LONGSHOTS: Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep-deprived Nation
by Dave Long
I want to publicly thank the Red Sox for ending the World Series on Sunday after just four games. I donít know about you but after seven games with the Indians and four more late ones with Colorado I couldnít take another marathon week of going to bed around 12:30. So forget winning it all, Iím just thankful to them for getting me some much-needed rest.
Especially since I need to conserve my strength for what lies ahead this weekend. The first event is the highly anticipated debut of Big Three - The Sequel at the Garden on Friday. And then on Sunday comes what one understated talking head this week called the greatest regular-season game in NFL history. In case sleep deprivation has robbed you of memory, that one includes the undefeated and untied Baltimore, er, Indianapolis Colts taking on the undefeated Boston, er, Bay State, er, New England Patriots squaring off at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Guess Iíve got a little memory loss too.
Now if youíve been reading this column for a while, I suspect at least the folks in the ďThe Patriots are a DynastyĒ crowd will have a sense the first thing Iím going to do is jump on anyone blurting out something is the greatest this or greatest that without proving they have a real sense of history to back it up. But Iím not going to do that, mainly because he may be right. After all both are undefeated at mid-year and possessing two of the most explosive offenses in history.
But while Pete Tarrierís not going to like me talking about something that happened before 1993, my friend Mike Moffett has another nomination. Always eager to point out via e-mails or a phone call when he ďthinksĒ Iím wrong about something Iíve said or written, he did again after hearing this brought up on my show last Saturday. And while heís almost always wrong when he does it, this time he might be right. It came in the final weekend in 1967, when despite being undefeated, the 11-0-2 Indianapolis, er, Baltimore Colts still needed to beat the 10-1-2 St. Louis, er, Cleveland, no make that the Los Angeles Rams to just make the playoffs! It had Roman Gabriel throwing to J. T. Snowís dad, Jack and Johnny U throwing to former Patriots coach Raymond Berry. All-name teamers Myron Pottios and Ordell Braase were on hand, as were legendary coaches George Allen for L.A. and Don Shula for the Colts. Whether heís right or wrong can wait until heís on my show this Saturday to talk about this very subject and others surrounding Sundayís game.
Before Sundayís game comes the first regular-season look at the new Celtics. Iím sure GM Danny Ainge would have done the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen deals regardless, but that time was running on his tenure gave him a sense of urgency to act now. And while I could quibble he gave up more than he had to in those deals, I canít quibble with the fact theyíve delivered the greatest pre-season excitement since Larry Bird first came to town 28 years ago. Itís a work in progress, but if you think it doesnít have dormant Celtic fans jazzed you missed that the Garden was sold out twice for exhibition games and Garnett getting a standing O for his triple double in the second one.
Amid the anticipation of these events, locals are still reveling in the glory of their Red Soxís third World Series title in 89 years. The victory aside in their latest ALCS comeback from the dead followed by a series sweep, this one offered a few lessons too. Especially to me and I hope Terry Francona, as well as fodder for conversation on next year already.
For me and the legions of critics out there convinced they know better, itís not to pick nits as much. Specifically, Iíve done my share of it with Theoís revolving door at shortstop and what Iíll say is a checkered record with free agents. Because while itís true this yearís crop was expensive and didnít turn out as billed, the goal of any organization is to win the championship and thatís exactly what young Mr. Epstein did. The lesson is, not every decision turns out right, but if you make enough good ones youíll be alright ó which Iíll try and remember. So for that, and for how theyíre positioned to win going forward with home-grown talent, Theo gets an A+.
As for the manager, who gets the same grade, I hope the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury lets him tweak his stance on loyalty a bit. Not that itís not admirable, but if Miller Huggins were as loyal to Wally Pipp as Tito was to Coco, heíd have been back at first the day after his famous headache and no one would know who Lou Gehrig is today. Ditto for the 2001 Super Bowl, when Coach B could have gone back to Drew Bledsoe when healthy despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Sometimes the young guy is just better than a good player in front of him and should play. With no disrespect to Crisp, that was the case with the dynamic rookie.
Having said that, my loyalty yardstick does not extend to guys outside the team. So let me be the first to say I donít want A-Rod brought to Boston at the expense of Mike Lowell. I know the numbers are tantalizing and the homer total in Fenway could be out of this world. But thereís a difference between knowing when a guy should move ahead of another on your team and rewarding guys youíve won with for gigantic contributions, like those provided by Lowell in 2007. Thatís the kind of thing George Steinbrenner used to do routinely before the Joe Torre era and Theo (kind of) did with Edgar Renteria. Now if heís thinking about letting the door at shortstop revolve again to put Rodriguez there, I might be for that. If his contract doesnít bust the budget to where it hurt them in other areas, because I can live with his less than stellar post-season record as long as Manny, Big Papi and Lowell are around to pick him up.
That pretty much brings us up to date in what probably is the greatest time to be a sports fan in these parts. Something I hope one and all understand and appreciate. All thatís left for me is to figure out what to do at night with no Red Sox games to watch, and, after a few days of rest, to get my memory back to show Moffett why this Sundayís game is better than that one in 1967 ó which Iíll do come Saturday morning.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM-Nashua.