Warriors Not Skating on Reputation

Merrimack Hockey Squad Hoping Hard Work Will Pay Off At Goal Line

photo courtesy of Alexis Altman

We work hard. That simple, three-word reminder means everything to the Merrimack Warrior hockey team this season, and it was evident during Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over #5 Union on the road.

“You will not make it two minutes in our locker room without hearing or seeing those three words,” says starting goaltender Sam Marotta. “Some may think it is simple but, with our talent, if we work hard every night, our team will have a very good chance of winning every game.”

For an underdog unranked nationally in the preseason and picked to finish 8th in Hockey East, hard work can’t be overlooked. But are these Warriors really underdogs?

“If people want to classify us as underdogs, that’s fine by me. But I prefer not to concern myself with how others think – I’m more concerned with what we think of ourselves,” said junior captain and defenseman Jordan Heywood, who finished with an assist on the night.  “We won Saturday’s game because we were in better shape…we worked hard last spring, summer and this fall to get ready for the season and we knew few teams have actually trained as hard as we did.”

That hard work in the offseason paid off because, as Heywood notes, “usually the team who scores more goals in the third period is the better conditioned team.”

Sophomore Josh Myers must have worked extra hard then, scoring two quick goals early in the third period that would give Merrimack a lead they would hold onto for the rest of the night. Simply stated by Marotta, “Our team did not make Union’s night an easy one.”

Despite a relatively easy night for the Warriors, however, Heywood isn’t ready to settle just yet.

“It’s the first game of the year, so we can pretty much improve on everything. You can’t expect to be playing playoff hockey in October – but the sooner you get to that level, the better.”

So what about the rest of the season? What should we expect from these unnoticed Warriors? Well, if Saturday is any indication, we’re in for a fun ride. Even in a blowout victory though, Heywood stays focused.

“We’re happy with the win, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Even so, adds Marotta, “everyone in our locker room believes we can skate with anyone in the country.”

Keep working hard, boys.

~

Merrimack travels to Alaska this weekend to compete in the Alaska Gold Rush. The Warriors will play both Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage before returning home for their first home games of the season on October 26th and 27th.

*Note: this article also appears in the October 12th edition of The Beacon and can be found here.

Huskies Send Warriors Whimpering

Presenting your 2012-2013 Merrimack College Warriors © Blind Obedience

“Every night is a grind.”

Jim Madigan, Northeastern University’s head hockey coach, couldn’t have summed up Wednesday night’s Hockey East opener better.

Merrimack College head coach Mark Dennehy’s opinions didn’t differ, stating simply “you have to play a full 60 minutes to win…we didn’t deserve to win this game.”

Merrimack got off to a tough start Wednesday night as goaltender Rasmus Tirronen,  getting his first collegiate ice time during his first collegiate start,  gave up 3 opening period goals, the first coming just :53 seconds into the game.

A rowdy, rousing NU student section was endlessly heckling Tirronen as soon as he took the ice, something he’ll have to get used to in the Hockey East.

Despite immediately facing an uphill challenge, Dennehy was relatively pleased with Tirronen’s performance.

“I thought he played fine,” said Dennehy. “He was not our problem tonight.”

To be fair, Dennehy had a point. After the first three goals, Tirronen settled and made several spectacular saves to stymie Northeastern’s offense. Merrimack just looked slower, as the Huskies skated figure eights around them throughout the first period. In the defensive zone, Merrimack was hitting hard when they could slow the game down, but all three goals came off a Merrimack turnover in transition.

Seeing this, Dennehy called a timeout and laid out the game plan very simply for his team, now trailing 3-0. The Huskies, who outshot Merrimack 16-6 in the first period, were seemingly unafraid to let loose on Tirronen.

“I said ‘well, look what they’ve done in just 8 and a half minutes…we’ve got 51 and a half left.’”

After the timeout, the Warrior forecheck suddenly reappeared, but it was “too little, too late.”

What Merrimack needed was their big, bruising, six-foot, five-inch defenseman, Kyle Bigos. Bigos, who left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury, said about his injury before Wednesday’s game simply “I don’t know. Lower body injury.”

Dennehy didn’t clarify the problem in his post game press conference, copying Bigos’ sentiment, saying “Let me see if I can do my best Bill Belicheck: lower body injury.”

In Bigos’ stay, freshman Sean Robertson suited up, making his collegiate debut.

In fact, Merrimack had 4 freshmen active tonight, including the debut of forward Ben Bahe and center Brian Christie, as well as a second appearance for wing Justin Hussar.

Merrimack came out much stronger in the second and took advantage of a chippy period featuring 10 penalties. Asked about the chippiness of the game, Dennehy was unsurprised, stating “that’s just Northeastern and Merrimack…gritty hockey at both ends.”

Sophomore Quinn Gould put Merrimack on the board just 4:20 into the second with a transition 4 on 4 goal on assists from John Heffernan and Justin Hussar. In the minutes before, the Warriors were controlling possession during a 3 on 3 and a brief 4 on 3 Power Play. After ripping several hard shots, Gould finally scored on a one timer coming off a cross-ice pass.

A questionable interference call to Justin Mansfield midway through the second led to an NU power play, eventually killed by the Warriors. Just seconds after Mansfield got released from the box, he ripped a one timer from Josh Myers that rebounded, which he followed, and eventually squeezed past goalie Chris Rawlings for Merrimack’s second goal of the night.

