Being a Boston sports fan sometimes reminds me of battered-wife syndrome. You get beaten down, but you keep coming back. You’re given just enough to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, just enough to ensure your devotion, but then you’re inevitably and sorely disappointed. I don’t know why a woman would ever go back to a coward who hits her, and I often don’t know why I remain a Boston sports fan. The Pats, Celts, Sox and Bruins make you want to like them, but it’s sometimes painful to remain a devoted fan throughout all their turmoil.
I grew up in a hockey family and my dad was particularly faithful to the Bruins. From a very early age I can remember him watching Bobby Orr and Esposito skate circles around other teams. By the time I was old enough to actually understand what was going on, the Bruins were comprised of some more awesome players like Middleton, O’Reilly, Pederson, and Milbury. I used to love to watch Boston play Montreal with my father, but it seemed like Boston lost a lot more than won.
It was great to see Terry O’Reilly beat the heck out of other players, and it was cool to watch all these veterans a few years later skate around without helmets while the rest of the players had to wear them. I guess it was some sort of grandfather clause or something. They just looked tough. When Cam Neely and Ray Bourque started playing I enjoyed the Bruins just as much. But after Orr and Esposito were gone, none of these more recent players won the Boston Bruins a Stanley Cup, quite frustrating.
But not to fear, The Celtics around this time were hot. Like the Bruins/Canadians, the Celtics/Lakers rivalry was a blast to experience, especially when the Celts won. And they did. I remember probably one of the greatest NBA teams ever to exist, Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ and Ainge. They weren’t the prettiest bunch of guys around, Bird being particularly funky looking, but they were so fun to watch. It was wonderful to see them beat the L.A. Lakers in the 1983-84 championship and the Houston Rockets in 1985-86 championship.
Unfortunately the last few Celtics’ seasons lately have been dismal. They don’t even make it to the playoffs regularly any more. How many more �•building years” do we need? Watching Pierce take off his shirt and wave it around his head while being ejected from one of the playoff games against the Pacers this year was sad.
But 1986 was the end of Boston championship teams for a long while. In fact, it was sixteen years until the Patriots finally won Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. That’s a long wait. That’s a lifetime for crying out loud.
The New England Patriots were another difficult team to watch and remain devoted to. Grogan was a decent quarterback and many would argue Drew Bledsoe was even better, but they never brought a championship home. Watching Drew throw numerous interceptions and trudge off the grid iron with hunched shoulders was disturbing. I like to think of Bledsoe as an ‘almost’ kind of player. He was almost awesome, was almost a championship quarterback. He almost won the game. Bledsoe actually drove me crazy. He was New England’s franchise player, but he just didn’t seem to ever do quite enough to win. It was so frustrating to watch him play. All big and gawky, shuffling out of the pocket like my nana.
But the tide turned. Third string quarterback Tom Brady took the place of an injured Bledsoe, and brought the championship home to Bostonians. The 2002 NFL playoffs were absolutely awesome to watch if you were a Boston sports fan. Watching Vinatieri blast it though the uprights in a blizzard to beat the Oakland Raiders, and again to win the Super Bowl beating the St. Louis Rams was monumental. Thank God for the Pats. They brought respect back to Boston. They showed what true grit is, what the word �•team” actually means, in a day when everything in sports seems to be centered on individual feats. I loved it when they ran out on the field together as a team instead of being introduced one at a time at the beginning of the Super Bowl.
Pathetically enough, most people thought the Pats would not win it all again. They thought it was a fluke. The Pats had lost for so long that few had faith in them. But they won it again two years later and people started to pay attention. The word �•dynasty” crept up in New England vernacular. When the Pats won their third Super Bowl in four years, they were finally accepted as a dynasty. These wins will carry me for many years. Again, thank God for the Pats.
But no good article about being a Boston sports fan can be complete without discussing the Boston Red Sox. What can be said about the Sox? They were the epitome of frustration. They were the Bad News Bears for so long. Of all the Boston teams, they were the most painful to watch. They often had the talent, they often played well, but they didn’t win a World Series for 86 years! Between the ball rolling between the knees of Bill Buckner, and Grady keeping Pedro in against the Yankees during the 2003 playoffs, every Sox fan was pushed to the limit of what they could endure. Of course there were many other less notable, but just as frustrating moments in Red Sox history. Any Red Sox fan who remained a fan throughout should be given a gift.
And what a sweet gift it was when the Sox won the 2004 World Series. Being down 3-0 in the ALCS against the Yankees, and then coming back to beat them and sweep the Cardinals in the World Series was one of the greatest professional sports stories in history. In fact, it’s been called one of the greatest comebacks ever. All those long years of no championships in Boston finally came to end with the Pats winning in 2002. But after 86 years of no World Series rings, the Red Sox win was the sweetest of all. 2004 was one of the greatest years in Boston sports ever. A World Series and Super Bowl win by Boston teams in the same year, almost unbelievable.
So I guess being a Boston sports fan is not so much like battered-wife syndrome. It’s more like being in a difficult marriage that has lots of ups and downs only, but is worth working at to keep. Being a Boston sports fan is as frustrating as it is rewarding. Patience, loyalty, persistence, and faith will get you through. And in the end, it all works out. Just keep the faith.