Tag Archive | History

My Favorite Player

On February 15, 2006, I was on February break. I was a sixth grader on the cusp of puberty. I was just getting over the Patriots losing in the postseason to Denver and  Spring Training for the Red Sox hadn’t started yet. I wasn’t yet a hockey fan and I was just starting to like basketball in a big way. UConn was good, but not great that year, and Georgetown, my mom’s alma mater hadn’t captured my attention yet. I was aware of the NBA’s existence but wasn’t a big fan. The night of the 15th, though, that all changed. I watched the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers play. It was a classic game that took 2 overtimes to finish. Cleveland won behind a 43 point triple double by phenom LeBron James. My eyes were glued to the guy wearing 34 for the Celtics giving James the business all night. After a 50 point game against the most hyped player of the day, Paul Anthony Pierce became my favorite basketball player, and eventually, my favorite athlete. 

I watched the Celtics through the abysmal 2006-2007 season, got excited when Paul got help from Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and celebrated when they won the Celtics’ 17th championship. I followed the team intensely ever since. I watched Glenn Davis hit a game winner in Orlando in 2009, KG and Rondo end the Cavs chances in 2010, and watched the Lakers break my heart the next year. I saw Pierce hit a three in LeBron’s face in 2012’s Conference Finals, and watched the Celtics bow out against the New York Knicks in the 2013 playoffs. 

Once that postseason hit, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were traded out of Boston to Brooklyn. I was crestfallen, but I would still follow the Celtics through the rebuild, seeing my first ever Celtics game in February 2014, with no Pierce. I watched the Nets and rooted for my guys in the playoffs that year, loving Pierce’s block on Kyle Lowry, and being bitter with LeBron James and the Miami heat for beating my heroes again. 

Pierce left Brooklyn and joined the Washington Wizards for the 2015 season. I liked the fit. He provided veteran leadership for a young team that was trying to learn how to win. He helped them to a playoff sweep over the Raptors and authored maybe his best playoff moment against Atlanta. In Game 3 of the Conference Semi-Finals, Washington lost a big lead and were tied with the Hawks late in the 4th. In the last seconds, Bradley Beal took the inbound and passed it to Pierce at the left elbow. Pierce called for Beal to clear out, dribbled, waited for the clock to wind down, put up a shot over two players, and banked in the game winning shot. In the frenzy afterward, he was interviewed by Chris Broussard. To end the interview, Broussard asked “Did you call bank?” Pierce answered “I called Game!” and he walked off to hype the crowd more and go to the locker room. 

That play against the Hawks shows exactly why Paul Pierce is my favorite player of all time. He stayed confident through the toughest moments, always giving his team the confidence that they could win the game. He swaggered his way into big time shot after big time shot, on the basis of the ugliest game a superstar has ever played. 

He didn’t have a pretty shot. He wasn’t smooth. Pierce played a brawny, brawly, physical style of game. Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and LeBron James all played much more aesthetically pleasing games. Garnett was smooth, Dirk’s shot was beautiful, and LeBron’s athleticism was undeniably magnificent. Paul could spin in the post and be effective, but he was not smooth. Pierce had a good shot, but not a pretty one. And Pierce could throw down, but he was not the dominating athlete LeBron is. Instead, Pierce could switch speeds well with quick dribbles and a smart shot. Pierce played a grounded and effective game that depended upon old school confidence. He never wavered with the Celtics and he carried them through hard times. He lived through being stabbed in 2000 to become one of the most respected players of the decade. He represented the old school heart with a dash of modern flash and flair for the dramatic. And he did all of this while brazenly facing off against the best players of the day and being undervalued and underappreciated. He was a model of consistent confidence and he never wavered as an old school player in the modern day. I love that old school mindset that Pierce walked into the league with. 

Despite my admiration for him, I had never seen Pierce play in person in a regular season game. I saw the Celtics played a preseason game at the XL Center before the 2009-10 season, but that was just a preseason game. The first regular season Celtics game I ever went to was the February 12th game of the 2014 season against the Spurs, after Pierce had been traded. I wanted to see him when the Wizards were in town, but I never had the chance. Before the 2016 season, he signed with the LA Clippers. Before this season, he announced that it would be his last. When I saw the Celtics schedule, I made it a point to go to the February 5th game against the Clippers, which would be (in all likelihood) Pierce’s last game in the Gahden. 

When I bought the tickets and got in, I had an odd feeling I had only felt once before, at David Ortiz’s last game ever. I felt nostalgic, almost longing for more time to watch my favorite player in his prime, winning games and making the crowd go crazy. I cried when Pierce checked out, was tributes with a video from the Celtics, and received a standing ovation from the crowd that stopped the game. I yelled with everyone else in the 4th quarter when we wanted Pierce to come back in. And I cheered when Pierce hit a 3 pointer in the final seconds. It was a perfect goodbye to a legend, and a memory that I will hold personally forever. 

