Huddle Up: Why do I think these things I think?

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It’s been quite a while since you’ve had the misfortune of seeing my mug on these pages, so I’m going to try to make it up to you with a tremendously tremendous collection of thoughts that kept me awake while driving home from Bridgewater, Mass., Thursday night/Friday morning:

• Loved that the fans in Pittsburgh gave Buffalo Sabres goalie and U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller a louder ovation than their own Sidney Crosby the other night. Miller was obviously very upset about giving up the gold medal-winning goal to Crosby, and seeing the Penguins partisans welcome him back to the States with such a warm “Attaboy” sent chills up my spine. And shame on any of the miserable TV and print pundits who criticized them for doing so.

• I got the chills again Thursday night. Twice in one week and I’m usually headed to the pharmacy for some Tamiflu. But this time, I got them watching the University of Maine at Farmington celebrate its upset win over Bridgewater State in the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament. Believe me when I tell you that the entire state has good reason to be proud of these young men, regardless of how Saturday night’s game with Williams turned out. It is only fitting that the first Beaver team to win an NCAA tournament game is a perfect reflection of head coach Dick Meader — smart, tough, resilient, blue-collar and full of class.

• No chills, but I sure was starting to get the shakes watching almost everyone but the Patriots make significant trades or free agent signings late in the week. Re-signing Vince Wilfork, Stephen Neal and even over-paying Tully Banta-Cain helped settle me and a lot of Pats fans down, but it isn’t going to last if David Patten turns out to be the biggest free agent acquisition. I understand Bill Belichick using the draft as the primary rebuilding tool, given that he has four of the first 53 picks in what all the experts claim is the deepest draft in years. But Tom Brady will be 33 before he throws his first preseason pass. Just sayin’.

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• It’s amazing how all of the four major Boston franchises are twiddling their thumbs in the midst of free agent and trading frenzies in their respective sports. Are they all cheap or just trigger shy?

• I don’t want to jinx anything, but things are looking pretty promising for our local high school baseball and softball teams to get some outdoor practice time before the season starts April 15. Can’t remember the last time that happened. Too bad they’ll only be able to play one or two exhibition games.

• A state hockey final without Lewiston or St. Dom’s? Next thing you’ll tell me is there won’t be any Kennedys in Congress.

• The Celtics’ problem isn’t age. It really isn’t injuries, either. It is, as Kendrick Perkins said, that they are bored. He probably shouldn’t have said it, but that’s another story. Now, Believers in the Green may think boredom is easier to address than age and injuries and all the C’s need is the intensity and excitement of the playoffs to lift them back into serious title contention. But boredom doesn’t just lead to sloppy performances in games. It leads to sloppy practices, inattention to detail and general mediocrity. You don’t overcome that just by flipping on a switch in late April.

• And I blame Rasheed Wallace for most of it. He’s Stephon Marbury, Ricky Davis, Vin Baker, Dwayne Schintzius, Pervis Ellison, Frank Brickowski, Alton Lister and Brett Szabo all rolled into one. Most loathsome Celtic in my lifetime, and if not for  Carl Everett and Zeke Mowatt, would be the most loathsome athlete to ever play for a team I love.

• Best of luck to Tip Fairchild, who hung up his spikes this week after five years in the minor leagues. One can’t help wonder what might have been if he hadn’t injured his elbow just before making his Double-A debut in 2007. But anyone who knows Tip and his family knows he won’t dwell on that question for very long. Whoever hires him to coach their high school team is going to have a very good program very quickly.

• Someone needs to inform Gary Bettman that what we saw during that riveting Olympic hockey tournament was NOT the same product his league puts out every night. The NHL has been watered down by expansion. It offers little of the same end-to-end action we saw in Vancouver because of all the clutching and grabbing that goes on. And the regular season is meaningless. Admittedly, the Olympic competition had several advantages the NHL could or would probably never incorporate, such as no commercials except between periods, that kept casual (me) and even non-hockey fans coming back for more. So getting us to tune back in during the regular season is pretty much a hopeless cause. What the NHL can do is to make sure that when its product is at it’s best, during the Stanley Cup playoffs, we can turn on the TV and find a damn game to watch, and not just on the weekend.

• We’ll address this more in depth sometime before the season starts, but it’s quite amusing to hear some Red Sox fans fretting over the offense this year. To hear them tell it, I half expect Tom Brunansky to be hitting cleanup again.

• My trips to Hadlock Field will at least double this year if the Red Sox assign Jose Iglesias and Casey Kelly to the Sea Dogs.

• It’s too bad that with all of the reflecting upon the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” during the Vancouver Games that little mention was made of the 1960 U.S. Olympic hockey team that pulled off a little miracle of its own in Squaw Valley. That squad won America’s first hockey gold by beating the USSR then Czechoslovakia in come-from-behind fashion. Faithful reader Gerard Dennison points out that the third line center on that team was Dick Rodenheiser, a Massachusetts native who traveled to Lewiston on weekends to play for Country Kitchen at the Central Maine Youth Center (now the Colisee).

• My wallet is usually pretty tight, but there is a little 24-hour window when I’ll give it away to anybody, and it starts a week from today. Just hand me an NCAA bracket between Sunday and Monday nights and I’ll give you all the cash you want.

• Happy birthday, Ricky Proehl. Forty-two years ago tonight, a guy who once thought a dynasty was born was born. Right idea, Rick. Wrong dynasty.

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