Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

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Don’t Poke The Bear (i.e. Patriots)

AP/Elise Amendola

AP/Elise Amendola

Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler spoke to the media in advance of their matchup with the Patriots this Sunday. These press conferences happen every week and not much is usually said and not many headlines are made, but this week was a little different. Butler said the Pats do things “on the edge of being legal” and the offense doesn’t “do anything special”. That’s bulletin board material for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Either the comments were a mistake and taken out of context or Butler is an idiot. If you are an opponent of the Patriots, why the hell would you poke the bear?

If there is one thing we know about the Patriots, it is that Belichick and Brady are supremely motivated and passionate people (inwardly in Bill’s case). They are driven each week in the impossible pursuit of perfection and are tough to beat, even with major pieces not on their field. The last thing an opponent of the Patriots can afford is a mad and motivated Belichick and Brady. By making stupid comments about the Pats offense and the way the team plays the game not only won’t unnerve the Pats, it will give them extra motivation to beat the living crap out of the Steelers. Why hand the Pats an extra layer of motivation? It just makes no sense at all.

I don’t know anything about Butler except what I have read this week, so can’t speak to the man’s character, but his tactics are idiotic. If we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his comments were strategic, I imagine he was trying to call the refs attention to the Pats play with the first comment and their play being on the edge, maybe trying to grab an extra call or two Sunday. The second comment, I assume he thinks it will force Belichick and Josh McDaniels to react by changing up their offensive plan and getting them to play outside their comfort zone. If that’s the strategy, then he is completely oblivious to how the Patriots organization works. All the comments did were encourage the Pats to run up the score and show no mercy if the situation arises.

Despite having a great roster of very talented players, the Steelers are in trouble without QB Ben Roethlisberger. They have enough weapons to keep the game close, but a W would likely mean the Pats made some critical mistakes and gave the Steelers some key opportunities. With these comments Butler made the likelihood of a Steelers upset even more difficult and unlikely. When will people learn not to poke the bear?

Get Buckled in for an Exciting UConn Basketball Season

AP Photo

AP Photo

Last Friday was First Night (formerly midnight madness) on the UConn campus in Storrs, CT. It’s the first day college basketball teams can practice together and begins a month-long stretch of preparation leading to the home opener at Gampel Pavilion on November 11th against Wagner. The Huskies are without Daniel Hamilton (left early for NBA), Shonn Miller, and Sterling Gibbs from last year’s AAC Tournament Championship team, but are poised for great success once again. By my estimation, Kevin Ollie has the best team in the AAC going into this 2016-2017 season.

With Gibbs gone, sophomore Jalen Adams (Roxbury, MA native) will be the starting point guard for the Huskies. He is a smart player who looked more mature than a freshman last season (he also had his share of freshman mistakes). He made some big shots throughout the year (beyond half-court shot in the AAC tourney against Cincinnati to send the game into a 4th OT and eventually to a UConn W) and has shown leadership abilities. He has a much higher ceiling than Gibbs last season and is more of a true point guard who can distribute the ball. If there is one thing UConn is known for (besides championships), it’s producing great guards.

Alongside Adams in the backcourt is freshman Alterique Gilbert. Gilbert is a point guard, but will likely play some shooting guard in this year’s squad with time spent at the point when Adams gets a breather. Having two 6’+ ball handlers playing at the same time, both with quickness to spare, will prove difficult for opponents on both ends of the floor. Both can create their own shots in the lane and will create mismatches on smaller guards defensively. Gilbert was given an ESPN scouting grade of 89 (4-star rating) and was ranked as the 30th best prospect in the class of 2016.

UConn returns senior shot-blocker extraordinaire C Amida Brimah to lock down the paint and can now move senior Rodney Purvis to the small forward slot where his skill set fits the best. The biggest question mark is at the power forward spot. Kentan Facey was solid last year when he could stay out of foul trouble and is returning for his senior season. It will likely be his spot to lose, but with several young, athletic big men sitting on the bench, he will certainly be pushed. The main competition will likely be a pair of freshman Juwan Durham and Mamadou Diarra. They both likely see solid playing time, especially if Facey continues to hack everyone in sight.

