Puttin' on the hair shirt

243868.jpg

Puttin' on the hair shirt

By Michael Felger

Its a hairy situation this week, folks.

Dear Mike, Last night I'm at Paddy Kelly's in Peabody with some friends enjoying some drinks and you came up on your late-night CSNNE show. I don't know what it's called because I don't watch it. Four hours of you on HD radio is plenty for me as I don't need you in HD TV before I'm going to bed. Anyway, I see you going on and on about whatever cockamamy topic you already beat to death during the day, and I'm looking at your shirt. Your shirt was open like you had a pair of Anna Nicole Smith DD's hanging out. I mean, buddy, I almost saw your freakin belly button. Not only that, but you're in HD and I'm catching each freckle on your chest like they are stars in the sky on a clear night. It's not like you're a guido from Revere with some nice hamburger meat to hang out. You're from Wisconsin. Put on a damn turtleneck. Mike, I'm a big fan of you and Tony on 98.5. I listen everyday. But this is uncalled for. I called up (last week) but I lost you at one point and couldn't get through the rest of the day. But please, don't subject us to that open-shirt nonsense again. I pray that Tony doesn't have to look at that, and if so I would think he would put a board up between the two of you in the studio. I mean, for god sakes Felger, I think New England saw your belly button last night. Fact not opinion. Anyway, keep up the good work and congratulations on beating up on 850. Mike Beverly

Ah, the chest hair thing. You're obviously not alone in your observation, Mike. It's become something of a calling card.

Anyway, if you can convince a shirt-maker to design a dress shirt that brings the second button down a bit, then we'd be in business. See, on most shirts, that second button is just too high. It's constricting, Mike. It's not comfortable, and it looks dorky to boot. When I go to the second button I feel I might as well be wearing a pocket protector. But, as you've pointed out, leaving that second button undone brings out the cheese in all its glory. It's a conundrum. Button it up and look like a science teacher. Unbutton it and release the hounds.

Until they figure out the right placement for that button, I'm going to continue to let the dogs out.

(Note: The following e-mail is from an individual who has begun to call the radio station on a regular basis named Jean. He purports to be French, although his accent is so thick that it's almost a parody of itself and we wonder if he's faking. We've taken to calling him Henri, the over-the-top Frenchman from Cheers. Remember? Anyway, Jean is e-mailing now, too. And his letters are too good not to share here. The misspellings are his. If you don't speak French, you simply must look up the translations to his terminology. Enjoy.)

Michelle, I want know how much mony Sport Hub give to Dupont (guy from journal in Boston)? Because I want half that. Anyway . . . I give you opposite of "lever le baton" or "tente de pantalone," because people in Boston have the "ququette raide" over Kaberle coming to Boston. When Boston lose in serie later people will have "La Flte Molle!!!'' I call Tony and tell him that Kaberle four time make "equipe dtoiles." That mean he best player on baddest team . . . non? because all team need to have player in the game . . . non? My ami he tell me that like guy from Red Sox in '93 and '94 who make "equipe dtoiles" two times Scott Cooper, the third base-guy. Scott Cooper make Michelle's "ququette raide?" Or better ask "Le Petit Itallienne" sit next to you. He is baseball guy. Does Tony say wwwhhhhhoooooooo like Renee (Rancourt) and then "ququette raide" when he think Scott Cooper? Non. Kaberle like guy you had in boston long time before . . . Gary Galley. And when Julien get inside head of him he will look like other guy with Galley . . . Jim Weimer or maybe Shoebottom. Bruin players not problem . . . Problem is Julien . . . In Quebec they call him "bouffon sans cou" an "tte pres clater" and we so happy you have him because that guy you can keep in US . . . Quebec no want him back! If you talk hockey I call you . . . ok? Salut, Jean

This guy can't be real, can he?

Hi guys, I dont understand what Bruins fans are expecting from Tim Thomas. He stands on his head this season and is the reason the Bruins are where they are -- and yet its not good enough. Tuukka was awful before his last two games, but he plays two decent games against a couple of okay teams and people want him back in net. For those who say Thomas hasnt stolen any playoff games for the Bruins in the last couple of years, you clearly haven't been watching. The year he won the Vezina, they didnt get bounced from the playoffs because of him. The defense could not move the puck out of their own zone against Carolina and last year, maybe you folks weren't watching, but that was Rask in net for the worst collapse in NHL playoff history . . . not Thomas. Have the facts if you are going to make comments . . . Seriously. Thanks guys!! Kristen Braintree

I was on vacation for much of the past week, Kristen, so I'm not too familiar with the public dissatisfaction with Thomas you're talking about. I'll take your word for it and assume people were getting antsy, but I wouldn't let it get to you. That's what happens when you have two good goalies. As soon as one goes bad, fans immediately call for other. It happened to Rask at times last year, as well.

