My First Springsteen Show

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Though I was alone in my apartment, I could feel the rest of the tri-state area bearing down on me as I sat on Ticketmaster, trying to score Springsteen tickets. That was in December, and by the grace of whoever runs the queue in a process where the odds of winning are seemingly the same as the recent $1 billion Powerball drawing, I got three tickets. For the first time, I was going to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The show was Wednesday, January 27th at Madison Square Garden. I met up with the two friends joining me before hand at Blarney Rock, one of the better pre-MSG event bars in the area. Before big college basketball games, it’s a college basketball crowd. Before Rangers games, it’s a Rangers crowd. Before the Bruce concert, it was a Bruce crowd. The proprietors aren’t stupid—they had some of Bruce’s greatest hits blaring from the ceiling, which is colorfully decorated with logos from schools that belonged to the Big East back when it was the “Big East” and not whatever it is now.

For the stereotyping of the Bruce crowd as blue collar—and that has plenty of merit—there’s a certain faction that is and has always been white collar. One guy we knew there said he heard this was the toughest ticket in town…on Wall Street. For all of Bruce’s lyrics about working on the highway and down on the docks, the guys who wear suits and work in skyscrapers don’t feel excluded.

The members of the Church of Bruce have fun measuring themselves by how many shows they’ve been to, which rare songs they’ve seen live, and where they’ve seen them. It’s not a competition and there’s no pretension. Rather, it’s like a bunch of military guys comparing badges. To have seen Bruce perform “Thundercrack” in New Orleans is akin to earning a Purple Heart for a wound suffered in Pakistan. It also sounds like a bizarre game of Clue.

Even better, any feelings of inadequacy that I felt coming on by virtue of being new to the church were quelled by the overarching wave of excitement and positivity flowing through the pre-show crowd. The good vibes continued as we made our way across the street and into the Garden and took our seats—which were great.

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Not only did we win the Ticketmaster lottery, but we got seats in the first row of our section. Granted, that section was 417, and we were behind the stage, but that didn’t matter. The stage is open, so despite the band members’ backs being to us most of the show, they were still relatively close. The great circle route from our seats to the man himself was much, much shorter than that of fans sitting in the 200-level seats on the other side of the arena. If sitting behind Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best seats for a hockey game, sitting behind Bruce is one of the best seats for a concert. Besides, he and the band have been at it long enough to know to turn around from time to time and work the entire crowd. As my friends—who are approaching double digits in Bruce concerts attended—pointed out, these were the best seats they’d had yet.

Bruce fans love talking about how long he’ll play for and what songs he’s going to do. Springsteen is famous for his tirelessness and showmanship, never one to leave a crowd wanting more. So I knew we were guaranteed about three hours, and anything after that’d be gravy. And that’s another fun element that Bruce has built in over the years: allowing fans to guess how long he’ll play for. Will it be 3:00 exactly? Maybe 3:25? What if he gets near four hours? Again, it’s speculated on without pretension because of sheer optimism and giddiness.

More of a parlor game than guessing show length is pontificating on the set list. Typically, I’d imagine the most thrilling part of any Bruce show is hearing those first chords of each new song and realizing what you’re getting. On this night, and during this tour, he’d be playing The River front to back. I’d call The River Bruce’s “seminal 1980 album,” but damn near all of his albums are seminal, so let’s just call it his 1980 album.

So, we knew what the first 20 songs would be. And judging by the set lists from the first couple stops on the tour, we had an idea what he’d play after The River ran dry. One of my friends had a gut feeling we were getting “Jungleland” (he was wrong). I was pining to hear “Streets of Fire” or “Backstreets” (I’m still pining). So what if we were wrong, because as I learned, the pre-show buzz about what he’ll play is a major part of the service when attending the Church of Bruce.

The River is a strange concert album. It’s got 20 songs, which is a lot for a Bruce album (plus an outtake, “Meet Me in the City”, which opened the show). It doesn’t have any of Bruce’s most famous songs. And it’s not as great as Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town. But it’s still one hell of an album to see live. There are eight slower songs, and the other 12 are all legitimate rock songs, the kind you hope to hear live. And even the ones that are a little slow, some are still excellent live—“Fade Away” and “Drive All Night” in particular. And the title track, while slow-ish, has so much energy and emotion that it’s still riveting. The bathroom break songs ended up being “I Wanna Marry You” and “Wreck on the Highway.”

As for the show itself, some highlights, and more than that, some questions…

–Apparently, Bruce always crowd surfs during “Hungry Heart.” At 66 years old, I’m amazed at how he does it. I know he’s just lying there and doesn’t need to exert himself, but doesn’t being poked and prodded like that take its toll on a guy that age? Who knows, maybe it’s a nice respite for him from being on stage. And given the crowd’s level of fandom, aren’t there some out there who may be taking a less than appropriate grab? I wonder if he’ll ever cut out that crowd surfing bit, but it’s to the point where the audience expects it and would be let down if he didn’t. Okay, so they’d understand if he stopped at some point, but 45 years of performing have established certain standards that Bruce seems hell bent on maintaining.

–Each band member is more impressive than the last. Many have been playing together for 40 years, and some have had such interesting side gigs, they’ve become known for those as much as being in the band. Nils Lofgren had a successful solo career and played with musicians like Neil Young before joining E Street. Max Weinberg was the drummer and bandleader on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show for 17 years. Steven Van Zandt played Tony Soprano’s closest confidant for the duration of “The Sopranos” and then went on to have a lesser known but well regarded series called “Lilyhammer” on Netflix. Somewhere in all this, they managed to continue making music and touring.

–Not to harp on their ages, but, seriously, how are these guys still doing this? When a snowstorm hits, all we hear about on the news is men having heart attacks while shoveling. These guys are ramping their heart rates up to unsustainable levels for three hours and it looks effortless. Bruce must be on an Olympic-style training regimen. Weinberg, a man in his mid-60s who looks like he should be eating kippers at Flakowitz of Boynton Beach, sits at a drum set for three hours without going to the bathroom or even standing up. No member of the band seemed to take a song off, and even if they had the chance, I don’t think they wanted to.

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–Some songs that stood out: “I’m a Rocker,” “Out in the Street,” “Sherry Darling,” and “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch).”

–Van Zandt has to be one of the coolest dudes out there. The band. The TV show. The instrument. Even the bandannas, though it’d be nice if he could wrangle his Silvio hair once in a while. He takes it upon himself to work the crowd more than anyone else, maybe even Bruce.

