Agganis Lives
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   A few thoughts after it occurred to me that Thanksgiving will not cure my ailment, what Darryl Dawkins once called dunlop disease (as in, "My belly dunlop over my belt"):

   * If the Patriots had any kind of defense, they'd be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They may still be, anyway, if Matt Cassel continues showing us what Tom Brady would be like minus the big contract, the commercials and the supermodel. Once Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels decided to turn him loose, he stopped being a caretaker and started hitting throws (and making opposing defenses worry about his penchant for running). As for the secondary, however, you can put the Clydesdale harnesses on them, but they're still just dogs.   

  * My golden retriever is far enough into his back nine to see the clubhouse, but he was doing the Snoopy dance Sunday watching Michael Vick excuse man Joey Porter gargling with STFU. He did a career's worth of trap-flapping before and after the Miami rout at Foxboro in September.  

  * Speaking of opposing players who love to foam at the mouth, Steelers defensive back Anthony Smith obviously hasn't learned from his experience at New England last year. I look forward to shouting the old Providence schoolyard taunt at my TV again this Sunday: "Asbestos shorts! Asbestos shorts! You! Got! Burned!"

   * If I seem to be in a happy and expansive mood, it's because as I type, my alma mater is on its way to a big win at Northeastern. Brings back memories of my college days, when a BU-NU contest meant watching Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun go at each other. Two young guys on the make who did not like each other one tiny little bit. Boston wasn't big enough for either of them.   

   * I would be remiss not saluting the Bruins, who've gotten off to a tremendous start, including a shootout win Saturday against Montreal, against whom the B's went 0-8 last year in the regular season (one shootout, and several blowouts). And they're not doing it with big names, either - Michael Ryder, who seemed like a big pickup from Montreal, has been a bust. Hey, given all he's accomplished in the net, maybe the NHL will actually put Tim Thomas on the All-Star ballot next year. I like to think the fast start is positive karma from the sound of the Arcade Fire anthem "Wake Up" being played between periods at TD Banknorth Garden - the only better hockey song I can think of is Dick Dale's "Scalped," to which the Colorado Avalanche's Stanley Cup teams skated out.   

   * Given the Bruins' status on the Boston sports scene as the youngest sibling who doesn't quite measure up, they need star presence badly. They're finally getting it from Milan Lucic, essentially, a young Cam Neely. Nothing pleases Bruins fans like a guy who's a threat for the Gordie Howe hat trick every night (a goal, an assist and a fight). And Lucic also has smarts and a sense of discretion - as much as I'd loved to see go time arrive for him and Georges Laracque Saturday night, he knows there's no percentage in a front-liner dropping the gloves with a guy who gets four or five shifts a game and possesses only two skills - his right hook and his left uppercut.

   * While we're on the subject of tough guys (or fugazys, depending on your point of view), the Claude Lemieux comeback commences Friday night in Providence as the Worcester Sharks (San Jose's farm team) visits the P-Bruins. We'll see whether his game, the two-hander across the back of the legs followed by the turtle position, is in shape yet.

   * Watching Letterman State (and its Mid-American Conference compadres) play Ball on these frigid November nights in the Midwest, I wonder if the TV exposure is really worth it for these guys.   

   * Same thing for some of these holiday basketball tournaments in exotic locales. The Maui Invitational is one thing - the Lahaina Civic Center is just the right size for the strongest pre-March tournament field. But San Juan the other night - Xavier-Memphis is a matchup that deserves better than 500 or so alums and hangers-on rattling around a large arena. They wouldn't have even filled the little gym UConn beat Wisconsin in last night in Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands (I've only heard of the town because its high school team years ago played down the road from me at North Providence High's holiday tournament).   

  * Wow. NESN re-upped Red Sox field reporter Heidi Watney. The only logical reason I can think of why the NESN suits made that move was to stick a finger in the eye of all the Internet scuttlebutt involving her and a certain free agent catcher who got divorced this summer. Maybe NESN decided, like Jack Nicholson used to joke about his alleged cocaine use, that having a "reputation" is good for business. Me, I see only a low-rent Erin Andrews knockoff from Fresno.   

 * Finally, rest in peace, Helen Heinsohn, AKA The Redhead From Needham. Fifty-plus years of having her ears blown out on a nightly basis should've earned her more than enough Tommy Points for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

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