Sometimes one play, one moment defines a season for a team.
For the 2001 Patriots, it was the game versus the New York Jets when starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured by a thunderous hit administered by Mo Lewis.
Out comes Bledsoe, in goes Brady.
And the rest is history.
Brady became a three-time NFL champion and Bledsoe was thrown on the scrap heap.
The Boston Red Sox had their own defining moment on July 24, 2004.
The “Curse” was now 86 years old, thanks in large measure to the New York Yankees.
The season before, the Sox pushed the Bronx Bombers to Game Seven of the ALCS. However, they lost in heartbreaking fashion yet again. It wasn’t the ’46, ‘67, ’75, or ’86 World Series kind of pain and sorrow, but Aaron “Bleeping” Boone still broke the heart and of the Red Sox Nation.
Every tormented and tortured Red Sox fan asked, “Will we ever win a World Series?”
In 2004, the Red Sox front office was very active in building a team that could compete with the Yankees in the AL East. They picked up workhorse and World Series champion Curt Schilling to shore up the pitching staff.
They also pursued highly talented Alex “A-Rod” Rodriquez. However, yet again, the Yankees found a way to swoop down and acquire A-Rod right from under the Red Sox brass’ noses.
By July, the Sox were starting to fade in the American League playoff race. Before New York (60-34) came in for a three-game series on July 23, Boston (52-43) was 8.5 games back in the division.
The Red Sox needed a strong showing and take at least two out of three to keep up in the playoff race. However, the series didn’t start the way they had hoped for.
Boston blew leads of 4-0 and 7-5 in route to a 8-7 loss to the Yankees. The Red Sox were now 9.5 games behind their hated rivals from the Empire State.
The Red Sox needed a spark to salvage their season.
Boston needed to find a way to derail the Bronx Bomber Express or it will be wait until next year…AGAIN.
In the top of the third inning with his team already trailing 2-0, Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo hit Alex Rodriquez with a pitch. The New York third baseman stared down at Arroyo and muttered some unkind words. Catcher Jason Varitek stepped in between his pitcher and the agitated Rodriquez.
What would happen next would be nothing short of Red Sox lore.
Rodriguez shouted some obscenities at Varitek and told him to “Come on!”
The Captain is not one to back down. Varitek came at A-Rod as invited and gave him a catcher’s mitt face wash.
The benches cleared and the Beantown Brawl was on. The crowd was in a frenzy. Multiple melees broke out on the field and the most storied rivalry in sports reached a new level of hate.
A-Rod and Varitek were ejected.
The Red Sox showed that they would not back down from the bullies from the Bronx.
This was the game where the Sox found their “mojo” for the rest of the season.
They would go on to win the game in the bottom of the ninth on a three-run home run by Bill Mueller off future Hall of Fame reliever Mariano Rivera.
"We've been waiting for some catalytic event," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "Maybe this whole day...will serve as that catalyst."
Theo Epstein clairvoyant?
The Red Sox would defeat the Yankees the next day as well, 9-6. Boston did what they had to do by winning two out of three from the Yankees, but no one could have scripted what happened from that point on.
Boston would finish the season on a 44-20 run. They would secure the AL Wild Card.
They would vanquish the AL West champion Anaheim Angels in three straight games.
They would complete one of the most incredible and historic comebacks in sports history. The Sox overcame a 3-0 series deficit to shock the hated Yankees in the ALCS.
The World Series was almost an afterthought as Boston pitching silenced the mighty St. Louis bats in a 4-0 sweep.
The Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.
The curse was dead and the world took notice.
This was not your dad’s or grandpa’s Red Sox. They didn’t roll over and die.
They rallied and stood up for themselves.
Just like Jason Varitek did against A-Rod on that July afternoon.
Joe Gill writes for Boston Sports Then And Now.