In our town our sporting cup runneth over these days. That is only as it should be. For we too are simply wonderful. You could look it up.
Clearly the potential of our region’s rampaging sporting boys is boundless. So too are the haughty airs of their rabid followers, the increasingly arrogant citizens of “Jock Nation” formerly known as “New England.”
How many times have you heard one of these freshly minted Red Sox or Patriots or Boston College supremacists use the term “we” when referencing the latest lopsided prance of their pets? The identification of the local citizenry with their ball clubs has become astonishingly intense. How much they do love a winner. And to think; they might have been born and raised in Cleveland.
It’s a form of Nationalism, of course. Made the more palatable because kicking the stuffing out of an inferior opponent on a gridiron is much less messy than rolling your panzer divisions over the Lowlands on a given weekend in the fall. Still, it’s a form of worshipping false idols mindlessly while the anthems play and the pennants fly. My ball club right or wrong! Sis-boom-bah. Strike up the band!
The Red Sox have already cashed in their chips and settled on Olympus, nor is the glory of their achievement even slightly tainted by the fact that the resistance of the Colorado Rockies was the most pathetic showing in the history of the World Series.
There’s the slight technicality of there being another three months to go in the NFL season and that’s an eternity in this “what have you done for me lately” game of triage. Nonetheless the Patriots are happily seen as an utter lock after smacking the upstart Colts. Nor does the fact that they have become the most despised team in the game led by a coach who is genuinely loathed everywhere else in the Republic even begin to diminish the sheer joy of it all.
Now there are the Celtics. Two games deep into a regular season that will last another six months, their revived legions -- who are known to be insufferable when aroused -- are claiming a seat at the table of the NBA Finals. So what if their mainstays average 31 years of age in a league that averages six to seven years younger.
We should be grateful, one supposes, for Boston College’s lapse, which restores a soupcon of common sense to this turgid scene. We could never wish ill upon the Eagles. (Never!) But there was something merciful about the loss to Bobby Bowden’s penal colony, which ends the spurious chatter about a national championship. It will be a cold day in hell when such a dubious achievement -- which can only by accomplished by flaunting every ethical guideline in the book -- comes to New England where the Hub continues to smugly regard itself as, “the Athens of America.” And that’s the way it should be and must remain. But take heart, Eagles Nation. The Gator Bowl is still within your sights. You’ll just love Jacksonville in January.
It should also be noted that the Bruins have a winning record and reasonably improving hopes, which would be pleasing if you lived in a normal town like, say, Pittsburgh or even Toronto. But no one in this town cares about the Bruins anymore. It’s an attitude that has become fashionable and strictly enforced.
There must always be a goat. How else could the citizens stand about beating their breast and muttering, “Thank you, Lord, for making me a Patriots fan so that I am not like that sinner over there who follows the -- ugh -- Bruins.” And so it goes.
Talk of “dynasty” is much in vogue. The Globe jumped on the point the day the Nation celebrated their all-conquering baseball team with a bellicose romp through the streets that had everything but captured elephants, Nubian slaves, and a soothsayer waving a fan and whispering into the ear of Manny Ramirez, “sic transit gloria mundi.”
Being ahead of the curve on these matters has become something of an obsession for the Globe, whose columnists ran out of adverbs to adequately proclaim their allegiance to the Red Sox back in July. It is the Globe’s stated position that Theo Epstein and his minions are smart enough and sufficiently steeped in wherewithal to run the table for the next 86 years, or something giddy like that.
You would think they would learn. Dynasties can never be adequately predicted and should never be touted before they are done. Seven seasons ago the latest Yankees wagon was acclaimed as “dynastic” after winning four rings in five years. Wrong! You have to consistently win over the course of a full generation; dominate over at least a full decade, and you can’t take seven years off between titles.
There have been only three true dynasties in the history of North American professional sport. (Colleges don’t count in this conversation, says I.) In basketball there were the Red Auerbach Celtics (1956-69). In hockey, the Flying Frenchmen of Montreal (1953-79) and in baseball, above all there were the Yankees (1921-64) who dominated all five decades of their eminence, something no team has come close to matching at any time, anywhere. You want to talk about your Red Sox in this context, Bunky? Check back with us in the year 2047.
Interestingly, there have been no pro football teams who could remotely lay claim to dynastic status and none who have come close to the measure of the Celts, Habs and Yanks. That has everything to do with the nature of football. With the game’s savagery, intensity and fierce attrition, even the greatest teams don’t hold up. Because they can’t hold up. How many who excelled on their first championship team are still around as the Patriots chase their fourth, just six seasons later? The name of the game -- one repeats for necessary emphasis -- is triage. Is that the essence of its charm? Or it’s gravest failing? I have never quite been able to make up my mind.
For all these reasons, some amend the definition of “dynasty” in pro-football to a shorter period of supremacy; something less than a decade while encompassing at least four titles. Under this yardstick, there’s a small and highly select group of wannabe’s: The pre-war, Chicago Bear called “The Monsters of the Midway.” The post-war Cleveland Browns of Paul Brown. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers of the ’60s. The Steel Curtain Pittsburgh Steelers of the late ‘70s. The Bill Walsh-Joe Montana San Francisco 49ers of the ’80s. That’s it. You’ll get arguments on behalf of others -- Curley Lambeau’s Packers of pre-historic times, the Dolphins of the early ’70s, the Cowboys of the ’90s, maybe a couple of others -- but they don’t hold up. The ranks are thin. Few are called and fewer still chosen.
If they go all the way this season -- a fait accompli in the feverish mind of their adoring nation -- the Patriots surely join the short list of the NFL’s near-dynasties with Boss Bill Belichick stepping up to the rarified ranks of Lombardi, Walsh, Brown, Noll and Halas. Heady stuff! Does this account for Belichick’s growing petulance and narrowing focus, odd even by his weird standards? This driven fellow is a complex bundle of Freudian delights, which explains why he is what he is and where he is on the historical scale.
Might he make it easier on himself and his team if he were not such a bloodless zealot? It’s a good question destined never to be answered. But here’s betting a bob that when all’s said and done he won’t be undefeated this season. And he won’t win the Super Bowl, either. Call it a hunch.