A year ago Friday, Rajon Rondo was readying for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia, a contest in which he would post a triple-double and dominate the deciding fourth quarter of a clinching Celtics victory.
A year later, this time far away from his team and Coach Doc, Rondo found himself sitting next to another Rivers. Joan Rivers. And they were talking fashion, naturally.
While the NBA playoffs raged elsewhere, Rondo joined the E! network's Fashion Police for a six-minute segment that began with Rivers asking the 6-foot-1 guard if basketball people refer to him as the "Gary Coleman of the NBA," because knowing nothing except that he was a hoops player she was expecting him to be more like 7-foot-9.
Rivers admitted beforehand that she'd never previously heard of Rondo, but their mutual love for fashion and trends helped facilitate an interview that an easygoing Rondo seemed to enjoy. It began not with an update on the player's recovery after tearing his ACL in late January, but rather with the folks from the network that makes sure we keep up with the Kardashians seizing the chance for some subtle cross-promotion when Rivers asked Rondo what he did to provoke a fight with Kim's ex-husband, the Nets' Kris Humphries, early last season. Rondo laughed at the cracks, but eventually brushed it aside -- "I don't have a problem with Kris Humphries" -- and the conversation moved on to the more pressing matters at hand.
They talked about Rondo's internship with GQ last summer, about his favorite designers, and about attending New York Fashion Week, which Rondo said he plans to do again soon. Then they talked about a particular piece of the point guard's wardrobe, and let their panel of fashion plates debate whether he should trash or stash one of his more controversial pieces of clothing.
The item in question was the jacket he wore to his press conference after the Celts lost Game 5 to the Hawks in 2012. In case you need a refresher:
Ultimately an audience vote decided that Rondo should get rid of the garment, and instead of shoot it into the trash barrel himself, he passed it off to co-host Giuliana Rancic and let her put it home. (Typical Rondo: always chasing assists and trying to pad his stats.)
The best comment of the discussion, though, came from Rivers -- no relation to Doc, by the way -- who looked at the jacket and added one of the Celtics' rivals to a hit list that included LaToya Jackson, Gary Busey, Julianne Moore, and several others over the course of the show.
"It's a little too old," she said. "It's mostly black, and not accomplishing anything. I'm surprised that it doesn't play for the Lakers."
Jared Sullinger -- the rookie forward who the Celtics surely could've used in the playoffs, had he not been down with a back injury -- joined ex-players Walter McCarthy and Dana Barros among a group celebrating the 22nd year of the team's Stay in School program with more than 1,500 middle school students at Northeastern's Matthews Arena.
Celtics President Rich Gotham was also in attendance, as were executives from presenting sponsor Arbella Insurance and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson, for an assembly that was the culmination of a year in which the initiative's efforts focused on instilling P.R.I.D.E. -- which stands for Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Decisions, and Education. It was a message they delivered six times throughout the course of the season, according to the team's website, which indicates the Celtics participated in at least 35 community events between October and their playoff exit earlier this month.
Sullinger (pictured with McCarty above) was an active participant in those off-court activities during his first year in Boston -- and on the court he's confident he'll be even more active in year two, despite the surgery that has sidelined him since February. He hopes to be 100 percent by September or October, around the time training camp opens.
“I’ve got 10 weeks to get back to where I was or even better,” he told the Globe's Baxter Holmes on Thursday.
“Everybody says ‘back’ with a question mark, [but] you might as well put an X through that,” Sullinger continued. “Because I had surgery, I’m taking my time and getting back right. [There] won’t be no recurring injuries.”
The Red Sox will be in Baltimore for the middle game of a big series with the Orioles on June 15, so Fenway Park is available that day for anyone who'd like to take some swings or field balls off the Monster.
No, really. It's available.
All it takes to have that opportunity is a donation to the Jimmy Fund, part of which is a registration fee, but the rest of which is tax-deductible or could come by way of fundraising. A $750 donation gets one person onto the field for 30 minutes of fielding, a $2,000 donation gets 25 pitches at bat, and a $2,500 donation combines both of those packages into one experience. All of those also come with a bunch of other stuff, including a hat, shirt, and food, and if those who step up to the plate will have their names announced over the public address system while their name appears on the big screen in center field.
There are a couple of group packages available -- 24 people for $40,000, and six people for $18,000 -- while there's also an option to sponsor a patient. To learn how to do that, or for additional information on John Hancock Fenway Fantasy Day, click here.
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The Jimmy Fund is also looking for full teams to help raise money by joining the Jimmy Fund Little League Program presented by Extra Innings. Now in its 27th year, the program raised more than $230,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute last summer, when 5,000 kids throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire participated in local tournament and fundraising efforts.
To learn more or to get involved, click here.
Boston considers itself a big-market sports town -- presenting its well-stocked trophy cases as an indication of its national import -- but Sports Illustrated released its 2013 list of the 50 highest-earning athletes in American sports on Tuesday, and not a single player among them takes his paycheck from one of this area's teams.
That, however, doesn't mean the list isn't interesting to people in these parts. Here it is, in its entirety (based on total earnings from salary, winnings, bonuses, and endorsements). And here are some notes when looking at the list through a local lens:
- There are three former Boston athletes on the list. Celtic-for-a-few-months Joe Johnson is No. 43. More interesting, though, are Adrian Gonzalez (No. 34) and Carl Crawford (No. 42), in large part because their presence here is due to the contracts they both received from the Red Sox. In a way, seeing them here makes last August's megatrade all the more remarkable, considering Boston GM Ben Cherington was able to unload all except about $12 million of not only his two biggest contracts, and two of baseball's biggest contracts, but a couple of the biggest contracts in all of American sports -- and still get stud pitching prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa in return.
- It's not as though the deal crippled the Dodgers' ability to spend money, however. The club gave Zack Greinke an enormous contract when he was a free-agent this winter, so despite making a paltry $20,000 in endorsements, the righty ranks 10th with an income of $29,020,000. Matt Kemp is also on the list, so the Dodgers are represented by a total of four players who they'll pay a combined $92 million in 2013.
