December 30, 2009

Tom Knott, of the DC Times saidthat, “It was the year of the gossip in sports, from the love interests of Alex Rodriguez to the same with Tiger Woods.
And Shaquille O’Neal, too.
Fueling the interest is the new media of the Internet.
Members of the new media can be anyone clutching a cell phone, as swimmer Michael Phelps learned to his embarrassment in February. The shot of Phelps taking a hit from a bong surfaced on the Internet before it spilled into the mainstream press and became an international incident.
That should be a lesson to those high-profile athletes who booze it up in strip clubs, attend wild parties or engage in behavior that would disappoint their
employers, family and fans.
Quarterback Matt Leinart, once the toast of college football, solidified his playboy reputation after photographs of him and four lovelies doing beer-bong hits in a hot tub were posted on the Internet last year.
It is an unruly, new media world, driven not by a public’s right to know but by the public’s desire to pry into the private lives of the rich and famous
That interest used to be limited to Hollywood types.
But as the tsunamilike fallout of Woods has shown, that interest is overtaking America’s sports figures.
Athletes always have engaged in unenviable activities, secure in the knowledge that those around them would look the other way.
The ink-stained wretches of yesteryear certainly did not bother to report on the late-night carousing of athletes.
That alliance contributed to the stunning success of Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” which exposed the dirty linen of ballplayers in a way that never had been done.
The peek into Bouton’s 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros demythologized the so-called boys of summer.
These men had the same weaknesses as your neighbors, just better hand-eye coordination or stronger throwing arms.
Bouton, in a way, is the father of those who tap out the latest rumor, innuendo and celebrity coupling from the anonymity of their laptops.
It is not going away, this glut of the unseemly, not if the insatiable interest in the love conquests of Woods is an indication.
As news of Woods’ dalliances started to seep out, he became an instant search hit on Google.
And it was the Internet that packaged and shipped the story to the masses with a click.
A-Rod had a busy year as well, baseball being the least of it.
After being dumped by Madonna, the woman who contributed to the breakup of his marriage, A-Rod was linked to one of “The Real Housewives of New
York City” before landing in and out of the arms of Kate Hudson.
His next love interest no doubt will be chronicled in rich detail, in a way that reduces his occupation to a footnote.
The unmanageable dimension of the new media prompted a public-relations misstep from Nike, usually ever-savvy in marketing its brand.
The dustup came about after a no-name college player was caught on video dunking on LeBron during a pickup game at a skills camp sponsored by Nike last summer.
A Nike representative confiscated the videos, claiming it was company policy, but not before news of the dunk spread on the Internet, making both James and Nike look small.
Predictably enough, a video showing the dunk eventually made it to the Internet, only to disappoint viewers because of its pedestrian nature.
As it turns out, the dunk was far more compelling as an urban legend than in actuality. And that was made so in part by Nike’s heavy-handedness, which lent an importance to the play that was clearly overstated and no threat to the reputation of the sacred one.
That is the power of the new media. It is barreling down on us all.
There is another Internet shot of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen holding hands.
They, of course, are being sued by two photographers who claim the couple’s bodyguards shot at them.”

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe is looking forward to the Patriots doing well in the playoffs.                                                                                                                        
 “Ten or 11 days from today, the Patriots will return to the NFL playoffs. It will be New England’s first postseason game since (gulp) . . . Feb. 3, 2008.
Glendale, Arizona.
Super Bowl XLII.
Weird, isn’t it? It feels like it’s been a million years since the pursuit of perfection and Arlen Specter.
So much has changed. When the Patriots last played a postseason game, the Red Sox were reigning world champs, Matt Cassel was making minimum NFL
wage, Plaxico Burress was a free man, and Bob Lobel was anchoring sports on Channel 4.
Hard to believe it’s been less than two years.
Now the Patriots are back in the tournament, and today I am going to engage in an activity that Bill Belichick hates.
I am going to look past this weekend’s meaningless game against the Houston Texans.
Worse, I am going to vault straight into the second round of the playoffs.
No one is allowed to say it, but we all know the Patriots are going to win Game 1 at home on Wild Card Weekend. The larger question is: Would you rather
go to Indianapolis or San Diego for Round 2?
Buoyed by a nifty turnaround against NFL punching bags (a lot of bad teams in the league this year, no?) some Patriots fans dare to dream about a return to the Super Bowl, and we all know that means winning back-to-back games at San Diego and Indy.
Week 1’s game is already in the bag – even if the Ravens come to town with David Tyree and his Velcro helmet. Winning cold playoff games is Gillette’s
January jones. The Patriots have won 11 consecutive playoff games at home, seven at Gillette. The one and only time New England lost a playoff game at
home was on New Year’s Eve 1978, when Bum Phillips and the Houston Oilers crushed the Patriots, 31-14. That was the year Patriots coach Chuck
Fairbanks was booted from the sideline by owner Billy Sullivan after it was learned Fairbanks had taken a job at the University of Colorado.
As a playoff tandem, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are 14-3 overall, 8-0 at Foxborough, 7-0 at Gillette. This season, the Patriots went 8-0 at the Razor,
winning by an average of 18.4 points. Does anyone really think the New York Jets can come here and beat Belichick and Brady in January?
Not a chance.
So we look ahead and we wonder whether the Patriots are capable of winning at Indy or San Diego.
This is a strange Patriots team. They’ve been unable to close out games on the road. They’ve struggled to find an identity. They’ve only recently established a running game. They’ve endured uncharacteristic locker room grumbling (remember Adalius Thomas?) and they’ve worked overtime showering love and attention on Randy Moss.
But it’s all coming together at the right time, and every team out there suddenly looks vulnerable. The Saints don’t look like the Saints who thrashed the Patriots that Monday night in November. The Vikings can’t beat the Bears. The Chargers are smokin’ hot, but still not as good as the Chargers of ’06, who couldn’t beat the Patriots in San Diego in January. The Colts just gave themselves a new challenge. In the wake of Sunday’s fiasco, the Colts know they must win the Super Bowl now or they will be forever scorned. The Patriots already know they can beat the Ponies at Lucas Oil Stadium.
So we sit here waiting for the tournament draw and wonder whether the Patriots can make a run. Their postgame comportment was encouraging Sunday after clinching the pathetic AFC East yet again. None of the players sprayed champagne, wore a 12-pack box on their head, or danced to “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.’’ The focus was on the future. They reminded us that the job is not done. It was all very Patriotlike.
We can’t begin to guess what the strategy will be at Reliant Stadium this weekend. Repeat after me: Belichick is “going to do what is best for his football team.’’
But deep down, the Hoodie knows what we all know, and that is this: The Patriots are wrapping up an uneven season that could have imploded under the weight of its own arrogance. But now things are coming together pretty nicely, and Kevin Garnett reminds us that “anything’s possible.’’
The 2009 Patriots have a chance to make a serious playoff run. They are not the best team – as they were in 2007 – but this time they might wind up being the team that nobody wants to play in January.”


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