The Obstructed View: Why People Root For Ray Lewis

In addition to my media notes, I’ll be swinging by Wednesday afternoons to write a weekly column dealing with How We Think About Sports (or something), entitled “The Obstructed View.” Think of it as an unfortunate tariff to my other work here. Feel free to yell at me on Twitter about it (@Hadfield__) or email me at Hadfield.Ryan@gmail.com.

Like most of America, I will watch Super Bowl XLVII. And, like most of America, a smirk will take shape on my face as I watch Ray Lewis do his pregame ritual dance. I picture most of America having this reaction, smirking in unison as Lewis performs his cathartic rain dance like a lunatic.

Meanwhile, residents of Maryland experience The Big Game Jitters. You know what I’m talking about – numbness transforms into tingly excitement which, eventually, transforms into a pit in your stomach. “It’s the Super Bowl! And we’re here, we’re really here!!!” (Even though, in reality, they are watching from their couch. You get the point.) Oh, and they’ll smirk too, of course, but out of nervousness, like meeting your girlfriend’s dad for the first time.

Shortly after, the national anthem will happen. Ray Lewis will cry or, at the very least, ooze emotion. This will undoubtedly upset the virtual world – Twitter and Facebook – and prompt reaction at whatever Super Bowl party you’re attending. This dude can’t be serious. America will collectively utter to itself.

And, together, as one nation, we stand, laughing at Lewis; while Maryland, alone, proudly stands, their faces resplendent and nervously grinning, as they struggle to put the corsage on their girlfriend’s dress in front of pops before prom.

***

There is a common theme here that is completely exclusive, but mutually shared among fans of every successful team, in every sport. Our Guys. We relent, in circumstances, that Our Guys are bad people, or Our Guys are definitely just misunderstood. Either way, we make excuses for them because, well, they’re Our Guys.

Sometimes transgressions are so innocuous that we don’t really have to make excuses at all. For instance, Our Guys sponsor Male Uggs and dress feminine; flex while a player they concussed is being helped off the field; flip off a crowd; are sore losers; have children with 13 different women; swear on the basketball court (Relax, Dale. Every kid makes it to the back of the bus to hear the “bad words” at some point or another.); and have pregame routines eerily similar to Lewis’ (except we don’t notice, because they’re Our Guys.)

Other times, the actions taken – or not taken – reflect such poor character that we can’t make excuses. It’s quite possible, for example, Our Guys may or may not have taken PEDs (but hey, so did Your Guys … we rationalize.); harbor (and fail to disclose) knowledge of sexual assault on multiple children; and can inspire hundreds of thousands of people and raise millions of dollars for cancer research – all while lying about the means they took to acquire that inspiration and platform to do so.

Strangely, in the rarest of occasions, we just don’t know what to think about Our Guys. That’s because, these days, they can be tricked into having an out-of-this-world tragedy attached to an imaginary girlfriend; which, who knows, may have not been a trick after all.

The sailient point is that these guys – Our Guys – are a means to an end to memories of championship euphoria. Years later, when it’s over, we recant our opinion to the rest of America about their shortcomings as a human. We never invited them over for dinner, to our daughter’s wedding, or to watch a movie.

But in the here and now, provincial bias and glory trumps moral high ground, leaving good people to root for bad things, I guess. That’s why, when listening to fans and media folks alike discredit Ravens fans for rooting for a murder suspect, I shake my head. And maybe – just maybe — as Ravens fans hum along to “Seven Nation Army,” in awe of their fearless leader, I’ll take a moment to smirk with them instead of at them, not because I agree, but because I understand their burden, their relationship, to Their Guy.

[UPDATE: I didn’t adequately highlight this initially, but if a team’s success wanes, then, naturally, a player’s personal issues — like, say, Mike Vick or Will Cordero (kudos to commentator, Winning), come to the forefront. You think The Hoodie gets treated unjustly now? See what happens if the Patriots on-field dominance ever falters.]