- Led by Kobe Bryant at No. 4, Los Angeles clubs currently employ eight of the 46 team-sport athletes. Vernon Wells would've been a ninth, but he was traded to the Yankees, giving New York a total of 10 players. Half of those are Yankees, and three of those Yankees -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter -- haven't played a game this season.
- The next-best represented cities are Detroit and Philadelphia, with four each. The Lions' Calvin Johnson is the only non-baseball player among that group. Other cities with multiple athletes on the list include Miami and San Francisco, with three each, as well as Chicago and (believe it or not) Tampa, with two each.
- The most notable absence from a Boston perspective is Tom Brady, especially considering there are two quarterbacks in the top eight -- No. 3 Drew Brees and No. 8 Peyton Manning -- and four on the list, with Matt Schaub 27th, while Eli Manning is 48th. And Brady's omission isn't because of the contract restructuring he did earlier this offseason. According to SI, for these calculations "salaries are based on current or most recently completed seasons; for instance, for NFL players the season that ended in February was used." So Brady isn't likely to appear in 2014, either, as reports indicate his salary for the upcoming season will be $1 million in addition to the $10 million bonus the Patriots will pay him.
- The only player to make the list from the AFC East is Bills' defensive end Mario Williams. His $25 million salary helps him rank 18th. The Yankees are the only players from the AL East on the list, while Knicks Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire join Brooklyn's Johnson as the only players from the Celtics' Atlantic division.
- Baseball is often criticized for its haves vs. have-nots system, though 11 of the 30 major-league franchises are represented on the list, including teams from Seattle (Felix Hernandez), Minnesota (Joe Mauer), and Cincinnati (Joey Votto).
- Of the 25 baseball players on the list, 11 are pitchers. Of the eight football players, the four non-QBs are WR Johnson, DE Williams, and the Buccaneers duo of WR Vincent Jackson and LG Carl Nicks. Of the 13 basketball players, only four are bigs.
- There are no hockey players on the list.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only NASCAR driver on the list, though he slid from 8th last year to 49th this. His appearance is powered by an industry-leading $12 million in endorsements.
- Of the nine highest earners, LeBron James (No. 2) and Derrick Rose (No. 7) are the only athletes younger than 34 years old. Maybe not coincidentally, six of those top nine have missed significant time due to injury (Bryant, Tiger Woods, Rose, Manning, Rodriguez) or imprisonment (No. 1 Floyd Mayweather Jr.) over the past few years.
In addressing the crowd at Fenway Park's first home game after the Boston Marathon Bombing, David Ortiz delivered a most memorable quote. And now he's wielding those words to raise money for the victims of the attack.
The Red Sox designated hitter announced that in conjunction with Marucci Sports he'll be selling customized bats, and 100 percent of the net proceeds will be donated to the One Fund Boston and other sources of victim support. Available at BigPapi.com, the bats look pretty cool: The barrel is blue, and reads, "This is our f-ing city!" next to a silhouette of what appears to be Ortiz pointing skyward after a home run. Next to that, where a player's name would normally be printed, these bats say, "Never Forget. BOSTON STRONG. 4.15.13."
Unsigned bats are being sold for $125, while a $500 donation buys an autographed model. They can be shipped anywhere in the United States, and according to the order form it looks as though you can order up to 20 of each.
Ortiz also left a message on his site:
My Fellow Bostonians,
On April 15, 2013, nearly a decade after I first came to Boston, our city was attacked during one of Boston's most beloved events. Through the great bravery of our service men and women, and the strength of our citizens, Boston has and will continue to persevere through this tragedy. I wanted to figure out a way to do something to help the victims, so I reached out to my partner Marucci Sports who have created these bats to help raise money for those affected by this tragedy. 100% of the net proceeds from these sales will go to the OneFund and other victims of this terrible event. When I gave my speech during the pregame ceremony of our first game back, I fully meant the words I said. Let's get together as a city to show everyone that "nobody is gonna dictate our freedom!"
We won't know until some point late Monday night whether it was an omen -- or merely a coincidence. But already we know this: The Maple Leafs have eliminated the Bruins in the round of 16 ...
... of the NHL 14 Cover Vote currently being conducted by EA Sports.
In a battle of former second-overall picks, Toronto's James van Riemsdyk ousted Boston's Tyler Seguin in a left-bracket quarterfinal that went final on Sunday night -- not long after the real-life Leafs beat the in-the-flesh Bruins to force Monday's deciding Game 7 at TD Garden.
The former University of New Hampshire Wildcat assisted on both of Toronto's tallies in its 2-1 victory, and his five points over the first six games could only have helped him in the vote, which is decided by fans making their picks at NHL.com/covervote and on Twitter. Seguin, in the meantime, is still looking for his first point in the series despite 27 shots on goal and nearly 104 minutes of ice time.
Van Riemsdyk next takes on Martin Brodeur -- and if he wins that he could find himself up against teammate Joffrey Lupul in a battle for a finals berth, with Lupul taking on Pavel Datsyuk in the quarters.
That'd probably be fine with Seguin and the Bruins, though, as long as they're able to make sure the tussle be on a video game cover is the only competition the Leafs are still fighting to win after tonight, and Toronto's only triumph comes in a popularity contest. Omens be darned.
Manny Ramirez lasted only 17 at-bats as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, retiring from Major League Baseball after registering one hit and a failed drug test in five games. But if he'd only stuck around longer it looks like he might've fit in.
Joe Maddon's Rays are famous for their themed road trips, traveling to their next city in some sort of silly garb, and this week the team Ramirez is playing for in Taiwan decided to do the same thing. According to MLB.com's Dakota Gardner, the EDA Rhinos opted to wear Halloween costumes while riding the train along the coast of Taiwan.
