By now, my kids can predict when their father has a “You Don’t Have It So Bad” lecture on the way. For example, when they complain about cleaning their rooms, I’ve got: “You’re fortunate to have a room to clean; I had to share one small room with my brother and grandfather until I was 16…”
I’ve got one of those for everything. And my exaggerations get better with time.
I thought of that the other day when I watched the Red Sox get swept by the Yankees. This is where I don’t need to exaggerate: the Red Sox have a chance to be worse than Bobby Valentine’s 2012 Sox on the field, but not as reality-show crazy/entertaining off it. (Remember Bobby showing up at the ballpark in Oakland late because he said he wanted to pick up his son from the airport? And then ripping the airport, the ballpark, and the city when he was called on it?)
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They’ve got talented hitters who aren’t hitting, and they’ve got a pitching staff that’s doing what you’d expect from a group with Nathan Eovaldi as its emergency ace.
But with all that said, we really have had it good in Boston, with the Red Sox and every other professional sports team in town. The championships are obvious, but it’s deeper than that. In the last 20 years, accounting for all five pro teams in the region – I see you, Revolution – think about how many times you’ve looked at your favorite team and sensed no pulse or hope.
Before we go team-by-team here, consider what true despair looks and feels like. In the NBA, it’s a New York Knick. The Knicks have missed the playoffs 15 of the last 20 years, and have had 14 different head coaches. Good luck, Tom Thibodeau. It’s not you, it’s them.
In the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers have an enviable four-out-of-six streak. That is, from 2010 until 2015, they had the number one overall pick four times in those six seasons.
And as challenged as the Red Sox are right now, let an Orioles fan tell you about a real struggle. Baltimore had a dozen consecutive losing seasons, including a six-year run in which the team lost at least 92 games each year.
That’s the context. Now here’s a sampling of Boston’s worst of the past 20 years.
New England Patriots: All right, I had to start here. I recently had a conversation in which I tried to recall the exact order of the Patriots’ nine Super Bowl sites. I should have punched myself in the face for that smugness. The one bad season was 2000, Bill Belichick’s first in New England. Anything else that makes the list, including last season’s one-and-done, is nitpicking.
Boston Bruins: I nominate the 2005-2006 season. This is still a sore subject for Mike O’Connell, who argued with Brian Burke as recently as April over a 15-year-old trade. The B’s dealt Joe Thornton to San Jose (Burke claims his Anaheim team offered far more than Boston’s Marco Sturm-Brad Stuart-Wayne Primeau return), and Thornton won the Hart Trophy that same season.
A couple other surprises about that year: it’s one of the two losing seasons the B’s have had in 20 years; and Thornton isn’t the only member of that team who ascended elsewhere. Their fired coach, Mike Sullivan, took over his next job – with the Penguins – and won back to back Stanley Cups.
New England Revolution: 2011, by far. This was not the year to tell a soccer-curious friend of yours, “Hey, watch a Revs game with me. You’ll learn something.” Nope. This was a bottomed- out roster.
Taylor Twellman retired in November 2010 due to concussions, and the 2011 team’s leading goal-scorer was Shalrie Joseph with five. Five goals, all year. No player had more than one assist in MLS play.
Limited talent, limited budget, nonexistent training facility. It’s no wonder the Revs won just five of their 34 games. Fortunately, the franchise has fixed most of the issues from 2011. They also took something else from 2011: the coach of that season’s MLS Cup champs, the LA Galaxy’s Bruce Arena.
Boston Celtics: This is too easy. No, it’s not the 2006-2007 season and its 18-game losing streak. That team actually sold out its final 13 games and had terrific TV ratings; you liked that team and its future. I’m guessing you didn’t like the 2000-2001 C’s, with Rick Pitino telling you one season that “Larry Bird is not walking through that door…” and then walking out that door himself the next year after 34 games.
Boston Red Sox: This is a good debate. Do you go with one of the three last-place teams (2012, 2014, 2015)? Or do you slide in the 2011 darkhorse? That team was blessed with talent on the field, in the dugout (Tito Francona), and in the front office (Theo Epstein). It lost due to poor conditioning, poor attitudes, and…yes, fried chicken, beer, and video games.
After looking back on what you’ve seen, and contrasting it with 12 parades, it’s a pretty good life. Just imagine, you could be stuck rooting for the Jets and Knicks.