Let’s face it: New England sports fans have been wicked spoiled lately. Since 2002, the four major teams (the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins) have brought home four Super Bowl titles, three World Series titles, an NBA Championship, and the Stanley Cup between them. That’s nine titles overall, including all four titles in the span of seven years. For someone who was born after the glory days of the Celtics and Bruins, these are the titles I tend to focus on the most when it comes to Boston’s sports dominance, if only for the fact that I was a witness to all of them.
Of all these titles, I want to focus on my favorite today: The Red Sox’ 2013 World Series victory.
Now, at first glance, this might not seem like the most exciting pick for a “Favorite Championship.” I mean, to be fair, we’ve seen the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals on this stage once before. The matchups were interesting, but I don’t think anything could come close to matchups like Pedro Martinez vs. Albert Pujols. You could tell me that there are far more exciting championship moments to choose from, like Super Bowl XLIX or Game Seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, and I wouldn’t disagree.
But here’s the thing: The reason why this is my favorite Boston championship, sentimental as it may sound, is that it was won at a time when the city of Boston needed the Red Sox just as much as the Red Sox needed the city of Boston.
Ask any Red Sox fan about the first few years of the new decade, and you’ll likely be met with cringe. 2010 was a disappointing year for the Red Sox, but the end of 2011 and all of 2012 left their fans with an especially bad taste in their mouths. What was once considered a powerhouse lineup became a bunch of unlikable laughingstocks, with the hiring of Bobby Valentine in 2012 only making things worse.
Ask yourself this: Would you want to root for a baseball team with players that, amongst other things:
- Snacked on fried chicken and beer between innings?
- Played golf on days where they were scratched for injury purposes?
- Didn’t show up for the funeral of revered Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky?*
Probably not, right?
(*To be clear: David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Vicente Padilla and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were the only Red Sox players who attended Pesky’s funeral; everyone else attended a bowling event hosted by Josh Beckett on the same day.)
So, by the time 2013 came along, the Red Sox dumped their “star-power” in favor of more chemistry-oriented guys; players that didn’t necessarily put up huge numbers night to night, but were more well-known for positive influences in the clubhouse than anything else. It didn’t seem too exciting on paper, especially considering they didn’t have the numbers of someone like Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford. But unlike those two, signing these guys worked out that year.
Players like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes were additions that not only performed well enough, but made the Red Sox fun to watch again in the eyes of many fans. They were funny, stress-free, rocked some awesome beards, but most importantly, they were dedicated. And in more ways than one.
Everybody knows what happened in Boston in 2013: The bombings at the Boston Marathon’s finish line that killed eight, wounded several others, and left the entire city in shock. These Red Sox were doing well before that, but there was something about what happened that pushed their game to something beyond the concept of “Next Level.” It felt like every win the Red Sox collected wasn’t just for them, but for the city. They helped the people of Boston take their minds off the bombings and near-statewide lockdown that occurred afterward, if only for a few nights and days at a time. And it all came together on this day three years ago at Fenway Park…which, by the way, hadn’t seen a title-clinching game in almost a century.
The moment that best-exemplifies the mentality of the 2013 Red Sox occurred during the team’s championship parade a few days after their last game. The parade stopped at the Boston Marathon’s finish line on Boylston St., where Gomes set the Commissioner’s Trophy down on the line and draped one of the team’s specially-made “Boston Strong” jerseys over it. This happened all before Ronan Tynan and the parade crowd broke out into a stirring rendition of “God Bless America.” It’s a moment that shows how this team, players and management alike, accomplished all that they did for Boston after that week in April, both those that were lost, and those still on the mend.
2004’s Red Sox squad will always be held in high regard as the dawning of a new age in team history, a turning point for a franchise that had to share the moniker of “Lovable Losers” with the Chicago Cubs for the longest time. Nobody’s going to argue that notion, and I’m not going to be the first. At the same time, even if the 2013 team didn’t have to claw back from impossible odds to win it all like their ’04 and ‘07 predecessors did, what they managed to accomplish was still pretty spectacular. They redeemed themselves in the eyes of their fans, and helped those same fans heal from tragedy in the process.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d say that’s more than worthy of a #1 spot.
‘Til we meet again,