Commentary | Kevin Cullen

For our teams, as good as it gets

Email|Print| Text size + By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / December 31, 2007

By chance, I was in New Jersey on Saturday, so it seemed fitting to watch the game at the home of a Giants fan.

John Wilpert, an engineer by profession, a football fan by avocation, was a gracious host. We got takeout from Romeo's, a large plain cheese, a large pepperoni, and Buffalo wings for the kids.

At half-time, with the Giants holding a 5-point lead, Wilpert's stepson Greg called from an Army base in Alaska, where he and his Stryker brigade are awaiting orders to deploy to Iraq.

"I think the Giants can do it," Greg said.

John Wilpert didn't share his enthusiasm.

What I'll remember most about this game, this game when the New England Patriots gained some spot in history by finishing a regular season undefeated, is that even when they were down 12 points in the third quarter, I had absolutely no doubt that they would come back and win. John Wilpert, a lifelong Giants fan, felt the same way.

It felt that way with the Red Sox, down three games to one against the Indians, in the American League Championship Series. It feels that way every time this new, invigorated Celtics team takes the floor.

What the heck is going on?

There has never been a time in Boston when so many of its professional sports franchises have been so good. There has never been a time when we believed - not wished, but believed - these teams would win. Hope has given way to expectation. A city, a region, of cynical losers is now, seemingly suddenly, a city, a region, of optimistic winners.

On one level, this is not a good thing. Confidence is always just one remark away from arrogance. But when you start to examine the character of the teams, you start to really appreciate what's going on, that being a sports fan in Boston, in Massachusetts, in New England, at this time is as good as it gets. It isn't even that they win, it's how they win.

Start with the Patriots. They have become the dominant franchise in a sport that uses revenue sharing to ensure parity. They have become great by emphasizing the importance of the collective over the individual. No one is more important than the team. Good players have been allowed to leave and make more money elsewhere. Tom Brady left money on the table, so the team could spend it on others. Sure, he's making millions already, but that kind of stuff doesn't happen in other places.

Randy Moss joined the Patriots this season with a reputation as a talented but egocentric receiver whose me-first attitude hurt his teams. Moss flourished in a team-first setting, catching more touchdown passes in a regular season than anyone in NFL history.

The Red Sox have become the gold standard of baseball franchises by emphasizing team chemistry over individual accomplishment, even though they operate under the monetary controls of other sports and, along with the Yankees, can assemble the best team money can buy. When the game's best player, Alex Rodriguez, became available, the Sox could afford him, but didn't want him. Mike Lowell, the third baseman who most personifies the 21st century Red Sox, could have made more money if he went elsewhere. But Lowell, a classy guy, knows there are more important things than commas on your paycheck.

Finally, we have the Celtics. Back. Most people under 30 can't remember the last time the Celtics were really good. Ronald Reagan ran the country and Larry Bird ran the parquet (a real parquet). But for all the Hall of Famers who peopled the Celtics of the 1980s and the 1960s, the Celtics are remembered, and revered, more as great teams than great individuals.

Kevin Garnett, a terrific player who has labored on some mediocre teams, has come here and helped the Celtics rediscover the beauty, and the satisfaction, of winning as a team as opposed to padding statistics and bank accounts with individual feats.

Is there a wider, cosmic meaning to all this? Probably.

But while we can, let's just enjoy the ride.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Save this article
  • powered by
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.