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The Word

Dearth

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 23, 2013 04:04 PM

...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.

Defeated

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff September 5, 2012 02:32 PM
...That's how manager Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox look as their calamity of a season comes to a close. The Sox snapped their seven-game losing streak on Tuesday night in Seattle, but the team looks lifeless and listless under Valentine. The defining words for the 100th anniversary season of Fenway have become Valentine's "Who cares?" If only Valentine's team would show the type of fight he did in his WEEI-AM radio interview on Wednesday. A team populated by fringe players, overachievers, retreads, and young prospects mixed with a few star-types was supposed to be exactly the type of team that Valentine would be able to motivate and get the most out of. That was his reputation from New York. Instead, the Sox have gone into hardball hibernation, ready to hit the snooze button until next February. This team has tuned Valentine out, just like the one he started the season with did. No one expected the Sox to play .700 baseball after The Trade and David Ortiz's return to the disabled list, but they've been the very definition of uninspired, outside of Dustin Pedroia. Valentine has the sullen disposition of a man waiting in line at the RMV for a license that he knows won't be renewed. Building the next great Red Sox team, as general manager Ben Cherington calls it, starts with instilling a winning attitude. You can't do that if your manager has been forced into adopting a defeatist one.

Antithetical

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff July 9, 2012 03:14 PM

...that's what the idea of having the All-Star game determine home field in the World Series is if you're still going to cling to the antiquated notion that every team must have an All-Star representative. If, as the Fox promos scream, the game counts then with such high stakes shouldn't each league field its very best players regardless of team? This isn't Little League. It's major league baseball. I don't care if that means taking nine Yankees and no Royals. If the game is more than a mere mid-summer exhibition, teams like the Yankees and the Rangers deserve to have their fall fate determined by the cream of the crop in the American League. One reason MLB clings to the antediluvian notion of each team being represented is television ratings. However, neither the universal representation rule nor the World Series home field gimmick have been able to staunch the ratings slide the game has undergone. Last year's game was the lowest-rated on record. The All-Star game can either have competitive integrity or it can have total team representation. It can't have both.

Par

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff June 18, 2012 01:17 PM

...That's the four-round score that no one at the 112th US Open was able to attain. The winner of the tournament was Webb Simpson, who finished with a 1-over-par, 281 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. The US Open has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as golf's toughest major -- Ben Hogan won back-to-back opens in 1950 and 1951 with 7-over-par scores -- but it seems sometimes the folks at the United States Golf Association derive sadistic pleasure in making the best golfers in the world look like dilettante weekend duffers. This tournament featured the longest par-5 in US Open history, the 670-yard 16th. The US Open provided great drama with both Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk having an opportunity to tie Simpson and force a playoff on the 18th hole, but it didn't deliver a commensurate amount of great golf. If I wanted to watch golfers chunk shots, hit into the woods, miss greens by a mile, and struggle to shoot par then I'd head to a local municipal golf course. I want to see the world's best doing what they do best, not making finishing par for the course look like an Augean feat. You knew the USGA was going to come back with a vengeance after Rory McEllroy's 16-under tour de force last year at Congressional, where he broke the US Open scoring record by four strokes. But is it too much to ask for the course set-up to be demanding yet fair?

Diva

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 25, 2012 01:14 PM
...that's the word former Patriots linebacker and current NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest used to describe the attitude of Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. Slapped with the franchise tag by the Patriots, Welker implied Tuesday he would not be attending the team's mandatory mini-camp in June if he didn't have a new long-term contract. Part of McGinest's rationale was that Welker's earning power and production -- really one and the same -- are the product of playing for the Patriots and playing with Tom Brady. Since joining the Patriots in 2007, Welker leads the NFL in receptions (554) and is fourth in receiving yards (6,105). It's fair to debate how much of his success and value as a slot receiver is tied to being Brady's favorite target in a pass-happy offense. (By the way, Willie, Welker did catch 111 balls in 2008, when Brady was out for the year.) It's not fair to denigrate Welker's attitude, work ethic or commitment. Grossly underpaid almost since the moment he joined the Patriots, Welker has desired and deserved this new contract since 2009. However, he has not once withheld his services or publicly lashed out at the Patriots, traditionally the only ploys that get the team's attention. He returned from a torn ACL in seven months in 2010, when he could have babied the injury to protect his value. Last year, in training camp he said he felt the best he had in his career and backed it up by setting a franchise record for receiving yards (1,569). Welker is the antithesis of a diva wide receiver. He is a player who is understated, underpaid and has over-performed.

Reversed

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 19, 2012 03:24 PM
...his decision not to attend Fenway's 100th anniversary fete. That's what former Red Sox manager Terry Francona did on Wednesday. Francona, who was not brought back as manager following the team's epic September collapse and was blemished by subsequent revelations of poor clubhouse comportment by players, initially told Dan Shaughnessy he would feel "hypocritical" attending the celebration. Francona's about-face about coming to Fenway on Friday is some much-needed good news for the Sox in a week highlighted by new manager Bobby Valentine creating a firestorm with comments questioning Kevin Youkilis' focus. Francona showing up to get a deserved salute from the fans for his eight years of service, which included a pair of World Series titles, might finally allow the healing process to begin for the Sox, on and off the field. It's been obvious thus far that the wounds of last season remain raw and only festered during the offseason. Perhaps, Francona's presence will prove cathartic for him, his former players and the fans, who have lashed out at his replacement as a symbol of their displeasure with the team's current state. Last September can be buried, once and for all, on the sacred grounds of Fenway, so the Red Sox can resume the business of winning baseball games.

Overrated

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 11, 2012 02:03 PM
...That's what the Arkansas football job is. The Razorbacks are searching for a new head coach after firing Bobby Petrino in the wake of an embarrassing scandal. Petrino was dismissed following revelations that his motorcycle accident involved a woman he was having an affair with and whom he had recently hired as a University of Arkansas employee over 158 other applicants. Petrino guided the Razorbacks to a 21-5 record the last two seasons and the school has its share of tradition (1964 national champions) and talent (Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis were all in the same backfield from 2005-07), but it's not one of the premier jobs in college football or the Southeastern Conference. It's a place where the outsized expectations of the fandom often don't match the reality of the program. As long as LSU, Alabama and Auburn are still playing football, Arkansas is going to be the fourth-most high-profile program in the SEC's West division. It ranks below Florida, Georgia and Tennessee on the SEC prestige scale too. Plus, with the addition of Texas A&M to the Darwinian SEC, the Razorbacks' advantage of recruiting in Texas is mitigated. Arkansas is the type of job that gets even good coaches fired. You can win there, but probably not big enough.

Triumphant

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff March 26, 2012 01:32 PM

...that's what fallen golf icon Tiger Woods was on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. It was Woods's first PGA Tour win in 30 months and his first victory on tour since his career was riven by a messy marital altercation and the ensuing revelations that Woods was a serial philanderer.

Say what you will about Tiger the person, but it would have been a shame if his immense talent was squandered because of his personal shortcomings. Tiger isn't the first athlete with a talent quotient disproportionate to his rectitude, and he won't be the last. That's not condoning his regrettable behavior, but accepting reality.

With Woods back to form we regain one of the most compelling storylines in all of sports, his quest to equal Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major tournament titles. Tiger has been stuck on 14 for four years. Oddsmakers have already made him the favorite for the Masters in April.

Now that Tiger is back, we're the real winners.

Sad

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff January 23, 2012 04:10 PM

...That's what it is to read some of the Twitter comments that have been made to 49ers wide receiver/punt returner Kyle Williams, who had two crucial miscues on punt returns that led to points for the New York Giants -- including a fumble in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal -- in Sunday's NFC Championship game.

Williams, who is the son of White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, should know more than most the irrational nature of some sports fans and the vitriol that can follow failure in professional athletics. But this is yet another reminder that fan is short for fanatic. And that sports fanatics can behave the same way as religious ones.

As great a tool as social media are they've also spawned a culture of hateful, nasty and often anonymous invectives being flung at athletes and other public figures. People attacking Kyle Williams need to ask how they'd feel if it were their son or brother receiving death threats over a mere football game?

Flexed

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 9, 2011 12:11 PM

...His muscle. That's what Patriots owner Robert Kraft did this week in lobbying for the Patriots' Dec. 18 game against the Denver Broncos to remain on CBS at 4:15 p.m. instead of being flexed to NBC's Sunday Night Football and an 8:20 p.m. start.

Kraft used his clout to create a possible competitive advantage for the Patriots, and he should be applauded for it.

Kraft is chairman of the NFL's broadcast committee, and the decision to keep Ravens-Chargers as the Sunday night tilt has been portrayed as a matter of fairness because CBS lost a chance to broadcast the Broncos and Tebow-mania on Dec. 4.

Successful businessmen don't become successful by making sure every deal they make is fair. Kraft, who has a business relationship with CBS through the CBS Scene restaurant, saw an opportunity to protect his team and help his business partners at the same time, and he did.

The Patriots were wary of playing a night game in Denver, two time zones away from home, then having to take a red-eye flight back and arriving around 5 a.m. on Monday, especially when factoring in they have to play Miami on a short week.

Kraft acted in the best interests of the NFL during the labor negotiations and used his influence to cultivate a new CBA. In this case he did what you want your power-wielding owner to do -- he served his team.

Deserved

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff November 10, 2011 05:14 PM

...That's what Joe Paterno's dismissal as Penn State coach after 46 seasons was. Paterno fashioned a legacy as a scrupulous molder of men, but he was also an enabler of a man who allegedly sexually abused young boys.

It is impossible not to read the grand jury report on former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and not come to the conclusion that Paterno either tacitly participated in a cover-up or was grossly negligent in not doing more to stop Sandusky from having access to children.

At their core, coaches are supposed to be teachers. And the lesson Paterno taught a university and a community was that his image and that of Penn State football was more important than the well-being of Sandusky's alleged victims.

Paterno has positively touched the lives of thousands of people at Penn State, but that doesn't override the responsibility he had to do more to protect Sandusky's alleged victims and not his own legacy.

The protesters who took to the streets of Penn State's campus should have been outraged at what took place under his watch, not his dismissal. There are a few areas of life where blind loyalty overrides logic -- politics, family, romance and sports. Like Paterno, logic no longer works at Penn State.

Duplicitous

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff October 18, 2011 12:11 PM

...That's what the Patriots are being in describing the disappointing performance of wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Both director of player personnel Nick Caserio and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said the team was "happy" with Ochocinco at this point and pointed to him being a good practice player.

It appears if Ochocinco can't clear the bar the Patriots are just going to keep lowering it for him until he can.

As much as the Patriots try the nothing-to-see-here approach to Ochocinco's struggles, it's notable. Tom Brady's reaction to another Ocho misdirection route on Sunday and the paltry seven snaps he played speak louder than spurious praise.

The fact they were reported to have pursed a trade with the Broncos for Brandon Lloyd truthfully indicates Ochocinco's progress, and the belief that at some point they're going to need a reliable third wide receiver.

No matter how you spin it, Ochocinco has been a monumental disappointment. Luckily, the Patriots are so good it hasn't cost them yet.

Accountable

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff October 6, 2011 01:28 PM

...That's the buzz word on Yawkey Way in the wake of the Red Sox' epic and historic September collapse. Suds-sipping players need to be more accountable. Terry Francona was held accountable, and it cost him his job. General manager Theo Epstein has held himself accountable for the deteriorating state of the team after two straight playoff DNQs.

But unaccounted for is Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry. We have not heard from Henry, save for a series of tweets. This is not the time for the milquetoast Henry to hide behind his laptop or iPad.

He needs to be upfront and out front, answering questions about Francona's departure, the future of the franchise and Epstein's fate as general manager, showing fans there is a clear vision for the team beyond selling out Fenway Park.

Henry has had enough time to convalesce from the slip and fall on his yacht. He must face the media firing squad just like Francona, Epstein, CEO Larry Lucchino, chairman Tom Werner and everyone else on the team's muddled masthead has. If the Sox are going to be more accountable moving forward then it starts at the top.

Tectonic

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff September 19, 2011 01:53 PM

...that is the shift that college sports is undergoing with the conference re-alignment free-for-all. Collegiate athletics has become a multi-million dollar game of musical chairs between alleged institutions of higher learning, but the reality is that they're institutions of higher earnings.

The most important three letters aren't GPA, but BCS, as in college football's detestable, elitist, status quo- protecting non-playoff, because these moves are all football-driven.

Texas A&M's imminent departure from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference set off the latest round of realignment roulette, but the biggest tremors were felt when Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were abandoning the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, following in the footsteps of former brethren Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami.

It's only a matter of time before Texas and Oklahoma sound the death knell for the Big 12 by going to the Pac-12 -- can't imagine that John Steinbeck ever pictured Oklahoma being geographically grouped with California in anything -- and look out because the SEC is still looking for a 14th team to pair with Texas A&M.

Not to be one-upped look for the Big Ten and its 12 members to take another shot at landing Notre Dame. Where does it end? Some poor school, be it UConn, Louisville or Kansas, is going to be left to press it's nose against the super-conference glass when it's all said and done.

Negated

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff August 5, 2011 11:11 AM

...That's what the Red Sox' presumed biggest advantage over the Yankees -- starting pitching -- has become thanks to Clay Buchholz's balky back. Red Sox fans scoffed when the Yankees dipped into the recycle bin and pulled out retreads Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to bolster a reed-thin rotation behind CC Sabathia, who leads the major leagues in wins.

But the Yankees are getting the last laugh. Entering their three-game set at Fenway, the Yanks had a starters' earned run average of 3.63, 10th in all of baseball. The Sox ranked 20th with a 4.14 starters' ERA. The Yankees have gotten 18 wins combined from the 38-year-old Colon and the 35-year-old Garcia, whose combined ERAs of 3.30 and 3.22, respectively, are marginally higher than John Lackey's 6.23 ERA.

Youngster Ivan Nova, who struck out 10 Thursday night, has chipped in with 10 more wins and a 3.81 ERA. Even mysteriously dead-armed Phil Hughes has looked good in his last two starts, giving the Bronx Bombers six legitimate starters, if you consider A.J. Burnett to be anything other than legitimately overpaid.

Meanwhile, the Sox are scrounging around for viable starters behind aces Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. Lackey, Tim Wakefield and reclamation project Andrew Miller all have ERAs of 4.99 or above, and trade deadline acquisition Erik Bedard is essentially making rehab starts at the major league level as he returns from a knee injury.

Winning

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff July 11, 2011 10:27 AM

...This is not a Charlie Sheen reference. That's the type of record the Pittsburgh Pirates have at the All-Star break for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Pirates, one of baseball's flagship franchises for futility, enter the All-Star break at 47-43, a game back in the National League Central chase.

This is uncharted territory for the Pirates. The bad news Bucs haven't had a winning record at the break since 1992, when Doug Drabek, Andy Van Slyke and a not-yet-besmirched Barry Bonds wore their uniforms and Bill Clinton was a presidential candidate. That's also the last season the Pirates finished with a winning record.

They went 96-66 and lost in the National League Championship Series to the Braves on Sid Bream's mad dash home in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7.

Since then the closest they came to .500 was a 79-83 mark in 1997. The Pirates have one of the nicest parks in baseball, but now they're finally providing a reason to go to games other than the view from PNC Park.

Chasing

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff July 6, 2011 11:57 AM

...3,000 hits. That's what Yankees icon Derek Jeter is doing. Jeter is within four base knocks of the hallowed hits mark, but it hasn't been pretty watching him close in on history.

At 37, there is a clear and noticeable decline in the shortstop's game. A career .312 hitter, he is batting .257 and was put on the disabled list for the first time since 2003. Jeter's eroding skills are all the more reason that you should appreciate his greatness (yes, Red Sox fans the Yankee captain deserves a career tip of the cap).

He might not be aging gracefully, but Jeter is aging naturally. Perhaps, we've forgotten because our sporting perception has been dulled by the Steroid Era and HGH Generation, but this is what is supposed to happen to great athletes.They get old and their skill fades away. It was outre for Barry Bonds to bat .370 with 46 home runs at age 37. I have much more respect for Jeter's .257.

Jeter's organic decline makes you believe that he was doing it naturally all along. That may be a greater achievement than 3,000 hits in an era of baseball full of artificially-enhanced players and numbers.

Center

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff May 12, 2011 02:03 PM

...That's the Celtics biggest need for next season. It would have been regardless of the Kendrick Perkins trade because he was going to command big money as a free agent. Here are some possible options for the Green:

1. DeAndre Jordan -- The Clippers big-man is a restricted free agent. He is raw, but a great athlete (10th in the NBA in blocks). Celtics fans remember him from his 21-point, 9-rebound abusing of the Green.

2. Tyson Chandler -- His willingness to do the dirty work is a big reason why Dallas is in the Western Conference Finals. He is an unrestricted free agent, but made $12.75 million this year and will command more in a new deal.

3. Marc Gasol -- Currently dominating Perkins in the Western Conference semifinals, Gasol is a lot more rugged than his brother and nearly as skilled in the post. He is an RFA, but Memphis has said resigning him is a priority.

4. Jason Thompson -- A former lottery pick by Sacramento, Celtics GM Danny Ainge has always liked Thompson, who can become an RFA after next season. With the Maloofs' money problems and the presence of DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside, Thompson might not require a Kings' ransom in a trade.

Language

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 15, 2011 12:59 PM

...That's what got Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant fined $100,000 by the NBA this week. Bryant directed a homosexual slur at NBA referee Benny Adams after being whistled for a technical foul.

Such derogatory language has no place in the NBA, but is commonplace among players in the league, including here in Boston. Anyone who sits courtside will hear all kinds of invective, including multiple voicings of the word Bryant used, being spewed by players.

I'm all for intense competition and the heat of battle. I understand pro sports is always going to be rated R in between the lines. But it is insensitive, ignorant and an act of negligence to let players use homophobic slurs as pejoratives aimed at opponents and officials.

If, as their commercials say, the NBA cares they won't stop with Bryant. The league should send out a memo informing players and coaches that anyone caught using such language during a game will be subject to fine.

Guarantee

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff March 29, 2011 03:03 PM

...That's what Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams gave on Monday, saying he guaranteed there would be NFL football this season. Adams's guarantee was followed by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who told Georgia legislators today that Atlanta will have professional football in 2011.

I'm not sure where the owners are in a position to guarantee anything considering their 2008 Detroit Lions-esque record in court. Either they have an awful lot of faith in their lawyers or very little in the solidarity of the players. But any dose of optimism in the tiresome NFL labor tug of war is welcome.

The reality is that both sides simply have too much to risk to sacrifice an entire season. It's easy to posture and litigate in March, six months before games are to be played, but the closer we get to the season the closer we should be to a deal because the only way both sides lose is if the 2011 season is lost.

Qualified

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff March 15, 2011 02:15 AM

NCAA Tournament selection was one of the few times in life that being an Ivy Leaguer is not beneficial to success. Harvard, RPI of 35, had a legitimate case for an at-large berth after losing a heartbreaking Ivy League playoff to Princeton. Judging by the fact they are a six-seed in the NIT, the Crimson was never seriously considered to appear in the tourney for the first time since 1946.

That's kind of shocking considering that a team Harvard beat, Boston College, got a No. 1 seed in the NIT and that breathless TV analysts were lamenting the travesty of Colorado, a squad Harvard waxed by 16, being left out of the field.

One of the problems that Tommy Amaker is going to have in building the Harvard program to national prominence is transcending the perception gap that exists between the talent on his team and the traditional opinion of non-Bill Bradley Ivy League players. The Ivy isn't all backdoor cuts and advanced theories any longer. These guys can play.

Fanfare

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 24, 2011 10:23 AM

...That is what has proceeded the mega-trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. It might be time to step back from the (Madison Square) Garden party, look past the hype and take a hard look at the new-look Knicks. 'Melo, who made his New York debut last night, makes the Knicks relevant on the NBA scene. What he doesn't do is make them a championship contender in the East.

The Celtics, Heat and Bulls all have better trios than the Knicks troika of Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups. The Hawks with the addition of Kirk Hinrich are also a deeper and more talented team. Orlando is a toss-up. Bringing 'Melo to Broadway was costly for the Knicks. New York had to give up virtually its entire supporting cast, including Raymond Felton, a point guard who was better suited for New York's uptempo system than the 34-year-old Billups, who will struggle to contain the East's better point guards like Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose.

Anthony is a trophy piece for the Knicks franchise, but he's not going to bring them a trophy with the current roster. Paging Chris Paul.

Retired

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 4, 2011 04:03 PM

...That's what Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte is after today -- for now. The Pinstripe pitcher announced today at Yankee Stadium that he's not playing this season. More good news in an off-season where everything is coming up roses for the Red Sox.

Take the carmine-hose-tinted glasses off for a second and the ingrained hatred of all things Yankess and acknowledge that Pettitte was a pretty good pitcher over 16 big-league seasons, twice winning 20 games and compiling a 19-10 post-season mark. How much help he had from performance-enhancing drugs is something we'll never know. But at least he owned up to it, unlike another pitcher who once wore Pinstripes.

The 38-year-old Pettitte was pretty effective last year, going 11-2 with a 2.38 ERA and earning an All-Star nod before a groin injury derailed his season. That's why while I believe Pettitte, who said he'd lost the "hunger" to play, doesn't have the appetite to pitch for the Yankees this season I don't think his retirement is final.

I expect the lefty to make one more pitch to play before he turns 40.

Recruiting

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 2, 2011 01:17 AM

Today is the high holy day of college football recruiting, otherwise known as National Signing Day. It's Christmas in February if you're a college football junkie and warms the heart until spring practices. The fortunes of some of the nation's best college football programs will rise and fall on the whims of 17- and 18-year-old young men. National championships are won and lost with the stroke of a pen.

Somewhere out there is the next Cam Newton...and of course the next Cecil Newton. At least Cecil waited until Cam was being recruited the second time -- coming out of junior college -- to ask for some enticement. But he's not alone.

College football and college basketball recruiting are the ultimate ruse, and they're a hold-your-nose business. It's like the hot dog. Most people enjoy them, but they don't want any knowledge of the grisly details of their production. The same is true with how college football stars are made.

I take recruiting for what it is, but Signing Day is still one of my favorite days of the year.

Deserving

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff January 6, 2011 03:00 PM

...That's what Roberto Alomar is of induction in Cooperstown. Alomar was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday along with patient pitcher Bert Blyleven, who got the call to the Hall in his penultimate year of eligibility. Blyleven was a tough case. Robbie Alomar was a Blake Griffin slam-dunk.

The switch-hitting, 10-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman was one of my favorite players of all-time to watch. His balletic play at second base was unmatched. His patented backhanded flips to first on balls that were hit almost behind the first base bag were as graceful as anything in sports.

Alomar was one of the most cunning and instinctive players of his generation. Alomar's signature move was to feign a bunt on a pitch that he planned to take all along, allowing him to figure out how he was being played at the corners and manipulate the infield defense. I've always wondered why more speedy players didn't do this.

The spitting incident was regrettable and unforgivable, but Alomar was as easy a Hall candidacy as voters can have from the Steroid Era.

Stocked

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff November 11, 2010 03:15 PM

That's what the point guard position is in the NBA. In our little neck of the woods we're blessed with the incomparable Rajon Rondo, but there are talented playmakers all across the NBA. The position has undergone a renaissance in the last five years and brought the quality of play in the league back with it.

It wasn't that long ago that true point guards like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were somewhat of a novelty, part of the reason Nash won back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006. Since 2005 a bevy of talented floor generals have entered the league: Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rondo, Derrick Rose (we'll count him as a PG for now), Russell Westbrook, Brandon Jennings and this year, John Wall.

