Monday, June 30, 2008

An Angelic Weekend

(sorry, I know it's Wednesday already. I been busy!)

For those of you who are not remotely interested in the goings on of the Boston Celtics, the Angel of Mercy has answered your prayers: the NBA Finals are over and I won't be blogging about them again until the end of the year. Does the Angel of Mercy even handle prayer complaints? I don't know, but it's a super way to transition from Celticapalooza to the theme of the post, the theme of my weekend: assorted angel related affairs.

Saturday morning, dewy24, CJ, Cjr, P, and I headed out to Western Mass for our college friend SO'M's ordination as a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Springfield, which happens to be my childhood diocese. And since it was a priest ordination mass all the fathers and padres and deacons and pastors and bishops were out in full papal force to welcome their new brothers (or co-fathers?). So I felt compelled (Catholic guilt?) to go say hello to the two priests that I grew up with at Sacred Heart. "Hi Father _____. Danny Nolan from Sacred Heart. Just wanted to say hello. S's a friend of mine." One of them (the one I always thought was a dick) seemed to remember me and was friendly and said how much they all liked Fr. O'M, but didn't seem compelled enough to stop text messaging on his phone or ask me about myself. The other one didn't seem to remember me but said something like "oh, yes. Hello. Thanks for stopping." They must have smelled the sin on me. Oh, Danny. We had such high hopes for you. You could have been in the Cloth like us. When I was an 8 year old at Catholic School, under their soul supervision, I asked one of them, I forget which, how they knew they were supposed to be a priest and they said they just got a calling from God. And my immediate reaction was "Oh no. I'm going to get the calling. I know it." I wasn't just a Catholic kid growing up; I really bought it. During one period, after a noise in the night prompted me to offer a deal to God if he could save me and the fam, I was in the habit of praying for 45 minutes a night. But the Church couldn't faith me out of my rationalism and a couple years later I began my journey away from faith. That was about 25 years ago. And it's been about 20 years since I actually believed in God. The Catholic Church planted one of their crucifixes deep into my skull and it took a long time for me to get my head back. (is it back? why do I still pen titles like Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy?) I've been to many masses since (weddings, funerals, Jesuit vows), but masses like that are about 45 minutes long. This one was a good solid priestapalooza hour and a half. Ninety reverent minutes in which my friend was finalizing his decision to take a leadership role in an organization that I have major ideological problems with. But I went to support him. But I also felt like I was betraying those who are discriminated against by or otherwise hurt by this organization. And those are very close to me. And close to him. It was troubling to say the least. But he knows that I feel this way. How do you be supportive of a close friend who is making a choice that you find to be deeply misguided? Tough one. I mean, of course there are good people in the Church. The Catholic parish in Detroit where my relatives go is extremely progressive in their ministry. Maybe one day, S will be like their bishop, anti-war and anti-homophobia hero, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. But then again, guess what happens to progressive bishops like him in Pope Benedict's Catholic Church: mandatory retirement. My aunt (who used to be a nun and worked with Gumbleton) said that the church is going in the wrong direction and the trend is that the old, more liberal priests are retiring and that the young priests being ordained are more conservative. Here's hoping that my friend finds his calling as the next Thomas Gumbleton. I mean, it's a cool name, right? So, why not? C'mon, S. Jesus was a liberal.

Ok, that's not really "angel" related, but close enough. That was Saturday. Sunday brought the final match of the European Championship (soccer). Wait wait wait. Don't stop reading yet. This isn't going to veer into a sports post. I just wanted to say congratulations to Spain and my Spanish readers (there's at least one). Awesome match. After the match on Sunday came the angels relevant portion of the day - the reason this is a multi angels related event weekend review post: The Black Angels show at the Middle East Downstairs around the corner here in Cambridge.

I'd like to start with a "wow".

So, JS and BR swung by around 7 for a little pregame and then we headed down around 8:30 to check out the opening band, The Warlocks, which was actually the band that JS wanted to see and the reason he picked up the tix. I had never heard them and couldn't recall what the Black Angels sounded like, though I knew I'd heard a couple songs by them. But both JS and BR have excellent taste in music so when they tell me it's a must go and I can afford it, I go. The Warlocks were pretty great musically. Kind of like Brian Jonestown Massacre without the crazy. Which, I know, is a huge part of the BJM mojo. But my point is that the music was right there. Good stuff. Didn't blow me away though. What did blow me away, you ask? The Black Angels. I was nowhere near prepared for the sonic awesomeness that the Black Angels were about to spew on the crowd. Just a tremendous show - probably the second best I've seen at the MidEast D, behind the 00/01ish GBV show and tied with the 04ish Beulah show (which was incredibly underrated and underappreciated - and no, I wasn't just on more drugs than everyone else (more beer maybe, but that's not unusual for Mid East shows)). If you like having waves of steel wash over you, go see the Black Angels when they come to a venue near you. There were more than a couple points during the show when BR and I looked at eachother and were like "whoa". And we've seen quite a few shows together. At one point, he said to me, "I don't think I've ever seen a band that so lived up to its name they way they are doing right now". Seriously. And that closing imagery was just straight up rock and roll slamdunkery.

That's it for the angelic writing (really? thanks, you're too kind). One reminder for those within driving distance of Cambridge, MA on July 4th: The Third Annual Hot Dog Ho Down is happening at my place around 11:45 AMish. Viewing of the hot dog eating competition to be followed by a Yankees Red Sox game and possibly a beer. And all kinds o' dogs. Come on by.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


This was an extraordinary year for the Boston Celtics. Despite their dynastic history and 17 championships, ordinary for the Celtics in the last twenty one years has been failure and disappointment, with the only difference being the scope of that failure and disappointment. In 1987, they failed to beat the Lakers in the Finals. In 1988, they were an aging great team and lost in their last reasonable chance at a title, giving way to the rise of Detroit and Chicago. After that, they were a team in decline for several years and we knew it. They would make the playoffs but would certainly lose, meaning that we would not get a high draft pick and would be stuck in the dreaded NBA cycle of mediocrity. In the mid to late nineties, there was a different type of failure. They weren’t good enough to make the playoffs, the quality of their play was sloppy and embarrassing, their draft picks were poor, free agents average, and their decent players were frustrated. And when they bottomed out, they even failed to get lucky enough to get the top draft pick and the guy who would win his team 4 titles. And then they gave up on the guy they did draft third overall and he went on to be an all-star and to win a title with his team. Ah Pitino. In his defense, the little scumball famously reminded us: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish were “not walking through that door” and noted that "the negativity in this town sucks". Sorry, Ricko. That's what you get after a dozen years of failure and disappointment: sucky negativity. Soon after his departure in 2002, the Celtics hit what passed for a peak: two wins in the Crappy Eastern Conference Finals. But they failed to capitalize on an epic comeback win and they lost that series. And then there were 5 more years of the decline brand of failure: the lean years of that Danny Ainge five year plan. As a huge fan of the hometown Celtics in a town that was sports frenzied by unexpected and expected championships from the Patriots (not a "fan" of, but rooted for them when they didn't play the Steelers) and Red Sox (not at all a fan of), it was particulary frustrating. I remember trying to get a bar to turn on the Celtics playoff game in 2004ish and getting overruled by the other patrons who laughed and continued to watch an April Sox game against the Devil Rays. I knew the Celtics weren’t going to win that playoff series (a first round playoff series), but come the fuck on. It’s the Boston Celtics. It’s your hometown professional basketball team. They’re in the playoffs! But I couldn't say it was a completely irrational reaction either. Given their 15 years of ordinary, disappointing failure, they were not a team that captivated and inspired. Why bother watching that game and getting angry at their three-chucking style. Or at least that’s what those schmucks at that bar thought. Then last year, after yet another failure of a season – a particularly galling failure of a season – the Celtics piled on one more failure to punch the guts of those of us who were still following them on a regular basis: with the second worst record, they failed to get one of the two top picks, one of the two future franchise player hall of famers. That’s when I hit my personal low: advocating for the acquisition of Zach Randolph. How deluded was I. How distraught.