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 47 vs. the Rockets

Celtics (34-12) vs. Rockets (23-24)
January 22, 1980
Boston Garden

In an up-and-down night for Boston, the Celtics received a breakout defensive performance from M.L. Carr in a 112-106 victory over the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets, winners of six of their previous eight games, trailed 77-55 until Rick Barry went on a scoring binge.  Barry scored 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the game was about to shift in Houston’s favor until Carr ensured the Celtics would hold on for the victory.  Larry Whiteside from the Globe detailed the game’s turning point:

“I remember when I came into the game,” said Carr. “The first thing I said to him was, the party’s over. You don’t get no more 3- pointers.’ “

And it was his simple philosophy that turned what had been a stirring comeback by the Rockets…  Carr shadowed Barry all over the court, to the sidelines when he chatted with coach Del Harris, and would have gone into the Rockets huddle if the rules would have allowed it.

“You talk aboout a key to a game,” coach Bill Fitch would say later. “It had to be putting Carr on Barry. He became Lamont Cranston Jr. The Stopper. He took Rick right out of the things he wanted to do at a time when Barry was hot and wanted the ball.”

The Celtics didn’t really plan to use Carr to guard Rick Barry last night.

Larry Bird was doing a decent enough job for three quarters and Barry had only six points. But the former ABA star, who made the 3- point goal a living spectacle early in his career, cut loose in the final period, scoring 17 of his 23 points. Nine of them came on three straight 3-pointers. In fact, he scored 11 straight points at one juncture and it was two free throws by Barry tht tied the game at 97.

“Larry just wasn’t able to handle Barry,” said Fitch. “But I knew that when I sent him in. I just told him to stay in there long enough for M.L to get a blow. When M.L. told me he was ready, I sent him in.”

“We were in trouble. Our plan was to take advantage of their lack of speed and of Moses Malone. When Moses was covering Dave (Cowens), we shot from outside. When Moses was covering Maxwell, we ran. But it became a different game when Dave got hurt and Moses took over inside. Then Barry got hot, and we had to do something.”

Something meant M.L. Carr.

A Garden crowd of 13,549 also witnessed an injury to Dave Cowens.  Bob Ryan and Whiteside shared a joint byline to expand on the first major injury for the Celtics in the 1979-80 season:

Cowens injured his left foot in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 112-106 triumph over the Houston Rockets, and although X-rays were negative, that doesn’t mean he has escaped meaningful injury. The foot was swollen and purplish yesterday, Cowens says he can’t walk on it, and the big thing is that Cowens still really doesn’t know what’s wrong with it.

“I don’t think it’s something I’m going to be able to play with right off,” he said. “The first thing is to get the swelling down. Then we might be able to determine what I have. Right now I can’t walk on it.”

Cowens thinks he might have injured himself by coming down on Moses Malone’s foot, but he’s not really sure about that. “It’s like when you catch your finger in somebody’s jersey and pull it back, stretching the ligaments, or something, by hyperextending it,” he explained. “The pain is at the base of the big toe, where it joins the instep. For all I know, I may have hyperextended the big toe, and until the swelling goes down, X-rays won’t mean a whole lot.”

Rick Robey was slated to replace Cowens in the starting lineup, but there was another addition to the Celtics lineup.  After nearly agreeing to terms with Philadelphia, a last minute snag allowed Pete Maravich to become a Celtic.  Ryan’s discussed the move in the following day’s Globe:

Saying that “I’ve been trying to get here for 10 years,” Pete Maravich signed a contract last night to finish out the season with the Boston Celtics.

The signing took place following the Celtics’ 112-106 triumph over the Houston Rockets and capped an event-filled 28 hours since Maravich arrived in Philadelphia Monday night, ostensibly to sign a contract with the 76ers.  Instead, Maravich told the Sixers he was considering three other teams – Boston, Houston and Atlanta – and that he would be going to Boston the next day.

This came as news to the Celtics, who privately had conceded Maravich to their Atlantic Division rivals throughout Maravich’s seven weeks of forced idlement with the Utah Jazz. That bizarre situation culminated with Maravich being placed on waivers late last week. Mindful of his large contract, no teams claimed him, and when the waiver period expired, Maravich flew to the East Coast to dicker with the two Eastern titans.

Ryab debated the pros and cons of Maravich in Green:

Would Pete Maravich be good for the Boston Celtics?

As with any major issue, there are no easy answers. Signing a Pete Maravich would have ramifications, not only for this year but for several seasons to come.

Here are some positives:

– Maravich can score, and the Celtics at present are lacking in firepower off the bench, which is, presumably, where Maravich would be coming from.

– Maravich is experienced, and when Tiny Archibald is out of the game, the Celtics have nobody to run the team.

– Maravich should be motivated by playing on a winning team in front of enthusiastic fans and for a coach (Bill Fitch) he has known and liked for a long time.

– Maravich will come cheap. Maravich’s contract settlement with Utah has removed the financial burden, and the Celtics would be making no seriousfinancial commitment by signing him.

– By signing Maravich, the Celtics would keep him away from Philadelphia. Don’t think this isn’t a factor.

And here are some negatives:

– Maravich has sustained a major injury to his right knee, and there is no assurance he will hold up.

– By signing Maravich, the Celtics will raise fan expectations to new heights. The team needs more than just a Pete Maravich in order to be a champion. It still would need a frontcourt physical player along the lines of a Kermit Washington, Steve Mix or Paul Silas coming off the bench. But it will be difficult to convince fans that the signing of Maravich isn’t a title guarantee.

– If Maravich comes, somebody must go, and this has been a closely knit team. That somebody would be either Eric Fernsten or Jeff Judkins, and it would most likely be the former. Much has been made of the chemistry on this team, and there is no question that the remaining players would feel bad about the plight of their fallen comrade.

– Maravich hasn’t played in two months, and it would be anybody’s guess when he would be able to help the team.

In other Celtics news, Tiny Archibald, Cowens, and Bird were all added as reserved to NBA All Star team.  Bird was the only rookie to make the team.

The Celtics traveled to Detroit to take on the Pistons the next night.

 

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Belichick not in the wrong following Sunday’s loss

It almost seems like more has been made of what took place off the field following the AFC Championship game Sunday rather than what happened on the field during the game. Much has been made of Bill Belichick denying an interview to CBS following the game, and instead the Patriots having Devin McCourty speak to them. Many have called Belichick a “sore loser” and heavily criticized the coach for failing to give an exclusive interview to CBS, led by CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe.

Some have even said to look for a possible fine to be assessed to Belichick — don’t hold your breath. BSMW confirmed with an NFL media relations representative that Belichick did not violate the NFL’s media relations policy by not speaking with CBS following the game.

This raises the question of why was this made into such a big deal? Belichick sought out Ravens coach John Harbaugh following the game and told the Ravens coach the respect he had for them, something which Harbaugh really took to heart. Following addressing his team briefly in the locker room, Belichick took to the podium to answer questions from reporters for nearly 10 minutes. While he did not elaborate on his answers, that is standard Belichick. What else did people expect, especially following a season-ending loss in the AFC Championship game?

Belichick certainly isn’t the only losing coach in a championship game not to give an exclusive interview to the network which broadcasted the game. It is a very rare occurrence, in any sport, and when it does happen those coaches are often given great praise for doing so. Now, Belichick doesn’t do it and he gets killed for it. Furthermore, in case you missed it, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t give FOX an exclusive interview following their win over Atlanta, so why aren’t the same people who are criticizing Belichick doing the same to Harbaugh?

For whatever reason some people playing in the league, the media and fans in general have a dislike for Belichick. He gets held to a completely different standard than any other coach in the league, and maybe even in sports as a whole. Sure, he isn’t the best coach in the world with the media, but who said that’s required of being a head coach? His main job is to coach football and he is one of the best in the history of the game.

Everyone’s opinion differs on how Belichick handles the media, but whether you agree or disagree, you have to take a step back and say he didn’t do anything wrong by not speaking with CBS following Sunday’s loss. Even some of the best coaches with the media in sports have not spoken exclusively with networks following losses in Championship games and there was nothing being said about them. It should be no different with Belichick.

And let’s be real here, following the Super Bowl in two weeks, does anyone really think the losing Harbaugh brother will do an exclusive interview with CBS? Not particularly, but if they do hats off to them, and if they don’t, no big deal we’ll carry on.

Give me a follow on Twitter at @hannable84.

Sports Media Musings: Playing the Patriots Blame Game & Media Notes From Championship Sunday

None of the subsequent text you’re about to read matters; just as none of the endless hours of conversation breaking down the Patriots 28-13 defeat at the hands of the Ravens matters. You want storylines? There are plenty. You want culprits? There are plenty. But remember – and I can’t stress this enough – none of these narrative arcs really matter.

In the aftermath of the Patriots regular season loss to Baltimore back in September, here is what I wrote for WEEI.com.

We hear these platitudes all the time yet take them for granted. It’s a game of inches, a league of parity, and anything can happen on any given Sunday. More or less, it seems every year, the Super Bowl  is decided by a handful of 50/50 plays. Realistically, about five to seven teams can potentially win it all depending on the outcome of these moments. Maybe four of these teams reside in the AFC. The Patriots, once again, proved they are one of the select teams in The Conversation. (Seriously, did you watch the Jets and Dolphins throw up on one another for over four hours yesterday?)

This theory still holds up. The score didn’t indicate this, but the AFC Championship game was rife with 50/50 moments. And the Ravens, by a long shot, came out the victor in each of those situations.  Each team had four red zone trips. One came away with four touchdowns; the other, only one. Michael Felger, who will be doing a victory lap this week (and forever), picked the Ravens based on his “gut.” The guy who got it right went off intuition? If that doesn’t show you the fickle and arbitrary nature of the NFL, then I don’t know what does.

So, sure, take solace in the loss and lick the wounds. If you’re the media, blame Tom Brady for not producing points in the second half, heck, even throw words like “legacy” around (which is insanely shortsighted since legacies, by nature, take time to unfold and require perspective, but if you’re feeling frisky, need page views or ratings, then by all means, go for it!); ramble about the mismanagement at the end of the first half which took away the opportunity “cost” New England four points (I get the anger,  but rather presumptuous to assume the Pats would have punched the ball into the end zone there, given how much they struggled in that area all night); forget Aqib Talib was playing lights out and his exit due to injury signified the return of Kyle Arrington and insertion of Marquice Cole into the fold; or make baseless claims about what The Drop Part Deux means to Wes Welker’s contract uncertainty. You will hear all of it. Just don’t forget about The Conversation – it’s everything in the NFL.

Touchbacks: Media Notes From Sunday’s Action

I subjected myself to ESPN’s NFL Countdown show. Maybe it was because of Ray Lewis and all the religion talk this week that made me feel the need for repentance, or something. I don’t know. Either way, I’m 95% convinced Cris Cater was either drunk or acting out a C+ Stephen A. Smith impression during a segment called, “Where You At?”

***

There was a segment where T.I., a rapper from Atlanta, interviewed Roddy White of the Falcons. This was a real thing; very reminiscent of  Lil’ Wayne‘s blog on ESPN.com. Normally, I would be all over ESPN for doing this, but T.I.’s piece was much better than Chris Berman’s segment with Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, where Boomer joked, “I swear, you guys must be brothers?” Ohhh Boomerrrrr, so youuuu. The highlight came at one point when Justin Smith awkwardly said, “You’re trying to butter me up.” I would have loved to get into Berman’s conscious at that exact moment, “Psh. I don’t need to butter YOU up. I AM AN INSTITUTION. I AM FOOTBALL.”

