Jake Force
Rants by Jake

Tom Brady still had winning football in him. But it was time to hang it up.


With a retirement announcement posted to social media Wednesday morning, Tom Brady put an end to speculation that he might suit up for a third NFL team. After the slog of a season he just endured, it feels like the right time for him. But it’s not what most of us wanted, which was more. 

It is unfortunate that Brady is retiring after the first losing season of his career. I don’t think anyone wanted the story to end. We all would’ve been intrigued to see what Brady would’ve looked like in a 49ers, Dolphins, Raiders or even Jets uniform. Never mind what he still could’ve accomplished with a committed attitude and solid roster surrounding him. In a year that saw him turn 45 years old, Brady was still in the upper half of the NFL’s QB rankings. His completion percentage was just under 70%, he threw 25 touchdowns and only nine interceptions with a banged up offensive line, a nearly obsolete rushing attack and a mentally checked out number one receiver in Mike Evans. Speaking strictly on the terms of next season alone, at least several teams would be better off with a 46 year-old Brady than they would’ve with their current quarterbacks. 

But the bigger story is that Brady’s will to win faded this season. Which is why, despite the numbers, he simply didn’t look like the guy we’re used to. From skipping pre-season OTA’s, to attending Robert Kraft’s wedding two nights before an important game, to off-field family issues, to throwing the ball at the ground for much of the home wildcard game against the Cowboys and throughout the season to avoid getting hit, Brady didn’t have the same drive this year. Remember his last season with New England when he very much looked like his age was catching up with him? It wasn’t his age, he just wasn’t motivated by his current situation anymore. He still had winning football in him then, and he does now. But at that time he still had something to prove, which was that he could win at a high level without Bill Belichick on the sideline. Now that he’s checked that box, what else is there to prove? And since a mega broadcasting deal with Fox awaits him, why not get out now? For Brady, it makes sense. For everyone else, however, the sheer fun of his story is over and we’re all left to wonder what could’ve been.

Regardless, Brady is a perfect encapsulation of why growing up a Boston sports fan in the 2000’s and 2010’s was just different. Many people don’t understand why New England takes their sports so seriously and that’s because they never experienced rooting for someone like Brady. It didn’t hurt that that the Red Sox won four World Series titles from 2004 to 2018. Or that the Celtics and Bruins each won once and went to a few more championships. But Brady was the greatest player ever at the most important position of the country’s most popular sport. And he was our guy. No other fanbase has experienced anything like it. He represents every reason why the rest of the country hates New England fans, and why the experience of being a fan here is, simply put, just different.

Now that it’s over for real this time, let’s take a look back at some of my favorite memories Brady left us with. There’s a few random ones on the list, along with all the obvious ones that belong there, but you already know about those and there isn’t much else to be said about them. So, here goes… 

February 3, 2002 (Patriots vs. Rams – Super Bowl XXXVI)

Though I was barely 3 years old and don’t remember it, the documentary footage was all I needed. No one gave Brady and the Patriots a shot in hell at beating the St. Louis Rams, known at the time as “the greatest show on turf.” The patriots got the ball on their own 17-yard line with 1:21 remaining and no timeouts. Brady dished passes to the likes of J.R. Redmond, Troy Brown and Jermaine Wiggins to eventually set up a 48-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri and seal the first Super Bowl win in franchise history. The game-winning drive was a foreshadow of what the subsequent two decades had in store.

October 18, 2009 (Titans @ Patriots)

Just because it was my birthday, it snowed buckets in Foxborough, and Brady threw for 380 yards and 6 touchdowns in a 59-0 (yes…59-0) Patriots win. 

October 13, 2013 (Saints @ Patriots)

America’s game of the week had all the intrigue. The 5-0 Saints and 4-1 Patriots, Brady vs. Brees, Belichick vs. Payton. Brady was pedestrian, completing 25 of 41 attempts with an interception and touchdown. Throughout the afternoon, Patriots receivers dropped pass after pass thrown right at them, looking like their hands were made of two-by-fours. It was the final drive, however, that was yet another example of Brady’s late-game heroics. The Saints, down 23-17, scored a touchdown with 3:29 to play in the game and, following a quick Patriots 3-and-out, kicked a field goal to go ahead 27-23. Each team then traded 3-and-outs before Brady got the ball back on his own 30 yard-line with 1:13 to play and no timeouts. After a bullet into the hands of Julian Edelman, Brady hurried the Patriots down the field before throwing a perfect pass to Kenbrell Thompkins in the back corner of the endzone for a touchdown with five seconds to play. Brady, once again, proved that he’s best with his back against the wall. 

November 24, 2013 (Broncos @ Patriots)

With Wes Welker having left to join Denver and contributing to another MVP season for Peyton Manning, the rivalry between Brady and Manning gained another layer to play out on Sunday Night Football. Down 24-0 at halftime, Brady and the Patriots offense, with help from a Knowshon Moreno fumble, led 3 touchdown-scoring drives in the 3rd quarter to claw within 3 points. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, a Logan Ryan interception gave the Patriots possession deep in Denver territory. Brady made quick work of the situation with passes to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman for the touchdown to get his team a 28-24 lead, which a Stephen Gostkowski field goal later stretched to 31-24. The Broncos tied it at 31 to push the game to overtime. After both teams traded possessions in OT, a muffed punt by the Broncos set the Patriots up deep in Denver territory, handing New England the 34-31 win. It was another chapter in Brady’s career-long domination of Peyton Manning. 