And so, buying in completely, Manny was no longer being Manny. Manny was being the Hulk. With sunglasses. And toe shoes.
We can only assume the costume was as well-received as the ex-Red Sox slugger's home runs have been in the Far East. And that this isn't the last time Manny makes news merely by doing something goofy.
UPDATE: For more oft-hilarious tales of Manny's time in Taiwan, follow Brandon DuBreuil on Twitter, and check out his site dedicated to the subject, mannydoestaiwan.com. He reports the costumed ride was specifically mean for the rookies, and seeing that the soon-to-be-41-year-old Ramirez is technically one of those, he hopped on board. The site is full of good stuff, and definitely one to check back on as the CPBL season continues.
Looking for a place to take the mom in your life this Mother's Day? The Red Sox would like to suggest a visit to Fenway Park -- and for more than just a baseball game.
After the Sox and Blue Jays are finished with the ballpark on Sunday afternoon, the club will welcome mothers and their kids on to the infield to run the bases. In my case it'd be nothing short of a Mother's Day Miracle if my mother made it all the way around, considering I don't think she's run a total of 360 feet in the last 30 years, but there are alluring perks for those types of moms, too: Fenway tours will be free for women all weekend, while during Sunday's contest women can receive a complimentary chair massage, courtesy of Equinox Fitness, in the Champions Club located behind right field.
It's all part of a month-long celebration of "Women and Baseball," with the Sox planning to highlight that theme at each of May's 13 home games. Leading up to Mother's Day, events include the Red Sox Wives conducting a mystery grab bag fundraiser supporting the One Fund on May 9 and 10 -- with fans who donate $40 having a chance to “grab” an autographed baseball. The next day, Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo, will be on hand as the Sox celebrate her native Rhode Island.
Of course, it might also be a good idea to get gifts for the moms in your life, and the Red Sox are currently offering discounts on jewelry and handbags bought through their team store.
There's also a new piece from Alex and Ani, the local brand that has created an exclusive expandable wire bangle to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the partnership between the Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund. Pictured below, the bracelet is available in gold or silver, and can be purchased for $28 by going here or to an Alex and Ani store.
Each bangle is accompanied by a meaning card that is marked with three descriptive words -- legacy, teamwork, dedication -- and 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the bangle go directly to the Jimmy Fund. Might be a nice accessory to wear on a Sunday in the park.
A Division I-recruited pitcher who always dreamed of making it to the big leagues, David Mellor saw those hopes all but dashed in the summer of 1981, when he was run down by a car in the parking lot of a McDonald's and told he'd never walk normally again.
But determined to get there one way or the other, he still made it to the majors. And you're probably quite familiar -- perhaps occasionally in awe -- of his work.
Here's a look at Fenway Park's groundskeeper, as told by Buster Olney on ESPN's E:60 news show.
In the last few weeks, a couple members of the Revolution have been hit by hardship. On April 8, the team announced that 24-year-old defender Kevin Alston had been diagnosed with Leukemia, then, a week later, the father-in-law of goalkeeper Matt Reis was among those seriously injured in the Boston Marathon bombing.
Now, while Alston continues to receive treatment for his cancer, and while Reis' father-in-law remains hospitalized after being upgraded from critical to serious condition, the club is looking to raise money on behalf of both causes. The New England Revolution Charitable Foundation has opened a memorabilia auction at biddingforgood.com, with all proceeds to be donated to the One Fund Boston and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The auction is available here, and will feature items from last Saturday’s match against the Philadelphia Union. Bidding is open now through noon on May 7.
Going directly to the One Fund will be money raised on bids for a team-autographed 2013 BAA Boston Marathon white medical staff jacket, a Chris Tierney-autographed 2013 BAA Boston Marathon yellow volunteer jacket, and a Jay Heaps-autographed 2013 BAA Boston Marathon blue manager jacket.
Money bid on autographed jerseys worn during the Union match, all featuring an orange leukemia awareness ribbons, will go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Up for bid are Reis' black No. 1 goalkeeper jersey, Bobby Shuttleworth's black No. 22 goalie jersey, as well as the navy jerseys of these players:
- Jerry Bengtson’s (game-worn) #27
- Scott Caldwell’s (game-worn) #6
- Kalifa Cisse’s (game-worn) #4
- Andrew Farrell’s (game-worn) #2
- Diego Fagundez’s (game-worn) #14
- Jose Goncalves’ (game-worn) #23
- Ryan Guy’s (game-worn) #13
- Stephen McCarthy’s (game-worn) #15
- Lee Nguyen’s (game-worn) #24
- Kelyn Rowe’s (game-worn) #11
- Saer Sene’s (game-worn) #39
- Chris Tierney’s (game-worn) #8
- Andy Dorman’s #12
- Darrius Barnes’ #25
- Sainey Nyassi’s #17
Because we know you were dying to know who won the Burger Brawl, here's how it finished:
A couple hours before Sports Illustrated published details of his personal life that could permanently alter the sociological landscape of American professional sports, Jason Collins picked Twitter as his platform.
"Played golf for the 1st time since Oct on Sun," he wrote. "I broke 100 and had a birdie. Great way to relax before the start of a big week."
Initially seeming little more than another innocuous, mundane update typical of social media, the Tweet -- particularly the final sentence -- made much more sense soon enough, when SI released a first-person essay in which Collins revealed he is gay and set a spark to the trail he is about to blaze. The center the Celtics traded to the Wizards in February is believed to be the first male athlete in the United States' big-four pro sports leagues to live openly as a homosexual while he's still an active player.
Most certainly, Collins is not the only gay player currently in major-league American sports -- likely not even in the NBA -- so we knew this day was eventually coming. In fact, it became a hot-button issue around the time of the Super Bowl, then a month ago the NFL Players Association said it was making plans to prepare its members for the "inevitability" that one of them would come out. In other sports, teams like the Bruins have backed campaigns encouraging openness, and all sorts of players have long been asked how they'd feel if a teammate was to tell them he was gay. Those questions were posed with the safe assumption that someday one of them would.
