After the weird year of 2009, where do we go in 2010? (Zac Trainor Illustration)
I was coming home from a night of poker at Sydney Street, and seeing the city so defined got me lost in a tangle of thought. As the cab made its turn to cross the Charles - the Citgo sign beamed with the same ferocious clarity as the rest of the city, except now it seemed slightly more patriotic - with its red, white, & blue sharp against the black night. Rolling through Kenmore Square my thoughts swung in the direction of the Red Sox and their impending season for the first time in quite awhile. Thinking of where the Sox were going in 2010 got me to thinking about where they had been. And that’s when it hit me, cruising on down Beacon Street past St. Mary’s - I realized it was over, our run on top - had come to an end.
2010 is the year that the Boston sports fan will finally crash down from the high wave ridden throughout the champion strewn age of the aughts. Between the four professional sports in the Greater Boston area our teams have won a total of six championships in the 00’s - making parades down Boylston Street a seemingly yearly occurrence. The Patriots started this embarrassment of riches back in 2002 with their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. Some believe it was the Jets Mo Lewis, and his viscous hit on Drew Bledsoe, that started the turn of good fortune for the Hub. I believe, however, that this “only” led to the emergence of a handsome kid named Brady, and prefer to look toward the last game played in ol’ Foxboro as the true turn for not only the Patriots, but the sports region as a whole.
I’m speaking of course of the “Snow Game” here – quite simply, the best football game I will ever watch, Superbowl’s included. Football is at its absolute apex when the weather is at its worst; it allows the ugly to feed off of the ugly, and lets things such as the tuck-rule become a part of the football lexicon. The tuck ruling is what changed the negative karma surrounding Boston, as finally – for the first time since the mid 80’s, a break fell our way. There’s no way that the Patriots should have gotten that call, but still, the Raiders could have iced the game on 4th and inches, and Vinatieri still had to hit an impossible 45-yard field goal just to push the contest into overtime. The game wasn’t won with the tuck rule; however, it did give the Patriots a chance, and the rest as they say, is history. Brady goes on to become one of the best QB’s of all-time, the Patriots (amid controversy) become the team of the decade, and Al Davis and his Raiders haven’t been relevant since.
Is it a coincidence that this game happened only 31 days after the Red Sox were sold to John Henry’s New England Sports Ventures? Am I stretching maybe a little too hard here? Pretty sure I am, but the dreamer that lurks within me finds this to be an interesting coincidence at the least, as both occurrences are the linchpin’s that led to Boston’s success over the past decade. After Henry and Co. took over of the Red Sox they became perennial contenders, only missing the playoffs in 2002 and 2006, and winning it all in 2004 & 2007. While Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS was the low point of the decade for Boston Sports, it made the impossible comeback, and eventual World Series victory, even more sweet – following in the same vein of the Snow Game, taking things from the possible, and making them real. A Posse Ad Esse.
So where does this memorized lore leave us now - as we sit soaked in rain, mid-March 2010. Knowing the beginning is important when you’re facing the end, and I believe that this year is the last, for awhile at least, that we as Boston sports fans will enter each respective season thinking each of our teams can win it all. Think about the arrogance needed to think that.
With the Patriots we were getting a healthy Tom Brady back, and were picked by the odds makers in Vegas to win it all - it seemed a foregone conclusion. A funny thing happened on the way to the Superbowl though, as we saw a team that consistently underperformed - and realized our expectations were grossly exaggerated because of past success, always a dangerous thing. Even when we knew we were watching an average team (4th and 2) week after week, we wouldn’t succumb to what our eyes were showing us, and blindly believed that once we got to the playoffs, everything would then be in its right place. Quoth the Baltimore Ravens, `Nevermore.'
The Bruins have fallen from the top even quicker then it took them to get there. After finally becoming relevant again, by finishing with the best record in the East in 2008-2009 - they’ve become a shadow of their former selves. Expectations were buzzing with thoughts of the Cup before this new season, however, as soon Phil Kessel (villain!) left us the bad vibes started flowing. Shit, even Lucic seems to be soft this year, and now the Bruins are fighting and clawing just to make the playoffs, as the Bruin Bandwagon is no more.
