As you’ve heard more than a few (thousand) times over the last few weeks, this season marks the Red Sox first trip to the MLB postseason in four years. What you maybe haven’t heard, or at least not as often, is that this past weekend was also the first time in four years that the Sox, Patriots and Bruins were all in action on the same weekend.
The previous instance was October 9-11, 2009 and the whole experience was akin to taking a bath in a vat of hydrofluoric acid. The Bruins were the only team to pick up a victory, and even though it was an exciting one (they erased a three-goal, third-period deficit and beat the Islanders in a shootout on Saturday afternoon), the B’s of then weren’t the B’s of now. They were still 35 years removed from their last Cup and only a few months away from blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers. Win or lose, it was all just kind of blah.
Then on Sunday, the Sox were eliminated in Game 3 of their series against the Angels when Jonathan Papelbon allowed three-run, two-out rally in the top of the ninth at Fenway. Shortly after that, the Patriots took the field in Denver, blew a 17-7 halftime lead, lost to the Broncos in overtime and then had to sit back and watch as Denver head coach Josh McDaniels ran around the field having sex with himself.
Anyway, this past weekend wasn’t nearly as bad as that one . . . but it wasn’t entirely good. There were ups and downs. Many ins, outs and what-have-yous. It was a little bit of everything. A full range of emotions. And I mean that literally.
In his Theory of Emotion, my dear friend and legendary psychologist Robert Plutchik suggested the existence of eight basic and bipolar human emotions: joy vs. sadness; anger vs. fear; trust vs. disgust; surprise vs. anticipation.
And damn if Boston sports fans didn’t run the gamut this weekend.
Joy is the 2013 Red Sox, and we’re running out of new ways to gush over this crew. After what they accomplished this weekend, on top of everything they accomplished in the six months that came before it, I’m pretty sure I like these guys more than I do most of my own friends and family.
If you played sports at any point in your life, this team makes you miss being part of a team. They almost make you feel like you are part of the team.
Speaking of which . . . Mr. Henry: Any idea when the playoff shares might be coming through? I’ve got some bricks to buy.
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In terms of sadness, it doesn’t get much sadder than getting bummed out over the end of Tom Brady’s “consecutive games with a touchdown pass” streak. Even if Brady deserves a decent chunk of blame for yesterday’s loss, in the big picture, both he and now his streak are victims of the sad state of this Patriots offense. And as ridiculous as it is to feel any sort of sympathy towards Tom Brady and his lot in life, in this case, you can’t help it; he deserves better.
Then again, yesterday could’ve been worse: The last time Brady didn’t throw a touchdown pass in a game, Wes Welker tore his ACL.
Can you imagine where this offense would be right now without a healthy Wes Welker?!
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The Patriots loss didn’t elicit much anger. It was more a matter of frustration and the aforementioned sadness. On that note, it’s literally impossible to be angry about anything the Bruins have done so far. And if you’ve got even an ounce of anger in your soul for the Red Sox right now, I suggest pouring yourself a glass of wine, popping a couple Xanax and checking into the nearest mental health facility. (If you’re in a bind, I’m sure Alfredo Aceves knows of some good ones.)
But anger did exist this weekend, albeit in one fleeting moment at the start of Game 1 on Friday, when home plate umpire Chris Guccione closed his eyes and called “ball three” on Jon Lester’s nearly perfect two-strike pitch to Sean Rodriguez . . . followed by Rodriguez sending the subsequent pitch over the Monster to give Tampa the early lead. Over the years, we’ve seen entire playoff series turn on less, and before the Sox eventual comeback, anger over the ramifications of Guccione’s blown call was brewing like a batch of Walter White’s finest blue meth.
Thankfully for the Sox, Wil Myers took a few hits of that crystal before taking the field in the bottom of the fourth and everything turned out OK.
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Fear is always worse when it catches you by surprise and that’s what happened midway through Game 2 — the top of the sixth inning to be exact. The Sox were up 6-3, John Lackey hadn’t been great but he was solid, and given the way the whole series — and this whole season — had gone up to that point, it was only natural to let your guard down; to start thinking about Game 3 in Tampa and Game 1 of the ALCS. Then . . .
Desmond Jennings led off with a single, moved to second on a ground out and then scored on Yuniel Escobar’s RBI single. Suddenly, the tying run was at the plate, Lackey got the hook, and there were eight outs standing between the Sox and Koji Uehera. The reality hit Fenway like an Izzy Alcantara karate kick to the chest, and focus shifted from Game 1 of the ALCS to David Price on the mound in Game 5 of ALDS . . .
Before Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa held the Rays scoreless over the next two-plus innings to pave the way for the Magic Man.
Runner up in the fear category goes to Tommy Kelly’s knee injury in the fourth quarter in Cincinnati. Over the last few weeks, and obviously in the aftermath of Vince Wilfork’s injury, Kelly has gone from “Hey, who’s that giant wearing Richard Seymour’s number?” to the foundation of the Pats interior defensive line. And when he limped off the field, it looked bad. You couldn’t help but the assume the worst. And even now, you have to assume that this is something that Kelly will have to deal with moving forward. He’s definitely feeling it this morning. But the fact that Kelly made it back onto the field (albeit on a limited basis) on Sunday and promised that he was OK after the game, leaves you confident that he and the Pats, at the very least, avoided another season-ending disaster.
