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Personal connections prompt Revs to raise money for One Fund and Leukemia Society

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 30, 2013 12:38 PM

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

And the winner of the Red Sox' Burger Brawl is...

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 30, 2013 12:33 PM

Because we know you were dying to know who won the Burger Brawl, here's how it finished:

tags Red Sox

Thanks to Jason Collins, a good day finally arrives

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 29, 2013 12:11 PM

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.

tags Celtics

Meet Jamie Collins

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 26, 2013 08:26 PM

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.

tags Patriots

Red Sox engage in a 'burger brawl'

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 26, 2013 10:00 AM

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.

tags Red Sox

Guest column: Jenny Dell on running to heal veterans at Run-Walk to Home Base

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 24, 2013 04:00 PM

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
@JennyDellNESN

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.

D31_8240I 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.

tags Red Sox

Gronk, Ridley, dodgeball continue Patriots' efforts in support of bombing victims

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 23, 2013 12:17 AM

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.

Seguin vs. Chara: Teammates battle for right to rep Bruins in NHL 14 cover vote

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 22, 2013 11:33 AM
656x369_covervote_blogheader

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.

tags Bruins

Video: Bruins give law enforcement officers the shirts off their backs

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 22, 2013 12:11 AM

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.

tags Bruins

Boston's fans to its athletes: Your support 'makes all the difference' as we join to heal

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 18, 2013 08:00 AM

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.

One Boston.

"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.”

Patriots' Ridley leads online campaign to win van for paralyzed ex-teammate

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 11, 2013 08:16 AM

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."

tags Patriots

Revs' Alston drawing support from fans' messages as he begins cancer fight

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 9, 2013 04:22 PM

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.

Rays heading to Boston in letterman jackets, looking to avoid fate of the Texans

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 9, 2013 02:28 PM

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:

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.

tags Red Sox

Meet Carl Soderberg, and his mean streak

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 9, 2013 01:36 PM

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.

tags Bruins

Celtics fans and followers aren't exactly excited about Rick Pitino's latest title

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 9, 2013 12:20 AM

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:

There's at least one fan who wouldn't mind seeing Pitino walk back through that door himself, though:

tags Celtics

Jones changes avatar after Syracuse loses to Michigan -- and he loses bet to Mesko

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 7, 2013 12:38 PM

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.

tags Patriots

Revs become models for a night in support of America SCORES charity

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 4, 2013 12:24 PM

All Revs, Wives, & Rev Girls
Photos by Mike Diskin

New England Revolution players, wives, and the ever-popular Rev Girls were all strutting their stuff on Wednesday night, when they served as models for a fashion show featuring Ted Baker London's Spring/Summer line as a means of raising money for the Boston division of America SCORES.

Here are some pictures from the event, which was held at the BOND Restaurant and Lounge inside the Langham Hotel, was emceed by Channel 7's Sarah French, and benefited a charity that aims to integrate soccer, poetry, and service-learning into team-based programs in urban schools. The players who traded the pitch for the catwalk were Clyde Simms, Darrius Barnes, Andy Dorman, Lee Nguyen, Saer Sene, and A.J. Soares.

More of their teammates were among the standing room-only crowd that also included local fashion pundits, as well as Revs rookie Andrew Farrell -- the first overall pick in this year’s MLS Super Draft who was celebrating his 21st birthday (one day late).

Lee Nguyen
Midfielder Lee Nguyen models a look.

Lee Nguyen, Sarah French, Saer Sene, Andy Dorman
Nguyen and French pose with Sene and Dorman.

Patriots' Nate Solder joins Globetrotters to deliver anti-bullying message

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 3, 2013 04:50 PM
Buckets Blakes - Nate Solder - TNT Maddox
Buckets Blakes, Nate Solder, and TNT Maddox (photos courtesy Harlem Globetrotters)

The Harlem Globetrotters and their farcical tour de force come to Boston this weekend, playing at the TD Garden both Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Thanks to the Patriots, some of the kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston will get to see those games for free; and thanks to the Patriots' left tackle, as well as a couple of the Globetrotters, some of the kids at one of the city's schools now know how they can help prevent bullying.

Nate Solder joined Buckets Blakes and TNT Maddox at the Eliot K-8 School on Wednesday afternoon, teaming up to present "The ABCs of Bullying Prevention" as part of the Globetrotters' newest school initiative. It was one of more than 400 school visits the hoop team will make this year to spread the message they developed with the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

Solder and Maddox -- who is is the first female Globetrotter in 20 years, and only the ninth women in the team’s 87-year history -- both hail from Colorado, and Wednesday they came together to tell students that, in this case, the ABCs stand for Action, Bravery, and Compassion.

In the name of the Patriots, the Globetrotters also donated 100 tickets to this weekend's games to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston.

Globetrotters Patriots group shot - Eliot School

Rob Gronkowski to shave his head in support of kids and families fighting cancer

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 3, 2013 01:13 PM

gronkbeforeandafter
Photos Courtesy Regan Communications

Earlier this week, 18 Bruins shaved their heads as part of an effort that helped raise $76,000 for charities including Tufts Medical Center's Floating Hospital for Children. Now Rob Gronkowski says he'll do the same for a similar cause -- and he's planning to not only get buzzed himself, but to do the buzzing of some others while he's there.

