The New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl on my 20th birthday. Until then, I had not witnessed a Boston sports championship in my entire life. Larry Bird’s Celtics won a couple prior to my fifth birthday, but I obviously had no recollection of them.

February 3rd, 2002 marked the beginning of two decades of sports dominance that no city has ever witnessed before. No city may ever take home 12 major American pro sports titles in a 16-year period ever again, and I am beyond lucky that I got to witness that run of unprecedented success during my prime years as a sports fan.

The decade-and-a-half of dominance began when I was a sophomore in college, with very few responsibilities in life beyond figuring out how to pay my considerable sports bar tabs. It culminated as my kids grew out of diapers, when making time to follow sports year-round became impossible. In other words, championship games and celebratory parades were the background music throughout the entirety of my young adult years.

Being a baseball/football guy, the four Red Sox and six Patriots championships meant far more to me than the single token banners the Celtics and Bruins each managed to bring home. However, each Boston championship of the era held great significance in its own right. Be it for for the miraculous season the team put together that year, the legendary championship games that clinched the title, the larger than life players that led the way, or the circumstances surrounding the city or country at the time, each of those twelve championships hold a place of honor in my heart and memory.

The incredibly difficult part here is narrowing the dozen Boston championships I enjoyed from 2001 – 2018 into a Starting Nine. Too bad there aren’t 12 guys in a big league lineup.

Here is my Starting Nine of Boston professional sports championships.

 

1. 2007 World Series

Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis became the chief dirt dogs, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz became Boston icons, Jon Lester began his path to greatness, Curt Schilling rounded out his own, and Jonathan Papelbon got his fifteen minutes. This season legitimized Fenway Sports Group as more than some rich entity that could spend big bucks to put a team over the top. In 2007, Theo Epstein’s mixed bag of expensive veterans (Manny, Papi, Schilling, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, J.D. Drew) and homegrown upstarts (Pedroia, Youkilis, Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz) led the American League East from wire to wire. After falling behind 3-1 in the ALCS, this juggernaut Red Sox team engineered yet another dramatic ALCS comeback victory en route to sweeping yet another inferior National League team under the rug.

 

2. Super Bowl XXXVIII

Pound-for-pound, this may be the greatest Super Bowl I’ve ever seen. No points were scored in the first or third quarters, but the second and fourth were both relentless shootouts. Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme matched each other up and down the field in the fourth quarter like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Defensive end Mike Vrabel’s first Super Bowl touchdown catch followed by Kevin Faulk’s direct snap dash to the goal line remains one of the signature sequences in Patriots history, and the sports gods repaid us for Bill Buckner’s error in 1986 with John Kasay’s boot out of bounds. The obligatory Adam Vinatieri game-winner was just academic, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick became legends.

 

3. 2004 World Series

My best player always hits third, so the defining Boston sports championship must go here. As tense as it got at times, everything about this magical season occurred exactly as it should have happened. Adding Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke in the preseason, the underwhelming first half, the Watershed Game, trading Nomar a few days later, the torrid August march to the playoffs, the soul-crushing first three games of the ALCS against the Evil Empire, and the eight-game warpath to glory each played out in the most perfect chain of events imaginable to achieve sheer dramatic perfection. If it was a fictional story, nobody would have ever believed it to be possible. But it all happened. The death of the 86-year Curse of the Bambino is the greatest sports story ever told.

 

4. Super Bowl XXXVI

The beginning of the era of Boston dominance resides in the cleanup spot. I was so used to watching Boston teams come up just a bit short that in a lot of ways, I was completely unprepared for the Patriots’ first Super Bowl victory. They were such underdogs all season, especially after Drew Bledsoe went down, that the very idea of them winning it all seemed like a ridiculous pipe dream. Even after they earned the #2 seed going into the playoffs, I was really just enjoying the ride more than hoping for a title. Along came Tom Brady, who managed game after game to victory after victory. Thanks to a little help from an obscure tuck rule in the Snow Game and a lot of help from Troy Brown in the AFC Championship Game, the improbable run simply didn’t end. A stalwart Patriots defense locked down the Greatest Show on Turf, and the Brady-Vinatieri combination sealed the deal for the first of six red, white, and blue confetti showers.

 

5. 2018 World Series

It was the greatest season in the history of Red Sox baseball. 108 wins, 11-3 in the postseason, undoubtedly the best team in baseball all year. We got the last ounces of greatness from Chris Sale and David Price, the first hint of greatness from Rafael Devers, an MVP season from Mookie Betts, daily hitting clinics from J.D. Martinez, and invaluable contributions from Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez, ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr, and World Series MVP Steve Pearce. This team had no setup man and a closer who forgot how to throw strikes in October, yet they still moonwalked their way to a championship. Dave Dombrowski put together one of the five greatest baseball teams the world has ever seen. It’s just every move he made after the parade that I detest him for.

 

6. Super Bowl XLIX

This was my favorite Super Bowl considering the degree of difficulty, the implications of the victory, and the sheer unlikability of the opponent. I found the Seattle Seahawks to be insufferable. Russel Wilson was the Derek Jeter of the NFL, a good enough player that always caught every break imaginable. And Richard Sherman was the most intolerable Richard on the planet. Brady was on point against a historic defense, throwing touchdown passes to four different receivers. Despite it all though, Seattle was still in position to win the game thanks to a 33-yard circus catch  from average nobody Jermaine Kearse, a clear byproduct of the horseshoe implanted inside Wilson’s rectal cavity. Luckily, Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll brain farted in the presence of the great Bill Belichick, opting to pass on the one-yard line instead of handing off to the beastly Marshawn Lynch. Enter Malcolm Butler, and exit the budding Seahawks dynasty that never was. The Patriots won their first Super Bowl in a decade and began an unprecedented second run of three titles, shutting the traps of legions of critics that had prematurely thought the game had passed Brady and Belichick by.

 

7. Super Bowl LI

How can a team possibly win a Super Bowl in which they trailed 28-3 with 2:12 left in the third quarter? I still wonder about that every time this game pops into my head. The Atlanta Falcons had a 99.8% chance to win at that point, according to the EPN Win Probability Chart. But instead of running out the clock, Atlanta Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan inexplicably continued to call pass plays that Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the rest of the Falcons offense could not convert. Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady was remarkable at the end (even for him), finishing the game 43 of 62 for 466 yards and two touchdowns. A game-changing strip sack from Dont’a Hightower, the greatest catch in Super Bowl history from Julian Edelman, and a record 14 catches from James White led to the first overtime in Super Bowl history and, ultimately, the greatest single-game comeback in professional sports history. On this day, Tom Brady became the greatest football player the world has ever or will ever see.

 

8. 2008 NBA Finals

The first modern day “Big 3” went 66-16 in the 2007-2008 season before barely sneaking past Celtics-killer Joe Johnson’s Atlanta Hawks and pre-South Beach Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in a pair of thrilling seven-game series. An aging Detroit Pistons squad went more quietly, but the Celtics had to go toe-to-toe with the Celtics’ arch enemies to secure their first title in 22 years. Kobe Bryant was still the best in the world at this point, but his Lakers ran into a green buzzsaw that would not be denied. History remembers Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Finals MVP Paul Pierce above all (and rightfully so), but James Posey, Eddie House, and Kendrick Perkins deserve a special place in the pantheon of great Boston role players for this season alone.

 

9. 2013 World Series

This championship is the perfect number-nine hitter because nobody ever expected anything from these Red Sox. This bridge-year team fronted by Jon Lester, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia was patched together with pieces of duct tape like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Stephen Drew. The Boston Marathon bombing lingered in Boston’s collective consciousness all season long, and Big Papi’s speech before the following game established the Red Sox as the ultimate flag bearers of the “Boston Strong” rallying cry. It’s the greatest proof I’ve ever seen of the transcendent power a fanbase can hold over the outcome of a baseball season. Fringe big leaguers like Daniel Nava played like stars, reserve scrubs like Jonny Gomes hit walk-off bombs, vindictive tool John Lackey pitched like an ace, “Koji” became the sweetest four-letter word in the English language, and Ortiz did what he always did.

 

By Luke

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