Thank you Paul Pierce for representing Boston well. You are an all time Celtic, and my favorite athlete of all time. We’ll see you in Springfield for your Hall of Fame induction in 5 years! 

Reynolds and Fisher: Tragic Ends for Icons

Man, 2016 has been tough. Gordie Howe, Muhammad Ali, Prince, George Michael, Alan Rickman, and Craig Sager are all celebrities that have passed on this year. In the last two days though, two more celebrities have passed on, and their deaths hit a bit closer to home for me. 

I grew up a massive Star Wars fan. I’ve watched Episodes IV, V, and VI so many times and have memorized every line of those films. I still grin when Han yells “Yahoo!” after shooting down the TIE fighters to save Luke, I still smile whenever Yoda says anything in Empire Strikes Back, and I still tear up when Vader is redeemed at the end of Return of the Jedi. So you can imagine my sadness when my Dad read a news report that Carrie Fisher passed away. 

I looked online to see for myself, and indeed, Carrie Fisher had passed away at 60 years old due to complications of a heart attack she suffered while returning to Los Angeles from London. Only one day later, Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, was rushed to the hospital and died of a suspected stroke. Just like that, two of film’s most famous stars, and the leading ladies of my favorite musical and film franchise, are gone and millions of fans are left to mourn their passing, appreciate their work, and marvel at how tragic portions of their lives were and how positive they remained through it all. 

Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1932, Mary Frances Reynolds was raised in a strict Nazarene household and was a leader in her Girl Scout troop. She would remain a face for them for years and there is still a scholarship bearing her name given to high school aged scouts. At five years old, her family relocated to Burbank, CA. At 16, she entered into and won the Miss Burbank Beauty Contest. That contest got her a contract with Metro Goldwyn Meyer. Jack Warner, the owner of the Warner Brothers studio gave her the name Debbie because it was a cuter name than Mary Frances. 

Her first notable role was in 1950’s Three Little Words, starring Fred Astaire and Red Skelton. Reynolds was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer for that role. She didn’t win, but she found favor with the executives at the studio, and in 1952, was given the role that would define her career at only 19 years old. 

She was cast as the female lead of Singing in the Rain, starring and codirected by dance and film legend Gene Kelly. This ended up being brutal on Reynolds. She wasn’t a dancer before the film, she had been a gymnast. As a result, she was not prepared to get every step right. Kelly was harsh on her, insulting the 19 year old for her lack of dancing knowledge and ability. MGM star Fred Astaire, whom Reynolds had worked with on Three Little Words, found her in a studio crying under a piano after an especially harsh grilling by Kelly. Astaire agreed to help her get the steps right and teach her some important things to do the film. She got through it, but not without major stress. The number “Good Morning”, for example took from 8am until 11pm to shoot in one day, left Reynolds with sore and badly bleeding feet. She was sore and exhausted, but her place in Hollywood was sealed. Singing in the Rain was a modest success on its initial run, earning Donnie O’Conner a Golden Globe for best actor and a sizable profit for MGM. It has since been regarded as the greatest movie musical ever made, a sentiment I whole heartedly agree with. 

From there, Reynolds continued to land big roles for MGM. She met Eddie Fisher, a singer and TV show host around this time and married him in 1955. A year later, their first child was born. Reynolds had filmed three movies with intricate dance choreography while pregnant with her daughter, notably Bundle of Joy, but there was no harm. Carrie Frances Fisher was born on October 21, 1956, and all seemed to be going well for the family. And then life got complicated. 

In 1959, Eddie Fisher left Debbie, Carrie, and one year old son Todd to pursue a relationship with Reynold’s friend, Elizabeth Taylor. Fisher and Reynolds divorced and Reynolds became a working single mother in Hollywood. Teheran managed as well as she could, eventually getting both children into the entertainment business and getting married to a millionaire businessman named Harry Karl. This marriage also ended in controversy, with the two divorcing in 1973 and Reynolds suing Karl after Karl had gambled away almost all of Reynold’s savings. 

While her mother was struggling, Carrie was hiding away from the complications in books. She read classic literature and poetry to the point of being called “the bookworm” by her family. She attended Beverly Hills high school until the performing world and her mother got in the way. Debbie took on work as a stage actress with film chances coming in slower, and was cast as the lead in a broadway revival of Irene. Carrie was cast as a Debutante in the show and learned the tricks of the trade from mother dearest. 

Fisher decided that she wanted to make this a living and was accepted to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She studied there for 18 months. Shortly after, she followed a path similar to her mother. Her debut film role was a small role in Shampoo, starring Warren Beatty. The film saw real financial success and Fisher was off to a good start in the film world. 

