Thursday, December 20, 2007

I said the audience was heavenly/But the traveling was hell

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free non-denial denials from 'Roidin' Roger for you . . .

1. Since sometime around, oh, the final 1/10th of a second in the loss to Detroit, I've been trying to come up with a Celtics player from the last 20 years or so who is as dumb on the basketball court as Tony Allen. (Maybe dumb is too harsh a word. Erratic? Untrustworthy? Instinctively challenged? Maddening? Nope, dumb's the word.) The best/worst I can come up with is Ray Williams, the scattershot former Knick who had a 23-game cameo with the Celts in 1984-85. Williams was ridiculously out of control - his approach to offense could be described as "jump 'n' fling" - but in a much more entertaining way than Allen, who always seems to make a mistake that everyone in the building but him sees coming. The kid does try, and he has above-average physical talent when he's knee is right, but I don't know if he'll ever overcome his negative basketball IQ. Right now, he's the basketball version of Bethel Johnson.

2. I still say Johan Santana ends up in pinstripes, once one of these repetitive reports claiming the Red Sox remain the frontrunner for the ace lefthander actually convinces Hank "Boy George" Steinbrenner to overrule Brian Cashman and include Ian Kennedy along with Philip Hughes. The Yankees need him, they can afford him, and they will get him. And frankly, I'm just fine with that.

3. Man, the Tuna just can't stay away from the action, can he? I guess that's what you should expect from someone who lives in Saratoga. I think we all agree, however, that ESPN's loss is the league's gain - the NFL is just plain more entertaining when Bill Parcells is involved. The Dolphins certainly fit his mode of operation - he always seems to take over a team that appears to be at rock-bottom, but one that owns valuable assets (in this case, Ronnie Brown and the No. 1 pick). Then, he will clean house of the miscreants, bring in a few of His Guys and savvy vets (this is the perfect home for Chad Pennington), and voila, he looks like a genius when the team goes 8-8. Hey, we never said he wasn't shrewd, and of course it'll be fascinating to watch him go head-to-head with former underling Bill Belichick these next few seasons. I'm sure it's a kick to his massive ego that some now wonder whether Belichick was the real mastermind of the Giants' two Super Bowl victories.

4. I'm not sure Gary Payton has enough left in the tank to help the Celtics on the court - I don't trust anyone older than me to play point guard in the NBA, and for all of his wisdom he might be a little too, um, direct to mentor Rajon Rondo - but it's worth remembering that he's indirectly made an immense contribution to this team already. Payton, you'll recall, was one of the players Kevin Garnett consulted while doing his legwork on Boston before deciding he'd be willing to come here, and the artist formerly known as the Glove apparently had nothing but good things to say about his time here. Hell, maybe Danny Ainge should reward him with that open roster spot for that alone.

5. Mark these words: Sportsman of the Year/Peter King Mancrush Brett Favre will cough up a hairball in a playoff game (two dumb picks, minimum), and some team (New York? Tampa Bay?) that none of the experts think can beat the Packers will. Favre's renaissance this year has been a joy to watch, but it stuns me how often he'll throw the ball up for grabs rather than hanging in there and taking a hit. The likes of King are too busy fawning over him to notice that he's not quite the gritty, gutty gunslinger he's made out to be - he's a guy with some savvy, a strong arm, an overwhelming instinct to protect his own hide, and a better supporting cast than anyone realized. That won't be enough.

6. Is there a more underrated play-by-play announcer in any sport, locally or on the national scene, than the Celtics' Mike Gorman? His unassuming style makes it very easy to take him for granted, but he's a total pro, has great pipes and an unobtrusive catchphrase or two ("Pierce . . . count it!"), and gets extra credit for keeping Heinsohn from mauling an official all these years. The only Boston play-by-play guy I enjoy nearly as much is Gil Santos, and at this point he's slipped so much that should ol' No. 80, Troy Brown, catch a pass this Sunday, I fully expect he will be identified as older No. 80, Irving Fryar.

7. Geez, maybe this kid is the backup point guard the Celtics need. Check out Sebastian Telfair's line tonight in the Kevin McHale T-Wolves' 131-118 win over the Larry Bird Pacers: 48 minutes, 11-18 from the field, 5-5 from the line, 27 points, 11 assists, 1 turnover. To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of it - the gem could be a sign he's growing into his talent, or it could be just another tease - but I do find myself rooting for him for some reason. Sure, he's had his share of trouble and controversy, most of it self-inflicted, but he strikes me as a generally decent kid who puts the work in and wants to do the right thing, and that can't come easily for him considering one of his lifelong role models is his cousin, Stephon Marbury.

8. According to longtime reader Jill H., OK! Magazine - the gossip rag that all but locked up a Pulitzer with its groundbreaking coverage of Britney's sister's pregnancy - is reporting that Official Muse of TATB (Non-Wife Division) Jenna Fischer is dating . . . David Spade. You know, David Spade: the Chris Farley-leeching, Hermey-the-dentist-looking, mean-spirited, smarmy little actor who happens to be the reason Eddie Murphy refuses to appear on "Saturday Night Live." Yeah . . . him. I'm holding out hope that OK! is not the bastion of journalistic integrity I believe it to be and that this will be proved false, but for now it seems appropriate to quote Jim Halpert here: Congratulations, universe. You win.

9. I have to admit, I had second, third, and fourth thoughts about my criticism of those national baseball writers and analysts who raced to defend the players in the immediate aftermath of the Mitchell Report while simultaneously disregarding their own Three Blind Mice role in this entire epic mess. Part of the reason was that I realized that if I were in their position, as someone who had a Blackberry full of contacts and genuine insider access, I too might be reluctant to risk becoming a professional pariah for the sake of a story that would devastate a game that means so much to me. I suppose that means I'd be a lousy investigative reporter, but I have to admit, it's probably the truth. It also dawned on me that there were some extremely accomplished reporters - T.J. Quinn of the Daily News and now ESPN comes to mind - who were on the case constantly and yet couldn't entirely crack it, so maybe I was foolish to think any old big-time baseball writer with an ounce of ambition could. That said, it's worth noting that one of the writers I ripped understood my take. Here's what Peter Gammons said in an email a few days after the post:

Very fair criticism. I do feel that the way Mitchell threw names out there was sloppy . . . and I am one who cannot bring myself to presume guilt without some proof in the cases of the assumed. I love the sport and I enjoy the players, and I am wrestling with the fairness of a handful of players being found guilty when the entire industry was apparently infected. I'm glad I have five years to decide on my Hall of Fame ballot. [But} the defrauding of all baseball records is sad, not for me who really doesn't care that much about records, but for the millions who do. Again, thanks for being fair.

Hey, no matter how you feel about his point of view, you have to give Gammons some credit for admitting some culpability. Most people of his professional stature would begin an email to the likes of me with something along the lines of "Dear lowly maggot peon know-nothing basement-dwelling mom-snuggling blogger: Go %*$%*%*#@$*ourself and your little dog too." And that probably includes some people I work with.

10. As for today's Completely Random Football Card:

Hard to believe considering he'd still rank among my five or six all-time favorite Patriots (and a runaway No. 1 among athletes I've interviewed), but I kinda forgot Lawyer Milloy was still in the league until he publicly shredded, spindled and mutilated that slippery weasel Bobby Petrino after he abandoned the Falcons to go scurrying back to college. Milloy doesn't strike me as a guy who has a lot of regrets, and his bank account certainly justifies any career decisions he has made, but I always thought of him as an athlete who made winning his No. 1 priority, and I wonder if he's ever lamented the way his Patriots career came to an end.

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