By Andy Lindberg
We’ve been extraordinarily spoiled over the past ten years.
Boston fans have seen seven championships, spanning the Big Four American sports. The Patriots won three times, the Red Sox twice, the Celtics once, and most recently the Boston Bruins erased a 39-year drought by besting Vancouver for the Stanley Cup title.
At the risk of sounding like complete d-bags, Boston fans have begun to deconstruct which championship was the most important, with a wide range of answers.
To the fans of Cleveland sports, I extent my sincerest apologies, but warn you that this column will be no different.
We can begin by the process of elimination. The Bruins are not the most important because they’ve won before, and have won with legends (i.e. Bobby Orr, Derek Sanderson). The Celtics are not the most important because well, they’ve won before as well. In fact, they’ve won the most banners in NBA history.
So this discussion really boils down to the New England Patriots 2001 Super Bowl win and the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series win.
I realize the Sox have won before, but when your last championship came so long ago (1918) that baseball fans don’t even recognize it as legitimate, then it’s clear it’s been a while.
The Patriots never gave their fans much promise until they legitimately began winning and winning consistently under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. When most of the players on your all-time team are from the past ten years, you know your history has been that of futility. That’s not to say the Patriots don’t have a fan base, they most assuredly do, but that real fan base was subjected to years of mediocrity at best. The Patriots made them sad, but there was no real crushing heartbreak, as both previous Super Bowl losses weren’t close games. Although New England’s Super Bowl win in 2001 was amazing, and was very important to the state of New England football today, it is not the most important.
The 2004 Red Sox were the most important Boston championship in not only the past ten years, but I would go as far to say the past few decades. How people don’t seem to get this is beyond me. The Red Sox are a franchise stacked with a rich history. They won the first World Series in 1903 against the Honus Wagner led Pittsburgh Pirates. They won four titles between 1912 and 1918. They have boasted some of the greatest player the game has ever seen in Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, and Bobby Doerr. The sox knocked on the door with legitimate chances in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986, each time losing the World Series in seven games. It was 86 years between Red Sox World Series titles.
Baseball is ingrained into the fabric and culture of the city of Boston and the region of New England. The Red Sox had won five championships before the Bruins even came to exist in 1924. The near nine decades of futility caused sports suffering beyond comparison (although the city of Cleveland and Chicago Cub fans have legitimate claims to that stake now). Boston lived and died with the Red Sox. In the 2003 offseason, the Patriots were on their way to yet another Super Bowl, but the Red sox were the focal point of the town in their offseason acquisitions of Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke. Talk of a possible World Series dominated the headlines while the Brady Bunch kept winning.
When that day came, after beating the Yankees from being down three games to none and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that had bested the Sox in ’46 and ’67, a collective euphoria set in across Boston. The World Series parade is proof enough. At no time in the history of Boston sports have so many people shown up to a championship parade to that point.
What’s the argument against it? I’m not saying it was the most important Boston championship of all time (although it has to be in the discussion for how the Sox got there), but is most assuredly is over the past decade. The argument that “baseball economics” let the Red Sox buy that team is laughable. Economics allow every team to gain access to players. Curt Schilling wasn’t even a free agent acquisition that year. He was involved in a trade and was then extended. Just because baseball doesn’t have a salary cap doesn’t mean the team that spends the most is the best. In fact, two small market teams in Texas and California played for the World Series title last year, so anything goes.
2004 brought suffering to an end in Boston overnight. Baseball is stitched into the city of Boston. The Red Sox remain the be all and end all of the city. The Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins are all loved, but none receive the collective love the Red Sox do, and always have from the dedicated sports fans of Beantown.