But that doesn't make Collins' admission any less courageous, or this moment any less important, or this day any less of one to feel good about. After all, there are reasons a revelation such as this hadn't happened already, and whatever those reasons may be, we can take pride in knowing our society has at least progressed to the point where hope for acceptance and inclusion outweighs the fear of ridicule and ostracism for a person working in a high-profile and most-macho profession.
As Collins explained over the course of 2,906 poignant, powerful, and sometimes soul-pouring words, "I'm glad I'm coming out in 2013 rather than 2003" because "the climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted." In a way, there's some sadness in those words; they present a reality in which Collins has spent the vast majority of his career hiding something, and has been kept from getting close to any of his teammates because of his so-called "double life."
Though that's why, as much as an eventuality as it may have seemed, it is important that Collins came forward now. Having told his twin brother of his sexuality last summer, and other family members at other times, he waited until after his 12th NBA season so as not to cause a distraction for the Celtics, or the Wizards. But by not waiting any longer, he opened the door to the closet for anyone else to walk through as soon as they're ready.
Ex-power forward John Amaechi decided he wasn't ready until after he retired, though hopefully because of what Collins did today, a decade from now there won't be a pro athlete who delayed coming out until 2023 rather than 2013. And hopefully the reaction from the NBA community only furthers that process.
Collins admittedly doesn't know what that reaction will be, even after a dozen years in the league. He says that as a pragmatist he's expecting the worst while hoping for the best, and at least early the response has been positive. Dozens of his peers have taken to Twitter with messages of support -- the list of well-wishers including Kobe Bryant to Mark Madsen and guys of all skill levels in between -- while Commissioner David Stern reached out to tell Collins he was proud of him, and Celtics Coach Doc Rivers released a statement through his team that likened Collins' bold step to baseball's breaking of the color barrier.
"I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins," Rivers said. "He’s a pro’s pro. He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite 'team' players I have ever coached. If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance.
"One of my favorite sayings is, 'I am who I am, are whom we are, can be what I want to be its not up to you, it’s just me being me.'"
Collins praised Rivers' attitude in the SI piece, and the column somewhat suggests that his brief stint in Boston did have an impact in moving him toward today's disclosure. He notes he was jealous that Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy, his old roommate at Stanford, could walk in last year's gay pride parade -- yet Collins couldn't even openly cheer. Then, having lived near the site of the Boston Marathon bombings, he asked himself, "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?" and decided to do so.
Because of that decision, he says he's happier. He's finally able to be honest, and genuine, and if anyone in the NBA is uneasy with the reason why that is, the center says he's happy to sit down with them and discuss it. If that doesn't work, and he finds himself on the court "up against an intolerant player, I'll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on."
Here's hoping a big man who has made his career out of using his fouls and proudly setting picks doesn't have to change his game just to send a message -- but moving on won't be easy. While Collins may have written that he has never sought the spotlight, by making himself a pioneer he has instantly gone from a basketball backup who plays 10 minutes a night to a face of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community nationwide.
That's an enormous change in responsibility -- though it is just as enormously important a role to undertake. Nineteen months after Barack Obama told gays they could exist openly in the military, Jason Collins told gays they could do the same in major-league sports, and with another wall of testosterone having been torn down our culture has moved a step closer to an ideal where everyone can simply be himself. A step closer to acceptance and true tolerance.
A step closer to the day when word that a pro athlete broke 100 on the golf course, and made a birdie, is just as newsworthy as the fact that he's gay.
Moments after the Patriots selected Jamie Collins with the 52nd pick in the NFL Draft, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network described the Southern Miss linebacker as a "freaky athlete" and instructed his Twitter followers to "Google Jamie Collins and Dunk" to find evidence. So we did.
That he can dunk like that ultimately doesn't mean much as far as his ability to rush the quarterback or cover a tight end is concerned. But considering he's 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, it sure does seem to make "freaky athlete" seem an apt description.
Had the 2011 Red Sox held a burger-building competition, it probably would've come down to a plain ol' patty against one embellished with but a single slice of American cheese -- both of which would've almost certainly left a terrible aftertaste.
Had the 2012 Red Sox held a burger-building competition, the finals probably would've pitted a poorly constructed slab that crumbled as soon as it hit the grill against some low-grade beef stuffed stubbornly into a wrap along with a collection of illogical condiments that don't taste good together.
However, the 2013 Red Sox -- the 15-7 Red Sox -- hold a burger-building competition, and the flavors are exciting. The ingredients are interesting, but thoughtful. The execution is impressive. The presentation is pretty.
The whole thing appears, well, fun.
Check it out in the RedSox.com video above, which shows Ryans Dempster and Lavarnway taking on Will Middlebrooks and Mike Napoli in the first episode of the inaugural "Burger Brawl" that the Sox filmed at JetBlue Park during spring training.
Working with Lavarnway's fiancee, the pitcher-catcher team dares to use ballpark foods, like peanuts and sunflower seeds, then plates its creation with a barbecue-sauce baseball so exquisitely crafted that Dempster deems Lavarnway the "da Vinci of putting baseballs on plates." Meanwhile, the infielders incorporate a couple different cheeses plus potatoes and an over-easy egg into their creation, which is finished with two minutes in the oven -- "no more, no less," notes Middlebrooks -- under the direction of the ballpark's chef.
The video ends just as the burgers are being served, so we'll have to stay tuned to find out who wins the duel. But in the meantime, you've got some ideas to take out to the grill with you this weekend. Perhaps while listening to the radio, and following along with an increasingly likable team.
On May 4, the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital will hold the annual Run-Walk to Home Base, a 9K finishing at home plate inside Fenway Park and raising funds that provide clinical care for veterans with combat stress or traumatic brain injury, as well as support services and counseling for wounded vets' families.
