D-Day for D-Mat

The Red Sox continued their discussions with Scott Boras about Daisuke Matsuzaka well into the night as several of the blog postings from the Globe and Herald will tell you. Michael Silverman’s final entry of the night…posted at 4:00 AM eastern time, tells us that the Red Sox are offering $8 million a season over six years, while the Matsuzaka side is asking for $11 million over six years. That really doesn’t sound unreasonable, given the money that has been thrown around to the likes of Gil Meche. Divide up the $51.1 million over six years and add it to $11 million and you come up with a little over $19 million a year for six years – but Matsuzaka only gets $11 million. Things need to be wrapped up sometime this morning, but the Red Sox will be publicly flogged if these numbers are correct and they still can’t do a deal.

Gordon Edes reports on the lack of progress in the talks last night. Michael Silverman and Jeff Horrigan also have a report on the negotiations, which will come to an end sometime this morning. Jeff Goldberg also reports on the talks, using information from the Globe and Herald in his story. Alex Speier looks at the talks reaching the critical hour with decisions needing to be made.

Bob Ryan says that if a deal doesn’t get done, blame the Red Sox, because they knew what they were getting into with Scott Boras. Tony Massarotti says that the tail is wagging the dog in this situation, as the Red Sox do not have to prove themselves to Matsuzaka. Massarotti says that if Boras doesn’t come down (He cites $15 million as what Boras is asking for.) than the Red Sox should walk away from the situation. Jon Couture still believes that Matsuzaka will sign, but says if he doesn’t, it’s because Boras has convinced him to be the modern-day Curt Flood.

Joe McDonald talks with David Murphy, who may be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Red Sox outfield situation with the signing of J.D. Drew. David Borges talks to a few Red Sox who were making a goodwill tour across New England. Julian Tavarez wouldn’t mind a chance at closing for the Red Sox, and he believes that Manny Ramirez will be staying in Boston this season.

Edes’ notebook reports on Gabe Kapler retiring as a player and accepting the job as manager of the Red Sox Single A affiliate in Greenville. Horrigan’s notebook has more on Kapler’s new bench role. McDonald’s notebook has a quick update on the negotiations and a couple of team notes.

Patriots

Greg Doyle takes a second look at the film of the Patriots/Dolphins game on the BSMW Game Day page.

Michael Felger looks at the release of Doug Gabriel, saying it is just another example of how badly the Patriots have mismanaged the wide receiver position since the end of last season. Felger makes some valid points regarding the receivers, then moves on to next spring’s free agency, noting that the Patriots will have plenty to spend, but argues that since they didn’t spend to the cap this year, why should we believe they’ll do so next season? That’s some poor reasoning there, as Felger makes that statement even after admitting that the Patriots had spent to the cap in every year of the Belichick era prior to this season. So Felger now says that happened in one offseason is now what will hold true going forward and the previous track record is apparently irrelevant.

Mike Reiss examines how the Dolphins may have gained an edge on Sunday by listening to Tom Brady’s calls at the line of scrimmage. The people he talks to note that this sort of thing really isn’t all that uncommon in the NFL these days. Michael Parente has the Texans coming into town hoping to play the role of spoiler against the Patriots. Christopher Price looks at how Otis Smith is working out as a member of the Patriots coaching staff, working with the team’s defensive backs. Eric McHugh says that Rodney Harrison could be ready to return soon, and examines the club’s other injuries as well. Glen Farley has the Patriots attempting to regroup and move on after their worst loss in some time.

Albert Breer looks a Gabriel’s move from the doghouse to the outhouse with the Patriots. Shalise Manza Young says that the release of Gabriel will certainly prompt more questions than it will answer. Reiss also reports on the release of Gabriel, which caught many by surprise. Alan Greenberg feels the timing of the move is curious, especially with the uncertain status of Ben Watson.

Reiss’ notebook has Robert Kraft feeling positive about where his team is right now. He also confirms that it would be incorrect to represent this year as being the last year of Bill Belichick’s contract. (maybe he won’t be going to the Texans after all, Ron.) McHugh’s notebook has more on the Dolphins’ stealing the Patriots plays by listening to Brady.

Celtics

Shira Springer has the Iverson trade talk lighting a fire under Al Jefferson, who was one of several names listed a possible trade bait. Mark Murphy has the Celtics preparing to take on the 76ers without Allen Iverson, noting that the team has shown great energy without their leading scorer.

Jim Donaldson demands to know what the Celtics are going with all this AI talk.

Springer’s notebook has Wally Szczerbiak hoping to be back on the floor for the Celtics tonight. Murphy’s notebook has more on Wally hoping to contribute tonight for Boston.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa has a report on the Canadiens beating Hannu Toivonen and the Bruins 4-3 in Montreal last night. Steve Conroy has Montreal taking advantage of a non-call to beat the Bruins. Dan Hickling looks at old friend Sergei Samsonov burning the Bruins last night.

Shinzawa has more on Phil Kessel undergoing successful “cancer related” surgery. Conroy reports that Kessel is resting after his surgery. Jessica Fargen says that testicular cancer is one of the most common and curable cancers in young men.

Shinzawa’s notebook looks at the sympathy for Canadiens GM Bob Gainey, whose daughter was swept out to sea last Friday off of Cape Cod and has not been found. Conroy’s notebook has more on the tragedy. Hickling’s notebook has more on Gainey and Kessel.

Michael Vega has Mark Whipple as the favorite to become the next head coach for Boston College football.

FSN has Celtics/Sixers at 7:00. NESN has UMass/Louisville at 7:00. ESPN has Suns/Heat at 7:00 and Lakers/Mavs at 9:30.

Decision Time?

A day of huge speculation, but so far, no moves by the locals. The Celtics are still said to be in the running for an Allen Iverson deal, but news has been scarce on that front today. The brain trust of the Red Sox are out west talking to Scott Boras, trying to get a deal done for Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka.

These stories could break at any moment so as the night moves on, you can keep track of multiple news sources on the Red Sox News Mashup and the Celtics News Mashup.

There have been a lot of statements made about the Matsuzaka negotiations by various members of the media. Some of them seem to be direct contradictions, while others are generalizations which may or may not be true.

Statement: Matsuzaka needs to sign because he can’t go back to Japan and lose face.

Statement: Scott Boras is brilliant and a genius.

Statement: Scott Boras has overplayed this one and has no grasp on the Japanese culture.

Statement: Matsuzaka and Boras don’t have any leverage.

Statement: The Red Sox need to get a deal done or face a public relations disaster.

Statement: Boras’ endgame is to use Matsuzaka to change the system, a la Andy Messersmith.

So which ones are the truth? We’ll apparently find out sometime in the next 24 hours….

Seth Mnookin muses on why these soap operas seem to happen to the Red Sox year after year.

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It’s always great when Dennis and Callahan mock the sensitivity training that they had to undergo a couple of years ago after the METCO incident. They brought up the subject of sensitivity training a couple times this morning, each time to a good giggle. Here’s an example as they came in from the 9:00 AM break at about 9:15:

They had been talking quite a bit all morning about how more and more people are saying that you’re not supposed to say “Merry Christmas” They then played the Lobel clip – “You can’t say that!” Dennis was in the middle of introducing a contest that the station is running and this was the exchange:

Dennis: It’s our show – we can say what we want…mostly…with great prizes, be the 8th caller right now in this Christmas season..

Callahan: (sounds like) With limits…

Dennis: At 617…we’ve gone to training, we know what we can say.

Callahan: Oh that’s right..we’ve been trained.

That last word was spoken and stressed as only Callahan can do so.

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The Big Show took a little break from the Matsuzaka and Iverson talk to talk about Steve Burton breaking the Phil Kessel story last night, leading off the 11:00 PM news, apparently against the wishes of the family. Dale Arnold had a bit of a problem with Burton going on the air with the news, while Glenn Ordway stressed that it is Burton’s job to report on stuff like this. He said it didn’t bother him at all that Burton reported it, and said that it actually clarified the incident because people on the internet were saying it was a drug or alcohol issue and this helped stop those rumors.

I see both sides of this argument. Burton is a reporter…his job is to find information and report it to the public. However, if the family wanted to keep this information private, some consideration should be given to that. I’m leaning towards the thought that this is the sports department…not the the news room and that in a case like this, perhaps the family should be in control of the information and when it is to be released to the public. I wonder if Burton didn’t want his father’s medical condition to be common knowledge and talked about publicly…

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John Buccigross on ESPN.com looks at a new book that tries to address the debate of who who was the greatest NHL player of all time, Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky.

Adrian Wojnarowski has a look at the unusual situation of Kentucky center Randolph Morris Apparently because of some unusual circumstances in his past, (he applied for the draft as a freshman, but wasn’t drafted) even though he is playing for the Wildcats, he is also an NBA free agent and could potentially be signed at any time. (Note to Danny Ainge: This is exactly the kind of move that Red would’ve been all over.)

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From the email inbox this afternoon:

Did you notice Mark Murphy’s column Sunday? Three times he referred to Damon Stoudamire as Damon Stoudemire, which is how Amare Stoudemire spells his last name. This may seem trivial, but it happens too many times with this guy and it is too obvious of a mistake to make for somebody who is supposed to be in tune with the NBA.

Patriots licking wounds, Celtics seeking Answer

A busy day today with Patriots coverage as well as the Celtics pulling out a win in New York and being rumored to be a player in the Allen Iverson sweepstakes. The Red Sox go West to meet with Scott Boras and Bruins rookie Phil Kessel might be the second Boston rookie this year to find himself in the fight of his life.

John Molori has an interview with Jackie MacMullan, the fine columnist for the Boston Globe. She talks about her background, getting into the business, challenges she has faced over the years and her philosophy on sports writing.

Patriots

Michael Felger has his weekly Patriots report card and two of the students, the receivers and the offensive line flunked out against Miami. Ian Clark also has a report card and in his version, the O-Line also has a failing grade while the receivers are barely above flunking out.

Gerry Callahan says that the Patriots have wasted a year of Tom Brady’s prime, having not given him the weapons and tools he needs on offense to make things run smoothly. This was all stuff Gerry was talking about on the radio yesterday. Callahan often takes the opposite tact of many writers who appear on WEEI. Guys like Steve Buckley will write a controversial story the day they are scheduled to appear on WEEI so their story will be the center of attention. Gerry takes what he’s already talked about on the air and make it into a story for the next day’s paper. Jim Donaldson says that Sunday was the beginning of the end of the 2006 season, which he says most certainly will not end in a Super Bowl title.

Albert Breer says that those who cry that Sunday was “just one game” are missing the overall picture of how the Patriots have been playing over the last month. Christopher L Gasper looks at how critical the loss of Vince Wilfork would be to the Patriots if he is out for any length of time. Joe McDonald says that the Patriots are doing what they do best, putting last week behind them and focusing on this week’s opponent. Lenny Megliola says that streaky play is common in the NFL, we’ve just been spoiled by the Patriots of recent years. He says there is still time to right the ship.

Rich Garven says that usually when December rolls around the Patriots are hitting their stride, this year he says they need to find some pride, take some pride in their work or else they might have only one game in January. Alan Greenberg says that the Patriots can pretty much forget about getting a first round bye after their performance on Sunday. Michael Parente has Bill Belichick trying to put the loss into perspective, noting that his team is still 9-4 and in good position.

Steve Buckley looks at Tom Brady keeping an even keel and refusing to blame his teammates for the debacle in Miami. He compares Brady to Tim Wakefield not blaming Josh Bard early in the Red Sox season when the latter was having trouble catching the knuckleball.

Chad Finn has a First and 10 thoughts article on the Patriots/Dolphins game.

Breer’s notebook leads off with more on the injury to Wilfork. Gasper’s notebook has a look at how second year man Ellis Hobbs is still learning about life in the NFL. McDonald’s notebook has more on the questions surrounding Wilfork’s status for this week.

Celtics

The Celtics ran out to a 30 point lead last night at Madison Square Garden, and barely managed to hold on, eventually winning 97-90 over the Knicks. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 31 points while Al Jefferson had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.

Shira Springer has the Celtics managing to hold the fort last night getting the win. Mark Murphy notes that the Celtics had just enough big plays to hold off the Knick rally down the stretch. Desmond Connor says that the Knicks and Celtics have a ways to go to renew their rivalry of the 70’s and 80’s. I experimented with a live blog of Celtics/Knicks last night for the FSN Nothing But Net Blog. It’s clearly a concept in progress. Get the game stories from the enemy perspective on the New York Sports Pages.

Bob Ryan looks at just what any team is in for should they acquire Allen Iverson. Bill Reynolds says that the Celtics have offered Theo Ratliff, Al Jefferson, Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair to the Sixers for Iverson.

Murphy has a few Celtics offering mixed opinions on the new basketball being used, which the league announced is being scrapped at the beginning of the new year. Springer has more on the league going back to the leather ball after receiving complaints from players on the composite ball.

Murphy’s notebook has the players aware of the AI trade rumors, but doing their best not to pay any attention to them. Springer’s notebook has more on the trade discussion and how it is effecting the team.

Red Sox

Michael Silverman reports on the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations with Scott Boras and the Red Sox holding separate press conferences last night in California to say they’re still working on getting something done. Gordon Edes has the Red Sox taking the fight to Boras after being frustrated at the lack of movement in the negotiations.

Nick Cafardo says that Boras’ demands are way out of line and not fair to his client. Nick with an anti-agent article? What universe did I wake up in this morning? Jon Couture also has a look at the Red Sox preparing a “record offer” for Matsuzaka and stressing how important it is to get the job done.

Mike Fine says that Theo Epstein still has time to set the 2007 Red Sox up in good position. A blog entry from Michael Silverman reports that the Red Sox will be inviting another Japanese pitcher to spring training, 38-year-old Masumi Kuwata.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa and Kevin Paul Dupont (with a NESN video) report on the condition of Bruins rookie Phil Kessel, who was hospitalized yesterday. David Scott takes a look at Steve Burton reporting that Kessel has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. He also looks at what promises to be a crazy day in Red Sox coverage. Karen Guregian has more on Kessel’s medical battle.

Shinzawa’s notebook and Guregian’s notebook each look at Hannu Toivonen working his way back into the goaltending mix for the Bruins.

NESN has Bruins @ Candiens at 7:30. Versus has Sabres @ Devils at 7:00.

Monday Wrap

David Scott notes that things seem to be heading to a conclusion this week in completing the Red Sox Radio Team for WRKO next season. Glenn Geffner, the odds-on favorite to replace Jerry Trupiano in the booth next to Joe Castiglione may no longer be such a shoo-in for the spot. It’s rumored he may have priced himself out of the slot and that Steve Lyons could be rising as a possibility.

