Ranking the Boston Champions

There is no doubt the last 10 years have been the greatest 10 years of any sports town in history for Boston.  No other city comes remotely close to having 7 championships in ten years.  So where do I rank those 7 championships? Let’s have a look.

7) 2004 Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers

Tom Brady was a stud in this one as he threw for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns leading the Patriots to a 32-29 win over the Panthers.  Adam Vinatieri was the hero again as he hit a 41 yard field goal to with 4 seconds left to put the Patriots ahead for good.

Memorable Moments: Vinatieri’s game winning field goal; Vrabel’s 2 sacks and touchdown reception; 37 total fourth quarter points

6) 2005 Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles

The Patriots winning this Super Bowl cemented the theory that the Patriots were the 2000’s dynasty in the NFL.  Tom Brady started to draw comparisons to Joe Montana.  And perhaps best of all the Patriots beat loud mouth Terrell Owens.  The Patriots also became the first team since the Denver Broncos to win back to back Super Bowls.

Memorable Moments: Branch’s 11 receptions; Rodney Harrison flapping his arms like an eagle after his second interception; Another Vrabel TD reception

5) 2007 Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies

The Rockies were the hottest team in baseball going into the World Series in 2007 after winning 15 of their last 16 just to make it into the playoffs.  They then swept the division series and league series and were forced to wait as the Red Sox finished their series with the Indians.  This 2007 team was a lot different from the 2004 team as it was a team that was led by Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.  Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury arrived on the scene as well while old friends David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling were still doing their thing.

Memorable Moments: Pedroia’s home run off Francis; Sox come back from 3-1 deficit against Indians in ALCS; Papelbon’s Irish Jig

4) 2008 Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers

While I am more of a Celtics fan than I am a Bruins fan, this championship has to fall just below the Bruins.  The Celtics were able to stack their team by trading their roster away to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  Quite frankly, if the Celtics hadn’t of won the championship in 2008 I would have been incredibly disappointed.  But it was pretty sweet to embarrass the Lakers on their home court.  I was also very happy to see Paul Pierce win a title after all the years he put in with the Celtics.

There may not have been a more deserving athlete in Boston than Paul Pierce when he was finally able to raise that trophy high above his head.  Pierce had been in Boston his whole career and never publicly spoke out about how bad the team was or publicly complained.  Sure, he was mad when they stunk, but Pierce stayed quiet and he was rewarded when Danny Ainge got him a true supporting cast for the first time in his career.

Memorable Moments: Pierce in a wheelchair; Mike Breen:”And the Celtics are embarrassing the Lakers”; Ray Allen crossing over Vujacic

3) 2011 Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks

The Stanley Cup hadn’t been in Boston since 1972.  The Bruins were able to win in overtime of Game 7 against their archrival, the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round, sweep a Flyer team that came back from a 3-0 lead the year prior, and beat the Lightning in Game 7 on their home ice, before capturing the Stanley Cup in Game 7 in Vancouver.  They did it without their best player, Nathan Horton who was knocked into next week by Aaron Rome in Game 3.  They won it with perhaps the most dominating playoff performance ever by a goalie in 37 years young Tim Thomas.

During these playoffs, Zdeno Chara missed time with a dehydration illness, Nathan Horton missed time with his concussion, and they were down in the Montreal and Vancouver series but showed how resilient they were after a season of fans questioning the team’s heart.  These Bruins most certainly had heart.

Memorable Moments: Tim Thomas’ overall performance; Horton’s concussion; Recchi’s last game; Thornton the enforcer; Bergeron getting bit by Burrows

2) 2002 Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams

No one expected the Patriots to stay within 15 points of the Rams in 2002.  Hell, the argument could be made the Patriots weren’t even suppose to be there after Brady fumbl- I mean tucked the football in against the Raiders in the AFC Championship.But Bill Belichick pulled off his best coaching performance in his first Super Bowl win as he was able to slow down “The Greatest Show on Turf.”  The Patriots were able to completely neutralize Marshall Faulk and from there, rookie Tom Brady was able to manage the clock and not turn over the football enabling Adam Vinatieri to kick a game winning 48 yard field goal.  While Brady was named MVP, (16-27 for 145 yards) I will forever argue JR Redmond, Jermaine Wiggins, or the Patriot Defense was far more deserving of the honor than Brady.

The coolest part of this Super Bowl was Bill Belichick having his whole team introduced instead of individual introductions.  This set forth the value of unity amongst a team and started the trend that continues today of teams being introduced rather than individual players.

