Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday night's all right for fighting

Quick thoughts while wondering if Bridget Moynihan will get "Moving the Chains" from Santa . . .

• Carmelo Anthony is probably my NBA favorite player to watch. His image may be hip-hop, but his offensive game is decidedly old-school, especially his gorgeous high-arcing midrange jumper. And his immense talent is exceeded only by his charisma - the kid's got the easiest smile since Magic. So it is with some semblance of disappointment that I must admit the truth: Anthony a damn fool, and I put it that mildly only because I'm trying to avoid language that some might find offensive. The evidence that there's something sinister behind Anthony's smile has been mounting for some time now: His appearance in the underground "Stop snitching" video in his old Baltimore neighborhood was alarming at best, and he's had his share of maturity issues with coaches and teammates in Denver. But last night was the final piece of evidence necessary to convince this jury. There simply is no justification for his brawl-escalating sucker punch of the Knicks' Mardy Collins last night. A player of his stature should be above that. It's another black-eye for the league in the lingering wake of the unforgettable Detroit-Indiana brawl, it's going to devastate Anthony's when David Stern nails with at least a 10-game suspension, and it ruins what's left of his reputation as one of the league's signature players. What a fool. What a shame.

• I know they've won five in a row, and the never-ending Iverson rumors seem to have unified them as a team. Still, after watching Greg Oden do his man-against-boys thing today in Ohio State's decimation of Cincinnati, I'd just as soon the Celtics tank it, pray the ping-pong balls bounce their way, and position themselves to land the NBA's next great center. He's that good.

• My record of predicting Patriots games this season is about as pathetic as the Texans' won-lost record, so take this with a shaker full of salt, but . . . well, I'm nervous as hell about today's game. I worry that Vince Wilfork's absence will leave a massive running lane through the heart of the Patriots' defense. I worry that Andre Johnson will find the Patriots' decimated defensive backfield to his liking. I worry that David Carr will play at least as well as his fellow Class of '02 draft bust Joey Harrington did a week ago. And I worry about the ability of Tom Brady and the Misfits to move the ball with any effectiveness if Laurence Maroney and Ben Watson are in street clothes. Do I think the Pats will win? Even in their wounded and weary state, I'd never bet against them against a subpar opponent. But this game isn't going to be the automatic "W" it appeared to be when we first glanced at the schedule, and frankly, they could really use an easy one right about now..

• If you ever wondered why Gabe Kapler was so popular at Fenway despite his feeble production, well, we're going to pretend it's not because the chicks dug his pecs. Instead, we like to believe the reason he probably accumulated more standing ovations than homers in his Sox career is because Kapler understood and appreciated what it meant to wear the Red Sox uniform, and articulated that understanding and appreciation remarkably well. Consider his thoughtful comments upon announcing his retirement to take a minor league managing gig in the Sox system:

"I have been thinking about this transition for many years, and believe this to be the right time. This will afford me the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of young men, not only to help them develop as baseball players, but also more importantly, as human beings. I had ample opportunity to continue my playing career, but feel that I can give so much more as a manager and a leader. I feel this decision will be extraordinarily fulfilling to me personally and professionally and look forward to tackling the challenges that lie ahead. I am ecstatic that the Red Sox, which I think is the best organization in baseball, believe in me enough to give me this opportunity. I see the minor leagues not only as a place where I can learn and develop, but I'm going to be rewarded emotionally and spiritually. To have an extreme impact on somebody's life can be much more powerful than hitting a home run."

Yup, I'm pretty sure that's exactly the way Casey Stengel would have put it. Something tells me Kapler is going to do all right for himself in his new career path.

• Man, Gerry Callahan's snide browbeating of Julio Lugo a few mornings ago sure did an effective job of turning me into a Lugo fan. Someone needs to tell the 'EEI zeppelins that Lugo was found not guilty of assaulting his now-ex-wife, and I'd say it's a credit to his character that he was given custody of their children. This is not Wil Cordero, people. I'm not sure why the Sox are so enthralled with him as a ballplayer, but the least we can do is give the person a chance.

• I'm still wondering who's going to be coming out the 'pen with a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, but for now I'll give Theo Epstein his props for culling together a relatively deep relief corps by buying low on some previously successful pitchers. Brendan Donnelly likely would be voted Most Likely to Be Found With Sandpaper Taped To His Glove should such a poll be put to his peers, but he's been a very effective setup guy for the Angels through the years, and consistent middle relievers (that's practically an oxymoron) usually cost more than the likes of Phil Seibel. As for J.C. Romero, he's got control problems, both in terms of stuff and temperament, but he's been overpowering in the past, and even during his struggles with the Angels last season, he still retired lefty hitters at around an 80 percent clip. He's worthy of at least a look, and he could end up being a bargain.

• It's funny, but I seem to get just as many comments and emails about "The Office" nowadays as I do about the Sox and Pats. At first I wasn't quite sure what to make of it - the last thing I want is to turn it into my own personal "The O.C./90210," if you get my drift - but I'm pleased to know that so many other people are into this brilliantly written and acted show; it's criminally underrated, both by the Nielsen boxes and the awards shows. (When will John Krasinski get some respect for his nuanced performance as heartbroken good-guy Jim? Or how about an Emmy nod for Rainn Wilson, who becomes Dwight Schrute? And I'm guessing you know how our heart races for the radiant Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam with an irresistible balance of sweetness and subversiveness.) This week's episode, "A Benihana Christmas," was as pitch-perfect as any in Season 3, from Dwight's Christmas miracle . . . to Michael's "bold" Photoshop blunder . . . to Jim's revealing pep-talk . . . to Michael "marking" the waitress . . . to Karen and Pam teaming up to take down Angela. This show is so consistently, gut-bustingly hilarious, I almost forget about the underlying theme of loneliness. You might even say it gives me goosebumps.

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