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Running of the Bulls . . .

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The Miami Heat should be thankful that the Chicago Bulls ended their winning streak.

Now they can put the focus on where it should have been in the first place and that is in repeating as NBA Champions.

The Heat players seemed to have been caught in the frenzy created by the media’s constant barrage of coverage and comparison to the record of thirty-three consecutive wins set by the 72 Los Angeles Lakers.

Heat’s president Pat Riley, who was a member of that 72 team, avoided commenting on the streak. Perhaps he, like most of us, realized that nothing less than a championship would be considered a wasted season.

The prognosticators got this one right. They predicated that either the Bulls or the San Antonio Spurs had a legitimate shot to end Miami’s streak.

Miami’s coach, Erik Spoelstra, along with members of his staff can now fix glaring weaknesses that have cropped up during the streak. His team’s penchant for falling behind early in games finally caught up to them.

He warned his team of the dogfight they would encounter in Chicago, as the Bulls jumped out to an early lead from the gate. The lead wasn’t  insurmountable when compared to 27 points they were down in Boston,  but the short-handed Bulls simply refused to relinquish it.

“It was never about the streak,” Spoelstra admonished. “It’s about, are we getting better?”

Apparently not, if you take into account that during the streak, Miami played from behind 11 times, entering the fourth quarter. There would be no late game heroics from LeBron James. No mock interviews from Dwayne Wade after the game. No joyful and playful interview interruptions by Chris Bosh.

Losing streaks can be nerve-racking, but winning streaks can have the same effect as well.  Evident by James’ frustration over the officiating and what he considered to be aggressive and unnecessary hard fouls by Bulls’ players.

If the Heat are to hoist another, Larry O’Brien trophy, then they should acknowledge the streak for what it was, just a serendipitous distraction on the way to the ultimate prize.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

In My Brother’s House . . .

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All week leading up to Super Bowl XLVI, friends and colleagues were soliciting my thoughts on who would win the game.

“How prophetic,” I answered, “would it be for Eli to win, in the house his brother, Peyton built.”

Perhaps it was idealistic thinking on my part, but my line of reasoning was simply this . . . if Peyton Manning is not going to be a part of the Colts organization going forward, why shouldn’t my last memory of Lucas Stadium be of a Manning winning the Super Bowl.

Much to the chagrin of my friends and colleagues, my perspicaciousness for picking the winning side in ironic situations has been proven once again.

Four years ago, I was the only one among my colleagues and friends admiring the irony of the New England Patriots’ perfect season suffering one Giant loss.

Super Bowl XLVI was a riveting game that had those around me glued to their seats. I on the other hand watched with keen interest at the unfolding irony that was playing out:

  1. The Giants were not supposed to be in the Super Bowl, given the fact that many doubted them, when the team’s record was 7-7.
  2. Tom Coughlin many argued and demanded should be fired for the team’s losing record up to that point.
  3. GM Jerry Reese was highly criticized for not making any offseason acquisitions to improve the team.
  4. Eli Manning should be traded, and he would never be an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees.

Perhaps all those naysayers and prognosticators of negativity are not true Giants Fans to begin with.

The New York Giants once again have proven those detractors wrong by shutting down the vaunted New England Patriots offense.

A low scoring game dominated by defense, in which the Giants prevailed 21-17.

Eli Manning once again walked away with the Most Valuable Player award. A fitting tribute since he finished the season, the same way he started it, by leading his team on another fourth quarter comeback.

A Giants season filled with trials and tribulations, but through it all Tom Coughlin’s conviction never wavered . . . down 10 to 9 at half time, he simply told his players, “We can play better than this, and finish.”

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

Mangini-Mangenuis-Manidiot

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Once heralded as a breath of fresh air from the erratic play calling and time management issues that defined the Herman Edwards’s era, the New York Jets announced their new head coach on 1/17/06.

After a dismal 2005 season of finishing 4-12, the Jets hoped that Mangini (the youngest head coach in NFL history), would bring a refreshing change, a reversal of fortunes, and end the team’s Super Bowl drought.

Mangini guided the Jets to a 10-6 record in his first season, finishing 2nd in the AFC East, and eventually losing in the first round of the playoffs to the New England Patriots. The competitiveness of the team that first year prompted sports talk radio host Max Kellerman to labeled Mangini as Mangenuis.

In 2007, it seemed as if the wheels had fallen off the cart. The Jets matched the record of Herman Edwards’s last season, another putrid 4-12. They say that winning cures all ills, and with this losing record, Mangini’s stoic demeanor became a hot topic of discussion.

In 2008, the Jets responded to their fans to put a better product on the field. They spent 140 million dollars, acquired Brett Farve, and let go of a fan favorite, quarterback Chad Pennington. At first it appeared that the money was well spent as the Jets were 8-3 through the first 11 games of the season.

