"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not for Sale

(Photo from Boston.com)

Why are we even talking about this? Why are we even entertaining the notion? Just when I thought the re-signing of Mike Lowell meant that I could take a deep breath and relax this offseason, this kind of stuff gets thrown out there. Johan Santana is a good pitcher and all but...but...JACOBY! We can't give up Jacoby! Is this one of those things where Theo listens to what the other team wants - in this case it's apparently every farm-hand under the age of 30 plus Kevin Youkilis's former goatee - thinks about it for a second and then walks away laughing? Right? RIGHT? Tell me that's what's going on here. Because I can't deal with the notion that Theo might actually be considering trading away the Future of the Franchise for Johan Santana.

Okay, look, I know that around these parts we tend to romanticize our homegrown players and put them up on pedestals that often, they don't entirely deserve. But as I've said before, I finally feel excited about the future of this team in the sense that there are so many good, young guys that we made ourselves out of gumption and sawdust and good scouting and drafting. And they're ours. That, and I was proud of the fact that we were refusing to mortgage the future for the present. I'd like to continue to not do that.

The way I see it, if the season started tomorrow, we'd have pretty much exactly the same team as we had a month ago when we, you know, WON THE WORLD SERIES. There is no more "up" from there. There is no farther to go. You can't win the World Series more. Margin of victory doesn't matter. You win it and...you win it. End of story.

That said, if the Yankees want to trade away Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain (but remain committed to re-signing Luis Vizcaino), well, hell, they should go for it. I won't stand in their way. People are already getting bent out of shape with how this Johan Santana bidding war is coming down to a Sox/Yankees battle again and to that I have two things to say. 1) Duh. Second verse, same as the first, and 2) I'm over it. I'm so over the constant sniping and out-bidding and one-upmanship that goes on between these two clubs. I've written about it before. By and large I was really proud of the way the organization handled the whole A-Rod thing in that, on the whole, they refused to get involved. I don't think doing the same thing here would be such a bad idea.

Because let's say the Yankees over-trade for Santana and we have to face him. So what? That, to me, is not the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario would be trading away Ellsbury, Lester and maybe Buchholz for a couple good years of Santana. Look, he's a great pitcher, I'm not denying that. But it's entirely possible and actually quite probable that Lester and/or Buchholz have it in them to be great pitchers too. And Ellsbury is made of magic and puppy dogs and sunshine. You can't trade away sunshine. You'll never find a uniform to fit. Not to mention what playing on concrete every day would do to his poor legs.

What I'd like to see happen is for Theo to say, "You can't have Ellsbury. Here's what we're offering. Take it or leave it." And if the Twins leave it? So be it. We'll still have our centerfielder and perhaps the Yankees will be up an ace. It wouldn't be the first time the Yankees have ended up with something the Red Sox coveted. But recent track records will indicate that that's not always a bad thing. Or does no one else remember Theo's hotel room-destroying temper tantrum when the Yankees signed Jose Contreras and prompted Larry Lucchino to release the now infamous "Evil Empire" quote?

Point being, if the Yankees get Santana, we'll deal.

I'm just saying, I think it'll be a lot easier to deal if we have our speedy centerfielder out there, shagging flies.

Can someone get on a "Keep Jacoby" petition?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mustache Power!

(Photo from Boston.com)

Amy: Just so you know, every time Tom Brady runs for yards and I'm not watching the game with you, I'm going to call you and sing the Baby Bumblebee song to you.

Me: Obviously, as that is Tommy's internal monologue when he's running at glacial speed.

Amy: (Singing)
I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee.
Won't Coach Belichick be so proud of me.
I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee.

Me: (Watching Wes Welker's postgame interview with Andrea Kremer) Tom Brady called Wes Welker a "Labrador?" I'm going to need a sound file of that interview, I think. Also, what is going on with your facial hair there, sir?

Amy: Mustaches are in, Krikri. (Only Amy is allowed to call me that, FYI).

Me: I prefer designer stubble.

Amy: I think the entire team should start growing ridiculous mustaches.

Me: You might be onto something there. I mean, Logan Mankins didn't get in trouble, did he? In fact no, he pushed Lomo into the end zone for that last touchdown. Logan Mankins has a handlebar mustache (above). Wes Welker didn't get in trouble. He caught all the passes. Mustache. This might be something...

Amy: Can you just imagine, facing the Patriots, AND their giant handlebar mustaches? I am not convinced Tedy can grow facial hair and Refrigerator Head (Gostkowski) probably isn't old enough, but dude. It would be awesome.

Me: Well, Vrabes can teach an elective on proper facial hair maintenance and perhaps New Kicker can sculpt his unibrow into a mustache?

Amy: A facial hair graft, perhaps? It's like having to face Magnum PI and his cronies in football!

Me: And that's just gonna make you look silly. 'Cause of how manly mustaches are and all.

Amy: We're smart.

Me: We don't sleep much.

Amy: Nope.

By a Hair

(Photo from Boston.com)

I'm tempted to say "all's well that ends well" but I know better. And I know that if there's one place I would not want to be, it's in the New England Partiots locker room after last night's game. As Amy put it, "They are going to be getting some humble motherfucking cobbler this week."

Bill's gonna be servin' it up, y'all.

As well he should. I'm also tempted to ask who the hell A.J. Feeley thinks he is but that would not be showing due respect to one's opponent and that would not be the Patriot way. And the Patriots have to know that there but for the grace of Asante Samuel, they're talking about 10-1 and how they let this one get away from them and they're watching the insufferable, smug 1972 Dolphins popping champagne corks down in Miami. We can postpone that celebration for another week at the very least but them boys have some work to do.

I do give a lot of credit to the Eagles, however, as they managed to do what no other team this season, including Indianapolis, has even come close to doing. For all intents and purposes, they shut down Randy Moss. Thankfully, the Patriots still have Wes Welker and, um, Jabar Gaffney, to, you know, catch things. Though the entire team could have benefited from a healthy application of Stick-Um last night, so frequent were the dropped passes. Or so it seemed.

Marianne, wisely choosing to watch the game somewhere other than with me, checked on me via email during the third quarter.

Marianne: Score?

Me: Still 24-21. But let me put it this way: apparently during practice, Billiam throws things at New Kicker while he is practicing his kicks. He should probably throw heavier things.

Marianne: Okay, honestly? I just got a mental image of Bill Belichick throwing a refrigerator at New Kicker.

Me: Now there's an idea...

I don't know what to say, football makes me violent. The Patriots now owe me about three years of my life and easily seven hours of sleep. And yes, I know they won and, as I said, all's well that ends well. But anyone who tells you that each successive game this season isn't magnified by about a thousand is lying to you. Yes, the Pats have clinched the division (before they played, actually, thanks to the Bills' loss), and yes, they're still the best team in the league, but this game certainly highlighted that there are many, many things for them to work on. In a sense, this was like the Colts game in that it's going to put a stop to that "running up the score" talk for a little while as people (again) realize why playing sixty minutes of football is important.

Of course, if the locker room fixtures remain unscathed, I suppose that can be considered a victory in and of itself. Did y'all see the look on Tom Brady's face last night? Did he not look like he wanted to kill someone with his teeth? Thankfully Asante Samuel and James Sanders and Wes Welker played damage control. Else I would not want to be a water cooler in that locker room.

And so now we exhale and remain confident in the knowledge that Billiam is going to spend the entire week kicking everyone's ass from here to Kingdom Come.

I'm going to, you know, curl up under my desk and try to get some shut eye or something. And maybe wonder if the entire team should grow mustache's like Wes Welker and Logan Mankins because there might be something to that mojo.

Oh, and I hesitate to really talk about it for fear of it gaining steam but Theo, so much as think about trading Jacoby and you will see riots in the streets the likes of which you've never experienced. I'm serious. That's not an empty threat. Kthnx.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let Us Give Thanks

Because that dude is still our third baseman. Officially now.

Now let us all collectively exhale.

I remember saying during the parade and the rash of late night talk show appearances that followed that, in my memory, I don't remember both fans and players alike campaigning so hard for the team to re-sign a player. "Not even 'Tek?" Amy asked me.

"The thing about 'Tek is, in retrospect, we all knew he wasn't going anywhere. His value to the Red Sox was and is far and away greater than it would be to any other team. It was mostly a matter of seeing whether or not he and Theo could agree on what he's worth. But with Lowell, he would have been valuable to a lot of places."

So I'm just really, really glad the deal got done. These past few weeks have seemed like Sports Christmas has come early to New England, no? What with the Patriots continued destruction of all challengers, the Sox getting their free agent signings taken care of and, you know, the drama queen business happening in the rest of baseball, Messrs. Rodriguez and Bonds, I'm talking to you.

Plus, I saw 'Tek on TV this morning and he was talking about how glad he was to have "Michael" back and how he called "everyone and their mother" when he found out. Which you just know totally messed up Curt Schilling's phone tree. Because if you don't think Curt had a phone tree in place for this exact thing, you're high. Curt was to call Youks and Kyle Snyder and then they had to call Manny Delcarmen and Pedroia and they called three people and so on and so forth. There was a plan. Curt had a diagram which he emailed to everyone. It was color-coded. And 'Tek messed it up. But probably Curt will forgive him because, you know, he's 'Tek, and he's still apologizing to him for shaking him off while facing Shannon Stewart that one time.

Also, I refuse to believe that Theo's nefarious plan to use Jacoby Ellsbury as a negotiating tactic didn't work perfectly. You just know he told Jacoby to work Bertica Lowell as much as possible. That entailing, obviously, offers to babysit and showing up occasionally looking pained and hungry because he's just little and doesn't know how to cook his own food or do his own laundry and one time he even forgot to pack pants and had to borrow Clay's (true story). And you know Mrs. Lowell was all, "Michael! You can't leave! This poor boy needs some help. His mother is all the way across the country. Who's going to cook for him if I don't? Who's going to wash his socks? Who's going to tell him which fork to use? Plus, he's so polite. So good with the girls. He's the best babysitter we've ever had. That's it, we're adopting him. And you're staying in Boston so I can keep an eye on him." Well played, Theo. Well played indeed.

Continuing the theme with the brigade of awesome, Tom Brady was on WEEI this morning and was getting downright mad at people for their "running up the score" accusations. Now they've made Tom Brady angry. Fellas, don't you know how stupid that is? He admitted to wanting to "kill other teams" but can you blame the guy? He's playing this entire season under fire and the best defense is, clearly, a good offense. But he also made what I consider to be a good point. He said that when they go for it on fourth and 1 or whatever, they're trying to get better. "Because what if next week we're in a situation when it's tied and it's fourth and 1? We're just supposed to worry about that then? No, you work on it now so you're confident that you can handle that when you have to."

I am the world's biggest Tom Brady homer but the man makes a good point. It's like I said a while ago when I mentioned that when games get out of control, they're essentially training exercises for future games. Brady - and the rest of the team - seem to be operating under the theory that the second you let up is the second someone hits you in the mouth. I'm glad they're still hungry and aren't taking anything for granted. Those are my boys.

However, on a slightly softer note, can we maybe petition eHarmony to use Tom Brady and Randy Moss in an ad? It would be a hell of a lot better than the smug, simpering idiots they feature now.

Brady: "I never thought I'd find the perfect one. But then we traded a pick to Oakland and now I've found him."

Moss: "It's a hard life and it's nice to be going through it with someone who gets you to be your very best. I'm so glad I found Tommy."

Because yes, Randy Moss calls him "Tommy."

Wouldn't that be excellent? Warms the heart. Also, I'd rather watch that eleventy million times than be subjected to one more commercial where Peyton Manning is throwing passes to himself or something inside his own head while Marvin Harrison is cavorting with magical dream dolphins.

So yes, all good things are happening. It's a heady time to be a New England sports fan of any kind (hell, even the Bruins aren't embarrassing), and I think it's a good time for all of us to remember not to take any of this for granted. So turkey and stuffing and pie and Mike Lowell and Tom Brady and Jacoby Ellsbury and what have you. All good things for which we should give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving, kids. Have a great one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Tom Brady's world. We're just livin' in it.

(Photo from Boston.com)

Giants among men, indeed.

Per Boston.com:

"Sure, it gets to you," Bills free safety George Wilson said. "There was a situation like this against the Redskins a few weeks ago and some spoke up. I'm not going to do that. This is a 60-minute game and if they want to go for it on fourth down you've got to strap it up and stop it. This ain't no pity party. In this league there is no remorse."

"I don't feel bad about it," echoed Buffalo strong safety Donte Whitner. "This is football. Our job is to stop it if they want to go for it. There's nothing against them. They play hard, they play the whole game. I don't begrudge them. You have to stop it."

Thank you, Buffalo Bills. Thank you for understanding the concept of football and athletic contests. Thank you for not placing the blame on someone else - the other team, the refs, the crowd, etc - and taking a defeat like men. Thank you for your good sportsmanship and for understanding that if the opponent is scoring 56 points against you, you really need to be looking internally and not externally for someone to blame. In so doing, you've cemented your reputation as an upstanding organization and I, for one, appreciate it. I'd like to think that if and when the Patriots lose a game (whensoever that might be), they'll react the same way. That was refreshing.

Amy and I had an extended conversation at the bar last night - when we were still making sense and before we devolved into wondering if Belichick has started taking fashion advice from 13-year-old mallrats (more on that later) - about how the Patriots shouldn't be blamed for ruining the curve.

"It's like this," Amy said, "In high school, I took an AP European History course and it was really hard. There was a lot of reading, a lot of it was boring and I worked my ass off. And then I did really well on the test and some girl said to me, 'You did well? I hate you,' because she was mad I ruined the curve. It's like that. No. Don't be mad at me because I worked my ass off to get a good grade and I ruined the curve for you. If you have a problem with that, work harder. It's the same principle."

"That," I said, "is an excellent point. People are pissed at the Patriots for ruining the curve and, so far as I can tell, the point of professional athletics is to beat the other team, not to make sure everyone feels important and accomplished. We are not supposed to try to regress to the mean just so other teams don't feel bad."

Then we congratulated ourselves on being smart and awesome because sometimes we do that.

But the point came up again later on when James Sanders tipped Losman's pass and it resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown.

"You know people are going to say they're running up the score with that one," I said, "probably it would have been nicer if we'd just handed the ball back to a Bills player and called for a do-over."

Amy, several beers in at this juncture, made the point somewhat more emphatically. "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you give us the football do we not TAKE IT TO THE HOUSE?" She was sermonizing, y'all. It was a sight to behold.

This was, of course, nothing compared to the discussion we had over a plate of Buffalo wings (symbolic, perhaps?) about Bill Belichick's deteriorating sartorial decisions.

"Billiam is wearing a headwarmer," I announced.

"Oh that is fantastic. I wonder if the headwarmer is how he keeps the genius in," Amy said.

"Additionally," I said, "he also appears to be belting his hoodies now for reasons unfathomable to me."

Amy squinted at the TV, "Are we absolutely certain that he's not wearing leggings under there?" she asked. "Perhaps the kind with the lace on the bottom? Do we know that he's not doing that?"

