Farewell to the Celts and Bruins

The choice is between anger, which is needless, and that imprecise if fetchingly civil deference to the promise of “next year”, which has become, at this point, rather a bore.

After all it will have been 38 years and counting when the next Bruins’ ever more elusive “next year” dawns. In the meantime we’ve had 37 touching farewells to quaintly unfulfilled seasons. As art forms go, it has become a considerable challenge. What is there about this team that inspires so much pity?

For sure the Celtics are also departed. But there is no hint of shame in that nor should there be any regret. You don’t lose your game’s single most potent defensive force and remain the “team-to-beat”. If basketball is not quite a one-man show, every team has one indispensable man.

So it was that the Celtics title defense ended in the desert wastes of Utah the night of 19 February when the ravages of Kevin Garnett’s knees finally caught up with him.

There’s an eerie precedent to what happened to the Celtics this year. Back in 1958 they were coasting to their second title when the incomparable Bill Russell went down with a severely sprained ankle and “Presto”, the party was over. The parallel is less than precise. In ‘58, Russ was still a young fellow and the ankle healed nicely over the summer. Whereas Garnett has a lot more wear and tear on those knees and off-season surgery still looms.

Still, that they extended the discussion into mid- May -- while surviving en route a veritable and memorable tong-war with the Bulls -- brings all the credit to the Celtics they could have hoped for this season. History being forever on their side and the Magic being the Magic there was always the chance they might squeeze out another round, although the honor of being trampled by LeBron James and company was hardly inviting. It ended as it had to and you should salute Orlando’s “indispensable man”, Dwight Howard, and his delightfully oafish comrade, Hedo Turkoglu, dubbed by Bob Ryan “the Turkish Larry Bird”.

Mark the Celtics’ demise down to the random caprices of injury. They’ll be back.

The Bruins may be another story. Once again they’ve toyed with the region’s emotions tapping into a latent affection for a rugged, old-world, game that the smart set no longer deems fashionable. Once again we were just getting to know and like a crusty band of bearded, sweating, fairly nameless, yet amiable characters when they suddenly got the hook leaving us to ask, “Is that all there is?”

If the on-going historical tides hold true, the next time we endure this phenomenon it will feature a whole new cast of characters and we’ll have to start all over again. But people will do so with remarkably little annoyance. The flip side of pity, it seems, is a willing disposition to forgive. It’s a cyclical thing playing out every decade or so.

Will these Bruins be back next season competing for the best record in the league and winning their division and conference to finish as a top seed and favorite to reach the Cup’s finals? It’s always polite when a season ends dramatically to say the answer is “Yes”. But one suspects the answer here is, “No”. History is a major factor. Where this subject is concerned even those who vividly remember the history are doomed to repeat it.

All along this season there was the gnawing notion that the Bruins were over-rated and played substantially over their collective heads from October through January. Credit for that goes entirely to the superb coaching of rock-solid Claude Julien who imposed the highest degree of discipline and order the team had known since the early days of Pat Burns’ tenure in the late ’90s. Helping greatly was the fact that injuries, ever the dreaded wildcard, were minimal. It was a team that believed in itself.

Then came February which is when this league truly gets down to business and games really begin to mean something. The Bruins soon marked the turn by losing six out of seven. Between the 5th of February and the 19th of March -- the all important and highly revealing stretch drive when the level of intensity rises significantly -- the Bruins were 6-13.

(For purposes of this discussion over-time losses are deemed not “one-pointers” but “losses”, which is what they are.) When they finished with eight wins in their last ten games the extended skid was brushed aside. That was unwise.

Meanwhile, those wild and crazy ‘Canes were closing the regular season with a furious surge. Given their sorry lineage as erstwhile Whalers it was easy for the Bruins legions to be dismissive. That was a mistake. Three quarters of the season the ‘Canes were lackluster but when the going got hot, they got torrid. Games won in March have more substance than games won in November. How you end a season is far more important than how you begin one.

With the wisdom of hindsight, always profound, the Hurricanes’ peril should have been clearly recognized. The Bruins regular season achievements were deceiving while the Hurricanes garrison finish snaring a playoff spot the final week was insufficiently appreciated; a volatile equation. True, the Bruins dominated the ‘Canes in the regular season, winning all four times they met; but it happened only once (17 Feb.) during the crucial stretch run. Actually, the Bruins may have been lucky to extend the thing to seven games.

What only matters is that in the end there was little doubt about which team was better. There was not a single category of play in which the Bruins had the clear edge. Surely it was not in skating, or moving the puck, or on the power-play (where they were 2 for 28), or in back-checking, or in handing out hits (surprise), or in taking them, or on face-offs, or in displaying sheer grit, or (especially) in goal. The ever-valiant Tim Thomas had a good series. But with less theatre and more solid fundamental play Cam Ward was better.

It’s hard to fault Thomas, the heart of the team, but he butchered the ultimate moment when Carolina’s bad boy, Scott Walker, tapped in a rebound to end the Series in game seven’s sudden-death overtime. Ray Whitney’s initial shot was an easy flip which Thomas should have devoured allowing no rebound for Walker. Dennis Wideman, the defenseman who was in Walker’s shirt, should have tackled him. There would have been no penalty for the officials had put away their whistles and would only have called one if Wideman had pulled out a switchblade and stuck it in Walker’s ribs. It was all so aggravating while, at the same time, being perfectly reasonable for the Bruins had no business winning the thing.

Walker was the certified bete noire of this year’s heartbreak. There’s always one when the B’s get chilled; a particularly nasty opponent accused of high crimes and misdemeanors that allow him to play an instrumental role in our heroes’ demise. Over the years the likes of John Ferguson. Claude Lemieux, Ulfie Samuelsson, and Esa Tikkanen have starred in this curious role and this year the honor fell to Walker, a journeyman winger hitherto unknown.

It was Walker who knocked smooth-skating defenseman Andrew Ference out of the series with a borderline hit and Walker who sucker punched defenseman Aaron Ward in a bush league stunt unworthy of “Slapshot” and Walker who sassed them up and down the ice and between the games and escaped unscathed and Walker who jammed the deciding goal past Thomas. He played with extraordinary passion and sheer abandon and after the series we learned ‘why’. It seems that during the series Walker’s young wife Julie was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The man’s rage becomes, perhaps, better understood.

Such thin twists of fate and fortune cause the games to turn fatally. It is remarkable. Which is why we will wait -- eternally patient -- for “next year”.

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...