Jets fans were beside themselves with the team’s early success, and there was talk of the team finally making it to the Super Bowl. But all that wishful thinking was short-lived as the Jets went on to lose the next two out of three games. It was evident that this was not the same team, and it further exposed the fact that the coaching staff had no viable plans for correcting the deficiencies to return the team to its earlier success.

Next was the debacle that exposed Mangini’s lack of confidence in his team when they played the Seattle Seahawks and only managed to score a field goal. On the first drive, the Jets offense was fluid but Mangini perhaps not having confidence in his team, elected to kick a field goal as opposed to going for it on fourth down; although they were only short about a half-a-yard.

Fans were further infuriated that they were assessed a delay of game penalty that move them out of field goal range, and Mangini elected to send the punting team out, when clearly Jay Feeley felt he could make the 50 yard attempt.

What led to Mangini being labeled as buffoon by sports talk radio show host Joe Benigno was in the fourth quarter from the Jets 20, when Mangini elected to go for it, although they were up against the 2 minute warning and had three time outs left. This erratic play calling reminiscence of the Herman Edwards’s era further exposed the ineptness of the coaching staff, and the fact that they entered the game without a viable plan to win.

 Worst was Mangini trying to explain how he and his coaching staff knew that the game between the Jets and the 3-11 Seattle Seahawks was going to be tight, and how the game plan was sound although all they could muster was three points.

The prodigal son (Chad Pennigton) returns to the Meadowlands and leads last year’s 1-15 Miami Dolphins in capturing the AFC East title.

Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment, but in the case of Eric Mangini it has come to mean nothing but another year of heartache for Jets fans. The mental and physical errors on both sides of the ball only illustrate what fans have suspected for a long time. Mangini’s stoic demeanor has rubbed off on his team, and the mental and physical mistakes they make in big spots further corroborates the fact that they have lost confidence in the coaching staff’s ability to arm them with a game plan that they can execute successfully.

New Yorkers have to contend with yet another collapse. The Jets should take a page from the Mets playbook and get rid of Mangini now or the calls for his dismissal will be a distraction if the team gets off to a slow start next season.

A man who couldn’t get his team to play with more passion, in the two most important games needed to salvage their season, isn’t worth being labeled a genius . . .  that title clearly belongs to his mentor . . . Bill Belichick.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

 

After The Game . . .

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As he and a group of friends were walking from a bar during the celebration for the Boston Celtics becoming NBA champions, David Woodman’s remarks may have cost him his life.

“Wow, it seems like there’s a lot of crime on this corner,” David said, as he and his friends passed about a dozen uniformed officers at the corner of Fenway and Brookline Avenue.

According to a friend who spoke on a condition of anonymity, the following ensued.

Officers grabbed Woodman, who was armed with nothing more than a plastic cup of beer, and as they struggled to handcuffed him, pushed his face down to the ground.

“He wasn’t being a punk or anything like that,” said the friend. “I don’t understand why the officers used such brute force to arrest him.”

The friend then stated that they were ordered to leave or face arrest. Another friend said, he returned a few minutes later and the threat of apprehension was repeated.

“They were all just around him and he was on the ground and not moving,” the friend said. “I didn’t see them giving him CPR.”

The friend’s account of the incident is in stark contrast to a Boston Police report that was given to the Howard Friedman, the family’s lawyer.

According to the report, Woodman “began struggling with officers as they attempted to handcuff him. Officers immediately realized that David Woodman was not breathing and they began to give CPR and summoned EMS to that location.”

“We don’t know what happened,” said Jeffrey Woodman. “We are left to surmise that something occurred while he was in police custody that stopped is heart.”

The Boston Globe published a story indicating that officers stated that they immediately administered cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and flagged an ambulance when they noticed that Woodman was in distress. They claimed to have done everything possible before he was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The Woodman’s disagree. They contend that their son must have been deprived of oxygen for at least for minutes for him to have suffered such significant brain damage.

It would appear that the Jeffrey and Cathy Woodman have a valid point.

Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for the Boston Police, at first stated that officers called for an ambulance at 12.47 a.m., in response to a drunken man on the ground, and immediately began CPR. She later amended that information, saying that officers did not administer CPR at that time but initially put out a low-priority call for an ambulance to tend to a drunken reveler.

Subsequently, over the next six minutes, she said officers discovered Woodman wasn’t breathing, initiated CPR, and at 12.53 a.m. put out a second call for an ambulance, warning “please push.”

The police report indicates that one of the officers flagged down a private Cataldo ambulance.

According to Ron Quaranto, CEO of Cataldo, his ambulance crew arrived at 12.58 a.m., and treated David Woodman at the scene. Woodman was then delivered to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at 1:11 a.m.

Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis issued the following statement at a 10-minute press conference at police headquarters.

“It appears from the evidence we have reviewed thus far that officers did not use excessive force. No pepper spray or batons were used in this incident.”

David Woodman awoke on June 23 from a medically induced coma. At that time his parents stated that he recognized them but was unable to communicate properly and whispered, “What happened?”

His parents said, he asked to go home. They were elated. They believed their son would survive, but would require a lengthy rehabilitation.

Their hopes were dashed when David died on Sunday at 2:30 a.m.

“Based upon what we know thus far, we do not believe that any excessive force was used, and we do believe officers responded reasonably,” Driscoll stated.

Yet no one has been able to explain to the Woodmans, why it took eight police officers and one supervisor to subdue their son.

Ironically all of the officers had to be treated at a hospital for stress following the incident.

The president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, Thomas J. Nee said, he fully understands the Woodman’s anguish, “but nothing those officers did that night caused his death.”

The large scrape that was visible near David’s right eye and his significant brain damage.

Jeffrey and Cathy Woodman find that hard to believe . . .

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

 

The Wilpons Should Take A Page From Mara’s Book . . .

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It was a cold and blustery November afternoon, when Giants’ fans voiced their displeasure over their team’s humiliating loss to the Buffalo Bills, 24 to 7. By the third quarter most of the fans started silently filing to the exits. The remaining few thousand fans that stayed and braved the bitter cold didn’t have enough energy to even boo.

“I’m very dissatisfied,” Mara told the Associated Press at the end of the game. “The message comes through loud and clear. All it tells me is that we need to improve the product. And how we go about that is something we will discuss.”

What Wellington Mara understood that November afternoon in 2003, as he apologized to Giants’ fans . . .  sports is a form of entertainment. And when your audience is dissatisfied with the performance and exits without even voicing their displeasure, then the product on the field must be improved.

It’s a pity that the Wilpons’ can’t or won’t take a page from Mara’s book.

The New York Mets’ fans have been voicing their displeasure, but the Wilpons refuse to admit what is obvious to everyone else. The product that Omar Minaya has put on the field is simply no good.

Since the firing of Willie Randolph, who Fred Wilpon claims was doing a good job, the Mets have a record of 3-4. They have become a more animated group under Jerry Manuel, but their ineptitude on the field continues.

How else can a team that was assembled to win the World Series receive such a drubbing last night (11-0) at the hands of the Seattle Mariners, which owns the worst record in baseball?

At the point of sounding redundant . . . the product on the field is not good enough.

Perhaps being swept by the Padres a couple of weeks ago wasn’t compelling enough of an argument, to make the case that for $138 Million dollars, the Wilpons have been sold damage goods.

Hopefully, they can avoid being swept by Seattle tonight.

Why won’t the Wilpons listen to the fans?

Why should they, when the fans show that they care by booing the team?

The only time fans really capture the attention of the owners is when the stadium is filled with empty seats.

While Citi Field is being built:

The fans can send a message to the Wilpons by boycotting games now.

If the product on the field does not provide the level of entertainment that they’re accustomed to, and the owners refuse to do anything about it, why should fans continue to patronize the ballpark?

Hopefully, fans won’t have to go to that extreme. Well, that’s assuming that the average diehard fan still has a voice where the Wilpons are concerned.

In an otherwise perfect world:

The Wilpons would notice the silence and decide to open Mara’s book. They would apologize to the fans for the inferior product that takes the field and do something to improve it.

Fred and Jeff . . . pick up Mara’s book . . . it makes for interesting reading.

If it doesn’t teach you how to run an organization, from top to bottom, that exudes the highest standards of professionalism and class . . . at least you can learn how to ensure that the seats in Citi Field are filled by giving the fans what they’ve paid for:

A team that is built around youthful players, peppered with a few cagey veterans and most important . . . that enthusiastically gives an all out effort every time they take the field.

In other words . . . a competitive team.

If the fans are what the Mets organization truly care about . . . is that too much to ask?

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

Finally . . . A Sense of Closure

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Three men who were close friends went hiking in the backcountry outside of Crystal Mountain in Seattle Washington.

On Dec 3, a search party went to look for them, after the three failed to return. Although the three had carried a rescue beacon with them, no signal was detected by the searchers.

Due to avalanches, whiteout and flood conditions, rescue efforts had to be aborted a week after the search for the three men began.

But friends of the three would not be deterred so easily. They continued to search for the three Seattle-area snowboarders. On Saturday, 7 months after the three men disappeared, enough snow had melted away and they spotted a tent in the snow.

The three men were found in the tent, and officials theorized that they were killed by an avalanche.

The three missing men were Kevin Carter, 26, Delvin Williams, 29, and Phillip Hollins, 41.