***

Speaking of Berman, you wouldn’t believe it, but they showed his sideline report following The Catch in the 1984 NFC Championship game. I see this clip far too often; another example of ESPN making itself part of the story, “Look at us, in our infancy, not knowing what we know today – THAT WE ARE THE WORLDWIDE LEADEERRRRRRR IN SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT!!!!!”

***

Speaking of worthless sideline reports (I’m on fire with my seagueways right now, just go with it), evidently Fox skipped their sound check with sideline reporter Pam Oliver. Twitter was up in arms about her inaudible report (due to the deafening Georgia Dome crowd) right before kickoff. Here’s the thing: If we (rightfully) mock sideline reports for being useless and adding little insight – then, why, are we raising our fists at the information being missed. I thought we decided it’s all so pointless?

***

Joe Buck has been justifiably criticized for tempering his tone and excitement in big moments. The most egregious example of this mundane style of broadcasting is the Helmet Catch. However, he had a great call on Julio Jones’ opening drive touchdown in Atlanta. Perfect cadence and pitch as the play unfolded. I get he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like Buck.

***

Much is being made of Shannon Sharpe’s diatribe directed towards Bill Belichick for skipping out on his one-on-one interview with CBS’ Steve Tasker. I’m actually with Sharpe here, but I don’t get why he is so shocked. On the peripheral, Belichick is a sore loser. It’s weird. But it’s also not new. The Hoodie has no use for the noise; he never asks for the adulation he gets, and certainly doesn’t soak in the hate, either. Remember, though, that’s on the peripheral. Internally, all you need to know about Belichick is this tidbit from Peter King this morning.

The postgame conversation on the field with Bill Belichick … Harbaugh: “I’ll treasure that conversation forever. Before the game, we talked, and he said maybe we should just skip the postgame handshake because it’s such a circus. I said I didn’t know; I thought we should do it, it’s just the right thing to do. And we did. He was so classy, so gracious. Complimentary about how we played, about our game plan, about how tough it is to play us. I told him how much we pattern our organization around theirs, how much we study them.”

***

At various times, I covered the Patriots this past year. I interviewed guys who didn’t make it to opening day like Robert Gallery and Joseph Addai; attended OTAs, minicamp, parts of training camp, the preseason games, and even the home opener as a member of the media.

Sunday night, I found myself in a bar near my Boston apartment, with a buddy, Johnny (a Patriots fan, though, I don’t think he knew who Marquice Cole was until Anquan Boldin abused him last night). It has been an interesting transition back to watching the game away from the press box. While there is no buffet line, egos are checked at the door;  a girl who gradually grew uninterested in the game played that shooter arcade game and entered her name as “STD-UTI” (which was hilarious); Johnny and I debated whether our waitress had breast implants (ultimately determining the affirmative, yet we never confirmed); listened to hammered guys claim, “I can’t put this game on Brady, I just can’t,” and after it was all over, had a random guy seriously proposition us with the following choice, “Are we going after girls tonight or looking to find a fight?”

Quirky, fun, memorable, and refreshing — sports is sports again. Even when it sucks.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 46 vs. the SuperSonics

Celtics (34-11) vs. SuperSonics (35-13)
January 20, 1980
Boston Garden

The Celtics again showed they were not quite ready for showtime, dropping another game to a top-tier NBA team.  In a double overtime battle, Seattle — the defending champion as well as favorite to win the championship — used their experience to defeat the Celtics, 108-106.

 

Despite some of the low shooting percentages on the box score, The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan gushed over the contest:

It was the kind of game that made fans feel a sense of smugness for having shelled out the money to see it; that made winning players proud to have hung in there and losers proud to have participated; and that made CBS wonder how it came to be that in showing it prior to the Super Bowl the network had managed to serve the chateaubriand before the goose livers, as it were.  It was a basketball game played at the highest level, and if you don’t understand how a game in which the two participants combined to shoot a collective 42 percent from the floor could be labeled “great,” then it’s obvious you’re heading for a failing grade in Hoopology 101.  For the 108-106 double-overtime Seattle conquest of the Celtics before an enraptured capacity Garden gathering of 15,320 yesterday afternoon was nothing less than an affirmation of two things – the first being that the NBA at its best is basketball at its best, the second being that nobody should accuse the SuperSonics of overstating the case if they choose to warm up to “We Are The Champions.”

Seattle was the league's defending champion
Seattle was the league’s defending champion

The win marked the seventh consecutive win for the Sonics, with four of those wins coming on the road.  Seattle was led by their point guard, Dennis Johnson.  DJ, the eighth of sixteen children, starred at Pepperdine before the Sonics drafted him in the second round of the 1976 NBA draft.  After a dreadful game 7 in the 1978 NBA Finals where Johnson shot 0-14, he reemerged the following season to lead the Sonics to their first ever championship and captured the Most Valuable Player award.  In this particular game, as Ryan explained, DJ was again a difference-maker:

One golden moment in this game will never be forgotten. It came with one second left in regulation time when Dennis Johnson, the third option on a desperation play, drilled in game-tying three- point field goal from in front of the press table (into which he tumbled after releasing the shot). That miracle shot negated a Boston comeback that had begun with a stumbling Celtic team trailing, 76-70 (7:52 left), a resurgence that had been fueled by a pair of Chris Ford three-pointers (he had five in the game), and that had been culminated with a free throw by Larry Bird, the victim of a loose-ball foul with three seconds to play and the Celtics leading by an 86-84 score.

 

Dennis Johnson

 

ESPN’s Bill Simmons wrote a terrific piece after Johnson’s death in 2007, marveling the affect he had on his teams:

DJ will be remembered by everyone who was there as one of the best big-game guards who ever played. Basically, it’s Clyde Frazier, Jerry West, Sam Jones, Reggie Miller, Michael Jordan and DJ on the list. From 1978 to 1988 with three different teams, DJ played in six NBA Finals and two other conference finals, going down as the best all-around guard for 11 straight seasons on teams that won 47, 52, 56, 57, 46, 53, 62, 63, 67, 59 and 57 games. He averaged 17.3 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds for his playoff career — including an astonishing 23-game run for a banged-up ’87 Celtics team on which he averaged 19 points, 9 assists and a whopping 42 minutes a game guarding the likes of John Lucas, Sidney Moncrief, Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson and Magic.

(Note: Seattle traded him for Paul Westphal in 1980 and finished 22 games worse the following season; Phoenix traded him for Rick Robey in 1983 and finished 12 games worse. Nobody ever seemed to appreciate DJ until he was gone.)

Johnson and backcourt mate Gus Williams torched the Celtics, but Boston refused to give in to Seattle’s pressure.  Bird (15 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists) had another solid game, but Chris Ford and his five 3-pointers led the C’s with 26 points.  Dave Cowens (8-24) had another poor shooting night, but the Celtics did not have any depth at the center position, forcing Cowens to play 49 minutes.  Bird and Tiny Archibald, who finished with 19 points and 9 assists, both played 53 minutes each.  Both teams relied heavily on their starting five, with the Seattle reserves outscoring Boston’s inexperienced bench, 20-17 (Former Celtic Paul Silas finished the night with 13 rebounds off the bench in only 26 minutes).

 

SuperSonics

 

Rebounds were critical in deciding the outcome of the game.  Seattle won the battle of the boards (63-49) and was able to get 20 offensive rebounds to the Celtics’ 10.  Ryan commented in the following day’s paper that the loss was demoralizing for the Celtics:

None of this demeans Boston, which now trails the 76ers by one game in the Atlantic Division and stands 1-5 in matches against Philly, LA and Seattle. The Celtics played hard and they made honest mistakes against a great team. But two Sunday toughies in a row is rough on the coach. “It’s like analyzing a funeral,” Fitch lamented. “It’s like saying to someone in the family, Are you crying big tears or little tears today?’ “

“A game of ifs,” said Ford. “Yes,” agreed Silas, “if DJ doesn’t make that shot, it’s history.”

The Celtics returned to the Garden to conclude their seven game home stand for a rare Tuesday night affair with the Houston Rockets.

