TWIST OF FATE: ESPN writer Bill Simmons wrung his hands over how "professional basketball had just been murdered in the city of Boston" after the Celtic's got a bum draft pick. But that fateful pick led, ultimately, to franchise savior Kevin Garnett.
No matter what happens over their next two games, the Patriots will not have gone undefeated in 2007. Remember, if you can, that the team’s year actually included a heartbreaking 38-34 defeat to the Colts in the AFC championship (true, that was back in January, before the 2007–2008 season began, but it was most certainly in 2007). After that loss — and after Indianapolis went on to beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI — it actually seemed like the upstart Colts might supplant New England as the NFL’s marquee franchise.
The loss to Peyton Manning & Co. was perfect fodder for the stereotypical Boston-sports-fan worldview: pessimistic, Calvinist, brooding, angry. Ditto for the Celtics’ ostensibly awful luck in the NBA lottery. Double ditto for the Sox’s summer swoon, which jeopardized a fat lead over the hated New York Yankees, and a near-collapse in the playoffs, which left the team trailing the Cleveland Indians three games to one.
By the time 2007 came to a close, though, a funny thing had happened. It wasn’t just that Boston fans were no longer hexed, or even mildly tormented — it’s that we’d become the exact opposite. We are blessed, anointed — the recipients of a gigantic karmic payback. Instead of soul-crushing defeats, we’re eyeing an unprecedented number of titles across a wide platform of professional sports. We’ve gone from Job to Midas. Everything we root for turns to gold. Clearly, we are the Chosen People of Sports.
So why are we still acting like nothing’s changed?
Land of the silver lining
Some of 2007’s biggest triumphs stemmed from developments that looked grim at the time, but actually proved to be part of Fate’s Rube Goldberg–esque master plan for Boston sports dominance. Flash back, for example, to the NBA draft lottery in June. Throughout a dismal 2006–2007 season, Celtics faithful had one great consolation: thanks to their 24-58 record, second-shittiest in the league, the C’s had a nearly 40 percent chance of landing one of the draft’s two potential franchise saviors, Ohio State center Greg Oden and Texas forward Kevin Durant.
On lottery night, though, David Stern’s bouncing balls stuck the Celtics with the fifth pick, where the best option looked to be dubious Chinese import Yi Jianlian. First Len Bias, then Reggie Lewis, then no Tim Duncan and four disastrous years of Rick Pitino. And then this lottery gut punch. ESPN.com writer and Boston native Bill Simmons promptly brought the old-school angst: “For all intent and purpose, professional basketball had just been murdered in the city of Boston. . . . You can’t even fathom the pain. . . . [W]hen the Celtics got crushed last night, you could feel it everywhere you went.”