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Vote for Rich: The Next President of Boston Sports

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Vote for Rich: The Next President of Boston Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, the day of reckoning is upon us. The day when we all, hopefully, will exercise our basic rights as Americans and vote for the leaders of our country.

Over the last few months, youve been inundated with non-stop campaigning, intense debate, editorialized social media hell and some of the most annoying television commercials this side of the NAPA Know How Guy. I know that youre ready for it all to stop. And today, mercifully, it will. Weve reached the end of the election road, my friends. And now the ball is in your court.

But before you step into the polls this afternoon and tonight, I hope youll take a moment and read what I have to say. As a candidate for President of Boston Sports, I want to make our city a better place for all fans, regardless of the color of your jersey; regardless whether you sit courtside or in the nose bleeds. I want to create an atmosphere where our teams are best suited to succeed. I want to bring Boston back from the ashes and into a new era of dominance, so we can regain our standing as the envy of every sports city in the free world.

But I can only do it with your vote.

I need you. But I promise, moving forward, you need me just as much. And I swear, that if elected to office, I will dedicate my life to raising the discourse and taking the quality of life and sports in this city to levels never seen under any previous administration.

With Tom Brady as my witness, I will do it. And I will do it all for you: The Boston sports fan.

Today, there's no more pressing issue than the in-game experience at our various stadiums and arenas. Exorbitant ticket prices and the lure of comfortable couches and superior HD TVs are reeking havoc on attendance numbers and threatening the core of an across-the-board home-courtfieldice advantage that has powered our teams over the last 100 years. But in dealing with this problem, it's important to be realistic. Instead of simply demanding lower ticket prices, we must increase the value of going to the games. We must make it more enjoyable for all parties. And there are a few easy and immediate steps that we can take to ensure that things start moving in the right direction.

First, any fan, at any game, that is seen standing up with a cell phone in his or her hand, waving to either the camera or a friend in another part of the park will be ejected and suspended for a month. Their photo will be immediately posted on the in-stadium Jumbotron with the caption "Fan's Name is an a------." I know that this language may not be suitable for all ages, but it's important that our youth understands the consequences of this kind of behavior. These are desperate times, folks.

Speaking of waving, under my administration, "the wave" will be outlawed everywhere outside Fenway Park. And within Fenway, the wave will only be permitted after the sixth inning and during games in which the Red Sox have a lead in excess of two runs. Furthermore, the wave will only be conducted in the bottom half of innings as to not screw with the concentration andor communication between the Sox pitcher and catcher.

The presence of hecklers is an essential aspect of any homefield advantage, but we can all agree that, when in the wrong hands, heckling poses a threat to the sanctity of any trip to the stadium. There is nothing worse than a bad, unfunny heckler. Under my administration, hecklers will be licensed and unionized. Wannabe hecklers will undergo strenuous training in which they'll be schooled in the finer aspects of the art. The difference between funny and annoying; between getting in the head of an opposing player and acting in a way that makes other fans want to ring your neck. Once passing the course and it's not a given that they will hecklers will be granted access to the Boston Heckler Network, a place where the best and brightest can exchange ideas in the days and hours before a big game. Licensed hecklers will be given a white sports coat emblazoned with a unique bar code that will wear to any and all events.

I previously mentioned the importance of educating our youth on the proper way to act during these games, and I can't stress enough how essential this is. The children are our future! And whether or not you have a child, it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that youth is served. On that note, if you are sitting at a game and hear a father providing bogus information to his son or daughter, it is on you to interject. If a child leaves a game under the impression that Jason Terry used to play for the Rockets or that Zdeno Chara comes from Russia, everyone in that section will be held accountable and subject to punishment.

Lastly, a few specific changes I will make to stadiums in this city.

1. An extra entrance will be added to TD Garden so that no one is forced to wait out in the cold in the moments leading up to a big Bruins or Celtics game. Not to mention, both escalators and the staircase will remain open every night. I will also open four kiosks throughout the arena that sell ONLY chicken fingers. As it is, the lines are outrageous. And let's be honest, that's all anyone is looking for.

