Boston Sports – Then And Now

Thanks to a message board reader, I came across this Frank Deford column in the July 13, 1970 edition of Sports Illustrated.

Who Are The Hub Men?

It’s about Boston’s refusal to build a public stadium in the city, which forced the Patriots to go and build in Foxborough. However, it is also an overview of the state of the teams in Boston and the mindset of the fans, and media:

In a section which talks about how people in the city recognize Red Sox players whereever they are out in public, Deford writes:

There is a reason for this phenomenon. Sam Cohen says that two things on the sports page sell papers in Boston. These are baseball and championship fights. Since interesting championship fights occur nowadays with the frequency of Halley’s Comet, there is a disposition in the Boston press to write about baseball. Eternally there is no off season. The stuff pours out like lava down Krakatoa. Newspapers may disappear in Boston, but not newspaper baseball writers—they come across the diamond in a phalanx. In Boston so much baseball is bombarded at the reading populace that it is difficult not to know a lot about the Sox even if you don’t want to.

Sounds familiar. So does this:

If Bobby Orr played with the Red Sox instead of the Bruins, they would have to build a new public library to hold his clippings. Even now, Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Conigliaro appear to be regular features, like the horoscope or Dear Abby. Before he ever strode to home plate in a major league game, some kid infielder named Alvarado had been come at so many ways during spring training that he was beginning to resemble the bridge at Chappaquiddick. Was Alvarado ready? Should he play third base or short? Switch Petrocelli to third? Are you crazy? Will this affect Petrocelli? Will it, in fact, affect Petrocelli if he even thinks Alvarado is being considered for short? Will it affect Alvarado if he thinks Petrocelli is affected by this possible switch? What will this do to Petrocelli’s hitting? His fielding? Alvarado’s? What do teammates think of this situation? Opponents? Rival managers? Alvarado? Petrocelli? After weeks of all this, by which time Alvarado had become a name and psyche familiar to every man, woman and child in the area, the season opened with Petrocelli at short and Alvarado at third. By June Alvarado was back in the minors.

Replace “Avarado” with “Iglesias” and that situation might be a description of today.

Despite the overkill, Boston writers do not live up to their image. For one thing, their potential power is limited by the fact that the money and the eggheads still scorn the Boston papers, except for occasional ventures into The Christian Science Monitor. Tennis, which draws from the upper-class element, is likely better served by advance publicity in The New York Times than in local papers. Nor are Boston writers exceptionally critical. Many are downright avuncular. Only one, Clif Keane of the Globe, may be classified as a character. Certainly none resemble Dave Egan, “The Colonel,” who was the “Splendid Splinter’s” nemesis.

Irascible and unpredictable when in his cups, which was often, Egan was a child of mixed parentage—Hearst, out of Harvard. The conflicts showed. He had an almost brilliant capacity to infuriate, and he came, before his death in 1958, to personify The Boston Sportswriter. It was bad casting. In reality, Ted Williams created a monster. Not only did Williams drive Egan to escalate their feud, but the stature Williams gave Egan caused other writers to try to emulate him as a knock artist. None, however, could match The Colonel’s artistry of invective. “You couldn’t help but laugh,” Jackie Jensen says, “even if it was your best friend he was knocking.” Besides, Egan was not all the blackguard Williams made him out to be. He often stooped to mercy. He was an original and flamboyant defender of Williams when most Hub Men had taken it upon themselves to launch vicious personal attacks against him for being a draft dodger and unfit father. Moreover, The Colonel was an utterly charming man when sober, and then his writing could become almost gooey. “He used to write columns about me that would embarrass my mother,” Cousy says.

Today, instead of Dave Egan, we have Dan Shaughnessy.

Still, reading through the article it’s a good overview of the state of Boston sports in 1970. The Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots are all looked at. The article concludes this way:

As usual, Boston is not out of step; it is a step in front. It should not be called the only city that will not build a stadium. It should be known as the first city that refused to. Once again, the Hub Men are coming.

Sometimes, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Robert Kraft fought a similar battle to Billy Sullivan in trying to get a stadium built in Boston, and in the end, simply built another one in Foxborough.