Shortly thereafter, Fisher was cast as the female lead of George Lucas’ new space opera: Star Wars. She thought the script was outstanding but didn’t think many others would, so she kept quiet. Much like Singing in the Rain, Star Wars was also a painstaking process. There wasn’t an obnoxious director insulting her talents, but the process was stalled many times because of technical failures and malfunctions, the rest of the cast didn’t take it as seriously as she and Alec Guinness did, and she was uncomfortable because she was taped up under her costume in place of wearing actual underwear, because according to George Lucas, “There is no underwear in space.” 

She and the crew waited with baited breath to see the reaction to the film and to everyone’s shock, it became the highest grossing film of all time. It has been surpassed, but the original Star Wars film is still regarded as one of cinema’s greatest achievements, again, something I agree with 100 percent. 

Fisher would reprise her role as Princess Leia in the next two Star Wars films and would become synonymous with that special galaxy, far, far away. She had other roles, like the Mystery Woman in Blues Brothers and Marie in When Harry Met Sally. But similarly to her mother, she was known for her best film and her personal troubles. 

Fisher married Paul Simon in 1983, divorced him in 1984, had a number of relationships with different entertainers, including an affair with Harrison Ford, being briefly engaged to Dan Aykroyd, and dating and having a child with Bryan Lourd. On top of that, she suffered from bipolar disorder and drug addiction that siphoned years off her life. Her mother didn’t have the drug problem, but Carrie had become a star and became just as famous for her relationships as her work on the screen. 

Through it all, they kept working, kept entertaining, and found ways to turn their pain into art. Carrie turned her drug problem into a semi-autobiographical novel and then into a movie: Postcards From the Edge, starring Meryl Streep. Debbie served as an inspiration to her daughter through all her issues, and they maintained a healthy relationship for years, after not speaking for close to a decade. Todd Fisher told news sources that Reynolds final words before her stroke were “I want to be with Carrie.” 

I love the work these two ladies put on the screen. Singing in the Rain is the greatest movie musical ever made and Star Wars is easily my favorite entertainment franchise. For fans of both franchises to lose their heroes in two days is tragic. For Todd Fisher and Billie Lourd to lose two pivotal family members is even worse. My prayers are with the family, and I will have a more difficult time watching their work, especially the now complicated Star Wars: Episode VIII

Who Are These Cubs? 

The Chicago Cubs are the feel good story of sports this year. They are a talented team playing for an old franchise that hasn’t won in a while that is talented enough to win a championship and end years of agony in Wrigley Field. It’s a wonderful story that should get people who aren’t baseball fans interested in the sport. It’s got me hoping that the Cubs can perform well enough to win a championship. All of this against the backdrop of giving tribute to Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. The script can be so perfect. Theo Epstien turned the perennial losers in Boston into the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox, now he’ll break another curse and bring the city of Chicago a championship. That would be the ideal scenario. I’m hopeful that they are the 2004 Red Sox. They also could be the early 2000’s Sacramento Kings. 

  Allow me to explain a little history here. In the early 2000’s, the Sacramento Kings rose from basketball ignominy to dizzying heights of style and praise not seen since the franchise won their only NBA Championship in 1951 as the Rochester Royals. They have not been back to the NBA Finals since. They bounced around from Rochester to Cincinnati to Kansas City to Sacramento, and between 1951 and their 1985 move to California, only made it as far as the Conference finals 3 times. The team was, like the Cubs, a perennial loser that still drew a good crowd, at least while in Sacramento. A popular loser with long forgotten winning glory, but a loser nonetheless. 

And then, the sky opened and Arco Arena lit up with some of the best basketball of the day. Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Jason Williams, and crew turned the Kings into a must watch show. I wasn’t old enough to know the team and watch them in their heyday. I missed the best days of the Kings by only a year or two, but I have gone back to watch their game tape, and it remains some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen. They pass well, get everyone involved, play as a team, and their tapes remain some of the best basketball I’ve ever watched. 

There is one huge black cloud hanging over the Kings of the early 2000’s. They lost year after year in painful fashion in the playoffs, and never got over the jump to get to the NBA Finals, let alone win an NBA Championship. They were a missed jump hook by Vlade Divac away from winning a 1st round series in 1999. They lost in 5 games the next year to the Lakers in 2000, and were swept in 4 straight in the 2nd round of 2001 again at the hands of the Lakers. They lost two seven game series in the second round of 2003 and 2004 to Dallas and Minnesota respectively. But the most painful loss was the 2002 Conference Finals defeat to the Lakers with game 7 happening in Sacramento. For one series, the Kings were on even footing with the powerful Los Angeles Lakers, a team that often used the Kings as a punching bag and won more championships than anyone but the Celtics. They were so close to winning and ending years of disappointment. But alas, the Lakers downed the Kings in overtime, and the Kings would never come that close again.  

 Despite the difference in sports, I see a number of parallels between the Cubs of this year and the Kings of years past. Both are old franchises that haven’t won a championship since the early days of their sport’s respective playoff structure. In fact, neither team has even been to the championship round of their sport in 50+ years. Both are talented teams that have supporters from beyond their home city. Both play in the same division as one of the best teams in the history of their sport, the Lakers vs the Kings and the Cardinals vs the Cubs. Both teams have a brilliant coach who was successful in his prior job, but didn’t win a title. Rick Adleman coached the Portland Trail Blazers to the finals in 1990 and 1992 and lost both before coming to Sacramento in 1999. Likewise, Joe Maddon led the Tampa Bay Rays to respectability, but lost his chance at a World Series in 2008.  

 It is my sincere hope that the Cubs hit the lottery and win their first World Series since 1908. I hope the team plays well enough to win and is the Cubs equivalent to the 2004 Red Sox. It is my fear that they will instead be the baseball version of the Sacramento Kings from 1999-2004. 

Welcome to the Recording World! 

I’ve been writing and broadcasting sports for going on 3 years now. I’ve gotten to cover a huge variety of games in many different sports and levels of play. It’s a fun profession and a busy career to have, but I greatly enjoy it. Today, I expanded my repertoire of sports content. 

I have a friend named Tomas, a graduate student at BU that I met in my Junior Year. He has a wide taste in sports. He watches rugby, soccer, and a number of sports that I’ve never even heard of before. We’ve known each other for years, gone to sporting events together, and analyzed everything from movies to politics together. Earlier this year, we decided to buy sound and recording equipment to make a podcast and express opinions on various games. We worked out the details and put in money for real equipment. 

When our mics and mixer arrived, and we started fiddling with the equipment. We got things running, got our opinions ready, and recorded a few segments. The next week, we got together to record our first podcast. It was successful! We recorded it, and tried to publish it. It was only after attempting to publish it that we discovered that Audacity, the recording software we used, had glitches out and lost our whole podcast. After that minor frustration major annoyance, we had Thanksgiving Break, and we had time to sort out what went wrong. We went through the week, got together this morning, and finally recorded a podcast. When we finished it, we tested it out, published it, and posted it to YouTube, where it lives now. If you want to hear opinions on the MLB end of season awards, predictions for various NBA, NHL, and NFL games, and jokes and references, then click the link below to listen. I promise you’ll like it! 

Top Ten Stanley Cup Finals

Top 10 Stanley Cup Finals Series

It is that most special time of year for hockey fans: The Stanley Cup Finals!!! The final round to determine the best team in the world, the stage for the best players to put on the greatest show the sport has to offer. If you look back through the history of the NHL, there have been many magical moments, games, duels, battles, and memories in the final series of each season since it began in 1926. But what are the greatest Finals series ever contested? Well that’s what I’m looking at here.

To be considered, the series doesn’t have to have gone the full seven games, though that does help. What makes the series great is the quality of hockey played. Did both teams play like champions and well enough to win the ultimate series? Could either team have won if a few events went the other way? These factors will help determine my list here. Also, there have to be multiple truly great games to land a series on here, not just a few stellar moments. My apologies to Bobby Orr, but game 4 of the 1970 finals does not get that series on this list. The Bruins dominated the Blues during the rest of the series which was not close or very interesting. The games need to be close, entertaining, and the series has to be tight, with both teams getting close to a title. As the Penguins and Sharks prepare to battle for the Cup, we can only hope that their duel joins this list someday. So here we go!

10. 2014, L.A. Kings vs New York Rangers, Kings in 5.

The closest five game series ever played. That’s the universal description of the 2014 Finals between NY and LA, and I can’t argue against that. All but one of these games were decided by one goal, and three of them required extra time to decide, including double overtime thrillers in games 2 and 5. The Kings won their second Stanley Cup, sealing a reputation as a resilient hockey team. They came back from down 3 games to 0 in the first round of the playoffs against San Jose, and won three game 7’s on the road. The Rangers managed to make it to the finals despite almost impossible scheduling of their games. Because Madison Square Garden expected little of the Rangers and overbooked Billy Joel, the Rangers had to play 5 playoff games in 7 nights, including two sets of back to back games. Somehow, a captain-less Ranger team rode Henrik Lundqvist to the Finals and battled the Kings in the most unlucky series they could possibly have contested. The Rangers played admirably and had several chances to win all the games they lost, except game 3. But because they didn’t I can’t justify this series going any higher than #10.

