Living with the lockouts

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Living with the lockouts

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Thursday afternoon in (where else?) Nantasket Beach, the NFLs head honchos huddled up to resolve a lockout that most of us have ignored since April.

Thursday night in (where else?) Newark, the NBA took the stage for one last show, before sleeking off into their own self-imposed slice of hell.

Its pro sports in 2011 . . . can you feel it?!

Yeah, it feels like burning.

Of course, the situations arent identical. In the NFL, the moneys there the two sides just cant agree on how to ration it. Meanwhile, the NBAs a total mess. Owners are actually losing money and have no problem opening their books if youd like some proof. The NBA has fundamental issues that can only be resolved by serious compromise, legitimate overhaul and Ron Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace. Sadly, only one of those is an immediate possibility.

Obviously, things can change. Bridges can be mended. Seasons can be saved. Hey, take a look at NFL! Theyre not completely out of the woods, but (unless the lawyers creep in and ruin it all) it sure feels like theyre getting close. There was a time when we wondered if it would ever come. Now, the ends in sight.

But much like Nantasket isnt Newark, the NFL isnt the NBA. Basketballs in trouble, and we have to consider the strong possibility that next season wont start on time. That Thursday night marked the last moment of real Celtics excitement until . . . who the hell knows?

But heres what we do know:

Beginning on July 1, the NBA will cease to exist. We cant talk about next year because we wont know when it starts, how many games theyll play or who will even be on the team. Instead, all we can do is press pause, sit back and watch the league give itself mouth to mouth.

Like the NFL now, the NBA will be the broken window on the landscape of sports. Well know its there, that its being worked on, and that eventually it will be fixed, but in the meantime, what are we going to do? The Celtics have six players under contract, and one of thems Avery Bradley. How can you get excited over a team that doesnt exist?

Well ask those questions, and eventually . . . well lose a little interest.

It happened with the NFL, and it will happen here. At some point you just grow immune to the drama, or you become so affected that you force yourself to tune it out. But either way, that makes it harder to care.

For instance, imagine you slip a patch of ice and break your arm. It kills, and as you're sitting in the emergency room the doctor comes and starts explaining to you, in detail, what happened. You find it interesting, because, hey, you want to know what's wrong. This is something you care about. Only this guy won't stop talking. After about an hour of explaining what's wrong, he goes into extreme detail on how he plans to go about fixing it. On and on. Very thorough. All very pertinent information. But you're in pain. You want out of your misery.

At some point, he needs to just shut up and fix it.

We feel that now about football, and no doubt we will about basketball.

But in both cases, I guarantee well have short memories.

As much as Ive hated the NFL over these past few months, Ill get over it five minutes into the first preseason game. And if theres no preseason, then I wont even need five minutes. Youre ready to play? Welcome back!

The NBA might have a little more trouble in the PR department if the season starts late, but theres no question that the first time LeBron and Wade take the court next season, whether thats in October or February, people will watch. When the playoffs start the NBA will reemerge.

Or maybe it wont be that easy, but it also wont be that hard.

When the time comes, each league will win us back.

It's like the same part of our brain that lets us eventually detach from the drama of the negotiations is the same one that helps us forget that the negotiations ever happened.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Prepare to dominate: Lots of work goes into Sale's pitch

Prepare to dominate: Lots of work goes into Sale's pitch

Like his motion, the making of a Chris Sale start is unorthodox genius.

The ace's routine was formed in Chicago, where the Red Sox open a three-game series against the White Sox today. His plan for the usual four days between outings underscores how blessed he is, and how well the 28-year-old knows what his body needs to maintain three dominant pitches thrown at a hummingbird's pace.

MORE ON CHRIS SALE

When Sale takes the mound Tuesday against his old team, he'll have a 2.34 ERA and 101 strikeouts. Those are American League-best numbers entering the week.

Even Sale, no stranger to excellence, indicated some surprise at how well his Red Sox career has begun.

"Would I say I'm surprised? Yeah," Sale said recently. "But at the same time, I wouldn't say I am. I'm having fun, I know that. You know, it's a very result-oriented game. But results can be very skewed. Because two guys can work the same, do the same things on the same day at the same time, and get two totally different results in this game.

"So while people like to look at the results, sometimes they can be skewed . . . I look more in my preparation than I do in the results."

Sale explained to CSNNE just how that preparation works: from his choice to eschew scouting reports, to how he has recently embraced a Randy Johnson-influenced workout routine the Red Sox use across their entire system, something called Nine Innings.

"He's such a beast," assistant strength and conditioning coach Mike Roose said. "He's in phenomenal shape. We can push him harder than maybe some other guys . . . His body's able to work at such a high level."

* * * * *

Before every Red Sox game, there's a meeting to discuss the starting pitcher's plan. The catcher attends, along with pitching coach Carl Willis and bullpen coach Dana LeVangie.

The huddles are usually quick; maybe three minutes, backstop Sandy Leon said. Of course, the pitcher typically attends as well.

Sale never does.

"We don't talk that much," Leon said of Sale.

There's an outstanding work ethic behind every start made by Fenway's greatest spectacle since Pedro Martinez. A planning meeting just isn't part of it.

"My preparation is more physical than it is mental, I guess," Sale said.

The new Red Sox ace doesn't really use video. He doesn't look at scouting reports.

Sale, then, is a throwback beyond his get-it-and-throw-it pace. He actively avoids tools that other pitchers desperately need and seek in the age of analytics.

He wants a Buddhist-like temperament on the mound, a quiet mind.

Still, it's one thing to never shake your catcher, and another to separate yourself from his thought process. That's near lunacy, unless your stuff is just that damn good.

"I guess you could look at it like that," Sale said. "I look at it for me as just clearing my mind. When I'm out there, I'm not worried about what this guy's hitting over the last X amount of at-bats. Because if I read on a scouting report that he's hitting .450 on fastballs in, I'm still going to throw a fastball in. And if I know that going in, I could be timid throwing that.

"You don't ever want to throw a pitch in the big leagues, hoping, praying, defensively. That takes all that away from me."

Sale's greatest effort in between starts, then, is to keep his stuff this devastating, to keep his lithe machine in tune, so that his mind may remain free.

"Let's face it, any athlete -- I'm probably cliche here -- but when you're just in the present, in the moment, you're going to function at your absolute best," manager John Farrell said. "And with a guy that talented, who's got that much self-confidence to go along with tremendous physical ability, he's in that place a lot."

* * * * *

Roose (above), the assistant strength coach, has been in the Red Sox organization for nine years. The Cumberland, R.I., native served in Iraq and Afghanistan before he became an intern with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox -- that's rookie ball -- and worked his way up.Roose and head strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose are still getting to know Sale, but were immediately impressed.

"He's got a lot of really good physical qualities already,"  Roose said. "He's very flexible. Naturally, just by his genetics. His endurance is extremely high. He works on that [doing cardio]. You can tell. We knew right from the first week of spring training [that] endurance is something he works on.

"He has the three really important things you'd need to pitch 35 starts in the season."

That includes what Roose described as sneaky strength. Sale looks like he could use an extra burger or two, but he's better than his rotation mates at more than just pitching.

"He might squat more than all our starters, believe it or not," Roose said. "I was surprised. He surprises me sometimes."

Day 1 after Sale pitches is a recovery day. He likes to go for a run, and if the Sox are home, he'll try to do Pilates. A light workout is possible, too.

On Day 2 comes heavy lifting (as well as a shoulder program that customarily follows workouts).

"I'm not a big muscular guy," Sale said. "I'm just trying to stay long and loose as more the key to my success.

"I don't need to like do power lifting or anything like that. I mean I do squats, we do dead lifts . . . A lot of pulling. I don't do a whole lot of pushing, puts pressure on the front of my arm."

On Day 3, Sale throws his side sessions, goes through a shoulder program, and then works out.

But that workout has changed recently, to Nine Innings.

"You do three workouts, three sets of three workouts," Sale said. "Kind of equals nine innings. Raises your heart rate a little bit, gets some bloodflow."