2. An additional three Route 1 crossings will be created at Gillette Stadium. Each crossing will need no more than two police officers on site. I will also be open to "Fantasy Football Lounges" on each end of the stadium. The lounges will be equipped multiples TVs showing live broadcasts of other games, and computers where fans without proper smart phones (or phones that are out of batteries) can check in on their match-ups. There will be a two-minute limit at each computer.

3. There will be NO "E Line" trains during the hours before and after a Red Sox game.

4. All teams will be forced to show all important replays, regardless of whether a call or play resulted negatively for the home team. This is non-negotiable.

Moving on, as much as we need to improve the experience of supporting our teams in person, it's just as essential to regulate the people who cover them. The role of media here in Boston is so important to the overall pleasure and excitement of being a sports fan, and there are many ways in which it can be improved upon. Now, I realize the need for free speech, and I don't want to infringe on anyone's rights. But there are important, brave steps that need to be made. And I am the man to make them. Here's where I'd start:

First and foremost, there's no place for backwards thinking in this city. Not politically that's in the eye of the beholderear of the listener but socially. Bigotry will NOT be tolerated. On that note, one of my first acts of president will be to run a New England-wide pledge drive of which I will donate a significant amount of my own money to buy Dennis and Callahan out of the rest of their contract. If WEEI is inclined, they will be allowed to transform the show into a weekly podcast, but only grant access to listeners over the age of 55. (That shouldn't be a problem).

Also, anytime that Tony Massarotti makes the same point more than three times in the same breath, his mic will be shut off for a minute. For instance, "You know, Mike, I was looking it up this morning and the Patriots secondary just SUCKS! Really, when you look at all the numbers, it's really just a sucky secondary. And to be completely honest, the more I think about it, in and of itself, the secondary just SUCKS! And . . ." Boom. Silence. Bertrand's mic goes live and the conversation continues without missing a beat. Also, anytime Mazz mocks a caller with his go to schtick, I will make SURE that said caller will be allowed to deliver one free punch to anywhere on Massarotti's body.

Felger and Mazz will NOT be allowed to discuss the NBA, and the Big Show will NOT be allowed to discuss hockey. This will solve a lot of problems.

Listen, there's so much more we need to address in this city, and I promise, if you elect me as the President of Boston Sports, I will see that anything that needs to be done, will be done. I will leave no stone unturned in the betterment of this sports society. But before you head into the polls and decide my fate or more specifically our fate, I want to leave you with one final promise.

Under my administration, twice every year at the start and end of each season Danny Ainge, Larry Lucchino, Bill Belichick and Jeremy Jacobs will be hooked up to a polygraph and subjected to an interview on live TV. Conducted by me, your president. I will ask all the tough questions, and hold everyone accountable. I won't ask them to divulge any secrets or put the success of their teams at risk, but I can promise you that we will live in a city of honesty and reasonable transparency. I will demand that from the leaders of our teams.

And I promise that every step along the way, you will always get the same unconditional honesty and transparency from me.

Vote for Rich.

You won't regret it.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

#FridayBag: The difference between Kraft and Jones

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#FridayBag: The difference between Kraft and Jones

Each week, Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi answer your Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or FridayBag as they call it. Got a question for the trio? Tweet at them using the hashtag #FridayBag. Now, on to this week's submissions:


 

