On Sports

Former Providence Journal sports writer Mike Szostak blogs regularly with news and analysis about sports in Rhode Island.

Fifty years ago today, Sunday, Oct. 1, 1967, The Impossible Dream came true. The Boston Red Sox, a 100-1 long shot that April, won the American League pennant. Their 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on the last day of the season cemented 1967 as the most exciting baseball summer of my life and, arguably, in Red Sox history.

Why does Sports World wrap itself in the American flag? I wondered about that last weekend as President Trump strained his thumbs firing off more than a dozen tweets criticizing National Football League players who knelt rather than stood at attention during the playing of our national anthem.

Football is off to a shaky start here in the Ocean State. Rhode Island’s favorite pro team was humiliated in its season opener last week, its flagship state university is 0-2, and its top business school lost by eight touchdowns last Saturday.

The good news is that the Ocean State’s Ivy League entry at long last kicks off its season on Saturday, and its Division III team is undefeated.

As summer fades to fall, the Red Sox – Boston and Pawtucket – and the Patriots dominate the sports news. Here is my take on three hot topics.

RED SOX: SNAP OUT OF IT!

College football in Rhode Island returns for another season Thursday night when the University of Rhode Island kicks off against Central Michigan at Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Jordan Spieth did not write golf history this weekend by winning the PGA Championship and completing a career Grand Slam a month after turning 24. With all eyes in the golf world on Spieth as he made the rounds at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., the second-ranked cool Texan demonstrated what every PGA Tour pro, club pro, scratch amateur or weekend hacker knows. Golf can be a maddening, frustrating and difficult game.

Professional tennis has returned to Newport this week with the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open, the grass-court tournament known for decades as the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. But instead of focusing on defending champ Ivo Karlovic and two-time former champs John Isner and Rajeev Ram, the headliners, let’s look ahead to, say, 2025, when the greatest player of all time could take his place among the other greats of the game.

The Celtics will win Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals Monday against Washington at TD Garden because of the home court advantage. The home team has won each of the first six games in this series.

Forget about Boston’s franchise history of success in Game 7s. Yes, the Celtics can boast 21 victories against 8 losses in the last game of a seven-game series. And yes, the Celtics are 18-4 in Game 7s played in Boston.

The Impossible Dream. For Red Sox fans who endured the Yankees dynasty of the 1950s or who grew up during the futile years of the early and mid-1960s, those three words mean only one thing: the 1967 Boston Red Sox. The 100-1 long shots who won the American League pennant on the last day of the season. The Cardiac Kids who had us glued to our transistor radios and black and white televisions during that thrilling, electrifying summer.

In San Francisco they wore flowers in their hair in 1967. In Boston, it was baseball in the air.

Ten things you need to know about Gonzaga University to better appreciate its first appearance in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Monday night against North Carolina.

One play doesn’t cost you a game, but one play can win you a game.

They could have won. They could have beaten third-seeded Oregon and earned a trip to the Sweet 16. Victory was so close they could certainly see it, feel it, taste it.

But in the end, victory Sunday night was not to be for the University of Rhode Island Rams. Oregon was a three-point basket better than URI and left Sacramento with a 75-72 triumph in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks (31-5) moved on while the Rams (25-10) came home to reflect on their best season in 18 years.

They can do it. They can win. The University of Rhode Island can beat Oregon Sunday night at Sacramento.

Sure, Oregon (30-5) is seeded No. 3 in the Midwest Regional and URI No. 11. Sure, the Ducks have Dillon Brooks, the Pac-12 player of the year, and Jordan Bell, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year. And they have a former blue chip recruit in sophomore shooting guard Tyler Dorsey, who scored 24 points in Oregon’s 93-77 rout of Iona in the first round Friday.

We weren’t supposed to be there. We weren’t supposed to be there.

Repeat it, PC basketball fans.

We weren’t supposed to be there. We weren’t supposed to be there.

Say those words every four hours – Friday, St. Patrick’s Day, wash them down with a Guinness – and you should feel better.

If you are a college basketball fan in Rhode Island, it doesn’t get much better than the thrills URI provided its long-suffering fans on Sunday. The fourth-seeded Rams stymied a late rally by second-seeded Virginia Commonwealth and won the Atlantic-10 Championship, 70-63, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

As balloons descended from the rafters, Rhody players pulled championship T-shirts over their uniforms, hugged each other and hugged the impressive championship trophy. The real prize, though, was the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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