Patriots

Damn you, Truck Day

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Damn you, Truck Day

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Writing about the Red Sox on Truck Day feels a little dirty.

In fact, even typing the words Truck Day! has me gagging like Ace Ventura after Einhorn turned out to be Finkle. I need a shower, and a hell of a lot of gum (for my, um, fingers?).

But talking about Truck Day in a column like this doesnt only hurt my own well-being, it also affects the future of our fair city. To recognize Sox ownerships made-up celebration of all things equipment is to encourage those who dont need it.

Its like if you got an e-mail from a friend saying:

Hey, just checking in to let you know Ive given myself a new nickname. I will now be called The Gun Show. Thanks, and Ill see you this weekend! The Gun Show

Are you ever going to call this guy The Gun Show? Of course not. If you did, youd just be fueling his ridiculous fire and increasing the likelihood that he takes this, and other annoying ideas, to an even less bearable level.

Likewise, every time we mention made-up Truck Day, were lining ourselves up for more cruel and over-glamorized guck. Talk it up enough and the next thing you know NESN green lights a weekly reality show where different trucking companies vie for Larry Lucchinos love. The Sox throw a black-tie banquet (hosted by the RemDawg!) to celebrate the signing of the trucking lease. Wally gets his Class A license and drives the damn thing himself. This is already ridiculous, and it will only get worse. Especially when you consider that all those trucks even do is drive straight to Logan and unload everything onto the freight of a 747.

(OK, not true. But that would be hilarious.)

So, anyway, let me just try and nullify my previous Truck Day references by saying that this: Truck Day is a joke. And not even a funny one. Imagine Margaret Cho saying Truck Day. Yes, that bad.

But let me also say this: Im still going to write about the Red Sox. Not because it was Truck Day, but because it was Tuesday; because in 2011, you dont need a sappy excuse to write or get excited about this team. After an offseason like that, sometimes you just do it.

Its been a while since weve felt that. Since weve counted down the days to spring training with this kind of over-riding optimism and excitement.

In fact, Im not sure theres ever been a wpring training that matches 2011 on that optimismexcitement combo scale.

If there was one it would have to be post-2004, right? Because any year prior (regardless of how good we tried to convince ourselves things were) was somewhat jaded by the shadow of Babe Ruths ass.

And if you take a look at the post-curse years:

Heading into Spring Training 2005, everyone was still riding high, but the departure of Pedro (especially) and to a lesser extent Derek Lowe, Orlando Cabrera and Cesar Crespo served as turds in an otherwise delicious punch bowl.

It cant be 2006, after the early playoff exit and our own personal Jesus signing a deal with the Devil.

In the winter of 2007, Dice-K offered a special brand of never-before-seen excitement and positivity, but that was off-set by the more than 100 million invested in J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo.

In 2008? Yeah, maybe that winter comes close to rivaling this one. But Boston was far more spoiled back then. The Sox had just won. The new Big Three was up and running. The Pats lost only one little game all season (yikes). There was excitement heading into the 2008 season, but there was so much other wild success that it didnt carry the same weight.

And neither did either of the last two winters. Not unless you have a forbidden fetish for guys named Ramon Ramirez. (They acquired two of them.)

But this year?

This is it. This is the top of the mountain.

As soon as Opening Day hits and the real drama of 162-plus starts to play out, all that changes. As the season begins, new storylines and unfortunate injuries (Oh dont worry about Jacoby, its just a bruised rib Everyone, April 10) start to unfold, and jade us, well adjust accordingly. But for now: What is there to complain about? What is there to keep you from unconditionally believing in this team? (If you said, Truck Day, you win.) Not the bats. Not the defense. Not the speed. Not personalities.

You can worry about the starting pitching, but take solace in the fact that theyve got one of, if not, the deepest staff in the league. You can worry about Papelbon but also conveniently remind yourself that the Sox have TWO other closers in the bullpen. You can worry about J.D. Drew but . . . OK, you got me there. But the point is that right now, the overall excitement and optimism have never been higher. Not that the expectations change much from year to year, but this time it just feels more attainable. Right from the start. The Sox are for real again. And, even better, as the team made its offseason killings (did I mention they grabbed two pretty decent free agents?), their two fiercest rivals were simultaneously wounded. When it came to free agency, the Rays and Yankees flopped like Manu Ginobili in the lane.

The Rays biggest moves were bringing in two elderly gentlemen (one man, one martian) who used to play in Boston, and trading or parting ways with a good deal of other talent. After three years of playing very competitive baseball, the Rays are on the way out. Trying to talk their fans into Johnny Damon the older, but skilled outfielder who still has some left in the tank the same way Theo did with Mike Cameron. Rays fans would be a little more frightened by that analogy if Rays fans existed.

And the Yankees? They look even worse because at least Tampa was resigned to having a somewhat somber offseason. The Yankees went after it. The Yankees pulled out all the stopsand lost. Now, theyre in greater limbo than any point since the start of the dynasty. Now they spend the off-season trying to talk fans into Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon the same way Theo did with John Smoltz and . . . Bartolo Colon. And Sox fans are just left to sit back and smile.

Not because a bunch of 18-wheelers are currently crawling down 95 South, but because this was the offseason Boston's been waiting for. The one that you can't help but think will be responsible for the Sox next trip to the Series.

Assuming you can get there by truck.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

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Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE