Columnists, Sports

Going for Two: Boston sports are the best

Patriots fans celebrate the team's fifth Super Bowl title at the parade on Tuesday. PHOTO BY OLIVIA FALCIGNO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Patriots fans celebrate the team’s fifth Super Bowl title at the parade on Tuesday. PHOTO BY OLIVIA FALCIGNO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

When I was born, Boston sports were in a time of turmoil. In the fall of 1995, the Red Sox were enduring a 77-year World Series drought, the Celtics were about to begin a season in which they would eventually finish last in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins lost to the Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Patriots won just six games.

Now look where we are.

Boston sports teams have rattled off 10 titles in the span of 15 years, making the city the best sports town in America.

This Sunday, the New England Patriots stormed back from a 25-point deficit — the greatest in Super Bowl history — to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The win gave the Pats five titles, the second most in NFL history. The contest was arguably the best title game ever and it solidified Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as the greatest coach and quarterback duo of all time.

Since Brady took over the starting job in the 2001-2002 season, the Patriots have been to the playoffs in all but two seasons — one of which Brady missed due to a torn ACL he suffered in week 1 in 2008 — and have been to the big game seven times in 15 seasons. New England has been the champion of the league since the turn of the millennium, and with Brady rumored to sign a contract extension that will keep him in the NFL for the next three to five seasons, the future is still quite bright for the champs.

The Red Sox once were a cruel joke among baseball fans after the organization and its devoted fans suffered through 86 long years without a World Series. However, in 2004 David Ortiz and the rest of the Red Sox exorcised their demons with the greatest comeback in sports history — erasing a three-games-to-none lead by the hated New York Yankees to vault themselves into the World Series. There, Boston swept the St. Louis Cardinals for their first World Series crown since 1918.

Ortiz and company did not stop there, orchestrating two more championship seasons in the following nine seasons — 2007 and 2013. And while the Red Sox have just recently escaped the cellar of last place that had caged them for three seasons between 2012-2015, their trio of titles has given sports fans in Beantown a lifetime of memories. Ortiz morphed from a solid designated hitter in Minnesota to a baseball god in Boston, homegrown talents like Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester have been some of the Red Sox greatest stories and their triumph in one of the toughest divisions in baseball has made every season entertaining.

In 2017, the Red Sox will look to add to their trophy case, despite the departure of Big Papi. Dave Dombrowski has made splash after splash in the last two offseasons, inking deals with pitcher David Price, along with their most recent addition: former White Sox ace Chris Sale. Now, with a pitching staff sporting a bevy of potential aces — including 2016’s Cy Young winner Rick Porcello — and an offense that still looks to be explosive, expectations are set for another title on Yawkey Way.

The Boston Celtics were once the gold standard for the National Basketball Association. Still sporting the most titles at 17, and the holder of the most wins by any professional basketball team, the C’s are one of, if not the most historic team in NBA history. However, the early 2000s Celtics were never able to take the next step and capture another title. With Paul Pierce at the helm, the Celtics had always been one step away. Then, in 2008, the Celtics became title contenders.

The additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen set the franchise up for long-term success. They also paid immediate dividends as the Celtics raised their 17th banner after downing the rival Los Angeles Lakers in the finals. Falling in another finals series two years later and then seeing their last chance at another ring slip away at the hands of LeBron James in 2012, many thought the Celtics would return to mediocrity. However, Pierce and Garnett gave Boston one last gift.

The duo was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for a swarm of draft picks, ones that are still benefiting the Celtics today. The C’s received Brooklyn’s first round picks in 2014 and 2016, and will receive them in 2017 and 2018. They have turned those selections into James Young and Jaylen Brown, and now they are looking at the potential first pick in the draft as the Nets sit at a league-worst 9-42.

The Bruins are currently in need of a big change. They have fired Claude Julien and are dealing with an upper management that is ineffective at drafting and developing young talent. While they are the only Boston franchise trending in the wrong direction, the Bruins have been great to fans since the mid-2000s.

Once led by Joe Thornton, the Bruins sold off some of their premiere players. Boston acquired a number of players and draft picks, rejuvenating the team and restoring the franchise to its blue collar, heavy hitting roots. Combining that physicality with the finesse play of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the Bruins went on a run of dominance, capturing the Stanley Cup in 2011 and returning to the Cup finals in 2013.

Being a Boston sports fan was once a labor of love that took fans to hell and back, only to see their teams lose in crushing fashion. However, the turn of the century has brought a new period to Boston sports. With many of this generation’s grandparents and older relatives gone without seeing their beloved teams winning titles, we should consider ourselves lucky that the duck boats have rattled through the streets of Boston for the tenth time since February 2002.

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