The Boston Red Sox won 2 World Series, in 2004 and 2007. Only afterward, in 2009, did we learn that their 2 biggest hitters, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, were caught using steroids -- and caught lying about it. They haven't won the Series since. (Okay, that's only 2 completed seasons, but, still... )
The New England Patriots won 3 Super Bowls, in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. Only afterward, in 2007, did we learn that they were secretly taping opposing teams' practices. They said it only happened once. Right. But they weren't exactly remorseful about that. They never apologized. How do we know they weren't doing it all the time? They haven't won a Super Bowl since they got caught. (That's 4 seasons, including a loss in a Super Bowl and in a Divisional Playoff, both to New York teams.)
The University of Connecticut men's basketball team (84 miles from Boston, 141 miles from New York), coached by openly Red Sox fan Jim Calhoun, has won National Championships in 1999, 2004 and 2011. But in the 2011 season, Calhoun was suspended for recruiting violations. Suspended for 3 games. Whoopee. How do we know there haven't been a lot more violations that we don't know about? Look at how fast the ceiling fell in on Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, who had to resign despite being one of the most successful coaches of the last 10 years? And now we know why; is the same true of Calhoun?
The New England Revolution of Major League Soccer have reached the MLS Cup Final 4 times, and have lost all 4. (They did win the U.S. Open Cup, America's equivalent of England's FA Cup, in 2007.) Perhaps getting desperate, they have begun cheating as well. About a year ago, I saw the New York Red Bulls play the Revs at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, and the kicking and hacking was ridiculous, and the diving got not 1 but 2 Red Bulls players sent off. When it was 11 vs. 11, it was 2-1 New York. When it was 10 vs. 11, it became 2-2. Only when it became 9 vs. 11 did it become 3-2 New England. Last Friday night, I saw the same teams play at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, and Revs captain Shalrie Joseph tried to copy Chelsea (London) superstar Didier Drogba, not just with the hair but with the diving. Four separate dives, one of which won a penalty... which got stopped by goalkeeper Greg Sutton. Tough luck, cheater.
And the Boston Celtics? Of their 17 NBA titles, only 1 involved cheating -- that I know of. That was in 1984, when they shut off the air-conditioning inside the old Boston Garden for Game 7 of the Finals, and it reached 97 degrees inside the old barn, and the Los Angeles Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was using an oxygen tank in the 4th quarter. Did the Celtics cheat in 2008, their only title since 1986? I can't prove it, but neither can the possibility be automatically dismissed.
That leaves the UConn women's basketball team, coached by openly Red Sox fan Geno Auriemma, winners of 7 National Championships, and the Boston Bruins, who haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1972.
I have no evidence that the UConn women have cheated. But the Bruins?
Tonight is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, at the Rogers Arena (formerly known as General Motors Place) in Vancouver. And the Vancouver Canucks are probably really glad to have the home ice advantage. And not just because the home team has won every game in the series: The Bruins have had a very poor ice surface at the TD Garden.
Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa: "The ice wasn't very good at all. The ice is very soft and chippy. It's humid here. It can hurt you when you're coming up the ice and assume the puck is flat on your stick, but it bounces away. We just have to be careful."
Canucks center and captain Henrik Sedin: "We've been in Nashville during the Playoffs, too, and it was the same or hotter. We're in the middle of June, so it's going to be this way everywhere. I don't think there's many buildings with great ice right now."
But was anybody complaining about the conditions on Nashville's ice? Nope.
It gets worse: The Canucks' Aaron Rome laid a vicious hit on the Bruins' Nathan Horton in Game 3, and was suspended for the rest of the Finals. Fair enough. But in Game 6, the Bruins' Johnny Boychuk (not to be confused with Johnny Bucyk, the Hall of Fame center who was the captain of their 1970 and '72 Cup winners) hit the Canucks' Mason Raymond while putting his stick between Raymond's legs. Raymond is out for at least 4 months with a broken vertebra in his back. In other words, he could miss the start of the next season in October. Not only has Boychuk not been suspended, not even for tonight's Game 7, but there wasn't even a penalty called on the play.
So if you can't win the Cup with talent, and you can't win it with luck, and you can't win it by fixing the playing surface, win it by knocking out a key player?
I'm sure Eddie Shore, who nearly killed Ace Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 1933 game, is proud of this generation of "Big Bad Bruins." So is the still-living Don Cherry, who coached them to the 1977 & '78 Finals... or is he pulling for the Canadian team?
Hmmmm... In 2004, the Calgary Flames only needed to win Game 6 to win the Cup. But a Martin Gelinas goal was waved off for no reason, and there was no review to make sure it had gone in, and the Flames lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in double overtime, and lost Game 7, too. In 2006, the Edmonton Oilers led the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 in Game 1, but the Canes won, 5-4. Oiler goalie Dwayne Roloson was crashed into and missed the rest of the series. Again, the Sun Belt team beat the Canadian team in 7 games.
Just like NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted it.
No Canadian team has won the Cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.
So, like their New England bretheren, the Red Sox, the Patriots, the UConn men and the Revs, the Bruins are getting gifts, and/or making their own.
But it goes beyond that: As he showed in 2004 and 2006, Bettman will never let a Canadian team win the Cup. He also threw the 2009 Finals to Pittsburgh so his golden boy, Sidney Crosby (the diving twit Cristiano Ronaldo of his sport), could win a Cup.
Credit to David Stern, who refused to fix his sport's finals the way he used to for Shaquille O'Neal, for not doing it for LeBron James.
But as for the Bruins, if Bettman's gifts won't work, they'll make their own.
(to the tune of "The Westminster Chimes")
Same New England.
Same New England.