January 10, 2015 (Ravens @ Patriots – AFC Divisional Round)

Of all the great Patriots vs. Ravens games over the years, this one tops the list. The Ravens held two separate 14-point leads in a game that looked like it was going their way. Once again, Brady and company didn’t just make an epic comeback, they balled out in doing so. Rob Gronkowski was simply unstoppable, Brady ran for a touchdown, and Julian Edelman threw one. On one of the most iconic plays in Patriots history, Edelman caught a screen-like pass from Brady in the third quarter and proceeded to hurl it down the middle of the field to a streaking Danny Amendola. Touchdown, tie game. A Baltimore field goal made the score 31-28. Then Brady, with just over five minutes to play in the game, unleashed a 30-yard seam to Brandon LaFell for a 35-31 lead, passing his childhood idol Joe Montana for most career postseason touchdown passes. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was subsequently picked off in the endzone by Duron Harmon, sending the Patriots to the AFC Championship game.

January 18, 2015 (Colts @ Patriots – AFC Championship)

The game that made the Patriots the most hated team on earth. Regardless of how you feel about the Patriots and deflategate, the Patriots obliterated the Indianapolis Colts 45-7. In the first half, Brady was intercepted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who brought the ball to the referee and said it felt deflated. You know the rest of the story. And you also know that some Colts fans, to this day, will still say that slightly deflated footballs made the difference in a game that their team only scored 7 points and lost by 38. It was Colts tight end Dwayne Allen who famously quipped that “They could have played with soap for balls and beat us.”

February 1, 2015 (Seahawks vs. Patriots – Super Bowl XLIX)

For us kids born in the late 1990’s, the significance of this game can hardly be overlooked. Many of us were too young to remember the Patriots dominance that filled our early childhoods. In a way, it was the first time we really saw the Patriots win a title. Yet another game in which New England found themselves down two scores in the 4th quarter. Another example of Brady not being at his best, but nonetheless coming up huge when needed. And another game with a sub par rushing attack that left Brady to win the game through the air. Julian Edelman was magnificent, snagging 9 passes for 109 yards and the winning touchdown while helping convert 3rd downs throughout the evening. Running back Shane Vereen was also spectacular. With 11 catches for 64 yards, Vereen was a crucial safety valve for Brady throughout the game – garnering several chunk yardage plays from check-down passes. Late in the 4th quarter with Seattle down 28-24, Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse bobbled a deep Russell Wilson pass on his way to the ground, eventually securing a mind-bending catch deep in Patriots territory. Once again it felt as though the Patriots would be robbed by a David Tyree or Mario Manningham type of catch until, of course, the goal line interception by Malcolm Butler a few plays later to seal the deal. That’s the play everyone remembers, but it shouldn’t take away from the clinical second half display put on by Brady and his offense. Nor should it overshadow that the only reason Marshawn Lynch didn’t reach the end zone on the previous play to the Butler interception was thanks to a game-saving, shoe-string tackle by Dont’a Hightower that left Lynch a yard short of the end zone. And, once the Patriots had the ball on their own one-yard line where a kneel-down would’ve caused a safety, Brady was able to get the Seahawks to jump offsides and bring the Patriots to the 6-yard line where he could comfortably take a knee and bleed out the clock.

January 22, 2017 (Steelers @ Patriots – AFC Championship)

Not much to say about this one other than that Brady was purely dominant, completing 32 of 42 attempts for 384 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was a clash of two teams that both hadn’t lost in 10 weeks; and further evidence that anyone putting the Steelers and Patriots teams of the 2000’s and 2010’s in the same category is a complete fool. 

February 5, 2017 (Patriots vs. Falcons – Super Bowl LI)

There isn’t much to say about this one other than it was the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Made by the greatest quarterback of all time. Brady, down 25 points with just over two minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, led his team to an overtime victory in what is highly regarded as the greatest Super Bowl ever. 

January 21, 2018 (Jaguars @ Patriots – AFC Championship)

Another example of the Patriots being completely unfazed by a two-score deficit in the 4th quarter. The Patriots lost the ball on a Dion Lewis fumble recovered by Myles Jack, who had a clear path to the endzone. Luckily for the Patriots, the play was initially blown dead, killing what likely should’ve been a Jags touchdown. Jacksonville was awarded the turnover, but failed to score on the subsequent possession. Brady got the ball back and quickly found himself on 3rd and 18 from his own 25, where he gunned a pass into a tight window to Danny Amendola near midfield for the first down. On the next play, Brady caught a flea-flicker pitch from James White and threw a strike to Phillip Dorsett near the sideline for about a 30-yard gain. Brady then completed two short passes to Amendola, the second of which allowed him to find the endzone and got the Patriots to within a field goal. A short punt later allowed Amendola to return it deep into Jags territory. After a dump off to James White that gained 15 yards and a quick slant to Amendola, Brady bulldozed his way two yards forward to set up 1st down and goal. Then on 2nd down, Amendola once again came up heroic, catching a Brady pass in the back of the endzone keeping both feet in bounds. It was on 4th and 14 of the Jaguars’ next possession that Patriots all-pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, with perhaps the play of his career, levitated through the air to make a one-handed pass breakup on a ball intended for Dede Westbrook, who had just burned Gilmore on a deep pass a few plays prior. The Patriots, with help from a clutch 3rd down run by Dion Lewis, were then able to force Jacksonville to use all of their timeouts and run out the clock. The Patriots, however, went on to lose to the Eagles in the Super Bowl. 

January 20, 2019 (Patriots @ Chiefs – AFC Championship)

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs had only lost one game at Arrowhead Stadium all season. The Chiefs offense was quiet for most of the game until exploding for 24 points in the 4th quarter and sending the game to overtime. A Julian Edelman muffed punt – recovered by the Chiefs – was overturned once video review revealed that Edelman, though he tried to, did not actually touch the ball. The overturning of the play was much to the chagrin of the Kansas City crowd, who to this day will try to tell you that the officiating won the Patriots the game (it didn’t). Brady was intercepted a few plays later, anyway, leading to a Kansas City touchdown that put them ahead 21-17 with 7:45 to play in regulation. A Chris Hogan catch was then challenged by Andy Reid and upheld by video review – another excuse Chiefs fans will use to blame the officiating for why their team lost. The Patriots would then score on a Sony Michel running play, making it 24-21. A pass interference call on the Chiefs’ next possession put them in position to pull back ahead, 28-24. A solid kick return by Cordarrelle Patterson then gave New England the ball on their own 35-yard line with 1:57 to play. Brady started with a bullet to Julian Edelman to put the Patriots in Chiefs territory. A Brady interception was then overturned by Chiefs linebacker Frank Clark being lined up in the neutral zone, giving the Patriots another chance. (Chiefs fans conveniently ignore that part when you ask them why they lost, instead referring to how they “got screwed” by the officiating). Brady made Clark pay and delivered a strike down the sideline to Gronk, setting up a bulldozing touchdown from Rex Burkhead. Patriots 31, Chiefs 24, with 39 seconds to go. Patrick Mahomes, in his own display of greatness, then managed to get his team into field goal range. 31 all.

It was in overtime that Brady and the offense assembled a methodical 13-play, 75-yard march down the field. Brady dialed up passes over the middle to Edelman and Gronkowski, eventually setting up for a Rex Burkhead touchdown, sending Brady and Bill Belichick to their ninth Super Bowl with the Patriots. Two weeks later, in what may have been the most boring Super Bowl ever, the Patriots used defense to secure their sixth championship, beating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.

January 24, 2021 (Buccaneers @ Packers – NFC Championship)

Not much to say about the game as a whole, but there were a few moments that displayed why Brady was a constant headache for anyone he played against. Brady was intercepted three times. But it was the last play before halftime when the Buccaneers lined up with four wide receivers and one running back on the Green Bay 39-yard line. Did everyone in the world know Brady was going deep? Yes…except Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who left a single high safety back to cover. Brady of course took advantage and unleashed a scintillating touchdown pass to Scotty Miller. It was further proof of Brady being an absolute assassin in key moments. LaFleur continued to mismanage the clock several times in the second half, once by settling for a field goal down eight with just over two minutes to play and inside the Bucs 10-yard line. This game also put to bed the debate over Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers; proving that such a debate shouldn’t even exist in the first place.

February 7, 2021 (Buccaneers vs. Chiefs – Super Bowl LV)

Once again defeating Patrick Mahomes, Brady wins a championship away from Belichick and the Patriots and cements his legacy as the greatest winner in the history of professional team sports.

The Patriots can still make the playoffs. I’m not convinced that would be a good thing–Also, a thought on Tua Tagovailoa


In a season that has seen quarterback Mac Jones regress since last year, partly thanks to the questionable offensive coaching hires of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge; and even with all of their other offensive shortcomings, the Patriots will make the playoffs if they claim an improbable win in Buffalo on Sunday. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

Why? You ask.

At 70 years old, Bill Belichick is done coaching the way everyone wants him to. His coaching staff is filled with his friends, his kids, friends of kids, kids of friends, the whole nine. As a 70 year-old with eight Super Bowl rings now looking to surpass the all-time coaching wins record, Belichick isn’t exactly trying to work alongside adversaries. He wants to be around people he likes. Hence his current coaching staff. 

Part of me doesn’t blame him. He’s at the end of his career and widely regarded as the greatest coach of all time. He deserves some leeway. But what does that mean for you, the Patriots fan?

That staff of Belichick’s has been lackluster this year to say the least. Cam Achord’s special teams unit has simply been a disaster. The offense has sputtered constantly under Patricia and Judge and the consensus word used by fans and analysts to describe them is boring. I mean, how many different versions of the same screen pass to Rhamondre Stevenson can you run?

The defense has undoubtedly been the brightest spot, but against who? The Lions? The Steelers? The Jets? The Browns? That’s great and all, until you look at how they fared against top-tier teams. Keep in mind that the Patriots reached this point in the season with a slew of very good luck. 

