Archive for October, 2009

Patriots Looking to Battle in England

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

In what I am sure is or will be an overplayed thought of irony, the New England Patriots will be playing in Olde England this Sunday.  But hey, what’s the point of beating something to death if you can’t get a few licks in yourself.

New England Patriot's Minutemen

New England Patriot's Minutemen

I wonder if the Minutemen will be making the trip as well.  Will there be British hooligans who will dress up in matching red coats and start firing blanks from the opposing end zone?

The franchise took the mascot from the local history of Boston, that of the patriots who defied the British crown and launched into a long and bloody war to win their independence.  And how does the loser of this war gracefully accept defeat?: By allowing us to showcase our favorite sport on their soil, a sport for which they do not seem to care.

The whole thing seems pretty “whatever” anyway.  Taking a look at the event page on Wembley Stadium‘s site, there seems to be little effort into checking of their statements accuracy.

The Buccaneers and Patriots have been two of the NFL’s most successful teams in recent years, combining to win four of the past seven Super Bowls.  Both clubs are strong contenders for a return trip to the playoffs this season.

I’m not sure if a team without a win going into week seven is much of a contender.  I can’t remember what the chat at the beginning of the season was, but I don’t think that the Bucs were regarded as a potential playoff team (ESPN’s Power Rankings at the start of the season had them 26th), especially being in the same division as the Saints and the Falcons.  And with their quarterback situation uncertain (Byron Leftwich being the frontrunner).  It was like starting the season without really having a solidified goaltending lineup (see what I did there, used a football reference).

The [Patriots] is bidding for its sixth consecutive AFC East division championship.

Unfortunately, while they tied with the Miami Dolphins record-wise, the Fins were not actually the division champs due to tie-breaking rules.

I’m half expecting that they get stuck trying to find the stadium from their hour-long trip form their hotel, and do a little sightseeing along the way: maybe see Big Ben, and Parliament.  And Big Ben and Parliament, and Big Ben…

Side note: I’m guessing that Pittsburgh is going to head over there soon so they can put up Roethlisberger’s mug everywhere.  Maybe against Seattle, so they can fly 12-or-so hours.

Some lovely ladettes with their knickers down a tad

Some lovely ladettes with their knickers down a tad

I hope that they don’t have to make a pitstop in Cardiff, and hang out with some of these lovely ladies.  There might be some trouble there.

But dealing with the game itself, I suppose the Krafts are happy since Tampa Bay had to give up their home game (giving the Glazers another tough decision: Pats v Bucs, or the Liverpool v Man U match just three hours beforehand… I bet I know what is a bigger deal to our friends across the pond).

I don’t expect them to pitch another shutout, but with their offense finally clicking (Brady is not overthrowing Randy Moss, which seems nearly impossible) and their defense starting to taking shape, it would seem that New England has an advantage over Tampa Bay (some lines are at 15.5).

Facing their second winless team in a row, the Pats need to just get out of England with a W and head into the bye-week at 5-2 to begin preparations on their toughest stretch of games: Miami (unpredictable), at Indy, the Jets (revenge game?), at New Orleans, and at Miami.

Maybe the Beginning of the End

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

I always wondered when the end would come to the Boston sports scene, and I think this past weekend would be a good chunk of it.

Since a nice surprising Super Bowl victory with a young, second-string quarterback in Tom Brady at the beginning of 2002, Boston has pretty much dominated the sports world (well, at least here in the States).  Three Super Bowls (no titles before), two World Series (first in a really long time), and an NBA title (a model franchise that hasn’t been relevant in 15 years).

Every team goes through cycles, a few good years and then lean years in between.  So it stands to reason that with all the collective success of the teams in the past few years there is going to be a decline in production followed by “rebuilding” seasons.

I think the apex was Super Bowl XLII.  The Red Sox just won the World Series a few months before, and the Celtics would go on to win the Championship months later beating their archrivals, LA Lakers.  But that Super Bowl had possibly one of the greatest NFL teams in history, entering the game at 18-0, and they lost it in the way they have been known to win them: by allowing Eli Manning to march down the field in under two minutes to get the go-ahead touchdown.

Not only did a New York team beat a Boston/New England team, but it was maybe one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history (better than XXXVI with the Pats over St. Louis).  Thankfully, the Celtics were able to help remove some of the sting in June.  And let’s not forget the Bruins having a surprisingly good first-round exit against the Montreal Canadiens, by taking them to a game seven after it looked as though the Habs were going to just run right though them.

Then the Red Sox looked to repeat their World Series win, and finally dealt away Manny Ramirez at the trading deadline to get Jason Bay.  Instead of making the World Series though, they lost in game seven of the ALCS to the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.  It was easy to say that it was a somewhat-successful series, with an injured Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to get that far, and give hope for 2009.

Then there was the 2008 New England Patriots: about eight minutes in the the first game of the season, reigning MVP (with 50 regular season touchdowns the previous) Tom Brady has his knee explode, and Pats season was over.  The one player who everyone states they can’t lose is gone.  And then a 230-draft pick replaced a 199-draft pick, and Matt Cassel learned to be a pro-quarterback taking them to an 11-5 season.  Usually that would have been good enough to get into the postseason, and it looked promising with the team getting better as the season continued. But in a fluke year, the record wasn’t good enough, and so the Pats missed the playoffs after reaching the Super Bowl the year before..

