The Summer of 2013 began with Aaron Hernandez being arrested for murder, the Bruins deciding to no longer "baby-sit" Tyler Seguin, the Celtics hitting the mother of all reset buttons and the Red Sox stringing us along for their inevitable collapse.
All of this happening in the backdrop of the Boston Marathon bombings a couple of months earlier.
Autumn arrived this week, but the fall appears nowhere in sight.
#BostonStrong off the field. #BostonPrettyDamnGood on it.
Boston fans and the media types who chronicle the exploits of the city's pro sports teams appear to be on the cusp of enjoying another "Wicked Good Year." The biggest change this time is that the Bruins have traded places with the Celtics as the third wheel on this potential triple Duck Boater.
The leaves may be falling, but the Red Sox and Patriots are atop the standings and the Bruins are defending Eastern Conference champs.
The last time the Patriots went 3-0, they went 18-0. The last time the Red Sox won the A.L. East, they won the World Series. The last time the Bruins tried to deal for Jarome Iginla, they almost won the Stanley Cup, depending on how you look at some of those bounces and missed opportunities against Chicago.
The Red Sox completed their worst-to-first run for the A.L. East title with a rousing blowout at Fenway Park. Punting beers into the stands is something we've always wanted to do but just didn't know it. Amazingly, the Red Sox managed to show up somewhat sober and close out their home schedule with a victory and a Yaz statue.
The statue is beautiful. All it seems to be missing is a pack of Camels in the back pocket.
The team expects to have its entire starting lineup and rotation in tact for the start of the playoffs. But we'll have something to root for this last week of the season as their lead over Oakland has dwindled to just one game in the race for the best record in the American League. For some reason, the Red Sox are playing in Denver tonight and tomorrow night, before closing out the regular season in Baltimore. The Orioles were all but finished off following Monday's walk-off loss in Tampa Bay that came via the bat of former Red Sox throwaway James Loney.
The almost-five-year postseason victory drought appears perilously close to being flushed down one of those eco-friendly toilets in the "left-field-wall green" Family Restroom at Fenway Park.
Given the offseason from Heaven and Hell that enveloped Foxborough, the 3-0 start for the Patriots is a pleasant surprise. Given the competition, it was a given.
They finally seem to be ready to face real competition, just in time after seven preseason games. Brady found inner peace Sunday, along with Aaron Dobson, Brandon Bolden and some substantial holes in Tampa Bay's pass coverage.
The Great Tom Brady Panic of 2013 fizzled quicker than the Curse of The Dempstino. By the start of the second quarter, the whole "Brady's going to go Gisele on these guys" meme had become about as compelling as the spots promoting Fox's fall lineup. Whatever visual and verbal daggers he threw at his receivers last week obviously worked, since they caught 25 of the 36 passes he threw. Brady found a new Binky in Kenbrell Thompkins, who caught a pair of touchdown passes.
He also weaned himself off Julian Edelman Sunday.
Here's the breakdown of his top targets:
- Dobson: 10 targets, 7 catches
- Edelman: 7 targets, 7 catches [with a long of only 12 yards]
- Bolden: 6 targets, 5 catches
- Thompkins: 7 targets, 3 catches
- Sudfeld: 2 targets, 0 catches
- Hoomanawanui [thank goodness for spellcheck]: 2 targets, 2 catches
The Patriots ran the ball 33 times for 156 yards. LeGarrette Blount was high on grass for New England with 56 yards rushing on 14 carries.
They'll be tested in Atlanta Sunday night for sure, but they haven't yet done anything to alter their pre-season destiny, which has them meeting Denver in the AFC championship game. The relationship between Brady and his young receivers is going through that same awkward stage you felt the last time you went on a second date. New England's defense has quietly dominated, allowing just 34 points this season, four less than the Giants gave up against Carolina on Sunday.
It's only the preseason, but the Bruins got a pair of power-play goals from Zdeno Chara Monday night in a 3-2 overtime win over Washington. Beyond any incremental advances they may achieve on the ice in this offseason, they've already made a monumental move in swapping out Nathan Horton and Seguin for Iginla and Loui Eriksson. Both Iginla and Eriksson are proven veterans and it's doubtful the Bruins will have to find themselves having to babysit either one.
The presence of Iginla will be interesting since he snubbed the Bruins last spring to join the then-Stanley-Cup-favorite Penguins. Iginla talked at length about that situation in the masterful first episode of "Behind the B." From both his Cup-less career and his remarks on State Run Media, he has all the makings of a veteran gun for hire who wants to pick up the Stanley Cup on his way out the NHL door. [See Ray Bourque, 2001 Colorado Avalanche.]
The Celtics, meanwhile, are in the ultimate Chesapeake Bay Bridge year. The have impeccable timing. Rondo and the rest of Brad's Babies will have the chance to rebuild without any realistic expectations from fans or media. While the Red Sox have given us an Endless Summer, the Celtics will offer season-ticket holders an Endless Summer League. Fans with an eye on the future will cheer with each loss, ever increasing their odds for moving up in the 2014 draft.
Wild-eyed optimism makes native New England sports fans, at least those over 30, uncomfortable. But we got a taste of it six years ago and that felt pretty good until David Tyree hit us over the head with it.
This time around, we are ever vigilant and wary. There's a medium somewhere between being a Pink Hat and a Stink Hat [you know, that guy who calls "Felger and Mazz" bemoaning about Koji Uehara's nine walks.] But there are no signs of an early fall for the Bruins, Patriots or Red Sox.
It's not completely crazy to ponder at least one Duck Boat parade in the next nine months, even if it doesn't involve Brady and Belichick. The Patriots have a shot at 4-0 if their defense can stop Matt Ryan and that running game can keep him off the field, playoff baseball will take place at Fenway Park next week and the Bruins open up their season a week from Thursday favored to reach the conference finals but playing with the goal of winning it all.
All in all, not a bad place to be.
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