Give Rob Gronkowski a break

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff February 10, 2012 05:44 PM

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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has caught a lot of flak for his post Super Bowl activities. (Stan Grossfeld / Globe Staff)

After the Patriots lost to the New York Giants 21-17 in the Super Bowl, it's more than conceivable that fans would want to blow off some steam.

Whether that was on message boards, blogs and elsewhere, there were a number of rants to be made on the demise of Tom Brady and company. One would only have to turn to their left and then to their right to get varying opinions on the outcome. And frankly, blaming it on Brady, Wes Welker or whoever else is your choosing. But in the aftermath of a loss with this magnitude, it appears that some venting is entirely without merit. Particularly, how the Patriots deal with a loss.

For Brady, it meant draping his heads in a towel for minutes on end to digest the previous 60. For Welker, it meant borderline crying in front of strangers when having to explain what his drop meant for his team. For Brandon Spikes, it meant walking into a room full of reporters with shades over his eyes, desperately trying to hide his emotions. For others, it meant ducking the media.

But for Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots tight end who for two weeks had the most famous ankle in the world, it meant going dancing shirtless.

Context, please!

After finishing his second NFL season with the most dominant display a tight end has ever put forth (90 catches, 1,327 yards, 18 touchdowns), Gronkowski went out partying post XLVI. Without hesitation, he was ripped mercilessly by former players (Rodney Harrison) and pundits alike. The general consensus of the folks in the "Gronk can't party because he lost crowd" is pretty simple. Partying after a loss gives off the perception that an athlete does not take the loss as seriously as, say, Brady. But this isn't grounded in anything other than spite. Not one person can lay claim to know how Gronkowski feels. Not you, not I. And yet, the perception remains despite overbearing evidence to explain Gronkowski's actions post-Super Sunday.

Gronkowski was out doing exactly what most 22-year-olds would do after bitterly going on vacation for six months. Given the nature of the video, the way he sloppily grooved back and forth, and, yes, his lack of clothing, there is some probable cause to believe that Gronkowski was imbibing. (Is anybody even arguing it?)

Forget the setting and circumstance for a moment. The real question for Gronkowski is why get hammered? Why, for generations of young men, do they turn to alcohol to cope with something depressing like a Super Bowl loss?

Before this starts to sound like a pamphlet for your local AA, remember the circumstances of the professional athlete. There's the public persona, the voluntary and involuntary privacy, the pressure of playing in the National Football League, and then the responsibility that comes with it all. Now understand, sans camera, that no one would question how Gronkowski felt about losing to the Giants. Instead, you and I would point to his postgame interview, judge his demeanor in answering those questions (he was sullen) and then conclude what most in Indianapolis observed long before any video leaked, that No. 87 was upset like the rest of the Patriots.

Is it all the more salacious that he was out and about shirtless? Yes. Of course it is. Does it matter? No, not in the least bit. In seeing Gronk bop back and forth, slaphappy, one could see the reigns being loosened on the 6-foot-6 tight end. He looked like a guy who hadn't had a drink in months. And being of his age, he looked at home on stage with LMFAO, relaxed for once. Cut him some slack. After his surgery, he's going to be on the sofa for awhile.

I'm more worried about his dance moves.

David Stern's confusing obstruction of the Chris Paul trade

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff December 13, 2011 01:02 PM

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David Stern is a bully, according to Deron Williams. Just nod your head. (Mary Altaffer / AP file photo)

Suffice it to say NBA commissioner David Stern has an overbearing personality that played a huge role in the general distaste of the lockout. That distaste is now boiling over in the continued confusion over the blocked trades of Chris Paul by the league-owned New Orleans Hornets.

The Los Angeles Clippers followed up after getting their first proposal nixed by Stern and company by getting out of the fray, realizing that they were compromising their future success by including players like Eric Gordon in the trade possibilities. In turn, the NBA is now actively trying to revive a deal with them, hoping not to lose out on yet another one of the few landing spots for Paul as of this writing.

Billionaires vs. millionaires doesn't even come close to describing the power play that was occurring behind the scenes in the NBA this fall. Stern was so pompous, so boneheadedly determined to recoup owners' lost cash, and so head-scratchingly backpedaling in the end, that when Deron Williams called him a bully the other day, the collective basketball world didn't even flinch. Many nods were recorded.

Why is Stern a bully? Because of the NBA dress code. Because basketball related income for players is now 51.5 percent -- after being 57 percent under the previous labor deal. Because Stern often derides players, as if they're children, to better educate themselves on matters of importance. Because the lawyer in him is so unrelenting that he almost lost an NBA season, much to the satisfaction of his bosses and the dissatisfaction of NBA fans.