"Well," I said, "I think he keeps his challenge flag tucked into his sock but I guess that doesn't mean that he's NOT wearing leggings. I'm just not sure I want to think about that."

"We will have to await a full-body shot for confirmation," she declared.

When one came, we were heartened to see that Belichick was not, in fact, sporting leggings but was instead rocking some wind pants.

"I still think he's taking styling tips from 13-year-old girls in 1986," I said.

"This is the thing," Amy observed while watching Mike Vrabel and Matt Light laughing behind Belichick on the sidelines, "I'm pretty sure that Vrabes and Matt Light are the only people who get away with calling him 'Bill.'"

"Oh, without a doubt," I agreed, "In fact, I'd wager that they're openly mocking his attire right now."

"They're so doing extra sprints in practice this week."

"Oh yeah."

We also noticed that Randy Moss had some incredibly detailed braid configuration going on and we theorized that perhaps he was making use of the Red Sox' El Montro. Amy then proceeded to have a conversation - with herself - in which she played all parts and explained how Manny bequeathed El Montro and his services to the Patriots and Randy Moss for the football season. There was scant little mention of Manny's pet unicorn but his well-publicized love for classic cars did come up.

Look, we're simple girls. A few beers and some wings and the insanity starts rolling out.

Also, has anyone else had "The Tom and Jerry Show" theme song running through their head for the past twelve hours with "Randy" in place of "Jerry?"

According to Google, the lyrics go like this (adapted for the footballs):

Set your dial for a while!
Have a laugh, wear a smile!
It's The Tom & Randy Show!
You'll begin with a grin
When you first tune us in
On The Tom & Randy Show!

Introducing that world-famous QB...TOM!
And that magnificent pass-catcher...RANDY!

::instrumental solo:: (Matt Light and Mike Vrabel on air guitar)

Lots of zing, lots to sing!
Everything's gonna swing!
So, get ready - here we go!
Big or small, short or tall,
You will all have a ball
On The Tom & Randy Show!

Do I...do I maybe need to cut back on the caffeine?

The Once and Future Third Basemen

(Photo from Boston.com)

Well thank goodness THAT'S taken care of.

Christmas has come early, kids. Let us give thanks.

More later, including thoughts on the local touchdown robots.

Edited to add: *fingers crossed*

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pity the buck that crosses Josh Beckett's path today.

(Photo from Herradura Ranch gallery)

Or feral pig. Or wild turkey. Or, you know, over-exuberant squirrel. I'm thinking Beckett might be a bit testy today, is the thing, having lost out on the AL Cy Young award to Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia. I mean, he'll probably claim that he doesn't care and that he didn't even know the vote was happening. "Oh, was that today?" he'll say, feigning nonchalance and letting us know that he couldn't possibly care less about some stupid little award. And then he'll go out and shoot something. Possibly an unfortunate feral pig he's named "Avulsion."

For the sake of everyone involved, I just really hope Lester and Buchholz haven't made their way south yet to begin Beckett Boot Camp. Otherwise, this is going to turn into Deliverance or "Lord of the Flies" or something and somehow Doug Mirabelli is gonna get involved (because he follows Wakefield everywhere, especially now), and then Schilling will turn up to try to broker the peace because, you may have heard, but he represents himself in negotiations and he's sure he can work something out and if Beckett would let Dougie and the wee pitching pups go and come out from behind that camo blind where he's holed up with fourteen cans of baked beans and backlogged videotapes of Leann Tweeden's appearances on "The Best Damn Sports Show Ever" he's pretty sure that things will work out for the best but Beckett will only talk to Tek and then only in code and he's demanding to be allowed to drive past Sabathia's house in his pickup and moon him out the window while trailing a World Series banner behind. And frankly, I just don't want to have to fathom any situation that involves Doug Mirabelli, Curt Schilling as hostage negotiator, and firearms.

However, if Tek wants to take over in the Mike Lowell negotiations, I'm fine with that. We already know that he tried to lure him into staying by giving him candy. I like those incentives. I'm thinking he's up to the task.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go barricade the doors in case Beckett decides to show up here. He might've heard that I called him "Fathead" that one time (or rather hundreds of times) and he probably thinks I've got something to answer for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Little Rookie That Could

Some things haven't changed since Dustin's college days.

I was in New York over the weekend and so watched precious little in the ways of sporting events. I did, however, see a tiger shark suspended in blue-tinted formaldehyde at The Met which is not something one sees every day. And so I missed the Colts/Chargers game, though I hear tell it was absolutely *cough*six interceptions*cough*missed 29-yard FG*cough* delightful.

Apparently I've also missed the announcement that the Sox have re-signed Mike Lowell, right? I mean, they did, didn't they? They just opened the vault and gave him whatever he wants, money or years or both, right? There's no way they'd let him get away, is there?

No? You mean to tell me no such announcement exists because an agreement hasn't been reached? Say it ain't so, Theo!

