LONGSHOTS: Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
by Dave Long
It’s the Thanksgiving issue, where historically I give thanks for the great things in sports and identify the turkeys who’ve flown by during the year. But given that I still feel great from the election and because we’re in for one long, tough economic road, I’m going the glass-half-full route and will just focus on all the sports things we’re lucky to have.
The Patriots — first and foremost the success of this decade. Not quite a dynasty, but it’s been a decade of meaningful games at meaningful times, with three leading directly to championships.
The chicken-and-egg combo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, as neither has won a title without the other. But Coach B did win a couple with the Giants as defensive coordinator.
I’m thankful for getting to see Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and others as those teams won the three titles because, to paraphrase Dean Wormer in a good light, smart, fast and tough is a great way to go through life watching your favorite football team play.
The Celtics — I love the way they play. Team, tough, with a mix of young and old and contributions that come from unexpected sources nightly even as you’re not really surprised who this game’s unexpected source is.
I’m thankful young players get to watch Kevin Garnett play. He’s a mix of Dave Cowens-like intensity, the athletic grace and leadership of Bill Russell and a team guy like Larry Bird and Bob Cousy.
And of course, I’ve always been a Paul Pierce guy. Which is what I’ll be saying about Leon Powe in 10 years.
The TV broadcasts on Comcast. They’re really good and Mike Gorman is the best play-by-play in Boston bar none and no one’s better on the big play. And while I’m not huge on Donny Marshall yet as he eases into taking over for Tommy Heinsohn (a little too the-glass-is-half-full and post-Tarrier-line thinker for me), they didn’t pick him for me and I wish him good luck.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not still mad at them for dumping the Couz from his six broadcasts a year. Other than Hubie Brown, he’s the only broadcaster who ever, one or two times a game had me saying, “I never thought of that.”
I’m thankful for Doc Rivers too, who’s an example of a guy I’d play my tail off for.
The Red Sox — the owners did tick me with the spin over keeping ticket prices static, but you can’t ask for much more. They want to win, they’re willing to spend, they kept Fenway Park over a new place while making it better, have turned NESN into a real TV station, and oh, yeah, ended the curse in 2004 and won again three years later.
Mother Francona drives me nuts with his better-be-safe-than-sorry babying of pitchers, but he’s been a great manager for keeping the players focused and the ravenous media at bay with a courteous approach to giving real answers that should be in a textbook somewhere for aspiring managers.
Manny — yes, he pulled a very low-rent move, but I got a kick out of most of the Manny-being-Manny nuttiness, really enjoyed watching him hit, and, of course, who else would have followed up the undignified exit with a hitting display that made me chuckle every time I saw in the box score he hit two more homers? But I don’t like that he and his skunk agent Scott Boras will benefit big time from it.
John Lester — show me a better story than battling back from his health-related ordeal to win the clinching game in the 2007 series, then throw a no-hitter as he turns into a better (and cheaper) pitcher than Johan Santana, who many in the Nation were willing to give him up for.
The Bruins — I’m not a hockey guy and at least a decade away from forgiving Jeremy Jacobs for playing Bruins fans like chumps, but hey, they are playing very well and giving those more forgiving than me something to get excited about.
The Locals — the fact the Rick Santos era at the U wasn’t a one-and-done deal, as they are even better in 2008. Sean McDonnell and company even found a quarterback in J. R. J. Toman, who’s putting up similar numbers. The crowds are still coming as well, which is what I always said was the key before investing anything in a stadium upgrade. Of course given the economic climate that may have to wait.
The world-famous Verizon Wireless Arena. Before the V came on the scene, what were the options? The movies, ah, uhm, or, oh yeah you could go to Boston. But it’s more than just hockey fans getting to see the Monarchs and the NCAA Regionals every few years. Or even kids playing the high school championships on the ice in March, football fans seeing the Wolves play arena ball, or even seeing the Celtics and Bruins come by for an annual visit. It’s that, thanks to its being run in such superb fashion by Dayton, Ohio’s own Tim Bechert, all the naysayers had no ammo when it came time to block building the baseball stadium for the then New Hampshire Primaries, which has given folks sports options for the other six months as well.
The baseball stadium. Being more of a major league baseball fan, than a fan baseball itself, I personally don’t get too juiced watching Toronto’s young’ns develop. But I like seeing the Red Sox JV come to town and that the F-Cats give high school and college kids the thrill of playing on such a great field. Plus with the view of the skyline and the Brown Monster hotel out there in left center, it looks cool. And where else can you sit out on a patio for dinner and drinks and have baseball as the background music like at the Hilton that’s (plug, plug) owned by my friend Dave Roedel and his family.
Being a basketball guy, I’ve been lucky to be in a place where the college basketball has been so well served by Keith Dickson and Stan Spirou at St. A’s and SNHU for so long. The high school programs offer a lot of kids a chance to play, and a succession of guys like Spirou, Jay Dufour, Paul Guertin, Tommy Ameen, Pat O’Neil, Mike Fitzpatrick, Doc (10) Wheeler and Dave Keefe has kept the titles coming every few years and/or the fun and lesson for the kids constant.
There’s so much more than all this and I’ve left out a lot of folks, but I’m out of space. So — happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s 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.