–These guys switch guitars after what seemed like every song. Did Bruce actually use 20 different guitars? Or were there just two that he’d rotate and have tuned in between?

–The first two shows of the tour both had post-River sets and then an encore after that. Our show was different in that those two elements were combined, meaning the band never left the stage. They turned on the lights for “Born to Run,” which I’m told is standard practice. That followed with “Dancing in the Dark” (made ironic by the aforementioned illumination), “Rosalita,” and “Shout.”

–How many times has Bruce played “Born to Run” for an audience? 3,000? 4,000? It’s unfathomable.

–I’m sure there have been some incidents on stage when fans are brought up during “Dancing in the Dark,” but it’s fortunate that nothing too crazy has happened. At Wednesday’s show, Bruce invited a fan toting a “This Aussie is Batty for Patti” sign on stage to dance with the lovely Ms. Scialfa. Bruce had a couple fans doing the requisite dance moves with him. While each dance went on just a little too long for the artists’ comfort, the fans know to not go further than a hug and maybe, maybe a tiny peck on the cheek.

–When the dancing portions of the song take over, Jake Clemons steps up with his saxophone and carries the song for a good 2-3 minutes. My ear isn’t in tune enough to decipher a good sax player from a great one, but if I’m betting the farm, put me down for Jake Clemons being a great one.

Of all the questions that will go unanswered, I was able to answer arguably the most important one. It didn’t take until after the show. It didn’t take until Bruce went crowd surfing. During the first couple songs, it became clear why these guys still do this. Why they still tour the world, keep their skills sharp, and play for hours on end like maniacs.

They love each other, the crowd, and the music. It’s genuinely fun for them. For most people, playing once a week for an hour sounds fun. Playing three or four times a week, for three or four hours each time, sounds like work. But for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, it’s fun. Maybe it’s even therapeutic for them. Some of it may be ego, sure. It’s not that tough to play to a crowd who loves you unconditionally. But there’s a certain element of pride, honor, and not letting those fans down. It’s that hyper self-awareness that sets Bruce and the band apart from other musical acts. They play the hits. They play the rarities. They play for the crowd.

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It becomes clear when you see Van Zandt and Bruce standing at the microphone together, shouting their beloved songs in unison. As I wondered how many quarts of spit these guys have swapped during these vocal exchanges through the decades, it struck me that these guys love each other. How else do you explain doing this stuff for so long?

As for me, yeah, I freaking loved the show, all 3:10 of it. And I want to go to another one at some point, though who knows how many more tours Bruce and the band have left.

In 1974, rock critic and future Springsteen manager-producer Jon Landau proclaimed, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Well, Bruce is a little too old now to still be the future, but I’ll eat Nils Lofgren’s top hat if Bruce still isn’t the present.

NFL’s Black Monday: Owners Just Don’t Understand

The NFL’s “Black Monday” came and went, and we still have no idea what many of these franchises are doing. Teams can’t figure out whether to fire or retain their coaches (or GMs), and they seem to be as wrong as they’ve ever been. There are a slew of clueless coaches and executives, but they look like Bill Walsh compared to some of their owners.

I’m not exactly an employee of Korn Ferry, but I know enough to tell you that making Mike flipping McCoy the face of the NFL in Los Angeles isn’t going to work out so well. McCoy has proven from the get go that he’s a lightweight. He’s a run of the mill, conventional coach with nothing in the way of imagination, motivation, or any semblance of a thinking man’s mentality.

In the two years since his team made the playoffs after embarrassingly needing overtime at home to beat a Chase Daniel-led Chiefs team sitting 20 of 22 starters in Week 17, McCoy’s Chargers have floundered and just limped to a 4-12 season after starting 2-2. They lost three straight games to the Raiders, Ravens, and Bears. McCoy needed to go two years ago, but nope, he’s back, as his owner files for relocation. Tom Telesco, McCoy’s personnel partner-in-incompetence, will also return. Something for Angelenos to look forward to.

Still wondering what the hell Korn Ferry is? It’s the search firm that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has hired to help find a new coach. Haslam must not realize he’s an NFL owner and alleged businessman. Businessmen in the business of football should have enough, you know, football people around them to make a decision. Did the Academy Awards need a headhunter to find Chris Rock to host this year? No, they just picked one of the funniest people and performers on the planet. If Haslam needs Korn Ferry to tell him to approach guys like Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, and David Shaw, then he shouldn’t own a team.

Tom Coughlin’s resignation/unspoken firing makes sense. He’s old, he’s tired, and he’s accomplished a lot. Good for Tom, and that Giants job, given their organizational/QB stability and erratic division, is a prime one for coaching candidates.

People say the game has passed Coughlin by. He can’t keep up with the demand. Can’t hang with young players. Not entirely fair, but maybe some truth there. If so, it is fair to ask what the hell the Dolphins are doing by bringing back 63-year old Mike Shanahan for a second interview.

Shanahan flamed out in spectacular fashion in Washington and felt older in his final season there than Coughlin ever did in New York. The only explanation is that Stephen Ross is so impressed with Shanahan’s disciplining and eventual jettisoning of Albert Haynesworth that Ross is hoping Shanahan can work that same magic to rid Ross of his own $100-million defensive line dud. Best wishes, Stephen. You (and your ace personnel man Mike Tannenbaum) will always have these meaningless home wins over the Patriots to get you through the night.

Jim Tomsula was relieved by the 49ers, which is good, because now Tomsula can finally relieve himself, which is what it looked like he was in need of on the sideline during every game this season. Remember near the end of Apollo 13 when Tom Hanks explains in voiceover that the mission was failed before he was even hired because of faulty mechanics? That’s what happened to Tomsula in San Francisco this year. He’s probably not a Super Bowl caliber coach, but we won’t know, because he was set up for failure.

The 49ers couldn’t make it work with one of the three to five best coaches in the league and in the process, poisoned their franchise. They were crushed by injury, retirement, and vanishing mojo, none of which is really Tomsula’s fault. Jeddy York and Trent Baalke will try again, this time with a team in complete tatters. But hey, good on you Trent, for winning the power struggle with the coach that made you look like a genius. It’s working out well for you.

And of course, there’s the Indianapolis Colts. On the short list of most loathsome franchises in football, the Colts got their comeuppance this year in the form of missing the playoffs in what may be the worst division in league history, at least since the league expanded to 32 teams (you could argue 2010 NFC West or even 2014 NFC South). Yes, Andrew Luck got hurt, I’m well aware, thank you Colts honks. But the team stinks. Luck is very good, but the TEAM stinks.

