just need Malik Allen and Allen Iverson to have the all-Alle/an NBA team!


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June 25, 2007

Do it, Danny

According to ESPN (more details on TV than in the story), there is a chance that the Celtics will be part of a 4 team deal involving the Lakers, Timberwolves, and Pacers.  The headline part of the deal would be Kevin Garnett going to the Lakers (to team up with Kobe Bryant, who might now believe that the Lakers are trying to win), Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum going to the Pacers, Jermaine O'Neal going from the Pacers to the Celtics, and the Timberwolves getting the Celtics #5 pick and perhaps Gerald Green or Sebastian Telfair.

If this deal works out this way, the Celtics should do it.  Trading the #5 pick and perhaps one young player who is unproven for a legitimate all-star like Jermaine O'Neal would be a no-brainer.  O'Neal is almost 29 and averages almost 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.  He'd be the legitmate center that the Celtics need and would allow Al Jefferson to be a true power forward a la Kevin McHale.

Some reports say that the trade is breaking down because the Celtics are balking about including other players, such as Theo Ratliff, Green, and Telfair in the deal.  The Celtics have enough young players.  They need a veteran big man.

Do it, Danny!


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June 05, 2007

The Stress of Baseball

I know I promised no more baseball posts in my infamous Surrender post, but this one is fun.

You've probably seen or heard about the Atlanta Braves minor league manager who lost it after disagreeing with a 'ball and strike' call.  But, this tirade goes on and on.  I love when he pretends to be soldier, crawling on the ground and using the pitcher's rosin bag as a faux grenade.  Don't bother with your speakers, there is virtually no sound on this clip.

 


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June 01, 2007

Oh, so that's NBA basketball

As a beleaguered Celtics fan, I thought I would try to figure out what real NBA basketball is.  I started watching the NBA playoffs during the conference finals.  I watched some of the Cleveland - Detroit game last nightLeBron James took over the game, scoring the last 25 and 29 of the last 30 of Cleveland's points.  That included all 18 points that Cleveland scored in the two overtimes.  Cleveland took a 3-2 series lead with this exciting road win.  But, this series has gone exactly the same way that last year's did, when Detroit came back to win the last two games to take the series.

In the West, San Antonio dismantled Utah so quickly that I almost missed it.  Both San Antonio and Detroit are such balanced teams that it is no wonder that they have been the most consistent teams in basketball over the past few years.  They would probably have a very close series if they played each other, although having LeBron James in the finals would be exciting.  He's been banging on the door since last year.

Where does all this leave the Celtics?  Way, way behind.  They have no one with the talent level of a LaBron James or Tim Duncan.  And, they won't be drafting a strong enough player this year to narrow that gap with the number 5 pick.  And, in looking at Detroit and San Antonio, they are packed with smart veteran players.  It will be years before the Celtics kiddie corps gets that level of basketball maturity.

If the Celtics had gotten one of the top two picks, you could imagine them being like Cleveland in a couple of years.  But, on their current course, they seem like they are still several moves away from being a contender over the next few years.


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May 29, 2007

Surrender

surrender.jpg

I've been a Yankees fan since I was a kid.  It's tough being a Yankees fan in Boston.  It was really tough in 2004 when the Red Sox finally reversed the curse and won the World Series (and the Yankees collapsed).

The Yankees have had a great run since 1996.  But, their team is getting old.  Even so, they have horribly underperformed this year.  And, the Red Sox have been the best team in baseball.  My son is a huge Yankees fan, too.  We spend a lot of time in the summer watching games and tracking their progress.  But, this year I have already raised the white flag.  The Yankees don't have a chance of catching the Red Sox and probably will miss the playoffs for the first time in a long time. 

I'm still a fan and will follow the team online and in the newspaper.  But, I am getting off the emotional roller coaster now.  This will save me lots of time and anguish.  Discretion is the better part of valor, and now I can spend more time enjoying my summer.

No more baseball posts until next year!


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May 23, 2007

Time to Reverse Another Curse

In 2004, the Red Sox finally reversed the curse by beating the Yankees in dramatic fashion and winning the World Series.  The Yankees haven't recovered, much to my chagrin.