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At this point, I’d trust Koji to deliver my firstborn child with a pair of rusty tongs in a dark, broken down elevator. Words don’t do just to the level of unconditional trust that he’s earned. So much so that when he took the field on Saturday night, I turned to the guy next me and said: “When was the last time a closer struck out the side on nine pitches in a playoff game?” It was joke, but not really. And eight pitches later, Uehara had Wil Myers in an 0-2 hole with a chance to make it happen . . . but it took him three more pitches to induce a game-ending groundout. Slacker.
Regardless, at this point Koji’s as automatic as Tom Brady with the game on the line and less than two minutes on clock. Hey, wait . . .
Speaking of trust, I know I’ve sold the Bruins a little short in this column, but come on — two games into the regular season can’t compare to where the Sox and Pats are right now. That said, Boston trusted the B's big time coming off the last two seasons and into this one, and they’ve done nothing to disprove that. Yeah, it’s only two games, but the Bruins haven’t trailed yet and dominated a really good Red Wings team on Saturday. I’m sure they’ll have their ups and downs this season, but as long as they stay healthy, the Bruins will contend for the Cup.
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It doesn’t get anymore more disgusting than the way David Price behaved on Twitter after Saturday’s loss. I mean, really. Calling sportswriters nerds?
Just kidding. I don’t care, and don’t understand why anyone really does. He could have said a lot worse. I’m sure he and most athletes actually think a lot worse about sportswriters. You’d be disgruntled too if you spent the better part of your 20s living in Tampa.
More important, is the fact that the two guys who the Sox feared most coming into this series, Matt Moore and Price, whether it’s a matter of injury or wear and tear from Tampa’s late season push, are not who we thought they were. And in turn, Tampa is not who we thought they were.
P.S. Lucky for Price (and the Sox) living in Tampa might not be a problem for much longer.
Disgust runner up: Tom Brady’s postgame mock turtleneck.
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In terms of surprise . . . well, last night in Los Angeles Carl Crawford hit a home run to help lead the Dodgers to a 2-1 series advantage over Atlanta. He also made a diving catch in foul territory that sent him tumbling over the wall and into the stands. Most surprising of all? He did so while escaping season-ending injury.
By the way, there’s another emotion running through that ex-Red-Sox-laden Dodgers series: Apathy.
It feels good to not have to care.
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Anticipation: Danny Amendola didn’t look great yesterday, and that’s understandable given his time missed and the fact that he’s obviously still hurting. But his return was the first step in the realization of what this Patriots offensive attack will ideally become.
Assuming that Amendola will still be out there next week, and that Gronk is likely to join him, the prospect of what this offense might look like on Sunday at least somewhat overshadows yesterday’s ugliness.
Either way, the offense better be ready, because you know that the Saints are going to bring it.
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OK, just to wrap it up, here are a few other emotions that my man Mr. Plutchik missed but were definitely in effect this weekend . . .
Annoyance: I know that TBS only broadcasts baseball games in the playoffs, so maybe it will take some time to find a rhythm. That said, the coverage has been pretty brutal for the first two games. Play-by-play guy Brian Anderson and the TBS cameraman misplayed Ortiz’s Game 1 ground rule double worse than Wil Myers did. And just in general, trying to follow fly balls on these broadcasts reminds me of RBI Baseball on Nintendo when you could only track the path of a ball by the shadow it left on the field -- only in this case there’s no shadow.
Understanding: There’s little tolerance for fumbling over in Foxboro. Stevan Ridley can tell you about that. But if there was ever a forgivable or at least tolerable fumble, LeGarrette Blount’s should qualify.
I don’t think there’s a running back in the league that would’ve held on to that ball he fumbled in the first half. It was a great play by the defender. I’m not saying to give Blount a free pass, but he shouldn’t be sent to the doghouse.
Nostalgia: The Sox hadn’t been in the playoffs in four years, and David Ortiz hadn’t hit a postseason home run in five years. But that sight and, even more, that familiar feeling, of watching him go deep (twice!) on the game’s biggest stage was a much welcomed reminder of how great things used to be. And thankfully, how great they still are.
Envy: We’re five games into the regular season and Brady still has yet to eclipse Peyton Manning’s Week 1 touchdown total.
How do you think Tom reacts when he’s watching SportsCenter and the Broncos highlights come on? Does change the channel? Does he make himself watch and just seethe with anger? Does he pick up the phone and text something sweet to Wes?
Frustration: I’ve watched the play no fewer than 30 times and still don’t believe that Amendola didn’t get in the end zone on that fourth quarter drive. One inch would have changed the entire landscape of that game.
As would’ve about 100 inches of torrential rain.
Pride: And finally, with baseball and football intersecting this weekend, I thought this was pretty interesting: There are eight cities still alive for the World Series title, and seven of those eight cities also have an active NFL team. (The one city that doesn’t? Los Angeles.)
Anyway, so you’ve got the Atlanta Braves and the Falcons — who are 1-3 and probably the most disappointing non-Giants team in the NFC. Then you’ve got the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Steelers — who are 0-4 for the first time since 1968. Then, you’ve got the St. Louis Cardinals and the Rams — who haven’t had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2004 and are on their way to another clunker. Then, you’ve got the Oakland A’s and the Raiders — same deal as the Rams. Then, you’ve got Tampa Bay Rays and the Buccaneers — a total disaster. Then, you’ve got the Detroit Tigers and the Lions — who have certainly improved this season, but yesterday’s loss to the Packers was a sign that they’re still not ready to play with the big boys.
And then . . . you’ve got the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots.
Far and away the most dominant and impressive pair.
It’s not even close.
Throw in the currently undefeated (I know) and Cup-contending Bruins and you can’t help but take a second and reflect on how good Boston has it right now.
That’s an emotion we can all get behind.
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