This is the fault of Ryan Grigson and Jim Irsay. Not as much coach Chuck Pagano, who’s seemingly competent but will only go as far as Luck takes him. Grigson is simply one of the worst GMs in the league. Richardson. Werner. Nicks. Andre. Gore. Dorsett. The hits keep on coming.

Monday night, Irsay announced that both Pagano and Grigson—who many apparently within the organization and around the league expected to be fired—had signed extensions. For fans of the other three AFC South teams, dancing in the streets is appropriate. Pagano declared it the best day of his life, which must make his kids—not to mention his chemo doctor—feel pretty crappy. And Grigson probably grunted and snorted the entire time like the meathead he is.

There’s something to be said for continuity and giving your coaches and execs a chance to make the team their own. Bill Belichick spoke at length last week about program-building, and Tom E. Curran had a wonderful column musing that the “Next Belichick” may not exist because owners are trigger-happy and overly focused on short term results.

Curran nailed it, and it’s true that guys like Coughlin, Belichick, and even Shanahan back in Denver, needed time and patience to figure it out. So, good on Irsay for doing the right thing. Unfortunately for fans of Indy, he’s just doing it with the wrong guys.

Breer or Rapoport: Who Gonna Be the Follow Guy?

Albert Breer and Ian Rapoport are both NFL Network reporters with Boston roots. They both appear to be in their mid-30s. They perform similar functions for their employer and neither seems to get caught up in much controversy.

My Twitter feed is nothing special, and my time really isn’t any more valuable than the next guy furiously loading four hours worth of tweets before descending into the internet-less depths of the subway.

Still, why do I follow both Breer and Rapoport, aka RapSheet? They file the same vanilla training camp reports with information that true fans of said team would procure through local beat writers anyway. They tweet the same stories with the same reactions. On June 15, when the Bills Twitter account announced how fast tickets were selling, within seconds of each other, both Breer and Rapoport retweeted the story and added in “Rex Effect.” I need to thank them for clearing that up, because until the Bills announced he’d be backing up Tyrod Taylor, I would have sworn it was the Matt Cassel Effect.

Breer and Rapoport are, Twitterly speaking, the same person.

But are they really? If you look hard enough, or if they tweet enough (which they do), there are some contrasts. Are these variances striking enough to differentiate the two and choose to follow the winner? Or, if there are noticeable differences, does that mean it makes sense to continue following both? Let’s take a look…

TWITTER BIO / AVATAR / COVER PHOTO

Breer: Straightforward bio, states his job, past places of employment and schooling, and, interestingly, threw in 98.5 The Sports Hub. Breer has recurring gigs with 98.5’s morning and midday shows, not to mention Pats pregame duties for the station. That’s all wonderful, but this is a completely biased examination, and 93.7 WEEI is the station of choice in this space. His cover photo is an awesome shot of Boston, which earns him some points. His avatar seems to be from an appearance on CSN New England. Funny, I just checked the CSNNE website and saw a clip of Gary Tanguay announcing, “Bert is stating the obvious” in regards to a Breer tweet. Not sure what’s worse, Breer being called out by Tanguay, or me sharing a thought with Tanguay.

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Rapoport: Job description in his bio, but no mention of past employment or schooling. Shouts out his wife’s Twitter handle (@TheBanktress, a boss name even if I have no clue what it means) and tosses in “collector of Pez.” Quirks like a Pez collection are what we’re looking for. Cover photo is Ian with the always-funny and seemingly likable Rich Eisen. It’s not quite a beautiful night shot of Boston, but it’s okay. His avatar pic is notorious because it’s a standard NFLN headshot that’s been lifted for dozens of parody accounts. It was used for the account that tricked Peter King into a retweet during free agency back in March. Enabling wise asses is a good thing, but c’mon Ian, give us something with some color.

Edge: Push

Rapoport

FAKE TWITTER ACCOUNTS

We basically just covered this. Are there any well known Breer fakes? If there are, did any sucker Peter King into looking like a schmuck for a few frantic minutes during free agency?

Edge: Rapoport

WIKIPEDIA PAGES

Both are three sentences featuring their alma maters and their professions. Breer’s has more about his employment history, but that’s probably info gleaned from his Twitter bio, which, as we’ve covered, contains more of that stuff than Rap’s.

Edge: Who cares?

LOCATION

Breer: Even though he’s gone national, he’s still a Boston guy. I believe he’s from MA and want to say I’ve seen him tweet about living in the South End, but maybe I hallucinated that. Regardless, cool that he still lives local, does local radio spots, and appears on local TV shows. Sure, he still spits company lines and is petrified to take a stance on DeflateGate, but he gets points.

Rapoport: His tweeting, and his wife’s Twitter bio, suggests a recent move to NYC from Texas, so kudos to them and welcome. I have no idea where Rap is from, but he’s a Mets fan and apparently went to Columbia, so he belongs in New York.

Edge: I’m from Boston. I live in New York. I think they’re the two greatest cities in America. But Breer’s shown more love to the region and is a local, giving him a slight edge.

FAMILY LIFE

Breer: I think he’s married, but don’t know much else.

Rapoport: His wife seems lovely and her Twitter bio claims she manages a Starbucks, which is great, except this space prefers Dunkin Donuts. So, unless Mrs. Rap is joking about the Starbucks thing, that hurts, because in an exercise as futile as this, inane details matter. The Rapoports tweet about their two young kids, and they do seem to have a nice little family.

Also, is Rapoport Jewish? I feel like he is, and the fact that he’s now a Mets fan living in New York kind of seals it. I’ll have to show his picture to my mother and ask her.

Edge: Can’t fault Breer for not publicizing his personal life, but we’ll give Rapoport and his family man image the nod.

ALMA MATER

Breer: THE Ohio State University, home to some of the smuggest fans in all of college football. They employ Urban Meyer, a terrific yet disingenuous coach who probably swept a thing or two under the rug, legally speaking, during his tenure at Florida.

Rapoport: According to Wikipedia, he attended Columbia. I’d venture to guess there are some smug people at Columbia, but the kind of smugness that’s actually warranted.

Edge: Rap

DEFLATEGATE HANDLING

Breer: Short of holding up an “In Rog We Trust” sign on television, he’s done everything possible to make it clear that he doesn’t think Brady is innocent. He won’t come out and say he thinks Brady’s guilty of anything, just playing it right down the middle, zero opinion, exactly the way the NFL Network probably likes it. It’s bad enough he appears on a Boston radio station that’s unabashedly anti-Patriots and anti-Brady, it’s worse that he’s uber-sensitive when the subject is broached.

August 31, Breer tweets “Biggest stumbling block remained largely the same thru every set of Brady settlement talks – Admission of guilt/acceptance of Wells Report.” Groundbreaking, I know. So one of his followers harmlessly tweets “why should he admit to something he stated clearly under oath he had nothing to do with and no knowledge of?” Fair question, to which anyone with knowledge of, and the slightest whiff of an opinion on the situation would say, “Agreed, he shouldn’t.” A simple answer that wouldn’t get him in trouble with his bosses but also prove that Breer understands what’s really going on. Instead, Breer runs for the hills, replying “I’m not saying he should’ve/shouldn’t have … Just telling you what the issue was.” Gee Bert, with that kind of edgy take, New Englanders will be sprinting to their TVs to watch CSNNE later!

I get it, he’s a “reporter,” here to report facts and information without slant. It’s somewhat paradoxical: He’s a local guy so he’s really in tune with the scene…but his current job prohibits him from adding any legitimate points about the local team. Oh, and after that rousing exchange on August 31, he linked to a story by…

Rapoport: …which is why we’re doing this exercise, because it’s really like following two for the information intake of one. Perhaps I unfairly held Breer to a higher standard because being native to Boston, he should know better. Knowing it’s not his turf, Rap has stayed out of the mess, but not in the “You won’t get me to say Brady’s innocent so don’t even think it!” way that Breer has. Rapoport usually just retweets other reporters and doesn’t even pretend to get involved.

However, he did get involved in a large way on Super Bowl weekend. He crushed Chris Mortensen’s incendiary and utterly false report, announcing that 11 of the 12 Patriot footballs from the first half were under 12.5 psi, but many were “just a few ticks under the minimum.” Kudos to Rapoport for reporting what turned out to be the truth. Of course, trolls and those with agendas had already taken the Mortensen story as gospel and Rapoport’s story never got much traction…despite being as accurate as any story on the subject to that point. I guess the memo never made it from Dave Gardi to Mike Kensil to Goodell to the guy who oversees RapSheet that they had already spread fake measurements and those were the ones to run with. Hell, after that story, I’m surprised Goodell didn’t have Rapoport deported.

Edge: Rapoport in a walk.

CREATIVITY / PERSONALITY

I’ve dug up some tweets for this examination, but I don’t have all day. So, without getting into detail, let’s note that both guys, for the most part, have a sense of humor. They’ll parry combative tweeps with emojis or quick bits of sarcasm. They’ll cross over into other sports, whether it’s Breer slurping his Buckeyes or Rapoport rediscovering his Mets amidst their Cespedes-infused pennant race. Even better, they don’t take themselves too seriously and usually have either witty or self-deprecating retorts for the Twitter tough guys clamoring that they “Stick to football!” For the record, tweeting “Stick to football!” is about as funny and imaginative as yelling “Get in the hole” at a PGA event.

Both also engage in fun banter with fellow football writers. It’s not unusual to see Breer have a spirited back and forth with his occasional CSNNE comrade Tom E. Curran, or to see Rapoport get into it with his Boston Herald progeny Jeff Howe. Yeah, Breer and Rap may vacillate between regular dude and league suit, but when they’re not doing the league’s bidding, they seem like cool guys to grab a beer with.

REPORTING STYLE

Breer: He’s less about scoops and more about reporting on various processes and how situations are playing out. He breaks some news, and is often quick to retweet others regarding a signing, a suspension, etc. But rather than being on the pulse of free agency, or nabbing a tidbit that no other reporter could snag, you’ll see Breer filing reports from Redskins training camp with a six-tweet explanation about their quarterback situation. Same thing goes with DeflateGate. He wouldn’t take much of a stance, but would explain the nuts and bolts. He’s an information guy, even though that information isn’t necessarily exclusive.

Rapoport: He’s more of a story-breaker. He had the news about Eli wanting to be the highest paid quarterback in the league. He had the aforementioned, more accurate of the football PSI reports. The news breaker in our duo, he’ll hit everything from a few higher profile stories per year to hundreds of minor stories, whether it’s a marginal free agent signing during the preseason, how long an injury will keep someone out, or how far apart two sides are on a contract extension. He’ll get into the stuff Breer specializes in, but more in the way of retweets or even directing readers to Breer himself (something Breer does too, as we’ve covered).

Edge: Both guys do what the NFL Net dispatches them to do and seem to do it well enough, so who the hell am I to pretend to be a media critic?

MISCELLANEOUS

Breer: Called ESPN reporter Tim McMahon “Assface!” a few years back on Twitter. There’s a good chance the tweet was in jest, but still, friskiness and politically incorrect language—even when joking—get points here.

With this evidence of Breer being a clown at heart, it makes us wish that maybe he’d take the gloves off more often. And Google Images suggests that before he went with his current borderline faux-hawk, he had longer hair and was just an Ohio State bro trying to talk some pigskin.

Rapoport: Speaking of bros, RapSheet is probably still trying to clarify that the bro from the Bud Light Super Bowl ad was not him, but a different guy with the same name, and, apparently, a much, much lower IQ.

There’s also the video of Rapoport filing a report from a team’s practice and taking a football to the head in the middle of his report. Like a pro, he shakes it off and does his job with aplomb.

Edge: Again, when they’re not taking the high road, these are guys you’d want to spend a Sunday afternoon with.

DECISION

Both of these guys generally stay above the fray, so why shouldn’t I? Rapoport took the slight advantage in the breakdown, but Breer’s penchant for sarcasm is a great equalizer. Plus, as we covered in the “Reporting” section, there are some inherent differences. Yes, they can be league flunkies at times, but compared to others (Mortensen and King), they’re much more down to earth. Football season is here, fantasy football season is here, and Twitter is a great tool for killing time and learning a thing or two. Breer and Rap have both proven to be worthy parts of the experience, so, congrats to them, I guess, for both remaining on the timeline for the 2015 NFL season.

What a Triple Crown Would Mean for Most of America

American Pharoah is the odds on favorite to win the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, and would thus win the Triple Crown.

