Imagine you left the country a few weeks ago for a mental cleanse. No television, no radio, no cellphone, no newspapers, no Internet. No contact with the outside world. You left the Celtics and Bruins and Red Sox and Patriots in the rearview mirror.
And now you have returned. And you want to know what’s new with your teams.
Let’s bring you up to date.
1. Celtics. You remember that they were knocked out of the playoffs by the Knicks. Last time you checked they were coached by Doc Rivers and captained by Paul Pierce. It looked like Kevin Garnett was coming back for one more run and maybe they could throw a scare into the Heat one last time.
Now it’s all over. For three years we’ve been talking about Danny Ainge “blowing it up” and starting from scratch and it’s finally happened. The Celtics look like a lottery team.
Rivers, who coached more games for the Celtics than any man not named Red Auerbach, bolted for the Los Angeles Clippers. Doc and Danny tried to frame this as a mutual decision and we love Doc too much to rip him, but the facts are the facts: he left because he didn’t want to be here for a rebuilding process. Ainge took advantage of having Rivers under contract for three more years and got a draft pick for a coach who no longer wanted to be here.
What strikes me most about this is the lack of ceremony and celebration attached to the departures of Messrs. Pierce and Garnett. Especially Pierce. He has played for the Celtics since 1998. He scored more points for the Celtics than Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, or Bill Russell. Only John Havlicek and Parish played more games for the Celtics, and only Havlicek scored more points. Any thinking man’s all-time Celtics starting five includes Russell, Bird, Havlicek, and Cousy. The fifth jersey goes to either Pierce or McHale. That’s it. Pierce is a Celtics all-time great and he gets a ticket to Brooklyn at the end. Harsh.
Garnett is another matter. He came to us as a mercenary and he is the reason the Celtics in 2008 won their only championship since 1986. His number will be retired. At least that’s what Ainge told me.
Oh, two more bits of seismic Celtics news while you were sleeping. The ever-bold Ainge hired a 36-year-old coach from Butler named Brad Stevens. Stevens looks like Guy Pearce playing Edmund Exley in “LA Confidential,’’ and it warmed my heart when I learned he’s bringing a 23-year-old stat guru with him. Nothing like those advanced metrics for NBA players.
The Celtics used their first-round draft pick on Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, who has great hair and shall heretofore be known as The Dude (though Jeff Green wants to call him “Sunshine”).
2. Bruins. They were your favorite Boston team when you left the country and you knew they were playing with house money after that comeback against the Maple Leafs. The Bruins were the team that made Boston feel good after the Marathon bombings. We hooted all over Penguin Jarome Iginla and the Bruins routed Pittsburgh, 12-2, in a four-game sweep.
Fast forward to the present and you learn that the Bruins just signed Iginla and we love him now and they traded 21-year-old Tyler Seguin because he was not Claude Julien’s kind of player. Andrew Ference and Nathan Horton are now playing in remote outposts. Loui Eriksson is your new high-flying forward. Seems like a good fit.
The Bruins skated to a virtual draw with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final and led Game 6, 2-1, with just over a minute to play when they allowed two goals in 17 seconds and ceded the quest for the Cup on home ice. Despite this epic fold, (what, no timeout, no line change after that tying goal?), the 2013 playoff Bruins are not enshrined in the pantheon of Hub choke artists. They don’t qualify for the medal platform alongside the 1986, 1978, or 2003 Red Sox. They are not even shamed on a par with the 2010 Bruins, who blew the 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. No. The 2013 Bruins are spared the darts and arrows that punctured so many Boston teams that came close and did not win. There is no disgrace attached to the epic collapse of the 2013 Bruins in Game 6. None.
3. Red Sox. No team in baseball has more wins. And now that John Henry appears serious about buying the Globe, I must admit that, upon further review, everything the Sox do is just swell with me.
Since you have been away you need to know that the Sox have eight walkoff wins, love one another unconditionally, and clearly have the best chemistry in the history of baseball. The Sox lead the majors in runs scored and apparently can win the World Series without a legitimate closer. David Ortiz — teetering on the brink of outright release three years ago — has discovered the fountain of youth and simply gets better every day. Truly amazing. Jose Iglesias is putting up numbers that would make Rogers Hornsby blush and an outfield of Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, and Mike Carp is infinitely superior to those lean years when the Sox only had Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Dwight Evans. I am not the least bit worried about the Tampa Bay Rays, who have a cake schedule and just got David Price back. The Yankees and Orioles (both five back in the loss column entering Wednesday) also appear to be mirages. The Red Sox have 25 great guys who love each other. They are the envy of baseball. And John Henry might be the greatest human being who ever lived.
4. Patriots. Supreme tight end Aaron Hernandez has been arrested for murder, is a suspect in a 2012 double homicide, and owns a trail of guns and violence that resulted in at least one punctured eardrum and one lost eyeball. Some of this happened before the Patriots made the decision to reward him with a $40 million contract extension last year. Tuesday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft (looking more and more like Ralph Lauren and/or Hugh Hefner) broke the franchise’s extended silence and told a handpicked trio of reporters that the Patriots were “duped,’’ while still clinging to the whopper that it was Hernandez’s idea to donate $50,000 to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund when Hernandez signed his extension.
Please. Duped? This is an organization that requires media members to report to “security command,” then videotapes useless press sessions involving coach Bill Belichick and said reporters. Nothing is left to chance at Gillette Stadium.
Duped? Did Belichick ever talk to old pal Urban Meyer about this kid? Did the Patriots speak to any of their own players (check out the Matt Light quotes) before deciding that Hernandez, not Wes Welker, was the guy who should get the long extension and the bag of money? Players don’t know everything about one another. But they know whom they like and whom they trust.
The Patriots can’t win this one. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They are not responsible for Hernandez’s alleged crime rampage, but at the time they extended his contract the notion that they knew nothing about his associates and activities strains all boundaries of believability.
Enabled by success and legions of sycophants, the Patriots traditionally have positioned themselves as better and different (“It was the principle, over the cap or anything else’’ — Kraft said about cutting Hernandez). This is not the time for that. This is the time for the New England franchise to suck it up, take the hits, and stop trying to posture itself as holier than others.
Belichick will be required to talk to the press in late July when camp starts.
The Patriots’ release of Hernandez means Hoodie gets to play the time-tested, “I only talk about players who are on our roster” card, but “the right thing to do’’ in this case is not to be obtuse, intransigent, or secretive. It’s time to apologize for the team’s disgrace and abject negligence and let everybody move on.
Welcome home, mental cleanser. Consider yourself up to speed.