Old friend Kendrick Perkins gets posterized by Blake Griffin.
Old friend Kendrick Perkins gets posterized by Blake Griffin.
The fact that the Boston sports fans are talking about “blowing up the Celtics” makes me ill. You know what I think we should blow up? I think we should shove a grenade up Danny Ainge’s ass and throw him into the Mystic River. What is this? Rhode Island blasphemy? Nope, let’s look at Ainge’s career as the Boston GM.
Ainge took over as the Celtics GM in 2003. The first thing he did was sign Jim O’Brien to an extension through the 2005-2006 season. Then he traded Darius Songalia for two second round picks. Not bad right? Then he spun a deal with the Grizzlies on draft night to pick up Kendrick Perkins and Marcus Banks. We all know what what Perk turned into, six years later.. but he was a project. Right away we see a disturbing trend with Ainge. He likes to pick guys that would be projects rather than guys that can come and help right away. Perk was 18 years-old, skinny, and “raw.” He also resigned some bum vets like Walter McCarty, Mark Blount, Brandon Hunter, and Mike James. He also spun a trade with the Cavs for Jumaine Jones. Yikes. Three months later he traded Delk and Twan Walker for Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills, and Raef LaFrentz. We all know how that worked out. He also extended the contract of Kedrick Brown. To top the year off he traded Brown, Tony Battie, and Erick Williams to Cleveland for Ricky Davis and two other bums. He finished the 2003-2004 season by putting us through the Vin Baker saga, firing Jim O’Brien and his interim replacement.
Lebron James attended a basketball camp and played a few games of knockout with the kids. Apparently Lebron took the knockout part literally as he bowled over a young kid following a dunk. The best part of the video may be James continually missing his shots from three and having to dunk the rebounds.
On Wednesday night, Boston sports fans were treated to their seventh title since 2001. Boston has truly become Title Town, U.S.A. As a sports fan, I feel that the way that we have gone about winning those championships has made them all the more impressive. There is a common core to our sports teams. They are all well coached. Our ownership has been willing to spend money and make moves to improve the team before, during, and after seasons. But perhaps the most amazing thing about all of these championship banners hanging from the rafters of the Garden, on banners along Yawkey Way, or hanging from the upper decks of Gilette stadium is the make up of the teams that won them.
There are undoubtedly similar threads among the rosters of every single one of these teams. Boston, for some reason has become a place where old veterans come to play, hoping that the passion this city has for it’s sports teams and our team’s commitment to winning will reinvigorate them and give them their first or last shot at a title. The best example of this is obviously the Boston Celtics, when a few years ago, three aging superstars united, shed their individuality, bought into a team concept and brought relevance back to the parquee floor of the Garden. How can we forget Curt Schilling coming to the Red Sox and invigorating a talented team and convincing them that not only could they win a their first World Series in eighty six years, but there was no way that they wouldn’t. There is no doubt that the Patriots relied heavily on their group of old men Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, and Rodney Harrison to win a string of Super Bowls. Of course, we can’t forget Mark Recchi and thirty-eight year old journeyman Timmy Thomas leading us to our first cup since the 1970’s.
