Who rules Boston: the Red Sox or Patriots?
Ultimately, there is no clear front-runner in the debate over whether Boston has ultimately become a football town, or if it maintains its long-time status as a bastion of baseball devotees.
The correct answer is both. It’s a Red Sox town. And it’s a Patriots town.
But like everywhere else in America, the rest of the NFL matters in grander fashion for even the most parochial among us. Not too many of us are hanging out at the Cask n’ Flagon late night trying to catch the end of the Padres-Dodgers game on the West Coast.
Of course, this isn’t a Patriots town as much as it is a Brady town. Quarterback Tom Brady transcends the headlines from field to vacation in a way that no athlete in this city has ever accomplished. Boston is, for better or worse, obsessed with Brady, Gisele, and the whereabouts of the clan to such a suffocating degree at times, it’s a wonder there’s even room to care about anything else.
When he’s retired in a few years, try to make the argument that Boston is first and foremost a Patriots town, and you’ll be laughed at.
Until then, you’d better believe there’s a certain amount of sibling rivalry between New England’s two most popular sports franchises, with the Patriots leading the scoreboard for this generation, four silver footballs to three golden flag displays for the Red Sox. With all due respect to the hockey, basketball, and soccer teams that call Boston home as well, this debate is exclusionary without apology. Oh, the city loves its Bruins and Celtics, but the Sox and Pats loom largest in a baseball town now defined by football.
For sure, the Patriots have risen through the ranks, especially since Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe arrived some 22 years ago. But it was head coach Bill Belichick and — mostly — Brady who put the franchise over the top, from New England darling to NFL superpower hated around the world. As far as the rest of the country is concerned, we are the enemy, thanks to the Patriots. While there’s a lot to be proud of in being the bad guy, that identity hasn't fully seeped through the fabric of communities that waited 86 years for the 2004 World Series triumph.
By the time Opening Day arrived, it had been two months since we had a championship parade in this town. But is anybody getting itchy?
However unlikely, it would still be another two-plus months before we get another one if the Celtics or Bruins have a miracle stowed away somewhere in the depths of Causeway Street. Should the Red Sox follow Vegas odds and represent the American League in the World Series, it could then be just a nine-month stretch between Duck Boat brigades, just about half the drought we faced before the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX.
We endured 15 long months between titles in those days between the Red Sox's unfathomable 2013 World Series championship and the Patriots’ latest Lombardi Trophy. For younger fans, I suppose it’s nothing compared to the 36 months Boston had to wait between the ‘08 Celtics and the ’11 Bruins. Or the 33 months that the city muddled through between the ’04 Patriots beating the Philadelphia Eagles and the Red Sox sweeping the Colorado Rockies in 2007.
Nor was it the merely three months spent between ’04 Sox and Pats trophies. We only had to wait eight months until after the Sox won their second World Series of this era to see the resurgence of the Celtics reach its pinnacle.
Despite the cheers that have emanated from Foxborough over the past 14 years and the success of the other local teams, you’d better believe that Boston is still a Red Sox town. Oh, for sure, football has made its way into the 365-day discussion in these parts, the way baseball has been for decades, but the Patriots simply can’t hoist four Lombardis and claim their dominance over a region that the Red Sox have defined for generations.
It is, after all, one of the many characteristics that make us, as New Englanders, unique. Sure, we have fun with all football, all year long, too, just like the rest of uniform America. But we break the mold with our love for baseball. OK, sure, St. Louis probably loves the Cardinals more than it does the Rams, but…damn it, they’re too supposedly too damned nice to even count in that regard.
To understand the nature of our relationship with the Red Sox, look no further than your own family. It’s inevitable that we fight with the ones we love. A spat, a disagreement, or an all-out, no holds barred, decades-long pout in silence. And no team in this town has been criticized as much or delivered as much heartache and sheer elation as the baseball team.
We don’t like the manager. The right fielder is a bum. The pitching staff stinks and…
…I knew they could do it.
The Red Sox have always been our enduring passion. We bicker with them, disagree with their motives on a nightly basis, and don’t coddle our expressions in the difficult stretches.
With the Patriots, we’re impressed and infatuated with their accomplishments, cooing “In Bill We Trust” because there’s a track record. As a whole, we react with logic when something like Darrelle Revis’ departure comes to light, not hysteria. After all, if it is the latter, we’ve gone against the grain of the Patriot Way. Reprograming sessions are Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m.
Maybe Boston feels more like a Brady town these days than, but celebrity crushes -- no matter how strong -- can only last so long before you end up back at the doorstep of the one you truly, deeply love.
This might not be the year to expect a parade from the Red Sox, but that doesn’t make us love them any less.
Whenever Brady walks away, will we possibly ever say the same about the Patriots?