Three days after a season in which the connection between the team and the city was as evident as ever, the Bruins released a video montage reliving some of the season's best moments and recognizing those who cheered them right through Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Check it out.
If their incredible Game 7 comeback against the Maple Leafs drew a parallel between the 2013 Bruins and the Scott Brosius- and Derek Jeter-led Yankees of 2001, in the way they symbolized the resilience of a region recently targeted by terrorists, then Monday night we in Boston learned what a Luis Gonzalez broken bat feels like.
It stung, badly, when Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart to deny the B's a chance to play a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals and simultaneously made champions of their Blackhawks. But that sting shouldn't diminish any appreciation Bruins fans have for a team that put everything into these playoffs. Nor should it diminish the appreciation fans throughout this area should have for everything the teams of this city have accomplished during the amazing age of sports theater they continue to enjoy.
Because nowhere in the country has it been even close to as good for even close to as long.
Yes, adding Monday to two last-minute Super Bowl losses and the forfeiture of a fourth-quarter lead in the deciding game of the NBA Finals makes it a rather excruciating way in which Boston has now lost four of its six trips to the title round of America's four major team sports since 2008 -- but think about that for a moment. Boston's teams have been among the last two standing six times in the last five and a half years. They've won two championships. They were minutes away from three more championships. And if things hadn't melted away so quickly on Monday, either of those numbers might've been added to by midnight Wednesday.
As Boston.com columnist Chad Finn wrote in his terrific summation today, "Only the habitual self-defeatists among us require or desire a list of the most painful recent defeats in Boston sports lore. They will revel in parades that will never happen and banners never to be raised."
Instead, let's revel in the opportunity. In the excitement. In the drama. In all the times over the past 11 years that sports have sent chills dancing down our spines, not only because of what was happening but because a championship was truly at stake. There are plenty of good sports towns across this country where fans can count those occurrences over that span on one finger. There are others that can count them all on one hand.
We can't even count all of ours on two.
The Bruins' run to the Cup Finals was Boston and New England's 11th visit to either the NHL, NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball championship round since the Patriots ushered in this era back in February 2002. In that time, no other area has made more than eight such appearances. And New York/New Jersey are only that close when combining those two locations based on the location of the Meadowlands -- which gives that region a pool of nine teams from which to draw. Here's a look at the most frequent finalists:
Only Boston and New York/New Jersey have been to the finals in all four sports since 2002 -- despite the fact that 13 markets nationwide have teams in each of them. And though Boston has in fact lost four of six, after winning its first five, it still has a decided edge in championships over the past 11 years. The Obnoxious Boston Fan boasted today, "11 title shots. 7 championships. Top that, anyone" -- and no city can, at least in terms of champagne bottles uncorked:
Below is also a look at the champions since 2002 in map form, with each pin representing a title (and seeming to justify any perceived East Coast bias among the media). The clustering would be even more concentrated in the Northeast on a map of titles appearances, so as much as it stings today, take a moment to observe -- and appreciate -- what the map shows. Over the past 11 years, Boston has been the most successful sports town in the United States.
And, even in defeat, the Bruins just reminded us that it still is. So enjoy it.
The past couple of days haven't been great for Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey. Wednesday night the lefty allowed the Rays three runs over two-thirds of an inning, essentially dooming the Red Sox to defeat. Then Thursday the righty gave up a ninth-inning gopher to Jhonny Peralta, allowing the Tigers to walk-off as winners and potentially costing Bailey his role as Boston's closer.
But next week will be better. With what they have planned, there's almost no way it can't be.
Monday night at Brookline's Alden Castle the two relievers will host "Sip Happens" -- an event featuring wine tastings and food pairings to heighten awareness and raise funds for the Strike 3 Foundation, which supports pediatric cancer research. Breslow is the foundation's executive director, Bailey is its director of development, and in the video above they took their passion to Tufts' Floating Hospital for Children and spread some smiles.
According to Breslow, who launched the foundation in 2008 and has since raised more than $740,000, the night will feature food and beverage stations serving cocktail-type food and drink from area restaurants and specialty dining places. There will also be a silent auction featuring more than 50 prizes, and opportunities to meet some of the Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonny Gomes, Will Middlebrooks, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, Andrew Miller, Clayton Mortensen, and others are expected to attend.
Individual tickets are available here for $250, and must be purchased by Friday (June 21). Get them here. Because what better way to react to a couple of tough outings than to uncork some wine and simply say, "Hey, Sip Happens."
He didn't remember if it was during a delay, or if the game had been rained out altogether. But Mike Timlin will never forget the phone call that came to the clubhouse in Miami, where his Cardinals were facing the Marlins back in 2001.
