This weekend was too much for one column.
Between the Masters, Clay Buchholz, the Celtics playoff picture, Kobe’s ACL, another Bruins loss and Justin Bieber’s trip to the Anne Frank museum, it’s essentially impossible to limit this post to one single topic. So instead, let’s whip out the old Contra "S" gun and really spread things out.
And since my fellow Kenyans and I are due at the finish line any minute, let’s do it . . . NOW.
Masters of Their Domain
I don’t want to talk too much more about Tiger’s illegal drop. First of all, because if I do, my head will explode and your head will explode and the office cleaning lady doesn’t come back until Friday. Second of all, because even with the two-stroke penalty, Tiger didn’t play well enough to win this weekend, not when it mattered most. Looking back, is it noteworthy and somewhat ironic that his best shot of the week turned out to be the most damaging to his championship dreams? Of course. But that’s golf. It’s an evil game. An evil, horrible, miserable and fantastic game.
Anyway, as you know, 32-year-old Aussie Adam Scott won the tournament after outlasting stand up Argentine Angel Cabrera in a sudden death playoff. It was the first green jacket for Scott, and on a larger scale, the first green jacket for Australia. And in the midst of the celebration, I found myself a little jealous of the Aussies (and not just for their amazing accents).
Is there a sporting event that could elicit the level of American pride and emotion on par (unintended, I swear) with what Scott’s victory did for Australia? I mean, you watched Scott in the aftermath of his first big putt on 18 (when the cameras caught him screaming "C’mon Aussies c’mon!!!"), and then after the clincher on No. 10, and it was all about the homeland. You heard Australian Ian Baker-Finch near tears in the broadcast booth, and it was all about the homeland. Back IN the homeland, the national radio service broke away from an interview with the PRIME MINISTER (multiple times!) to deliver the news of Scott’s win.
It’s really hard to capture and understand just how much it meant for Australia to finally see one of their boys win at Augusta, and I wonder if we’ll ever know that feeling here in America. I know it existed back in 1980, during the Miracle on Ice, but does it exist anymore? Do we care about anything that much? Will we ever again know that joy?
After some thought, I’ve decided the answer is probably no. Maybe if the American men someday win the World Cup? Maybe if another great American heavyweight emerges, captivates the country, and brings home the belt?
I don’t know. But I don’t think so.
Either way, congrats to Adam Scott and the Aussies.
Jars of Clay
In a weird way, I’m almost relieved that Clay Buchholz didn’t finish off his a no-hitter yesterday at Fenway. I was already picturing him going the distance with like 125 pitches, coming down with a sore back or shoulder a week later, followed by two months of Tony Massarotti screeching about how John Farrell didn’t have the guts to take Buchholz out when he should have.
No hitter or not, it doesn’t change the fact that Buchholz has delivered the goods so far this season — according to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s the first Sox starter since Pedro in 1998 to give up a total of one earned run over his first three starts. And that between he and Jon Lester, the Sox have a two-headed/armed beast that can go blow-for-blow with just about any 1-2 combo in the American League. It’s a luxury this team has been missing since September 2011. It’s been that long since they’ve even had one pitcher who can consistently bring it like Buchholz and Lester have this year.
Through six starts, the pair has thrown 41 innings, given up only four earned runs, struck out 41 and walked only 13. Most importantly, the Sox are 6-0 in those starts. It's a whole new ball game for these guys. It’s been a real pleasure to watch.
Of course, it’s early. Making grand statements about a baseball player (or team) through 11 games is akin to declaring the Masters champ at the turn on Thursday. Still, we can only go on what we’ve seen, and what we’ve seen from those two has been spectacular. Not to mention, on the whole, for all the concerns about the Sox lineup with or without David Ortiz, we’ve seen Boston beat CC Sabathia, RA Dickey and David Price. We’ve seen a team that, as presently constituted (assuming they can stay healthy), can at the very least compete with anyone in the AL East. And all things considered, what more can you ask for?
Empire State of Mind
Thanks to a bunch of weekend developments, the Celtics first round playoff opponent is set: They’re headed to New York.
We’ll have plenty of time to break down the Knicks/Celtics series between now and Saturday (or Sunday), but here are two quick thoughts in the meantime:
1. This will be the 14th all-time playoff series between New York and Boston, with the Celtics holding an 8-5 advantage. While the Celtics have played the 76ers (dating back to their Syracuse Nationals days) and Lakers (going back to Minneapolis) more often in the playoffs, they haven’t faced one stable franchise more than they have the Knicks. It’s a great rivalry, and even if the Celtics fall short, there’s no doubt that this series will be a memorable one.
2. My resolution for this year’s playoffs is to not let myself get too caught up in the opinion of local writers/personalities who either hate the NBA or haven’t watched a non-Celtics pro basketball game in a decade (or both, and as to not be passive aggressive about this, I’m referring to Felger and Shaughnessy).
But just this one time, I want to comment on the already budding narrative that Carmelo Anthony is “an overrated ball hog who never will win an NBA championship” (according to Dan) and just a straight up “loser” (according to Felger) who won’t lead his team to victory against the Celtics because he’s only gotten out of the first round once in nine tries.
Anyway, here’s a look at Melo and his nine career trips to the playoffs:
2012: Lost in the first round to the eventual champion Heat. It also didn’t help that Melo’s teammate and the Knicks second best player, Amare Stoudemire, punched a fire extinguisher in the locker room after Game 1 and destroyed his hand.
2011: Lost to the Celtics in the first round. This was two months after the trade, when the Knicks had no chemistry and an awful coach (D’Antoni). Also, starting point guard Chauncey Billups didn’t play after Game 1 because of a knee injury and Stoudemire could barely walk after Game 1 because of a back injury.
2010: Nuggets lost to the Jazz in the first round, 4-2. OK, so here’s one where you can maybe make an argument against Melo in the playoffs, but still, not a strong one. This was 4/5 match-up, with the Nuggets and Jazz finishing the season with identical records. And yeah, Carmelo was the best player in the series, but the Jazz had Deron Williams AND Carlos Boozer in their prime, and the Nuggets big men were abused in the series by Boozer and Paul Millsap. Melo averaged 30 points and 8.5 rebounds.
2009: Averaged 27.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists as the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the eventual champion Lakers in 6.
2008: First round — Swept by the Lakers, aka Kobe at his best, aka the defending NBA champs and eventual Western Conference champs.
2007: First round — Lost in five, to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.
2006: Lost in the first round to the Clippers. OK, another tough one. But it’s worth mentioning that a) LAC was pretty good this year. They had a better regular season record than Denver and took MVP Steve Nash’s Suns to seven games in the next round, b) Melo was still only 21 years old and c) the Nuggets starting five included Francisco Elson and Greg Buckner.
2005: Lost in the first round to the eventual champion Spurs.
2004: Lost in the first round to the Timberwolves, who were led by KG, in his MVP season, and made it to the Western Conference Finals.
2003: LED SYRACUSE TO THE NATIONAL TITLE AS FRESHMAN.
Anyway, so there were two seasons where you could maybe put up a stink about Melo’s playoff success, but other than that, he’s lost to a better team — in many cases THE BEST TEAM.
Listen, I’m not the biggest Carmelo fan. He certainly has his flaws and is nowhere remotely close to the all-around player/teammate that Lebron (obviously) or Durant or other guys are. But at this point, to simply write him off as a hog and a loser is dumber than getting into a fight with a fire extinguisher.
Another one bites the dust
While we’re on the subject of ball hogs, I should mention Kobe Bryant who this weekend fell victim to a torn Achilles. Kobe will never get the respect he deserves around Boston and there are an infinite number of reasons to hate the way he’s carried himself off the court, but as a basketball fan you can’t help but love what he does and the level at which he competes in between the lines. And you have to admit that the NBA and these playoffs will be worse for not having him around. Don’t believe me, just ask the Celtics.
Limping to the Finish
The playoffs can’t start soon enough for the Bruins, who with Saturday’s loss to the Hurricanes have now lost two straight and remain stuck in a state of late-season malaise. But the one thing about these B’s is that they’ve shown (earlier in the year) that they have what it takes to be a top team in the league. They still have a core of players who have been to the top, and know what it takes to get it done in the postseason. What they don’t have, is a goalie like Tim Thomas who they can count on to carry the load and make the difference in crunch time, but at the same, Thomas had never done that before he did it. Maybe Tuukka Rask has that in there somewhere as well. At the very least, maybe he’s got something close.
Either way, the Bruins can take a big step tonight. A win in the Garden against Ottawa and they clinch a playoff spot.
At that’s a wrap on the weekend wrap.
Everyone enjoy your Patriots Day. Good luck to all the runners. Good luck to all the drunks. And I’ll see you all at the finish line.