If he does, it’ll be interesting to see if people stop caring about the sport as much, akin to the fear that Boston fans would have no purpose once the Red Sox ended “The Curse.” The feeling here is that it will mirror what happened with the Red Sox, in a similarly positive fashion: Followers will want to see it again because it’s fun to root for and the preferred outcome, but failures won’t be received with the same overwrought air of desperation and letdown.

Generations of racing fans—mostly casual, but still—would witness something they’ve only heard about and seen on grainy videotape. By and large, we won’t know how to react. Seeing people, who’ve never watched horse racing more than three days in any given year, going crazy high-fiving, celebrating, and lying to their bros about hitting a trifecta would be hilariously awkward.

It’s been mildly disappointing when beloved horses like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones fall short. Does that mean when it happens, we’re headed for mild jubilation?

American Pharoah

As sports fans, we root for events and stories, so the unwritten code tells us to always pull for a horse going for the final jewel. The thing that makes horse racing different is there’s no attachment. If American Pharoah wins, few will follow the remainder of his career or check up on the foals he’ll inevitably sire for a half million a pop. But we’ll gleefully spill beer on ourselves when it happens and someday tell our grandkids we watched it…at a bar in New York City…even though tickets were available for $25 and the race was run about 20 miles away…but who cares, it was awesome and we saw it!

If he wins, will we care even remotely as much the next time a horse takes the first two legs? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. That’s not to diminish the sport, but more to reinforce our commitment to its fleeting nature and our interest being piqued as long as you’re selling a great horse with a story behind it.

We’ll continue to talk ourselves into the most exciting two minutes in sports, and by law then have to watch the Preakness to see if we need to carve out the mental capacity to care for three more weeks. It’s a race. It generates bundles in gambling. It’s quick enough to come and go without the nation’s attention span fading like War Emblem or California Chrome down the stretch. It doesn’t matter if American Pharoah wins—we’ll keep coming back for more, a few Saturdays a year at a time. If he does win, next time we’ll want a better horse, one who runs faster times, wins by bigger margins, and has an even better story.

The most certain thing about the Belmont is that no one has any true idea if American Pharoah will win. He vanquished the two Derby runners up in the Preakness, and will now face three other horses that ran top seven in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. As Steve Coburn incoherently reminded us last year, when horses denied glory in the Derby skip the Preakness to spoil the Belmont, it makes a helluva time for the horse going for the treble. That’s partly why we haven’t seen it done in so long, and why we’ll all assume it’s so impressive if and when it actually happens.

If American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes, it will have a monumental impact on the sport of thoroughbred racing. As for us? We’ll be the same. Like Jerry Seinfeld once told us, why should we care so much if we’re not even sure the horses care?

Holiday Weekend Weirdo: Manhattan Man Stays in City Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, but it had one young New York City man feeling left out in the cold.

Jason Riemer, 26, spent the holiday weekend by staying in the city—even though everyone else he knows left to go somewhere else.

“I didn’t think sticking around was so taboo,” said Riemer, an accountant. “I figured, there’s always something going on in the city. I was wrong.”

Riemer quickly learned—the hard way—that when everyone you know leaves the city, there isn’t much left to do. Riemer’s loneliness was a result of not planning ahead and thinking he’d get to experience things around the city that he usually doesn’t.

“There are so many things I want to try but there’s always some obligation getting in the way,” Riemer explained. “With three days free, I thought I’d finally get a chance to try some new stuff that I haven’t experienced yet here.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out the way he envisioned.

Riemer lamented, “I miscalculated. I didn’t realize there’d be no one to actually do stuff with. I mean, I’m not gonna just go to Central Park by myself.”

The young man’s friends and family spent the holiday weekend all over the eastern seaboard, enjoying the nice weather, barbecues, and the beach.

“Let’s see…some of my buddies went to Atlantic City, but it’s so crazy expensive for those dumpy hotels and I never responded to their emails when they planned it,” said Riemer. “My family was in Maine but that’s so far away, you know? I don’t have a car and I can’t just like, take a train from Manhattan to Maine.”

With every girl in his circle of friends decamping for the Hamptons, Riemer hoped he’d meet some new ones this weekend. With the city less crowded, he’d surely have opportunities to separate himself from the pack and approach the opposite sex outside of the typically competitive bar and club scene.

“It’s weird, I thought a calmer city would mean more laid back conversation and more relaxed interactions,” Riemer groaned. “But girls thought something was wrong with me! They’re giving me dirty looks like I’m a freak because I didn’t have anywhere to go. I’m like, whatever, they’re still here too! So what does that say about them?”

His failed attempts at romance aside, Riemer did learn the value of being in a relationship, as several of his friends and their girlfriends embarked on weekend getaways to cabins upstate, beach houses along the Atlantic, and cities like Boston and Washington DC.

“I’m realistic. Fourth of July is only six weeks away so there’s obviously not enough time to strike up something meaningful before that,” said Riemer, who’s maintaining cautious optimism. “Maybe Labor Day, though. I think it’s reasonable to meet a girl this summer, and if we get along well, we could go somewhere for Labor Day.”

As his friends flooded back into New York on Monday with superior tales of rest, relaxation, and holiday weekend whimsy, Riemer kept his head held high despite the pervading condescension towards his “stay-cation.”

“Do I wish I went somewhere? Yeah, kind of,” admitted Riemer, who insists he’s at peace with the weekend that was. “But this is still a great city, and it’s really accessible on holiday weekends. The lines at bagel shops were really short, it was easy to get a cab, and the elevators in my building came right away. Sure, it’s a little ghost town-y, but it was kind of nice, and not having to travel made the weekend feel longer.”

No matter how tolerable his weekend in the city was, one has to imagine that Riemer has already started making arrangements for our country’s birthday weekend, as not to be the outcast he was this time around.

For Bob Kraft, It’s Goodell and Owners First, Brady and Fans Last

In announcing today that his team won’t appeal the sanctions imposed by the NFL over the boondoggle known as Deflategate, Robert Kraft bowed down to Roger Goodell. Kraft may see his folding as a way to maintain dignity and preserve his image, when in reality, his actions today only did more harm in those areas, both in New England and across America.

The only way the previous sentence, and everything written below, isn’t true would be if Tom Brady and the Patriots really did break the rules, and to a greater degree than we realize (and if so, why didn’t Ted Wells, Mr. Independent, include that in his findings?).

