September 16, 2019
Sports Column

NE sports scene looks bright in ’04

The year 2004 is almost upon us. New England sports fans have, as always, had to deal with the highs and the lows during 2003.

The Red Sox collapse in game seven against the Yankees would have to be the low and the surprising 14-2 New England Patriots would have to be the high.

But, in the words of the Monkees, “That was then and this is now.”

The past is just that: the past.

It is now time to look ahead to 2004.

Here are some thoughts pertaining to 2004:

Ricky Craven will hopefully rebound from a dismal 2003 campaign in the No. 32 Tide Pontiac when he climbs into the No. 32 Tide Chevy beginning with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15.

Cal Wells, president of the PPI-Motorsports Team, will not get a second team to help Craven in his quest to dent the top 10 in points.

It is a performance industry and they weren’t able to lock up a second sponsor when they got off to their fast start. Craven was seventh after 10 races including a spine-tingling win at Darlington, but he dropped 20 spots over the final 26 races.

As their engine program became a liability and Craven was left driving race cars that resembled the dark days with SBIII and Midwest Transit, all hope of getting a second sponsor and team vanished.

The hirings of Craven’s close friend and former crew chief Mike Beam as competition director and David Charpentier as crew chief appear to be positive developments.

But they need to build better engines and cars. Period.

You can’t expect a one-car team in the world of multi-car conglomerates to finish in the top 10. A top-15 would be a significant accomplishment and it is a realistic goal.

The 14-2 New England Patriots have supplied us with an incredible run. Do you know how difficult it is to win 12 consecutive games in the NFL?

The 31-0 victory over the Bills was particularly impressive because it was a revenge game they were supposed to win. Those can be the most difficult to win because too much emotion can lead to mistakes.

The Patriots were business-like; they moved the ball methodically down the field and humiliated poor Drew Bledsoe and the Bills offense.

A second Super Bowl win in three years would be a nice reward for long-suffering New England sports fans who are still cursing former Red Sox manager Grady Little for his decision to leave ace Pedro Martinez in the game trying to protect a three-run lead.

Red Sox fans can take some solace in the fact they aren’t Minnesota Vikings fans.

How would you like your playoff hopes to end on a 28-yard touchdown pass as time expired?

Hockey East is probably going to expand to 10 teams with the addition of the University of Vermont, which has made serious inquiries about joining the league.

This move is long overdue.

I never understood why Vermont stayed in the ECAC in the first place.

Vermont is in America East in other sports with Hockey East members Maine, Northeastern, Boston University, and New Hampshire. It is also a state school like Maine, UNH, UMass, and UMass-Lowell.

This finally gives Hockey East an even number of teams, which makes scheduling easier.

And Vermont fans are among the best and most loyal in college hockey. They regularly pack the Gutterson Fieldhouse.

Happy New Year.

Larry Mahoney can be reached at 990-8231, 1-800-310-8600 or by email at

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