Summer is unofficially over. The produce aisle is fully stocked at your local Market Basket. Thousands of U-Haul vans have been safely returned to their homes.
Fall 2014 makes its practical debut this week with the start of school in Massachusetts, that familiar morning chill and return of almost everyone to work. As autumn creeps slowly into our lives (it should be in low 90s here in Florida by the end of the week), 2014 will be the year that the NFL and the New England Patriots unquestionably assert their complete dominance over the Boston sports scene.
Boston was once a hockey town with a baseball team. Then, for about the past 45 years or so, it was the epicenter of Red Sox Nation. During the decade-plus of glory that enveloped Boston and its sporting environs starting with the Tuck Rule Game in early 2002, each team had its moment(s) of glory.
The Patriots appeared to seize the No. 1 spot this time two years ago, thanks largely in part to the wreckage of that Red Sox season.
But then 2013 happened.
The Boston Marathon was bombed. The city was locked down during a manhunt for the (alleged) killers. The Bruins and Red Sox found themselves at Ground Zero when it came to helping to restore the regions' collective psyche. The Bruins played host to the first mass gathering following the attacks. Days later, David Ortiz dropped the mother of all f-bombs and millions roared their approval.
"Boston Strong" was born, and both teams used it to reach unexpected and, quite frankly, unbelievable heights. The Bruins, with nearly a different bombing survivor every night throughout the playoffs rallying the home crowd, missed pushing the Stanley Cup to a Game 7 by less than two minutes.
The 2013 Red Sox gave us beards, multiple walk-offs and an Improbable Dream that may have to sustain the masses for another 95 years.
The sports success that was 2013 has faded faster than the #SochiProblems hashtag.
The Bruins found themselves stymied once again by Montreal. This offseason, they have done little to improve and may be even weaker than the team that lost to the Canadiens. Meanwhile the Habs locked up P.K. Subban, he of those 288 racist tweets, for another eight years.
The Red Sox have managed to give 2012 a run for its money in terms of futility. Clay Buchholz possess the most-reliable arm on the roster. The team's best hope for a viable 2015 pitching staff lies in the latest wild concoction thrown out to fill time on talk radio. But we'll always have Rusney Castillo, at least for another six years. The Red Sox left St. Petersburg on Labor Day 17 games under .500 and a nearly incomprehensible 19.5 games out of first place. Sunday's 4-3 loss in 10 innings came in front of about 30,000 empty seats at Tropicana Field.
Oh, and the Celtics? The best news they've had in the past 12 months was the news over the weekend that Rondo either wanted to be traded or didn't want to be traded, depending on your perspective. Tankapalooza II officially returns on Oct. 29. Tens of thousands of tickets remain available.
This is not an emotional or rational capitulation, rather just an assessment of the current landscape.
What we've got are the Patriots. This team presents a Hydra of competing and compelling storylines. Tom Brady's Biological Clock. Gronk's return. The formation of Revis Island. The return of the 4-3 defense. The evil machinations of Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft.
AFC title game? Super Bowl? The Duck Boats are the limit.
Let's not kid ourselves. No one knows what the hell is coming next out of One Patriot Place. On Monday, Gronk broke the news of Gronk playing in Week. 1. When Logan Mankins was traded, no one whose job it is to cover the team had a clue it was coming. Then, in the aftermath of that move, we were blessed with sage commentary and analysis about Jimmy Garoppolo staging a coup d'etat and what might happen to Tom Brady in 2017.
As Chad Johnson once said many times: "Child, please."
The Patriots are poised to give us all one hell of a ride for the next four to five months, and not just on game day. We have no idea what's coming, except for the fact New England will win the AFC East, earn a first-round bye and win its first playoff game against Indianapolis/San Diego/Pittsburgh.
The rest, who knows?
But one thing is for certain, New England belongs to the Patriots these days. And they show no signs of giving it back.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit up Bill on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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