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 email@example.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.