Last fall, ESPN the Magazine devoted an entire issue to Boston sports. It’s interesting to compare some of the things written in 1970 to how things are today. In an article looking at the state of the Celtics, Ric Bucher wrote:

One game into the Heat playoff series, longtime Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy compared the Celtics to 74-year-old actor Morgan Freeman. At the end of the series, MassLive.com ran the headline: “The Death of a Dynasty That Never Was.” A video of two Boston writers debating the Celtics’ chances for another ring had one joking that it was possible only if “LeBron James will take off the fourth quarter in four of six playoff games.” A running September fan poll asking “How are you feeling about the Celtics?” on a scale of 10 to 100 sat for a time at 10 and never topped 50. That same month, when another blog asked, “Is This Already a Lost Season?” message-boarders said they’d prefer to lose the entire season to the lockout than witness banner-fail in a quest for an 18th title.

Then there was the introductory story to the issue, entitled Why Boston is better than you. The writer, Peter Keating draws a conclusion not unlike the one that Deford came up with above:

“This city has a passionate fan base and smart fans and a supply of intelligent people coming out of universities nearby,” Morey says. “Boston’s got the lead. And they’re going to hold it for a while.”

We’ll see.

Maybe The Media Can Now Move On From SpyGate

News came down a little while ago of the punishment handed out to the New Orleans Saints in the bounty program that was operated under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the Rams.

  • Saints Head Coach Sean Payton is suspended for the entire 2012 season without pay.
  • Saints GM Mickey Loomis is suspends for eight games.
  • Saints Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt is suspended for six games without pay.
  • Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely, with Roger Goodell re-assessing the situation after the 2012 season.
  • The Saints give up their second round picks this season and next season.
  • The Saints franchise is fined $500,000.

There will also apparently be player discipline coming down at a later time.

This makes the Patriots 2007 punishment look like a slap on the wrist.

(Of course, for some, this will go the other way, and some will claim the Patriots got off too lightly and will call for a retroactive suspension of Bill Belichick.)

Edit…and we have a winner:

[blackbirdpie id=”182553603158970369″]

[blackbirdpie id=”182555696099893248″]

 

Celtics, Bruins Take A Breather, Bob Ryan Takes A Tour

The Celtics and Bruins had the night off last night, and have tonight off as well, a rare two night respite in their respective leagues.

The Celtics are still looking for a backup big man, needing to get their roster finalized before Friday’s playoff eligibility deadline. None of the available names are really intriguing, though Steve Bulpett drops the name of Reggie Evans out there, who would be an absolute perfect fit. I’m not sure why the Clippers would buy him out though.

The Bruins are still trying to figure out the best line combinations, while also seeing if Marty Turco can help them at all.

Plenty of bouncing around – Bob Ryan visited all 21 New England NCAA Division I basketball programs this winter, and files a report from each and every venue.

Who has the sports passion to do this type of piece when Ryan retires? No one.

What will the Patriots accomplishments in free agency mean for them come draft weekend? – Christopher Price examines how New England’s free agent signings could impact their draft plans.

There is no option, Patriots must put the ‘D’ back in their draft – Glen Farley says that the Patriots have no choice but to load up on defense in the draft.

Patriots still have big holes to fill – Like Tony Massarotti yesterday, Bill Burt doesn’t think the Patriots have addressed their needs this offseason.

Patriots fans will have something to cheer for – Jonathan Comey says that getting worked up over football in March is a futile exercise, though the chase for a championship is always worth it.

Rivalry stays the same – Ian Rapoport says that even though Peyton Manning will be in a new uniform, the rivalry with Tom Brady will carry over.

Who’s managing Bobby V? – Gordon Edes has a look at Bobby Valentine’s right-hand man, who keeps him on track and on schedule every day.

Will Valentine’s candor wear on Red Sox? – Sean McAdam notes that “with six media outlets traveling during the regular season and two all-sports radio stations on the lookout for topics to discuss.” Bobby V’s candor could prove problematic.

A retro fit for Matsuzaka – Nick Cafardo has Daisuke Matsuzaka enjoying his time working with Valentine thus far.

For starters, questions remain: An updated look at Red Sox rotation competition – Alex Speier updates us on the competition to round out the rotation.Ron Chimelis assigns power ratings to the candidates.

O’Neal: ‘I never spoke to [Ainge] about a buyout’ – A. Sherrod Blakely talks to Jermaine O’Neal about his time in Boston, and wanting to set the record straight about reports he requested a buyout so he could join the Heat.

Greg Stiemsma goes home – Bulpett has the rookie center talking about returning to his home state for the first time since joining the Celtics.