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.

The Dwightmare Begins

The Dwightmare is seemingly over now that Superman has landed in Lakerville, but this may be the worst best thing that has ever happened to basketball

And So It Begins

I love the game of basketball, more so than almost anything else in this world. If it were a religion, the court would be my own personal Mecca. It’s a place I feel at home, can forget about the world and work out my frustrations. It’s the first sport I ever played, my first love. The first season I played, I tripped over my own feet more times than I scored (which for those of you keeping score at home was 2 points the entire season). I remember that basket, the tears that I quickly tried to hide as seemingly everyone in the gym cheered for the poor, chubby kid who ran around like a chicken with his head cut off, and the opposing coach sticking his hand out for a high five. That summer I worked tirelessly on one specific shot – a dribbling left to right semi-hook shot that looked more like I was throwing a shot put than shooting a basketball – because it was the best way I could beat anyone. Late that following season, I hit that very shot to win a game in the playoffs. I practiced and practiced and practiced and when I was done, I practiced some more. I watched YouTube videos and every game or special I could get my hands on. I started growing and was fed the fact that all the doctors predicted I would be 6’4″. I never grew taller than 5’10”, where I stand today, but always felt like I was a monster on the court. I played the best game of my life in an 8th grade tournament when I and started with and played through a concussion and pneumonia, scoring 14 points and sinking two free throws (something I was particularly bad at back then) that iced the game. When I was fourteen, I boldly proclaimed that if I played Michael Jordan in his prime one-on-one, I would win. Even bolder? I  truly believed it.

I proceeded to get cut from my high school team and go to every possible Varsity game to support the team over the next four years. I went nuts with one of the craziest fan bases ever as a sophomore when we won the Massachusetts State Championship just months after one of the seniors on the team died in a tragic car accident. I was the Head Manager of the team the following season as a junior and relished in the opportunity to just help the team in any way I could. As a senior, I took charge and stood front row with my best friends, leading the nationally recognized crowd to become the Greatest High School Fan Section in America as once again we took home the State Title. I am first and foremost a lover of the game of basketball.

As a lover of the game, when I heard about Dwight Howard heading to the Lakers I practically started drooling. Another Super Team to challenge the likes of LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the Defending NBA Champion Miami Heat? A team already featuring the greatest player since Jordan in Kobe Bryant and second in league history with 16 NBA Championships? This couldn’t get much better. The Lakers made big moves earlier this offseason when they added 2-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, an up-tempo point guard the Lakers haven’t seen the likes of in over a decade, and wily veteran forward Antawn Jamison who provides a huge offensive and defensive punch off the bench. The Lakers, two years removed from going to 3 straight NBA Finals and winning the latter 2 of those, have looked old. Now, they pull off a trade in which they keep star power forward Pau Gasol, become much younger, can run with the  Miami Heat and defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder, can slow the game down in the half court with a phenomenal high post/low post duo of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard that neither Miami nor OKC can match, and have found the heir to the throne as King of Lakerland in Dwight Howard. As if that’s not enough, check out this stat, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info:

Watch out, NBA

To a fan of the game who just loves good competition, this can’t get any better. However, I’m not just a fan of the game. I’m a diehard Boston Celtics fan and, to put it simply, I’m pissed. As far as my eyes can see (and the further I look, the greener the tint gets) this could be the worst thing the league has ever seen.

The Problem

We’ll start with this texting exchange I had with a friend this morning in the aftermath of the Howard deal:

Her: “But seriously, F*** the Lakers”

Me: “Currently [hate/want to screw them over] more than the Yankees”

Her: “Agreed. But it’ll be okay, don’t worry”

Me: “If by ‘okay’ you mean Kevin Durant (my absolute favorite player) not winning a title for at least 3 more years, OKC probably semi-blowing up their team because of financial issue by then and Durant possibly NEVER winning a title, the Lakers pulling ANOTHER 3 peat, tying the Celtics for most NBA Championships EVER this year (17), passing us the year after, Kobe tying Michael [Jordan] with six rings and then passing him, Michael committing suicide at a young age after attempting another comeback in his 50s with the Bobcats and failing miserably (maybe a stretch, but still), then Kobe challenging Bill Russell for the most rings EVER when all is said and done, then yeah, everything will be okay and I have nothing to worry about.”