The Celtics have been cursed for more than 20 years, since they won their last championship in 1986.  First, Len Bias died right after he was drafted by the Celtics.  Then, Reggie Lewis died of heart problems in 1993.  Then they were cursed with Rick Pitino as Coach and President from 1997-2001.  Rick may have been a great college and pro coach elsewhere, but he was horrible at the Celtics, churning through talent like Chauncy Billups and making horrible trades.  The current Celtics management, including Danny Ainge, has made the team much younger, but no better.  I give Ainge credit for sticking with his plan, but it was all supposed to get better in this year's NBA draft when the Celtics would get one of two prime picks, Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.

But, the fates gave the Celtics the #5 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery last night.  This was the worst possible outcome for the Celtics given their second worst record last year.  They'll draft a good player (and Ainge has maximized most of his draft picks, although his record in trades is mixed at best).  But, without a top two pick, they don't seem to be in line to get a franchise player.  So, they'll stay young and hope for a better future.  Or, maybe they'll put a trade together for a good veteran who can help somewhat.  Neither path seems like it will really get the team where they need to be in order to compete for a championship.

Too bad the 'Reverse Curve' sign from Storrow Drive that was modified above is gone.  Maybe they need a Reverse The Curse sign on the TD BankNorth Garden.


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May 07, 2007

Return of Roger

Clemens

Yesterday's surprise was the announcement that Roger Clemens had signed a one-year contract with the Yankees.  I was surprised on two fronts:

  • I didn't expect Roger to make his decision this early.  Last year he didn't decide to come back until the end of May.  Since he was one year older, I didn't expect him to even pitch as long as last year.
  • I really thought that the Red Sox had the best chance of getting Clemens this year.  There is the sentimental aspect of Roger returning to where he started in Boston.

In the end, Roger went with the team that offered him the most money.  No surprise.  He has said in the past that his decisions weren't about the money.  When an athlete says that, you know that it is only about the money.

The Yankees needed Clemens.  They need his pitching.  He'll be a stable #4 starter for them.  He's a competitor.  He can't pitch deep into games, but anything will be an improvement over some of their starters.  As you may know, today the Yankees will stasrt their 10th different pitcher in their first 30 games.  This has never happened in major leage history.  Not a record you want to own.

The Yankees also need the emotional lift that signing Clemens brings.  It's a vote of confidence on Steinbrenner's part that he'll continue to spend lots of money to win.  I've heard that the Yankees were the only team in baseball that lost money last year.  Heavy luxury taxes will do that.  I don't think that Steinbrenner cares.  He wants to win the World Series one more time before he fades away.

Speaking of emotion, I think that the Yankees broadcasters were carried away with the Clemens announcement.  It may have been a surprise, but it wasn't a big drama.  I'll be happier if he beats the Red Sox in Fenway in early June!

I don't think that the Yankees with Clemens are as good as the Red Sox today.  But, there is still a long season ahead.  The Yankees pitching has been better lately, and their offense has been fantastic.  They'll need even better pitching to get through the playoffs, but they are at least good enough now, with Clemens, to tighten up the race with the Red Sox.

 


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May 01, 2007

Why the Randy Moss outrage?

I don't understand the problem that some people have with the Patriots picking up Randy Moss.  Here's what I know:

  • The Patriots have built a successful team and great goodwill in the community partly due to the high-character players they have.  They have not gotten into trouble on or off the field, and they don't embarrass the organization. 
  • The Patriots have shown that they can absorb 'trouble' players and make them productive without disrupting the positive team chemistry.  Positive examples are Bryan Cox, Corey Dillon, and Rodney Harrison.  I can't think of an example of a 'bad boy' who has come in and had a negative impact on the team's image.
  • The Patriots didn't need to get Randy Moss.  They had already significantly upgraded their receivers during the offseason.  If he causes trouble, I have no doubt that the Patriots will have the guts to cut him.
  • The Patriots are taking no financial risk on Randy Moss's contract.  He reportedly gave up his $9M+ deal and took a $3.5M deal with no up-front bonus.  If Randy gets caught running over another meter maid with pot in his car this summer, he's gone and the Pats spent nothing more than a 4th round pick.  Now, I don't think that Randy had a chance of collecting on his existing contract.  The Raiders would cut him rather than pay him.  So, Randy was smart enough to know that he had to give up something.
  • The Patriots only risk here is a 4th round pick.  But, they have lots of draft picks this year and more next year.  They were already trading away this year's picks, so they must not be too excited about the talent available.  They could use some more linebacker and defensive backfield depth, but they didn't pick a lot of players at those positions with their remaining picks anyway.

So, the real issue is that some people don't like Randy Moss and the fact that he has caused trouble and has dogged it on the field.  It bothers people that Randy is getting another chance on their beloved Patriots.  Unfortunately, when you have talent like Randy, you keep getting those chances.  Why shouldn't the Patriots, who are just trying to win another Super Bowl, risk their 4th round pick and no guaranteed money to see if this will work?  With just a one year deal, Randy has every incentive to behave.  If he dogs in on the field, he can explain that to Tom Brady and Richard Seymour.  If it becomes too much, he'll get cut and the Pats are still in good shape.  But, if he returns to his All-Pro form with a bit of effort, the Pats offense will be as explosive as it ever has been.

I don't think that Patriots fans should be high and mighty abut the positive qualities of their team.  Randy will have to live up to this.  If he doesn't, the Pats can let him go with no risk.  If he does, it's a big win.  What's not to like?


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April 29, 2007

Patriots Rehab?

As has been well chronicled, the New England Patriots have had a very active offseason, acquiring players like Adalius Thomas, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, Sammy Morris, and others.

But, in yesterday's NFL Draft, the Patriots selected Brandon Meriweather from the University of Miami.  And now, the Patriots have traded for Randy Moss.  Both these players have troubled pasts.

Meriweather was a key stomper in the Miami-FIU brawl this past season.  Look for #19 in this video stomping on a FIU player.  Moss is one of the best receiving talents in the NFL, but has a long list of controversies in his wake.

So, can the Patriots, with their well-documented focus on character, keep these players in line?  Things worked out very well with Corey Dillon.  He had always been a malcontent, but as a Patriot he was both a model citizen and strong performer.  He set personal and team rushing records in his first season.  His production dropped off as he aged in the last two years, and he was released/retired this offseason.  But, worth a second round pick (although he probably didn't last as long as the Patriots would have liked.

It will be interesting to see if the Patriots core of high-character players can keep these guys in line.  My guess is that they will.  The lure of winning a championship and the peer pressure from the Patriots players is pretty powerful.  A guy like Moss can ressurect his reputation with a strong season with good behavior.

Also, it seems that the Patriots are able to attract people who are willing to take 'below market' deals in order to come to the team.  Both Dillon and Moss reportedly restructured their contracts to help faciliate a trade.  Supposedly, the Patriots were the only team Moss was willing to do this for.  This kind of built-in discount is a huge strategic advantage for the Patriots.  Kudos to Kraft, Belichick and Pioli for getting this done!


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April 02, 2007

1 down, 161 to go

The first full day of the baseball season is over.  But, it's a very long season.  It's impossible to draw any conclusions from the first day.

I thought it was ironic that the Yankees won exactly they way you'd expect them to, but the Red Sox lost in an unexpected fashion.  The Yankees had shaky starting pitching, a bullpen that kept in them in the game, and the strong offense to overpower the other team, particularly after their starter was finally knocked out.

The Red Sox starting pitching, which should be their strength, allowed them to get behind.  Their bullpen made matters worse, and their offense never got going.  You'd certainly expect that to be the exception this year.  It's also ironic that the Boston sports talk radio crowd of yahoos was critcizing the Royals signing of Gil Meche and he ended up being the one who silenced the Sox today.

The beauty of baseball is that it's a long season.  It will probably all be different by the next game.

Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand. 
Leo Durocher
US baseball manager (1906 - 1991)


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April 01, 2007

Spring Confessional

I can't believe that baseball season is about to start.  I've been distracted by other sports -- the Celtics, Final Four, and Patriots offseason moves.  I'm still optimistic about the future of the Celtics (and praying that they get the first pick in the college draft).  The Final Four is always compelling, and this year any of the four teams are good enough to win.  The Patriots have been much more aggressive than usual in the offseason.  They have to be one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl again.

