Heart Surgery Jokes Are Hilarious, Just Ask Mike Felger

In a show much of which was spent lambasting the Bruins and GM Peter Chiarelli for not being able to close a deal, (that’s a whole other topic) Michael Felger decided he needed to poke the Celtics as well, specifically Jeff Green, who hit the game winning shot the night before.

When anyone undergoes heart surgery, it’s a big deal. The issue Jeff Green (and Chris Wilcox) had last year was potentially life threatening, yet they both recovered sufficiently enough to play NBA basketball this season. Green hasn’t been as consistent as some people would like, but since the All Star break he is averaging 16.3 points a game. Anyway, this is the discussion they then had.

Mazz: I mean, they were down 10 with 6 minutes to go. and then they made some shots, Pierce made one in the lane, and then Green obviously made a great drive, got the shot off with a half-second left to win the game. The thing I thought was cool about the game – and they’re going nowhere without Garnett – and I know you’re not particularly fond of Jeff Green’s game, you think he should be better, and in the big picture I’m thinking you’re right about that. But, the guy who performed his heart surgery, the doctor, was there, and so Green makes the shot, showed a lot of emotion after the made the basket, and then, I don’t know, walking off the floor, went over and sort of put his arm around his doctor and said a quick embrace and moved on.

Felger: But you know what he was asking, right?

Mazz: What?

Felger: For the heart back.

Mazz: Oh yeah, that’s what it was. You are such a cynic. You know that?

Felger: I think the guy took it out.

Mazz: It’s amazing though, you think about…

Felger: He SUCKS.

Felger then congratulated himself on a great line.

I’m sure the Felger Fluffers are going to be out in force on this post, but I think this crosses a line. Especially coming from a guy who screams in agony if he runs out of Curel in the studio. He’s going to mock a guy who had extensive open-heart surgery for a life-threatening condition, and is playing high-level NBA basketball a year later?

But he gets the big ratings so apparently I’m the one who is wrong here. Felger can do no wrong. Got it.

Just a couple other items from today:

Jerry Remy fully recovered, not so sure about Red Sox – Bill Doyle talks to the NESN Red Sox analyst, who feels great physically, but understands the low expectations for the team.

Globe needs more balance in assessing athletes’ charity – Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Breslow chastises the Globe for its much-hyped feature on athlete charities and the percentage of profits that go to the causes. In an incredibly impressive letter.

By know you’ve probably heard the news that FOX announced this week that Tim McCarver Steps Down In October following the end of the World Series. Red Sox fans a likely happy over this news.

Buck on McCarver: “I’ve Learned More from Him Than Anybody…Including My Father” – Joe Buck, who has been in the booth with McCarver for 17 years credits McCarver with showing him more of the business than his own dad, the legendary Jack Buck.

SI Baseball Preview: Washington Nationals Will Win 2013 World Series – SI has the Red Sox finishing last in the AL East.

ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Conference Call Transcript – The crew of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and John Kruk also previewed the season this week.

Sports Media Musings: Ramble, Ramble, RAMBLE

I used to hit on a variety of topics, both local and national, in my media columns. These days, because we’ve been hit with a barrage of news and events, my writing in this space has been more focused and in-depth. So, to combat this trend, I decided to clean out my notebook. Also, since I have your attention, I’d like to get a mailbag going next week so drop me a line on Twitter (@Hadfield__) or via email ([email protected]). As always, thanks for reading.

***

Let’s play 9 innings with this, shall we?

1. Was this what Spring was like in the late ’80s? Riveting night in Boston sports.

  • I understand The Old Garden was legendary and all that. No arguments here. People romanticize about it and I’m sure the place was a fantastic venue to watch a big game (I was too young to remember). But I do think it’s telling how the Bruins and Celtics both hold two of the biggest home court/ice advantages in their respective leagues.
  • Jarome Iginla was heading to Boston then, overnight, he wasn’t. TSN had it wrong. Since they, evidently, adjudicate on such matters, it will be interesting to hear how Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti will handle the error in reporting today. This, of course, was all in the aftermath of Tuukka Rask letting in a game-tying goal with just under ten seconds left, leading to a Bruins’ overtime loss to Montreal.
  • The Celtics, meanwhile, came out with a dramatic 93-92 victory in Cleveland on the strength of this brilliant up and under scoop layup by Jeff GreenI was busy watching the end of the B’s game, but I hear Gary Tanguay and Brian Scalabrine had an entertaining post-game show. Apparently, Alan Thicke said that Green didn’t really impact the game, to which Scal replied, “HE HIT THE GAME-WINNING SHOT!” If Tanguay stayed his lane as a reliable host, he’d be fine, but Mr. Beaver gets in his own way far too often. Word of advice: stop watching Skip Bayless cuts, Ron Burgundy.

2. Bob Ryan, curmudgeon? Nope. Dude is a purist. Undresses JA Adande here. Excellent take.

  • More important (or comforting) is that, to this day, Ryan still loves sports.
  • Ryan’s appearance on Bill Simmons’ podcast earlier this week is a must-listen. Ryan still throws 97 MPH and his ability to recall minute details about basketball over the course of four decades is remarkable. We always say, “Person X will forget more about __ than we’ll ever know.” I’m not sure if we always mean it. In Ryan’s case, we do.

3. Speaking of the Sports Guy, never got the chance to touch on his Twitter suspension after calling the Skip Bayless-Richard Sherman “First Take” fiasco a lose/lose segment for all parties involved, including ESPN.

  • Simmons was right. But the suspension makes sense, he had to be held in check — can’t be calling out colleagues.  Still, this (strangely) felt like yet another loss for us, the viewers, in ESPN’s curious role as Fast Food Food Journalism Enabler.
  • You know how I just wrote that Simmons needed to be held in check? Puhlleeeasse. A nothing Twitter suspension didn’t stop The Sports Guy from taking a veiled shot at Bayless in his recap of The Walking Dead on Grantland Monday afternoon (Yeah, I watch The Walking Dead. I concede it’s more or less a terrible show. Nonetheless …)

A little bit later, when Merle confidently predicts to his brother that Rick is gonna buckle, he sounds like Skip Bayless talking about LeBron James during the 2011.

4. Matt Doherty calling out CBS Sports coverage of the NCAA Tournament on ESPNU — specifically Charles Barkley, dropping a not so subtle “turrrrribllleee” line — is self-serving and specious. Sure, I don’t think Chaz or Kenny Smith are breaking down tape of Harvard before the tourney, but why do I need “experts” to tell me what’s happening with March Madness? I wrote about the tourney for Metro Boston on Monday. To me, there are no true insights available until the games are actually played. College basketball is sloppy; you never know how each team will handle the others playing style.

5. You want a “Salk and Holley” take, right? All I can say is that it’s an auspicious beginning. It’s not great, it’s not terrible, but you have to assume it’s going to get better; if this is the baseline starting point, then it’s possible for this show to make noise down the line.

  • Too vague, eh? (I feel like I should write like a Canadian when discussing Mike Salk because he really, really loves hockey guys. Like a lot. WEEI wants you to know this.)
  • The “Miked Up” segment should be scrapped. Like today.
  • I don’t want to pass judgement on the show anytime in the near future. That would be disingenuous and short-sighted. Plus, I’ve made that mistake before. Check my archives here: I sound bi-polar while writing about Grantland. I defended it, questioned it, tolerated it, liked it, and now I love it.

6. Amidst all the radio war drama, the “Dennis and Callahan” show has become unlistenable. I tried real hard this morning. Couldn’t get through an hour. Sorry.

  • I’m told the Kirk Minihane seclusion is a very real thing.
  • Since joining “Dennis and Callahan,” Minihane hasn’t been nearly as active writing on WEEI.com. And that sucks. For my money, he’s the best columnist in the city.
  • WEEI obviously wishes it had kept Felger and dumped Glenn Ordway during The Big O’s frisky contract negotiations in the later part of the last decade. Let’s say they fire up Doc Brown’s Delorean to go back in time to the first sign of trouble. My retrospective moves: Dump John Dennis and pair Gerry Callahan with someone who can challenge him; pair Minihane with Lou Merloni in the midday (Kirk would extract actual intel from the ex-jock); move “Dale and Holley” to the afternoon drive slot (Say what you will about Dale Arnold but those guys had great chemistry and were ALWAYS likable. Hmph, “likability.” Something “Felger and Mazz” are currently devoid of.)

7. Tim McCarver announced he is retiring at the conclusion of the upcoming baseball season. I actually didn’t hate him. I’ll let you guys have at it in the comments section with that gem.

8. Soccer will never be a huge sport in this country, but I still love it. The US-Mexico World Cup qualifier Tuesday night was fantastic.

  • Ian Darke puts every-by-play guy in every other sport to shame. Makes everything seem so effortless. Love that guy.
  • On the other hand, former CSNNE personality Taylor Twellman, now a color commentator at the WorldWide Leader, couldn’t keep with pace with Darke’s greatness. The Ken Doll didn’t offer much in the way of any analysis beyond vapid remarks like “The US isn’t holding possession but the reality is that it’s still 0-0.” Glad he’s here.

9. Joon Lee had Steve Buckley on his podcast to discuss his sports journalism career. It’s a good listen. Enjoyed Buck’s candidness about writing, “I hate writing, but love to have written.” I can attest to that. Believe it or not (and I suspect most of you don’t), writing a compelling, honest column is hard.

Extra Innings (Random stuff that may or may not be pertinent):

  • Going on vacation next week. Reading suggestions? Right now, I’m halfway through this year’s Baseball Prospectus. I’m also bringing along the oral history of Saturday Night Live (written by James Andrew Miller, which explains why it came free  along with my copy of “Those Guys Have All the Fun” a few years back).
  • Binge watched Mad Men over the summer to catch up. Excited for the new season. Question: Do I binge watch Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones next? Obviously Breaking Bad has more seasons and is much more of a process, but I’m willing to commit to either.
  • Will Leitch is leaving New York magazine to write full-time over at Sports On Earth. Leitch is severely underrated as a writer.
  • Steven Hyden’s look at the career of The Stokes has me going back through their anthology. Right band, right time (post 9/11), right city (New York City). The piece, as you can tell from my gushing, is awesome. Hyden is great. I want to write like him.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 80 vs. the Knicks

Celtics (59-20) vs. New York (37-41)
March 26, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics dealt a crushing blow to the playoff hopes of the New York Knicks with a 129-121 victory in Boston.

The loss hurt New York as the Knicks were in the midst of a dog fight with Washington for the final playoff spot in the East (and the right to be the first team eliminated from the post-season), but the victory was also painful for the Celtics.  Dave Cowens and Larry Bird were both injured during the win.  Cowens reinjured his big left toe, while Bird suffered a deep thigh bruise after a collision with New York’s Toby Knight sent him into the basket support.

Tiny Archibald

The Knicks had no answer for an offensive barrage from the Celtics fourth quarter.  After scoring 37 points in the first and 32 in the second, the C’s began the final frame trailing, 95-91, but finished the quarter with 38 points.  With the victory, the Celtics had won 60 games for the first time since 1975 and had completed the biggest turnaround in NBA history, besting the Milwaukee Bucks, who went from 27 wins in 1968-69 to 56 wins the following season.  This season by the Celtics marked the first 30-win turnaround in league history.

“Everything started from the beginning because we were a team that stayed together.  We are a team that really gets along,” Chris Ford told Walter Haynes of the Boston Globe, starting his second game since coming off the injured list last week.

“It’s not just 11 players playing. It’s 12,” he added.  With that comment, it was obvious Ford wanted everyone to know that Don Chaney, who is on the injured list, is still a vital part of the team. And it has been a 12-man feeling all along.

Chaney was placed on the injured list witha pulled groin, which jeopardized his chance to suit up in the playoffs.  Outside of the injuries, the story of the night was the sensational play from Tiny Archibald.

After scoring 10 and dishing out 17 assists in the win over the Bullets, Archibald followed that up with 29 points and 17 assists in 47 minutes against his hometown Knicks.

“You know, Tiny wasn’t feeling well tonight,” Fitch told Haynes.  “And I’ve never had that much success with ballplayers playing when they’re sick.  But I had a hunch.”

Rick Robey gushed over Archibald’s play to Bob Ryan:

“He wants it.  You can see it in his eyes.  He knows the only way for us to win is for him to set us up, and he’s playing his best ball of the season.”

The fourth quarter also included a dual between Pete Maravich and Earl Monroe.  In the words of the Globe’s Haynes, the Pistol “contined to keep his mortgage on the fourth quarter.”  Maravich, who shot 8-10 from the field and scored 12 points in the fourth, found his groove in the final minutes of the game.  Earl “the Pearl” Monroe piled up 14 points (as well as 25 points in just 15 minutes) in the fourth in a classic match of two of the NBA’s legends.

Earl Monroe

“The thing about this team is that it doesn’t rely on any one guy.  We look to everyone to contribute down the stretch,” said Maravich, whose turnaround 19-foot bank shot made it 119-107 with 2:45 remaining and just about sealed things up.

With detail from the Globe’s Bob Ryan, the injury bug continued for the C’s with Cowens as he was forced to sit out the final eight minutes of the game.

Now Cowens was really into it, and on the next two Knick possessions, he demonstrated why Fitch has labeled him “the best defensive center in the league, if you’re going to play a team defense.” Big Red twice switched onto an out-of-control Sly Williams (in the game because NY was in foul trouble) and swallowed him up.  Each bad shot was then turned into a Maravich jumper on the transition.  Suddenly, it was 102-97 and Red Holzman was calling a time out amidst enough noise to disturb a baby shower in Tewksbury.

Only 30 seconds after play resumed, Cowens went limping off the court with a recurrence of his hyperextended left big toe.  On came Robey, and for all intents and purposes, out of the game went Bill Cartwright.  Robey just ate the chubby one’s lunch, pregame and midnight snack down the stretch.

“He was dynamite,’ lauded Fitch.  “He got four key rebounds, and what I really like is that he immediately made sure nobody lost his confidence or dropped his drawers because Dave wasn’t in there.”

As for Bird, Ryan explained that Bird had gone to the locker room to be bandaged after being slammed into the basket support by Toby Knight on a fast break.  He was on the left wing of a 2-on-1 break when he was sent sprawling.  The injury was a deeply bruised thigh, and it necessitated treatment from Dr. Thomas Silva, the team physician.  Cedric Maxwell was also still dealing with the lingering effect of his sprained ankle, so the Celtics were definitely a team in need of a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The Celtics’ brief two-game homestand continued on Friday with another rematch with the Cavs.  With a victory, the Celtics would clinch the Atlantic Divison.