Shortly thereafter, things began to move from ordinary to extraordinary. They traded the # 5 pick, Delonte, Wally for Ray Allen. That move convinced KG to come and they traded everyone not named Paul, Rajon, Kendrick or Leon for KG. That convinced Posey and House to get on board. They bonded in Italy. They started the year on fire, playing like a team that had been together for years. They beat everyone. They eviscerated Nuggets and Knicks teams. They beat all three Texas teams on the road. They won and won and won, delighting a city of sports fans that was obsessed with a World Series champion team and a potential best-of-all-time undefeated football team. They completed the biggest turnaround in NBA history winning 66 games and then used home court advantage to win 16 more games and a 17th NBA Championship. 82 wins, the last of which was the most extraordinary of all.

Winning a title in sports these days really is out of the ordinary. While my sports fan life started with a surfeit of favorite team titles, each of those teams slipped into long droughts before they won rings again. The Yankees made me wait 18 years. The Steelers made me wait 26 years. Last night, the Celtics ended my 22 year wait. The UMass Minutemen? That could be a while. (I essentially stopped rooting for the Islanders years ago, so that 28 year wait doesn’t count and I’ve never followed a soccer team closely enough and for long enough to be relevant to this conversation). VTK Red Sox readers waited even longer. Many sports fans wait their whole lives and receive nothing but failure and disappointment in return (Chicago Cub fans, Cleveland Anything fans over 60). So having your team (a team thay you’re truly a fan of) win any championship is truly quite extraordinary – something that young Boston sports fans would be incapable of understanding. It doesn’t happen often so you have to savor it when it does. I’ve been remarkably fortunate as a fan in the last 12 years (with my 3 favorite teams having won 6 titles (oddly the same number as strictly Boston sports fans have enjoyed)). But this is not lost on me. When the Yankees won their 3rd consecutive World Series (4th in 5 years) in 2000, I was scorned for celebrating it; but I knew how long it might be until I got that moment again (and the way this season is going for the Yankees, it looks like it’s going to be a while longer). With all the possible things that can go wrong, with all the ways to choke, with all the great athletes in the world, with all the ways to lose, to win a title is extraordinary. And I’m savoring it. Bet your ass I’ll be out there on that parade route tomorrow - the first of the six post-millenial Boston sports parades that I'll be attending and hopefully not the last.

game six - Boston Celtics - NBA Champs


I have this image in my mind which I'm not even going to try to find or sketch out. It's one of those old alarm clocks from the seventies, pre-digital alarm clocks, where the number cards rotate around and flop down on top of the previous number. Thirty four just fell down and updated us from thirty three. After 22 years. And no one loves 33 more than me, but I loved when he was interviewed before the Finals this year and he said that he wouldn't be showing up at the "Garden" for the Finals this year because it was time for the focus to be on the new superstars. And Paul stepped up and was a worthy MVP. Finally, Celtics fans get to watch the clock flip from 33 to 34. Congrats, C's.

Incredible game, great series, fantastic year. More exclusive VTK coverage to come.

check out this post from a little over a year ago. How desperate was it? Scroll down to the bottom of the comments and see who I was advocating as a trade subject.

Monday, June 16, 2008

game five

I've had enough of the "KG changed the culture of Boston basketball" talk. I need KG to change the score of Boston basketball. With starting center and bruiser Perk out of the game, KG submitted a 5 foul, 33 minute, 4 turnover, 0 assist, 13 point effort. Nice 14 boards, but that's not going to cut it at this stage, Big Ticket. You need to impose yourself on the game. And get some sleep. Please, get some sleep.

Team stats were pretty even across the board. Lakers win at home. Was the Kobe steal (that prevented a possible tie game and turned it into a 4 pt lead) a foul? maybe. But you can't count on that at this stage in the season, all star on all star. And if you're a C's fan, you'd rather have them letting the boys play. Though, I'd rather have them let them play with Big Perk on the court.

Very disappointing loss, but at the beginning of the Finals, my hope was to win 2 at home, steal one on the road, and then head back home with two shots to win. I'm still optimistic. Not overly confident, but optimistic. That was LA's most complete game. And again, we were close to stealing it. If the Celtics play a complete game at home - forget it. We win. We'll see if they can do it.

sidenote: answer to the Tony Allen question: nice sub. Shut a hot hand Kobe down, stole a few buckets. Did his job.

Friday, June 13, 2008

game four, aka fucking awesome

whoa ho ho hoa!

I cannot believe that game. That was awesome. Definitely one of the most gratifying games that I have ever been a part of (as a fan (a vocal, lifelong celtic-loving, laker-hating fan)). I was so pissed, so concerned, so distressed, so irrationally laying blame in all directions. So irritated that Farmar made that last second, end-of-half shot and that they called it a three. Beers were had. Like-minded angered friends were over. Then I scanned the halftime stats and realized that this couldn't be put on Doc, the refs, or Sam Cassell. The shooting % was 50 to 35, Lakers. The rebound edge was 26 to 16, Lakers. (!!) The assist edge was 15 to ... 4, Lakers. (!! ... sigh.) It wasn't the refs' calls, or the turnovers, or the bench points. All those were fairly even. We were just sucking. so, we were going to lose. and be tied up. and have lost all momentum. and be desperate in game 5.

And then the next thing you know ... And then they listened to me screaming through the TV. And they ran the ball through Paul, like I screamed. And they gave it to Ray, like I screamed. And Doc wisely only listened to some of the stuff I screamed (and yes, credit due: well coached, Doc). And my neighbors didn't call the cops. And the cable company hovered outside and waited until after the game to shut off the cable. Which they did. Not because we didn't pay it, but because they had some scheduled maintenance and they didn't want to deal with the Heidi Game on Dan Crack Rage. Good call and thanks.

More later, but now, mostly: The Ray Allen Layup. Good Jesus Christ, that was awesome. So fucking awesome. Jesus Christ Awesome.

I'm sure it doesn't look like much if you didn't see it, but trust me. I've watched a lot of basketball, and it was huge.

so huge that I'm concerned about moderating my reaction, because they still need to win one more game against a Kobe Bryant team.

But fuck that - I'm not-entirely-unfat, drunmk, and happy. I need to remember that this is for fun, which I usually don't, but this is fun. that was a tremendous lay-up. and the clock going from 15 to 3 without any change in score was second best. And the Celtics are one win away from an NBA Championship.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

game three

Is it totally random, Doc? Are you flipping coins with this rotation? And how about the offensive strategy? Do you call plays? Suggest some? Does it make any sense whatsoever to sit Eddie House for the first two games, wait until Sam Cassell establishes that he's going to chuck up misses without trying to run the offense, wait until Rondo turns his ankle, then put him in a tight NBA Finals game on the road, and have him take 3 out of the last 6 shots in the last two minutes (not counting Pierce's meaningless chuck with 2 seconds left)? Does that make sense? Maybe I'm wrong. I was glad he put Eddie in over Cassell, but he should have been playing him all postseason long.

Crap game by Pierce. Another sub par game from KG. A game's worth of make-up calls from the refs. Doc. Great games by Kobe and the Twit. 35% shootign vs 44% shooting. There's your loss. I'm pissed but I totally expected to lose this game. Now we really need to win one of the next two. Preferably game 4.

Monday, June 09, 2008

game two

First of all, the Celtics are up 2-0. Second of all, the Celtics are up 2-0. Third through tenth of all, the Celtics are up 2-0. That was a pretty shocking collapse and lack of focus in the 4th quarter, but when the other team lets you get up by 24 points in the 4th quarter, you can get away with that. Point being: that was an aberrant stretch and when they got themselves together, they got the game in hand. Fuck Phil, fuck Kobe, and fuck the LA nonchalance in explaining away these two games. Punch em in the mouths in LA, fellas. Aside from that stretch when they stopped paying attention (and they need to stop that), the Celtics dominated. They'll get a few less calls in LA, but if they play their game, they can get at least one in LA.

As far as Leon goes, the only people who are surprised by this performance are people who just started watching the Celtics in the playoffs. At the risk of repeating myself: this was a 20-10 guy in the Pac 10 (both league highs), and he's been doing it in the minutes that he's gotten in the NBA for 2 solid years. Attaboy, Leon. Attaboy, Rondo (16 assists - the most in an NBA Final game since Magic in 91). Attaboy Paul. And attaboy Ray for getting in that asshole's head.


Friday, June 06, 2008

game one

Story of the first half: assist to turnover ratio. Celtics 8/8, Lakers 14/4.

