Scott Cordischi On Sports: No NFL? No Problem!
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
For many sports fans in New England, these are depressing times. The NFL season has ended leaving folks with a tremendous void in their lives.
And while there will be some interesting things to watch with the Patriots moving forward like the status of Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer, there are plenty of other good things that we can turn our attention to.
Take, for instance, the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics. February and March are the months where teams in the NHL and NBA make their playoff push. For the Bruins, a top four seed in the East seems likely with the #1-overall seed certainly attainable.
For the Celtics, a few weeks ago there was question is this team had enough to grab the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. Now, after 7 consecutive wins, it is not out of the question that the team could play its way into a top four seed meaning home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
A closer look at both teams gives us reason for optimism. Heading into last night’s game against the New York Rangers, the Bruins were off to their best start through 10 games in franchise history at 8-1-1.
While many of us were concerned about the loss of Tim Thomas, #1 netminder Tuukka Rask and back-up Anton Khudobin have done a very good job thus far while the likes of Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and others appear to be in midseason form as well.
There is no reason to think that the Bruins won’t be one of the favorites to win Lord Stanley’s Cup heading into the playoffs this spring.
Meanwhile, there was quite a bit of pessimism surrounding the Celtics just a couple of weeks ago. Having lost 6 straight, the Celts dropped to 20-23 on the season following their loss to Atlanta where they also lost All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
But a funny thing happened after Rondo’s injury. The team came together and essentially reinvented itself.
With the offense now running through Paul Pierce, the Celtics have become a very unselfish team that is moving the ball well on offense.
After beating the world champion Miami Heat in their first game without Rondo, the thought was that this gritty veteran group simply found a way to muster up enough energy for one game to prove that they could win without him. However, most believed that they could not sustain success.
Seven consecutive wins later, the Celts have proven to all of their doubters that, while they may not be as talented a team without Rondo, they are playing much better as a team without him. In fact, they have become a more likeable team and easier to root for since Rondo’s departure.
The key for the Celts will be to avoid getting stuck with the 8th seed in the East which would mean a first round match-up with Miami. While we all love the drama that comes with facing LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen, it would be nice to postpone that until the Eastern Conference Semifinals or, better yet, the Finals.
And if following the Bruins and Celtics isn’t enough for you, there’s always March Madness.
We are only a month away from conference tournaments and, of course, the NCAA Tournament from getting underway. And, as many of you know, you don’t even have to be a fan of a particular school to get wrapped up in the David vs. Goliath, buzzer-beating thrills of the Tournament.
Locally, the Bryant Bulldogs represent the only legitimate shot to make it to the Big Dance. If Tim O’Shea’s team can remain in first place in the Northeast Conference standings, they will host all of their conference tournament games meaning they could very well host the NEC championship game in Smithfield with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake. How cool would that be?
So for all of you Patriots and NFL fans, of which I am certainly one, fear not. There should be plenty of things to whet your appetite until Pats camp opens in July.
And if you really must have your NFL fix, then there’s the NFL’s Scouting Combine next week (Feb 20-26), free agency in mid March (begins March 12 at 4pm ET). There’s the league meeting in late March (March 17-20 in Arizona), the release of the 2013 schedule in mid April. In late April (April 25-27), it’s the NFL Draft and the NFL’s spring meetings will be held in Boston in May (May 20-22).
-Let’s see. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein both say in “Francona: The Red Sox Years” that Red Sox ownership made big acquisitions and signings (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, John Lackey) because they were concerned about a decline in ratings on NESN and needed to make a PR splash. Team owner John Henry vehemently denies that assertion calling it “ludicrous!” I’m no rocket scientist, but someone is lying here!
-One thing that also seems evident with the Celtics since Rondo’s departure is the fact that the team is making a more concerted effort to get the ball down low to Kevin Garnett. Anytime KG is more involved, that is a good thing for the Boston Celtics.
-Many Pats fans are wondering if the team will use the franchise tag on Wes Welker, Aqib Talib or Sebastian Vollmer? It is quite possible that they will elect to not use the tag on any of them.
-The Al Skinner coaching tree has done all right for itself when you take a look around division one college basketball. Ed Cooley did a terrific job at Fairfield and is now trying to lead PC back to prominence. Mo Cassera is at Hofstra where the Pride are suffering through a difficult season for a variety of reasons. Tim O’Shea has the Bryant Bulldogs atop the NEC and Billy Coen is doing a fantastic job at Northeastern where the Huskies lead the Colonial Athletic Association with a 12-1 conference record.
-For those Rajon Rondo honks who can’t admit that the Celtics have been playing better basketball without him, consider this: While they have defeated some lesser teams in Rondo’s absence such as Sacramento which they didn’t beat with him in the line-up, the team has also defeated some of the league’s best teams without him. Rondo was suspended for one game earlier this year where the Celtics beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. They beat the Miami Heat in Boston and the Denver Nuggets who had won 9 straight before falling to the Celts. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
-Does any team want to be #1 in the college basketball polls? With losses by the #1 team in the nation for five consecutive weeks, it underscores the point that there is no dominant team in the country like last year’s Kentucky squad. That should make for an even more exciting NCAA men’s basketball tournament this spring.
-Did you see where NFL officials are throwing out some interesting ideas about when to play Super Bowl 48 next year in New Jersey? The game is scheduled to be played at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, February 2, 2014. However, because this is the first Super Bowl to be playing in an open-air stadium in a cold weather climate, the league must prepare for severe weather conditions like a snow storm which could have a major impact on the game being played. The league has reportedly left open the possibility of playing the game on Saturday or even a few days later in the event of a major weather event.
-This from Patriots All-Pro guard Logan Mankins on teammate Rob Gronkowski: "The headlines might not be what a lot of people want, but at least he's not getting DUIs or doing things that are against the law. I don't think he's hurting anyone,” Mankins said. "Hopefully he doesn't hurt his arm because then that would be bad. You know Gronk, he is a big meathead that likes to party and play football. I think that's what he's doing. When he starts breaking the law, then that would be definitely something we'd have to look into.” Well said, Logan.
-So Clay Buchholz strained his hamstring on the first day of Red Sox training camp. File that one under, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
-So that’s Buchholz with a hammy, Felix Doubront with a sore shoulder, David Ortiz with an Achilles tendon problem and Mike Napoli with a hip issue. Wow! What an exciting start to spring training for the Red Sox! That ought to get the fans excited about the upcoming season.
-PC’s win over Cincinnati at the Dunk last week was a perfect example of the fact that the Friars can hang with and beat anyone if they decide that they want to put in a 40minute effort on defense.
-Forget Tiger Woods or Rory McElroy, Brandt Snedeker may the best golfer in the world right now.
-Not that we’ll be playing golf around here for a while!