Actually, if I'm being honest, I didn't expect a deal to get done during the exclusive negotiating window the Sox enjoyed with Lowell. Aside from A-Rod who has priced himself out of nearly every other market, Lowell is going to be the top free-agent prize this offseason. It makes sense for him to entertain other offers and thus drive the price up on the Sox. I guess I don't really begrudge him that. Doesn't mean that I didn't want him to pull a Schilling, fire his agent and be all, "I love you guys, I'm gonna stay forever and ever just because you're so nice and also, you smell like flowers and kittens." I mean, that would have been stellar, but I really wasn't expecting it.

What I am hoping is that the Sox have some kind of wiggle room in this apparent "very firm" deal they've offered him. Let's say they end up giving him a four year deal and during the fourth year, he breaks down and becomes an expensive paperweight. Well, the Sox are one of the only teams who can weather that kind of thing financially. Hell, JD Drew was an expensive paperweight for most of this season and while we surely complained about it (I personally bitched about it on more than one occasion), the bottom line is that we won the World Series with JD Drew as our starting right fielder so really, it didn't hurt us that much. Worst case scenario, I see Lowell having that kind of impact - or non-impact - in four years. So if I'm in charge, I'm giving him the years. That's the luxury of being the kind of team the Red Sox are. I wouldn't exploit it to sign A-Rod for all of the money for all of the years, but there's a huge difference between $15 million per for four years and $30 million per for eight years. That would seem insane to me.

*deep breath*

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about is Dustin Pedroia and how our wee little Second Basemen That Could overcame a dismal April, huffed and puffed and "I think I can, I think I can-ed" all the way to the American League Rookie of the Year award. No one is more self-deprecating than Dusty, which is probably some sort of self-preservation tactic since he's roughly the size of your average fourth grader and has probably been mistaken on more than one occasion for the bat boy. Of course, we have to give credit to Tito too while we're at it because he had the foresight to stick with Pedroia when he wasn't hitting his weight in the early goings and people (myself included) were clamoring for a stop gap second basemen while Pedroia got his shit together in Pawtucket.

I'm sorry, Dustin, I was wrong. You da man. Guess this means Youkilis will have to find another wheelbarrow buddy. If I were Buchholz, I'd look out.

And because it is possibly the greatest thing I've seen in, well, maybe forever, I thought I'd pass along this link to Josh Beckett's ranch, emailed to me by reader Christine:

Herradura Ranch, operated by Beckett Ventures, Inc. you see. Yes, it's everything you've hoped for and more. There are pictures of Josh Beckett with varying dead animals. There's lots of camo. There are smiling children standing with feral pigs they've presumably shot in some kind of bizarre rite of passage. It's the kind of thing I would have made up, except I didn't have to. Seriously, go peruse that site and imagine what life will be like for Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz shortly. Wow.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I've Been Thinking

(Look how happy!)

Yeah, I've been thinking. You know, about stuff. No baseball or football gives me plenty of time to think. Which is really no good considering what I could get up to with this much free time on my hands. I've cooked a lot of crazy concoctions, read some stuff, watched a zillion episodes of "The West Wing" and made myself smarter in the process and done lots of laundry. But I'm running out of things to do. I'm about two days away from calling up the Brothers Papelbon and challenging them to a Trivial Pursuit game. (I'd totally win).

But I've been thinking about the sports in this town and I realized a few things.

First of all, what is taking so long with the Mike Lowell signing? I know the whole "free agent period" and "exclusive negotiating rights" and "wanting to test the waters" and all that jazz but I am not, by nature, a patient person. AND I WANT IT DONE NOW. Theo can give me all the lip service he wants about being patient and not rushing things and blah, blah, blah but the fact remains that the longer we wait on this, the more nervous I get. SO STOP MAKING ME NERVOUS.

Look what they did. They made me yell.

In relation to that, showing a complete inability to read a room, apparently A-Rod wants to play in Boston now? Does it not matter to him at all that we don't want him here? He thinks he can just decide where he wants to go and we'll all genuflect and toss rose petals in his path? Luna and I discussed this yesterday:

Luna: I hope Scott Boras makes the Dodgers and Angels timeshare A-Rod, 'cause that would be

Me: I want him out of the division and, really, out of the time zone. That'd be best.

Luna: Maybe he would like to start his own league, in which he plays every position.

Me: The A-Rod Rodriguezes of Alexville?

Luna: The logo would be so fucking awesome. It would be purple and shiny.

Me: Oh with sparkles, definitely sparkles.

Luna: Part of the uniform would be those sneakers with the red flashing lights that were so trendy among the eight-year-olds a few years ago.

Me: Oh yes, and his batting gloves would have no fingers. A la Michael Jackson.

Luna: Nice.

So yeah, that whole third basemen thing has got me cracked.

As for Schilling, like the lovely ladies at the Papel-Blog, I was actually surprised to find myself in favor of the re-signing. I realize that if all the incentives kick in, Curt's not really taking a pay cut, but the way I figure it, if the incentives DO kick in, then he's probably worth the money. (As much as anyone is worth $13 million). He seems happy, the front office seems happy, and our rotation looks good heading into next season. All good things. Of course, it remains to be seen what Beckett's going to do to Buchholz and Lester once he gets them onto his ranch surrounded by wild animals and back issues of Guns and Ammo magazines. But if they both end up taking the hill wearing Rambo headbands next season, I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Now, in the wonderful world of football, I would like to echo the sentiments of the good folks at Fire Joe Morgan who asked "Is there any more annoying and insufferable group of people in the world than the 1972 Dolphins?" No, I would venture. No, there is not. Also? Shut up, Don Shula.