You beat the Steelers by a mere field goal while the dreadful Mitch Trubisky was still starting for them. Who knows what happens if Kenny Pickett starts that game? Both games against the New York Jets were before they benched childish Zach Wilson for a competent quarterback in Mike White. You also got lucky enough for the completely inept Jets to punt directly to Marcus Jones at the end of their second matchup (the best return man in college football a year ago) when anyone with half a brain knows that ball should’ve been punted out of bounds. Credit to Jones for the awesome punt return TD, but the Jets being the stupid Jets that they are won you that game. You beat the Colts…when they had Sam Ellinger (who?) under center. You played against all-pro quarterback Kyler Murray–oh wait, he tore his ACL on the third play of the game giving way to Colt McCoy, who fully displayed why he’s a career backup. You played the Browns before Deshaun Watson came back (though, to be fair, Watson has been relatively sub par since his return). And Tua Tagovailoa – who’s had New England’s number since entering the league – was out this past Sunday with a concussion (more on him in a minute). Then on top of that, Tua’s backup Teddy Bridgewater left Sunday’s game with a finger injury. Which relegated the Dolphins to throwing their third string, seventh round draft pick Skylar Thompson into the fire. Needless to say, Belichick and the Patriots defense had a field day against Thompson like they always do against young, inexperienced quarterbacks.  

Of course, none of this is to say those games would’ve otherwise been losses had these teams been at full strength. It isn’t fair to play the what-if game in the NFL where injuries are plentiful and it’s so hard to win consistently. But it still leaves us to wonder what may have happened if those teams had played (or been able to play) their better quarterbacks. Coupled with what the Pats have done against better teams and quarterbacks such as the Ravens, Bills, Vikings, Bengals and even the lowly Chicago Bears who still have a rising star in Justin Fields at quarterback, the playoffs don’t feel like a place where this Patriots team belongs. 

But what if they do end up there? Will that make everyone forget about their offense feeling like nails on a chalkboard for most of this season? Will it make everyone forget about how they beat up on middling and bad teams but lost to good ones? As a Patriots fan, you should want the team to make the postseason. But at the same time, you should be frustrated with their offensive performance this year. The post-Brady era should be making you realize that the Patriots are falling out of the NFL supremacy they held for two decades. Now, the question is if the team – and it’s owner – will be morivated to make changes to the offense this offseason if they make the playoffs. Or if a playoff appearance will make them justify keeping things the same. 

If they get in, great! But if that will look anything like what we saw in Buffalo on wildcard weekend last year, I’d much rather they just save all of us the pain and disappointment.

Tua Tagovailoa deserves major compensation for how his concussions have been handled.

For those of us who love football, whether watching, playing or both, we’ve learned by now that the game has a tendency to wreak havoc on the lives of those who play it professionally. 

Concussions and other serious head and neck injuries, though they’ve been reduced over the years, continue to plague the sport at all levels. 

Which is why I can’t help but wonder how not a single person has been held publicly accountable for letting Tua Tagovailoa return to multiple games when something was clearly wrong. 

When his head aggressively hit that ground in a September 25th matchup with the Bills, Tagovailoa got up and stumbled around for a few seconds while trying to return to the huddle. Initially, there was widespread concern. But after convincing team doctors that the stumble was due to a neck and back injury, he was allowed to return to the game. However, no team physician checked his neck or back before his return, citing previous medical reports on those injuries. 

Given the attrition that most football players are known for carrying themselves with, there’s no telling how truthful he was being to the Dolphins medical staff at the time. He took a hit the following week against Buffalo and appeared to show concussion symptoms, but was later allowed to return.

Then there was September 29th in Cincinnati, where Tua put his hands in the air and curled his fingers after being thrown to the ground by a Bengals defender. He was subsequently carted off the field and returned on October 23rd against the Steelers.

Finally, there was last week against the Packers when his head hit the ground in a similar way, again prompting the concussion protocol, and again resulting in his eventual return to the game. 

The next day, however, the Dolphins reported that Tagovailoa was in concussion protocol. Leaving many to believe that he was allowed to return while concussed. A report released this week by the NFL revealed that he displayed no concussion symptoms.

I’m skeptical of that report for obvious reasons. One being that he was deemed concussed the very next day. The coincidence is uncanny, especially since a similar statement was made by the league regarding the “neck and back injury” sustained against the Bills. Another reason being that the NFL has a reputation to protect, so why would they admit to error and bring a PR disaster on themselves?

Call it speculation, but I’m increasingly feeling that one, Tua should seriously consider retirement. And two, if he does have to retire, that the Dolphins should be responsible for compensating him for mishandling his injuries.

I have a strong inclination that the NFL and the Dolphins are not being totally honest.

At Home With Dan Shaughnessy


A profile I wrote on Mr. Shaughnessy for a class during the Fall semester

Dan Shaughnessy buys seven newspapers at a nearby 7-Eleven and jogs a mile every morning before getting to work as Boston’s most-revered sports reporter.

Shaughnessy welcomes me into his Newton home on Sunday, November 21. The foyer boasts a parquet floor, an iconic staple of the Boston Celtics, a team he’s covered for nearly four decades.

