Heeeeere’s Jonny!

Never thought I'd be okay with anyone else but Nomar wearing #5 for the Red Sox. Enter Gomes.

Never thought I’d be okay with anyone else but Nomar wearing #5 for the Red Sox. Enter Gomes.

This time last year, if I had told you the Red Sox would lead Major League Baseball in wins (tied with the Braves at 70) and would be there largely in part of Jonny Gomes, you’d have laughed at me. Most so-called “experts” wrote off the Red Sox in their MLB Preview columns (I’m looking at you, Sports Illustrated) and had them finishing 4th (Hey, ESPN) with no shot at the Wild Card, let alone the Division and the best record in the majors. Yet on August 8th, if the season ended today, the Red Sox would have home-field advantage throughout all three rounds of the playoffs, should they advance that far.

Tonight, trailing 5-2 in the 7th inning, Jonny Gomes came to the plate and smashed a 2-run homer to bring the Red Sox within 1 run. Stephen Drew would smash a 3-run bomb in the top of the ninth (right after Gomes patiently drew a walk off of Houston closer Josh Fields, a former Red Sox prospect taken by Houston in the Rule 5 Draft last season) to put the Red Sox on top for good before Koji Uehara would strike out the side in the bottom half of the inning for the win.

How huge has Jonny Gomes been for the Sox this season? He went beast mode last night, hitting his 4th pinch hit home run

It's no coincidence that Gomes graced the cover of the Boston Strong edition of Sports Illustrated

It’s no coincidence that Gomes graced the cover of the Boston Strong edition of Sports Illustrated

of the season, two of which were walkoffs earlier in the season. He’s made several terrific plays in the outfield, including a few diving plays and an unassisted double play last week against the Diamondbacks. Probably most importantly though is what he brings to the clubhouse: a fun-loving, hard-working, gritty dirtdog. He’s a modern day Trot Nixon, in a reserve player’s role. You want fun, he brings it. Excitement? Watch the reactions of his teammates every time they’re shown in the dugout. Spark plug? See the picture above. Veteran Presence? How about 70 wins, 11 walkoffs, and 4 come-from-behind wins 8 days into August, including the last two against Houston and a thrilling 6-run rally in the ninth last week against Seattle? Gomes played a role in all of them.

When asked what it felt like to be the hero, he nearly rolled his eyes as the question rolled off his shoulder.

“I don’t think I’m a hero,” Gomes said. “It took 25 guys, tonight.”

The Red Sox are relevant again, and he’s a big reason why. While this is definitely Dustin Pedroia’s team and he wold wear the “C” were it played on ice, Jonny Gomes almost certainly deserves an “A” of his own.

More like an “A+” if you ask me

 

 

 

Twitter: @PatBradleyUSCHO

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Why I Love Sports: The Day The Terrorists Lost

Sports is usually our escape. Our getaway. Our sanctuary.

Monday in Boston, it was our crime scene. Just after the four hour mark of the Boston Marathon, two bombs went off at the finish line, killing at least 3 people and injuring hundreds others.

The Bruins and Celtics both canceled their games, and the Red Sox were on their way out of town. In a season where there is often 3 Boston teams playing on any given night, there were none. And that was okay. Sports took a backseat to life in our neck of the world, as we tried to piece together what had happened hours before. What followed, however, is a reminder of why we love sports in the first place. The games are our comfort, their events a distraction. We hate other teams and players so we don’t hate our own, and we rally around one cause that brings us together so passionately.

Despite the hated rivalries across professional sports that Boston maintains, sometimes events and people transcend sports. Yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon is one such instance. Several teams, athletes and news outlets have taken to different forms of media to express their sympathy and prayers to the city of Boston and all those affected by it’s rivalries. Below is a montage of just some of the outpouring of love and respect the sporting world has shown us in our time of need.

Probably the coolest, most touching gesture of them all: late Tuesday afternoon the Yankees tweeted “We stand united with Boston” with a picture

A touching display outside Yankee Stadium from typically hated rivals

A touching display outside Yankee Stadium from typically hated rivals

The team later announced that they would play “Sweet Caroline,” a song that is a staple of Fenway Park at every game, after the third inning following a moment of silence before the game. Here’s video from the Yankees Network of the stadium during the song.

