Being a sports fan in Boston has been wildly rewarding over the last decade, but right now, not a lot is going right for the local sports teams and fans.
I typically reserve Sunday mornings for the Powerless Rankings, where the five worst teams, individuals, fans, cities – whatever you can think of – of the week get their due. This week, however, this will be no rankings. There will be no list. Instead, there is just one entry, and a writer in Boston who needs to vent a little bit.
Forget numbers five through two; the worst week in sports this week belongs singularly to Boston sports fans.
Look, I know nobody wants to hear a Boston sports fan complain. Over the last decade-plus, and for the better part of my sports fandom, Boston sports fans have had it pretty easy. Our teams have been mostly competitive every season, we’ve won more titles than any city’s fair share should dictate, and things have been generally pretty good. Hell, we even have the defending NFL champions. So, what could we all be so upset about? Let’s see…
Let’s start with those Super Bowl champions. Malcolm Butler’s title-winning interception capped off another magical season for the Patriots, and got the region’s most beloved athlete and coach another title and a fourth ring in 15 seasons. Yet even that win – the only team in the region that has fans excited at the moment – comes with a caveat.
We here in Boston have enjoyed that Super Bowl quite a bit, but some of the luster has been removed with the subsequent circus sideshow that is DeflateGate, the ensuing reporting and punishments, and Tom Brady’s current appeal of a four-game suspension that would theoretically take him out of the season’s first month and, perhaps, the team’s season-opening banner celebration. You can’t go more than five minutes of NFL coverage without being reminded that even after the team’s best finish since 2004, there is controversy, however ridiculous it may be.
Still, even with the doubt surrounding the Patriots right now, things could be worse; just ask any other team in the city. Let’s move on to the Celtics and Bruins, two teams whose futures took similar hits this weekend. With both the NBA and NHL drafts this week, the Celtics and Bruins recognized a need to plan ahead for the future and get back to a point where competing for championships is a reality, a season after the Celtics were swept out of the first round of the playoffs and the Bruins failed to make it even that far.
Both fan bases were excited for the potential moves draft week had in store, and both came out of the week bitterly disappointed. For the Celtics, it was a lack of moves. Despite GM Danny Ainge vowing to do anything he could to move up in the draft, and offering several reported deals to other teams to try to do it, the Celtics ended up drafting in the spots they were given, taking their chances with the crapshoot that is the NBA draft. The team left draft week in no appreciably better shape than it began it, to the dismay of just about every fan of the team. Words like “disappointment,” “let down,” and “frustrated,” became the morning talk show mantra. Fans wondered not how well this current rebuild will go, but rather when it will resume. The team sat on its hands, whether by choice or by force, and failed to use the league’s premier transaction week to add pieces for the future.
At least they didn’t go the Bruins route, though. The local hockey team went trade crazy this week, to the point that both major deals the team made felt rushed and forced. Boston traded not only one of the league’s youngest budding stars in Dougie Hamilton, but also former fan favorite turned occasional headache Milan Lucic. While the pieces they removed were tough enough to swallow, the returns were even tougher; just some mid-first round draft picks and a prospect or two. Rival GMs have since noted their surprise with the deals, with the consensus being that the Bruins got fleeced, especially for Hamilton. When the league’s talking heads are trying – and failing – to figure out what the hell your team is doing on draft day, things aren’t going great.
Finally, in the one sport that’s actually playing games right now, the Red Sox are terrible, plain and simple. Seemingly on its way to a second straight last-place finish, Boston is playing below expectations, again, and the fans are getting tired of it. Despite an increased payroll and a flurry of offseason moves meant to give depth to their pitching and firepower to their offense, the Red Sox can’t hit or pitch much this season, and sits nine games out of first and seven back of their nearest competition in the American League East. Players are failing to perform to their standards, the manager is a sitting duck who almost certainly won’t return next season, and the team is, once again, looking at a summer of selling off pieces and meaningless August baseball.
Being a Boston sports fan has brought far more joy than frustration the last decade and a half, but right now, that frustration is beginning to catch up. The only good team in the region is, somehow, still stuck in the middle of a controversy. Our hockey and basketball teams are moving in the wrong direction, or not moving at all. Our baseball team is a mess. Yes, right now, the Boston sports landscape is in rough shape. And people like me – the fans – well, we’re powerless to stop it.