By Rich Levine
Yup, it's that time of year again.
Time to deck the halls, don your gay apparel and bask in the glow of more holiday-themed sports columns than Santa Claus himself could read.
Who's been naughty? Who's been nice? Who deserves what? Who's getting coal?!
Well, nobody here. You're not getting any of that from me. In fact, I don't even have to write a gimmicky column this holiday season. That's because I lived one.
Last night, atop the Renaissance Hotel at Patriots Place.
The Sports of Boston holiday party!
If you're unfamiliar, the SoB party is the annual event where all the owners, executives, players and coaches from Boston's four major sports teams convene in the name of holiday cheer. There's dinner, dancing, a photo booth. It's basically the prom which works out well because everyone already has their own private limo drivers.
So, how'd I get an invite?
That's not important. And anyway, if they didn't want people sneaking in, they shouldn't have made the air conditioning ducts so eccessible.
All that matters is that I was there.
I arrived a little early, because I'd heard the first people at the party are always the coolest. And who should I see as I walk in the door but Bob Kraft, John Henry, Wyc Grousbeck and Jeremy Jacobs, finishing up an early dinner.
It was a pretty surreal moment. You know, I just looked over at this table and thought, "Wow, they are the reason all this happened. These are the guys who made Boston a winner. What legendary owners . . . and Jeremy Jacobs."
I tried not to stare, but as I walked by could see Kraft, Henry and Grousbeck goofing around with each others' rings, while Jacobs asked the waitress for four separate checks.
"What?" he said. "I only got soup!"
The party was already getting wild and it hadn't even started. Although what did I expect, right? This was THE event of the year.
I made a quick pit stop, and then made my way through the dining room and into a lounge, where, by now, most of the guests were enjoying cocktail hour. Inside, Tyler Seguin, Devin McCourty and Avery Bradley passed appetizers (McCourty also intercepted some). Danny Woodhead walked with a sombrero-style nacho hat on his head. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski worked the bar. And the sounds of a cappella duo "Kalish and Mesko" filled the speakers.
The rookies were doing a damn good job, and the night really started to take off. Spirits were sky high.
"OK, if everyone will please take their seats, we'd like to kick off the festivities," said emcee Don Orsillo as cocktail hour ended.
"Well, you better not kick it to Connolly!" screamed, of all people, Zdeno Chara, to a chorus of laughter.
Brandon Meriweather was so impressed that he walked over and gave Z a fist pound. (The scene is more powerful when you consider that Meriweather was wearing a 10-pound ostrich feather derby hat.)
Once everyone was seated, I was able to take a better lay of the land. The owners were still at their table. Cam Neely, Danny Ainge and Nick Caserio sat at the table next to them Theo Epstein should have been there but was up begging to the DJ to play more Pearl Jam. Next to them, you had Doc Rivers, Tito Francona, Bill Belichick and Claude Julien. Rivers and Francona were having the nicest, most friendly conversation you'd ever seen. Belichick was uncomfortably stirring a straw around the rim of his drink. Julien was just sort of looking at his shoes.
Next to them you had the head player table: Tom Brady, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia (MVP, sorry) and a place setting that used to say "Randy Moss" but had been crossed out and replaced by Rajon Rondo. Yeah, Rondo was there too but hadn't looked up much from the racing game he just downloaded on his iPhone.
You had a special table in the far back corner for Big Baby, Nate Robinson, Jonathan Papelbon and Meriweather. A table with easy access to the bathroom for Shaq, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Mark Rechhi and Tim Thomas. You had Dice K sitting next to Delonte West and Gerard Warren (mostly just for comedic value). The rest of the players and coaches were scattered randomly about.
Dinner was provided by the good people over at Aramark.
During the meal, Orsillo moderated a group discussion on the crazy year that was in Boston. The Pats talked about the disaster against Baltimore, the drama with Randy, and how ridiculous it feels to go from middle of the pack to king of the hill in a matter of months. The Celtics talked about the pain of Game Seven, and how it still pushes them every day. The Red Sox talked about relevance. How strange it was to have fallen out of favor last year, and how this season it already feels so different. And will be. The Bruins talked about just wanting to win. About how frustrated they were with the current state of the team, but that, on the bright side, at least they were invited to the party. A few years back they would've been standing outside bitching with the Revolution about what a jerk the bouncer is. But now, positive.
In fact, everyone was positive. It made you realize, once again, how good Boston has it. And that even though this year's had its ups and downs it's been a rebirth of sorts. In one year, the city completed the world's fastest rebuilding process. Everyone was well aware, and very grateful.
Then they all danced. Everyone. Even Dane Fletcher.
Now it was 11:59, and sadly, almost time for the party to end. But as we watched the seconds tick down on open bar, John Henry suddenly hopped on stage and screamed, "Hey! How about we extend this thing 'til 1 a.m.!?!" The party erupted, as Henry tossed a large bag of cash at the bar manager. And then, just as suddenly, Jeremy Jacobs grabbed the mic himself and yelled, "Orrrrr, how about we extend it to . . . 1:15!?" There were a few murmurs as Jacobs politely tucked 60 into the manager's pocket.
And so it went. The Party of the Year.
Or at least that's how I imagined it while procrastinating on my naughty and nice list.