Shots reports that it’s also possible the position held by Trupiano could also be split between two people.

A few other items from the afternoon:

  • Headline on Boston.com today: False alarm: Borges manuscripts found. Sorry guys, it’s not RON Borges…
  • The sports blog Get Untracked explains how the Red Sox broke the posting system between MLB and the Japanese Pacific League.
  • Jim Allen (no relation) expects the Matsuzaka signing to get done.
  • Joe Fitzgerald says Jim Rice deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
  • If you’ve got surround sound on your home theatre and don’t want to listen to the Monday Night Football crew tonight, here’s a tip on How to Remove Annoying Announcers From Sports.

I’m about five years behind the curve on this one, but I’m going to try my first “live” blog tonight over on the FSN Nothing But Net blog as I’ll be watching the Celtics/Knicks matchup from Madison Square Garden starting at 7:30. This has the potential to be a trainwreck, so be sure to check it out.

Monday Midday

A bad Monday morning was made a little worse by getting in my car and finding out that voice of reason Boomer Esiason had made his weekly call to WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan a hour early this week. I missed the segment.

Tom Brady sounded better than you would expect. He made an interesting point about what makes the Miami defense so tough. He said that they generally double the receivers and leave a safety back to guard against the deep pass. He said that that alignment usually means that the tight end or running back is going to be open. However, when you have to use the back or tight end to help in pass protection against Jason Taylor, it leaves only double-covered receivers to throw to.

Brady also said he would still like to be playing in 10 years.

Michael Holley still thinks the Patriots can get to the Super Bowl – his prediction is New Orleans and New England.

Peter King has his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column. If you get annoyed like I do at having to click through seven pages to read the column, simply click the “print” button and a new window will open with the entire column. Just read it, and close it when you’re done, don’t actually print the column…

Dale Arnold had the news that Bruins rookie Phil Kessel is in the hospital for a non-hockey related medical issue. The Boston.com Bruins Blog has the news as well. There isn’t a whole lot of information available at this time.

Patriots Sacked In Miami

Welcome FOX/MSN vistors…please feel free to check out the rest of the site. Here’s a few other football related posts:

  • This Season’s Patriots Coverage Part One
  • This Season’s Patriots Coverage Part Two
  • Chat with Moving the Chains author Charles P Pierce. (Book on Tom Brady)
  • Bill Belichick and the New England Media (April, 2005)

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After barely managing to avoid beating themselves the last two weekends, the Patriots took a major step back yesterday afternoon in their quest to return to Super Bowl glory. The Patriots offense could not mount a threatening drive all afternoon, as the Miami Dolphin defense harassed Tom Brady all afternoon and shut out the anemic Patriots 21-0. The Patriots did not even make a single trip into the red zone all afternoon, making it only as far as the 33 yard line.

The game stories are ugly, (Patriots News Mashup) and perhaps for once Patriots fans might be hoping for the Red Sox to steal the spotlight from them this week. It may be a week for fans to adjust their expectations for a franchise that has set the bar so high. It’s actually an interesting process in the progression of a team. As a squad is on the way up, each victory is exhilarating, and the losses, though stinging, are not incredibly painful because victory is not yet “expected” each week. Then when a team reaches the top and does so in such a dominating fashion as the Patriots of 2003 and especially 2004 did, the wins become expected. In fact, wins are no longer enough. Perfection is strived for. A rare loss is unexpected and painful. The regular season isn’t quite as enjoyed as it should be, because all eyes and anticipation are towards the playoffs.

Then the club goes through a couple of seasons where they are still very good, but not quite at the previous levels, yet the fan expectations have been set high by the previous editions, even though they have nothing to do with the current team.

Losses become maddening. Anger results. You see familiar names and faces on the field, yet the results are not what you have come to expect. A quick check around various outlets, blogs, message boards and the like finds a lot of frustration over the performance of yesterday. It’s passion, yes, but the bitterness and anger just seems a little over the top. Why is the anger there? Frustration mostly, but the frustration stems from high expectations not being remotely met.

That’s where the adjustment in expectations comes. Football season is a tremendous time of the year. Each week should be enjoyed. The Patriots only have three regular season games remaining. Just three weeks of guaranteed football. They’re probably going to make the playoffs, but what are our expectations once there? Because of the last few years, anything less than a Super Bowl victory is going to result in the season being labeled a failure. For an organization that means that they have come a long way in expectations over the years, both for the fans and the franchise internally. 20 years ago could you have imagined a time when a 9-4 team would be dismissed and criticized the way this one has been? No way.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s tremendous that expectations are so high for this team. But it almost seems to me that those expectations can also take away from the fun of watching football. The wins are not enjoyed enough and picked apart. They’re projected as future losses – “they’ll never beat a team in the playoffs playing like that.” Actual losses, especially ugly losses, of which the Patriots have four of this season, are cause for meltdowns. I take losses as hard as anyone, in fact I take poor play as bad as anyone (Ask my wife how I was during the third quarter of the Lions game – I had to leave the house and go change the taillight on my car – I just couldn’t watch it anymore.) but I think I get over it pretty quick, and start to look forward to next week almost immediately.

Pretty soon there isn’t going to be a next week, and then what will we do? Pine away for Red Sox hot stove news? Watch the Celtics struggle with young players another year? Watch the Bruins win something like 10 of 13 games and still be in last place?

I had high hopes and expectations for this club. My hopes are still high, but my expectations have been lowered. I’m going to try and enjoy football for the next few weeks, following them as avidly as I always do, but rather than expecting a win each week as if it were a birthright, I’m going to hope for wins, but mostly try to enjoy the experience of football. It’s the best I can do to keep my sanity.

I’m not sure if any of that made sense, but it was therapeutic.

The plan for today is to try and fit in a couple short updates here over the course of the day. I don’t know what they’ll be as of yet, but I’ll try to get them in. The Patriots news page link was above, here’s a few others for the morning:

Patriots Look to Hang On

The Patriots head to South Florida this weekend to take on their AFC East rivals the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. A focus for the Patriots Sunday will be taking care of the football. We’ll be watching to see if Laurence Maroney is able to play and if the Patriots go to more of a spread offense.

Keep up with your Patriots news tomorrow and Sunday on the Patriots News Mashup page, which brings you stories from about 20 newspapers, web sites and blogs all in one spot. Moving your mouse over each headline in most cases gives you a preview of the first paragraph of the article. On Sunday morning, we expect to have links from the local newspapers along with some commentary and a preview of the game on the Patriots Game Day page.

Keep up with the Celtics as they take on the Suns Friday night and the Nets Saturday night on the Celtics News Mashup page.

Will the Red Sox land Eric Gagne? Will there be progress in the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations? Keep up with the news on the Sox, including from the Extra Bases and Clubhouse Insider blogs on the Red Sox News Mashup.

TV Highlights This Weekend

Friday
7:30pm FSN – Suns @ Celtics (HD)
7:30pm ESPN2 – UMass @ Montana (Div 1-AA Semifinals) (HD)
8:00pm ESPN – Wizards @ Sixers (HD)
10:30pm ESPN – Heat @ Nuggets (HD)

Saturday
Noon CBS – Indiana @ Kentucky
2:30pm CBS – UCLA vs. Texas A&M
7:00pm NESN – Devils @ Bruins (HD)
7:30pm – FSN – Celtics @ Nets

Sunday
1:00pm CBS – Patriots @ Dolphins (HD)
4:00pm FOX – Seahawks @ Cardinals (HD)
4:15pm CBS – Broncos @ Chargers (HD)
6:30pm NESN – Maryland @ Boston College
8:15pm NBC – Saints @ Cowboys (HD)

NFL Distribution Maps

CBS Game One

CBS Game Two

FOX Single Game

Channel Surfing

  • Be sure to check out the UMass football team as they journey to Montana for the Semifinals for the NCAA 1-AA Football Tournament. The game is on Friday night on ESPN2 at 7:30.
  • Estimate on the number of times this week that Glenn Ordway referred to Scott Boras as “brilliant” and/or a “genius” – 77.
  • Ron Borges’ comments on FSN Thursday night, chronicled here on Friday morning, have elicited several chuckles from on-air personalities today as Dale Arnold, Michael Holley, Steve DeOssie and others dismissed Borges for simply trying to cause trouble and make stuff up.
  • Junior Seau says he wants to play football next season, Len Pasquarelli says it could be with the Patriots.
  • Glad to have a little Celtics talk on WEEI, though I don’t think I need the Big Show crew breaking down the chances of Allen Iverson coming to the Celtics, especially on the Friday before a Patriots/Dolphins game.
  • Bill Simmons has the Patriots at #9 in his Power Rankings in what has become an illogical season.
  • The Patriots are seventh on the Football Outsiders DVOA Power Rankings.
  • They’re fourth on Cold Hard Football Facts.
  • Chad Finn hates winter.

Pierce on Guns

Paul Pierce will be one of many quoted on ESPN’s Outside the Lines Sunday morning on the topic of athletes and guns:

“Because I’m recognized on TV, people want what I have. And, people are jealous of what you have. And, you have to be careful because people out there in the world are very envious of your life.”

Pierce, as you recall survived a brutal multiple stabbing at a Boston nightclub in September 2000. He is now licensed to carry a concealed weapon, but says he leaves his gun at home and hires a bodyguard when he goes out.

Media Columns From Around The Country

New England

Susan Bickelhaupt has a quick column today, looking at the issue that Patriots viewers have had this season since WBCN went to a four second delay. TV viewers would turn down the sound on their set and turn on the radio and listen, something that is just about impossible to do today. David Scott has a further look at the Fred Smerlas.Glenn Ordway Patriots ticket story that appeared in last weekend’s Boston Globe. Andrew Neff has a look at Dan Hannigan and Eric Frede’s NESN show “America East on Campus.” Bill Doyle has a look at 12 Worcester Sharks AHL games being shown on local television this season. John Molori says that some Mark McGwire bashers are choosing fiction over facts when it comes to the slugger’s Hall of Fame qualifications.