On this Sunday, the Shaughnessy house is busy with guests, dogs, grandkids and football on TV. As we watch the Indianapolis Colts annihilate the Buffalo Bills, Shaughnessy and I discuss how a Buffalo loss will cede control of the AFC East to the New England Patriots. (We all know how that turned out this year, though).

Two of Shaughnessy’s grandsons, Nico, 4, and Jack, 2, are in the living room with us. Jack checks his grandfather’s pulse with a toy stethoscope while Nico jumps up and down on the couch, reporting every tackle. Nico’s sister Lucy, 2, joins us for a few minutes before a nap.

During the pandemic, the Shaughnessy house hosted eleven people—including five children ages four and under—and three dogs. “Everything broke,” Shaughnessy says of the 1900s-era house. “The fridge. The hot water heater.”

On Nov. 16, Shaughnessy, 68, released his latest book, Wish It Lasted Forever, about his journey covering the Boston Celtics in the 1980s, when they won three championships and competed in two others. The book doesn’t include anything directly from Celtics legend Larry Bird, because, according to Shaughnessy, no one in the Boston media can get in touch with him.

“We don’t need him,” Shaughnessy says, adding that the book includes the story of Bird hustling $160 from him and details why Bird hasn’t spoken to him in decades.

When Larry Bird mysteriously injured his shooting hand during the Celtics’ 1985 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, the Boston rumor mill pointed to a bar fight. Shaughnessy, always suspicious, lurked in bars around Faneuil Hall and found the man Bird had fought. When Shaughnessy ran the story, Bird stopped speaking to him. “With the fight, he affected the product the fans were buying, and that had to be reported.”

That logic is the essence of Shaughnessy’s nature as a reporter. If he knows it, he prints it. “With Larry, deep down I know he really likes me. We had a lot of fun.”

His time covering the Celtics made him the Dan Shaughnessy we know today, but he found his calling long before that. While at Groton High School, working for the Public Spirit out of Ayer, Mass., he covered the school basketball team under a pseudonym, because he also played for the team. “I once ripped myself for missing two free throws.”

At the College of the Holy Cross, he worked as the campus sports reporter for The Boston Globe, a common practice for the newspaper then. He also covered youth sporting events around Boston and “got to know the city on Globe time and in Globe cars.” Shaughnessy wrote some 400 stories for the Globe between the ages of 19 and 23.

“They wouldn’t hire me full time, and I didn’t stomp my feet.” He notes the effort to bring more women into the profession at the time. After freelancing for two years after college, colleague Peter Gammons found him an opening at the Baltimore Evening Sun, where he was put on the Orioles beat in 1977. Later, he moved to the Washington Star baseball beat. When the Star folded in 1981, Shaughnessy finally made it to the Globe, where he’s been ever since.

“I wanted to come back, and I did.”

Despite his reputation as a take-no-prisoners sports columnist, the man himself is pleasantly approachable and even mild-mannered in person. However, he feels personally responsible to get answers to any urgent questions about Boston sports, especially when no other reporters are willing to press the point.

After Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s mysterious benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII, Shaughnessy showed up to the first workout of the next year to ask Belichick the question on everyone’s mind.

“‘What was that about?’ And he wouldn’t go there,” Shaughnessy says. “He said, ‘I’m only here to talk about this year, this season.’ Well maybe guys on your team this season want to know why that happened last February when they didn’t get rings… But I just thought we had to close the books on it, give it one more shot.”

With the Bills-Colts game at halftime, Shaughnessy takes me upstairs to his office, a sports lover’s paradise. On the TV, he’s been watching a DVD of Celtics-Lakers game 4 from the 1984 NBA Finals for the new book. At this point, he’s done 58 book-talk interviews for the book, with many more remaining.

Above a packed bookshelf is a collage from his childhood bedroom with various cutouts of athletes and other sports-related images. “It went all the way around my bedroom, and that [the part he currently has in his office] was the piece I was able to salvage. Scotch tape holds for 50 years. It’s amazing.”

Against the wall sits a knee-high stack of pandemic-era newspaper sports sections, a sports Rolodex for these unusual times. A sign taped to the back of the door reads, “Zooming, please keep out,” for when he’s on a call.

Shaughnessy discusses the current virtual nature of his job due to the pandemic and how reporters aren’t going to as many games as usual. He explains that the readers don’t notice if the reporter watches the game on TV then Zooms into a press conference. He argues, though, that young reporters need to attend the games.

“I’m not a fan of people who are 22, who have never been anywhere or done anything, it’s just that you’re not covering it by watching TV.”

Shaughnessy also has no problem admitting inconvenient truths, including how his boss, Globe owner John W. Henry, also owns the baseball team he covers. “Let’s call it what it is, and that’s a conflict of interest.”

Shaughnessy and Henry haven’t spoken since 2009, when Shaughnessy wrote about Red Sox star David Ortiz testing positive for steroids. “I admire [Henry] for the fact that I’m still employed,” although he adds, “I can’t carry the water of the guy who owns the team.”

The Ortiz story is one that still puzzles Shaughnessy. “I talked to him with the tape recorder going,” he says. “I don’t know what he thought I was going to do.” Alas, Big Papi hasn’t spoken to Shaughnessy since.

