Sports News

17 things that happened in Boston sports this year

Boston sports had no shortage of storylines in 2017. Let's take a look back.

The Patriots won Super Bowl LI.

The Patriots kicked off the year with their 2016-2017 regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins. After cruising to a 35-14 victory on New Year’s Day, the team was primed to embark on another playoff run as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Making it look easy against the Texans and the Steelers, the Patriots advanced to their seventh Super Bowl under head coach Bill Belichick. New England boasted the highest average margin of victory (+12.3) throughout the regular season, but the largest margin of victory in Belichick’s past Super Bowl appearances was just four.

Fans had already witnessed craziness in previous championships, from David Tyree’s helmet catch to Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception to Adam Vinatieri’s two last-minute field goals, but nothing could prepare them for the drama of Super Bowl LI.

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Entering the game against the Atlanta Falcons as three-point favorites, New England sure looked like the underdogs throughout the first three quarters — digging themselves what was presumed to be an insurmountable 25-point hole with 2:03 remaining in the third.

We all know how this story ends, however. With Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots mounted a historic comeback for the first-ever overtime victory in Super Bowl history. Thanks to a pair of two-point conversions and incredible plays like Julian Edelman’s gravity-defying catch and Dont’a Hightower’s strip sack, New England forever immortalized their 28-3 deficit.

The drama didn’t end on Feb. 5 in Houston, though. Brady’s stolen game jersey and the team’s impending White House visit kept the show going well into April.

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Patriots Super Bowl LI celebration

Tom Brady celebrates with Julian Edelman after defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in overtime to win Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium.

The Bruins fired Claude Julien.

After 10 seasons in Boston, including a Stanley Cup title, Claude Julien was fired from his post as Bruins head coach.

Julien, who led the team to seven straight postseason appearances, had missed the playoffs for back-to-back seasons. Given its 26-23-6 record and placement in the division at the time, Boston seemed headed down the same track — prompting the front office to bid adieu to Julien. The 56-year-old was 419-246-94 during his decade-long tenure and remains the franchise’s all-time leader in wins.

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Owner Jeremy Jacobs called the decision “the right move,” adding that he felt the firing was “overdue.” Assistant Bruce Cassidy assumed the position of interim head coach before being officially promoted in April. Cassidy is credited with turning the team around last season, as the Bruins finished the year with an 18-8-1 record and notched a playoff berth. They exited in the first round after a six-game series against the Ottawa Senators.

Aly Raisman shared her story of alleged sexual assault.

Olympic medalist Aly Raisman was among the group of women to publicly say she was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. According to stories from multiple gymnasts, Nassar molested girls with his hands when they sought treatment. Raisman wrote in her new book, Fierce, that sessions with Dr. Nassar would always make her “feel tense and uncomfortable.”

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“I would lie on the table, my hands involuntarily balling themselves into fists as his ungloved hands worked their way under my clothing,” she said in an excerpt.

Raisman, a Needham native, has been outspoken not only in criticizing USA Gymnastics for its handling of the scandal but also in advocating for survivors.

“Some days I feel happy and protected for sharing my story,” she wrote in the Players’ Tribune. “Other days I have bad anxiety and either feel traumatized from Larry Nassar’s abuse or I fear something else will happen in the future … Victim shaming must stop.”

Throughout the year, the 23-year-old also was a voice for female empowerment. She posed for the 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, saying that she models because it makes her feel “happy, strong, feminine, and beautiful.”

Aaron Hernandez committed suicide.

On the same day as the Patriots’ visit to the White House, former tight end Aaron Hernandez was found hanging in his jail cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. The 27-year-old had hanged himself using a bed sheet and was pronounced dead later that morning.

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Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, was acquitted in a separate Boston double murder just five days before taking his own life. Reports from the prison said inmates saw no signs of suicide. One told officials: “Since Friday’s verdict, he had been talking about the NFL and going back to play even if it wasn’t with the Pats.”

Following Hernandez’s death, BU researchers found that he suffered from a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. His attorney, Jose Baez, said his family was told “it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron’s age.” Hernandez played three seasons with the Patriots.

Katherine Switzer crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon, again.

Fifty years after she became the first woman with an official number to run the Boston Marathon, Katherine Switzer crossed the Boylston St. finish line once more.

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Wearing no. 261 — as she did in 1967 when she ran under her initials, “K.V.” — the 70-year-old completed the course in 4:44:31, calling it “a race of celebration.” In April, the Boston Athletic Association retired Switzer’s bib number in honor of her historic performance.

Galynn Brady finished her cancer treatments.

Before Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady’s mother, Galynn, hadn’t been to a Patriots game all season due to her health.

The former regular at Gillette Stadium was diagnosed with breast cancer, and spent much of the regular season undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. But Brady had a feeling that his mom would be ready to attend the most important game of the season — an outcome that Galynn was certainly hoping for as well.