About a year earlier, his mom had begun to drag her right foot when she walked. She was falling, a lot, though doctors initially weren't sure why. They diagnosed it first as multiple sclerosis. Then sciatica. Then dropfoot. Then came the phone call.
It was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. And less than a year after receiving that diagnosis -- after first taking her ability to walk and to speak, while leaving her intellect and awareness painfully unaffected -- it took his mother's life.
“It took a normal course with her,” Timlin explained. “It was in her feet more than her hands early, and her legs and her feet died out quickly. Eventually it went in and she could speak hardly, and she could barely feed herself. It took the classic rout."
Even a couple years later, the right-handed reliever said he "didn't really want to relive it" -- but he found a way to honor his mother's memory in a most productive and positive fashion. Back in 2004, during his second season with the Red Sox, he joined with The Angel Fund to establish the Sharon Timlin Memorial 5K Race to Cure ALS and raise money for research being done on an affliction about which so much is still unknown.
This past weekend in Hopkinton the Timlin race was run for the 10th time, with 100 percent of the money raised going to the Cecil B. Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research at UMass-Medical -- and taking the total of its contributions well past $1 million over the course of a decade.
Timlin was on hand, of course, signing autographs with a right hand that wore one of the two World Series rings he earned during his six years in Boston, as was former Sox teammate Tim Wakefield, who has become something of a regular at the event. The initial race in 2004 featured 400 runners, but Saturday the field featured 1,800 participants, including ex-Senator Scott Brown and Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez, as well as hundreds of people who have been somehow affected by the disease and were running with a personal purpose.
They came from 12 different stages, ranging in age from 7 to 78 -- and organizers are hopeful they'll come again next year, as the race enters its second decade.
Jared Sullinger and Walter McCarty are joined at Victory Programs' ReVision Family Home by Sun Life Senior Vice President of Operations David Healy.
As the Celtics' young power forward carefully edged his brush along a stretch where the wall met the ceiling, adding a fresh coat of paint to one room in the Victory Programs' ReVision Family Home in Dorchester, he wore the same color as a lot of what he's worn since becoming a pro last June. His shirt was green.
Most days, the identifier stretching between his shoulder blades says, "Sullinger."
This recent Friday, however, it said, "Volunteer."
Both are plenty appropriate and applicable.
Jared Sullinger was born, raised, and went to college in Columbus, Ohio, and it hasn't yet been a year since the Celtics brought him to Boston by tabbing him with the 21st pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. But in that short period of time Sullinger has embraced his new home with open arms, becoming a frequent participant in the team's community forays -- and perhaps becoming a prominent public face of a franchise that may be in full-blown transition any day now.
"It means a lot to me, personally," the 21-year-old said after joining almost 100 Sun Life Financial employees, members of the Celtics' front office, and Boston Cares at the Dorchester event where the group undertook a variety of maintenance and service projects at the home that serves a stabilizing shelter for 22 homeless women who have young families or are expectant mothers.
Hall of Famer Robert Parish also made an appearance, while former Celtic Walter McCarty joined Sullinger in painting the hallways and common areas and doing some minor repairs, redecorating, and putting together some furniture. Volunteers also brought in TVs and computers, as well as planted plants and vegetables in the ReVision Urban Farm.
Just a couple weeks earlier, McCarty and Sullinger teamed up to talk to more than 1,500 Boston middle school students as the Celtics celebrated the 22nd season of their "Stay in School" initiative. A few days later, Sullinger manned the register at a Revere Taco Bell that was pledging the proceeds from sales of $1 Doritos Locos Tacos to the One Fund Boston. Then a few days after that, the forward signed autographs and hung out with the kids as the Celtics and City Year staged a carnival to celebrate the "Step Your Game Up" program.
Back surgery officially ended Sullinger's rookie season in February, though prior to that he found plenty of time to support causes including Special Olympics, the Boys and Girls Club Music Clubhouse, Read to Achieve, Rosie's Place, and Boston Children's Hospital among others, and to make numerous visits to area schools on behalf of the team. In January he also hosted his own clothing drive, asking C's fans to donate to Goodwill -- and they responded, coming from all across New England to drop off almost 11,000 pounds worth of Goodwill in less than two hours.
"I think it's big-time for them," Sullinger said of getting to meet people in and around the city, "but it's more exciting to me because I live for stuff like this."
Sullinger's community service was lauded during his days at Ohio State, and throughout those two years his coach often took advantage of every opportunity to heap praise upon the way the burly forward was raised by his parents. The go-to example to illustrate his proper upbringing has become the tale of how Jared's dad Satch, who was his high school hoops coach, benched his son for a playoff game because the sophomore Sullinger was placed on academic probation. His team lost that game, ending its season -- but Jared still remembers the lesson learned in letting down his teammates that day, and relayed that story once more while addressing the middle schoolers at Matthews Arena in May.
He has said his parents also taught him how to avoid trouble -- and Sullinger now wants to help others do the same. He may not have been through some of the same things as some of the more disadvantaged people he meets in his community appearances, but he is nevertheless familiar with their stories.
"I have a connection with a community like this," he said in Dorchester. "Where I grew up, it really wasn't healthy as far as living arrangements (for) people you see outside, so I know what type of situations people go through, and for me to get out here -- especially in Boston."
And so as much as their basketball team, Boston has become a beneficiary of Sullinger's draft day slide, when 20 times the talents of a two-time All-American were passed over because clubs had concerns about the health of his back. The Celtics ultimately decided he was a worthwhile risk, and if his first half-season is any indication, he may have enough ability to be part of their foundation on the court.
Off the court, there's even less of a question. Last winter, as the Red Sox looked to publicly move past the mess over the previous season, they frequently sent the fresh face of Will Middlebrooks to community events -- intentionally or unintentionally giving the impression that he was a major building block of their brand moving forward.
Based on the past month, it seems Sullinger is on his way to becoming that same sort of ambassador for the Celtics in their efforts to make an impact the way McCarty described earlier this month.
"It's very important," the forward said after the Victory Programs event. "As a kid I was very fortunate to have people who always were around when times wasn't so well. It's great to come out in the community and show people that you care.
"People support us in our career during the year and during the season, and we want to make sure that we're doing the same thing for them."
Not even a year since coming to Boston, that's something the Celtic wearing "Sullinger" across his back certainly seems to understand.
McCarty and Sullinger stand with Sun Life employee Viola Adami.
As Doc Rivers continues to be publicly noncommittal about his future with the Celtics, his point guard filmed a multi-part interview released by Red Bull on Monday -- wherein Rajon Rondo his relationship with his coach as strong, and said he'd rather not play for somebody else when he returns to the court after tearing his ACL in January.
Rondo, who's a pitch man for the energy drink, sat down with Sal Masekala and Brian Kamenetzky and admitted that things were rough for him as a rookie, though "each year we're growing, we're communicating better, learning each other more and more each year."
Kamenetzky then asked the all-star if he thought he was difficult to coach early in his career, to which Rondo quickly replied, "I still am." Then he clarified.
"It's not that I'm hard to coach, it's just that, you know, I may challenge what you say," Rondo said. "I know the game myself, I'm out there playing the game, so I may have saw something different from what you saw on the sideline. So I'm going to be respectful. I'm going to let the coach talk. Like I said, me and Doc talk all the time, it's just a different dialogue -- but we've built to that relationship.
"I've been fortunate playing for Doc for seven years; if I have any questions, he pretty much got all the answers. If he doesn't, he's always honest with me. I wouldn't rather play for any other coach."
In the same video, Rondo revealed that Courtney Lee is the current Celtic who does the best impersonation of Rivers -- Lee's got it right down to the walk, apparently -- and in a couple of other clips posted to RedBull.com, he gives a glimpse into a couple of his own off-court interests.
In the first clip below, he gives visual evidence of his prowess as a Connect Four player, ruthlessly dominating his two hosts by thinking "two steps ahead." Then in the second he talks about the impromptu visit he made to Dorchester's Jeremiah E. Burke High School, when he wound up doing some teaching and warming the hearts of mathletes everywhere.
There's no question that Patriots' punter Zoltan Mesko is on the short list of Boston's most interesting athletes. If a life of avoiding gunfire and then emigrating from Romania during the overthrow of a dictator isn't enough, click here or here or here to get a sense of his fun-loving and multi-faceted personality. But maybe most impressive about Mesko's makeup is his genuine enthusiasm for helping others.
And Saturday night he'll have a chance to blend it all together on behalf of a few worthy causes.
For the second straight year Mesko will host "Zolioke" at Boston's Royale Nightclub, welcoming several teammates and a variety of other local celebrities to sing songs/make fools of themselves at a karaoke event to raise funds for a trio of area hospitals. Those beneficiaries will be Hasbro Children's Hospital (in Providence, R.I.), Massachusetts General Hospital, and Boston's Children's Hospital -- which recently honored Mesko with the Champion Award it gives annually to one Boston athlete who continuously makes a difference in the lives of children.
"The patients and families I’ve visited with over the years," he said, "inspire me every day.”
Mesko is also the most recent recipient of the Ron Burton Community Service Award, which the Patriots give to one player each year for outstanding contribution to the community. A most deserving honoree, Mesko is constantly supporting his teammates' various charitable endeavors -- and Saturday night a number of them will return the favor.