 

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Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 45 vs. the TrailBlazers

Celtics (33-11) vs. TrailBlazers (24-25)
January 18, 1980
Boston Garden

The Portland TrailBlazers made their lone visit to Boston on January 18.  The proud franchise, still struggling to find an identity after their lone championship in 1977, was moving on from the Bill Walton Era after he departed to the San Diego Clippers as a free agent following the 1979 season.

Walton and Portland teammate Maurice Lucas helped build “Blazermania” in Oregon, an intensely loyal fan base that only waned during the JailBlazer years in the early 2000s.  The 1977 champions are still the youngest team to ever win an NBA title, and the bond between the two men became so tight that Walton named his son after the man fondly known as “Luke.”

Although it only resulted in one championship, Portland’s sensational run in the 70’s was built off a similar blue print to the Bill Russell-Celtics through rebounding and running:

[Portland coach Jack] Ramsay molded this crew into a rebounding and running package that thrilled the Portland crowds. He was, after all, Dr. Jack Ramsay, the thinking man’s coach. He had been the most respected of college coaches, guiding wonderful teams at St. Joe’s and compiling a 234-72 record over 11 seasons. In more than 20 seasons as an NBA coach, he would pile up 864 regular-season wins.

Whatever identity or cause Portland was seeking this season was not found this particular night on Causeway Street.  In front of the Garden’s 15th sellout in 22 home games, the Celtics improved to 20-2 at home with a 111-93 beatdown of the Blazers.

The C’s started slowly, trailing by 11 after allowing 33 first quarter points, but turned up the intensity in the middle frames.  Dave Cowens paced the Celtics with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Larry Bird added 18 and 15 with Cedric Maxwell delivering 19 points off a perfect 5-5 night from the field.  Tiny Archibald accumulated 10 of the team’s 27 assists, and Ryan noted the importance of the team’s passing:

The Celtics really do live and die by ball movement. In the first half they had assists on a mere 8 of their 18 baskets, and they looked like five guys who had just met. In the second half, they had assists on 19 of their 26 baskets, and they often looked as if they were sharing one brain.  One of the delightful discoveries last evening was the Boston inside-out offense, which had been the league’s best until a month ago.  The Celtics wereagain dumping the ball in to the likes of Dave Cowens and Cedric Maxwell, who were in turn kicking it back out again to the likes of Larry Bird, Tiny Archibald or Cowens. “Movement,” said Cowens, “was the key. We talked about it at halftime. They were taking us away from our strength and pinning us to one side of the floor in the first half.”

The knockout blow was delivered in the third quarter as the Celtics outscored the Blazers, 37-15.  Cowens, per the Globe, led the way in delivering the knockout punch:

Portland, which led at the period (33-22) and half (51-49) was leading, 57-55, when Cowens picked up the team and the crowd with eight points in the next two minutes. He engaged in a brief one-on- one duel with Maurice Lucas which resulted in the latter’s return to the Portland bench, and it was he who kicked off a burst of 14 straight points with a power hook and a jumper. That run boosted the Celtics into a 73-60 lead, and the game was never close after that. With Cowens and Larry Bird (17 points, 15 rebounds) sweeping the boards and with the ball again moving in October fashion, Boston shot a dazzling 15 for 20 in that third quarter.

Maurice Lucas had a superb showing on the glass, collecting five offensive rebounds and 15 overall.  Don Chaney hit his first NBA three-pointer, which turned out to be a turning point in the game, as Bob Ryan detailed in the following day’s Globe:
There was complete poetic justice on the final play of the first half of last night’s Celtics-Trail Blazers game when a Portland club packed deep in an outrageously obvious zone was beaten by a three-point field goal tossed in by that old zone-buster himself, Don Chaney. That basket made it 51- 49, Portland.  And The Duck had stuck in another valuable basket earlier in the period, spinning down the lane for a three-point play on a backhand flip which reduced an eight-point (47-39) deficit to five . . .

