When I entered high school, I knew a few things to be true. The people I’d been friends with my whole life would always be my friends, the money I made from working six hours a week could buy me anything I ever wanted, and Boston's sports teams would ultimately find a way to lose.
The latter of the few things I absolutely knew were no longer true after a few short months.
The New England Patriots lost starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, which signaled the end of any competitive season for the guys in Foxboro, until a no-named kid from Michigan took over and they kept winning.
When that no-name we've come to know as Tom Brady got hurt in the playoffs it should’ve been the end of the brief hope Boston fans had of success. Bledsoe came in and led a game-winning charge, despite spending previous months holding a clipboard rather than passing to receivers.
The team and their fans, who were used to losing in an unprecedented fashion (see the Patriots roughing the quarterback penalty that didn’t exist in 1976, or the Red Sox in '46, '75, '78, and '86), couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that something would go wrong at some point in the playoffs, sending the Patriots home with a crushing loss. Then, as sure as rain is wet, it happened.
Charles Woodson came off the corner and sacked Brady, causing a fumble that a Raider linebacker picked up. The game was over, the season was over, and once again fans were disappointed.
The refs reviewed the play, however, and decided the quarterback’s arm was coming forward, making it an incomplete pass and not a fumble. As a result, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45 yard field goal as regulation expired to tie the game. After he hit another for the win in overtime, the Patriots moved on to beat the Steelers in the AFC championship.
Surely, though, this would be all the success they could muster as they were coming up against the Rams and the great Kurt Warner-led offense in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots seemed to never go away though, and when they took the ball over with about a minute left, the score remained tied. Someone forgot to tell Brady and Vinatieri they were 14-point underdogs as they led a charge down the field and hit a field goal as time expired, which brought the first sports championship to the Bay State since the Celtics in 1986.
When they failed to make the playoffs the next year, it seemed like a flash in the pan. The Red Sox reminded fans here that winning was hard to come by, and lost in a heartbreaking fashion in the 2003 playoffs to the New York Yankees. Everything seemed back to normal at that point.
A year later when they returned to the same spot in the playoffs it seemed like they were finally going to let fans off easy and lose. When they lost game three 19-8 and went down 3-0 in the best of seven series, the Sox served very little hope that Boston could become a winning town.
Then they took game five, and Schilling and Pedro led them to wins in five and six. The offense exploded in game seven, and the Red Sox became the first team in the history of baseball to win after a three-game deficit.
This couldn’t be. A city with a history scared with defeat couldn't pull off perhaps the greatest win in sports history. Surely something would go wrong in the World Series, reminding fans that it just wasn’t supposed to work out, however, they steamrolled the Cardinals, sweeping away St. Louis and 86 years of defeat.
When the Patriots captured their second NFL championship a few months later, New England had two teams atop the sporting world for the first time ever. It was only the second time in the area’s history that two teams had shown that kind of success within a year of each other. Not since the Bruins and Celtics, in the late '60s and early '70s, had fans seen such success.
The Red Sox and Patriots have both captured another crown since. The Celtics, who have been bad for the majority of any college-aged person’s life, even returned to prominence a year ago. After acquiring two All-Stars to accompany Paul Pierce, we were able to see the glory our parents and grandparents had as the Celtics brought home banner No. 17 at the end of the season.
Even Boston College has had its share of triumphs. The football team advanced to the ACC Championship game a year ago and ultimately won their eighth straight Bowl game. Their Hockey team crafted upset after upset a season ago, finally coming home with an NCAA championship.
Somewhere in all of those wins, fans stopped expecting losing, and started feeling they deserved to win. We now find that anything short of a championship makes the season a disappointment. The recent successes of the teams in the area have transformed an entire region into one of arrogance surrounding the local sports, and made them feel that losing is far off.
Taking these championships for granted is the wrong approach to being a fan at this point. We need to appreciate them as they happen, and should not forget that winning is an incredible rarity. As Sox fans, we waited 86 years for a celebration. The Patriots brought fans our first championship in 15 years. Cubs fans have been waiting for 100 years.
Our city has experienced six championships in professional sports in less than a decade, which is a feat that very few cities can stake a claim to. It is unfair to expect the sports teams we support to continue to recreate such success.
So sit back, love it if they win, and don’t feel cheated if a few years go by without another championship parade through the streets of Boston.
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