On dealing with the pain


On dealing with the pain

By Rich Levine

Short of winning a title, theres no good way to end a season.

It doesnt matter if youre living in a city like Boston, where success is only measurable by rolling rallies, or a place like Cleveland, where the only reason to rally is in protest of some arrogant jackass who left you in the cold.

As a fan, it doesnt matter where you live, how big you dream, or how long that dreams even a reality

When the season ends, a part of you dies.

Obviously, thats a slightly dramatic way of looking at it. Obviously, sports arent life or death. But at the same time, for most of us, they are life.

For instance, you spent roughly three hours a week for 17 weeks watching the 2010 Patriots. Thats more than two days of your life. When you werent watching them, you were reading about them, you were talking about them, you were watching other people talk about them. This is time you could spend doing any numbers of things far more important than football, but this is what you do.

If the Pats play on Sunday afternoon, you clear your schedule. If they play Sunday night, you clear your schedule. If theyre supposed to play Sunday afternoon and then get switched to Sunday night, you probably get into a fight with your wife or girlfriend because you had dinner plans and this is the fourth time footballs screwed things up this month. You invest a ridiculous amount of time, energy and money into these guys. Its not your entire life, but its a still a pretty big part.

And when the season ends, that part is gone. Or at least, it goes into hibernation. And when it wakes back up things are different. You can never replicate the feeling you had in any given season the drama, the storylines, the trust and the expectations. Just like the end of a relationship, or job, or even (although to a much lesser extent) a death in the family, you cant change what happened. But it does change you.

Obviously, this works on different scales throughout sports. The way New England feels right now isnt the same way that Cleveland did when the Browns season ended; its not even the same way Seattle feels today, after the Seahawks met the same fate as the Pats. And thats not to say those fans care about their teams any less than Patriots fans do. Among true fans, allegiance is pretty consistent across the board.

The difference is expectations.

Like anything in life, when you make the decision to devote so much into a particular season, you dont do it without perspective. You still dream, but its just as important to be realistic as it is to be optimistic. Otherwise, youre just setting yourself up for disaster, and that point why even bother. Its like if I posted this column and then went into deep depression when it didnt win a Pullitzer. Or if I proposed to Marissa Miller and became paralyzed with grief when she said No. (Or more likely, Who the hell are you and how did you get into my dressing room?). I just wouldnt do that (I don't think). And for so many other cities and fans across the country, expectations are an easy remedy for any end of season sadness.

What did we expect, theyre the Browns?

The Seahawks won a playoff game, what more could we ask for?

At the heart of it, everyones after the same thing. The only reason any fan is willing to devote a large part of his or her life to a team is for the possibility of one day celebrating a title. And when the season ends without that, that season left you unfulfilled. But at the same time, you know how elusive that title can be. You know its not something that happens all the time, and while in most cases, at one point or another, a fan can convince him or herself that, maybe, just maybe, a given season is their year, its usually only a matter of time before reality hits, perspective changes and your expectations are lowered.

That doesnt mean you care any less. It just means that for that one season, you let go of the dream and hope next year is better. Now, the prospect of the future is what keeps you watching every second, re-arranging your schedule, and arguing with your girlfriend over canceled dinner plans. You just keep finding reasons to believe.

Thats how it typically works. But obviously, theres nothing typical about the life we live as sports fans in Boston. For the past 10 years, weve ever needed an excuse to believe. Weve never needed perspective or guarded optimism, because since the moment Vinatieris kick went through in 2002, the supposedly elusive titles have always felt attainable. Every season, no matter what the sport, its like the Pulitzer committee is knocking on OUR door, or Marissa Miller is sending us flirty Facebook messages and asking US on dates. Weve grown into a city where only the largely unattainable is acceptable. With the teams weve had and the success weve experienced, weve had no choice but to release all perspective and fully expose ourselves to potential disaster.

And we keep getting hit.

