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Boston sports are an 'LA Story'

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  June 21, 2010 01:35 PM

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We just can't escape LA these days. The fate and fortunes of our traditional Big Four pro sports franchises -- the Celtics, the Red Sox, the Patriots and the Bruins -- are intertwined for better or worse with Los Angeles.

New York will always be Boston's chief rival sports city, but LA has become a noteworthy nemesis, a sunny, superficial antagonist that we love to beat and resent.

There couldn't be two more different cities than staid, historic, and compact Boston and capricious, trendy and sprawling Los Angeles. Yet it seems like everywhere you turn there is some Boston- LA link hovering above the sports scene like LA's infamous smog.

Let's start with the obvious LA story. The Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers just concluded a seven-game basketball battle royal to crown an NBA champion, meeting in the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons. The Lakers outlasted the Celtics to win their 16th championship. Fittingly, dead downtown Los Angeles could be the final burial ground for the Big Three era and the Celtics coaching career of Doc Rivers.

The two storied franchises have accounted for 33 of the NBA's 64 championships, with the Green, who beat LA two years ago for Banner No. 17, holding the slimmest of leads. It would be nothing short of a calamity if the Lakers, who are holding their championship parade today, tied or surpassed the Celtics as the most decorated team in professional hoops history.

Luckily, it can't legitimately happen. The "Los Angeles Lakers" claim of 16 championships rings a little hollow when in their own arena they hang prominent purple and gold banners for each of the LA championships and cram the five titles won in Minneapolis, before LA seduced the Lakers west for the 1960-61 season, with the game's first superstar, George Mikan, on to one measly flag marked "M.P.L.S"

The scoreboard should read Celtics: 17, Los Angeles Lakers: 11.

A Boston sports team did manage to defeat one of LA's beloved teams in a series, replete with "Beat LA" chants. The Red Sox just swept Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers out of Fenway, with nary a word uttered by the mercurial, peculiar and polarizing former Sox slugger, who went 5 for 12 with a home run and one run batted in during his letdown of a return to Fenway.

Manny being Manny has given way to Mannywood. The desperate for a dollar Dodgers have done a great job of marketing Manny's misfit -- and occasionally misanthropic -- personality. This is the final year of Ramirez's contract with the Dodgers and he and the team appear headed for a divorce. That's not a word that Dodgers fans are fond of, as there is prevalent fear in LA that the sticky divorce proceedings between team owner and former Boston real estate magnate Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, could leave the team financially hamstrung and unable to add the pieces it needs to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988.

Speaking of separation anxiety, that's what Patriots' fans are experiencing when it comes to their bi-coastal franchise quarterback, Tom Brady. Los Angeles may no longer have a pro football team (according to the NCAA they had one at USC under Pete Carroll), but they do have New England sports' most revered and recognized star.

Tom Terrific has generated some concern among the Foxborough Faithful by spending the majority of his off-season in the Los Angeles-area. Brady's eldest son, Jack, lives in La-La Land with his mother and the QB's former girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan. The canonized quarterback is building a home with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, in the posh Brentwood section of LA, and he was seen yucking it up with Lakers star Kobe Bryant after Game 3 of the Finals.

There have been as many photos of him hanging out at the UCLA spring game with David Beckham as there have been participating in Patriots off-season practices. And the purported "growing disconnect" between Brady, whose contract is up after this season, and the team is both financial and geographical. Brady isn't willing to take a hometown discount this time, at least not if the hometown is here.

LA stole the Dodgers and the Lakers, they won't hesitate to take the greatest football player in New England sports history. Brady could be quarterbacking the Los Angeles Jaguars in 2012.

It's not all bad from a Boston perspective when it comes to the City of Angels. LA could be about to deliver a savior to the most forlorn of Boston's Big Four, the Bruins. The NHL Entry Draft will be held Friday and Saturday in ... Los Angeles. The pick-a-palooza is at Staples Center, so the scene of the Celtics' demise could be the locale of the Bruins' resurrection.

Anybody who has been keeping up with the Bruins knows that the Black and Gold have the No. 2 pick in this draft and are assured of obtaining one of what the ice hockey intelligentsia have promised us are two genuine franchise forwards in winger Taylor Hall and center Tyler Seguin.

The last time the Bruins successfully drafted a face-of-the-franchise player, Los Angeles was involved. The Spoked-B's swapped goalie Ron Grahame to the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 9, 1978 for a 1979 first-round pick. That pick ended up being used to select a young defenseman by the name of Ray Bourque. Thanks, LA.

See, it's not all bad with Los Angeles, although you do have to question a place where Miley Cyrus is a success. LA has the ultimate sports bar for the Boston sports diaspora, Sonny McLean's. It's delivered us Bourque and produced Paul Pierce, Willie McGinest, Fred Lynn and newly minted Patriots Hall of Famer Sam "Bam" Cunningham.

In return, we gave them Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Fair deal.

As Rodney King famously said while imploring an end to the violent 1992 LA riots, "Can't we all just get along?"

Boston and LA sports fans don't have a choice.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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