You probably know how I feel about Rask. He doesn't have a bigger supporter in the media than yours truly. But here's the fact of the matter, and I accepted it months ago: this is Thomas' year. It's his team. They'll go as far in the playoffs as he can take them.

Thomas played well in Calgary on Wednesday after a week off, which only bolstered his existing scouting report: the more you play him, the more you can expect diminishing returns. So the Bruins have to do everything they can to make sure he is as rested and as fresh as he can be come mid-April. That means playing Rask a bit more than they have over the next month and a half. Don't take it personally, Kristen.

Mike, Please keep hammering the Bruins . . . please, please, please, please, please! I have never taken the time to actually write an e-mail to someone on sports radio before -- I have a life and just enjoy listening. But as someone who's wandered the hockey wilderness and just started to come back after MANY years of disinterest due to lack of anything meaningful to hang on to with the Bruins, you are completely spot on with regards to their moves and attitudes. They JUST DON'T GET IT! The Kelly move doesn't do it and neither will the Kaberle trade. They need to get an elite player wherever possible not some half-ass rent-a-player. They need to build two lines with elite talent that can drive their team and fill in with JAGs on the other lines. They simply don't have enough premier talent to compete for championships -- period. They are building the equivalent of the Chicago Bears or Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars, teams that are at times entertaining and competitive but don't win boo! I thought about comparing them to the San Diego Chargers (good in the regular season but el foldo in the playoffs) but the Bruins don't have anywhere near that kind of talent. If they want to make moves they need to do so for elite, younger players. You should compare our "elites" man-for-man to the true elites on the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. There's simply no comparison. And our general manager continues to overpay for a team of JAGs who melt when the heat gets turned up because they simply can't compete. They have my attention after years of flubs and false starts. Make them understand that they need to do something to keep it. Thanks! And my best to The Wood. Paul

Good e-mail. I love the Titans analogy. Excellent.

However, I give the B's a bit more credit for their moves than you do. I agree that they don't have the top-end talent that the true Stanley Cup contenders do, even after the Kaberle pickup. And I'd be thrilled if they dangled that Toronto pick right up to the Monday trade deadline in hopes of landing a true, top-line forward. I'm not holding my breath on that one, of course. So short of that, I give them a B for their trades last week. They didn't stand pat. They filled their biggest need (the PMD) and changed the mix among the forwards. And Blake Wheeler is gone. Those are all positives. If I had to watch Wheeler skate offsides one more time I was going to throw up. Give the front officeownership an ounce of credit here. The Savard injury gave them the opportunity to spend some money and improve the team -- and they did just that. We all know that was rarely the case in the past.

Depending on the matchups (i.e., if they can avoid Philadelphia), I believe the Bruins have the talent to make the finals in the East and maybe even the Cup finals. But that's it. They'd get waxed by Vancouver, Detroit, Chicago and probably San Jose. And they won't be at that level unless or until they trade for a true star up front or Seguin develops into one.

Felger, You DB! In between the Montreal Gazettes Pat Hickey bitching about the Heritage Classic being too cold and fighting not being nice, the Bruins esteemed general manager seemed to pull off a series of deals to make this team a legitimate contender. While I like what these players bring to this team and see them as very much an improvement, there is one thing that keeps me more than a little ticked off. If managed correctly, this team should have already been a contender and moves at the trade deadline should have made them a league favorite. Let's get the first and most glaring point out of the way. These moves would never have been possible if Marc Savard didnt get re-concussed. If Savard continued to be mediocre and a shadow of his former self, the Bruins were about a million away from the cap and would have required more league-wide giveaways, like the Marco Sturm and Matt Hunwick charity raffles to make room for just Kaberle, never mind Kelly and Peverley. So once again, Peter Chiarelli walks into a fortunate situation like Mr. Magoo, completely oblivious, and yet somehow emerges no worse for wear. Just like the Kessel deal, where PC would have gladly dealt Phil The Thrill for Kaberle and a swap of firsts in 2009. Lucky for Bs fans, Chiarelli channeled Mike Tice and had to wait until after the draft to deal Kessel to Toronto and stumble into Tyler Seguin. And just an aside, what the hell is the problem with the Bruins and work visas? Honestly, Harry Sinden could have sent Dmitri Kristich across the border with Ty Laws cousin while wearing a hemp suit and he still would have come back like the flu. Now, you would think the Bruins send the team on road trips packed in shipping containers to end up with more immigration issues than The Upper Crust. If the Canadians can get Paul Mara thought customs without risking a Midnight Express sequel, the Bs should be able to sneak a guy named Kelly into Southie. But my major problem is that there were plenty of opportunities for this team to be built into a contender before last Friday. The biggest piece the Bruins had to move to clear cap space was Blake Wheeler. Wouldnt the process have been a little bit easier if they didnt re-sign Wheeler in the first place?!? Seriously Mike, this team delivered the biggest postseason hockey collapse in a quarter-century plus, and the majority of the team is retained. They needed a puck-moving defenseman. So what do they do? Re-sign every defenseman who isnt of the puck moving variety. Why? Why re-sign Paille to a two-year deal for 2.2 million when Raffi Torres cant get more than a one-year deal for a million? Why re-sign Seidenburg and Boychuck when James Wisnewski was being shopped for a third? Because sticking with the status quo and playing it safe have been Chiarelli hallmarks. It was safer to re-sign everyone instead of giving McQuaid, Kampfer or Matt Barkowski a shot at filling in a spot on the cheap. It was safer to go let Trent Whitfield do nothing in four playoff games last year than give unproven Brad Marchand a start. With a little imagination and courage in the offseason, dishing a first-round pick, a first-round prospect, two second-round picks and Mark Stuart at the deadline should have been what put this team over the top. But you mix complacency with deadline desperation and I think the Bs are lucky to be favorites in the East by adding Kelly, Peverley and a Kaberle rental (until Chiarelli re-signs him until hes 70). Mike Attleboro

Very cynical, Mikey. But I like it (of course). Channeling my inner Tony Mazz, I'll also say that you're right. You're absolutely right. Being able to place Savard on long-term injury was a break for Chiarelli. Those deadline deals were not part of some master plan. They amounted to good fortune. Again, give the team credit for spending that money over the cap. They could have done nothing and still claim to their fans that they spent to the limit. But at the same time, let's remember why they were even afforded the opportunity. Savard's injury bailed them out of too many bad contract to too many mediocre players.

Felgy, First of all, let me thank you for being the one person on the radio to have the backbone and, yes, knowledge to talk hockey in Boston. For 40 years we have been held hostage by that fat (expletive) from Andover who likes Chinese food. He made "Hockey Krishna's" feel like second-class citizens because his more-than-huge ego had a fight with Harry Sinden, another egomaniac, but that's a different e-mail for a different day. As a product of the Bobby Orr era, I can assure you this is not a basketball town, but clearly a hockey town. How else can you explain that a guy who looks like Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley (that would be March Mont) is now one of Boston's most eligible bachelors? Now onto the Bruins brass . . . Can Clode LeFrode be any worse of a coach? He's a good coach for a bad team, but a bad coach for a good team. He'll get hockey's equivalent of the Bad News Bear organized and playing better than their talent, yet he'll drag a somewhat talented team down. No creativity is the problem. How else can you explain the fact that Tyler Seguin was a better player in Prague when he scored that first goal than he is today? Under LeFrode's vise-like grip, he is sucking more every day! He ruined Tukka from day one after a so-so start against Phoenix and Timmy was soon getting 4-of-5 starts. Granted Timmy has been hard to keep out of the net, but ya think he could have not figured a goalie rotation that would help the team and not destroy the confidence of the goalie of the future? That being said, I would have went with Thomas against the dangerous Wings last Friday, yet LeFrode opts for Tuukka time. Go figure huh? Brangerman

Regular readers here know my feelings on Julien -- and they pretty much mirror yours. He's a good coach. Not a great one. I love your line about Claude being a good coach for a bad team. Perfect. His system is sound and he obviously has the ability to get his players to buy into it. If I were the Florida Panthers or New York Islanders, I would hire him in a second. He'd have those teams contending for a playoff spot inside a year.