But baseball was always my first love in sports.  Now for the confessional.  I'm a Yankees fan.  This won't surprise people who know me, but many people who meet me assume I'm a Red Sox fan because I'm such a big sports fan of other Boston teams.  But, I grew up in Western Mass (Longmeadow).  In Western Mass, there were a lot of NY sports fans, including Yankee fans.  Thanks to my older brother, I grew up a Yankee fan.  And, in the early 70s when I really got into sports, the Yankees were horrible.  But, I stuck with them.  Steinbrenner bought the team and started spending money (he hasn't stopped).  They've always been interesting, and, of course, they've won quite a bit over the years.

Now with the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry in full swing, it's actually fun to be a Yankee fan in Boston.  I love going to Fenway Park, and can enjoy the rivalry from the enemy's point of view.  Since the Red Sox came back against the Yankees and won the World Series in 2004 (as the NY Post said, "Hell Freezes Over"), the rivalry has toned down a bit.  And the Red Sox are spending money about as fast as the Yankees.  It's more fun when both teams are champions, but the Red Sox fans still need to get over their persecution complex.

It bugs me to see the Yankees Suck paraphernalia outside Fenway (and much of it is much more vulgur).  My kids don't need to see this when we go to a game.  You don't see this in NY.  Yankees expect to win.  Red Sox fans should expect the same these days.  Have some class.

Anyway, that's all part of the rivalry.  Still proud to be a Yankee fan.  Their starting pitching worries me this year, but I am sure they'll be in the mix for the Division title and in the playoffs.

By the way, MLB.com has great online content.  You can watch games on MLB.TV, listen to radio broadcasts, watch highlights, get updates and audo on your cell phone, and can also buy highlights on iTunes.  Between that and DirecTV's MLB Extra Innings, I should be watching a lot of baseball this year.  Not to mention my son's Fantasy Baseball obsession...

Play Ball!


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March 27, 2007

Peyton knows where he stands

A friend of mine told me about this as I didn't see Saturday Night Live this week.  If you watch the monlogue, you'll hear this joke:

 Peyton Manning went to visit a Veteran's Hospital in Boston recently.  When he talked to one patient, he was asked what Tom Brady and the circus have in common.  The answer -- they both have two more rings than Peyton Manning!

Peyton's monologue on SNL


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March 21, 2007

Pats Analysis

Nice article by Peter King of SI.com on the Patriots offseason moves.  I continue to like everything that they have done this offseason.  King points out that the Patriots are also the only team with two first-round draft choices in the upcoming draft (thanks to the Deion Branch trade to Seattle).
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March 06, 2007

Pats: Nice Moves

The Patriots have been one of the most active teams in this year's free agency market.  This is a bit unusual, but they also moved quickly and paid up to sign Rosevelt Colvin before the 2003 season.  Unfortunately, Colvin got hurt in the second game and didn't have an impact until the 2005 season (he did come back and play in 2004, but wasn't that effective).

This year, the Pats have signed OLB Adalius Thomas, TE Kyle Brady, and RB Sammy Morris.  They also traded for WR Wes Welker after forcing Miami's hand by threatening to sign him to an offer sheet that Miami would have to match or settle for just a 2nd round draft pick (they got a 2nd and 7th instead).  The Patriots have addressed a lot of their weaknesses, backfilled for Daniel Graham (free agent likely to be overpaid) and Corey Dillon (retired, or retired to avoid being dumped?).  There are rumors that the Patriots are going to sign WR Donte' Stallworth, too.  If he'll agree to a one-year deal, that would be ideal for the Patriots to see if he can fit in.

The Patriots have utilized their cap room very effectively.  No other team that has competed at their level has also managed to give themselves financial flexibility year after year.  They may have cut it a little close last year when they let negotiations with WR Deion Branch fall apart and eventually traded him.  They needed him in their receiving corps.  But, even with that miscalculation, they were 30 minutes away from the Super Bowl.  Now they have re-loaded and improved significantly.  Watch out for the Pats next year!