“We clawed ourselves back in,” said Dennehy, but the Huskies had already clawed away at the Warriors too much.

In the end, a back and forth final period ended with just one empty net goal scored, and Northeastern pinched out a 4-2 win.

Something to note: both Merrimack goals came off of penalties from Northeastern freshman Cam Darcy, who was in the penalty box to watch both. Madigan highlighted this in his post game press conference, reminding everyone “you don’t win in this league without senior leadership.”

Mark Dennehy knows this all too well, as this year’s squad features only four seniors, three of whom were inactive tonight.

“We kind of shocked them,” said Huskies Captain, senior Vinny Saponari.

Shocked was an understatement. Said Dennehy about tonight’s game, “I felt like the guy on the top of the Titanic screaming ‘iceberg!’”

Well coach, the good news is that once you’ve sunk and reached rock bottom, the only place to go is up.

At least we hope.

Dear Pink Hats, 69 Wins Is Perfect

“There’s a difference between being a really talented group and being a winning group”     -Cody Ross, Red Sox OF

“Attention Red Sox fans, you can breathe now”

No one wanted to win this way. No matter how hard we tried to justify it, how many jerseys (or bricks) we sold, and how cool it was to go to Fenway on any given night and get on ESPN because these Red Sox could have been the best team ever, something just wasn’t right. I used to dream of seeing Adrian Gonzalez hit at Fenway Park, and boldly predicted he would easily hit 60 (yes, six-zero) home runs in his first season with the team. I envisioned the Carl Crawford/Jacoby Ellsbury tandem to be one for the record books. Sure, I hated the John Lackey signing. Yes, we were writing more checks than ever before and, no, there didn’t seem to be enough room for all the zeros. But Theo Epstein was the Messiah. Certainly, he could no wrong…right?

And then it hit me.

“You’re just as bad as us,” one close, Yankee-fan friend told me. Frankly, I couldn’t disagree.

~

I can’t throw a baseball properly. No matter how hard I try, the mechanics of simply throwing it over-the-shoulder don’t quite work for me, and I end up icing my entire arm for three times as long as I was on the field. That’s because growing up, although I didn’t fully appreciate baseball until about eleven years old, I worshiped Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar epitomized everything I was taught growing up: be passionate about what you do and do it to the best of your ability, day-in and day-out. Typically, I didn’t get to watch Nomar play because the Red Sox came on past my bed time.

“If you looked up ‘hard work’ in the dictionary, Nomar would be standing there asking what took you so long.”

Heck, if I got to watch Rugrats at 7pm, it was a hell of a day. Regardless of how many hours I didn’t spend glued to the TV, I knew everything about my favorite player. Anthony “Nomar” Garciaparra, whose name came from his father’s name, Ramon, spelled backwards, was born on July 23rd. He’d been the shortstop since 1996, was the 1997 American League Rookie of the Year, and his signature, off-balance, side-armed throw (the reason I can’t throw a baseball today) almost never missed its target. Most importantly though was how he played the game. Nomar had a routine for everything he did – how to take the field, how to get ready for an at-bat, and how to properly field a ground ball. If there was a ball hit within a mile radius of his position, you bet he’d get there and make the play. More often than not you could find Nomar sacrificing his body to get an out or kicking in a little more hustle to cleverly snag an extra base. Despite all the nuances that made him unique, one thing stood out the most: he loved the game. If you looked up ‘hard work’ in the dictionary, Nomar’s picture would be standing there asking what took you so long. He didn’t care about money or fame, he simply respected the game he played and wanted to give it everything he had every time he stepped onto the field.

That kind of player – the gritty, hard-nosed dirt dog who would give anything for his team to win and for his fans to smile – was what baseball players were to me. They loved the game, saw everything it had given them and so many others, and wished only to repay the game in some way for all it had done for them and so many before. Those players – the ones to whom it mattered and who had fun playing – were who the Red Sox were supposed to be. It’s why in 2003, enduring my first stomach-punch loss, I cried with Tim Wakefield after that eleventh inning bomb knocked my Red Sox out of the playoffs. It’s why in 2004, despite lacking Nomar on the final roster, the Red Sox were World Champions for the first time in 86 years. The self-proclaimed “idiots” had a fiery passion for the game of baseball and, like Nomar in years prior, gave everything so their team could win and their fans could smile. They just wanted to say “thanks” and have some fun along the way, so they did. That was what made a baseball team. So while I didn’t endure 86 years of hardship, after having my heart ripped out and falling in love with the game and an incredible, historic team, I knew what it meant to be a Red Sox fan.

Or so I thought.

~

The Red Sox have never been bad as long as I can remember them. Down on their luck? Usually. Loveable losers? Almost certainly. Cursed? No doubt in my mind. But bad? No. They were never bad. In fact, most would argue they were anything but that. For months after they won, all you heard about was new signs, babies named “Curt” and “Papi”, and something about finally dying in peace. For the first time in 86 years, Boston took a collective sigh of relief and all was right in the world.

The Red Sox came back strong in 2005, making the playoffs but swiftly losing in the first round to the eventual American League Pennant-winning Chicago White Sox. This time though, no one groaned. It was disappointing, sure, but they’d be back. After all, they had just won the year before. The next year the Red Sox struggled late once again and missed the playoffs for the first time in several years. Then in 2007, they did it all over again, winning the World Series for the second time in four years. Then it happened.

“This is what happens with defending champs: They kill themselves to win…celebrate all summer, let down a little, regroup, prove they’re great again, and then, it’s really up to the whims of the season itself. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t.” – Bill Simmons

Priorities: set straight since 2004

Suddenly we expected the Red Sox to win. Now it was no longer a grand prize so desperately dreamed of and longed for, but a marketable brand that we tried to buy and sell. Now being a Red Sox fan wasn’t about agony or desperation or dreams, it was about being a card-carrying member of the Nation and buying your commemorative brick. Now all that mattered was the number in the “W” column and, ironically enough, now we couldn’t seem to get that number to go up. Now the “players” didn’t come to the park to “play” anything, but instead to complain, whine, fake injuries and make excuses to sit around and collect a pay check. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure my boss would fire me if that was what I did at work. The 2012 Red Sox put the history of baseball to shame, the one thing no player should ever do. The lazy, lethargic and largely apathetic clubhouse could rarely muster a victory here, there or anywhere. When Major League Baseball was first founded, the men on the teams all had real jobs – businessmen, butchers, firefighters, fathers, etc. that kept them busy most of the time. Baseball was simply their passion, not their day job. They played every night because they loved the game and wanted to entertain the people around them.

I love baseball. It’s my own personal recluse (right next to basketball and the Celtics) from the bustling world I live in. These guys absolutely make a difference in my daily life, but they aren’t doctors. It’s one thing to get paid fifty times as much money as the “normal” guys at the top of the food chain, but it gets ridiculous when you won’t even try. Sports give us something to put our hope into and, to be perfectly honest, in the words of Ben Wrightman, “I like being part of something bigger than me. It’s good for your soul to invest in something you can’t control.” In a world that glorifies athletes as the people who give us those little bits of hope and bring us something bigger to invest ourselves in, the very least you can give is your best. In 2012, the Red Sox never came close.

That’s why we ended up with losers like Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez on our team – guys who have all the talent in the world, let you think they’ll give you everything they’ve got forever and then wait until you give them everything you’ve got forever and rip the seat out from under you. It’s why Josh Beckett made nearly $16 million this year being a terrible pitcher on an even worse team, eventually got traded to a decent team, and became a bad pitcher on a serious playoff contender that crashed and burned as soon as he got there. The Red Sox were a talented group, but they certainly weren’t a winning one.

Charles P. Pierce sums it up rather perfectly:

The franchise needed a year like this. It needed a year like this not just because it was forced to clear out the lumpy deadwood in the clubhouse, though it certainly needed that. It needed a year like this not just because it was a humbling experience that let the air out of the inflated hubris that had been keeping the franchise’s collective ego aloft since the wonderful autumn of 2004, though the franchise certainly needed one of those, too. The franchise needed a year like this because people like me are getting older and we missed the days when being a Red Sox fan wasn’t so much work…Those were good days, and isn’t that what the baseball people tell us the game is all about?

In their end of the season press conference in which they let manager Bobby Valentine go, Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino said of the 2012 season “it begs for changes, some of which have already transpired.  More will come.” Chairman Tom Werner then added “We’ll be back.”

While I appreciate their comments, I think Larry and Tom have got it all misunderstood. The last stop on the Red Sox bandwagon tour finally arrived the day the “Sell Out Streak” ended. All the fogies are gone, and the men of Fenway Park can once again rejoice in knowing the women who will be heading to the Fens know they look much sexier wearing their Boston Blue and Red than they do in obnoxious pink. The tourists have packed up their bags, satisfied for the next 100 years. 69 wins feels oddly familiar, and losing suddenly feels great. The culture surrounding this team has changed. The ‘good old days’ are here and Boston can once again take a collective sigh of relief. The Red Sox are back.

So let’s give Nomar a call and a uniform, tell him to lace up the glove and cleats, and invite him to come on out for one last magical victory tour, showing the new guys how it’s done.

Hey, most Red Sox fans had 86 years to dream. If they could do it, so can I.

The Team That Wasn’t

We all waited for the boys to hike up their skirts and play ball, but it never happened

Sitting here on October 1st with 3 games left in their abysmal 2012 campaign, the Red Sox don’t have much to cheer for. Looking on the calendar, we have just 27 more innings to play against the hated rival New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven’t had a winning record in 28 years, have more wins than we do. The worst Red Sox team of my lifetime previously finished 73-89 in 1992, but this team has them beat, clinching the worst record of my life with another defeat at the hands of the Orioles yesterday afternoon. Even if the Sox somehow sweep the stumbling Yanks, they’ll still only finish with a 72-90 record, potentially bringing up the rear in the American League East. The past few years have been easy to brush off: In 2009, injuries to Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek and Daisuke Matsuzaka, lack of pitching depth, a failed John Smoltz experience and a Jonathan Papelbon meltdown led to a first round playoff exit; In 2010, there wasn’t a single starter who didn’t land on the disabled list, and the Red Sox had almost 15 members of their Opening Day roster head to the DL over the course of the season, leading to the team just missing the playoffs; In 2011, well, they just choked and, frankly, it happens to the best of ’em. Just ask the 2004 Yankees.

