Friday, June 20, 2008

Mass-destruction and a fond farewell

The last time any region has experienced a decade with as much dominance over the professional sports scene was probably in the 1960's when Massachusetts saw titles in the NBA practically every year, closed out the decade (1969-70 season) with a Stanley Cup, and sent the Sox to the 1967 World Series and the Patriots to the 1963 AFL Championship (both lost).

From 1961 until 1970 the city was home to nine titles in the big four of professional sports...of course eight of those came from the Celtics.

With the '08 baseball season in front of us still, we're looking at three more seasons before the end of the decade (starting from '01) and Boston already has six titles spread over three sports.

While there were more titles in the 1960's, by virtue of where the titles have come from - the Patriots (3), the Red Sox (2), and the Celtics (1) - and how much of it happened.

Consider - since 2001 the Patriots finally rose to prominence, becoming the most dominant football team of the decade, winning three Super Bowls, appearing in a fourth, and amassing the two longest regular season winning streaks in league history including the only undefeated 16-game regular season.

Move into baseball and you have the Red Sox who have swept their National League counterpart in the World Series twice - the first of the Championships after turning the table on the arch-rival Yankees. En route to delivering their first Series Title since 1918, the Sox became the first team to ever overcome an 0-3 deficit in the ALCS and had a hand in dealing the worst meltdown in the history of the post-season to their rivals. It was a thing of beauty. Add to all that the fact that the Sox are the only team to win two since 2001 and the Yankees are 0-2, it's only icing for the members of Red Sox Nation.

That brings us to the Celtics.

For the better part of the decade the Celtics have been awful. I mean, brutally bad. Not Knicks bad - they weren't carrying either the payroll nor the highly touted talent - but they were scraping the bottom.

In delivering this year's Championship, the team was part of the NBA's biggest turn around ever, extended their league leading number of championship banners to 17, and prevented Phil Jackson from passing Red Auerbach as the coach with the most Championships. Putting together this season's edition, Danny Ainge positioned the team to compete for the rest of the decade.

On the periphery, taking the place of previous Boston area teams that got to the Big Dance, but not able to seal the deal has been the New England Revolution. The Revs have been the runners up to the MLS Cup four times ('02, '05, '06, and '07).

Of the six major league sports now represented in Boston (including the Major League Lacrosse Boston Cannons), New England/Boston has made appearances in the finals of five of the leagues, missing out on only hockey. The Cannons lost by two goals in the 2004 championship game.

In the combined seven seasons since the inception of the 2001 seasons there have been 41 potential titles (hockey missed one due to labor strife). The teams from the Boston Bay area has had teams compete for 12 of those (29.3 percent) and won close to 15 percent of the titles.

By any account, those are impressive numbers.

Speaking of impressive numbers and the post season...

While he hasn't officially announced retirement, Curt Schilling is done. His shoulder is cooked.

It's been a fun ride while it's lasted. I haven't always agreed with Schill's opinions - but as someone who makes his scratch as a reporter, I can tell you, he's a reporter's dream. An absolute quote machine and a clutch performer.

He's the sort of person that I think I would not get along with in a personal relationship - but he'll always get a pass for bringing Boston their first World Series title since Babe Ruth was on the team.

I wish him well recovering from his shoulder surgeries and in whatever his subsequent career is.

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