The Super Bowl hangover played some devilish tricks on me. Luckily, there was enough water and celebrating done where I’m back to full speed.
To say last week got away from me would be a bit of an understatement. We had, of course, the most dramatic fucking Super Bowl of all time on Sunday, followed by my attendance at the annual Boston college hockey tradition, the Beanpot, followed by a snowstorm & parade and then some more snow and yadda, yadda yadda. But, like all the great ones do, they come back.
It wasn’t a retirement. It wasn’t even a hiatus. It was more of an unplanned absence (and a pretty solid amount of laziness) that kept me (and our fearless leader/editor) from the blog last week. Sorry to have disappointed you.
To wet your beak in this dark time of the calendar sans football, I’ve cooked up five scorchers for the readers this week. Hopefully, you enjoy them.
1. The New England Patriots won Super Bowl LI more than the Atlanta Falcons choked it away
This has been the dominant thread on Boston sports talk radio for the past week or so, and I finally had time to collect my thoughts and weigh in. Here’s the deal, the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl in the craziest of fashion was fucking incredible. I wouldn’t even call it a roller coaster. That was a revival. That was being pronounced dead on arrival and somehow coming back to life minutes later. The Lazarus effect for football was witnessed on the first Sunday in February.
So, the question remains – did Atlanta choke? Or did New England come back? It is a combination of both, but how you can say that Atlanta choked “more” than New England came back is downright ludicrous. Let’s put it this way.
Even with the Falcons pooping down their leg for the last 18 minutes of that game, the Patriots STILL had to score a field goal, two touchdowns, two 2PAT and prevent Atlanta from scoring. Those are four huge fucking things that in 99.7% of any other football game, don’t happen. Even with some bonehead play calling from the Falcons, the Patriots still needed to engineer three scoring drives and play shutout defense against the best offense in football and the regular season MVP.
The Julio Jones catch appeared to be the reincarnation of the David Tyree/Mario Manningham/Doug Baldwin bullshit from Super Bowl’s past. And even after that, New England still needed to record a sack, register an incompletion and then drive 91 yards to simply have the CHANCE to tie the game. That my friends is a comeback. It’s a comeback in every sense of the word, and it trumps any choking done by the Falcons.
A choke is something that happens and the opposition goes in and immediately cashes in. This comeback last 15 minutes. The choking lasted about 6-7 plays. It’s one for the thumb for New England, and all is right with the world. So sure, Atlanta can name a cockroach after the greatest quarterback of all time, but the five rings will easily squash the haters from any nonsense coming down the road.
Editor’s note: Like Awful Announcing pointed out, there is no worse debate in sports than whether Team A “won” a game, or Team B “lost it.” Both things happened, and that’s especially true here. The Patriots played great football during their comeback, not allowing the powerful Falcon offense to put the game away, while the coaching staff and on-field leaders remained calm in the face of overmounting odds and chaos. The Flacons played terribly, fumbling the ball at one point, committing penalties at another, and the coaching staff refused to adapt to the realities of this particular game. The Patriots won. The Falcons lost. Both things happened, trust me on this one. Now, can we please talk about something else?
2. Who are these guys dressed as the Boston Bruins?
On the podcast after the Super Bowl, Brendan and I had a pretty solid discussion regarding Claude Julien. Little did we know that two days after the Super Bowl that Claude would be without a job. I hated how the Bruins cut ties with the winningest coach in franchise history, while also acknowledging that it was time to go. While I’m not one to make rash and brash overreactions to things, I’m now watching the Bruins without Julien shaking my head.
I’m doing so in both agreement, about how new coach Bruce Cassidy is letting his team play offense, and in dismay, as the Bruins managed to fuck up their development as a franchise for so long. The latter, unfortunately for those of us who root for this team, doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Under Cassidy, the Bruins are playing at a much faster pace and letting their defenseman jump into the play. What’s the result? Solid thumpings against San Jose and Vancouver, before a resounding shutout against the vaunted Montreal Canadiens. Torey Krug and Colin Miller look reinvigorated, and the team has a level of excitement that’s been missing for the past two years.