In the last nine months alone, Bostons now seen a hockey team go up 3-0 in a playoff series with only one win, and a series with the eighth-seeded Canadiens standing between them and the Stanley Cup Finals.

Weve seen a basketball team up 13 points with 20 minutes to play in Game Seven of the NBA Finals, on the road against their biggest rivals.

Weve had a football team go two months without losing a game, and reach the point where they were one of five teams left vying for a title, and had beaten the other four remaining teams by a combined score 151-63 in the regular season.

In each case, despite all kinds history and logic suggesting otherwise, the team from Boston fell. And we were left to suffer. To question the players and the coaches. To question why we even care as much as we do, or if, in the end, we even should.

Why invest so much of ourselves into a team, when just like that, beyond our control, and without warning, they can turn and deliver four straight losses, or 20 minutes of bogus basketball, or one of the least inspired and strategic game plans in team playoff history?

For a while, it can really throw you for a loop. Its not life or death, but theres no question that it really does affect your life. And it makes you wonder if its all worth it. If maybe it would have been better if last years Bruins rolled over after the Matt Cooke debacle, or if the Celtics just never got it right, or if the Patriots had kept Randy Moss and finished at 10-6 and just snuck in the playoffs like last season.

Those moments are fleeting, but for a time, it really does feel like the better option. The life of a Browns or Seahawks fan doesnt seem like an awful alternative.

But then, eventually, and thankfully, a different reality sets in.

The reality that at some point, we probably will be the ones sitting back after another so-so season and saying What did we expect, theyre the Patriots? Or, The Patriots won a playoff game, what more could we ask for? Who knows when that will happen, but it will. So in the end, we know that all the pain and suffering that comes with investing completely in a team that so dramatically lets you down, is offset by the privilege of having something to invest in, in the first place. Its the knowledge that we wont always have a chance to do that. That we didnt always have the chance to do that. And that if youre not going to roll the dice during this current pocket of time in Boston sports history, and risk feeling the way you do after Sundays loss to the Jets, than you might as well as find something better to do with your life. The time is now. This is why you suffer through years of low expectations and apathetic endings. For this season, for the last 10 seasons, and for the next three or four seasons, at least, it has to be worth it.

Of course, that does absolutely nothing to ease all the anger and frustration that exists today and will exist every day until the Super Bowl is over and football goes away for a few months.

But in the meantime, maybe the idea can serve as a temporary diversion from the misery. And maybe a reason to be thankful.

OK, break's over. How the hell did they let that happen?

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

Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries


Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.


Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. [He] certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation. 

Brady to mom Galynn in middle of 2016 season: 'You'll be ready for the Super Bowl'


Brady to mom Galynn in middle of 2016 season: 'You'll be ready for the Super Bowl'

She hadn't been able to get to a game all season, but Tom Brady had a feeling that his mom would be well enough to make it to the last one. 

"He said, 'You'll be ready for the Super Bowl,' " Tom Brady Sr. told NFL Network's Andrea Kremer. "He told us that in the middle of the season. At the end of her five months was going to be two weeks before the Super Bowl."


Brady's mom, Galynn, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2016 and was undergoing chemotherapy throughout that season. As she focused on her treatments (which were scheduled for Thursday mornings), Galynn and Tom Sr. spent Sundays watching their son's games from afar. 

"Everything centered around 10 o'clock on Thursday morning," Tom Sr. said, "and then 10 o'clock on Sunday morning when we focused on the football games."

The Patriots continued to win, and the end of their season continued to be pushed back, making it possible for Galynn and Tom Sr. to attend their son's seventh Super Bowl. She was cleared for travel by her doctors on the day before the family's scheduled trip to Houston.

"I just wanted to be there for Tommy, and I wanted to be there with my family," she said. "Everybody was going to the Super Bowl, and I didn't want to miss that."

Kremer's piece aired Sunday on NFL Network's NFL GameDay Morning, as the league and the American Cancer Society work together this month on their Crucial Catch campaign. It's online now at