On Sports

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

July Fourth has come and gone, and the Red Sox and PawSox are on my mind.

The Red Sox returned to Fenway Park Monday night after a 7-2 road trip and shut out the Texas Rangers, 5-0, on Steve Pearce’s two-run homer in the first inning, his first at-bat at Fenway Park in a Red Sox uniform, and J.D. Martinez’s three-run shot in the eighth. Eduardo Rodriguez didn’t get out of the sixth inning because of the pitch count but still won his 11thgame against 3 losses. Four relievers preserved the victory, the shutout Boston’s league-leading ninth of the season.

Happy Father’s Day, all you dads who watch ESPN in the middle of the night while feeding your infant, who change diapers between innings without complaining, and who pace the floor with a colicky baby with the U.S. Open on television.

Happy Father’s Day to those of you who buy a Red Sox teething ring for your kid, who think the ideal picture book is “Patriots Super Bowl Highlights”, and whose favorite bedtime story is “Havlicek Stole The Ball”.

It didn’t take long for the sniping to start, did it? I’d say minutes.

Yes, minutes after LeBron James, with a little help from his friend Jeff Green, had eliminated the Celtics from the NBA playoffs Sunday night, 87-79, the barbs started flying. 

“The Celtics suck.” “I could have made those shots.” “They settled for too many three-pointers.” “They were awful!”

I was wrong. W-R-O-N-G!

As many in the sports scribbling and babbling business did, I wrote off the Boston Celtics as an NBA championship threat when All-Star Kyrie Irving checked out in March for the rest of the season with an infection in his surgically repaired left knee. His loss, coupled with the season-ending ankle injury to Gordon Hayward on opening night, was too much for this young, untested team.

My exact words written a little more than a month ago: “Irving’s departure dooms whatever hopes the Celtics had of making a run to the NBA Finals this season.”

The Providence After School Alliance is one of the heroes of the education system in Rhode Island’s capital city. PASA provides programming in the arts, STEM subjects, and sports to 1,500 students in five middle schools and two high schools. Five hundred middle school kids take advantage of the after-school sports programming.

Sixers-Celtics. Philly-Boston. Roll those syllables off your tongue a few times, and try not to smile. For the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers boast the longest post-season rivalry in NBA history. Nineteen times these iconic franchises have waged “basketball battle”, as the late great Johnny Most used to say from high above courtside, and they are at it again for the 20thinstallment.

Gil Santos, 1938-2018

Apr 21, 2018

Another beloved member of the New England sports media has left us.

Gil Santos, whose short, stocky stature belied his standing as a giant among the region’s sportscasters, died on Thursday. The “Voice of the Patriots” for 36 years was more Patriot than many of the players he described. Born on Patriots Day in 1938, married on Patriots Day in 1961, he died on Patriots Day in 2018. 

They say never say never in sports, and it’s good advice.  Remember how we said the Patriots would never come back from 25 points down and win Super Bowl LI? How did that turn out? Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT), the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Well, with the 122ndrunning of the Boston Marathon on Monday, I write with complete confidence that Rhode Island runners winning five times in nine years will never happen again.

Never.

Final Fours are finished, but the basketball beat goes on.

In Boston, it’s a downbeat. Point guard Kyrie Irving, one of the NBA’s most dynamic players, is out for the balance of the season due to an infection in his already surgically repaired left knee. On Saturay he had two screws removed from his kneecap that were inserted in 2015 after he fractured the kneecap in the NBA Finals. Two weeks ago he had had a tension wire removed to alleviate pain in his knee. 

RIPR

The Pawtucket Red Sox open their 46th home season Friday night at McCoy Stadium – if the Weather Gods cooperate, of course. Just got word that the bad weather has nixed tonight's home opener.

In the end, it’s almost always about money, isn’t it? A bigger paycheck, extra cash for the kids college fund, the retirement account, the vacation to Disney World.

How fortunate are we Rhode Islanders to have had two teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament?

Most fortunate, I’d say, considering the other five New England states have a grand total of zero teams in the tournament.

The hoop gods, also known as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee, blessed the University of Rhode Island and Providence College Sunday with berths in the lucrative NCAA tournament, also known as March Madness.

Rhode Island’s best sports performers of 2017 will receive their proper recognition during the 72nd Annual Words Unlimited Sports Awards Banquet Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Cranston Country Club. Words Unlimited is the state’s organization of sports writers, broadcaster and publicists.

Here are the honorees:

TEAM OF THE YEAR

The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team won the Atlantic 10 tournament, made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 19 years, beat Creighton in the first round, lost to Oregon in the second round and finished 25-10. 

Black history month ends today, which leaves me just a few hours to celebrate the athletic achievements and lives of black Rhode Islanders I have known since I moved here right out of college in 1972.

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