There are those who say Boston sports fans are spoiled by this run of championships. I prefer to replace that word with blessed.
And if you look up “blessed” in the dictionary, there’s a photograph of a young Boston fan. He’s not quite 18 years old, but had seen 11 world championships in his lifetime through Saturday. He’s got long, flowing hair that the hockey players prefer, so it pokes out from the back of their helmets. His smile is wide, showing his perfectly fixed teeth, thanks to $4,000 and endless appointments at the orthodontist.
That grin is also enhanced by achievements of Boston’s top four sports teams, winning at least one championship, and the New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady — before Sunday — winning five of them.
Meet my son, Tommy.
No, he’s not named after everybody’s favorite GOAT. It’s just happenstance that we liked the name and, partway into our Tommy’s first year of life, Drew Bledsoe was steamrolled by a New York Jets linebacker and put on the disabled list.
The rest is sports legend.
Sixth-round draft pick, number 199, led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl win in February of 2002. Even after that year, some New England fans pined for Bledsoe’s return. I was a Bledsoe guy in the endless Bledsoe-Brady debate that raged after he got healthy late in that 2001 season. Bledsoe was a good quarterback, the No. 1 pick, who delivered the Patriots from lovable losers to contenders. He even brought them to a Super Bowl, but lost. Players like that don’t lose their job due to injury.
But those playoff wins, particularly the Snow Bowl (a.k.a. the Tuck Rule game), when Brady unleashed an aerial attack in the most difficult of circumstances, and the eventual Super Bowl win over the St. Louis Rams, solidified me as a Brady guy.
That was my son’s first real introduction to football. My wife and daughter were asleep, but Tommy started to stir in his crib just as Adam Vinatieri was lined up to kick a game-tying field goal in the snow. “Hold on …” I said quietly as he became more unsettled.
The kick was good, I muffled a scream of joy, and pulled Tommy from his crib to settle him down and watch overtime. A 23-yard field goal won the game and started this wild ride.
Incredible? Yes. Unprecedented? Let’s go to the history books.
Over the weekend, I looked at my own first 18 years. I was born in 1963, and it turns out that Boston sports teams also won 11 championships before I turned 18 in 1981. The difference? It was the Boston Celtics, led by another GOAT, Bill Russell, who dominated in those days. Nine of the championships were by the Celts, and two were by the Bobby Orr–led Boston Bruins. That was a pretty good stretch, and it could have been even better. The Red Sox were so close in 1967, and even closer in 1975.
The Patriots? They lost more than they won, and some Sundays we couldn’t even watch them on TV because they couldn’t sell out the old Schaefer Stadium. But I did love them — Steve Grogan, Steve Nelson, Russ Francis, Stanley Morgan, and Randy Vataha (Julian Edelman before Edelman). The Pats had one playoff game lost on a lame roughing-the-passer call against Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, in what would have been their best chance to make a Super Bowl in those days. Look it up.
So after that look back down memory lane, there we were — me and my son tied for championship runs, 11-11, going into Sunday.
Both blessed beyond belief.
After I turned 18, everything sort of went south for Boston sports teams. I suffered through that beatdown by the Chicago Bears in the ’85 Super Bowl. It was as if that team got hit by a Refrigerator.
Then, soon after, there was that Billy Buckner game in ’86 for the Red Sox. Champagne was left corked in the refrigerator.
The Bruins provided some life, but could never quite get past those dastardly Canadiens, and when they did make the Stanley Cup finals, hockey’s GOAT, Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers, and later Mark Messier, were waiting for them.
Still, there were glimmers of goodness thanks to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. The Big Three brought home three more NBA banners.
The ’90s, though, were awful. Those terrible Jose Canseco Red Sox teams. The Celtics had tragedy after tragedy. Bruins ownership wouldn’t spend any dough on good players.
Change centuries, and Loserville turned back into the City of Champions.
On Sunday, still a few days shy of his 18th birthday, my son took over as most blessed in our family after Tom Brady and the Patriots won a sixth Super Bowl. Now it really is an unprecedented 18-year run, with 12 championships.
Congratulations and happy birthday, Tommy boy.
To the victors go the spoils — er, blessings.