Kraft is well known as one of the best and most successful owners in sports and one of the real power brokers in the NFL. It’s as if today’s press conference was a way to maintain the latter, while hoping that Patriots fans would forgive the pathetic performance he put on display. Kraft has always come across as a man of integrity, and today he gave in to a man with no integrity in kissing Goodell’s rear end.

The popular thought is that Goodell and Kraft made a deal that will lift Tom Brady’s suspension if Kraft agrees not to pursue an appeal against the team penalties. If true, it’s an embarrassment for Kraft and an indirect indictment of Brady, who takes a hit even if he’s reinstated by virtue of Kraft rolling over.

If Brady’s suspension is rescinded because of whatever may have gone down behind closed doors, it makes Brady look guiltier than ever and gives critics ammunition to claim that Brady, while technically sporting a clean record, probably cheated and got away because his football dad is friends with the football cop. It gives even the staunchest Brady backers doubts, because if Brady and the Patriots are truly blameless, why wouldn’t they fight?

Goodell and the league deliberately targeted their best player in an attempt to damage his character. Why that bogus story about psi that was leaked to Chris Mortensen and ignited the whole debacle? That story was false on every level and never retracted. The NFL lets it sit there for whatever reason, but it’s not a stretch to say the story lives on in an effort to damage Brady. Oh, that’s a stretch? Well, it’s no more a stretch than any conclusion reached in the Wells Report. And by backing down, Kraft allowed the assault on Brady to live on in perpetuity because while the draft picks are separate from Brady’s suspension, they belong to the same alleged wrongdoing.

Kraft-Goodell Hug

Kraft’s dead dog routine today paved the way for more Goodell madness, but hey, as long as Kraft is getting something in return—and how can he not be?—he doesn’t care. Goodell used Kraft, Brady, and the Patriots to restore his image as a hard-nosed man of integrity, which is funny because in doing so he yet again proved that he’s a man of none by pandering to 31 fan bases even though it was cowardly and barely defensible.

Kraft is delusional if he thinks the rest of the country will view him and his team in a better light than it did last week. But again, he probably doesn’t care. He’s more concerned with appeasing his fellow owners, which he did with today’s press conference. Hell, even some sheep in the media are praising Kraft for being the bigger man. Great, you’re the bigger man, Robert. You also allowed your team to be labeled cheaters and tacitly admitted it by not fighting. It’s a disgrace. Unless, of course, they’re actually guilty.

Kraft acted like he owed Goodell and the NFL something. By all accounts, it’s Goodell who owes his career to Kraft. Kraft’s paid his dues as on owner, serves on various committees, funded his own stadium, and really owes nothing to the league. From the start, Kraft has done it the right way. He’s getting older and this should have been his last battle, going out guns blazing. The league just screwed him and his best player for no other reason than they wanted to cover their own asses and look tough to the rest of the world. With Bob Kraft’s actions today, he officially let them win.

As a Patriots fan, it’s hard to find any solace in what happened. I don’t know what Kraft is getting in return, but unless it’s a full apology, retraction of all the spurious claims that have leaked since January, and the punishments dropped, it’s not enough.

Robert Kraft and the Patriots are not a mom and pop shop being pushed out by the big guy. They have the resources to fight. If they feel they’ve done nothing wrong, they have the ability to fight like hell to prove it. It may not play well with the other owners, which is why Kraft demonstrated today that he cares more about appeasing them at all costs. Maybe that’s the lesson we learned today: Kraft’s loyalty isn’t to his fans or to his players’ reputations, but rather, to the commissioner and 31 other owners, a collective that has been twisting the knife in his back for months.

Tom Brady, Tim Robbins, and the Overblown Cover Up

It’s tough not to think about Tim Robbins when I hear Deflategate commenters preach, “The cover up is worse than the crime.”

That’s been the refrain since the Wells Report came out on Wednesday. Those taking issue with Tom Brady are focusing on his behavior since the AFC Championship Game, specifically in his press conference that week. Critics feel that Brady being guilty of intentional deflation is no longer the issue, but rather, Brady allegedly lying about his involvement. The cover up, this is now the issue.

These people are wrong. The issue is, and has always been, the insanity of the story itself and the looming capital punishment for a minor crime.

For the anti-Brady zealots, the words “cover up” are buzzy and make a convenient yet out-of-context case. The cover up was necessary because the crime, which Brady very likely committed, was about to be wildly over-prosecuted.

Anyone currently claiming “Brady should have owned up to it in January” is either forgetting or ignoring that, at the time, the slightest admission of any guilt at all could have meant a suspension from the Super Bowl. For doing something that carries a $25,000 fine. We’re hearing talk of this “cover up” like there was actually a one-week grace period for Brady to come clean with minimal to no repercussion. There was not. Rather, there was rampant suspicion that Brady would be suspended for the Super Bowl if he copped to even a miniscule infraction.

Brady Presser

Let’s say you get a speeding ticket. You were nabbed going 60 in a 55, something everyone does, only the cops chose you because let’s say you’re the best looking guy in town with the best looking wife. It stinks, but you know this is a common, minor offense and you’ll get a $100 ticket.

Except, everyone you know, from lawyer to layman, opines that if you decide to plead guilty, the fine will be $100,000 and you’ll go to jail. When you thought the fine would be $100, you were planning on paying. Now? You’d fight it like hell and lie your ass off to avoid a ludicrous penalty.

There’s no perfect analogy, but I think that one’s close. If Brady covered something up, it’s because he was facing unfair prosecution. Maybe he did cover it up for the hell of it, acting with nefarious intent. Self-awareness was likely the prevailing sentiment, though. He knows who he is, how people live to hate him (yes, that’s live, not love). He knew that an admission in the form of “Everyone else does the same thing and likes the ball as underinflated as possible,” would have given the wolves the ammo they assume they got in the Wells Report.

When will the slippery slope of Brady opinions taper off? In January it was all about the crime. Now it’s all about the cover up, as if the crime was never a big deal to begin with. Soon enough, it will be about something else, and the cover up will be remembered as differently as that final week in January.

* * *

The Tim Robbins thoughts stem from another story about a corrupt investigation surrounding the Boston area: Mystic River. One of the underappreciated movies this century, it features Sean Penn’s Jimmy Markum accusing Robbins’s Dave Boyle of killing Jimmy’s daughter, when both men know deep down that Dave is innocent. Jimmy wants blood from someone, though, and tells Dave, “Admit what you did, and I’ll let you live.”