However, after a season filled with almost no hope and almost $200 million dollars on payroll, it’s time to face reality. Not only are the Red Sox not in ‘Kansas’ (so to speak) anymore, they aren’t in the playoffs either. In fact, they aren’t anywhere close.

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain

In the wake of the 2011 collapse that saw the Red Sox lose a 9 1/2 game lead in September and miss the playoffs, Terry Francona, the clubhouse favorite, fearless leader and arguably greatest manager  in the history of the Boston Red Sox, did what he did best: protect his players. Amid allegations that the team was a bunch of lazy slackers, including eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse before, during and after games, Francona stuck to his guns and shouldered the blame. Instead of letting his players take the fall, which he very well could have and they very much deserved, he blamed himself:

“It was my responsibility to not let what happened happen. So regardless of how ownership feels or regardless of how [general manager] Theo (Epstein) feels or how the fans feel, I had a responsibility to get something done and it didn’t get done.”

The leadership, management and ingenuity that had led the Red Sox to two World Series Championships was suddenly in

Red Sox fans have faith in Ben Cherington restoring the magic that once was, but many wonder if he’s even the man in control

shambles, as just a few weeks later Executive Vice President and General Manager Theo Epstein left the team as well. In an offseason full of turmoil and criticism for a lack of clubhouse chemistry, largely due to what Epstein hinted at as “business signings” (as opposed to baseball signings), the Red Sox went out and, after a long and grueling process, signed Bobby Valentine as their new manager, someone who fell right into the category of the popular, ratings-inducing clowns the team already had too many of. The one bright note was the promotion of Ben Cherington, groomed by Epstein himself, as the team’s new General Manager. However, numerous reports throughout the offseason and into this season have questioned whether Cherington or Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino are calling the shots. Regardless of whose team this is, it hasn’t worked in the last calendar year on or off the field, leaving Red Sox fans wondering what life would be like if they only had a brain.
Fortunately towards the end of the season, while Larry Lucchino and the gang were wiling away the hours conferring with the flowers, Ben Cherington seemingly unraveled some of the riddles plaguing the Red Sox. In late August, the Red Sox pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade that sent some of Boston’s biggest blunders and clubhouse clowns away to La La Land with the Dodgers. While it was disheartening to see Adrian Gonzalez, the power-hitting lefty whose swing was tailor made for Fenway Park and defensive skills solidified him as the club’s main building block and first baseman for years to come, be traded, it had to happen. The happy-go-lucky Gonzalez from his introductory press conference was long gone and had been replaced by a slimy, snitching slacker. No longer could he be the face of the franchise for future generations to love. Tony Massarotti puts it into perspective quite nicely:

“The Red Sox won two World Series with Manny Ramirez. The New York Yankees won titles with Wade Boggs and even Alex Rodriguez.You can win with vain, selfish players in baseball; you just can’t win if they are your leaders. And so, could the Red Sox ultimately have won here with Gonzalez batting third? Some of us would like to think so. But the price of freedom is always high, and the Red Sox were in no position to be particular about escape routes.”

Ultimately though, it comes down not to what the Red Sox had and misused, but rather what they altogether lacked: heart. The team could never build off the small bits of momentum they occasionally found and, all due respect to Dustin Pedroia and Pedro Ciriaco, never really had a spark plug. Remember, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. For every big hit, there was an equal and opposite big out; for every 1-2-3 inning, there was a reliever who would give up 5 runs. It’s been the story of the season, and a sad one at that. Forget the wins –  it would warrant a parade if these Red Sox simply tried. Even Manny Ramirez, despite all of his defensive deficiencies, would always dive for close balls. The atmosphere in Boston has changed this season. Times are tough for Red Sox fans. Yes, Pittsburgh, I hear you. 28 years is a long time but, hey, your team tries. Sure, we’ve won in recent years and are always spoiled with the Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle wrapped with a big bow under the tree. But let’s be honest: this team makes us want to shoot our own eyes out. It’d be nice one time for this batch of Red Sox “just to register emotion, jealousy, devotion and really feel the part.” And it might be possible, too, if they only had some heart.

But it’s not too late. They have one last curtain call this week in the Big Apple. Sure, the Yanks have clinched a playoff berth, but they haven’t won the division. Not yet. In a year that was supposed to be great and honor the rich history of Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox, everything has gone wrong. The Red Sox lost the face, heart and soul of the franchise when Johnny Pesky passed away in August. They lost the voice of the Red Sox when PA Announcer Carl Beane tragically died in a car crash in May. These things were taken away from them, but no one can take away their pride except themselves.

So, 2012 Red Sox, you have a choice.You can be the lazy, never-say-win team you’ve been since last September and roll over, die and roll out the red carpet for the Yanks. Or, you can be the never-say-die, hard-nosed dirt dogs I’ve grown up with, who went out there and kicked the crap out of the Damned Yankees for three straight games, pushing them into the wild card and giving Red Sox fans everywhere something to remember and hope for over these next long, cold, four and a half months.

The choice is yours. I’ll see you tonight.

The State of the Red Sox

A memoir to what could have been and how the 2012 Red Sox are the crack-baby everyone thought was going to be okay

“I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend, You could cut ties with all the lies,That you’ve been living in, And if you do not want to see me again, I would understand” – Third Eye Blind knew the 2012 Red Sox way before we did

I’m a Resident Advisor at a small school north of Boston. It’s my job to know everyone in my own little wedge of our community. However, in about a month’s time, you can know just about everyone on campus and what they did last weekend. It’s an incredible community that I personally love and rely on, that holds every member accountable for their actions, that loves every member unequivocally, and, every so often, that gets a bit boring.

