LONGSHOTS: Seven days in May filled with action
by Dave Long
The seven or so days prior to my filing this column were filled with all sorts of divergent things on and off the field. Rather than focus on one or two, Iíll take them all on one by one.
Brian Urlacher Rips Into Sayers: Memo to the Bearsí LB: I get why it might be irritating, but hey, donít rip into to my guy Gale Sayers! Urlacher did that after taking umbrage at Sayersí offering candidate answers to questions at an event in Nebraska about the teamís recent failures on the field ó all of which were true and said without malice. And Iíve got to say I enjoyed his getting slapped back by three more Bear Hall of Fame alums, Mike Ditka, Dick Butkis and Dan Hampton, who said, ďYou canít have thin skin if you canít win.Ē And if you want to see why I love Sayers, check this out on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M9amJhE1UE&feature=fvsr.
How Things Can Change So Quickly in Sports: There were tons of examples, but none more vivid than the Orlando Magic. After sweeping Atlanta by historic proportions, following another sweep of Charlotte, they came into the Celtics series with the ďexpertsĒ calling them ďunstoppable.Ē Three games later I heard radio and TV talkers saying break them up because they canít win the big one! And the series wasnít even over. That dramatic public attitude swing took exactly six days. Wonder if any of those folks remember similar calls for the Larry Bird Celtics after they got swept by Milwaukee in 1983? Red said the worst thing you can do is make decisions at an emotional time. So he waited and instead just traded back-up center Rick Robey ó who was losing PT to a coming-of-age Kevin McHale ó for Dennis Johnson AND a number pick (how he got that too Iíll never know) from Phoenix, and they went on to four straight finals while winning twice including the next year.
How Things Change Overnight, Part II: Then there was David Ortiz going from a .134-hitting pariah on April 30 to the beloved Big Papi being cheered by the most fickle, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately ďfansĒ in sports by mid-May. Itís not everyone, but itís a significant segment. Compare those bozos to Celtics fans at the end of the Bird era. They booed after the aforementioned sweep, but I recall no one booing Larry in 1992 when his bad back made him, to be kind, a very inconsistent shooter. We just knew the end was at hand and were sad it was. And before you tell me about the great ďpassionĒ of Red Sox Nation, Iíll tell you passion is no excuse for classless behavior. So I say boooo to them.
Ortiz Blames the Media: And of course who does Big Papi blame when he goes on WEEI last week? The media. Give me a break. They might have been trigger-happy in calling for his release ó no shock there ó or just downright wrong. But I didnít see or hear any dis-respectful calls in the media in talking about the issue, as unlike many fans, they recalled his crucial role in ending the curse and achieving the two world titles. His argument is that the media never played in the majors and thus donít know what the struggles are. First, thatís not true for Jim Rice and the Eck on NESN, who are both in the Hall, as well as a host of people on ESPNís Baseball Tonight. Second, itís clear he has no idea what the mediaís job is. Sure sounds like he wants them/us to be cheerleaders for him, and thatís not our job. Itís to report whatís happening, and in the case of columnists and radio/TV talkers itís to offer opinions on the subject in question. So deal with it, because in the end the media plays a role in amping the fan interest that leads to ticket sales, suite sales, TV ratings and merchandise purchases, all of which play a huge role in playersí making their exaggerated salaries.
Lowell Speaks Out: I like Mike Lowell and respect him and understand why he wants to play and feels like a fish out of water this year. Not sure his release is best for the Red Sox, as he provides insurance at first, third and DH. After paying him all the money heís earned, I see why the Sox donít want to take the financial hit of just releasing him. But if he really does want out, he can always renounce the rest of the $ 9 million heís owed by the team and try and make a team for his own. I wouldnít do it, but it is an option.
Dice-K and the Near No-Hitter: He established a long time ago to me that he is the most infuriating pitcher to watch since Al Hrabosky (didnít dig the histrionics from a mediocre hurler). But he may be in the midst of toping himself this year, when heís pitched well in all but three innings of his five starts. Of course those three innings were lulus of the make-you-crazy department and led to three horrible starts ó one of which he still won. But he was gold in two of his last three, especially Saturday when he pitched 8.1 hitless innings, which was vexing as it ended on a bloop hit that eluded Marco Scutaro that F-Cat PR wiz Mike Murphy could have caught. And hereís the stat youíre going to be hearing for a while: in the 15 innings with Jason Varitek catching heís given up zero runs and with V-Mart back there itís 20 runs in 14.2.
The Rondo Pay: Iíll say three things about the signature ďdive, recovery and then getting up to scoreĒ play from Saturday. It epitomized the effort gap in that game. If Jason Williams had dived for that ball as many said he should, it wouldíve been a travel. So the play was to block Rondo out, but his effort and its athletic nature trumped what Williams tried to do. Third, the play from Celtics lore it most resembles is the scramble, dive and recovery by Dave Cowens off a poke check steal of Oscar Robertson in the 1974 finals. But I submit Rondoís was even better, as Cowens nearly slid out of bounds on the recovery, while Rondo got up and scored with a 7.5 degree-of-difficulty shot.
L.A. vs. Boston: Seems most want another L.A.ĖBoston final. Not me; Iím hoping for a Suns-Cís final. I want to see Steve Nash and Rondo go toe-toe. In part because theyíre probably my two favorite players to watch. But also because the guy who saved the NBA from itself and its excruciating micro-managing coaches by breaking the fast break back to the league has earned the opportunity to experience the Finals at least once in his career. Dave Long can be reached at email@example.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM, Manchester, 900-AM Nashua
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.