Picked-up pieces while packing for Opening Day at Yankee Stadium …
▪ Nothing is ever enough for Tom Brady. It’s not sufficient to be the GOAT, the seven-time Super Bowl champ, the most handsome, most pliable, greatest 44-year-old starting quarterback anyone has ever seen.
He also has to be CEO, general manager, and head coach of his team.
Brady erased Bruce Arians from the Tampa landscape Wednesday, orchestrating the retirement of a coach who occasionally pushed back. Arians will be replaced by Todd Bowles, an estimable football mind who no doubt will let Tom run the Buccaneers for the foreseeable future. I expect Alex Guerrero to be named Tampa’s team doctor any minute.
Tom wins again. Tom always wins.
Swell. But who roots for this anymore? Who loves a controlling, glory-hog coach-killer?
We embraced Tom when he played here. We wished him well when he felt it was time to go. He gave great service and put the New England Patriots on the football map. He made us Titletown. We liked watching him win a Super Bowl in his first season in Tampa.
But it’s all become too much. Who loves a crybaby footballer who begs for penalty yards every time he’s touched by a defensive player? Who loves a manipulative egomaniac who retires, only to un-retire 40 days later in the middle of the NCAA tourney draw announcement while Kevin Garnett’s number is being retired? Who loves a guy who pushes Crypto, a guy who excused and protected the nefarious Antonio Brown because Brown is a really good pass receiver?
How can you hate LeBron James and Alex Rodriguez and still love Tom Brady?
And why do so many folks cover for Tom? Watching the obtuse ESPN gang ignore Tom’s fingerprints on Arians’s cold body (I think I saw an Arians chalk outline on the pavement outside Raymond James Stadium) made my head explode.
The great Tedy Bruschi actually said, “My sense is that Tom Brady had nothing to do with this.”
That whopper had polygraph machines exploding from Maine to Oregon. But Bruschi was far from alone, as a conga line of Brady sycophants dismissed or ignored the obvious.
“This whole Arians thing was Tom Brady-orchestrated,” said former Patriots GM Upton Bell. “I don’t particularly like it, but he’s running the show. [Don] Shula and [Tom] Landry and those guys used to tell me, ‘A player is just a player, but I’m the coach.’ No more.
“The minute that the NFL took defense out of the game, Tom Brady went from being a great quarterback to a person that can dictate. The quarterback is bigger than the coach.”
A revolting development.
▪ Quiz: The Celtics have had three players who played 1,000 regular-season games with them. The Knicks have had one player who played 1,000 with them. Name the players (answer below).
▪ Let the tanking begin.
Keep a close eye on the Celtics, Bucks, 76ers, and Heat atop the NBA’s Eastern Conference from now until the end of the season. Some of them would rather finish in the 3 or 4 slot because that guarantees you won’t see Brooklyn in the first round.
The Nets will be in the 7-8-9-10 (play-in) scrum for the seventh and eighth seeds. This means only the top seed and second seed have a shot at Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the first round.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka gave a surprisingly candid answer when asked about late-season chicanery last weekend.
“I think teams always, to some extent, try to control something if they can,” said the coach. “As far back as I’ve gone as a player and coach, teams have always tried to manipulate what they can.”
Patriots fans might remember the 2005 season, which ended with Matt Cassel throwing a 2-point conversion pass to the cheerleaders to ensure that the Patriots lost their season finale to the Dolphins. The loss gave the Patriots the Jaguars instead of the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs.
Bill Belichick was right. New England crushed the Jags, 28-3, and the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.
▪ Another wild card in the NBA’s seeding scramble will be which team draws Toronto in the first round. Once again, it’s all about vaccines.
Like the Red Sox, the Celtics fear their own players on the issue and remain evasive — even though this has become a basketball issue. Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum all skipped the recent trip to Toronto (the team’s first visit since strict Canadian vaccine rules went into effect). It’s pretty clear that the Celtics have at least one, probably two unvaccinated players and simply hope they don’t draw Toronto in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Kyrie confirmed that his choice to go unvaxed has nothing to do with science, medicine, or laughable “research.” According to Kyrie, “I don’t want anyone telling me what to do with my life and that’s just the way I am.”
Kyrie-the-liar also has pledged allegiance to Brooklyn, just as he did Boston. “There’s no way I leave my man No. 7 [Durant],” Irving said this past week.
▪ Since the start of the 2008 season, the Rays have won more games than the Red Sox. Most importantly, they have done it at a fraction of the cost. No wonder the Sox want to be Tampa Bay — a franchise that routinely sheds players once they start earning serious money.
▪ All blue bloods in the NCAA Final Four. Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Villanova. No thanks. Give me the Mystery Guest every time.
Meanwhile, Villanova went into the weekend with a free throw percentage of 82.6 and a chance to beat the 1983-84 Harvard Crimson’s NCAA record of 82.2 percent. That Harvard team was coached by Frank McLaughlin and featured a 6-foot-5-inch forward named Arne Duncan who went on to become Secretary of Education for President Obama.
▪ When Robert K. Kraft says, “I know what I don’t know, and I try to stay out of the way of things I don’t know,” it makes me kind of miss the old Bob Kraft who tried to get involved with everything after he first bought the Patriots in the 1990s.
The old Bob Kraft came to practice with a stopwatch, talked about “press corners,” and went behind the back of his Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells on the first day of the 1996 NFL Draft.
Say this about the owners of the local football team: The Patriots are his main focus. He’s not distracted worrying about other teams in his portfolio.
“After my family, there’s nothing more important to me than the New England Patriots and winning football games,” said Kraft.
▪ A March 28 USA Today cover story on Simone Biles as “Woman of the Year” was headlined, “Olympian pushes health to forefront — gymnast message: It’s OK to put yourself first.”
All true. Great. But can we let the athlete have his/her privacy and introspection without celebrating standing down and not competing as the new model for athletic competitors?
Let’s be sensitive. Let’s be understanding when an athlete’s mental health supersedes all else. But is it OK if we still celebrate those who choose to compete without making “putting yourself first” the ultimate definition of hard-earned accomplishment? Just asking.
▪ Monday’s NCAA woman’s regional final at Bridgeport in which UConn beat North Carolina State in double overtime was the finest college game these eyes have seen in a while. One rarely sees better shot-making in crunch time at any level.
It was the first time the UConn women — who have rarely played close games over the years — ever won an overtime game in the tournament (1-5). It also gave Geno Auriemma’s Huskies their 14th consecutive Final Four appearance.
If you need someone to make two free throws with the safety of the planet hanging in the balance, you could do worse than put UConn sophomore Paige Bueckers at the line.
▪ Celtics TV voice Brian Scalabrine seems to be enjoying his victory lap.
▪ The Red Sox never miss an opportunity to hop on the David Ortiz express. The 2016 Sox season ended with a nine-game stretch that included five Big Papi celebrations and eight losses, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Terry Francona’s Indians. This past week, the Sox announced they will honor Ortiz yet again, July 26, two days after Ortiz is enshrined in Cooperstown.
▪ The late Frank Robinson hated hitting a lot of spring training homers. “Save ‘em for the season up North,” said the Hall of Famer.
▪ Quiz answer: Boston had John Havlicek, 1,270 games; Robert Parish, 1,106; and Paul Pierce, 1,102. Patrick Ewing played 1,039 regular-season games for the Knicks.