Monday, November 29, 2021

Not So Hot Takes, By Dan Shaughnessy

With the Patriots winning yesterday's game against the Titans, Shank focuses on Mac Jones and one key aspect of the current football season:
Mac Jones can take the hits, make the plays, manage the game — and play in the cold

Mac Jones keeps checking the boxes, passing the tests.

Managing the game. Check. Completion percentage. Check. Pocket presence. Check. Taking the hits. Check. Inspiring teammates. Check. Winning close games. Check.

Now a new one. Mac Jones Sunday showed he can play in a cold weather game, too.

This wasn’t Patriots vs. Titans at Gillette in January of 2004 (windchill, minus 10 degrees) when Tom Brady and Co. beat the Titans, 17-14, in a playoff rock fight. It wasn’t the Snow Bowl Tuck Rule Game against the Raiders. It wasn’t Orchard Park, N.Y., in December (that’ll be next week).

But it was near freezing with snow showers in Foxborough and privileged folks in the red seats stayed inside by the big fireplaces while Jones completed 23 of 32 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-13 demolition of Mike Vrabel’s top-seeded Titans. Jones was sacked twice, but didn’t have to do much after a spectacular 41-yard touchdown pass play to Kendrick Bourne made it 26-13 with five minutes left in the third.
One game's an awfully small sample size, but we'll know more next week at Buffalo.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

DHL Dan CLX - Now With More Duende!

Shank recalls a few good local sporting moments:
Recalling some great Boston ‘duende’ moments, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while wondering if Mike Vrabel has any rule-book trickeration in store for Bill Belichick …

▪ In this space last weekend, we asked for submissions of Boston sports “duende” moments, like the Kyle Schwarber mock ovation when the Schwarb made a clean play in the playoffs, and the famous “Beat LA” chant at the Old Garden in 1982.

The response was overwhelming. Dozens of you fondly recalled the Red Sox home opener in 2005, when all the Yankees were booed during introductions right up until closer Mariano Rivera received a standing ovation for his role in the 2004 playoffs (Rivera blew the save in Game 4 when Dave Roberts triggered a comeback for the ages with the Stolen Base Heard ’Round the World).

There were plenty of other great suggestions, some too dated, arcane, or difficult to prove.

Some duende nuggets that made the cut: Ray Bourque giving his No. 7 jersey to Phil Esposito and switching to No. 77 when Espo was honored at the Old Garden in 1987; a long standing ovation for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he set the NBA field goal record at the Old Garden in 1984; TD Garden fans singing the national anthem a capella before the first Bruins game after the Marathon bombings; Fenway fans chanting “steroids” at Jose Canseco in 1988, long before anybody knew it was true; Cape Cod families annually opening their homes to host college baseball players for Cape League summers; Globe Pulitzer winner Stan Grossfeld getting the photo of bullpen cop Steve Horgan making a perfect “W” by raising his arms next to an upside-down Torii Hunter when David Ortiz’s homer changed the 2013 ALCS.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

DHL Dan CLIX - Belichick Is Back

Shank does some backtracking on the Patriots coach...
Bill Belichick is right back to being, well, Bill Belichick, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while waiting for the Bills to lose to the Colts and restore the Patriots to the top spot in the AFC East …

▪ In short order, we have seen the rightful restoration of the legacy of Bill Belichick. The waves in Nantucket sound were getting choppy around Hoodie’s “VIII Rings” boat in early October. The Patriots were 1-3, coming off the heels of 7-9 with Cam Newton last season. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was a Super Bowl champ — looking good to do it again this season — and the Belichick haters had their day.

Belichick never won anything without Brady … The whole dynasty was because Bill had Tom … Belichick the GM failed Belichick the coach … The Patriots were just another team … Hubris and arrogance will get you every time …
So - pretty much what Shank was saying two months ago!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Another Excerpt From Shank's Latest Book

The Boston Globe published a little more from Shank's book on the Larry Bird era Celtics:
Book excerpt: Remembering the first Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals of the Larry Bird era

The Celtics host the Lakers Friday night at TD Garden (wotta coincidence! - ed.) , and any renewal of one of the great NBA rivalries always conjures memories of their historic matchups.