The thing that’s driving me the craziest now involves rookie Peter Cehlarik. Since Cassidy took over, Cehlarik has been in the lineup on the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak and fit right in. He was the leading goal scorer for Providence in the AHL, and had yet to see action with the big club this year?
Now Claude, as the new coach of the Montreal Canadiens, will still feel plenty of heat from the fans/media. But this was the latest and final example of Julien not playing kids. This team was desperate for scoring. In dire need of offense. And they kept rolling out Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey on different lines to no avail. All of a sudden you insert this kid into your top-6 and you have two potent lines? What gives?
Claude gave me my most enjoyable moment as a hockey fan in 2011. But he also was responsible for collapses in 2010 and then also down the stretch in 2015 and 2016. He was unceremoniously dumped from Boston, but it was his time to go. He’s still a good coach, but it was his time to go. Montreal hit the panic button by firing Therrien and bringing in Claude. Another twist and turn in the Boston & Montreal rivalry.
Editor’s note: Originally, I wanted Julien to come to Brooklyn, what with Jack Capuano’s firing and Doug Weight’s odd lack of enthusiasm about being an NHL head coach. But, if Weight does decide he wants to continue his tenure behind the bench, it would seem in the admittedly early goings that he has earned that spot. All that said, Julien going to Montreal is just perfect. Obviously, the Bruins were fine enough with Julien going North, considering they granted the Habs permission to speak with Claude, but it’s going to get awfully hot under Cam Neely’s collar if Claude is raising the cup this June, as I think he just might.
3. UConn women’s basketball’s winning streak is neat, but it speaks volumes about how awful the college landscape is
I know this take, in particular, will ruffle some feathers. I get it, that’s what I’m here for. So, here it is. UConn women’s basketball winning 100 games in a row is a cool streak. It hasn’t happened ever before, so I get the historical significance of it. However, when you have the Dream Team year in and year out, I don’t ring all the bells and whistles.
Outside of the sheer amount of talent on the team, this winning streak instead reveals how unbalanced women’s college basketball is at the collegiate level. Even when John Wooden was the coach at UCLA, the Bruins never even sniffed 100 wins. It’s almost fucking impossible. Why is that? Because other programs recruited top players to compete with UCLA. That simply doesn’t happen in the current state of the women’s game.
Geno Auriemma brings the best players to UConn every single year. He has the most talented roster year in and year out. I used the comparison already, but they’re literally the fucking Dream Team. They pump out WNBA and international players like nobody’s business. That’s just a fact. So excuse me if I’m not reveling in this accomplishment because even the other “Top 5” teams in the country are still light years away. The Huskies beat South Carolina last night by 11 points. That’s a close game for them. They’re routinely beating teams by 20+ points ever night. It’s not even competitive.
Until the competition increases, I’m not going to get overly excited about it. So congrats on your streak, but sorry I’m not parading down to Storrs tonight.
Editor’s note: This is the counter to the hand-wringing over teams tanking in order to get draft picks and future stars. Without a draft system that gives the worst teams better access to new talent, the cream of the crop will inevitably go to the same handful of legacy teams each year. It’s why Alabama is constantly among the best, and why Coach K’s Blue Devils never seem to take more than a year or two off from title contention. If there’s no system in place to prevent it, the richest in sports will always get richer.
4. I’m all on board the MLB rules change train
Another idea that spilled over from the latest podcast here, but I wanted to express my thoughts on this in more detail. Everything that Major League Baseball has proposed for rule changes in the past couple weeks – sign me up. Anything that shortens games and adds more excitement to the sport is a good thing. Requiring managers only 30 seconds to make a decision? Great. Expanding the strike zone and forcing players to swing the fucking bat? Fantastic. No more intentional walks with four pitches? Yup. Putting a runner on second base in extra innings to end the game? Hell yes.