Since she participated for the first time last year, we asked NESN's Jenny Dell (who is joined by General Jack Hammond, Executive Director of the Home Base Program, in the photo below) to pen a guest post relating that experience and talking about her reasons for running again this year.
By Jenny Dell, NESN Red Sox Reporter
I’ve been asked to contribute a blog post about my participation in the annual Run-Walk to Home Base, which is just a few weeks away. Since the horrible events that unfolded on Patriots Day are still fresh in all of our minds, I’m sure you will understand why I am more motivated than ever to help raise money to help the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program provide clinical care for veterans with combat stress or traumatic brain injury. I’m also going to make sure I spend a little more time training for this year’s race than I did last year.
I admit that last year, I suffered from delusions of grandeur. I’m actually not much of a runner. But I not only boasted that I would beat my fellow NESN sportscaster Tom Caron, I also only ran one time before the event -- on a treadmill. Now, granted, I did the full 9K – 5.6 miles – but it was on a consistent slope, in a comfortable temperature. The actual run around Boston to Fenway was more hilly and hot.
TC must have mentioned at least ten times during our broadcast after the run that he beat me. But he’s actually a runner, so it wasn’t that surprising. I did at least beat him at fundraising, thanks to the generosity of my friends, family, and Sox fans. I kept reminding him that’s what mattered most. (Want to donate? Please click here!)
This year, despite getting sick and juggling a very busy schedule, I’m vowing to prepare. I’d planned to start on the treadmill, then get out on the streets – at least a little. But I know, ultimately, it’s the other runners who will inspire me all the way to the finish line at Fenway’s home plate.
Last year, I met the team from the Wounded Warrior Project, whose crucial work with veterans and fundraising efforts were awe-inspiring. I was moved as vets and families shared eye-opening stories and struggles at the pre-run ceremony. And I saw wounded vets – some running on prosthetics – smiling and chugging right along with me. (I thought to myself, “Pick it up, girl!”)
This cause touches all of our lives. Everyone knows someone who has served or is currently serving our country. It’s now estimated that 30 percent of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from the invisible wounds of war. In New England alone, an estimated 50,000 Iraq or Afghanistan veterans are affected by traumatic brain injury or combat stress.
Combat stress and brain injuries aren’t obvious – they’re not physical, not immediately apparent. That’s why we must remove the stigma, and encourage soldiers and their families to share their stories, and get the help they need.
At last year’s run, I heard how post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to other long-lasting conditions, such as alcoholism and depression. These soldiers have been through so much. Treating their stress before it leads to other problems is crucial.
With everything the city of Boston is going through right now, let’s keep the health and well-being of our brave service members and their families close to our hearts. I’m proud to add my efforts to an event that raises awareness and funds for this important cause – through a fun and powerfully moving run at our beloved Fenway Park.
I can’t wait to run again this year! I’m just not promising to beat anyone.
Jenny Dell is a Red Sox reporter for NESN. To sign up, donate, or find more information about the Run-Walk to Home Base, click here.
At least half a dozen victims of the Boston Marathon bombings found time to smile on Monday, when Patriots Rob Gronkowski and Stevan Ridley became the latest pair of local athletes to visit the rehabilitating as they recover in area hospitals.
Last week it was teammate Julian Edelman who was bedside with Jeff Bauman -- the Chelmsford man who lost his legs in the blasts, then reportedly helped officials identify the bombers -- and Monday the Pats receiver pledged his support to another effort geared toward aiding the recovery. Edelman says he's in for Saturday's dodgeball game at Durfee High School in Fall River, which is presented by Ridley and Dodgeballin' for Kids. Featuring a "special guest team," it begins at noon and will raise money for "the children of the Boston Marathon tragedy."
Meanwhile, Vince Wilfork continues to donate to victim support for every retweet; Kyle Arrington embarks on a national interview tour to drum up awareness and raise funds; Arrington and Zoltan Mesko will donate to victim relief a portion of the proceeds from Thursday night's draft party at the Kowloon in Saugus; Danny Amendola and Devin McCourty maintain that they'll make performance-based contributions to the cause once the season begins; plus other Pats players have said and done things, both in front and behind the scenes of social media, to lend whatever support they can.
Looks like Robert Kraft's organization is standing together in support of Boston. Figuratively. And literally.
EA Sports has begun the process of determining who will be its cover boy for the next edition of its NHL video game -- and in Boston, that process begins with a battle:
Zdeno Chara vs. Tyler Seguin.
Eventually the contest will whittle it down to just one player league-wide who'll be the face of NHL 14, though EA has opted to begin the contest by pitting teammates against each other to see who advances with the right to represent the franchise among the broader competition. In these parts that pits the stoic captain against the speedy young stud in a competition that will be decided according to the votes made at NHL.com/covervote between now and April 28.
With the playoffs looming, Bruins fans can only hope the intense rivalry sure to develop between teammates doesn't lead to a division that ends the way it did for Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty, and The Rockers.
When the dust does settle from the duel between Chara and Seguin, the victor will join a representative from each of the other 29 organizations, plus two wild cards, in the round of 32. The 16 most popular players in a weeklong vote will then be placed into a bracket, which will be reduced via single-elimination playoff until just two candidates remain. Then the fans will decide who graces the front of their game, this time between May 27-June 2.
Also note that fans can vote through Twitter on Thursdays, and their votes will count twice if they use a specific hashtag. For Chara, that'd be #NHL14Chara; for Seguin, not shockingly, that'd be #NHL14Seguin. (Advantage to Seguin there, since his nearly 250,000-follower lead over Chara -- 248,633-0 -- would suggest a stronghold on that demographic.)
Other locally tied candidates worth pointing out include Dennis Wideman, the maligned ex-Bruin who joins Dartmouth College-product Lee Stempniak as the faces of the post-Jarome Iginla Flames; Keith Yandle of Milton and Cushing Academy trying to represent the Coyotes; Boston University product Brandon Yip competing with Mike Fisher (Mr. Carrie Underwood) for the Predators' nod; Teddy Purcell (Lightning) and Jimmy Howard (Red Wings) repping the University of Maine; and ex-University of New Hampshire Wildcat James van Riemsdyk (and not Phil Kessel) among the Maple Leafs' choices.
Click here to see the whole list for the contest that last year drew more than 25 million votes.
Typically it's after the regular season's final home game that the Bruins literally give away the shirts off their backs. And typically it's given as a gift to season ticket holders.
But at the end of a most atypical week in Boston, the B's tweaked tradition Sunday -- at the behest of those season ticket holders -- and instead presented the sweaters they wore during Sunday's 3-0 win over the Panthers to some of the law enforcement officers involved in the manhunt for two suspects accused on planting bombs at the Boston Marathon.
"Post game was beyond special today," Tweeted defenseman Andrew Ference, adding that he gave his jerseys to an officer who has been a friend for years, and who had taken him to Ranger training/sniper school. "I was so honored to meet everyone after the game and get to chat for a bit."
The Bruins also honored law enforcement on Saturday by taking the ice before the game wearing the caps of the Massachusetts State Police, the Boston Police, and the Watertown Police in homage to the efforts those departments had made over the preceding hours and days. To see all the players with their jersey recipients after Sunday's game, check out the still photos on the Bruins Blog.
Here's hoping a new tradition has begun.
Standing near the Bobby Orr statue on the Causeway Street side of TD Garden at around 6:30 on Wednesday night, Anne-Marie Kenney wore a grey Bruins’ T-shirt as she watched flocks of fans wearing mostly black and gold stream toward the building for what was supposed to be a hockey game -- but more so promised to be a cathartic, prideful, patriotic experience.
“Even standing here,” she said, “this is the most normal I’ve felt in the last 48 hours.”
By then it had actually been almost 52 hours since the bombs had exploded on Boylston Street, since twin acts of terror had permanently changed the definition of normal for Bostonians – like Kenney, who is part of a common breed. She’s among the type who came here for college but never left and is now a prevalent piece of a city that takes its shape from all types. They join the natives. The townies. The students. The lifers. The transplants.
And the athletes.
Many of the athletes aren’t citizens of Boston. Some spend their season in a hotel room and then head to warmer climes. But before the Bruins brought pro sports back to the town, people on their way into the Garden wanted those athletes to know that they’ve heard, read, and seen the statements they’ve made since Monday – in interviews, on Twitter, via jerseys sporting No. 617 – and they wanted to let them know that those really do matter.
They wanted to let them know that not only do they appreciate the voicing of support, but they also wanted the players to know that they are drawing strength from all the reactions and responses because they have helped the fans realized that this community really does mean something to the athletes who compete under its cheers.
“It goes to show that nobody is above human tragedy and loss,” said Kenney, a Celtics and Patriots season-ticket holder who lives in Medford now and was at Fenway Park on Monday morning, then supposed to be watching the Bruins at the Garden on Monday night. “I think you really get a sense that Boston is their home, and that those guys who maybe don’t live here all year round, they still consider this a place that loves them back. Boston is one of those special places where sports can help us heal.”
Wednesday’s sing-along version of the Star Spangled Banner certainly projected the image of a city that has already begun the process of healing the black eye caused by a punch that failed to knock it out – or even knock it down. But by then, from both near and far, sports had been doing what it could for a couple of days.
As soon as the news began to break, well-wishes were arriving through social media. In those early moments of unease, they carried messages of comfort and unity, then came the Sox and their signs of solidarity from Cleveland on Tuesday night. They were only that, of course. Just messages and signs. But they mattered.
“I thought it was really important,” said Bennett Greenwood, the Somerville resident who stood on the side of the Orr icon opposite of Kenney, wearing a Zdeno Chara jersey. “Over the last couple days I’ve looked up on Twitter and Facebook and seen some of the things that these guys on the team have been saying, and they really took it to heart. It was really nice to see that they’re looking out for everybody and that their hearts are in the right place.”
Their hearts are here, even if they’re from somewhere else. Among the most immediate and most vocal was Will Middlebrooks, the 24-year-old third baseman from Greenville, Texas, who at this time last year had never played a big-league game in Boston. Among the most empathetic was Andrew Ference, the defenseman who was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Among the most generous was Danny Amendola, the receiver who’ll donate to recovery efforts $100 for every catch he makes this season, plus $200 for every drop – despite not yet having played a down for the Patriots.
“For him to already be contributing, that’s huge,” said Greg Bingham of Saugus. “He sets an example. He was one of the first ones to step up and do something.”
It’s the gestures emanating from outside the area that are resonating with Greg’s older brother, Bill Bingham. It mattered to him that the Yankees played "Sweet Caroline" in honor of Boston after the third inning on Tuesday night, and that other teams also followed.
“We’ve been through this before,” he said. “Not us, but you pray for New York, pray for Newtown, and to actually see the Yankees doing stuff – people as far as the Mariners doing stuff – seeing people reach out toward the Boston community, it's pretty powerful. It actually touches every single person.”
“When the Yankees put up that thing saying, ‘United we stand,’ that meant a lot,” added Mark Winiarski after making the two-hour drive from his Connecticut border town. “I hate the [bleeping] Yankees, but, you know what, especially in a rivalry like the Yankees’, to come over and say, ‘United we stand, and we’re behind you,’ it means a whole hell of a lot.”
Winiarski admitted to being a bit scared in going to the game, but friend Neil Bouchard said the two didn’t really consider getting rid of their tickets. “You’ve got to come up here and say the United States is going to stand strong,” he said. “It’s a hard-hitting town. A strong town.”
