BY MARK SAMBURG
I was speaking with a Professor not so long ago-I think it was September? He, like any good person, is a Boston sports fan, and our conversation (as these things inevitably do), turned to the fate of our four beloved teams.
The Professor had an insight commensurate with the expertise that would be expected from a man who was born under Yaz, Orr, Dave Cowens, and-wait for it-Marty Scottenheimer when the latter was a New England Patriots player. He turned to me suddenly and said, “I can’t even conceive of what it must mean for my children to be Boston sports fans.”
He was referring, at the time, mainly to the experience of being a Red Sox fan in the 21st Century, but his point runs quite a bit deeper. Just as he is jealously puzzled as to the baseball mindset of two children raised with World Champion pennants on their bedroom wall, fans even younger than I are puzzled what an entire generation of Boston sports fans must think, feel, and believe. Mo Lewis tackles Drew Bledsoe, and all of New England throws their hands up in despair and writes off the remainder of the 2001 NFL season. Four months later, a handsome knight in red-white-and-blue shoulder pads leads New England into the promised land, delivering something foreign to New England since 1986: a “World Championship.”
Including that February 3, 2002 victory, we’ve garnered 6 of those “World Championship” thingies in the last 6+ years…only the Bruins are yet to get in on the fun.
And each one has certainly been special-I remember exactly where I was for the final out, field goal, or expired second of each clinching game, and in this, I’m far from unique. So, thank God, at least we haven’t turned into Yankees fans. But New England, I write today to tell all of you that we have gone soft.
Suddenly, we expect “World Championships,” just as we once expected impossibly ridiculous and catastrophic collapses from our teams. And that nonsense simply needs to stop.
I was pretty crushed when we lost to Tampa Bay, too. But I didn’t view it as a denial of some holy birthright-remember, less that four years ago, we would have been waiting to discover what delightful new way the Red Sox could lose. And nobody in this town (OK, except legions of screaming teenage girls), misses Tom Brady more than I do. But we don’t get to stop caring about the Pats simply because they’re not steamrolling everyone in sight enroute to the Super Bowl. (remember: this is a town that has stuck by the Boston Bruins for the last 36 years.)
Over in the Fens, as I write, I’ve just gotten word that MVP Dustin Pedroia (see this same page on October 2 for my thoughts on that young gentleman), has just signed a six year extension with the hometown team. For Red Sox fans with an interest in seeing continued success, that’s as good as it’s going to get. Not to mention the hot stove season, which is sneaking towards a boil at this very moment. With the winter meetings set to open later this week, free agent moves and trades will start soon enough-giving Red Sox fans plenty of opportunity for speculation, and more importantly, giving Boston a much-needed chance to retain the services of Jason “oven-with-shins” Varitek.
Besides, it’s even better off the diamond and the gridiron (I, like many other New England fans my age, discovered hockey and basketball a little later than baseball and football.) The Celtics are once again the best team in the NBA, so there’s that. And, as much as I’m shocked to write these words, the Hopeless Losers themselves, the Boston Bruins, are looking like a genuine contender. (I know, I know, it is only January). But if you’re not watching Bruins hockey this season, you should be. This may be the most entertaining team the gold and black have put on the ice in quite some time, unleashing wholly unexpected flurries of goals, glass-shattering hits, and drunken fan reprisals of Zombie Nation.
The Professor may be right-I don’t really know what it must be like for someone around the age of ten to be a Boston sports fan-but right now, their era, the age of Boston teams winning, is far from over.
Mark Samburg is a 2L.