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Bob Ryan

Enjoy this state of euphoria

Email|Print| Text size + By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / December 26, 2007

Are we the reverse Tevyes?

Apparently so. It appears that allowing the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics to shower the sports fans of New England with victory after victory - with one championship secured, another very likely to follow, and a third now a reasonable goal - does not spoil any vast eternal plan whatsoever.

The State of Our Teams is embarrassingly good. The worst you can say about any of them is that it's not too bad. At the top end, the Red Sox and Patriots are organizations other teams aspire to be, while the Celtics are the talk of the NBA following Danny Ainge's bold offseason maneuvering. The Bruins are once again competitive. And there aren't many MLS franchises more stable than the Revolution.

Why?

Why us?

Why, of all the areas in this great land of ours, has this one been so phenomenally blessed with superior professional sports teams? Are we that virtuous? Are we that lovable? Are we that deserving? Are we that worthy?

There is no answer. This will go down as one of life's greatest mysteries. It just is. And my advice to one and all is to enjoy it, to embrace it, and to savor it with every sports-loving fiber of your body. It is all, of course, temporary.

This is it, I tell you. Sports life will never again be as consistently rewarding as this. These are the good old days.

Go forth, my friends, and gloat.

As always, we discuss the teams in alphabetical order.

1. BRUINS

There are lots of indicators to illustrate just how much better the Bruins' situation is than it was at this time last year. But start with this: Last season, they finished with 76 points. Right now they have 40.

But it's more than that. Under Claude Julien, they have demonstrated some, well, spunk. They came home from the annual season-opening killer road trip with three W's and 6 points, when most everyone figured they'd be lucky to come home with 2 points, maybe 3. And they have shown an admirable ability to bounce back immediately from messy losses.

Check out these back-to-back examples:

Montreal 6, Bruins 1/Bruins 3, Chicago 1. Montreal 7, Bruins 4/Bruins 4, Toronto 2. Tampa Bay 4, Bruins 1/Bruins 3, Islanders 1. New Jersey 3, Bruins 1/Bruins 2, Columbus 0.

You know what else I like? They are far from helpless on the road. It really doesn't seem to matter much where they play. If they're going to be good, they're going to be good.

But enough already with the current burst of home generosity. A few more L's at home and I'm taking it all back.

Yes, they're a bit on the, er, trappy side. But, hey, as far as entertainment is concerned, there's always the artistry of Marc Savard, eh? The goaltending of first Tim Thomas and now Alex Auld has been more than adequate, and Tuukka Rask gives them a real future in the nets.

The Celtics are getting the winter attention, and deservedly so. But the Bruins are over there in the corner saying, "Hey, don't forget about us."

So don't.

2. CELTICS

You figured they would score. But where has this defense come from?

Is it all Kevin Garnett? Is it 75 percent Kevin Garnett and 25 percent Tom Thibodeau? It almost defies reason, whatever it is.

I'm fessin' up. I never really thought about defense all that much with regard to KG. My very bad. What Ainge has brought into the mix is a 7-footer who was first-team All-Defense six straight years before falling to the second team the last two years. As we head to the New Year, you can book him back to the 2007-08 first team. In fact, you can make him a serious candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

Garnett is the control tower of the team's defense. He is not just doing his job, and doing it well. He is insisting that everyone else do his. I'm sure Thibodeau's schemes have something to do with it. But this astonishing Celtics defensive display is primarily about Garnett and his effect on an entire team's mind-set.

Good Lord, the Celtics are 22-3. You're going to hear a lot about how they've yet to go West and the alleged cushiness of their November and December schedules, but don't worry. What it comes down to is that they have 11 marquee road games left:

Utah, Lakers, Detroit, Orlando, Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. Say they win four. Say three. We're not exactly talking catastrophe. At that rate, they're winning between 60 and 65.

Keep your May open for sure, and don't book anything stupid for June, either; you know what I'm saying?

3. PATRIOTS

You might as well get ready, just in case. History will not be kind to the Patriots if they go 16-0 and fail to win the Super Bowl.

Too bad. They're going for it. You telling me they want to lose to the Giants?

What's happening to them, and around them, is very predictable. They weren't going to keep annihilating everyone. They weren't going to keep averaging 40. Somebody would get close and the fear factor would subside. Other teams would get better. The gap would close. And it has.

They could - I said could - lose to the Jaguars or the Chargers in a rematch or even, I suppose, to the Steelers. You'd have to be pretty stupid not to realize they could lose to the Colts. But when you're 16 and 0, you get the precious bye and you get a pair of home games, so, yes, I expect to see them in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 3.

What's fascinating, however, is that there is still an upside, especially on defense. They got through the first 13 games without Richard Seymour being Richard Seymour. They only occasionally saw the real Adalius Thomas. I truly believe we have not seen their best defense.

They're now 97-26, playoffs included, since Tom Brady was installed as starting quarterback in Week 3 of the 2001 season. They've won three Super Bowls and we expect them to add a fourth. It's like some rich uncle died and the inheritance money just keeps coming and coming.

4. RED SOX

Every game is sold out. Every spring training game is sold out. The mayor basically gave them a city street so they can make more money before every game. A so-so Neil Diamond song with embarrassingly banal lyrics is the unofficial team anthem. A former Globe All-Scholastic second baseman-turned-broadcaster is a bigger star than all but a handful of megastar players.

They can spend $52 million just to talk to a Japanese pitcher and we don't think there is anything odd about it. They will open a season in Tokyo. They put glorified bleacher seats on the left field wall and they can't charge too much for them. The ballpark is the scene of weddings, bar mitzvahs (I'm just guessing), and God-knows-what-else every night of the year when there isn't a ballgame.

Oh, and they've won it all twice in four years.

These aren't Ted's Red Sox, or Joe Cronin's, or Sammy White's, or Pumpsie Green's, or Tony C's, or Monbo's, or Yaz's, or Dick Williams's, or Lonborg's, or Looie-Looie's, or Pudge's, or Jim Rice's, or Roger's, or Mo Vaughn's. No, no, no. Most of all, these aren't Tom Yawkey's Boston Red Sox.

These are John Henry's Red Sox. And Tom Werner's. And Larry Lucchino's. And Mike Dee's. And Janet Marie Smith's. And Theo's. And all those Little Theos'. And Tito's. And Remdog's. And Papi's. And Manny's. And Josh's. And Papelbon's. And Lowell's. And Dice-K's. And Youk's. And Dustin's. And Wake's (never forget Wake won 17). And, of course, Mr. 38 Pitches'.

The Red Sox have found the 21st century formula in the early 20th century ballpark. They have gone where previous management couldn't even imagine going, finding a way to squeeze every conceivable penny out of a ballpark that is now approaching a 100th birthday. Running the baseball operation is a kid from Brookline High! How cool is that?

It's all hard to digest. But you want to know what's the best part?

Those of us who come to the park on a regular basis get to say hello to Johnny Pesky. Thank God, they're still his Red Sox.

5. REVOLUTION

Yes, they lost in the championship game for the third straight year, and fourth in six, but, come on now. Isn't it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

The Revs are a model of MLS stability. They're entrenched. They keep chipping away, building things up, fan by fan. They are an MLS original, and they stand for something.

They have a core of veteran players who have grown together: Taylor Twellman, Shalrie Joseph, Joe Franchino, Pat Noonan, Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps, and Matt Reis have all played at least four years here. And now comes 2007 MLS Defender of the Year Michael Parkhurst, who, believe it or not, grew up as a Revs fan in Cranston, R.I., and attended their first game back in 1996.

And they have a superb coach in Steve Nicol, who has provided enormous stability for a franchise that ran through four coaches in its first six years of existence (not including Nicol himself, a two-game interim mentor in '99) before securing the services of this renowned British stalwart in 2002.

Are they ever going to be the Sawx, Pats, Celtics, or Bruins around here? No, and they know it. But someday in the not-too-distant future, they'll become the latest MLS club to have its own soccer-only stadium and they will continue their steady growth. They are part of our sporting landscape. They're not going anywhere.

Oh, and as far as those painful losses in the MLS Cup are concerned, they'd prefer not to be known as the Buffalo Bills of MLS if you don't mind. They prefer to be seen as the Brooklyn Dodgers, a long-frustrated team whose Next Year finally did materialize.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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