 

3_26_80

Mid-Week Thoughts On Media Topics

I realize I’ve been a bit scarce around these parts in recent weeks, and there has been a lot going on. Here are a few thoughts and observations from around the Boston sports media world.

I applaud the role Tom E Curran has apparently taken in deciding to call out some of the more ridiculous statements, storylines and agendas from radio talk show hosts, columnists and even his fellow writers. It’s not always easy to swim against the current, and it’s refreshing to have someone not just parroting and agreeing with what everyone is saying.

Mike Reiss is way too classy. He actually thanked Felger and Mazz in his Sunday notes a week ago this past Sunday, for letting him come on their show and basically call him a liar and a team mouthpiece over the Wes Welker situation. Reiss, I thought had done a very thorough job in covering all angles, placing blame on both parties in the situation, and yet Felger and Mazz still accused him of being in the bag for the team for even partly attributing blame to the agents, because, as we know, agents are infallible. Just ask the Broncos and Elvis Dumervil.

What’s worse, in my opinion, are media types who are nothing but mouthpieces for the agents. While using agents as sources and cultivating relationships with them is a necessary part of the reporting job, to just accept what they say at face value and print/report it as irrefutable fact is dangerous. Unfortunately, I think we have some reporters in all sports who are way too much in the control of agents.

Mentioned before but the continued dominance of pedophilia, illicit gay sex, masturbation, cross-dressing, sperm donations and transgender talk by John Dennis on the WEEI morning show is just weird. This is what they’ve decided their audience is craving? The Buzz Bissinger story and their fascination with it is just the latest example. While Toucher and Rich made fun of Bissinger and his proclivities, D&C painfully examined and dwelt on the details with an almost audible relish in their voices.

All Red Sox talk lately seems to center around Jackie Bradley Jr. Only the Boston sports media can make the anticipation of a highly touted prospect potentially  taking the next step in his career into a dragged-out, highly fraught, tiresome, annoying discussion.

So I guess all that talk about how the Celtics are better off without Rajon Rondo has pretty much died out, huh?

I’m not going to rush into judgment on the new Salk and Holley show, I like some of what I’ve heard from the duo, and other stuff not as much. Salk made the statement last week about Welker dropping the “easiest catch of all time” in the Super Bowl, and a few other head-scratching comments. At least one staffer at the station isn’t impressed with Salk, saying that he’s come in with a huge sense of entitlement and is causing waves behind the scenes, but then again, the entire atmosphere around WEEI remains toxic. It’s a mess back there.

I’d like to send out congratulations to Jeremy Gottlieb, who has done a lot of writing for various sites I’ve managed over the years, including Patriots Daily for his new job with Regan Communications.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 79 vs. the Bullets

Celtics (58-20) vs. Washington (37-41)
March 25, 1980
Capital Centre

The Celtics inched closer to a 60-win season with a one-point victory, 96-95, over the Bullets in the nation’s capital to secure the team’s 59th victory.

Larry Bird

After dropping the previous meeting with the Bullets, the Celtics exacted some revenge in the final meeting of the season for the two teams.  Pete Maravich capped off the Celtics’ victory with a fourth-chance three-pointer for the winning basket.  The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan detailed the winning sequence:

Like, wow, Pistol, did you really want to shoot a three-pointer? [Read more...]

Combine Snubs Who Showed ’Em, Part II

As we mentioned in Part I, kudos to Gil Brandt and his pro day blog on NFL.com. A very entertaining read.

Below, we cite some more players who lacked invitations to the combine but whose performances would have fit right in at Indianapolis. For a rundown of each drill’s specific requirements, take a gander at the NFL.com combine workouts page.

[Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 78 vs. the Nets

Celtics (58-19) vs. New Jersey (32-46)
March 23, 1980
Boston Garden

Tripping over the finish line, the Celtics gave away a home game to the putrid New Jersey Nets, 101-96.  The defeat gave the Celtics a two-game losing streak, tying the longest stretch they had encountered all season.

Boston 30th sellout in 39 games stood out for the reason that no one Celtic could assume control of the scoring load.  Points were fairly well-distributed with four players in double-digits (Gerald Henderson led the team with 16 points), but the Celtics were burned again by the offensive prowess of Nets guard Mike Newlin.

Mike Newlin

Newlin dropped 52 on the C’s back in December and finished with 38 points in this long, two-hour-and-twenty-minute affair on Causeway Street.  The game felt even longer for Celtics rookie Larry Bird, who shot 1-15 from the field as his mini-slump continued.  The Boston Globe’s Walter Haynes reported on the loss: [Read more...]

Searching For The Next David Givens

In 2002, the Patriots selected receiver Deion Branch in the second round. The Louisville product became Tom Brady’s go-to pass-catcher and earned a Super Bowl MVP trophy after New England beat Philadelphia in February 2005.

