Since the turn of the century Boston has seen the Red Sox win two World Series, the Patriots three out of four Super Bowls, the Bruins the Stanley Cup after 39 years, the Celtics one NBA crown and a couple of bad calls from a second.
Two weeks into 2012 the Patriots are the number one seed in the AFC and the Bruins are tearing the NHL apart, a high scoring machine with two great goalies.
Unprecedented success that can’t last much longer and should be savored and enjoyed before Tom Brady ages into late 1990’s Dan Marino, Tim Thomas’ reflexes slow, Dustin Pedoria hustles himself into early retirement, and . . . .
It’s not, of course. Enjoyed. Appreciated occasionally, enjoyed, definitely not. Not to judge by the Boston media – the same media that began to stew about the Bruins chances of repeating before the parade was over and went into full “they-enjoyed-the-cup-too-much, are-spoiled-fat-and-complacent” mode after their brutal October (25-4 since, duly noted but always, however subtle, with a hint of, ‘what a record they’d have it not for…..’).
There was gleeful distress over the Red Sox epic September collapse; today there are mournful odes to the Celtic’s lost youth nine games into the shortened season. Through the Patriots eight game winning streak to end the season scant attention was given to the wins, all the focus was on their porous defense – to the point where the uninitiated hearing the relentless drivel and blind to the standings could only assume they had finished below the Jets (no worse fate north of Hartford).
Which is to say that there is nothing Boston fans enjoy more than epic sports disasters and human frailty in the public eye on the scale of Greek tragedy – Oedipus would have been comfortable on the ’78 Sox. Generations of New Englanders have basked in the tragic aftermaths of Aparicio slipping around third, Bucky F*ing Dent, Sugar Bear Hamilton’s phantom hit on Ken Stabler, ‘Too many men on the ice’ (too often overlooked in the Pantheon of Spectacular disappointment), poor Bill Buckner (blame Stanley), Aaron Boone, dozens more.
Note that the Celtics are immune, they either win or lose, no gut wrenching defeats snatched from the jaws of victory for them. No amazing gaffe at the buzzer, disastrous mind-boggling foul, passing the ball to the other team, calling a time out you do not have. Just win, or lose. On the emotional scale of Boston teams, then, the Celtics are a very distant fourth – they have not made us suffer enough.
Over the past month it has become more apparent everyday that Boston fans are, like certain medieval religious orders, much more comfortable, if not happy, in misery than elation. Since the first Patriot Super Bowl win, Boston fans have had to be satisfied with self-flagellation only, the cosmos has been good to them (too good) and they have had to find solace in mere tweaks in the time-space continuum – the helmet catch, Papelbon’s last pitch, the 2010 Bruins-Flyer series.
But now the planets have aligned and the Boston media and fans are reacting before the fact, geared up and covertly hoping for disaster like Millennialists before a dead on asteroid. In this case Earth is the Patriots, the asteroid Tim Tebow. A loss to the Broncos tomorrow night in sub-zero temperatures – particularly via another Tebow I-am-a-really-lousy-quarterback-until-the-fourth-quarter miracle.
They are primed, focused with an intensity that would be world-changing if only harnessed for the good of mankind. The conversation this week has veered precipitously from analysis of the game to in-depth discussions of the hit to Tom Brady’s legacy should ‘he’ lose . . . along with the removal of Bill Belichek’s genius tag.
It’s Tom Tebow who brings this atmosphere to what should really be another division round blowout. His fast growing born-again, evangelical cult status has completely infused the build up to the game and inspired hopeful fear in the heart of die-hard New Englanders suffering a surfeit of guilt over the undoubtedly undeserved successes of the 21st Century.
Hawthorne and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. wrote extensively on the subject of original sin, New England’s Calvinistic foundations, hypocrisy, the need for punishment, fear of happiness. At the time of its publication in 1859 (serialized in The Atlantic, the mid-nineteen hundred’s version of the e-book) Elsie Veneer was considered to have devastated those Calvinistic underpinnings.
Dr. Holmes would be the first to recognize the symptoms currently on display 24/7 in the Boston media, particularly WEEI, et. al. I think he would shake his head while the realization that 150 years after his son fought the Civil War on his way to the Supreme Court, not all that much has changed in his hometown except the venue.
[N.B. as far as the game goes, I am not interested in wallowing, I’ll be cheering for God’s Nephew].