New York

Andrew Marchand reports that Knicks’ TV announcers Gus Johnson and Walt Frazier had a shouting matching during a TV timeout this week. Johnson apparently felt Frazier was talking too much. Richard Sandomir looks at why Rutgers fans may not be able to watch their school’s bowl game appearance against Kansas State in the the Texas Bowl because the NFL Network has the rights to the game, and well, stop me if you’ve heard this before…many areas don’t yet have access to the network because of the ongoing battle between cable operators and the network. Phil Mushnick notes that the Knicks are really earning the boos they’re getting at Madison Square Garden. Neil Best checks in with a guy who has a really tough job – the Knicks vice-president of marketing. Bob Raissman says that the MSG broadcast crew is a “sorry” operation. Marchand’s Memo of the Week tells Bryant Gumbel he is not very good on his NFL Network play-by-play.

More East Coast

Michael Hiestand has a look at Brent Musburger, who has evolved from his role as “the man” at CBS to a jack-of-all-trades for ESPN. Aaron Bracy has Chris Berman missing “NFL Primetime” and being back at the Bristol studios on Monday nights. In his blog, Bracy says major changes are needed for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Jim Williams defends sports radio host Anita Marks against charges that she made a racist remark on the air when she called Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman a “juice monkey.” Laura Nachman reports on a pair of veteran Philadelphia broadcasters being taken off the air this week. Chris Zelkovich looks at the Toronto sports radio scene getting a little more crowded.

South

Dave Darling touts the advantages and features of HDTV, reminding us not to forget the improved sound as a major bonus as well. Barry Jackson says that there is plenty of room for improvement on the NFL Network game telecasts. Jim Sarni reports on FOX’s huge numbers for the NFL the last few weeks with last week’s Cowboys/Giants game being the most watched regular season game this century. David Barron looks at a new DVD set from NBA Entertainment which allows Rockets fans to view game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals without having the screen split to also show coverage of the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase. Barry Horn looks at Tony Romo going nationwide.

Midwest

Dan Caesar reports on sports talk show host Kevin Slaten of KFNS who was involved in an altercation at a bar recently and could face criminal charges. Judd Zulgad reports that the Twins will have a new radio home next season, but the voices will be familiar, including 82-year-old Herb Carneal, who will has called Twins games since 1962 and is entering his 52nd season calling Big League games. Bob Wolfley talks to ESPN’s Jay Bilas about the Wisconsin/Marquette basketball rivalry. Ed Sherman gives a thumbs up to “Sports Action Team” the SportsCenter takeoff show that airs late nights on Sundays. Jeffrey Flanagan notes that with the Royals TV rights changing over in 2008, next season could turn into a tryout season for the broadcast crews.

West Coast

Jay Posner has Phil Simms looking forward to his first in-person look at the Chargers this weekend. Simms likes to see teams in person to get a real feel for them rather than just making judgments based on what he sees on television. Larry Stewart looks at how NBC is pleased with the flexible scheduling this season, with Cowboys/Saints being the latest example of having a good game moved in their favor. He also looks at high school football getting its turn in the spotlight. Tom Hoffarth has Dan Patrick sneaking in another movie role. Jim Carlisle has the Saints staking a claim as America’s team with their feel-good season. John Maffei has San Diego State naming a new exclusive athletics marketing partner, which will oversee TV and Radio rights as well. Joe Davidson checks in with sports radio talker Mike Lamb.

Borges: Belichick to Houston

David Scott has a further look at the Smerlas/Ordway Tailgate article in the Globe last weekend, some Tom O’Brien observations and a number of other items.

We’ve got another Friday edition of the Game Day Roundtable posted, with topics ranging from Eugene Wilson, to Tom Brady’s fourth quarter performance and the ever popular mediot of the week.

Exchange on FSN’s Four Downs with Felger last night.

Michael Felger: (Talking about the many coaches that are rumored to have their jobs in danger) Do we have to worry about Bill Belichick on any of these lists?

Ron Borges: Yeah. I think, I mean, he has been connected several times with people I know to Houston, that they may do something there. They’re getting tired of losing, they brought in a new coach, they’re losing again, and you know, there’s tons of money there…

Felger: Bill Belichick in Houston – are you serious?

Borges: Well, with a dynamic personality like that he’d fit right in with a cowboy hat and everything.

Then Felger recapped what he knows about Belichick’s contract status, that three years ago the Patriots said he had been extended two years and that according to those calculations, this was the last year of his contract. Sounds to me like Borges is “throwing it out there” and trying to stir things up once again. The shot at Belichick’s personality when Felger questioned if he was serious seems to confirm that.

Add to that Robert Kraft’s comments in Borges’ own paper, the Boston Globe on January 18th, 2006:

Kraft said yesterday, however, that any representation of next season as the final year of Belichick's contract would be untrue.

