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Brian McGrory

Dreaming the possible

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / June 17, 2011

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Welcome to the age of the possible in this happy little hamlet.

No, the Stanley Cup isn’t going to get the unemployed guy a job. It’s not going to pay anyone’s rent when there’s nothing left in the bank. It’s not going to fix a broken marriage, or cure a sick child, or get customers through the door of a business that’s slowly going broke.

But what it does, what this particular team has done better than any other in Boston since the lovable idiots of 2004, is to give this city and its people a super-sized dose of hope.

These Bruins offer the kind of narrative that the Red Sox, Patriots, and even the Celtics no longer have. They weren’t supposed to win the title, like our other well-stocked teams generally are.

The bearded and burly Bruins, more pitchfork than shrimp fork, did it the old-fashioned way — by outhustling, outmuscling, and outlasting every elite team that crossed their rough-hewn path.

In other words, they are exactly what our parents said would happen if we studied late enough, worked hard enough, and hung in long enough. This wonderful goalie, Tim Thomas, skated right out of a father’s dream.

Hockey, too, is like that. It’s not soccer, played on soft September Saturdays in suburban parks ringed by bright red and orange trees, convenient for one and all. It’s not basketball in the warm environs of the high school gym on friendly Friday nights.

Hockey means getting up before dawn for rides to faraway rinks in the throes of frigid winters, or late nights trying to squeeze in ice time right before bed. Just getting to practice is a lesson in sacrifice — and often a family affair.

Which brings us to the Bruins and Boston. This is not exactly a golden age in our fair city, mostly because it’s impossible to have any such thing in an economy this bad. But it’s a good moment nonetheless, and there’s the palpable sense that things are about to get better.

The murder rate is low. Unemployment is dropping. Once-empty storefronts from Blue Hill Avenue to Newbury Street are filling in. The South Boston waterfront is finally about to take off. Even the Greenway is, at the very least, green.

Amid this, there are the Bruins, a blast from the past with a message about the future: Anything is possible. It’s possible to overcome our own brand of Boston angst to make things even better than they are. It’s possible to rise above the dour national times. It’s possible to break the bonds of middling expectations and grab what was assumed to be an unattainable prize.

Sports are, in many ways, about faith and identity. In Boston we invest enormous faith in our four major teams to do the right thing on the field and off. We wear their hats and shirts. We fill expensive seats to see them play. We learn the nuances of what they do better than any other set of fans in this land.

In return, the owners invest heavily, and the players provide us reason to identify with them through clutch performances, good deeds, and championships. We give them unparalleled support, they give us our swagger, and the city and its teams are all the better for it.

Yesterday, 79-year-old Lucia Flynn was sitting on the shaded stoop of a Mattapan apartment building waiting for a bus to take her shopping, still a little tired from the prior night’s game.

“Pampered — that’s the word!’’ she nearly shouted. “The Bruins aren’t pampered! It feels great to see this happen to boys who worked so hard all year.’’

In that hard work and sheer will, they aren’t all that different from the fans who watch them play. And that’s why so many good Bostonians won’t just reflect in the Bruins’ glory, but see themselves in it as well.

All championships are great, but this one is special, the title that showed what’s possible.

McGrory is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is mcgrory@globe.com.

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