For the third straight year the Patriots' tight end will participate in the Kid's Cancer Buzz-Off, which is scheduled for June 9 at Gillette Stadium and supports One Mission, a foundation dedicated to enhancing the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families. This event will specifically benefit Boston Children's Hospital, where One Mission funds a number of programs and services.

“It’s great to be back on board for this year’s Buzz-Off," said Gronkowski, who is shown in the above photos before and after last year's event with Declan Buckley, another who has committed to getting buzzed again this year. Declan will be buzzing in honor of his friend, Patrick Melavin, who has battled liver cancer and in memory of his cousin, Joe Kelly, who passed away because of a brain tumor last year.

"I’ll be making quite a few appeals to Gronknation over the next couple of months in hopes that we can get everyone involved in some way, so stay tuned in! These kids are incredibly special and deserve all the support we can give, no matter how big or small.”

Organizers have big-time goals for this year's event, as they hope to recruit 800 "buzzees" who'll shave their heads in solidarity with those fighting pediatric cancer. They've set their fundraising target at $1 million, and have already begun taking donations at buzzforkids.org, through which people can find more information, register, or sponsor a buzzee (or team of buzzees). Here's a link to the Gronknation team's page.

The event will be at the Putnam Club inside Gillette Stadium, running from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on June 9. And, as you can see in the video below, the gregarious Gronk will be hanging among the people -- even if he isn't shaving your head, specifically.

How do fantasy baseball managers feel about Red Sox players this season?

Posted by David D'Onofrio April 2, 2013 10:43 PM

After Opening Day there seems a sense of hope in the spring air, with Red Sox fans perhaps rejuvenated in their excitement by Monday's refreshing, 8-2 win over the Yankees. It's doubtful any of them expect Shane Victorino to drive in 486 runs this year, or Jose Iglesias to hit .600, but it's a good bet that Jackie Bradley Jr. jersey sales would be brisk if they were yet available.

How do baseball fans elsewhere feel about the Red Sox' talent, though? Most of the experts didn't expect the team to do much collectively coming into the year, but to gauge how the greater population feels about Boston's players individually this season, and the numbers they'll potentially produce, we turn to fantasy baseball and see where the Sox were typically picked in this year's drafts.

Here's a look at each player's average draft position in leagues staged by Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS, NBC, and FOX. These numbers are for standard, snake-style drafts.

Sox 2013 fantasy standard

Worth pointing out, and to provide a little extra context:


  • Dustin Pedroia is the consensus choice as the second-best second baseman in the fantasy game, behind only Robinson Cano of the Yankees. Pedroia went as high as 11th overall in CBS leagues, with 45th being as late as he was taken; in Yahoo! leagues, Pedroia is one of 40 players league-wide owned in 99 percent of leagues.

  • Jacoby Ellsbury's draft stock is certainly lower than it was before last season, but fantasy owners weren't scared off by an injury-riddled and generally unproductive 2012. He's owned in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and was still a fairly high choice.

  • Jonny Gomes was the Red Sox' starting designated hitter on Opening Day, yet he has such little fantasy value that he didn't register an average draft position on a few of the sites surveyed here.

  • Pedro Ciriaco, at 241.7, has a better average draft position than Stephen Drew (256.5) in Yahoo! leagues, despite the fact that Drew is the starter at shortstop when he's healthy -- and Ciriaco is a third-string option, behind Jose Iglesias.

  • Will Middlebrooks is still an unknown quantity nationally. In CBS leagues he went as high as No. 75, and as low as No. 212.

  • A day after his debut, Bradley was the fourth-most added player -- and second-most among position players -- in Yahoo! leagues on Tuesday. A total of 6,695 owners picked him up.

  • There are a lot of fantasy owners who buy into the idea that Mike Napoli will be dangerous at Fenway Park. His average draft position is third on the team. At another site -- Mockdraftcentral.com -- his ADP was 69th overall.

  • Only two catchers had more home runs than Jarrod Saltalamacchia's 25 last season, though 17 players are more popular at that position.

  • David Ortiz' draft position not only reflects his injury, but also the limited usefulness of designated hitters in fantasy baseball (because of positional restrictions).

  • Fantasy owners have little doubt that Jon Lester is the ace of the Sox' staff, though they apparently consider Ryan Dempster to be the No. 2 starter. His average draft position was better than Clay Buchholz' in four of the five leagues surveyed.

  • Joel Hanrahan is owned in 91 percent of Yahoo! leagues, tied with Huston Street for 12th-highest among relievers.

  • America appears to feel the same way Boston does about John Lackey.

Curious about auction leagues? It's a smaller sample size, but here's a look at the average dollar values that have been spent on the Sox:

Sox 2013 fantasy auction
tags Red Sox

About the author

Dave D'Onofrio follows Boston's pro players away from the field, court or ice, covering their interests and activities in the community and beyond. A Massachusetts native, once his dreams of More »

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