Sports Sunday Roundup

JoJo White in his prime.

In the spirit of those Boston Globe columnists who would fill a hole in the paper with a Just Thinkin’ piece, here are some thoughts about local sports.

One of the best Boston sports days is Patriots Day with the Marathon and Red Sox as a doubleheader. Runners and those who appreciate running should follow Bob Hodge on Facebook, where he is posting great accounts of his running experiences including a recent post about a third-place finish in the Marathon (1979) that has to rank as one of the great achievements by athletes with a Lowell “L” in their background. Local legend Bill Rodgers won that year. Bob is a contributing writer to this blog also, we are happy to say. He’s got a piece in the big fat blog book covering the first ten years of rh.com, “History As It Happens,” available at your favorite online book source, whether loompress.com or amazon.com (publishing davids-and-goliaths in their respective lanes).

Are the baseball gods putting their thumbs on the Red Sox scale this month or what? I can’t recall a weaker start to a season but I haven’t checked the data. The ugly opening weeks of April seem worse because of the high-test performances last fall leading to another World Series banner. Take away Mitch Moreland and where would the Carmine Hose be now? The entire A.L. East, however, except for the Rays, looks bad. The Sox seem to be in spring training mode for an extra month.

The Bruins cleaned up the Maple Leafs last night in Boston, but some part of my French-Canadian gene string makes me feel badly for Toronto fans who have endured the drought of droughts. No Stanley Cup there since 1967 reports Dan S. in today’s Globe, and no Canadian franchise has won the Cup since 1993 (Montreal). Hockey is life up there, or used to be. The national game. How good-natured can a sports community be? The Chicago Cubs and Boston waited a long time in baseball, of course. I feel slightly less sorry for the Leafs and Habs because of the FC players like Bergeron and Marchand (familiar Greater Lowell Franco names) who wear the black-and-gold. Every time I catch the Canadiens on a TV game, there’s another Russian playing for them.

I’m not following the Celtics, so I can’t say much on this topic. I drifted away years ago. JoJo White absolutely flowed on the parquet when I was last paying attention. I never mastered dribbling so high school basketball was a non-starter for me. Run-and-bounce the ball at the same time for more than ten feet. Maybe I didn’t practice enough. I’m height-challenged but Dracut High had a couple of 5.7 and-a-half, possibly 5.8, players who made the starting team. The star, Brian Burgess, six feet or better, went to St Mary’s University in Nova Scotia on a scholarship and made All-Canada in basketball and football, leading to a try-out for the Philadelphia Eagles. I was impressed when I heard that he caught passes from quarterback Roman Gabriel in the try-out. In the end it didn’t work out. My basketball days and nights were driveway and back yard adventures. Neighborhood contests in which you pretended to be Cousy, Russell, Sam Jones, Bill Walton, Artis Gilmore, Walt Frazier, or Bob Lanier. These were good workouts for the imagination muscles and possible acting efforts on later stages. My friend Don Dorval from Dracut won the Johnny Most Sound-Alike Contest sponsored by WBZ-Radio in 1970. He made the finals via a live telephone call performance of the famous “Havlicek stole the ball” manic play-by-play call of Most’s, which got him to center court one Sunday afternoon at the Garden. The last of three contestants, he nearly blew a lung when his turn came. The crowd went wild, as they say. He won a boatload of gifts including season’s tickets for the next year and a ski weekend in N.H. I got to see a lot of games the following season, taking the train from Lowell.

Football? Rob G is now cheerleading for the Bruins and Sox in his free time. I was glad to see him bow out before a terrible injury knocked him into the ditch. Some games this past season he looked like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz clanking downfield to catch a pass. He went out big-time, however, with the super grab in the Super Bowl. There’s nothing to say about Mr Kraft that would be helpful to him, so I’ll just shut up on that subject. Part of me wishes that TB12 had also taken the exit door with Gronk. Go out on top. He’s got small kids. He can’t possibly owe the fans one more thing. The more one reads in the news about head trauma and other cumulative damage done by blocking and tackling, one has to wonder where the NFL is going and will be ten years from now.

The soccer fans will have to wait for another reporter to post in this space, but I did get two NY Times Crossword Puzzle answers this week: Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi. I was a Lifeline for my wife. I’m not a puzzle guy.

Tennis? Too early for that. See me at Wimbledon time. Maybe the French Open.

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