November 27, 2008

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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 dlong@hippopress.com. 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.


11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking

11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — 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 M’s 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
Hero’s 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