Islanders_Bruins_Hockey_23840

Hockey fans sit socially distanced in TD Garden before a game between the Bruins and the Islanders on Mach 25 in Boston. AP photo

I bought a T-shirt last summer.

I got it in one of those touristy little places in North Conway, right on the main drag, paying far too much for a swath of red cotton with a few words hastily splashed across the front.

The shirt says, “I Miss Sports 2020.”

I received more comments and air-high fives with that shirt on than any other one I’ve ever owned — which probably says something about my wardrobe.

 

In the height of a COVID world — the new normal — we all missed sports, especially before the National Hockey League’s summer restart, Major League Baseball’s abbreviated season or the National Football League’s return to play.

Even with those things going on, it still never felt like “sports,” at least not as we’ve come to understand them. Empty stadiums, piped-in artificial crowd noise and events that looked more like scrimmages than big-league contests only added to the ambivalence.

The way 2021 has started out, I still miss sports.

*****

Watching the Bruins for the last few weeks, I can’t help but be reminded of the radio announcer in “Bull Durham” lamenting a particularly woeful stretch for the home team.

“It begs the question: What are these boys thinking about, because it sure ain’t baseball.”

The Bruins are stale, predictable and aging right before our very eyes. It’s like Patrice Bergeron caught a case of the 50-somethings as soon as the captain’s ‘C’ was slapped on the chest of his sweater.

We’ve probably finally got the answer to the age-old question of why the hunt for a winger who can play alongside David Krejci has never yielded results. The answer is Krejci himself, whose best seasons were more than a decade ago.

More to the point, it’s an American Hockey League lineup competing in arguably the NHL’s best division under the new alignment. Great college players do not Hall of Fame NHLers make, no matter what general manager Don Sweeney believes.

The Bruins probably won’t make the playoffs, and if they do they’ll be backstopped by a career backup in Jaroslav Halak and a career minor-leaguer in Dan Vladar. Awe-inspiring stuff, I assure you.

*****

As I’m writing this, I’m watching the Red Sox open the season with nine punchless innings against the Orioles.

When Boston adopted the Tampa Bay strategy for winning baseball, utilizing no-name guys who get on base and more arms in the bullpen than brains in the dugout, they forgot to tell us that it’s not the defending American League champion Rays we’re getting.

Nope.

We’re getting the 1999 Devil Rays. Just go ahead and pencil Randy Winn into the No. 3 hole for me.

I realize that Fenway Park opened to only 12 percent capacity in the grandstands for Opening Day on Friday. That’s probably good — I’m not sure they’d sell many more tickets than that to watch this cracker jack of a lineup, anyway.

Can someone tell me who half these guys are?

On the bright side, there’s only 161 more of these to suffer through.

*****

New England sports have gotten so bad that the Patriots didn’t even make the playoffs this year, and the Celtics probably won’t.

I mean, you know it was bad midway through the NFL season when longtime Patriots fans, the same ones who’d suffered through the Hugh Millen era, were scrapping their Pat The Patriot jerseys for brand spanking new Tom Brady Buccaneers duds.

I guess in Bill we no longer trust.

I tried to take great joy in the Patriots’ sudden and predictable demise, but then free agency opened and they were like a 14-year-old playing EA Sports Madden and adding every great player in the league to their roster.

And, like that 14-year-old with his buddies after winning three straight Super Bowls in a single Mountain-Dew-and-Sour-Patch-Kids-fueled night, the fans will all proclaim the wins next season as the result of hard work and “earning” it.

*****

I watched the NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday, the series’ first race on dirt in four decades. It was different, I’ll grant you that, but different isn’t always good.

I’ve heard that it was “exciting” because drivers couldn’t see and you didn’t know what was going to happen.

I guess if I watched professional soccer goalkeepers try and stop penalty kicks while blindfolded, that too could qualify as “entertaining.”

It just doesn’t make it good.

*****

You know, I’m starting to think that shirt I bought last summer was equal parts punchline and prognosticator.

I never thought I’d get this far into 2021 and still miss sports in 2020.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: