Friday, September 13, 2013


Happy Friday the 13th everyone. Here's a little Sportsaidekaphobia to mark the occasion ...

Let's start with some givens. Letting Wes Welker go was a risk for the New England Patriots. The move could end up hitting them in the face like a wave of effluvia. Then again, after one out of 16 games, that's all conjecture. But at the moment, it seems like the dumbest thing the Bill Belichick and the Patriots have ever done.

Of course, to be fair, when they let Welker go, who knew Aaron Hernandez would get into his predicament? That was certainly an X-factor no one could have predicted.

It would appear that the relationship between Belichick and Welker soured beyond repair, and it would also seem, to me at least, that both had a hand in it. Belichick is Dean Wormer, and apparently Welker is Otter. Or Boone. Or Flounder. Or maybe a combination of them all. Perhaps he was on double secret probation all these years and it caught up to him.

Whatever the reason, he's gone and our continuous pining for him isn't going to bring him back. There was obviously an effort on the part of the Patriots to bring in a group of receivers and let them mature together, and we're seeing the growing pains now. I'm not sure even Welker could make much of a difference, because he cannot get downfield, and he can't run six routes at once.

This has been an ongoing concern ... one that was masked pretty thoroughly by the existance of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots haven't had a consistent outside receiver since the jettisoned Randy Moss off to Minnesota. They've made do with the two tight ends, Welker, and a group of backs who could catch the ball ... call it the Kevin Faulk factory. There was Faulk, Danny Woodhead and now Shane Vereen (when he comes back from his broken wrist).

When you think about it, how much of a factor was Brandon Lloyd last year? In New England, your effectiveness as a receiver hinges on how much Tom Brady trusts you, and he didn't trust Lloyd. Nor did he trust Chad Ochocinco.

I have to admit, watching Brady pout last night was disconcerting, and if anyone down there were to ask me, I'd have to say that TB12 is a bigger problem, at this point, than the receivers are. He's going to have to calm down and let these guys develop without hovering over them like some kind of demented drill sergeant. He even said as much himself after the game. I can't speak for any of these rookies, but there was once a time when I was new, and remember well the ones who patiently explained my raw mistakes and I remember the ones with the oppressive, unfriendly criticisms. I always thought that tactic held back development.

I'll save my anger for people who should know better. All I know is that when you have Jabba the Hutt squatting on you while you're feeling your way around it tends to slow your development down.

Look, Brady has had a fantastic career. He's going to be in the NFL Hall of Fame. But I remember a game, in his first season as a starter, when he threw four interceptions against the Denver Broncos. He had to settle in, grow and make his mistakes ... and obviously Belichick saw something in him that made him stick with the kid. Maybe Brady could show the same patience now?

We all want to win. The Patriots do not hold a patent on winning and neither does Brady. And I think winning is one of those things where you sometimes have to extend a hand to your struggling teammates and shepherd them rather than browbeat them on national television.

Something tells me the Patriots -- at least this edition --  have jumped the shark anyway. If that's the case, all you can do is say it's been a hell of a run ... almost unprecedented in this modern NFL. Skills fade. People move on. The chemistry gets diluted and sometimes polluted. And when that happens, you just have to decide to cut your losses and move on.

What's happened with the Patriots concerning Hernandez has to affect them more than just losing Brady for the season to injury. I don't are how professional you profess to be. You're still a human being. And knowing there was a murderer in your midst would have to be more than a little disconcerting.

This already promised to be a difficult season even before Hernandez got arrested. Not having him, and not having Gronkowski yet ... that is huge, and I don't care what kind of a genius everyone thinks you are. That's just too much firepower to replace at once. You can't do it.

But now? With Hernandez in jail, Danny Amendola hurt (and can we please give the guy a break? The guy got hurt. It's a violent game. People get hurt), Vereen out until midseason with a broken wrist, no effective tight ends ... this is going to be a brutal stretch. Until some of these guys get healthy, the team is going to scuffle, and bitching about it isn't going to make anyone happier.

So with all that, is it to much to ask TB12 to just chill with the histrionics, be a mensch, and help these guys instead of showing them up?

And can we stop acting so entitled about the Patriots? Every NFL dynasty has had to regroup. Maybe it's our turn. If it is, so be it. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

And to think ... I'm writing this about a 2-0 team in the National Football League. Teams with far more talent at their disposal would kill to be 2-0. 


Onto other things: I'd love to hear Bug Selig's explanation for how a guy who's been effectively banished for the rest of his career for being a world-class cheat (not to mention rat) is still playing, and that his team is poised to crash the post-season party. This ought to be good.

How embarrassing will it be if a team like Cleveland, Baltimore or Tampa Bay is denied a spot in the post-season because the Yankees crashed their way in while a pariah such as Alex Rodriguez not  only played, but contributed mightily? I could actually see a situation where one of these organized sued MLB on the grounds that their suspended player ended up in the lineup for two months.

Two questions. First, would it have been better had Selig merely suspended A-Rod for the same number of games as it did everyone else in the recent PHD scandal, so he could have sat them out and not put us through this absolute farce? And aren't the Yankees talking out of both sides of their mouths here? They've been pretty obvious about their desire to rid themselves of Rodriguez and his contract, yet there he is. Sitting in the middle of the lineup like an elephant in the living room. I won't object if you call them hypocrites.

All I know is that we have a player who's been suspended ... bur who's playing ... and whose presence in the lineup has a good chance of influencing the post-season. There's something REALLY wrong with this picture.

Saddest of all is while the A-Rod side show is going on, we have Derek Jeter fighting for his career. Even if you hate the Yankees, you have to admire Jeter, who has done nothing but act with class, dignity and professionalism for his entire career. Just another indication that life is exceedingly unfair.


Some quick hits: Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins might be the most underrated, unappreciated athlete in Boston in this or any other era ...Boston College is 2-0, and nobody thought that was going to happen. Maybe 1-1. But not 2-0. Not sure what this means in the long run, but it's certainly  not terrible ... How badly is Alabama going to crush Texas A&M and Johnny Football tomorrow? ... Is there any doubt that John Farrell is the American League manager of the year? The only one I see giving him any competition is Terry Francona, who has turned the Cleveland Indians into a ballclub ... Which, by the way, is a pleasure to see. Tito was always a class act here, a clear illustration of how you could be a good guy and still win in professional sports ... I don't know what's worse: Steve Spurrier undermining the sports reporter who criticized him, or the newspaper publisher who caved and took the writer off the South Carolina beat ... And isn't it time we just blew up the entire big-time college athletics model and rebuilt it so that ethics played a part? ... I don't care how lousy his team is, and I don't care how many press conference meltdowns he has, I'd love to cover Rex Ryan. At least he gives you something to write about ... It's fun watching the New York Giant lose. Tom Coughlin is about the most entertaining coach there is after a loss. He has nothing to prove to anyone anymore. He might go down as the best post-season coach in the NFL's modern era. But damn! When the Giants stink, he's the man! ... I hope the Philadelphia Eagles are terrible this year. I don't trust college coaches anyway, and certainly don't trust Chip Kelly to be anymore than a huckster. I'm already mad at Mike Shanahan because the Redskins lost to them last week ... If those Red Sox beards get any longer, they're going to start tripping over themselves running to first base. I hear ZZ Top is looking for replacements.

Happy Friday the 13th everyone.

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