Friday, August 16, 2002

I had the opportunity to go to CMGI Field (Gillette Stadium) last night for a dinner and tour. During dinner Jonathan Kraft spoke to the group and discussed last years team. He attributed all the success to Bill Belichick and his attitude. After the Miami game, when the team was 1-3, everyone was really down in the locker room and there was a feeling like everyone was ready to give up on the season. Belichick told the team that the whole coaching staff had confidence in the team and felt they could win. He said that he only wanted players who felt the same way to show up to practice. He didn't care if it was 53 guys, 25 guys, or 11 guys. Those were the only players he wanted. The next weeks game was when they were down by 10 to San Diego with 7 minutes left and they came back to win. Kraft thinks they would have given up in that game without Belichick's speech.
When Kraft was talking about the team being 1-3, he said that it appeared the team was down for the count. He mentioned that the star quarterback was in the hospital and had almost died. He then had his funniest line when he said that their most gifted player, Terry Glenn, had checked out to whatever universe he is from. After the laughs died down, Kraft said he wishes Terry well but only because if he catches 75 balls this year, the Pats get GB's 2nd round draft pick. After that he doesn't care what happens.

After speaking to the whole group, I had a chance to get an exclusive interview with Jonathan Kraft. I discussed with him the success of the stadium and how he feels about going to a game there. His excitement was not hidden when he talked about not being able to wait for the first game. Jonathan is very proud of the stadium and it shows.

Next was the tour of the stadium. The function took place in the clubhouse, which is a huge room with probably around 100 tables. The ceiling is open for 4 stories high. On one side of the room are windows that look out over the Foxboro woods. It is quite a view since the function room is up pretty high in the stadium. The other side of the room is all windows that overlook the field. The tour brought us first to the luxury suites. I believe there were 16 seats, two rows of 8 each that look down to the field. The windows slide open. The suites are very big and owners get 32 seats for game days. The only thing I don't like is that there is no balcony where you can go outside and watch the game. All seats are inside. Also, if you were ever in the middle of the row, you would not be able to get out because there is zero legroom. A minor complaint, yes, but it seems like that would not be a problem in a suite that goes for $325,000 a year.

We were off to the press box next. Again, a very large room with food and drinks for the reporters. Probably about 20 seats up against the window overlooking the field. The reporters will be getting their view from basically behind the end zone.

The concourse level is twice as wide as any other stadium in the country. There are no walls blocking the field. The Kraft's did that so that while you are waiting in line for food or drink, you can still see the field and watch the action. Jonathan Kraft said that was done to avoid missing big plays while you are in line. It's a nice touch.

The stadium was designed to have as much wind as possible whipping through. It was very windy there and a woman on the tour asked about it. It was done to give a competitive advantage to the Patriots. It was mentioned that for games like Miami coming here in December, the wind and cold makes it very tough on them. There is also a competitive edge with how the teams get to the locker rooms at halftime. On the home side, right behind where the team sits, is a tunnel that leads directly to the Pats locker room. It is almost like a dugout for a baseball team where you have very quick access to the locker room. The visiting team, on the other hand, has no tunnel. They have to walk all the way around the backside of the end zone and near the home teams side of the field. They then enter a separate tunnel before doubling back and walking under the stands and back around to their side of the field where they walk the length of the stadium to get to their locker room. That seems to be the Red Auerbach touch to the stadium.

Overall, it is a very impressive place. I look forward to attending a game there and taking in the atmosphere. A job well done by the Patriots organization.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

It's nice to see the Sox win even though Derek wasn't completely on his game. Those are the types of games that they have not been able to win this year, when they weren't as sharp as they could be. It would be nice of they could use that as a turning point. Good to see Trot starting to hit the ball, too.

Tony Clark discusses the different strike possibilities but still says he is optimistic a deal will get done. ''I imagine if there's a strike, it's going to hurt everyone,'' he said.

In Bob Hohlers notebook, Pedro reveals that he was fined $1000 for hitting Ben Grieve on July 25th. Bob Watson told him that he would not be fined if he only said it was an accident, but Pedro did not want to lie. Also a blip from Grady Little about looking back at all the Sox missed opportunities this year: ''If we look back, we're going to get indigestion.''

As I wrote here on August 7th, the Nets signing Dikembe Mutumbo did not concern me too much. But their signing of Rodney Rogers yesterday does. I think I may now be ready to concede the division to the Nets. I know a lot can happen over the course of a season, but as things are now, and with everyone remaining healthy, the Nets are going to be really tough to beat. With Jason Kidd (TWB) still on the team, their offense was going to be good anyways. But we have all seen what Rodney can do to a defense. If NJ plays Rodney and Dikembe together, they will be very tough to defend. One question remains... why couldn't the C's have just used the money they spent on Walter and given it to Rodney? It doesn't seem like a tough choice to me.

The Patriots signed old friend (foe?) Jimmy Hitchcock yesterday. Jimmy was not well liked in his time here from 95 to 97. It was pointed out on WEEI yesterday that all the Pats need now is to sign Willie Clay and they would have the exact same secondary as their 1996 Super Bowl team. That secondary was coached by Bill Belichick.
Michael Felger talks about the difficulties the Pats may have in signing Belichick and Scott Pioli. As usual, Felger is way out in left field on this one.

Bill Simmons talks about the new Madden football game and discusses his video game history with us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Not the best start to a road trip. It makes it worse that the Yanks, Angels, and A's all won last night too. Just about the worst scenario you could imagine. At least Lowe pitches tonight. I still think Pedro should have pitched the 3rd game of this series.

Burkett started out well, but faded quickly. He now has the worst road ERA in the league at 6.51. Bob Hohler also takes the opportunity to take an uncalled for shot at Manny saying, "Though Ramirez managed to make his way around the bases without fracturing a finger, as he did in his last visit to Safeco May 11". Just another case of the media piling on Manny.

Larry Bird will present Magic Johnson when Magic is inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Monday, August 12, 2002

So what constitutes a great team? Is it just sheer numbers? Stats? Does chemistry play a role? Certainly the record has a big part in it, but it isn't everything. What about overcoming obstacles? You may not have the best record but if you overcame a lot just to get where you did, shouldn't that count?
Why do I ask these questions? ESPN Page 2 did a piece on the 10 greatest football teams of all time. Your NE Patriots of this past season are not on the list. My first thought was that they maybe should have eked out the 9 or 10 spot. After reading the list, I'm not so sure. There are some really great teams on that list. I completely understand the omission. But there is an honorable mention section that the Pats are left out of too. This is the part that gets me a little bit. It's not like the honorable mentions are ranked. So would it have killed ESPN to put the Pats in there? I guess it goes back to the whole lack of respect and everyone thinking it was a fluke thing. It's just more fuel for the Pats to use this year as motivation. I put a poll up so you can vote as to weather the Pats should have been mentioned as one of the greatest teams.

This from Frank Hughes who writes for ESPN:
Here are several reasons why Vin Baker is going to fail in Boston.

"In a story in the Boston Globe last weekend, Baker's father, James, was quoted as saying "certain people" within the organization were bad influences on Vin, as if Gary Payton physically forced Baker into the limo at 3 in the morning to go out clubbing. Then, Vin Baker told the Globe: "Nate (McMillan) couldn't stand me," and that "internal problems" in the organization were the reason why his reputation and his game faltered. Until both Vin Baker and his family stop blaming other people and take responsibility for what happened to Baker in Seattle, he is going to continue living the lie, and he is never going to become the player he thinks he is."

My issue is this... Frank Hughes also writes for the Tacoma (Wash.) News-Tribune. So isn't he a little bit biased? Baker is public enemy #1 in Washington right now, so it only makes sense that a writer from that area would say he is going to fail. I guess that's another one for the garbage pail.

Sean McAdam ranks his AL MVP candidates. D-Lowe and Pedro make the list.