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.