In Boston, fans have grown quite comfortable living and loving the city’s new role this decade. Winning has replaced the years and years of heartache, and any losses by Boston teams now seem to be considered minor setbacks on the way to a championship.
But this weekend’s losses across the board hurt. Bad.
The Celtics kicked off the weekend from hell with an uninspired effort against the Hawks — the team that everyone in Boston has grown to hate in the past two seasons. Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith dominated the boards, and the Celtics were outscored 25-16 in the fourth quarter. The C’s ultimately lost 97-86, but the feeling around Boston was that there was always tomorrow.
That tomorrow came, but it wasn’t much better. The C’s faced an Indiana team less than 24 hours later, and the Celtics had the experience and the talent to beat up on the Pacers.
Just 30 minutes after the Celtics and Pacers tipped off, the Bruins skated against the Penguins. Earlier in the week, the B’s blanked a banged-up Penguins team in Boston, and even though Evgeni Malkin was back in Pittsburgh’s lineup, a repeat wasn’t out of the question.
Saturday night then took a drastic turn for the worse. The Celtics could not play defense, and despite putting up 104 points, they lost 113-104. Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins and Doc Rivers were all assessed technical fouls, and Celtics fans were left wondering what had just happened. Just like that, the Celtics — who were picked by many to flirt with the Bulls’ 72-10 record for the best in NBA history — had dropped two in a row to non-elite teams.
Most sports fans in Boston switched over to the Bruins game once the C’s had gone down, hoping for a quick remedy. The news there was promising before the Penguins took a 4-3 lead nine minutes into the third period. The Bruins fought back to take a 5-4 lead, and for the second time in a week, the Bruins had beaten the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Or so we thought.
Daniel Paille cycled a puck up the boards for no reason in the game’s final 30 seconds, Patrice Bergeron‘s stick snapped on a shot attempt on an empty net, and the Penguins broke out on a 3-on-2. Former Bruin Bill Guerin picked the top corner with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to tie the game, and the Penguins won in overtime.
At least New Englanders had the Patriots on Sunday night to ease the pain. In the middle of the third quarter, it looked like the rout was on. Then Laurence Maroney fumbled in the end zone and the Patriots coughed up a 17-point lead, losing on a last-minute touchdown from Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne.
It was as bad a weekend as there could have been in Boston sports. Though the stakes weren’t high in the sense that the seasons of the Bruins, Celtics and Patriots still have a long way to go, the effect was devastating. There was undoubtedly a lot of coffee sold on Monday morning and there were a lot of anytime minutes spent waiting on hold on talk radio stations. There were definitely more than a few sports-rage-meets-road-rage-induced beeps on car horns, and there might have been a lack of productivity through lunch hour and beyond in downtown Boston.
After such a horrific weekend, it’s hard to blame fans for feeling that way. And even though there’s reason for optimism for all three teams, it’s even harder to see the positives after that three-day stretch.
There is some good news to be had, however. The first step toward recovery will be taken by the Bruins on Monday night. Then the Celtics will host the Stephen Jackson-less Warriors (3-6) on Wednesday. They’ll then have a shot at redemption on Friday night at home against the Orlando Magic. Bruins fans will also get a chance to ogle Ilya Kovalchuk on Thursday night when the Bruins skate in Atlanta.
The week will culminate with a Jets visit to Foxborough, where you can rightfully expect the most inspired effort of the year from the Patriots. They just lost in excruciating fashion, and they’re still not over that early-season loss to the Jets.
Ideally, the Bruins, Celtics and Patriots will do their parts to lift a fan base that has been completely deflated in the span of 72 hours. If they do, the mid-November weekend will become nothing more than history. If they don’t, it may just be too much to take.