Boston! 10 Moments Define the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots Since 2000
Boston’s sports revival in the last decade from near-obscurity at the turn of the century has been—in a word—...thorough.
New England has certainly been spoiled since the turn of the century.
The Red Sox broke the “Bambino’s Curse” in the most iconic way, coming back from the tallest possible odds to defeat their arch-rival Yankees, before winning the World Series in 2004. Whatever ill-will Babe Ruth heckled Boston with at the start of the young century was eradicated with the dawn of a bright young millennium in the northeastern corner.
The turn-about being “fair play” is even more miraculous considering the lackluster quality of “play” in Boston, circa 2000.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of Boston’s rise and fall (and rise again), it’s important to understand the rich tradition of excellence that teams like the Celtics annually delivered to the area.
Sure, the Patriots saw their Cinderella season dismantled by a juggernaut Bears squad in 1985.
And, yes, the Red Sox were still having their troubles.
But, NBA championships had become the annual expectation from 1956-1986, and in the midst of the Celtics glory, Boston franchises were all competitive.
In 1985, Bostonians felt tremendous grief with the death of star NBA prospect Len Bias. The Celtics won another title, but most historians mark this tragic event as the start of the fall of Boston’s basketball dominance.
Sure, the teams still had their moments. Yet…
The Celts were not winning championships.
The alleged “Curse of the Big Bambino” seemed to continuously tease Red Sox fans.
The Bruins fared well, though they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals and eventually saw the Pittsburgh Penguins frustrate them in back-to-back Eastern Conference Final defeats during the early 1990’s.
By 2000, even the brief glimpses of hope had faded into a darkness that cast over the city, as if a giant "Stay Puft Babe” looked over the region he cursed into mediocrity.
Thanksgiving of 2000 serves as the perfect example of a sudden competitive fall. While most people celebrated thankfulness with families, turkey and gravy, Boston sports fans felt like the biggest turkeys.
The Patriots played the Lions, in the midst of a 5-11 season, and lost 34-9.
The Celtics had just missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season. They’d only missed the playoffs five time in the previous 39 seasons.
The Red Sox were competitive, but despite six consecutive winning seasons at the turn of the century, the Yankees won the AL East every time.
In the biggest irony, amidst a 24-win season, the Bruins’ Marty McSorley was suspended for the remainder of the year after he hit Donald Brashear with his stick, causing a concussion when his head hit the ice. Brashear played for the Canucks, making recent events a complete turn of fortune.
Indeed, Thanksgiving of 2000 was a swell time for fat cat sports cities of the day like L.A. and New York/New Jersey. Yet, a cornucopia of great sports moments was only around the corner in Boston.
Here are the top ten moments of a great sports decade in New England.
Honorable Mention: John Henry's Majority Ownership of the Red Sox
The same man who is now calling for an economic overhaul to the game of baseball was the man who most accredit for making the necessary changes to propel the Red Sox into the stratosphere.
At the turn of the century, Boston was alone amongst New England teams winning with consistency. They just couldn't get over that (can I put this lightly)...hump. The hump had pinstripes.
John Henry and company bought the team, kept the winning tradition intact, and made Fenway Park the classic ballpark with the modern feel.
The renovations to the park were not as significant as his initial goal: breaking the Bambino's curse.
The team accomplished this feat twice-over (three times, if you include the remarkable series win over New York).
The Red Sox, despite occasional speculations about John Henry's long-term interests, continue to thrive under the ownership. Aggressive team management continually keeps the ball club in the media spotlight, and consistent on-field results are proof of something working correctly!
Whether fans enjoy the renovated, classic stadium or revel in the glory of their team's success, there's no doubt that Henry has received a great deal of the credit.
10. Blasted Bledsoe Births Boston's First Bambino Basher
"The Curse of the Big Bambino" refers to a drought that the Red Sox endured after they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. At the start of the century, you could hardly blame Bostonians for a belief that perhaps the curse had permeated itself.
Losing is tough, especially for a city that so often identified itself as a champion.
Whether or not the curse affected anything but baseball, Boston yearned for a winner. In this way, Tom Brady was the anti-Babe (except to the ladies).
And, in some way, so was Mo Lewis.
The New York Jets' Lewis gained ground on Drew Bledsoe as he scrambled from the pocket, an irregularity for the typically stationary quarterback. As he reached the right sideline, Lewis delivered a devastating hit, causing internal bleeding, emergency surgery, a big scare...
...and the loss of Bledsoe's job.
Tom Brady came into the game and the rest would be history. In a sequence of regularity for the region, a few fateful turns propelled the franchise into the pantheon of champions.
9. Patriots Win a Wacky Super Bowl XXXVIII
Between their miracle rise to the top against the Rams and their dynasty-securing victory over the Eagles, the Patriots played the Carolina Panthers in a football game that can only be described as bipolar.
With all respect to sensitivities regarding the condition, no game has had more polar opposites than Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The teams played a scoreless 25 minutes of football. They then exploded for 24 points in the closing moments before halftime, and the Patriots led 14-10.
The score stayed the same until the fourth quarter. Then, fireworks popped and sizzled again.
The Patriots went up 21-10.
The Panthers struck for 12 unanswered points, including a 90-yard touchdown bomb from Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad.
The Patriots answered right back, taking the lead on a touchdown pass and two-point conversion, only to see the Panthers valiantly tie the game.
In an encore to his previous Super Bowl appearance, Tom Brady took control of the Patriots two-minute offense. Their trip into field goal range was aided by an out-of-bounds kickoff, yet those last yards seemed effortless for a cool and collected Brady to obtain.
Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal, silencing the team's critics. Many football fans felt their success had been a flash in the pan, the result of good fortune (the "Tuck Rule") and luck. But the Patriots had validated their unexpected rise to the top in 2004 with another Lombardi Trophy.
8. Red Sox Validate Their Legacy by Winning 2007 World Series
There's no time like the first time.
That said, in 2004 the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees and Cardinals to officially end "The Curse."
Yet, if the team could win again, fans knew it would serve as the ultimate validation of their return to greatness.
Including a Game 1 victory of 13-1, the Red Sox outscored Colorado 29-10 in a four-game sweep.
Only Game 2 was contentious between the clubs, a pitching duel that Boston won 2-1.
Otherwise, Game 3 saw the Red Sox winning 6-0 early (a 10-5 victory), and Game 4 ended 4-3 after a two-run eighth inning by the Rockies.
A dominating performance left little doubt about the Red Sox status as the finest team in Major League Baseball.
7. Patriots Nearly Finish Undefeated and Dominate the NFL
Fans may argue that every championship should rank higher. Ahead on the list, we have teams' first championships in decades (or ever) and the finishing touches on a dynasty.
Yet, despite a disappointing finish, this could have ranked higher. In 2007, the Patriots were the toast of the town.
Most regard them as the best team ever to not win the Super Bowl, and some will still proclaim them the greatest team of all time despite not winning the championship.
Tom Brady threw an apparent game-winning touchdown to Randy Moss, a seemingly fitting conclusion to a valiant effort.
The rest of the NFL, for all of their gadgetry in an attempt to slow down New England, had already failed. Belichick was like the "Dr. Claw" who could finish, taking out the Inspector before he could get "Go, Go Gadget...!" out of his mouth. The games were often over early.
In a year where Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns, the scores were lopsided, creating the impression that the Pats were running up the score.
In the preseason, the Jets had accused the Patriots of cheating by recording sideline signals being used by their opponents. So, was New England running up the score?
Yes, and proudly.
The wins kept coming, and records kept falling.
The 2007 season saw two types of NFL fans. Those who felt the Patriots were going to win the Super Bowl, and those who felt this and said it out loud.
Yet, one miraculous, fluttering Eli Manning pass over the middle followed by a catch by David Tyree that nearly defied physics was the difference between immortality and pity for this amazing Patriots squad.
Someday, your grandchildren will ask, "where were you when the 2007 Patriots lost?"
That's what makes this a great moment. The 2007 Patriots were so good, even those outside of Boston will remember where they saw the Giants best "THE Giant."
6. Bruins Win the 2011 Stanley Cup
While the first two mentions were twists of fate or events that caused successful change, those events mean nothing if the teams affected don't perform accordingly.
For the first time in 40 seasons, the Boston Bruins gave their Canadien (and, of course, Canadian) rivals reason for jealousy.
The Bruins superb run to the Stanley Cup Finals has included timeless moments that Boston's hockey contingent will cherish forever.
In the first round, the Bruins came back from a 2-0 series deficit, defeating their arch-rivals Montreal in a Game 7 overtime.
Then, Tampa Bay continued to play the role of unexpected "Cinderella," their offensive talent pushing the Bruins back to the brink of elimination. Yet, Tim Thomas stood tall in a 1-0 victory in deciding Game 7.
In the Cup Finals, after trailing 2-0 in another series, the Bruins had rallied to tie the Canucks, outscoring Vancouver 14-5 in the series and 12-1 during a two-game home-stand.
Vancouver avoided panic with a defensively stout victory in Game 5, but trailing 4-0 again in Boston doomed them, as the Bruins put away a series they'd dominated with a devastating 4-0 victory in Game 7.
While Bostonians cheered with beers, Vancouver jeered, setting its fine city into a blazing chaos.
With Tim Thomas seemingly able to stop pucks while standing on his head, the sky is the limit for the Bruins in the coming days.
Sometimes, athletes talk about how "winning doesn't stick with you as long as the road there," sighting the journey as the most memorable element of a championship.
For the Bruins, the road there was both thrilling and satisfying.
5. Patriots Dynasty Secured in Win over the Eagles
The enduring image of Tedy Bruschi pointing to the front-page headline "DYNASTY" sticks with Boston fans. Boston had its first dynastic squad since the powerful Celtics, and images of that game serve like a scrapbook of local pride and esteem.
Rodney Harrison's interception of a deflected Donovan McNabb pass to seal the outcome.
