By Adrian Dater
As a New England native, I’ll confess: Being a part of the woe-is-me, somebody-up-there-hates-us Boston sports fan lament isn’t fun. Babe Ruth, Johnny Pesky, Too-Many-Men-On-The-Ice, Desmond Howard, Bucky “Bleeping” Dent — it all got to be too much, even for me.
If not for that miracle Patriots Super Bowl win in 2001, that even more unbelievable Red Sox comeback over the Yankees in 2004 and the Celtics’ win over the Lakers in 2008, this column would likely be one long cry for sympathy — and that cry would be necessary after Monday night’s Beantown Meltdown by the Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago.
Pre-2001, when the tuck rule saved the Patriots, and pre-2004, when Tony Clark’s ground-rule double proved to be a lucky bounce for the Red Sox and Dave Roberts was safe by an inch, Monday’s Cup collapse would have ranked among the top Boston gag jobs of all time. A 2-1 lead, the opposing goaltender pulled, the crowd on its happy feet, less than two minutes left. Game over, let’s go to Chicago for Game 7.
But before fans could say “Petr Klima!” the game was over. The Stanley Cup was on the ice, guys in white shirts held it over their heads and Bruins fans could only stand there, many looking like they’d just seen the Babe’s ghost.
Once upon a time, this kind of result would have made people like me cry pathetic tears. But those old ghosts were exorcised a while ago. The Bs, Cs, Pats and Sawx have all won championships since 2001. Nobody needs to feel sorry for the Boston sports fan anymore.
But the real reason not even the most navel-gazing of Boston sports fans will lapse into such silliness any more, of course, is April 15. The tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing united a sports town and reminded everyone in Boston and beyond to focus on what matters and stop sweating the small stuff.
I no longer live in New England, but my many family members and friends who do say the events of April 15 may have finally put sports in its proper perspective. For Bostonians, there was nothing to feel bad about after Game 6. Twenty-eight other NHL fan bases would have loved to trade places with the Bruins. It was a great Final, with every game a seat-squirmer.
To their credit, Bruins fans immediately showed they got it when the final horn sounded. A chant of “Let’s Go Bruins” filled the humid summer Garden air. Respectful applause greeted the Blackhawks and their accomplishment. Even Gary Bettman wasn’t really booed too badly. Yeah, it was there, but he’s Gary Bettman; of course he’s going to get booed.
The truth is that everyone in Boston standing upright, everyone who was able to roar with each bounce of the puck on Monday night, was lucky.
In that sense, it’s no longer about winning or losing in Boston. It’s about strength of spirit and finishing the race.