Another major roster piece is VCU transfer big man Terry Larrier. At 6’8″ and 192 lbs, he is athletic and can stretch the floor, opening up the lane for Adams and Gilbert. As a sophomore transfer, Larrier has a little more experience than Durham and Diarra, which could prove to be useful in late game situations or if foul trouble becomes an issue. He played in 36 games for VCU his freshman year, sat out last year because of the transfer, but was able to practice with the team. He should have a knowledge advantage on the others and could be a critical piece down the stretch.

Overall, this UConn team appears to be as talented, if not more talented, than last year’s squad. There is a higher ceiling, but more uncertainty given the reliance on young players in the guard spots. If Adams can effectively run the offense and Gilbert is as good as advertised, a deep run in the NCAA tournament is not out of the question. I predict that UConn wins the AAC title this year and makes some noise in the tournament come March.

Vontaze Burfict Will Never Learn

Getty Images

Getty Images

At age 26, the reputation of Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict precedes him. By every definition of the word, he is a dirty player and has been his entire career. Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots is just another example of why Burfict should not be allowed to play in the NFL, especially if player safety is actually a concern for the NFL front office. On two occasions Sunday, Burfict took a shot at a Patriots player that had no impact on the play and with clear intent to harm.

Burfict’s list of on-field NFL transgressions is growing by the day. In 2015, he was fined 4 separate times for violating safety-related rules and began 2016 with a 3 game suspension thanks to a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers WR Antonio Brown in last year’s wild card game. Brown was knocked out and didn’t return. That hit and a previous history of ugly hits led to his suspension. Since 2012, Burfict has been fined $204,329 total for issues connected to player safety. His issues run much deeper than just in the NFL. In college at Arizona State Burfict had a rough junior season thanks to countless personal foul penalties and several rumors that he attacked a teammate. There was a good reason his draft stock fell from top 10 to undrafted. He is a talented player, but doesn’t understand the words control or restraint.

On Sunday, Burfict went low and took the legs out from Martellus Bennett away from the play. The pass was downfield to Danny Amendola, not near Bennett, yet he felt compelled to lunge at Bennett’s lower body. Regardless of whether he intended to harm or not, these are the hits the NFL is trying to remove from the game. After review of the tape however, that wasn’t even the worst transgression of the afternoon. During the 4th quarter, LeGarrette Blount plowed through the pile for a 1-yard TD. In the pile up, you can clearly see Burfict intentionally stomp on his legs. There is no question in my mind it was an intentional act.

Every year the NFL changes rules of the game to “protect player safety”. They have continued to increase penalties and restrictions around hits on QBs, limited contact with receivers downfield, and made attempts to limit kickoff returns all in an effort (supposedly) to protect the players. If the intention of the league is to focus on player safety, then something needs to be done about players who repeatedly disregard these rules like Vontaze Burfict. Clearly a 3-game suspension did not change the behavior of Burfict, so stricter penalties need to be enforced before someone gets seriously hurt.

The Silver Lining of No Big XII Expansion


It was announced yesterday that after months of will-they, won’t-they, the Big XII will not enter a period of expansion. This decision leaves UConn and others out in the cold and stuck in their current conferences. For those who have been following this closely and were excited about the possibility of a conference move, this may seem like a negative for UConn athletics. For me, the longer the process wore on, the more I felt a Big XII move would be better than the AAC, but still not a great fit.

Let’s start with the most obviously reason: football competition. Through 7 games this year, UConn football is 3-4 (1-3 in the AAC). If this UConn team was in the Big XII, there is a real chance they would be a 1-win or no win team at this point in the season. With 1 or no wins, fan support would be at rock bottom and TV ratings would be even lower. They would get a recruiting bump from moving to a more prominent conference, but that impact wouldn’t be visible for at least 3 years after the move. That means another at least 3+ years of terrible football with no bowl appearances and no success. Yes the matchups would be more interesting, but success drives fans and viewership, not matchups.

The second is the obvious challenge from the beginning: travel. Of the 10 teams currently making up the Big XII, 4 are in Texas, 2 are in Kansas, 2 are in Oklahoma, 1 is in Iowa, and 1 is in West Virginia. The closest to UConn, West Virginia, is 524 miles from the Storrs campus and the furthest is Texas Tech at nearly 2,000 miles away. With away games being such great distances from home, the travelling fan base (what limited one there already is) would take a significant hit (especially if the team isn’t going to win many games on the road). Like the competition, this isn’t a deal breaker, but makes the Big XII less than ideal for UConn.

Regardless of whether you loved this potential move or were unsure, it’s now off the table. The AAC appears to be the home for UConn athletics for the near future. If another opportunity arises, I’m sure UConn will be front and center making a case, but so long as football is the main money driver in college athletics, a big move will be relatively hard to come by unless something turns around quickly. Below .500 in a mediocre conference doesn’t do anyone any favors.

Young Talent Showing Early Promise for Bruins


Coming into the 2016-2017 season for the Boston Bruins the expectations were mixed with many believing the team did not improve enough this offseason, especially on defense. To make things worse, just before the season started the team announced Patrice Bergeron would miss the beginning part of the season with a lower-body injury. Without Bergeron, it’s realistic to think this team doesn’t have much of a chance to contend, but through 3 games, some young bucks have stepped up and played well leading the Bruins to a 2-1-0 record.

The biggest young star is RW David Pastrnak. In his first 2 years in Boston he showed flashes of great play and offensive ability, but hasn’t been able to consistently produce and stay on the ice for a full NHL schedule. At age 20, this is the year you hope for a breakout and thus far, he is showing his incredible offensive prowess. In just 3 games, he has 4 goals (1st in the league), 2 assists, and is a +7 (1st in the league). It has helped Pastrnak to play on a line with veterans LW Brad Marchand and newly acquired C David Backes. The three on that line have 8 of the Bruins 11 goals and 8 assists total. Not too shabby.

Another important young player for the Bruins is D Brandon Carlo. He was a 2nd round draft pick of the Bruins in 2015 and seemed to be a perfect fit for the organization: a 6’5″ 203lb hard-nosed, physically gifted player with solid puck control and finish. He’s not afraid to get in the dirty areas and as we saw on Monday night, can put the puck in the back of the net. Carlo is at the bottom end of the roster, but his poise and talent early on shows me that he belongs in the NHL. If he continues to grow and develop, it will go a long way in helping to sure up the d-core, which is critical if the Bruins want to contend. Through 3 games, Carlo has 1 goal and 1 assist (+7) and he has seen his ice time steadily increase each game.

Overall, the first road trip of the year was a success. The Bruins took 4 of a possible 6 points and the team was able to produce 11 goals over that span. The Marchand, Backes, Pastrnak line is lighting the world on fire and will lead to some interesting decisions when Bergeron is back (hopefully soon). I know it’s early, but I’m starting to think this Bruins team is better than I thought and at least has the potential to be quite good this year.

UConn Football Comes Up Short in Tampa

Photo from

Photo from

After a slow first half with a solid defensive showing, UConn looked to take back the game in the 3rd quarter against USF on Saturday night in Tampa. In the course of a 2+ minute span, UConn had an interception (Obi Melifonwu) leading to a 70-yard Arkeel Newsome receiving TD and then forced a fumble leading to another Newsome score, this time on the ground. Just like that, in a game that UConn looked flat, they were leading 17-14 in the 2nd half. Unfortunately for Husky fans, that was where the joy and momentum ended.

Despite 4 forced turnovers for UConn, the South Florida Bulls flexed their muscles and re-took the lead on an 8-yard QB run for Quinton Flowers, who was too much to handle for the Huskies. On the day, the South Florida QB was 23 for 37 through the air for 213 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions, which was ok, but it’s what he did on the ground that killed UConn (16 carries for 157 yards and 3 TDs). Historically, mobile and athletic QBs pick apart the UConn defense and Saturday was no exception.

The high-scoring Bulls kept pouring it on and eventually won 42-27, marking the 11th straight game with at least 35 points, 11th straight game with 440+ yards of offense, and the 12th straight game with 200+ rushing yards. They moved to 6-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to powerhouse Florida State. USF looks like a legitimate top-tier team in FBS and they had a real shot at finishing the year with just 1 loss.

On the flip side, there were some positive things for UConn. The defense forced 4 turnovers after having forced just 3 in the first 6 games of the season, a trend they need to see continue in order to get 3 more wins and become bowl eligible. On the offensive side of the ball, Bryant Shirreffs was 22 for 39 passing with 306 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions. A very strong night for the junior who helped UConn put up 27 points, their highest output of the season. He was looking to pass first most of the night, rather than just tuck and run every single down. When he takes the time and has the blocking, he can find receivers down field for big gains.

In the end, very few people had UConn winning this game on the road against a very powerful offensive team. The final line was -20 for USF, so in that sense, UConn did better than expected and frankly held on longer than I would have thought. There were some encouraging signs going forward for this squad. UConn comes home to play UCF (3-3) next weekend as they look to climb back to .500 on the year.

Repercussions for Red Sox with Mike Hazen’s Departure

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Less than 2 weeks after the quick end to the Red Sox season, there have been a few major headlines regarding management. The first was president Dave Dombrowski announcing manager John Farrell and his entire staff will be welcomed back for the 2017 season just hours after the season ended so abruptly. The 2nd big piece of news involved a departure on Sunday. Red Sox GM Mike Hazen agreed to become the Arizona Diamondbacks GM yesterday, leaving the organization after 11 years. The move makes sense for Hazen and could be great for Arizona, but could leave the Red Sox in a bit of a bind.

After spending years in various scouting and development roles, Hazen spent 4 years as the Red Sox assistant GM before becoming the GM following Ben Cherington’s departure last off-season. After president Dave Dombrowski was hired, it was clear that Hazen was #2 in command despite dropping the assistant off of his title. The move to Arizona gives him a better title (Executive Vice President and GM) and gives the 40-year old more authority than he had in Boston with a basically clean slate. His departure alone isn’t a major issue, but who he might take with him to Arizona may be.

With a vacancy at manager and other front office positions to fill, Hazen will likely be taking a closer look at the people he knows well from his time in Boston. One name that continues to surface is Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who Hazen reportedly has a good relationship with. Lovullo made a managerial name for himself after stepping in for John Farrell following a lymphoma diagnosis in August of 2015. He led a bad and struggling team to a 28-20 record to finish the season and seemed to have a great ability to bring the team together and help the younger players develop. For many, he is seen as the heir apparent for Farrell if things go south to begin next season. Many, myself included, believed he would be the manager going into the 2017 season.

Hazen will likely at least interview Lovullo for the Arizona job. It’s certainly not the end of the world if Lovullo leaves for Arizona, but it removes a stable and knowledgeable voice from the dugout, which Farrell desperately needs. Lovullo and Farrell are good friends and having a sounding board for big decisions in Lovullo has been critical to limiting Farrell’s odd in-game mistakes. Also, without Lovullo it will be much harder to cut ties with Farrell in the event of a slow start to 2017, because there isn’t a clear next-in-line to take over.

Whether it is Arizona with Mike Hazen or another team who comes calling, Lovullo will likely have an opportunity to manage in 2017, making the decision to keep Farrell even more costly if he isn’t successful.

Loui Eriksson Already Missing the Bruins

That’s not a great way to start the season with your new team. Poor Loui Eriksson scoring on his own net in the most ridiculous way possible. Well, on the bright side, it can only get better from here, right?

Player Spotlight: LB Elandon Roberts


The Patriots rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts played in place of injured Jamie Collins on Sunday against the Bengals. He looked very good early on in the game, making tackles all over the field and had a few really nice hard hits. For those who are unfamiliar with Roberts, which I imagine is most of you, here is some background on the young linebacker.


Age: 22 years old (Rookie)

Height/Weight: 5’11”, 235 lbs

Hometown: Port Arthur, TX

College: University of Houston

Drafted in the 6th round (214th) in 2016

College Career

Roberts began his college career at Morgan State, where he had 107 tackles his freshman year (2nd best in school history). He transferred to the University of Houston where he played in 8 games during his sophomore season, playing mostly on special teams. In his junior year, Roberts got significant playing time at linebacker and recorded his first sack and 3.5 tackles for a loss in 12 games. He recorded 9 tackles in the Armed Forces Bowl victory that season. He blossomed in his senior year leading the team with 88 solo tackles (best in FBS) and 142 total tackles in 14 games played (50 more than the 2nd highest tackle total on the team). He helped lead Houston to a 13-1 record (only loss was against UConn) and an 8th ranked finish in the final AP Poll.

One of the main reasons Roberts dropped so far in the draft was his size. He is an undersized linebacker, which scared teams away. The Patriots liked him for his leadership skills and his extensive special teams experience (Bill loves special teams guys). It didn’t hurt that Roberts showed some serious speed at the NFL Combine (4.62 40-yard dash).

The NFL graded him a 5 out of 10 (“50/50 chance of making the roster”) for the draft. Although it’s very early in his career, his potential definitely looks greater than a 5.0 at this point. Under Bill Belichick, he will have a chance to learn and grow behind one of the best line-backing cores in football.

NFL Career

Roberts has appeared in 3 games (1 start) for the Patriots in 2016 and has recorded 7 solo tackles and 8 assisted tackles (the majority in the last game vs the Bengals). With the revolving door of linebacker injuries this season for the Pats, Roberts should get a decent chance to showcase his skills and continue to earn playing time. Any time he gets on the field this season is bonus learning experience for the future. If he keeps performing well and earning time, he could be a consistent rotational player as early as next season.

Patriots with 3rd Quarter Magic Against Bengals

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The first half of Sunday’s Patriots vs Bengals game was dominated by the Bengals in almost every aspect of the game except the scoreboard. The Patriots were up 10-7 going into the break thanks to some timely defense (4th and 1 stop on the goal line) and a late 9 play, 50 yard drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run by LeGarrette Blount with just 57 seconds left on the clock. It was a slow start in Tom Brady‘s return to Foxboro, but they more than made up for it in the 2nd half.

The turning point of the game was a 4 min stretch in the 3rd quarter that saw the Patriots put up 15 unanswered points. After the Bengals took the lead 14-10, the Patriots were forced to punt the ball to back to Cincy. It all got started for the Pats with a Dont’a Hightower sack on Andy Dalton in the end zone for a safety, bringing the score to 14-12. The ensuing drive was 5 plays, 68 yards in just 2 minutes and ended with the first Gronk spike of the season (19-14 Pats). The defense then stepped up, forcing a 3 and out for the Bengals in just 27 seconds of game clock. In typical Brady fashion, he then shut the door with a 4 play, 53 yard TD drive to give the Pats a two-possession lead (25-14).

Overall, Brady was as impressive as ever. He went 29 for 36 (83%) with 376 yards and 3 TDs, despite his offensive line struggling to protect him, especially in the first half. Rob Gronkowski finally looked fully healthy and had a monster day hauling in 7 passes for 162 yards and a TD. Defensively, the Pats were without Jamie Collins, but in his place, rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts was all over the field early. Frankly, he was one of the only bright spots in the first half on defense. He came up big in the run game and made some great plays over the middle. Roberts spent a little time on the sideline with an injury, but recorded 7 tackles (6 solo) and looked like the spotlight was not too bright, even at the young age of 22.

A good 35-17 W for the Pats who head to Pittsburgh next weekend for a showdown with the Steelers. Luckily for New England, Ben Roethlisberger tore his meniscus yesterday against the Dolphins and needs surgery. He’ll miss next weeks game, so the Pats will be facing off against Landry Jones and not Big Ben as they look to move to 6-1. Not to look too far ahead, but two weeks from now Sexy Rexy and the suddenly-playing-well Buffalo Bills come to town for a rematch of the 16-0 Pats loss in week 4.

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