Next up, the Boston Celtics, and what was supposed to be the return to glory for “The Big Three”. Like the previous two mentioned teams, they were supposed to roll over their opponents in a quest for #18. They started the season well enough, however - then we were reminded again that KG will never be same, and the wheels fell off in a hurry. The Big Three was never destined for a mini-dynasty, they will be remembered as a one and done trio, and that's the Paul Pierce Truth. The Celtics have been consistently embarrassed by the elite teams of the NBA this year, and even lost to the damn Nets at home a few weeks ago. For those of you who watched the game against the Cavs yesterday afternoon, did you ever really think they were going to win? If you did you’re clouded, because they never had a realistic shot. What I’m trying to say here, is don’t fool yourself with the Celtics like you did with the Patriots. That playoffs won't solve anything, it'll only expose them more. If they get out of the first round they’ll be lucky, and the signing of Rasheed Wallace for THREE years will be the downfall for both Danny and Doc. Mark my words there. Awful decision.
So whats all this have to do with our beloved Red Sox you ask? I’d say it has to do a lot with them, and from the pattern we’re currently riding, it’d be wise to heed warning, and set your expectations properly. Baseball Prospectus has predicted the Sox to win the East and have the best record in MLB. Sound familiar? We’ve lost one of our best players (Seymour, Kessel, and dare I say - Leon Powe) from last year in Jason Bay. And our new savior is supposed to be John freaking Lackey. On paper, this guy’s great, but seriously Red Sox Nation, doesn’t John Lackey saving the day make you get awful queasy?
I know my rose colored glasses have turned black, and I AM excited for baseball, however - I’m not excited for this team. Hopefully I'm wrong here, but after early disappointment from the other three teams, I think it's time just to be a fan again, and not expect too much, enjoy it as it comes.The weird year of 2009 almost had A-Rod, Kobe, and Manning all holding championships at the same time (Thank you Saints). Jesus, the Yankees are the World Series Champs, and I’ve basically been in exile since. I’m sure this has something to do with the downtrodden eyes I have on the upcoming season. I thought for sure Alex was destined never to win it all, and seeing him hold that trophy made me sick. He represents in my mind, everything that’s wrong with baseball. He’s still swimming in shady allegations - and is just a loathsome character. The only thing more disgusting then calling him a winner is the spectacle that Tiger Woods put on this winter.
Calling a professional athlete unfaithful is like calling WEEI mindless, it’s just a simple fact - nothing about it is surprising. The sheer gall this guys STILL has blows me away. He held his ridiculous Presidential Conference because he was too chicken-shit to deal with his infidelities like a man, and went into hiding like a rat. Now he has former George W. Bush Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, giving him advice on how to “come back”. Wow. The last person Ari helped out is Mark McGuire - which along with Bush, shows you the company the “sex addicted” Tiger Woods is now in. A room full of cheaters, frauds, and entitled bastards. Here’s my advice to you Tiger. Play golf, count your money, and shut-up. You’re not as important as you think you are. The only reason you’re walking around land-mines like this is so that you lose the least amount of money possible.
Jesus, how did I get on a rant as deep as this? Throwing drug users, Presidential abusers, and golfers all in the same ring. If 2009 was the year of the weird, then I’m dubbing 2010 the year of the Villain. Kobe will win another championship (or even worse, Lebron James), the Yankees will repeat as World Series Champions, Montreal will win the Cup, Manny Ramirez will be named NL MVP, and Tiger Woods will win at the all male racist country club in Augusta.
Lord - I’ve lost control and direction of this post - as it's become a beast unto itself, and think it may be best to part ways with it before things go too far. More on the actual Red Sox forthcoming, but please - try to see things clearly. When it's suddenly October and we're one out away from being swept out of the ALDS, with Mike Cameron and his .270 batting average striking out, don't say I didn't try to set your expectations, our time - for now, is over. It was good while it lasted.