TC: Hey Bryan,
No, I haven’t asked directly but there are a few reasons Kraft wouldn’t fall in line with Jones. First, by “on this” I’m not sure if you mean the compensation package or the Elliott investigation/suspension mess. Jones, of course, has been using the compensation package as a front to attack Goodell’s competency in general which he now bemoans because A) Elliott got suspended and B) Jones assured everyone Elliott wouldn’t be suspended. Kraft wouldn’t support Jones on Elliott because the accusations against him revolve around violence against women. Even if some accusations seem conflated, unsubstantiated or have a whiff of retribution, Kraft isn’t going to rally for Elliott on this. No upside to it. And if it’s an over-the-top penalty levied by the league in an effort to “make up” for past domestic violence investigations the league’s butchered, well, Kraft knows a thing or two about being on the receiving end of an agenda-laden punishment handed down by 345 Park Avenue. Kraft didn’t exactly suck it up and take the punishment. In fact, his reaction in August of 2015 and the organization’s continued effort to chastise the NFL with the Wells Report in Context website are in stark contrast to Kraft’s May 2015 pledge to stand down on Deflategate for the good of the league. Kraft gave plenty of pushback. But he stopped short of putting Goodell on the spit because he believes it hurts the overall brand and he’s more conciliator than divider. The feeling in Foxboro has been – and I’m sure continues to be – that the problem isn’t Goodell but his minions. The league needs an enema.



TC: Rich, they are running out of options. He is their White Whale. How hysterical would it be if – at the end of it all – he signs a one-day contract to retire as a Patriot? Gotta make this happen.https://twitter.com/MrQuindazzi/status/931295571264131072

TC: Great question, Q. Of all the guys running the option routes, Burkhead seems to be the most sudden in his cuts while also being able to gain quick and wide separation out of them. It’s lateral quickness and explosiveness that makes Edelman a unique cover for any defense. All the wideouts are quick, but being able to disguise the route, set up the move and then – when making the cut – cover a lot of ground with the first steps is what sets Edelman apart as evidenced by his short-shuttle time. I agree with you.

PP: Jeff is a CHRONIC Quick Slants the Podcast listener, and we thank him for that. He's right in that the Patriots took advantage of Denver on a couple of occasions when they tried to substitute last weekend, and that's something they'll pounce on every week if they could. We highlighted just how good they've gotten at that whole operation here. When it comes to the Raiders, I think you'll see the Patriots exploit their linebackers in coverage as often as possible. (You'll remember, they did that against the Broncos, too.) Oakland is one of the worst teams in the league at defending tight ends and running backs in the passing game, and the Patriots will have no problem recycling their offensive game plan from Mile High for Mexico City.

PP: Mike, I'll mention the classics here even if you've already thumbed through them more than once: David Halberstam's The Education of a Coach and Michael Holley's Patriot Reign are both very good looks at Belichick and how he came to run his operation the way he does. But you already knew that. When it comes to one book specific to Belichick, specific to his leadership style? May have to wait on that one. For now, though, watch this. Good interview with CNBC's Suzy Welch from last offseason. Belichick discusses the tenants of his leadership style, the value of surrounding yourself with dependable people, and why he doesn't like social media (it's not just because he's 65). I'd also suggest this podcast that Belichick recorded with lacrosse buddy Paul Rabil. Interesting back-and-forth on why Belichick likes to keep the numbers on his coaching staff small, team culture, short-term focus and frequency of organizational meetings. 

PP: It could, Riz. Precision is paramount in the red zone. Space is at a premium. Accuracy is critical. And having big targets who don't need all that much room to create room for themselves -- like Gronkowski, Bennett or Dwayne Allen, who scored while well-covered in Denver -- makes life that much easier. 

PP: Thanks, Rich. For anyone who hasn't seen that one, which lays out how Patriots players feel like they have an All-Star special-teams unit, here's the link. I'd say the biggest weakness is still what I thought it was back before the trade deadline: pass-rush. They'll try to scheme up what they can by disguising who's coming and who's dropping into coverage, but at some point, they'll need pass-rushers to win one-on-one battles and disrupt good quarterbacks. I think Trey Flowers can do that. I think Kyle Van Noy can do that from time to time. I think Deatrich Wise has shown he has the potential to do that. After that, I think the Patriots are lacking in that area. They'll need their secondary to be lock-down to help cover-up for any deficiencies they have up front. 

