We began 2010 with an outdoor hockey game at Fenway Park. The Winter Classic was classic indeed, a mild winter’s day that saw the Bruins win in overtime. It was a day that reminded us that Boston truly is a great hockey town, ice and grit permanently mixed into its DNA.
Unfortunately for the B’s, it was the high point in a season that wouldn’t end for another four months. For the second straight year, Claude Julien’s boys were KO’d on home ice in Game 7. What could be worse than 2009, when the local hockey season ended in OT at home? How about a season that ended with a pair of blown 3-0 leads? Let’s hope we never find out what’s worse than that.
As we sit around with family and friends discussing New Year’s resolutions, let’s remember that what matters most is where you stand physically and mentally at the end of the year. And, in these waning hours of 2010, it’s hard to be in a much better position than our local sports teams.
It was a disappointing year for our boys of summer. The Red Sox missed the postseason for just the second time in eight years and ratings (both TV and radio) fell dramatically. All that was forgotten by December with the addition of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Bobby Jenks. That ole’ Theo Epstein Magic is back — somehow we’ll even give him credit for making sure Cliff Lee stayed out of the American League.
Christmas at Fenway was festive indeed … and, suddenly, that sellout streak doesn’t seem to be on life support anymore, does it?
Epstein is following the Danny Ainge blueprint to build a contender. The Celtics have been The Team to Beat in the East ever since Ainge engineered the trades to bring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to town. They are once again, but it’s no longer just the Big Three. Rajon Rondo is one of the best point guards in the game and Shaquille O’Neal has brought swagger and style to the parquet.
Forget about LeBron James and The Decision (perhaps the most embarrassing sports moment of 2010), the Celtics will be favored over the Heat this spring as long as KG hangs in there. Bring on the Lakers — it’s time for another bicoastal battle in June.
Watching Garnett go down this week reminds us of Wes Welker’s injury one year ago. In a meaningless game, on a play where Welker wasn’t touched, the wide receiver tore ligaments in his left knee on the final game of 2009. The injury ended his season and the Patriots’ hopes of playoff success. A week later, they were embarrassed on home turf by the Ravens.
Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? In fact, September feels like a long time ago. That’s when Laurence Maroney and Randy Moss were alongside Tom Brady in an offense that was going to have to overcome the youth and inexperience of the defense to get this team to the promised land. Now, Maroney and Moss are gone and the defense is holding its own, thank you very much. The Pats aren’t just the best team in the AFC going into the playoffs, they’re the best team in football. Anything short of a Super Bowl appearance is going to be a disappointment.
So we’ve got three championship contenders in our midst heading into 2011. Could we have four? The Bruins have been maddeningly inconsistent, yet they finish the year in first place. We know that doesn’t matter much — last year’s Eastern Conference Finals pitted the seventh and eighth seeds against one another — but the recent surge of seven points in the last four games is enough to quiet the critics who have called for Julien’s ouster.
All in all, there’s no better time to be a Boston sports fan. Yep, the rest of the country hates us once again … which is right where you want to be as we ring out the old and bring in the new.