2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five

9. 2006, Carolina Hurricanes vs Edmonton Oilers, Hurricanes in 7

An unexpected classic and one that began to restore the luster to the Cup after the lockout season. That’s how the 2006 finals should be remembered. Both teams missed the previous playoffs, and got into contention behind great goaltending, experienced defensemen, and young offensive talent. The Hurricanes tied the record for the biggest one game comeback, coming back from down three goals to win the opener 5-4. The Oilers continued in freefall, losing 2 of the next three games badly. They had to use three different net minders, and somehow forced a game 7. Cam Ward was too good in game 7, and Carolina won their first Cup. The NHL won fans back with a great final series a year after a labor strike cost the entire 2004-2005 season. It lands this series at the 9th spot here.

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8. 2001, Colorado Avalanche vs New Jersey Devils, Avalanche in 7

The winningest goaltenders of all time lead the best teams in the league to the finals and play seven games to decide the final. That’s a dream set up for the league, and that’s exactly what hockey got in 2001 when Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy led the Devils and Avalanche respectively to the finals. The teams alternated winning each game throughout the series. Ultimately, Colorado’s home ice advantage and Alex Tanguay’s 2 goal game in game 7 won the Avalanche’s second Stanley Cup. This was the last time that the top seeds in each conference met in the Finals. The series met all expectations, and was an instant classic.

Roy

7.2009, Pittsburgh Penguins vs Detroit Red Wings, Penguins in 7

Round one between these teams in 2008 was good. The rematch was even better. The Red Wings won the 2008 Stanley Cup over the Penguins, winning the final game on Pittsburgh’s home ice. The next year, the teams made it back to the finals and war ensued. The teams combined for a brutal battle, capped by a game 7 for the ages at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead early in the third when Tyler Kennedy scored his fifth goal of the series. Kris Draper cut the lead in half with 12 minutes to go in the season, and Detroit’s fans yelled lustily for their team to tie the game. Marc-Andre Fleury shut down Detroit the rest of the way to secure a revenge win for the Penguins. A great series heightened by the revenge factor. This year’s Penguins team should take notes on the way their ’09 counterparts performed. 2009-Stanley-Cup-Final_4_1

6. 1987, Edmonton Oilers vs Philadelphia Flyers, Oilers in 7

For all the great moments Wayne Gretzky had in hockey, he was only in one great Stanley Cup finals, this underrated gem. The Oilers and Flyers played different ways and finished with the best records in the league. Edmonton played like their star, Wayne Gretkzy: with finesse, passing, and an overwhelming offensive skillset. The Flyers depended on a classic Philly recipe: grit, toughness, physical play, and great goaltending, in this case from Vezina Trophy winner Ron Hextall. Philly also had revenge on their mind. They lost the 1985 finals to Edmonton in 5 games. The contrast in styles and revenge factor made for a masterful series. The Flyers fought back from being down 3-1 in the series to force a game 7. After a 2-man advantage in the first minute of play they claimed the early lead. The Flyers just did not have enough defense to contain Gretzky, Messier, and a legendary Edmonton offense in game 7, however. Edmonton won their third Stanley Cup and sealed their place as one of hockey’s great dynasties. 2_cupfinals

5. 1942, Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings, Leafs in 7.

This is the oldest series on the list. It also is among the most historic in all of sports. This was the first finals series to go the full seven games. More historically, it was the first time in any major team sport that a team came back from down three games to none to win a series, and this remains the only time it has ever happened in a championship round (Yes, the next time was the 2004 comeback by the Boston Red Sox over the NY Yankees in the league championship series). Detroit went up three games to none over the heavily favored Leafs before disintegrating in game 4. Red Wing Coach Jack Adams punched a referee and was suspended, while the team could not seal the series on home ice. They were obliterated 9-3 in game 5, then outscored 6-1 over the final two games to seal their infamous spot in hockey history.  pin_apps01

4. 1950, Detroit Red Wings vs New York Rangers, Red Wings in 7.

Another old match up from ye olde days of the NHL when there were only six teams. And another series where the Rangers were affected by wonky scheduling. This is the only series where one team didn’t play a single home game. Madison Square Garden annually booked the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily’s Circus for Mid-April, so the Rangers couldn’t play a game in the Garden. Two games were played in Toronto and the other five were played in Detroit. And somehow the Rangers forced the series into a seventh game, and forced that deciding game into double overtime. Detroit won the game on Pete Babando’s 2nd goal of the game, his only two goals of the playoffs in his only season with the Red Wings. An incredible moment and marvelous series.  146599594

3. 2004, Tampa Bay Lightning vs Calgary Flames, Lightning in 7.

This series matched up two teams from small markets who had enjoyed little success at the time. Calgary had missed the playoffs for seven straight years before riding Jarome Iginla’s back to their first Finals since 1989. The Lightning had made the playoffs only twice in their twelve year history when they earned the best record in the Eastern Conference and powered their way to their first finals appearance. The series opened with uninteresting games one to three, but the teams amped it up for the final four games. Game 4 was a 1-0 goalie duel to Tampa. Game 5 went to Calgary in overtime. Game 6 also needed overtime, with the Flames holding a 3-2 lead in the series and a chance to win the Cup on home ice. Instead, Tampa escaped with a 3-2 victory in double overtime. The Lightning then survived a game 7 battle at home to win their first cup. This classic series left the world clamoring for more hockey that they would not get for a full year.

Stanley Cup Finals: Flames v Lightning

2. 2013, Chicago Blackhawks vs Boston Bruins, Blackhawks in 6

Two vanguard franchises of the NHL met to duel for the title in 2013. Both teams were recent Cup champions; both had remarkable runs to get to the finals in 2013. Both teams played with every ounce of energy they could muster. They combined for six competitive and dramatic games. They opened with a triple overtime classic, then immediately followed with another overtime game 2. There would be one more overtime game, but the most memorable game of the series ended in regulation. Needing a win to stay alive, the Bruins took a 2-1 lead into the final minutes of game 6 in Boston. Chicago put two goals behind Tuuka Rask within 17 seconds of each other to steal game 6 and the Cup on the road. It’s a painful memory for Bruins fans, but a legendary moment from a great series. It belongs high on this list. Stanley-Cup-Finals-Game-6-1

1.1994, New York Rangers vs Vancouver Canucks, Rangers in 7

The 1990’s had very few great battles in the Finals. Five of the decade’s series were sweeps, including four consecutive sweeps from 1995 to 1998. In the middle of the decade, there lies a gem that cannot be ignored. The Rangers and Canucks were two denied franchises who had magical years and playoff runs in 1994. Mark Messier took his winning resume from Edmonton and gave New York the belief needed to be champions. They met a physical Vancouver team that looked to finish an improbable run from the 7th seed to the Stanley Cup. Vancouver won game one in overtime before getting beat up in games 2-4. The Canucks won games 6 and 7 in convincing fashion to force game 7 in the Garden. This is one of the best remembered games in Stanley Cup history. New York jumped to a 2-0 first period lead, and Messier put in a second period power play goal that gave the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish. New York won the game 3-2, and earned an emotional title for their long-suffering fans. It tops the list of most dramatic and greatest series in Stanley Cup History.

New York Rangers Mark Messier, 1994 Stanley Cup Finals

Patriots Day/Marathon Monday Facts

Today is a day off for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In Boston, it’s Marathon Monday, a day for people to run a long ways to test and push themselves while the spectators down as much beer as physically possible, because Boston needs another reason to drink. Ok it’s not that simplistic, but many people seem to think it is, for some reason. So I’m taking a little time to write up a few things to know about Patriots Day itself, why the day is celebrated, and why it’s important. And I’ll also throw in a few things to know about the Boston Marathon, both this year’s race and the history of it. 

Patriots Day

  1. What is actually celebrated on Patriots Day?

The first battle of the American Revolution. On the night of April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride to warn the countryside of the military’s attempts to sieze the colonists’s storage of militia weapons at Concord. And no, Revere did not say the famous words “The British are coming”. He had to ride quietly through the night and the colonists thought of themselves as British already, so there are no grounds for claiming he said this. Revere was captured before he finished his mission, but others got the word out, and the British were met by armed resistance on the village green of Lexington. A small skirmish ensued. Then the Redcoats marched to Concord before being pushed back at the Old North Bridge. The Redcoats responded by locking down Boston, and the American Revolution began.

There is one other event also commemorated: The Baltimore Riot of 1861. This is considered the first blood shed in the conflict of the American Civil War. On April 19, 1861, members of the 6th Massachusetts Militia were traveling to Washington DC for federal service after the fall of Fort Sumter and the beginning of the American Civil War. Maryland was a border state and was even though it did not actually succeed to the confederacy, it was still not friendly to the members of the Northern military. When the 6th Massachusetts Militia arrived in Baltimore on April 19th, tensions boiled over. A riot broke out when confederate sympathizers and anti-war Democrats, the largest political entities in Maryland at the time, recognized military from the Republican north. The riots were ended, but not before 4 Massachusetts soldiers were dead and 36 others were injured. 

    2.   When was Patriots Day first celebrated?

There were long standing municipal days of remembrance called Lexington Day and Concord Day in Massachusetts and Maine, which until the Missouri Compromise in 1820 was a part of Massachusetts. There were not any large scale celebrations though. Then in 1894, the governor of Massachusetts, Frederic T. Greenhalge, abolished the long standing Fast Day, and announced a new holiday for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Patriots Day. The day was set up to commemorate people who gave their lives for the freedom of Massachusetts in both the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Maine followed in 1907 and replaced its Fast Day with Patriots Day. The holiday was celebrated on April 19th, the actual date of the battles, until 1969, when the schedule was changed to Patriots Day being celebrated on the third Monday of April, which is what we have now. 

     3.    Is it officially recognized as a holiday anywhere else?

Well, yes actually. It is primarily a Massachusetts and Maine holiday, but other states do recognize it. Wisconsin lists the day as a “Public School Observance Day”. It is recognized as an important day in American history. There is still school, but time is taken to recognize what happened on that day. Florida law also encourages people to acknowledge the events of the day, but does not treat the day as a holiday. Massachusetts and Maine are the only states that recognize Patriots Day as a holiday.

Marathon

  

  1. When did the Marathon begin?

The first ever Boston Marathon was run in 1897. It was inspired by the success of the 1896 Olympics in Athens, the first modern Olympic competition. Patriots Day was selected for the marathon because of the symbolism found in the Olympic marathon. The race is called a “marathon” because it was supposed to recreate a famous event in Greek history: the run of Pheidippides from the site of the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce victory to the Athenians. The Boston Athletic Club modeled their own race of 24.3 miles, same as the 1896 Marathon, to commemorate the spirit of the Patriots in the Colonial age. The original plan was to have the route run from Concord to Boston, but the distance wasn’t enough for a regulation marathon, so the starting line was placed in Ashland. A field of 15 amateurs ran the first ever Boston Marathon, with John J. “JJ” McDermott winning the race with a time of 2:55:10. 

     2. How does the Marathon work now?

The sarcastic answer to this question is “Well people run a long ways and other people watch.” The more technical answer is that the route has changed significantly since 1897. For one, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) changed the distance of an official marathon from 24.3 miles to 26.2 miles. To bring the Boston Marathon up to standards, the BAA changed the distance to 26.2 miles, and changed the starting location to the Hopkinton Green. This has been the starting line since 1924.

The other major change is the process of qualification. The Boston marathon is the oldest continuously run marathon in the US and is the most famous race in the American runners community. The people who qualify to run are among the most skilled runners in the American and international community. The first marathon had a field of only 15 runners. This year’s race has 30,000 runners competing! So how does one qualify for the marathon? Well the race is open to any runner 18 years and older, but they have to have completed a full length marathon before with an official time that fits in the qualification times for each age group. These are the qualification times. 

 
      3. Random Pieces of Marathon Trivia

These are just a few pieces of interesting trivia regarding the marathon. 

  • The first 35 marathons saw an American or a Canadian win. The 36th saw the first winner from outside North America, Paul de Bruyn of Germany, triumph in 1932. 
  • The race has seen huge diversity in its victors over its history, but not much recently. In the Men’s Open Division, 19 of the last 25 winners have been Kenyan. Though the last time a Kenyan won was in 2012 when Wesley Korir won. 
  • The most recent American victory was in 2014, when Meb Keflezighi became the first American victor since 1983 when Greg Meyer won. 
  • Women were not officially allowed to run the Marathon until 1972, though women had been unofficially running since 1966. Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb is recognized by the BAA as the first woman to complete the marathon course. Katherine Switzer, who registered as K.V. Switzer, was the first woman to finish the race with an official number, though race official Jock Semple famously tried to rip off her number. All female finishers from 1966 to 1971 have been recognized by the BAA. 
  • The Boston Marathon was he first in the world to add a wheelchair division. The first male winner was Robert Hall in 1975. The first female winner was Sharon Rahn in 1977. 
  • The course record for the men’s open division was also the world record for a time. In 2011, Geoffrey Mutai ran a staggering 2:03:02, the fastest marathon ever run at that point. It has since been topped by Dennis Kipruto Kimetto’s 2:02:57 at the 2011 Berlin marathon. 
  • Walter Brown, who was the founder and longtime owner of the Celtics and has a hockey arena at my school, Boston University, named after him, served as the chair of the BAA from 1941 until 1964. His most famous and negative moment came in 1951, during the height of the Korean War, when he banned Koreans from participating in that year’s race. 
  • Two runners have actually died while running the race. An unnamed 62 year old Swedish man died in 1996 because of a heart attack. And Cynthia Lucerno, 28, died of hyponatremia in 2002. 
  • The marathon goes on about the same time as the Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park, who have been scheduled to play every year at home since 1959 on Patriots Day. The Patriots Day game starts at 11:00 AM, the only scheduled morning game on the major league schedule. 