* * * * *

Sixteen years after Johnson and Curt Schilling carried the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship, Sale has a slice of that duo's old workout plan.

Nine Innings is a pitcher's exercise circuit focusing on power and cardio work, and it's been in place with the Red Sox since Roose joined the organization in 2009.

The circuit dates back to Dave Page, the Sox' former strength coach who held that job for the 2001 Diamondbacks -- with Schilling and Johnson.

Like Schilling, Page wound up in Boston. The latter was let go after the September 2011 collapse, and Roose has overseen the program's evolution since. It exists now at every level of the Sox organization.

"Schilling was there, and then when Schilling came here, it kind of continued," Roose said of the origin story. "Now it's evolved way differently than what it was back then."

Nine Innings is tailored to each pitcher's needs before each outing, based on how they're feeling. Typically, sessions are 10-15 minutes.

"It's a series of power-based movements: plyometrics, medicine-ball throws, in kind of like a circuit fashion," Roose said. "We're also trying to get their cardiovascular system up . . . The third day is really about getting the fast-twitch muscle fibers, almost priming their neurological system to be able to repeat that intense throw."

When Sale joined the Sox, all coaches were simply learning what he likes to do. Like pitching coaches, strength coaches didn't dare tinker. Trust needs to be built.

At season's start, Sale decided he wanted to see what Nine Innings was about.

"He was just kind of like, ‘Hey, I want to try it out,'" Roose said.

The early review is great. Why? The sweat, in part.

"I love it," Sale said. "It's actually one of my more favorite days because I mean, let's be honest, you feel you get more out of it.

"It's been run on the treadmill, and then we're going to do a push-up. And then we're going to do a [medicine-ball] slam, and then we're going to do a TRX pull. Treadmill, go through that again, treadmill, go through that again, and then switch it up again."

Day 4, the final day before a start, is variable and typically very light. Sale always stretches -- hamstrings, lower body, arms -- and he might do Pilates.

He's a rubber-band man.

"I'll do push ups with a band over my shoulder, something like that for a little bit more resistance," Sale said generally. "I don't do like bench press or anything like that, and if I do, it's really low weight. Just trying to get reps, just get kind of blood flow in there.

"For me, it's just trying to stay loose and get that elasticity back and being able to get extension and really being able to get that whip back."

* * * * *

Someday, Sale won't have the benefit of youth, of the nastiest stuff, on his side.

Willis has seen a guy like this before in a previous gig, a guy who doesn't go to the little pregame pow-wows.

"Felix Hernandez when I was in Seattle," Willis said. "He didn't even care to know the lineup."

They call Hernandez "King." But Hernandez is at the stage of his career where his stuff is diminished.

"Maybe it's a little different now that his stuff's not the same," Willis said of Hernandez. "He's got more innings, he's got a little older. But I think it's that supreme confidence and a mix of pitches and action of pitches that you just have total confidence in: 'Whatever I choose to throw, I'm going to beat you with it.' "

Sale thinks that way. With the way he works, it could be a long time before he need think differently.

WNBA: Jones' 23 points, 21 rebounds leads Sun past Chicago, 97-79

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WNBA: Jones' 23 points, 21 rebounds leads Sun past Chicago, 97-79

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Jonquel Jones scored 19 of her career-high 23 points in the second half and finished with 21 rebounds to help the Connecticut Sun beat the Chicago Sky 97-79 on Sunday night.

Jones, who set her previous career best of 20 rebounds on May 13, became the 12th player in WNBA history with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game. Alyssa Thomas had 17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals and Lynetta Kizer scored 16 with seven rebounds for Connecticut (1-4), which won its first game of the season.

Kizer's jumper midway through the first quarter made it 14-13 and the Sun led the rest of the way. Jessica Breland hit two free throws to pull Chicago (1-5) within four with 4:37 left in the third, but Jones scored seven points during a 10-3 run over the next three-plus minutes and the Sky got no closer.

Tamera Young led Chicago with 17 points. She has at least one made 3-pointer in each of the last five games after going nearly five calendar years (June 23, 2011) since her last 3.