With that in mind, this has been excerpted from “Wish It Lasted Forever — Life With the Larry Bird Celtics” by Dan Shaughnessy. Copyright ©2021 by Dan Shaughnessy. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

The Bird-Magic Finals of the NBA’s golden 1980s — the Celtics and Lakers met three times in a stretch of four seasons between 1984-87 — were like the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier title fights. The first of the three Bird-Magic bouts came in 1984 after the Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, while the Lakers advanced in the West against the Phoenix Suns.

CBS was ecstatic. Boston-LA meant that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson would be meeting in a championship event for the first time since NBC set unbreakable ratings records with its broadcast of the Bird-Magic NCAA Final in 1979. At least one of them had been in the NBA Finals in each of their first four NBA seasons, but this was the first championship series featuring both.

The Celtics and Lakers were the Yankees and Dodgers of pro basketball. They’d played in seven NBA Finals from 1959 to 1969 with Boston winning every one. Lakers fans were haunted by the 1962 finale, when Frank Selvy’s potential series winner clanged off the rim at the Boston Garden. LA general manager Jerry West experienced what he called the low point of his life when the Lakers couldn’t beat Boston in 1969. A Celtics-Lakers Final in 1984 meant that the league’s two showcase franchises accounted for 60 percent (23 of 38) of all NBA crowns in the first four decades of the league’s existence. (In the COVID summer of 2020, the LeBron James Lakers won their seventeenth NBA crown, finally tying the Celtics for most championship banners.)

Sunday, November 14, 2021

DHL Dan CLVIII - The Tuna Speaks

Shank caught up to the former New England Patriots coach and gets his opinion on a few things:
Picked-up pieces while stacking cordwood …

▪ Bill Parcells was the last Patriots coach to turn his team over to a rookie quarterback. In his first season as New England’s head coach (1993), the Tuna put the ball in the hands of No. 1 overall pick Drew Bledsoe and watched the Patriots lose 11 of their first 12 games. The Patriots finished with a four-game win streak, made the playoffs a year later, and went to the Super Bowl in Bledsoe’s fourth season.

Fast-forward to 2021 and Parcells likes what he is seeing from Bill Belichick’s Patriots and rookie quarterback Mac Jones.

“I’ll tell you something,” Parcells said from his Florida home. “I thought last week’s Patriots game was superb. I liked their time of possession [32:29]. That’s my kind of game right there. I really like that.

“The guy [Jones] is taking care of the ball and you had control of the game from beginning to end. You can’t ask anything else of a quarterback. If you can play like that, you’re going to win a lot of games. I really think they’ve got a good chance. I really do.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

What's Old Is New Again

It seems Shank wrote a book about the 1980's era Boston Celtics recently, and now there's an excerpt or two making the rounds. Here's part of one of them:
During the 1985 Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia, Bird’s ever-crooked right index finger was newly mangled and swollen.

The day before Game 5, Bird practiced with his right hand taped in a web-like fashion. His ring and pinky fingers were wrapped together, as were his middle and index fingers. At the end of practice, he stopped on his way to the locker room and took questions.

“Larry, you can’t play in a playoff game with your hand taped like that, can you?” I asked.

“You never know,” he teased. “It’s a different feeling. I don’t like anything taped because then it just doesn’t feel like it usually does. It’s difficult to shoot when you have something on your hand. Although I don’t think Greg Kite has anything to worry about. He could wear a cast.”

“But seriously,” I pushed. “You’re not going to tape it like that for the game tomorrow, are you?”

“Scoop, I could tape my whole hand up and make more shots than you.”


The worse I got, the better he got. Bird made 46 of his last 50. He made 73 of 80 after figuring it out in the first two rounds. He made 86 of 100 free throws with a taped fist. I made 54.

“You owe me $160,” he said.
Seems a few details were left out of this 'excerpt', like - 'how'd Bird's hand get injured?' and 'did Shank actually cough up $160 to Larry Legend?' First question first:
Larry was MVP in ’84, ’85, and ’86, and the height of his powers was ’85. He was on the cover of Time magazine and it was a big deal. That’s when he had the 60-point game in New Orleans against the Atlanta Hawks. So, we found out later he’d gotten in a barroom fight in downtown Boston, down by Faneuil Hall. It was a bar, I think it was called Chelsea’s. Larry had come to the defense of a teammate, or some issue, and doing the old-school Indiana thing he swung at a guy and he messed up his hand. And he was taping it at practice, and it was a very odd-looking kind of a web-taping, splitting his hand into two sets of fingers.
And question #2 - Dan Shaughnessy, cheapskate!
HIMMELSBACH: So wait, you expensed the $160 that you lost in a shooting contest?

SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, and evidently the IRS frowns on the word ‘wager’ in expense accounts, (because it's a personal expense, maybe? - ed.) because it bounced back and they said ‘You cannot put ‘wager’ in an expense account.’ So I just made it eight $20 lunches with [Celtics center] Robert Parish. We just substituted.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Guess Who's Back On The Patriots Bandwagon?

With the 2021 Patriots getting a winning record at 5-4, Shank dusts off the pom-poms:
The Patriots are back, so let us be the first to suggest how great a Belichick vs. Brady Super Bowl would be
Getting way ahead of ourselves here, or what?
Here we go.

The Patriots destroyed the Carolina Panthers, 24-6, in Charlotte Sunday. That’s three straight for New England so brace yourself for a surge of “the Pats are back” stories from local and national media outlets.

Gentlemen, start your search engines. Let’s harken back to a time not so long ago when the Patriots were the dominant team in football, occasionally bending a few rules and running over just about every team in their path.

It was not so long ago. New England was a dynasty. Every other team was a Tomato Can. The Pats had Coke-bottle-glasses-Ernie Adams devising diabolical adjustments at halftime. The Pats had Dante Scarnecchia sculpting harmonic, tenacious offensive lines. The Pats had tough, Swiss-Army-knife slot guys like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. The Patriots had the greatest tight end of all time, Rob Gronkowski. They had the greatest quarterback of all time . . . a man named Brady.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

DHL Dan CLVII - Piling On The Celtics

We saw Shank swipe themes from The Sports Hub and do a column on the Celtics earlier this week. Today he keeps going:
Getting an early take on the Celtics from Brad Stevens, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while trying to watch the Celtics without thinking about how much better the NBA was when Bird & Co. roamed the parquet …

▪ The 2021-22 Celtics have already received a full season’s worth of local scorn for hideous losses, blown leads, and the appearance of internal strife. They seemed to respond positively after veteran Marcus Smart called them out earlier in the week, but they still haven’t won a home game yet.
Never mind that the two games since Smart's callout were both road games; it's just another way to criticize the team.
Brad Stevens coached these guys for eight years and now serves as president of basketball operations (the new Danny Ainge). I caught up with Stevens Friday morning after the Celtics’ impressive blowout of the Heat in Miami Thursday.

Monday, November 01, 2021

The Jerry Remy Column

The longtime Red Sox broadcaster and former player has been battling health problems for a few years now, and finally passed away yesterday. Here's Shank on Jerry Remy:
Jerry Remy was a terrific baseball player, and that’s where the legend began

Before he was “The RemDawg,” he was Jerry Remy, Red Sox All-Star second baseman.

On a splendid Halloween Sunday morning, Red Sox Nation learned that Remy over the weekend lost his seventh and final battle with cancer. No more will we hear him explaining the fine art of bunting and what it was like to grow up worshipping Yaz in Somerset and then make it all the way to Fenway’s infield where he was Carl Yastrzemski’s teammate for six seasons.

After his big league playing days were over in 1984, Remy grew to be the face and voice of Boston’s vaunted baseball franchise as a color analyst on NESN. He opened restaurants, wrote books, sold RemDawg merchandise, and was elected president of Red Sox Nation. The RemDawg was popular with baseball diehards, casual fans, and even those who didn’t know Manny Ramirez from Hanley Ramirez.