I was the last generation that knew Boston as the city that had a passion for teams that’d break their hearts. For the first fourteen years of my life, I never knew the feeling of winning, just a few really stressful nights of hope when a team made it into post-season. But I was yet to be introduced to the phrase “CUE THE DUCK BOATS.” I never saw my sports heroes raise a trophy over their head. What was strange, is that it never really seemed to matter to anyone. The stands were still packed at home games. The tailgates outside the Patriots games were strong, Fenway swarmed with hope and the losses were blamed on curses & ghosts instead of bad games or seasons.
Each time the Bruins or the Celtics climbed up the standings, Boston would hold their breath and wait, telling young and old alike that this would be the year. The hope leaked into the culture and this undying belief that the teams had a passion for Boston, that there was something different, pure, around the excitement of maybe. It was one of the most unifying things about the Northeast – we were the underdogs. No one could hate us (except the Yankees, but that was mutual so it was fine) because we sucked, but we loved us, and we trudged through the snow and sat in the stands and ate Italian sausages with peppers and onions and held enormous parties that had too much food and too much anxiety because of the heartbreaking game that’d play out on the big, blocky TVs that filled livingrooms in the 90’s.
I loved being the underdog. I loved loving to lose. It felt truer, the passion felt more real. It was a culture thing instead of the thrill of winning. There was certainly no gloating.
Then in 2002, things changed, and my father bounced around the living room as Tom Brady got covered in red, white, and blue confetti and from then on, the championships just kept coming. The first celebrations caused mayhem. Years of pent up hope burst through like a pandora’s box. In 2007 riots spread through the UNH campus. I stood out on the sidewalks of downtown with half of the campus, chanting and getting chased by cops prepared for the worst, but there was barely anyone causing damage. It’s incredible to see a crowd so full of pure excitement that nothing goes wrong. In 2011 I was standing on the roof of the T stop by the Garden, having been pulled up by strangers. I looked out over the crowd of black and yellow and knew my father was missing this so much, but I was absolutely in the right place. The Boston police stood in the street, all smiles, allowing Bruins fans to celebrate.
Each year that went by, though, each time I watched a Boston team raise their trophy, I heard just that much more arrogance on our wins. Just that much more disappointing when we lost. Soon, winning was expected. Other states started to hate New England. We weren’t the underdogs anymore, we had become a dynasty. But “No empire lasts forever, no dynasty continues unbroken.” Even as I write this, as we wait for another Super Bowl to open, my mother is group texting the family and it’s popping up in the corner of my screen “Ready for a win?”
As Tom Brady takes on the Rams in a deja vu game with the roles reversed, maybe it’s the writer in me, but I see the setting of a perfect finale. I see it time that our reign is rocked a bit. Maybe a few years to humble ourselves. See how many fans still trudge to Gilette after years of losing. Will we have the same passion if we don’t have our empire? Does the real Boston that I knew still live underneath this cockiness we’ve had lately? I see it fading already – the Bruins skating by unnoticed, the Sox struggling, Celtics are pretty silent. I also am drifting – unable to handle a full-time job of keeping up with stats and games like I used to. I blame it on the time difference. Plus, if you’re away from the heartbeat of the culture, it doesn’t resonate as much. Though anytime I see a Boston logo on someone in the center, I do still absolutely have to comment.
We never used to be ready for a win. We used to hope for one. Now if Brady wins tonight, yes of course I will be ecstatic to know the guy can’t even wear all of those ridiculous rings on one hand. Yes, I believe that if he wins he needs to mic drop immediately and retire. How can you top the perfection full-circle effect of a win tonight?
If we lose, I’ll graciously accept it. Maybe because the pain is duller from here. Maybe because we pushed our empire too far and it’s collapsing, and that’s ok. If that brings back the Boston I grew up with, I wouldn’t mind that much. I was raised on heartbreak, but it was a pain that we loved to bear, we had pride, and it taught us that when the win actually comes, it feels so good, so good, so good.
P.S. Go Pats <3