Paoletti: You can't play scared


Paoletti: You can't play scared

INDIANAPOLIS -- "Messing up? You can't play this game scared to mess up."

Stephen Gostkowski drives the point home. After the AFC Championship he said didn't want to keep talking about Billy Cundiff. But later, safe at a Super Bowl media session, he acquiesced.

Thrill seekers wanted details.

Cundiff's moment was grotesque. The Patriots might have gone to the Super Bowl even if they'd had to play overtime against Baltimore, but they definitely went because the Ravens' kicker shanked the game-tying field goal.

32 Wide Left: A new spin on the Scott Norwood classic.

Super screw-ups. Game-changing failures that fans gnash their teeth over decades after the fact. Plays that, in the playoff clime of one-and-done, can turn an athlete's name into a curse word.

Understanding the fragility of circumstance is one of the ties that binds these athletes. It's about realizing how small the difference is between surrendering, or stopping, a game-winning touchdown; between kicking a routine chip shot or losing a playoff game with your foot.

As Gostkowski says, they can't play scared. They have to face their football mortality and move on.

"We're at the top of the professional level," he notes. "Everybody's had success before, everybody's dealt with failure before. It's the ones who get over the mistakes that play for a really long time."

The Patriots kicker didn't see Cundiff's miss. It was cold that night. When Gostkowski saw the Ravens' field-goal team trot out -- for a kickCundiff had practiced and executed so many times before --he busied himself warming up on New England's sideline for overtime.

"It's unfortunate. It's heartbreaking. This game is so publicized and so criticized . . . But that's just part of it," Gostkowski shrugs. "It humbles you to see that can happen to anybody; the guy was an All Pro last year. I'm 100 percent glad that we won, but I felt bad for him personally."

The reactions are not mutually exclusive; it's not simply, 'Better you than me.' Gostkowski started celebrating New England's Super Bowl berth as soon as he heard Patriots fans explode into cheers.

But Cundiff's condemnation as a goat brought Gostkowski no joy.

"It's one of the few things that I don't like about this job. We're so blessed, grateful for all the things that we've received, that we get to do, the job that we have. I feel bad, not only for the guys like Billy Cundiff and Kyle Williams that it happens to, but for the people that send those messages out.

"I know how hard the players work; they probably feel worse than any of those people who are saying stuff to them."

An estimated 173 million people will be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday.

"I'm trying to treat it just like any other game," says defensive back Sterling Moore, "not put too much pressure on myself, just trying to keep a level head. But of course, there's going to be a little bit more pressure when you look up in the stands and realize this is the last game of the season. Everybody's watching this game."

Patriots versus Giants: Gladiators in the ring. One false move and you could be over. And the fans always go nuts for a kill-strike.

So it goes in the entertainment industry.

The Patriots want to fight, want to win. But their perspective of the sport, watching from the windows of their NFL fraternity, is different. Special teams captain Matthew Slater says it must be.

"At the end of the day, football doesn't define who we are. The type of character that we live our lives with off the field is really all that matters. This is a game -- a game that we love and put a lot into -- but it doesn't define who you are as a man. It's important to remember that."

Never more important than on Super Bowl Sunday. And never more difficult to do so.

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10


Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.


Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.


Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.


Carlo, Heinen and DeBrusk highlight young B's lineup for preseason opener


Carlo, Heinen and DeBrusk highlight young B's lineup for preseason opener

The Bruins had already let it be known that Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak and David Backes wouldn’t be playing Monday night in their preseason opener vs. the Blue Jackets. 

Instead, all three will participate in their first day of training camp practice on Monday morning, and the Bruins will ice a young, prospect-laden group against Columbus at TD Garden.

“[Camp] has been really good,” said assistant coach Jay Pandolfo. “There are a lot of new faces around here, so we’re just getting them to understand how we want to play. I think they did a good job with it and they should be ready to go [against Columbus].”

Here is the lineup of players expected to suit up for Boston’s preseason opener on Monday night: Brandon Carlo, Colby Cave, Peter Cehlarik, Austin Czarnik, Jake DeBrusk, Seth Griffith, Colton Hargrove, Jimmy Hayes, Danton Heinen, Anton Khudobin, Sean Kuraly, John-Michael Liles, Zane McIntyre, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, Peter Mueller, Riley Nash, Rob O’Gara, Tyler Randell and Jakub Zboril. 

Carlo, Cehlarik, Heinen and DeBrusk are all serious candidates to threaten for an NHL roster spot, and these preseason games will be a big test to see how roster ready they might actually be at their precocious young age.

The Bruins haven’t said when the first cuts of training camp are expected, but one round of early cuts are expected next week perhaps after Wednesday night’s preseason home game against the Detroit Red Wings.

“We’ll see how tomorrow night goes and then make a decision [on a lineup] for Wednesday, but I think we’ll try to give all the guys a pretty good look and go from there,” said Pandolfo.