Another common thread to all of these championships is our own collection of scrappy little guys that just tear sh*t up. The superstar among this group is Rajon Rondo. Higher slotted teams avoided him in the draft because of questions about his size. He is six-foot-nothing, one hundred and nothing, but plays basketball at times like a giant. His dive, stealing the ball from White Chocolate, and lay-in are the types of plays that these often less heralded guys make all of the time. Although Scal wasn’t exactly little, he was the epitome of scrappiness and he had a cult following amongst loyal Boston fans. Look at the Patriots, for example. Troy Brown wasn’t the fastest guy, but he turned in great seasons as a receiver. He was a return guy and was even playing defensive back during a championship run. Tedy Bruschi, an undersized college D-End comes in and becomes the lynchpin of a Patriots defense at Middle Linebacker. After years of making plays, he has a stroke, then comes back from it to be as good as he ever was. Wes Welker came to the Patriots after not making the Chargers and being traded, in the division mind you, from the Dolphins. I’m sure we all know what he has done for us. Finally, we have Danny Woodhead, a guy cast off by the Jets that made amazing plays all year. As far as the Red Sox go, we have Dustin Pedroia. At 5’3” (although he is listed as taller) he hits lasers, plays gold glove caliber defense, and is an animal on the base paths. If you ask me, when Tim Wakefield retires, I think that his number 49 should be up with 1, 4, 6,8, 9, 14, 27, and 42. Some of his pitches couldn’t break a window but he goes out there every fifth day and eats up innings and has been doing it for years. The Boston Bruins have supplied us with our latest undersized, scrappy hero; Brad Marchand, the Nose Faced Killer. Who will ever forget him using Daniel Sedin’s face as a speedbag, his bone-jarring hits, or his eleven goals as a rookie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Perhaps the most amazing commonality between our sports teams is the way that every member of all of our teams buys into the team notion. They buy into the team philosophy, they buy into their coaches’ game plans, and even the superstars among them seem willing to shed their individuality and realize that they are not bigger than the team. Pedro Martinez will go down as one of the greatest pitchers of his era, as will teammate Curt Schilling. But they were great teammates. Aside from Manny Ramirez late in his Red Sox career, the Red Sox cast of characters were a shining example of comradarie and teamwork. Tom Brady will be in the argument for best quarterback of all time. However, never once in his career has he put himself above the team. He is a master at giving his teammates or his coaches credit for some of the amazing things that he has done. The original “Big Three” were all superstars and will all undoubtedly have plaques in Springfield some day. They were willing to put aside their individual numbers in order to come together and win a championship. Which they did, with other guys that came to the Celtics like James Posey and P.J. Brown for less money than they could have made elsewhere. Zdeno Chara is one of the best defenseman of his era, but he was given a C on his sweater because of the way he plays, the way that he leads, and his love of this game. Tim Thomas is a superstar, but seems to shun the glory and talk about how much fun he has, how much he loves this team, and how happy he is.
Every single one of our teams and their players recognize how much we love sports in Boston/New England. They understand how connected to our teams we are, how we live and die by them. When they win they always say how happy they are for us. They, like us, relish “the moments” that were a part of all of our championships. We have Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, Dave Roberts’ steal, and of course Varitek’s shot to A-Rod’s pretty face. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have hit a number of shots that iced games. We will never forget Vinatieri’s field goals or Brady’s game winning drives. The Bruins gave us polarizing moments, in my opinion Thomas’ stick save against Tampa Bay is probably the biggest one. Yet there are other moments that we relish just as much as the game winning goal. I have a picture of Tedy Bruschi throwing snow in the air after a touchdown against the Dolphins on the wall of my “man cave.” I will always remember Orlando Cabrera’s handshakes, Manny coming out of the monster after a few bong rips mid-game, the spit hanging from Big Baby’s mouth while Nate Robinson hung from his neck like a cheap gold chain, and most recently Nathan Horton not so stealthily pouring ice from the Garden onto the rink in Vancouver. I get goosebumps every time I see the replays, hell I have them right now just thinking about this stuff.
As a sports fan, looking back on the last decade of Boston sports, I realize that we have witnessed something that no one before us has. For most of us, our grandfathers and great grandfathers never got to see the things that we have. Mine never got to see the Red Sox or Patriots win a Championship, but I’ve seen two and three titles respectively. We are living in an unprecedented time in Boston sports and in sport in general. Never before has any city seen such success over a sustained period of time and who knows how much longer it will last. I like to think that as long each organization continues to do what it’s doing; bring in guys that know and love the game, have the perfect mix of age and youth, and hold on to the coaches in place for as long as they will stay that success will stick around. I know that as a fan; I will watch, I will hang on every moment, and I will celebrate each and every win like it’s a championship because that’s how Boston fans are whether they are eighteen or eighty.
Prior to the Bruins game 6 win over the Canucks, I realized the US Open was going to start on Thursday. After the game was over, I decided that writing a US Open preview would take my mind of the upcoming Game 7. Boy was I wrong. Therefore, I have decided to only take a look at a few of the story lines for golf fanatics can ponder this weekend.
