Decade of Dominance
Sorry for the long hiatus on the blog. You know how the holidays are. At any rate, the first decade of the Millennium is about to come to a close and the Boston area has just lived out perhaps the most eventful and exciting 10 years any region could have.
When I think of this decade of 2000-2009 (and please spare me the controversy about how the decade is actually 2001-2010 because when I talk about the ’80s I talk about 1980-89 and when I talk about the ’90s I talk about 1990-99), what are the 10 things that come to mind first? Well, let’s give it a stab.
1. 2004 Red Sox come back from 3-0 against the Yankees, run the table for the rest of the postseason with an 8-0 run, win first World Series in 86 years. Surreal, even five years later. There are a collage of moments. Roberts gets his hand just in front of the tag. Mueller singles him in. Ortiz belts the walkoff homer. Then, Game 5, Pedro buzzes Matsui, Trot makes two great catches, Ortiz rips one off the Volvo sign against Flash, and later bloops in a single to send the series back to NY. Then you have Schilling’s bloody sock, Damon’s grand slam, and the rest, you see in history. The World Series was a mere formality, capped by Derek Lowe’s gem in the sweeping Game 4 in St. Louis.
2. 2001 Patriots shock the world, stifle the Greatest Show on Turf to win Super Bowl XXVI, 20-17. Just like the 2004 Red Sox coming back against NY, who could have seen this coming? You first knew it was possible when Ty Law, set up with Vrabel’s jarring hit on Warner, picked off the pass and took it to the house. But you didn’t really know it was possible until John Madden suggested the Pats run out the clock and play for overtime and Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis and a nerveless quarterback named Tom Brady thought otherwise, and Viniatieri drove hom a 48-yarder as time expired, setting off truckloads of confetti and the greatest moment in New England’s football history.
3. 2001 Patriots sift through a snowstorm, get a lucky call and down the Raiders. Without this, there never is a Super Bowl XXXVI for New England. The season had ended when Brady fumbled, and the Raiders were going to run out the clock. But the officials opted for a review and cited an obscure “tuck rule”, saying that Brady’s arm was moving forward and it was an incomplete pass. From elimination to euphoria, the man with the magic leg — Viniatieri — somehow muscles the game-tying field goal through the storm. He then wins it with another kick in OT. The whole game looked like a Winter Wonderland postcard.
4. Kevin Garnett after bringing the championship back to the parquet: “Anything is Possible”. Celtics fans were starting to think that nothing but misery was possible until Kevin McHale chose to trade KG to his friend Danny Ainge. Give Ainge credit for refusing to include Rajon Rondo in the deal. Give three future Hall of Famers — KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — credit for putting their egos aside and putting all their focus into bringing home banner 17. That happened by beating the Lakers in six games, a series remembered most for the Celtics stirring comeback from 20-plus points down in Game 4.
5. 2003 Patriots again play — and win — a Super Bowl for the ages. The ’01 Patriots would have gone down as one of the great feel-good stories of all-time no matter what followed. But by winning again in ’03, and another epic, they suddenly had momentum going as a powerhouse. Brady and Viniatieri again came through in the fourth quarter, again staved off OT, and this time the Pats beat Carolina in a wildly entertaining Super Bowl.
6. 2007 Red Sox are the comeback kings, rallying back from 3-1 against Cleveland and sweeping the Rockies in the World Series. The one indelible image from the ’07 postseason is the sneer of Josh Beckett. When the Sox trailed the ALCS 3-1, Beckett was not going to let them lose on his watch. He mastered the Indians at Jacobs Field in Game 5, and J.D. Drew hit a stunning grand slam in Game 6, followed by a Game 7 romp at Fenway.
7. 2004 Patriots make it back-to-back titles, and three in four years. As Gil Santos bellowed out to his listeners back home, “YES, IT’S A DYNASTY”. Who could argue? This Super Bowl victory didn’t have quite the same luster or late-game heroics as the other two. It is remembered most for Donovan McNabb inexplicably going into a slowdown offense with the Eagles down by 10 points with less than three minutes to play. Supposedly McNabb was woozy. Anyway, Brady came through with another big game, and coach Belichick celebrated in the final seconds with his father Steve, who would die in November, 2005.
8. A trio of Fenway no-hitters. From 1966-2001, there was not a single no-hitter by a Red Sox pitcher at Fenway Park. Derek Lowe changed that on April 27, 2002. Then it was Clay Buchholz no-hitting the Orioles on September 1, 2007. And Jon Lester made it a trio for the decade on May 19, 2008, against the Kansas City Royals. Lester’s story of course, was the most compelling, considering he had been stricken with cancer two years earlier.
9. 2007 Pats run the table. Yes, they lost the Super Bowl. But not before an amazing 16-0 regular season, and playoff wins over Jacksonville and San Diego. The Super Bowl was so close within their grasp. Brady hit Randy Moss for what seemed the game-winning TD. But the Giants played the role of the 2001 Patriots, stepping up as the underdogs. To beat the mighthy Pats, it took one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history by a little-known receiver named David Tyree, who literally caught the ball with his helmet and his hands. Rodney Harrison tried in vain to snap the ball loose. But that Patriots team should still be remembered fondly, with or without the Super Bowl hardware. Only one other team has ever gone through an NFL season undefeated.
10. And to cap it, here are the 10 Boston-area sports figures who captivated our attention the most in the 2000s. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Tedy Bruschi, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Theo Epstein.
Brady and Belichick are self explanatory. Schilling came to Boston vowing to snap an 86-year curse and did so, winning countless big games and saying several memorable things along the way. Pedro was the most dominant pitcher in Red Sox history. KG brought excitement and energy back to the Celtics. Paul Pierce, who endured all those losing seasons, quickly learned how to be a champion once he played on a team good enough to win it. Bruschi was a strong figure who came back from a stroke and overcame a modest beginning to his career to become one of the best Patriots defenders ever. Manny was Manny, so manny — or many — memories. David Ortiz became a legend in Boston with one big wakoff hit after another. And Theo Epstein made baseball a 12-month sport in Boston, always capable of a big, bold move that would stir the masses and lead another championship run.