Boston Celtics

Boston Bubbling With Optimism


A sunset view of Boston's financial district from the Back Bay, December 16, 2010.

Sports radio is an annoying format. It's mainly sports writers, shock jocks, and fans either yelling at or with each other. I have no business listening to Boston's WEEI sports radio, especially after the morning guys, Dennis and Callahan, mentioned my name on the air in 2005, followed immediately by the word, "idiot."  Twice.

But on my latest drive to Brockton from Manhattan, I didn't have my own car with me. I opted to rent one, and I relied on terrestial radio rather than XM radio for most of my entertainment. WEEI's range is impressive. I think I picked up the station in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, just past the halfway point between New York and Brockton.

And for the first time, I heard something called the Planet Mikey Show. Mike Adams seems like a funny guy. He's from Pittsburgh, but he almost sounds like Seth McFarlane as Peter Griffin (the main character in Family Guy who has a Rhode Island accent). Mike and his sidekick last Tuesday night just couldn't avoid the theme for the entire city of Boston right now - that their pro sports teams were among the hottest in the nation as 2010 drew to a close.

The Bruins were running their predictable course of having a great regular season, followed by a painful playoff exit. The Celtics were in the middle of a long winning streak. The Red Sox had made two blockbuster acquisitions during the MLB winter meetings in Florida. And the New England Patriots, in just five weeks, had gone from playoff probables to Super Bowl favorites.

A common talking point repeated by all of WEEI hosts and guests is that the Patriots are now favored to win all of their remaining games, including all playoff games and the Super Bowl. The talking point is so common and pervasive, I wonder if everyone in front of the microphone was given a memo, Fox News style?

Coordinated or not, they're correct. The New England Patriots are once again favored to win the NFL Championship. I blogged about this before, in early 2008, and we know how that story ended. But this season is dramatically different. The Patriot defense has gotten better with each game. And in my opinion, this has been the season that finally proved that it is the quaterback, Tom Brady, who has made the Patriot offense great.

He has thrown to both good and great receivers. But Brady has this ability to elevate all receivers. He delivers the ball to them as if they are all named Jerry Rice or Deion Branch. Brady has surpassed names like Steve Young and Johnny Unitas on the list of great quarterbacks and has entered the territory of Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway. There is simply no active quarterback better than Tom Brady, no matter what Marshall Faulk or Tom Jackson currently say about the Patriots on television.

Boston's getting ahead of itself a little bit. Great things are happening in December 2010 (the Celtics and Patriots), but one of those teams needs to win a championship in order for 2011 to be remembred as a great year in Boston sports. But with 1986 and 2007 already recorded as great years, it is certainly understandable how expecations are very high for three of Boston's four pro sports teams in 2011.

The first test will be the Patriots playoff run. They have defeated all the top teams this season. For them, it really is Super Bowl or bust this time around.

David Stern About To Make Things Worse For His League

NBA Commissioner, David Stern, plans to hold a press conference today before Game 5 of the NBA finals in Los Angeles. He's the fourth man to hold that title in the history of the NBA, and has held that title for 24 years, back when there was a long-running Celtics-Lakers rivalry. It's his league. He built it so that at one point. let by the fame of Michael Jordan, it was the second most-watched sport on US television. Since the late 90s, the NBA has faded in both spectatorship and in terms of game quality. A game of forwards and guards has become a simple game of 'give the ball to the big guy.' A game of colorful, but friendly rivalries has given way to physical brawls and some of the ugliest moments in American prfessional sport.

It is a sport in which a young man with enormous talent, but an over-inflated ego and total lack of respect for his teammates and coach was, at one point, compared to Michael Jordan. Fortunately, his teams collapse in Game 4 of the 2008 Finals ensures that he will never be compared to Jordan again.

But back to David Stern, the man who has been at the helm for both the rise and fall of the NBA (1979-2004, as I see it). He has been battling a crisis involving betting by one or more referees, and possible game fixing, which is still under investigation. When the so-called NBA Betting Scandal broke last July 20th, it was bad news. So far, only one referee, Jim Donaghy has been convicted in the scandal. But I think that today's expected blanket denial that the scandal involved more than one referee, and possibly included game-fixing, is the wrong move.

Obviously, I am not alone in that opinion. The editors of USA Today spoke-up about this blanket denial on Saturday:

A more appropriate response would have been to say that the league would go to extraordinary lengths to remove suspicions. An independent expert, along the lines of former U.S. senator George Mitchell, who looked into the steroids issue in baseball, could evaluate NBA officiating, examine whether some refs are too cozy with individual players (some of whom provide marketable autographs and other gifts), and determine whether Donaghy was indeed a lone bad apple.

And Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says it more clearly:

Stern used to know how to deal with things like this. The undisputed "best commissioner in American sports" could handle every crisis that came his way, and he did it without a hiccup. But he's wrong if he thinks he can solve this stain that Donaghy is putting on his league by telling everyone that the admitted game fixer is merely some desperate rogue trying to rat out anyone and everyone to get the feds to reduce his prison time.

What he should be saying -- actually shouting it in front of as many television cameras as he can -- is that he is going to get to the bottom of this with the mother of all independent investigations. Someone other than the NBA needs to get to the bottom of every creepy, sleazy and suspicious circumstance and wild allegation.

Continued blanket denials and brush-offs are not going to make these latest allegations -even from a convicted felon- go away. Stern is showing that he no longer has the magic touch in managing his once-great league.

Forever The Asshole

This is not breaking news, but Spike Lee is a world-class asshole. Oh yes, he is also a member of the famed "New York School" of filmmaking that closed out the 20th century (which includes DePalma, Scorsese, the Coens, Jarmusch, and Sayles). He has made at least three great movies in his 22-year career. But make no mistake, he's an asshole and is proud of it. The fact that he's a Knicks fan should be a tip-off to anyone. But Lee is exercising his asshole powers a little bit more this month. He is so jealous of the Green dynasty of the NBA, he has crossed conference lines and has paid tens of thousands of dollars to root for the Lakers in the finals.

In my opinion, the MVP of the finals is Ray Allen. He and Spike Lee are good friends. Allen had this to say about Lee:

"I looked up and I saw Spike cheering for the Lakers," Allen said. "That set me back a little bit. If he is a Knick fan, I'm figuring he was for the Eastern Conference. But he's cheering for the Lakers. I'm going to have to talk to him about that."

Lee has us Bostonians when it comes to baseball, championships, and race. The Yankees promoted a black player into their rotation before the Red Sox did. The Yankess have 26 championships to Boston's 7.

But when it comes to the Knicks, there is simply no comparison to the Celtics.

Let's begin with the issue of race. The Celtics had the first Black superstar, who became the first Black coach in the NBA (and a player-coach at that).

The Celtics will soon have 17 NBA championships. The Knicks will only have 1. Forever 1 championship. They almost stole a second one clutching, pushing, and grabbing under Pat Riley in the 1990s. But now they are doomed to remain with one trophy, forever.

Because they suck. Because they are beyond suck.

They were originally named the Knickerbockers, which is a cool name. But now it is shortened to the name of a shaving injury.

They suck worse than the New Jersey Jets. They really are the bottom of the New York and New Jersey sports barrel.

They had one awesome moment, in a great 60-22 season, led by 5 great players whose names hang in the MSG rafters.

And there's their biggest supporter, courtside in LA, obsessed with the greatest team in the short history of the NBA.

Green 17, Spike. I'm sure you'll deal with it.

Oh, and the Celtics record this season was 66-15. Let's assume that had this season been 82 games, it would have been 66-16. That's still a winning percentage of 80.4%. Who thinks the Knicks will ever come close to their best 73.1%?