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“I just wanted to be there for Tommy,” the mother of four told NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer. “I wanted to be with our family. Everybody was going to the Super Bowl, and I didn’t want to miss that.”

Sure enough, Galynn was able to watch the Patriots’ thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Falcons right at NRG Stadium. After the game, she celebrated on the field with her son.

Galynn Brady Super Bow LI

Galynn Brady celebrates after the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in Super Bowl LI.

“What a hell of a game for her to be at,” an emotional Tom Brady said during his postgame press conference.

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Brady’s father, Tom Sr., revealed in June that Galynn had successfully completed her cancer treatments in April.

“I think in the dark recesses of every cancer survivor is the thought it could reappear,” he told the Boston Globe‘s Christopher Gasper. “We simply pray now that after her treatment it never rears its ugly head again.”

The Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum.

After locking down the top pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, rumors began swirling about how the Celtics planned to use their selection. In the majority of mock drafts, Washington guard Markelle Fultz appeared to be the frontrunner.

Just days before the draft, however, Boston traded the No. 1 overall pick (and their chance to draft Fultz) to Philadelphia. In exchange, the Celtics received the 76ers’ No. 3 slot as well as a first-round draft pick in either 2018 or 2019. So, how did the trade change the team’s plans for that year?

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It didn’t, according to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

“We think there’s a really good chance the player we’ll take at three is the same player we would have taken at one,” he said following the move.

The Celtics ended up selecting Duke forward Jayson Tatum, after the Philly drafted Fultz and the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball. Tatum has already proven to be an integral part of the team halfway through Boston’s season. The 19-year-old is averaging 14.2 points per game and shooting 51-percent from the field.

The Red Sox retired David Ortiz’s jersey.

Long live no. 34.

David Ortiz joined the likes of Wade Boggs and Carl Yastrzemski when his jersey was retired at Fenway Park in June. One of 11 players to have his number posted along the right-field roof boxes, Ortiz called the ceremony “pretty amazing.”

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‘‘It made me feel like one of the important games we had where the fans wanted to be there from the very beginning and show love and support,” he said.

Big Papi is remembered as one of the greatest clutch hitters in Red Sox history. In 14 World Series games, he batted .455, with six doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs, 14 runs, and 14 walks. Ortiz has three World Series titles and played a critical role in helping Boston “reverse the curse” in 2004.

The Celtics signed Gordon Hayward.

After a wild day of conflicting reports and speculation, Gordon Hayward announced on the Fourth of July he decided to sign with the Boston Celtics. In an essay for the Players’ Tribune, that he admittedly had three versions of, Hayward detailed his difficult decision.

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“My meetings with all three teams during this process — Miami, Boston, and Utah — were just unbelievable,” the All-Star wrote. “They couldn’t have been more impressive. Each meeting left me convinced that the team I’d just met with was the right fit. And even after I slept on it last night, while I was leaning heavily in one direction … I still wasn’t 100-percent convinced about what I wanted to do.”

According to Hayward, Boston’s winning culture along with the presence of his college coach, Brad Stevens, proved to be the deciding factors in his decision to join the Celtics.

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His season debut was cut short, however, when he suffered a gruesome ankle injury against the Cavaliers five minutes into the NBA tip-off game. While the Celtics initially ruled the forward out for the remainder of the season, Hayward has said his “mind is open” to a possible return to the court later this year.

Thanks to video games, ongoing support, and goal setting, his recovery appears to be going smoothly.

David Price reportedly had a spat with Dennis Eckersley.

According to the Boston Globe‘s Dan Shaughnessy, Red Sox pitcher David Price and NESN commentator Dennis Eckersley had a verbal confrontation on the team plane in July. The left-handed starter was apparently not happy after Eckersley said, “Yuck,” in response to Eduardo Rodriguez’s stats after a rehab start in Pawtucket.

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“On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley,” Shaughnessy wrote. “When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, ‘Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!'”

The 32-year-old proceeded to tell the broadcaster to “get the f— out of here,” while many players applauded.

After the incident, Price said he was sticking up for a teammate and is “fine” with whatever flack he catches for his defense. Eckersley opened up about the tiff over a month later, telling WEEI’s Rob Bradford he was “humiliated.”

Fans draped a ‘Racism is as American as baseball’ banner at Fenway Park.

Racism banner Fenway Park

A banner with the message “Racism is as American as baseball” is draped over the Green Monster during the fourth inning between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics on September 13, 2017.

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After unfurling a large banner that read “Racism is as American as baseball,” four people seated in the Green Monster were ejected from Fenway Park. According to a Red Sox statement, the group was removed for violating the club’s policy that prohibits “signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark.”

Following the game, one of the individuals involved spoke anonymously with CSNNE’s Evan Drellich about their motives behind the act. The group member referenced systemic issues they noticed in the city as a whole, in addition to citing the incident with Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.

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“We see Boston continually priding itself as a kind of liberal, not racist, city and are reminded constantly that it’s actually an extremely segregated city,” the planner told Drellich on the phone. “It has been for a long time, and that no white people can avoid the history of racism, essentially. So we did this banner as a gesture towards that, to have a conversation about that.”

Racism has been a pervasive topic at Fenway Park this year. In August, Red Sox owner John Henry voiced his desire to rename Yawkey Way on account of its controversial roots. The notion to change the street’s name has not yet been formalized and has garnered a mixed reception.

Rob Ninkovich retired.

After an 11-year NFL career, and eight years as a Patriot, Rob Ninkovich bid farewell to football this summer. The 33-year-old announced his retirement during New England’s training camp in July.

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Carving out a key role in the team’s defense, Ninkovich recorded 46 sacks and 279 tackles with the Patriots. Both coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft lauded the outside linebacker during his retirement ceremony at Gillette Stadium.

“I never coached a more unselfish player,” Belichick said. “I’ve coached a lot of them, but you go right up in there at the top echelon. It was always about the team. It was always about Rob to help someone else. ‘What do you need me to do, coach? You need me to play here? Play there? Something else? I can do this. I’ll snap. I’ll cover kicks. I’ll play linebacker. I’ll rush. I’ll cover. Whatever you need me to do.’ That was really very important to us.’’

New England: You are forever home. #ThankYou #GoPats

A post shared by Robert Ninkovich (@nink50) on

Tom Brady turned 40.

Yup, that happened. On August 3, Tom Brady turned 40 years old.

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Currently the oldest offensive player in the league, Brady leads all quarterbacks in passing yards (4,387). He also boasts a 67.5 completion percentage and 30 touchdowns this season.

Brady’s year was also marked by the release of his self-help book, The TB12 Method, which shares the steps behind how he maintains “sustained peak performance.”

The Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving.

Kyrie Irving Gordon Hayward Boston Celtics

President Rich Gotham, coach Brad Stevens, owner Wyc Grousbeck, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, general manager Danny Ainge, and co-owner and managing partner Steve Pagliuca.

You weren’t alone if the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade caught you off guard at the end of August. Players from across the league expressed their shock, confusion, and amusement at the sudden deal struck between the Celtics and the Cavaliers.

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Boston acquired Irving in exchange for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round draft pick. The move left the revamped Celtics with just four returning players from the previous season.

‘‘We know who our competition is, and we know who are biggest threats are each year,’’ Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. ‘‘We feel like this is a trade that can make us better, and that’s why we did it.’’

Irving has proven to be an instrumental part of the team’s success this season. He is shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and averaging 24.7 points per game.

The Red Sox fired John Farrell — and hired Alex Cora.

Despite back-to-back AL East titles, the Red Sox fired manager John Farrell following another early exit from the playoffs. Farrell managed the Red Sox to a 432-378 record during his five seasons, but was unable to lead the team to more postseason success after their 2013 World Series title.

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“Despite an end to this season that we all wanted to be different, I am proud of this ball club and the resiliency shown,” Farrell said in a statement. “I have enjoyed every moment of this job — its peaks and its valleys. There are few, if any, positions in life that create so much passion on a daily basis.”

Less than two weeks after Farrell’s departure, the Red Sox announced his replacement: former shortstop Alex Cora. Cora, who played three and a half seasons in Boston, was most recently the bench coach for the Houston Astros.

“Returning to the Red Sox and the city of Boston is a dream come true for me and my family,” Cora said in a statement. “I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning another championship for this city and its great fans.”

The Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo.

Jimmy Garoppolo is now a San Francisco 49er.

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In a quick turn of events, the Patriots traded their backup quarterback at the end of October for a second-round draft pick. New England signed Brian Hoyer soon after, but many interpreted the move as a clear indication that Tom Brady, at age 40, is the team’s quarterback of the future.

Garoppolo is thriving as the starting quarterback of his new team. He’s undefeated in four starts and has led the 49ers on game-winning drives in the final minutes of two contests. The 26-year-old also touts a 69-percent completion percentage, five touchdown passes, and 1,268 passing yards.

Martellus Bennett returned to the Patriots.

After earning his first Super Bowl in February, Martellus Bennett left New England for the Green Bay Packers in March. But fans would end up seeing Bennett in a Patriots uniform sooner than expected.

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Shortly after the Packers waived Bennett on account of “failure to disclose a physical condition” midway through the season, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called the tight end to bring him back to his former team.

Although he missed two weeks of practice in Green Bay with a shoulder injury and participated in just one limited practice with the Patriots, Bennett played his first game in three weeks on Nov. 11.

His appearance was surprising, as he had voiced intentions of pursing shoulder surgery just a week prior to the game. Bennett had also bashed the Packers team doctor on Instagram, which only added to the drama. The matter was slightly put to rest, however, when the Patriots placed Bennett on injured reserve to end his season.