Tiger Woods has withdrawn from the US Open
A week ago, Tiger Woods announced his withdrawal from the 2011 US Open. This is the first time since 1994 that Tiger is not going to play in the national championship. (Keep in mind, Tiger was just graduating high school in 1994). Tiger’s decision to withdraw came at the advice of doctors. His doctors have finally gotten through to him that if continues to play, he could do more damage to his already ailing left knee and Achilles tendon.
Honestly, I think this is a good decision for Tiger. His knee is obviously in bad shape and he reportedly tweaked it at the Masters earlier this year. I think sitting this one out will not only help his injuries, but also help his psyche. He clearly has not been himself since his infidelities caught up to him. He’s also within 4 Major victories of catching the Golden Bear (Jack Nickolaus). Hopefully he can use this time off to heal, regroup and come back rejuvenated.
Can Phil Mickelson overcome his US Open demons?
Phil Mickelson has never won the US Open. Not only has he never won, but he has finished in 2nd place on 5 separate occasions. That’s right, 5 runner-up finishes. And now with Tiger out, “Lefty” has a chance to overcome his demons and finally secure the US Open Championship.
The field this weekend is deep, very deep. The PGA tour has had an influx of young guns. Guys are coming onto the tour younger, stronger and ready to play against the seasoned veterans. This year Phil has played some great golf. He’s made the cut in all 12 of the tournaments he entered. He has one win in 2011 (Shell Houston Open) and four top 10 finishes. Pretty impressive, but not dominant. I think one of the younger guys will take this major.
Are we going to see another major collapse?
Over the past 5 years, golf fans have witnessed several collapses on the final day of major tournaments. But none are as well known Dustin Johnson at last year’s US Open and Nick Watney’s at the 2010 PGA Championship.
Last year, Dustin Johnson went out on Saturday and put up an insane 66 in 3rd round of the US Open at Pebble Beach. This put him first place and the final group on Sunday. This was when things went horribly wrong. When it was all said and done on Sunday, Johnson finished with an 82. After watching Graeme McDowell celebrate his win on the final green, Johnson left without even addressing the media.
At the PGA Championship last year, Nick Watney was in a great position on the Sunday. On the 17th hole, Watney made a birdie to give him 1 shot lead with 1 hole to play. Watney shanked his drive on the 18th but showed great poise and perseverance. He scrambled to get onto the green and then missed a makeable putt that would have sealed the win. Then something bizarre took place. Watney was forced to take a 2 stroke penalty. Apparently his wayward drive on 18 actually landed in a bunker. However, with people standing in this supposed bunker all week, Watney didn’t know it was even a bunker. So he stepped up, took his stance, grounded his club, and took his shot. What did he do wrong? He grounded his club. According to the Laws of Golf, players are not allowed to ground their clubs while in a bunker. Thus, the rules official penalized him 2 strokes and that spelled the end for Watney.
I don’t foresee anything like Watney’s collapse happening this year. But there is always the possibility of blowing up the way Johnson did last year. It’s golf and anyone who has ever picked up a club knows that self destruction is just one swing away. Hopefully that does not happen this year, but you can never rule it out.
Can Ernie Els rekindle the flames of his 1997 win at Congressional?
In 1997, at the young age of 27, Ernie Els won his first US Open at Congressional Country Club. Congressional will also host this year’s national championship. So, can Els get his game back on track and win another here? I don’t think so.
Els has won 3 Major Championships: Two US Opens and a British Open (the REAL Open Championship). He holds two World Golf Championships and seven World Match Play titles. In addition, he was recently inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Given all those accolades, I still don’t think Els can win this week. In his past 5 tournaments, Els missed the cut 3 straight times before posting a tie for 16th and a tie for 61st. He’s simply not on top of the game anymore.
In all honesty, I have no clue who will win this thing. As I said before, there are tons of young bucks who are very capable of winning: Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Martin Kaymer, etc. The only thing I can predict is an enjoyable golf tournament. Congressional is a beautiful country club steeped in history. There will be great shots and lousy shots. In the end, there will be one winner….but I have no idea who that will be. Just sit back and enjoy the tournament.