And finally, I get that the Celtics are good this year. I get that they won by like a gajillion points last night. And don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled for their fans (I'm talking to you, Kerri). But personally, I really don't care. I'm stretched thin enough as it is with the Pats and Sox, not to mention keeping an eye on the Bruins. So, I mean, good for the Celtics. The basketball fans around here are lucky to have a great team again since it's surely been a while. But don't expect me to turn into a basketball fan all of a sudden. I might take a slight interest in highlights on Sportscenter or something, but I'm not going to start following them religiously. I stopped paying attention to the NBA when Larry Bird retired. And hey, I love that Boston appears to be the epicenter of the sports universe right now, but basketball is not my bag. But hey, if it's yours? More power to you.

No, really, why haven't we re-signed Mike Lowell yet?

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's all in the timing.

(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)

So now do we all understand why the Patriots have been "running up the score?" Now do we understand why they've been playing the full sixty minutes of football games? Now do we get why they've played hard on every down and not given anything away, despite frequently annihilating their opponents?

Good, so now it makes sense. So now maybe we can shut up about it.

I swear, after the smoke had cleared in the RCA Dome last night and Belichick stood at the podium giving his post game press conference, he said something about "playing for sixty minutes" and it was almost like you could hear the national media go, "...
ooooohhhhhh." Like they'd just connected the dots and realized that maybe there was a method to Belichick's madness after all. Maybe he hasn't been humiliating teams by keeping his starters in late in games because he's mean and hates children and puppies. Maybe he hasn't been forcing his team to run up the score because he's evil incarnate and puts razor blades in apples. Maybe he was doing it to prove a point to his team. That point being that you are not going to win all games by at least 17 points. Sometimes, things are going to be close. And sometimes, god forbid, you might even be behind late. In those situations, it's going to be beneficial if you know how to play no holds barred football for sixty full minutes. Point taken, Bill.

Because, make no mistake about it, this was a game of inches and timing. The overwrought cliche of heavyweight fighters trading punches comes to mind. But that is really what it felt like. I, personally, feel like I've gone about fifteen rounds with a defending heavyweight champ. I can't imagine how the actual players feel.

Katherine made an excellent point when she called me after the game to congratulate me (she's a Steelers fan but she's also one of the nicest people on the planet and also she runs marathons to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society so really, Katherine rocks.) "It felt like," she said, "the Colts defense was playing really hard for the first three quarters and then they just got tired. And the Patriots took advantage of that."

"Yeah," I said, "I mean, this kind of feels like last year's playoff game against the Chargers. I still don't know how we won that game and I'm not sure how we won this one."

"You have a really good football team," she said.

They're kind of like a cobra in that way. In the sense that they waited for Indy's defense to show the slightest chinks in the armor or the smallest bit of fatigue and then they attacked. And they were relentless in their attack. And then, when New England's defense that had certainly been showing signs of tarnish up until that point, needed to come through, they did. Like I said, it was all about timing.

It was also, as it so often is, about Tom Brady. Or, as has been the case this season, about Tom Brady and Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Because that one-handed catch that Randy Moss hauled in - that gravity defying, laws of physics shattering catch - was among the most amazing feats of athletic ability I've ever seen on a football field. And that is not hyperbole. The catch was, to put it simply, otherworldly.

Because these are the New England Patriots, they surely won't be resting on their laurels. They won and they're happy about it - Belichick looked positively joyful in the seconds immediately following the final kneel down as he embraced his players - but within moments he was back to his monotone delivery and his "things and stuff and stuff and things" and talking without saying anything press conference style. Because, sure, next week is a bye, but after that they've got Buffalo and as far as the Patriots are concerned, there's more football to be played. Nothing was won yesterday in Indianapolis.

They will, I suspect, forgive their fans though if we take a little extra pleasure in the victory. Because I know what they say about regular season games and the lip service that is paid to "one game at a time" but there is no one I know who believed for a second that this game wasn't bigger than the standings indicate. As he was leaving the party on Saturday night, Teddy said, "Enjoy your Super Bowl tomorrow." He's also a Steelers fan so I'm certain he was hoping for a different outcome, but he wasn't wrong about the level of hype this game received. By and large, I tried to avoid most of it because I usually don't have a problem working myself into a frenzy by the power of my own mind, let alone with suggestions from the national media outlets. But it was impossible to avoid it completely.

Said media should be happy, however, in that at least the game wasn't a blowout and they surely got some good ratings from the matchup.

And I'm happy because I now remember how good Tom Brady is. Six touchdowns are nice, but the true test of a quarterback's worth is, I think, the ability to rally his team to victory. This is nothing new for Brady - or don't we remember those Super Bowls - but he hasn't needed to do it this season. I'm glad to see he hasn't lost that touch. So, I suppose, the debate for the ages - Manning or Brady - will continue unabated. But the fact remains, when his team needed him to make a huge play, only one of them delivered. So in a game to save the world, I'm going Brady all the way. He is, as Manny Ramirez would say, "a bad man." Maybe if we're lucky, David Ortiz will spend his time recuperating from surgery Bedazzling things for Brady to wear. Dare to dream.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Defibrillator Football

(Photo from Boston.com)

I'm not gonna lie, for about 50 minutes there, I smelled burning hair and tasted blood. My mouth tasted like pennies and there was a definite scent of sulfur in the air. I also deflated a toy football with my teeth. I might also have alienated everyone watching the game with me despite the fact that I didn't throw a single thing that didn't belong to me. Which, frankly, is something new.

I admit it, I lost faith. I didn't think the Patriots were winning that game. I tried to rationalize it and tell myself, "Well, it's better to lose to the Colts now than in the playoffs, right?" and "Maybe winning all of the games is actually a bad thing. Maybe Belichick is Obi Wanning right now." But honestly, none of that made me feel any better.

I'm not even going to complain about the officiating because that would just be sore winning, but I will say that if the Patriots can win a football game where Tom Brady performs well below the admittedly sky-high standards he's set for himself this season and the defense can look tired and, frankly, old, then this is one hell of a football team.

I am, however, thrilled that next week is a bye week if for no other reason than I might need that long to regain normal breathing patterns and to stop shaking. Because despite last night's Halloween/Birthday party, I was not nearly hungover enough to deal with this game. The appropriate level of hungover would've been "comatose" but alas, it was not to be. I'm also glad that I won't have to spend the bye week avoiding all forms of media since I haven't gotten around to building that bunker or, you know, sensory deprivation chamber I've been meaning to construct.

The thing is that in the past, the kind of game that the Patriots played today would have been par for the course. But this season, they've been playing so far above everyone's head that it felt like unfamiliar territory. We haven't had to see Tom Brady lead a late game comeback all season. I'd nearly forgotten how good he is at it. And I give all credit to the Colts, they played a hell of a game and matched the Patriots on nearly every play. And also, I'm glad to see that none of the Colts players resorted to the cheap shotting that so many media types seemed to have been advocating all week. This game was decided fairly and on the field and within the rules. Thank goodness. Because the mushroom cloud that would have exploded in Brookline if it wasn't...

I would say more, but frankly, I'm still recovering and trying to get my head on straight. My Patriots are undefeated, you guys. Happy Birthday to me.

Also awesome, my brother is the coolest and I'm now the proud owner of a Jacoby Ellsbury number tee. Best gift ever? I think so. I think I'll wear it to the gym and see if it makes me feel fast.

Happy bye week, y'all.


A Humble Request

(Photo from Boston.com)

Dear Patriots,

All I want for my birthday is a win over the Colts. That's all. Nothin' big. Nothin' fancy. Just a win.

And maybe a hug from our quarterback.

Okay? We all on the same page here?

Okay, thanks.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Well now you've made me angry.

Confession: I've been terribly neglectful. This is the problem, long about September I start feeling like a harried parent being pulled in two directions. The Patriots and the Red Sox are like my children and I love them both equally. When they're playing at the same time, I feel torn, like I can't give either one of them the attention they deserve. And, of course, when they're both playing out of their minds, it becomes even more difficult. (Not that I would advise any parents out there to ignore whatever child isn't performing well but hell, what do I know? I'm not a real parent.) But now, now that the Red Sox have so richly rewarded a season of faith and, let's be honest, more than occasional exasperation, I can turn my attention fully to Child #2, the Patriots (with an eye still tuned to the saga of re-signing our once-and-future third basemen, Theo and don't you even think I'm not watching you).

That said, the Patriots thing isn't nearly as simple as it might at first appear. To an outsiders' perspective, it probably looks like we're all yukking it up here in Pats land and reveling in our victories. If points were money, we'd all be Scrooge McDuck, going for swims in our vaults. At least, that's what everyone else seems to think. But that's not really the reality of it. It should be. It absolutely should be. But, as is often the case in professional sports fandom, people just cannot leave well enough alone.

Beth and I have spent the better part of a week emailing each other about this. This whole, "the Patriots are evil because they're running up the score" thing. We are, as you would imagine, outraged and disgusted by the implication that someone should go for Tom Brady's knees as payback. You have no idea how hard it is for me to even type that sentence without smoke coming out of my ears. Because you know what? It's bullshit. It's all bullshit. I wish there was a more eloquent way to put it, but I'm afraid there is not.

Beth wrote an excellent piece about this very thing over at MVN. She's more eloquent than I am, as evidenced by the fact that the entire piece wouldn't need a seven second delay if read aloud. But I would also like to draw your attention to Eric Wilbur's column in yesterday's Globe. This, as I said to Amy when she emailed it to me, is what I've been saying for weeks now to anyone that would listen, and probably many people that won't. But here's the thing, it's worth saying. It's worth pointing out the hypocritical double standard that exists in the NFL right now and that Eric Wilbur draws attention to. And beyond that, it's worth asking why.

