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Take nothing for granted

All week, Boston has seemed to be gripped by a bad case of the blahs.

This, for once, has nothing to do with snow. It has been brought about, far more improbably, by the Super Bowl.

On the airwaves, on the streets, around water coolers, people are so confident that you would think the Patriots were playing an August exhibition game on Sunday. Beating the Philadelphia Eagles will be no problem, I keep hearing. We will win big.

Football acumen (or not) aside, this is an interesting piece of mass psychology. Just a decade ago, the Patriots were losers, and the Red Sox and Celtics weren't looking so hot either. The glory days of the 1980s seemed so far away they were fading from sight. Boston remained sports mad, to be sure, but with a lot less attitude.

No more. Now we are the city of champions. I think this may actually have more to do with the Red Sox than with the Patriots. If the Sox can win, no one can be blamed for feeling invincible. Obviously, the glittering run in Foxborough over the past four years only adds to the luster.

The glow of last October hasn't gone anywhere for Boston sports fans, which is as it should be. And as a championship run in one sport has melted into another, everyone is gearing up for the next celebration. One without violence, we should all hope.

In one sense, this athletic triumph comes at a good time, an otherwise fragile time for Boston's psyche. While the city's sports teams have been soaring, the same cannot necessarily be said of the business community. From Fleet to John Hancock to Gillette, one major institution after another has been sold off, absorbed from outside. Even the governor who was elected on the promise that he would attract his fellow CEOs to Massachusetts has been unable to reverse this sorry trend. While the sales of local companies have been a bonanza for shareholders, for much of the city it is as though Boston has lost control of its corporate and commercial destiny.

But sports follows a different pattern. Remote-control management from far away rarely results in championship rings. When the best of out-of-towners buy in, as in the case of Red Sox management, they quickly take on the aura of locals. There is something reassuring about that, and maybe that reassurance is attractive right now.

There is one important difference, though, between companies and championship sports teams: one lasts for decades and the other is, by its nature, ephemeral. When the Miami Dolphins were winning Super Bowls in the early 1970s, I thought they would keep winning them for years to come. They haven't won one since 1973. You know, Tom Brady might win three more Super Bowls. Then again, he might not. The odds say he probably won't, but I would never bet against him.

I suspect the Patriots fans in Jacksonville, at the epicenter of the action, are feeling even more confident. (When people ask me why I'm not going to Jacksonville, I have an answer: Because I've been to Jacksonville.)

As usual, the exceptions to the prevailing overconfidence have been the Patriots themselves. They have gone out of their way to praise their opponents, to say that they expect a tough game and that they take nothing for granted. For the most part, they sound as if they believe it.

There's been another point some have harped on: that every Super Bowl appearance is a special experience and that the team still has to show up and play. From owner Robert Kraft on down, this has been a constant refrain.

They're right. The game will be fun, and practically everyone in New England hopes they win. But the rapid journey from frustration to entitlement deserves a little thought. Victory is never easy. And there is never any guarantee that the next one is right around the corner.

We need to savor the moment.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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