Many fans forget that Branch had company in the draft that year: seventh-rounder David Givens out of Notre Dame. During his rookie season, Givens had nine receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. Over the next three years, he totaled 157 grabs for over 2,226 yards and 11 TDs.  Givens caught a touchdown pass in all six games of New England’s 2003-2004 playoff run and remains the all-time team leader for playoff TD receptions with seven.

david-givensIn 2009, the Patriots selected Julian Edelman in the seventh round. In 2012, also in the seventh, they took Northwestern receiver Jeremy Ebert. As New England continues to revamp their wide receiver corps, they should consider taking on another late-round, developmental pick.

Drew Terrell of Stanford, DeVonte Christopher of Utah, Jason Thompson of New Haven and Marlon Brown of Georgia all find themselves closer to the bottom of draft boards than the top for various reasons. Yet each has something to contribute, and all are hoping for the opportunity to demonstrate it.

Overshadowed

At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Terrell could walk across campus without attracting attention. Sometimes this seemed to happen on the field as well. Despite having his best season as a senior and leading all Stanford wide receivers in catches, he came in third after tight end Zach Ertz (a first-round prospect) and running back Stepfan Taylor (rated a mid-round pick).

For his part, Terrell had no complaints, especially when his ultimate season output (33 receptions, 463 yards, 14.0 yard per catch) dwarfed that of his junior year (eight catches).

“I knew going into my senior year, my role in the offense would greatly increase,” Terrell said. “I knew that it was pretty much my time. My first three years, I was waiting for my time. My senior year, it came around, the opportunity presented itself, and I fully embraced it … That was the main thing, for me to be patient and wait my turn. I always knew that when I got the opportunity, given plays, that I would make plays.”

Because of the structure of Stanford’s offense, however, Terrell never set his expectations too high. “I thought my role would be as a leader of the wide receiver group, a guy who could be a game-changer catching the football as well as returning punts. I knew that this offense at Stanford was more catered to the running game and distributing the ball to our tight ends. That’s how it’s been since I’ve been here, so I knew that going in, but I just wanted to make the most of the opportunities that I’ve been given.”

Terrell primed himself for success by taking on a specific niche on the team, both as a go-to guy for a first down and as a punt returner.

“I knew that I could move the chains on third down and create separation. I knew that going in. I kind of anticipated that we would run the football a lot like we always do and throw the ball to our tight ends. I think I had an idea of my role and I just tried to embrace it.”

Disappointed

Devonte Christopher had certain expectations when he agreed to go to Utah. A 5-7 record his senior year wasn’t one of them. Neither was ending up as a wide receiver.

Christopher played quarterback at Canyon Springs High School in Las Vegas. His prolific senior season included three games with six passing touchdowns each. He said that he was a quarterback all his life, with the exception of part of his junior year in high school when the team needed him at receiver.

In fact, Christopher chose Utah because, “They were offering me the opportunity to come in and play quarterback. You know, I had offers from other schools – Big 12, schools in the Pac-10 at the time – but they were mostly athlete scholarship offers, like, ‘We’ll find you a spot when you get here, maybe receiver, or maybe you could be quarterback.’ At the time, I didn’t really like the way that sounded. I was really set on playing quarterback. At Utah, that was the situation at the time, so that’s why I went there.”

At first, all went according to plan, as Christopher practiced as a scout quarterback during his redshirt season. During his second year with the Utes, however, he was asked to move to receiver to address a team need. Though he said it worked out for the best, the move took some adjustment in terms of practice and career expectations.

“Mentally, it was easy to make the transition coming from quarterback … Going to receiver was definitely less stressful mentally. Physically, it was definitely more demanding, though. You go from having on a black jersey, not getting touched, to getting hit. And you’re definitely running more at receiver than at quarterback. So it was a little change, but nothing too major. Personally, it was tough for me because I told them the only reason I came to Utah was to play quarterback. At first I was kind of resistant to the change and I didn’t really agree with it, but after a while, it was what it was. I just wanted to get on the field, and that was probably the fastest way.”

The next year, as a sophomore, Christopher led the team in receptions. He duplicated that stat his junior year. Ask him about what happened as a senior, and Christopher sounds as if he’s about to deliver a eulogy.

“We had great expectations. Not just personally, but as a team. We had a lot of seniors, a lot of guys who came up in the system, and last year was supposed to be a pretty good year for us. It definitely didn’t turn out that way. We struggled mightily last year – I think it was the worst offense in the whole conference. There wasn’t production to go around. My numbers stink. I don’t really have too many words to say. I’m really not trying to make excuses, but, I mean, that’s just how our season went. It didn’t turn out well for me on a personal level or on a team level.”

When pressed for details, Christopher said that the team had to scramble after losing their quarterback early in the season. “We shuffled around a little bit, ended up changing our whole offense mid-year, ended up changing quarterbacks again a few games later. Basically a bunch of little stuff combined. It wasn’t the type of season that we really wanted, but it is what it is now.”

Overlooked

Jason Thompson earned the moniker of playmaker in 2012. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound receiver averaged 20 yards per reception (44 for 881) and had 16 touchdowns. If you didn’t hear his name this season, Thompson understands. He said that was an aspect of playing for Division II New Haven, as he explained while discussing his preparation for his pro day March 27.

“Well, I’m lifting like everybody else, I’m preparing for the drills. I feel like, if my number is called, I’m trying to be ready. Because I know, being a small school guy, I’ve got to prepare. I’ve got to be that much better than the next person. I’m just trying to make sure I can do the things that people ask me to do.”

Thompson finds himself in the category of a high achiever in a lower-division school. While he said he was recruited by SMU and Bethune-Cookman (located in his home state of Florida), Thompson and a high school friend came North to follow a coach. “(New Haven Head Coach) Peter Rossomando coached a couple of my high school coaches,” he said. “They went to New Haven to coach with him, and they recruited me and my best friend (quarterback Ronnie Nelson). They offered both of us, so we just figured we’d go together, so we just came up here together.”

The four-year high school basketball player was a football neophyte with only one year of varsity experience. Thompson credits Rossomando for his development and for the success of New Haven, which has won the Northeast-10 Conference Championship three years in a row. For his team’s accomplishments, Rossomando was named the Divison II Coach of the Year.

“You know, he rebuilt our program in such a short amount of time. Over four years, we were consistent – I think we were like (35-9) or something, that’s not bad – and just to win the conference three years in a row … Honestly, I think he’s a great coach, and I think he deserves (Coach of the Year) because he works hard and he puts a lot of time and effort into everything. To bring the group of guys together like he did, and for us to accomplish the things we did, I think it’s great.”

Injured

While a high school football player at Harding Academy in Tennessee, Marlon Brown did some wonderful things on the field. A prime example was in the state championship, where Brown had 335 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

Ask Brown about that contest, though, and one fact sticks out. “Yeah, I remember that game, but I also remember that we lost that game by two points,” he said.

Brown had his choice of schools, including LSU, Florida and Alabama in the SEC. The 6-4, 215-pounder settled on Georgia and got to play as a true freshman. “I think I fit in well,” he said. “It’s a post-up offense: they use big receivers a lot.”

Heading into his senior year, Brown and his teammates figured they would vie for the national championship. Brown had few personal expectations beyond helping the team by doing what they asked of him.

They asked him to catch the ball. By November, Brown was tied for the team lead in receptions with Tavarres King with 27. As he said, “Everything was going as expected.”

Then, what every athlete fears: a knee injury against Ole Miss that knocked Brown out for the rest of the season. “To be honest, I thought I just sprained my knee a little bit,” he said, “because I was laying on the ground, and then they asked me if I could get up and walk, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I can walk. I think I can.’ And I got up and I started walking off the field. And then I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll be alright, I’ve just got to walk it off.’ And then they told me I tore my ACL. I mean, it was just heartbreaking. It was just the last thing on my mind.”

Brown had left the game during the third quarter to get an MRI. His promising senior year had ended before its time, forcing him to reevaluate his career. “Really, after I got hurt – I got hurt and they told me I was out for the rest of the season – after the game that night, I just, you know, I just called my grandmother and had a long talk with her. Basically, I was like, things happen for a reason. I’m not going to sit here and sob over the injury like it’s the end of the world. So, work hard and bounce back.”

What They Bring

Stanford had a lackluster season by their standards; however, Terrell did some positive things that NFL coaches should notice. Besides providing a consistent third-down threat, Terrell continued his role as a dynamic punt returner, averaging over 12 yards per runback.

While the prospect of returning a punt against 11 men might seem daunting to some, Terrell has lifelong experience that gives him perspective. “For me, it’s something that I’ve always done, since I started playing football. I was a baseball player when I was younger, and I think my hand/eye coordination and being able to track the ball and catch it in baseball really helped me out with returning punts. It’s something that’s come naturally to me. I mean, if I had to give advice, I would say stay calm. A lot of people tend to try to over-coach punt returners, and I think it’s something that you have to let come to you. You can’t force anything. You have to stay calm, trust in the athletic abilities you have: you know, the ability to track the ball and catch it. I think vision is something that’s natural but is really critical in being a punt returner – being able to see the field, see lanes, when to hit them, when to cut it back, that type of thing. But I figure it’s just staying calm, being an athlete, and letting the game come to you.”

In terms of finding lanes, Terrell found a big one vs. Duke this season, bringing back a punt for a touchdown. “There’s definitely a point where you can hit, make a cut, and then you’ve got one, maybe two guys to beat, and you know at that point that you can go to the house. In the Duke game when I got my return, I broke to the right because there was a defender right in front of me, so I cut off him. Then I saw that it was just me and the punter, and I knew the punter had no chance. I wasn’t going to let him make a play. I think once I cut back on that first guy and I saw the punter, I knew at that point that it was going to be a touchdown and a big play.” (For a highlight of Terrell’s return, go to the 2:20 mark of this video.)

