On Wednesday night, Boston sports fans were treated to their seventh title since 2001. Boston has truly become Title Town, U.S.A. As a sports fan, I feel that the way that we have gone about winning those championships has made them all the more impressive. There is a common core to our sports teams. They are all well coached. Our ownership has been willing to spend money and make moves to improve the team before, during, and after seasons. But perhaps the most amazing thing about all of these championship banners hanging from the rafters of the Garden, on banners along Yawkey Way, or hanging from the upper decks of Gilette stadium is the make up of the teams that won them.
There are undoubtedly similar threads among the rosters of every single one of these teams. Boston, for some reason has become a place where old veterans come to play, hoping that the passion this city has for it’s sports teams and our team’s commitment to winning will reinvigorate them and give them their first or last shot at a title. The best example of this is obviously the Boston Celtics, when a few years ago, three aging superstars united, shed their individuality, bought into a team concept and brought relevance back to the parquee floor of the Garden. How can we forget Curt Schilling coming to the Red Sox and invigorating a talented team and convincing them that not only could they win a their first World Series in eighty six years, but there was no way that they wouldn’t. There is no doubt that the Patriots relied heavily on their group of old men Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, and Rodney Harrison to win a string of Super Bowls. Of course, we can’t forget Mark Recchi and thirty-eight year old journeyman Timmy Thomas leading us to our first cup since the 1970’s.
Another common thread to all of these championships is our own collection of scrappy little guys that just tear sh*t up. The superstar among this group is Rajon Rondo. Higher slotted teams avoided him in the draft because of questions about his size. He is six-foot-nothing, one hundred and nothing, but plays basketball at times like a giant. His dive, stealing the ball from White Chocolate, and lay-in are the types of plays that these often less heralded guys make all of the time. Although Scal wasn’t exactly little, he was the epitome of scrappiness and he had a cult following amongst loyal Boston fans. Look at the Patriots, for example. Troy Brown wasn’t the fastest guy, but he turned in great seasons as a receiver. He was a return guy and was even playing defensive back during a championship run. Tedy Bruschi, an undersized college D-End comes in and becomes the lynchpin of a Patriots defense at Middle Linebacker. After years of making plays, he has a stroke, then comes back from it to be as good as he ever was. Wes Welker came to the Patriots after not making the Chargers and being traded, in the division mind you, from the Dolphins. I’m sure we all know what he has done for us. Finally, we have Danny Woodhead, a guy cast off by the Jets that made amazing plays all year. As far as the Red Sox go, we have Dustin Pedroia. At 5’3” (although he is listed as taller) he hits lasers, plays gold glove caliber defense, and is an animal on the base paths. If you ask me, when Tim Wakefield retires, I think that his number 49 should be up with 1, 4, 6,8, 9, 14, 27, and 42. Some of his pitches couldn’t break a window but he goes out there every fifth day and eats up innings and has been doing it for years. The Boston Bruins have supplied us with our latest undersized, scrappy hero; Brad Marchand, the Nose Faced Killer. Who will ever forget him using Daniel Sedin’s face as a speedbag, his bone-jarring hits, or his eleven goals as a rookie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Perhaps the most amazing commonality between our sports teams is the way that every member of all of our teams buys into the team notion. They buy into the team philosophy, they buy into their coaches’ game plans, and even the superstars among them seem willing to shed their individuality and realize that they are not bigger than the team. Pedro Martinez will go down as one of the greatest pitchers of his era, as will teammate Curt Schilling. But they were great teammates. Aside from Manny Ramirez late in his Red Sox career, the Red Sox cast of characters were a shining example of comradarie and teamwork. Tom Brady will be in the argument for best quarterback of all time. However, never once in his career has he put himself above the team. He is a master at giving his teammates or his coaches credit for some of the amazing things that he has done. The original “Big Three” were all superstars and will all undoubtedly have plaques in Springfield some day. They were willing to put aside their individual numbers in order to come together and win a championship. Which they did, with other guys that came to the Celtics like James Posey and P.J. Brown for less money than they could have made elsewhere. Zdeno Chara is one of the best defenseman of his era, but he was given a C on his sweater because of the way he plays, the way that he leads, and his love of this game. Tim Thomas is a superstar, but seems to shun the glory and talk about how much fun he has, how much he loves this team, and how happy he is.
Every single one of our teams and their players recognize how much we love sports in Boston/New England. They understand how connected to our teams we are, how we live and die by them. When they win they always say how happy they are for us. They, like us, relish “the moments” that were a part of all of our championships. We have Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, Dave Roberts’ steal, and of course Varitek’s shot to A-Rod’s pretty face. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have hit a number of shots that iced games. We will never forget Vinatieri’s field goals or Brady’s game winning drives. The Bruins gave us polarizing moments, in my opinion Thomas’ stick save against Tampa Bay is probably the biggest one. Yet there are other moments that we relish just as much as the game winning goal. I have a picture of Tedy Bruschi throwing snow in the air after a touchdown against the Dolphins on the wall of my “man cave.” I will always remember Orlando Cabrera’s handshakes, Manny coming out of the monster after a few bong rips mid-game, the spit hanging from Big Baby’s mouth while Nate Robinson hung from his neck like a cheap gold chain, and most recently Nathan Horton not so stealthily pouring ice from the Garden onto the rink in Vancouver. I get goosebumps every time I see the replays, hell I have them right now just thinking about this stuff.
As a sports fan, looking back on the last decade of Boston sports, I realize that we have witnessed something that no one before us has. For most of us, our grandfathers and great grandfathers never got to see the things that we have. Mine never got to see the Red Sox or Patriots win a Championship, but I’ve seen two and three titles respectively. We are living in an unprecedented time in Boston sports and in sport in general. Never before has any city seen such success over a sustained period of time and who knows how much longer it will last. I like to think that as long each organization continues to do what it’s doing; bring in guys that know and love the game, have the perfect mix of age and youth, and hold on to the coaches in place for as long as they will stay that success will stick around. I know that as a fan; I will watch, I will hang on every moment, and I will celebrate each and every win like it’s a championship because that’s how Boston fans are whether they are eighteen or eighty.