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When will it end?

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  December 31, 2007 12:14 PM

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It's now 48-5.

Since Game 4 of the ALCS, when the Red Sox were down 3-1 to the Indians, the Sawx, Pats and Celts have a combined record of 49-6. The three losses have been by one point, in OT and two points on a (totally valid) call with one-tenth of a second left in a tie game. That loss to the Detroit Pistons is the only time anyone has seen one of those three teams lose a game at home since Oct. 17.

Please do NOT take any of this for granted. In terms of being a sports fan, this is beyond sick.

Everyone has had his or her say on the Pats. The record truly does speak for itself. We've all seen them react precisely the way a special team has to act when tested. Starting with the Eagles, teams have consistently brought their A-plus games. The Eagles, Ravens, Steelers, Jets, Dolphins and Giants all played over their heads in maniacal attempts to derail the Pats. All fell short.

But the aura of invincibility is gone. If you are playing from behind in the fourth quarter, you are certifiably mortal. The Patriots certainly have moments when they look quite vulnerable defensively. We know we'd like to turn the clock back a few years on their linebackers, and we all worry every time a pass is launched in the direction of Ellis Hobbs. We wonder why there isn't more of a consistent pass rush. Eli Manning could have spent a good portion of last Saturday night's game wearing a tux.

Still, it always seems to work out. The big play, the big stop, the big something is made and the Pats hold. Is there any reason to think that won't continue to be the case in the next three games? No, there isn't.

Brady? I was one who said he was a pup from the Montana litter from the start. A fourth Super Bowl would make him Montana's postseason equal. He has a computer for a brain, a howitzer for an arm and a competitive zeal second to none. The fact that he has made himself into what he is after being the 199th player selected in an NFL draft is, and always will be, one of the great stories in American sport history. If you want to know how this became remotely possible, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you seek out a copy of Charlie Pierce's informative Brady bio, "Moving The Chains," and I would say that even if Charlie worked for the Herald and was not a friend of mine. If you care about Brady, the Pats or football in general, you must read this book.

And if you're wondering just how Coach Bill got where he is, you must also get David Halberstam's "The Education of a Coach," and I'd say that even if he also hadn't have been a friend of mine. Hey, I try to hang around with smart people; what can I say?

Homina Homina

Yeah, I'm in a Ralph Kramden mode. I'm not sure exactly what to say about the phenomenon known as the Boston Celtics.

All I can say is that I watched every bounce of the ball in the Celtics-Lakers game, even though it was quite clear it was over early in the fourth quarter. I have reached the point where I simply cannot get enough.

What is increasingly evident is that the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics are far, far from a finished product. No, Messrs. Garnett, Pierce and Allen won't be getting any better individually. But Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo get better all the time. Meanwhile, James Posey and Eddie House, two superb pick-ups on the Sammy Morris level (a notch or two below Wes Welker's), seem to be getting more and more comfortable in their roles. Scot Pollard now seems to be settling in as Doc's chosen rotation back-up center (at Big Baby's expense), and that, too bodes well, since you need that experience in the big games.

The X-factor is Tony Allen, who is still trying to figure out who he is as a player in the aftermath of rather serious knee surgery. He's still in-between. One night he's laying the ball in on a sneakaway that represents the icing on a Utah victory cake, and the next night he' s landing in a terrifyingly awkward manner after a needless dunk in LA. But let the record show that he was excellent against the Lakers, although I would not go so far as to say he was really a "point guard." But if that designation makes him feel happy, I'm more than willing to roll with it.

As I watch this team I am continually amazed at how easy they generally make it all look. That's what a very good team does, of course. Very good teams know how to play off each other. I've been fortunate enough in my time here to cover two Celtic teams that elevated basketball to an art. Both the Havlicek-Cowens-White-Silas-Nelson Celtics teams of the 70s and the Larry-Kevin-Chief-Max-Tiny-DJ teams of the 80s knew how to make life easy for everyone involved. Throw in the Russell teams, none of which I was privileged to cover, but the last six of which I was able to watch, and I had considered myself blessed to be a basketball lover living and working in Boston since 1964.

I had resigned myself to never seeing anything like those teams around here again. No one has a right to that much basketball bliss. My cup had already runneth over.

But here they are, the 2007-2008 Celtics. I still think the Pistons are the team to beat in the East, and that's fine. The point is that the Celtics have brought elegant professional basketball back to us. I cannot imagine even the most hard-head, cynical old-timer not enjoying this team. I don't know how many they'll win or how deep they'll go into the playoffs. I just know that every Celtic game is appointment viewing.

If the true essence of sport is giving fans hope and always providing them with something to look forward to, just think about January. The Patriots will be marching to the Super Bowl, even as the Celtics are putting on glorious hoop productions, night after night. Damn right it's going to be a Happy New Year.

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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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