By the way, it is interesting that Adalius Thomas was willing to take the same type of deal that the Patriots convinced Richard Seymour and Tom Brady to take.  They all agreed to split their 'guaranteed' bonus money over the first two years of their contracts, rather than getting it all in the first year.  The players take some level of risk in doing this as it is possible for them to be cut after the first year and miss out on some of their guaranteed money.  But, the risk of players of this caliber being cut, even if injured, is pretty low.  By doing this, the Patriots get some salary cap relief.  As I recall, Branch was not willing to do this, which led to the stalemate in their negotiations.  If it was good enough for Seymour and Brady (and now Thomas), it should have been good enough for Branch.  I like Thomas's attitude, as reported by Peter King.  He should fit in nicely.

Also, if you are curious about how the Patriots manage the salary cap, check out this fanatical site.


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March 02, 2007

The Essence of Sports

It was a game that certainly doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things (except to those directly involved).  But, it shows why sports are great to both follow and participate in.

Bedford High School played Lynn Tech in the Quarterfinals of the Division 3 North Massachusetts State Basketball Tournament last night (stories here and here (free registration required)).  Bedford had an amazing comeback.  After falling behind 40-20 at halftime and 48-24 early in the second half, the Bedford boys turned on an amazing effort to come back and win the game going away, 73-65.

What I love about this is that the kids never lost their composure and never gave up.  They kept plugging away, both when things were going poorly in the first half and during the comeback in the second half.  There are a lot of life lessons in here.  You have to remain determined, confident, and focused to get anywhere in life.  We all face setbacks.  It's how you respond to them that's important.

I love following sports because you can see the human drama unfold.  In many ways, you get that more at lower level sports than in the pros.  But, the best pro athletes never lose that great determination to win and always give it their all (think Larry Bird and Tom Brady).  It was great to be there for the game last night.  I don't know any of the participants well, but I got an uplifting feeling just watching them battle back and achieve success.  It was also great to see such great support from Bedford students and residents for a road tournament game.


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March 01, 2007

March Madness on Demand

If you like College Basketball's March Madness, you should sign up for March Madness on Demand. It's free, and you can watch live games from the first three rounds of the tournament.  Great stuff!  If you get there soon, you can still get a VIP pass which supposedly gets you into the front of the line of viewers.  Otherwise, you have to wait for capacity to become available before you are allowed to watch.
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February 27, 2007

Derek, Mick, and the Prez

Just saw this item on a Photoshopped picture that made it's way onto Derek Jeter's Topps baseball card.  You can see Mickey Mangle in the dugout and President Bush waving in the stands.  Maybe they can make one showing Jeter and A-Rod being friends again, too!
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February 15, 2007

18 was more than enough

The Celtics ended their 18 game losing streak last night by beating the Bucks.  Milwaukee has suffered from similar problems as the Celtics, with key players hurt.  But, the Celtics will take any win to end the streak.  They won't be mentioned at the top of SportsCenter again for a while, but being relevant because you lose every game isn't really worth it.

I still think that the Celtics are on the right track.  They aren't as bad as their record and losing streak would indicate.  Losing Paul Pierce to injury forced them to play their young kids too much, and the NBA is still very much a veterans' league.  Look at the Pistons -- experience counts for a lot.

Some people were cheering the Celtics losing streak as they thought it would give them a chance to get a great player coming out of college at the top of the draft, like Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.  But, there are no sure things when you enter the NBA Draft Lottery.  Perhaps Durant won't come out of college yet.  Perhaps the Celtics won't get lucky in the lottery and will end up picking 3rd or 4th.  Maybe one of these players won't be as good in the pros as they are in college (not likely with these two guys, but you never know).

I think that you have to win games whenever you can.  Winning begets winning.  Teaching the Celtics current young players how to win and how to be consistent will help them as much, or more, than another young, talented player.  I'd rather that their current players mature and they send their draft pick to someone else for a very good veteran.  Maybe Danny Ainge thinks so, too.

Meanwhile, the Celtics seem to still fill most of the seats at the Garden and, reportedly, have better TV ratings than last year.  So, most fans must be at least as optimistic as I am.


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February 09, 2007

Ticket Scalping

Massachusetts has been considering increasing the control over ticket resale or scalping.  The current laws are ridiculous and are completely ignored.  Ticket mark-ups are limited to $2 (that may have been more significant in 1924 when the law was passed).  A law that out of date is a waste of time, although there have been lawsuits filed about it.