"It's our intention that Bill will be the coach for some time," Kraft said. "Bill Belichick and his staff have done a great job. In many ways, the coaching job this year was his most outstanding.

"He's not about ego and the sidebar privileges that come with being the head coach. He represents the face of our team and family with values that we feel are important. Trust in this business is very important. When the tough times come in this business, the arrows start flying, and you have to stick together. We have the utmost trust in Bill Belichick."

Upon Further Review – Thursday

I’ve come back to Bill Reynolds column in the Providence Journal several times over the course of today. Has Reynolds actually spent any time around the Patriots? I’m guessing very little, if any. He insists that what he says about the team is not meant as criticism. OK. So what exactly is it, if not meant to be critical? The underlying theme of the piece seems to be that this tight lipped approach is only acceptable because the team is winning.

Do any of these guys actually consider WHY the Patriots are so tight with information? Do they ever address those matters? I’ve tried to point out examples of why the Patriots don’t give out a lot of information, and I’ve got another one today. This is from this weekend’s opponent, the Miami Dolphins. In today’s Miami Herald, there is an article from Armando Salguero, who reports that the Dolphins are right up against the league’s new salary cap. Salguero points out that this situation might make it hard for the Dolphins to offer contract extensions to players on the roster.

Then there is a quote from head coach Nick Saban, who says: ”We’ve had conversations with some people, I’m not going to be specific with who,” regarding contract extensions. Seems innocent enough. Seems like Saban is just making a general statement without giving specifics.

But it was enough.

Apparently the reporter then went around the Dolphins locker room and polled players as to whether they’d been approached about a contract extension yet. All the players he talked to expressed that they would like to talk about an extension but have not yet been contacted. One player, David Bowens says:

“But I don’t know what they’re saying upstairs. I don’t know if I’m expendable. Maybe I’m on my way out. I don’t want it to be that way at all, but again this is a business. We haven’t been talking, so the only other option is to go to free agency.”

Do you think this might’ve been a distraction, or caused some hurt feelings that they hadn’t been approached yet? At the very least it might’ve planted some seeds about how much the organization wants them if they haven’t yet been contacted. All things that a team already struggling through a disappointing season doesn’t need right now.

Would this have happened here? We’ve already seen how some members of the Boston sports media are obsessed with contracts. Yet, the Patriots simply don’t say anything about the matter. We’ve got Asante Samuel and Daniel Graham getting set to hit free agency, but you don’t have Belichick or the players mentioning it.

I’m a little surprise that the Belichick-like Saban even said that much, but it just shows the need that they simply must be on their guard at all times in order to not have something cause a problem or distraction. No wonder Belichick is so guarded with his comments all the time. There’s a reason for it.

But people like Reynolds just assume that it is because the team just wants to be difficult and control information for no good reason. It’s also clear that Reynolds and many others have not been around the team on a many Fridays when the atmosphere is a bit lighter, and oftentimes Belichick can be urged into deeper discussions or even reflections on an experience from a time in his lengthy career in the league.

Some quick links from today:

  • Chris Colston in USA Today has a piece on the Patriots, noting how, despite an abundance of roster turnover, the winning attitude remains at Foxboro. This article also builds a little on the above section when it relates that the team shows players clips each week from other teams around the league about what NOT to say.
  • Asante Samuel told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that catching a Nerf ball in the offseason really improved his hands and is partly responsible for his increased interception total.
  • Tom Brady sues Yahoo! for using his photo in an ad for their Fantasy Football game.
  • Former Celtics executive vice president of Marketing and Sales Stuart Layne has been named Publisher of the Boston Metro.

The Legend Turns 50

Earlier this year I was thinking ahead to December 7th, which is my dad’s birthday, but also happens to be that of Larry Bird. I was shocked when I realized that Bird was going to be 50 years old this year. It’s a milestone that a number of writers have observed today with articles on the Legend.

The longtime basketball writers of the Globe and Herald each submit outstanding pieces on Bird this morning, With Bob Ryan serving up a look at how basketball has never been the same here in Boston since #33 hung ‘em up. Ryan sounds like he’s going to sit in front of NBA TV today and take in the day long tribute to Bird. Steve Bulpett has an equally fine feature on Bird as he looks at how time waits for no one – even Larry Bird – who although he actually feels better than when he retired, still has many aches from his playing days. Gerry Callahan also has a fine column on Bird, pointing out that when Larry was in his prime, Celtics games were something you planned your whole evening around, they were something you looked forward to all day. The Herald serves up a Bird Timeline and also seven memorable games from his career.

The current edition of the Celtics played last night and were on the verge of getting blown out at home before they stormed back in the closing minutes, coming back from 14 down with 3:10 remaining to tying the game twice in the last 40 seconds before Rudy Gay hit a jumper that went off the rim and in to give the Grizzlies the lead. A last second shot by the Celtics was wild, and Memphis, who came into the game as one of the few teams with a worse record than the Celtics, defeated Boston 98-96.

