When the game ended at the Staples Center Thursday night and Kobe and company were crowned as repeat champions, a thought crept into my head:
This wouldn’t have happened in the 2000s.
If this were the 2000s, the Celtics would have drained a bunch of threes in the last minute and the Lakers would come up just short.
That’s the way the 2000s were for Boston teams it felt like.
But it is 2010 now… and despite some nitwits insistence that it isn’t a new decade yet, the results on the field, on the court and in the rink suggest otherwise.
For so long, the Boston sports scene was a place of futility. And after the 1986 Celtics title it was barren of titles.
After the Celtics beat the Rockets that year you had the 1986 World Series and the legacy THAT gave Boston.
You had Magic’s hook shot over the Celtics. That along with the deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, the breakdown of Bird and the M.L. Carr and Rick Pitino years turned the once proud Celtics into just another team on the schedule.
You had the two Stanley Cup Finals where Edmonton waxed the Bruins (and the lights were shut off in the Garden during one of the games.)
You had the Patriots in the Super Bowl against the Packers, only to lose and the Bill Parcells/Robert Kraft Soap Opera hanging over the entire game. And let’s face it, the Patriots were an afterthought in New England.
For 16 years that was it. The 1990s saw each Boston team sinking into irrelevance and the Yankees AND Lakers transformed themselves into dynasties by the beginning of the 21st Century.
It was tough being a Boston fan. We thought Drew Bledsoe, Joe Thornton, Antoine Walker, Mo Vaughn and Nomar Garciaparra would be the next great Boston sports hero… but all fell short.
Then came the 2000s.
And the change in Boston sports came without warning. The tuck rule went the Patriots way, but the Super Bowl was going to be yet another mismatch like the Bears in 1986 and the Packers in 1997. The Rams were going to kill them.
But when Vinatieri’s field goal went through, I remember my friend and current workmate Jon Corbett yelling with disbelief “I can’t believe the Patriots won the Super Bowl!”
It is hard for young Boston fans to understand how unbelievable this was. Using my theory that you don’t really follow a sports team until you are 8 years old, there are 16 year olds who only know Boston sports as a place where championships are expected.
But between the 86 Celtics and the Patriots first Super Bowl win, there was a grand total of zero victory parades in Boston.
That’s a 16 year gap. There were 24 year Boston fans where that Super Bowl was the first real memory of one of their teams winning.
Then they did it again… but when Grady left Pedro in too long, it looked like more of the same for the Red Sox. Sure the Pats could win, but the order of the universe was still the same.
Then Dave Roberts stole second… and anything became possible.
Could the Red Sox beat the Yankees?
Yes and in humiliating ways never seen before.
Could the Red Sox win a championship?
You bet… and like the Patriots, they could have MULTIPLE titles.
Could the Celtics be champs again? Why not? And why not have one of the biggest thumpin’s in NBA history for a clincher against the Lakers no less?
Could the Patriots go undefeated in a regular season? Check the videotape!
Could the Red Sox win an elimination game where they were down 7-0? Do you even doubt it?
The Duck Boats got a lot of miles on them and we Boston fans showed we could be just as obnoxious in victory as we were in victory.
There were so many new heroes in Boston sports lore that they threatened to push many older legends out of everyone’s memory.
Tom Brady! Tedy Bruschi! Richard Seymour! Curt Schilling! Big Papi Ortiz! Josh Beckett! Paul Pierce! Ray Allen! Kevin Garnett!
And cult heroes like Kevin Millar, Ty Law and Big Baby Davis!
But it was more than just victory… remember with every victory there is a team defeated and for a glorious period of time some of the most hated figures in Boston sports kept wetting the bed.
The Yankees had two of their biggest collapses in team history in the 2000s with the 2001 World Series and the 2004 ALCS… and after 2004, they couldn’t make it out of the Division Series and missed the playoffs altogether in 2008.
And the pick up of A-Rod seemed to blow up in their face as he kept folding like a tent and slapping wrists in the playoffs.
The Lakers imploded in the 2004 Finals and the team was dismantled to please Kobe… and the titles dried up as Kobe couldn’t deliver a title without Shaq.
And Peyton Manning had the stats, but Tom Brady was the CHAMPION.
Phil Jackson and Joe Torre wrote books about how rotten things were behind the scenes.
It was a glorious time and it was a petty time.
It was a time of happiness for our team’s victory and for schadenfreude for other fan base’s misery.
It was a perfect storm of our ability to celebrate and be pricks.
And it’s over now.
Manning? He’s a Super Bowl champ now and he’s won one more recently than Brady because of the OTHER Manning.
A-Rod? He’s a World Champion now and he hit key game tying homers and game winning hits in the Division Series, ALCS and World Series to get his ring.
Kobe? He has back to back titles now, the last one coming at the expense of our Celtics not being able to hold a 13 point second half lead. People are now talking about him in the same breath as Michael Jordan.
Since October 2009, Papelbon let up 3 ninth inning runs to eliminate the Red Sox, the Patriots got blown out at home in the playoffs, the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and the Celtics blew a shot at the NBA championship with less than 6 minutes to go.
The swagger is gone and that sense of impending doom has sadly crept back into our consciousness.
It’s kind of like the movie Awakenings. For a brief moment we were able to come out of our slumber to experience the joys of winning teams, only to slip back into our immobile state.
Now in full disclosure, I am not a Boston Bruins fan. I am a San Jose Sharks fan and they have their OWN issues!
And my devotion to the Patriots is tenuous at best. I would trade all three Super Bowls for J. D. Drew to get a double off of David Price in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS… or for the Celtics to hang on to the 4th quarter lead on Thursday night.
And I am sure my friends who follow the Bruins primarily would trade the 3 Super Bowls, 2 World Series titles, and the NBA title for one Stanley Cup.
Maybe it will be good for us Boston fans to take a few lumps. It will help us appreciate what an amazing decade we experienced. What a huge class of water we had after a long thirst.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t root hard for our teams. We should.
I’m not saying we won’t see our teams win this decade. I bet some will.
But perhaps it was appropriate that Manny showed up t Fenway the day after the NBA Finals loss.
It was a reminder of that glorious decade where everything seemed to go our way.
We may never have a decade like this again.
Think of how lucky we are that we could experience it.
I feel bad for the kids born in 2002 and are 8 years old just following teams now. They missed out on a great decade.
Turn the page and let’s give those kids some memories of their own!