Ryan stressed the importance of the win:

The importance of all this for the Celtics was that it restored some confidence prior to the arrival of Seattle tomorrow. The Celtics of the first half could not have beaten UMass. The second- half gang will be happy to welcome the fly into its cozy Garden web.

In other NBA news, courtesy of the Globe’s Sports Log, the 48-hour waiver period on Pete Maravich ends today, after which any team can try to sign the flashy 31-year-old guard with the troublesome knees who has yet to play on an NBA championship team. One club which appears to have more than just a passing interest is the Philadelphia 76ers, whose coach, Billy Cunningham, said last night that he views the 6-foot-5 guard as a potential “insurance policy.” There has been no word from the Celtics, but general manager Red Auerbach has expressed prior interest in acquiring Maravich.

Time would tell just how interested the Celtics were in Maravich.  In the meantime, the Celtics continued their home stand on Sunday against back-to-back defending Western Conference champions, the Seattle SuperSonics.

 

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Sports Media Musings: Bow ties and Alibis

“It’s a person. A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.”

– Newsroom

Yeah, I thought the sanctimonious feel of “Newsroom” sucked, too. But, given the Manti Te’o saga, doesn’t it just feel appropriate today?

Here are a few links worth passing along, then, I promise, we’ll never speak of this again. (That’s totally a lie, we’re totally speaking of this again, but not at the length we did yesterday, because BREAKING — Boston isn’t a college town. We figured this out the hard way when we wrote 1,200 words on the Bruce Feldman vs. ESPN feud. “Bruce who?” Exactly.)

Deadspin’s editor-in-chief explains editing, reporting behind Manti Te’o storyTommy Craggs, Deadspin’s Editor-in-Chief, talked to Poynter about his editorial process behind the story, taking a pot shot at The Boston Globe, which promptly pointed out Deadspin wasn’t known for its journalistic standards in their recap of the Te’o scandal.

“Whatever. Why should I care what a craven, slipshod outfit like the Boston Globe thinks of my ‘journalistic standards’?”

I find it curious any major outlet would take shots at Deadspin during their victory lap. Alas, when you’ve run some of the content Deadspin has published in its existence, you’re inviting that tagline. I know Deadspin; my dad probably doesn’t — and that stigma (appropriately) goes on their gravestone.

The Lies He Told — A few readers emailed me about Grantland’s silence on the Te’o scandal. Look, ESPN was scooped and (presumably) embarrassed, but Grantland’s delayed reaction doesn’t warrant harsh critique here. Grantland, at its core, is reactive. They don’t break stories; they react. Bill Simmons and Co. published a (predictably) excellent and (predictably) verbose email exchange between Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman by mid-afternoon yesterday. Both writers are true heavy hitters. And while it’s confounding the two scribes actively circumvent the real question (“Did Te’o know?”), each raise a variety of other questions related to the story. I enjoyed it. But I’m the kind of guy that enjoys this style of writing — it’s certainly not for everyone.

Did ESPN Know About the Manti Te’o Hoax 10 Days Ago? — The Big Lead has sources that claim ESPN knew about the Te’o scandal BEFORE the National Championship game. Did the WorldWide Leader hold out for an exclusive interview? Or, perhaps more nefarious, did they hold out to ensure strong ratings for the BCS? (The latter seems very unrealistic; all things considered,  this scandal boosts intrigue, instead of hurting it.)

Will Leitch, co-founder and editor emeritus of Deadspin, wrote two thoughtful pieces for Sports On Earth yesterday. “Print the Legend”  is about chicanery at play and HOW Te’o’s fictitious girlfriend (that still feels weird typing) could get passed factcheckers; meanwhile, his second piece coincides with the theory I wrote about earlier this week — we want these stories to exist (and matter) because sports HAS TO MATTER.

OK, we’re done. SPORTS are being played Sunday, gentleman. SPORTS.

Oh yeah, nothing on cycling or Lance Armstrong, because who really cares about cycling?

(We’re kidding.)

(Not really).