Title Town, Mass. Boston Reigns Supreme

Five Titles Between the Red Sox and Patriots Cement New England’s Dominance in 21st Century


Published: January 31, 2008

At the dawn of the 21st century, to talk of New England teams in championships was to catalog decades of defeat and frustration. Not since the Celtics claimed the 1985-86 NBA title had a Boston team reigned supreme, and the losses that followed were often heart-breaking (Buckner!).

Boston fans have been able to collectively step away from the ledge in the new millennium, however. Thanks to a collection of creative owners, smart (retrospectively) bets by the various front offices and yes, luck, Boston teams have won five championships this decade: 2004 and 2007 belonged to the Sox, while 2001, 2004 and 2005 were banner years for the Pats (they’re also playing in a little game this weekend). And this might just be bragging, but the New England Revolution have appeared in four MLS Cups too.

These have been exciting times for Bay Staters. Red Sox executives John Henry and Larry Lucchino have revitalized the Old Towne Team, transforming Fenway into a modern baseball complex that far surpasses Ruth’s crumbling house (nostalgia be damned). Their appointment of Theo Epstein, boy wonder, as general manager highlighted the more proactive attitude of the new ownership and led to key acquisitions both obvious (pitcher Curt Schilling) and heavily doubted (third baseman Mike Lowell).

Just down 495 in Foxboro, Mass., Patriots owner Bob Kraft has built a dynasty. Landing Bill Belichick for the head coaching job was the single best decision a New England franchise has made in the last 20 years (except maybe the Whalers leaving Hartford, Conn., for the Carolinas), and his construction of Gillette Stadium coupled with his team’s performance has challenged the Sox’s monopoly on fans’ attention. Granted, when stalwart quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down in 2001 and the Pats were stuck with some sixth-round pick named Tom Brady leading the team it was just luck, but I have no problem admitting it.

The notion of Boston as a two-town team was crazy enough when the Patriots started winning, but now there’s a third team worth watching. The Celtics were a joke last season at 24-58, and it seemed falling to the fifth spot in the Lottery Draft was cruel luck, but Danny Ainge, Director of Basketball Operations, overhauled the team to the point of dominance in the off-season.

But alas Boston fans, with great power comes great responsibility. No longer may we envy the payroll of the Evil Empire or complain about the ire drawn by Belichick. Truth is, the Red Sox bought themselves a World Series. They spent north of $100 million alone just to lure Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Fens. Does this mean you should feel dirty while celebrating after beating the “unstoppable” Rockies like red-headed stepchildren? Hell, no. And there really is a lot to hate about Coach Belichick, with his smugness towards the media and sleeveless grey hoodies. But for three (maybe four) rings in seven years, I’ll drink the big, happy team Kool-Aid, too.

It’s far too early to start proclaiming Boston as the center of the sports universe, just as its too early to start making room in the Patriots’ award case for a fourth Lombardi Trophy. But Boston started this decade as the underdog. Now things have changed. On second