Tom Brady's picture-perfect spiralling lob pass that rose high into the air...floating...floating...mercilessly floating...
...directly into the hands of David Givens along the sideline of the end zone, placed where only he could catch the football.
The game didn't showcase great offensive fireworks, but it did highlight a smart, opportunistic, hard-working team delivering on their opportunity to be an all-time great NFL superpower.
And, in the front page of that newspaper the next morning, Bostonians were greeted by the image of three Lombardi Trophies, sparkling reminders of a prestigious era.
4. Boston Celtics Retool and Win NBA Title
Hoping to conjure images of success from a glorious past, the struggling Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce.
The glorious present began.
The NBA Finals pitted the "Big Three—Part One" (Part Two came to South Beach in 2010) against the L.A. Lakers.
After winning their two home games to open the series, the Lakers cut the series edge to 2-1. Trailing by 24 points in Game 4, Boston rallied to defeat Los Angeles, stunning the Staples Center crowd.
Spurred by victory and guaranteed a minimum 3-2 series edge should they have to return to Boston to wrap up the championship, the win essentially ended any shot Kobe Bryant had of obtaining his first title without Shaq.
The Celtics defeated the hated Lakers in six games, a Finals rivalry that only heightened the traditional feeling that accompanies Celtics success.
3. Brady's Bunch Upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI
I'll never forget watching the Patriots' opener in 2002, after winning this Super Bowl. A fan had a sign that read: "New England Patriots: 2001 Champions—DEAL WITH IT!"
At best, fans in other cities cried about how the Patriots were overrated. Cynics speculated that the Patriots were the NFL's selection to win Super Bowl XXXVI, insinuating that the outcome was rigged. After the devastating attacks of 9-11, fans hypothesized that the team's colors and mascot reflected ideals that could be attributed to the strengths of America.
The Patriots were a struggling team that found its stride and turned things around in an instant. They were "the everyman," if that man were willing and able.
Those conspiracy theorists later saw New England methodically mastermind the NFL, out-coach and outplay opponents and become an NFL dynasty. But, for one night, they got to speculate. Years later, it was back to U.F.O. hunting.
The St. Louis Rams struggled against the physical secondary of the Patriots, and a uniquely calm Tom Brady guided the Patriots to their first-ever Lombardi Trophy.
The upset of the Rams was so devastating that it essentially broke up the "Greatest Show on Turf." St. Louis struggled to regain its former stride, and QB Kurt Warner, a journeyman like Brady two years before the event, soon left the team's roster.
In Boston, the exact opposite occurred. The win catalyzed a decade of sheer dominance for the Patriots, a franchise whose stability of excellence has been nearly unparalleled in the last 10 seasons.
Yet, for one night, New England won AGAINST the odds, dared to dream, and got drenched in a storm of red, white and blue confetti.
2. Red Sox Win Title for First Time in 86 Seasons
Despite defeating the Yankees in an epic ALCS, the "Curse" still lingered. After all, there was still business to be done; a win against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series would not come easily.
In reality, the victory came with relative ease.
Game 1 saw Boston explode out of the gates, winning an 11-9 offensive affair.
Afterward, Curt Schilling, playing on an injured ankle that grew fame during the ALCS vs. the Yankees, pitched masterfully, and the Red Sox won Game 2.
Looking to turn the tide, the Cardinals could only muster one run in front of their home fans, and the Red Sox swept the World Series.
The 2004 Red Sox scored in every first inning of their series against St. Louis, setting the tone early and often that nothing would keep them from the title.
With the victory, glee filled the hearts of Bostonians, and a great deal of paranoia exited Fenway Park.
1. Yankees Blow 3-0 Series Lead to Red Sox in ALCS
The Red Sox lost Game 3 by 11 runs, and most odds-makers certainly had the team pegged to be swept. The Yankees had scored 36 runs in three games.
This end seemed certain as the team trailed in Game 4, only to rally in the 9th inning to tie the game, 4-4. After midnight, Boston fans found relief as the team scored.
In Game 5, the team's backs were even more against the wall. Despite Pedro Martinez starting the game for Boston, the Yankees led again. Trailing 4-2, Boston tied the game in the 8th inning. In the 14th inning, the Red Sox were able to score to force Game 6. Boston won again, despite a fine night by Derek Jeter.
A four-run 4th inning gave Boston their first comfortable lead of the series. The Yankees were fended off early by a strong effort from Curt Schilling. This game would go down in sports lore for the pitcher's fine performance despite a severe ankle injury. During the telecast, the camera zoomed in on Schilling's ankle, and the bloody sock became an enduring image in the history of baseball.
Game 7 came despite the prognostications of many, and the Red Sox were looking to flip-flop the Yankees fortunes with their own misfortunes. As if they were swinging out 86 years of frustration, the Sox blew out New York, 10-3. Johnny Damon's grand slam gave his team a 6-0 edge.
In the ultimate cathartic moment, Boston fans rejoiced.
Ding-dong! The witch was dead!