How could it not? Living in the northeast, the hustle and bustle of everyday life even outside of the city is normal. You get used to seeing the same faces during your routine, but you also know you’ll see a million new ones on a daily basis. It’s just how it works. But here, it’s never new. In just a few short weeks’ time, even new first year students get the drill and have figured out the routine. You know who you’ll see, when and where you’ll see them, and how to avoid them if you want to. You know you can avoid them today, but not forever; Any “out” you find is simply temporary. Every so often, you need a shake up, a fresh brew of faces compared to the stale, getting-cold-cup-of-coffee you drink every day (And to my friends and colleagues at school – I’m not calling you stale or cold, it’s just my analogy, roll with me here) (And to everyone else, the fact that I just had to say that somewhat proves my point, does it not?), which is why I love September. Every year, a fresh start rolls through. A whole new batch of first year students marches onto campus wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, rarin’ to go. As an Orientation Leader and Co-Senior Resident Advisor of an area that houses approximately 400 emotionally supercharged first years, right now I’m drinking a pretty damn good cup of metaphorical coffee.

During move-in this year, I jumped around from room to room, talking to parents, welcoming students, assuring everyone that I would take care of them, we’d have a blast, and simply that everything was going to be fine. One of my new residents in particular stood out though. This new student is from Chicago and was wearing a Chicago White Sox jersey with Kevin Youkilis’ name and number on the back. Suddenly, in the midst of me telling everyone it was going to be okay, I thought to myself “maybe it’s not”.

Of course, I was no longer thinking about my residents, but instantly trapped in an endless spiral of Red Sox-related panic. I had masked my emotions, guarding them from would-be naysayers all season long. But suddenly my worst fears and suspicions came crashing down: Not only did the team I loved abidingly suck, they were going to suck for a long time because of the snakes running the organization, the incompetent arrogance in their (in)ability to run the franchise, and the growing apathy of the overpaid, trapped, miserable athletes in the clubhouse.

A few months ago, I came up with a fairly accurate analogy of my emotions towards the Red Sox that I’m fairly certain I’ve beaten and continued to beat long after everyone got the point: The Red Sox were like my children.

I found baseball in 2003 as an 11 year old and instantly fell in love. The Red Sox could do no wrong in my book. I hated the Yankees for reasons I didn’t nearly understand yet, but I hated them relentlessly nonetheless. I was the proud new parent of a bouncing baby boy and no one could wipe the smile off of my face. In 2004 when Keith Foulke tossed the ball to Doug Meintkiewicz for the final out in the clinching game of the World Series, it was probably the greatest moment of my entire life . It was like my baby’s first steps, or their first day of school, or their first A+, or whatever other cliche you’d like to insert here. As the years passed, I grew prouder and prouder of the team I was raising. They won again in 2007 and I thought to myself  “Hey, you’re doing this right. Good work”. Because, you know, being a fan means everything to your team’s success, right?

After their string of successes, they fell down. It was to be expected, and a great learning opportunity. Although some of them hurt (2008 ALCS Game 7, I’m talking to you), we pushed forward. At least that’s what I thought was going to happen. Then 2009 happened, kicked us in the face and other places where the sun doesn’t shine (thanks, Papelbon)  and put things into perspective. Things were changing and not going to be the same anymore. Suddenly my bouncing baby boy who brought home A plus pluses was a teenager. As a parent, I had to act. I started to get everyone around me excited and became more engrossed in the fact my kid was a teenager than who he was as a person. The Sox brass pushed the sellout streak on us, marketed the Red Sox on bricks, named a sports company after our beloved ball park, later supported one of Boston’s biggest enemies (LeBron James), became part owners of a racing company (Roush-Fenway Racing) and bought a soccer team (Liverpool) all under that same sports company’s rule, and somewhere along the lines became everything we as Red Sox fans once hated: the New York Yankees. We outspent our competitors to overpay big names that put casual butts in seats. Other teams sat back and chuckled and said “Good, let them have him” (see: Crawford, Carl and Lackey, John). I was pushing extracurricular activities on my kid that he didn’t even remotely enjoy or deem necessary, just to try to keep him from harm or trouble. He was getting bored, apathetic, and, worst of all, resentful. My son started missing classes and disrupting the ones he went to. The Red Sox were missing the playoffs in 2010 and sending letters from the owners saying “we know something is wrong, but it’s going to be okay”. Then September 2011 happened. The Ultimate Collapse. For the first time, and probably not the last, my son came home in a cop car. “He should face charges”, the officer said, “but we know you. You’ve raised him well. He’s a good kid. We’ll give him one more chance”. Had I raised him well though?

Being a fan of the Red Sox in 2012 is like being the proud parent of a kid with so much promise who suddenly, as a teenager, turned to drugs. Sure, all the kids do it. That’s how they try to mask it. But it’s really not any better. I feel like the parent who is disappointed in my child and doesn’t know what more to do. Then I realized something: The Red Sox were never my baby. They were Tito and Theo’s, are now Ben and Bobby’s, and still are Larry and John’s. It isn’t my fault, and never was. I just loved them so much I thought it was. I’m just a diehard fan who thought being a fan could change everything. An innocent bystander on the outside looking in.

In a way, they were destined for their delve into drugs. Their parents are doing the hard stuff and have passed it on to their kid. We’d overlooked the challenge, thought they’d be different, could change.

And they still can. But not yet.

Their parents tried to shake things up, thinking maybe sending away who they perceived to be a troublesome friend (Kevin Youkilis) would help. They tried for a change of scenery and to do something drastic to mix up their kid’s life (The Dodgers Trade). So far, no good. Now it’s time to send them away, let someone else more capable use a fresh start to mend the issues our child has and that pain our every waking moment as innocent fanatic bystanders. There’s still hope somewhere down the line, right?

We can only hope.

Some fresh faces are needed right about now and, fortunately, the Patriots, Celtics and (God-willing) Bruins are right around the corner.

To the Red Sox,

I love you. I have since the moment we met, and I always will. But right now, this routine is getting a bit boring. I need a hot, new cup of coffee and a crisp, new set of faces. Know my out is only temporary and I’ll be keeping a careful, loving, watchful eye while we’re apart. I’ll see you in February. Good luck.

Stupid Is As Stupid Doesn’t

What me, the Red Sox Front Office, and Emma Watson have in common.

The new logo for Red Sox Nation

I want to Believe in this team. I also want to date Emma Watson. Fortunately for my love life, Emma Watson seems more plausible right now. Unfortunately, both of these feats are realistically incredibly hard to accomplish. The Trade Deadline looms less than two hours away right now, and one thing is glaringly obvious: in a trade market more active than in recent years, the Red Sox have done nothing.

On paper, they’re unbeatable. This Red Sox team, before looking at records, statistics or anything else, should be at worst a contender, at best a run away favorite to win big now and for seasons to come. Instead, they stand a game over mediocrity with a 52-51 record and 59 games left. Teams have called asking, inquiring and pushing for trades for the majority of our roster. Thus far, we’ve remained sentimental and blinded by what looks good on paper.

On paper, I’m the best boyfriend any girl could ever dream of scooping up. I’m charming, sincere, handsome, funny, intelligent, love cuddling and will watch The Notebook without complaining. However, upon further examination, I lack the now-ever-important six pack (Thanks a lot, Channing), am subtly, emotionally scarred by the terrible relationships of my past, and would happily give up all material possessions and money I have to live as a poor person and somehow change the world. Perfect? Maybe. Practical? Debatable. Single? Yes, yes I am. Thus far, I haven’t even gotten a reply on Twitter from Ms. Watson, and as far as I know she doesn’t have a clue I exist.

Both the Red Sox Front Office and Emma Watson need a reality check: The Sox aren’t going anywhere but golfing in a few weeks because their lackluster chemistry and poisonous clubhouse atmosphere are hurting them. Emma Watson is missing out on the greatest guy she doesn’t know exists, and should really hire some better secretaries and boyfriend-scouts (side note: do you think that’s a real position? Could I actually get noticed? Does anyone have a connection? anyone? Hello?!) to allow me to save the day and fly into her life with my cape, smile and ‘Mr. Right’ headlines in Perez Hilton’s next article.

That’s why I’m proposing two radical ideas: I’m officially moving to England to pursue my quest of being noticed by Emma, and the Red Sox need to sell high on one or two of their superstars to restock the system with the stars of tomorrow who still love the game more than money and simply want to play their hearts out day-in and day-out in order to send a message and shake up the clubhouse vibe.

So to my life in Massachusetts and my favorite Red Sox players, I bid you farewell and leave you with this quote from All Time Red Sox Great Nomar Garciaparra upon hearing he was traded for the betterment of the team on this day eight short years ago:

“They can take the shirt off my back, but they can’t take away the memories”

It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

…actually, I should probably take that advice….

Okay, so, I’m not actually moving to England but, hey, I can dream.

And so can Red Sox fans.

Going H.A.M. or…

Breaking: All Red Sox Momentum Ends Cold Turkey

“I can’t say that I’m looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing…” – Josh Beckett with the understatement of the day after Friday night’s loss to the Blue Jays

After a momentum-changing walk-off home run Thursday night to cap off a 4-game series with the White Sox that saw Boston take the series 3-1, things came to a sudden halt very early on Friday night. Once again a Red Sox starter struggled in the first inning, as Josh Beckett quickly gave up two runs. However, with one out and Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus on third after a triple, Beckett and the Sox were out of luck as the Home Plate Umpire missed a call at the plate. Instead of having 2 outs with no runs on the board, the Sox were now down one with only one out. Beckett went on to give up 3 more runs over the next 1.2 innings pitched, which was more than enough for the  Blue Jays, who won the game 6-1. For all his struggles, Beckett as usual settled down after the early going, giving up only one unearned run in his remaining 4 innings.

The bigger story was Jays starter, southpaw Aaron Laffey who despite giving up 9 Boston hits, held the team scoreless over 7 strong innings at Fenway. It was the second time in the last month Laffey has baffled the Sox in the last month, tossing 6 scoreless innings against the club back on June 26th. The Red Sox went 0-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving 8 runners on base.

Winners of 5 of their first 7 games since the All Star Break, The Red Sox appeared to be going H.A.M. Instead, they might just be eating it.