Shaughnessy, a baseball writer first and foremost, doesn’t go easy on steroid users. He never casts his baseball Hall of Fame vote for someone known to have used steroids. He admits to long being suspicious about the sheer dominance of Ortiz’s play and confesses the two of them were never close. “He’s a great guy, but I’m still suspicious.”

Ask him if he cares that David Ortiz hates him, and he’ll tell you he was just doing his job. He doesn’t care if his writing ticks you off. “I’m not here to protect people.”

He cares about getting to the truth on behalf of the fans. He’s impartial to the outcome but ferocious for the passionate Boston fans and always conscious of his reputation and responsibility. His words have indeed ignited fires, such as the website that supposedly exists to “embarrass and critique” him. Perhaps one would be frightened by such a threat. Shaughnessy, however, is rather unfazed.

“You want to give the reader something they can’t get anywhere else. So it helps to have people know who the hell you are,” he says, adding that, “Whatever’s best for me is what I’m rooting for. I like the story.”

In the end, his priorities are straight. “As long as family and friends like you, that’ll have to do.”

Patriots Locker Room

Me at Hunter Henry’s locker after a Patriots practice.

Chris Herren doesn’t want to talk about his story anymore…He wants to talk about yours


“This assembly is about you, not me” – Chris Herren

Chris Herren is done telling you the “former Boston Celtic” part of his story. He’s finished telling you about his battles with alcoholism and drug addiction and how his story turned out. He wants to focus on your story. Or maybe it’s your son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin or friend who can use Chris’s story as an inspiration and a guide for looking inward.

Chris grew up a basketball phenom in Fall River, Massachusetts. He scored over 2,000 points and was a McDonald’s All-American in his four years at BMC Durfee High School while playing in an environment that he compares in football terms to Friday Night Lights. Winning was mandatory. He played college basketball first for Boston College and later transferred to Fresno State. His dream of playing professional basketball came true on June 30, 1999, when the Denver Nuggets selected him 33rd overall in the NBA draft.

After being traded to his hometown Boston Celtics the following season, Chris later played professional basketball in Italy, China, Turkey, Iran and Poland. Despite his successes on the court, a grueling battle with drug addiction and alcoholism eventually derailed his basketball career and almost claimed his life more than once. Since getting sober 13 years ago, Chris has spent the second act of his life helping others overcome similar struggles.

I became friends with Chris’s son, Chris Jr., in sixth grade. In 2012, a day before starting eighth grade, the Herrens and my family moved into houses on the same street, on the same day, and the rest is history. Today, Chris Jr. is one of my very best friends. Chris Sr. and his wife, Heather, routinely make the friends of their three kids feel at home and welcome at their house. They want to know what’s going on in your life and how your family is doing. They make sure everyone has eaten. If a big pay-per-view boxing match or UFC fight is on, they buy it for us. They never minded when kids would stay at their house for days on end. They understand all too well how important it is for kids to feel like they belong.

Over the years, Chris has made more of a name for himself as a speaker than he ever did as a basketball player. He’s spent his recovery from addiction sharing his story and message. He’s spoken in front of nearly everyone you can think of, from local high schools to every level of professional and college sports. He’s spoken at churches and treatment centers. He’s helped celebrity athletes like Lamar Odom and Johnny Manziel with their addiction battles. He’s seen a million faces and impacted them all in one way or another.

He certainly had no idea his story was going to turn out this way, and admits that in the beginning of his recovery, he never envisioned his current path. His story was eloquently told in a 2011 ESPN 30 for 30 feature documentary called, “Unguarded.” The film gave Chris an opening for the second act of his life.

“I’ll never be this public speaker booked out two years in advance,” he said, still in amazement over how the documentary changed everything. “You know, I’m not going to be presenting to the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks and Alabama football and the LA Kings. I would’ve laughed at you.”

But that’s his life today–sharing his story, listening to others tell their stories and helping people find their way out of the maze of addiction.

“‘Unguarded’ totally changed everybody’s life around me,” Chris tells me over the phone. “It had an unbelievably positive effect on all of us. It changed us. It put us in a totally different lifestyle, and that’s the power of ESPN and that’s the power of storytelling. I mean, it opened doors for me that continue to open.”

Indeed they do. In 2018, Chris and Heather co-founded Herren Wellness, a treatment center at the Jacob Hill Inn Estate in Seekonk, Massachusetts. It’s been such a success that a second location was opened in Fall River, and a third in Warrenton, Virginia. The success of the program has created unforeseen problems, but not bad problems necessarily.

“Most patients go through a 90-day program,” he said. “And, yeah, that’s good for business, but honestly, one of the problems we’ve actually faced is getting people to leave. They don’t want to leave.”

Even after rehabilitation, Herren Wellness patients feel forever connected. Tristan, a close personal friend of mine, had a recent battle with alcoholism, and after stays in multiple treatment centers, was finally successful at Herren Wellness. He, too, didn’t want to leave at the end of his stay.

“Chris, his wife Heather, and the people he wrapped around me through my recovery will be a part of my life forever,” Tristan told me via text. “The candid, ever-present compassion and empathy that Chris feels is contagious. The positive, life-changing decisions I make daily have some connection to what I’ve learned from him. My family, dear friends, and I will always be grateful!”