In terms of trying to make it at the next level, Christopher has two career aspects in his favor, one of which was his experience at QB and how it helps him read defenses.

“At receiver, you’re only dissecting the secondary,” Christopher said. “As a quarterback, you’re worried about the rush, you’re worried about the linebackers, about how the DB in coverage is working. You have a lot to worry about even before the snap of the ball … So playing quarterback has made it way easier for me to dissect defenses and coverages.”

The other aspect the 6-1, 192-pound pass-catcher brings? “Just being a physical receiver, you know, competing for that ball. Blocking – I know a lot of receivers might not really take pride in their blocking, but that was something that was stressed at Utah, so now I’m familiar with it. That is definitely a part of my game. So being able to block is definitely something that I pride myself on. I know I could definitely help in the running game.”

Christopher tries to set himself apart even though he knows it’s all been said before. “But that drive to win, I’m sure a lot of athletes, a lot of people, say that they have it, but those crunch times, I have some plays and some film where it’s long (yardage) on fourth and the game on the line, and I came through. It’s actually a blessing to even be put in that situation to even make the play. So there’s some playmaking ability shown on my highlight reel.”

Coming from a smaller school, Thompson’s most useful experiences seem to have come from playing under a great coach in Rossomando. “First of all, he always pushed me,” Thompson said. “He pushed all of us, but he pushed me, and he expected a lot from me. Every time I did something, he expected more. I’m pretty sure he’d seen great things in me, and that motivated me. Our program, we were just all very close, a tight-knit group, so we all played for each other, and that kind of helped. I mean, you weren’t out there trying to be selfish and wanting the ball all the time. Like, I never had the greedy feeling of wanting the ball all the time, I just wanted everybody to do well and win as a team. I think we were able to accomplish that.”

Thompson plans to use his small-school status as a motivator. “I’m a grounded guy. I’m a hard worker. I want to win. I have a drive; I have a motor, and I’m just all in right now, so I’m just going to give all I have. I don’t think there are any skills (I’m lacking). You’d get a hard-working guy. I got a chip on my shoulder and I want to prove myself.” (You can see Thompson’s highlight reel here.)

While Brown couldn’t finish up his senior year the way he wanted to, he felt Georgia’s offense helped him demonstrate what he could bring. “Usually, you think of a slot guy as small and fast and quick, but here at Georgia we have slot guys who are big, who are physical, and can have some nice little passes across the middle of the field,” Brown said. He added that he liked playing inside receiver more because, “I just like going across the middle.” (You can see Brown’s 2012 highlight reel here.)

Expectations

In spite of various fates that have led each player to this point, all of them aspire to reach the next level. Still, despite each one’s situation – or perhaps because of it – no one seems to believe he is owed anything.

Brown, the only athlete in this piece with a combine invitation, made use of his time with NFL coaches despite being unable to go through drills. “I talked to teams at the combine when I was there. I talked to them after the combine as well. I think teams are interested in me for sure, but my injury has set me back a little bit. But not so far back where I can’t come back or where teams don’t want me. But I have no expectations, really. I’m just going to go and see what happens.”

Terrell shared that wait-and-see attitude. “If I’m drafted, that’s great; if I’m not, that’s great, too. It’s just – anytime I can get an opportunity to come to camp and show what I can do, I think I’m going to be happy for that, regardless. So come draft day, I don’t have any expectations. I won’t be, you know, let down at all if I’m not drafted. Just kind of let the chips fall where they may and once I get to camp, or a mini-camp, or whatever, I intend to show that I’m good enough to play in this league and to stick. I don’t really have any expectations for draft day.”

Thompson – who, like Terrell and Brown, is still on campus finishing up classes – had a similar outlook. “Being from a small school, I just feel like, right now, being able to be a part of the whole process and everything is just a blessing. Anything that happens as far as being drafted and all that would be a great thing for me. I would be happy with anything. My outlook is, I’m trying to get my degree, and if this works out for me, I’ll be more than happy, because this is a dream for me. It’s definitely something I want to pursue. I’m putting everything into it, but at the same time trying to stay grounded. I’m just hoping, and I’m preparing for it. I mean, I think I can make it happen.”

The NFL draft begins on Thursday, April 25 and wraps up on Saturday, April 27, when, as of this writing, the Patriots have two seventh-round picks.

You can email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 77 vs. the Cavaliers

Celtics (58-18) vs. Cleveland (34-43)
March 22, 1980
Richfield Coliseum

The Celtics stumbled, 109-105, in front of a sellout crowd of 19,548 in Cleveland against the suddenly hot Cavaliers.

The win marked the eighth straight for the Cavs, a team facing a future of uncertainty.  The only coach and general manager the team had ever known, Bill Fitch, now coached the league-best Boston Celtics, and a new change in ownership had the NBA wondering whether professional basketball could survive in Ohio.  The Boston Globe’s Steve Marantz reported further on the sale:

Bill Fitch-Cavs

[Read more...]

