Recent Comments by Howard_T

The 13th Annual chicobangs Memorial SpoFi CFL Pick 'Em

I have to get these in tonight. I'm going in for minor surgery tomorrow (sebaceous cyst on the back of my neck), and I will likely be off line for a day or 2. Here are the picks:

Alouettes are a bit further along in the rebuilding process than is Saskatchewan. Montreal by 7

Stampeders will be very good, but they will need a game or 2 to hit their stride. Redblacks might be the class of the East. Ottawa by 6

Eskimos have not taken a backward step, while BC has not moved forward by any great measure. Edmonton by 14

Argonauts have their house back. This might be enough to turn the whole thing around. Toronto by 6

posted by Howard_T at 10:59 PM on June 19

Celtics Trade No. 1 Pick to 76ers

Boston might be looking at another trade for the 3rd pick.

Boston is after Tatum, not Jackson. While Jackson can run the floor and give you a good inside game, he is not a good shooter. His shooting mechanics are not good, thus in order to become a decent perimeter player, his entire set of shooting mechanics would need to be torn down and rebuilt. That is likely a 3 or 4 year process. Not happening. For Boston to trade the 3rd pick it would take a bushel basket of potential lottery picks, with a top notch player thrown in. Now watch; Ainge will come up with something on the eve of draft day that shoots doen all of my theories.

posted by Howard_T at 10:24 PM on June 19

Celtics Trade No. 1 Pick to 76ers

I want to see the Sixers become relevant again.

I too want to see a rivalry in the East that is something other than a fervent wish that "we beat the Cavaliers, or at least come close, at least once per season". Having one dominant team in the conference is not really good for the NBA, nor for any of the teams in the conference. The second round of this year's East playoffs laid the foundation for a genuine intra-conference rivalry, but neither team has a shot at the NBA finals until LeBron goes west or retires. Boston and Washington seemed to develop a healthy disrespect for each other as the season wore on, and the incidents in the playoffs deepened it. The problem is that a fight between Kelly Olynyk and Kelly Oubre just doesn't live up to Philadelphia vs Boston in the 80s.

Perhaps we'll never again see something like Philly - Boston again. The way the rules are enforced now prevent anything resembling some of the stuff that went on back then. The powers that be have decided that offense will triumph, and physical defense must stand aside. Too bad. It's a lot easier to hate a team that levels one of your best players with what appears (to you, at least) to be a cheap shot. Now it's a double technical, perhaps a flagrant foul, and an admonition "Let's settle down here, boys. We have to be nice to each other now."

posted by Howard_T at 06:20 PM on June 19

Celtics Trade No. 1 Pick to 76ers

Evidently Ainge thinks that Fultz, while good enough to become a very good player in the NBA, is not going to become a so-called superstar. The whole question for Celtics fans is "what will it take for Boston to get to the finals". Consistent scoring from someone taller than 5'9" is the first, and most obvious need. Fultz would have provided this, but there are others who can do this. Both Josh Jackson (if the Lakers don't take him first) and Jayson Tatum can score from the inside, and one of these two will be available at 3. Tatum in particular is a good rebounder and a good defender. From the perimeter both are question marks. Jackson has not shown well as an outside shooter, and he was only a 56% free throw shooter at Kansas; Tatum has decent shot mechanics, which says he can develop a perimeter game. In the meantime, there is free agency, and perhaps the addition of Gordon Hayward.

The other major Celtics' need is rebounding. Perhaps Ainge can attract a lower level free agent to fill this role, but some of the talking heads (and those who use the keyboard) have mentioned an Ainge pick from last year, Ante Zizic. Zizic is a 6"10", 20-year-old Croatian who has been stashed in Europe for the past year. His latest team is in the Turkish league, and Zizic is said to be playing very well there. The reports say he has a strong work ethic, and he plays with a mean streak. He will be playing for the Celtics in the summer league, so his development will be on view.

To sum it all up, Ainge probably thinks he can find perimeter scorers with future picks, or perhaps someone on his current roster (Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown) can improve their 3-point games. Ainge is playing the "slow" game, and building through the draft until a solid foundation is in place, rather than trying to hit the jackpot with some free agent signings and trades. So far the fans have been patient, although when Jaylen Brown was selected last year there were a lot of groans and some boos in TD Garden. Brown worked out well, and much faith in Ainge was restored. We will see what happens this year.

On edit, in response to the previous comment, Lonzo Ball has the appearance of becoming a "slider". If Lakers don't take him, Celtics won't, and other teams will begin to look for something better. As a side bet, I think Ball will go no higher than 6, but I could be wrong.

posted by Howard_T at 03:10 PM on June 18

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

ESPN/ABC and Turner don't pay the NBA truckloads of money to have the TV broadcasts butt against other events. Last night was occupied by a feature baseball game on ESPN and the Stanley Cup final elimination game on NBC. Tonight's game will have no serious competition for viewers other than local MLB and network NCAA baseball. The ancient saying is, "Money talks and BS walks."

posted by Howard_T at 01:54 PM on June 12

SportsFilter NHL Playoff Pick 'Em Champion: rcade

shouldn't the top end be called the Bulger?

It's necessary to choose which Bulger you are talking about. There's Whitey, whose crimes have been well documented. There's also his brother William, who was at one time one of the most powerful politicians in the Socialist Republic of Massachusetts. He abandoned an active role in politics to become the president of the University of Massachusetts. His sins are less well documented, but to use him as an example of obtaining wealth and honors by less than legitimate means might certainly be appropriate.

posted by Howard_T at 01:42 PM on June 12

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

respect the baseball smarts

When I first began to umpire games that actually counted for something, a play like this got me into trouble. After a base on balls, the ball is not dead. There was a walk, and the coach began walking toward the foul line to talk to his pitcher, yelling at me to call time. My attention was on the coach and nothing else. I put my arms up in the dead ball signal, yelled "time is out", and looked up to see the batter-runner halfway to second. Now I have to explain to the other coach how I have screwed up, put the runner back on first, and try to get through the rest of the game without my pants falling down, or something equally atrocious. Ever since then I have been meticulous about forcing coaches to wait until the base on balls award is complete before I allow the time out.

posted by Howard_T at 11:43 AM on June 11

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Without Heimlich how will they ever pull off a squeeze play?

posted by Howard_T at 07:59 PM on June 09

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: The Finals

I mentioned that I expect the games to be reasonably close. The largest margin of victory will be 14 points.

Well, that didn't take long to explode. After watching last night's game, I believe there will be at least one more blowout. I should have been a bit more aware of Cleveland's defensive deficiencies after watching them against Boston. In that series, had Boston been able to shoot from the perimeter on a consistent basis as well as Golden State, they might well have been able to pull the upset. Cleveland is trying to run Golden State's perimeter shooters off the 3-point line, but in so doing they have left the inside wide open. If Cleveland clogs the paint, Curry and company will go wild. The adjustments by Cleveland will be interesting to see.

posted by Howard_T at 10:23 PM on June 02

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: The Finals

LeBron James did not look particularly healthy against Boston. Since Cleveland was better at every position on the floor than Boston, even with a generally sub-par series from LeBron, they won handily. Now, when I say that, I realize that LeBron led all scorers in the conference finals, was, I believe, the top rebounder, and in general did much to humble my Celtics. Golden State has players that can match up to Cleveland, position by position, so I do not expect Cavaliers to put together any blowouts, nor do I expect anything similar from Golden State. In other words, the games will be reasonably close, but I do not believe the series will be. Of course, the wild card in the whole thing is what the TV networks and the league bosses want from the series. I can see a lot of calls being made, or not made, depending on whether or ot the series needs to be prolonged. Wait, what?, are you saying that this is fixed? Well, not exactly, but there has been a tendency for calls to go in one direction depending on the situation in the series. We shall see.

On to the picks:

When the dust settles it will be Golden State emerging the winner after 5 games.

Kevin Durant is on a mission this year, and he will be the MVP.

Despite Durant's heroics, he will not be the leading scorer. Look for Curry to take this honor.

Keeping the glass clean will be more important in this series than in any of those that have preceded it this season. Draymond Green will be the leading rebounder.

I mentioned that I expect the games to be reasonably close. The largest margin of victory will be 14 points.

Either of these two teams is capable of running up a high score, but each has enough defense to hold the other down to something reasonable. A 230 point combined score is a likely result.

Three point shots are the staple of both offenses. With that in mind, even in a 5-game series, the total will be in 3 digits. The prognosticator in chief (aka our tortoise shell female cat) says there will be 127 made 3-point goals in the series. Just for fun, I think there will be 322 attempted, but there's no payoff for that.

I'm looking for this to be a very good, competitive series, and one that fans will enjoy. For me the big night is June 22, when we find out what Danny Ainge has cooked up with the first pick in the draft. I will try to be at the draft party at TD Garden, but I'm due for a minor surgery on the 20th (removal of a cyst on my neck), so I might not be able to make it. We'll see how it goes.

posted by Howard_T at 11:30 PM on May 31

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

Sometimes a bad call by an umpire against your team works out in your favor. The Boston Red Sox tied a major league record for strikeouts in one game lst night, but it took an erroneous replay decision to set it up. My take is that for the plate umpire to see a batter being hit on the foot is very difficult, since you are often blocked by the catcher. The 3rd base umpire would have the clearest view, but he is positioned close to 100 feet away, and unless it is crystal clear, he will not usually make such a ruling. Chalk this one up to MLB's error.

posted by Howard_T at 10:40 PM on May 26

Left-for-Dead Celtics Beat Cavaliers in Game 3

Wife and I are off to game 5 tonight. Will it be a death watch over an expiring team or a miraculous recovery to earn them another appointment with the Grim Reaper? My prediction in the pick-'em was Cleveland in 6. My Celtics will reward my faith and support by hanging on tonight. If not? Well, at least it's an opportunity to drink some expensive TD Garden beer, see the rest of the season ticket holder group in Section 316, and send the team off for the last time this season.

posted by Howard_T at 05:00 PM on May 25

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

For those in dire need of something to commemorate.

posted by Howard_T at 04:54 PM on May 25

Left-for-Dead Celtics Beat Cavaliers in Game 3

We were having a late supper at home (beef with snow peas, bok choy on the side) and watching the game as we ate. At the half, I decided to clear the table and do the dishes. (My wife doesn't know how good she has it.) By the time I was finished, it was a 2-point game, and wife was screaming her head off. The local talking heads are all talking up Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and a few others, but some credit has to go to the coach. The plays he drew up at the end of the game worked perfectly. Both plays were such that they put confidence in players who had either not been shooting well in the game or had not had a major role throughout the playoffs.

posted by Howard_T at 08:12 PM on May 22

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle

This guy probably showed up hoping the Cubs were playing. For the record, I have never had this happen when I was umpiring a game.

posted by Howard_T at 12:48 AM on May 21

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Third Round

It's time to make the prediction for the Eastern Conference and to take another look at the West. First, in the West, I said that Kawhi Leonard's defense would be the factor in the length of the series. Not that I will get any points for it, but Leonard goes down, Warriors go on an 18-0 run, and win a game in which they trailed by 25. No way this series is going past 5, and likely it will end in 4.

The game at TD Garden last night was all that a game 7 should be. It was close for the better part of 3 quarters, and then the Wizards' emphasis on double teaming Thomas began to leave too many holes for others (Olynyk for one) to exploit. Heavy minutes in the first half on the Washington starters was a contributing factor to their legs beginning to go late in the game. The crowd was loud and rowdy, the atmosphere was electric, and it was a great evening. Now Celtics have to face Cleveland. This one will bring a lot of people back to reality, but it won't be boring. Cleveland will win the series, but Celtics will make it interesting. Cleveland in 6, LeBron James to lead the scoring, and LeBron James to haul in the most rebounds. +1 +1

posted by Howard_T at 01:20 AM on May 17

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Third Round

I will leave the Eastern Conference predictions until I have begun to heal the very sore throat I will have on Tuesday morning. A game 7 in Boston is unlike nearly any other sporting experience. Yours truly and his son will be in Section 316, Row 5, Seats 9 and 10. It will be intense.

Warriors vs Spurs will not be the walkover it might appear. Much will depend on the health of Kawhi Leonard and his ability to defend Curry and company. The ultimate result is predictable, but the number of games and the props are not. Let's go with Golden State in 6, Leading Scorer Curry, Glass Cleaner Green. +1 +1 +1

posted by Howard_T at 11:17 PM on May 13


everyone has to play on both sides of the ball with no substitutions

This was the rule in NCAA football until 1941. As is the case in soccer, if you came out of the game, you stayed out of the game. Because of the shortage of skilled college players due to WW II (they were volunteering for military service), free substitution was allowed. The NFL followed suit in 1943. For the 1953 season the NCAA changed the rules to allow only 1 player to be substituted after each play. "General" Robert Neyland, then Tennessee head coach, hailed this as the end of "chickenshit football". This lasted until the 1964 season when unlimited substitution was once again allowed. During the era of limited substitution, the service academies were among the more successful teams. This was due to the physical conditioning required year round of the Cadets and Midshipmen, thus giving them more stamina than those who got into shape for the season and neglected conditioning otherwise.

posted by Howard_T at 12:28 AM on May 07

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

I said that I thought of it as an alert.

I might think of it as an opportunity. It reminds me of a time about 48 years ago when a group of us, wanting to get out of the heat and humidity of Subic Bay, Philippines, decided to take advantage of a long weekend and drive up to Baguio, which is in the mountains north of Manila, We played a little bit of golf at the course that was maintained by the Air Force and stayed in the guest houses at what was then Camp John Hay. In the evening it was party time, so we decided on rum and coke. The problem was that the only bottle of rum the Class 6 (liquor) store had was Bacardi 151 proof. The 4 of us finished it in one evening, and trust me, there was no golf (and damn little physical movement) the next day. I would imagine that 190 proof Bombay Sapphire might have a similar effect.

posted by Howard_T at 11:00 PM on May 05

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

I am watching the Red Sox vs Orioles game. There have been some "unpleasantries" between the two teams as a result of Manny Machado's questionable slide that injured Dustin Pedroia and the subsequent trading of batters being thrown at. It grew to the point that MLB called both clubs and warned that discipline would follow any continuation.

So tonight the Orioles' starter lost a slow curve that hit Xander Bogaerts on the hip. Immediate ejection followed, the Orioles were irate, and the Boston announcers were all over the plate umpire for not considering that there was no intent. While I agree that there was no intent, MLB put the umpire into a position where he could not use his own judgement. The problem is that if you let that one go, there is likely to be retaliation, and someone might get hurt. It's damned if you do and damned if you don't.

posted by Howard_T at 08:51 PM on May 03

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Second Round

Now that we know what tbd stands for, it's time to make the final choice. The real question is whether or not Utah can steal a game from Warriors. I think a lot of us are going to look really dumb if Utah wins the series. Golden State in 5, Curry +1

posted by Howard_T at 10:04 PM on April 30

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

Church of Seeing the Future or something?

Actually I go to the Church of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal) in New Hampshire, where I am a member of the Vestry, a Lay Eucharistic Minister, and a Verger. Our Priest in Charge for the past 31 years is retiring in another month, so there have been lots of meetings, conferences, and such while the succession is planned, and I couldn't avoid them today.The timing was such that I was able to watch the whole game on TV. As far as prognostication about the Celtics is concerned, I have watched the team since I was 11 (1952-53 season), and have paid a lot of attention to the season series between these 2 teams. Both teams play hard, on the edge of the envelope, and collisions are inevitable. I really didn't expect a flying tooth, though.

From about the halfway point in the 1st quarter, Boston started hitting on its shots. A few treys opened up the paint, and they began to get the ball down inside for some easy stuff. The defense turned it up in the 3rd quarter, and Washington just couldn't withstand it. For a good part of the 3rd quarter Celtics had Thomas, Bradley, Smart, Crowder, and Horford on the floor. That's 4 of the best defensive players in the league playing with one hot scorer. It made all the difference.

If you get the NBA channel, they will probably replay the game. It is worth sitting through.

posted by Howard_T at 09:53 PM on April 30

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em: Second Round

Let's start in the East:

I will miss my first Celtics home playoff game in 3 years tomorrow. Church stuff has me tied up. My son will use the tickets. Nonetheless, I remain faithful to the Green. Boston in 7, John Wall There will be blood. +2

Cavaliers proved themselves against a game Indiana team. The games were close, but there really was no doubt. Cleveland in 5, LeBron James +1 +1

To the West:

The class will really be evident in this series. Spurs have it. San Antonio in 6, Kawhi Leonard +2

Golden State vs TBD pick is TBD.

posted by Howard_T at 12:56 AM on April 30

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em Starts Today

Game 5 of Celtics vs Bulls. This is when the teams have begun to really hate each other. TD Garden is just about full, and the crowd is into it big time. A fun night is in store.

posted by Howard_T at 09:01 PM on April 26

ESPN laying off 100, including on-air personalities

Forgot in my comment above the NFL, NBA, and MLB networks. Who the hell needs you, ESPN.

posted by Howard_T at 08:43 PM on April 26

ESPN laying off 100, including on-air personalities

For far too long ESPN was the only game in town. That is, it was the only full-time national sports outlet on cable. First NBC and then in short order CBS and Fox started their own full-time sports networks. Well what do you know; all of a sudden there's this thing called "competition" and when that happens, your product has to get better. I think we can all agree that ESPN's product hasn't gotten a lot better of late. Add to the competition the local cable sports channels and the college conference networks like Big Ten and SEC. The market is now nearly saturated, and if you are losing customers, you need to cut expenses and improve your product. From the roster of announced cuts, product improvement seems to be about the last thing on ESPN's mind. Funny how this whole thing so closely follows the model of any area of business

posted by Howard_T at 03:47 PM on April 26

MLB *Play of the Year* is pretty much locked up by Chris Coghlan after this bit of insanity.

The umpire in me is trying to find a rule violation in this. The high school rules forbid a runner from hurdling a fielder. That was not a hurdle, since hurdling describes the action taking to jump over an obstacle by extending the front leg and trailing the back leg. The rules also demand that a runner approaching a base where a tag play is to be made either slide, give himself up, or attempt to avoid contact with the fielder. Most of us mortals think of avoiding as going from side to side. Not so for Mr. Coghlan; since he can fly, he has put a third dimension into the game.

posted by Howard_T at 12:23 AM on April 26

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

Another of Babe Ruth's records has fallen. It's probably one that most (including myself) did not know existed, yet there it was, lurking under the dust in the record books, just waiting to be broken. Andrew Benitendi went 5 for 5 against Baltimore yesterday, becoming at the age of 22 years and 291 days the youngest Red Sox player ever to have a 5-hit game. The previous record holder was Babe Ruth who was 23 years and 91 days when he set the standard. This is one of those things that make sports such a fascinating pastime. Records endure, and when they are matched or broken, the career and life of the previous record holder are recalled and, in a way, honored. The continuity and traditions are thus maintained.

posted by Howard_T at 12:15 PM on April 24

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

A college student was killed by a hammer throw at a track and field event.

I saw this report earlier. What a shame for something like this to happen, especially for someone who was really just beginning his adult life. It shows the value of unceasing attention to what is going on around you. I have often thought about someone getting clocked by a batted ball when I am on the field umpiring. Some of the fields have little or no protection for people in the bleachers along the sidelines. At the level at which I work, the kids generally don't hit the ball all that hard, but if you move up to high school varsity, played on the same field that the middle school uses, you have a real hazard. The people watching the game are often young, non-athletes (girlfriends, little sisters, moms, little brothers) who are busy chatting, working their mobile 'phones, and doing anything except pay attention to the action on the field. Maybe an accident like this will call attention to the hazards that exist for those watching or working at sporting events, and will spur those in charge of the facilities or the events to improve safety.

posted by Howard_T at 05:37 PM on April 23

Former Bull Craig Hodges on Jordan, Kaepernick, and dissent:

Nuance is rarely understood on the social media. Janice, on the other hand, is all over it. She made a friend request on Facebook to me. I turned her down.

posted by Howard_T at 08:18 PM on April 20

Aaron Hernandez found dead in prison; conviction will be voided

I wonder if any sportswriter will be tempted to give him the gauzy victim-of-his-circumstances treatment

Chad Finn in the Boston Globe did quite the opposite in a piece today. Finn makes the case that Hernandez's problems were entirely of his own making, and are not to be excused. There was one brief mention about some believing that the death of Hernandez's father when Aaron Hernandez was only 16 might have pushed him toward the edge, but Finn seems to dismiss this. I can't say that I disagree with Mr. Finn's opinion.

posted by Howard_T at 12:42 AM on April 20

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

This was called a "foul-tip" by Bucknor.

It's unclear from the video whether or not the ball was caught cleanly by the catcher or was "trapped" after hitting the dirt. If the latter, the call would have been a foul ball, not a foul tip, assuming the bat had actually contacted the ball. The difference between a foul tip and a foul ball is that the ball remains in play after a foul tip, but is dead (no more play) after a foul ball. It is obvious from the video that there was no contact between bat and ball. It it possible that Bucknor heard something that sounded like bat and ball contact, but the audio on the tape was not good. If you watch enough baseball, sooner or later you will hear what I mean by that, when on a swing and miss there is something that seems to be the sound of contact, but is something else.

I have been screaming at Bucknor's "inconsistency" behind the plate for many years. He does not do well there. In a 9 inning game, any plate umpire will miss as many as 5 or 6 pitches. It's to be expected, and players and managers will accept it, but some of the strikes he has called would not be strikes in a middle school game. In about 2 1/2 hours I will be behind the plate in a middle school game, and I really hope to do a better job than that. I limit myself to middle school because I am really too old to try to keep up with the varsity kids. I am adequate for middle school, but my performance on a varsity field, especially when it comes to moving to get into position to make a call, would be substandard. The New Hampshire Baseball Umpires Association does all of the varsity and JV high school games in the state. The members have to pass through an apprentice program before being assigned to games, Then their performance is reviewed, usually by the other umpire on the field and occasionally by an observer, and they are assigned to higher levels (i.e. larger schools) as they improve. The important consideration here is that it is the umpires' association that is responsible for quality control. The MLB umpires' union needs to adopt some sort of quality control program that includes suspension for poor performance.

I would last for about half an inning on an MLB diamond before it became apparent that I was over my head. Calling the balls and strikes , believe it or not, is not the physically most difficult part, although it takes perhaps the most skill, judgement, and concentration. High school and middle school ball use a 2-man system, and that means that both umpires will do a good bit of running in the game. That's where my problems begin, since at the age of 76 I am not as fast as I once was, and even in my prime I was not at all fast. Next time you have the opportunity to watch a major league or high minor league game, watch the umpires. Even in the 4-man system there is a lot of running involved especially with runners on base and a ball hit to the outfield. One of the umpires will go out to cover the ball, leaving a base uncovered. That means that the other umpires must adjust to be sure there is coverage in case of a play in the infield. The standard 4-man mechanics take care of this, as each umpire will understand what the others are doing and what he must do. Add to all of this the situational understanding, coverage of runners tagging up after a caught fly ball (who watches which runner), making sure bases are touched by runners, backing up the plate umpire on checked swings, not to mention the times when a ball is tipped and the catcher picks it off the ground, or a batted ball contacts the batter in the box and rolls into fair territory, looking like a fair ground ball, and the plate umpire can't see it. I cannot completely criticize Bucknor because of the many, many things an umpire must deal with on every pitch. His ability when calling balls and strikes must be considered, however.

posted by Howard_T at 01:03 PM on April 19

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em Starts Today

Isaiah Thomas playing for the Celtics despite the tragic loss of his sister Chyna. He's playing hard and has 15 at the half. TD Garden is electric, and I mean literally. They passed out wrist bands with LED lights in them. They are controlled by some remote entity, maybe the Government, and flash various colors. It was alternating red, white, and blue during the National Anthem. Quite a sight.

posted by Howard_T at 07:48 PM on April 16

Aaron Hernandez found Not Guilty of double murder

Worse news, you now have 5 more years there. Hernandez was found guilty on a weapons charge that carries a mandatory 5 in our fair Commonwealth of MA. Of course, 5 more years on top of life without parole is a bit ridiculous.

posted by Howard_T at 08:14 PM on April 15

NBA Playoff Pick 'Em Starts Today

Not your average 1 vs 8 series. This one could be an upset. Nah! Boston in 6 (concensus). Thomas. +2 +1

Have the Cavs emerged from hibernation? They have, and they are hungry. Cleveland in 5. Kyrie Irving. +1

Do I hear "Oh Canada"? Wait! There's no ice. That means Toronto has a chance. Toronto in 5. DeRozan. +1

TNT's home team vs Wizards. Atlanta might steal a couple of games, but that's all. Washington in 6 Paul Millsap. +2

Westward ho the picker.

Warriors and those from the Rose City hook up. Much as I like Portland, they have no chance. Golden State in 4 Curry. +2 +1

This one could be the wrestling championship series. San Antonio in 6. Leonard. +2 +1

One guard must be stopped, but neither will be. Which of the 2 will lack support? Houston in 7. Westbrook. +1 +1

This could be Doc's last shot at another ring. It won't be easy. Los Angeles in 7 . Hayward.

posted by Howard_T at 01:56 PM on April 15

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

Happy birthday, rcade. May you have many more, and may they all be celebrating years that have passed with happiness and prosperity.

posted by Howard_T at 12:53 PM on April 13

NBA Pick 'Em Week 25: All the Marbles Edition

Foiled again! I was umpiring on the ball field yesterday, and as a result I never looked at either my e-mail or SpoFi. Missed the Tuesday games as a result. Heading for TD Garden tonight to watch the Celtics attempt to finish as the number 1 seed in the East. Since Milwaukee is leaving Dellavedova, Antetokouompo, Snell and Middleton home to rest, things look pretty good for Boston. Now for what's left to pick:

Hawks are comfortably in 5th in the East, and have no chance at 4th. Meantime, the Pacers are struggling to stay in the playoffs, and must win or have both Chicago and Miami lose. While Atlanta might be resting some starters, I remember what a resting Hawks team did to Cleveland quite recently. Nonetheless, Indiana by 9. SLAM

Trail Blazers are not moving up or down with tonight's game, nor are the Pelicans going anywhere but to the golf course. That makes this one a tough one to predict. Blazers are at home, so I will go with that. Portland by 11. SLAM

posted by Howard_T at 04:30 PM on April 12

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

That's a balk in anybody's rule book. The pitchers right leg goes almost directly toward the plate. In order for this not to be a balk, the leg must go toward first base. We umpires are taught to use the beginning of the running lane (the double line along the last half of the first base line) as a target. That is, if the pitcher's foot lands on the home plate side of an imaginary line from the pitcher's plate to the beginning of the running lane, it's a balk.

posted by Howard_T at 01:29 PM on April 10

Team USA wins gold over Canada in the IIHF Women's World Championship

The links to the USA Today stories are coming up as "This Site Can't be Reached". It could be my browser (Chrome) or my laptop. In either case, here is an interesting sidelight about one of the lawyers who helped the women's team reach the agreement.

I heard that the women had beaten Canada in OT to win the gold. What a great outcome after so much adversity.

posted by Howard_T at 09:52 PM on April 08

National Review Takes on NFL Relocation Shakedowns

If you consider socialism to be the government controlling the economy and deciding which businesses or individuals receive money from the government, then what Nevada has done may be considered socialism. What the NFL does is anything but socialism. Rather it is a bit of a scam that promises places that will subsidize a team increased economic activity and jobs. In some cases this is true, but much depends on the team ownership to develop the businesses and activities, as well as a successful team, that generate the economic activity.

I agree with tahoemoj about Las Vegas being the last place in the USA that needs largess from the state to attract tourists. Confession on my part: When I was working and we frequently tested at the Tonopah Test Range, I usually flew into Las Vegas, stayed overnight, and drove the 200 miles to Tonopah the next day. I would reverse the process returning to NH. Las Vegas for me was not much of a tourist destination. The tables were a waste of time and money, the shows did not interest me nor fit my musical tastes, and other than the occasional beer or glass of wine, I do not drink that much. If Las Vegas had had an NFL team and any of our tests had coincided with a visit by the Patriots, I would definitely have sought a ticket. Otherwise, I have no real interest in going there, but there are a lot of fans here in New England, and elsewhere, who would go to one of their team's games in Las Vegas rather than another city

posted by Howard_T at 03:36 PM on April 05

NBA Pick 'Em Week 24: Westbrook Triple Double Edition

I posted these in the Huddle yesterday just in case I ran out of time before heading off to the Celtics vs Cleveland game tonight. The Wednesday Lenten Eucharist was brief (priest had an appointment), and something I had going on this afternoon didn't go on. I had included games from Tuesday, both of which I predicted correctly, including a SLAM, but I have deleted those. Do I get a bonus? (Is that laughter I hear?) Anyway, here are the rest of my picks for the week. Please listen carefully, options have changed.

Wednesday, April 5:

Cavaliers ride into Beantown. They have a point to prove. Despite my screaming from my balcony seat they prove it. Cleveland by 6.

Mavericks stampede to the office products corral. There they are clipped. Los Angeles Clippers by 10.

Thursday, April 6:

Second night of a back-to-back for the Celtics after a tough game against Cleveland. Cs do well in these situations. Boston by 8.

T'wolves go to Portland. This is an intriguing match up. Portland by 11.

Friday, April 7:

Hawks fly to Cleveland. Cavaliers love home cooking, and roast these birds. Cleveland by 14. SLAM

Saturday, April 8:

Doc's team hooks up with the Popovich Gang. No rest for anyone. San Antonio by 7.

Sunday, April 9:

New York is invaded by rapacious dinosaurs. The horror movie at Madison Square Garden continues. Toronto by 7.

Monday, April 10:

Washington tries out the former Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Detroit is not quite that old school. Washington by 12.

Rockets fly to the Bay Area. The water might make them fizzle. Golden State by 5.

posted by Howard_T at 03:19 PM on April 05

SportsFilter: The Monday Huddle

I didn't think the officials got many individual calls wrong. Rather, they decided to call the game tightly instead of letting them play. This favored NC's style and tended to inhibit the larger Gonzaga players. I don't believe this was done with an intent to favor either team, but the result certainly was affected. In a game of this magnitude the officials need to keep the whistles quiet.

posted by Howard_T at 02:55 PM on April 04

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

In a desperate effort to avoid having to post my picks from seat 9, row 5, section 316 of TD Garden, I will drop them here. rcade, if you would be so kind as to move them to the Pick 'em, I will appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 4:

Bucks take on the Westbrook AC in Thunder country. Are deer frightened by thunder? Oklahoma City by 8.

Timber Wolves face the Warriors. Sneaky Warriors shoot from long range to avoid fangs. Golden State by 11. SLAM

Wednesday, April 5:

Cavaliers ride into Beantown. They have a point to prove. Despite my screaming from the aforementioned seat they prove it. Cleveland by 6.

T'wolves go to Portland. This is an intriguing match up.Portland by 11.

Saturday, April 8:

Doc's team hooks up with the Popovich Gang. No rest for anyone. San Antonio by 7.

Monday, April 10:

Washington tries out the former Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Detroit is not quite that old school. Washington by 12.

Rockets fly to the Bay Area. The water might make them fizzle. Golden State by 5.

posted by Howard_T at 02:43 PM on April 04

Tony Romo heading into broadcasting with CBS

Sounds like a "cost-benefit analysis" on Romo's part. The benefits would be a continuation of a decent career on a team that is competitive (Houston or Denver for example). Negating this benefit in part is the relative unlikelihood of either team winning a championship. The cost is the continued wear and tear on his body. I don't believe money enters into the analysis. He has made a large pile already, and the analyst's job is certainly worth the high 6 or even 7 figures per year. My opinion is that it is the better choice for Romo.

posted by Howard_T at 02:08 PM on April 04

NFL team owners approve Raiders' move to Vegas

why not Huntsville or Auburn?

