First the draft, then the Bruins and Celtics, then the Red Sox, albeit by only a matter of minutes. Itís going to be a busy night, honey. Donít wait up.
But really, what is a dedicated Bostonian to do on a night like this, when the planets are in alignment and worlds collide? Tonightís menu offers more choices than the Cheesecake Factory, from football to hockey to hoops to hardball. The Patriots own three picks in the second round of the NFL draft. (How many defensive backs can one team have?) The Bruins will look to eliminate the Buffalo Sabres and advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs. (Who would have thought?) The Celtics can jump to a 3-0 lead in a first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. (Will the real Cís please stand up?) And the Red Sox open a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. (At last, a true doormat.)
The Pats and Bruins get the obvious priority here. But what if your heart rests with the Celts and Sox? Thank heavens for the DVR, ESPN, and the World Wide Web.
And, of course, for picture-in-picture.
In the annual sports calendar, there are two months that stand out above all others: April and September. The latter gives us the start of the NFL season to go along with major league playoff races, all while the hockey and basketball players come back to work; the high school and colleges begin play; and here, in Boston, the PGA Tour comes to town. As for April, we have Opening Day, the Masters, the start of postseason play in the NBA and NHL, the annual NFL draft. Four days ago, lest anyone forget, we celebrated yet another Boston Marathon.
Even so, tonight stands as a rather unique convergence of events during which all of our four professional sports teams will be, for lack of a better word, active. Much of this has to do with a restructuring of the annual NFL draft that has turned what was once a weekend event into a made-for-TV miniseries. The first round of the draft was last night. Rounds 2 and 3 will come tonight. The final four rounds will come tomorrow, culminating with a seventh round during which the Patriots have picks. (OK, if youíre still tuned in for that, see a doctor.)
Tonight, starting at 6 p.m. in Round 2, Pats coach Bill Belichick could be among the busiest men in football. The Pats own over selections No. 44, 47, and 53, currently slated to be the 12th, 15th, and 21st selections of the day. As a result of last nightís trade that delivered Dez Bryant to the Dallas Cowboys, the Pats also picked up a selection (No. 90 overall) in what would have been an otherwise empty third round for them. Thanks to Belichickís curious decision to snatch yet another defensive back in Round 1, the Pats enter today with the same glaring needs they possessed yesterday: pass rushers and pass catchers, not necessarily in that order.
As for the Bruins, we all know the score in the wake of Wednesday nightís pulsating 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, With a victory tonight in Game 5, the Bruins will advance to the second round of the playoffs, no small feat following a regular season in which they seemed downright comatose. Last nightís series-clinching win by the Philadelphia Flyers makes it even more likely that the Bruins would face the defending world champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the next round, though the Pens lost a potential clincher last night on their home ice and now lead the Ottawa Senators by a slim 3-2 margin entering Game 6 in Ottawa.
Naturally, Bruins followers know better than to take anything for granted at this stage. Even with a 3-1 series lead, the Bruins are no sure thing. The Sabres outplayed the Bruins in Game 4 and the Bruins have led for fewer than 20 minutes of the entire series. A Bruins loss tonight would swing the pendulum back ever so slightly toward the Sabres, sending the series back to Boston for a sixth game with the knowledge that Game 7 would be played in Buffalo.
Ground control to Bruins fans: It ainít over 'til itís over.
The Celtics? Only heaven knows what to expect from the Green now in the wake of Tuesdayís Garnett-free shellacking of the one-man gang known as the Miami Heat. Clearly, the game means far less to Boston than it does to Miami, which would face a 3-0 series deficit in the event of a loss. With or without Garnett, the Celtics clearly are the better team here, and it certainly seems as though a series win over the Heat is a matter of when, not if. A series with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers almost certainly awaits, raising all kinds of questions about our enigmatic basketball team entering Game 3 of the Heat series.
Can the Celts truly turn it on and off? Do they even have a shot against a team like Cleveland? And if they do, particularly given their age and injury issues, are the Celticsí chances better by rapidly disposing of the Heat and using any possible time to rest and catch their breath?
Oh yes, the Red Sox. Does anyone feel any better about this team yet? With last nightís 3-0 loss to the Texas Rangers, the Sox slipped to 6-10 on the year; their only two series victories of the season have come against the Royals and Rangers, who are a combined 12-18. The Rangers last night stole two more bases, giving them 14 in 14 attempts during the series and meaning that the Red Sox have allowed a whopping 24 steals in the last seven games. To date this season, the Red Sox now have allowed 36 stolen bases in 37 attempts over 16 contests, putting them on a pace to allow a record 365 steals that would obliterate the mark of 223 they established under Jimy Williams and Joe Kerrigan in 2001.
The message for the Oís: Run, Forrest, run.
Meanwhile, the issues for the Sox remain the same: can they hit, field and pitch well enough in the coming days to avoid burying themselves? Are they capable of beating good teams or merely the bad ones?
For the answer to those questions and more, tune in tonight.
But have the clicker in hand.
And be prepared to miss something.
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