What a pair of comebacks by the Bruins and the Patriots over the weekend, eh?
Yet in both victories, other issues came into play beyond the comebacks themselves.
Let’s begin over at the Garden. Saturday night’s 3-2, Bruins’ win was overshadowed in part by forward Shawn Thornton slew footing Pittsbrugh’s Brooks Orpik after trying to engage him in a fight. Thornton was trying to defend teammate Loui Eriksson after Orpik sent Eriksson to the locker room with a concussion on his first shift of the game.
Sunday saw the Patriots come back and score two TDs in barely 30 seconds to beat the Cleveland Browns. These drives could end up on Tom Brady’s career highlight reel but nobody’s celebrating Tom Terrific today. That’s because star tight end Rob Gronkowski was lost to another season-ending injury with tears to his ACL and MCL after taking a brutal, stomach churning hit to his right knee while catching a third quarter pass.
What caused these examples of the sometimes brutal nature of both football and hockey?
Let’s take the NFL first. TJ Ward is a recidivist when it comes to illegal hits. He’s been fined for them three times in his four-year career. But don’t expect him to get hit with another one. Given the amount of fines doled out by the league for hits to the head, a player like Ward is going to shy away from trying to tackle above the waist and attack elsewhere, making a potential disciplinary action far less likely.
The NFL is trying to cut down on concussions, yet it still endorses things like the “sounds of the game,” in which you can hear two hulking men smash into each other with tremendous force. The NFL sure got the sound of the game it yearns for this week, when Gronk was on the turf writhing in pain and screaming. His cries were so loud you could hear them in Framingham, even without the field effects mics.
Patriots’ fans got a taste of how the NFL now wants to “protect” its players. Thanks to these threats to players, the Patriots’ chances of heading to New York for the big game went from a great to not so hot.
Back on Causeway Street, the injury to the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik could have been prevented.
There are refs on the ice aren’t there?
And those refs carry whistles to make calls, right?
The refs can change the tone of a game by calling the contest tightly. Players react when the refs clamp down, realizing that they’re not going to get away with much. So, the players will probably change the way they attack a zone or hit a player.
One can’t defend Shawn Thornton, and he even admitted as much in his post-game comments. While his eyes welled with tears, Thornton said he felt awful and that he was sorry. Over 15 years of being an NHL enforcer, Thornton has never been suspended but he won’t slide this time.
For those saying that he needs to be suspended for the remainder of the season, I say relax. 10 games is fitting for a guy who showed more remorse after what he did than former Penguin Matt Cooke has shown since ending Marc Savard’s career in 2010 with another brutal hit.
Those were two unbelievable comebacks on back-to-back days. But what’s unfortunate is a screaming tight end lying on the field, and seeing tears flowing from his eyes even on TV. Equally haunting is witnessing a Bruins player choking back tears as he apologized for his misdeeds.
Come playoff time, the only people who may be crying are Bruins and Patriots fans.
Thank you for checking out Chach’s Sports Corner. Some of you may remember me from my 17 years of producing the Dennis and Callahan show. Going forward, this will be a weekly spot on this site. Check back again, and feel free to send me your comments via twitter @Schach17.