As far as Al Cutts is concerned, it’s the Bruins who represent those ideals the best. He refers to the B's as “roots players” because of where they've come from and how hard they’ve had to work to reach this point in their careers. For that reason, he said after coming to the Garden from the South Shore, they understand the tenor of the city and its people. They relate to Boston’s hardened, blue-collar spirit.
And that’s a piece of why Methuen’s Dave MacDonald sees the expressions of the athletes as pure and genuine. This is a city where “the bombs go off and the people are running in,” he said. The players know that, and “they understand their surroundings.” They appreciate it all enough to be real.
“I don’t think they’re playing it up at all just because they’re part of the team,” MacDonald said. “This is one of those cities where guys can either become part of Boston or they can’t. You had those Adrian Gonzalezes, those Carl Crawfords, who didn’t fit in. Then you’ve got guys who roll in here – [Jaromir] Jagr, automatic, he fits in – who understand the tempo of the city and the attitude.”
It's a tempo and an attitude that some can't keep up with and can make some feel unwelcome. But at the same time “it’s hard not to get sucked into this city," Greenwood insists. "It’s a place where we might seem a bit abrasive at first, but we band together and we really care about each other.”
And that's why sports are so important to this city in general -- and particularly in times like these. At their essence, team sports are about a collection of people coming together to confront a challenge and pursue a common goal, putting in the requisite work and picking each other up along the way, then trying to do their best and prove themselves winners in the face of any obstacle.
This week, that became the mission of the city itself as much as it has ever been for the Bruins, the Celts, the Pats, or the Sox.
And Bostonians of all types say it does indeed mean something to be reminded -- tweet by tweet, interview by interview, gesture by gesture -- that everybody, even the athletes, is on the same team.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. Hundred percent. It makes all the difference," Greenwood said. "Everybody’s having such a hard time; it’s a tragedy that happened. It’s hard to deal with, and it just shows that everyone is banding together -- all together.”
All for one, you might say.
"This isn’t just a place that they work," Kenney said. "For many of them this is as much their home as it is mine.”
Stevan Ridley remembers Matthew Rymer as a competitor, even in practice, when he thinks of their time as high school teammates at Trinity Episcopal Day School in Natchez, Miss. "Was he the most athletic guy out there? No," Ridley told the Natchez Democrat last weekend, "but Matthew Rymer was always a kid who gave 100 percent effort."
And now the Patriots running back says he'll give the same to see that Rymer gets what he needs to realize the goals of his recovery after a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
The accident came on New Year's Day of 2010, before which Rymer was an 18-year-old high school senior set to continue his football career at a community college -- but after which he found himself on a ventilator because of an incomplete spinal cord injury between his fifth and sixth vertebrae. According to the Natchez newspaper, that occurred when the GMC truck carrying him and three others careened off the road and collided with a tree, injuring all four passengers, with Rymer and one other suffering injuries considered serious.
Initially, Rymer was paralyzed from the neck down -- though he immediately began attacking rehabilitation, soon regaining the feeling in his chest and eventually becoming able to move his arms, all the while putting in all his hard work with an eye on independence. Already a full-time student at a community college in Natchez, he has designs on leaving his hometown to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, but at present whenever he goes to school or to one of his four weekly therapy sessions he needs to be driven by a family member. And since none of them has a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, those trips include transferring him and his 6-foot, 2-inch body from his chair to the car seat both to and fro.
But that's where Ridley comes in.
Returning to Natchez for his second annual Hometown Huddle, an event that raises money for Ballet Magnificat and the Guardian Shelter for Battered Families, Ridley added another cause to the evening. Having learned that Rymer's occupational therapist, Nayzda Muhammad, planned to enter him in a contest through which an online audience votes for the person they believe deserves to win a customized wheelchair-accessible vehicle, Ridley used his stage -- in Natchez, in New England, and across the nation -- to start stumping for his former teammate.
His efforts started at the Huddle, then spilled over to Twitter, where Ridley told his more than 50,000 followers to vote for Rymer. He retweeted those who told him they did, and some of his Patriots teammates -- Devin McCourty, Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen, and Justin Francis -- spread the word among their sphere of social media influence, as well.
"It's such an honor," Rymer told the Democrat. "He's a great guy, and I thank him so much for getting the word out."
A week after Ridley began campaigning, Rymer had more than 3,300 votes in the contest that helps mark National Mobility Awareness Month with the support of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. Voting runs through May 10 -- click here to see more on Rymer's story and to vote for him -- and winners will be revealed at the end of that month.
If he wins, Rymer says he intends to get his license, which would enable him to drive himself to school, to "not be a burden" on his family, "to be independent like everybody else." And Ridley intends to put 100 percent effort into making all that happen.
"He still needs to be able to live life and do things, and if that wheelchair-accessible van is what he needs to bring his life that much more joy, we need to do everything in our power as a community to get behind him and make sure he wins that award," Ridley said, according to the Democrat.
"Personally, I'm going to do everything in my power to push and get enough people to vote for him to win that van."
The Revolution announced Monday that defender Kevin Alston had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia -- a rare but treatable form of cancer -- and as he begins a leave of absence to undergo treatment, he is drawing on messages from well-wishers for support.
Fans wishing to send him a message directly can do so by emailing GetWellKevinAlston@gmail.com, or they can use the hashtag #GetWellKA when posting via Twitter. The 24-year-old left back is personally checking both outlets constantly, and already he's received a number of notes -- including one from another Boston athlete who returned to the field after beating cancer, which is what Alston plans to do himself.
Last December 10, the Houston Texans walked into Gillette Stadium wearing letterman jackets. They were blue, with leather sleeves, and meant as a sign of camaraderie. They wore them on they boarded their team plane and traveled from Texas to New England.
Then they got steamrolled by the Patriots, 42-14. The jackets didn't seem to do much good.
