November 22, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: Hereís what Iím thankful for at Thanksgiving
by Dave Long

My favorite holiday of them all is upon us. It is my favorite because the holiday starts the long weekend which, unlike, say Christmas, where youíre back to work the next day, gives you time to just chill for a few days after itís done. In my ďwhen I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsibleĒ days it was always the best college vacation. Because it was the first time Iíd been home since August and it was fun (although spring break in Florida was pretty good too). Itís also the last of the fall weather. Thereís football through the day starting with local games played on the home front, the actual feast and the idea of giving thanks for what weíre lucky enough to have. Something we all are best served by remembering more than just this weekend.

In sports we are in the midst of an incredible bounty to be thankful for, with potential for it to be truly unprecedented. Thereís a long way to go before that happens, of course, but in the meantime I look around and say it sure has changed since, say, 2000. So in the spirit of the day hereís what Iím thankful for in sports.

The Celtics: Expecting the Red Sox first? Forgettaboutit! I have to admit ó in the guy sports kind of way (not that thereís anything wrong with the other kind) I love Kevin Garnett. At my core Iím still a (broken down) player, so I get why heís the kind of guy everybody loves to play with. A Tom Brady who does the right things for the right reasons and not for Steve Garvey-like PR purposes. He passes, does basketballís version of blocking as a ferocious rebounder and most of all, for how he beats everyone down the floor. Next time theyíre on TV follow him after the Celtics get the rebound. See how many times heís the first guy down the floor. Itís in stark contrast to most guys that active on the glass. And then thereís Ray Allen, who appears better than I thought. Itís not that I donít know averaging 26 a game, as he did last year, is hard to do. Itís just sometimes you need to see it to know what that means. And guess what? Iím not the only who likes what heís seeing. Theyíre second in ESPNís power rating as I write this, trailing only the Spurs and ahead of the Suns, Mavs and Pistons. Whoída thunk it? Thanks, Danny.

Alumni News: I must say I really like following the growing national regard of Dan Mullen at Florida and Chip Kelly at Oregon. Matt Bonner getting more time with the Spurs. The progress of seeing Ryan (make my) Day going from UNH to Florida, Temple and now BC. Players like Dave Philistin at Maryland, Tyler Roche at BC and the Trinity basketball group. And some new hoopsters like Whitney and Joe Fremeau playing at Holy Cross and Bentley respectively. Itís fun.

Local Stuff: Too much to name, but if you want to see sports played at high levels thereís the Ms, F-Cats, Pride, Wolves and now the Millrats. Tremendous places to see games played at the ballpark and the world-famous Verizon Wireless (plug, plug) Arena run so ably by legendary Tim Bechert. Weíve got great colleges, very good high school ball, plenty of leagues for kids where not all the parents are crazy sports parents. And, in WGAM, we now even have a local sports radio station you can call when of the mind ó as an amazing 55 people did the afternoon the Series began.

Soccer: I finally have something of interest to follow. At least since the women won the World Cup at the Rose Bowl. Itís a homer deal ó my niece Allie Long. She plays for North Carolina, whoís trying to repeat as national champs as we speak. Talk about the tradition-laden menís basketball all you want, but when it comes to winning national titles it has four and womenís soccer 18! Sheís a mid-fielder, third on the team in goals and minutes. Iím writing this with a vacation-induced early deadline so Iím not sure if they survived the opening NCAA weekend against High Point (where, oh by the way, Nashuaís and new SNHU hoop import Troy Bowen came from) and probably Notre Dame in round two. Regarding soccer beyond that? Have the Revs started yet?

21st-Century Technology: Iíve been watching UNC online, where parents, friends and enemies now can watch videocasts of games of all levels from all over the country at home on the computer. Then thereís Direct TV, cable, ESPNís Web site, the NFL package, et al. Itís a long way from my dad climbing on the roof to aim our antenna over Long Island Sound to pick up the signal from the CBS station in New Haven that was allowed to carry New York Football Giants home games because it was outside the 75-mile local radius. So Iím thankful for the miracle of modern communications that lets us see almost anything without even thinking about it. Although being able to watch his beloved Giants by shifting the antenna was a technological miracle to my Depression-era-raised father.

The Kraft/Belichick Patriots: Iíve said many times these guys are what the Celtics were while winning 16 titles under Red. A team exactly opposite of the Sox before Theo & the Trio took over. Where no matter how dire, you always expected things to go right in the end. It doesnít always happen. But itís happened enough that when it doesnít, Iím surprised. Itís got a quarterback who epitomizes team play and grace under fire. Its leaders have fire and donít need to bring attention to themselves. They get that winning is the real reward. And theyíve taught me a lesson with the arrival of Randy Moss. If you read this space you may know Iím the cynical type. I judged Mossís book by its cover, so I think Iíll look a little longer before I leap the next time.

The Red Sox: While Iíve quibbled with Theoís free agent choices, I love whatís coming out of the farm system. That they got big contributions this time from guys who were on the JV not too long ago. Iím thankful Tito stuck with a struggling Dustin Pedroia this spring when I said he was overmatched. That the owners are willing to spend with the Empire and most of all that they saved Fenway Park. Itís the jewel of baseball and when the Stadium goes in 2009 itíll be down to just Wrigley and Fenway as the pathway to baseballís glorious past. And, oh yes, I also liked winning the World Series ó again.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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 Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts

11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
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