Unfortunately, system hockey just isn't as much of a factor in the postseason. The pace is too frantic. All the X's and O's break down. Of course, you need the players who have the toughness and talent to excel at that speed and intensity, and that has nothing to do with Claude. That's Chiarelli's issue. But unless you're the 1980s Oilers or the modern-day Red Wings -- in which case coaching doesn't matter a lick -- you also need a coach who can push a button or two. This is where I feel Claude comes up short. He's just too conservative. Skates his lane. Rarely allows emotion into the equation. I don't think it's any coincidence that he was the coach of the team that blew the first 3-0 series lead in over 30 years. Makes perfect sense, actually.

Julien just feels like a two-and-done kind of coach. As always, I'm happy to be proven wrong on that one.

Felger, Perfectly said by your boy Malcolm Gladwell to your other boy Bill Simmons: Simmons: All right, a few more quick questions and then I'll let you go back to reading your Sports Illustrated collection from the 1970s. First, what was your baseball meltdown?Gladwell: It came after the Blue Jays (my team) won the second of their World Series titles. Economic reality hit, and they basically stopped trying to compete at the top level, and I wondered to myself: Why do I care so much about a sport where some teams have 200 million to spend and some teams have 20 million to spend? I know, I know -- as Rob Neyer and others point out -- that there is no necessary correlation between payroll and success. It is possible, as "Moneyball'' reminds us, to win with less by being smarter. But the point is not that if you have more money than someone else you automatically win more games. The point is that if you have more money than someone else you're playing a different game than they are. Wal-Mart is not competing against mom-and-pop corner stores. They're in a different business. And it isn't fun, at the end of the day, to watch a mom-and-pop compete against Wal-Mart. It's painful and pointless.I loved "Moneyball." I thought it was one of the best books of the past decade. I think it should be taught in psychology classes and business schools as a treatise on the subtle effects of bias on expert decision-making. But do you think that Billy Beane, for a moment, wouldn't trade his situation with Theo Epstein or Cashman? To me, the hard cap in football -- and, to a lesser extent, the soft cap in basketball -- are what makes those sports so interesting. It's what makes them sports. Contests where one player has significantly more resources than another are not sports. They are marketplaces. To root for the Yankees or the Red Sox is the functional equivalent of rooting for Microsoft or General Electric. No thanks.
Baseball championship parity is largely the result of the fact that baseball may have more "natural" parity than any other sport. Your ace has a bad outing in the playoffs, hitters hit a slump for a week, etc. Market = revenue = ability to sign big contracts and absorb bad ones. Huge advantages. A league where the top free agents go to a handful of teams has a problem. Jon Brown

Agreed. Bud Selig can tell us as much as he likes about the competitive balance in his sport, but the thing you talk about is a real problem.

Other than this recent spate of movement in the NBA between LeBron and Carmelo Anthony and the rest -- what happens routinely in baseball just doesn't exist in the other leagues. In baseball, the best players on small-market teams routinely reach a certain amount of service time and then bolt (Carl Crawford) or get traded (Adrian Gonzalez) to the big-market teams. It'd be like Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers hitting their free-agent years and leaving Indy or Green Bay for New York. It just doesn't happen in other sports like that.

But while we're on the NBA we should probably mention that the "competitive balance'' issues in that league are by far the worst -- and it really has nothing to do with caps or free agent rules. It's just the nature of the sport. Land two or three of the best players in the league and you're pretty much assured of multiple championships.

Get this: Since 1980, only eight NBA teams have won a title. And aside from the 1983 Sixers and 2006 Heat, every one else has won multiple championships over that span: Celtics (4), Lakers (9), Pistons (3), Bulls (6), Rockets (2) and Spurs (4).

This is why I'm amused to hear people complain about these NBA "super teams" the players are engineering, as if a top-heavy league was anything new. Just be thankful you have one of those teams.

Your Packers won the Super Bowl. You wake up every day next to the hottest local anchor woman in New England. You have a sports show on radio and TV. You get to say every obnoxious thing every Boston sports fan is thinking to the common man. You own one suit (gray) and it doesn't matter. I have to ask: How the hell did this all happen? Mick New Hampshire

Two words: Chest hair.

OMG!! Just watched Andy and Taylor just play Felga and Gary. AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!! That should be a weekly bit!! Pete Bourne

I'd give it a 4.5 on a scale of 10.

Twellman would have been more convincing if he had unbuttoned his shirt a bit.

Felger's weekly column appears Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.