Spoiler alert: Dave, broken and out of options, gives a forced confession, hoping Jimmy will let him live. Jimmy does not.

The Jimmys of the world can bemoan the cover up all they want, but without it, Brady’s Super Bowl prospects may have been dumped in the Mystic with Dave Boyle.

Deflategate Wait Almost Over?

In any argument, but especially arguments involving sports, the third party who reinforces your point is praised as a genius and elevated to demigod. The third party who disagrees, or, heaven forbid, uses facts to refute your case, is dismissed as a bunko artist who probably never played a sport in his life.

Never before has this mentality crept in so wholeheartedly as we await what will be called, if we can glean anything from last year’s bullying novella, the Report to the National Football League Concerning…Deflated Footballs in the 2014-2015 AFC Championship Game. The ellipses being an editor’s note, of course, to highlight the absurdity of this year’s Wells Report (opposed to last year’s, as it’s becoming an annual tradition for the NFL, one still more sensible than the Pro Bowl).

As Monday marked the 100-day point in the investigation, Roger Goodell recently said the report should be ready “soon”. Thanks Rog, no time like the present.

Besides the fact that it’s taken forever, the NFL has good reason to release it now. The draft is behind us, meaning picks weren’t docked and, more importantly, people can’t moan about who did or didn’t have picks docked. Until next year’s draft, at least.

Goodell Face

As a Patriots fan, I’m in the camp hoping the Colts and somehow the Ravens are guilty of conspiracy, with help from Mike Kensil and other league stooges. While a long shot, a variation of that scenario isn’t any further fetched than the alleged air-altering by the Patriots.

In regards to the opening premise…

If the Wells Report finds the Patriots innocent of wrongdoing, it’s a thorough report that was money well spent. The league will have done its due diligence and finally gotten something right. It was a witch-hunt all along, fueled by paranoia, irrational hatred, and page views. Bravo, Goodell and Wells. On the other hand…

If it finds the Patriots guilty of tampering with footballs, then the fix is in and the NFL tampered with the Wells Report. Goodell knew there was nothing on Belichick, and when the Super Bowl week leaks couldn’t shake anyone down, he told Wells to plant some evidence, fabricate some interviews—whatever it takes. The Patriots never stood a chance.

Other fan bases will feel the exact opposite. The Patriots skating equates to Goodell writing an apologetic love letter to Bob Kraft, while nailing the Patriots will validate every fan who’s ever hated Bill Belichick and Tom Brady because their teams don’t employ them.

The most fun outcome, in the sense that faux outrage would hit an all time high, is seemingly the most likely outcome. The report claims the footballs were illegally underinflated, yet there’s no hard evidence that the Patriots tampered with them. You’ll have Patriots fans accusing the league of being lazy and arriving at a generic ruling that covers up some deeper, nefarious plot against Brady and Belichick. You’ll have 31 other fan bases saying the league has evidence against New England but couldn’t use it because they won the Super Bowl and well, that wouldn’t look so hot.

Deflategate is on the short list of the most outrageous and memorable sports stories of our lifetimes, if not of all time. The timeline. The hysteria. The leaks. The national nightly news. The Super Bowl (which ended up on the short list of greatest football games ever played)

When the Wells Report finally does come down, the nation will instantly revert to the pack of wild hyenas we all morphed into for two weeks this past winter. If the end really is nigh, we’re ready to froth all over again.

Red Sox Ramblings on Opening Day 2015

It’s fitting that the first legitimately nice day of the year in New York, the kind of day with a high in the mid-60s where those without jackets won’t get funny looks, also happens to be MLB Opening Day.

We’re still waiting on MLB to nix the opening Sunday night game so we can have an honest to goodness Opening Day featuring all 30 teams. Then again, seeing overconfident Cubs fans knocked down a few pegs while being introduced to the real Jon Lester was worth the pageantry. At least Northsiders will have Kris Bryant’s extra year of service time to cling to when Lester is laboring through four inning starts in 2020.

Here in Gotham, the popular debate is, for the first time in 15 years, can the Mets register a better record than the Yankees? The irony of it all is that when the Mets did outperform the Yankees over the 2000 season…the Yankees beat them in the World Series. Pretty handily, too. It says here the Mets finish above .500 for the first time in Citi Field’s history. The Yankees are tougher to predict because while the roster ain’t what it used to be, Joe Girardi might be a miracle worker. Seriously, how can anyone confidently predict a win total for a team starting Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez, and Stephen Drew?

Both the AL East and Central could feasibly be won by four different teams (sorry Rays and Twins). Last year nobody picked the Orioles to win the AL East outside a few pundits and probably Buck Showalter’s family, and they won 96 games and swept the heavily favored Tigers in the ALDS.

The Blue Jays should be better, an annual phrase that’s become more premonition than prediction. The Rays still have a strong rotation but won’t outslug anyone and will dearly miss their old Svengali of a manager.

David Ortiz,  Dustin Pedroia

Yes, the AL East foreplay is all leading up to the Red Sox and what the hell to make of a team that went from worst to first to worst.

Rational Red Sox thoughts don’t exist, so here go a few ramblings to break down what we’re about to go through over the next six months…

–Pace of play is a hot topic amongst MLB circles, and passed through New England’s orbit in the form of David Ortiz saying he won’t change his routines, fines and suspensions be damned. To Sox fans hoping the rules shorten games this year, keep dreaming. And I mean that somewhat literally, because this season’s games will last so long you’ll be well past REM sleep by the 7th inning.

The reasons are, simply, that the Red Sox offense will score a lot of runs and their pitching staff will yield almost as many. The offense will be dynamic, and that’s before guys like Rusney and Swihart come up. The pitching staff and bullpen will be mediocre. More runs, plus more pitching changes, equals longer games.

–Something about the Hanley and Panda signings never sat well. It’s tough to figure if it’s a dislike of both entirely, or just partial dislike that combines to make the synchronous signings blend together and become a day the Sox may have seriously stepped in it. It’s an odd pair, too. The ripped guy who looks like he’s auditioning for the next Expendables movie is somehow always hurt, though he’s dominant when healthy. The fat guy who looks like he’s auditioning for a reboot of Tommy Boy (with Sox hitting coach Chili Davis in the Brian Dennehy role) is usually healthy, but never close to dominant.

–Speaking of Sandoval, he shouldn’t be fat-shamed. However, if his numbers continue to decline, he should be OPS-shamed.

