Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dream Decade for a Boston Sports Fan

Ten years ago today if you had told me that Boston would be the most successful sports city in America going into 2010 I would have laughed. Then I probably would have gotten a little angry at such a cruel joke.  However, after 6 titles in the 4 major sports this decade, that is the reality.  We Boston fans love seeing the glass half empty, but we really need to recognize this past decade for what it was; the greatest decade for Boston sports ever.

Let's start off with Boston's favorite team the Red Soxxxxx. No fan base(besides maybe the Cubs) was more tortured than Red Sox nation up until 2004.  I was attending Umass at the time, and was amazed how serious and loyal people from New England were about the Red Sox.  You really need to be around it to comprehend the level of passion they have for their team.  When the Red Sox came back to beat the Yankees in the greatest come back in sports history, mass hysteria ensued around New England.  Sure, they had one more series to go, but nothing was stopping that train.  With another title two years later, the Red Sox were no longer the loveable underdogs, but a team expected to win a title every year.

Now on to the dynasty of the decade.  Say what you want about the Lakers or Spurs in the NBA, but everyone knows football is by far the hardest sport to build a dynasty.  Yet, the 2000's(what are we calling that decade anyway?) Patriots were just that.  Three Super Bowl wins in four appearances and a near perfect season made the Patriots the model franchise in the NFL.  Sure, a lot of the haters will remember them for Spygate and 18-1, but what the Patriots accomplished in that decade could never have been predicted.  Say what you want about Brady, but for a 6th round pick I don't think he's done half bad for himself.  As for that unfortunate Super Bowl game against the Giants, I'm still in denial about that one.  Patriots win that game 8 out of 10 but just got outplayed that day.  Anyway, whether you love or hate the Pats, the past decade put them in the national spotlight, which could not be said for any decades before.

Now on to my favorite sports team, the Boston Celtics.  Sure, until the 2007-2008 season the Celtics were mired in mediocrity.  However, the 2008 title victory over the hated Lakers was worth it.  The Celtics were the 3rd wheel in Boston with the success of the Red Sox and Patriots.  But on July 31,2007 that all changed. The addition of Kevin Garnett brought back Celtic Pride and that whole season was a magical ride.  My whole life I had heard about the great Celtics teams of the past, but had never witnessed more than a Conference Finals trip from my beloved team.  Winning a title that year was worth all the years of frustration. The fact that we beat the Lakers made it even more sweet.  That Celtics title was worth more to me than all the other Boston sports championships combined.

All in all I was ridiculously spoiled this past decade in terms of sports success. Along with the 6 titles my Boston teams won, my favorite college basketball team, the UNC Tarheels, won 2 titles and were in most people's minds the college basketball team of the decade.  People need to cherish their teams success. Too often we think our teams will always be good, but sports is cyclical.  The next decade my teams might be terrible but that will never erase the great decade that was the 2000's.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A quick recap of the last decade in sports(Part 1)

So much has happened in the past decade that it would take 50 pages to chronicle it all, but I will do my best. The decade started and ended in similar places. The Yankees and Lakers both won titles in the first and last years of the decade, Tiger Woods was the headline of every major sports news outlet, and yes the Cleveland Browns still sucked.  However, if I was to characterize this decade in sports it would be for the spectacular highs and equally spectacular lows.

Let's discuss the good stuff first.  We saw Michael Phelps win a record 8 Gold Medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics. At those same Olympics, we saw Usain Bolt blow away the competition with flare and seemingly effortless grace. We saw Roger Federer win a record 15 Grand Slam titles and stay #1 in the world for 237 straight weeks. We saw Tiger Woods win major after major and literally carry the sport of golf on his shoulders. Boston fans enjoyed 6 championships in baseball, football, and basketball combined. This included the Red Sox breaking the 86 year old curse of the Bambino in style, coming back to defeat the hated Yankees from 3-0 down.

Memorable games and moments were aplenty. Who could forget the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and the Statue of Liberty play to give Boise State the upset win. Or afterward when Boise State running back Ian Johnson proposed to his girlfriend in front of millions around the country. I still remember the deep pain I felt during the Patriots loss to the Giants in the greatest upset in Super Bowl History, only to be replaced by the immense joy after the Celtics victory over the Lakers 4 months later.  How about the 6 Overtime game between Uconn and Syracuse and the memorable run George Mason had in the 2006 Final Four.

However, with all the good that happened in the past decade, sadly some really terrible things happened as well. From the steroid scandal that rocked baseball, to the Tim Donaghy scandal in the NBA. You had the Michael Vick dog fighting ring and Kobe's rape allegation. Just recently the Tiger Woods scandal rocked the nation, leaving fans to question everything they thought they liked about the decade's most famous athlete. I'm not sure if there was just more bad stuff going on, or if the 24 hour news cycle and media overload led to more events being publicized.

Technology played a huge role in the changing of sports media.  People went from reading the sports page to reading sports blogs. People were able to watch games on their phones and rewind plays using TIVO.  HD TV made going to a game less appealing.  Internet chat boards became perfect sounding boards for angry and often ignorant sports fans across America.

Yes, sports in the past decade were anything but dull.  It certainly will be interesting to see what happens in the next 10 years.  All I know is I will be watching every bit of it. In Part 2 I will discuss the great decade it was for Boston Sports fans. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Treat Teammates Like Family

When it doesn't go perfect out there, everyone wants to jump on Randy. It's all of us, and we all have to do a better job."-Tom Brady
When I first heard the comments from Panther cornerbacks Chris Gamble and Chris Harris badmouthing Randy Moss for supposedly giving up in last weeks game, I knew how the Patriots would react. You can say what you want about the Patriots or Boston sports in general, but they will defend their teams to the death. Brady, Belichick, and even the owner Robert Kraft stood up for Moss saying it was unfair criticism and that Moss was still one of the most dominant players in the game. Moss certainly did not have one of his best games, and admittedly does have a tendency to give up at times. But a teammate should never call out one of their own.

This is how a class organization like the Patriots handle things. However, this speaks to a larger issue in sports. Too many times these days players use the media as a platform to discuss what should be a private matter. From Larry Johnson tweeting about his distaste for his head coach, to Heinz Ward calling out his quarterback, there seems to be less and less team loyalty these days.

So, why is this? It could be that in the era of free agency, everyone is out for themselves. Players hop from team to team trying to get as much money as they can. Winning is still the number one priority, but for some teams and players, making money is a close second. Or is it the media and technologies fault? If the Internet and the 24 Hour News cycle existed back in the day would we have the same type of problems? Would Larry Bird and Robert Parish be bad mouthing each other through Twitter?

I really believe professional sports players should treat their teammates like family. I mean in essence isn't that what they are? Players often see their teammates more than their own families. They have to trust each other and believe in each other to succeed. If one of your own makes a mistake, it is the responsibility of the teammate to forgive and back them up.

If you look at the successful teams in sports, they all have tight bonds. My beloved Celtics are a perfect example of this. Have you ever seen any tension on this team? They all seem to genuinely like each other and go about their business as professionals. Even if this isn't really how it is, perception is huge in life. If you can outwardly portray a certain image and deal with things internally you will be more successful.

Look, just like families, teams have issues too. The important thing is to protect your own and not throw one another under the proverbial bus. I was proud to be a Boston fan on Monday. By backing the Patriots it reflects the loyal city that Boston is.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Tiger Woods scandal: A Microcosm of Society

During the last week or so every major news network in the country has been covering the Tiger Woods scandal like it was the presidential election.  The scandal of course, is Tiger's involvement with at least one, and possibly many other women outside of his marriage. The reaction to this story has been mixed, especially between males and females. Not surprisingly females seem to have harsher criticism for Woods than males.

I think I fall somewhere in between total disgust and understanding. On one hand, though I don't condone it, I can see the temptation a person like Tiger Woods would have to venture outside his marriage. On the other hand, the fact that not only was he married, but he cheated on his wife while she was pregnant makes me have no sympathy for the guy.

The fact is this isn't the first nor will it be the last time an athlete cheats on his wife. So I ask you, why is this story bigger than the war in Afghanistan and the Health Care debate right now in America? The logical reason is that Tiger Woods is the most famous athlete in the world. Sure, that is part of it, but not the real reason. Michael Jordan had about 6 girlfriends on the side and no one really seemed to care.

In my opinion the real reasons this story is so big is two-fold. One is the death of journalism. There is no such thing as news journalism anymore. TMZ has replaced World News Tonight as Americans primary media source. We'd rather watch The Real World Cancun than our Nightly News. Sex has always sold, but never to this extent.

With the internet and the 24 hour news cycle, there is no time to write a well thought out article, because the next story will have already happened. This isn't the media's fault, it is the consumer's. You want real news start watching real news. Remember the media is a business just like anything else.

Second is perception. Tiger Woods has always kept his private life to himself, so we judged him as a person by what we saw on the golf course. 99.9% of us have never spoken or seen Tiger Woods in person. We assume he is a certain way because he has never gotten in trouble and hugs his wife and kids after every golf tournament. We see his carefully crafted image and assume that is just how he is. The difference with him and Jordan is that Jordan never pretended to be a family man.

This story shocked me at first, simply because Tiger has had such a spotless past. The real losers in all this are not Tiger or his wife, but his two small children. Tiger should never have gotten married and Elin should have been weary that a person of Tiger's stature might cheat. I'm sorry but if you are a spouse of a famous athlete you are in denial if you don't think your husband might cheat on you.  I think there really is something to be said for professional athletes to wait until their playing careers are over to get married, because this seems to happen way too much.

Also, for all those holier than thou people out there saying they would never do what Tiger did, I will say this to you. Most of us could never imagine what it is like to be Tiger Woods. While there is no defense to what he did, don't try to say you wouldn't do something when you really couldn't comprehend the situation. The real issue here is that we as a society care so much about this situation, when we really shouldn't be concerning ourselves in the private lives of other's. Thanks for reading everyone!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Give credit where credit is due Boston Fans

I'm a Boston sports fan for life, but I have to admit that there are no bigger "Homers" than Boston fans. They never give credit when credit is due, and always put blame on their own team for not playing well.  It's okay to stick up for your team, but don't be ignorant.

The Saints simply dominated the Patriots in every facet of the game last night. Look, the secondary played a terrible game, but that was also a product of the Saints being such a great offense. The Saints have 4 guys on the outside that can beat you, not to mention the best quarterback in the game today, Drew Brees. Say what you want about Manning, Brady, and Favre, but Brees is the MVP hands down. He's the only one without a Pro Bowl receiver or running back. Favre is having a great season, but that Vikings team is probably 8-3 with Jason Campbell as the quarterback.

I don't get why last night's game was a surprise to anyone. The Saints came in undefeated playing on their home field on Monday Night. That usually is good for at least 7-10 points right there. Plus, the fact that the Patriots are hurting on the offensive line, have lacked a solid pass rush all season, and haven’t won a road game on US soil all year. The problem people have is that they just assume tradition trumps the present. If you look at how the two teams have played this year last night's result isn't surprising at all.

I jinxed the Pats secondary by saying they were playing pretty well this year, and for the most part I think they have been. However, last night they looked like the Redskins secondary letting receivers get way too wide open. A poor performance by the secondary is directly connected to a poor performance by the defensive line. Brees had way too much time to throw last night and it translated to 5 TD passes. On the other side, Brady looked as bad as I've seen him look since the Denver game. I'm hoping this is just an aberration and he gets back on track quick.

As a Patriots fan, I think it is important to look at the glass half full. Now we will be the underdogs again as a 3 or 4 seed and the pressure will be off. The Saints and Colts can go undefeated for all I care; I wouldn't wish that kind of pressure on my team again. Also, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop on Brett Favre, but it doesn't seem like it is going to happen anytime soon. He fell into a perfect situation and has been playing lights out football. I feel really bad for Packers fans.

To conclude, I really respect and find there is a lot to like about the Saints. With the Redskins out of contention, I will be pulling for them to go to the Super Bowl and hopefully set up a rematch with the Pats in February. Thanks for reading everyone!