So there are a few things about the meaning of Patriots Day and the history and workings of the Marathon itself. I hope people take some lessons from it! If you’re in Boston today, enjoy the marathon! And don’t get too crazy today. Happy Patriots Day everyone! 

Cubs vs Cardinals: The History You Never Knew

Did you know that the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals have only met twice in the playoffs before this year’s National League Division Series? No? Well let me tell you a funny story about one of the fiercest rivalries in sports history. 

First, a little background on the franchises in this rivalry. The Chicago Cubs began their existence as the Chicago White Stockings in 1870. They played in the National Associaton for a year before taking a 2 year hiatus in 1871 and 72 because of the Great Chicago Fire. They returned to the National Association in 1874. They joined the National League as a founding team in 1876, and have played in the NL ever since. 

The St. Louis Cardinals have a more complicated origin story. The St. Louis Brown Stockings began play in the National Association in 1875. They joined the National League the next year when the NA folded after 1875. They recorded a successful first year, including the first No-Hitter in National League history, against the Hartford Dark Blues. They lost their National League affiliation in 1877 because of a game fixing scandal. The team continued to play as a barn storming team, but went bankrupt by 1881 and were on the verge of not existing when Chris von der Ahe purchased and completely reorganized the club. In 1882, the team joined the American Association, a rival to the National League. They picked up Charles Cominsky as a new manager, changed their name to the St. Louis Browns and turned into the most successful franchise in the league, winning 4 consecutive league pennants. 

With the success of the American Association, the owners of teams in both leagues decided to put on a series to decide the champion of professional baseball in the United States in 1885 They called this series the “World Series”. The Brown’s opponents? The Chicago White Stockings of course.  

 They arranged to play a best of 7 game series to determine the winner, and the series actually failed to do so. One game was called due to darkness and ended in a tie. In the second game, the umpire made a hugely controversial call, and Browns manager Charles Cominsky pulled his team off the field in protest, thus forefeting the game to the White Stockings. The remainder of the games were played and the series ended tied 3 wins a piece with one tie, the only series to end in a tie, and it is bitterly disputed to this day who actually won the series. This remains the only time a “World Series” was played and ended in a tie. 

With bitterness towards each other, the team’s won the pennants on their respective leagues and met one more time in the World Series.  

 There was a clear winner this time, St. Louis won in 6 bitterly contested games. The final game of the series was quite exciting! The Browns tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the 8th inning, and forced the games into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Curt Welch got on base, then came around to score on a wild pitch. His slide home was called the $15,000 dollar slide because winning the series earned the Browns about $15,000 dollars in prize money. It ended up being the most famous play in 19th century baseball, and another piece of the building rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis. 

This was the last time the two teams met in the post season for 119 years. The World Series was played until 1891 when the American Association folded. When the Association folded, several teams, including the St. Louis Browns, were absorbed into the National League. The NL remained the only major baseball league until the American League was founded in 1901, and the rivalry between St. Louis and Chicago remained intense and personal. The clubs changed names a few times over, but the animosity remained. The White Stockings became the Colts in 1889, then the Orphans in 1898 before becoming the Cubs in 1903. The Browns became the Perfectos for one year, in 1899, then became the Cardinals in 1900. 

The rivalry from the Cardinals rejoining the National League as the Browns in 1892 was one sided. The Cubs were much more powerful and dominated the Cardinals early one. The Cubs won most of the games and when the modern World Series began, the Chicago Cubs won 3 consecutive NL Penants from 1906-1908, and 2 straight World Series, in 1907 and 1908. They won 7 more NL Penants from 1910 until 1945, making it 10 NL Penants in the modern era. The Cardinals didn’t win a Pennant until 1926, and it took them until 1931 to tie the Cubs in World Series championships. But when the tide started changing, it shifted rapidly. To this day, the Cardinals have won a total of 19 NL Penants and 11 World Series titles. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, and haven’t even won a Penant since 1945. The teams still draw huge crowds, increased attention for their meetings, and the upcoming meeting is the most significant in a long time. 

I think the Cardinals are the better team of the two this year, but the Cubs will give the Cardinals a difficult match up in their 3rd ever post season match up. It’s quite striking that the first two meetings were in the original World Series. They couldn’t have met in the playoffs from 1892 until 1968 because there was no National League Championship Series yet, and they couldn’t match-up in a playoff series until 1995, when a 3rd division and the Wild Card slot were added. This is so far the only time the teams have met in the modern era of playoff baseball. It should live up to the rivalry the clubs and cities have built over the years, and should provide people like me, who don’t really have that big a rooting interest in the series, with some high quality baseball! They’ve made for some memorable fights from the 19th century to the modern day.

And that’s the story of the rivalry you never knew!