Archive for the 'Celtics' Category

Boston Rules and Resistance is Futile

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mvp2.pngYesterday the Dowbrigade and his son and cameraman Gabriel joined half a million other Boston sports fans to celebrate the latest World Championship by a local sports team. Yawn. Then we stopped for Brazilian Bar-B-Q on the way home. Ho hum.

How jaded we have become, here in the Hub! Somehow life seems empty if one of the local teams isn’t playing for a cup, or trophy, or title. What we have here is a unique and unprecedented confluence of statistical, psychic and socio-cultural factors, bringing championships to Boston by the bandwagon.

We have already taken credit for the Major Mojo behind this run of competitive success. However, it occurs to us that most people may not be aware of how deep and widespread this reign of triumph currently is.

For example, how many readers are aware that the Walpole, MA Little League team was declared the default 2007 Little League World Series winner, due to the retroactive age-related disqualifications of players from the Macon, Georgia and Osaka, Japan teams which finished ahead of them?

And how about the news that the Boston team at the National Conference of Mayors won the annual City Government Softball Tournament final 17-6 after cleanup hitter Tom Tom Menino pointed to the left field wall, mumbled something unintelligible and smashed the crap out of an 0-2 knuckleball from Michael Bloomberg.

While the “Big Three” of Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox grab all the headlines, true sports fans are aware that there are other champions in town. The New England Revolution have been to the MLS finals three years in a row, earning the unfortunate sobrioquet “Buffalo Bills of the MLS”.

But further down the food chain of professional sports, who knew that the Boston Tea Bags recently finished first in the Gay Para Olympics. Or that the Boston Bonsais of the Professional Flower Arranging League last year won the Bouquet Bowl?It is a shame only the Bay Windows weekly rag reported that the Boston Stylistics captured the American Stylists 2008 Coiff-Off held recently in Las Vegas. They Blow!

Among female competitors, local teams at the top of their respective sports include the Boston Ballbreakers of the Womens Amateur Rugby Association and the New England Nannies who recently triumphed in the World Child Care Olympics in Manchester, England.

And who could forget the Boston Blueballs, who traveled to Fugloysund, Norway for the Competitive Ice-Swimming Team Championship and won! Go Blueballs!

But Boston’s good fortune has not been limited to nominal grown-ups. Our many excellent college teams have also been bringing home titles at a rate that has the laurel leaves falling faster than foliage in the fall. Why, just during the past academic year, MIT took home both the US Collegiate Chess Championship and the NCAA Robot Rhythmic Gymnastics Cup. In between Harvard won the Super-Ego Bowl.

Speaking of bowls, BC triumphed in the 2008 GE College Bowl as well as the Champs Sports Bowl, and Northeastern staggered home with the 2008 Beer Pong title. Brandeis took the team title at the Maccabee Games and a Bentley won the Paris-Dakar Road Rally. In a major upset, BU won the Division 3 Football Championship, even though they haven’t had a football team for ten years.

Flipping through the cable lineup we also note that New Englanders have been on a competitive reality show tear, having recently won America’s Top Model, Celebrity Chef Cookoff, American Idle (a slacker spin-off), Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother, I Survived a Japanese Game Show, America Gladiator, The Great Race, Fear Factor, Top Design, America’s Got Talent, The Biggest Loser and The Apprentice.

The popularity of Boston has been noted and rewarded by a plethora of national publications and professional associations which have recently named our fair city, among other things, America’s Voted Most Livable City, Best Sports Bars, Top Singles Scene, Best Managed City, Most Scenic Urban Area, Best Educated City, Best Junk Food, Most Interesting Eccentrics, America’s Friendliest Citizens and, in an incredible coup, Best Weather in the Continental United States.

In addition to a continuing cavalcade of championships, we can look forward to an accelerating parade of world-class events. Boston has been recently selected to host the 2010 Miss Universe Pageant, the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2020 World Cup. In 2012 both the Democrats and the Republicans plan to have their nominating conventions here.

So enjoy it while it lasts, boys and girls, but be ready to relocate for a while. When the party ends, there’ll be the devil to pay. Balancing the karmic books can be a bitch.

Watch the video we shot yesterday

Hallelujah!

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Wednesday night’s summary execution of the Sonics by the Celtics, 111-82, was more of a mercy killing than a duel, and  looked at times like a gaggle of Junior High JVs against a team of McDonald’s All-Americans. Pleased as punch with the new-look Celtics, we can’t help reflecting on the unique dynamic of roundball among professional team sports.

Basketball is perhaps the team sport in which a single individual can have the most impact. In no other team sport can the replacement of a handful of players transform a team from pathetic to proficient overnight.  At the same time, in no other sport is the sacrifice of individual achievement more essential to the success of the team.

Obviously, part of the reason that replacing a couple of starters can have a bigger effect in basketball than in baseball,  football or soccer is that those 2 players represents 40% of a starting lineup in B-ball. However, we see it as even more crucial due to the higher degree of personal interaction between players during the play of the game.

Unlike the wind-swept acreage of a football stadium or a soccer pitch, in the pressure cooker of a basketball court all five players are constantly aware of the location of each of their teammates and opponents, and are in constant voice communication, calling out plays, warnings, razzings, encouragement, heads-ups, timing cues and defensive schemes and switches. Unencumbered by helmets or face masks they are able to keep up a constant interplay of verbal messages to accompany the improvisational physical ballet being created on the court.

We are certainly not the first to note the similarities between a sweetly syncopated starting five and a quality jazz quintet; both work from set progressions and then improvise off of them. Hoops is the skat of sports, the bebop of ball games. Changing a couple of the players can completely alter the style and effect of the music produced.

In the case of the Celtics, three of this year’s starting five, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo, were here last year, playing basically the same roles. The missing starters, Al Jefferson and Delonte West, have been replaced by Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. On paper, at least, the Celts have only gained 5 points a game from the switch (Allen 18 + Garnett 18 vs. Jefferson 21 + West 10), and as a counterbalance Paul Pierce is averaging 5 points less per game this year than last! Yet last year they won 29% of their games, and this year, 81%.

This turnaround can’t help but give hope to hapless franchises like Memphis (23%), Minnesota (22%) and Miami (17%). Hang in there, guys – you’re just a trade or two from the Finals!

At the same time, and for the some of the same reasons, the chemistry and integrated intensity of the five players on the court (as well as the bench) can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse faster in B-ball than in any other sport. By sacrificing individual stats and achievements to mutual goals even a total NBA toad like last year’s Celtics can be transformed into a prince in short order.

The numbers are hard to argue with; see Paul Pierce, above. Or how about the Big Ticket himself; last year Garnett averaged three more points and three more rebounds for a Minnesota team that finished 18 games below .500. Ray Allen is currently dropping in 8 points less than his prodigious production on a woebegone Seattle team a year ago.

Each of these superstars has given up a spot standing atop the scorer’s list for a communal seat at the top of the team standings and a guaranteed ticket for a ride deep into the NBA playoffs. And you can tell, from their comments, demeanor and production, that they are as happy as clams with the trade off. To borrow a baseball idiom, they are paying more attention to the name on the front of the uniform than the name on the back, and it’s paying off.

At long last, after twenty years of off-tune tweeting and sour squawking, beautiful music is pouring out of the Garden once again. Hallelujah!