Here's three columns for the price of one (which in this case is nothing):
There may never be another week in Boston sports history like last week. You may not have noticed it, but I did. It was as rare as the planets aligning. Four of the biggest icons of the last decade in the three major sports in Boston made headlines almost simultaneously. Two of the icons came across looking like winners. The other two came across as whiners.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett
There are two blank squares under Robert Parish's 00 and Cedric Maxwell's 31 on the banner of retired numbers hanging from the rafters of the TD Garden. Not for long, though. Soon there will be a 34 and a 5 in those blank squares, completing the banner.
Sunday night saw the return of two of the Big Three to Boston. From the time Pierce and Garnett were traded to the Brooklyn Nets, Celtics fans had circled January 27, 2014-- Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics-- on the calendar. This wasn't like Ray Allen coming back to the TD Garden as a member of the Miami Heat. This wasn't like Johnny Damon coming back to Fenway as a New York Yankee. Jacoby Ellsbury will get to know that same feeling this coming season.
No, this was different. Pierce and Garnett didn't choose to go elsewhere. They were traded. Not only were they traded, they were traded in order to ensure the future of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics received three first round picks in the deal. It would only be the beginning of Danny Ainge stockpiling draft picks and trade chips for the future.
Sunday night was a celebration. The result of the game was inconsequential. It was a dress rehearsal of sorts for the day when the Celtics do retire Paul Pierce's number 34 and Kevin Garnett's number 5.
Everyone was all smiles. There was laughter. There were the emotional tribute montage videos put together by the Celtics and shown in the arena at the end of the first quarter. Again, the game itself was just a sideshow.
Banner 17 would not have been possible without the efforts of Garnett and Pierce. They were consummate team players. Pierce persevered during the down times. He played during the Rick Pitino Era, after all. The 2006-07 Celtics team went 24-58. Then along came KG who instilled a new culture in the Celtics locker room. "Anything is possible" was soon to be born.
Sunday night was a great moment at TD Garden and one that won't be soon forgotten. Now on to the bad stuff:
The legendary Patriots head coach made headlines as well. In a press conference the day after his team got eliminated from the playoffs last week, Belichick was his customary ornery self.
Even if Wes Welker doesn't get a Super Bowl ring this coming weekend, at least he got the last laugh with his former coach. It might be hard to tell which would be more satisfying.
In the Broncos' victory over the Patriots, a key play came early in the second quarter when Welker collided with an unsuspecting Aqib Talib on a crossing pattern. Talib, the defense's most important player, was unable to get back on the field. In a prepared opening statement at his press conference the following day, Belichick called it "one of the worst plays I've ever seen." He referred to Welker as "the receiver," never mentioning him by name. He suggested fines should be issued. None were.
The critique was highly out of character for Belichick. This is "the head coach" who tries to say as little as possible, never trying to cause controversy, and always trying to avoid providing bulletin board material. But when it comes to Welker, Belichick just can't help himself.
It's difficult to comprehend the coach's animosity for the receiver. Welker gave his body and soul for the Patriots for six years. In five of those seasons, he caught over 110 passes. So what was the problem?
Belichick benched Welker for the first drive of a playoff game against the Jets in 2010-- a game which the Patriots lost. The crime? Welker dared to make "foot" references directed towards Jets head coach Rex Ryan during a press conference.
In 2012, the Patriots declined to give Welker the security of a long-term contract, but instead chose to franchise him. Belichick tried to hurt Welker's value by lessening his role at the start of that season. Welker only had three receptions for 14 yards in the first game.
A few weeks later, injuries forced the Patriots to focus on Welker again. After a 13-catch performance, Welker told CSNNE's Mike Felger, "It's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face every once in a while."
This past offseason, the Patriots didn't make much of an effort to sign Welker and he chose to catch passes from arch-nemesis Peyton Manning. The Patriots felt they overpaid Welker as a franchise player. They tried to put a positive spin on their offer by arguing that if you combined the $9.5 million from his franchise tag season along with their current offer that they were offering more than what the Broncos did. What a cockamamie argument that was. What about the previous five seasons when Welker was underpaid?
Belichick comes across looking like a sore loser. It's not breaking news. He has refused to shake hands with opposing head coaches following games. He has walked off the field early following defeats. He has declined to do interviews. He has chased after referees.
Belichick may be a great coach, and he is, but he is a classless individual.
Big Papi has been instrumental in the Boston Red Sox winning three World Series titles in the last decade. Not bad for a franchise that hadn't won one in the previous 86 years.
Ortiz will have his number 34 retired some day by the Red Sox. He may have a statue erected outside Fenway some day. If they do, I wish they have him posing with a contract in one hand and a look of consternation on his face.
It's the same old song and dance with Ortiz. I get tired of writing about it. Every time he nears the end of a contract, he plays the "disrespect" card. He did it again in an interview aired on WBZ-TV's Sports Final this past Sunday.
The 38-year-old Ortiz again reiterated that if the Red Sox don't offer him a multi-year contract that he has no problem finishing his career with another team.
How about just playing out your contract and stop being a distraction? How about letting fans enjoy their world championship a little while longer before reminding everyone that "this is a business."
I say trade him to Houston for a couple of minor leaguers and let him play in front of 10,000 dispassionate fans on a nightly basis. This won't be the last you hear from Ortiz regarding his contract. I've already had enough.