November 1, 2007

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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 dlong@hippopress.com. 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.


10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation

10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
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