Heady times in Boston once again.
The Red Sox and Yankees are set to tango at Fenway in their inaugural ’09 series beginning Friday. The Patriots will be on the clock Saturday, as the 2009 NFL Draft fires up. And once the Celtics take care of the Bulls, both the Green and Bruins will be appearing in their respective conference semifinals for the first time since 1992.
A few thoughts about each…
AM I THE only one yearning for an infusion of hate into Sox-Yanks? Isn’t that what made this whole thing the preeminent ongoing sports drama, way back when?
You ask any Red Sox or Yankees fan what they remember most clearly about the rivalry in recent past — apart from The Comeback — and a Boston fan will say Varitek’s Glove in A-Rod’s Face, while a New York fan will recount Pedro’s Body Slam of Zimmer. These enduring images characterized and defined the rivalry, made it drop-everything, must-see television 19 or 26 times annually. ESPN and Fox salivated all over it. Passionate followers cleared their schedules and did everything they could to score the hottest ticket in town. Casual fans tuned in because, hell, anything could happen. No matter who you were, Red Sox-Yankees always found a way to find you.
Nowadays? The media outlets aren’t nearly as enthralled, which is largely a reflection of popular sentiment. And quite frankly, it’s because they have barely anything to hype. The big storyline going into this weekend surrounds Joba Chamberlain and David Ortiz. Joba, who has thrown at Kevin Youkilis on a few occasions, was called out by Big Papi, if you can even classify it as such. Ortiz basically said that since Joba has shown head-hunting proclivities, he’s going to find it difficult to gain respect throughout the league. (His comments contained almost as much vitriol as a certain drive-by argument…)
Would it be that out of line if Big Papi had said something just a tad more incendiary, to you know, send a message? I for one would love to see Joba hurl some chin music at Ortiz, watch Papi step out of the box and tell Joba to watch his corn-fed behind, then blast one into the center field bleachers.
IT’S PRETTY MUCH impossible to predict what the Patriots will do come draft day, which is why it’s so much fun tossing around various conspiracy theories. Using the last two drafts as indicators, there’s truly no telling what Bill Belichick is up to.
Two years ago, the Randy Moss-to-New England rumors had come and gone before the draft, yet Belichick pulled a cat of out a hat in New York and in came Moss for (even at the time) a laughable fourth-round pick. And a year ago, clearly deviating from his track record of only selecting linemen high in the first round, Belichick traded down from the seventh to tenth overall pick and selected linebacker Jerod Mayo.
While the possibility of Julius Peppers becoming a Patriot has been declared dead for all intents and purposes, it is for that very reason that it could still be alive. When Peter King reports that New England is looking to trade its first-round and a second-round pick to move into the low top 10, but professes to have little idea as to why, the theories are free to fly.
All that’s for sure are the following facts: 1) New England was initially offering a second-round pick for Peppers, which was not enough, 2) Having shored up their secondary (signing Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden) and running game (Fred Taylor), the outside linebacker position is the Patriots’ only glaring weakness, 3) A low top 10 pick is an excellent bargaining chip, given the caliber of talent available there, as well as the slightly smaller financial obligation necessary to sign the player.
If Peter King doesn’t have a bead on what the Patriots will do, it’s legitimately anyone’s guess. But that’s what makes following Belichick’s moves on draft day so intriguing.
THE CELTICS WERE the champs again on Thursday night in Chicago. After a pair of scintillating games at the Garden that could have gone either way, Paul Pierce took command of Game 3 from the outset and the Celtics defense suffocated the suddenly overmatched Bulls all night.
Even with Kevin Garnett on the bench in a suit, it was a vintage performance from the Green on the defensive end, as they held Chicago to under 41 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers. For the first time in the series, Pierce played like the best player on the court. And Rajon Rondo, who battled to a stalemate with Derrick Rose in Boston, took decisive control of the point guard showdown, racking up 20 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals.
This series may still be extended — Chicago was 28-13 at home before Thursday — but for the Bulls, there’s ultimately no recovering from such a colossal beatdown in their own building. Especially against the champs.
I HAVE NEVER written about the Bruins, because 1) I don’t know enough about hockey to throw my weight around, and 2) the Bruins have done nothing but disappoint for a very long time. They infamously blew a 3-1 series lead against Montreal as the No. 1 seed in 2004, then attempted to reverse the script last year as the underdog, before falling to the Habs in seven.
All I remember from last year’s playoffs was how a few choice Boston crackpots decided to beat up visiting Montreal fans leaving the Garden. It was an unnecessary and classless thing to do, though it paled in comparison to the disgraceful act staged by Canadiens fans before Game 3 Monday in Montreal: booing the American national anthem.
It was fitting that the Bruins proceeded to snuff out Montreal’s season with a pair of systematic thrashings, while formalizing a tidy four-game sweep in which Boston outscored the Habs 17-6. I can officially say I’m back on the bandwagon, and am eagerly anticipating the Bruins’ projected second-round matchup with the New York Rangers.
To bring this rambling column full circle: Maybe a little Bruins-Rangers is just what the doctored ordered for a suffering Boston-New York rivalry.
(Unless of course Joba decides to throw one behind Big Papi Friday night.)