Assessing the Big Four in summertime mode

Maybe it’s just that the Dog Days have arrived early this summer, but it seems to me that a vague inertia grips the local sporting landscape. We are caught between fact and fancy. There is much ado, but it’s mostly about nothing. Pretensions are lofty, as usual, but wheels are spinning. Expectations are high, but so are apprehensions.

The sporting seasons no longer have beginnings or endings. They’ve become, essentially, perpetual. They just rumble endlessly on and on with a blip or belch every nine months or so seguing one campaign into the next, skipping nary a beat. And at some point they all blend, clash, clang. and sorting them out gets confusing.

So here it is in July, which once upon a time belonged entirely to Baseball, and we have all four of our illustrious teams that bear our colors laboring hammer and tong although who’s certain to what end. Have these guys who play games in the winter never heard of summer vacation? But then there’ll be plenty of opportunity for Danny Ainge and Don Sweeney to vacation once they’ve been safely retired. As for Bill Belichick, he doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

Consider that through the week of the Glorious Fourth, the lead stories on our sports pages were all about basketball and hockey even though only the totally daft – that precious few still believing in the tooth fairy –actually expected the Celtics to seduce Kevin Durant in the NBA’s zany post-season scramble, or the Bruins to emerge with Steve Stamkos from the NHL’s madcap free-agent flea market.

We are, of course, suckers, and we surely don’t mind getting snookered. Nothing turns us on like wild rumors of dashing jock demigods in search of outrageous contracts smiling upon us or a trade that, like some thunderbolt unleashed by Zeus, instantly solves all our dear ball club’s problems. The more delusional the purported miraculous intervention the better, by the way.

Which is why Baseball’s August 1 non-waiver trade deadline with its six month drum roll is verily the stuff dreams are made of, although for those on the firing line it can be rather more a midsummer night’s nightmare. In his desperate effort to rebuild the Red Sox trick-or-treat pitching staff by the Ides of August, Dave Dombrowski could swipe Clayton Kershaw from the Dodgers or pick Theo Epstein’s pockets of Jake Arrieta and still not satisfy the banshees of talk radio. In the meantime, we waver.

Will the real Red Sox please stand and be counted. Are they the happy frolickers who danced through Merry May or the idle ingrates who gave us that Swoon in June? September brings the moment of truth.

Stay tuned!  

But it’s an abundance of riches that amuses us. Presently, the Patriots return to work, facing a sweltering summer camp with their fettle further aroused by Deflategate and the quarterback’s decision to cede the field to Roger Goodell and take his four-game suspension.

Why the Patriots in general, and Tom Brady in particular, didn’t take the high road at some point in order to extricate themselves from this mess remains baffling. They won the battle in the court of public opinion, which most matters. They succeeded in making the NFL look petty and its commissioner look silly, presumably their principal aim all along. But Deflategate was allowed to sour the Pats’ era of eminence for far too long.

As for the Celtics, how much does 30-year-old Al Horford bring? They’re acutely mindful that Kevin Garnett was also a middle-aged titan when he sparked their last winning incarnation. But at his best, Horford is no Garnett, nor does snaring him end the boycott that illustrious free agents have waged at the Celtics’ expense the last 40 years. Signing Durant would have; signing Horford doesn’t. Regrettably, it remains a by-product of Boston’s busing era. As for that bushel of draft picks Ainge had so carefully compiled, we’re reminded basketball is not a game of numbers. Give them a C-Plus and keep your fingers crossed.

Which brings us to the Bruins, equally least promising and most vulnerable of our Big Four, and most be-fogged by that odd ennui cited earlier. Nothing that’s happened in the frenzied draft/free agent interlude has altered any of that. Add David Backes, tough, willing, bruised, and 32. Subtract Loui Ericksson, clever, versatile, less worn, and more prime.  It’s another step backwards.

The Bruins are adrift. Do they have a plan? Not apparently. Do they have the means? Not clearly. Do they have the leadership? Not yet. If this, along with some trimming on the edges of their roster, is to be all there is, give their post-season a C- and wait until next year. There remains the tender hope that Jimmy Vesey will yet opt to deliver them. Alas, Vesey comes from Harvard, not Parry Sound.

Seems to me a muddled scene. More is expected here in the latter-day Athens where the proper set presumes to bow to no other metropolis when it comes to politics, education, medicine, culture, and sports. Not necessarily in that order!