Look, I think the whole "We're the underdogs," "No, we're the underdogs" showmanship crap spewing from both head coaches mouths about Sunday's game is ridiculous. Look at it logically, the Patriots have scored twelve trillion and forty-two points this season and are running the NFL's most potent offense, maybe ever. The Colts are the defending Super Bowl champions, playing at home with perennial MVP Peyton Manning at the helm. If both teams could be favored, they probably would. But the oddsmakers can't have that. My point being, in a clash of the titans like this game - and it is, don't let anyone tell you otherwise - there can't be an underdog. I understand both team's reluctance to give anyone bulletin board material by declaring themselves the clear favorite (ignoring for a second the fact that there is no clear favorite here), and frankly, I don't want my football team going into games overconfident.

But that, apparently, is the issue people are having with them. Look, national media and people who've decided they hate the Patriots because it's the trendy thing to do, you can't have it both ways. Either you hate them because you think they're overconfident and running up the score to embarrass opponents, or you hate them because they pay lip service to the tired "disrespected" angle. One or the other, not both. Or, you know, you could not hate them and just appreciate the ridiculous football that's being played right now. But no, that would require giving credence to what's going on. That would require acknowledging that Tom Brady might very well be the best quarterback to ever play the game. That would require grudging admission of the fact that Belichick, while not the most warm and fuzzy guy on the planet surely, is one hell of a coach and deserves every single accolade he gets for being a football genius.

I understand that it must seem ridiculous for me to be defending the Patriots' greatness right now. But you have to understand, it's been an incredibly frustrating season for me thus far. No, stop rolling your eyes and listen for a second. I wrote a while ago that I was not going to apologize for my team's success. Not because they'd been so bad for so long and I felt that I deserved it as there is no "deserving" in sports. But because the team is great, and I want to enjoy that without having to answer for it. But since I've written that piece, things have multiplied tenfold. I have been bombarded with column links and comments from people demanding I weigh in on what people like Gregg Easterbrook and Michael Wilbon are saying. And thus far, I've refused to do it. I've refused to give validity to their claims that the Patriots are "evil" or that someone should deliberately injure Brady or another player to "teach them a lesson." But I'm mad now, and I'm tired of it.

As both Beth and Eric Wilbur point out, no one accused the Colts of running up the score the season Peyton Manning broke Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record. And the claim very clearly could have been made. No one suggested that perhaps someone should hit Peyton Manning "in the mouth" to get him to stop scoring so many points. No one claimed that, by scoring so many points and beating opponents so badly, the Colts were somehow disrespecting the game. I mean, seriously, are we really talking about this? Are we really claiming that the Patriots are bad people and bad for football because they can score 52 points on the league's third rated defense, and, you know, probably kick puppies and steal candy from children? Are we really talking about this?

I don't know how it happened, exactly. I don't know how Tom Brady and the Patriots became the bad guys. Bill Belichick I kind of understand but I wasn't aware that "baker of the best brownies in six states" was a requirement for coaching in the NFL. I honestly do not understand what everyone is so pissed off about. Personally, I just want to enjoy my football team and the clinics they seem to be putting on every Sunday. I like watching them win, no, scratch that, I LOVE watching them win. And I should damn well be able to enjoy it.

As I said to Beth, "I would understand it if they were playing dirty football, if they were getting unnecessary roughness penalties or flagrant fouls or whatever. But they're not. They're actually pissing people off with how good they are. They're just flat out destroying teams on the scoreboard and making defenses look silly.

"Also," I continued, "The way I've been looking at it is that eventually, in any given game, if you're beating a team so badly that they're clearly not coming back, you use the remaining time to fine-tune some things you want to work on. Like maybe converting fourth downs. I'm sure I'm making excuses for them up to a point, but there's also the argument that, the second you let up, someone is going to kick you in the shins."

Beth agreed, "Exactly. And I still think that if your team is bad enough to be down so far that the other team is using the game as a practice drill, you should be looking at your OWN problems, not playing morality police on your opponent."

I continued, "I mean, seriously, take Sunday's game (against the Redskins) as an example. Tom Brady ran for two touchdowns and Cassel ran for one. Now, I love him but Tommy is slow as shit. If he's RUNNING for touchdowns and you can't stop him or his backup, you've got bigger problems than complaining about the Pats running up the score."

This conversation continued for a while. Some of it was nonsensical ranting but a lot of good points, I think, were made. Beth and I both freely admit that we are giant Patriots homers but we also like to think of ourselves as reasonable and intelligent football fans who understand the intricacies of a complex game.

So I'll leave it at this: Why can't it be about football? Why can't it be about watching one team do something great? Why do people have to take that away from them? And before you point out that there are surely players and teams that I hate, I'm way ahead of you. Yes, there are, but I don't think I've ever begrudged anyone their success that I felt was rightly earned. I don't like Peyton Manning or Alex Rodriguez but I would never claim that either of them weren't phenomenal players in their respective sports. I don't understand why people can't do that for the Patriots.

I can't wait for Sunday because finally, FINALLY, this hype that swallowed the world will end and it will finally be about football. I think it'll be a great game. And if the Pats should win, fantastic, I'll be even more excited knowing that they beat the defending champs in their house and have proven themselves as contenders for a generations worth of hyperbole and accolades. If they should lose, it will be because they lost to a superior team. But please, please, just let it be about football.