November 9, 2006

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LONGSHOTS: Blame game reaches new local low
by Dave Long

In 1984 the Celtics got blown out in game three of the NBA finals 137-104 by the Lakers. The embarrassing defeat put them down two games to one in a series they should have been down three-zip. They werenít because James Worthy inexplicability threw a looping pass in the waning seconds of game two that Gerald Henderson picked off and turned into the tying points as time expired. It led to a 124-121 overtime escape that sent a lucky team west tied at a game apiece.

In the press conference after Game Three Larry Bird didnít point fingers at referees, coach KC Jones or any teammate. He looked in the mirror and said the entire team was playing like ďsissiesĒ and they better play better, or they were going to be embarrassed again. Many would have blamed somebody, anybody, because thatís what people do when they donít have the character to face what the real problem is. Itís what folks like Terrell Owens generally do and why, no matter how good they are, I donít want them on my team.

Take Mike Vanderjagt. He once tired to blame a post-season loss on Peyton Manningís not delivering in the clutch. True or not, and it sure didnít look that way on Sunday, leaders donít blame others. Folks who do generally do what Vander gag did when the big moment arrived in the playoffs last year. Needing a field goal to send it to overtime against eventual Super Bowl winner Pittsburgh, he showed true grit by kicking it farther to right than where Rush Limbaugh resides and the Colts went home empty again.

Leaders donít whine, or cry and blame others. They stand there and take it. Then they pull everyone together to solve the problem. That was the case for Bird in 1984 though it didnít really turn around until Kevin McHale close lined Kurt Rambis on a fast break to spark a Boston comeback in Game Four. Memorable wins in games five and seven followed, as did title number 15. I doubt it would have happened if Bird had sat there after game three pointing fingers as Mayor Frank Guinta did two weeks ago in the wake of much more real life-and-death circumstances.

He did it by pointing a finger Governor Lynchís way for escalating violent crime in Manchester after a gubernatorial debate at WMUR-TV. It was the-ends-justify-the-means politics at its worst, as it blatantly politicized the sad death of Officer Michael Briggs. The kind of thing that makes me shout: when are we going to put our foot down and say enough is enough? And itís not like itís one party. The Democrats responded with a press conference, where, after a brief statement condemning the mayor, they politicized it too by recanting a litany of things the Governor has done to curb crime. A friend of mine said the next day, ďThey canít help themselves, theyíre politicians.Ē

Trying to hold politicians accountable may seem futile, but the impossible can happen. Look at the Bruins after years of owner neglect, when Jeremy Jacobs knew people would flock to see their beloved Bs if they just stayed competitive enough. Then came the lockout, a truly horrendous year, and when the turnstile count plummeted, magically Jacobs appeared to show he cared. I know Iím a cynic, but please. However, it does show that if you hold them accountable with your wallet or vote they will respond.

Itís like that with the mayorís six-point plan to curb violent crime that only appeared after Officer Briggs was gunned down. Whereís it been? I mean the mayor did campaign on this issue, didnít he? Especially after violent incidents at Omega and Envy fell right into campaign manger Jack Heathís lap. Itís like Bill Belichick coming into tomorrowís film meeting with a plan to hold Manning in check. Thatís great, Bill, but where was it Sunday when he was nearly unstoppable in a 27-20 loss? And did anyone see Tom Brady blaming anyone for those four picks? No. Thatís why heís so respected.

Through the years the line has become so blurred with people talking a good game, itís hard to tell now what a real thing is when you see it. Itís like the last few years Drew Bledsoe was a Patriot and still the teamís unquestioned quarterback. That was true even among his critics, except, I guess, Butch from the Cape. But Bill Belickick doesnít look at reputations. He wants production and saw someone holding onto a job because no one on hand was good enough take it. That is until he got hurt, when Brady stepped in and never looked back.

Even with three Super Bowl rings tucked away in Bradyís safe deposit box, to this day Drew, unbelievably, still feels he should have gotten his job back when he returned from his devastating injury. Heís unable, I guess, to look in the mirror and see he was holding on to it by default, and didnít get it back because Brady was better. Itís called denial.

Maybe thatís why the mayor tried to lay some of the blame for the recurring street violence on Governor Lynch. Or, maybe it was payback for a slight, or he was just being a political hack trying to help the failing campaign of Jim Coburn Ė which is even worse. Anyway, it didnít show the kind of leadership this crisis demands.

Itís time to get all who can help involved. Build bridges, Mr. Mayor, make amends with the Governor and stop worrying about credit and blame. In short, be the leader you said you were when you asked Manchester to put you in office.

Dave Long can be heard on Sports Night with Dave Long nightly from 6 to 7 p.m. on 610 WGIR-AM


11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport

10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat