It’s Beginning To Look Like . . . Panic?

(This afternoon’s links are again delivered by guest blogger Bob Ekstrom. Contact him at bob02878@yahoo.com.)

For those of you kind enough to take time from your last-minute shopping to check out what’s new in the world of Boston sports, thanks for dropping in. We didn’t get to some fine columnists north and west of the city this morning, so we’ll take you there now.

Patriots

The tone continues to be decidedly negative across the Pats’ fan base this afternoon, as it was all morning. On WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, guest hosts Paul Perillo and Butch Sterns have spent the mid-day hours talking Patriots Monday callers off the ledge after yesterday’s poor second half. And the print media has been stoking the fire as well.

Up north, Ian Clark suggests that if the Patriots are tired of humble pie, they may not want to turn the ball over three times after halftime any more. Tom King has Brady & Co. leaving nothing under our trees with a bad finish against the 1-14 Dolphins. Jennifer Toland says the Pats’ half-hearted effort was good enough to stay perfect. Alas, Russ Charpentier throws a wrench into the fretting we so love by offering us virtually nothing of negative value. And a happy holiday to you too, Russ.

Eric McHugh has the Patriots coming up a little short of the green in their march on the record books, but David Heuschkel has them within an easy chip shot. King has more on the Patriots closing in on their historic quests. Jeff Jacobs has the Pats’ beat going on. Rich Garven gives us his weekly rundown of milestones accomplished. Toland also checks in on Troy Brown’s return, while Heuschkel reflects on Lawrence Maroney’s career day.

Odds & Sods

We had a bad link in Stephen Harris’ Bruins Notebook this morning, so let’s bring it again.

There’s a few presents left around the tree for us all on this Christmas Eve afternoon. Joe Sullivan brings us a nice story from the past. Mike Loftus has the Bruins’ Bobby Allen home for the holidays. Here’s a feel-good piece from Shawn Courchesne about Theresa Deleston’s influence on her son, UConn safety Dahna Deleston. And we’ll close with something for the tree from Tim Weisberg.

Thank you again for dropping in and from each of us at BSMW, enjoy a healthy and happy Holiday. We’ll see you back here on Wednesday morning.

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A Tale Of Two Halves

(This morning’s links are brought to you by Bob Ekstrom. As always, he can be reached at bob02878@yahoo.com.)

Okay, I get that being the Goliath of the most lopsided matchup in NFL history means you probably need to play only one good half of football anyway, but one has to wonder where the rule ends and the exception begins with our 15-0 New England Patriots. Are they still the Pats of October, or have they, in their quest for immortality, atrophied into the team we saw for three quarters against the Eagles, or 59:16 in Baltimore, or the enitre time the offensive unit was on the field against the Jets? Are they now the team that cast us into football purgatory – and showed us what it’s like to be a Dolphins fan – for two painful quarters in an albeit lopsided 28-7 win last night?

At the risk of pulling a Felix Unger, who usurped his sportswriting housemate’s opinions when the latter feigned a tooth extraction and Unger interpreted for him, let’s get it straight from the experts. We’ll start with Scott Benson over on Patriots Daily, who has some morning-after thoughts on the game. Also there is Karen Guregian, who has the spirit this fine Christmas Eve as she recounts all the good in yesterday’s performance and reminds us there’s no ‘L’ in “Win’. Shalise Manza Young says that, if you like beauty, yesterday’s four TD first half was something to behold. Then there’s Douglas Flynn, who is thankful Brady’s health didn’t go the way of his stats. And, even if you’re among the lucky ones not commuting into work this morning, you’ll still want to catch Boston Metro’s Chris Price as he brings us his weekly Ten Things We Learned after yesterday’s game.

Unfortunately, this one didn’t end at halftime. Christopher L. Gaspar has the Patriots leaving us at the threshhold of history with a flat second half. Mike Reiss puts forth the proposition that yesterday’s sloppy seconds were intended for some probing eyes in attendance. Michael Felger smells something funny after yesterday’s final gun and thinks the Pats’ offense might have stepped in it.

Jackie MacMullan tries to convince us that winning is more important than the individual records in reach for Brady and Moss. Her energies would seem better spent on Steve Buckley, who tells us records are important to these Patriots. Robert Lee has Tom Brady thinking too much about Randy Moss’s chances for glory. Jim Donaldson says it’s really all about 19-0 in the Pats’ locker room, while Lenny Megliola has some players reveling in their chase for the history books.

With two consecutive 100-yard games, Lee says this is Lawrence Maroney’s tyme to shyne. Flynn has more on David Ortiz’s newest hero. Karen Guregian’s Patriots Notebook has the Foxborough crowd appreciative of Troy Brown for at least one more time. Manza Young has more on a geeked-up Troy Brown.

Tony Massarotti strikes two nerves with me when he touches on Stephen Gostowski and Brandon Meriweather in his best and worst roundup.

Celtics

Right now, the Celtics look to be in the Patriots’ October state of mind with another impressive performance at home in a 103-91 win over the Magic last night. Marc J. Spears has the recap, including four C’s hitting 21 points or better. Mark Murphy says the balanced scoring attack took the magic out of Orlando.

Steve Bulpett features Rajon Rondo, one of last night’s stars with his 23-point, 6-assist effort. Scott Souza says threes were wild yesterday at the TD Banknorth Garden.

In Spears’ Celtics Notebook, Marc reports on Santa Rivers coming a little early this year. Over on Full Court Press, Kevin Henkin airs a few year-end grievances.

Bruins

Guess who Boston’s lone loser was yesterday? No, you don’t need the caption above to tell you it was the Bruins. Yesterday in Pittsburgh, the B’s went down for the fourth straight time – sorry, but BSMW doesn’t give style points for OT losses – and second in four days to the Penguins, 4-2. Stephen Harris takes one for the home town in bringing you the action from Mellon Arena.

Now that they’ve gone winless for a week, Kevin Paul Dupont has the Bruins officially on Christmas holiday after yesterday’s game. Harris’ Bruins Notebook provides the latest medical report, where the B’s have lost 124 player-games due to injury.

Odds & Sods

Rob Bradford plays an early Scrooge with his account of Big Papi saying good friend Johan Santana will not be coming to Boston this Christmas, or any other time.

Check out the very humble Roger Clemens mailing in yet another denial, this one against the visual backdrop of a personal banner. The video is so clear that the asterisk after his 300-win tag line appears visible until further inspection reveals it to be nothing but a Yankees logo. Oh, well, same difference.

As with every Monday, Christmas Eve or not, we’ll be back about mid-day with more links we just can’t get to. For those of you who can’t join us, on behalf of the entire staff at BSMW, have a healthy and happy Holiday tomorrow and thanks for getting us nationally recognized this year. And we still have a week to go!

Friday Finish

Just a few quick links while still enjoying the recognition from Richard Deitsch and SI.com.

Patriots Daily checks in with another edition of the Patriots Buffet Table for this weekend’s game with the Dolphins.

Aaron Kuriloff and Erik Matuszewski of Bloomberg examine how the Patriots have been a boon for CBS.

Kevin Gray in The Union Leader this morning had the ABA Manchester Millrats hoping to make the leap to becoming an NBA D-League franchise, and creating a connection with the Celtics.

Bill Simmons has his week 16 picks.

Eric Wilbur rounds up the predictions for Sunday’s Patriots/Dolphins game.

Christopher L. Gasper had a Patriots chat on Boston.com.

Steve Silverman tells us that the Dolphins have a chance on Sunday.

Eric Neel tries to determine the Patriots place in history.

Michael Silver gets ready for the weekend in The Gameface.

NBC Sports compares the ’73 Dolphins and ’07 Patriots.

Len Pasquarelli says that even if he goes 16-0, Bill Belichick isn’t a lock for coach of the year.

Ian Thomsen says that losing to the Pistons was a good thing for the Celtics.

Randy Hill has concerns about the Celtics after their loss to Detroit.

Honored

I’m pleased to announce that BSMW has been named as a runner up in the Best Non-Corporate Sports Web Site category by Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated and SI.com in his 2007 Media Awards.

Thanks to Richard for the consideration, and thanks to all of you who have helped BSMW get this far.

On Patriots Daily, Greg Doyle has a special Bowl edition of College Scout.

The Boston Herald is running a bracket to determine the greatest Patriot of all time. Must be a slow news week. John Tomase introduces the competition.

Hall of Fame guard John Hannah likes what he sees from current Patriots Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins. Mike Reiss has Hannah’s thoughts on the nasty side of Mankins. Michael Felger talks to a long time NFL scout to determine whether the Patriots Pro Bowl picks are legit or not. I’m pretty sure this column by Hector Longo is simply a cry for help.

Karen Guregian has Junior Seau remaining as exuberant as ever. Jennifer Toland has Seau continuing to get the job done at the age of 38. Christopher Price has Seau going strong in his 18th NFL season. Robert Lee says that Seau still has a zest for winning.

Mark Farinella has Richard Seymour starting to round into form.

Dan Shaughnessy says that while the Patriots will stomp the 2007 Dolphins this weekend, they have a little ways to go to beat the old 1972 Dolphins, who won’t go away quietly. Shaughnessy has some quotes from Belichick on the 72 Dolphins, Guregian says the Patriots coach had little to say on the matter. Price notes that Belichick and Don Shula share some familiar background in their pasts. David Heuschkel says that the Patriots don’t need the 72 Dolphins for motivation. Lee says that both the Patriots and Dolphins have a lot at stake this weekend.

Christopher Gasper’s notebook has more on Seau not slowing down with age. Guregian’s notebook has Richard Seymour hoping to keep getting better as the season wears on. Farinella’s notebook has Seau refusing to act his age. Toland’s notebook has Seymour still working his way into form. Lee’s notebook has Tom Brady more focused on a Super Bowl title rather than a touchdown record.

Shalise Manza Young looks at the situation in Rhode Island for next weekend’s Patriots/Giants game on the NFL Network.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa and Steve Conroy report on the Bruins roaring back from a 4-0 deficit, only to lose in the shootout against the Penguins. Bud Barth has the Bruins managing to salvage a point with the comeback.

Stephen Harris has Zdeno Charo igniting the Bruins rally with a fight against Penguins tough guy Georges Laraque. Mick Colageo has Tim Thomas holding the fort last night while his teammates came back on the Penguins.

Shinzawa’s notebook has the Bruins losing Glen Murray to a “middle body injury” last night. Conroy’s notebook has Patrice Bergeron feeling a little better. Barth’s notebook has more on Bergeron.

Celtics

Marc J. Spears has Gary Payton making a call to his agent, hoping to come back to the Celtics. Steve Bulpett has the Celtics looking to bounce back after the tough loss to the Detroit. Jeff Howe has the Celtics taking their first home loss in stride.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell has Mike Gorman happy with the Celtics return to prominence.

Spears’s notebook has Tony Allen turning the page on Wednesday night’s loss to the Pistons. Bulpett’s notebook has Doc Rivers wishing he had played his bench a little more on Wednesday.

Patriots en Español

“Is that the New England game?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Good, I hate them so much!”

That conversation was repeated about four or five times as I attempted to watch the Patriots/Steelers game on December 9th. Each time I would politely nod, and motion to my well-worn Super Bowl XXXVI Championship T-Shirt. The response was usually the same, a slight sigh, with a mumble about how they sure hoped the Steelers would win.

We were currently in one of the two television rooms at the Maroma Beach Resort on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. It was the second day of our vacation, one that partly a working one for my wife, who is in the travel business and was writing a magazine article about the resorts in the area.

It was the second day of our trip, and I had made it clear that I really wanted to do what I could to see this game. We had left on Saturday morning, so I knew all the buildup to this game – the Anthony Smith guarantee, the comments about the Patriots wide receivers not being as good as the Bengals, and I was anxious to see how the team would respond. Surprisingly (though not really, as I have the best wife in the world) my wife didn’t have a problem with that, even though we were on a tropical vacation. She herself was interested in the outcome of the game.

I had tried to prepare as best I could for the possibility of there being no place to see the game. Before leaving, I had even pulled out my old wireless-equipped iPaq Pocket PC and loaded Slingbox Mobile on it, just in case the only option was over the internet.

When we arrived at this resort, shortly before 3:00pm (They’re an hour behind us) one of the things our host told us was that as part of the experience, there were no televisions in the rooms. That gave me a panic for a moment, but I remembered in checking out the resort web site that each room had high-speed internet (strange, huh?) but I didn’t know if it was wireless or not.

In our introductory tour, we were shown the first TV room. Peeking in, I saw a bunch of guys watching the Eagles/Giants game on a 42 inch LCD. I heard some New York accents and saw my chances of watching the Patriots seemingly shrinking away by the moment. The tour continued, through the restaurant (no TV at the bar!) and through some of the room areas. Then we came across the second TV room. It was unoccupied!

Or room wasn’t quite ready yet, so we were asked if we wanted to get some lunch while they got the room ready. I glanced at my wife, who smiled. She asked “Can we get it brought in here?” (Have I mentioned how awesome she is?) The hostess said certainly, and they went to get some menus. I set to the task of trying to find this game…which I still wasn’t sure I was going to be able to find.

The satellite TV provider in that area is SKY. There was no remote in the room, so I had to change channels sitting on the floor in front if this 42 inch LCD and hitting the channel up button,having no idea if I was getting closer or not. I started in the 200 channel level, and made it all the way up to the 500 level before I starting finding some sports, then I flicked again, and saw the black and gold of the Steelers uniforms. I had found the game. There was still about 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter and Pittsburgh had the ball.

Right after I found the game, two young women stuck their heads in the door and asked “Are you watching the game?” I replied in the affirmative, and they said “Cool” and went off.

Our food arrived, and we sat down to watch and eat. Eventually the two women came back, with their own food, and watched as well. When the Steelers kicked their field goal to go up 3-0, there was a little squeal. We inquired as to their loyalties, asking if they were Steelers fans. One of them responded, “Not so much Steelers fans, as much as anti-New England.” she tried to explain: “I grew up just outside New York, and then went to school in Boston, so I’ve developed a hatred for their teams.”

None of us could understand the commentary on the game, as it was it Spanish. The graphics were from CBS, but overlayed in the corners were FOX Sports logos. The game was being carried on FOX Sports International, but was using the CBS feed and their own announcers. It was just as well. It was actually nice to just watch the game and draw my own conclusions about what was happened and what was going to come up next.

It was probably just paranoia, but I kept getting the impression that the announcers were biased towards the Steelers. I think it was the excited “WHIIILLEEEE” cry each time Willie Parker had a decent run, or the “BEEEEG BENNN” when Roethlisberger made a completion. The Patriots long plays barely seemed to get a reaction.

As the game went on, people occasionally stuck their heads in the door to find out the score, and the conversation at the beginning of the article took place several times. One guy, clearly a Steelers fan, hung around for a little bit excited that they were only down four points. He tried to elicit support for his Steelers in the room, but with little success.

I should note that the the two women left and came back a few times. When Brady threw the 63 yard TD to Moss, my wife and I were (of course) alone in the room.

As the Patriots pulled ahead in the second half, the visitors waned, usually just looking in to see the score and shaking their heads. When the Brady to Moss to Brady to Gaffney play happened, I was by myself. Our room was ready and my wife went to check it out. The two biggest plays of the game, and there was no one else around to enjoy (or anguish over) them.

By the time the fourth quarter was winding down, the room was completely empty.

That was it. No post game interviews. No “Fifth Quarter” Not even the Mike Reiss updates on the computer to pour over. We simply went on to enjoy the rest of our vacation.

We missed the Jets game. We were supposed to fly JetBlue on Sunday afternoon, which meant I likely would’ve been able to watch the game on their DirecTV service (parts of it anyway) but with the flight canceled, we went to visit another resort. They had TV’s in the room, but the Patriots weren’t on. The Steelers/Jaguars game was being shown, with the same announcers. More excited cries over Parker and Roethlisberger were heard throughout the afternoon. Until of course, the Steelers lost. Again.

Felger replaces Dickerson on Sports Tonight

Hot off the presses from Comcast SportsNet:

MIKE FELGER JOINS COMCAST SPORTSNET AS MOHEGAN SUN SPORTS TONIGHT CO-HOST

Boston Herald Football Writer & ESPN Radio Boston Personality Joins Gary Tanguay

BURLINGTON, MA ­– As a self described impartial observer of the Boston sports scene, Mike Felger revels in his ability to play devil’s advocate and singe local sports fans for their unabashed homerism. Felger has been bringing that attitude to the Boston sports scene for nearly 20 years and starting tonight he’ll be bringing it as the official co-host of Comcast SportsNet’s Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight.

Felger, the lead football writer at the Boston Herald and afternoon host on ESPN Radio Boston, has been a regular Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight contributor and fill-in host since 2002. Felger will co-host Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight with long-time Comcast SportsNet personality Gary Tanguay. Felger replaces Greg Dickerson, who was named Comcast SportsNet’s full-time Celtics courtside reporter at the beginning of the 2007-08 Celtics season.

“I think you can inspire love and hate simultaneously in sports fans by simply being objective. I think it’s important that if criticism is warranted, you don’t ignore the home teams. Hopefully, that’s what I bring to the table,” said Felger. “In case viewers hadn’t noticed, I’ve been sitting in those chairs a lot and the beauty of this is there will be no prep time for me. No adjustment period. Gary is a pro, we know how to work together and there’s plenty to talk about. We’ll keep this show rolling.”

As co-hosts, Tanguay and Felger will analyze and debate the top local sports stories of the day with a regular rotation of Boston beat writers, columnists, sports personalities and athletes. Tanguay and Felger will also anchor Comcast SportsNet’s coverage of major Boston sports events, including the Patriots potential trip to another Super Bowl and the opening week of Red Sox Spring Training. During football season, Felger will continue to file his 4 Downs with Felger report.

“I love working with Felger because he brings intensity to every show,” said Tanguay. “Sports Tonight is about having an opinion and if Felger is anything, he is opinionated. He always has something to say, even if his opinion is wrong.”

Felger, a Milwaukee native, is a graduate of Boston University and covered the Boston Bruins (1997-98) and the New England Patriots (1999-present) for the Boston Herald. Felger has been a regular guest on Boston sports television and radio since 2000, and began hosting his own afternoon show on ESPN Radio Boston in 2004.

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Dan Snapp on Patriots Daily examines the “honor” of Pro Bowl selections for your home town team.

Curt Schilling weighs in on the Mitchell report.

With the team back at the top of the NBA standings, J.A. Adande explores the issue of race and the Boston Celtics.

Bill Simmons checks in with his 7th annual NBA trade value rankings.

Apparently, Jonathan Papelbon‘s dog ate the World Series ball.

The Johan Santana trade rumors carry on. Charley Walters says the Red Sox are still the favorites to land the Twins ace.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The last game was a blueprint for other teams on how to beat the Patriots. Rich Cimini says the Jets did just that.

Hawaii on Horizon for Eight Patriots

There are worse places in the world than Cancun to be stranded while the Northeast undergoes a huge snow and ice storm. Originally scheduled to come back on Sunday, the storm grounded all flights to Boston from where we were, forcing us to extend our stay by two days.

Back in the cold, I’m tanned, rested and ready to settle in and watch the Boston winter sports scene unfold over the next few months. It promises to be an eventful time.

David Scott reports this morning on a front office shakeup at Comcast SportsNet, and also comments on the NCAA’s new live-blogging policy.

Eight Patriots received word yesterday that they will be recipients of a tropical vacation of their own come February as they were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster.

Over on Patriots Daily, Scott notes something that six of the eight Patriots Pro Bowl selections have in common.

Mike Reiss has Rodney Harrison talking about his eight teammates who received the honor yesterday. John Tomase has the eight selections tying a team record set in 1985. Mark Farinella says that the Patriots that are going to the Pro Bowl are all worthy selections. He’s just glad Chris Hanson didn’t make it. Shalise Manza Young cites Ty Warren and Wes Welker as two deserving Patriots who weren’t honored. David Heuschkel notes that it is fitting that three of Tom Brady’s lineman join him in Hawaii. Christopher Price says that the Patriots can’t really use Pro Bowl snubs as motivation this season.

Tomase also weighs in with his latest Tale of the Tape review of Sunday’s game. Steve Buckley says that not all of the 1972 Dolphins are obsessed with the Patriots efforts to join them in the record books. Eric McHugh has his Patriots Report Card, and adds that we shouldn’t expect the team to let off the gas in the final two weeks of the season. Bill Burt has Welker fooling even the experts. Lenny Megliola has even Miami fans feeling hopeless about this Sunday’s game. Reiss’ notebook examines the Patriots fantastic four at linebacker, who looked fresh against the Jets despite their increased workload.

Mitchell Report

The fallout from the Mitchell report continues, as Roger Clemens broke his silence and denied the allegations laid forth in testimony given by his former trainer that he had injected the Rocket with both Steroids and HGH during his time with the Blue Jays and Yankees. Gordon Edes has the statement from Clemens, while Dan Shaughnessy says that it’s hard not to jump to conclusions with Clemens.

Largely lost in this whole mess has been the media’s role in the entire steroid era. If you missed it, in the Editor and Publisher, Joe Strupp examines How, Years Ago, Baseball Writers Blew the Drug Scandal. Well worth the read.

Celtics

The Celtics will face their first test of the young season when they take on the Detroit Pistons tonight at the Garden. Jeff Horrigan says everything has changed since these two teams last met. Desmond Conner says that the Celtics next 15 games will tell us whether this club is for real. Peter May has Ray Allen giving the Celtics a lift with his return to the lineup tonight. Jeff Howe says that the Celtics are sacrificing personal stats for the good of the team.

Tony Massarotti has a mini-feature on Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who has pressed all the right buttons thus far this season. Scott Souza has Allen confident that his shot will return to form after giving his ankle some rest. Over on the BSMW Full Court Press, Mike Brilliant offers up a Celtics Report Card for last week.

Horrigan’s notebook has more on Allen returning tonight. May’s notebook has the Celtics cutting rookie forward Brandon Wallace in order to get some salary cap flexibility for the stretch run.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa has the account of the Bruins 3-2 loss to the Senators last night. Bud Barth says that the lack of goal scoring is really hurting the Bruins right now. Steve Conroy says that the Bruins just weren’t good enough to keep up with the conference leading Senators.

Kevin Paul Dupont has B’s coach Claude Julien commenting on his team’s recent sloppy slide. Dupont also has a look at the Bruins latest cult hero, 19-year-old Milan Lucic, who has shown a willingness to mix it up. Rich Thompson has more on Lucic. Dupont also has the Bruins receiving an encouraging report on Patrice Bergeron.

Shinzawa’s notebook has defenseman Andrew Alberts suffering from headaches, which sidelined him last night. Barth’s notebook has Tim Thomas sitting out another game last night. Conroy’s notebook has more on Alberts being scratched.