Memorable Moments: Vinatieri’s field goal; Patriots’ entrance; Madden suggesting Patriots run out clock; The final drive; Wiggins; Redmond; Troy Brown

1) 2004  Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals

It took 86 years for the Red Sox to win the World Series.  They suffered the dreaded Curse of the Bambino.  A stretch that saw Bucky bleepin’ Dent hit a lazy fly ball that landed in the netting of the Green Monster to win the division for the Yankees, they saw a routine ground ball trickle through the legs of Bill Buckner off the bat of Mookie Wilson to push the 1986 World Series to a seventh game, and they saw Aaron Boone hit a walk off home run in 2003 that sent the Yankees to the World Series.  The Red Sox didn’t only not win, they put their fan base through through the most painful of losses.

2004 was especially memorable because they were able to do what no other team in baseball had done before: Come back from a 3 games to 0 deficit to win the ALCS against, yes, the New York Yankees.

Memorable Moments: Roberts steals second; Schilling’s bloody sock; “Don’t let us win this one”; (Fully recognize all the memories are from the Yankee series but can you say you have any memories from the actual World Series?)

***A previous version of this post had Tim Thomas listed as 36 years young.  Thanks to a faithful reader for pointing out that he is 37 years young.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

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The Art of Inspiration

Willis Reed overcame a torn muscle in his right thigh to inspire his New York Knick teammates to a Game 7 NBA Finals win over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970.  He scored the first two baskets of the game, his only points, and the emotional momentum carried the Knicks to an NBA title.

Kirk Gibson made one plate appearance in the 1988 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Gibson had a stomach virus and injured both his legs in the National League Championship Series and was not expected to play in the World Series.  Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, 2 outs and a runner on first, Gibson launched a home run off of Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley to win the game.  The Dodgers went on to win the World Series four games to one.

Curt Schilling pitched Game 6 of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium after injuring his ankle and going through a surgery that would put 55 stitches in that ankle.  Schilling bleed through his sock in Game 6 as he shut the potent Yankees down through 7 innings beating the Yankees to force a Game 7.  The Red Sox carried that momentum and won the World Series in 2004, never losing again that post season.

I admit, I am a sucker for this type of drama in sports.  These are the stories that build sports legends and are the material for stories that get passed on from generation to generation.  Saturday night was the latest in that genre.  While the effects of the cause are yet to be decided, the even has already happened.  Saturday night Rajon Rondo went down to the ground on what most will say was a chippy play (bush league) move by Dwayne Wade.  Rondo landed awkwardly and dislocated his left elbow.  I personally thought that unless Rondo was Gumby, he was out for the remainder of this post season and into next season. I figured the series was over and I sat bitterly thinking that LeBron and friends were moving on to face either the Bulls or the Hawks and would eventually win the NBA Title.

Then Rondo appeared from the tunnel favoring his arm and cheered on his team a bit.  I figured it was cool he came out to the bench instead of sitting in the locker room.  Then he started walking toward the scoring table to check in and I was speechless mixed with being nervous.  But Rondo came out and his presence lifted the TD Garden crowd to its feet and pumped up the rest of his team.  He had a hustle play where he dove for a ball and landed on his left shoulder, a play which made all of greater Boston collectively gasp, and then he stole a ball from the eunuch known as Chris Bosh and converted a fast break dunk.

Fast forward to now.  The Heat and Celtics are an hour away from Game 4 in Boston.  Rational me sees the Heat winning this series in 6 games.  But the fan in me has become inspired.  Rondo returning from this injury conjures up memories of Dave Roberts stealing second base in 2004.  Just like then I held out hope for a miracle and it happened.  Rondo’s return did more than pump up his teammates and lift the Garden decibel level beyond deafening.  While Rondo dislocated his elbow, his return fractured the Heat psyche.

Don’t underestimate this.  The Heat have been front-runners all year long.  The second things go bad, they get ugly.  They start moping and crying.  Remember LeBron pushing his coach in the beginning of the year when they were a .500 team? Remember Dwayne Wade saying everyone in the world is happy because the Heat are losing? The Heat don’t handle adversity well.  The longer this series goes, the more pressure there is on the Miami Heat.  As my brother pointed out to me; the longer the series goes the more pressure there is on James, Wade, and Bosh.  Chris Bosh who has already admitted publicly he can’t handle the pressure of the moment.  The longer the series goes, the more the rest of the Heat will roster will defer to James and Wade.  The more pressure there will be on James and Wade.  How will they handle it? Will they try taking the Celtics 1-5 and eventually argue with each other on the court?  Time will tell.

The bottom line: In sports courageous events such as Rondo’s return from a gruesome injury have bolstered team’s efforts and demolished the morale of the opponent to the point where it determined a winner.  If Boston wins this series, look back to Dwayne Wade’s cowardly take down of Rondo, and Rondo’s courageous return to the court as the reason why.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF