Ten free minutes for me, 10 free lunatic rantings for you . . .
1. I'm trying not to be overconfident here, but dammit, after their vintage performance during Viking Evisceration, I just can't help but believe this to be truth: The Patriots are going to destroy Colts. Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon, who basically had a bye last week, are going to run wild against that porous Indy run defense. Tom Brady will again prove he is his generation's Montana to Peyton Manning's Marino, deep-frying the poor backup Colts safeties filling in for Bob Sanders and Mike Doss. And a defense that was picked apart by Manning Patriots-Colts a season ago now has the personnel to befuddle him the way they did in their six previous victories; remember, last season, Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour were injured, Tedy Bruschi was in Week 2 of his comeback, Mike Vrabel was playing out of position, Chad Scott (who has been excellent) was on IR, unsung Artrell Hawkins was unemployed, Randall Gay was starting at safety, and someone named Mike Stone was the nickelback. Hell, Archie Manning could have shredded that defense. This defense? Let me put it this way: You can win a Super Bowl with this defense. And around midnight Sunday evening, it's going to be clear even to the Michael Irvins of the world that the Patriots are positioning themselves to do just that. Man, this feels like a playoff game. I can't wait.
2. Funny how so many in the electronic media seem to have forgotten this week that Adam Vinatieri's departure from the Patriots was just as much, if not more, his choice than it was Scott Pioli's or Bill Belichick's. It's almost as if the vocal, anti-Belichick posse is openly rooting for him to boot a winning kick on Sunday, thus teaching that cheapskate franchise a lesson it has longed deserved. Cripes, it's such nonsense. Listen, no one is going to coerce me into saying a bad word about Vinatieri or his unmatched legacy here: he was the only kicker I've completely believed in with a game on the line, he's booted at least two and as many as four of the most clutch kicks in league history, and he absolutely deserves a place in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. I just wish some of the people getting paid to comment on this team would tell the entire truth: Vinatieri was the highest-paid kicker in the NFL on a couple of occasions during his time with the Patriots, he was offended that he wasn't paid more, suspected his previous agent colluded with the Patriots, and ultimately chose to leave. I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm just saying that's how it is. The Patriots, despite their concerns over his troublesome back, his decreasing range, and his limp kickoffs, did want to retain him at a reasonable price. It's unjust that they are being portrayed as kicking him to the curb, because any check of the basic facts will tell you that is not how it went down.
3. Am I the only one who got the sense that Glenn Ordway would not have been high on Red Auerbach's list of people to emcee a celebration of his life? Judging by the more-than-a-smattering of boos that greeted the Big Orb at the Garden the other night, apparently not, though he and Red did have one thing in common: both were remarkably adept at blowing smoke.
4. Just saw the news crawl across the NESN ticker: Francisco Liriano, the Twins' phenom lefty, needs Tommy John surgery and will likely miss the entire 2007 season. It's hardly unexpected, given the recurring pain he felt in his elbow when he tried to return late in the season, but it's sad news nonetheless. Liriano was the most overpowering, downright exciting pitcher I saw last season - watching him burst onto the scene reminded me of Dwight Gooden's arrival/ascendancy in '84/'85 - and it's a shame for baseball fans everywhere that a pitcher of such great ability and promise is now just one more scarred question mark.
5. So Captain Fist-Pump fulfills our previous warning and prances off with the Gold Glove that belongs on Gonzo's mantel. And it sure seems a forgone conclusion that he's going to beat out Papi, Justin Morneau, and half-dozen equally deserving candidates to win the AL MVP award. So I gotta ask: How the bleep are the fawning nitwit voters going to figure out a way to get him the Cy Young Award too?
6. Two games down, 80 to go, and I've seen nothing to alter my suspicion that the Celtics are an intriguing collection of individuals who fit poorly as a team. I like just about every single player on this roster to some extent (though Tony Allen, still clueless and no longer the sky-scraping athlete after his knee injury, is fast falling out of favor), but the mix just isn't right. I trust Danny Ainge is well aware of this, and I'm willing to believe he has stockpiled young talent in order to swap some of it for the right top-tier veteran if the opportunity arises. Personally, I think Kevin Garnett would look terrific in green.
7. Did you hear the big news? The Sox let Bill Haselman "pursue other opportunities" today. Yep, looks like we're looking for a new first base coach next season. I wonder if Baseball Prospectus might have a list of the best candidates, maybe broken down into the key statistical categories: Fewest Runners Thrown Out At Second, Most Attaboys Offered Per Baserunner, Most Accurate At Giving A Fist-Pound, etc, etc. Goddamn, I need this hot stove to heat up already. Other than all the intriguing Daniel Bard rumors - could he be the next Justin Verlander? - there is just nada going on right now.
8. I don't know who is winning the NBA title this season, but I can tell you who isn't: The Miami Heat. For all of Dwyane Wade's greatness - the only player I'd rather have than him is LeBron - he's going to be going at it alone a lot more than the experts realize, and if he continues to take more hits than David Carr and misses any length of time, this team will crumble. I can see Shaq's age, weight and regular-season indifference leading to a shockingly precipitous decline, 'Zo, 'Toine and Gary Payton are a year older and, you'd have to believe, considerably more complacent, and the bench is thinner than Tony Parker's girlfriend. It all went right for Miami last year. Despite Wade's best efforts, it won't happen again.
9. The latest episode of "The Office" was far and away the best in what thus far has been a funny but uneven season. Two questions that linger: What was Fancy New Beesley talking about when she said she "was expecting something to happen tonight"? And what, exactly, was the content of that text message that Jim was too blitzed to pick up? Thursday, and the pivotal episode titled "Branch Closing," can't come soon enough.
10. As for today's Completely Random Tony Dungy Photo:
Looking at him now, would you have ever believed he'd played professional football? And that he had to tackle people?
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Quick programming note: The plan is to live-blog the Pats-Colts game Sunday night, so be sure to stop by TATB and make yourself at home during the game. There's plenty of beer in the fridge. Help yourself, peeps.