Ten years of great sports

Boston's road from Loserville to Title Town
By MIKE MILIARD  |  December 22, 2009


Here we sit in Loserville, USA, wallowing in regret and misery, wishing someday we might find out what it's like to be Oakland or Seattle or even St. Louis.

Gerry Callahan, Boston Herald, October 2000

Moments after Adam Vinatieri's field goal split the uprights as the clock expired in the Louisiana Superdome on February 3, 2002, the streets of Boston were in bedlam. Drunk people dangled from trees and hung off lampposts. Motorists leaned on their horns. I saw a guy hug a cop.

The Patriots had just stunned the St. Louis Rams, eking out a 20-17 victory behind a toothsome young quarterback named Tom Brady to win Super Bowl XXXVI. It was the team's first-ever Super Bowl triumph, and the first championship seen in New England since the days of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.

For years, it was our lot to be losers. Sure, the Celtics lofted banner after banner from the '50s into the '80s. And yes, once upon a time, the Bruins were Big and Bad. But for most of the century, the Hub was cursed with hard luck: be it Bucky, Buckner, or the suckitude of the Pats.

We had always been pre-ordained to fail. It was hardwired into Boston's DNA, like that weird combination of Puritan Calvinism and Irish cynicism. And now, thanks to Vinatieri's 48-yard kick, for the first time in many people's memory, we had a winner. And we had no idea how good it would get.

It may be that (as Time just proclaimed), nationally, the aughties were the "Worst Decade Ever." Just contrast the confetti-strewn jubilation in the Superdome that night with the abject humanity crowding the stadium three and a half years later, post-Katrina.

But here in Boston, on grass and parquet, our teams were having the time of their lives. Along the way, there were more iconic moments and entertaining backstories than one could possibly enumerate here. (The one downside? Some bad news for our mascots, with the Celtics' Lucky the Leprechaun downsized and Pat Patriot nabbed for, er, soliciting a hooker.)

It wasn't all guts and glory, of course. There was plenty of teeth-gnashing to go around. The New England Revolution, our underappreciated pro-soccer squad, were stymied to a near Buffalonian degree — runners up for the MLS Cup four times in six years (in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007). And while the Bruins have shown some heartening resurgence in recent seasons, they were knocked out in the quarter- or semi-finals five times between 2001 and 2009. (Perhaps chastened by being named "worst owner in sports" by espn.com in 2001, Jeremy Jacobs has made some strides, but not enough, toward rehabilitating his penny-pinching ways.)

But three Super Bowls, two World Series, and an NBA Championship? We'll take it. This was the decade when we became world beaters, when Boston, as if flipping a switch, went from "Loserville" to Title Town. And that's not even counting the continued success of the Wayland Broomstones Curling Club.

Hits and misses
Things didn't catch fire right away. Despite the lingering electricity of that Super Bowl, and the opening of the gleaming new Gillette Stadium, the Patriots muddled through a mediocre season in 2002 — every game of which was chronicled weekly in the Phoenix by Sean Glennon, whose dispatches were later collected in a volume called This Pats Year: A Trek Through a Season As a Football Fan (Taylor Trade).

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