There is nothing more depressing as a sports fan than seeing the local teams lose as the weather starts to get colder. Winter is coming. Summer is dying and so are championship dreams. If the baseball team loses, and the football team loses, the playoffs for basketball and hockey feel a million miles away, as winter will have come and gone by then, but the snow is right around the corner.
This dreary sense of doom was felt all around Massachusetts today…twice. In the afternoon, the Patriots fell behind against the formidable New Orleans Saints, only for Tom Brady to spin a little bit of Tom Brady magic in the final seconds of the game with a touchdown pass to undrafted rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. Finally Brady seemed to be on the same page with his receivers. Things started to click just when they needed him to win the game for them. That was pretty cool. How could the Red Sox possibly top that?
Later tonight, the Red Sox appeared to be halfway down the path of getting swept out of the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers. Detroit’s starting pitcher (and 2013 Cy Young Award frontrunner) Max Scherzer looked unhittable and the Tigers’ bats were getting it done. This season was a good turnaround, and I felt a lot better about the future of the Red Sox than I did this time last year, but maybe they’re not really ready for prime time. The Motor City Kitties seemed poised to sweep the American League Championship Series and get back to the World Series for the second straight year, and the Red Sox were just another bearded victim along the way. Things changed in the 8th inning, when the Red Sox loaded the bases and David Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box down 5-1. Ortiz turned the clocks back to 2004, and with one swing of the bat, one crash into the Sox’ bullpen by Torii Hunter, and one celebration by the bullpen policeman, the game was tied. It was amazing, but haven’t we seen this before? Ho hum. No big deal.
For over a decade, Tom Brady and David Ortiz have been making these kinds of plays look routine. They are the most senior members of their respective teams and their arrival in Boston is largely responsible for ending the championship drought that had plagued the city since the Celtics rolled over all competition in 1986 (and plagued the Sox and Pats for much, much longer), and establishing a culture of winning that no city has ever sustained as long as Boston has. If they had failed to convert today, it would not have tarnished their legacies, but doing so again just adds to their legendary status in Boston and in their respective sports. For Brady, this further cements his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. For Ortiz, it makes the argument for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame even stronger than it was before.
This is what is great about being a sports fan. Just when you think it’s over, it’s not. Sometimes having an unhealthy obsession with grown men who get paid millions of dollars to play a kid’s game pays off and feels really good. Sometimes you walk away from the TV not believing what you just saw, and sometimes you feel that exact same sensation twice in the same day. It’s amazing.
More and more, it’s feeling like 2003 and 2004 again. Those were good times. The Sox and Pats were likable and were able to win in different ways. David Ortiz and Tom Brady are the holdovers from that era while guys like Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Tedy Bruschi, and Rodney Harrison have traded in their uniforms for seats in the broadcast booth. There’s still a long way to go, but this is a day I will not soon forget.