Andy Kirkaldy: Appreciate this, Boston backers
I tell my daughters all the time they are spoiled.
We didn’t raise them to root for Boston professional sports teams, even though both Kristine and I grew up rooting for them, in her case especially the Bruins on Channel 38, the local UHF station back in the day when Orr and Esposito helped the Bs win a couple of Stanley Cups.
But our kids caught the bug, maybe in part because the four major teams — Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins — have collectively won 10 championships in the past 16 years. In context, that’s an average of one every 2.4 years for my older daughter and one every two years for her sister.
But truthfully, I was spoiled early on, too. My family moved to Massachusetts when I was six, in 1960. I started following sports in 1963. Now, for sure that was in the middle of one of the greatest dynasties in sports history: The Celtics won six titles between 1963 and 1969, two more before I turned by older daughter’s age (1974 and 1976), and three more before I turned 32 (1981, 1984 and 1986). Add in the two Bruins championships and my teams won 11 titles before I was 22.
But by then troubling signs had begun to crop up. The Sox had a 3-0 lead in a Game Seven in the 1975 World Series, and lost. Even before the Series their best hitter, Jim Rice, broke his hand when hit by a pitch. Their manager pinch-hit for an effective reliever late in the seventh game, leaving a rookie to face Joe Morgan and allow the game-winning hit.
That fall, the Patriots were arguably the best team in football. It was the year the Oakland Raiders were 16-1 and won the Super Bowl. The Patriots beat the snot out of them in Foxboro, 48-17, their only loss. I was at that game watching John Madden trying to get the number of the truck that hit his team.
In the playoffs, the Pats led Oakland in the third quarter, 21-10, despite some horrific officiating (flagrant uncalled pass interference by Raider LB Phil Villapiano on Pats TE Russ Francis killed a drive, for example). Oakland scored to make it 21-17 and had one last chance to win, but a phantom roughing-the-passer call against the Pats on a third-and-18 play with 1:24 to play essentially gave the Raiders the game.
It was the only roughing-the-pass call in Patriot lineman Sugar Bear Hamilton’s career. Old-school Patriot fans sneer at Raider fans who whine about the 2000 “Tuck Rule” playoff game the Patriots won.
Then Patriots owner Billy Sullivan squabbled with Coach Chuck Fairbanks a year or two later, and the Patriots spiraled back to mediocrity, surfacing once a decade to get drubbed in a Super Bowl (1985 and 1996), before one of which the team was embroiled in a drug scandal.
For years after 1972, the Bruins were good, but never quite good enough, and a bad knee cut Orr’s career short. The worst came in 1979, when the Bs led the hated Canadiens in Montreal, 4-3, late in Game Seven in a Stanley Cup semifinal. Pardon, so sorry, Monsieur Cherry, it seems you might have too many skaters on the ice and must pay the penalty, n’est-ce pas? The Canadiens scored on the ensuing power play and went on to win.
The Cs provided some respite in the mid-1980s, of course, with Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Cedric Maxwell and Danny Ainge. Their three titles in that stretch were things of beauty, and an excellent case can be made that their 1986 team, with a healthy Bill Walton coming off the bench, was the greatest NBA squad ever assembled. After 1986, Bird’s back and McHale’s feet began to give out, and the Celtics’ slow decline began.
Ah, 1986. Doesn’t that bring us back to the Red Sox? My wife said she will never forget the look on my face when the ball squibbed between Buckner’s legs and allowed the Mets to complete their unlikely Game Six rally.
I once read a piece that pointed out the Sox franchise was so unlucky over the years that the four times they made the World Series between 1918 and 2004, in each case they faced the single most dominant National League team of the respective decade. The 1946 and 1967 St. Louis Cardinals, the 1976 Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” Reds, and the 1986 New York Mets all won more games than any other NL team during each of those decades.
So my wife’s and my Boston sports fandom got off to fast starts. And, as my sainted Scottish Granny used to say, “After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dustcart.”
And, yes, I hear you Cleveland and Philly, I know it can get worse. But this was year after year of having Lucy snatch the football away just as you were about to kick it.
The message for us Boston fans — including my daughters — is to keep kicking that ball and enjoying the Lord Mayor’s Show while we can.
I mean, we haven’t even talked about Bucky Bleeping Dent yet…
MIDDLEBURY — Bernard D. Kimball, 76, passed away in Bennington Hospital on Jan. 10, 2023. … (read more)
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)