But that failed experiment will not deter the Tampa Bay Rays. Four months later, to the day, the Rays will board a plane for a flight from Texas, bound for New England -- and here's what they'll be wearing:
Our first themed dress trip of the season: letterman jackets from Texas to Boston tomorrow. twitter.com/RaysJoeMaddon/…— Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon) April 9, 2013
Themed trips are nothing new for the Rays. They've had many, starting last year with a "minimalist" excursion. They've also had a "Ring of Fire" trip. During a three-city trip in 2011 they wore a grunge look to Seattle, had a Beach Boys theme en route to Los Angeles, then wore pajama pants for the red-eye to Baltimore. They've worn hockey jerseys, and dressed up like golfers, and nerds, and last time they were in Boston they set out with a "Wigs Gone Wild" theme.
They've even worn letterman sweaters. But the letterman jackets are a fresh look. And a fashion statement the Texans would probably advise against.
The New England Hockey Journal is reporting that the Bruins have reached a three-year deal with Swedish forward Carl Soderberg, the 27-year-old whose rights Boston acquired in a 2007 deal with St. Louis. Word had leaked that he was interested in finally coming to the NHL after the end of his Swedish Elite League season, and that came last week, when his Linkoping HC team lost four straight and was bounced by Skelleftea.
Soderberg finished the season as Linkoping's leading scorer, tallying 31 goals and 29 assists in 54 games -- but that wasn't the only way he used his stick this past season. Fast forward to the 1:10 mark of the video below to see what we mean. (Soderberg is No. 17 in white.)
That cross check came late in the first game of Linkoping HC's playoff series with HV71, earning Soderberg a seven-game suspension, three games of which were served by way of him by paying a fine. His 48 penalty minutes for the entire regular season suggest that hit is out of character, but Bruins fans probably won't mind knowing that the 6-foot-3, 207-pound winger has that sort of mean streak in him somewhere.
Especially when he can use his stick the way his does in the video below, too.
Louisville's 82-76 win over Michigan on Monday night made Rick Pitino an NCAA basketball champion for the second time -- which might normally be something to celebrate in Massachusetts, considering he began his head coaching career with five seasons at Boston University, and played collegiately at UMass.
But in these parts, Pitino is far more a punchline than a source of pride thanks to his infamous tenure as coach and president of the Celtics. It began with Boston losing the lottery that would've landed Tim Duncan, then ended with a midseason resignation after the team lost for the 146th time in his 248 games on the bench and drifted farther away from contention than they were when he took over.
At that time, Pitino said the organization had treated him well, telling the Herald, "I love the Boston Celtics and I’ll always be a fan." But the feeling certainly doesn't appear to be mutual, as Amalie Benjamin explored this weekend, and as was evident in the Tweets coming from Celtics fans (including one rather famous rooter) during the national title tilt and in the hour that followed Louisville's coronation. Here's a sampling:
Pitino scared to death that bitter Celtics fans are shooting at him after NCAA championship win celticslife.com/2013/04/pitino…— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) April 9, 2013
Pitino still screwed the celtics franchise over #PeopleDontForget— Mike Fay (@YungFay24) April 9, 2013
Anyone from Boston who wanted Pitino to win obviously forgot about how bad he was with the Celtics— Patrick Flynn (@THEPatFlynn) April 9, 2013
If anyone in Boston is even remotely happy for Louisville and that lowlife Pitino leave. Just leave.— Colin Monahan (@Hashtag_Colin) April 9, 2013
@the_el_maff Pitino drove the celtics into the ground, disrespected Red Auerbach, and left halfway through a season...— Colin Monahan (@Hashtag_Colin) April 9, 2013
I guess we'll all just forget Rick Pitino destroyed the Celtics and set them the back 10 years. Good times.— Branden Mello (@Branden_Mello) April 9, 2013
Only if Pitino could be that successful in his time on the Celtics...— Omer Levy (@OmerLevy9) April 9, 2013
Maybe if Pitino had Siva he could have won a few more games wit the #Celtics— Tim Morel (@TimMorel) April 9, 2013
In 1997, Rick Pitino stole Red Auerbach's Celtics presidency away. It's true. Look it up. COME ON MICHIGAN!!!!!— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 9, 2013
Rick Pitino I still hate u for screwing up the celtics #fu— David Desmarais (@rangerdave47) April 9, 2013
Rooting for Michigan tonight. I hate Rick Pitino. He should be arrested for what he did to my Celtics. #MarchMadness— Lamont Price (@LPizzle) April 9, 2013
Pitino deserves his #HOF induction for his work as a college coach, though I'd argue his work with the Celtics should be worth -1M votes— CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) April 8, 2013
If you're a Celtics fan, each time you see Rick Pitino you think, "Larry Bird isn't walking through that door..."— Jon Acuff (@JonAcuff) April 9, 2013
There's at least one fan who wouldn't mind seeing Pitino walk back through that door himself, though:
Rick Pitino should come back to the NBA and coach the @celtics again once Doc retires..remember once a Celtic always a Celtic—MaseratiMaine (@jjdamage) April 9, 2013
Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones woke up with a new look to his Twitter page today -- not because he'd been hacked, but because his beloved Orangemen couldn't hack it on the hardwood Saturday night.
A day earlier, proud Michigan man Zoltan Mesko challenged his Patriots teammate to a bet where the alum whose school lost the Syracuse-Michigan matchup in the national basketball semifinal would be forced to change his Twitter avatar to the logo of the winner's alma mater. It was a challenge Mesko put forth via the Patriots' Facebook page, which is also where Jones accepted -- with some rather artful videography shot in a library Mesko said looked as though it smelled "of rich mahogany."
After the Wolverines beat the Orange, 61-56, Jones lived up to his word. As the contest approached, there was apparently a back-and-forth between the two that prompted ex-Patriot Joe Andruzzi to espouse that "this trash talk is better than boxing in Vegas" -- but check out the Twitter timelines of each, and while Mesko's bravado remains, it looks as though Jones deleted his comments after his boys couldn't back them up for him.
He couldn't run from it all, though. A bet's a bet, after all.