This year's confirmed guests include Jerod Mayo, Stephen Gostkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Chandler Jones, Matt Light, and Tedy Bruschi, and there will almost certainly be more on a night that last year included Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the latter of whom delivered a rather, um, interesting rendition of LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem."
Those who purchase $250 VIP tickets will have the opportunity to interact with those celebrities while enjoying hors d'euvres from Del Frisco's steakhouse and free drinks from Three Olives Vodka and Samuel Adams. General admission ducats for the three-hour event are $50, and both can be purchased through TicketMaster.
After several surgeries to repair a break and infection in his forearm, and with another due soon on his back, Rob Gronkowski still plans to go under the knife this Sunday -- or, more accurately, under the buzzers, when he shaves his head in support of children fighting pediatric cancer.
The Patriots' tight end has participated in the Kid's Cancer Buzz-Off the last two years, then committed to this year's event months ago, and organizers say he'll keep that commitment this weekend despite the fact it comes just days before Gronkowski is expected to undergo a procedure to repair a herniated disk that affected him most of last season and will likely require rehab that lasts into training camp.
Joining 867 men and women who've pledged to shave off their hair as a show of solidarity with cancer patients and a means of raising money to enhance the lives of those patients and their families, Gronkowski is expected to arrive at Gillette Stadium on Sunday morning and meet with VIPs in the Putnam Club around 10 a.m. About a half-hour later he'll have his own head buzzed, and he'll do the buzzing of top sponsors and fundraisers. Then he's expected to meet with the media.
The Buzz-Off itself runs from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., with the childhood cancer fund One Mission hoping to raise $1 million for Boston Children's Hospital -- which would double the money the event has raised over its four years. Those interested in donating can sponsor a buzzee, including Gronkowski himself, or make a general donation.
They were held almost a mile apart, though two charities with ties to the local sports scene staged events on Tuesday night in Boston centered around the same goal: Helping children lives as healthily and happily as possible.
At Alex and Ani's on Newbury Street, Farrah Lester -- bride of pitcher Jon Lester -- brought together a bunch of her fellow Red Sox wives for a shopping event to benefit her husband's NVRQT initiative, which raises money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Fifteen percent of all sales made between 7 and 9 p.m. went directly to the cause, which was started by the Lesters last year, and will be hosting its second annual NVRQT Night at the House of Blues on July 29.
Farrah Lester is flanked by Amanda Bailey and Kelsey Ellsbury in the first photo below, while Hyla Ross, Lindsey Buchholz, and Kim Doubront (left to right) are in the second.
Around the same time that was going on, over at Abby Lane on Tremont Street, former Patriots' running back Kevin Faulk was holding the launch party for his new charity -- which, naturally, is titled the Kevin Faulk Foundation.
The party itself was in support of the Kevin Faulk Youth Summer Football Camp, though the charity's overarching purpose is to "to support any and all non-profit organizations and activities with a specific mission to ensure that our youth have a healthy balance between academics and athletics and are well prepared for educational and athletic experiences during their school years and beyond." Started in honor of Faulk's mother, the Foundation aims to do that by placing an emphasis on the educational mentorship of student-athletes.
Thursday night he'll be at the Red Sox game -- watching Lester pitch, incidentally -- with a couple of the party attendees who joined him in launching things on Tuesday.
With the sun shining outside, the heat engendering thoughts of summer, and the countdown to vacation having begun, these dog days of the school year can make for some distracted students. But if any little baseball fan needs a bit more motivation to stay focused, and turn that C+ into a B- over the final few weeks, the Red Sox would like to help parents provide some incentive.
The club announced this week that it will give a free ticket to any student 14 years or younger who brings a report card full of A's and B's to Fenway Park's Gate E on the day of a game in June. Tickets are good for that day's or night's contest, and the child must be accompanied by a paying adult, with a maximum of two eligible students per adult. Ticket availability is on a first-come, first-served basis, and the Sox will also honor report cards reflecting marks corresponding to A's and B's in cases where a student's school uses a different grading system.
The report card must be the student's most recent, so those who did well last term can claim tickets to the ongoing Red Sox-Rangers series, or to this weekend's set against the Angels. As an added bonus, after this Sunday's finale to that Los Angeles series, all kids 14 and under will be allowed to run the bases.
Students might also go to Fenway when the Rays are here June 18 and 19, but with many schools finishing the academic year on or around June 20 this year, those looking for another reason to finish strong can do so with an eye toward seeing the Rockies on June 25-26, or the Blue Jays on any of the four days after that (June 27-30).
It's all part of the Red Sox' "Calling All Kids" month, which features a number of other contests and opportunities. Click here to check out the details on those.