Author: Sean

Sean (Contributor) is a Cambridge, MA resident by way of Warwick, RI. Lacking a professional team in the Ocean State he studied future Red Sox stars in AAA Pawtucket. He's more than willing to sell you his Brian Rose rookie cards. His tastes run the gamut from archery to Arena League. He knows how lucky he is to be a Boston fan at this time, and keeps a clip of the '92 NLCS on his desktop to remind him how a man named Francisco Cabrera could one day totally destroy your city's future. He has appeared on televised talent shows for his remarkable ability to name over 25 NBA teams.

Minus Their Super Brother, Rockets Still Smashing

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McGrady is resting

It had all been going so well for the Houston Rockets. They were making a solid playoff push in the hellacious Western Conference, undefeated for the past month. Under first-year skipper Rick Adelman and a still-stingy defense left over from Jeff Van Gundy, the Toyota Center was rocking from the opening tip to Rafer Alston’s dribbling out the clock. Houston’s win streak didn’t exactly catapult them up the ladder but it did solidify them as a team to contend with, especially in a season where the playoffs might end up looking like hockey’s: an utterly chaotic grind, no one safe, duck and cover. Even Tracy McGrady was getting his proper love. The cousin in Vince Carter’s grand and unnecessary shadow, McGrady is going on four years with his third team, and as option #1A on the Rockets, the 28 year old was hitting his prime in stride, piloting Houston to a 12th straight victory with a 110-97 dub over the Bulls. The very next day, according to the entirety of the voices covering the NBA, their beatdown of Chicago became the high point of the season.

See, that day franchise center and all-around tall man Yao Ming went down for the season. Read More

One Column For The Price Of One

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Barnsley

It’s been three weeks since the Patriots gagged away the Super Bowl on a house blitz. I’ve kept down food for six days now and the green/red contrast isn’t blurring anymore, so Doc. Eakin gave me the a-okay to get writing again. She was wonderful, thank you, Doctor! Whenever I clamp down on a wood bit, I’ll think of you. Here’s what you may have missed:

-The NBA has seen been blown around by trade winds in the past two weeks, but the end result is the same: the Western Conference is strong. The addition of Pau Gasol to the Lakers makes LA a playoff favorite; their late game lineup of Derek Fisher/Jordan Farmar, Kobe, Lamar Odom, Gasol, and the returning Andrew Bynum may be the strongest in the league. There are questions about depth, but in a thirty team league depth, like chemistry, only matters if you absolutely lack it. Speaking of chemistry, Shawn Marion, who freely admitted he’d prefer to be a top dog on a terrible team, can now spread his team play and joys on the charred, crippled remains of the Miami Heat. With Shaquille O’Neal now manning the post for Phoenix, the big beneficiary of this deal is Amare Stoudamire. Back at power forward he terrorized the Lakers for 37 points and 15 boards Wednesday night. Jason Kidd’s return to Dallas is a win-now move which will put more pressure on Josh Howard to boost his 20 PPG average. The Spurs (Kurt Thomas), Hornets (Bonzi Wells), and the Jazz (Kyle Korver a few weeks ago) also made deals, lifting the fortunes of the top six teams in the West. To be fair to the East, the Cavs got Ben Wallace’s corpse! Read More

Live From Cambridge, Arizona (Friday)

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Calm Before The Storm

Tying up some loose ends, and then the big pick to follow…

Attention P. Burress: So you made a prediction for this week’s game. Here’s the problem. In 1969, the AFL was an unproven league, and while Joe Namath’s fabled guarantee was audacious, it wasn’t *too* audacious because no one had seen the Jets play an NFL squad, ever. The Colts were a great team but not nearly as good as the Packers teams blasting the AFL in the previous two seasons. Today, everyone’s seen the Patriots slap around the NFC East, and we know damn well what heights they can reach. “Predicting” the unbeatens will score their lowest point total of the season is more than a little stupid. The D was keying up on you and your weak ankle already. Ask Freddie Mitchell how that works out. I guess the two week layoff was just a little long, and you got bored. Shouldn’t have pulled a Tiki.

Attention B. Weiser: The news of your alcoholic beverages has at last reached Earth. Now everyone knows that when drinking Bud around animals, you will likely be bitten or head-butted in the crotch; also, when about to drink the last Bud Light, my friends will offer me ludicrous sums or fantastical trades. I have been convinced by your product and now protect my crotch at all-times. Therefore stop buying eight commercials to air at $2,700,000 apiece. In addition, when I buy a six pack, I now hide the other five as soon as I am home. I now own the rights to my cousin’s will, and my mailman chases dogs for my amusement. He was recently bitten in the crotch.