Her: “Oh my”

Houston, we have a problem. This isn’t just bad, this is Independence Day-esque bad, with no Will Smith in sight. As a Celtics fan, this is the epitome of all evils: The Lakers win, win again, and in the process of winning, trump you as the greatest franchise in NBA History. Think about that for a minute….This. CAN’T. HAPPEN!!! Dwight didn’t want to be there. He didn’t! And now, suddenly, he pushed for this trade to LA? Hold on…this smells fishy and oddly familiar to another recent event of my sports past:

In the winter following the 2003 Boston Red Sox’s devastating Grady-Left-Pedro-In-Too-Long Game 7 ALCS loss to the Yankees in which Aaron F@!$ing Boone hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh off poor Tim Wakefield, I found new levels of hate, the likes of which my almost-12-year-old self had never known. The Red Sox were in on the hunt for SS Alex Rodriguez when suddenly, Yankee 3B Aaron Boone, owner of 99% of all the hatred and heartbreak I had ever known, blew out his knee in a pickup basketball game, prompting the Yankees to go out and trade for Rodriguez, one of the best players in the game. The rich just got richer. Later that offseason, Larry Lucchino, Red Sox President and CEO, reiterated his feelings about the Yankees, once again calling them “The Evil Empire”.

What about this story reminds me of this whole D12 shebang? I hated Aaron Boone on two separate occasions: once for ruining the Red Sox World Series dreams, the next for getting hurt and luring the Yankees to go out and get A-Rod. Picture this 2012 Howard debacle as the Hollywood reboot, with the Lakers starring as the Yankees, Dwight Howard starring as Alex Rodriguez, and Dwight’s back starring as Aaron Boone. That’s right, I’m blaming his back. Howard’s back single-handedly elimanted the best chance of kicking the Miami Heat out of the playoffs before they faced the Celtics, scared me for 3 months leading up to the Olympics about how Team USA would respond without their starting center, and caused him to need surgery in which he was rehabbing at a facility in LA all summer which in turn (as Bill Simmons points out here), has most likely led to his realizing that being a superstar in Los Angeles playing for one of the most popular teams in the world alongside one of the most popular and best players in the world really couldn’t be all that bad. So the Lakers, realizing Howard would come to his senses, waited without panicking and slowly managed to go from a trade that would have forced them to absorb a bad contract (Hedo Turkoglu’s), trade their All Star Center (Andrew Bynun), trade their perennial All Star power foward (Pau Gasol) and trade multiple draft picks, to simply trading Bynum and one future, first-round, lottery-protected draft pick. I can just picture Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Owner Jerry Buss sitting in a lavish room on the phone with Rob Hennigan, new General Manager of the Orlando Magic, force choking him, and saying something malicious like “I have you now!” while they steal another All-Time NBA Great to be. The Lakers are the basketball equivalent of The Evil Empire, only much, much smarter. Making matters worse? Hennigan is from Worcester. A Massachusetts native. The guy is a CELTICS fan!  Dear God, I’m pissed.

The Solution

Sam Presti, GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is one of the smartest men in basketball. He drafts well, trades well, takes low risk-high reward moves and almost always seems to end up with a win-win situation. He is also the man who pulled the trigger on the trade that landed Kendrick Perkins in blue and orange, much to the horrific dismay of every Celtic fan worldwide. Sam Presti is not a dumb man, but in the wake of the Thunder’s NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat this past June, some people are questioning whether or not the Perkins trade was one of his best. Perkins has battled injuries the last few years, some believe his skills are declining and, this combined with his salary (owed $25M over the next 3 seasons), has many people in OKC’s circles crying “uncle” on Perk’s contract. Personally, I think Scott Brooks coached terribly the past two playoffs and didn’t utilize what he had in Perkins. To be fair, Kendrick doesn’t exactly fit into the run-and-gun, high-octane offense of the Thunder. But to be more fair, the Miami Heat are the best in the business at doing just that, have the greatest player on Earth, and simply beat the Thunder at their own game. Still, many think the money could be better spent elsewhere. Bleacher Report had this to say about the situation:

“Here’s the catch, though: Oklahoma City may be forced to amnesty Perkins this offseason.

Why?

Well, think about it. The Thunder have to make commitments to James Harden and Serge Ibaka for the future, and they have already signed Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to lucrative long-term deals.

It’s going to be extremely difficult for Oklahoma City to lock up one of Harden and Ibaka, and then when you throw Perkins’ contract into the mix? It just makes for a very messy situation for GM Sam Presti, and his hand may be forced here when it comes to Perkins.”

Sam Presti is not a dumb man, but if he thinks he can improve his team by using the Amnesty Clause on Perkins’ contract and spending that money elsewhere, he will. Suddenly, in a world where I never thought I’d see the Big Mean Green Machine back in a C’s uniform ever again, I have a vision. It’s Kendrick’s cell phone buzzing. He just received a text from his best friend, Celtic’s point guard Rajon Rondo. It’s a picture message, with the following words underneath:

“You’re gonna like the way you look…”

Then Kendrick’s phone rings. He answers and hears Kevin Garnett on the other line.

“I guarantee it”, says Garnett, and then hangs up.

And BAM! Just like that Perk comes frolicking through meadows and receives a police escort back to the Garden where his old teammates are waiting with open arms for the press conference re-introducing Perk as a Celtic. Yes, I’m telling you Kendrick Perkins is the key to solving every single aforementioned NBA crisis. Don’t believe me?

Let’s just put it this way: if Dwight Howard were Jesus, Perkins would be the anti-Christ. However, now that Howard is a Laker, I see him as more of a demon. Therefore, Kendrick Perkins qualifies as John Constantine, a demon hunter whose sole purpose on Earth is to send demons back to the nether regions. Kendrick Perkins is the Chosen One.

…wait. Did I really just compare Kendrick Perkins to Keanu Reeves?

(::Gets on knees, begins reciting Act of Contrition:: “Bless me Father for I have sinned…”)

Actually, yes I did, and it makes sense. The Matrix (starring Keanu Reeves) was awesome and Constantine (also starring Keanu Reeves) was an entertaining thriller (it got 3.5 out of 5 stars!), then all of a sudden Keanu disappeared and now no one likes him or thinks he is worth anything. Sound familiar? Keep in mind that at the time of Perkins’ trade from the Celtics, he was widely considered the second best center in the league (next in line only to Howard), despite his offensive deficiencies and coming off a torn ACL in his knee. He was also one of the defensive anchors of the Celtics’ record setting defenses. Still not buying it? Please refer to the following:

  • Games 6 and 7, 2010 NBA Finals. Perkins blows out knee with Celtics up 3-2, Lakers win Title.
  • February 2011, Celtics finally healthy are on their way to another championship,get Perkins back from injury. Perkins gets traded, Celtics lose in 2nd Round to Miami Heat.
  • Games 6 and 7, 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Celtics up 3-2. Big man Chris Bosh returns to Miami lineup, moving Garnett outside the paint allowing LeBron to have one of the single greatest playoff games ever in game 6, Celtics lose in 7.

By my count, that’s THREE banners that are not hanging from the rafters in Boston. Three banners we would have had with Kendrick Perkins in the lineup. If Kendrick Perkins comes back to Boston with this already retooled lineup, we’ll be seeing a Celtics-Lakers Finals for a few years to come. The Celtics will almost certainly win at least once more if they get Perk back. Besides, if the Lakers want to win and pass the Celtics in Championships, shouldn’t they have to go through us to do so? Now that would be entertaining basketball.

The irony in all of this? Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins in the first place because he firmly believed he could convince Dwight Howard to come to Boston. Now, he’s in Los Angeles.

God, I hate the Lakers.

Chick-Fil-Gay?

Whether or not Dan Cathy is an idiot, he has a Constitutional right to be one.

Breaking News: Cows Are Homophobic

*NOTE* This post does NOT reflect my own or this site’s views in any way. I’m not taking a side and simply making a point in order to make you, the educated reader, think. That is all. You’ve been warned 🙂

Karma: The ever-popular notion in our culture that the ‘universe is watching’ a la Big Brother and will reward or punish you based on your actions. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Outside of Hollywood, however, the Theory of Karma has bigger implications on life than whether or not the ex who cheated on you ends up with someone ugly or not. Karma, in fact, is a highly important and fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. Belief in this doctrine would cause you to look at life through a different lens than you otherwise normally would. For example, why are some people gifted intellectually from birth while others are born mentally incapacitated? Why are some born into rich families while others starve? According to Buddhist religion, such inequalities are not merely coincidence, but a product of Karma, the cause-and-effect moral law of the universe. In essence, we create our own Heaven, we create our own Hell and we are the architects of our own fate. To some, this may seem silly, absurd or downright stupid. To others, it is a fundamental aspect of what they believe and how they live their life. Neither is “right” and neither is “wrong”, it’s just personal preference and opinion.

In late July, Dan Cathy, current President of Chick-Fil-A, a restaurant widely known for their chicken sandwiches, clever advertising campaigns and Christian roots and values, made national headlines that have caused quite a stir when he stated on a radio show that:

“we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

After these comments, the national spotlight suddenly shifted into focus on Chick-Fil-A, spawning incredible outrage at what has been deemed bigotry and homophobia. However, maybe a closer look should be taken.

Dan Cathy is, after all, a Christian. Christianity’s beliefs and values are based on the premise of love and compassion. Upon reading his comments, you’ll find he hasn’t violated those basic foundations here. In truth, it actually appears Dan Cathy is concerned, as he is offering prayers for people he believes to be wrong and acting contrary to what his fundamental beliefs that affect his way of life preach. His prayers are his call for mercy from the God that he has chosen to believe in. Were he Buddhist, he would presumably offer a sacrifice to prevent the ill-will of what he perceives to be inevitable, looming Karma. To concede, as far as equality goes, Dan Cathy has a severely messed up thought process. He has said hateful things in the past that could put him in jail if someone pressed charges for a hate crime. However, if you’re going to get upset at something this guy said, this wasn’t the time to do it. All Dan Cathy did was indirectly say he personally did not support gay marriage and, essentially, was afraid of what said support of gay marriage would result in, solely based on his religion. He didn’t go out of his way to hold a press conference to make an announcement, he was asked a question, and answered it honestly. Last time I checked, not only was that legal, but his right to do so was backed up by two of the biggest foundations our country is built on: Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion.

Consider this: What if Dan Cathy were a Buddhist and he attacked a Veteran’s Hospital because they were aiding wounded soldiers who were injured while attacking the “enemy”? In Buddhism, the First Precept (think Ten Commandments in Christianity) is to undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings because all beings have a right to their lives. However, what if Dan Cathy’s statement had instead looked like this:

“we’re inviting the judgment of the universe on our nation when we shake our fist at it and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes who lives and dies.’ These men made an active choice to enlist in armed forces and led an attack to kill, and now we are supporting and aiding them? I pray that Karma not strike our generation, one that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine when someone can live and die”

Is that any better? Of course not. Is it right or wrong? Who’s to say? Is it a twisted way to look at a controversial issue, spun in the favor of how he wants to view it? Absolutely. But so are his comments about gay marriage. However, does Dan Cathy have a constitutional right to believe in and speak freely about whatever he wants? Undeniably, one hundred percent yes.

The only difference is that we live in a culture that fears Christianity and homosexuality, not Buddhism and war. But just because we fear, don’t understand, or disagree with something doesn’t give us the right to deny someone else their right to feel the opposite and express those feelings.

So do yourself a favor: Leave Dan Cathy alone to this thoughts and, if you like chicken, go grab a sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. If you do though, heed my warnings: your future spouse will not be ugly, you are not a bigot, and it certainly won’t make you homophobic. It simply means you’re hungry.

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.

BREAKING NEWS: Lucic Staying In Boston

Milan Lucic: Bruin for life?

On the verge of a potential lockout and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement whose terms and conditions and are still unknown, the Boston Bruins have made a move for their future. A trusted source told Blind Obedience today that 24-year-old first line winger Milan Lucic has agreed in principle to a new contract extension with the Boston Bruins. Originally believed to be a six-year extension, the source clarified that terms of the deal were still in negotiation, but the deal would be a “franchise contract”, which was explained as a deal that would “allow Milan to play for Boston until he retires”. Because the deal has not yet been completed, nothing official has been released by the team. Financial terms of the deal were not explicitly disclosed, however the deal will likely include a full no-trade clause. This would seemingly end recent speculation that Lucic may be traded, as he was rumored to be part of the potential asking price from the Anaheim Ducks for their star wing Bobby Ryan.

At the end of this upcoming season, several members of the Bruins core currently stand to be free agents, including Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask. This combined with the uncertain future surrounding the rules of the new CBA makes this move by the team even more important. Boston has been criticized by some this offseason for their lack of big moves, but in a recent radio interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger and Mazz, Bruins President Cam Neely stuck to his guns, defending his lack of moves and core players saying:

“We do have to be better but I think our players can be better. We still have a young group of core players that can improve,” he added, mentioning Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and David Krejci by name.

It’s nice to see the Bruins sticking to their young, tough core of talented stars. The Bruins needed to make a big move, and this seems to be step one in what will hopefully be a process of locking up their team to stay in Boston for a long time.

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.

Meet The New Guys, Same As The Old Guys

The stars are aligning for the Sox with returns from CF Jacoby Ellsbury (top left), LF Carl Crawford (top center), 2B Dustin Pedroia (top right), 3B Will Middlebrooks (bottom left) and SP Clay Buchholz (bottom right)

As the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches and teams are scrambling to make deals to improve their chances of making the playoffs, the Red Sox are sitting on cloud nine. Most teams are sick over the thought that just one or two little pieces – a corner outfielder here, a starting pitcher there – could drastically, positively influence their (or their rival’s) pennant races and playoff hopes. The Sox, however, have been blessed with immunity to the problems around baseball. If any contender landed a superstar center fielder, a perennial All Star left fielder, an MVP-caliber second baseman, an up-and-coming third base slugger, and a pitcher who when healthy has number 1 starter stuff, they would be the “winners” at the deadline. Now imagine if, somehow, a team acquired all of these pieces. Well, somehow has become reality because that’s exactly what the Red Sox have gotten since the All Star break, with the return of five of their studs from the disabled list or injury.

Ellsbury ((11-31) .355 avg, 5 runs, 3 doubles, 7 games) and Crawford ((6-14), .429avg, .500 OBP, 6 runs, 3 sb, 4 games) in particular have been dynamic at the top of the lineup since their return, while the reliability of Middlebrooks (HR, 2B, 5 RBI in 7 games) and Pedroia (hit, run in 9th last night in first game back) in the middle of the lineup has provided a balance and stability to the Red Sox offensive attack. Combine that with strong performances from Clay Buchholz (14 SO, 0.77 WHIP in 2 starts) since the break, and the Red Sox now have a pitcher to help shoulder the load the offense is currently bearing.

Of course, Adrian Gonzalez has been rumored to be dealing with some secret injuries all season that have plagued his power numbers and batting average, but over the last 3 weeks he has been one of the best hitters in baseball:

“Gonzalez went 2-for-4 and has now hit safely in 23 of his last 24 games. Over that stretch, the first baseman is hitting .408 (40-for-98) with five doubles, three home runs, 19 RBI and 14 runs. Gonzalez has had two hits in the five games he’s played since the All-Star break…”

After last night’s terrific walk-off win for the Red Sox, manager Bobby Valentine said in his press conference: “That’s the most fun the guys had in a long time…It’s a great feeling.”

Sit back, relax and bring on the Blue Jays.

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.