No more sob stories in city of winners
With titles for all teams, fans happy to readjust
A city and region that have suffered through curses and exorcisms, dreamed impossible dreams, counted banners in rafters, and worn bloody socks (with hearts on sleeves), woke up to a fresh reality yesterday morning: We have nothing left to moan about.
And that might require an attitude adjustment for this particular city.
After all, when the Boston Bruins upset the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday night, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years, the victory did more than elevate the city’s hockey team to the same championship pedestal on which the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics have stood for the past decade. It signaled the last train stop in Loserville, USA, is now closed. No other American city has won championships in all four major sports in a span of seven years.
“We’re not like some towns which haven’t won anything,’’ Brian Codagnone, associate curator of the New England Sports Museum, said yesterday in a bit of an understatement. Cities like Chicago (think Cubs) and Toronto (Maple Leafs) still have their own excruciating title droughts to deal with, but Boston has hereby forfeited its right to moan about choke jobs, ghosts, and near misses.
Should local fans mourn the loss of a true title drought? “Which would you rather have,’’ asked Codagnone with a chuckle, “championship teams or the right to complain?’’
Vancouver fans might say that’s a no-brainer. But around here, the right to complain stands alongside the right to jaywalk through Kenmore Square on game night. This is a city where fans write off their baseball team after an 0-6 start and call for the Bruins’ coach to be fired every time they trail in a series. Can the Boston sports fan really put on a happy face? Or will they now just take to flaunting all their titles in the faces of rival fans?
All over the city and across the region yesterday, bleary-eyed fans were still drunk with giddiness, as they celebrated the Bruins’ exhilarating Game 7 triumph.
At TD Garden’s pro shop, where crowds lined up to buy Stanley Cup title memorabilia, Dan Giatrelis, 48, of Middleton, was shopping with his wife, Tammy, and daughter Meredith, 11, and son Nick, 8. Giatrelis, a Bruins season ticket holder, was wearing a Milan Lucic jersey, but he said his family follows all four major Boston teams avidly.
Was he worried about Bruins fans losing their edge now that the Cup was finally theirs? “No,’’ he replied, “because when you finally win a championship, you should embrace it.’’
Nick, who plays baseball, basketball, and soccer, said he was thinking of trying ice hockey now, not only because the Bruins are kings but because all his pals play hockey, too. His reaction to the Bruins recalls the days of the early 1970s, when the Orr-Esposito era sparked youth-hockey mania around Boston.
Meredith called the Bruins winning a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.’’ Of course, she’s 11. And as her bemused father pointed out, “In her lifetime, everyone has won a title.’’
Lynn Hausner, 43, of Newton had already bought two dozen Cup jerseys yesterday. A diehard Boston sports fan (“Hockey the least, though’’), she said earning bragging rights as America’s greatest sports city more than compensated for any potential loss of edginess the city might suffer.
“Bruins fans especially are a different breed,’’ said Hausner, noting there are not many half-hearted fans among the wearers of Bruins garb. Her son, Ryan Harper, 22, is an even bigger sports nut, she added, blogging about local teams on Facebook Notes.
Reached later in the day, Harper said he still vividly recalls the bitter taste of the Red Sox losing the 2003 American League Championship Series to the Yankees. He was 4 when he saw his first Sox game.
“I doubt we’ll lose our edge,’’ Harper said. “When teams win, everyone rallies around them here. I understand people think some of the hunger might be lost, but look at the way people united behind the Bruins.’’
Jack Curran, 60, of Weymouth, offered a somewhat different perspective.
“We’re always going to [complain], we’re Boston fans,’’ he said, smiling. “Right now, though, is there any other city that has four coaches with championship banners?’’
No, there isn’t. But then the true Boston sports fan in Curran emerged. “Of course, next year it starts all over again,’’ he said.
For younger fans, stitching this Stanley Cup banner into the larger quilt of Boston sports history, good and bad, is admittedly harder than for their parents’ generation. James Micheroni, 23, grew up a sports nut in Sharon. Most of his childhood memories are of “teams that were pretty good, maybe not elite but at least competitive,’’ he said yesterday from Buffalo, where he now lives. Boston is now the best sports town, he said, but what’s changed is the communal feeling its fan base has shared.
“We’re past the griping about being jilted,’’ Micheroni said. “That did create a sense of community, and it’s still there, but it’s based on winning now.’’ Still, he added, Boston fans have “that great us-against-the-world mentality we’ll never lose.’’
At Newton’s Brown Middle School, Anthony Landrum, 13, said he appreciated the great memories all the local teams had already created in his young lifetime. His passion for the Celtics in particular was engendered by his grandmother — and now he plays basketball, along with football and soccer. Might a pair of hockey skates be in his future?
“I’ve thought about it once in a blue moon,’’ he said. “Right now, it seems like a pretty cool sport.’’
At TD Garden, Bruins season ticket holder Mike Proctor, 22, of Melrose was thrilled that Boston could claim to be the first city to hold all four major sports championships in a seven-year stretch. He planned to share those feelings with his grandfather, he said, who has been a hockey fan all his life.
If anything, he said, all this winning won’t remove the chip from Boston’s shoulder. “It’ll make us want to put [our trophies] in other cities’ faces. Especially Montreal and Philly.’’
Michael Caplan, 51, of Brookline, and his son Josh, 12, were thrilled the Bruins had joined the championship circle. Josh said yesterday that it may inspire him to attend an all-sports camp that offers hockey — at least the inline variety. For his father, the Cup clincher was an opportunity to remind his two sons how lucky they are to be witnessing the Golden Age of Boston sports.
“In some ways, this will change the city’s identity, because it’s already changing the sports fan’s identity,’’ said Caplan. The “odd nostalgia’’ many fans have for teams that never managed to win is fading, if not gone, he added. “We can’t call ourselves good-guy underdogs anymore. We used to feel sorry for ourselves. Now we’re the ones who buy the star players and have Hollywood actors in the seats.’’
And we have banners. Lots of banners.
Joseph P. Kahn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.