Attention J. Buck: Buck AikmanPlease, please just call the football game. No guests, no cartoon pigskin teaching the kids what an I formation is, no Taco Bell sponsored left upright, just play by play and analysis from Troy in the booth. And make Chris Myers realize what he’s done with his life. One minute he’s hosting Up Close and inventing “Did You Know”, the next he’s sucking up to the California Raisins at a 49ers-Ravens tilt. Get it together, Jub Jub. Read More

Live From Cambridge, Arizona (Thursday)

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An actual photo of Tom Petty

This continues our week long Super Bowl blog between our resident Patriots fan (Sean) and Giants fan (Serpico), leading up to the site’s PICKSTRAVAGANZA all day Friday.

Something is rankling me; please provide feedback. Oh, and before you start, yes, I’m well aware much of the following ultimately matters little. But it matters enough.

The Super Bowl has for forty-plus years been the pinnacle of our American pastime (sorry baseball). It’s an amalgamation of three different types of excess: swarming media coverage, with its all hours access and day-long pregame shows; football mania’s heroes and villains being built up and torn down in a single instant (plus the lore which brings back the MVPs and Hall of Famers to observe the current championship); and entertainment, be it from the glut of television commercials some find more interesting than the game itself and the opulent, insane halftime shows.

So here’s my issue and my question. It’s only two words. Tom Petty? Read More

Live From Cambridge, Arizona (Wednesday)

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Throwback Super BowlSuper Bowl Forty Two

This continues our week long Super Bowl blog between our resident Patriots fan (Sean) and Giants fan (Serpico), leading up to the site’s PICKSTRAVAGANZA all day Friday.

So this morning I woke up much too early and headed east. When I stopped heading east, the bright men and women of MIT administered an MRI. (They were measuring the amount of beeswax I had related to other peoples’, and the results, well…) As I lay immobilized in the sterile tubes, with thunderous, deep knocks rattling around the walls, I began to think about the coming week, and of Super Bowls past; anything to get the solid thumping out of my brain. What was the last Super Bowl played in Arizona? I counted backwards, year, teams and score, until I settled on it. Suddenly a lightning bolt flashed and fried through my synapses–the last Super Bowl in Arizona was this one.

Let’s put this together. In Super Bowl XXX (the raunchiest of the Big Games), back in 1996, you had on one hand the Dallas Cowboys. They were looking for their third Super Bowl in four years and trying to cement themselves as one of the great, if not the greatest, teams of all time. Under Barry Switzer the Cowboys had the best record in football and were a veteranDeion Sanders team, perhaps put over the top by the offseason acquisition of occasionally troublesome but impossibly productive Deion Sanders as shutdown corner. (Remind you of anyone?) They blew a huge chance to win on the road in the previous year’s NFC Championship Game, putting themselves in a 21 point hole to the hated rival 49ers. They entered the Super Bowl as 13 1/2 point favorites; this had nothing to do with the opposition but just the level of respect to the approaching Team of the Decade.

And who would be on the other end of this whomping? A perennial AFC underachiever looking to return to the glory days of twenty years past. The Pittsburgh Steelers under Bill Cowher had averaged 11 wins per year in his first four season but consistently screwed up in the playoffs. In 1992, a young team had been thumped in an “upset” at home by the mighty Buffalo Bills. No biggie. But by 1994, when an underdog Chargers team snuck into Three Rivers Stadium and snapped Terrible Towels off of Pittsburgh’s collective rear, grumbling began to surface along the Allegheny. The Steeler QB, Neil O’DonnellNeil O’Donnell, was a likable enough fellow, but he was still regarded as a tad too shaky to be a big-timer. (Again, remind you of anyone?) They struggled early in ’95, with just three wins after seven games. Their solid offense and stingy defense took turns winning games over the course of the next eight in a row, holding the Browns to 3 points one week, piling on 49 in Cincinnati the next. They won their two playoff games and finally looked to get the mini-monkey off of their collective backs.

They would have, too, if not for Larry Brown being the best Steeler receiver that day, intercepting two O’Donnell ducks lobbed more or less at him. Now, this fable doesn’t match up point for pointLarry Brown with the Pats and the Giants, but it’s a darned similar story. And to me, it’s one of the more interesting stories in Glendale, enough to keep me going as we reach the dreaded dead zone of Super Bowl week in the desert. Serpico’s got some other interesting thoughts kicking around; you’ll hear from him later tomorrow. (He’s been bragging about catching the same flu as the G-Men.) Happy Wednesday; four days til kickoff.

Live From Cambridge, Arizona (Tuesday)

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BigaBena

If you look a little further below you will see today’s main article. This continues our week long Super Bowl blog between our resident Patriots fan (Sean) and Giants fan (Serpico).

So you may have heard that this year’s Super Bowl will be decided in the trenches. Can’t argue with that. Logan Mankins, Chris Snee, Shaun O’Hara, and Matt Light headline two of the league’s best O-lines, a punishing set of brutal hand punchers and pancaking Norsemen. We’ve heard about the Pats front five since they were appearing in Visa ads years ago. Maybe they won’t be the big men. See, the random nature of the Super Bowl–it’s only one game, anything can happen–has lent itself to a number of unsung heroes over the years. You might not recognize the names Timmy Smith, Doug Williams, Larry Brown, Desmond Howard or Dexter Jackson, but those mostly marginal talents played the biggest game of their lives in…the biggest game of their lives. On Sunday, will the bright, shiny orbs in the sky align and smile upon any of the rakish brutes?

