Odds and ends to quench your playoff-induced thirst
Footnotes! Dribs and drabs. Or â€˜disa and data,â€™ as Bud Gillooly used to call the stuff. In other words, here are some more odds and ends looking for a place to land.
â€¦Three and a half years after he graced the waiver wire â€” when any team in the NHL could have had him for peanuts â€” Tim Thomas is about to win the Vezina Trophy, the fabled bauble annually awarded the chap adjudged the best goaltender in the game. As rags to riches tales go it doesnâ€™t get much better in todayâ€™s unsentimental and greedy pro sports scene. Nor might there be a fellow more deserving.
â€¦ Stand by for a world class, three-ring circus in the Bronx attending the return of that redoubtable contradiction in terms, A-Rod the unrequited. Heâ€™s got plenty of time to deliver at least 35 homers and 100 RBIs and his very presence in the Yankee lineup should make Mark Teixeira worth at least half what the Yankees are paying him. But A-Rodâ€™s doofus routine could devour his team even as he is saving it. Heâ€™s a metaphysical enigma. But he needs to know this may be his last chance to grow up.
â€¦The great unanswered question of the wildly entertaining Celtics-Bulls pier-sixer is, â€˜Would the Celtics have swept them if they had a healthy Kevin Garnett in the mix?â€™ Still, there should be no surprise if Orlando proves to be a day at the beach next to the feisty young Bulls.
â€¦ Whereas the question concerning the Bruinsâ€™ potentially dangerous second round waltz with the transplanted Hartford Whalers focuses on how much meaning we should ascribe to the Hurricaneâ€™s chilling shutdown of the local juggernaut in game two. To which we can but note, â€œIf Detroit can lose why canâ€™t Boston?â€ An unbeaten run was never in the cards.
â€¦On the other hand, the lamentable loss of mighty mainstay Garnett clearly invited Celtic youth to come of age and they didnâ€™t muff it. But Big Cry-Baby Davis needs to understand he hasnâ€™t been in the league long enough to whine over every foul called against him and the otherwise stunning Rajon Rondo had better tone done his act. Rondo got away with back-to-back muggings against the Bulls. He was lucky. He could have cost the Câ€™s the series. Nor did it go over well around the league where too many still believe the Celtics still get too many breaks. Rondoâ€™s chances of getting away with any more such thuggish antics in these playoffs are nil.
â€¦Congratulations to Joe Thornton are in order. With his third straight abysmal playoff performance in San Jose he has graciously affirmed the wisdom of those of us whoâ€™ve vigorously maintained heâ€™s grossly over-rated and well deserved to be exiled by Boston, for which the last Bruins regime was unjustly persecuted by people who didnâ€™t know what they were talking about. Jumbo Joe remains likeable and engaging but there is something hollow about his act. When the moneyâ€™s on the line, heâ€™s a hockey A-Rod.
â€¦Further reflection suggests Boss Bill Belichickâ€™s performance in the recent college draft may have been beyond brilliant. Of course all 12 of the picks he amassed with a series of clever maneuvers could turn out to be busts. But for the sake of argument letâ€™s just assume thatâ€™s not likely. Doubtless thereâ€™s a couple of gems in the group and second and third round â€˜gemsâ€™ command much smaller contracts than first-rounders, which in turn creates much more room under the salary cap. But for Belichick to also walk away with two more of those near priceless second-round picks in next yearâ€™s draft is simply dazzling. What more can you say.
â€¦No matter the result of the on-going Cup chase, the Bruins are likely to score big in the NHLâ€™s annual trophy disbursement. Goalie Tim Thomas â€” as previously noted â€” is the odds-on pick for the Vezina. Claude Julien is considered even more of a lock for the Adams trophy, which cites the coach of the year, and itâ€™s virtually no contest. Less a given but a strong possibility is the matter of Zdeno Chara copping the prized Norris Cup allowing him a spot in the royal lineage of Brothers Orr and Bourque, the Bruins only other Norris awardees. Does Chara belong in such company? No one does. But he deserves this lofty distinction this season.
â€¦On the other hand, if the Blackhawks Kris Versteeg wins the Calder, honoring the top rookie, and heâ€™s one of the three nominees, Bruins management will blush. They dumped Versteeg, a swift sniper, in an ill-advised trade for a plodding winger, Brandon Bochenski, who in turn was sent packing within months. While luckier than the old regime, the new one has hardly been flawless.
â€¦And this last hockey note. Itâ€™s been lately learned that Washingtonâ€™s Shaone Morrisonn, a rangy defenseman once owned by the Bruins, played the last six games of the Capitalsâ€™ Cup struggle with the Flyers last spring with a broken jaw. To keep it a secret from the guttersnipe Flyers, Morrisonn declined to have the jaw wired until after the series and when the Caps lost in seven games, he simply kept it to himself. Hockey players! They are in a class by themselves.
â€¦While itâ€™s only early May itâ€™s already a matter of amusement for many that the Florida Marlins are in first place in their division with a payroll of $26 million which is less than the Yankees will pay A-Rod and little more than they owe C.C. Sabathia and Derek Jeter for this seasonâ€™s services. But before drawing conclusions I think Iâ€™ll wait to see where the Marlins finish, how many people they draw, and how much revenue they achieve.
â€¦Yankee bashers, a zealous breed, are having a gay old time mocking them for the ticket prices at their new ballyard, which are surely not without ludicrous extremes. But if Bud Selig, baseballâ€™s czar, is to be believed the Yankees have some 26,000 tickets, roughly half the jointâ€™s capacity, that are priced at under $25. Do the Red Sox have 26,000 seats priced at $25 or less? How many teams do? Bash whom you wish. Itâ€™s the American way. But pay a little attention to some facts, mates, please.
â€¦Thereâ€™s a book coming out that purports to explore the connection between the epic Red Sox season of 1978, which ended rather abruptly by a certain Bucky Dent, and Bostonâ€™s historic racial struggle centering on the busing experience which climaxed that same year. Believe me when I tell you I was there and covered both sides of that equation and there was absolutely no connection between the Red Sox and the struggle in the streets. The only player dimly aware of what was going on was Jim Rice and he refused to talk about it. We can make too much of the impact professional sports has on ambient objective reality. It is to be guarded against, I think.
â€¦ Jack Kempâ€™s death at 73 was the more stunning because he seemingly changed so little over the years. One of the guiding spirits of the American Football League of sainted memory, Jack went on to a marvelous career in Congress and government. Trim, athletic, pleasingly foppish and always full of that boyish enthusiasm that characterized his football works, he testified to the wildest promise of the American Dream; a walk-on in a fledgling sports endeavor who made it both to the Hall of Fame and a Presidential ticket. As a player he was intensely earnest, very willing, and always caring. And thatâ€™s the way he was as a politician. To those of us in the business, it came as no surprise.