–Again, the offense will be great. But what if Hanley’s hurt? Oh, they have Village Market favorite Daniel Nava and his .380 OBP ready to go. Or Allen Craig, apparently reborn this spring. What if Victorino is hurt? Oh, they have $70 million man Rusney Castillo chomping at the bit. Infield depth isn’t as strong, but where as Brock Holt played 10 positions and over 100 games last year, he’ll be lucky to see half that action this season. 850 runs looks like a safe bet, with the outside chance to hit 900.

–Something tells me Matt Barnes could be closing by May. It’d require Koji to remain on the shelf and Mujica to implode. There’s no telling when Koji will feel better, but it isn’t hard to envision Mujica losing the job. Barnes closing games at some point this season can serve as a “bold prediction” if you really want one.

–Can’t see any way Rick Porcello isn’t the best starter on the team. Buchholz has the highest ceiling, sure. Masterson may bounce back. Kelly throws hard. And Miley, um, works quickly. Coming off his best season at age 25, Porcello’s in his prime and playing for a contract. Not so bold prediction: He has a big year (15 wins, sub 3.50, 120 ERA+) and gets a big contract from someone other than Boston. He’s young, but has been throwing 160+ innings since age 20. Durability is one thing, but the potential to flame out by age 30 is another. Sox fans will thank Porcello for a great year and then get in line for their Brian Johnson t-shirt jerseys.

–It’s been a long time since the Sox have been a sure thing, for better or worse. 2010 was the “bridge year” where they actually won 89 games in a loaded division, outperforming expectations. 2011 was the “best team ever” that submitted a choke job for the ages down the stretch. 2012 was about redemption for the chicken and beer boys, not to mention guys like Crawford and Gonzalez. That went to hell before Cinco de Mayo and the Sox won fewer than 70 games. Nobody bought the 2013 redemption story on the heels of Bobby V and 2012, so of course Boston went out and won 97 games, not to mention the World Series. Assumed to be the divisional favorite in 2014, they finished last.

The past five years of Red Sox results should be enough to temper all preseason thoughts. They have good hitting and bad pitching, only no one truly knows which is going to mask the other. They could win anywhere between 75 and 95 games and no one would blink. By that logic, 85 is the likeliest number, but I’m feeling optimistic, so let’s say 88.

–It’s baseball season, people. Let’s all agree to ignore low ratings and long games and try to enjoy the weird, wacky game for all it’s worth.

Bruins ’15 Season Eerily Resembles Red Sox ’14

While following the 2014-2015 Bruins season, this familiar feeling keeps gnawing at me. More than the incessant frustration and anxiety is the sense of déjà vu.

It’s becoming clearer after each game that the 2015 Bruins are morphing into…the 2014 Red Sox. Sure, the Bruins are still likely to slip into the playoffs, and like MLB, the NHL playoffs are a crapshoot where wild card teams reach the finals with some frequency. Hope for Bruins fans certainly resides in those truths, but that’s about it. With the aforementioned playoff caveat, consider the similarities…

–Both had the best record in the league the previous season

–The slightest win streak, be it even just two games, spurs a slew of “They’re starting to turn it around!” stories in the Boston media

–Both are broadcast on NESN and feature a color analyst with a thick Boston accent (if we’re scoring at home, Brickley’s accent > Remy’s accent)

–The trade deadline has become the only thing fans and media can look forward to, with both teams facing identical crises of “Do we buy and try to salvage a season that probably isn’t worth salvaging or do we sell and build for next year even though we have a core that should be competing this year?”

–Trade deadline addendum: brief, post-All Star break hot streaks quickly shifted everyone into “buy!” mode before the team quickly crashed down to earth

–Among the top three batters from the previous year (Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia) and the top line from the previous year (Jarome Iginla, David Krejci, Milan Lucic), one in each group moved on in free agency while the two remnants in each group have been the season-killing combination of injured and unproductive

Easy to smile when you make $6+ million to coast

Easy to smile when you make about $6 million to coast through the season

–Both have head coaches who appear brilliant when things are working but seem overwhelmed when things go awry

–A year after getting offensive contributions from all over the roster while leading their conference in scoring, both offenses floundered

–Youngsters brought up to replace key players haven’t worked out. Jackie Bradley Jr. couldn’t replace Ellsbury. Seth Griffith and David Pastrnak aren’t replacing Iginla. Xander Bogaerts somehow couldn’t adequately replace Stephen Drew, who was even briefly re-signed to replace himself until he proved to be worse than Bogaerts. Bobby Robins and Craig Cunningham haven’t replaced Shawn Thornton (in defense of some, Pastrnak and Cunningham are passable and have NHL futures, while Bogaerts retains much of his potential going forward)

While the Bruins won’t be conducting a fire sale like their Fenway familiars, the season is hanging on by a thread. In 2011, the northwest road trip turned the season around and sprung them on a championship run. In 2015? They opened the trip by making the Hanson Brothers look good in a 5-2 loss to the Canucks, who remain a must-see opponent for Bruins fans even though their feud of four years ago has dimmed considerably. The second game of the trip saw Boston blow a 3-0 lead and lose in overtime to Calgary. It’s the ugly truth, but what the 2015 Bruins do best is find creative and varied ways to lose.

Yet, unlike the Red Sox at this point of their season, there are still reasons to watch until the end that have nothing to do with Derek Jeter’s final game. It’s possible that players like Krejci and Lucic are going through the motions until the playoffs start. Ditto for Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, and, gulp, Tuukka Rask.

Above all, though, is the openness of the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs began today, the second wild card Bruins would draw the top-seeded Canadiens, who, to steal a line from a special adviser to the 2014 Red Sox, are the Bruins’ daddy.

Against any other potential opponent, though, I wouldn’t feel too horribly about Boston’s chances. The Bruins have, for the most part, had the Rangers’ number over the past few years. The Lightning and Islanders, while talented, are unproven. The Penguins are dangerous, as always, but would you bet your life on Marc-Andre Fleury outdueling Rask in the playoffs?

Heading into tonight’s game in Edmonton, the Bruins sit just two points ahead of Florida for the final playoff spot. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and rumors abound that Cam Neely isn’t pleased with his team.

The Bruins, from ownership down to the players, have a fascinating two weeks ahead of themselves where they can forge ahead and make a genuine playoff push, or join their Boston brethren from last summer and wilt into irrelevance amidst a lost season that simply shouldn’t have been.

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