Devastation From The Blind Side A Familiar Story For The Bruins

Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton made a serious error in judgement during Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden.  The Bruins forward grabbed Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik from behind, threw him down on the ice and punched him in the face/head area a few times, which knocked Orpik unconscious.  Orpik was removed from the ice on a stretcher and sent to a local hospital to be examined.  The incident occurred after the whistle during the first period of an eventual 3-2 Bruins win.  

The first period was quite nasty leading up to the Thornton incident as as Bruins forward Loui Eriksson was sidelined after suffering a concussion thanks to a hit from Orpik, and Penguins forward James Neal kneed Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head while he was already down on the ice.

The question is not whether previous actions by the Penguins warranted a response by the Bruins.  Retribution for throwing shade on one’s teammate is a strong tenant of the hockey code, so Thornton certainly wasn’t wrong in that respect.  The criticism comes from the fact that Thornton basically waged a sneak attack on Orpik as the two had not agreed to fight and from his vantage point, Orpik never saw Thornton coming.  Orpik was defenseless.     

Thornton, who was ejected and has an upcoming in-person hearing with NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan, appeared to be genuinely remorseful after the game (watch the video above, care of WEEI’s Mike Petraglia).  

After the game, Thornton told reporters that he felt sick about the incident and that he never intended to do such damage to Orpik, a player he knows well.

“I know Brooksie,” Thornton said.   “I’ve gotten to know him over the last several years here. I skated with him in the summer, over the lockout.”

Thornton said he sent Orpik a few text messages after the game and continued to apologize for the incident which turned out to be your typical hockey retribution fight, gone wrong.  

“That’s always my job, I guess, to defend my teammates but I’ve prided myself for a long time to stay within in the lines,” Thornton told reporters.  "It’s hard for me to talk about it right now."

There have been several overtly violent incidents in the NHL over the years, but the one that sticks out for me and anyone who has watched the Bruins in the last few years is the hit from then-Penguins forward Matt Cooke on then-Bruins center Marc Savard in 2010.  The incident effectively ended Savard’s NHL career.  

Thornton was Savard’s teammate at the time, and the Bruins took a lot of flack for their lack of retribution against Cooke in that game.  The next time the teams met a few weeks later, Thornton went after Cooke within seconds of Cooke stepping on the ice.  

In no way can I defend Thornton’s behavior on Saturday.  For several reasons, including what happened Saturday, I would argue that fighting be removed from the NHL all together.  Sure, the counterargument can easily be made that if Thornton had at least confronted Orpik face-to-face, that Orpik would have been able to defend himself, possibly lessening the impact of Thornton’s punches, and that the circumstance was the more dangerous than the punch itself.  

Thornton once told me that when he was a kid playing hockey, his coach encouraged him to learn how to fight, telling Thornton that he’d better play that part if he wanted to continue to rise through the hockey ranks. Many enforcers of the past and present took on the role solely for self preservation as fighting and physically defending teammates became the only way they could remain in the game.  

Between my conversations with Shawn and some of his public comments, I have the feeling he (and others in his position) has mixed emotions about his role as an enforcer.  The bloody knuckles and broken noses have earned him a long NHL career, but success at the behest of violence has come at a price.

A price that is about to skyrocket.   

Derek Jeter is known not only for his skills on the baseball diamond, but also for his smooth, even-keeled demeanor.  The New York Yankees captain stayed cool as a cucumber during his recent appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  

Jeter, who is back on the disabled list, spent two segments on the show discussing his battle with the injury bug, funny stories about he and Fallon (it looks like the two are buddies in “real life”) and he even addressed teammate Alex Rodriguez’s steroids scandal.  The interview segment is must-see TV for any sports fan.

One bit in particular had Jeter cracking up and the studio audience going wild.  Yes, Jimmy (a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan) and The Roots gave Jeter a few suggestions for a new at-bat song.  The schtick had Derek Jeter Number Two being introduced with the classic Bob Sheppard recording before he promptly walked up to home plate in the middle of the Late Night stage as The Roots and Jimmy played each ditty.   

The fact that Jeter agreed to appear on the show when A) the Yankees are having a bad season B) he’s injured and C) A-Rod and a few of his other teammates are swimming in scandal, is really impressive.  Most celebrities pull out of public appearances when faced with far less controversy than that.  

Jeter’s alleged parting gifts for lady friends gave him first-ballot entry into the Cool Athletes Hall of Fame, so this Late Night appearance is just bonus points.  

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If there’s one thing minor league baseball is good for, it’s hilarious ballpark promotions.  

The San Francisco Giants AA affiliate Flying Squirrels (located in Richmond, VA) is getting in on the fun with “Salute to Scandal” night during the Squirrels home game against the Portland Sea Dogs, a Boston Red Sox affiliate.  

What exactly does this “salute” entail? $1 hot dogs at the ballpark’s concession stands.

Why hot dogs, you ask?  Allow this press release from the team website to explain…

“‘Scandal night is meant to be a fun, tongue in cheek night and what hotter of a scandal right now than Anthony Weiner,’ said Flying Squirrels Vice President and COO Todd “Parney” Parnell. ‘His scandal just couldn’t have come at a better time in regards to the Flying Squirrels promotional calendar.’”

The fun doesn’t end with dollar wieners though does it?  Oh no, absolutely not.  

"Fans in attendance will be invited that night to tweet pictures enjoying their $1 hot dogs to @GoSquirrels for the chance to win prizes. Other select fans will be invited to participate in contests between innings that pay tribute to certain celebrities who have been in the spotlight for their scandals. Some examples include the “Brett Favre Football Throw” and the “Tiger Woods Closest to the Pin Challenge”. To end the night with a bang, the Flying Squirrels will have a postgame fireworks extravaganza courtesy of Coventry Health Care and Your Local Ford Dealers.”

To end the night with a bang… of course.  

I salute you, Flying Squirrels, primarily because the flying squirrel has to be one of the top five coolest animals on earth, but also, for your creativity in bringing inappropriate debauchery into the family-friendly, wholesome happening that is minor league baseball.  Bravo.  

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Emotions ran high after the Baltimore Ravens earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. 

While the Ravens celebrated their victory with tears, chanting, laughter and even some post game trash talk, there were those on the losing side also experiencing a host of emotions, theirs, of the less joyful variety.

A screen shot of a status update posted on the Facebook page of Anna Welker, wife of Patriots receiver Wes Welker, went viral after the game Sunday as the post took aim at the personal life of Ravens team captain Ray Lewis.

Anna Welker tells PepperOnSports.com exclusively,

"I’m deeply sorry for my recent post on Facebook, including comments about Ray Lewis. I let the competitiveness of the game and the comments people were making about a team I dearly love get the best of me. My actions were emotional and irrational and I sincerely apologize to Ray Lewis and anyone affected by my comment after yesterday’s game.  It is such an accomplishment for any NFL team to even make it to the playoffs, and the momentary frustration I felt should not overshadow the achievement of these amazing teams."

The personality and intrinsically entertaining human being that is Ozzie Guillen tweeted an interesting photo Sunday.  The Miami Marlins manager posted the pic (above) of he and his wife having dinner in Madrid with some friends.  The caption reads, “dinner in madrid yes we having good time, stanton, ricky and petey. cenando en madrid que bueno.”

Ozzie’s three pals are Giancarlo Stanton, Ricky Nolasco and Bryan Petersen, who just happen to be players on the Marlins’ roster.  How many times have you seen a coach or manager either vacationing with his or her players, or meeting up with them for dinner while abroad?

After I saw this tweet, the story below seemed less shocking. 

One of the several issues plaguing the Marlins concerned pitcher Heath Bell, who was none to pleased with a lot of things in Miami.  The Marlins unloaded Bell, shipping him off to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and seemingly with barely both feet out the door, the Miami Herald published these secrets from the inside:

"Unhappy with his diminished role, the bitter Bell was openly critical of pitching coach Randy St. Claire, the training staff, Marlins catchers, sportswriters, and even the Showtime production crew that filmed The Franchise. Bell said he was portrayed too negatively during the reality series.

"For the Marlins, the final straw might have come the final week of the season when Bell, in a live radio interview, said it was "hard to respect" manager Ozzie Guillen.

"The following day, Bell’s teammates, in a show of support for Guillen, turned on the manager’s weekly radio show inside the clubhouse, raised the volume, and made Bell listen to Guillen state that he no longer respected Bell "as a person."

Upon reading this anecdote, I was immediately transported back to the 8th grade where stuff like this happened all of the time.  Picking sides, bullying, humiliating your peers, etc.

I’m not saying Bell is a nice guy who got the shaft in this situation, but that sure seemed like a catty move for a group of adult men.  Then again, pro athletes as a whole, aren’t necessarily considered the most mature population segment of adult society. 

But this begs an important question.  Should a manager or coach be that close to his or her players? Can you properly discipline your employees and garner respect while on or close to their “level?” 

In Ozzie’s first season as manager, the Marlins finished dead last in the NL East with a 69-93 record and 19 games back of the division-winning Nationals. 

Yikes.

In my few stints as a manager, I found the line between friend and boss incredibly difficult to draw since I really liked most of my employees and considered them friends.  Depending on each individual, some listen to you and do what you ask as their boss because they respect you as a friend, while others do the opposite, undermining your authority because they consider you an equal. 

Terry Francona did the impossible, breaking the curse and bringing multiple World Championships to Boston.    Once his tenure as Red Sox skipper came to an end, various reports revealed that he had allegedly become so close with his players that he rarely disciplined the group when necessary and because of that, he “lost” the team.

Could Ozzie’s close-knit relationship with his players be one of the many reasons why the Marlins absolutely sucked last season?  I don’t know the answer, but I think it is a topic worth exploring. 

 

A lot of people “don’t like” hockey.  Most of said people have never watched a game or a playoff series and likely have little-to-no understanding of the game they choose to blindly bash, otherwise, they would certainly sing a different tune.

Only a few games into the postseason this year and we’re already witnessing upsets-galore as the NHL is taking us on one heck of a wild ride that nobody wants to get off of just yet. 

The Stanley Cup Playoffs is perhaps the most exciting postseason in all of North American professional team sports not only because of the increased intensity of an already fast and furious game, but also because of the predictably unpredictable results.

Unlike football, baseball or basketball, the “underdogs” frequently get the best of the favorites when Lord Stanley is involved as the NHL playoffs provide all kinds of crazy drama in “truth is stranger than fiction” fashion.  Just like in the early rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, it’s easy to gravitate to teams with players you’ve never heard of solely because they have the potential to be that Cinderella story.  The NHL playoffs give us a solid underdog storyline or two nearly every year as lower seeds routinely give higher seeds a run for their money.

In the Western Conference, the 8-seed Los Angeles Kings lead the 1-seed Vancouver Canucks (last year’s Cup runner up) two games to none in the first round as L.A. stole back-to-back road games in British Columbia.  Meanwhile the 8-seed Washington Capitals logged a double-overtime win over the top dog Bruins in Boston to tie the first-round series 1-1. 

What are the chances that either of these 8-seeds actually pull off the upset and beat the 1-seed in the series?  Believe it or not, that feat has been accomplished nine times in 34 tries since the NHL adopted its current playoff format 17 years ago.  When you crunch those numbers, the 8-seed beats the 1-seed in the conference quarterfinals 28.1 percent of the time.  That might not seem like a lot, but in comparison to the NBA where we’ve only seen the 8-seed down the 1-seed four times, EVER, the odds aren’t terrible for the little guys! 

Recent history is even more favorable to hockey’s lower seeds.  According to Grantland, the higher-seeded team has won 62.5 percent of first-round matchups since NHL play resumed in 2005 after the season-long lockout.   62.5 percent is not an impressive figure if you are the higher-seeded team.  Plus, that number gives the underdog a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs.  In that same time frame, the higher seed in the NBA has won 79.2 percent of first-round series. 

Once the postseason starts, anything is possible in the NHL where parody finds its way into the field of 16.  But the 8-seed isn’t the only playoff cellar-dweller having success this year as the 4-seed Pittsburgh Penguins are in a predicament, down 2-0 to the 5-seed Philadelphia Flyers.  The Penguins placement in the fourth slot is misleading as Pittsburgh had the second-best point total out East but was relegated to the 4-seed because they finished a point behind the New York Rangers who won their division. 

The Pens are extremely talented especially now that Sidney Crosby is back on the ice, but the Flyers are tough as nails and extra motivated after being swept by the Bruins in the second round last season.  I suppose it’s all cyclical as the Bruins sweep of the Flyers in 2011 was retribution for the Philly’s historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Bruins in Boston in 7 games back in 2010.  Despite the roster differences, the Flyers are rough and confident, much like they were in 2010 and will take no pity on Crosby or any of his teammates.  Then again, it wouldn’t shock me if the Pens came back from this 2-0 deficit to win the series, despite the odds now in the Flyers favor.  According to NHL.com, teams trailing 2-0 in a best-of-seven series have come back to win the series only 12.7 percent of the time (37-291). 

That leads us to the Kings and Canucks.  A series victory looks promising for the Kings who are not only bringing a 2-0 series lead back home to L.A., but the Canucks will play a near must-win Game Three without star left winger Daniel Sedin who has been sidelined with a concussion since late March and did not make the trip to Southern California. 

Then again, this marks just the third time in team history the Kings have held a 2-0 series lead (first time on the road) and the franchise has NEVER won a Stanley Cup.  Despite the Kings’ historical lack of success, at least the roster has some experienced players who will do their best to shake off the stink of the record books and instead, smell the sweetness of victory as L.A. looks to turn the page. 

Another team who struggled, fired its head coach and managed to salvage the season to the point of making the playoffs is Washington.  Sure, the Caps have Alex Ovechkin and a hot young goalie in Braden Holtby but I can’t see Washington getting past the defending Cup champion Bruins.  As superb as Holtby has been, Saturday’s game was his second career playoff game and only his 21st career NHL game, period!  Tim Thomas eats those numbers for lunch. 

Then again, the NHL Playoffs is the perfect place to expect the unexpected.  I’m sayin’ there’s a chance…

With the NBA Trade deadline rapidly approaching (March 15), the rumor mill is working spinning into overdrive.  Writers are providing daily updates consisting of  “inside information,” while players continue to claim they are ignoring the “reports,” and bloggers are making up fun, fantasy-like scenarios, Monopoly money-style. 

For the guys who are affected by trades in real life (aka the players), this deadline looms over everyone from the franchise players to the last man on the bench.  For the rest of us (whose living arrangements and careers aren’t affected), the trade deadline is a time to play G.M. and ponder all sorts of possibilities, rooted in either fact or fable.  Whether your trade ideas have any truth or validity behind them doesn’t much matter as everyone and their Mamas have the right to take a guess and hope for the best come March 15. 

Listed below is a compilation of “actual” rumors (which is kind of an oxymoron, but you get the point)  as well as random ideas floating through the interwebs and sports bar conversation pieces.  Without further ado, lets indulge in a few trade delights de jour:


Trades That Could Happen:

    •    Dwight Howard to any team that is willing to give away more than they should to rent the All-Star center for the rest of the season only.
    •    Pau Gasol to Houston for Kyle Lowrie and Luis Scola
    •    Baron Davis to LA Lakers for Devin Ebanks
    •    Elton Brand do anyone who will take his salary off the 76ers hands


Trades That Should Happen, But Won’t:

    •    Pau Gasol & Andrew Goudelock to Orlando for Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis
    •    Jamal Crawford and Kurt Thomas to Chicago for Kyle Korver Omer Asik
    •    Gilbert Arenas (Free Agent) to Oklahoma City as Russell Westbrook’s backup
    •    Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks to Toronto for Jerryd Bayless
    •    Zaza Pachulia to the Celtics…somehow, some way, they could use him


Rumors & Random Trade/Free Agent Ideas:

    •    Ray Allen to Chicago for Ronnie Brewer and Richard Hamilton
    •    Ray Allen to LA Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes and a second-round draft pick
    •    Steve Nash and Josh Childress to LA Lakers for Pau Gasol and a first-round draft pick

Tonight’s Lakers  vs. Celtics game reminded me of college when I used to go watch a group of my guy friends play intramural flag football.  My girlfriends and I would cheer them on and sometimes go as far as making corny little signs, just to be supportive and make them feel good.  Most of these guys were athletes whose careers ended with a high school diploma while their competitive spirit long outlasted their physical ability.  I would always chuckle as the guys took flag football SO seriously, celebrating a good play like they won the Super Bowl and becoming furious with the smallest of failures.  Although way past their athletic prime, my buddies loved to compete and played every game like it meant the world to them.

That’s how tonight’s Lakers vs. Celtics game felt to me.  It was such a fun game and between the playoff-like atmosphere in the TD Garden and the close finish, the contest provided more than sufficient entertainment.  At the same time, it made me sad to see two teams, once powerhouses, just shells of their former selves. 

In 53 minutes of play, neither team made it to 90 points, both shooting around 39 percent from the field.  39 percent.  Yikes.  When the Lakers and Celtics were playing for titles in the latter part of the decade, each team had a strong presence down low (Perkins, Gasol and Bynum) and solid bench players; role players who were reliable and knew how to help their team.

If the Celtics can make it to the NBA Finals with Jermaine O’Neal starting at center without a legitimate backup, I’d be speechless…for once.  Ever.  Greg Stiemsa has potential, but he isn’t good enough right now and I don’t see Leon Powe walking through that door anytime soon.  The Lakers outscored the Celtics in the paint 46-38 which isn’t that impressive considering LA has such a huge size advantage over Boston.

Three of the five bench players who played for the Celtics contributed 19 of Boston’s 87 total points, a near mirror-image of the Lakers bench which was responsible for 18 points between three of the four guys who played.  Most of LA’s bench points came late as the non-starters were practically invisible through the majority of the game.

There were some positives though.  Just like the good old days, it came down to Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce laying it all out on the line; no guts, no glory.  The Celtics captain played 48 minutes in which he scored 18 points, grabbed nine boards and logged seven assists, not to mention sinking a gorgeous jumper to give Boston a 1-point lead with under two minutes to play in overtime.  But it wasn’t enough.

Ray Allen, dropping 22 points and giving us a classic old school 1-on-1 defensive battle with Kobe - holding him to 27 points, well under his 30 points per game average - wasn’t enough either.  Kevin Garnett, once the heart and soul of the Celtics (and perhaps he still is in certain ways) had a miserable shooting night, going 6-23 and missing his last nine consecutive shots. 

The Lakers and Celtics are two of the oldest teams in the NBA so 17 fast break points for Boston (LA scored only six) is one positive to take away from a loss like this.  On the other hand, the free throw opportunities were heavily skewed in LA’s favor, as the Celtics were called for 21 personal fouls to the Lakers’ 12. 

Kobe, a master of drawing fouls, among other things, was superb in the second half, demoralizing Boston with plays like the one in the third quarter when he patiently waited down low, eventually spinning around three defenders for the bucket, followed by a shot right over Allen, who did as much as he could to prevent it.  

Pau Gasol, who has been in a funk since last season finally played the way he has for so many years, picking the right spots, rebounding, tipping and shooting his way to 25 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, all on the same day as he was left off of the NBA All-Star roster. 

Also with something to prove (and hoping to avoid being traded) is Andrew Bynum who scored 16 points, blocked three shots and more importantly, hauled in 17 boards as he and Gasol combined for 31 rebounds.  Gasol and Bynum were responsible for critical blocks and deflections, Gasol winning the game for the Lakers as he blocked Ray Allen’s layup attempt as time expired in the extra period.

Interestingly, the Lakers are unmatched down low with Bynum and Gasol yet have been unable to find a way to get them the ball which has been a source of the team’s struggles.  It wasn’t pretty, but tonight, they figured it out.

I’m convinced Steve Blake is the key to the Lakers success.  Before he injured his ribs a few weeks ago, the Lakers point guard was playing the best basketball of his professional career.  Blake and Bryant seemed to be the only two Lakers who truly understood Mike Brown’s system (and Blake was actually hitting shots too) so when he went down, it looked like the glue holding the Lakers together had evaporated.  With Blake (not including tonight), the Lakers were 8-4.  Without him, the team found itself in deep trouble going 6-7.  While Blake was beyond rusty tonight, he helped his team get the job done down the stretch. 

As badly as we want this rivalry to be what it once was a few years ago, or what it has been at different points over the past several decades, it just doesn’t feel the same.  The competition is still there, but the level of play is not. 

Remember when Rondo and Bynum represented the future?  Now they are the present, which means some of the best players in hoops history will soon be a thing of the past.

The fact that these two teams were so cordial to each other on the court, conversing, helping each other up when someone hit the deck… perhaps that is their way of acknowledging that they aren’t what, or who they once were;  That they appreciated all of those ugly hard-fought battles and wish so badly to go back to that place in time. 

Whether it’s in the regular season or the playoffs, an all-star game or a charity game, or even a flag football game, we can always count on the fiercest form of competition between these two teams;  the kind that will forever be worth cheering for. 

 

Get off Gisele Bundchen’s back.

Seriously.

Why is it that people are criticizing Gisele for saying exactly what they were screaming at their televisions?

(click here to watch the video of Gisele: http://insdr.co/yYXeHQ )

Who watched the Super Bowl and DIDN’T say, “you HAVE to make that catch!” following Wes Welker’s drop on second and 11 as the Patriots were desperate for a first down to keep the clock running and the ball out of Eli Manning’s hands?

In fact, NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth responded to Welker’s drop saying  “Welker makes that catch 100 out of 100 times,” and play-by-play man Al Michaels replied “well this is 101.”

Personally, I think that catch wasn’t as easy as it looked given the fact that Welker had to spin his entire body around in mid-sprint,  but since he got his finger tips on it, the argument can be made that he had it and should’ve held on.

But Welker wasn’t the only one who dropped some pretty well-thrown balls by Gisele’s husband, Pats quarterback Tom Brady.  Veteran wide out Deion Branch and tight end Aaron Hernandez couldn’t get a grasp on some critical balls thrown their way in the Patriots’ final drive of the game.

"My husband cannot f*****g throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,”  Gisele uttered with frustration inside Lucas Oil Stadium after the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17.  Brady didn’t play a perfect game by any means but Gisele has a valid point.

So why is everyone pouncing on Brady’s wife, Gisele, for speaking the truth?
Well, Gisele already has a few strikes against her:

1. People don’t want to hear a player’s wife criticize the team.
2. Since Brady and Bundchen got together in 2006, the Patriots have yet to win a Super Bowl.
3. Sports fans don’t want their favorite players distracted by anything off the field.
4. This was not the first time Gisele has stirred up controversy

Isn’t it funny how we enjoy freedom of speech and use it to be critical amongst ourselves, yet we don’t care to see others exercise that same right?  It’s okay for us to bash the Patriots receiving corps, but god forbid a player’s wife does it.  How un-Belichickian of Gisele.  Doesn’t she know the rules?  NO TALKING.

Boston seems to have turned Gisele into the Yoko Ono of the Patriots.  Fans are noting the fact the Patriots have yet to win a title since the two started dating, but you know what?  Neither have 26 other NFL teams in that time!  At least the Pats made it to the big game twice since 2006, which is more than can be said for every other team in the league aside from the Steelers and Colts who have also played for the title twice in recent years.  I think New England-area fans have been spoiled by successful sports teams over the last decade and it shows here.

Fans of athletes and celebrities alike tend to view their favorite stars as living in a bubble consisting only of career and public image.  If Tommy Brady can’t win a Super Bowl and be married to a smoke show at the same time, then clearly,  he needs to ditch latter.  After all, what could possibly be more distracting than a five-foot-11 inch Brazilian supermodel?  I highly doubt Gisele has cursed her husband just by being with him, but that logic doesn’t register for some.

I think a lot of people expect someone who makes a living off of their looks to be seen, not heard.  “Put on your lace, walk the runway, and be quiet.”  In reality, most celebrities are multifaceted just like the rest of us and Gisele happens to be quite outspoken.  In fact, I like Gisele because she actually has an opinion.  A while back, Gisele found herself in hot water after controversial comments she made about breast feeding.  Before Super Bowl 46, Brady’s wife emailed friends and family asking them to pray for her husband and the Patriots going into the big game.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything Gisele says, but I commend her for taking a position, speaking her mind and being more than just a pin-up girl.

In the case of Sunday’s post-game comments, it appears as though Gisele did not realize she was on camera or that a microphone would be able to pick up her comments.  In fact, some of the women surrounding her when she made those comments were the wives of other Patriots players.  If we all had microphones in our faces every time we said something after being disappointed or upset, we’d all be in big trouble.  Lets cut her some slack.

I don’t fault Gisele for her comments since she was partly right.  It can’t be denied that the Patriots receivers were lackluster down the stretch, but a team sport is never won or lost by just one, or even a few plays.  The media has turned one impassioned utterance into a news story which is fairly silly given the fact that it just isn’t important. 

But surely it does matter to Patriots poster boy and NFL ambassador Tom Brady.  Many think this will alienate Tom from his teammates, but they all have wives and girlfriends as well.  They know the drill and I doubt any of them will care.  But for the QB himself, as if dealing with another loss to Eli Manning and the New York Giants wasn’t bad enough, now Brady will have to play spokesman on behalf of his wife, which is probably the last thing he wants to do. 

We’re taking a field trip!  As always, thank you SO much for taking the time to check out Pepper On Sports, you guys have no idea how much I appreciate it.  Please take a moment to watch the video above

I established a solid routine when working Rex Sox games during the sweltering, humid Boston summers.  Dressed to impress with high-def TV makeup firmly caked on, I’d put on my backpack (filled with notes, a laptop and high heels), slip on my flip-flops and leave my apartment for the local T stop about four blocks away from my place. 

I’d hop on the train and get off a few blocks from Fenway Park.   By the time I would arrive inside the press box, I’d be sweating, but hiding it well of course.  I would find my seat, unpack my notes and laptop, then finally, before heading down to the clubhouse (still several hours before first pitch), I would exchange my comfortable black sandals for those pesky and painful (but necessary) heels. 

After the game ended and I had completed my final TV hits, I would run the same routine in reverse, feeling such relief when taking off the heels and putting on my trusty flip-flops.  I would say my goodbyes to my coworkers and do a few chat-and-waves with coaches, players and stadium workers as I left Fenway for the train ride and walk home, arriving back at my apartment around midnight. 

Those days are long gone now with news of Major League Baseball becoming the first major sport in North America to create a dress code for the media.  Ben Walker, a baseball writer for the Associated Press, explains the basic idea with help from an MLB press release:

"The media should dress ‘in an appropriate and professional manner’ with clothing proper for a ‘business casual work environment’ when in locker rooms, dugouts, press boxes and on the field, the new MLB rules say."

Here is the MLB’s list of what not to wear:
-Sheer and see-through clothing
-Tank tops, one-shouldered or strapless shirts
-Clothing exposing bare midriffs
-Skirts, dresses or shorts cut more than 3-4 inches above the knee
-Visible undergarments
-Team Logos
-Flip-flops

These new guidelines didn’t fall out of the sky and land in Bud Selig’s lap.  They were carefully constructed by, “a committee of executives and media representatives,” according to Walker.  “The panel included female and Latin reporters and there was input from team trainers, who had health concerns about flip-flops in clubhouses and bare feet possibly spreading infections. Such footwear is no longer permitted.”

The AP article quotes an MLB spokesperson as saying the policy wasn’t adopted because of any one, specific incident but that baseball was aware of a situation involving the New York Jets and female TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz at a practice in 2010 (read about that incident here:  http://bit.ly/sqClSF ).

It looks like the new guidelines are geared more towards women’s apparel, which, as a female reporter, raises a red flag.  BUT, this dress code is absolutely reasonable and is really more of a reminder to use common sense than anything.

I’ve had plenty of reporters come up to me and say something like, “did you see what he was wearing?  Cargo shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops? This isn’t the beach!”  Yes, men hate on each other’s wardrobes.  Who knew?

I think using the language “business casual” is the league’s way of sending a message to male media members that the dress code isn’t only for the ladies. 

Just as the MLB took notice of the incident in the Jets locker room, there is no doubt the NFL, NBA and NHL will keep an eye on baseball’s new policy going forward.

"MLB said it would consider appropriate actions if the guidelines were broken," wrote Walker.

From now on, I guess I’ll have to rock sneakers and a dress before slipping on the heels.  It won’t exactly be fashionable, but hey, at least my feet won’t hurt, I won’t endanger the health of professional athletes and I’ll be within the new rules of baseball.  I wonder if the league will use video replay when assessing possible violations?  Just a thought. 

To read Ben Walker’s AP article about the MLB’s new media dress code, click here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5heIzPhQdHGiKc3v4aFwGqokboMUA?docId=3749bb1d25eb4ce0b9849db3c830493b

 
Between Adrian Wojnarowski, Marc J. Spears and their fellow hoops writers, Yahoo Sports’ coverage of the NBA is absolutely top notch.  

The aforementioned Wojnarowski hasn’t slept since the lockout began, and apparently the tentative deal between the owners and players hasn’t cured his insomnia as he posted the following scoop in the wee hours of Wednesday morning:

"As Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge aggressively pursues possible deals for Rajon Rondo, the Indiana Pacers have emerged as an intriguing suitor for the point guard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
For the past few days, Pacers officials – and third-party surrogates – have been making calls and gathering information and insight into Rondo’s reputation as a teammate and leader, sources said.

The Pacers and Celtics have discussed the preliminary framework of a deal, but two sources said Indiana would need a third team to provide Boston with the talent it wants to do a deal. The Celtics are likely trying to gather the necessary pieces to make a bid for Ainge’s ultimate target: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, sources said.”

Could Danny Ainge do it again?  Could he swing yet another blockbuster trade?  Which players are off limits?  Could we possibly see a new Big 3 in Boston?

Time will tell, because due to the recent end of the lockout, the trade deadline for this shortened season of 66 games has yet to be established.  I think it would be pretty tough to execute three-team trade of this magnitude before opening day on Christmas, but surely the league will provide ample time for trades given the lockout.  

As far as the Hornets finding any of this discussion attractive, it looks like swapping for players on the Celtics roster doesn’t top their priority list.

"New Orleans has shown no interest in a deal that would include Rondo and any combination of Celtics teammates," wrote Wojnarowski. "Yet, New Orleans GM Dell Demps is determined to get maximum value for Paul, if it’s clear the point guard sees his future elsewhere. Demps has no desire to simply let Paul walk away as a free agent to New York."

According to Wojnarowski’s article, the Celtics have been assessing Rondo’s trade value for more than a year despite the lack of consensus among the coaching staff, locker room and front office in regards to moving the two-time all star.  Wojnarowski raises the issue of Rondo’s sometimes-sour attitude as being a factor in whether or not he would be a good fit for the Pacers and Frank Vogel, their young coach.

Having covered the Celtics, I sometimes wonder why Doc Rivers doesn’t win the coach of the year award every single season.  The Celtics players are a good bunch; nice, smart, decent sense of humor, charitable, driven, hardworking and extremely talented. 

At the same time, the group is volatile with its mix of veteran all stars, youth and ego.  Rivers is the voice of reason and has proved to be a mastermind personality manager.  Regardless of his disposition, Rondo’s teammates respect his talent immensely and I find it hard to imagine him anywhere else right now.   

Should Rondo be forced to take his talents elsewhere, yes, he will still be a great player.  A different logo on his jersey won’t change that, but I can’t help wanting to watch this star-powered yet aging Celtics nucleus go for the title one last time. 

To read Adrian Wojnarowski’s article on the Pacers interest in Rajon Rondo, click here: http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=aw-wojnarowski_boston_celtics_rajon_rondo_112911

Breaking up after 10 years together would be tough, regardless of the circumstances, and Theo Epstein’s split with the Red Sox was just the icing on a cake which had already melted into a big, ugly mess in previous weeks.  Despite a disastrous situation by sports standards, the former Red Sox general manager and executive vice president  left Boston with a classy, parting gift as he heads to Chicago.  Take a look at this full-page ad the native son took out in Sunday’s Boston Globe, thanking the fans, players, coaches and front office staff of the team he dreamed of working for as a kid.



After assembling two World Series Championship teams and ending an 86-year drought, any competitive, driven, perfectionist would jump at the chance to take on the Cubs’ North American sports team-record 103-year drought; especially given the way things unraveled with the Red Sox.

But Epstein isn’t just any competitive, driven, perfectionist.  He is a graduate of Brookline High School, just a few miles away from Fenway Park.  Epstein’s family roots run deep in the Boston community and his son was born in the city that haled him a hero and miracle worker for what he helped accomplish within the confines of the Green Monster and famous red clay. 

I can only imagine that for him to leave his hometown and life as he knows it, Epstein must have thought there was no way he could repair his Red Sox, and that perhaps, they weren’t even his anymore.

There will be no more five minute cab rides to FuGaKyu Restaurant on Beacon Street.  No more sitting in the seats of an empty Fenway Park, the same seats in which he sat as a child rooting for his home team, soaking up the summer sun while watching the guys practice in the afternoons before night games. 

Chicago is a wonderful city, and the Cubbies have their own fantastic traditions and folklore.  But as friendly and iconic as the ivy may be at Wrigley, it will never be like home. 

(For a less-fuzzy look at the ad, click here: http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/assets_c/2011/10/609Theo_thank_you-thumb-609x1100-53948.jpg )