Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite Boston Sports Moment of the Decade

Ten years is a long period of time in any persons life. In best case scenarios it may be 10% of your existence, but in many it is much less. Therefore it is important when you reach the end of a year to reflect and the sense of this reflection is maximized at the end of a decade. Obviously the importance of the decade is measured in personal accomplishments, family and health. But for sports fans we also have the opportunity to look back at what happened during the past ten years.

As a Boston sports fan I've ended each decade of my life with mainly pain. Remember the end of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Not much to really celebrate. Of course the Celtics' championships in the 80s stand out and the Patriots, one of the laughable NFL franchises at the time, reaching the Super Bowl as a wild card in 85 and 96 were highlights. But when you think of the past decades you think of losing one-game playoffs, ball through the legs, locker room scandals and more negatives.

Well, we sit on the cusp of a new decade and this time we get to look back and nearly laugh with glee. Three Super Bowl Championships, a perfect regular season, two World Series Championships and a NBA Championship. Hell, you could add in the fact that the MLS team in New England has gone to three of their championship games, Boston College went to a bowl game nearly every year (and was even ranked #2 in the country at one point) and won a hockey NCAA Championship, as did BU and UCONN.

On the eve of the '10s I ask you, what was your favorite MOMENT from New England sports during the past ten years. Tell us the story of the moment, not just "when the Sox won it in '04". I'll start us out:

Climbing up into our truck parked out on Beacon Street my wife and I both looked at each other with pure amazement. The snow was coming down hard, there had to be at least five inches on the ground already. The street was completely covered, on a Saturday night, yet there was not a person around who really could be bothered to be bothered. The snow was the reason we were happy, the snow was the reason that what we just witnessed was so amazing, the snow was the reason we now have something we can call "the snow bowl".

Watching the game we had little expectations at the time, just happy that we had some playoff football to watch on this cold Saturday night in Boston. Only a small sampling of the typical Sunday crew had made their way out to my friend Mike's apartment for the game, the pending snow a deterrent. During the first quarter the snow was already starting to fall and cover the now ripped up field at the old Foxboro (Schaeffer Stadium to some of us) and the snow really made the game a spectacle. Not to mention that the New England Patriots were facing one of their long-time rivals, the Oakland Raiders.

Band-wagon jumping fans (you know who they are) of the Pats probably don't realize the enormously bad blood between these two franchises. But let's just say, when your owner gets in fist-a-cuffs with an opposing player after a game...there is some bad blood. That bad blood would not only continue after this monster game, but it would mark the end of a great franchise in Oakland and the blossoming of a new dominant NFL force in quiet little Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The game is a blur at this point, minus the tuck and the kick. But it was the snow outside after we left the celebration that is my favorite sports moment of the '00s. A fresh snow had blanketed the entire city and people were just running around high-fiving each other, realizing that what we had just witnessed after so many sports disasters was perhaps an inkling of some much needed luck. This moment, standing in the snow, I called my Dad, like I do after every game, and he immediately blurted out:
"Boston teams don't win those games!"
And if you are a fan, you know he is right. But in that moment we knew a Boston team HAD won one of those games, and it was the Patriots who had made it happen. The team that had been relegated fourth in the pantheon for decades. A few weeks later they would cement the foundation of a dynasty in New Orleans, but the shift in Boston sports started that one Saturday night in the snow when we all started to believe that our teams could start winning "those games".


Aaron_Strout said...

Kyle - I love this meme and will certainly come back to comment in greater depth. The funny thing about that "snow bowl" game as I was up in Maine at the time (my parents don't have cable at their cabin). My brother and I both decided to travel 30 minutes south to my aunt and uncle's to watch the game. Given how things were going combined with the fact that it was snowing 2"/hour and we had to traverse small country roads to get home, we left at the half opting to listen to the rest of the game on the radio. I remember pulling into the driveway (an hour plus later) and sitting there listening to an AM station that was cutting in and out as Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning FG and bouncing up and down in my car as I hugged my brother. We couldn't believe the fact that we won.

Fast forward to the "unwinnable" game against the "Best Show on Turf," I can still remembember that pit in my stomach as the Pats went up 17-3. I looked at my father (I chose not to watch the Pats Superbowl with a crowd but rather with my dad -- lifelong Pats fan -- mom, and wife) and said, "why do I not feel secure about this score standing up." I also remember Madden exclaiming just after the Rams had scored to tie the game at 17 that the Pats should just run out the clock and play for overtime. Of course Bellichick and Brady felt differently and the result of not following Madden's advice was the birth of a franchise.

Damn, that was an exciting season.

Derek Peplau said...

Great idea, Kyle and enjoyed your post. My memories of that night are quite similar except that I am not really a true Pats fan. I like seeing them succeed as a New England team, but didn't grow up rooting for them.

My personal favorite moment of the last decade has to be Johnny Damon's grand slam off of Javier Vazquez in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004. I'd say it was the Dave Roberts steal followed by the Bill Mueller single up the middle to tie Game 4, but at the time, I don't think any of us realized the significance of that moment.

Here's how Damon's grand slam unfolded for me:

I'd been in San Francisco for the Games 3-6 of the series. My wife and I had made it a point to find a place to watch each game where there'd be a crowd. For Game 6 we'd stumbled upon a Red Sox bar called the Bus Stop. The place was packed to the rafters with Red Sox fans (and a generous helping of Yankee faithful).

I wasn't scheduled to fly back to Boston for a few more days, but as soon as they won Game 6, I changed my flight to return in time for Game 7; I wanted to be in Boston no matter what happened in that game.

My flight was delayed, so we arrived later than planned the night of Game 7. We received an update on the game from the pilot once we landed in Boston. I dashed from the plane to a cab, and got the cabbie to turn on EEI.

I had planned to meet friends at a bar in the Back Bay, and as we emerged from the tunnel on Storrow Drive, they went to commercial with the bases loaded. We were stuck in traffic pulling off onto Beacon Street when the broadcast resumed, and within moments of the commercials ending, Vazquez served up the tater to Damon. Both the cabbie and I went absolutely bananas. It was a bit strange because there was really no time from the resumption of the broadcast to the first pitch which Damon duly hit out to get yourself ready for the game situation and what was on the line.

Five minutes later when I arrived at the bar, with my suitcase, the place was still going berserk. In retrospect though, I'm actually glad things unfolded as they did. I got to hear the final nail in the coffin of The Curse on the radio from the pipes of Joe Castiglione, a fellow alum of my alma mater in the medium in which I enjoyed so many games as a kid with my dad: on the radio.

Obviously the World Series still had to be won, but for that night, I experienced the most incredible sports euphoria I have ever known and probably ever will know. 30+ years, much of it growing up in the battleground city of Hartford, with no answer to the taunts of the Yankee faithful there.

I'd always said that all the years of almost getting there and then blowing it or just plain being awful would be paid back ten fold when we finally won it. I never could have imagined that the road to the championship would unfold as it did in such gratifying fashion: to climb over the bones of the Yankees completing the greatest comeback in the history of sport.

The exquisite denoument to all of this of course was the crowd shots at Yankee stadium for the rest of the game following the grand slam. That was simply the best.