Stay tuned tonight to the interesting match up on the mound between Aaron Cook, one of the Red Sox’s surprisingly most reliable starters to date, and Carlos Villanueva – a reliever-turned-starter for the Jays who has thrown 12 scoreless innings in his last two starts.

5 Reasons Team USA Is In Trouble

When Kiss Cam is the biggest attraction at a game featuring the greatest basketball players on Earth, you have a problem

Team USA Men’s Basketball took the court for their second exhibition game Monday night, fresh off their 54-point tune-up drubbing of the Dominican Republic Men’s National team that barely missed Olympic qualification. Just last week, Kobe Bryant, the unofficial co-captain of this squad, was once again thrust into the center of the sports world, this time claiming that the 2012 version of USA Basketball could defeat the original 1992 Dream Team. However, after Monday night’s near shocking upset, USA Basketball should keep any dreaming off the court. Here’s a breakdown of why Team USA Basketball may be in for some trouble.

1. They Have No Big Men

Of the 12 players who made the team, only four stand at 6’9″ or taller. One of those players (6’9″ Kevin Durant) can in no way be considered a “big” man (by NBA standards) outside of his height, has a lackluster post game (albeit he is a bonafide superstar), subs in off the bench as the sixth man for their one true center, Tyson Chandler, and is then forced to play either the 4 or 5 (power forward or center) against bigger, stronger competition; another (6’10” Anthony Davis, 19-year-old number 1 overall draft pick out of Kentucky) has never played a minute of professional basketball and sits at the end of Coach K’s bench. The only other big man remaining, 6’10” Kevin Love, is inexplicably buried on the bench (he played exactly 5:35) and in limited play has become solely a spot up shooter a la Carmelo Anthony (who missed 6 of the 7 bad shots he took, and two of three free throws, for the record), instead of a banger on the glass as he is known to be.
To be fair, this team is missing some of the key cogs in its front court with the losses of Dwight Howard (best Center in the league), Chris Bosh (one of the top Power Forwards in the league), and Blake Griffin (up and coming superstar Power Forward, phenomenal rebounder). That front court alone has warranted 15 All Star appearances, 4 All-Defensive teams, 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards, and a former Rookie of the Year. However, let’s remember what’s more important than those three: the big guys actually on the roster: Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis, Kevin Love and (apparently) Kevin Durant.

The fact of the matter is that our front court got banged, bumped, and bruised by the Brazilians, who boast a front court of serviceable NBA big men Nene Hilario (Wizards), Tiago Splitter (Spurs), and Anderson Varejao (Cavaliers). Their play in the paint limited the American squad to just two blocked shots, as well as out-rebounding their American counterparts (38-30) for good measure. Bryant commented on his team’s performance on the block after the game, noting “We have to do a better job with our rotations on the back side”, but knowing it isn’t enough, as playing a complete game for all 40 minutes of the FIBA competition is vital to victory at this level of competition.  At first thought, it’s easy to give the Americans a pass on their performance, because unlike the majority of other international teams, Brazil features a number of NBA-quality players. However, if this is how they play against sub-par NBA big men, what in the world is in store for this team when they inevitably play a rematch of the 2008 Gold Medal Game against Spain? Don’t forget the Spanish National Team features perennial All Stars Pau (Lakers) and Marc (Grizzlies) Gasol, as well as Oklahoma City’s Shot Blocking Machine, Serge Ibaka, who just came off of facing USA’s best player, LeBron James, in the NBA Finals, plays alongside USA Superstar Kevin Durant in OKC, and alone averaged more blocks per game (3.7) last season than the United States managed as a team (2) against Brazil. This front court needs to figure itself out sooner rather than later.

2. They Were Losing By Double Digits

When asked about their offensive struggles early in the game, James admitted “we worried about our offense early on, which messed with our defense” and inevitably led to the end of the first quarter arriving with the USA squad down by 10. President Obama, who was arguably more entertaining than the USA team itself for much of the game, was interviewed at half time and was sure to mention “I suspect that Michael and Sir Charles [Barkley] and others [on the 1992 Dream Team] would point out that they were probably never down at any point in any of their games” and although he finished that statement calling the 2012 team an “unbelievable talent”, the point was duly noted: The Americans were playing terribly and needed to step up their game. Durant also weighed in on the problem, pointing out some obvious problems: “we missed some easy lay ins, some easy 3s”. Exactly. These are the greatest players in the world, and they’re missing easy shots. Don’t get me wrong, it happens. But the point is that going 1-12 from 3pt range in a half and missing seven free throws in a game is simply unacceptable for The Best. Granted, had they even shot a still mediocre 4-12 from three, they leave the quarter with a small lead. Heck, they did outscore the Brazilians 20-5 (FIVE!!) in the next quarter, asserting their dominance. They have not only the potential, but also the ability to destroy their competition. But if they were down 10 to the Brazilians, who missed a number of easy shots themselves, they could just as easily find themselves down 20+ in the gold medal game to a much, much better Spain team, who also feature reliable point guard Jose Calderon (Raptors) and slightly above average NBA journeymen Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro. Don’t forget that the US team is also missing two of the best all around offensive and defensive players at their position in Derrick Rose (PG, Bulls) and Dwayne Wade (SG, Heat).