Huntsville is way too close to Nashville for another NFL team to gain approval for a move there. The same holds true for any place in lower Alabama with respect to New Orleans. Birmingham is a possibility, but even there one finds a potential conflict with Atlanta.

posted by Howard_T at 06:58 PM on March 30

NBA Pick 'Em Week 23: Better Not Rest Your Starters Edition

The saga continues.

Cavaliers in the Windy City. Bulls end up sucking wind. Cleveland by 13. SLAM

Rockets roar to the Northwest. There they overcome a stubborn opponent. Houston by 11.

A reversal of direction for the Rockets, but now they malfunction. Golden State by 8. SLAM

Westbrook AC vs Club Popovich. Old gray guys rule. San Antonio by 7.

The only 2 original members of the NBA to remain in the cities where they started meet. Celtics need this one. Boston by 16. SLAM

Jazz try the Texas 2 Step. They stumble. San Antonio by 10.

posted by Howard_T at 06:35 PM on March 30

NBA Pick 'Em Week 23: Better Not Rest Your Starters Edition

Why do you always wait until I am in my seat with the game about to start? No worries. I will pick tonight's game and get the rest later.

Warriors are beginning to play together, but Spurs are always tough. This one is for the lead in the West. San Antonio by 4.

posted by Howard_T at 07:42 PM on March 29

NFL team owners approve Raiders' move to Vegas

I can see some additional revenue sources for the Raiders in Las Vegas. Slots in the stadium clubs and luxury boxes come to mind. Running bets on various plays, such as next play run or pass or yards gained on next play over/under could be done in real time. Fans would have a device at their seat, log in with an account number and credit card, and use the device to enter their bets. It could generate some pretty good profits. Of course, running a Keno game would be good too. Use the Jumbo tron or whatever display to show the numbers during time outs. The possibilities are endless.

posted by Howard_T at 05:24 PM on March 28

SportsFilter: The Tuesday Huddle

Why's he wearing a watch?

Could it be one of those fitness tracker watches being worn so he can monitor his fitness metrics? Perhaps it's just a standard wrist watch, and he wants to time his performance.

posted by Howard_T at 05:16 PM on March 28

NBA Pick 'Em Week 19: J.J. Barea Will Smash Edition

Rogers, for the playoffs I suggest sticking with a simple winner and games played for the first round. Award the points for picking the series winner, with some extras for getting the number of games right. No points for picking the games but not the winner. If a series mvp is to be chosen, put in a prop for that.

Continue that format throughout the rest of the playoffs, adding props such as total points, total margin of victory and such. For the finals, I suggest making the picks for the series and doing a pick'em for each game as well. The slam option could be incorporated here.

posted by Howard_T at 11:41 AM on March 26

NBA Pick 'Em Week 19: J.J. Barea Will Smash Edition

Now to the picks. I didn't notice that Washington vs Cleveland was an early game. Rats, I missed it, but for the record I would have picked the Cavs. I checked the score and see that Wizards are leading. Interesting.

Thunder in Houston is tough to call. The hirsute AC will prevail. Houston by 9.

Portland was doing quite well, but when Evan Turner went down, it took away their bench. Still, they're playing the Lakers. Portland by 16.

Cavs to the lair of the wicked Popovitch. Spurs will hold on. San Antonio by 8.

The replacement will face the team that left town. Jazz left for a good reason. Utah by 6.

posted by Howard_T at 08:54 PM on March 25

NBA Pick 'Em Week 19: J.J. Barea Will Smash Edition

At the presser one could nearly see the steam coming out of Brad Steven's ears. He courteously but abruptly answered the 5 or 6 questions that were asked, then left in a hurry. Booker was unconscious, but the Pacers cheapened it somewhat by fouling the Celtics as if Indiana were down by 5 with less than a minute left. They were also using time outs to try to extend the game so Booker could get a few more. Still, it was an incredible effort, and Booker couldn't even go out for a beer to celebrate because he's only 20.

posted by Howard_T at 08:35 PM on March 25

NBA Pick 'Em Week 19: J.J. Barea Will Smash Edition

Going to the Celtics game tonight. Have an invitation to Coach Stevens' presser after the game.Should be fun.

Hawks at Bucks. Don't pass the buck on this. Milwaukee by 11.

All the rest later.

posted by Howard_T at 06:37 PM on March 24

Here’s Why the US Women’s National Hockey Team Is Going on Strike

Somehow the perception persists that the women's game is not as entertaining or exciting as the men's. Other than the lack of heavy contact, nothing could be further from reality. A bit slower? Perhaps, but the skill set is still there. Is hard contact really necessary for entertaining hockey? Not at all. Good skating, intelligent passing, and playmaking are the keys to an entertaining game. There are times when the contact gets in the way of a good game, at least in the NHL game. As the linked item implies, it's about more than the pay.

posted by Howard_T at 02:09 PM on March 19

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle

I watched the Cleveland vs LA Clippers game last night, and heard the TV crew go on and on at length about the absence of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving. This a week after the Golden State Warriors did the same thing at San Antonio, resting Stephan Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. In Cleveland's defense, Irving was supposedly not feeling his best and Love was having his minutes limited as he came back from his injury. Still, when one pays a pretty steep chunk of change for a seat, he expects both teams to put forth their best product. To me, resting one's stars is the equivalent to substituting the Salisbury Steak for the advertised Filet Mignon without a commensurate price reduction.

So what can be done about it? Perhaps something similar to the NFL's policy on injury lists, where players are designated as 'out' or 'questionable' if there is any doubt about their ability to play. The NFL has several days prior to a game to make such announcements, while the NBA usually has only a day or 2, and sometimes less than that. My suggestion would be that teams be forced to announce at least 12 hours before a game any players who will be rested or unable to perform due to injury. If players are not injured, but are being rested, the home team will be required to offer full refunds to any patrons who request one. If it is the visiting team that is resting players, that team will be required to reimburse the home team for its loss of ticket sales plus a percentage that will reflect the loss of concession sales. I would like to see the NBA add a healthy fine whenever a team decides to rest a star player.

Something like the above is likely to lead to the faking of injuries, but if a player is required to sit out one game after being declared able to play, this might limit such a practice. The same could hold true for reducing a player's time on the court to what amounts to a cameo appearance. As a fan who is paying some of his hard earned cash to see a game, I have the right to a decent product. My experience is that most fans who come to see the home team select the games they want to attend based on who plays for the visiting team. If I lay out 3 or 4 hundred bucks per seat to see LeBron James or Stephan Curry, I don't want to watch their substitutes.

In the last 2 seasons, the Celtics have started a policy for their season ticket members that allows us to return a certain number of tickets per season. We do not receive cash for the returns, but we can use the value returned as credit toward seat upgrades, various fan experiences, and the like. i have up to 3 hours prior to tap-off to return any game. Thus, if I know that a player I would particularly like to see is not playing, and the game has no real interest for me as a result, I can turn it back. I do not know if any other teams have such a policy, but it is a good one. It applies to season ticket members only, so something like penalties for resting players is still needed.

posted by Howard_T at 01:57 PM on March 19

NBA Pick 'Em Week 21: Emphasize the Triangle Edition

Enjoyed a good game at TD Garden last night. Watching Minnesota gave me a bit of insight into one of the picks for this week. I will probably get it wrong anyway, judging by what happened with my picks last night. Now to finish what I started last night.

Jazz to the home of the Rock and Roll Museum. While rock has some of its roots in jazz, the tempo won't fit the boys from Salt Lake City. Cleveland by 11. SLAM

The aforementioned T-Wolves travel from the snows of the Northeast to warmth of South Beach. Wolves don't do well prowling on the sand. Miami by 6.

Cavaliers try to impress at the home of the office supplies chain. Clippers have been disappointing of late, and will continue to be so. Cleveland by 9.

Pacers visit Toronto. They should spend their time at the Hockey all of Fame. Toronto by 14. SLAM

Warriors would like to cement the lead in the West, but Oklahoma might not be the place to do so. Maybe it is. Golden State by 8.

Here is a clash of the two great cities of either coast. Too bad the basketball team of one doesn't reflect any of this greatness. Los Angeles by 16. SLAM

posted by Howard_T at 05:22 PM on March 16

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

On another subject, a famous figure at many significant sporting events has been euthanized. The rumor that a noted NFL quarterback was present at the event has been proven untrue.

posted by Howard_T at 03:37 PM on March 16

SportsFilter: The Thursday Huddle

try to get an "interference" call

There are a few things that might go into an interference call. First is that if you do throw the ball at the coach, you have to hit him with it. This is not at all assured when the coach is a moving target. The next thing is that the coach had to really be in the way of a throw. If the coach were far enough to one side of the line that the throw would have to take, the umpire would not make the interference call. Last, even if all the necessary items were in place to make a correct call of interference, would the umpire make the call? Remember, interference is a judgement call, therefore, it cannot be the subject of a protest. Many umpires will not make such a call to bail out a team that has messed up a play as badly as that shown in the video.

posted by Howard_T at 03:33 PM on March 16

NBA Pick 'Em Week 21: Emphasize the Triangle Edition

On my way to Celtics vs T-Wolves. Got to make this quick.

Portland has been playing really well, but it's the Spurs in their house. San Antonio by 8.

Clippers really need to close out the regular season with a bunch of wins. Bucks are a good place to start. LA Clippers by 12. SLAM

More later.

posted by Howard_T at 06:48 PM on March 15

NBA Pick 'Em Week 20: Dirk Nowitzki 30,000 Edition

I just noticed that I omitted a pick for Golden State at San Antonio. Golden State is not playing well of late, but San Antonio is missing 4 critical pieces of their lineup. Leonard is in the concussion protocol, Parker and Dejounte Murray are hurt, and now LaMarcus Aldridge is out with cardiac arrhythmia. Can Manu Ginobli carry them all? Meanwhile, Golden State plans to rest Curry, Green, Thompson and Iguodala. Durant is still out for the Warriors. ABC must love these developments.

In the meantime, I would like to change my pick on the San Antonio vs Atlanta game on Monday. Please remove the slam and change to margin to San Antonio by 4. Thus the picks should read:

Saturday: San Antonio by 9.

Monday: San Antonio by 4.

My apologies for the extra work induced, and many thanks for your indulgence.

posted by Howard_T at 03:51 PM on March 11