Boston sports: Past, present & future

Boston sports: Past, present & future
May 9, 2014, 2:15 pm
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Before we start, I should let you know that I’ve become pretty obsessed with the TV show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. If you’re not familiar, Cosmos is a science documentary series on FOX, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, about . . . well, just about everything. It’s about life on Earth (and beyond). How we got here, what happened before we got here and what will happen next. It’s an interesting, sometimes scary and often soul-searching hour of TV. You should check it out if you’re into that sort of thing.

Anyway, last week’s episode was called “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth” and I promise we’ll get to sports in a second, so bear with me.

The episode began on PANGEA, the supercontinent that existed on Earth more than 100 million years ago, before the build-up of spicy hot magma under the Earth’s crust caused landmass to rise, volcanoes to erupt and the continent to rift — and then the planet’s tectonic plates shifted and pulled everything apart.

That eventually resulted in the world we live in today — with seven continents (which used to be one) separated by great oceans (which started out as lakes) and the understanding that it won’t be like this forever. Basically, that Earth isn’t just a spinning marble, but (as Tyson calls it) a “dynamic organism” that’s constantly changing. That at this very moment, there are lost worlds from millions of years ago buried deep inside giant cliffs and future worlds just beginning nearly 100 miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s all happening at once, and we’re just lucky to be a small part of it.

I got to thinking about this last night, which was annoying because I should have been focused on the remote. With everything that was going on, I felt like I needed my own war room with three big TVs and a personal masseuse*.

(*I don’t know. Why not?)


On ESPN2, a lost world in the history of Boston sports was on display, as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett faced off with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

And I’m happy to report that the past looks just fine from here.

On an emotional level, it’s great having Pierce and Garnett in these playoffs. As hard as it was for both of those guys to leave Boston, this is why they did it. For the opportunity to have another shot at LeBron James; to get back on that stage at least one more time before walking away.

But now that they made it, from a Celtics perspective, there’s a strong sense of closure. Watching Pierce and Garnett in this Miami series has only reinforced the killing that Danny Ainge made last summer.

Less than two weeks shy of his 38th birthday, Kevin Garnett has become a non-factor (at least on the court). He no longer has the motor or the agility to keep pace with a team as dynamic as the Heat. In Game 1, he only played 16 minutes and scored zero points. Last night, he played 21 minutes and had 12 rebounds, but he was on the bench for crunch time. In general, and I say this with the utmost respect for who he is and what he’s done, Garnett is overmatched.

Meanwhile, Pierce is still logging big minutes — 29 in Game 1 and 34 in Game 2. But he’s much closer to the limited player Boston watched in last year’s first-round loss to the Knicks than he is to the guy who history will remember. He can’t take over games the way he used to. At least not with LeBron standing in the way. And as you might imagine, his defense hasn’t gotten better with age.

Brooklyn might take a game or two in this series, and along the way, who knows? Pierce and Garnett might deliver a few more classic moments. But ultimately, they’re not in Miami’s league. The same way the Celtics wouldn’t have been had they stayed pat and made one last “one last run” with the old core.

Instead, Danny Ainge decided to leave the past in the past, let Miami’s reign run its course and lay the foundation for a better future.

That decision looks smarter every day.


On NBCSN, it was present day Boston sports at its absolute best: Bruins at Canadiens, the second round of the playoffs, with the season pretty much on the line.

And I’m happy to report that the present looks good, too.

Of course, this current series is made so much better by what’s happened in the past between these two teams. But it’s also well on its way to inspiring an even better future. Through four games, this series has lived up to the hype, and that’s saying a hell of a lot. Last night’s overtime victory, off the stick of 23-year-old Matt Fraser, less 24 hours removed from being called up from the AHL, was just the latest crazy development in a match-up that’s only starting to erupt.

We’re living it right now, but (regardless of the outcome) the impact of these last four games and, even more, these next three games, will be felt for a long, long time.


Finally, on ESPN, a future world of Boston sports was unfolding one painfully dragged out NFL Draft pick at a time. Even if no one expected the Patriots to make a splash at No. 29, at this point in Tom Brady’s career, every early round pick — whether they use it to draft a player or as an asset — is an essential part of what happens next.

While waiting for the Patriots to pick, the Johnny Manziel story was hard to ignore, and as a side note, I love that he ended up in Cleveland. First of all, because he needed to get out of Texas — Dallas or Houston would have been a disaster. Second of all, because he needed to land in a market that’s short on tabloids and super-psychotic media. Third of all, because I genuinely feel horrible for Cleveland sports fans and Manziel’s arrival has to be pretty awesome for those guys. The Browns are already more relevant than they’ve been since sometime around PANGEA.

At about 11:30, after more Chris Berman and Mel Kiper than any one human should ever have to endure, the Patriots finally made their pick, which is to say that THE PATRIOTS ACTUALLY MADE A PICK. They didn’t trade it. They chose Dominique Easley, a defensive tackle out of the University of Florida.

And I’m happy to report that the future looks . . .

I don’t know. I mean, every first round pick is a crap shoot, especially at the end of the first round and extra especially when that pick is a player coming off two torn ACLs in two years.

From what we know, the talent is there with Easley. It’s been reported that he was a projected Top 5 pick before his injuries. And that’s cool, but the injuries are real. They happened. Bo Jackson was a pretty good running back before his injuries, too. And I know that’s not the same thing, but it’s only fair to have concerns about the long term potential of a guy — regardless of talent — whose body has already gone through so much.

But in doing so, we can’t pretend that the Bill Belichick is unaware of the situation. He obviously understands the risk. And he also happens to know more about this particular player than probably every fan and media expert combined. He undoubtedly did his homework, weighed all his options and believes that this is the right path to take.

At some point, there may be an opportunity to criticize him for that, and if there is, I’m sure there will be a ton of people more than happy to seize it. But for now, with a player like Easley, there’s nothing to really do but have a little faith and wait for the future to unfold.


In all, it was a truly crazy night in the world of Boston sports.

These days, that world is pretty segmented. For the most part, the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox (and let’s give some love to the Revolution) are off on their own divided continents, going about separate business, totally independent of one another. But deep down, they’re all connected. All part of one giant organism that’s helped power this city for many years before this, and will continue to help for many years to come.

And at the end of the day, we’re all just lucky to be a small part of it.

Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine