WASHINGTON, October 31, 2011 – Halloween only arrived today, but bad times had been brewing in the world of Boston sports for a long time. The Red Sox had to watch the playoffs on TV for the second year in the row. The Patriots blew a 21-0 lead to lose to the Buffalo Bills. The Bruins kicked off their Stanley Cup title defense by going 3-7-0, including a pair of losses to the hated Montreal Canadiens. The Celtics, perhaps the only hope for glory this year, saw the first part of their season canceled as the NBA lockout dragged on.
Now this may not sound like a lot of pain. After all, isn’t every team entitled to struggle every so often? But the definition of struggle is relative in New England. Relative as in not winning a championship automatically getting branded a letdown. That’s what happens when a city is spoiled with victory parades. In the past decade, their four major franchises have been the recipients of seven, led by the Patriots’ three Super Bowl titles. Only in Boston are seven years without a Super Bowl, four without a World Series title, and three without an NBA Championship considered an utter failure.
Now it’s well and good to roast the city of Boston over and over for its demanding fans and press, but the signs are pointing to an actual nightmare on the horizon. Nowhere is this more visible than in the turmoil surrounding the Red Sox. First an epic collapse hit, then beloved manager Terry Francona was let go, and finally general manager Theo Epstein bolted for mega-dollars in Chicago. And please, don’t even mention the rally beer.
In all seriousness, though, there are bad signs looming, mainly for the Red Sox and the Bruins. The Red Sox are hitting the free agent season with no manager, an unproven GM, a bloated payroll, and general organizational turmoil. Worst of all, there are actually—gasp—roster issues. The Fountain of Youth wasn’t going to be around forever, and it’s showing on an aging roster. Meanwhile, David Ortiz, the playoff hero of 2004, and Jonathan Papelbon, the closer and hero of 2007, have both filed for free agency, with the latter unlikely to return the Red Sox thanks to the presence of Daniel Bard.
Turning to the Bruins, the cracks are harder to see. Perhaps the most telling statistic is their 2.2 goals per game average, 1.8 with the removal of a blowout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. After stunning the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, the Bruins are learning the hard way that the regular season can’t be won hiding behind the goalkeeper, even if it’s Tim Thomas guarding the net. The frightening scenario comes with the realization that the 37-year-old Thomas will not be around forever, in fact probably not beyond next year, when the contract extension he signed in 2009 runs out.
Even the Celtics, if they manage to get back on the court this season, are faced with a not-so-young core, with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen now averaging 35 years of age. And, one might ask, who cares if neither the Celtics nor the Pats can finish things off when they really count?
Yes, things are starting to look bleak in Beantown, and not just by its own standards. Already the luster is beginning to wear off a decade’s worth of championships, and no new ones seem likely to fill the widening void. If the panic button hasn’t already been pushed, then it’s likely to happen soon. A city now has two choices: Bring perspective down a peg closer to reality, or let the nightmare begin. If history is any indication, methinks the choice will be the latter.
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