3. They reminded me of the 2011-2012 Boston Celtics…in a bad way

So much talent, so much experience, so much potential. Great big men who play small (Garnett [until the playoffs]; Chandler/Love), terrific point guards who can carry the team (Rondo; Paul), but sporadically turn up short (only 11 team assists for the game), bad turnovers leading to points in transition (10 total), and despite all the team potential and ability to integrate the inside game, relied too heavily on shooting (which was poor overall for team USA, shooting 40% from the field, 25% from 3). When their shooting failed, so did the team (despite pulling out a win).

4. They reminded me of the Miami Heat…from last year

Too much of this:

…and not enough this:

But seriously, is it that far off? They don’t run an intricate offense, instead relying on transition baskets and, when forced to play half-court, five-on-five street ball which relies on a one-on-one isolation style, hoping for a good back cut to catch the defense off guard. Defense is the same story: all one-on-one, no system, no traditional help. Instead, they rely on breaking up the passing lanes and trying to make transition buckets, evidenced by their impressive 19 steals against Brazil. However, If you slow the game down on offense, make USA play 24 seconds of defense against you, running around off screens, tiring them out, etc. then their transition game comes to a screeching halt and their one-on-one, “hero ball” style of offense flounders before your very eyes. Too much flash, not enough grind.

5. They played the game like an All Star Game…

Most players will tell you that when it comes to the All Star game, the first quarter/half is for fun and show, and the fourth is where you play to win, which is exactly how Team USA played Monday night. Somewhere the Spaniards are drooling…

No offense to Anthony Davis but, well, God Bless America. Please.

That, Folks, Is Called A Winning Streak

They didn't blow it. They didn't blow it? THEY DIDN'T BLOW IT!!!

Tonight was just the kind of old-fashioned open-up-a-can-of-whupass win the Hometown Heroes needed. With their 11-2 victory tonight, the Red Sox have put together back to back wins for just the second occasion this season, and at no better time nonetheless. Fresh off of their five game losing streak to end the first home stand of the year as well as the 100th Anniversary weekend at Fenway, the Sox needed to make a statement.

Following a catastrophic meltdown Saturday in which the bullpen blew a 9 run lead, the boys grinded out a tough one Monday on a night that saw Jon Lester struggling inside the strike zone and losing an early lead. Codename: Cody Kickass continued his strong case to be Cult Hero of the Year though, belting the game-tying two run homer in the 7th and then the go ahead solo jackson in the ninth. The game included the bullpen almost blowing it after an early triple in the 8th, followed by a collective sigh of relief when Daniel Bard entered the game and got the hold (write that down as an early nomination for Bobby V’s “Decision of the Year Award” at The Remy’s next November), followed by Ace Ventura-Aceves coming in and almost blowing the game, followed by a live camera shot of Bobby V almost blowing a vein in his head, followed by, shockingly, a Red Sox victory.

That hard fought come-from-behind-road-win was seemingly just what the Doctor ordered for this team though, as vintage Josh Beckett took the mound Tuesday night and pitched his third consecutive quality start, going 6 and striking out 5. Said Manager Bobby Valentine after the game of Beckett’s performance: “He wasn’t going to be denied the victory.” What we saw tonight – yelling at umpires, flaring emotion, a fiery monster who will not be denied – is exactly the Josh Beckett we’ve been missing. The Josh Beckett who eats nails for breakfast, steals candy from babies babies from carriages, and uses Youk’s jockstrap as an oxygen mask was back tonight. Commander Kickass was literally kicking ass, and, hide ya kids and wives, ’cause you’re damn right he was taking names. It was as if Josh Beckett was saying “Ya, we suck. Ya, I drink beer. Ya, I eat fried chicken. And you know what? I – WE – are still better than you, so f@!* off.” So everyone did. And then, just to back it up, Ortiz channeled Ortiz-sans-2006 and crushed a 2-run-jackson to God only knows where. Most importantly, though, was the decision made my every member of this team to show no mercy tonight, as every starter had a hit, RBI, or both.

This team is on a mission, and with the Twins, White Sox, A’s, Orioles, Royals, Indians and Mariners coming up on the schedule, things are about to get really fun.

Hail Seguin

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Hail The Forever-Famous Fricken Tylah

Seriously, did anyone have Game 6 in the “how-long-will-it-take-Tyler Seguin-to-start-kicking-ass-in-this-series” pool? Because I certainly didn’t. Regardless, “Fricken Tylah!”, as I like to call him, finally showed up and played a tremendous game last night with great shot selection that gained him the assist on the Bruins 3rd goal, and a tremendously simple Dangle, Snipe ‘n’ Score move to seal it in OT for the B’s. He moved the puck brilliantly and made great decisions all night, really providing some energy on the second line.

More importantly, 4 guys (Lucic, Peverly, Krejci and Seguin) in the top 2 lines, which have been next to non-existent throughout the series, had 2 points, none more important than David Krejci’s. Krejci, undoubtedly, is the quiet-yet-ever-important spark plug of this team, centering the first line. He was key to the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run last season, and was a big part of the 2010 collapse after his wrist injury knocked him out of the Philly series. David Krejci is the Grand F*!@ing Wizard who will take us to the Promised Land. It’s nice to see him doing wizardly things again.

This team, if it can take it’s young, superstar-potential heads out of its asses, can repeat. There, I said it. Lets get out there and Bust a Cap in Washington’s collective asses.

Oh, and Hail Fricken Tylah!