PP: Bilingual Shimon checking in! I believe that says something about bombs to Cooks? Yep. That's in play. The Patriots really should be able to do what they want against this Raiders defense. Their secondary is in shambles as NBC Bay Area's Scott Blair told me on one of our podcasts this week. I still think the Patriots will turn to their backs in the passing game because I'm not sure they'll want to turn Khalil Mack loose on many Tom Brady seven-step drops. But there will be opportunities on all areas of the field -- short, intermediate and deep. 

PP: Interesting question on Gillislee. Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis did nothing the other night that would suggest they'll see their roles diminished in any way, but the injury to Matthew Slater could open up a game-day roster spot for the Patriots to activate five backs in Mexico. Even if Gillislee is active, though, I wouldn't expect a huge role for him so long as Lewis and Burkhead are healthy. Right now he looks like valuable insurance and a potential cold-weather hammer against teams that won't want to tackle a 219-pound back who runs hard. 

PP: Big two-year-old birthday party for my nephew on Saturday, Shy, so it's going to be more of a Mickey Mouse weekend for me. Then on Sunday, of course, we'll be working. You're going to want to watch Pregame Live, coming at you at 2:30 p.m. Then right after the game you'll have an epic Postgame Live and an equally-enjoyable Sports Sunday. See you then. 

MG: The Patriots have been more committed to running the football of late -- 32 rushes versus the Chargers and 26 against the Broncos in a game in which they lost a possession because of excellent special-teams work and had a short field on another. That commitment has revolved heavily around the two players that are running the ball the best right now: Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. James White is still a valuable piece and will have plenty of big moments from here until the end of the season, though I will tell you, he’s still kicking himself for that missed blitz pickup of Justin Simmons down in the red zone Sunday night.

MG: They blew one of their two eligible to return spots on Shea McClellin, who appeared to be ready to return from those concussion symptoms but then had a setback in his final week of practice before he needed to be put on the active roster. That leaves two players for one spot (assuming both are healthy): DT Vincent Valentine or WR Malcolm Mitchell. The Pats' interior defensive line hasn’t been as good as it needs to be, which leads me to think Valentine might be the play; however, depth has really been challenged at wide receiver, and by the end of Sunday’s game in Denver, the Pats had just three healthy wideouts (Cooks, Amendola and Dorsett). Mitchell just began running a few weeks back, though, as he recovered from training camp knee surgery, so who knows how that’s responded to date

MG: Negative, though don’t take that as a bad thing. I think Dorsett has tremendous speed but is still learning the playbook and earning Tom Brady’s trust. He may never have a breakout game this season but when he’s on the field, opposing teams have to respect his ability to go vertical. That can open up stuff underneath or if they flood a zone. He still has a purpose and can be a useful player. 

MG: Pete! I worked out and was so wobbled at the knees I thought I was having the big one (Elizabeth), but a gallon of water cured what ailed me at this high altitude. Anyway, I think you’re already seeing a greater commitment to the run game. The offensive line is blocking it up better, they’re controlling down and distance, and it’s allowed the play-action pass game to thrive (see the 26-yarder to Gronk versus Denver). Belichick said Tuesday they’ll do whatever they have to do to win, but right now, the steady balance is keeping Brady upright and putting opposing defenses in a quandary. 

MG: Landry, I knew you couldn’t quit me . . . Look, I don’t have any Gilislee theories right now, nor have I heard anything on the rumor mill. What I think is that Lewis and Burkhead are just running it better, so why waste a roster spot on Gillislee if he’s just going to get a handful of plays or touches? I wouldn’t say he’s going to be married to the pine the rest of the way. Hell, we know about Lewis and Burkhead’s injury histories, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is in street clothes again Sunday.

MG: John Lynch is saying stupid things. Jimmy is the big dog and Lynch knows it. And if he keeps up with this nonsense, I may have to make a pit stop in San Fran and set him straight #FreeJimmyG