If they do, look for a bright glow surrounding Benjamin Watson, professional folk hero.

Benjamin (lengthened from “Ben” this year either to make Roethlisberger comfortable or else to make his own name appear more biblical) is a 6’3″, 255 lb beast of fury, with the mental acumen of a graduate student ninja. (Or so they say; he has an alleged 41 on the Wonderlic test.) The Pats drafted him in Round One in 2004, getting rid of their starting tight end Daniel Graham two years later. In 2005, in back to back playoff games, Watson made two of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen. Against Jacksonville, Watson took a short third down pass from Tom Brady, eluded five players while breaking three tackles, and rolled 63 yards downfield for a touchdown. The very next week Watson tracked down Denver’s Champ Bailey over 110 yards and nearly destroyed him. He’s a freak of nature who this year gained a partner in LB Adalius Thomas, a fellow fleet giant.

Of course, it could be Kevin Faulk who has a big game. Or Donte Stallworth. Or Jabar Gaffney. Or hell, maybe even Wes Welker or Randy Moss, who are pretty good, too. That’s the thing about an unsung hero; sometimes, they don’t show up because they don’t need to. But just in case, I’ll be pulling for Benjamin Watson, as he’s pulling the defense for another 20 yards.

Live From Cambridge, Arizona (Monday)

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Pats Giants

If you look below you will see today’s main article. This is the beginning of a week long Super Bowl blog between our resident Patriots fan (Sean) and Giants fan (Serpico).

So, earlier today you mentioned that you can’t see why the Patriots would possibly win by 14 points, the Vegas spread. A number of people agree with you, perhaps the reason that a bunch of New York money has pushed the line down to just 12 as we officially kick off Super Bowl week. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and use 14 as our jumping off point. Here are three reasons why the Giants will shrink in the Big Game.*

1) You can’t score when you’re not on the field. In the previous meeting against the Giants, the Pats amassed all of 44 yards rushing, a paltry number against a stout front four. You would think then that New England, so heavily reliant on their non-partisan blitzkrieg, would be a quick strike team then, no? Well the Patriots controlled the ball for over 36 minutes that day, limiting Eli Manning to a last-ditch comeback effort that fell short after an onside kick failed. They also held the ball for a majority of the time in playoff wins against the Jaguars and Chargers. If the Pats can keep the Giants off the field and push the ball downfield on each possession (no turnovers in that 38-35 victory), Glendale spectators will see a show that could justify the $4,300 ticket prices. Actually, no, nothing can justify those ticket prices.

2) You forget this now, but lost amidst the chaos of everyone’s underdog taking a 12 point lead over New England back in December was the Patriots’ response. The crowd roared and fans from Easton, MA to East LA crowded closer around their HD screens, but to Brady and co. this was still a practice squad drill. The Patriots proceeded to rip off 22 points in 15 minutes, a dazzling display of long bombs and shutdown D. No team has ever put up points like the AFC champs, and the likelihood of an outburst is a constant threat. The Pats are totally healthy, and the only player on the offense who hasn’t gotten going in the postseason–a Messer. Randy Moss–torched the NY DB in NJ the first time around. This can’t happen again? You sure?

3) Evidently you are not sure, because you yourself think the Pats will win, as do computer simulations and a majority of the country. If you don’t think the G-Men can win outright, why believe so seriously they can keep it close? Picture this; Patriots smash their way downfield with a 22 yard run from Maroney and a 19 yard quick screen to Welker. They score on an 8 yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss. 7-0. Giants go three and out, with Manning sailing a third down pass over the outstretched hands of Plaxico Burress. Pats get a decent return, manage two first downs, and Gostowski kicks a 42 yard field goal. 10-0. Coughlin’s screaming on the sideline, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are saying that the Giants have just lost that mojo from the week long layover, and the Pats seem like destiny’s darlings tonight. Then, about three minutes later, Asante Samuel gambles on a quick out to Burress and plucks it away, returning the pass 34 yards. Maroney punches it in 6 plays later from 12 yards out. 17-0. You don’t think that’s possible? Mistakes get magnified in the Super Bowl, especially with underdogs. Just ask the ’91-’93 Bills, the ’94 Chargers, the ’96 Patriots (second half), the ’98 Falcons, the ’00 Giants, and the ’02 Raiders (underdogs because they kept the same names for audibles despite the fact that the guy that gave them those audibles now coached the other team). It’s a nightmare waiting to happen.

Oh, by the way, that nightmarish blowout I depicted? I just changed the names and the order of plays and scores from the 2000 NFC Title Game. Giants 41, Vikings 0. I hope you remember that game well this week.

*My guess is the NFL will soon copyright the Big Game, just as they have put a trademark on Super Bowl forbidding advertisers from capitalizing on it. By 2010 we will only be able to refer to it as “Football Match Huge!”

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