So after handing down take it or leave it deals to NBA players in the last month, including a 50-50 and 51-49 take on basketball related income in favor of the owners, Stern turned on the charm for two days and the deal got done.

Silly Stern, didn't he know that he could have had that deal a month ago? Why of course not. To reach a deal over the NBA lockout, Stern had to push the players to the brink ... stripping them of every dime, nickel and penny that he could recover for his 29 bosses. Only when he realized the players had a backbone, decertifying their union in preparation for a suit against the league, did he change strategy and relax his death grip on the season.

Flash forward to the NBA's hasty free agency period. Rumors of a Paul trade had been surfacing for months because of Paul's unwillingness to re-sign with the Hornets. It's a deadbeat franchise. With no NBA owner there, and no incentive to invest without one, the franchise is in a coma.

In making a deal for Paul, Hornets general manager -- or should I say, general chump? Because that's definitely how he's being treated -- Dell Demps knows he has to prepare for a future without his franchise player. Much like Dwight Howard and the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets last year, the idea behind a trade of your best player is to get compensation for him while he's still under contract, rather than get nothing when he walks at the end of said contract.

Somehow, the entire sports world understands this simplicity.

Here are some facts: Two deals were put on the table -- both of which were very fair -- and both were shot down by Stern. Not by Demps, who put them together, but by the big bad NBA commissioner. Stern even went so far as to say he made these decisions, particularly in blocking Paul's trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, "free from the influence of other NBA owners." So he's in the spigot himself here.

He called the trade to the Lakers a bad one for basketball related reasons. After the Lakers dropped out of the running for Paul, he then went on and directed his executives to shake down the Clippers for everything they have. When they pulled out -- for obvious reasons -- he then directed his executives, taking Demps out of the equation, to revive the deal.

None of this makes any sense.

In the weird, twisted world of the NBA, negotiations can appear disheveled and even aimless in approach. But make no mistake about it, with Stern on board as a direct stakeholder in the Hornets' future, the confusion and comatose nature of the franchise will only heighten with the NBA as its owner.

And then Stern will relent, unapologetically, and accept a deal for lesser value. It could have been done a week ago, but that's just too easy.

Interleague play needs to die

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff June 30, 2011 09:34 AM

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David Ortiz gets a rare start at first base as he holds Placido Polanco of the Philadelphia Phillies close to the bag. (Len Redkoles / Getty Images)

It’s been said ad nauseum, but it needs to be said again: Interleague play needs to go the way of Old Yeller. It just so happens that the Red Sox proved that last night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

How so, you ask? Because part-time players David Ortiz and John Lackey showed they can play full-time. Let me explain.

Of all people, Big Papi is having another one of his stellar seasons. Despite the doubts of his place in Red Sox kingdom, he keeps on trucking, batting .311 (.391 OBP and .581 SLG) with 17 homers and 48 RBIs. Nobody is questioning whether or not the man should get at-bats. They just want to know at what cost, especially with injuries and interleague play forcing an awkward scenario into Terry Francona’s hand. On one side, to have a player of Ortiz’s talent on the bench is a waste. But on the other, experimenting with players out of position can be dangerous. Not because of injuries, but because of errors that can be costly to the game. The brouhaha yesterday over inserting Ortiz at first base -- in which he played only four times in 2010 and 17 times in the last 5 years -- while moving Adrian Gonzalez to right field inevitably starts the chatterboxes.

But that same chatter drowns out the larger issue at hand. When guys like Ortiz and Gonzalez show up and perform their jobs at par no matter where they stand on the diamond, nobody thinks “of course, they’re professional athletes.” Instead, they breathe a sigh of relief and clamor for Theo Epstein to find another suitable outfielder for 15 days. And while Ortiz played flawlessly at first base, Lackey doubled in a run to left center off of Vance Worley (later working the count admirably on his counterpart). Between the three, you could say they played more than ably in the field and at the plate.

You know why? Because they’re baseball players. And despite the label of a P, DH or 1B, they all know this game more than the average schmuck and can honorably man any number of positions outside of stepping on the mound. It’s a stance I’ve argued for years and what I believe is the fallacy of the American League. The players need to play both phases of the game, for sanity’s sake as much as integrating the leagues.

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John Lackey reacts after hitting an RBI-double off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vance Worley Wednesday. (Matt Slocum / AP photo)

History bears a large part of the blame. The competition of the NL and the AL (and its former incarnations) predate the last two centuries. From the beginning, the differences in price, rules and level of competition have fueled this ever idiotic debate of the National League vs. the American League. And that was the selling point for the first Major League Baseball agreement that would feature a “World Series” to determine a champion. When the DH came along in the 70s, it revolutionized the game in favor of the AL. It’s an advantage that has tipped the scales in the debate, allowing for AL teams to post higher batting averages every year since 1973. (Between 1973 and 2010, the NL has batted an average of .258 and the AL has batted an average of .265). I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say the argument of which league is better has ever ended. But we all really know the answer.

However, now we must worry if the luster of the DH has worn off and, presumably, the core difference between the two leagues. I think so. The whole notion of two separate leagues with two separate sets of rules is practically archaic in modern sport. Baseball fans don’t want nor need that. They want the best competition possible and a level playing field. In essence, they want conferences and uniform rule play. Think of the NBA, NFL or NHL. A reversion to the rules prior to 1973 would help balance the argument. And I believe Ortiz as well as Lackey exemplified last night what it means to play full-time, earning their stripes in both phases of play.

But what’s more, there is a strong sentiment that baseball is an east coast sport, as if there aren’t 12 teams west of the Mississippi River. As the invention of the commercial airplane allowed the advent of baseball west, the ease of travel should also bury the notion of a regional game in which clusters of teams are forced to play each other 11 to 20 times a year and a measly three or four interleague series. Where’s the balance in that? There’s something admirable about taking a west coast swing. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Colorado are all worthy opponents and nice trips to boot.

Baseball doesn’t need interleague play. It needs league play and conferences to sustain its historical differences. Teams should play their interleague counterparts more frequently -- not less. Just as designated hitters should play the field more and pitchers should take more cuts in the box. (If you’re man enough to throw a 90 mph fastball high and inside, you should be man enough to see one coming at you.)

So instead of Red Sox fans concerning themselves over a possible rusty first baseman, they should be concerned about their slugger’s 0 for 4 outing, Lackey’s pitching and getting a chance to see how Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum and other young studs of the NL fare against their beloved Sox. There’s no reason to keep the status quo for the sake of the status quo. It didn’t make sense in 1973 and it doesn’t make sense now.

Some post Celtics-Warriors thoughts

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff March 5, 2011 09:59 AM

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Just some random things I saw from the Celtics 107-103 win over the Warriors Friday night:

- Interior defense on the Celtics looks different. But you know this. It's just odd that the perimeter defense looks so different too. Watching Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry run a pick-and-roll with David Lee and carve up the Celtics so easily -- with Kevin Garnett on the floor -- is worrisome . That's probably a bit of an overreaction given the nature of the Warriors offense and their stellar guards. But I just keep imagining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade running that pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh and having a much tougher time trading buckets. Of course, that is if the Heat ever actually run a set offense. Mind you, Ellis dropped 41 points and Lee put up 26 points and 12 rebounds. The Celtics didn't get off easy.

- Jeff Green appears to be filling the role of the departed Tony Allen on offense, being a strong finisher on the wing. However, Green brings the added elements of being able to dribble and hit mid-range jump shots. This is a welcoming development after his first few games. Against the Warriors, he scored 21 points in 28 minutes. That productivity is something to rave about.

- At a certain point, Doc Rivers must be yelling himself hoarse at Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo to shoot the ball. It's bad enough that Rondo will pass up nine out of 10 open opportunities, but he can't let fast break buckets vanish because he's eye-balling a pass that isn't there. While Garnett, who is the epitome of a team player, usually knows when to pull back and shoot, he's giving a little too much up in the last few games to get Nenad Krstic and others involved. In fact, he had a pretty glaring turnover against the Warriors on an offensive rebound he should've put back up, instead passing to an unsuspecting Krstic. There has to be better balance for these guys in this regard.

Despite the negative, there's always a lot of positive to take away in holding off a surging team with the number of injuries and changes having occurred with the Celtics. But for the Warriors, this is another disappointment for a team that can't catch a break. They're 4-6 in their last 10 games. They have a decent coach and a pretty good offensive lineup. But outside of Ellis' ball-hawking ability on the perimeter and Lee on the interior, they lack defensively everywhere. It goes without saying that their 27 wins were a product of them outscoring their opponents. And that is all. The Warriors give up the third most points per game (105.2), ahead of only the 15-win Minnesota Timberwolves and the 12-win Cleveland Cavaliers. Catch my drift.

WEEI announces Mutnansky-Merloni midday pairing

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 25, 2011 05:17 PM

WEEI formally announced late this afternoon that Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni will host its new midday show beginning March 7.

They will replace the ‘‘Dale and Holley Show,’’ which saw its nearly six-year run in the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. timeslot end with a surprising lineup shakeup last week in which co-host Dale Arnold was reassigned to weekend and fill-in duty while Michael Holley was named Glenn Ordway’s co-host on the afternoon-drive program ‘‘The Big Show.’’

Merloni, 39, spent 10 seasons in the major leagues, six with the Red Sox. The Framingham native has been a frequent contributor on WEEI since March 2008.

Mutnansky, 31, debuted at WEEI as an update anchor in 2005 and has hosted weekend programming as well as filling in on various weekday shows.

Arnold signs off from 'Dale and Holley'

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff February 23, 2011 02:27 PM

Dale Arnold, the 20-year WEEI personality who lost his midday role in last week's stunning personnel shakeup, signed off for the final time today as co-host of the "Dale and Holley Show."

Michael Holley, Arnold's co-host since March 2005, will join Glenn Ordway as co-hosts of the afternoon-drive program "The Big Show," which has been consistently beaten in the men 25-54 demo by "The Felger and Massarotti Show" on rival 98.5 The Sports Hub over the past several months.

Arnold will remain at WEEI in a role that includes fill-in and weekend duty and occasional play-by-play of Red Sox and Celtics broadcasts. But today was his farewell to a program that developed a strong following in part because of Arnold and Holley's congenial tone.

The last hour of today's program had a sentimental This-Is-Your-Life vibe. Audio montages of Arnold's play-by-play highlights through the years were mixed in with various clips from his 20 years as a WEEI host.

Current and former guests on "D&H" as well as other prominent sports and media figures called in with well-wishes, including Ray Bourque, Tom Coughlin, Rosevelt Colvin, Doc Emrick, Joe Castiglione, Dave O'Brien, and Lyndon Byers.

Terry Francona, a regular guest on "D&H" on Wednesdays during his seven years as the Red Sox manager, was particularly gracious.

"I wanted to call and say hello and tell you that I'm a big fan and just because you may be doing something different won't lessen that any," said Francona. "I'm glad you're going to be around a little bit more [Arnold will fill in on play by play on 25-30 Red Sox games this year] because I consider you a friend and I'm looking forward to seeing you a little bit more."

As Arnold thanked him, Francona flashed his dry sense of humor.

"Michael," joked Francona, who collaborated with Holley on the book "Red Sox Rule," "I can't say that about you."

As the show wound to the final moments, with the always affable Colvin as the final guest, Arnold began his sign off with an anecdote in an attempt to explain his perspective.

"Yesterday I got stopped in Home Depot, very nice man I've never met before, said he was sorry I wasn't going to be doing the show anymore" Arnold said. "He said, 'I'm 59 years old. Thirty-three years at the same company. I got laid off. I got a kid in college, 15-year-old at home, and I'm [in trouble].' And it made me realize that people have got it a lot worse than I do. Believe me, I've thought about this guy a lot the last day.

"I'm not leaving. I am leaving this show," said Arnold, noting that he will be on the air again Sunday, March 6 and will have one week in late March in which he calls four Red Sox and two Celtics games. "It's been a pleasure."

Then, after a brief pause: "I think I'll get out of here. The Big Show is coming up next."

* * *

WEEI still hasn't confirmed that Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni will be taking over the midday show when Holley joins Glenn Ordway on the revamped "Big Show" February 28. Neither Mutnansky nor Merloni has been willing to comment on the situation, but it has been confirmed that Mutnansky's final day on his weekday program on WGAM 1250 in Nashua, N.H. is this Friday.

Eric Snow caught 'meditating' during 76ers game

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff February 18, 2011 04:35 PM

Eric Snow, the former Philadelphia 76ers guard and NBA TV analyst, fell asleep while providing the color commentary for a 76ers game.

It appears, he feels as we do, that the Sixers are just plain boring. Snow was caught during the broadcast "meditating" as his colleague was asking him a question.

Watch the video (skip to the 1:00 mark):

Five takeaway thoughts from Lakers-Celtics

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff February 11, 2011 12:31 PM

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Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins battled in the paint Thursday night. It was a fitting sight for these two teams. (Elsa / Getty Images)

Last night's Lakers-Celtics game, a 92-86 win for the Lakers, was much more than a dog-and-pony show for Ray Allen's super-human 3-point shooting capabilities.

(Allen connected on 3-of-8 threes to surpass Reggie Miller for the all-time lead in 3-pointers made with 2,562.)

Allen, without question, was brilliant and gracious. I've followed him since his time with the Milwaukee Bucks and I can honestly say there isn't a more deserving guy to hold this record than him.

But for the game, and the rivalry, there's a lot to draw upon from last night's contest. It was, in the best way I know how to describe it, an "I told you so" game. Let me explain.

1.) Only nine healthy -- Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Semih Erden, Marquis Daniels and, for giggles, Delonte West didn't play last night for Eastern Conference's best team. Is it any wonder why they lost? Erden, the 7-foot Turk who has been playing aggressive and strong in his reserve role, was out with an adductor strain leaving the Celtics thin in their greatest asset -- the frontcourt -- after notable injuries to Shaq and Jermaine. The whole reason the Celtics picked up Erden and the O'Neals was to compete with the Lakers in the paint. Last night's loss becomes painfully obvious when the bigs to back up Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins are not available and, like last night, get in foul trouble.

2.) Andrew Bynum defines his worth -- You could see in the fourth quarter, when Lamar Odom got his head busted by his teammate Pau Gasol, that Andrew Bynum was gassed. He's not used to playing in the fourth quarter stretch. But when he's in the game, albeit unproductive on the offensive end, his length creates problems in the paint for opposing teams. Sans one layup by Rajon Rondo, Bynum affected multiple shots down the stretch as the Lakers made their final push. I'll reiterate here, as I have before, that trading Bynum for Carmelo Anthony, as Kobe Bryant has insisted, is not a wise idea.

3.) Kobe defends Kevin Garnett -- I'm positive that Kobe Bryant knows Kevin Garnett better than anyone I know -- including the Celtics beat writers and whatnot. But I honestly don't think he's been watching KG lately. There's been some pretty questionable stunts by Garnett that have warranted criticism, and at times, I would say, a fine. His punch to Channing Frye's groin put him on the league's radar. Spike Lee went so far as to tell him to "calm the f--- down." Charlie Villanueva ripped him on Twitter (causing Garnett to release a rare statement in response). Joakim Noah cried about him on the radio. People talk. And Kobe, who admittedly has talked a lot of trash with KG over his 14 years in the league, doesn't believe any of it.

"He's not a (jerk) by any stretch of the imagination," Bryant told the Globe's Gary Washburn. "He's a good dude. But he plays his heart out though."

I guess that's how he really feels. Watching the game last night, you could tell there was none of that "jerk" demeanor by Garnett in the game. Did Kobe's comments have anything to do with that? Maybe it's Kobe's new mind game. Say great things about KG to get him to calm down. He definitely didn't get into it with anyone, even though one of his favorite targets (Gasol) was battling with him all night.

4.) The Lakers aren't really down on themselves -- Nationally, the Lake show has been getting ripped for weeks. But as you take a look at the standings (37-16, second in the Western Conference), the last 10 games they've played (6-4), and consider last night's win over the Celtics as part of the equation, there's really nothing to jump off a bridge about if you're a Lakers fan. And certainly no reason to trade for Carmelo Anthony. To borrow a phrase, the news of their demise is greatly exaggerated.

5.) Kobe Bryant looks more and more like Michael Jordan -- I don't like the comparison any more than he does. But I happen to think that his growing use of the fadeaway jump shot looks very familiar. However, no player -- and I mean none -- has been able to master the post-up to fadeaway shot from mid range like MJ. Not even Kobe.

Brady among GQ's 25 coolest athletes

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff January 25, 2011 04:49 PM

cover-brady.jpgWhen you win three Super Bowls, set a NFL record for touchdown passes, look like you could be on the cover of GQ even if you couldn't spot a football in a sporting goods store, and, oh yeah, marry arguably the world's most famous supermodel, it probably comes as no surprise that you'd make a list of the 25 coolest athletes of all time.

Even if you have been known to cuddle the occasional goat.

So it is that Tom Brady is one of the 25 athletes to make the cut for GQ's list of the coolest athletes of all time. A photo gallery of covers can be found here, while USA Today's breakdown of the list is here.

The Patriots quarterback is one of four football players and three quarterbacks on the list. There are just two baseball players, while basketball is the most represented sport with five players, none of whom answer to Magic or Larry.

For the rest of Brady's cool cohorts, let's break down the magazine's list by sport:

Football: Brady, Jim Brown, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler

Baseball: Bob Gibson, Tim Lincecum

Football and baseball: Bo Jackson

Basketball: Julius Erving, Walt Frazier, Allan Iverson, Michael Jordan, Pete Maravich

Tennis: Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg

Auto racing: Mario Andretti

Boxing: Muhammad Ali

Golf: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player

Hockey: Derek Sanderson

Soccer: George Best, Pele

Skiing: Jean-Claude Killy

Surfing: Kelly Slater

Yachting/Media moguling: Ted Turner

Crashing while trying to jump over stuff on a motorcycle: Evel Knievel

Possible oversights (with a Boston slant): Magic Johnson, Rickey Henderson, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Mark Messier, David Ortiz, Bode Miller, Earl Monroe, George Gervin, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Dennis Eckersley, Barry Sanders, Shaq, Andre Agassi, Pedro Martinez.

We could accept Mariano Rivera if meant the continued exclusion of Derek Jeter and A-Rod. As much as we adore Larry Bird, it would be stretching it to call him cool given the short-shorts and wispy mustache.

And Joe Montana, while perhaps not the most charismatic athlete, did win four Super Bowls and probably deserves at least an honorable mention.

After all, he was known as Joe Cool.

Jay Cutler takes a licking, then gets beat up on Twitter

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff January 24, 2011 11:46 AM

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Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler congratulated Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers after the Bears lost the Packers 21-14. (Mike Segar / REUTERS)

As the saying goes, there's no rest for the weary. And Jay Cutler is being worn down in Chicago faster than it took Al Davis to give mega bust JaMarcus Russell the boot.

However, this time, it appears the shellacking is uncalled for. The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Cutler has an MCL tear, according to a source close to the situation.

Cutler has been the subject of ridicule since Sunday's abysmal outing against the Green Bay Packers in at 21-14 loss in the NFC Championship. He was injured in the first half of the game but still came out for the first series in the second half. He didn't return getting replaced by second-string quarterback Todd Collins, who was then replaced by third-stringer Caleb Hanie. Cutler finished 6 of 14 passing for 80 yards and the interception. He was roundly criticized for quitting on his team.

NFL star Maurice Jones-Drew took to Twitter to lambast the quarterback, saying among other things that he should've finished the game.

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Kherry Rhodes, a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, said Cutler would have to wait to take his shower after the rest of the team if Cutler were on his team. He later apologized, qualifying that his statements would ring true if Cutler wasn't seriously injured.

However, that doesn't take away from the fact that fans still burned Cutler's jersey in Chicago and Hanie has somehow become a fan favorite after tossing a couple of touchdowns in a relief role.

It seems, with injury considerations aside, that Cutler has competition.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected from its original version.

Hillis takes a different kind of trash talk

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff January 20, 2011 11:46 AM

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Bill Belichick sought out Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis (40) to congratulate him after Browns beat the Patriots 34-14 in Week 8. (Barry Chin / Globe Staff)

Eschewed from the Denver Broncos before his talents were ever identified by Josh McDaniels, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis is better off. There's no doubt about that.

(Not even before the completion of the 2010-11 season, Hillis's former coach, and Bill Belichick understudy, had been fired from his head coaching position and hired by the St. Louis Rams as an offensive coordinator. Talk about karma.)

Hillis's breakout season was none more apparent than when the Browns faced the Patriots in Week 8, a 34-14 win in which he bulldozed his way to a career-high 184 yards. His team would go on to win only five games this year. But while the Browns continued to disappoint their fan base, Hillis provided a glimmer of pride to the despondent franchise. He finished the year with 1,177 rushing yards, 61 catches for 477 yards and 13 total touchdowns. No Cleveland Brown has created more excitement for the franchise since Brady Quinn was drafted. (Yup, the same guy he was traded for.)

So when it comes to Hillis, there's a lot to talk about. Like, whether or not he can keep it going. Whether or not he can put the franchise on his back. If he hates McDaniels. And for those of us nationally, who barely know him, who exactly he is.

In an interview with Dan Patrick, Hillis dropped a whopper on us after being asked if he understood the whole "novelty of being a white running back." Unfortunately, it harkens back to a week ago with all of the trash talk going on between the Patriots and New York Jets. One wonders whether there is a fine line about what is and isn't acceptable. I'm going to assume that everybody believes the following is unacceptable.

“Yes sir. Well you know since the season is over I haven’t heard too much about it, but you know during the season people would come to me and tell me how exciting it was to see that. It made me happy to know that first and foremost the good lord put me in the position to do it. Secondly, that I could give people hope. Just having that and hearing peoples mind and what they really think is huge to me.”

Dan Patrick: You face a lot of grief and trash-talking in the NFL. What do the players say to you on teams like the New York Jets? Pittsburgh Steelers?

“Yes every team did. You know they’ll say 'You white boy you ain’t gonna run on us today. This is ridiculous why are you giving offensive lineman the ball?' You know all kinds of stuff like that you hear on the field, but I use that to my advantage. I kind of soaked it in, ate it up a little bit because I enjoyed it.”

I'm all for friendly jabber. Even some unfriendly jabber. But this kind of stuff makes me sick.

Forget the fact that Dan Patrick asked the question. (It's a good question.) Forget the fact that he is the only starting white running back in the league. Forget the fact that we were having this conversation about black quarterbacks only a generation ago. This is just stupid. Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. And I'd go as far as saying he's tops in the league for stiff-arms too. That's all that should matter. However, despite this, he's gotta go to work and deal with being the white running back. I didn't even know that was a label in the NFL. Somebody hide Danny Woodhead.

Maybe Bart Scott's comment about "ending" Wes Welker's career did do some good. With the league telling player's to cool off the rhetoric, it'll hopefully bring the spotlight onto some of the more outrageous things that are actually being said. And if the quips Hillis has received doesn't rank up there, I don't know what does.

'The Onion' takes on 'SportsCenter'

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff January 11, 2011 01:47 PM

Sometimes it seems that ESPN's "SportsCenter," with catchphrase-happy hosts and overheated analysis, might be beyond the point of parody.

As exhibit A, we give you two words: Stuart Scott.

But if anyone can properly satirize a program that is often its own punchline, it is "The Onion," the wildly funny online newspaper/website. And starting tonight, "SportsCenter" officially becomes a source to be mined for comedy.

The "Onion SportsDome," a half-hour weekly program, debuts tonight on Comedy Central at 10:30, leading in to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

In his column today, New York Times sports media reporter Richard Sandomir described the program, which is set for now for a 10-episode run, as a "warped, steroidal version of 'SportsCenter.' "

As you can see in the embedded clip, it looks like "SportsCenter." It sounds like "SportsCenter." But it's just a little more . . . well, warped. We're pretty sure Albert Pujols hasn't been given a working key to every home and building in St. Louis. But it's just close enough to the truth that . . .

The "SportsDome" website is already seeded with written commentary from anchors "Alex Reiser" (played by Matt Walton) and "Mark Shepard" (Matt Oberg). Today's insight on Auburn's BCS Championship Game victory comes from Reiser:

"Good for Auburn for winning. I thought they would have lost. No one can ever take your title away from you, although they can say Cam Newton was a cheater and your defense was garbage and you probably just got lucky and wouldn't stand a chance in a seven-game series. But you're still probably pretty happy, I guess."

There are Boston ties to the program. Channel 4's Levan Reid plays a studio analyst named Doc Webb, and video bits include a story about Shaquille O'Neal suffering his fourth heart attack of the season but remaining in the game to a question as to whether former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison knew he was playing football.

Despite these tepid descriptions, trust us, it's funny stuff, particularly if you're already a fan of "The Onion."

And unlike the real "SportsCenter" at its worst, these jokes are actually intentional.


Will Howard's CD be music to kids' ears?

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff October 1, 2010 02:23 PM

Thumbnail image for dwight-howard-Shoot-for-the-Stars-260x260.jpgMagic superstar Dwight Howard has much in common with Celtics big man Shaquille O'Neal. An outsized personality to go with his outsized physique. An affinity for Superman, with the free-throw line serving as each of their personal Kryptonite. A love of music.

But the latter is also where they differ. While Shaq has had a relatively accomplished and occasionally notorious hip-hop career -- did he really need to bring up Kobe's taste buds that one time? -- Howard is aiming whatever musical talents he may possess toward a different demographic and genre. Dwight Howard has made a kids' album.

Due to be released October 26, the album, titled "Shoot for the Stars," includes a song list typical of the fare that is aurally unavoidable at a typical NBA game, including covers of the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started," MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This," The Jackson Five's "ABC" and "Will You Be There."

A cynic might wonder if Howard's musical taste is the result of some weird strain of Stockholm Syndrome from too many hours spent in NBA arenas. But the intent couldn't be more admirable.

Kids from the NBA Cares Program will sing along with Howard on the album, and according to the Orlando Sentinel, some of the proceeds from sales will benefit the BETA Center, which "targets support for teen moms and at-risk families" in Orlando.

"This record is a dream come true for me in so many ways," Howard said in a press release. "Recording this album for me ranks with being the first pick in the NBA draft, my first NBA All-Star game and winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Razor & Tie and KIDZ BOP have been incredible and I hope everyone enjoys the album as much as I did recording it."

Howard, known for his easy smile and friendly personality -- really, this project fits his image perfectly -- will also reportedly do impressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, and Charles Barkley on the album.

Other songs include "Shout," "Day-O," and "Whoomp (Hoop) There It Is."

For a possible follow-up album should this one succeed, might we suggest "Freethrow" sung to the tune of "Freebird"?

"For I must be traveling on now/'Cause the refs will never call it on me. . ."

C'mon, the kids will love it.


A thought on Tiger Woods

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff September 6, 2010 03:29 PM

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File this under "yeah, no kidding", but in looking through photos from this weekend's Deutsche Bank Championship it became very clear: the PGA Tour still very much needs Tiger Woods. The above photograph by Globe Staffer John Tlumacki makes my point. That's the gallery following Tiger's round Friday. I've looked at every photo from this tournament for my Boston.com work over the weekend, and no other golfer's gallery comes close.

It's not news that Woods is a wildly popular golfer. It just seems like lately it's been easy to push that part of his image aside.

Manny Ramirez: The view from Chicago

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff September 6, 2010 12:46 PM

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Red Sox fans got a first-hand view of Manny Ramirez over the weekend. It was never going to be one of those "remember-where-you-were" moments, but Manny's return proved even less memorable than it could have been. And that's after Manny's big, heartfelt confession that he was wrong, he's grown up now, and if given the chance, he would have come back to Boston.

The Labor Day holiday had something to do with the lack of interest in Manny. So did Hurricane Earl. But, being in the stands Saturday night, a "mixed reaction" is being too kind to Ramirez. It was about 80-20 boos-to-cheers.

Which leads to how Ramirez is being perceived in Chicago. He went 4-for-9 over the weekend at Fenway, though he failed to drive in a run. Ramirez may perform well on the field for the White Sox this month, but the Manny mystique certainly isn't there this time around. A Chicago Tribune poll asking readers about their initial impressions of Ramirez lists three possible responses, all of them starting with "What was all the fuss about?"

Following the news that Ramirez would be coming to Boston, the Tribune's David Haugh wrote that it was hard to applaud bringing in a player with Ramirez's reputation.

Both the Tribune and Sun-Times are having fun with the length of Manny's hair, but it feels forced. The White Sox as a team aren't marketing Ramirez like the Dodgers did two years ago. There won't be a Mannywood on the South Side. The manager, Ozzie Guillen, is still the team's biggest personality, and Manny's presence isn't going to change that.

Dunkin' Delonte

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff September 1, 2010 03:46 PM

As our own Gary Washburn reports right here, the Celtics are bringing back guard Delonte West, who spent the first three seasons of his career here before being dealt to the NBA Franchise Then Known As The Sonics before the 2007-08 season in the Ray Allen deal.

West, a tough, versatile, savvy player who has had some high-profile off-the-court issues, was a bright spot on some lousy Celtics teams. The hunch here is that most Celtics fans are cool with bringing him back, especially in a limited role.

I bring this up here because I was just discussing this move with our in-house Celtics guru here at Boston.com, Gary Dzen. While we both agreed on West's potential value, it turns out we remembered his first run as a Celtic a little differently.

I think of West as, more than anything else, a pretty reliable spot-up shooter (in part, probably, because a lefty's shot always looks good unless we're talking about Dwight Howard heaving up one of his homely lefty hooks). But Dzen noted that West is also a pretty good dunker, which is something I don't particularly recall at all.

Well, turns out YouTube backs up Dzen's recollection, as you can see below. (That's why he's our Celtics blogger while I'm a junior reporter and coffee-fetcher here at the Buzz.)

So here's our question to you: Do you think of West as a decent dunker who can bring the thunder every now and then, or more as a perimeter shooter and occasional slasher who is more substance than style?

And more importantly, do you like the signing? Drop your wisdom in the comments.

* * *

Delonte jams on the break over Atlanta's Josh Smith . . .

. . . then hammers one down on 6-foot-11-inch Samuel Dalembert . . .

. . . and finally, one over a stationary object wearing a Tracy McGrady jersey:

'Dancing With The Stars' continues its sports tradition

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff August 31, 2010 08:04 AM

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This season's DWTS cast is, from left, Brandy, David Hasselhoff, Jennifer Grey, Kurt Warner, Margaret Cho, Kyle Massey, Audrina Patridge, Rick Fox, Florence Henderson, co-host Brooke Burke, Bristol Palin, and co-host Tom Bergeron.

Sports stars have had a great run of success on the television show "Dancing With the Stars," which totally makes sense. Did you know ballroom dancing used to be in the Olympics?

Winners have ranged from the elegant and graceful Olympic medal-winning figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi to football brute Emmitt Smith, as well as race car driver Helio Castroneves and Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson. Olympic figure skater Evan Lysacek was a runner-up, as were NFL stars Warren Sapp, Jerry Rice, and Jason Taylor. Boxer Laila Ali finished third. Even Melissa Rycroft (third) was a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

The lineup for the new season, which begins Sept. 20, is out, and once again includes a couple of jocks. Former Celtics and Lakers forward Rick Fox is one of two athletes who will compete. Ex-NFL quarterback Kurt Warner is the other. Both were on championship-winning pro teams.

Who knows how they'll do? While Yamaguchi and Lysacek seemed like obvious picks because their sport was so similar to dancing, part of the show's appeal is putting people in unlikely situations. Like Sapp. Or even Chad Ochocinco, who looked downright goofy at times last season. So Fox, who may be more famous for his Hollywood endeavors than hoop, and Warner, fit the mold.

I'm guessing a lot of people will pick Jennifer Grey to win this season, largely because her dancing claim to fame is significant -- who could forget her as Baby in "Dirty Dancing." My money's on singer Brandy Norwood.

Which athletes would you recommend for DWTS? Add your suggestions in the comments section, and we'll round up the best for another Buzz post before the show begins.

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