You can't stop entrepreneurial activity.  StubHub is selling tickets that they don't have yet, but they know they can get them.  They are counting on the laws of supply and demand to ensure that they'll be able to make a profit on these.

I don't think that the government can do much here.  I don't like laws like the current one on the books that try to limit the mark-up you can make on tickets.  These laws are willing to short-circuit the supply and demand market forces to limit the upside that a scalper can make, but no one protects their downside.  It seems like a windfall to sell tickets way above face value.  And, Patriots and Red Sox tickets are a hot commodity in Boston these days.  If you have a source of these at face value, you can make plenty of money selling them.

However, what about other tickets?  I recently sold some of my Celtics tickets on eBay.  I don't try to make money on these, and that's a good thing.  Because, you can't.  I was only able to sell the tickets for just over half of face value.  Now, I am not worried about the money.  I view the total coast for my half-season of Celtics tickets to be an experience cost, which I get the benefit of when I bring one of my kids or a friend to the game.  Perhaps that's a rationalization for paying a high price, but that's OK.

However, if I was a ticket agent who had agreed to buy some fan's Celtics season tickets at face value, I'd be going out of business.  So, if a ticket agent can lose lots of money when a team is not in high demand, why can't they benefit from owning a hot commodity when a team is sold out?  That's supply and demand, and the marketplace has a way of making this work out.

Now, what about the 'average Joe' fan who can be priced out of a game?  I think that just about every team offers some tickets at reasonable prices, and most teams have some sort of egalitarian method of making tickets available to their average fans.  Keep in mind that these average fans benefit when the Red Sox have enough money to pay $51M just to negotiate with a Japanese pitcher.  Higher-priced tickets are an important revenue source.  The team has an obligation to maximize its revenue and good public relations will dictate that they don't totally lose the support of their average fans (they at least need them to watch the games on TV to keep the ratings up!).

Tickets (sports or otherwise) is a business.  Let basic economics drive the prices.  I'd rather see the teams benefit from these high prices as it will help hot teams earn more money to spend on better players and coaches.  But, there is no way that the government should be figuring out how to fairly mark up a ticket, and certainly not look at it once every 80 years or so.

Continue reading "Ticket Scalping" »


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February 05, 2007

The Patriot$ Way

Here is a good post from the Providence Journal.  It describes how the Colts will have to do some significant financial gymnastics to keep a lot of their great players.  This indicates how things change so fast in the NFL.  The Colts have been great for quite a few years and certainly deserved to win yesterday's Super Bowl.  But, they are in trouble with next year's salary cap and will have to restructure contracts (tough to do) or do some house cleaning to stay under the cap.  This is one reason why there have been so few consistent winners in the NFL.  In contrast, the Patriots are in decent shape with respect to the salary cap. 

So, while the Patriots have their own free agent decisions to make, they have a lot more flexibility.  For a team that has been on a pretty good six year run, their future for the next few years looks just as bright.  And that is what is truly unique in today's NFL.


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January 29, 2007

Celtics - Is there a plan?

I love basketball and grew up during a couple of different Celtics eras.  Cowens and Havlicek and White and Bird and McHale, and Parish and DJ defined both how to play basketball as a team and how to win.  A real sports golden age.

Basketball has changed.  There are too many young, inexperienced players and team play has declined.  However, the best teams (Phoenix, Detroit, San Antonio, and Dallas, for example) play pretty good team ball.  These days, the Celtics are really struggling.

And yet, I continue to go to the games.  I like the Celtics young players, and I think that Paul Pierce has become a real leader.  In fact, I think that Pierce is underappreciated on a nationwide basis because the Celtics fail to make the playoffs.  This year, the Celtics have been decimated by injuries, so I am not too worried about their current losing streak.  In fact, I think that they should be cautious with their injured players as this season is pretty much a lost cause.  Get 'em healthy for next year.

But, when Pierce comes back from his foot injury, how much better will they be?  What about next year, when Tony Allen, who had really shown some improvement this year, returns from his knee injury?  Will their other young players mature into a strong enough team?  Or, do they have a lot of good players, but not enough great players?

Given how young they are, I think that patience is in order, at least through next year.  By the end of next season, Danny Ainge will have to make some hard decisions on which of these players will really be part of a winning Celtics team and which ones can be traded to try to improve the team.  I hope that they have the patience and choose their keepers wisely.  If they don't, we'll be back at the beginning of the rebuilding cycle, and my own patience will be wearing thin.


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January 22, 2007

Pats Post Facto

OK, I am glad I don't try to make a living making football picks.  I was 0 for 2 yesterday.  My Patriots had a disappointing second half.  They couldn't hold off the Colts and were outplayed when it counted.  However, I didn't call this entry a post mortem as I don't think that the Pats run is over.  They aren't dead, but it's impossible to expect them to win it all every year.

In the Belichick/Brady era, the Pats have made it to, and won, the Super Bowl three times.  No other team has even made it to the Super Bowl more than once during this time.  The other two teams that have been the most consistent in this era have been the Eagles and the Colts.  Now they have one Super Bowl appearance each (and just about annual playoff appearances).  Although I was disappointed that the Pats couldn't hold the lead, this morning I am reflecting on how great the Pats have been over the past six years.

The salary cap era in football is a great equalizer.  Hence the turnover in Super Bowl participants.  For the Patriots to be in the playoffs and a serious contender for the Super Bowl every year makes them an elite team.  For them to have won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years ranks them among the great teams in NFL history.  I think that the credit for them being a 'dynasty' (if there is such a thing in sports these days) has to go to Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli who have constantly stocked the team with new and young players, plugging gaps left by free agency.

The Pats have two first round picks this year (Seattle's and their own).  Both are late in the first round, and the Pats should be able to get some good players to keep the train rolling.  I'd like to see them re-sign Asante Samuel and Tully Banta-Cain, but who knows.  Regardless, they have some needs at wide receiver, at linebacker, and in the secondary.  I wouldn't mind another running back as Corey Dillon is really wearing down.  But, the Patriots have to be a leading contender to make it to the Super Bowl next season pretty much regardless of what they do on these matters.

My hats off to the Colts this year.  They deserved to win yesterday and are a classy team.  Note that the game yesterday wasn't marred by over-celebration and the post-game comments were very complimentary on both sides.  These are two teams that really respect each other and play the game the right way.

As far as the future of the Patriots:  In Bill we trust!


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January 18, 2007

Over-celebration

There's been a lot of flack this week about the Patriots 'disrespecting' the Chargers in their post-game celebration (more in the video here).  I think that the Pats were overly exuberent, but this doesn't come out of thin air.  The taunting and celebration in football has escalated over the years.

I remember Billy "White Shoes" Johnson from the Houston Oilers in the 1970s.  He was one of the first to do the touchdown dance in football.  In recent years, this has escalated with the Joe Horn cell phone incident and the many antics of Terrell Owens.  TO's "The Bird" dance was mocked by the Patriots at the end of Super Bowl XXXIX, so the Pats have a history of reacting to this type of thing.

In the Chargers game last weekend, there was a lot of build-up.  Thanks to the ProJo PatsBlog, I found this video of Shawne Merriman leading a crowd in chanting "Brady Sucks" at a pre-game rally in San Diego.  Also, Merriman vowed that he was going to "punch Brady in the mouth" during the game.  Shawne is known for his Lights Out dance, which the Patriots mocked in the post-game.  Of course, if Merriman didn't run off at the mouth and do this dance after every sack (or even QB knock-down), there would be nothing to mock.  Once this kind of activity gets started, the actors can't complain about the reactors.  In the end, the Patriots neutralized Merriman (2 tackles, 1 sack).  He didn't do much in the second half when the Patriots passed on almost every down.

I'd prefer it if all the players toned down the celebration in the style of Barry Sanders.  He was known for just handing the ball to the official after a touchdown.  No spike, no dance.  I remember hearing Barry quoted as saying something like "act like you've been there and plan on being there again."  Ideally, the Pats should have done this on Sunday, but who can blame someone for reacting after such a hard fought victory?  The Patriots reaction came when the game was over, not during the game (such antics and over-aggressiveness cost the Chargers dearly).

I think that NFL fans, in general, like the celebration as it adds to the excitement.  It also seems to create a rivalry, as I expect that the Chargers will be looking for payback the next time they play the Patriots.

