Dan Shaughnessy dives deeper into the tomato can of his soul

Number of times Dan Shaughnessy has used the phrase tomato can in a column

Tomato-can references. Note: 2016 numbers include two 2017 columns because, hey, same football season.

If you're one of those people who just can't quit Shaughnessy, you might be thinking he's using the phrase "tomato can" a lot more these days. You might even think he's getting carried away with it and maybe should find another way to say "loser."

You'd be plum right. A little time spent with the Boston Globe archives shows Shank's use of the phrase has accelerated rapidly over the past year: Since Jan. 1, 2016, he's used "tomato can" in 18 columns - that's almost half of all the "tomato can" columns in a tomato-drenched career dating back to May 7, 1990, when he used it for the first time (way down towards the bottom of one of those random-bits-of-stuff column he loves so much: "Today's Celtics are a little like the 1990 George Foreman. You knew they were going to lose sometime in this playoff round, but they weren't supposed to get dropped by a first-round tomato can like the Knicks.")

Back in the old days, Shank could go years without referring to some team or person as a tomato can. In fact, after that first use, he didn't return to it again for more than two years (in a column about a boxer: "Nicholson was ranked just a notch above Tomato Can"). He even once went nearly six years without hauling out his can, between a 1997 column about the Indians and Marlins ("Marlin fans think Rocky Colavito is a tomato can who once was KO'd by Sugar Ray Leonard") and a 2003 column about another boxer ("Critics claim Holyfield was washed up when he lost to Ruiz and it's difficult to forget when the Quiet Man was knocked out in 19 seconds by tomato can David Tua in 1996").

He started squeezing the cliche a bit harder in 2014 (seven columns, mostly about the Patriots and mostly about the "Tomato Can" division they played in) and dragged poor Andy Warhol into it, even though Warhol painted cans of soup (granted, some of tomato soup), not cans of tomatoes ("The Warhol/Tomato Can Division belongs to New England once again").

He let up just a bit in 2015 (only four columns), but apparently decided that from now on, only one sport and one team's opponents were worthy of the phrase, i.e, Patriots opponents.

Then, in 2016, Shaughnessy just exploded all over the written page in ripe prose, starting right on New Year's Day with a reference to the "Tomato Can Division," i.e., the AFC East.

By December, of course, he could no longer use the phrase to discuss the AFC East, but no fear, now he can talk about "the Tomato Can Foxborough festival that will be billed as the AFC playoffs."

Shaughnessy returned to the theme yesterday, and then some, from the headline ("Patriots get to kick (tomato) can known as Houston Texans") to not one but two attempts to dice up the Patriots' next opponents, or as he called them, "the All World Tomato Cans, the Houston Texans," a team whose players "are Tomato Cans Sui Generis; Tomato Cans Di Tutti, the Houston Warhols."

And that was just four days after he cracked about other playoff teams highlight reels showing up at "the Tomato Cannes Film Festival in France next year." OK, give him points for that.

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    Comments

    Hitting the sauce?

    That would explain his lack of cherry metaphors. Perhaps he is mourning the demise of Vines? He should go back to the roots if he shuns original ideas - perhaps some heirloom prose would improve things.

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    The "Tomato Can" referance

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    Is really just subliminal advertising for Shaughnessy's new shampoo line.

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    Same old CHB

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    He does this column every year, regardless of who the Patriots play. This allows him to get air time on "the tomato cans" local radio shows in order to defend his column. Pretty pathetic.

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    Slow news day?

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    I'm not seeing why this matters? And this isn't a criticism of UHub.

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    Because

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    our local paper of record is circling the drain partially because they probably pay this buffoon (CHB, not Adam) so much money because of his 'bold' brand of nationally known 'sports takes'.

    Fire this guy, give Chad Finn the column spot and then hire three excellent journalists to do Spotlight type work. I'll pay for that.

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    It doesn't matter

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    I just saw "tomato can" on the Globe home page yesterday and thought I'd been seeing it more and figured I'd check for sure. It was way easier to check than his other annoying tics of using references to 1980s sporting events and making points about one sport by bringing up things that happened in other sports (sometimes in the 1980s) - researching those would take some serious time.

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    Gotcha

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    And by no means Adam was that a dig at Uhub, great site you run here.

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    Thanks

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    And, no, I didn't take your comment as a dig. It's a legitimate question.

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    Does anyone like this guy?

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    The Globe has some excellent sports writers, but Shaughnessy isn't one of them. He's pugnacious and monotonous.

    The main sport I follow is baseball, and I'd rate almost all the Globe's writers above him (with the exception of Benbow, who needs a full-time fact check).
    I especially agree with the suggestion to give Chad Finn more room - he's one of the most readable and interesting writers on the sports beat.

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    I enjoy reading his columns

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    I get that he has a bit of a shtick that drives some people up the wall, but I think he has a great historical perspective on baseball (and I imagine basketball, but I don't follow it enough to have a good sense). His column last year on attending the BB HOF ceremony was brilliant, his review of being a globe beat writer during 85/86 shows a great contrast to the now curmudgeon, and I respect that he continues to stick to his game despite knowing how much he has pissed off some of our most beloved heroes (Papi, Pedro and Carl Everett immedaitely come to mind, I'm sure there are more).

    I'll also say that listening to Felger and Mazz and hearing them adopt the use of the term speaks to his influence. The fact that it's become common vernacular, despite constant comment section condemnation, shows that the guy knows how to give his point some notice.

    I remember wincing in 2011, both when he announced the Sox being the GOAT despite it being March, or his assurances during the Baltimore game at the end of the year, but I'll always read his articles, or keep the radio on for a few more minutes to hear his perspective, especially after pitchers and catchers report.

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    Shaughnessy

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    He, Bob Ryan and Jackie MacMullen were a great 1-2-3 punch for columnists. All "old school". I enjoy Dan's work because he can retell old stories from 70-80s about athletes/games that I was too young to watch and also he lets it rip on anyone. These new columnists (Gaspar) are a dime a dozen. I cherish even the tomato can columns because I'll miss his work when he retires.

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    Are you Dan's kid?

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    Or Joe Sullivan? Seriously I've never met anyone who likes his work but to each, their own.

    Ryan, MacMullen and CHB are all the same in that they have pretty much nothing but contempt for current Boston teams and especially their fans. Just thee old people yelling at clouds.

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    Brutal

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    I saw him at the airport on Friday 12/30 - he sat 4 rows behind me on the flight to Fort Lauderdale. I asked him which teams were tomato cans, and he laughed....the only teams he's leery about are KC and to a lesser extent, PIT.

    Fascinating stuff.

    Agreed Chad Finn is great.

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    Congratulations, Adam

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    You put more thought and effort into this post than Dan Shaughnessy has cumulatively into his last 14 years of work.

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