Boston Sports Fans: Stop Complaining, Things Could Be Much Worse
It was a tough way to end a season. Losing the Super Bowl in the final minutes to a New York Giants team that the New England Patriots desperately wanted to beat.
Then last night the Celtics got beat by one point at home by their most hated rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celtics who won a title in June of 2008 and have been in the finals or in the playoffs every season since, are now barely above .500.
All of this comes on the heels of the Boston Red Sox blowing a playoff birth that at one point seemed inevitable in a September collapse for the ages, last fall.
Even the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins have been shrouded in controversy since goalie Tim Thomas chose to avoid the White House visit and make an Anti-Obama political statement. The team that once had the best record in hockey now has the fifth best record and second in their conference. They've gone 5-6-1 over their last 12 games.
Yes, it has been a rough five months or so for Boston sports fans.
Things really aren't that bad though.
For younger Boston sports fans or even older ones with short memories, here's a little trip down memory lane back to 1997.
You think sports in Boston are bad right now?
Here's a recap of the year 1997.
1997 New England Patriots
The year 1997 started off pretty good. After all, the New England Patriots advanced to just their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
The Patriots faced off against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. The game was close for a bit but the Packers defense led by future hall of fame defensive end Reggie White, quarterback Brett Favre and kick returner Desmond Howard were too much for New England who ended up losing by a score of 35-21.
Things went downhill from there, fast.
First, head coach Bill Parcells left shrouded in controversy to take a job with the Jets. In his place, Bob Kraft hired Pete Carroll. Carroll had a laid back attitude that seemed ill-fitted for New England from the get-go.
The team started the season 5-1 but finished with a record of 10-6. The 1997 season was a season of transition, and the transition at that point in time was one that took the team in a downward trajectory.
1997 Boston Celtics
Every calendar year features parts of two different NBA seasons.
The first half of the year features the second half of a regular season, the playoffs, finals and then the NBA Draft.
The second half has training camps, preseason and the start of the regular season of another NBA journey.
So how was the calendar year of 1997 for the Boston Celtics? Terrible, it was a a terrible year for the Celtics.
The first part of the year showcased the conclusion of one of the worst years in Boston Celtics history. The M.L. Carr coached 96-97 Celtics would finish the season 15-67 , one of the worst records in Celtics history.
There was of course one bright spot. The Celtics had not one, but two lottery picks, and that meant that gave Boston two shots to land the consensus number one overall pick Tim Duncan. Rick Pitino was coming to the Celtics from Kentucky with high hopes, and Duncan would lead the Celtics back to prominence.
Except of course that the Celtics still didn't land him. It was literally "the way the ball bounces." The Celtics ended up with the third and sixth pick in the draft, while the San Antonio Spurs ended up with arguably the greatest power forward of all time.
Boston got Ron Mercer and Chauncey Billups. Mercer would become a draft bust, a dynamic athlete who was never good enough at any one aspect of basketball to succeed consistently in the NBA. Billups would be dealt by Boston and go on to have a great career...but not in Boston.
The Rick Pitino era got off to a bad start and never recovered. The Celtics of 97-98 were better than the previous seasons' teams but they still missed the playoffs and finished 36-46. Dark days for Boston's most decorated major sports franchise.
1997 Boston Bruins
Hockey seasons are structured in a similar fashion to basketball seasons. You get portions of two separate seasons over the course of one calendar year.
By spring of 1997 the Bruins and their fans had endured 25 years without a Stanley Cup. That was actually not that bad when one considered that the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918 and the Patriots had yet to win a Super Bowl.
It wasn't good though.
Making things worse was that the 1996-97 Bruins finished in last place in the Northeast Division with a putrid 26-47-9 record. No playoffs, and certainly no Stanley Cup.
The year turned out to not be a complete bust since the Bruins got to select Joe Thornton with the No.1 overall pick in the NHL Draft. That led to a much improved 1997-98 Bruins team that would in fact make the playoffs.
No Cup though. They'd have to wait until June of 2011 for that.
1997 Boston Red Sox
The final major transaction of the year 1996, for the Boston Red Sox, was the departure of long time Cy Young winner and staff ace Roger Clemens. At the time this was not thought of as a good thing.
The opening day starters for the Boston Red Sox in 1997 featured names such as Rudy Pemberton, Shane Mack and starting pitcher Steve Avery. If you're thinking "that's not so good," well, you're right.
The Red Sox would finish up the season with a record of 78-84 in fourth place in the American League East. The Sox would go 4-8 head-to-head against the Yankees.
There were some bright spots: Sox fans wouldn't realize how critical they were, but the emergence of rookie shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and his eventual Rookie Of The Year award was an undeniable bright spot.
On July 31st, closer Heathcliff Slocumb was sent to the Seattle Mariners for two prospects: Derek Lowe and catcher Jason Varitek.
On November 18th, 1997, the Red Sox dealt prospects Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. to the Montreal Expos for the reigning Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. At the time there was no way to predict the run of dominance Pedro would go on.
The seeds of some great Red Sox teams were indeed planted back in 1997, but at the time the Red Sox were a below .500 team mired in fourth place. They hadn't won a World Series in 79 years and it didn't seem like that streak would be broken anytime soon.
Where Is Boston Sports At, Now?
As of today, it has been nearly a full eight months since a Boston sports franchise won a major title. That's not too long folks. It's also been less than a full week since the Patriots played in the Super Bowl, something that, even with the disappointing results, thirty other NFL teams would have gladly been part of.
Since the turn of the century the Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox combined, played in ten, count-em, ten major sports championships.
The Patriots have made five Super Bowls, the Red Sox have made two World Series, the Celtics have gone to the NBA Finals twice and the Bruins have made one Stanley Cup trip.
Those ten trips have resulted in seven titles. Seven titles folks. That's really more than anyone would have ever predicted and about as much as any sports city could reasonably expect.
The Red Sox are tied for most World Series rings this decade with the Cardinals and Yankees. The Patriots are the only team sporting three Super Bowl rings this decade.
Losing stinks. No one likes it and you can bet that the players, coaches and organizations that are involved, hate it as much as anyone.
It's a bit much to get too bitter over these losses though. The Red Sox play in the toughest division in baseball. The Patriots have lost to two very good and very well coached Giants teams. The Celtics lost to a Lakers team led by Kobe Bryant, who is one of the greatest players ever to play in NBA History.
Boston sports fans don't have much to get too upset about. No one wins every year, plus, what made the 2004 run so amazing was that we hadn't won in so long. That's not to say that the Red Sox should make it their mission to not win another World Series for another 80 some odd years, it's just that you can't appreciate winning without experiencing losing.
Boston sports are in very good shape. Maybe 2012 won't feature any banners or parades or maybe the Celtics, Bruins or Red Sox will surprise everyone with one or more?
One thing seems certain: Boston sports teams are all well worth watching, and there are a lot of sports fans in a lot of cities that would gladly switch places with you.