Yankees fans also came out to the ballpark in support of Boston

Scenes like this were not uncommon Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium

Scenes like this were not uncommon Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium

The acts of kindness didn’t go unnoticed

Neil Diamond

thanks ny

The Yankees weren’t the only ones showing their support though. Across the NBA, NHL, and MLB, Moments of Silence were observed before most games. Across baseball, the Marlins, Cubs, Reds, A’s, Indians, Yankees and Braves all played Sweet Caroline at some point during their games. The University of South Carolina, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s old stomping grounds, played the song during their game as well. The Brewers played the theme song to “Cheers!” a  famous TV show about a Boston bar.

The Montreal Canadiens, the biggest rivals of the Boston Bruins, were one of the teams to salute Boston with a moment of silence and a Twitter shout out.

Canadiens Tweets

In Chicago at the Blackhawks game, a moment of silence was held. Right at the end, a fan somewhere yelled “we love you, Boston!” and the crowd erupted in cheers that continued straight through the National Anthem. Typically a silent event, Chicago fans decided to cheer through the powerful rendition of the Anthem just like fans were cheering at the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the bombs went off.

Today’s edition of the Chicago Tribune paid tribute to Boston as well, saying “We are Chicago” with the five major Boston sports logos underneath.

The cover of the Sports section of the Chicago Tribune

The cover of the Sports section of the Chicago Tribune

In Philadelphia, Phillies closer and former Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon expressed his sorrow and disbelief over the situation. Papelbon used to live in a building right above where one of the bombs went off.

“I used to live right above where one of the bombs went off,” Papelbon said. “It’s kind of surreal. I don’t know man, it’s crazy. It’s hard to even think about.

“I lived right above Abe and Louie’s,” he said referring to a steakhouse in the area. “It’s sad, man.”

Papelbon wasn’t the only Phillie to respond to the situation. Outfielder Ben Revere wrote the words “PRAY For Boston” on a piece of tape that he placed on his glove. Then, he made the catch of the year.

A touching display from Ben Revere followed by the catch of the year

A touching display from Ben Revere followed by the catch of the year

Everyone’s support endured.

Torey Smith tweets

Ravens Wide Receiver Torey Smith

NBA superstar and Celtic arch-nemesis LeBron James

NBA superstar and Celtic arch-nemesis LeBron James

Carmelo tweet

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony

cory Schneider

Vancouver Canucks and former Boston College goalie Cory Schneider

Jets tweet

The New York Jets

MWP

Lakers Forward and longtime Celtics rival

Kobe Tweet

Lakers Superstar Kobe Bryant Tweeted out a picture from Instagram, shown below

Kobe Instagram

And then in Cleveland, a touching display of welcome and support from the city, highlighted by this card from one of  Cleveland’s little tikes.

inside dugout

from our city to yours

Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox Third Baseman, summed it up best, shown below in an infographic from Comcast Sports Net New England

CSN Middlebrooks Tweet

The Red Sox themselves had their own tribute in the dugout, a jersey with the words “Boston Strong” and the numbers “617”, Boston’s area code, on the back.

Boston Strong Jersey

April 15th, 2013 will never be forgotten in Boston. The acts of the terrorists who planted the bombs have tragically changed our lives forever. But this week will not be remembered as the time that Boston fell.

This will be remembered as the day our city came together and saved each other.

This will be remembered as the day the good guys won.

The day the terrorists lost.

Welcome to Boston.

Sports Illustrated cover

  yanks buds

Hug those you hold dear. Don’t forget to say I love you. Never give up, never back down, and always Keep the Faith.

Pray for those who lost their lives, pray for those who were hurt, and pray for the city of Boston.

May God have mercy on us all and hold us in his graces through this difficult time.

Thanks, America. We love you too.

#BostonStrong

Hanrahan to DL; Wright Recalled

Hanrahannibal is headed to the DL

Hanrahannibal is headed to the DL

The Red Sox announced today that closer Joel Hanrahan was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, April 14th. Manager John Farrell announced Sunday that Hanrahan was day-to-day with soreness in his right hamstring that he was experiencing due to an injury he sustained during his second outing of the season in New York against the Yankees.

Hanrahan was expected to miss “6 or 7” more days, and the team decided that was too long to go without the extra bullpen arm. The added time should allow Hanrahan to pitch a rehab stint in AAA Pawtucket once he is cleared to get back on the mound. In response to the roster m0ve, the Sox also recalled knuckleballer Steven Wright from Pawtucket.

Wright’s first appearance with the Sox will be the 28-year-old’s Major League debut. In two starts this season for the PawSox, Wright has pitched 10 total innings, allowing only 3 runs with 7 walks and 11 strikeouts.

Wright took to Twitter to express his excitement

Wright took to Twitter to express his excitement Tuesday

Red Sox Spring Training Notes: Lackey Back, Pedro’s Praise, and Gator Hunting

Lackey SPring Training

John Lackey has a lot to prove this spring

John Lackey took the mound today in the first Red Sox Spring Training game against Major League competition. For Lackey, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, this was his first start in any real game action in about 18 months. Typically pitchers recovering from TJ surgery struggle with the command of their pitches, while their velocity seems to find an added boost from their robo-arm. So, basically, I wasn’t expecting much from John Lackey, but was excited to see him out there anyway. There’s a lot riding on this guy if this team is going to finish anywhere above .500% or being in playoff contention. No pressure, right?

Lackey started just as I figured he would: a 5-pitch walk to start the game. His continued to struggle with his control, as he let a high, meaty fastball sail right Desmond Jennings’ wheelhouse, though he fortunately missed it and hit a hard single through the left side instead. Lackey capped up the top of the order disaster by hitting Matt Joyce, a lefty, on the shoulder to load the bases with no outs heading into the heart of the Rays order.

The good news? Lackey recorded 3 straight outs to follow this, with a nice sequence to strike out Jack Cust, a Sac Fly to right that scored Ben Zobrist, and a fly out. So, with no outs and the bases jacked, Lackey escapes with only one run in. Impressive, given the circumstances.

Lackey spoke to NESN’s Jenny Dell in the dugout following his inning of work.

“It felt great,” he said referring to his pitching arm. “It was good to be back out there. [I] threw a lot of fastballs, arm felt good. It’s good to be back.”

You’ve got to imagine there were some nerves for Lackey as well, who threw 10 of his 20 pitches for strikes. Only time will tell what Lackey will contribute to this team, but all in all, it wasn’t a terrible first outing of the spring.

Ruby de la Rosa Reaction

Apparently the soon-to-be 24-year-old is turning heads down in Fort Myers with his stuff. It prompted Pedro Martinez, who has known de la Rosa for years and watched him evolve, to compare him to some of the greatest pitchers ever in a conversation with WEEI.com.

“He has an opportunity to be someone special. Not just a regular player, but special. When you see someone like de la Rosa you think someone special, like a Clemens, a Juan Marichal. You think about elite players. That’s the type of stuff he has.”

Coming from one of the greatest pitchers ever himself, that’s incredibly high praise.  Ruby de la Rosa grew up admiring Martinez in the Dominican Republic, and the two are actually cousins. Pedro’s role on this team could very well be purely to turn this guy into the next Pedro Martinez, and if that’s the case, the future will be bright for years to come.

Lineup Preview?

There’s been lots of speculation as to what the Red Sox batting order would look like this season, and we may have had our first glimpse at the top of the order today. Jacoby Ellsbury led off, followed by Dustin Pedroia, both familiar spots for the Red Sox vets. Newcomer Shane Victorino stepped up in the 3-hole followed by Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting cleanup, Johnny Gomes in the 5 hole and Will Middlebrooks batting 6th. Absent from today’s lineup were David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, so nothing is set in stone quite yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Napoli take over that clean up spot and Ortiz bat fifth, moving everyone else down. It’s also reasonable to think that Will Middlebrooks could hit cleanup if he’s comfortable doing so. It’s still plenty early though, so it’s something to keep an eye on.

Gomes and Ross gator hunting

Ironsides and Blue Wolf get ready to hunt some gators

Return of the Idiots

Okay, so Johnny Damon is walking through that door, and frankly no one wants him to. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past decade of Red Sox baseball, it’s that clubhouse chemistry, more than anything, will determine how far this team can advance. On paper, the 2011 and 2012 Red Sox should have been record-setting winners. Instead, we’ve received two of the most storied seasons in history – for all the wrong reasons.

The team needed an overhaul of fun, loose veteran experience, so that’s what they got. Two of the new guys, OF Johnny Gomes and C David Ross, are bringing that lighter, enjoyable atmosphere to the team already.

Gomes and Ross, who have nicknamed themselves “Ironsides” and “Blue Wolf”, respectively, decided to dress up and go gator hunting yesterday. The two went out on a professional airboat tour and got to see real gators in their natural habitats. When they got back to dry land, the two even held baby gators. While some may cry foul at their players going out in search of Alligator-induced fun, there’s nothing wrong with some safe, guided goofiness to get a chuckle out of everyone from the clubhouse. At least they aren’t drunk in the clubhouse yet, right? These two might be just what the doctor ordered.

 

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 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.