Old-School Football Meets Big Ten New Blood when Wisconsin Hosts Nebraska Saturday

If Wisconsin's Russell Wilson has another game Saturday like his four preseason games, Nebraska is in big trouble. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Big Ten commissioner James Delaney couldn’t have scripted it any better: the University of Wisconsin football team is ranked seventh in the country, and the University of Nebraska is ranked eighth. And the two will kick off their Big Ten seasons Saturday night in primetime on ABC. The Badgers have their sights set on another Rose Bowl or even a national championship, but the Cornhuskers want to send a strong message that not only do they belong in the Big Ten, they belong at the top.

Continue reading Old-School Football Meets Big Ten New Blood when Wisconsin Hosts Nebraska Saturday

MLB Playoff Predictions: Divisional Series Pitching Matchups

After a final two weeks of baseball so wild and crazy Nickelodeon would want to make a game show out of it, we’re finally down to eight teams. Structurally flawed teams like the Red Sox and Braves petered out, while teams built around strong starting pitching and consistent offense have survived. Starting Friday, four best-of-five divisional series will begin. On the line: the chance for an AL or NL pennant. Who’s moving on and who’s moving home? Here’s my take (home-field team first).

New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

Justin Verlander will win the Cy Young and has won the AL’s pitching triple crown, but he won’t be starting at home: he’ll be starting at Yankee Stadium, where he’s 0-2 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts. Verlander’s never really dominated the Yankees. CC Sabathia, meanwhile, will make both his starts at home, where he’s 26-7. Sabathia beats Verlander in Game 1 in front of a fired-up Yankees stadium.

Sabathia will start Game 4 on short rest while Verlander would start Game 5 on regular rest. Sabathia can probably beat Rick Porcello – a B+ pitcher (14-9, 4.75 ERA) at best – in Game 4. The Yankees are a statistically stronger and much faster lineup (almost 100 more stolen bases than the Tigers). Combined with the better bullpen, the Yankees have the edge in close games.

With the Yankees’ three-man rotation, rookie Ivan Nova will have to pitch twice, including once on the road. Nova has proven he’s the real deal this season, but there’s no way Verlander loses twice. Which means that to beat the Yankees, the Tigers need Doug Fister (11-13, 2.58 ERA) to beat Nova in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. I don’t see it happening. Fister has a 6.00 ERA against the Yankees, and he’s never won at Yankee Stadium.

Max Scherzer could very easily beat slow-throwing, 34-year old Freddy Garcia in Game 3 at Comerica Park, but it’s won’t be enough. Verlander might be the best pitcher in the majors, but the Yankees’ rotation runs much deeper. Prediction: Yankees in 4.

Continue reading MLB Playoff Predictions: Divisional Series Pitching Matchups

Audio Slideshow: Central Park Lanes

Check out the linked audio slideshow to learn all about Central Park Lanes of East Boston!

As an alternative to text, check out this audio slideshow I did on Central Park Lanes in East Boston – a candlepin bowling alley that’s been around since 1950!

And if you liked that one, here’s one I did on the Red Sox way back in the spring using the same software. Fair warning: not many of these fans’ predictions worked out.

Patriots Report Card: Week 3

It doesn't happen often, but Brady's four interceptions Sunday against the Bills cost the Patriots more than poor play by anyone else. (AP Photo/Derek Gee)

Welcome back to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for the New England Patriots. Well, Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills was a stinker of historic proportions. The Patriots blew a 21-point lead, Tom Brady threw four picks, Bill Belichick somehow wasted a crucial timeout in the final minute of the game, and the Patriots lost, 34-31. Here’s our take on who deserves a lot of the blame for the Patriots’ first loss to the Bills in 16 games, and who only deserves a little.

Quarterback: D+

Very rarely can we say this, but this time it’s the truth: Brady killed the Patriots Sunday. Four touchdowns and 387 passing yards are great, but every interception proved costly and could have been avoided. The first came on an ill-advised floater to a running back in the flat, killing a drive at the Buffalo 37. The resultant Buffalo field goal completed at least a six-point swing and showed the Bills they could win. The second interception – thrown into very tight coverage over the middle – ruined a great chance for the Patriots to re-seize momentum early in the third. The third – a telegraphed play that safety George Wilson read easily and undercut – ended a drive well into field goal range and led to the Bills’ tying the game. And the fourth gave the Bills the lead.

Brady’s number of games this poor can be counted on one hand, but there’s no way around his poor decision-making’s role in the Patriots loss. He put up big numbers, but he made bigger mistakes.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 3

Previewing the 2011 Bruins Forwards

Before the 2011-12 Boston Bruins’ season starts on Oct. 6 fast approaching, let’s see who might be scoring for the Bruins by looking line-by-line at the forwards.

First Line: Lucic, Krejci, Horton

Nathan Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic will return as the Bruins' first line for the 2011-12 season. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Bruins’ first line is unlikely to change after a fantastic postseason. Center David Krejci led all NHL players with 12 playoff goals and 23 points. Right winger Nathan Horton added eight goals and 17 points despite missing the final four games of the Stanley Cup with a concussion, and left winger Milan Lucic chipped in five and 12. All this came after the trio scored a combined 69 goals and 177 points in the regular season.

This line mixes fire power with a fiery attitude. Krejci provides a strong anchor, able to both pass (he led the line with 49 assists) and shoot. Horton, meanwhile, might be the best pure shooter on the team. He can attack the goal from many angles and distances, and teams have to keep a lock on him the moment he gets into those circles.

Lucic is both a shooter and a spark plug, and as an unabashed brawler, he’s become quite popular among Bruins fans. He’ll mix it up with anyone, and his size and speed make him hard to out-muscle on the ice. His agility has led to so many exciting step-around moves, and his shot-strength is such that one risks missing the play entirely by blinking whenever he shoots.

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Lincoln-Sudbury Running Backs Carve Up Somerville Defense AND Offense

(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville and Sudbury Patch)

Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School junior running back Brian Carroll rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown and added two defensive touchdowns Friday night to help the Warriors beat the Somerville Highlanders, 27-13, in a rainy Highlander home opener at Dilboy Stadium. Fellow junior running back Christopher Giorgio also scored a rushing touchdown for the Warriors.

Lincoln-Sudbury set the tone on the first play of their first possession after their defense forced a Somerville punt. Carroll went in motion in the backfield behind the 35, took the handoff from quarterback Matthew Cahill, sprinted to his right and cut back up-field. Somerville almost tackled Carroll near midfield, but Carroll cut hard to his left, eluding the last of the Highlander secondary and sprinting all 65 yards to a touchdown and a 7-0 Warrior lead.

Only an interception by Highlander sophomore James Marin on the next Warrior drive kept the deficit to one possession, but the Highlander offense struggled to establish any sustained rhythm. Junior Troy Martini rarely gained more than 2 yards per carry on the ground, and the rain-slick ball hampered quarterback Phoenix Huertas and his throwing game.

Following another punt, the Warriors went back to work on the ground. This time it was Giorgio carrying the load, first on a 24-yard rush along the near sideline to the Highlander 18, then on an 8-yard rush up the middle and into the end zone to go up 14-0.

Continue reading Lincoln-Sudbury Running Backs Carve Up Somerville Defense AND Offense

Movie Review: “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill

"Moneyball," starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill

I accompanied Starpulse.com writer Evan Crean to a Sept. 7 press screening of “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Moneyball: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game is one of my favorite sports books, and I was eager to see how a book that mixes the history of sabermetrics – baseball’s statistics-based evaluation method – with a year-in-the-life look at Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and the 2002 season would translate on the screen.

The answer: not all that well.

Why is an Aaron Sorkin-helmed Film so Slow?

“Moneyball” moves incredibly slowly, crawling through dialogue scenes. That’s especially infuriating considering the script was written by Aaron Sorkin, writer of “SportsNight,” “The West Wing,” “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “The Social Network,” among others. Sorkin’s dialogue works best when it’s quick-paced and self-referential to the point of almost being cyclical:

For some reason, every dialogue scene in “Moneyball” begins and ends with extended periods of people staring at each other. They don’t talk. They don’t communicate non-verbally. They rarely emote in any way. They just look at each other. Cutting these moments would have taken 15 minutes off a 133-minute film.

Continue reading Movie Review: “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill

Somerville Golfers Kyle Higgins and Rob Anderson Win in Losing Effort Against Medford

(written and photographed for Somerville Patch)

Somerville no. 1 golfer Kyle Higgins putts during the fourth hole of Wednesday's match against Medford at Indian Ridge Golf Club in Andover. Higgins and foursome-mate Rob Anderson both won their pairings 5-4.

Somerville High golf co-captains Kyle Higgins and Rob Anderson beat their Medford High counterparts atop the depth chart, but Medford won the other six pairings Wednesday afternoon at Indian Ridge Golf Club in Andover, winning the overall match by a total score of 52 ½ to 19 ½. Medford remains unbeaten this season, while Somerville has yet to win a match.

The match was composed of eight one-on-one pairings ranked by depth. Each pairing played nine holes, and the winner of each hole earned one point for his team. Ties resulted in a half-point for both golfers, and at the end of all eight pairings the team with the most points won.

No. 1 golfer Higgins, a senior, was tied with Medford junior Maxine Harney with 1 ½ points after three holes, but Higgins then took control, winning two holes and tying three more. Higgins beat Harney 5-4 for his first win and finished with a score of 42.

“I know how to hit the ball, that’s not my problem,” Higgins said. “It’s just when I start overthinking stuff … that’s when I mess up. If I just go up there and swing, then I know I can hit it where it needs to go.”

Anderson, a junior and the Highlanders’ No. 2 golfer, hit in the same foursome as Higgins. Unlike Higgins and his late-game surge, Anderson started quickly, winning the first three holes outright. His 3-0 lead held up against Medford junior Charlie Chouinard, and Anderson also won 5-4. He finished with a 46.

“Once I went up 3-0, I played more comfortable, because I knew I had the lead,” Anderson said. “I was just playing to protect it.” Anderson also said Chouinard played “a little rusty.”

Both Higgins and Anderson also said strong putting contributed to their victories, in Anderson’s case helping to overcome a poor driving day in which he was “just slicing a lot.”

Continue reading Somerville Golfers Kyle Higgins and Rob Anderson Win in Losing Effort Against Medford

Book Review: “Fenway Park: the Centennial” by Saul Wisnia

"Fenway Park: the Centennial," by Saul Wisnia

Saul Wisnia’s Fenway Park: the Centennial spans over 100 years of baseball in Boston, beginning with the pre-20th-century teams in the region and ending with the 2011 off-season acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Wisnia charts the entire history of the Red Sox, their team owners, their fans and their ballpark. The narrative simultaneously moves at a pace brisk enough to keep the reader from ever feeling bogged down and provides enough new information that even seasoned Red Sox historians can learn something new from it.

Wisnia also does a top-notch job balancing text with pictures that just as effectively show the changes to the team and especially Fenway Park itself over the years.

DVD Adds Nothing

At $29.99, it doesn’t seem as if the DVD, “Fenway Park: the Golden Age,” adds much to the cost. Which is good, because it adds nothing to the content. Narrated by Carlton Fisk, the hour-long documentary – oddly named, since it covers the entire Boston history – is as clunky and content-light as the book is smooth and content-balanced. Hearing Fisk and former broadcaster Curt Gowdy is neat, but all of the information (and most of the photos) are available in the book. The documentary also uses black-and-white footage for every game before the 1980s and the washed-out colors and simple graphics of 1980s T.V. for all subsequent games (including the 2004 and 2007 postseasons). The result is a sense of faux-nostalgia instead of anything real.

Quality Start to Book, but Wisnia Can’t Close it Out

The most informative chapters of the book are at the beginning. Few Red Sox fans have much of a connection with the 1903 Red Sox team – which won the first ever World Series – beyond a few names culled from the lyrics of the Dropkick Murphys’ “Tessie.” Wisnia goes in-depth into who exactly Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevey and his Royal Rooters were. His explanation begins a pattern of starting each of the nine chapters (and the prologue) with a story about a Red Sox fan at the time. Considering how passionately Red Sox fans care about Fenway – whose origins and renovations Wisnia clearly lays out – it makes perfect sense to always start with them.

Continue reading Book Review: “Fenway Park: the Centennial” by Saul Wisnia

Patriots Report Card: Week 2

Deion Branch's eight-catch, 129-yard game highlighted a terrific Week 2 performance from the Patriots receivers, who caught 28 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Welcome back to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for your New England Patriots. After a record-setting offensive explosion in Week 1, the Patriots continued their near-unstoppable passing attack Sunday, beating the Chargers 35-21. So who stood out and who hung back? Read on and find out!

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady followed his record-setting game against the Dolphins with another record-setting game against the Chargers. Throwing for 423 yards, Brady’s two-week total of 940 passing yards broke the record set earlier Sunday by the Panthers’ Cam Newton. Brady completed 77.5 percent of his passes, including converting five of the Patriots’ seven third downs. His three-touchdown, zero-interception day earned him a 135.7 rating, and he completed passes to seven different receivers.

Running Backs: B+

Three Patriots running backs combined for 91 yards and a touchdown. BenJarvus Green-Ellis‘ 16-yard score late in the game following a Chargers fumble turned what could have been a 28-28 tie into a 35-21 almost-insurmountable Patriots lead. Green-Ellis led the team with 70 yards on 17 carries, doing most of the damage in the second half. Danny Woodhead was rarely used Sunday, but ran in a matter-of-fact two-point conversion in the third to give the Patriots a 28-14 lead. Stevan Ridley got his first two NFL carries, averaging 4.5 yards per play and displaying the spinning agility that dazzled Patriots fans during preseason.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: Week 2