Sports Media Musings: What The Sports Guy’s Live March Madness Stream Means For Studio Shows

Quick Infomercial: I wrote about Tuukka Rask‘s plight and “Tuukka Time” becoming “Biding Time” for today’s print edition of Metro Boston. Here’s the web version. Please take a moment and give it a read. And remember, feel free to give me a shout out on Twitter if you’re bored Out There. As always, thanks for reading.

*** 

The way CBS Sports — both the studio crew and sideline reporters — handled the power outage during last year’s Super Bowl was reprehensible. Too strong? Considering the stage — the freakin’ Super Bowl — and how poorly James Brown and Co. adapted to the unforeseen circumstances (Hey guys! Let’s take a look at those same three highlights one more time!), I’d say from a media performance perspective this was, in every sense, embarrassing. Like Janet Jackson‘s nipple slip on freeze frame for 45 minutes.

When you really think about it, was it all that shocking the CBS talking heads floundered when the lights shined (check that, didn’t shine) brightest? Nope. Studio shows suck. That’s not the most eloquent sentence I’ve written in my career, but it’s true, they’re terrible. I know this. You know this. My seven year-old niece (probably) knows this.

The three main problems?

1. Studio shows are overproduced: I don’t need three hours to get ready for a sports event. I don’t need “goofy”segments featuring ex-jocks preaching to me about players being “elite” or “among the elite” or “potentially elite” like we’re on the Congress floor voting for governmental reform. Shoot me. In the face. Please. This is sports, guys. Remember this.

2. Studio shows are grossly overstaffed: There are a litany of reasons why “Inside the NBA” on TNT works. It starts with the talent, the chemistry, all of that. But early on the producers realized less is, in fact, more. Three guys: Ernie Johnson, Chaz Barkley, and Kenny Smith. That’s it. It’s all you need. If you want to throw in a plugged-in information dude, like, say Adam Schefter if you’re ESPN, I’m on board. Too often they are too many chefs in the kitchen with these things. HOW DO THE REST OF THE NETWORKS NOT SEE THIS????

3. Studio shows lack any sincerity: Seriously, I’m hearing the same Chris Berman joke that Tom Jackson and Cris Carter are digesting, and my reaction is either indifference or worse; meanwhile, they respond like they’re watching Dave Chappelle do stand up comedy circa 2004. They’re either YACKING IT UP for the cameras, or are operating with a sense of humor different to anyone else I’ve ever encountered in the world.

I mean, I don’t need these guys to be best pals; I need them to have a clever feature or interview and decent discourse about the league they are covering. Maybe throw in a few old war stories from when they played. But that’s it. Chemistry always helps but it can’t be manufactured — you either have it or you don’t. Berman and Jackson have it, but only after developing a rapport over the years.

***

Bill Simmons knows these problems. He’s written about these problems for Page 2 way back when. In 2013, he finally has the influence and cache to remedy the issue. He’s got the ear of ESPN C-Level Executive John Skipper. Sports Illustrated’s media critic Richard Deitsch put Simmons as the most powerful personality in sports media in his power rankings last month. He’s now even a player in the sphere as an analyst on ESPN’s revamped “NBA Countdown” studio show. ESPN is clearly following the TNT model, using Simmons, Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose, and Michael Wilbon (as the pseudo host). Four guys. That’s it. And more often than not, on non-primetime games, one of the analysts will be off for the night.

So, it came to no surprise to me during Day 1 of March Madness that The Sports Guy hosted a live stream from his living room (I’m serious) on his website, Grantland, featuring a few staff writers, Rose, and his friend Joe House. What did they do? Basically, just a bunch of guys, being guys, eating food, and watching sports. HAMMIN’ IT UP for the camera webcam.

This seems silly, but then again so did Simmons writing an Internet column for $50 bucks a pop in the late ’90s before becoming the face of ESPN.com (and Grantland) and hosting a podcast in 2007 mainly featuring friends before having guests like President Obama on (That’s right. Our President took the time to talk to Simmons on his podcast. Sorry, haters — you may denigrate what The Sports Guy’s accomplished, but if that isn’t telling, I don’t know what is).

Will this be a game changer? I don’t know. Probably not. It’s a risk from Simmons. He’ll likely be poked fun at by the blogosphere, because that’s what the blogosphere does, but he can be coy and claim it’s just him and a few buddies hanging out (the insertion of House, the setting, all make for a “GOTCHA, THIS WAS JUST FOR KICKS” aspect for those that really care to criticize).

Worse case scenario, show runners come to terms with something the rest of us realized at the turn of the century: Studio shows have an obsolete format and it’s time to turn out the lights on the old guard – figuratively speaking, of course — and consider implementing a major overhaul.

Recognition of the problem, I’m told, is always the first step.