The Red Sox lost to Tampa Bay, and then later on the Celtics lost Kevin Garnett to major leg issues.  The Cs barely beat a young and athletic Chicago Bulls, and took the eventual Eastern conference champs Orlando Magic to seven games before losing.  There was also the number-one seed Bruins who cruised through the first round of the playoffs by sweeping the Habs, only the have a seven-game crushing defeat in the second round to the former Hartford Whalers (the Carolina Hurricanes).

The 2009 Red Sox started of red hot; killing the Yankees in eight games and building a nice lead, only to have it dwindle by the All-Star break.  Then they couldn’t get anything done, losing bad games, and just getting manhandled by the Yankees only getting one win in their remaining games.  The 2009 Patriots started off 3-1, with a fluky win against Buffalo, tough wins against Atlanta and Baltimore (all at home).  The lone loss was on the road against the Jets, after their coach called each and every season ticket holder to make noise and help them to get the win; and it worked.

Which finally brings us to this weekend.

First off for the heck of it, let’s look at the Boston College Eagles: ouch.  Sure Virginia Tech is ranked fifth in the nation, but it would have been nice to put up a good game against them.  The score was 0-34… at halftime.  Finally getting a pair of touchdown in the fourth quarter, they would go on to lose 14-48.

Next on the list and in no particular order, the Pats went out to Denver have Bill Belichick go against another former assistant coach in Josh McDaniels (the problem with winning so often is that the coaching staff will be picked apart by other franchises).  For all the luck that the Patriots had in all their runs in the past few years, there isn’t much left.  After Denver would drive to get a game-tying touchdown, Tom Brady couldn’t drive the field, going 3-and-out, and then fumbling on the next possession.  In overtime, the defense that held Denver to not getting close to the red zone in their final possessions let Denver walk to field goal range and win the game.  Luck wasn’t on the Pats side to call the right side of a flipped coin.

If I was going to use excuses, losing Matt Light and new-favorite-target Ben Watson were injured during the game, but hey, everyone has injuries.

But, one loss on the road against a potential-playoff team is probably not the end of the world.  My buddy Gregg also pointed out that going 2-1 against Baltimore, Atlanta and Denver is pretty good.

The funny thing is that before the game, I told my girlfriend, who thinks I become psychotic when it comes to my teams’ losses, that whenever the Red Sox lose in a day the Pats seem to win, and vice versa.

And this brings us to the most disappointing of all the Boston showings this weekend, starting with Thursday night.  After limping at the end of the season (before a four-game sweep of a Cleveland team in limbo at Fenway once the wildcard was clinched, the Sox went 2-for-10) and backing into the postseason (thanks to Texas shanking some games at the end), the Red Sox were swept by the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, or whatever they’re called now.

For postseasons in recent history (during the Boston-awesome years), the Red Sox have dominated the Angels.  Setting aside the 1986 ALCS, the ALDS series in 2004 (3-0), 2007 (3-0), and 2008 (3-1) have been all Boston.  Sweeps are great; when your team is the winner.  And when they are the swept party, it isn’t as much fun.

In the first two games, the offense was anemic scoring one run total in both games.  The pitching wasn’t that bad in either game (and I’m not going to complain too much about the umpiring, since it was horrible and inconsistent for both teams; and I would say for the other ALDS as well).  The worst thing is that my friend Tyrone said that Boston wouldn’t go far without Manny Ramirez (a dominate hitter), and I said that they did pretty well without him in 2008 and for the most part in 2009.  And just looking at their postseason lineup on paper (J.D. Drew hitting eighth) seemed like a pretty good chance to produce runs.

Through the first two games, there were 8 hits, 1 run and 4 walks.

Then game three.  Up 6 runs to 4, going into the top of the ninth, usually sure-handed (especially in the postseason) Papelbon entered the game.  While he only had three blown-saves in the season, it seemed as a lot of his appearances have been anything be easy.  It always seemed  like he gave up a home run, or loaded the bases, but usually finding a way to get out of them.  I guess he went to the well one too many times; eventually it would catch up to him, especially against a team like the Angels.  Three runs.

I didn’t expect them to beat Anaheim this postseason, limping into the postseason and definitely after not showing up for the first two games, but avoiding the sweep would have shown a little pride.

And to compound the misery of the Sox fandom, the New York Yankees are showing they are the most dominate team in the playoffs.  After a lackluster start, the Yankees went on an impressive regular season run to finish up with 103 wins.  Even worse is the people producing for them: Jeter (as usual), Teixeira (the guy who the Sox could have signed), and A-Rod.  Rodriguez known for putting up bagels in the postseason, especially when it matters the most (Mr. Unclutch), has been unbelievable (mostly because I can’t believe it).  Six RBIs, game-tying home runs, and all-around clutch hitting.  Is it freedom from his steroids-secret?  Dating Kate Hudson (why Kate, why?)?  Whatever it is, I’m not a fan.

So, maybe this is it.  New York is going to become good while the Boston teams are going to slide.  Giants are good (especially against Oakland’s JV team), the Jets beat the Pats with their screaming fans.  The Sox can’t score a run, the Yankees can’t lose.  The Celtics have one more year with the Big Three, and the Knicks will have enough money to sign LeBron for the 2010 off-season.

Maybe there is something to this Mayan calendar doomsday of 2012.