Here in Boston, football season is over, and it ended much the way baseball season did: fast, brutally and unmercifully. That's the worst way to have to see a season come to an end, and over the past three months, we've seen it happen to two of New England's finest.
The Red Sox lost their first-round series to L.A. in three short games. They hit .158, managed just seven runs total, and the Angels walked all over them. Jonathan Papelbon let the Halos hammer the final nail into that coffin, watching as three runs crossed the plate in the ninth inning of Game 3. Talk about a bad time for a blown save.
For the Pats, it wasn't much better. The mystique of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady is slipping away — Brady gave the Patriots just 154 yards, two touchdowns, three picks and a fumble against the Ravens on Sunday.
The Pats are done now, just like the Sox, after suffering a quick and painful playoff exit. Now they'll be sitting at home watching the rest of the tournament from home.
Eight months ago, when the Celtics were knocked out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Red Sox became the only game in town. Now the Sox and Patriots are both done — and the C's aren't the only game left, but they're certainly the best.
The Bruins are in the hunt. They're going to be a playoff team again in 2010, and if they catch fire at the right time, they could turn some heads this spring. College basketball is always there when you need it, and college hockey has enjoyed a renaissance this past week with its arrival at frozen Fenway Park. And no one can ever get enough of Manny Pacquiao.
But at the moment, in Boston at least, the Celtics are top dogs. They're running away with the Atlantic Division, they're still very much in the hunt for the East's top seed despite a myriad of injuries, and they're pacing themselves for the inevitable deep playoff run coming up starting this April.
The Celtics are no doubt a legitimate playoff contender. And they're playing in a city that, quite frankly, could really use one.
Boston is a proud sports city. No one celebrates a winner better than the Hub — but unfortunately, no one takes a loss harder, either.
This town needs winners. You can feel it in the air when there's a championship to be won — there's an energy to this city that you just can't describe. And right now, Boston needs the Celtics to be that team.
We still remember when Beantown was Title Town. How could we not? It was just two years ago — the Red Sox were the champions, the Celtics were on their way, and the Patriots had just gone 16-0. It was a good time to be a Boston sports fan.
These things are fleeting. We've learned that the hard way.
But as fast as we've lost everything, there's always that possibility that it'll all come rushing back just as rapidly. And it all has to start with the men in green.
There will be pressure on the Celtics this spring to restore glory in Boston. They'll have the weight of countless rabid sports fans on their shoulders.
The Celtics have won before. This nucleus of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins knows how to get it done.
But now, with the rest of the city watching from home, winning would be extra special.
The Red Sox couldn't win the big one this fall, and the Patriots couldn't get it done in January. It's all up to the C's to defend Boston's honor.