Growing up in the city of champions

By Steven Gillard

(Francis Specker/Landov/TNS)
(Francis Specker/Landov/TNS)

When New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson at the goal line with 20 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX, he secured a victory for the New England Patriots that will go down in history as one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played.

With their 28-24 defeat of the Seattle Seahawks, the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl, and after two devastating losses to the New York Giants in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, finally cemented the legacy of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, quarterback/coach combinations of all time.

The Patriots fourth Super Bowl victory marked the ninth Boston championship won in the past 13 years, and the 13th time in 13 years that a major Boston sports team has played in a championship game or series.

For me, the Boston magic began when I was eight years old, and hasn’t stopped since. One of my first memories is of Tom Brady leading the Patriots to their first ever Super Bowl win, defeating Marshall Faulk and the St. Louis Rams and earning the title of Super Bowl MVP. I didn’t know it then, but as Adam Vinatieri kicked it through the uprights with seven seconds left on the clock, a new era of regional dominance was born, one that has lasted to this day.

Before I had even entered high school, the Patriots won two more Super Bowls, defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and, a year later, beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX to bring home their third title in four years.

Amid all of the excitement surrounding the Patriots newfound success, more Boston history was unfolding, this time on the baseball diamond. In 2003, the Boston Red Sox made it to game seven of the American League Champion Series, losing to its bitter rival, the New York Yankees in an 11-inning game seven. Thus, the Red Sox just missed their first World Series appearance since 1986, the series for which Bill Buckner will forever be remembered. When the Red Sox failed to beat the Yankees in 2003, the loss was just another miss, another letdown – they had been losers since 1918.

In 2004, Red Sox Nation saw their dreams being thwarted by the Yankees once again. Down by three games in the ALCS, the Red Sox knew it was over – no MLB team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. The Yankees would advance to the World Series, and the Red Sox would go home.

Then, the impossible happened. A Dave Roberts steal and a David Ortiz home run. A bloody sock.  A Johnny Damon grand slam. The Red Sox went on to win the series 4-3, making history, and then swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series title in 86 years.

To my dad, the Red Sox victory was unbelievable. He was four years old when the Red Sox nearly won it all in the Impossible Dream, and had to wait 19 years for another World Series, only to watch Buckner let a routine ground ball slip through his legs. Then, in 2004, my dad, at the age of 41, and his dad, at the age of 67, finally received the deliverance for which they had waited their whole lives.

It didn’t stop there. The Red Sox won another title in 2007, and then again in 2013, a victory that, in the face of the Boston Marathon bombings that had taken place in April, was both symbolic and cathartic, a remarkable display of resilience and pride.

The Boston Celtics took home an NBA championship in 2008, and the Boston Bruins won a Stanley Cup for the 2010-2011 season. And though it would take Tom Brady 10 more years to win a fourth Super Bowl, he would appear in two more before then. In 2007, New England fans watched with bated breath as Brady, Wes Welker and Randy Moss brushed history with an undefeated regular season, only to lose to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl to finish the season at 18-1. The Patriots got a chance at redemption in 2012, but again lost to Eli Manning’s Giants in the Super Bowl.

The Celtics just missed another NBA championship in 2010, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in game seven by four points, and in 2013, the Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in game six, in which the Blackhawks improbably scored two goals in under two minutes to take home the Stanley Cup.

While the Celtics experienced incredible success throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972, there has never been a time in which all four teams were so successful. In fact, with the Bruins’ victory in the 2011 Stanley Cup, Boston became the first city to ever win a title in the four major sports in the span of a decade.

There is no denying that Boston fans – especially the younger generations – are spoiled.  I’m 21 years old, and I’ve witnessed Boston teams win four Super Bowls, three World Series, one NBA Championship and one Stanley Cup. On Sunday night, the Patriots sustained the unprecedented run of Boston success that began when I was eight.

The world hates us, and I don’t blame them, but nobody can deny that Boston, at least for now, is the city of champions.

Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]