Have heard it said over the years that columnists only resort to old-fashioned notes columns when they can’t think of anything else to do, or are too lazy to try. That’s dead wrong, says I. It’s your perfectly reasonable recourse when you have a dozen ideas but can’t make up your mind. Anyway, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
The Bruins: A good place to begin because if there’s to be a championship in this town this year it’s going to have to come from them. It may seem folly to ask, ‘How good can this team be?” yet within two weeks’ of this badly compromised season’s shaky revival it’s the most appropriate question.
Obviously, injures are the wild card, given the horrifically demanding schedule concocted. But if they stay healthy they can be better than the Cup-winners of two years ago. It’s essentially the same squad only with the key players at the height of their professional maturity.
Is Dougie Hamilton for real? In this game, those destined to be special reveal themselves instantly. At first blush, this kid suggests another Larry Robinson in terms of look and style. I expect him to be regularly paired with Captain Chara by March. Is Tuukka Rask as good as the inscrutably departed Tim Thomas? I expect him to be better. Thomas’s odd act undermined them last season. Teams play harder in front of goalies they truly like. It’s a sub-conscious hockey thing.
Foremost imponderable? How good is Anton Khudobin, the back-up goalie? In a brutally compressed season, back-ups are more vital than ever. Moreover, if there’s a doubt about Rask it concerns his vague tendency to lower-body injury, in the parlance of the times. If Khudobin is for real, and if they stay reasonably healthy, the Bruins are the team to beat, not just in the East but inthe entire league.
Tom Brady: QBs never deserve all the credit they get when things are rosy or all the blame they get when things turn sour, and Brady’s fair-haired boy status won’t evaporate overnight. But to deny he looked (in football terms) like an old man in the Ravens’ meltdown – as his media chums are striving to do – just won’t fly. The reality of it was stark.
Yankee austerity: If you’ve scorned the notion that the bean-counters have seized control in the Bronx, you should change your tune after the mighty Pinstripes let Scott Hairston slip from their grasp over a mere three million bucks. They spent half the winter trying to convince the ex-Met to take a one-year deal but he was adamant about getting two, and finally succeeded with the woe-begotten Chicago Cubs stealing him for six million; chump-change in this game.
For the Yankees, Hairston was the perfect solution: a classy, smart, versatile right-handed hitting veteran with pop (20 homers in 377 at bats last season) who came cheap. But Brian Cashman’s bizarre obsession with keeping their 2014 payroll under the salary cap trumped common sense. Hairston wasn’t cheap enough.
Three conclusions are possible. (a) Under great stress lately, both personally and professionally, Cashman has lost his marbles. (b) George Steinbrenner would wring Cashman’s neck if the Bronx were Brigadoon and he could get back for a day. (c) Theo Epstein is still helping the Red Sox.
Celtics lose: Had he not wrecked his knee, might this have been the year the Celtics confronted the doubts about orchestrating their rebuilding around the mercurial Rajon Rondo, his all-star status notwithstanding. His ACL-tear likely renders the question moot. What a blow!
Jeremy Jacobs: With his customarily deft diplomatic touch, the rigid Bruins owner added insult to injury with a needless diatribe in an ill-advised post-mortem of the loathsome lockout in which he played such a starring role, much to the embarrassment of this town and his team. Addressing the Boston media, Jacobs succeeded only in rubbing salt into leftover wounds while adding to the entire fiasco’s lingering confusion. Just what we needed.
It’s hard to appreciate why he deemed this latest performance necessary, let alone wise. Did he actually think it would help? To the best of my knowledge he’s the only person connected with the sorrowful business – on either side of the question – who has taken this low road. Perhaps he can’t help himself.
Tim Tebow: If he’s washed up in the NFL, as many are saying, and if his oddly quixotic tale is done, so be it. He had his chance – maybe not as fair as he deserved – but he’d be the first to agree that life is much more unfair for many while he remains greatly blessed. It further remains baffling to some that no role can be found for a kid of such obvious strengths and superior raw athleticism. But the NFL is a strange place, nor are these ordinary sporting times. Weep not for Tim Tebow. He’ll get by.
Can’t say the same for some of his critics. Many have been generous about Tebow and his counter-cultural mindset and many have not been. Yes, some fine things were written and said about him. But for my tastes there were also too many wisecracks, too many slices and dices, too much sly humor about what were regarded as his “eccentricities,” and now there’s too much gloating about his apparent failure, at least in the NFL. Studiously inoffensive as Tebow strove to be, why did he annoy them so? You must wonder: Did he somehow scare them? What were they afraid of?
The perfect example of these carping, cynical blowhards who made it their business to persecute Tebow more for what he stands for than how he plays is the ex-NFL grunt, an old fullback who obviously got his bell rung too many times who now serves as one of ESPN’s alleged football experts. For two years this halfwit has mocked Tebow at every opportunity, branding him a “phony” and a “fraud” not for the way he plays but for the way he conducts himself. You wonder again, where does ESPN find these clowns?
If Tebow is done – it’s likely he is – we need to thank him. It may have been a bridge too far that he tried to cross but the effort was worthy and he handled it graciously.
Red Sox owners: Only one of that once haughty band dropped in on the annual baseball writer’s dinner, which is the hottest social event of the off-season and occasion for revelry when everything is swell but something to be desperately avoided when times are tough. Larry Lucchino, erstwhile CEO, did a fly-by but made sure he was long gone by the time Terry Francona, who was so shabbily treated by said owners, was received with a thunderous standing ovation from the team’s diehards at the dinner.
Sometimes discretion is the better part of something other than valor, eh, Larry. But at least he showed up, however briefly, which is more than you can say of the others. You wonder, had he still been in the house when Tito got presented, might he have booed?
Marvin Miller: Although the veteran’s committee ballot next December will be jammed with slam-dunks – Managers Torre, LaRussa, and Cox for openers –the certainty of Marvin’s selection builds by the hour. Three months after his death, the tributes continue to roll and they’re becoming effusive.
There’s much guilt building on this issue, acknowledgment of the fact that not elevating the old boy while he was still with us was ridiculous, even spiteful. So now they’ll atone, ASAP. Rings rather hollow here.
Jerry York: And the last word is on the estimable Boston College hockey coach who, with his usual grace, has claimed yet another towering distinction. He now bestrides the field as the all-time winningest coach. He’s veering on a thousand victories.
It can be plausibly claimed that Jerry York is the best coach of anything in the troubled realm of American collegiate sport today. For nobody coaching anything does it better while adhering to higher standards.