Friends said that all three were experienced snowboarders and hikers familiar with the difficult terrain. But heavy, wet snow caused over a dozen avalanches in the area last year, and the three had become part of the deadly statistics.

 The 2007-2008 winter season, the worst by far, had the highest number of avalanche deaths (36) on record in U.S.

The mother of one of the three men, Sally Hollins is grateful for the sense of closure.

“The only thing that’s kept me going,” she said, “is I know that’s where my son wanted to be.

“If he had to die,” she added, “he would much rather be left up there.

“If you have die in a hurry,” she concluded, “that’s probably the way to go. It certainly leaves a hell of a hole here, I’ll tell you.”

But at least Ms. Hollins will sleep a little easier tonight. She now knows her son died in the backcountry with his friends, doing what they loved.

Phillip would not have wanted it any other way. And because her son’s friends were determined to find all three men and provide a sense of closure . . .  neither would she.

“Acquaintances pass with the seasons . . . but true friendship endures forever.”

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

Ubuntu . . . I Am, Because We Are

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The literal translation of an idea rooted in African spirituality that means we are all connected, we cannot be ourselves without community, faith and health are always lived out among others, and an individual’s well being is interdependent on the well being of others.

This deep rooted philosophy is what Doc Rivers, the coach of the 2008 N.B.A. World Champions Boston Celtics instilled in the second installment of the Big Three, a label they resist being called in deference to the original threesome of Bird, McHale, and Parish.

Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett now share what has eluded them for most of their careers . . . a NBA title.

The Boston Celtics obliterated the Los Angeles Lakers by 39 points ending a 22 year drought and claiming this storied franchise 17th title.

Arguably the best player, Kobe Bryant, at least on this night was no match for the combination of the Big Three. One man . . . simply was not going to beat . . . the best team.

“They were definitely the best defense I’ve seen the entire playoffs,” Bryant said. “I’ve seen some pretty stiff ones and this was right up there with them. The goal was to win a championship, it wasn’t to win MVP or anything like that, it was to win a championship.”

While it may be true that most championship teams are built around great players, they also must have a supporting cast that can contribute as well. A decisive edge in this series was the contribution of the Celtics’ bench versus the Lakers.

Perhaps Phil Jackson summed it up best, having been denied an opportunity to pass Red Auerbach, the man who had a hand in Boston’s first 16 titles, nine as a coach and seven in the front office . . . “We have to get some players if we’re going to come back and repeat, to have that kind of aggressiveness that we need.”

Doc Rivers, who many thought would be outcoached by Jackson . . . borrowed the word “Ubuntu” to preach a team concept that predicated on unselfish play and stifling defense.His players not only bought into it, but bonded with him because of it.

“This is the reason we came here,” Garnett said. “This is the reason we got together, and Danny made it go down. This is it right now.”

Buying into Doc Rivers’ philosophy is what enabled the Big Three . . . to harness their individual skills and accomplishments to be role models and mentors for the rest of team.

“We sacrificed so much of what we did throughout our careers to get to this point because we’ve done everything we’ve been able to do individually, won all type of awards, but never made it to the mountaintop,” Pierce said. “It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

The road to the title was not an easy one for the Celtics, having been pushed to a 7th game by Atlanta and Cleveland, before dispatching the Detroit Pistons in six. With many of their players saddled with a variety of injuries, other members of the team stepped up and contributed.

“We had bumps along the road. There was frustration,” Allen said. “But we always came back to each other as a team, and to finally win this and prove we’re the best in the NBA this year, everything we went through was definitely worth it. We know exactly what it takes to be the best.”

Doc Rivers pulled Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett with four minutes remaining in the game. Pierce immediately went over to Doc and gave him an emotional embrace . . . Allen and Garnett soon followed.

“They came in as a group, and I thought we should take them out as a group,” Rivers said. “They all said, ‘Thank you,’ and I said, ‘Thank you’ back.

But Pierce had yet another reason to thank his coach. As the longest tenured player on this Celtics team, he thanked Rivers for sticking with him.

After the debacle of last year in which Doc had almost been run out of town, for compiling a record of 24 wins and 58 losses, Rivers thanked Pierce for sticking with him as well.

In the waning moments of the game, Doc Rivers reflected on his dad. By the time he had received the Larry O’Brien Trophy, it was June 18—his late father’s birthday.

“My first thought was what would my dad say,” Rivers said, “and honestly I started laughing because I thought he would probably say, if you knew my dad, ‘It’s about time. What have you been waiting for?’”

As Boston’s faithful and diehard fans celebrate the end of a 22 year drought . . .

Somewhere in the hallow halls of the Boston Garden . . . Red Auerbach is lighting up a cigar and wondering that as well.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

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