Toss the vanguard in with the old guard of Nash, Kidd and San Antonio's Tony Parker, perhaps, one of the league's most underrated players, and you have the deepest position in the league.

It's a return to the roots of the game. There are the rare point forward types like LeBron James, Larry Bird and Scottie Pippen and transcendent talents like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but for the most part the facilitating is best left in the hands of the point guard, the NBA's version of a quarterback.

Misfits

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff October 29, 2010 02:41 PM

That's what the new-look Miami Heat look like so far. The Heat look like a fantasy basketball team forced to play in the reality of the NBA. Everyone feels if they get their stats it will add up to a win. Doesn't work that way in real life. Basketball is still a team sport. In two games, this group has made more turnovers than a bakery.

Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, in particular, are going to have to make changes and sacrifices to their games, just like Boston's Big Three did. Chris Bosh is clearly the third banana. The only change he has to make is taking less shots.
Wade is going to have to learn to initiate his offense without the basketball, using his speed and quickness to make cuts and curls to receive passes from LeBron, who is a top 5 passer in the NBA. LeBron is going to have to learn to play out of the post, so that the Heat don't have four guys standing around the perimeter all the time. There is no reason he can't be effective posting up or at least receiving the ball in the post before he bulls his way to the basket. Watch some video of Kobe Bryant, LeBron. Get a fadeaway jumper.

Eventually, Miami is going to figure things out, but it's been kind of fun watching them struggle so far, hasn't it?

The Departed

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff October 6, 2010 05:30 PM

No, not the Academy Award-winning movie, but some of the talented players that have left Fort Foxborough since the team's last Super Bowl title. Here's a list of some memorable player departures:

2005 -- CB Ty Law, released by the Patriots per his request after acrimonious negotiations to work out a long-term deal prior to the 2004 season and a broken foot during it. He signed with the Jets and tied for the NFL lead in interceptions.

2006 -- LB Willie McGinest, was released for salary cap purposes and signed a three-year, $12m deal with the Cleveland Browns.

2006 -- WR Deion Branch held out and was traded to the Seattle Seahawks one day after the season-opener for a first-round pick that became safety Brandon Meriweather. (Branch returned this week for a Patriots sequel via trade.)

2008 -- CB Asante Samuel, after tying for the NFL lead in interceptions in '06, he refused to sign his franchise tag tender until it was amended to include clauses to allow him to avoid being franchised again. Made his first Pro Bowl in '07 and then signed a six-year, $57m deal with the Eagles.

2009-- OLB Mike Vrabel, was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs along with QB Matt Cassel for a second-round pick that became safety Patrick Chung.

2009 -- DE Richard Seymour, was traded to the Oakland Raiders eight days before the season-opener for a 2011 first-round pick.

2010 -- WR Randy Moss, was traded after four games to the Minnesota Vikings along with a 2012 seventh-round pick for a 2011 third-round pick.

Salute

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff September 9, 2010 12:37 PM

Jack Nicklaus's grandson, Nick O'Leary, gave one of sorts recently when his high school football team, Palm Beach Gardens, lost a nationally-televised game to Ohio's Cleveland Glenville High. The game had a controversial ending as the officials, who were from Ohio, twice waived off an apparent go-ahead touchdown for Palm Beach.

After the game, ESPN television cameras caught young Mr. O'Leary giving the old one-fingered salute to opponents who had taunted him. The Florida High School Athletic Association has suspended the Golden Bear's grandson for two games.

This is what happens when adults treat high school football like the NFL or college football. Most teenage boys are very emotional, add a national television audience, the pressure that comes with it and the omniscient cameras of ESPN and you have a recipe for an unfortunate incident.

You can't condone O'Leary's behavior, but the adults around him let him down by allowing his talents and those of his teammates to be exploited for television content. I give a big thumbs down to ESPN and the two schools involved for putting their own interests ahead of the well-being of high school kids.

Vocal

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff August 23, 2010 03:54 PM

...That's what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been this preseason. From calling his linemen "fat cows" to announcing his "hate" for the Jets and subsequent refusal to watch Rex Ryan's HBO infomercial, No. 12 has been speaking his mind.

Call it Tom Brady: Uncensored.

It's refreshing. Enough with the pretense and perfectly-crafted diplomatic responses. If you're Brady and people are going to interpret or misinterpret everything you say then why leave any room for interpretation at all? Speak your mind. You don't always have to be so politically-correct, Tom. It makes you more of an every-man and easier to identify with when you express your feelings honestly, just like the rest of us.

Now, if we could just get you to give us the unfiltered version of your feelings on your contract status...well, maybe not.

Fraud

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff August 4, 2010 02:47 PM

...That's a synonym for another five-letter word -- Favre. Only the vacillating Vikings quarterback could create a he-said-he-said with himself. Initially, there were reports Brett Favre texted teammates that he was planning to retire. But Favre told ESPN's Ed Werder that he never sent texts to teammates telling them he was done, and that he is still undecided about playing this season (whatever, Brett). He said he'll play if his surgically-repaired ankle is fine.

Let there be no doubt Favre is going to play this season. He simply doesn't want to have to go through training camp. Last year, Favre signed with the Vikings on Aug. 18. That way he conveniently missed the dog days of a training camp that started on July 31 in Mankato, Minn. He's doing the same thing here and setting it up so he can ride to the rescue in mid-August.

Honestly, I wouldn't mind Favre's plan if he just came out and was honest about wanting to miss camp. Lots of veterans feel that way and Favre has the juice to pull it off. Instead, he strings the process along with disingenuous statements. Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It's also the land of one giant fake.

Proposal

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff July 19, 2010 12:43 PM

...no, not the kind that Paul Pierce made at some point to his now wife, Julie Landrum. We're talking a trade proposal that could give Pierce and the Celtics a little bit of help. It's no secret that the Green are still looking for a backup swing man to replace Tony Allen. The free agent pickings are slim, so Danny Ainge is going to have to get creative and use Rasheed Wallace and his retiring contract.

Here is a trade that could help the Celtics --Rasheed Wallace's contract and a draft pick to the Knicks for Wilson Chandler and Ronny Turiaf. The deal works in the ESPN trade machine, and it would give the Celtics a 23-year-old swing man and another big body on the interior.

Chandler is long, athletic, can score (15.3 points per game) and is an RFA after this season. He doesn't play defense, but who in New York under Mike D'Antoni does? Turiaf is a rugged reserve center, something that Jermaine O'Neal is not. He is signed for this year with a $4.36 million player option for 2011, so contractually he'd be a fit.

Why would the Knicks do this trade? Because they're looking to clear cap space for the Summer of Carmelo Anthony and because they're the Knicks.

Foreigner

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff June 28, 2010 05:06 PM

...no not the rock band that had hits such as "Hot Blooded" and "Double Vision." I'm talking about a non-United States citizen coaching the US national team. After the US's disappointing 2-1 loss to Ghana in the knockout round, which squandered a chance to play for a berth in the semifinals, it's pretty clear that American soccer has gone as far as it can with an American coach.

One of the strengths of this country is that we always believe we can do it better -- whether it's a system of governance or the construction of automobiles. But that is not the case in soccer, and that fact needs to be recognized.

I'm not putting the blame for the loss on US coach Bob Bradley, even though the decisions to start Richardo Clark and Robbie Findley against Ghana were disconcerting. Overall, Bradley has done a very good job with the Red, White and Blue. But for the US to become a World Cup contender a foreign influence and a foreign coach is needed. Somebody who can stress and develop greater technical skill and bring an international perspective. Former Germany star and German national coach Juergen Klinsmann, who now resides in California, would fit the bill. Bradley was hired as coach four years ago after Klinsmann withdrew from consideration. Expectations have been raised for the US club and now the coaching must be too.

Kidding

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff June 22, 2010 04:25 PM

...as in you've got to be kidding me. First off, what are the odds that the son of NHL prince of punishment Colin Campbell, who angered the Bruins by failing to mete out justice on concussion artist Matt Cooke, would end up being a member of the Bruins? That happened today, as Gregory Campbell, Colin's boy, was shipped up to Boston by the Florida Panthers as part of the deal that brought big-ticket winger Nathan Horton to the Black and Gold.

That's strange enough, and I'd love to be there for the first meeting between the younger Campbell and Marc Savard, the victim of Cooke's blindside blast. But secondly, on the same day as Colin's Kid was traded to the Bruins Mr. Cooke got a new contract. The Penguins rewarded the wanton winger with a three-year contract extension. Sometimes the NHL is stranger than fiction.

Ribbing

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff June 14, 2010 01:34 PM

...has always been a part of sports and being on a sports team. Teammates always rib each other in good fun. But now the term is associated with painful and not remotely humorous sports injuries. What is going on with all the injured ribs lately? We had Tom Brady and his ribs during the Patriots season. Jacoby Ellsbury's situation with the Red Sox has been well documented, and fellow outfielder Jeremy Hermida also had his ribs fall victim to Adrian Beltre, who is quickly earning a reputation as the Dominican Mike Greenwell for the way he is wiping out outfielders.
Now, the rib injury epidemic has spread to the World Cup and the US soccer team. Goalie Tim Howard bruised his ribs in the US's 1-1 draw with England on Saturday, when England forward Emile Heskey slid into him studs up. Howard plans to keep playing. But hopefully he's not taking any ribbing from his teammates. That's not good for his ribs because I'm sure it hurts to laugh.

Coach

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff June 1, 2010 02:07 PM

We have two coaches that are first-class in my opinion meeting in these NBA Finals in Celtics bench boss Doc Rivers and Lakers ringmaster Phil Jackson. And I don't believe the Celtics are at a strategic disadvantage against Philosopher Phil. One of the underrated aspects of this Celtics' playoff run has been how Doc Rivers has out-coached each of his counterparts.

Much like his team, Miami's Erik Spoelstra was overmatched against Rivers in the first round. In the second round, Doc was too clever for Cleveland's Mike Brown, who never did find a way to slow down Rajon Rondo or stop Kevin Garnett in the post. In the Eastern Conference finals, Stan Van Gundy took the bait when Rivers decided to guard Dwight Howard one-on-one and take away the 3-pointer, and it wasn't until it was too late that Van Gundy adjusted, going with staggered pick-and-rolls.

Rivers is a worthy descendant of Red Auerbach on the bench for the Green. Doc might only have one ring to Jackson's two handfuls (10), but he beat the Zenmaster to get it two years ago. Heck, Rivers is such a good coach that Jackson might actually have to call a timeout in this series.

Lottery

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff May 19, 2010 04:14 PM

The NBA conducted its draft lottery Tuesday night and the Washington Wizards ended up with the No. 1 overall pick, despite having the league's fourth-worst record. The New Jersey Nets, who flirted with NBA ignominy most of the season and netted just 12 wins, didn't even end up with the No. 2 pick. They dropped to third, as the Philadelphia 76ers moved up due to the ping-pong balls and the fact the league draws for its first three picks.

It was the sixth year in a row that the team that finished with the league's worst record didn't end up with the No. 1 overall pick. The NBA needs to look at overhauling the lottery to make it fairer for failing teams. Instead of drawing for the top three, the league should take a page out of the NHL's playbook and only draw once and make only the top five teams eligible to take the top spot.

This wouldn't have changed the outcome of this year's lottery, but it would ensure that the Nets, and any future holder of the league's worst record, select no worse than second. It would also avoid situations like 2007 when the Memphis Grizzlies and the Celtics finished with the worst records in the league and picked fourth and fifth, respectively, and 2008 when the Bulls had the ninth-worst record and got the No. 1 overall pick.

Lotteries are by nature luck of the draw, but it shouldn't be a complete crap shoot. The NBA should do more to make sure the worst teams have a better chance to change their fortunes.

Advertisement

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff May 17, 2010 01:29 PM

...That's what the Boston Bruins took out in the Sunday Globe to pay tribute to their loyal and heartbroken fans after the team became just the third in the history of hockey and fourth among the Big Four North American pro sports to blow a 3-0 series lead in a best-of-seven playoff series. Even worse the Bruins had a 3-0 lead in Game 7, only to lose 4-3.

The ad, which ran two days after the ignominy on ice at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers, said in all caps, THANK YOU TO THE GREATEST FANS IN HOCKEY FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT.

It's a classy gesture by the Bruins, but ultimately an ad isn't going to be able to placate an angry and fed-up fan base. The fans want to see a winner. So, the Bruins should be putting out an NHL help wanted ad this offseason.

I don't think the Bruins are that far away. They've found a franchise goalie in Tuukka Rask and they should pick up a franchise player in June's NHL Entry Draft with the No. 2 overall pick, which will be either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. Hall, a high-scoring winger who has Bobby Orr as his agent, would be ideal.

But general manager Peter Chiarelli is going to have to make a bold move or two to show it's not the same old Black and Gold. One thought would be shopping Patrice Bergeron and his $4.75 million salary for some goal scoring.

Sleep-deprived

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff May 11, 2010 01:42 PM
...apparently that's what Mariners legend and future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. has been for most of his career due to some form of insomnia. However, Sleepless in Seattle, Griffey is not.

According to a report by the Tacoma News Tribune, Griffey was unavailable to pinch-hit recently because he fell asleep in the clubhouse, sad news for the Seattle icon

Willie Mays fell down in the outfield for the Mets, and Griffey fell asleep on the job for the Mariners.

If you're of a certain age, then Griffey was baseball. His No. 24 was the baseball equivalent of Michael Jordan's No. 23. The backwards hat for batting practice, the inimitable smile, that sweet lefthanded stroke, the incredible catches (the catch he broke his wrist on in 1995 is still the best catch I've ever seen). 

I still remember an ESPN highlight reel of Griffey's great grabs set to the 1990s EMF hit "Unbelievable."  So, it's unbelievable that the great Griff's career is going to end in embarrassing fashion.

Junior is now a baseball senior citizen at age 40. Like most older folks, he doesn't know what's best for him anymore. Griffey has looked like he's been asleep most of the season anyways, batting .208 with zero homers and 5 RBI in 77 at-bats.

It's time for the Kid to call it quits before he further tarnishes his legacy. The dream is over, but it was great while it lasted.

Jersey barrier

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 28, 2010 02:30 PM
As Jay-Z once said, "I don't wear jerseys. I'm 30-plus." But it's interesting to note that the Celtics-Lakers rivalry extends to the retail racks.

The defending NBA champion Lakers were hoops haute couture, the NBA announced. The league store and its online counterpart sold more Lakers merchandise than any other team, with Kobe Bryant's No. 24 the top-selling jersey in the league.

Bryant serves as proof that Ben Roethlisberger can be redeemed in the eyes of fans for his alleged sexual misbehavior. He just might have to change his number.

The Celtics were second in NBA apparel sold and had two of their Big Three in the top 10 of NBA jersey sales -- Kevin Garnett was third and Paul Pierce was eighth, one spot ahead of Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.

Lurking just outside the top 10 at No. 11 is Celtics guard Nate Robinson, who probably earned the ranking from his days with the Knicks.

That just proves that the popularity of jersey sales is only slightly less scientific than the fan voting for the NBA All-Star game. 
 

Stern

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 26, 2010 02:43 PM
...That's what NBA commissioner David Stern has been in responding to any type of criticism of the league and its officials or critques of its scheduling practices.

In case you missed it, Stern has been on the war path recently, vituperating Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy for complaining about the officials and the NBA's stretched out playoff schedule, which deprives playoff series of rhythm or flow but gets every game on national TV.

You expect Stern to defend his officials, and coaches like Van Gundy and the Lakers Phil Jackson, both of whom were fined by Stern, are masters of ref baiting. However, Van Gundy has a point on the schedule. There is no reason to have so many days before games, especially when there is no change of venue, and the elongated slate is one reason the NHL playoffs have it all over the NBA's version.

Why do there need to be two days between Game 1 and Game 2 of a first-round playoff series?

 "The Sopranos" came to a quicker conclusion than the NBA first-round. That's definitely not Amazing.

Thoughts

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 20, 2010 12:13 PM
Here are three...

1. The Boston Marathon is a uniquely Boston sports event and yesterday's record-setting run by Robert Cheruiyot in the men's marathon was sublime, but the Marathon has a lot of phony fans. How many sports fans three months from now are going to remember Cheruyiot's name or his record-setting time (2 hours, 5 minutes, 52 seconds)? Not many.

2. There is a huge Dodgers billboard with Manny Ramirez on it on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood and his drama and personality are perfect for flighty L.A. It's interesting to see the contrast in fan support level between one-time slugging partners David Ortiz and Ramirez, who is beloved in Dodgertown, especially after he hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer on Sunday to beat the Giants.

3. Don't expect the Patriots to trade up in the first round of this draft. The team values its four draft picks in the top 53 and is bracing for the return of the salary cap in 2011 and beyond. It's far more likely they go the value route and trade back and try to acquire another 2011 first-round pick (they currently have their own and the Raiders') with their picks than use them to move up in this draft Jets-style.

Disdain

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff April 5, 2010 04:40 PM
..is a frequent emotion that Duke basketball brings out in a lot of college hoops fans. The Blue Devils are almost always in contempt of court. Here are my top five most-despised Dukies.

1. Steve Wojciechowski -- Now a Duke assistant, popularized slapping the floor for a defensive stand, an annoying habit the team still does to this day.

2. Christian Laettner -- Great college player who won two national titles, but played borderline dirty basketball. Lone blemish on the original Dream Team roster.

3. J.J. Redick -- This Duke marksman was a marked man -- Sports Illustrated called him the "nation's most-hated player" in 2006. Incredible shooter and flopper.

4. Danny Ferry -- The 1989 National Player of the Year and an NBA bust, Ferry, currently the GM of the LeBrons, was known for his physical play during his college days. He made Laettner look like a choir boy.

5. Thomas Hill - Talented and emotional role player on a pair of national title teams. Cried, seriously, after Duke beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA East Regional Final on Laettner's buzzer-beater.

Apologize

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff March 29, 2010 01:34 PM
...That's what University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer did to Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler after upbraiding Fowler for a quote he used from Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson that painted Tim Tebow's passing skills in a somewhat unflattering light.

Fowler quoted Thompson talking about the difference between Tebow and the Gators new quarterback, John Brantley, who is a more traditional drop-back passer than Tebow.

Good for Meyer for apologizing for his boorish and bullying behavior. It's understandable that the coach would want to stand up for his player, but he could have shown more tact. And telling Fowler, "You're a bad guy, man. You're a bad guy. If that was my son, we'd be going at it right now," was just ridiculous.

One has to wonder if the real issue here is defending Deonte Thompson or defending Tebow, who has been the subject of NFL debate and doubt due to his mechanics and throwing motion.

I believe it's far more the latter than the former and that's why Meyer made such a big deal about what Fowler wrote.

Tebow has millions of dollars on the line and the perception that his own receivers questioned his passing skills could cost him money. The last thing Meyer, who may harbor visions of an NFL future at some point, needs is to send another skill-position bust to the NFL like Chad Jackson.

But not even Meyer's buddy Bill Belichick, who has as much disdain for the media as any football coach, would make a public spectacle like Meyer did. Like Belichick would say, Meyer should have handled it in-house.

Guest pass

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff March 15, 2010 04:48 PM
...That's what it felt like the Jets needed the entire time they played their "home" games at Giants Stadium, aka, The Meadowlands. Well, it looks like there will be a new stadium in northern New Jersey for the teams to share, but the same old unwanted house guest treatment for the Jets.

The new $1.6 billion-plus stadium, opening this season, the teams will share will not be Edifice Rex (Ryan), at least not for its inaugural game, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. That has Jets owner Woody Johnson irate, according to the story, especially because the league conducted a coin toss to decide who would get the first game at the new digs for the New York football teams and the Jets didn't even have a representative present.

Wow, you'd think after splitting the cost of the stadium with the Giants the J-E-T-S would at least get a chance to be present for the coin flip. There is no word as to if the NFL and the Giants used a double-sided coin like the Batman villain Two-Face. 

Not a great week for the NYJ, but at least they have an LT now.

Update (5:15 p.m.): Now trying to save face the NFL has announced both teams will play at home on opening weekend. The Jets get a Monday nighter on Sept. 13, the day after the Giants open the new stadium. 

Mixed

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff March 10, 2010 04:50 PM
...that's the message the NHL sent today about its willingness to protect players from hits to the head like the one Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke delivered to Bruins center Marc Savard, who sustained a Grade 2 concussion and might be out for the season.

On the same day NHL general managers agreed to recommend a rule change that would outlaw hits like Cooke's blindside head-to-the-shoulder blow on the Bruins center, NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell let Cooke get off cleaner than a sheet of freshly made ice by declining to suspend him for his cheap-shot check.

Apparently, the absurdity of this escapes Campbell.

Campbell said he needed to be consistent because he didn't punish Flyers skater Mike Richards for a similar hit on Florida's David Booth. He's being consistent alright. He is consistently sending the wrong message.

This was a chance to send a message that these type of cheap-shot hits wouldn't be tolerated. Instead, the message is, "Blast away, boys. Get in these 'legal' hits while you can, before we change the rules."

Just because something is technically legal doesn't mean it's right.

The good news for the Bruins and their fans is that Cooke won't be suspended for the teams' next meeting, on March 18 at the Garden. Then, the Bruins will have a chance to send a message of their own to Cooke -- legally of course.

Overhaul

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff March 2, 2010 01:33 PM
...That is what the NFL is considering doing to its overtime rules in the postseason, and I say it's overdue. The proposal the league will consider at its annual meeting later this month in Orlando is essentially what I proposed to Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher in September.

The idea is that unless the team that receives possession first scores a touchdown then the game will not be "sudden death." The other team will get an opportunity to receive the ball. 

This remedies the biggest complaint about the college overtime format, where each team gets the ball from the 20 -- the removal of special teams from the game -- and the biggest complaint about the pro format -- that games are decided by field goals.

I know some opponents have already come out and said it wouldn't work, citing an on-side kick recovery preventing a team from actually having a chance to match after a score or preventing the team that won the coin toss from getting the ball at all. 

But wasn't the most exciting play of this year's Super Bowl the Saints' risky on-side kick to start the second half? Risk-reward is a big part of the strategy of football the last time I checked, just ask the Patriots about fourth and 2 in Indy.

Also, if the team that got the ball first on offense fumbled or threw an interception for a touchdown it's still game over like before. That also happened in this year's playoffs, when Arizona's Karlos Dansby plucked an Aaron Rodgers fumble out of midair and returned it for a TD to give the Cardinals a pulsating 51-45 OT win over the Packers.

No overtime format is going to please everyone, but this one would be a vast improvement.

Improved

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 19, 2010 11:27 AM
...That's what the Celtics are after acquiring Nate Robinson from the Knicks. Robinson becomes Boston's answer to another former Knick, Jamal Crawford, who has given the Atlanta Hawks a dynamic scorer off their bench and is a big reason the Hawks swept the season-series with the Celtics.

The 5-9 Robinson is not a true point guard or a great defender, but what he can do is score by creating his own shot off the dribble. That has been an issue for the Celtics late in games, and it was against the Lakers on Thursday night. Before Robinson, Paul Pierce was really the only Celtics player capable of doing that because teams simply pack it in against Rajon Rondo and dare him to beat them with a jump shot.

The Robinson move was a slam dunk for the Celtics considering all they had to do was give up Eddie House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge did his due diligence on deals that would have shipped out Ray Allen and break up the Big Three, but in the end he felt the right deal wasn't out there at the right price. So, he kept the Big Three in tact for one more title run.

Robinson is certainly more of an impact pick-up than D.J. Augustin, who at one time was also rumored to be a Celtics trade target.

The question is will Robinson's addition be enough to catch Cleveland, which committed grand larceny in acquiring Antwawn Jamison, and Orlando in the East? What do you think?

Franchise

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 11, 2010 01:28 PM
...As in franchise tag. The Patriots history with the franchise tag doesn't bode well for Vince Wilfork, if the Patriots indeed place it on him. The Patriots have used the tag fives times since Bill Belichick became Patriots coach in 2000.

Only on one of those occasions -- Adam Vinatieri in 2002 -- did the team and the franchised player reach agreement on a long term contract. Here are the others:

2003 -- Safety Tebucky Jones was franchised and later traded to the New Orleans Saints for a package of draft picks that became Corey Dillon, Tully Banta-Cain and Dexter Reid.

2005 -- Vinatieri signed a $2.5 million franchise tender, played out the season and then signed with the Colts in the off-season.

2007 -- Asante Samuel refused to sign his $7.79 million franchise tender until the team included provisions -- the team winning 12 or more games or Samuel playing 60 percent of the defensive snaps -- that prevented him from being franchised again. Both provisions were met and Samuel signed a six-year, $57 million deal with Philly.

2008 -- Matt Cassel was franchised at a cost of $14.65 million and later traded to Kansas City along with Mike Vrabel for a second-round pick the Patriots used to select Pat Chung.

Debate

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 8, 2010 12:39 PM
...It rages on as to who is the better quarterback -- Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Everyone was ready to anoint Manning as not only better than Brady but the greatest QB of all-time. (There was this Montana guy who wasn't too bad, eh?)

That was until Manning threw a Super Bowl-sealing pick six to Tracy Porter that set off a wild celebration down on the Bayou and cemented a 31-17 Super Bowl XLIV victory for New Orleans.

The reality is that the Brady-Manning debate is one that will continue as long as the two iconic QBs are in the league. If you had asked folks before Super Bowl XLII who was better you would have heard a chorus of supporters for Brady. Two years later folks said it wasn't even close -- it was Manning. One ill-fated Manning pass later and people had flip-flopped back to Brady.

Why don't we wait until their careers are over to make the final judgment? In the meantime, the best NFL QB conversation has a new candidate for discussion -- Drew Brees.

Maybe the Brady-Manning debate is temporarily rendered moot because Brees is better than both of them right now.

Edge

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 5, 2010 02:39 PM
...Who is going to be setting it next season for the Patriots at outside linebacker? The team could be due for a drastic makeover at a position that is vital to the operation of a 3-4 defense. Adalius Thomas seems to be talking his way out of town, and he could have company in the departures department.

Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess are unrestricted free agents. Pierre Woods is a restricted free agent. They could all be on other teams next season. The only player who got playing time at the position under contract for 2010 is Rob Ninkovich.

The Patriots have expressed interest in CFL sack artist Ricky Foley,  but that doesn't exactly inspire confidence for an enhanced pass rush in '10. Who knows maybe this is the season that Shawn Crable plays an NFL game? Or maybe we know exactly what the Patriots have to pursue in the draft and free agency.

Signature

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 2, 2010 02:15 PM
...That's what tons of high school football prospects across the country will lend to National Letters of Intent on Feb.3, locking in their college choices and setting the stage for the next generation of Tim Tebows, Colt McCoys and Mark Ingrams to take the autumn stage.

National Signing Day is one of my favorite days of the sports year and one of the most hallowed days on the sports landscape across most of the country. It's much more interesting than the endless Super Bowl hype, and with President Obama a big college football fan I might push for it to be an actual holiday. However, it will barely register a ripple here, where college football is something to tide you over until the Patriots play on Sunday.

But in places like Tuscaloosa, Ala., Tallahassee, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio wins in recruiting are just as celebrated as actual victories on the field because they often lead to those victories.

Besides the guilty perversion of getting excited about where 17-and 18-year-olds decide to go to school, National Signing Day is college football's equivalent of the NFL Draft. Decisions made now will dictate what happens on the field for the next couple of years.

Plus, National Signing Day is the one day of the year when the fax machine is still a vitally important piece of office machinery and not an anachronistic relic. So, high school seniors commence your faxes.

Bailout

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff February 1, 2010 03:30 PM
Washington has been awfully good at providing bailouts to troubled outfits, let's see if it can help a pair of Boston sports teams -- the Celtics and the Bruins -- get back on their feet.

Both of the local winter sports organizations are looking for some aid from our nation's capital, a little loss prevention. One is likely to get it and one is not. The Celtics, coming off a bruising o-fer against the Magic, Hawks and Lakers, are facing the woeful Washington Wizards tonight in D.C.

The Wizards are winners of two straight, but if KG and Co., can't win this game then it's time for a reorganization of assets by Danny Ainge.

The Bruins, in the middle of a horrid stretch of hockey (1-8-2), faceoff with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday at the Garden. Unfortunately, for the Black and Gold, the Capitals are riding a franchise-best 10-game winning streak and not in a very giving mood.

But on the plus side, Bruins fans are likely to see what it's like when a team makes frequent deposits into an NHL net. The Capitals lead the NHL in goals per game (3.82), while the Bruins are last (2.34). At least someone in Washington is on the plus-side of a deficit. 


Farewell

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff January 25, 2010 02:45 PM
...That's what Brett Favre should say after what has been an eventful and memorable 20-year career. As maddening as it was to watch play out, Favre made the right decision by playing this season. Now, he should make the right one by not playing in 2010.

Maybe it is just fate that the 40-year-old Favre's career is to end with his last throw being an interception. He has always been a gambler -- for better or worse -- and nothing defines Favre's trick-or-treat nature better than the fact he is both the NFL's all-time leader in touchdown passes (497) and INTs (317).

Favre's career would have ended on an interception in the NFC Championship game if he had hung it up like he said he was going to following a teary press conference in Green Bay in 2008.

The irony of Favre's Follie yesterday is that it happened during a season in which he didn't throw double-digit interceptions for the first time since he became a starter in 1992. Favre had just seven interceptions this season and 33 touchdown passes, his most TD tosses since he won the last of his three straight MVPs in 1997.

Most of us have had our fill of Favre by now, but that's not the reason he should retire. He should retire because this is as close to going out on top as it is going to get for Brett. That was the case following the 2007 season and it's the case now. Not even Favre can out-throw fate. 

Foul

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff January 21, 2010 02:21 PM
...That was the language that Celtics forward Glen Davis used when responding to a fan that heckled him with cries of "fat boy" against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Television and radio broadcasts picked up "Big Baby's" very adult, explicit and disappointing retort.

Enough is enough with Davis. Doc Rivers is right. It's time for Davis, 24, to grow up. The Celtics were outscored 43-12 in bench points against the Pistons. Davis had 4 points and spent more time focused on the fan than his game.

Davis has had a myriad of issues/incidents in his brief NBA career. He went shirtless during the Celtics's championship parade in 2008. He cried on the bench after being upbraided by Kevin Garnett last season. After he hit his game-winning jumper in Orlando in the '09 playoffs, he got overexcited and accidentally shoved aside a young fan. He broke his thumb on the eve of the season opener in an altercation with a friend.

Now, we have the "Baby Talk" incident. This fan was obviously a moron and he shouldn't have been allowed to berate Davis. But it's time for Davis to start acting like a professional or he won't be one for much longer.

Slam duck

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff January 18, 2010 02:25 PM
That's what LeBron James did to the NBA's 2010 Slam Dunk contest. The field for the dunkfest was announced today and it doesn't include the King, who pledged during last year's contest that he would be taking part in this year's slam 'n jam in Dallas during All-Star weekend.

It's not a huge surprise that LeBron did a 180 and passed on the dunk contest, as he had wavered on his proclamation in recent weeks, but it is a huge disappointment. James owed it to the fans to compete in the contest at least once, which he hasn't done in his NBA career. His presence in the event likely would have stirred other big names like Dwight Howard and Josh Smith to compete again and given us the most star power since the 2000 contest had Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis.

If the dunk contest was good enough for Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Carter, McGrady, Amare Stoudemire and Kobe Bryant why does LeBron feel he is above it?

Instead, he should be showcasing his skills above the rim and giving back to the game by honoring his high-flying forerunners. He could just do it once and get it out of the way.

Maybe, LeBron just feels he has had enough slam dunk ignominy in the last year. If he lost the dunk contest, he couldn't have Nike confiscate the video like he did when he got dunked on by Xavier University's Jordan Crawford over the summer at his own camp.

Whatever his reasoning, ducking the dunk contest is one move LeBron has perfected. Here's hoping we see him at the 2011 contest in Los Angeles. 

Pumped

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff January 11, 2010 01:53 PM
...and jacked. That's what I am about Pete Carroll's return to the NFL. The former Patriots head coach is going to get a third shot to be an NFL head coach, this time with the Seattle Seahawks. Contrary to popular belief, Carroll's tenure preceding Bill Belichick in New England was not an abject failure. He made the playoffs twice in three seasons and never posted a losing record, going 8-8 in his final season in Foxborough.

In fact, Carroll has an overall winning record in four seasons as an NFL coach -- he had a one-year stint with the Jets -- with a 33-31 mark.

The recent history of college coaches going to the NFL isn't good, but Carroll isn't Steve Spurrier or Bobby Petrino. His roots are in the pro game. The USC job was a back-to-school sidetrip, and it worked out very well as Carroll restored the Men of Troy and built one of college football's most dominant programs.

But you always knew he wanted one more opportunity to prove himself in the pros, just like Rick Pitino. Carroll can succeed if he surrounds himself with the right people. He'll need to find a GM he can work with, unlike Bobby Grier during his stint here, and he'll have to find an eventual replacement for Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, as injuries have take their toll on the former BC QB.

I'm sure people around here will be rooting for Carroll to fail, much the same way people in Cleveland rooted for Bill Belichick to fall on his face here. Sometimes a good coach deserves a second, or in this case, third chance. Hey, if Wade Phillips can be an NFL coach three times, why doesn't Pumped and Jacked Petey deserve another shot?

Coordination

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff January 6, 2010 10:51 PM
That's what some feel has been missing from the Patriots offense since the departure of Josh McDaniels to become the coach of the Denver Broncos, following last season. One of the perceived solutions was the return of deposed Notre Dame coach and former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who was The OC for all three of the Patriots' Super Bowl-winning teams.

Weis likely won't be walking back through that door in Foxborough as he has agreed to become the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs. It never made sense for Weis to sign up for a second tour of duty with the Patriots. Weis has already proven he can succeed with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. In order to get another shot at a head coaching job outside of South Bend he has to prove he can succeed without them.

What better place to do it than Kansas City, where he has former Brady understudy  Matt Cassel at quarterback, a good young running back in Jamaal Charles, and the opportunity to be hailed as an offensive guru responsible for a turnaround.

If Weis turns the Chiefs' offense into a KC masterpiece he'll be a head coach again.


Derailed

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 31, 2009 01:55 PM
That's what this Celtics road trip was by injuries. Already without Paul Pierce due to a knee infection, the Celtics limped home from a four-game trip as losers of three straight following a 116-98 loss to the Suns on Wednesday night. More alarming than the three losses is the trio of injured Celtic stars. Kevin Garnett's knee is flaring up, forcing him to sit out against the Suns (still believe he had a thigh bruise?), and Rajon Rondo also hurt a hamstring on the trip and is hobbled.

The Celtics have the talent to go all the way, but with the Big Three of Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen all 32 or older, injuries might be just as tough to overcome as the Cavaliers or Magic. Pierce's knee infection was a freak occurrence, but Garnett's situation is going to be an issue all year long. If the Celtics lose this season to injuries like last season then the championship window starts to resemble a keyhole. 

Horseplay

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 29, 2009 01:11 PM
Colts president Bill Polian said the perfect season was never the team's issue. Well, it is now because Indianapolis fans are irate that their team yanked Peyton Manning and the rest of its starters with a 15-10 lead midway through the third quarter. Hot under the collar Hoosiers harangued Polian on his own radio show yesterday over the retreat into defeat against the Jets.

Here's my issue: if the Colts wanted to rest their starters, fine, then let them play a half or a quarter and take them out. But don't bail on a competitive game with historical and playoffs implications deep in the second half. It's an arrogant disservice to your players, your team and the NFL.

No one has embarrassed the state of Indiana this much since former vice president Dan Quayle misspelled potato.

Comebacker

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 22, 2009 01:02 PM
That is what new/old Yankees pitcher Javier Vasquez is. The Yanks response to John Lackey was to re-acquire Vasquez, who in his one season in the Bronx was 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA, making the All-Star team but faltering badly down the stretch. Check this off as a Sox win because the Yankees had to give up Melky Cabrera to get Vasquez from the Braves.

That means New York has moved two young, cost-effective, athletic outfielders this off-season after giving up Austin Jackson to get Curtis Granderson. Vasquez is ordinary in the AL and gives up a lot of long balls. This move is a ripple, not a splash like the Lackey signing. With an opening in left field now don't rule out the Yankees sticking it to the Sox with Jason Bay.

Prevent defense

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 15, 2009 01:49 PM
Pitching and defense is the Red Sox' plan to "bridge" the gap between them and the team in the Bronx. I think it's one worth defending. I was never enamored with Matt Holliday, who is completely overrated due to inflated numbers at Coors Field and will be vastly overpaid by some poor team. Sinking Jason Bay-money into John Lackey gives the Sox rotation depth and trade flexibility. Mike Cameron comes cheap, even at 36 makes the team markedly more athletic in the outfield, and while he strikes out a ton, he has 20-25 home run pop from the right side. 

Endorse

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 14, 2009 12:22 PM
That's what Tiger Woods will no longer be doing for Accenture, which had an unfortunate advertising slogan of "Go on, be a Tiger" as part of its Woods campaign. Obviously, that has a completely unintended meaning now. In the end, Tiger will remain marketable as long as he is still the PGA's top player when he returns. Just look at Kobe Bryant, who has survived his scandal and became a VitaminWater spokesman last year. 

Curtains

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 11, 2009 12:17 PM
That's what it could be for both the Steelers' playoff hopes this season and any claim they may have had to topping the Patriots as the "Team of the Decade." Pittsburgh lost its fifth straight, falling, 13-6, to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night. The loss dropped the Super Bowl champs to 6-7 overall and 1-4 in the AFC North and 4-6 in AFC play, two crucial playoff tiebreakers. 

Bridge

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 10, 2009 02:17 PM
The most famous bridge in Boston right now isn't the Tobin or the Zakim. No, it's the metaphorical one that Sox GM Theo Epstein said the team is building for the next two years to span when prized prospects like Casey Kelly and Ryan Westmoreland are ready. This is one bridge that seems structurally unsound.

Brady bump

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 8, 2009 02:36 PM
Up or down by at least seven points in the fourth quarter this season, Tom Brady has a 58.1 QB rating and a 54.5 completion percentage with a TD and two interceptions. Peyton Manning is 128.7 with 78.7 percent completed. Brady's career QB rating in such situations is 83.1, with a 60.1 completion percentage and 18 TDs vs. 14 interceptions.

Roadkill

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 4, 2009 12:32 PM
That's the best way to describe the Celtics' four-game road trip, which they can sweep tonight with a win at Oklahoma City. In the holiday spirit, can they donate some of those road wins to the Patriots?

Shortcoming

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff December 3, 2009 11:59 AM
That's what the shortstop position has been for the Red Sox during the Theo Epstein administration. Marco Scutaro is another mistake in the making. Put Pedey at shortstop and sign Orlando Hudson to play second base.

Coffee Talk

Posted by demiddleton November 23, 2009 03:21 PM
The thighmaster is neither a thigh nor a master. Discuss.

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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