Story of the second half: assist to turnover ratio. Celtics 12/5, Lakers 7/4.

Big win. Big 2nd half for Paul. Troubling disappearance by KG in the 4th. Good game by Ray. Doc: Rondo is your point guard. Not Sam. Sam: pass before shoot. Definitely the best D the Lakers have seen so far in the playoffs. They shot 50% in the first half, just 25% in the 4th quarter. Kobe and Odom will both play better in game 2. But game 1 is a solid win. So. I won't be an insufferable bastard this weekend.

Thursday, June 05, 2008



Oh shit! Talk about your writer's block. I'm having trouble sufficiently capturing my feelings about this year's NBA Finals. I'd like to spare you the hyperbole, but as I said in my postseason preview, Celtics v Lakers in the NBA Finals is either my ultimate basketball dream or worst basketball nightmare, depending on the outcome. You could easily extrapolate from basketball to sports there, given their history in my formative years. (The Yankees Red Sox rivalry is probably bigger, but the Celtics Lakers may carry more emotional baggage for me personally because of those formative sports years (Yankees sucked in those days)) The Celtics losing to the Lakers in the 80s was devastating to me. And beating them in 84 was sheer joy to an 11 year old VTK. That is, until Papa VTK, warmed by a handful of Sunday afternoon beers, decided that he was going to stop his series long support of the Lakers and to start rooting for the Celtics once the outcome was assured in the C's favor, robbing me of some hard earned gloating and sending my emotionally erratic 11 year old brain out to the back yards to shoot hoops in a teary rage (I remind him of that every chance I get). And when the Lakers lost to the Rockets in 86, leaving me to celebrate a Finals win over the wrong team, my joy was hedged slightly by the feeling that I'd been robbed of a Finals win over the Lakers (because we unquestionably would have beaten them in 86). Then when the two teams met in 87, I was once again denied my Celtics-over-Lakers victory by Magic's mini-skyhook and Bird's shocking miss. I've been watching replays of the best of the 80's Finals games between the two dynasties on ESPN Classic all week and I'm in a tizzy, a frenzy, a state of panic, a state of elation over tonight's tip. If you think I'm exaggerating, believe me when I tell you that I know the outcome of all these games that took place over twenty years ago and I still find myself pumping my fist when Bird hits a turnaround jumper and calling Kareem a baby every time he whines over a call. Good stuff.

So, twenty one years after that last appearance in the Finals, the Celtics finally get back to the championship series and find themselves pitted against their old rivals, the Lakers, who are playing tremendous basketball right now. The midseason heist of Gasol has given them a dangerous front court to triangulate with in-prime Kobe; some have called them the best passing team since the early 70's Knicks. After the Celtics were taken to the limit by the 37 win Hawks and the Cavs, and taken to 6 by the Pistons, almost all the experts are picking the Lakers, despite them not having home court advantage. But I'm not despairing (worried yes, despairing no). Going seven against the Cavs gave the C's plenty of experience in winning against a dominant player on par with Kobe. Yes, the Lakers have a better supporting cast, but I still think those extra games against LeBron are going to prove valuable. But more importantly, I think winning two games in Detroit is going to do wonders for their confidence, which has gone missing at times in this postseason. That road jinx stuff is totally buried, as is Ray Allen's shooting slump. They're great at home (10 of 11) and now they have confidence that they can win on the road. Plus, they beat the Lakers in both of their meetings so far this year. Granted, that was pre-Gasol, but Bynum was playing and playing well back then, so the Lakers were no slouches. If they lose the first two at home, they're in trouble, but if they lose one, they're not. They can win one at the Forum.

Time for a prediction? You'll recall that I predicted this Final and copped out on picking a winner in my playoffs preview. Considering that I went 13 for 14 in my series predictions, I'm now wishing that I had picked the Celtics. But I'm just as trepidatious now as I was then. I'm not touching it. I will say that I think it's going 6 or 7. I just don't know whether it's going to be a dream or a nightmare. Go C's!!

Win # 17 for Red, boys. Don't let that Zen Doofus tie him on our watch. BEAT LA!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008



Hillary for VP? I say no. Discuss.