Boston's "Decade of Dominance" died nearly alone late Wednesday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the age of 10 after a painful, year-long illness.
Decade had slipped into a irreversible coma in recent months. The official cause of death was the 82nd loss of the season for the Red Sox, guaranteeing them a sub-.500 season for the first time since 1997, ending a run of 20 straight winning seasons for Boston's sports teams and capping off a decade that saw the city's sports teams win seven championships. Decade was critically stricken last September, but managed to put on a valiant fight throughout the 2011 NFL season, up until the Super Bowl, and this spring's NBA playoffs.
After consecutive Super Bowl appearances that ended in last-two-minute losses to the Giants, the greatest regular-season collapse in September baseball history, back-to-back playoff losses at the hands of the Miami Heat, a first-round post-Stanley Cup playoff exit and the bottomless, catastrophic 2012 season of the Red Sox, Decade's tenacious fight to survive was simply overmatched.
Officials are investigating Decade's death. an official cause has yet to be determined and officials expect the autopsy to be completed sometime in the next 10 years. Among those suspected in Decade's death are: Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, Father Time, Bobby Valentine, LeBron James, the NHL lockout, the signings of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and John Lackey - and several who helped the Decade take shape, including John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner, Theo Epstein, Carmine and Josh Beckett.
Decade was born Jan. 19, 2002 on a snowy night at Foxboro Stadium. Nearly lost at birth, Decade came into the world during the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Patriots and Raiders via the "Tuck Rule," kicking two desperate field goals (including one in OT) into a blizzard and screaming after Tom Brady's right shoulder moved forward ever so slightly.
Decade, who is survived by "The Brady/Belichick Era," made its first public stage appearance during a parade and City Hall rally in Boston with the Patriots following their underdog victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The son of the "Curse of the Bambino" had several setbacks in its early years, most notably the Game 7 loss to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS.
Decade took over control of Boston's sports psyche by sandwiching back-to-back Super Bowl victories around the death of "Curse" in the 2004 ALCS and World Series.
Decade spawned millions of offspring among Boston's fanbase, many seen wearing pink hats, Brady jerseys and Tim Thomas shirts. Decade was effective in creating an atmosphere of unbelievable - at times obnoxious - overconfidence in the city's sports teams, replacing the constant Red Sox gloom-and-doom, Patriots uncertainty and Celtics/Bruins malaise mindset that held such a firm grip on things since the 1980s.
Decade wasn't always popular, even after its early success . Even though it had brought the city three Super Bowl crowns and a World Series title, Decade was warily watched by those who had been mercilessly teased by runs of relative success in the 1970s and 1980s.
Decade reached his zenith, and recovered from its mid-life crisis and some serious doubt in June of 2011 with the Bruins Stanley Cup championship, another gargantuan championship parade and the Duckboats rolling into Fenway Park a day later on Father's Day. That triumphant celebration ended a three-year run without a title, despite appearances in the Super Bowl and NBA Finals. More importantly, it gave Decade a permanent place in America's sports pantheon. Decade claimed the elusive pro-sports "Grand Slam" in less than 10 years, a feat unmatched by any other city in history. New York/Long Island/New Jersey/Fairfield (Conn.) County claimed its tightest "Grand Slam" between 1969-80 (Jets/Mets - 1969; Knicks - 1972; Yankees - 1976-77, Islanders - 1980).
Decade's most enduring legacy will be an entire generation of fans who will always hope for the best instead of expect the worst when watching a ballgame. Decade struggled - even in its heyday - to win over those those who had suffered through too many painful losses, championship droughts or even once-great dynasties that were no longer walking through that door. In the end, it was indeed their "Father's Red Sox" who inevitably caused Decade to pass away with little notice or fanfare.
During Decade's brief but vigorous lifespan, the long-standing attitude of "Wait Until Next Year" and chants of "Yankees Suck," was, for a time, replaced by "Why Not Us?", choruses of "Sweet Caroline" and chants of "Yankees Suck."
Services for Decade are pending, but most of the Red Sox are not expected to attend.
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