BIll Doyle looks at the Celtics as a team sliding, and has a look at the last play of the game, which didn’t exactly go according to plan. Peter May says this one was particularly tough to stomach, unless you’re already on the Greg Oden watch. Bulpett’s game story has this one as a matchup between clubs who will likely be battling for Oden come next spring. Shalise Manza Young has more on the game, which ended with a “a (heck) of a comeback spoiled.” Scott Souza says that the comeback, led by a squad all under 6-8 was just another sideshow in a regrettable loss for the Celtics.

If there was a bright spot for the Celtics, it was the play of Gerald Green, who appeared to break his way into the rotation with his play last night. The second year player was a huge part of the comeback and scored 21 points on the night. Frank Dell’Apa has Doc Rivers saying that Green has clearly earned minutes and will be playing more. Mark Murphy says that if Wally Szczerbiak is going to miss Friday’s game with Phoenix than Green should start the game. Rivers doesn’t say the kid will start, but says he will get more time. Mike Fine has Doc Rivers acknowledging his club’s youth but not wanting to hear it as an excuse.

Bulpett’s notebook has Kendrick Perkins having to wear a protective boot for the next few weeks to allow his foot to full heal, which puts the Celtics dangerously thin at the center spot. May’s notebook has more on Perkins, who was removed from the game against Chicago on Monday because Rivers saw that he simply couldn’t move out there. Doyle has more on the Celtics playing without a center for at least the next couple weeks.

Patriots

The tea leaves seem to indicate the Laurence Maroney will miss Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. Mike Reiss examines whether Corey Dillon and company will have the ability to step and fill the hole left by the dynamic rookie. Karen Guregian says that the Patriots running attack isn’t quite as monstrous without Maroney. Eric McHugh has a report card from Sunday’s game and also says the screen pass could be a renewed weapon for the Patriots.

Ian Clark looks at how Daniel Graham was willing to give up his NFL career if it had turned out that he was a kidney donor match for his brother Jason. Alan Greenberg looks at Graham’s recent appointment as a team captain, only the second player in the Belichick era to be named a captain after the season had started. Michael Parente has Graham being awarded for his work ethic with the captaincy.

Bill Reynolds writes a whole column on how hard it is to get any information from the Patriots, but says it isn’t criticism. He says because they’re winning, it’s ok. It sure sounded like a criticism of the organization as I read it.

John Tomase has a look at Benjamin Watson as the third year tight end is having his best season, but also has recently developed a disturbing habit of coughing up the ball. Joe McDonald examines how Doug Gabriel seems to have dropped completely off the Patriots radar since fumbling against the Jets. Albert Breer looks at Mike Vrabel, Chad Scott and Artrell Hawkins as three veterans whose flexibility in being able to play multiple positions has really saved the Patriots. Rich Garven looks at Ray Mickens getting plugged into the Patriots secondary to fill a hole at nickel back for the club.

Check the coverage from down south in the pages of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald.

Reiss’ notebook has Tom Brady liking what he sees in this team, big picture, as they sit at 9-3. Tomase’s notebook observes that Maroney has never been one to miss a lot of time, having never been seriously injured at Minnesota. McDonald’s notebook looks at the Patriots late season roster tweaking. Garven’s notebook looks at whether Corey Dillon has what it takes to be the Patriots lead back on Sunday. Parente’s notebook has more on Mickens getting the call from the Patriots.

Red Sox

Gordon Edes says that with just a week to go before the deadline, the Red Sox are getting concerned about their chances of signing Daisuke Matsuzaka. Tony Massarotti says that no one can accuse the Red Sox of being cheap this offseason. Sean McAdam says that the new signings mean that the Red Sox payroll will likely be over $148 million for 2007. Rob Bradford looks at the reasons why the Red Sox paid $70 million for J.D. Drew. Jon Couture says that while the Red Sox see Drew as a complimentary piece, the Dodgers saw him as the answer, which may have been a part of his troubles there. Bob Stern takes a crack at analyzing the Red Sox spending thus far.

Michael Silverman has the Red Sox actively looking at Eric Gagne, but hoping to shave a little off the asking price. Nick Cafardo says that with Theo Epstein the bloom is off the rose as far as fans are concerned, and that this offseason could be a turning point in his career. Jeff Goldberg has Grady Little endorsing the latest Red Sox signees. Alex Speier looks at the Red Sox going back to a lineup that features more offense, less defense. Joe Haggerty has Lou Piniella praising Julio Lugo and saying that Boston fans are really going to like his energy.

Edes’ notebook says that the Manny Ramirez trade talk has just about died down. Silverman’s notebook also has the Manny trade talk diminishing after the Dodgers and Mariners turned down Red Sox demands for the slugger. McAdam’s notebook has more on the Manny talks and a number of other items and rumors.

There’s plenty more sports news on the Bruins and a busy night in college basketball locally, along with the news that BC Football coach Tom O’Brien is leaving for N.C. State, but I’m out of time…

NESN has Bruins/Maple Leafs at 7:00. NFL Network has Steelers/Browns at 8:00. TNT has Pistons/Mavs at 8:15 and Heat/Kings at 10:30.