Reflections on one year of covering the Boston sports scene
A few things I reflect on (and care about) . . .
While Dec. 1 passed largely uneventfully on the sports calendar, it did bring a hefty dose of personal reflection for me, marking my one-year anniversary with the Globe. From the freezing cold in Minnesota to the driving rain on Marathon Monday, from the disappointment of one championship loss to the delirium of one championship run, the New England sports scene has given me everything I could ask for, and more.
Nothing will ever duplicate the way it started, with a Patriots playoff run that took us all the way to Minneapolis for a Super Bowl versus the Eagles. Unwilling to skip the first potential championship of my Globe tenure, I went to Minnesota despite the flight I had booked for the Tuesday after the game, the one that would take me from JFK airport in New York to Seoul, South Korea, for my first Olympics.
So just hours after the Patriots lost to Philly, I was on my way to the airport, boarding a red-eye flight, and making my way home for an 18-hour visit before heading back to Logan and on to JFK.
Three weeks later, I returned, richer for the experience and ready for more.
I got more.
Visiting with the Red Sox in spring training, and hearing Craig Kimbrel talk about the young daughter who was more of a fighter than he was. Heading off to the Masters, and witnessing the birth of the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson bromance before fellow American Patrick Reed would trump them both with his nervy first major win.
Getting to speak with Rachel Denhollander, the woman whose courage to put her name to the many faces of Larry Nassar victims broke the dam on his reign of depravity, and who gave me an early lesson in the reach of the Globe when she called the Spotlight team her personal heroes for their work in exposing sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Talking with area native Brian Boyle and his family, their journey through cancer survival and faith as inspiring as any I’ve encountered. Meeting another area standout in golfer Matt Parziale, who topped his Masters appearance by making the cut at the US Open and sharing low amateur honors, all while taking a break from his day job as a Brockton firefighter.
Hopping on the playoff train with the Bruins and hearing TD Garden absolutely come alive in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, when a four-goal eruption in the third period inspired this attempt to capture a feeling I will never forget: “A game-tying goal from Torey Krug to ease their panic, a go-ahead, scintillating individual effort from [Jake] DeBrusk to rally their hope, a smooth wrister from David Pastrnak to unleash their joy, and, finally, an empty-netter from [Brad] Marchand to complete their delirium.”
Joining another playoff run with the young, joyful Celtics (until it crashed into LeBron James in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals) and finally, going along for the championship ride with the relentless freight train otherwise known as the Red Sox.
And now we’re back to the Patriots, a team on the cusp of clinching a 10th consecutive division title. I’m only half-joking when I tell my friends back in New Jersey/New York — where a pro sports title drought dates back to the Giants’ Super Bowl in the 2011 season — that the teams up here never lose.
■ Favorite story recently goes to Steph Curry, who got a letter from a young basketball-playing girl who wondered why her favorite Curry sneakers were only available in the boys’ department of stores and websites. Not only did Curry answer 9-year-old Riley Morrison, but he immediately fixed the oversight and promised to have his inspiration as his guest at a future Warriors game. Well-played.
■ I’m all for the parity that continues to even out the balance of power in NCAA women’s basketball, but sign me up for a Connecticut-Notre Dame championship. One of the game’s best rivalries got even more heated after UConn’s recent win at South Bend, when Muffet McGraw’s Irish so lost their composure down the stretch that she was compelled to apologize to fans the next day.
Geno Auriemma’s simmering discord with Irish star Arike Ogunbowale (whose overtime buzzer-beater beat then-undefeated UConn in last year’s national semifinal) flared both during the game (when she committed various flagrant fouls) and after (when the two exchanged words on the handshake line).
Can’t wait for a rematch, especially if it comes with even higher stakes.
■ So now USA Gymnastics has gone bankrupt, and claims that doing so will actually help expedite payments to the many Nassar victims suing the sport’s governing board for ignoring or covering up signs of his abuse. Color me skeptical about an organization doing anything it can to save itself, facing decertification by the US Olympic Committee, and no doubt motivated to force delays on any front.
Interesting story from ESPN that applications have dropped at Michigan State, where Nassar was employed and where his crimes also were ignored.
■ Color me skeptical, Take 2: Urban Meyer retired, but is this one for real? Sure, he’s done at Ohio State after his team’s bowl game, but done with coaching? I don’t see it.
And while Ryan Day might be fine as the new coach, I would absolutely endorse fellow coordinator Greg Schiano. Attempting to discredit Schiano again because of his 68-67 record at Rutgers does an absolute disservice to the work he did there, building a program from nothing, and I mean nothing, in the way of big-time facilities and institutional support, and making it a perennial bowl participant. Trust me. I was there. Someone should give Schiano a shot to run a program again.
■ Color me skeptical, Take 3: If the soccer powers that be were going to settle on the only candidate they ever seemed serious about and name Gregg Berhalter the new men’s national team coach, as they did last week, why on earth did it take 14 months? And is Berhalter, with limited international experience and no titles in his MLS career, really the best option for a program still stinging from its World Cup absence this past summer?
■ And this is beyond skepticism. Does anyone still believe the NFL, the Redskins, or the Chiefs really wanted to find out what happened when players were accused of violence against women? Great reporting across the NFL landscape continues to show otherwise, as the Washington Post exposed how the Redskins didn’t request Florida police records about Reuben Foster and didn’t talk to at least three of the former Alabama teammates on their roster, contrary to their claims.
And when Foster’s accuser, Elissa Ennis, went on “Good Morning America” and said Foster’s initial team, the 49ers, showed up when she called police on him in Florida, you can’t help but wonder what their intentions were, telling police (as she claims they did) that she was the same women who’d recanted accusations about Foster before.
Ennis said on the broadcast that her recanting was actually the lie, because she believed she was protecting a man she loved, and that she believed he had changed.
Meanwhile, Cleveland.com reports that local police there are investigating how the NFL apparently got their report on the Kareem Hunt incident because again, as the Kansas City Star reports, there was no official request to police from either the league or the Chiefs. Sigh.
■ One of the best sporting events of the year happens this weekend when the Army-Navy game kicks off in Philadelphia. Extra good luck to Army sophomore running back Zack Boobas, brother of Globe assistant sports editor Rachel Bowers.
■ The picture of former President George H.W. Bush on a pitcher’s mound with Babe Ruth was absolutely cool, a great reminder of how sports connects generations, and in the case of baseball in particular, how important a sport’s history is to its continued resonance.
But the most moving picture in the aftermath of Bush’s passing was of his service dog, Sully, standing watch over his flag-draped coffin. We don’t deserve dogs.