Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why We Boston Sports Fans Are Spoiled...and Why We Don't Care!

I'm a lifelong New Englander, and one of the things that makes us unique here is that we're a self-contained region within the US with a distinct culture. Boston is the capital city of not only Massachusetts, but New England as a region and as such, those are the sports team we all root for. In keeping with New England being the oldest part of the country (the "cradle of liberty" and "birthplace of the nation," etc), we also have some of the oldest professional sports teams in all of American sports: the Red Sox have been around for over 100 years, the Bruins were an Original Six team dating back to the 1940s, the Celtics were a founding member of the NBA from the 1940s, and the Patriots a founding member of the AFL (which was later merged with the NFL in 1970) from 1960. Our teams are old, steeped in tradition, and accordingly we've had many great players and teams over the decades.

However, prior to 2001, we were in a bit of a dry spell as far as championships. While we can't claim the perpetual hopeless loser status of cities like Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, or Detroit (with a few exceptions for those and other cities over the years), things were getting a bit rough by 2001. The last championship the city had won was in 1986 (the Celtics) and apart from some championship game appearances by our teams in 1987 (Celtics), 1988 and 1990 (Bruins), Red Sox (1986), and Patriots (1996), we'd come up empty. Other than the Celtics, who are the winningest franchise in all of professional basketball (16 championships by 1986), our teams' winning days were far in the past, with the Bruins having last won in 1972, the Red Sox in 1918, and the Patriots never. By 2001, the closest we'd come to getting back to the title games were the Red Sox losing in the ALCS in 1995 and 1999 and the Celtics losing in the ECF in 2001. Things looked like they were going to be stuck in the same mediocre state for the foreseeable future.

Then, a young backup quarterback named Tom Brady took over for the Patriots a few games into the 2001 season, replacing the injured veteran Drew Bledsoe. After guiding the team to a winning season, he and the rest of the Patriots had a magical run through the playoffs and defeated the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl to win the first championship in franchise history and the first for Boston and New England since 1986. While most people inside and outside New England thought it would be a one-and-done title, it was still nice to have. However, what no one in the country knew was that it would in actuality open the floodgates to a deluge of championships for the region over the next fifteen years (and still counting).  Since 2001, here's a breakdown of what Boston sports has accomplished:

New England Patriots: fourteen consecutive winning seasons, eight AFC championship game appearances, five Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl titles. Tom Brady is now considered the greatest quarterback of this generation and one of the top three best quarterbacks ever to play the game (total titles won in franchise history: 3)

Boston Red Sox: after the heartbreak of losing the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees in seven games (which made us all think the Curse would never end), they've won the World Series in 2004, 2007, and 2013 (total titles won in franchise history: 8)

Boston Celtics: many lean years after Larry Bird retired in 1992, with the improbable 2001 Eastern Conference Championship series appearance the lone bright spot. Since then, we've won a championship in 2008, lost a championship series we really should have won to the hated Lakers in seven games in 2010, and made a further Eastern Conference Championship series appearance in 2012 (another series we lost in seven games that we should've won) (total titles won in franchise history: 17)

Boston Bruins: Many down years were following by a rejuvenation of the team in the mid-2000s, culminating with a Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and a heartbreaking loss in six games in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013 (total titles won in franchise history: 6)

Apart from the Celtics, who are currently in rebuilding mode, our three other teams remain competitive and at the top of their sports. The Patriots will be playing in yet another AFC Championship Game this weekend, the Bruins have one of the top three records in the NHL this season, and the Red Sox are coming off their third World Series win in ten seasons and are poised to remain competitive for years to come.

With TWELVE championship game/series appearances between all four teams since 2001, and EIGHT championships, the national media has taken to fostering and perpetuating a hatred for New England sports teams and their fans. We're accused of being "entitled," "spoiled," and "arrogant," from both within and without the region. However, these are patently false and untrue claims that are brought on by jealousy. In fact, we New England fans are among the most rabid, knowledgeable, passionate, and supportive of all fanbases in the country. Unlike more fickle and fair-weathered fanbases*** like those in Florida, California, and other areas (predominantly any warm-weather cities, especially in Florida and Texas), we support our professional teams through the good times and the (sometimes long) bad stretches with equal fervor: one only has to look at the long-suffering Red Sox fans who waited EIGHTY-SIX YEARS between championships but never failed to show up to the ballpark every game, every season, to put lie to the myth that we're "entitled" fans. I personally went to countless Celtics and Red Sox games since 1996 when it seemed that none of the teams had any hope, and I've been fanatically following and rooting for all four teams since I was a young boy. Sure, this surge of titles in recent years has brought along A LOT of Pink Hat fair-weather fans who will disappear once the teams return to the middle-of-the-pack, but we diehards will always remain, and it's what makes New England one of the top sports markets and Boston one of the top five best sports cities in the entire country.

So go ahead, national media and jealous fans of other teams, call us "entitled," "arrogant," or "spoiled." WE DON'T CARE! You and we know we'll always root for our teams, long after this golden era has ended...not very many other places in this great country can claim that as truth. We can.

***(I'd like to mention that there certainly are other passionate fanbases: long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans, New York Yankees fans, Green Bay Packers fans, any fans of any Canadian hockey team, and Indiana Pacers fans are some of the best in the country as well).

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