I played baseball for almost 15 years. I was pretty serious about it until some arm troubles limited me. I loved playing it. As a pitcher and first baseman, I was in every play. But nowadays, I can’t sit and watch a whole baseball game on television. The game is too boring. They last far too long. Couple those issues with the fact that there are 162 games per season, and you’re in danger of losing your most important fan base.
I understand that some of these changes are gimmicky. Adding a runner to second base in extra innings won’t solve the problem of the time of a 9-inning game, but it can prevent games from going all night. Expanding the strike zone is a sin for the old-school baseball folks, but if it makes batters swing the bat instead of taking a walk, I’m all for action.
Manager’s challenges should be as bang-bang as the play you’re challenging. No more of this wait for someone to say check it to start a challenge. You see a call that’s wrong? Challenge it immediately. You want an intentional walk? Throw up four fingers and get to the next batter.
The pace of play is a major concern. Expedite the process, and make baseball great again.
That or just let the guys use steroids. That will also work.
Editor’s note: Tim is still on this? Like I said previously, the change to extra innings is perhaps the most pitiful proposal of all time. Baseball’s length problem has nothing to do with extra innings, and everything to do with the makeup of the game? And you know what, I’m just fine with that dammit. One sport, devoid of constant cuts and over the top music, that can be played and watched leisurely. It’s played outdoors, in the summer, isn’t that enough? I realize I’m now officially the old man telling kids to stay off his lawn, but that’s fine. Keep the Chain Smokers away from baseball too while we’re at it, no young people things allowed, especially ones I don’t understand.
5. How is James Dolan still the owner of a professional sports franchise?
My take is pretty much a rhetorical question, but I have to ask it. Outside of the boatload of money that James Dolan has, how is this psychopath still an owner of the New York Knicks? You’ve turned arguably the biggest franchise in your sport, in the biggest media market in the country, into a perennial laughing stock. His fingerprints are on the Knicks demise from pretty much all levels.
And now when former players are calling you out and subsequently getting “banned for life” or banned for a week from Madison Square Garden, you’ve lost all privileges of being an owner. The commissioner of the league and the league’s greatest player getting called in to fix the situation is beyond embarrassment. No matter how much money you could possibly have, Dolan, can’t be in charge of the Knicks anymore.
Somebody with a fuck ton of money has to buy the Knicks and throw some respectability into the franchise. As much as I enjoy seeing New York teams suck, the Knicks are a franchise that should always be competitive. Instead, they’re a laughingstock, and a dumpster fire burning beyond salvage.
Editor’s note: Sometimes I wonder if it was a mistake to put my faith in New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets management as a young basketball fan, instead of sticking it out with the Knicks. Then, anytime James Dolan opens his mouth in public, including when he opens it to sing or play the kazoo, I’m reminded of just how right I was to run far, far away from Dolan, the Knicks, the Rangers, and now that I live in Boston, Cablevision. But as sad as Dolan is, he isn’t the most depressing character in this soap opera….
6. ChinMusicPod.com Camel of the Week- Latrell Spreewell
It’s tough to be so sad, so depressing, that you make James Dolan look nearly normal by comparison, but Latrell managed to do that, which is certainly worthy of recognition.
On the surface, Spreewell and Oakley should have plenty in common. Both played for the Knicks along with a host of other teams, but are remembered fondly by some fans who are followers of physical enforcers. They’re part of the fabric of the sport more for some of their antics than necessarily their play, but both played crucial roles on some of the last successful teams the Knicks have fielded.
But there is, obviously, one major difference, and that’s been on display over the course of this messy soap opera. Oakley is no man’s but his own, while Spree just belongs to the moment’s highest bidder.
That’ll do it for me. This will be my last reminder that I was the ChinMusicPod playoff football champion, missing just one game in the NFL postseason. Since we didn’t get a prize, I’ll use my last week off as the consolation. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 and Brendan @murraysporttalk for more.