There was plenty to be thankful for on the Boston sports scene before Sunday night's latest "Comeback From The Ages" over Peyton Manning produced by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
If that wasn't enough, the Red Sox 2013 World Series Championship film had its premiere at the Wang Theatre in Boston Monday night, and was being shown publicly for the first time as both the Bruins and Celtics were winning.
Not a bad 24 hours.
Thanksgiving is Thursday. Your turkey should be thawing in the fridge, or already reserved at the grocery store. All that's left other wise are the frozen-solid 35-pounders. And no, you can't thaw it in the sink over night without courting food-borne illness.
2013 was both the best and worst of times in Boston sports. The city's largest, oldest and most-prestigious sporting event was targeted by evil and shattered by two explosions on Patriots' Day. The Red Sox provided an Improbable Dream championship for the ages. The Bruins came with a few unlucky bounces, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of a Stanley Cup.
Those two sporting events, along with the bombings and subsequent manhunt, were intertwined on a personal and civic level for millions.
The first rallying point after the bombings was a Bruins game at TD Garden and the first outdoor rallying point after the manhunt was a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
Both teams, their players, and their organizations did terrific work, much of it unpublicized, to comfort the survivors and offer whatever solace possible to the victims' families. In addition they, along with the Patriots and Celtics, helped to raise millions for the One Fund and other worthy charities.
In this space, we chronicled the personal reflections of both those who survived the bombings, and those of the family members and friends who perished in their aftermath. We are well aware of what is truly important and what isn't, as are most adults.
There is a huge grey area when the real world and sports world collide. The Marathon Bombings showed us humanity's ugliest side, despite what Rolling Stone put on its cover. In their aftermath, we saw demonstrated the deep goodness found in so many millions of others. While it may sound uncomfortable or unseemly to those who deem sports a distraction or "the toy department," the role played by Red Sox and Bruins in the city's civic recovery is undeniable and substantial.
For that, we should all be thankful.
That Red Sox championship at Fenway Park was not bad, either.
What that, here are 10 other things to be thankful for in Boston sports in 2013.
Enjoy, and pass the stuffing.
10. Patrice Bergeron. No. 37 solidified his place in the rafters above the TD Garden ice with his ultimate Tough Guy performance against the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals. Bergy suffered torn rib cartilage in Game 4, broke a rib on his left side in Game 5 and a separated his right shoulder and a punctured left lung in Game 6. The lung eventually collapsed. The next time Clay Buchholz misses three months because he slept funny, just remember the above photo.
9. Technology: Once upon a time, your sports allegiances were dictated by birth and limited in their scope by the circulation of the daily newspaper and broadcasting scope of the home team's radio and TV stations, or their affiliates. Fans were isolated and a handful of voices contributed to the discussion. Thanks to the internet, satellite and cable TV, social media, sports talk radio and [for those in the circulation areas] the continued strong presence in the city of two newspapers that devote sizable resources to sports coverage, Boston sports fans just about anywhere can stay connected, informed and even misinformed about their favorite teams. It's been one of the biggest game-changers in sports in the past 20 years.
8. Ben Cherington: Throughout the summer, as the Red Sox lingered at or near the top of the A.L. East standings, the line "Ben Cherington hasn't gotten enough credit for this team" was repeated 8,343,549 times in New England. Credit has been given to this New Hampshire native who attended Amherst. And we're grateful for it. No matter what happens to the Red Sox, Cherington's hands were all over the "worst-to-first" World Series champions. Cherington was GM when Bobby Valentine was hired, but that wasn't his decision. Remember, as we heard at the time, "Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox."
7. The NBA Draft Lottery: It's the only legitimate hope the Celtics have of rebuilding their team into a championship contender. For whatever reason(s) - Boston is not a coveted destination [see Miami, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Houston] for NBA free-agents, even when the money is on the table. But one lucky Ping Pong ball can change history. Don't forget, it was the lottery that led to the creation of the Big Three in 2007 when the Celtics swapped the No. 5 pick in the NBA draft [which became Jeff Green] and a few others for Ray Allen.
6. Fenway Park: A year ago, we were sick of this place, its ceremonial bricks and the team that played its home games there. But the 2013 Red Sox not only restored this team's place in the sports soul of New England, they also exorcised the rank commercialization of the Park's 100th anniversary with Boston's first World Series championship-clinching victory at home in 95 years. Fenway Park remains the constant among generations of sports fans in Boston. It's where your dad went as a kid. It's where he took you as a kid. [I also sat with my mom in the bleachers during the 1975 World Series.] It's where you've taken your kids, and, someday, your grandchildren. Fenway's historic significance is self-evident. That was reinforced this past baseball season. The other main sports venues here, Gillette Stadium and TD Garden, are first-rate modern facilities, both without sections full of Obstructed View seats or stadium seating that leaks when it rains.
5. Zdeno Chara: His swat to the face Sidney Crosby in last spring's Eastern Conference final is reason enough to put him here. A native of Slovakia, Chara speaks six different languages. No one was quite sure what language he was yelling when he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011. Chara, 6-foot-9, has towered over the Bruins as team captain since 2006. The best thing about Chara is that after seven years as a team captain in Boston, there's little if anything negative to say about him, save for a rough spot or two against the Blackhawks. While he may remain the Montreal's Most Wanted for his hit on Max Pacioretty in 2011, he's Boston's Most Respected, if not beloved, hockey player.
4. Dustin Pedroia: His contract extension has already proven to be the best $110 million the Red Sox have ever spent. Pedroia's uniform is usually dirty by the end of the first inning. He's the consummate five-tool player. He plays the game the way you wish you could play it. Bogaerts to Pedroia to [fill in the blank at first] will be music to Red Sox fans ears for years to come.
3. Stable Ownership: Success starts at the top. Each of Boston's four major pro teams boasts ownership that has demonstrated a serious commitment to winning. That is not the case everywhere. And it hasn't always been the case in this city. Just 20 years ago, the Red Sox were being mismanaged by the ever-changing Yawkey Trust, the Jacobs Family still housed the Bruins in the rat-infested, sweltering/freezing, pole-seat laden Boston Garden, James Orthwein was threatening to move the Patriots to St. Louis and the Celtics and first-year owner Paul Gaston were reeling from the death of Reggie Lewis. None of the current ownership groups are perfect, but they've all notched championships in the past nine years [you're slacking, Mr. Kraft] and would have won more had it not been for the Giants, Lakers, Blackhawks or [when it comes to the Red Sox, there are way too many things to list here].
John W. Henry, the Kraft Family, Wyc Grousbeck and his partners and the Jacobs Family all deserve a nod from Boston sports fans for spending what it takes to produce winners and media who cover them for helping them keep their jobs in the process.
2. David Ortiz: In a year when Ortiz hit .688 in the World Series and was named MVP of the Fall Classic, he's best perhaps remembered for a pair of speeches he delivered that were witnessed by a national TV audience.
The first one came before his first game of the season and the day after the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt shut down the city and re-christened the Hub. The second notable soliloquy was a speech fit for a king and came before the sixth inning of Game 5 in the World Series and refocused his teammates to wake up and put the Cardinals to sleep.
Ortiz' success in the World Series drew out the haters and small minds who cannot grasp or comprehend the end result of effort and hard work. A year ago, the Red Sox and Ortiz were at odds over a contract. The Red Sox eventually signed him for two years, keeping him in the fold for next year. No need to thank Ben Cherington for that, we already did [see above.]
Six months and 10 days after Ortiz delivered his "Our [Bleeping] City" speech, Ortiz, the Red Sox celebrated a World Series championship at Fenway Park for the first time since Woodrow Wilson was president.
Thanks, indeed, for the memory of a lifetime.
1. Brady and Belichick: Combined, they are 144-42 [.774] as a QB-coach tandem in the regular season.
Their success is tied to one another, inexorably linked. At their best, Tom Brady's offense and Bill Belichick's defense provide an unbeatable combination. The one year Brady missed with an injury, Belichick guided the Patriots to an 11-5 finish but still missed the playoffs.
They have elevated the Patriots and the NFL to a stratospheric status in Boston no one could have imagined 15 years ago, especially since at that time Kraft was working on a deal to move the team to Hartford. A year ago at this time, the Patriots were arguably "the biggest team in Boston" and it took the Red Sox doing what they did in 2013 to definitively knock the Patriots out of that top spot.
"Spy Gate" is a good crutch for anyone who chooses not to recognize the success that the Patriots have enjoyed with Belichick as their coach and Brady as their QB. Did Belichick have secret tapes of the weather on Sunday night when he took the wind in overtime? Or was it his knowledge, and dare we say genius, that he knew Peyton Manning would not rise to the occasion in OT. Brady, meanwhile, began the 2013 season with his top five targets from 2012 absent for a variety of reasons.
The Patriots, despite the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, an overhaul of the receiving corps, all their injuries, some gastly bad calls, non calls and questionable but correct calls, are 8-3 and would have a first-round bye if the season ended today.
The biggest knock against Brady and Belichick is that they have not won a fourth Super Bowl together.
Think about that for a minute. They suck because they haven't won four Super Bowls?
Be thankful for what you've got in these two. They won't be here together forever. And their success as a "QB-Coach" tandem won't be duplicated in our lifetimes.
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