Note that these antics haven't taken place in Patriots-Colts games as far as I can remember.  Neither team starts it, and therefore neither team reacts.  Both teams have a lot of respect for the other.  Even though the series has tilted to the Patriots overall, the Colts have won the last two meetings.  I look forward to another great game on Sunday.


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January 14, 2007

As good as a monkey...

I made my picks, and I got half of them right.  That's as good as a monkey would do flipping a coin.  If you have followed football this year and looked at the 'experts' making their picks, most of them have gotten less than 50% of them right.  That's the beauty of the NFL.  You really can't predict what will happen reliably.

I can't believe that the Pats came back to win against San Diego.  I thought that the Pats did not play their best game, but they made the plays when they had to.  When Brady threw that last interception, I thought the game was over.  When Troy Brown forced the fumble and the Pats recovered, I knew that they would win.  Somehow, someway.  Tom Brady didn't play his best, but he made the plays when he had to.  Wow.  I can't wait until next weekend to watch them against the Colts.  If they win, I am on to Miami.

Since I was half wrong, I'll revise my picks.  I'll take the Patriots over the Colts and the Saints over the Bears (the Saints looked great).  And, of course, the Pats will beat the Saints in Miami.

Go Pats!


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January 12, 2007

Football's best weekend

This weekend is the best weekend of the football season.  The top 8 teams in the league are playing each other in the Divisional round of the playoffs.  All the games are at least very good, and a couple are great match-ups.

Football is my favorite sport to follow because each game matters so much.  The season is short, and a few false steps can ruin a team's chances.  Also, the salary cap structure and rotating schedule maintains parity.  Every year, there are teams that improve greatly (like the Saints) and teams that fall from grace (like the Steelers).  However, each team has a reasonable chance to improve greatly next year, so hope springs eternal.

Colts-Ravens - As much as I would like to see a Pats-Colts AFC Championship Game (just to have the Pats stymie Peyton Manning one more time), I can't see the Colts beating the Ravens on the road.  The Ravens have a great defense and a strong enough offense.  The Colts defense looked great against the Chiefs, but I think that was more due to the Chiefs being playoff pretenders.

Eagles-Saints - I think that this will be a great game.  Both teams have strong offenses, and Jeff Garcia has the Eagles playing well.  They played a close game in October, but that was pre-Garcia.  We'll see how the Saints fare in their first second round playoff game ever.  I like the Eagles, but it should be very close.

Seahawks-Bears - The worst of the 4 games this weekend.  I'm taking the Bears, but I think that they are overrated, particularly with Rex Grossman as quarterback.  I'm still mad at Deion Branch for spurning a reasonable offer from the Patriots (in the end) and forcing the trade to Seattle.

Patriots-Chargers - The best game of the weekend (OK, I am a biased Pats fan).  The Chargers have been the most consistent team in the league this year and have no real weakness.  But, the Patriots have experience, have been playing well, and should confuse Phillip Rivers and force him to make a couple of mistakes.  If the Patriots can avoid making turnovers and show some sure tackling, they'll win.  But, it will be a close game.

If I'm right, I'll take the Eagles over the Bears and the Patriots over the Ravens.  Of course, the Patriots will then beat the Eagles in a re-match of SuperBowl XXXiX (and I'll be there to cheer them on again, too!).


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November 27, 2006

The Pats Love Turkey

Once again, after Thanksgiving, the Patriots start to show their stuff.  I was at the game against the Bears yesterday, and the Patriots found a way to win.  Their defense stepped up with big plays even when the offense kept giving the ball back to Chicago.  Most of the Pats turnovers seemed to be more of a result of hard hits by the Bears rather than careless play by the Pats.  Some of the referee's calls seemed pretty questionable, but that is the risk with tight coverage down the field.  On the flip side, the Pats were open quite a bit against a good Bears defense, and Brady hit the open receivers for the most part.

This was the first time all year that I thought that the Pats were going to win the game no matter what happened.  That's how things felt during the Super Bowl years, too.  Let's hope they can keep it going.  The rest of the schedule is relatively easy, but they can't let up.  They need to win them all and hope for some help from the Ravens and Chargers if they are going to get a first round bye.


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