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Clippings: From the outhouse to the penthouse

Only 10 years ago, I was a self-described whiner when it came to my rooting interests on the professional sports scene. Having spent most of my life in New England, I rooted for the New England-area sports teams. That meant the Massachusetts-based Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots.
Entering this millennium, rooting for those aforementioned teams (with the possible exception of the Celtics) meant wearing a big loser “L” on my forehead at any gathering of sports enthusiasts.
The Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. The Bruins, controlled by a miserly ownership, hadn’t hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since 1972, when I was 10 years old and Bobby Orr was manning the blue line. The Patriots had never won the Super Bowl. The Celtics had won 16 titles, but none since 1986, after which an aging parade of stars began to retire, sending the once-storied franchise into a tailspin of bad draft picks and tragic deaths (Len Bias, Reggie Lewis).
I’d walk into a room sporting my teams’ colors and would hear the snickers from the Yankees, Steelers, Cowboys, Lakers, Red Wings and Penguins fans. At least I got some points for sticking with my teams even as others jumped onto the bandwagons of franchises that had a prayer of competing for a title.
I feared that our son, Mark, would go through life living vicariously through other, more successful sports teams. My dad lived his 55 years without ever seeing the Red Sox or Patriots win — not that he cared too much for pro sports.
But just when I was about to invest in matching father-son brown bags for us to don for sports viewing, something happened.
The Patriots found a winning formula (and a miracle quarterback) and prevailed in the 2001 Super Bowl, against all odds, versus the highly favored St. Louis Rams. They would go on to win two more titles, in 2003 and 2004, to establish themselves as the NFL team of the decade. Mark, whose favorite sport is football, couldn’t have been happier.
Then, to everyone’s shock, the Red Sox ended an 86-year title drought in 2004 with a World Series victory that included a miraculous comeback against none other than the New York Yankees. They would again climb baseball’s summit in 2007 to show that it was no fluke.
Not to be outdone, the Celtics captured lightning in a bottle in 2008 after signing superstars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to add to a roster that already included Paul Pierce. They won the NBA title against the hated Los Angeles Lakers.
It was an improbable run of success by a troika of my favorite teams. I was satisfied and frankly had no reason to think the Boston Bruins would do any more than usual — sneak into the playoffs and occasionally make a little noise before bowing out to superior teams with ownership unafraid to upgrade their rosters for a title run. But the Bruins this year ran some hot goaltending (by UVM grad Tim Thomas) and a bruising defense to a Stanley Cup title.
From famine to feast. All four New England pro sports teams winning at least one title during a span of seven years.
As Mark and I watched the Bruins march the Stanley Cup around Fenway Park prior to a Red Sox victory against the Milwaukee Brewers this past Father’s Day, I had to pinch myself. Then I looked over at Mark, who I realized had witnessed all of this by the tender age of 18. I wondered if, 25 to 30 years from now, he would be looking at his children, describing an erstwhile “golden age” of New England pro sports.
But we’ll enjoy it for now. After all, what good is a field of dreams if you can’t stop and smell the roses.

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