Chris credits much of this success to Herren Wellness being different from your average treatment center.

“Addiction just tears away your self esteem,” he said. “And that’s what we look to build back up. Recovery isn’t just about not doing drugs or drinking, it’s about the whole person. So we focus on the holistic approach with workout programs, personal trainers, hyperbaric chambers. There’s very much a physical and body aspect to it as well, so we really emphasize that.”

He also relates this to his experiences at treatment centers and how they failed to reach him personally.

“You know, when I got to treatment,” he said, “I was given a big blue book and told to read it and talk about it every day. And that’s not going to work for everybody. You know, not everyone is going to believe in the finding God part, because not everyone recovers that way.”

Today, Chris is mostly concerned about the first day of addiction that no one wants to talk about. Chris explains that focusing on what the end of addiction looks like will never help you see the full picture of someone’s struggle.

After speaking enough times and hearing enough stories in return – he presents roughly 250 times per year all across the country – Chris’s message has changed: we pay far too much attention to the worst day of addiction and not the first day.

“The First Day” is the title of his most recent film that first aired on ESPN and is now available for rental on thefirstdayfilm.com.

“Everybody wants to show pictures of drug addicts and tell stories about how ugly it was in the end instead of asking very simply, ‘why would you take a chance at letting this begin?’” he said. “And every kid out there takes a chance at letting it begin. The scary thing about addiction and alcoholism, nobody knows who has it. Growing up as a kid, when you’re drinking in somebody’s basement, you have no idea who’s going to be the one to struggle.”

This, according to Chris, is where the real sadness of addiction lies.

“There’s tragedy in that, the first day,” he said, “when a kid feels like they have to change themself in order to fit in.”

The first day, however, is only part of the equation. The other part is a one-word question about alcohol and drug use that so many parents fail to ask and discuss with their children.

“Parents never ask their kids why,” Chris said. “They want to know who they were with, where they were, who bought it, when they did it and what house or whatever. The only question that needs to be asked is ‘why?’ Parents won’t ask it because parents are afraid of the answer.”

The “why” is what Chris believes are the uncomfortable subjects that parents like to think don’t apply to their kids.

“And ‘why’ is the insecurities,” Chris said. “‘Why’ is ‘Dad, I just feel more at ease when I have four beers in my system.’ ‘Dad, I can talk to girls much easier when I have four beers in my system’… Nobody asks why, and ‘why?’ is the one that hurts. And ‘why?’ is the beginning. But parents are afraid to deal with those issues.”

Chris sees this as a vital issue with kids today. He worries about our nation’s ever-growing mental health crisis, especially in teenagers, and how it makes them more susceptible to substance abuse. That, along with the proliferation of drug and alcohol abuse in movies and TV shows, such as HBO’s “Euphoria,” and some of the conversation surrounding it, have contributed to those worries.

“You wouldn’t believe how many parents I have calling me about that show,” Chris said. “I have this famous person calling me about their kid and saying ‘my son thinks he’s a character on ‘Euphoria.’ Can you please talk some sense into him?’”

Chris’s why in his teenage years wasn’t what it is for most kids. He was the Durfee basketball phenom. He was playing under the shadow of his brother, Michael, a Durfee basketball legend. He had NBA potential. And he had thousands of people packing into gyms on Tuesday nights, not to watch Durfee or their opponent, but to watch him.

His two sons, both standout basketball players, have faced similar pressure. Chris Jr., now 23, faced constant, intense pressure in middle school, high school and college due to his NBA bloodline. The youngest Herren child, 13-year-old Drew, will enter high school next year poised for basketball stardom. For Chris Sr., the parental focus has never been what happens on the court, but about managing the pressure that comes with it.

“Christopher [Jr.] has gotten that the worst,” Chris said. “Drew and Chris [and Samantha] have the luxury I didn’t have of growing up in a household where someone will say, ‘Hey, are you feeling okay? You know, you have this immense pressure on you and how are you feeling about it?’”

He knows that no kid wants their parents constantly over their shoulder, criticizing their every move. Having played professionally, he understands that his expectations for his sons are inherently high, but learning how to control those expectations is something he says parents need to recognize.

“We’re father and son,” he says. “Not coach and player, and I’m not good at separating the two. And once I learned that, I think we’re all better off for it.”

When Chris Jr. was playing high school and college basketball, his father wasn’t often seen at his games for multiple reasons–one so he wouldn’t become the story, and so his presence wouldn’t add to an already high-pressure situation for his son. Between that and his travel schedule, if Big Chris was there, that meant it was a big game.

While we hear a lot about the horrors of heroin, fentanyl and other opioids, Chris said news about those substances takes the focus off the one that inflicts more harm than any other.

“What really does the most damage is actually alcohol,” he says. “It’s so much harder to make someone realize they have a problem because it’s everywhere. It’s legal. With heroin, merely doing it means you have a problem. It’s not that simple with booze. Alcohol has been given this amazing pass through the years, and it’s caused a lot of harm. It will slowly and methodically chip away at you. And, you know, nearly eight in 10 of the people at Herren Wellness are there for alcohol.”

Chris feels alcohol harmed his family during his childhood. Many of his first drinks were Miller Lites that he stole from his father, who, according to Chris, had a drinking problem.

“I hated drinking those fucking beers growing up because it tasted horrible,” he said, “and I could see what it was doing to my family, to my mother especially. But drinking those beers was my escape.”

Those Miller Lite cans were Chris’s beginning. When you ask him what his rock bottom was, he’ll go back to the beer cans, and he’ll refer to them as “the beginning of the bottom.” He believes that with more focus on moments like those and less focus on him losing his basketball career to addiction, the better we will begin to understand this disease. But Chris wants us to stop using the phrase “rock bottom,” because it diminishes everything that led up to that moment.

“The phrase ‘rock bottom’ kills people,” he says. “It’s the only illness that we face in this world that people wait until their loved ones get as sick as they can possibly get before they’re offered help.”

If you ask Chris what his journey has taught him, his answer is simple.

“Empathy,” he said. “To be caring, kind, empathetic toward people. To understand them and not judge by first impression or by looking at somebody. Because I think everyone has a struggle inside of them. And when you’re struggling, no matter how big or small, it’s always easier when you have someone to help you through it.”

Collection of Jake’s Takes from WMLN

Radio, Sports

Talk show on WMLN-FM Curry College Radio, Milton-Boston. I’m a spoiled Boston sports fan who mostly just complains about how every team in this town is doing everything wrong. I also discuss league / national stories when they’re important. Sometimes I talk about the news and various pop culture topics. I play music on the show, mostly songs from my favorite albums with release anniversaries that given week. But if you want to hear that part of the show, your lazy ass can join me on Wednesday Nights from 9-11 pm to hear the show live. Otherwise, the slackers who missed it can listen here.

Click here to listen on Spotify.

The Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig

Sports, Written

It remains one of the greatest feats in baseball history, in all of sports history, really. Twenty-one hundred and thirty consecutive games played, a record that stood for 56 years until Cal Ripken Jr. finally surpassed it. The streak earned Lou Gehrig his nickname, “The Iron Horse.” The day after that 2,130th game, Gehrig approached then-New York Yankees manager, Joe McCarthy, to take himself out of the lineup. That request marked the beginning of the end for a baseball legend, by then battling perhaps the most debilitating disease known to man—Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a disease that would later come to be known as  “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

An article on Gehrig in the ESPN archives calls his legacy one of irony. His nickname, The Iron Horse, implies he was a man of indestructible stature. Yet, at age 35, he contracted an incurable disease that rendered him weak, frail and eventually dead at 37.

Aside from being one of baseball’s greatest hitters of all time, Gehrig was also known for being the number four—or “clean-up”—hitter behind the legendary Babe Ruth. The duo endures as one the greatest in all of sports history. Every year on June 2, the day of Gehrig’s passing,  Major League Baseball celebrates “Lou Gehrig Day” to commemorate the slugger’s legacy, writes Bill Francis for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s website, adding, “His accomplishments and what he stands for as an icon of American sports culture have long been a pillar of the Hall of Fame’s guest experience.”

What Gehrig means to sport and American culture spans far beyond the game of baseball. He remains a symbol of what a commitment to greatness and excellence means for athletes. And, he endures in American history as one of the great examples of courage.

A human machine from an early age, Gehrig weighed a remarkable 14 pounds at the time of his birth on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He was born to German immigrants, Christina Foch and Heinrich Gehrig on June 19, 1903. Two of his sisters died from measles and whooping cough. A  brother died as an infant. One might consider Gehrig a miracle baby. Perhaps the only bigger miracle than him surviving his childhood was the magnitude of what he would live to accomplish.

Before ascending to greatness in the Major Leagues, Gehrig gained attention for his play in a special high school championship game in Chicago. He then attended Columbia College where he would play baseball and football, according to Columbia’s 250th anniversary website. On April 30, 1923, Gehrig cut his college career short and signed with the Yankees as a free agent. He claimed it was because he needed the money. Keep in mind, this is before the MLB held an annual entry draft, which didn’t start until the 1960s.

Gehrig in his Columbia baseball uniform. (Photo courtesy of wikipedia).

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My Feelings on Tuukka Rask Retiring? Mixed …


Kevin Dupont at The Boston Globe wrote a great column commending everything Tuukka Rask did for the Boston Bruins but also noted how Rask’s best was never enough for some fans. 

Sorry Rask, but guilty as charged (hand-raised emoji). 

Dupont is right, though. Rask did do a lot for the Bruins. He’s won more regular season and playoff games than any goalie in franchise history — that long history dates back to 1924. He has the most shutouts (52) in franchise history. Rask also boasted of a solid .921 career saves percentage and a 2.28 goals-against average. 

Last week via the Bruins’ social media, Rask announced his retirement from his 15 years in the NHL, all of which was spent with the Bruins. “… it is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from the game of hockey,” Rask wrote, adding that Boston is “the best sports city in the world.” 

Let’s clear up a few things. I have always liked Rask. However, at the end of the line, when the Bruins tried to bring him back for one more kick at the can, it was clearly time for them to move on. 

Read the rest of this article on the Boston University News Service.

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