Boston was the most successful American sports city in the past decade.
Sure, Boston technically tied with San Francisco for the most major sports championships with six (3 World Series for the Giants, 3 NBA titles for the Golden State Warriors), though an argument can be made that the Warriors are a shared franchise between Oakland and San Francisco (and yes, the Patriots are also regional, so spare me the @’s, bro). But no city had three teams win championships (Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins). No city’s teams made more conference finals (14) and championship appearances (11) than Boston. And no city’s teams were more interesting, polarizing, entertaining, obnoxious and compelling than Boston. Through triumph, tragedy and Tom Brady Boston made headlines consistently for all the right and sometimes wrong reasons on a regular basis. And while it will pain other cities to admit to this, Boston was the king of the professional sports heap in the second decade of this century, just as it was in the first.
Two decades on top? (Wallace Shawn in “The Princess Bride” voice) “Inconceivable!”
For the veteran fans, the long-suffering diehards and title-starved locals who used to find comic relief in lines like, “The Red Sox killed my father and now they’re coming for me.”, this decade is the back nine of a long overdue 18th. In the age of free agency, salary caps and engineered competitive balance this just doesn’t happen anymore. For the younger fans on the block Boston being on top is the new norm. How else does a city develop a duck boat addiction or earn a name like “Entitled Town”? This run of dominance and relevance has seen some championship windows close, some re-open, and some amazingly remain wide open for unheralded amounts of time. We’re not here today to explain how this all came to be, or continued to excel. Quite frankly, given the precious calendar days till we welcome the third decade of the century there’s just not the time for the “Brady vs. Belichick” bargument, among many that belie the second decade of Boston Sports Strong.
Instead, we’re here to celebrate and debate the 10 biggest, most monumental, most influential, most controversial, most important moments from the second decade of Boston being the center of the sports universe. More hours, debates, blood, sweat, beers and profanity went into this than I’d care to admit to. Some of these moments will stir your passions and make you want to jump up and cheer all over again. Some will stir your passions and make you want to say four letter words out loud again. Whatever the case, they all contributed to the spectacular, incredible and unforgettable time of our lives that was Boston sports 2010-19. And yes, I full well expect many of you to disagree with the choice of moments, or their ranking. That’s what makes sports debate so great, and why we have tailgates, fancaves and a comment section.
The Patriots' ability to sustain a championship level of play for nearly two decades features a number of factors. The head coach and quarterback being the obvious cornerstones of what some refer to as a “double dynasty”, with three Lombardis won in each decade. The first decade involved a core of talented veterans, along with Pick No. 199, that folded in various acquisitions along the way to excel and establish new expectations from football in Foxborough. But who knew that perhaps the biggest reason, literally and figuratively, for the second decade’s dominance, was the selection of an oft-injured tight end out of the University of Arizona? Gronk.
Signaling the end of the Celtics’s second “Big Three”, the departure of KG, the heart of Boston’s 17th banner, and Pierce, the soul of the franchise for a decade and a half, was a tough pill to swallow. Even though any Celtics fan knew it was time to move on, trading two of your all-time greats, who’d hung in through all the tough times and reinvigorated the winningest franchise in NBA history, would never be an easy sell. time to change. But we all knew deep down it was time to break up the gang and rebuild for the future. Ray Allen had already taken his talents to South Beach, leaving The Ticket and The Truth to carry the torch. But after an injury-filled season that saw their five year run as Atlantic Division champs come to an end, culminating in an early-round playoff loss to the Knicks, it was time to break up the party. But how? There didn’t seem to be a fitting and ceremonious way to send these Garden legends packing. To say farewell to your past glories while restocking for your future and giving the fans hope seemed as improbable as assembling The Big 3 2.0 just six years back.
Enter Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian born billionaire, oligarch (a word that’s impossible not to use when you get to), and then owner of the Brooklyn Nets.
6. Bill Belichick Benches Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl 52
5. “This is our f**king city!”
4. Bruins Win First Stanley Cup in Almost 40 Years
It was sweet redemption for the goalie who was benched the previous postseason in favor of the man who still minds the net for the Beez to this day. A wild ride with a wild finish for a town awash in postseason success and championships that hadn’t drank from the Cup in nearly four decades. And while Stanley Cup defeats on home ice in 2013 and 2019 were enormously disappointing, this one kept our tires pumped, shall we say, for some time. Quite a way to remind people that even in the age of Big Papi and Tom Brady Boston is every bit a hockey city too, eh?
That 2016 season was yet another fascinating Patriots campaign, one that saw the team begin the season with their star QB suspended the first four games for deflated footballs. And once Brady returned Week 5 in Cleveland it seemed he and the team were on a mission to prove a little air pressure wasn’t the difference in the dynasty. Save for a rare home loss to the Seahawks the team was again blazed their way to a familiar place; the Super Bowl. This one would be played in a familiar spot, Houston, where they’d won Super Bowl 38. And now their opponent was the high-flying Falcons, lead by old pal Matt Ryan. Should make for a great game, right?
And the rest is history.
Wow. That was a helluva decade. Disagree with the order? Did I miss one or three? Lemme know below, or holler at us @FitzyGFY and @WEEI. We’ll be here, probably watching Super Bowl 51 highlights, trying to figure out why Butler didn’t play, consuming fan reaction videos and more. Man, this next decade has a lot to live up to.